The Worry Stone by Nea
Summary: After the war of the rings Legolas returns to Imladris and grows to know the mortal living there. What will become of him if he falls in love with a mortal? Will he be able to survive that love? Feel free to RR!
Categories: Movie-verse Characters: Aragorn, Arwen, Legolas, Gimli, Celeborn, Thranduil, Elladan, Original Character
Genres: Romance, Angst
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 68 Completed: Yes Word count: 75713 Read: 82168 Published: Nov 27 2004 Updated: Nov 27 2004

1. They meet again by Nea

2. it a chance meeting by Nea

3. Or was it? by Nea

4. Others may see by Nea

5. you're all wet by Nea

6. Elrohir remembers by Nea

7. yet a child by Nea

8. Questions and Worry by Nea

9. Musing in Lothlorien by Nea

10. Putting the king in his place by Nea

11. Arwen's Anger by Nea

12. Reaction to Gondor by Nea

13. doomed another to die by Nea

14. Calmacil by Nea

15. Will you believe me? by Nea

16. Elf of the fellowship by Nea

17. clumsy elf? by Nea

18. making up your own rules by Nea

19. A true glimpse into an elf by Nea

20. By an elven blade by Nea

21. hiding in the rage by Nea

22. Lenaith's past by Nea

23. awake to darkness by Nea

24. what keeps him alive by Nea

25. she opens her eyes by Nea

26. breaking his heart by Nea

27. she meant it by Nea

28. the letter by Nea

29. the simple face remains by Nea

30. and when I die? by Nea

31. turn your heart from mine by Nea

32. sneaky elves by Nea

33. everything was right with the world by Nea

34. held at arm's length by Nea

35. when apart from him by Nea

36. onesided argument reveals all by Nea

37. sleep well, my love by Nea

38. Lord Rondy? by Nea

39. caught and lectured by Nea

40. new teaching method by Nea

41. I cannot love you as you love me by Nea

42. stubborn human by Nea

43. torment by Nea

44. Gimli learns more of the elves by Nea

45. strike out their eyes by Nea

46. you must remember by Nea

47. death of a day by Nea

48. Girl talk by Nea

49. caught up in each other by Nea

50. today is all I have by Nea

51. block out the world outside by Nea

52. Aragorn's education by Nea

53. the power humans wield by Nea

54. not to notice by Nea

55. thinking under pressure by Nea

56. It is decided by Nea

57. sizing the mortal up by Nea

58. on their way by Nea

59. make it right by Nea

60. the king has tasted the bitterness by Nea

61. never aging, always changing by Nea

62. the sun sets in winter by Nea

63. mother and daughter together at last by Nea

64. why do I breath? by Nea

65. before the tale is told by Nea

66. this existence is enough by Nea

67. death stared back by Nea

68. the keeper of the stone by Nea

They meet again by Nea
Disclaimer: I DO NOT own or claim to create anything that could be familiar from any of Tolkien’s works. I have based these on his world, and I admit it gladly.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“I SHALL NOT!!!! THAT IS FINAL!!!”

Legolas winced as he heard a door slam from within the room the yelling was from. At least she had stopped screaming. And had gone out a different way than he and Aragorn were planning on entering through, so they didn’t have to worry about avoiding her.

Aragorn chuckled and shook his head, moving slightly closer to Legolas’s side. “It sounds like Lunian has heard what Elrond had planned for her.”

“Lunian? His mortal charge?” Legolas asked softly. When Aragorn nodded he glanced back at the still closed door. “What was planned?”

“An engagement, with one of the Rangers.” Aragorn shifted before smiling. “A distant cousin of mine, actually. Two or three times removed.” He frowned slightly, trying to think up the exact relationship, but failed and shrugged it away.

“Surely she is not old enough to wed,” Legolas murmured with a frown, his mind pulling up an image of a small girl with tousled dirty blond hair, torn, muddy leggings and laughing hazel eyes.

Aragorn laughed aloud, his eyes taking on a teasing grin. “My friend, she is old enough, which you yourself have noticed.”

Legolas blinked and turned his eyes back to his friend. “What do you mean?”

“Lunian was the maiden who warned us off of the path last night.”

Legolas’s eyes widened as his mind tripped back in time to the evening before.

He and Aragorn were riding in through the mountain path, having met at its base from their separate directions, when a figure, hooded and cloaked, stopped them simply by standing in their path.

“My lords, the path is blocked. Lord Elrond wishes you be informed to take the higher path, despite it’s possible dangers.” She tilted her head back, letting the last rays of the sun linger lovingly on the skin made smooth and pale in the waning light.

“Thank you. Need you a ride back?”

Aragorn shifted in his saddle with a grin. “Don’t spoil her fun, Legolas.”

She laughed merrily. “It’s going to be good to have you home, Estel,” she informed him, before turning and fleeing quickly, the cloak flowing wildly behind her.

The two riders raced along the higher path, seeing several rocks tumbled over the path they would have taken, mingled with fallen trees. The maiden ran over the rocks and ducked under the trees before a bend in the path took her from view.

When their journey ended, Aragorn looked to one of his ‘brothers,’ who grinned and nodded. “She returned a short while ago,” Elrohir assured him, getting a fond smile from Aragorn.

“That was Lunian?” Legolas asked, surprise lifting his brows. “Then she has…grown, since last I saw her.” In fact, since he had been assuming her to be a she-elf, he had planned to seek her out, see if the slight stirring he felt when confronted by such a spirit would grow into something more with time.

Aragorn chuckled softly, watching the wind play in some trees just beyond where they were standing. Slowly, as neither said something, the humor in his eyes faded, replaced by a slow melancholy. “You must ignore it, Legolas. There is too much in the world to see for you to cut your life short. As Arwen does hers.”

Legolas’s head jerked to see Aragorn’s face in the noon sun which managed to filter through the leaves above them. Slowly he smiled. “You know the elves too well, I think. You see that which is hidden to ourselves.”

Aragorn shook his head. “I see only what I never shall know. It would be enough, Legolas, for me to simply watch the seasons change if I had eternity to do so. Love changes that.”

“I have long watched the seasons change.” So long the span of a childhood among men seemed as but a moment.

“I hope you shall enjoy them all, which will not happen if you proceed with the idea you were formulating when you did not know she was mortal.”

“She is interesting, mortal or no.” Legolas found himself slightly annoyed Aragorn could read him so easily on such a matter.

Aragorn sighed, closing his eyes. “Interesting, yes. But would you risk your life to know her?”

“If she is meant for me, I would rather die having truly loved her than to live the rest of time without knowing that love.” Legolas shook his head at the uselessness of the conversation. He had hardly spoken to her, and Aragorn was warning him not to love her. “Why do you argue with me? You know well the hearts of elves.” How they could be given in an instant or kept apart for all time.

