A/N: Sorry for taking so long to get this chapter out, I’ve had it done for a week, but I’ve been busy all this week and couldn’t get it posted. I’ve been letting my neighbor gal keep her horse with my bunch and been trying to help her learn more about horses. She’s eager, but still pretty new and needs a lot of help, so it takes a lot of time to go for what used to be a simple ride, lol. I never realized how long it takes to explain the basics of things, or how long it takes to answer all the little questions about things you just know and haven’t thought about in years. It gives me a lot of sympathy for parents teaching kids all those little things every day!
Chapter 9: The Ups and Downs of Matrimony
*~* Marriage is a romance in which the hero dies in the first chapter ~ Anonymous *~*
*~* Marriage is an adventure, like going to war ~ G. K. Chesterton *~*
“What is the ‘Irish War of Independence?'” Legolas asked as we walked along.
I slowed down my gait, trying to remember when I’d even mentioned it. “Oh. Right. I mentioned it when I said how old I was. Ireland is the country where I was born. They were fighting another country, England, to break away from her rule around the time I was born.”
“I thought you said once that your home country was called the United Stated of America?”
“Yeah,” I chuckled darkly. “I’ve always considered it my country. It’s where I’ve lived most of my life, I guess. But I was actually born in Ireland, across the sea. My mother’s people are Celtic, an Irish people. When I was living in the US, I had to routinely change my name and identity as I moved around so people didn’t notice I wasn’t aging normally. Eventually I got papers and an ID that said I was a born American citizen so I could become a Marine.”
“The sea,” Legolas muttered, longing in his voice, but then he shook his head, seeming confused by a lot of what I’d said. “Then your name is not Elaina?” he finally asked.
I laughed harder at his dismayed look, tugging on Legolas’s hand to pull him to a stop. “Actually, Elaina really is the name my mother gave me. I’ve used many different ones since, but I always go by Elaina from time to time.”
“And the name Rowan?” he asked.
My head tilted as I wondered where he’d heard the last name I’d most recently used.
“You introduced yourself as Detective Elaina Rowan when you first arrived in this world.” A devilish grin suddenly split his face. “Though I suppose it would be rightly said that first you introduced yourself to me by breaking my nose and pressing my knife to my throat. But later you introduced yourself to the others with your name. I also heard Lady Galadriel address you thus.”
My hand flew to cover my mouth in horror as I recalled my aggressive and defensive reaction after I’d been shot in the vest and then felt a hand suddenly descend on my shoulder as I had tried to recover the breath that had been knocked out of me. “My god, I can’t believe you ever wanted anything to do with me after that. Not to mention I treated you like a bitch for so long afterward.”
“Nay,” he laughed. “It was truly not so long as that. You were perhaps standoffish for a time, but you finally eased to my presence.”
I glanced down at our entwined fingers. “Guess I did more than that,” I laughed, stepping into him and kissing his chin when he didn’t lower his head to meet me. I chuckled at a naughty thought. “You must be masochistic—I mean, you must be a glutton for punishment. What in the world possibly interested you in me? Or do all males just have a streak of attraction for females who are cruel to them?”
He laughed. “Very much you remind me of a mother bear. Great is your roar in warning, and greater still is your bite if pressed, but to those you show your love, there is only kindness and such gentleness, though ever the fierce protectiveness remains.”
I felt my cheeks heat. “Not exactly how a Marine imagines others thinking of them as,” I muttered, wondering if I’d ever been called “gentle” before.
“Rowan?” he reminded.
I lowered back down to my heels with a sigh.
“Honestly? I’ve wondered for a long time what possessed me to go by Rowan this last time ’round when I bought new paperwork and ID for myself. My father’s father was said to have frequented Kievan Rus’, or as it was known then, the land of the Rus, which later became part of Russia.” Legolas began looking lost, so I waved it away. “That’s not important. Anyway, my grandfather was of course Fae, and fond of trees like most Fae are. In particular, he was fond of rowan trees, or ryabina trees as they were called there. He was said to always be searching for a certain rowan tree. I don’t know why.
“Anyway, he eventually and quite frequently went by Ryabina as his name and then surname. My father followed suit, and when he came to Ireland looking for a Celtic woman to breed with, he took the Gaelic version of the name, Rowan, to better fit in. It worked, too. My family has a lot of old folklore and tales concerning the rowan tree. I hated my father, but I guess I figured there was no denying that I am born of his blood. At least no denying it to myself. So I decided to use the name.”
“It is a beautiful name,” Legolas offered with a soothing smile. “We have not many rowan trees in Mirkwood, but I saw many in the lands of Rohan.”
It seemed strange to be married now and still having these getting-to-know-you talks, but I also realized it could take us years to truly know everything about each other, and the prospect seemed more than appealing to me. At least we wouldn’t get bored and run out of things to talk about.
“What about you?” I asked as we started down the hall again. “I know your name translates to green leaf, but why did your parents choose it?”
He smiled, seeming as pleased with our simple chatter as I was. “My mother, too, was quite fond of trees, even for a wood elf, and on the day I was born, cool spring temperatures turned suddenly warm and the trees all seemed to blossom and bloom at once. Yet my lady mother was unable to witness their greening for her labor with me. And though she lamented not bearing witness to the trees, she said she had been given a greater gift; one she would not trade even for sight of a single leaf greening.” His cheeks colored slightly as he spoke, seeming modest about telling the story as he continued, “My father called me Alassiel’s Little Green Leaf at the first, and then finally named me Legolas.”
