Well, survey results say that you guys want to hear from our elf. So, here you kiddies go! It’s short, so I decided to get it out and not make you wait. Enjoy!
Chapter 14: Uncertain Futures
I watched in silence as she walked away from me. Long I had heard others of my race speak of the heartaches they felt before they allowed themselves to fade. As a youth, I had scoffed at the idea. Even as I matured, I had not truly understood the depth of emotion they must have felt to allow themselves to fade into the Halls of Mandos.
Yet, I felt that depth of emotion now. My heart yearned to reach out and stop Elaina from walking away from me. It screamed at me a thousand different reasons to give her.
But I could not.
She was happy here. I had seen such smiles light her face as she ran and played with the elflings of the city. Years fell away from her when she played and smiled with them. The smile that haunted my every dream and waking thoughts.
Yet, what had I to offer her?
My path was bound to the Fellowship. My destiny uncertain.
I knew not whether I would ever even see my home again, let alone have one to offer her one day. Loath I was to face it, but the Galadhel could offer her more than I could. He could offer Elaina a home and safety that was beyond my reach. He could offer her the continued happiness that caused her face to light into such smiles every day. Her past had been darkened by such horrors that I could barely even fathom, and I knew she had still kept some of the darkest horrors from me, shielding me from the worst horrors. She deserved something bright and good in her future. Her future was more than entitled to happiness and safety for once. She deserved to finally have a home.
I could only offer her uncertainty.
Still, Galadriel’s silent offer weighed heavily upon my mind. On entering the city, she had looked into the hearts and minds of all the Fellowship, weighing our courage and testing our resolve. Offering to each of us what we wanted and what tempted us most. I know not what had been in the minds of most the others, but images of Elaina had been my offering. Images of her smiling and happy as she walked by my side in the woods of my father’s realm.
Mirkwood lay only just to the north. I could take Elaina and return her to the safety of my father’s kingdom. I could ensconce her within his realm and ensure her safety.
Yet, I would have to leave the Fellowship behind to do so. Though Elrond had laid no oath upon us to travel further than our conscience or resolve could bear, I knew my own will would not allow me to tarry from my path. I had committed myself to this journey, and I could not turn away now. If we did not see the Ring destroyed, not even my realm would be safe for Elaina.
I had to let her go, and ensure that she would be safe here in Lothlórien. I would ensure that she could find happiness and love here, though it cleaved my heart in two. Her wishes and desires would be honored by me. If she loved the marchwarden, I would bury my heart and continue to wish her well.
Tamping my emotions down, I turned and walked back to our campsite and the tent I shared with Estel. Yet, something of my emotions must have shone through on my face as I entered our tent. The ranger had been reclining on his cot and glanced up at my entrance, but sat up in alarm as I walked closer.
“What is wrong, my friend?” he asked quietly in Sindarin. We spoke Westron around the others as was necessary, but when it was just the two of us, we slipped easily into conversing in the language we were both more comfortable with.
“Nothing is wrong, Aragorn,” I assured him, using his given name instead of the name he had been known by as a child.
“The drawn expression on your face and the sadness in your eyes say otherwise. What has happened?”
I suppose it was too much to hope for in trying to fool him. Human though he was, he was of the Dúnedain and the elvish blood in him made him more perceptive than other humans. A quality, I ruefully recalled, that Elaina shared with him. Many nights as we stared at the stars, she was able to read my expressions like a book, knowing there were thoughts I was keeping and trying to hide from the world.
“I spoke more with Elaina,” I admitted softly.
“What was said to cause such grief in your eyes?” he asked, standing from his cot and crossing the tent. He gestured to the small table in the corner as he sat, and I reluctantly joined him.
“She shall remain in the city when we depart,” I told instead of delving into the words we had exchanged.
“She told you she was staying?” Aragorn asked, clearly surprised.
I did not answer.
“She actually told you she was staying?” Aragorn repeated.
“No,” I admitted, “but she shall remain here with Haldir.”