Aragorn sighed again, one hand reaching idly to the pendant which still hung about his neck. “And I often wished someone had warned her away from me. Then she would be able to live forever, as she was meant to.”

“Arwen has the wisdom of her years. It was her choice to follow her heart.”

“Was it a wise one?”

Legolas frowned faintly for a moment, but was stopped from answering by the opening of the door to Elrond’s study. He looked a little drawn, but greeted them cordially, apologizing for their wait. After gathering the normal news, they dismissed the formalities, arranging quickly for Elrond and his sons to visit Aragorn and Arwen in Gondor before too much time had passed.

Legolas delivered the message he had carried for his father, and asked one be sent back which would inform his father he would remain in Rivendell until his friends departed for Gondor, and if allowed, would accompany them there to see Arwen again. Soon he was free to do as he pleased, as their messages were dispatched to the east and south.

Which of course meant he went straight to the gardens. Such places in Mirkwood were few, and he always enjoyed the gardens of the other elven dwellings. They were so peaceful, serene. The other elves would give him his solitude, discretely avoiding him as he would avoid them.

So, needless to say, he was a bit perplexed to come upon someone pacing quickly back and forth before the small stream he had unconsciously headed towards. He started to back away, but she muttered something softly to herself, her hands clenched into fists as she spun around again.

“Milady?”

She whirled, the honey colored hair flying behind her as she faced him. She was breathing quickly, her eyes wide and startled. She put one hand to her throat, slowly closing her eyes as her cheeks flushed. “Do you need something, Prince Legolas?” she asked after a moment, opening her eyes.

Hazel eyes, he mused to himself, and a human voice. Though she spoke the language of the elves, her voice was naturally a bit harsher, abrupt compared to the tinkling rhythm of elven tongues, though still softer, more gentle than that of the humans he had encountered before, excluding Aragorn. The difference must have something to do with being bought up by elves. “I was going to ask why you were in such a state, but I believe I know, if you are indeed, as I believe you to be, Lunian.”

“I am,” she agreed with a sigh, the fingers of her left hand still closed as if over something as her right slowly tucked her hair behind her non-pointed ear. “Estel told you, am I right?” She sighed and rolled her eyes to the sky when he nodded slightly. “When will he learn there is a reason for silence?”

Legolas couldn’t help but smile faintly. “You were not so silent not long ago.”

Color swept over her cheeks again, and she lowered her eyes, before laughing ruefully. “Half of Rivendell probably heard me,” she murmured softly, watching some of the water as it swirled over and around the smooth pebbles that could be clearly seen at the bottom of the stream.

“I doubt that, milady. I was standing at the door you did not escape from with Aragorn, and we heard little.”

She smiled at him. “You’re a terrible liar.” She looked back at the water, slowly sinking down to sit one of the large stones that stood out from the bank to the water. She reached her fingers into the cool water, letting the water flow in rivulets past her. A soft sigh escaped her, and for a long moment she seemed to forget he was there, whispering to the water. “Why can’t I just flow around all the obstacles thrown at me like you? Why must I endure toil and strife to simply enjoy my life? It shall be short enough without it being difficult. Why can’t I simply enjoy it?”

He felt a bit uncomfortable just standing there, because they hadn’t actually said anything to dismiss themselves from the conversation. “Everyone finds troubles at some time, milady.” He spoke only when the silence stretched too long.

As she looked up, a flicker of gold seemed suspended in her eyes before she looked away. “Some more than others.” She pulled her fingers from the water and pushed herself up from her slightly reclined position after flinging the droplets of silvery water back into the stream. “You know my name, Prince Legolas. You may use it.” Slowly she got to her feet. “I am no elven lady who needs or wants a title.”

He tilted his head at her, slowly smiling. “If I recall, you used to get a kick out of being called milady.”

Her head turned sharply to see him, her eyes quickly searching his face. A slow smile tilted her lips and warmed her eyes. She laughed softly, disbelievingly, walking slowly towards him. “I had given up on you visiting again,” she murmured softly, her eyes tracing his features. Being so close he could clearly pick up on small hints of gold in her mostly green eyes. “Why didn’t I recognize you? You haven’t changed.”

“Perhaps that is why, Milady,” he teased.

Her eyes darkened, her countenance becoming much less cheerful. “Perhaps.” She shook her head and the cloud lifted, dispelled completely as she smiled again. “And what did I call you, I wonder? For I think I would remember being forced to get my mouth around such a name as Prince Legolas.”

He chuckled softly, recalling indeed she had had trouble with many words at the time he had last seen her. “Egola, I believe it was.”

“Egola, hmm? You did better than Elrohir. I nearly always called him something that sounded too close to horror, and for some reason he was unable to get me to correctly hear his name for quite a while.” Delightedly rueful, she chuckled softly. “Elladan was Ladan. He didn’t mind that nearly as much as Elrohir minded his.”

His laughter touched the air again, combined with her smile to brighten the small glen that had seen a great sorrow in times past. “How old must you have been?”

A faint smile touched her lips for a moment. “Three or four, I believe. Still at that cute, entirely senseless stage when anyone will forgive you anything after a short while.” She lowered her eyes away from his and sighed softly.

His ears wished for her laughter again, his eyes for the merry sparkle in hers. But they were gone, and it did not look like she felt like letting her spirit lighten again soon. “Elrond will not force you,” he murmured, assuming her argument was the cause for her silence.

“He has tried already. He knew Estel would be coming to ask for them to visit, and planned to take me with him to wed and remain in Gondor.” She returned to her rock, sitting upon one leg while drawing the other to her chest, her arms wrapped around it. She rested her head against her knee, watching the water swirl once more.

“Is it that you refuse, or the man?”

“Both. I have lived here in all my memory. As long as Lord Elrond remains, I wish to. Besides, my heart does not lie with any, so why should I marry? Why should I become a housewife when I do not wish to be a wife or a mother? I do not plan to ever do any of them.”

“It is said the quickest cure for such sentiments is to fall in love.”

She lifted her head and met his eyes for a long moment. “It is said,” she agreed quietly. “But never by those who do not themselves know love.”

“Everyone knows it, even if it does not know them.”

A faint smile played across her lips for a moment, as she resisted retorting what he could see within her. She was not planning on loving anyone in such a way, either. “It is a shame I was so young the last time you visited. I would have very much enjoyed your company.”

“You have it now.” He shifted his weight, leaning back against a tree.

“And I am poor company for any save the murmuring brook, who hears all that is said but repeats nothing.” She rested her chin on her knee once more, watching him for a moment. “How long shall you stay?”

