Rolande did not look at her, but Miriel perceived that he trembled and tears were on his cheek. At length he spoke.
“You were right, Lady Miriel,” he said quietly without turning around.
“About what?” asked Miriel with an edge in her voice. She felt oddly impatient with him. She wanted to hurry and get this over with.
“About us,” Rolande answered. He took a deep breath and faced her. Miriel was surprised at the expression in his eyes. They were full of pain, but in the brown depths dwelt a cold courage and a catlike determination.
“Speak plainer!” snapped Miriel. “I can’t understand you, and I am in no mood for frivolous riddles.”
“Since you cannot have Legolas, you would settle for me,” Rolande answered boldly.
“That’s ridiculous!” Miriel burst out.
“Is it?” asked Rolande plaintively, eyeing her without flinching.
“I hardly think you are in any position be saying that I’m settling for anyone!” returned Miriel hotly. “What makes you think you know my heart?”
“Watching you these last few days, I have learned what true love is,” Rolande replied steadily. “Seeing you and Legolas together has been, for lack of any other term, perfection. There is no other way to describe it. You and the Elf were made for each other. I would take you in a heartbeat, Lady Miriel, and you know this, or you would not have come. And now you say you would have me. But it would not be the same.”
“How do you know that?” demanded Miriel indignantly. “What do you know of love?”
Rolande lowered his eyes, and Miriel was struck once more by his hurt expression.
“Almost nothing, it’s true,” he admitted. “But I know enough to tell you that this is not right. I love you, Lady Miriel, and I always will, but it will not be the same kind of love that the Elf bears for you, or you for him. Your affection for me will never match the deep feeling you have in your heart for him. Even you know this.”
“But in time-” began Miriel.
“Yes, in time our love would grow,” Rolande interrupted. “But even after a lifetime I think it would still be only a shadow of what you and Legolas have right now. With all due respect, Lady Miriel, you’re crazy to think that you’ll ever find a love like that anywhere else. Later on, you will regret your decision.”
“No, I won’t,” retorted Miriel.
“Even if I could lay aside my honor and take you now, Miriel, it would not be the same,” Rolande went on with the same cold determination in his eyes that Miriel had seen in Legolas` only a short time ago. “I cannot betray you, or that Elf out there who loves you; nor can I betray myself.”
Miriel could not argue with him, but she would not give in.
“Do you not betray me now by refusing me?” Miriel demanded.
Rolande could not argue with her either; she was far stronger than he. He shook his head with stubborn finality.
“I’m very sorry, my lady. I cannot fulfill your request.”
Miriel turned away angrily, stung to the quick. She knew Rolande was right, and that made her even more furious. She was desperate. The one solution to her terrible dilemma was fading fast.
Miriel’s chin shook and hot tears sprang to her eyes. She was mad at Rolande for not being the easy answer to her problem. She was angry that she had come and risked her heart to ask him this. How dare he say he did not love her! When only a short time ago, Rolande had told her otherwise. Indeed, his very words had been that he would die without her!
Miriel rose to leave, and Rolande did not stop her. She paused and glanced back at him. He looked very small and helpless, sitting near the roaring flames and gazing at her. Orange light flickered over his troubled face.
“Love does not always make sense, my lady,” he advised quietly, echoing Miriel’s mother’s words from long ago without knowing it. “Please try to remember that.”
Miriel’s face worked and twisted in anger. She could not stand to remain a moment more. She lunged for the door, flung it open and slammed it after her, leaving Rolande staring blankly into the fire.
Miriel raced up the dark streets, tripping over the hem of her dress in her haste. She stumbled up the endless flight of stone steps and plunged into her room. Miriel threw herself across the bed and wept the last of her tears onto the unheeding pillows.
Time passed. When she had recovered a little, Miriel sat up and gazed dejectedly at the black night sky. Nothing was going right. She had been accepted by one she could not have and rejected by one felt she must choose, even if he were her second choice. Miriel knew that Legolas would not leave Middle-earth now, and he would pursue her endlessly until she gave in.
But I will not, thought Miriel determinedly. She clenched her jaw. That Elf was too stubborn for his own good, she mused. But Miriel did not know what she would have to do to convince Legolas to sail into the West.
Most of all Miriel wrung her hands at her own shortsightedness. Why had she not accepted Rolande’s offer the moment it had been given? Why had she risked everything for an Elf, who belonged with his people over the Sea, when she could have had the love of this good man? Why had she dared to reach for something she could not have, even when she knew in her heart that Legolas could not belong to her? Did she not know when to quit?
Now her ill-fated decision had lost her both men.
If you’re in a great hurry to know what happens next, you don’t have to wait. The entire 30-chapter ebook entitled Miriel: Princess of Rohan can be downloaded at www(dot)talesofmiddleearth(dot)com.
Chapter Fifteen: EOWYN
Chapter Sixteen: THE CORONATION
Chapter Seventeen: DOOM OF THE ELVES
Chapter Eighteen: DIFFICULT DECISIONS