“It’s a wonderful story,” I said, my thoughts lingering on his mother. Legolas had told me she’d sailed to the undying lands, but he hadn’t talked much else about her or why she’d left and I hadn’t pressed. This was the first time I’d even heard her name. “Do you miss her?”
He nodded. “Yes, but not as much as when she first sailed. It took time to adjust to her absence in my father’s halls, and his growing somberness. Yet it is not as it would be for mortals, the ache in my heart has lessened, for I know I shall see her again in Valinor.”
“Why did she sail?”
“She loved our forest, but as the influence of Dol Guldur increased and the Great Greenwood darkened, so did my mother’s light and laughter. In the end, she could not abide the darkness of our forest and decided to await my father and me in the Undying Lands.” He sighed and I could see the unmasked longing in his expression though he had tried before to hide it. “My father’s halls were never the same after her departure. My lady mother was always jubilant and laughing, and my father was once, too. But he became solemn and staid after she sailed. And his halls seemed almost silent.”
“She sounds like a lovely elleth.”
He pulled me close and pressed a kiss to my temple as we walked, his arm curling once more around my waist. “I wish she could have stayed to meet you before she sailed.”
I didn’t respond. No matter what I hoped for or tried to have Faith in, we couldn’t know for certain what the future would bring.
I’d wrapped my left arm around Legolas’s waist as we walked, and his left hand trailed down to mine on his hip as he seemed lost in thought.
“You told me once that people in your world placed permanent inking upon their skin,” he suddenly commented, “and I have seen that which you spoke of upon your own arm, but what is its purpose? What does it mean?”
I pulled my left arm back in front of us and touched below my shoulder where my Marine sniper tat was. “Well, like I told you, civilians get them for all sorts of reasons, but in the military, you normally get them to denote your branch of military and any special ranking. Mine is the Marine eagle, globe, and anchor with a riflescope crosshairs to show I was a sniper. Below it is the Latin inscription ‘Semper Fi’ which means ‘Always Faithful.’ For Marines anyway, tattoos are a matter of pride, honor, and accomplishment.”
I’d always been proud of my own, and regretted that it was so distorted now. The North Koreans had taken great relish in cutting and slicing away at it. And though I’d had it touched up after I’d escaped, scar tissue was so very difficult to tattoo. But the tat was still a matter of pride to me, just as it would be for any Marine.
“I do not understand the desire to permanently place ink upon your flesh, but I can hear the pride in your voice and feel it in your heart, so I must accept it. Strange though it seems to an elf to permanently alter your body thus.”
I shrugged. “The difference in both our race and our worlds I expect.” I really wasn’t surprised, he’d seemed genuinely baffled those months before when I had mentioned something about tattoos and then I’d felt the same last night as his fingers had traced my own tattoo.
“It is said the men of the East bear such markings as well,” he commented.
“Those I would guess are like some cultures in my world. Tattoos to mark the passage into manhood or other accomplishments.” I shook my head. “I never understood people in my own world that covered their bodies in tats. I have pride in mine, sure, but I can’t say I was tempted to get a bunch more.”
I glanced up at the blonde braids at Legolas’s temple and gently tugged one. “You said braids denoted position and having warrior braids was a point of honor. Tattoos are no different I guess, just that your markings of honor aren’t permanent like mine.”
He looked thoughtful and conceded, “Perhaps.”
We continued to walk in companionable silence, but curiosity soon got the best of me. “Soooo?” I drug out. “I’m curious. Do you still hear my thoughts, or do you hear anyone else’s?” I couldn’t help but wondering if it was only my thoughts he was hearing because of the mating or bond, or if he was hearing others, too.
He nodded his head. “I confess I hear a frantic murmuring of many voices. As though I were standing in a crowded room with everyone speaking at once into my ear and I cannot make out any one voice. Yet it is not truly in my ear. It is a heavy weight … pressing down on my mind, I suppose.” He shook his head as though to clear the voices away. “It truly is quite distracting.”
I shook my head as I smiled guiltily, though I was surprised by how easily he was able to still function. It was probably somehow due to his elvish nature, though it helped that there weren’t quite so many minds present in the Citadel at the moment.
In my youth, when I was overwhelmed by too many minds, I was hardly able to even place one foot in front of the other. “Yeah, it’s more of a pain than people realize,” I explained. “Sorry about that. But tell me, you said elves can sense the hearts and sometimes emotions of others, right?” He nodded his head. “Well, is that something you purposely do to read someone, or do you have to shut it off so you’re not doing it all the time?”
He carefully considered my words. “It is a skill that comes to an elf as they come of age, but I suppose, yes, it is a skill which a young elf must learn to harness and ‘shut off’ as you say so as not to be overwhelmed by the constant emotions of others.”
“Good!” I smiled. “Then this might not be so hard for you to learn. I would think the principle should be similar. Focus on your own thoughts and imagine a wall between your mind and everything pressing on it from the outside. Then just steadily build that wall and push it outward until your own thoughts are all you hear.”
We paused in an empty alcove jutting off a hallway, sitting on a plush bench while practicing building Legolas’s barriers. It took time and encouraging words, but he was able to grasp it much quicker than I would have imagined, perhaps only a half-hour of time passing.
He gave an audible sigh of relief when his mind was again his own, and I smiled in sympathy, though jealous of how quickly he’d seemed to master it. It had taken years of my childhood to really figure it out.
“Is this how you kept me from hearing your own thoughts?” he asked in a curious tone.