“I hope to accompany the group to Gondor to see Arwen again.”

“Known her long?”

“Most of her life, though we only met briefly through the years. She spent a few hundred years with her mother’s people, but I had not traveled there until a few years past.”

Her eyes searched his as if looking for something, before taking in the rest of him. She sighed softly and shook her head. “At one instant, I could see you to be no older than I. In the next it is obvious you are older than any mortal could ever be.”

“Such is the way of elves,” he murmured softly, frowning faintly.

“Yes,” she agreed, “and it is no less disconcerting for knowing that, for having seen it, or even for having spent my entire life around it. As a leaf slowly grows in the spring, gathers light in the summer, then withers and falls in autumn, and is swept slowly away by the wind or water, I have changed. Though perhaps at the beginning of my summer, another score of years may see me at the end of it, or perhaps already in the stream, being carried out to sea.” She shook her head. “You never shall know the same, for as you are you will always remain.”

“I may never truly grow old, but I do not remain the same. Nothing does.”

She lifted her eyes from watching a small leaf swirling beside the rock she was on. He could tell she’d been around elves all her life, for her eyes caught his, looking into him for a long moment. She frowned and dropped her distressed gaze. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, seeming to sense the sorrow he held, the changes he had undergone that he would gladly be rid of if he could. Then she got up from her perch and once again ran from him, quick, graceful if not exactly silent bounds carrying her across the stream, using the small stones protruding from the silvery water.

He opened his mouth to call out to her, to stop her, but closed it again after his initial hesitation, dropping his hand to his side. She didn’t want him to stop her, nor to follow. She wanted to be alone, as he had, when he started walking.

With a slight frown he realized he didn’t so much want to be alone just then, so he retraced his steps until he was standing in the halls of Elrond’s house, listening carefully for Aragorn or Elrohir. A soft chuckle escaped him.

“What’s funny?”

He turned and saw Elrohir glance up at him from a book. He shook his head slightly. “I ran into Lunian in the gardens.”

Elrohir grinned, the corners of his eyes crinkling as affection softened the slate blue. “Were her eyes still shooting flames?”

“For a while. Then she recognized me.”

Elrohir lifted a brow. “I’m surprised. She was a small child when you were here last…well, when she was up and about at the same time.”

“How did I miss her before?” he asked, pretty sure he would have noticed her despite the escape of Gollum and the threat of Sauron that had been looming over them the last time he visited. It had not been four years, though it often seemed like longer.

“She was very ill, confined to her chamber.” Something in Elrohir’s eyes betrayed there was more to it than a mere sickness. However, Legolas knew he would be told if it was felt important. Elrohir shook his head, clearing away the darkness. “To see her now, you’d never know it.”

“No,” Legolas agreed, smiling faintly. “I assume Elrond has given up the match?”

Elrohir frowned in displeasure. “Not entirely. He plans to take her to Gondor and introduce them. He thinks they will be a good match. How, considering he met the man once for a handful of seconds, I don’t know. The meeting was not in the best of circumstances besides. Of course, his ideas in that department don’t always go according to plan…”

A rueful smile tilted Legolas’s lips as he thought about Aragorn. “Plans made in haste without forethought never bear sweet fruit.”

“That saying should have been declared dead ages ago, Legolas. Sometimes the greatest things in life are what come unexpectedly, without warning.” Elladan entered the room, biting into an apple.

Legolas thought about the hooded maiden that had appeared on the path before them without warning. “You may be right about that.” Then he bowed his head slightly to them and took his leave.
it a chance meeting by Nea
A soft noise betrayed his approach, so his sudden, “Hey little sister,” didn’t startle her in the least, though she would guess that had been his intent.

“Good afternoon, Estel,” she murmured softly, watching a fat bumblebee charge drunkenly into the middle of a large, bright red flower. She shook her head with a theatrical sigh, though she was partially serious in her annoyance. “I just can’t seem to get away from having company today!”

Aragorn chuckled with a lifted brow, sitting so he could lean back against a tree near her. “Who else would dare approach you after your little screaming match with Elrond?”

She smiled ruefully, knowing that despite Legolas’s words, at least half the elves in Rivendell had heard her personally, and the rest had undoubtedly been told shortly thereafter. Elves were notorious gossips, and with their hearing, it was hard for them not to eavesdrop. “He did not mean to do so, I believe. Legolas came upon me near the stream not long ago.”

“Legolas?” The name seemed to worry Aragorn, for he shifted uncomfortably, opening his mouth every now and again before closing it. Finally he sighed. “Be careful, Luni.”

“Careful? About what?” she asked, confusion utmost. Her fighting with Elrond?

Aragorn lifted sad, tortured blue eyes to look at her for a long moment. “Just be careful,” he murmured gruffly, before getting up and leaving her in peace.

“Careful,” she grumbled. About what? She asked the gray space behind her eyes again, not expecting any answer to pop forward, but she couldn’t help letting a sigh escape when one didn’t. Finally she gave up, rolling her eyes before laying her cloak beneath her so she could stretch out in the warm sun.

Her mind slipped back to the morning, which had arrived bright and clear with a soft pale pink filling her chamber. She slowly sat up, rubbed her eyes, and smiled as she watched the colorful display for a while before it began to fade. Then she quickly dressed after washing her face, pulling on a simple gown since she had no plans but wandering in the gardens since she had gotten her chores done the previous evening.

After a quick breakfast, she did just that, but was found and sent in to speak to Elrond after she had eaten her simple lunch. It hadn’t taken her long to know something was very wrong once she had entered the room. Elrond seemed falsely cheerful, something that just doesn’t sit right on any elf, especially one like Elrond.

It hadn’t taken her long to lose her temper. She was twenty years old, and had spent all but a few short days of it in Rivendell, and all of it with the elves. Most of Estel’s time had been spent with the rangers since she was born, so she hadn’t even known humans through him. The idea of leaving Rivendell to marry some strange man both terrified and horrified her, the feelings escaping in desperate and rather childish anger.

Yes, she knew that eventually all the elves would leave Middle-Earth, but it wouldn’t happen in her lifetime. How could it? The elves were never very hasty, it seemed, unless they were working entirely with beings of other races, or were hunting evil. Orc hunts do not require the slow wisdom of the elves, so they let their arrows and swords speak for them, moving with a speed and grace she wasn’t sure humans could achieve even if they had had thousands of years to practice.

But why should she marry? So, maybe by the ways of men she should already be chained to husband and hearth, but not by the ways of elves. Perhaps it was foolish, but she had always wished to wait to find someone to love, rather than someone she could stand long enough to stay with under the same roof for a night.

