Lothriel sipped thoughtfully at her wine glass as she glanced across the room at Lalaith. The other maiden looked very lovely tonight, graced with a gown of soft silky pink that hung lightly at the edges of her smooth shoulders, her hair, hanging free and long, though some of her golden locks had been twisted in shimmering whorls on her head where small pink blossoms had been tucked in, matching her gown. She was indeed a beautiful sight. So why, Lothriel wondered, were Prince Legolas’ eyes focused so intently upon the open floor encircled by the ring of dining tables, instead of upon the face of his beloved?
Legolas, seated directly beside the Lady Lalaith, would occasionally steal glances at her, as she would at him. But whenever their eyes chanced to meet, they would look quickly away, their countenances troubled. This confused Lothriel immensely, for she knew of the great caring and love between them, and she could see even now, in their faces, how much ardor was there, when one looked upon the other. It was almost as if a wall had been suddenly thrown up between them, which they both wanted to penetrate, but somehow could not.
“Haldir,” She whispered to her own beloved, seated beside her, and turned to look at him. As her eyes found him, she could not help but smile as he turned to her, a questioning expression on his face, his full mouth pausing in its chewing.
“Haldir.” She giggled softly, lifting her hand to brush a crumb from the side of his mouth. “You’re eating like a ravenous hobbit.”
Haldir glanced across the circle of tables at the four hobbits who sat together, greedily devouring the food that had been placed before them. Pippin and Merry none too concerned about neatness.
Haldir sheepishly gulped down what was in his mouth, and muttered, “You’re not yet my wife, and already you’re nagging me.” But this was said with a playful twinkle in his eyes, and Lothriel giggled, knowing he was teasing her. To ensure that he did not mean what he had said, Haldir grinned himself, and caught her hand within his as it brushed away the crumb from his face, and softly kissed her fingertips, the mischievous gleam in his eyes growing deep and warm as he gazed long into her own eyes.
“In truth, Lothriel, I know you will not nag.” He said with a soft smile. “And I am counting the days with anticipation when you will finally be mine.”
Lothriel returned the deep ardor of his gaze until a gloomy countenance caught her attention out of the corner of her eye, and she turned to see Prince Legolas watching them, a sad shadow darkening his once bright eyes before he glanced quickly away.
“Haldir,” she murmured, returning to her previous thought, “did you notice-,”.
“I did.” He answered, in return. “I noticed it several days ago, in fact.”
“Whatever could be wrong?” Lothriel mused.
“I do not know.” Haldir murmured in return. “I asked Lord Aragorn, but he said it was not his place to say.” Haldir ended his words with a helpless shrug.
Lothriel sighed, and gnawed her lip softly, worriedly. But she had little time to muse over her unanswered questions, for a group of musicians in one corner of the room, had struck up a lively tune, and couples were already beginning to fill the open area before them with light steps and graceful swirls of color.
“May I have the honor, my Lady?” Haldir asked in mock formality as he stood and offered a hand to Lothriel, requesting permission to dance.
“The honor would be mine, my Lord.” Lothriel answered with a smile as she took the hand he offered, and allowed him to lead her onto the open floor.
She smiled up into her beloved’s face as he twirled her skillfully around the dance floor, almost forgetting Lalaith and the distance that had mysteriously grown so suddenly between her and Prince Legolas. But she could not forget for long. For Lalaith was a dear friend, and Lothriel could not be perfectly contented if Lalaith was sad. It was, after all, because of Lalaith that Lothriel and Haldir were together. Had she said nothing, only Varda knew how much more time would have passed, before Lothriel and Haldir discovered that they shared each other’s feelings.
She glanced quickly over at where Lalaith was seated, to see her staring off at nothing, while beside her, Legolas had propped his elbows upon the edge of the table, his head cradled in his hands as if he were suddenly beyond weariness. Lord Aragorn, however, had risen, and with a glance of annoyance at the Mirkwood Elf, had started toward Lalaith’s chair.
At least Lalaith would dance with someone. Lothriel realized with relief. But as Haldir spun her around, and she glanced toward Lalaith again, she saw, with surprise, that Boromir, the Lord from Gondor, had risen, and had approached Lalaith’s place before Aragorn could reach her.
“May I have this dance, Lalaith?” Boromir asked, his voice surprisingly soft and gentle as he offered the Elf Maiden his hand, his eyes warm with hope that she would accept it.
“Certainly, my Lord.” Lalaith returned quietly, and slipped her hand, though reluctantly, into the Man’s, and rose.
Lothriel traded a glance of surprise with Haldir who had noticed this as well, as Boromir and Lalaith joined the couples on the floor. For being human, the son of the Steward of Gondor was surprisingly graceful and light footed, his skill at dancing surpassing even that of some of her fellow Elves. Lalaith smiled shyly up into his eyes as the Man swirled her around the dance floor, but always, every chance she had, she would glance back toward Legolas’ place. Lothriel followed her gaze to see the Mirkwood Prince watching his love in the arms of the Lord of Gondor, now not with mere sadness in his eyes, but, it seemed to Lothriel, abject misery.