“Yeah, it seems to keep others from hearing me as well as me from having to hear everyone else around me.”
“Yet you do listen to me and others?”
The guilt set in again. “Yeah but I can’t understand your thoughts like you apparently can now hear mine. And as for others, I used it as a Marine and as a cop when it was useful. I didn’t do it all the time. And so often, it was more distracting than useful. I hope you’re able to learn how to easily control it so you’re not overwhelmed with all the random thoughts.”
He smiled and kissed my temple as he pulled me closer into his side and the warm embrace of his arms. “I need not know your thoughts to sense your guilt through our bond. You need not feel guilty. Perhaps this shall allow me to better understand the struggles you have had to long endure through your ‘gift.'”
“I’d rather you didn’t have to learn this way or even at all.”
“Regardless,” he argued, “I would not trade our binding for anything. We shall learn to manage these new turns, and I am ever thankful to feel your fëa within me. It is a comfort I would not willingly part with.”
Now that my own barriers were in place and the outside minds weren’t distracting me, I realized I could feel Legolas more strongly, too. And just as Legolas had said, it was somehow comforting to me to know he was always there.
As we left the Citadel, Legolas paused and turned to me, silently asking with a raised brow where I wanted to go.
“Aragorn will be down on the field in the tents, but let’s stop by the Houses of Healing first, if you don’t mind. I’d like to see the hobbits before we head down to the field and also see a few others in the Houses while I’m there.”
Legolas nodded and followed my lead, holding fast to my hand even though I’d tried to put a little distance between us.
I glanced at the men and soldiers openly staring at us on the street, and Legolas followed my gaze but only squeezed my hand as he ignored them and said instead, “I should like to see Meriadoc and Peregrin again as well.”
My gaze lingered on the curious stares once more, but I turned away, deciding if Legolas still didn’t care about such things, I wouldn’t worry about them for him. I’d been used to strange stares from childhood so they didn’t bother me now. But I couldn’t get used to the fact that they didn’t seem to bother Legolas either. I was used to enduring the stares alone, not with someone else.
As we neared the Houses, we could hear Gimli’s booming voice inquiring to see the hobbits himself. And as we closed in on him and the young boy he’d been questioning, I opened my senses up and searched for the familiar thoughts and language from our hobbit companions’ minds. There were many pained minds pressing on me from the wounded soldiers, but luckily, the hobbits were nearby.
“I think they’re over that way, Gimli, in the gardens,” I told the dwarf, pointing towards the stone pathways and the heavy scent of blooming flowers.
The dwarf spun around and took two giant strides towards me, surprising us both I think as he wrapped his arms around me in a fierce hug.
Seeming to catch himself, he blushed and started to step back, saying, “Lassie—”
But I stopped him and wrapped him in my own hug, letting Legolas’s hand fall away as I did so. “I’m so glad to see you’re all right, Gimli.”
The dwarf cleared his throat and stepped back, his ruddy cheeks bright beneath the wiry hair of his beard. “Right as rain, Lassie. Right as rain. Though glad to see ye are well, too. The elf worried nearly incessantly for ya as we sailed up the river. Rather poor company he was. It’s good to see the lad smile so again.”
As Gimli spoke, Legolas stepped beside me once more and slipped an arm around my waist, drawing me into the now familiar space at his side.
Gimli’s eyes narrowed on us as he said, “Something seems different about ya both.”
I decided to feign ignorance, saying innocently, “I don’t know what you mean.”
Legolas glanced down at me, a laughing disapproval in his eyes. Turning back to Gimli he proudly proclaimed, “May I introduce to you my wife, Elaina Rowan.”
I chuckled at the strange formality of it, and then at Gimli’s gaping mouth.
“Ye two sure wasted na time,” the dwarf said.
With a laugh I naughtily fired back, “Well, it’s the first time we’ve had access to an enclosed room and a bed since we declared our intentions.”
Gimli’s surprise came out in a choked breath, and even Legolas gaped down at me.
I shrugged, wondering what either would decide to say in return.
Legolas recovered first. “Had I but known a bed and room were the only requirements, I might have inquired for such amenities in Rohan.”
I laughed to see him so easily return my teasing, and Gimli soon joined me in deep guffaws, saying through his belly laughs, “King Thranduil shall find his new daughter more spirited than his palace halls are accustomed to!”
The elf and dwarf continued to laugh at this, but it immediately sobered me. “Damn,” I whispered, “I forgot I’ll have at least one in-law to meet, and a king no less!”
Legolas kissed my temple again and laughed, “Father shall find you charming.”
“Crass and uncouth you mean. And probably a bad influence,” I muttered.
Legolas only gave an unperturbed chuckle in return.
I glanced at the young boy who had stepped discreetly away but still stood openly staring at our odd trio. “Thank you,” I nodded to him. “We can find our friends from here.”
The boy turned and scurried away without another word, and we continued into the garden, soon following the familiar voices of the hobbits’ chatter.
Legolas kept his arms around my waist as we walked, leaning down to whisper assurances against my temple, “My lord father shall see what I love in you and come to love you as well.”
I let out a harrumph, far from convinced by his words. “Sure he will. But I’ve never met an in-law before,” I complained. “My first husband was an only child and his parents had died before we met. I never realized how lucky I’d gotten,” I grumbled.
“All will be well. You shall see,” he chuckled as we entered a small clearing in the garden lined with white stone benches.
The hobbits were sitting on one of the stone benches in front of rows of fragrant old-fashioned rose bushes, chattering to each other quietly when we entered, but they looked up when they heard Gimli’s booming voice.