Arwen had. Sure, it had taken her a long, long time, but she had.

The slight smile on her face died as she thought about Arwen, and she slowly rolled the stone around her fingers. Arwen would die, eventually. Aragorn wouldn’t have to watch it, but he had already seen some signs of her impending mortality, signs no one else in Gondor would recognize. That was one reason for his visit, for his silent torture. He loved an elf, and she had to give up her immortality to return his love.

Lunian had often watched the couple walking when she was much younger, before she knew what it really meant. It was a death sentence for Arwen, for Aragorn to love her. But he did, and there had been no hiding it, no stopping it. Arwen would die.

A silvery tear dripped down her cheek, but Lunian hastily wiped it away. She didn’t have even a sliver of the time Arwen had to find love, and truth be told, she rather hoped she wouldn’t. How could she truly love a human, knowing how weak and coarse they were compared to the elves? How badly they hurt those children of light by simply being the best that they could, which was nothing compared to the best of the elves?

While her thoughts continued on their circular path, the sun began sinking below the mountain’s rim. Loath to miss the colorful display any longer, she leapt to her feet and raced quickly halfway up the mountain so she could watch the rich reds and oranges melt over the valley and settle over the land beyond the cleft in the mountains to the flat lands beyond, draping the world in the last flaming fire of the day.

“It is beautiful, isn’t it?”

She spun around, and once more found herself facing the prince of Mirkwood. “It is indeed,” she agreed after a moment spent trying to slow her heart. After twenty years, you would think she could have learned to hear them approach. But no, she had to jump and flush every single time.

He smiled faintly and moved to her side, his bright blue eyes soaking up the colors of the landscape before them. “I thought I was the only one who came here to see the sun set.”

She blinked and frowned. “I have come here for many years,” she said softly, before smiling faintly. “Not many compared to you, but many for me.” When had she started this habit? She had been doing it for so long she couldn’t recall not doing it.

They remained until the light had wholly fallen away, and then she tilted her head back, watching as the stars seemed to burn brighter in the sky. She found a few of her favorites, closing her eyes to wish them a good night. With a slight smile she turned to the elf where he remained beside her. “Good night, Egola.”

She made her way back down to the section of the valley her room was in, and after detouring to the kitchen for something to fill the empty place left by a missed dinner, she went to bed.
Or was it? by Nea
For a long moment, far longer than was necessary for the young woman to have made her way to her chambers, Legolas looked in the direction she had gone. Eventually he smiled faintly and tilted his head back to look at the stars, but closed his eyes, letting in a memory that had threatened to blind his sight since the woman had leapt upon a rock in front of him, breathing a little quickly for a moment as she watched the sun drop down to sleep.

His head was tilted back, his eyes searching the stars eagerly for something to ease his heart, his pain.

“Whatcha lookin’ at?” a little voice asked suddenly from the area of his knee.

He glanced down to see the little girl Elrond had taken in. She was sitting on one of the small stones, her head tilted all the way back, trying to find something worth looking at with a small child’s concentrated intensity. He smiled gently at the child. “The stars.”

“Oh,” she wrinkled her nose. “They’re up there every night.”

“Yes. But haven’t you noticed that they move?”

She blinked in surprise and looked up again, her mouth dropping open as if she couldn’t keep it closed while holding her head at such an angle. “They do?”

“Yes.” He smiled again to see her watching them so determinedly.

“I think they’re stuck tonight,” she finally declared, getting a surprised burst of laughter from him.

“They change through the seasons, little one, and only slowly through a single night. If you marked one now, with a tree branch or something, and then came back later, you would find it had moved.”

“Really?” she asked, squinting her eyes to look up again.

“Really,” he agreed, grinning as she began looking for a star. “That one. How do I mark it?”

He motioned for her to stand with her back to the mountainside. “You have to remember exactly where you’re standing.”

“Okay,” she agreed, a slight frown between her light brows as she concentrated on imprinting the place into her memory.

“Now, which star did you want?”

“I’ve lost it,” she complained, looking up again. She heaved a sigh and started to sit down.

“Then shall I pick one for you?” he asked softly, scanning the night.

“You’ll pick one I can’t see,” she pouted.

“Why would I do that?”

“Because you’d think I could see it. My eyes aren’t like yours,” she protested.

He grinned again and sat down so their heads were about even. He tilted his back as she had, looking for a star near a branch. “How about that one?” he asked, pointing up at it.

She blinked and looked for a long moment. “Okay,” she agreed. “Now what?”

“See how that dead branch seems to point at it?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Come back sometime and see if it still does, or if the star has moved.”

“What if another star is there? How will I know?”

He blinked in surprise. “Good point. All right, can you see the two little stars just above it?”

“Are you sure that’s two?”

“Look harder.”

She squinted again, crinkling her nose. She nearly fell forward with the effort, so he rested his hand on her stomach, holding her gently against the rock. “Okay, I see ‘em,” she murmured after a moment which was just short enough he believed she could see them, rather than had given up and decided to humor him.

“Well, when you check next time, look for your star, then for those two little ones. They’ll be in the same place relating to your star, but all three will have moved.”

She turned wide eyes to him, flecks of gold in the hazel depths. “Really?”

He smiled. “Really.”

She grinned and looked back at her star, before rolling her eyes as a call came up from the valley. “I have to go.”

“Why don’t I walk you back, milady?”

She giggled and accepted his hand, curtsying a little awkwardly in her petite leggings. She skipped along beside him, content at the rather slow pace he had set.

“Lunian!” a sharp voice called. “Where are you, child?”

“Here I am!” she laughed, dropping his hand when they got in sight of the calling elf.

Elrohir swept her up into his arms, holding her head against his chest before kissing her crown. “Where were you?”

“Egola and I were waiting for the stars to get unstuck.” She squirmed against the tight embrace and was slowly shifted to Elrohir’s hip.

He tucked her hair behind her ear with his free hand. “You were, huh?”

“Yep,” she agreed, before yawning. All her energy seemed to escape as she opened her mouth, for her head fell against Elrohir’s shoulder, her eyes closing as her body went limp.

Elrohir closed his eyes and kissed her crown again, tenderly stroking her hair, which still retained a hint of baby curl. There was a slight sheen to his eyes when he looked up at Legolas. “Thank you for walking her back. She doesn’t understand that she isn’t invincible.”

“She will, someday.”

Elrohir’s eyes darkened suddenly. “I hope so.” After a long moment he lifted his eyes to Legolas’s once more. “Good night, my friend.” Before Legolas could reply, Elrohir turned back. “Waiting for the stars to get unstuck?” he questioned, humor lightening the question.

