Lithôniel lay unmoving upon the silk coverlets of Legolas’ bed – unmoving apart from the aftermath of the heartbroken sobs that still wracked her fragile frame.
‘How unjust War is,’ she thought bitterly to herself, burying her tear-stained face into the soft pillow, still warm and lingering with the faint, wildflower scent that she had come to associate with the Prince. ‘Foul, bloodthirsty Orcs taking over the lands and luring good, honourable Men and Elves away from their loved ones…’
Realisation dawned on her and she felt sick: Orcs had once been Elves, but how could a being so pure and fair be so casually mutilated into something so literally wrought from evil? Self-disgust coursed through her veins and for the first time in her life, she felt ashamed of herself.
The door opened and there was a sharp intake of breath. Hesitantly, Legolas approached the bed and sitting down upon the edge, he placed a comforting hand on Lithôniel’s back and she recoiled from his gentle touch.
“Lithôniel…” he ground out, his voice thick with barely-restrained tears.
“Please, Legolas,” she moaned, “I do not wish for you to see me thusly.”
The Prince smiled though his heart was torn in two. Reaching forward, he took Lithôniel’s hand in his and pulled her into a sitting position. “I do not care,” he returned as he gathered the maiden into his arms.
‘Ah, the bitterness of War,” Legolas mused, stroking Lithôniel’s hair. I do not wish to leave her when she is like this, but what else can I do? If I stay here, I will be with her, but who is to say that she shall be safe? Whereas if I go to War, I know that I will be protecting her although I will not be with her…’
Legolas looked down at her, and Lithôniel’s eyes met his, her eyes shining with a seemingly unbreakable hope that was about to be shattered. He gulped. “I just thought that I would come and say goodbye before I left.”
Disbelieving, Lithôniel searched his eyes for a sign that he was jesting. “You – you are leaving?” she whispered.
The Prince looked away, unable to meet his betrothed’s penetrating gaze. He rose to his feet, letting Lithôniel slip from his arms, and stood awkwardly, looking everywhere but at the maiden.
“Do not worry for me,” he said gruffly, making for the door. “I will return, I promise.”
Legolas turned back, unable to resist his name coming from her lips. What in the name of Elbereth was he doing? He needed her just as much as she needed him. He loved her with all that he was and all that he could be, and here he was: leaving her, leaving her when she needed him the most.
Once more, he drew level with the bed and forced himself to look down upon Lithôniel. Her waist-length golden hair lay tangled about her face, making her look as if she had been forcefully dragged through a variety of shrubs. Her large, blue eyes were puffy and bloodshot from her relentless weeping, but that did not matter to him; she was still beautiful, inside and out.
“Please, Legolas,” she begged of him, “Do not leave me.”
“I have to,” the Prince murmured, trying to make her understand. “Together we will make Imladris safe and it shall once again be a Sanctuary. But in order for us to accomplish this, you must let me go.”
Lithôniel nodded, casting her eyes down. “I understand.”
Hooking his long fingers beneath her chin, Legolas tilted Lithôniel’s face toward his and kissed her before wordlessly leaving the room.
It took a full minute or so before Lithôniel could fully comprehend what had just happened. She stood shakily to her feet and staggered over to her clothes chest. Opening it, she drew out a thin, leather shirt, tunic and leggings. Clumsily, she pulled her dress over her head and replaced it with her battle attire.
Returning to the chest, she rummaged within the remnants of its contents and extracted two small knives, a long bow and a quiver full of arrows. She stroked the bow lovingly, before placing it in the quiver amidst the arrows, and slinging it across her shoulders, and attaching the well-used knives to the belt at her waist.
Closing the chest, she stood atop it and reached for the out-of-sight battle helm that she had hidden in the far corner of her room.
Gathering her hair into a knot, she rammed the helm over her head to hide her face and without a backward glance; she slid the window open and vanished into the sheltering branches of the trees.