“By Aule.” The Dwarf Gimli muttered sarcastically, roughly nudging Legolas with his elbow as Haldir and Lothriel passed close to them, followed by a grunt of annoyance. “Boromir actually touched her, and he’s not dead! He’s not writhing in agony. He’s not even close to being in pain! Imagine that!”
“Gimli!” Aragorn, who had retaken his seat, said sharply, casting a hard glance at the Dwarf as the misery on Legolas’ face only deepened.
At Aragorn’s sharp reprimand, Gimli bit his tongue, but continued to glare at the Elf with contempt in his eyes.
After several long moments of this, Legolas at last burst to his feet and strode away and out of the dining hall. His footsteps fell heavily, noisily for an Elf, as he descended the steps leading down and around the great Mallorn in whose branches the great hall was built.
Lothriel glanced at Lalaith who had seen him leave, and had stopped suddenly, awkwardly, glancing up at Boromir, her eyes pleading for forgiveness.
“I do not think I can do this any more, Boromir.” She murmured, and turned to hurry away, though in a different direction than Legolas had gone. She left Boromir standing awkwardly as she hurried out through the fluted, elegantly carved doors and onto the balcony that edged the dining hall, and Lothriel watched her go, her mind roiling in confusion. For Lalaith to have left the poor Man standing there as he was-, unless there was some explanation, was horribly rude.
“Haldir,” Lothriel pleaded, slowing to a stop. “Go see to Lalaith. I do not know what is wrong-,” she looked up into her lover’s eyes who gazed down into her own with as much concern as she herself felt.
“And you will save the Lord of Gondor from otherwise inescapable embarrassment.” Haldir said with a nod of understanding, and turned to hurry after Lalaith.
“Dance with me, my Lord.” Lothriel cried playfully, skipping up to the Man, and taking Boromir’s hands in her own. “Come. Lady Lalaith has been altogether too selfish to keep you to herself.”
Boromir had been watching Lalaith go with wistful eyes, almost as if he were ignorant to the awkward position Lalaith had left him in. But when Lothriel came to him, he turned away from gazing after Lalaith, and studied this new Elf maid’s eyes, a grateful smile coming to his bearded lips, and he allowed her to take his hands, willingly enough, and dance with her. Though, Lothriel noticed, not with as much enthusiasm as he had when he had danced with Lalaith.
“I am sorry, my Lord.” Lothriel muttered in a softer voice as they joined the rest of the dancers once again. “I cannot understand why my Lady would do such a thing.”
“Oh, but I do.” Boromir said with a sad frown, glancing toward the doorway where Lalaith had exited. Lothriel glanced there as well, seeing Haldir standing near Lalaith who was leaning dejectedly on the rail of burnished silver, her face turned away from him as Haldir questioned her gently. Lothriel could see from the look on her lover’s fair, handsome face that Lalaith’s answers to his questions were less than satisfactory.
“Perhaps it is because I am so ignorant, and young, and with such little understanding of your ways, and your customs.” Boromir continued, an air of self contempt in his words as he spoke. “Your worship of the Valar, and your reverence for their power-,” he glanced down at Lothriel who was studying his eyes, trying to guess at the meaning of his words, and he cut off his thought quickly.
“But I can see no difference between the maiden she was a few days ago, to the one she is now. I do not understand it. She does not deserve this. Can Legolas not see the pain he is causing by-,”
He glanced down at Lothriel, offered her a sad, apologetic smile, and once again brought an awkward end to his words.
“You know of the nature of the difficulty that has come between her and Prince Legolas. But it is something you cannot talk about.” Lothriel guessed with a sigh.
“It would be best if I did not.” He said with a soft nod.
“Very well.” Lothriel agreed. “I will not pry where I have no need to.” She smiled softly up at Boromir. “She is lucky, I think, to have your friendship, and understanding at least.”
Boromir offered a soft snort. “My friendship.” He repeated in a deep, troubled voice as the music came at last to an end.
Lothriel bit her lip, not understanding his words or the tone of his voice. “Thank you, my Lord.” She said with a curtsey.
“And you, my Lady.” He said, managing a warm smile at last, as he offered Lothriel a bow, then glanced up, his eyes straying to the door leading to the balcony, and his glance darted about as Lothriel turned to see Haldir reenter the room, and offer her a helpless shrug. Lalaith was nowhere to be seen.
“What is it?” She asked in a whisper as she rejoined Haldir, and wove her fingers through his, grateful for the warm touch of his hand. Behind her, Boromir had returned to his own seat, and had fallen heavily, dejectedly into it.
“She told me nothing. She left a moment ago. She is weary, she claimed, and wanted nothing more than to sleep.” Haldir said unhappily.