“I told her the stars moved, and she wanted proof. She may try to leave to check on her star sometime tonight.”

Elrohir nodded. “Then I shall keep watch beside her. Will she know how to get there?”

“I assumed she followed me. You know the place, though.”

Elrohir smiled sadly. “Still looking for a little peace, my friend?”

“Aren’t we all?”

The next morning she had come running to him, jumping into his arms as she excitedly told him her star had moved. He settled her on his hip and listened to her story, feeling part of his heart melt, given away to the exuberant little girl. It had only worried him a little, for though he knew she would one day die, loving children, no matter their future, was something hard for him for any elf to deny.

She was a child no longer, and he didn’t know anything about her.

Except maybe why she came to this particular place in Rivendell to watch the sun set and to see the stars.
Others may see by Nea
Aragorn smiled to hear Lunian’s laughter as he left the building he had been in. His smile faded when he saw her walking beside a blond elf.

“She knows the torture you go through because of Arwen. She does not wish it for herself, nor would she wish Arwen’s fate on anyone.”

Aragorn turned to the person speaking, not surprised to see Elrohir. “Does she know the torture she puts you through?” he asked softly, not really wanting to pursue this particular conversation again so soon after having it with Legolas. Again.

Elrohir stiffened, but he slowly nodded, his eyes hooded to hide the pain that was still hinted at in his voice. “She knows. She fell very ill after she found out, but she knows.”

Aragorn sighed and looked back at Lunian, recalling the quick moment he had seen of her at that time, so pale and weak. She had managed a smile for him, faint as it had been. Then she had said if he didn’t come back soon, she’d track him down herself. “She is a lot like her mother.”

“Yes,” Elrohir agreed, his eyes darkening in pain, as it always did when anyone mentioned Lunian’s mother, even if indirectly.

Aragorn lowered his gaze, knowing too well the pain Elrohir felt. It was that which Arwen would one day carry. The pain of loosing one you loved. “Would you have Legolas go trough what you and your sister shall?”

A soft sigh came from the elf beside him. He turned slightly to see Elrohir watch Legolas for a long moment before turning away. “I have no power to stop love. If it wishes to join them, then so be it.”

“Elrohir!”

The elf’s head turned sharply to face him. “Aragorn?” he asked back. “How could I deny Legolas a love if it is true, even if she must one day die? I no more can interfere now than I could when you and Arwen met.”

Aragorn felt his lunch roll sickeningly within him. “Surely you’re wrong about them.”

Elrohir sighed and looked at the couple walking in the gardens below. Lunian tilted her head to the sky, letting the sun that was able to reach the ground kiss her cheeks. Legolas watched with a smile, and said something that drew a quicksilver smile from Lunian before the pair walked on. “It begins, Aragorn. None can stop it.”

“Is there nothing to be done?”

Elrohir sighed. “There is only one thing, but no one would do it.” He held up a hand when Aragorn started to insist he would. “One must die. That is the only way to halt the path of true love, and even that must occur in the stages when the two are merely friends.” He shook his head. “I could less kill her than I could have killed you. Both of you are as blood to me, both going to condemn others I love to the pain I have suffered.”

“Could Legolas survive?”

“He could. Arwen shall, for a time. Her fading will be slow, for she will have no hope, but probably children and memories to hold her here. As I have hope, so shall Legolas, if the time should come. Lunian will tell him all, eventually, and he will hold tightly onto that hope. I think he will be able to live on.” Elrohir made up his mind, the slight frown being replaced by a saddened look he had worn too often since Lunian was born.

Silently the two left their post, the solemnity of the moment preventing any further words.
you're all wet by Nea
“My, but Estel was giving us the evil eye!” Lunian frowned after the retreating form of her sort-of brother. “I don’t know what’s got into him.”

Legolas smiled faintly and quickly, the move nearly a grimace. “I do.” The conversation the day of their arrival still lingered in his mind, though it had been several weeks. Most of that time he had spent wandering the gardens, more often with Lunian beside him than not.

Lunian was patient for only a short while. “Well?”

Legolas blinked and glanced up before looking at the path ahead of them. “He fears what he cannot control.”

“There are more things that cannot be controlled than can. Why fear them?” She smiled at the look he gave her. “Or perhaps you were thinking in slightly more specific terms than whether or not it decides to rain this afternoon?”

“It will, and I was.” The sun had yet to shine brightly today, and the air smelled of rain.

“I know it will rain, but you know what I meant.” She took another of the deep breaths she’d been treating herself to all morning. “I love the smell of rain,” she murmured absently. “Whether coming or going.”

Legolas smiled softly, content to let her wander from their conversation if he could. But as the silence was once again broken, he was reminded how tenacious she could be.

“So, what did you mean?”

He sighed with a slight shake of his head. “He fears the things that may hurt those he cares about.”

“You’re being abstract. Even something as sweet and simple as a flower can hurt someone. Of course, being an elf, you probably aren’t subject to the horrors of hay fever, are you?”

“No,” he murmured idly, again hoping she wouldn’t continue.

“Then what?”

“It doesn’t matter. It cannot be changed, cannot be stopped.”

“Well, if he was glaring at me, then it has something to do with me, which means I think I should know!” She turned to face him, her eyes flashing, some of the gold coming to the fore of her hazel eyes as they stepped out of the shadows into the light.

He held up a hand, but she wasn’t to be so easily soothed.

“Has this anything to do with his warning?”

“Warning?”

“He said to be careful, but would say nothing else.” She frowned and began walking again. “I hate it when people speak over my head on purpose, waiting for me to grow up to grasp the meaning. I’m not getting any taller, so please stop it!”

Her hands were clasped, something being moved around in her left hand again. He caught her hand, lifting it so he could uncoil her fingers. A smooth stone, about the size of the last digit of his first finger lay in her palm. Even as he watched she rubbed her fingers over it, turning it unconsciously. “What is this?”

She shrugged and closed her fingers over the oblong grayish stone again. “It’s a worry stone. Whenever I get nervous or agitated, or sometimes when I’m bored, I roll it through my fingers. I don’t know it if really helps, but it reminds me I’ve had such times before and always gotten through them.” She uncurled her fingers for a moment, tracing a few of the silvery lines that were visible around the deeper, nearly blue gray. Lunian remembered when she found it, smiling faintly.

“What is that smile for, Milady?”

“I was just thinking how I came across it, that’s all,” she murmured, turning to walk once more.

“And how was that?”

She looked at him and slowly shook her head, clasping her now empty hands behind her back. “Nope. Not telling.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re not telling what you know about Estel. Turn about is fair play.”

He shook his head. “Mortal speech.”