“There you two young rascals are!”
I stayed back as the two hobbits fondly embraced the elf and dwarf, but soon they turned to me and rushed forward, wrapping their arms around my waist. Kneeling in front of them, I returned the gesture wholeheartedly and wrapped them in my own arms, careful of Merry and his bandaged arm.
“I’m glad you’re here with us and well,” Merry laughed.
Pippin pulled back and pushed lightly at Merry, also being careful of his bandages. “I told you she was here in the City and just fine, Merry,” Pippin admonished.
“But you said you hadn’t seen Lane since the battle started!” Merry rounded.
“True enough,” Pippin conceded and turned to me. “Where have you been? I’ll admit I was getting a might worried about you. And I knew Legolas would be worried if something happened to you.”
“I was with the other soldiers of Gondor fighting through the night and day,” I vaguely explained. “But enough of that. The battle is won and I’m as well as you are, Pip, though we’re both a sight better than poor Merry here.”
Merry blushed at the attention and shrugged it away, his eyes already losing some of the heavy weight in them. “Oh, it’s just my arm. And Strider says it’ll be fine in no time. It’s Lady Éowyn I’m worried about. And poor King Théoden. He was a grand king,” he said, sadness returning to his eyes.
“That he was,” I agreed. “But he fell honorably and will be remembered for ages. He’ll go to his ancestors with his head held high. And Éowyn too will soon mend and find happiness she never imagined. Time does eventually heal all wounds. But love helps,” I added with a quick wink up at Legolas.
Pippin’s head tilted as he looked at me where I still knelt before the hobbits. “I guess those are true enough words, but you seem different. You weren’t this happy the last time I saw you.” He glanced over his shoulder at Legolas and grinned, proving he was no less observant than Gimli. “Oh, but I guess that explains it. I know you worried about mister Legolas just as much as he worries about you.”
I shook my head as I chuckled. “I suppose that’s true enough. But husbands and wives are wont to worry about each other like that when they’re parted.”
The hobbits’ eyes grew large. “Husband and wife?” Pippin whispered.
But Merry suddenly laughed and clapped Pippin on the shoulder. “What he means is, congratulations. But no wedding celebration at least? We thought you’d intended to wait a bit, but I guess not. It doesn’t seem right though not to at least have some sort of feast.”
Legolas stepped closer and placed a hand on Merry’s shoulder. “It is certain there shall be feasting to come in the future. My lord father shall wish at the very least to have a feast to mark the event, and of course, our feast would not be complete without hobbits to join the festivities.”
We all sat on benches then near where the hobbits had been sitting, and soon conversation turned from the food and drink of the best feasts to telling each other the tales of battle and the different paths each of us had followed to come to it.
I stayed mostly silent, watching and listening, and letting Pippin eagerly tell our own part in how we’d come to Gondor and then listening to what he’d been up to while I’d been wandering the city with Nethiel.
My eyes turned to Legolas, who had fallen silent as well. He gaze was turned towards the sun, but fastened instead on the sky and the birds circling there.
“Look!” he suddenly cried. “Gulls! They are flying far inland. A wonder they are to me and a trouble to my heart. Never in all my life had I met them, until we came to Pelargir, and there I heard them crying in the air as we rode to the battle of the ships. Then I stood still, forgetting war in Middle-earth; for their wailing voices spoke to me of the Sea. The Sea! Alas! I have not yet beheld it. But deep in the hearts of all my kindred lies the sea-longing, which it is perilous to stir. Alas! for the gulls. No peace shall I have again under beech or under elm.”
My heart ached at his words and the desperate longing I felt within him. Gimli spoke to Legolas, but my ears tuned out the words as my face tilted down and my eyes closed. There was such utter longing in Legolas’s heart to cross the Sea that I wondered how we would ever be able to overcome it. How we could ever find any semblance of happiness when his elvish nature demanded he return to the lands of the elves. How would we ever have happiness if he could not find peace here?
Legolas’s hands suddenly grasped the sides of my face, turning it up to face him as his thumbs stroked my cheeks, wiping the wetness of a fallen tear away. I opened my eyes to see his torn expression.
“Ai!” he desperately exclaimed. “Feel not such pain in your heart, Elaina love. My words were spoken without care or thought. The Sea calls to me it is true, but all I must do to quiet the call is find where you dwell within my fëa. You shall be my peace. And we will have happiness.” I realized my barriers must have been lowered and Legolas had obviously heard my inner thoughts and worries.
As he spoke he pressed my palm to his chest, and I let my fingers curl there, clutching at the cloth of his jerkin and tunic. “But what about the sea-longing? I can feel it in you. I know how much you ache to follow that call.”
He slid his hand over mine, pressing it harder against his chest. “My fëa is bound to yours, which is much stronger than the sea-longing. The sea-longing waxes and wanes, and as time passes, it shall wane and not so tug at me, yet my love shall never wane. It shall only wax and grow with time. Some day I shall cross the Sea, but not for many long years, not until your mortal years are utterly spent.” My barriers were still down so I clearly heard his mind distinctly push his thoughts to me, And every day I shall pray to the Valar that you are permitted into Valinor so that I am never parted from you, not even by the Sea.
Legolas pulled me closer and pressed my head to his shoulder as Merry began speaking, trying to lighten the mood and turn the conversation from dire topics. But my mind was still lost in thought.
I wondered if Legolas was right and if we’d be able to surmount his longing for the Sea. But as I thought it, I glanced up at the sun and sky.