Neither Haldir nor Lothriel felt any more like dancing, and so in silent consent, they left the hall, and entered the soft cool light of the night, slowly descending the steps, side by side, their voices low, though there was no one else about. “It was as if she feared telling me. As if she thought I might judge her harshly.” He shook his head.
“That is how Lord Boromir seemed.” Lothriel nodded sadly. “A part of me wishes he had told me. It seems as if all of their Fellowship understands what is wrong, but none will tell. It is frustrating, but then I understand it is not my place.”
“Still it is difficult.” Haldir released a deep breath, nodding his agreement. “She is our friend, after all.”
The couple had reached the forest floor, and Haldir was content to allow Lothriel the lead as she aimlessly chose a path on which they could wander, and speak of their concerns as they did.
“Whatever it is, I can see that their feelings for each other have not changed.” Lothriel murmured softly. The path she had chosen led into thick trees, some of the oldest Mellyrn of Lorien, where little light could reach the ground. It was dark enough in the daytime, but now, beneath the shadows of night, even less was visible, bathing all around them in soft, warm shadow. “Their love is as great as ever. I can see it in the way they look at each other. But something strange has happened.” She furrowed her brow. “Some-, some-,”
“Wall has grown between them. Unwanted by both of them, but as real as if it were made of stone.” Haldir finished with a nod.
“Yes.” Lothriel sighed. She stopped beneath one of the ancient trees, and leaned her back wearily against its smooth bark. Haldir stopped before her, and she smiled up into his warm eyes, contemplating his own gentle smile, and the perfection of his handsome face.
“Strange it is, that we are not yet married, and yet you can finish my thoughts before I myself utter them.” She laughed softly as he drew closer, and placed both hands on either side of her against the tree’s bark.
“Only because my wise, brave Lothriel came up with such words first. And I, in my simple mindedness, must struggle to even pretend to match her wisdom.” Haldir muttered with a grin as he placed a soft kiss on the end of her nose.
“No!” Lothriel giggled, slapping Haldir gently in the chest. “You are at least as wise as I am, if not more-,” But her light hearted laugh ended abruptly as he leaned in, his gaze now dark and warm, his humor fled, and kissed her mouth warmly, his lips soft and lingering over hers.
Thoughts of Lalaith’s sad plight fled from Lothriel’s mind as Haldir drew her into his arms, and she circled her own arms around his neck, sighing contentedly as his warm lips traveled slowly from her mouth to her jaw, to the soft flesh of her throat. How many weeks were left until they married? She contemplated in her distracted mind as her own fingers trailed along Haldir’s neck, and wove into his soft golden hair. Three weeks, she remembered. A surprisingly short engagement, especially by elven standards, she admitted to herself, but now, to her, it seemed as if their wedding was ages away.
Slowly she opened her eyes, still immersed in the ecstasy of Haldir’s touch, but when she saw the illuminated figure on the path before them, standing awkwardly, and trying to glance away, she gasped aloud, and pushed Haldir forcefully back.
“Lothriel,” he gulped confused, “what-, oh.” He muttered as he turned to see the maiden from Imladris watching them, her face written with a mixture of embarrassment and misery.
“Lothriel, Haldir.” Lalaith stammered, her usually soft voice thick with stifled emotion. “My friends, I am sorry I disturbed you.”
“No, Lady Lalaith.” Lothriel was quick to cut in, and hurry toward the Elf maiden’s side before Lalaith could escape. “We’re sorry.” She laughed softly. “It must have been awkward seeing us-,”
“No, it is understandable.” Lalaith cut off the other maiden’s words quickly. “Your wedding is only a few weeks away.” She struggled to smile, but could not mask the sadness in her eyes. “It is good for you that you should be able to-,” Her words ended as her throat caught chokingly on a breath. Lothriel could see the glimmer of tears on her cheeks before Lalaith brushed them away.
Lothriel sighed, and caught Haldir’s hand in her own as she felt him come up behind her, and place a hand gently on her shoulder.
“Lothriel has noticed, as I have, that something has come between you and Legolas.” Haldir explained softly.
“Do not think on it for a moment!” Lalaith pleaded. “You cannot let what has happened with Legolas and me, stifle your own happiness.”
“You are our friend, my Lady.” Lothriel demanded gently. “How could we not be worried about you?”
“Oh, Lothriel.” Lalaith moaned beseechingly. “Please, call me nothing but Lalaith. We are friends, and I am nearly two millennia younger than you. Do not call me `Lady’ any more. I hear that word too much from-, others.”
Lothriel nodded readily. “If that is what you want-, Lalaith. I will do as you wish. But you are a princess. A great lady.”
“No.” Lalaith murmured, and a stifled sob caught in her throat. “No, I am not.” She shook her head miserably. Hopelessly. “I am not.”
Stifling another sob in her throat, Lalaith turned and ran away, stumbling awkwardly as she ran, her face buried in her hands, leaving Lothriel and Haldir to wonder after her sudden flight, now even more confused than they had been before.