She laughed, the sound echoing back to them from the rocks rising on all nearly all sides. “Mortal speech, is it? How can that be, when I have only ever been around one mortal, who was also raised by elves?” Her grin became mischievous. “I learned it from Elladan. He and Elrohir still get into nasty rounds of tricks.” Soft laughter escaped her lips once more, as her eyes clouded on a memory he couldn’t see.

Elladan crouched low in the bushes, his eyes searching the clearing ahead of him intently. Lunian, no more than seven years old and still rather short, slowly crawled forward so she was beside him.

“Ladan?” she asked softly. “What are we—“

He covered her mouth with his hands. “Shh, just wait.”

She sighed and laid down on her stomach, stretched out so she could still see through the leaves of the bush, her head propped on one hand. With the other she rolled her stone around in little circles in the dust. A small beetle walked past her, so she nudged it with her finger, turning it back around. She used a small twig to make a small moat around her stone and the beetle, smiling at the thought of the beetle being a dragon guarding a palace. She had always loved stories of adventure.

The beetle spoiled her fun by climbing out of her moat, but she let him go, seeing a type of plant she hadn’t before off to her left. She studied its leaves, furrowed slightly and standing on stalks that lifted them to about eye level, three or five leaves per stalk. She reached out to the plant, plucking a bunch of it, lifting it to her nose to breathe in any scent.

“Ladan? What’s this?” she asked, passing a broken leaf to him.

He frowned, running his fingers over it, then brought it to his nose to smell. He shifted his weight slightly so he could inspect it with his other hand. He let it fall to the ground and rested his hands on his thighs. “Where’s some more of it?”

She pointed, and then covered her ears with her hands for the yelp he let out. “What’s wrong?”

He gave her a sour look and was about to say something when Elrohir came up and poured a messy whitish liquid over Elladan’s head. Clumps of some powdery substance oozed over Elladan’s shoulders, globs falling from his hair to the ground while others slid slowly over his shoulders, seeping into his tunic.

After a long, silent moment he lifted his hands and carefully swiped at his eyes. His shoulders were slumped in defeat. “You win today, my brother,” he murmured at long last. “Take a look at the plant Lunian discovered,” he added, before turning down the branch of the path that led to the pool, obviously intending a good dunking before returning home.

Elrohir looked after his brother for a long moment, a smile tilting his lips. Then he shook it away and looked down at her. “What have you found, little one?”

She shrugged, pointing at the plant.

Elrohir sighed and lifted a hand to his forehead, rubbing his temples. “Come on. I’ll get you fixed up.” He chuckled after she hopped up, allowing her to take his hand. “Don’t tell Elladan.”

She chuckled again, remembering the red rash that Elladan had had after that. Elrohir laughed that it had covered him entirely because of the time he spent in the pool trying to get the gloppy stuff off of him, but she had only seen it on his hands and face. Especially the bright red patch right on his nose where he’d smelled it.

Elrohir had covered her with a smelly paste, and made her drink a bitter liquid, so she never developed the nasty rash, for which she had been very thankful, seeing how uncomfortable Elladan had been.

Thinking about it now, she sidestepped a small patch of the weed, making a mental note to warn Elladan about it. Ever since, he’d eradicated all signs of that particular weed with a vengeance. And he would get some of it on at least one of his hands, no matter how careful he was, and be miserable for a while once more. The next time some popped up, he’d attack it with an increased fury, remembering all the times in the past it had made him suffer.

As the clouds above them opened, Legolas started to turn back to the dwellings for shelter. Lunian remained, tilting her head back as the rain washed over her, darkening her hair.

Finding himself some shelter beneath a rock overhang, he called to her and held out a hand for her, but she laughed softly, lifting her hands to the rain. She spun in a circle, welcoming the rain with another laugh. As he watched her, he considered her features once more, still puzzled by them.

She had the skin of an elf, light and nearly luminous, and her eyes were deeper with wisdom than Aragorn’s, though the man had a lot of experience and years on his side. But that was where his ability to liken her to an elf ended. Her hair was of a darker shade of gold than any elf he had ever met, her eyes mostly green with hints of golden brown and even bits of blue within them. She was strong, her arms slender, but toned with muscle. She could step lightly, and her ears often picked up his approach when she wasn’t lost in her thoughts, but that came from being around elves all the time. The bones of her face marked her a child of man, her cheekbones prominent, her jaw rather square.

Merely to look upon her, she wasn’t exactly beautiful. Pretty, sure, but not beautiful. Her eyes were round, her lashes tipped in silvery gold, making them seem shorter than they were at first glance. Her brows were arched naturally, and a little thicker than she-elves considered normal. Still, he couldn’t help but think her the most fascinating female he had ever come across.

Even now, drenched by the rain, her honey gold hair a muddy brown, hanging in stringy rivulets from her tilted head, her eyes closed as rain slid from her face like a river of tears, her mouth curved in a pleasure-filled smile, she intrigued him. Rather than finding the square-ness of her features off-putting, he wondered how she could appear so strong and yet so soft in the same instant.

As the rain gathered in strength Lunian’s smile faded and she reopened her eyes, looking at the clouds with a frown. She drew her cloak about her and covered her soaked hair with her hood, the edge of it keeping the water from entering her eyes as she searched for him through the dripping foliage.

“We should get back, or Elrohir will begin pacing.” She looked up again. “I thought it would have been done by now,” she murmured, as if in explanation. Her eyes took in the path they had taken, before swiveling to another, rocky path which would get them back more quickly and without the possibility of being flooded, though it would require a little more effort on their parts. “Follow me!”

Legolas did as she bid, racing behind her, jumping over or onto rocks to remain there as she raced quickly through the rain. He heard a soft sound from the path ahead, but couldn’t form any words in time. As the path washed out under her feet he wrapped an arm about her waist as she started to fall, pulling her back to the side they didn’t really want to be on.

“Thanks,” she murmured softly when he released her, slightly out of breath, watching the water and rocks cascade past them. Once the path had stopped moving, she ran forward again, going a little more slowly this time, at least until they got onto level ground.

After they raced into the main building, Legolas shook his head, then gathered his hair at his nape and squeezed the water from it, feeling a little foolish when he saw the growing puddle at their feet.

“There you are!”

Legolas looked up to see a distraught elf come quickly towards them. The expression was so comical he was about to begin laughing when Elrohir gathered Lunian in his arms. The desire to laugh left Legolas so quickly he felt dizzy. And sick. He looked away as Elrohir kissed Lunian’s dripping hair.

“It took you long enough to get back,” Elrohir murmured gruffly, his voice thick with emotions.

“There was no need for you to worry,” Lunian soothed. “I know my way home,” she added, her voice teasing.