Is his sea-longing really so different from a fairy’s affinity for the sky, water, earth, or fire? Whatever kind of Fae they are, they have an affinity and need for that element. Even I have a longing for the sky, and though it had only adversely affected me in my captivity, I still long for some daily contact with the sun, still need to gaze at the sky and stars. Is mine so different from his? I have been able to see the sun, sky, and stars daily and nightly ever since I escaped my prison, but Legolas has only just had a small encounter with the gulls of the sea. Perhaps it will fade in time and not so strongly hold him. It will always be there, just as mine is, but maybe it won’t be so terrifying a problem as I initially feared.
“It is merely an understanding that the time of the elves in Middle-earth must end and we must return to our true home in Valinor,” Legolas whispered near my ear, still catching my thoughts. “It shall indeed fade in time. I have heard other elves speak so of the Longing.”
I nodded absently against his shoulder, somehow not at all upset by him listening to my thoughts this time. Perhaps because my thoughts had been troubled and I had wanted him to ease them.
Still, I carefully raised my barriers once more. I wasn’t used to sharing my thoughts with another. Hypocritical though it might be to shut him out of my thoughts given how many people’s thoughts I’d listened to. But I rarely understood any of Legolas’s thoughts, and so it seemed strange for him to so suddenly read my own thoughts so well.
“We’ll take it one day at a time,” I whispered back to him.
Who the hell said marriage was gonna be easy?
After we were through sitting in the garden and talking with the hobbits, Gimli and Legolas decided to head back to the field to speak with Aragorn and his captains.
But I headed the other direction, wanting to go up to the Houses of Healing to see Faramir and Éowyn at least.
The halls were teeming with activity, wounded soldiers lining rooms and nearly every inch of hallway it seemed, healers wandering about throughout them to treat the wounded. I instantly felt guilty. I’d spent the night in Legolas’s arms and sleeping comfortably, when I could have made myself useful here. I didn’t know the herbs and medicines, true, but I could stitch simple and some complex wounds as well as any.
Yet it seemed at this hour I was no longer needed. Exhausted looking healers had moved on to the lesser, more superficial wounds, and seemed to have things well in hand, despite their exhaustion.
A sleeping figure caught my eye as I passed by a room with the door ajar. It was Faramir, sleeping peacefully. His bandaged shoulder was just visible under the blankets. I knew Aragorn would have already been through during the night to heal him, but wondered if anyone had yet told the man that his father had passed. I prayed not, such grief I knew he would not yet be ready for.
I turned and stepped back into the hallway, colliding with an old woman busily bustling by.
“Excuse me, sir,” she started to say, then gasped and pressed her hand to her breast. “Bless me! You are a woman! Two women warriors within our halls! Never did I think I would see such a day.”
I ignored her bluster. “Then you know where the Lady Éowyn is. Would you tell me?”
But she continued to bluster. “Why, never in my day did women so disguise themselves and fight alongside the men.”
Deciding to go out on a limb, I guessed, “Ioreth?”
She stepped back. “Why yes! How did you know me?”
“Lucky guess. Where’s Lady Éowyn?”
This time she was finally struck speechless and merely pointed down the hall to the door just down from Faramir’s.
“Thank you,” I told the mute woman, and stepped up to Éowyn’s room.
As I eased the door open, I expected to find her asleep in her bed just as Faramir had been. But she turned her head and cast listless eyes on me.
“Still bitten by the frost, I see,” I murmured to myself. But seeing that Éowyn was awake, I let myself into the room and crossed to her bed.
“You knew,” she whispered, as I pulled up the wooden chair to her bedside. Her arms were both bandaged and lying on top of the blankets. I could see that her shield-arm had been broken and wrapped in thick casting.
“Hmmm?” I raised my brow in feigned ignorance.
But her eyes narrowed on me. “You knew after I went to Dunharrow that I would ride with the men in disguise. And you knew that Théoden would fall.”
I didn’t bother denying the accusation. “Yes. I knew.”
“And you did nothing!” she cried, her voice rising to a hoarse rasp. “You looked me in the eye, saw Théoden King lying on the field, and you turned away!”
She balled the fist of her wounded sword-arm and pressed it to her chest, heedless of the bandaging wrapped tightly around it. “Coward,” she breathed, though the whispered condemnation struck me harder than if she’d shouted it.
My eyes closed as I leaned back against the wooden slats of the chair. “Perhaps I was,” I whispered. “But the task was not mine. It was yours to slay the Witch-king. And as for Théoden, I grieve his passing, but he had been dealt his fatal wound before I arrived. He goes now to his ancestors, and it is for those of us left behind to finish this dark struggle in the hopes of better days. If we yet live through the coming struggles that is.”
Tears welled in her eyes and I realized the youth and immaturity I’d marked before were gone from her eyes. Where before I’d wondered if she could even barely be into womanhood, I now saw the culmination of all her weighty years and grief colliding at this moment. Indeed, by her eyes alone she seemed aged beyond her mortal years.
“You could have warned him of what was to come. You could have told me,” she whispered in choked tones.
I stood, longing to wipe away the weighty lines of grief and sorrow from her brow, but knowing she wouldn’t welcome my touch now. Only time could heal her hurts. And it was only small comfort to know that Faramir would help ease her hurts and sorrow.