“How can you be so certain if she has not said that she shall?” Aragorn pressed.
My temper broke. Standing, I angrily asked, “For what reason would she not stay? What reason can I give her to follow us into the wilds and into danger? She loves the marchwarden.”
The ranger calmly stood as well and asked, “What exactly did she say, my friend? Did she say she loved Haldir?”
I shook my head and quietly confessed the words still whispering tantalizingly in my ears. “She asked me to give her a reason to go. Yet what reason can I give her when she loves the Galadhel? I have nothing to offer her that could so change her heart.”
My body felt weak and I once again collapsed into the chair I had just sprung from.
“She asked you to give her a reason to go with us instead of remaining here?” Aragorn repeated as he too slowly retook his seat.
I smiled ruefully at his careful manner, as though he were afraid of startling a skittish deer in the forest. “Yes,” I answered shortly.
“What was your response to her?”
“That I could give her no reason. What else was I to have said? If she has given her heart to Haldir, there is nothing more to be done save ensure that she shall have the happiness here she deserves.”
Aragorn chuckled as he leaned back in his chair. “You fool of an elf,” he stated with a smile.
I bristled at his tone, but he continued before I could challenge his words.
“She does not love him,” he assured me.
I remembered my own desperate words to her as such, and her own angry response. She had clearly disagreed with my assessment.
“She does. She must,” I attested.
He shook his head. “Then why did she ask you to give her a reason to leave this city?” he pushed.
“I do not understand.”
He leaned forward and tapped his finger on the table as though to further make his point. “If she loved him and wanted to stay here, she would not be asking you for a reason to leave. If she loved the elf, she would not require an excuse to deny his offer. She would have simply accepted it and said her goodbyes to us. She was asking you to tell her if you wanted her to go.”
“Of course I wish her to go with us, I have told her this,” I replied, confused by what Aragorn’s point was.
“You told her why we all wanted her company with us. You have not told her why you personally wish her to come with. You have not told her how you really feel, have you?” He crossed his arms as he leaned back again and considered me.
“She knows my feelings. Never has another being known me so well. She can hear my very thoughts,” I pointed out.
“She barely speaks a handful of words in Sindarin. You told me yourself that she commented how easy it was to be around all of us since most of our thoughts are in languages she does not speak nor understand. You are assuming too much my friend. I think she was asking you to tell her if you feel for her as she feels for you.”
“‘As she feels for me?'” I repeated, my heart thumping in my chest. Surely, his words could not mean what I thought them to mean.
He sighed and ran a hand over his tired features. “It is plain to the rest of us that there has been something between the two of you for some time. It does not escape the notice of any of us that barely a night passes when you two do not sit talking long after the rest of us have retired.”
“We shared most of our watches together, of course we have spent many nights speaking,” I defended.
“Yet even after we reached the safety of this city, the two of you sit under the stars most nights talking,” he countered. “Even with her growing friendship with the marchwarden, it is you she often seeks out when she is troubled or upset. When she is distressed, she pushes the rest of us away, hiding her grief and sorrow, but you—you she allows to comfort her. Whether it is merely friendship between you both, I cannot speak to, but in my heart, I think she is as uncertain as I am as to what is between you and was asking you to speak your feelings.”
“You truly believe so?” I asked, hope forming a lump in my throat.
“Why else would she ask you to give her a reason to go with our number? If she loved the marchwarden, she would simply stay with him. She would not need a reason to leave,” he repeated.
I stood suddenly, “I must speak with her.”
I exited the tent before my friend could answer, crossing the campsite quickly to stand before Elaina’s tent. A soft glow gently lit the canvas sides of the tent, and a shadow silently moved about within.
“Elaina,” I softly called. “May I speak with you?”
Her handmaiden stepped out, her eyes cast differentially downward.
“Where is your mistress?” I asked.
“She has not yet returned for the night,” the young elleth answered with a curtsey.
“Thank you,” I replied, disappointment piercing me as the elleth returned to the tent and whatever her previous tasks had been.