Elrohir closed his eyes on a troubled sigh. “Go get dried off, little one.” Lunian chuckled softly and moved away, leaving Legolas, Elrohir, and a giant puddle, which was still slowly spreading out as if it had a mind of its own, and wanted to cover the entire floor. “You should as well, Legolas. Dinner will be soon.”

Legolas looked at Elrohir, noting the dampness all down Elrohir’s front and where Lunian’s arms had gone around him. “You are not exactly dry yourself.”

Elrohir glanced down at himself, and smiled faintly. “I forget myself in my concern for her, sometimes.”

“So I saw,” Legolas murmured.

Elrohir glanced at him sharply, watched as Legolas’s eyes skidded away after an instant. “She is my daughter, Legolas. Such is my concern for her.”

Legolas had lifted his eyes as Elrohir spoke, but now lowered them with a frown. “I once viewed her as a child.”

“She will always be my daughter, Legolas.” Elrohir said, answering the question Legolas hadn’t been able to bring himself to ask. Then he looked at the dripping prince for a moment longer. “Go, be at peace.”

Legolas nodded after a moment, his soft boots making quiet but still audible squishing noises all the way to the room set aside for his use while he stayed.
Elrohir remembers by Nea
Lenaith turned to him, her eyes so bright, as the noon sky after a storm. She laughed at the antics of a squirrel above them, before her mind was turned to watch a butterfly as it danced through the air, pausing to grace a flower with its presence. When she turned again, her eyes softened even farther, her love for him shining brightly in her eyes.

He took her hand, kneeling beside her. She turned a little, tucking her dress around her legs, resting her weight on one arm as she reached to his face with the other. A smile lifted the corners of her mouth, before she spoke to him how much she loved him.

He responded in kind, running a finger down her cheek to her chin. Almost always thrust forward in determination, she was a force to be reckoned with when she wished to be. He lifted his other hand, tucking her fair golden hair out of her face, brushing the tips of her ears as he did so.

She shivered softly and tilted her head back as he leaned in closer—

“Elrohir?”

He sighed, bowed his head and closed his eyes as that day vanished, changing back to the halls of his father’s house. “Yes?”

Lunian’s eyes dropped from his. She had changed into a clean dress, and had combed her hair, which was beginning to dry, the very tips curling slightly, waving in a small gust of fresh-smelling air. “You were thinking about her, weren’t you?”

“Yes,” he agreed softly, looking down at her.

Her eyes filled with sadness, mostly for him, he knew. “What about?” she asked softly, turning to walk down the hall.

“The day I bound myself to her.” He looked out the window at the rainy world, felt as if the skies wept for him, for he had no tears left. “It was in the little glen by the river, a spring day. The scent of lilacs was in the air,” he added, his voice merely a wistful murmur.

Lunian bowed her head, swallowing. Her voice was a bit rough, as if she held back tears. “Do I ever remind you of her?”

He smiled tenderly at her, trailed a finger down her cheek before tucking her hair behind her rounded ears. “Everyday, little one. Everyday.” He kissed her forehead and turned to walk again, putting an arm over her shoulder. She smiled a little tearfully, but the tears didn’t overflow. By the time they were at the table, she was fine once more. He dropped his arm as she moved to her place beside Estel.

How ironic it was.
yet a child by Nea
“You miss her already?” a teasing voice asked behind him.

“Of course,” Aragorn agreed.

“Well, we’re leaving soon,” she murmured, coming to stand beside him, leaning against a pillar. “You can see your beloved queen again.”

“And you can see your sister.”

“That I can,” she agreed with a grin. Then she frowned faintly, before shaking it away as she sent her hair flying about her shoulders. She smiled faintly, watching the gentle wind brush through the flowers in the gardens before them. A soft sigh escaped her as the wind brushed past her, strands of her hair lifting to dance in the wind.

“Where is Legolas?”

She shrugged with the shoulder not resting against the pillar. “I don’t know.”

“Why not?”

“I am not his keeper.”

“You two have been nearly inseparable these last weeks.”

“I know that tone, Estel. You’re fishing for information.” She turned her head and studied him for a long moment. “I just don’t know what it is you want to know.” She looked back at the gardens. “Have we been spending time together? Yes. Do I enjoy his company? Yes. What else do I or you need to know?”

A soft call came from an open area off to their right.

Lunian sighed theatrically but smiled. “Time for me to be off and earn my keep,” she murmured with a wink and a grin.

Aragorn chuckled softly and bowed his head slightly to her. She returned the gesture with a soft laugh before skipping lightly down the stairs to the kitchens, pulling a small strip of material from her pocket to bind her hair back.

“To earn her keep?”

Aragorn jumped slightly and closed his eyes in annoyance. He had grown used to men, his ears loosing some of their sensitivity to the approach of those much lighter on their feet. Not that he had ever been able to hear the approach of the elves one hundred percent of the time. It was when he was lost in thoughts that it was virtually impossible, unless those thoughts rested on danger. “All in Elrond’s house do their part, at one time or another. I well recall hauling water and cleaning floors.”

The slight frown left Legolas’s fair face, but returned when he glanced at Aragorn. “What were you asking?”

Aragorn gave him a harsh look from the corner of his eye. “Should I ask you instead? Why do you spend so much time with her?”

“I don’t know her, and she shall not live very long. Everyone else here will be in the gray havens when I pass from Middle-Earth. Why shouldn’t I get to know her while I have the chance?”

Aragorn frowned, his mouth thinning to a harsh line. “Is that all you do?”

Legolas sighed softly, as one would when forced to explain something so simple to a child. “She is not yet old enough, Aragorn. Her body has matured, but her mind is yet young, unfettered by the concerns she would normally have as a mortal.”

Aragorn blinked, surprised. “You mean she does not even think of such?”

“She sees everyone as a friend, without thought to anything more,” Legolas agreed, thinking it a rather pleasant change from the she-elves he was forced to endure because of his title. “Yet at the same time, she has incredible insight into what is being felt,” he admitted with a frown.

Aragorn laughed ruefully, recalling her greeting to him. “Yes, she has. Her mother was like that….” He trailed off, his eyes darkening in anger.

“You knew her mother?”

“Everyone in Rivendell did, Legolas.” Not wanting to answer any more questions, he turned and went back to Elrond’s study, where they were studying maps, trying to decide the path they would take.

Eventually they chose to go east to the river Anduin, stopping for a short while in Lothlorien before continuing south to Gondor.

When he was allowed a moment alone with Elrohir, he pulled his brother aside. “Have you considered telling Legolas?”

“She will tell him when the time comes.”

“And if she doesn’t?”