“I could have,” I agreed. “And perhaps that, too, you would call cowardice that I did not divulge such things, but it was truly for the best. No one would want to carry the knowledge of such grievous and wretched fates in their hearts. The time of Théoden’s reign had come to an end. It is time for the young kings and captains of these armies to make the final stand and mark the beginnings of their own reigns. I know that’s no comfort to you, but your uncle is amongst his ancestors and you, too, shall heal.”
“Théoden King raised me from young when my mother and father passed,” Éowyn bitterly told. “Now he, too, has been taken from me. Speak not of the time of his reign ending! I still needed him. Everything has been taken from me. You could have told what was to happen, but cowardice stilled your tongue. I could have saved him had I known. Or you could have helped, but you cowardly turned away.”
I stepped to the door and paused in the opening, looking back over my shoulder. “Like I said. Maybe it was cowardice. I can only say that I know my own limitations, and I’d have been no help to you against the foe you faced. Call it cowardice if you want, but a Marine—a soldier—knows to size up a situation and go to where they’ll be the most use. And I was of more use elsewhere.”
I started to walk out, but stopped again and turned back to Éowyn. Her head had turned away from me as she stared at the wall and angrily jabbed at tears with her bandaged arm.
“You say you’ve lost everything, Éowyn, but you still have your beloved brother. And think on this in the days and weeks to come: Would you trade the happiness and joy you’ll soon know, for the memory of happiness you once shared with Théoden? And what would he think of that? Would he let you turn from your future joy to grasp at the old familiar comfort of past happiness?”
Without waiting for an answer, I turned and left her room, swiping at the moisture that had gathered in my own eyes.
As I turned into the hallway from Éowyn’s room, I once more ran into someone.
“Dammit,” I growled to myself as I stepped back. And was surprised when I looked up into Halbarad’s gray eyes.
“My lady!” he squeaked in surprise. “Are you all right?”
I forced a smile and nodded. “Peachy.” Seeing his confusion, I tried again. “I’m just fine.”
He looked doubtful and glanced at the closed door behind me, so I changed the subject before he could press me.
“So, what are you doing up here? I thought you’d be down on the field with Aragorn and the others.”
“In truth, I am headed there now,” he explained, and fell in step beside me. “But I had wished to visit some of our brethren who are being tended here.”
I nodded and we continued in silence. Halbarad was a tall man, his stride easily longer than my own, but he easily and comfortably shortened it to keep pace with me. But he continued casting sideways glances at me as we walked, and I was just debating asking him what he wanted when he finally broke his silence.
“Why did you save my life on the field?”
The question startled me. “Why not?” I asked, the two words coming out a little more belligerently than I intended. Is everyone going to question my motives this morning?
“I do not mean offense by my query,” he hastened to explain, “But I cannot fathom why you risked your life for mine. You had only just met me.”
His stare as we continued walking began to unnerve me. Did he think I had some kind of interest in him after Aragorn’s teasing words?
“You are Aragorn’s closest kin, and I could tell by the way he spoke of you that he cares very deeply for your friendship. And Aragorn has become a dear friend to me. How could I tell him someone so dear to him had been lost?” Again, my guilty mind added. And I realized in some small way, what I’d done had been about atoning for the sin of keeping Gandalf’s fall to myself. I truly hadn’t been able to stomach the idea of telling Aragorn that someone else dear to him had died, and that I’d known about it.
“Oh,” Halbarad muttered, and I thought I saw disappointment in his eyes.
I cursed silently to myself as I let my mind feel his swirling emotions and confirmed the disappointment laced throughout. With a calming breath, I tried to explain a few things to the Ranger.
“Look, you seem like a very nice man, well worth the effort of saving for no other reason than that, but that is why I acted as I did.” Seeing the disappointment still there in his eyes, I stopped and placed a hand on his arm. “You don’t even know me; you know nothing about me. I can see you were hoping for something more, but that’s all there is.”
I let out a self-deprecating laugh. “I’m flattered that you could even consider wanting more from me, but I’m a stranger to you.”
“I know you are kind and brave. And that you are beautiful.”
The snort escaped before I could stop it. “You forget, I’ve seen myself in the mirror. I might be fair, maybe even pretty to some when I put an effort into it—which I assure you is a rare thing—but I’m not beautiful. I’m not fishing for compliments here; I’m just stating the facts. Truthfully, it’s never really bothered me. I learned a long time ago to accept my limitations.” And I’d worked at accentuating my plainer features as a Marine and cop. Beauty queens just didn’t have a place in either profession, nor did such beauty serve any advantage. Just the opposite, it was a disadvantage when the men didn’t take you seriously because of it.
He started to argue, but I cut him off.
“Like I said, I’m not fishing for compliments here or trying to start an argument, just saying that any attraction can’t be based on my looks alone.”
“But you saved my life,” he insisted.
“Ahh, there it is. I saved your life. It’s kind of a reverse Florence Nightingale effect I suppose, or transference.” I stopped and tried to clarify my words to him. “You think there’s something there because I saved your life. But it’s not real. And it will fade. It’s just gratefulness you’re really feeling.”
We continued in silence. I was glad to see that Halbarad seemed to be giving my words due consideration as we stepped out of the Houses of Healing onto the street.
“My lady! Lane!” a voice called, and I looked up to see Nethiel had been coming up a side street towards the Houses.
“Nethiel,” I fondly greeted the girl. “Were you heading in to help the healers?”
“Yes!” she said excitedly, “My mother-brother is a healer and he says he will begin teaching me and perhaps train me to be an herb-mistress.”
I laughed at her bright enthusiasm. “Well good for you. I can tell you’re excited.”