The embers from the evening’s fire still glowed softly, so I sat beside the fire and used a stick to stir the coals as I waited for Elaina to return.
Hope had surged within me at Aragorn’s words, but what if he was mistaken? What if she did love the marchwarden and was even now telling him she would stay with him and giving her heart to him? She would be forever beyond my reach then.
Worse yet, what if Aragorn was right and she did feel for me as I for her, and yet because I had not spoken the words to her sooner, had turned to the marchwarden instead? What if my words drove her to choosing the Galadhel?
I wanted her happiness, but what if I could be the one to give her that happiness? And what of my own?
My fingers softly touched my lips as I remembered Elaina’s pressed to mine. She had said she acted on impulse and “adrenaline,” but had she felt something more than friendship for me even then? Often my mind had conjured the memory and feel of her lips touching mine. How often I had wished that surprise had not ruled my body then. How often I had wondered at what would have occurred had my own response been different. What would have happened if I had returned her kiss?
As the sky brightened to gray, I began to fear that I had destroyed all hope for myself. I feared that she had made her choice and decided to stay in Lórien.
“Legolas? What are you doing still up?” Elaina’s voice came suddenly from behind me, and I stood and turned to face her.
“I was hoping to speak with you again,” I admitted, my voice breaking with my nervousness.
“What about?” she asked, hesitantly stepping closer.
I stayed still and let her slowly come closer. I tried to read her face, but could see nothing but puzzlement there.
“Have you decided what you shall do?” I could not help asking. As I imagined her telling me she would remain in the city with Haldir, I realized I had truly come to love her. The feeling had slipped into my heart so slowly I had not even noticed when it had taken root there. It was entrenched so deeply within my heart now, that I feared my heart might be torn asunder if she chose to stay.
“I told Haldir I couldn’t stay here with him; you were right, I guess I don’t really love him. But Galadriel offered me a place here as well,” she told.
I felt my heart soar and plummet simultaneously. “You will stay?” I asked, my voice nearly quivering.
She shook her head. “I can’t leave the hobbits alone to face their future. Boromir either for that matter. So I’ve decided to go with and keep you guys company for a while longer.”
My heart plummeted further. She was accompanying us for the sake of the hobbits and the human.
“At least you shall come with us,” I spoke, forcing a smile and feeling my heart lighten slightly at the thought. “Merry and Pippin shall be pleased with your decision.”
She smiled, softly and wistfully. “Yeah, I guess I’d miss those two in particular too much if I decided to stay here.” She glanced at her tent. “Well, guess I should go make sure all my stuff is ready to go. We’ll probably be leaving soon.”
I nodded and watched her disappear into her tent.
Perhaps the Dúnadan had been mistaken on her feelings for me. Perhaps she felt only the friendship and kinship she shared with the hobbits.
At the very least, my heart eased with the knowledge that she would come with us and I would not have to bid her farewell. Even if she could not return my love, I would consider myself blessed to have her continued friendship on our journey to bolster my courage in the darkness to come.
A/N: I know some of you were disappointed that Lane isn’t staying in Lothlórien with Haldir, but it’s just the way the story kind of wrote itself. Honestly, when I started the story, I had for a while kind of considered and actually leaned fairly heavily towards creating something between Haldir and Lane. I was still considering it when our troupe got to Lórien, but I realized that if I did that it would be forced and unnatural. The way the story evolved, it just wouldn’t have been fair to Haldir if she had stayed in Lórien. As our heroine realized, Haldir just doesn’t know her and she would be repeating the same mistakes she made in her first marriage, and Lane is trying to learn from her past and grow 😉
But thanks to everyone for reading and sticking with my story. And welcome to our new followers! I’m excited to have you, and I apologize for not responding individually to any of my reviews. I’m actually working on and posting this from the road. Literally! Thank God for data cards that provide internet even while driving down the road (no I’m not actually the one driving right now 😉 ).
Thanks again, and let me know what you think!