A gentle breeze whispered from the West, rustling the grass and sighing, melancholy, through the trees. The sickle moon had reached its zenith and hovered in the star-strewn sky, bathing the courtyard in an almost ethereal light.
A door opened and shut quickly, and, momentarily, two barely visible shadows could be seen flitting over the still land like spirits, bound to this earth, unable to escape and seek the Sanctuary of Mandos’ Halls.
Bouts of laughter rented the peaceful, night air and the figures reappeared under the sheltering branches of a large, chestnut tree.
“I cannot believe that Glorfindel actually bought that we were retiring to our chambers,” gasped Lithôniel breathlessly.
“I have used that trick on countless occasions upon my adar,” replied Legolas with a smirk. “He is still unaware that I use the time to hunt in the woods without any opposing guards.”
Lithôniel’s laughter subsided and she propped herself up onto her elbows, casting the Prince a mischievous look. “Well, I think that Lord Thranduil should be told. After all, he would not wish his only son to be waylaid by Orcs.”
Legolas shot up at once, fear written across his usually impassive face. He searched Lithôniel’s eyes for a sign that she was jesting, and was rewarded when he found a twinkle of amusement amidst the solemnity. He released a sigh and pushed her away from him playfully, saying: “You will be the death of me!”
He held his arm out to her and she went to him gladly, breathing in the sweet, honeysuckle scent that she had come to associate with the Prince. A breath caught in Lithôniel’s throat as Legolas’ face loomed before hers, the stars shining down upon the back of his head, illuminating his partially bound, golden hair, casting a soft light about him and for a moment, Lithôniel wondered if he was perhaps a Vala returned to Arda. A jolt of electricity surged through her body as his mouth covered hers and his arms slipped around her waist to cradle her soft body close to him.
Legolas pulled away, looking deep into his betrothed’s eyes and stroking her face with his free hand whilst the other hand remained protectively curled around her waist. “Im melin le, meleth-nín,” he murmured, his voice thick with emotion, his large, sea-blue eyes filled with adoration and unadorned love.
Lithôniel sighed and closing her eyes she leaned forward, resting her head on the Prince’s shoulder. “I love you too,” she echoed, raising her left hand to gaze upon the diamond ring that had once resided upon Legolas’ index finger but had now taken its rightful place upon Lithôniel’s thumb. She turned her hand slightly; admiring the way the light fell upon the ring, making the diamond look as if it was wrought from pure starlight.
“I cannot wait until we are married,” declared Legolas, his eyes misty and unusually expressive.
Lithôniel smiled appreciatively as she raised her head, all the better to see Legolas’ face. “Nor can I,” she returned. “Ada says that we will be married when the first flowers of Spring begin to unfold.”
“And then you shall return to Greenwood with me.”
Lithôniel did not reply, instead pressing herself firmly against Legolas’ chest and burying her face into his neck.
It had never occurred to her that once they were married, Legolas would want to return to his homeland and, therefore, take her with him. She dreaded already having to leave Elladan, Elrohir, little Estel and her father, Lord Elrond, but most of all, she would miss her mother. Celebrían had loved Imladris; from the prettiest flower to the tiniest pebble, she had loved everything. Her soul lived on in the place where her husband and children dwelt, and also in Lothlórien where her parents ruled the Galadhrim.
Legolas frowned softly, sensing that he had said the wrong thing. He cast back quickly in his mind, but could find nothing in his words that would cause Lithôniel comfort. The last thing that he wanted to do was hurt her, and he would kill himself rather than see her unhappy or in pain. He looked down at the top of his betrothed’s head, but her eyes were glazed and vacant, indicating that she was lost deep in her thoughts, battling with her overwhelming emotions.
The Prince cleared his throat, and the maiden seemed to withdraw from her reverie and looked up at him questioningly. “‘Tis getting late,” he explained, swallowing a lump in his throat as a single tear started in Lithôniel’s eye and ran lightly down her cheek, leaving behind a shimmering trail of silver vapour. “Perhaps we should be heading back.”
Lithôniel nodded, and rose gracefully to her feet, slipping her hand into his larger, calloused, but soft one. She sighed as Legolas turned his beautiful eyes upon her, searching her soul almost, discovering every secret that she had ever had with one glance.
“My lady, my lady!”
Lithôniel spun on her heel as Erethwen came running toward her, panting, her long, black hair coming loose from its knot and falling about her face so that she had to push it back in order to see where she was going. The servant pulled upon the sleeve of Lithôniel’s dress, her eyes pleading and fearful. “Please, my lady,” she managed to whisper at last, after trying and failing to catch her breath. “‘Tis your brother, Estel: he is sick with fever. Lord Elrond requests that you come immediately.” Lithôniel gasped and without warning, she grabbed Legolas’ arm and proceeded to drag him along four corridors and up the marble staircase. She pushed open the door to Estel’s room, and rushed to his side where the Human was calling out to her in his sleep.
“Shhhhhhhh, gwador-nín,” she soothed, gathering the little boy in her arms and stroking his sweat-soaked hair. “Loni’s here.” Being but four-years-old, Estel had not yet managed to get his tongue around Lithôniel’s name, instead christening her with the pseudonym “Loni.”
She looked around at her father who was sitting nearby, mopping Estel’s head with a damp flannel. “He should be fine,” he assured her. “I have administered him a concoction that will bring his fever down, and he will sleep it off.”
Lithôniel sighed and kissed her brother’s burning cheek. She sent a swift prayer to the Valar, thanking them for her father’s wisdom and his healing abilities. She relaxed into Legolas, who had slipped a supporting arm around her shoulders, and closed her eyes. She was always frightened when Estel got sick; it was times like this when she remembered that the child was not an Elf. He was Human, mortal, and could easily die of sickness, in the same way as an Elf could die of a broken heart, or be killed in battle. She did not fully understand what sickness was, nor could she understand how it could be carried in the air and not be caught by Elves but she was fully aware that the Firstborn were immune to it. However, she knew that there were different types of sickness, and that some of them could not be detected until it was too late. She clutched Estel tighter, fearful of the infections that sought to overwhelm him. She would not let that happen. As from this day, her duty was to protect her brother, and help him overcome all obstacles in order to fulfil his destiny.