“Oh yes! It has been long hours running and fetching for the healers, but I am so thankful for the opportunity.”
She finally seemed to notice then that I wasn’t walking alone and glanced up at Halbarad before her eyes dipped down and a pretty blush crawled up her cheeks. I glanced at the Ranger to see what caused her blush and grinned when I saw Halbarad’s speculative gaze of the young girl.
I glanced back at Nethiel and corrected myself. She was a woman in this time and place.
Deciding to stir the pot, I introduced them. “Nethiel, this is Halbarad, a Dúnadan Ranger from the North and a very honorable man.” I turned to the Ranger as Nethiel’s blush deepened. “And Halbarad, this is Nethiel; she has been helping me out and guiding me in this large city. She’s a friend and an aspiring healer.” I just couldn’t bring myself to call her my lady’s maid.
The Ranger pressed his fist to his breast and bowed to her. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance, my lady,” he gallantly proclaimed.
Nethiel’s blush deepened even more until I was afraid her cheeks might combust. But she curtsied gracefully and whispered in a slightly shaking voice, “And I am pleased to meet you, sir.”
She turned and glanced up at me before her eyes darted back to the ground. “Is there anything I can do for you and your lord husband?” she whispered.
“No, Nethiel, we’ll look after our own needs. You focus on your learning.”
She curtsied again with a soft, “Good day,” and hurried off.
I chuckled as I watched Halbarad track her progress with his eyes, smiling at how quickly he seemed to lose his silly interest in me.
Turning, I started back down through the levels of the city. Halbarad quickly fell in step with me once more, his face still pinched thoughtfully.
“She’s a pretty young woman,” I casually threw out.
“Yes, she is,” Halbarad distractedly agreed, and then he seemed to realize whom he was with as a blush blossomed on his own cheeks, though his dark scruffy beard mostly covered it.
“She’s never mentioned any young man in her life,” I teased. “And she seems to me to be a brave, adventurous young woman.”
The blush brightened, but Halbarad did glance back over his shoulder. “Perhaps,” he said in a quiet and thoughtful voice.
I glanced back as well and saw Nethiel trying to watch unobtrusively from the doorway of the Houses of Healing.
“Perhaps indeed,” I agreed.
We were walking through the gates onto the field when Halbarad suddenly stopped dead still.
Turning back, I looked at him to see what the problem was.
“You are married?” he gasped in a strangled voice.
Powerless to stop myself, I doubled over in laughter, clutching at my stomach.
Through my deep, belly rolling laughter and tears I said, “I guess I don’t need to ask if you were interested in Nethiel if you’re just now realizing she mentioned my husband. I guess I also don’t need to ask if you’ve been thinking about her; you’ve obviously been replaying the encounter in your mind.”
Though I continued to laugh, I turned and continued onto the field. Halbarad I could feel wanted to ask questions, but his cherry red expression seemed to halt the questions in his throat as my laughter continued.
When we’d finally made our way down to the field—and my laughter had abated—it took a while to find where everyone was meeting. I figured it would be in the largest tent, but I hadn’t thought to look when I still had the vantage from the city. I could have asked Halbarad, but he seemed lost in thought as he wandered in step beside me, paying no heed to where we were.
Out on the field, men still labored vigorously to remove the littered bodies from both sides of the fight, thick ropes with scores of men tugging even the mûmakil bodies away from the field. Inside the city had been much the same, men carting away load after load of rubble and scrubbing at the black Orc blood as well as the rust colored stains from buildings, walls, and streets. But I could see by the steadfast resolve of the Gondorians, that they would not stop until their city had been righted.
As I wandered throughout the tents—and ignored the curious and speculative stares of soldiers and Rangers—it finally struck me to look for Legolas in another manner. I didn’t want to open my mind up to search for his thoughts and risk hearing too many thoughts, so instead, I reached inside myself to the place where he now dwelt and latched on. As I examined the swirling emotions and overriding contentment, I realized I could follow the strand of emotions in a specific direction.
And as I followed that strand, I finally found myself standing outside a grand tent of finely woven material much larger than the others. Plenty large enough to hold a meeting between the captains and lords.
“Bingo,” I whispered to myself as I heard Aragorn’s voice from inside the tent.
“What of Lane?” Aragorn’s voice asked from within.
“Why, of course the Lass will join us. Can ye imagine her faltering an’ not choosing to ride out with us?” Gimli declared in his usual booming voice. I was continually amazed by the volume the dwarf was able to project, but smiled at how he hit the nail squarely on the head.
I was about to step into the tent, Halbarad following on my heel, when I heard Legolas coolly refute Gimli’s words.
“Her bravery is not in doubt, Gimli, but Elaina shall remain here in the city when we depart.”
My skin tingled and burned with my flash of anger even as Gimli loudly guffawed at the elf’s words. As I stepped through the tent flap, I threw it to the side with a loud thwack, Halbarad following cautiously behind me. Smart man, I darkly thought. The sound of the tent flap was immensely less satisfying than the slam of a door would have been, but there was no door available to take my anger out on.
“Oh, Elaina might be staying in the city,” I growled, “but Lane sure as hell isn’t. She’s a Marine—a soldier—and when the others ride out, she damn well will, too.”
The males had all been gathered around a long table, bent over it with their backs to me, and all save for Legolas had jumped at my loud entrance. I assumed Legolas must have heard or felt my presence since he didn’t act startled.
Almost as one, the males all turned to face me, a sight I might have found humorous under better circumstances. But Legolas hadn’t turned with the others. Instead, he braced his hands upon the dark wood of the table and lowered his upper body onto his hands and arms.
“Please be reasonable, Elaina. Do not fight me on what is best for you,” Legolas quietly said to the tabletop.
“Back at ya,” I ground out, not moving any closer. “You think you have the right to make decisions for me just because we’re married now, well think again. No one makes decisions for me. And what? You think you can just decide something for me and then announce it in front of others without even talking to me about it?”
I took the time to mark the surprised look on Aragorn’s face, along with the utter shock on the faces of the sons of Elrond, as well as the other gathered lords and captains of men, but then I turned and swept out of the tent, Halbarad jumping hurriedly out of my way. I was afraid if I stayed any longer that I would say something I would later regret.
“Elaina!” Legolas called after me.
I kept walking. “Elaina’s your wife! And right now she’s pissed as hell with you, too, so she doesn’t want to talk to you any more than Lane does!”
A/N: Hmm… somehow a chapter I didn’t anticipate being very long grew to a chapter of over 8,000 words. How did that happen? Oh well.
Anyway, I must confess I’ve been a bad bad author. I totally forgot that the elves of Mirkwood originally spoke Silvan and then learned Sindarin later, continuing to speak both languages throughout the third age at least. I did know that one, but it completely slipped my mind when I started writing this story and was trying to decide what to name the language that the fairies of Lane’s family spoke. I searched some and decided to use a language that’s been used for Fae in other stories and legends: Sylvan.
Which I think is just too close and confusing. One letter different and no different sound in the word just didn’t seem right to use, but I also didn’t want to completely change what I’ve gone with. So I’ve instead decided to change the language of Lane’s relatives to Silva. It’s still close, but hopefully different enough from the elves’ Silvan. Silva was the base word both Silvan and Sylvan came from. It comes from Latin meaning: forest, woods.
But I do want the names of the two languages—and indeed the languages themselves—to be somewhat similar and yet different from each other.
So I’ve gone back through the chapters and changed all the Sylvans to Silva (at least I think I’ve gotten them all) but I’ve also added one short piece to chapter 7 where Lane and Legolas talk about the similarities of the two languages. It’s not long, and I won’t make you go back and read that chapter to find it. So instead:
New Excerpt from Chapter 7:
“Your father’s people speak a language called Silva?” At my nod he continued, “It seems achingly similar to the language we speak in Mirkwood, yet I cannot quite catch the words with my ear.”
“It doesn’t sound like Sindarin to me,” I told him, trying to remember the few Sindarin words I knew.
“Nay, not Sindarin, but Silvan. My people long spoke Silvan before we learned Sindarin to communicate with other elves, but we still use Silvan much at home, especially in ceremony.”
“And it sounds like Silva?”
“Similar, but not the same.” He paused and then said something, presumably in Silvan.
I popped up on my elbow and looked down at him. “You’re right. My brain feels like it should almost know that, but I can’t quite catch it. What did you say?”
“I love you.”
With a grin, I lowered myself back to the bed, pushing the matter away for the moment. There would be time to dwell on the eerie similarities later.
See, not very long. But there you have it.
And a huge thank you to Scheerasade for pointing out my dumb Silvan/Sylvan mishap! *headslap* I can’t believe I didn’t remember that when I was researching fairies! lol!
Thanks so much for reading and as always, let me know what you think of the story or where I can improve. (Like not forgetting what languages Legolas’s people speak!)
P.S. A Public Service Announcement for Writers Everywhere
So, on a completely different note from my story, to any of you other writers out there, I’ve been doing some reading of a few stories in the past week, one thing really caught my attention in several stories I was reading, and it just bugs me.
I’ve read several stories now where the writer has one character sitting on a horse (or a motorcycle or bike, etc.) and then another character jumping on in front of the first character. Now, this may be possible on a motorcycle or bike—though most people aren’t limber and athletic enough to lift their leg over without tipping the motorcycle/bike over or kicking the person sitting on the back and knocking them off or tipping the whole shebang over—but this simply isn’t possible to do with a horse unless we’re talking a Shetland pony that a person is just stepping over. And I’m guessing in most stories that’s not what we’re talking about. For one, two grown people can’t ride a Shetland double. 😉 Just saying.
Now, if you want to challenge me on this, go right ahead, but as a girl and woman who grew up on top of a horse and on a ranch, rodeoing most all of my life all the way through college and beyond, I can assure you a person cannot get on a horse in front of another person who is already on the horse without kicking the first person in the head or chest or without the use of some serious—and altogether impossible—acrobatics. And before you say it, yes, they did show Legolas swinging onto the front of Arod in front of Gimli in Peter Jackson’s version of The Two Towers, but again, that was CGI, not actually something that’s physically possible. Unless he was trying to kick the dwarf off the horse. 😉
The only way riding double works is for the person riding in front—and normally the person controlling the horse—to get on first and then for the other person to swing up behind them to ride just behind the saddle.
Trust me, this is the only way it works from a strictly physical logistics standpoint.
Plus, the person in front needs to be able to control the horse so the other person can swing up behind them.
Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now. It just really distracted and turned me off when I read this type of scenario in several stories. It seemed like there were three or four stories in a row that I started reading that all employed this same highly impossible maneuver, and I just wanted to point this out to writers. If you’ve done this in a story, you might want to think about changing it, and if you haven’t done it, then please don’t! 🙂
*~*~*~* This message was brought to you by horsemen and women everywhere. *~*~*~*