“Then it matters little if he never finds out. I have told him she is as a daughter to me. That is all he needs to know now.”
Questions and Worry by Nea
Lunian smiled and pushed her hood back to let the sun fall on her hair. Being in forested areas so often, it never had a chance to lighten. Maybe it had something to do with being around platinum elves, but she had always preferred a lighter shade to the dark gold of her hair.

She shrugged the thought away and looked around, soaking up the landscape. A glance to her left reminded her of the woods she had never seen. That forest’s prince was riding a little ahead of her, so she urged her horse to slide up beside him. She was about to speak, when she saw his eyes scanning the lands to the south. “What is it?”

He blinked and turned to her. “Habit.” He shrugged and relaxed slightly. Then he looked at her, smiling as he saw how she rode. “I must say I am surprised by your method of riding.”

“I have always been among the elves,” she reminded him absently. “The things men use to control their horses still seem so odd.” The idea of forcing the horse using metal and leather was as foreign to her as Gondor was. She had never been there.

Actually, she had never been outside of Rivendell, as far as she knew, except for a few small explorations with Elrohir and Elladan, which lasted a night or so in the mountains. What Elrohir had told her about her birth fit in with that, since she had been born within the bounds of Elrond’s domain. So, this was exciting! She was going to Lothlorien, would probably get to meet Galadriel herself before the Lady went to the undying lands.

But she still hadn’t been to Mirkwood… which was why she’d pulled alongside Legolas in the first place. “Would you tell me of Mirkwood?”

“What do you wish to know, Milady?”

She smiled, partially at the term, partially in anticipation of what she would learn. “Everything. I want to know everything.”

“That could take a very long time indeed.”

“It is the study of many lifetimes, to truly know of the elves. I have but one. Tell me what you can before my time runs out.”

Legolas blinked at her, took in the soft gold melted through her green eyes, the faint hint of blue around the outer edges. “As you wish,” he murmured finally, before falling silent as he thought of the best place to start.

He told her how the forests had once been, bright and cheerful, then of how darkness had crept in, slowly drawing evil like a shroud of silence about the trees, seeming to suffocate the life out of any who passed beneath. He spoke of the way the darkness could be pierced by the elves, and often was, for feasts and celebrations, festivals and forest circles. Then he told her of the village, and finally of the palace.

“And the stars? Do they look different when you see them in Mirkwood?”

He smiled, recalling again the child who held little interest in the light above her. That had obviously passed, for whenever he saw her after night had fallen her head was tipped to the sky, finding the stars she knew, greeting them as old friends before she moved on, if she did indeed move on. “They do, of course.” As she waited with rapt attention, he slowly explained what he knew of the stars, the differences in the view in each elven kingdom.

“What when the season changes? Do the trees lose their leaves, or keep them? Have you any of the blue snow-flowers there? Does the snow fall thickly on the woods, or even at all?”

Legolas inclined his head with a slight smile. After having spent the last several days speaking of Mirkwood to the point he was sure there could be nothing left, she proved him wrong. The others had long since drawn out of hearing distance, tired of the subject. With a shake of his head he continued, hoping his voice would last to Lothlorien. Then she would fall silent, and find some unknowing guide to tell her all there was to know, at first glance, at least, of the Golden Woods.

Lunian let his voice wash over her again, conjuring up pictures of a place she had never seen. She closed her eyes when he got going, knowing he wouldn’t stop until he could think of no more on the questions she had asked. That was fine with her. She would be seeing Lothlorien, and if she could not see Mirkwood, hearing all about it from one who loved it would have to do.

There was no doubt he loved it, though she knew…

She forced her mind away from that, not wishing to dwell on it.

But hours later, when the sun began to descend in the sky once more, her mind returned to the forbidden subject as he slowly fell silent.

“What troubles you, Milady?”

“You hear the call of the sea.”

She turned her head when he stared at her in shock. He closed his mouth and swallowed. “How did you….”

She shrugged. “It’s obvious, really. You speak with a great love for your home, you enjoy Rivendell, yet there is a haunted look in your eyes. There has been since we met again. I don’t know that I would have recognized it before.” She frowned, wondering. Then she mentally shook herself back to the present.

Legolas was still at a loss for words. He reached up and pushed the hood from his head, absently brushing some hair out of his face. Finally he let out a breath. “There is no point in denying it, I suppose. I have felt the desire to cross since I stood on the shores with Gimli.”

“I would say what elf wouldn’t want to cross when given the choice between that and the company of a dwarf, but I’ve heard rumors, perpetuated by a blond elf of royal blood, that a great friendship grew between the son of Thranduil and the son of Gloin.”

He smiled weakly. “Yes. Odd though it may seem, Gimli is a dear friend.”

“Elrond wishes to cross, but he does not have the need for it you do. For him, it is merely the desire to see his wife, to give up the troubles that have been laid upon him by the beings of this world. Elladan and Elrohir will cross with him, along with much of Rivendell. What little is left…” she trailed off, her heart clenching at the thought. “What will become of them?”

“They will go to Mirkwood, or remain on their own,” Legolas murmured, touching her shoulder lightly in consolation.

“You do not plan to leave Middle-Earth?”

“Not as long as Aragorn lives. Perhaps I shall say the same for Gimli. As long as any member of the fellowship remains on Middle-earth, so shall I.”

“As long as you’re here, a member of the fellowship will be here.”

He smiled faintly. “True.”

She drew a shaky breath, thinking again about the passing of the elves. Elrond would go soon, rather than watch his daughter fade later, unable to cross. The need for him had passed, and he wished to see his wife. Galadriel was going to depart too.

Elrohir had told her that not long ago. She didn’t like to think of their passing, much less talk about it, but they had, for a moment, merely to say Elrond was going to make it sooner than later. She couldn’t imagine watching them step into the boats, to sail away and never again set foot in Middle-Earth.

She couldn’t imagine never again seeing Elrohir, or Elladan, or Elrond.

Maybe she would, one day.

But that was by no means a certainty.

Besides, soon for an elf could be well past the end of her mortal life, so why should she worry about it? Still, the stone rolled absently through her fingers.
Musing in Lothlorien by Nea
The entrance to the presence of Galadriel and Celeborn was far less formal than Legolas would have expected, since he had only been brought before them as a member of the fellowship. Now the lord and lady came out to greet them all, Galadriel welcoming her grandsons warmly, including Aragorn in that welcome.

He was a little puzzled of her greeting to Lunian, who was obviously awestruck by the Lady. Galadriel had smiled at her and touched her cheek, and then welcomed the others before turning back to Lunian. “Come, child. Let us share the knowledge the other craves.”

Lunian laughed with a delighted smile and followed the Lady.

He watched several of the guards watch her leave, his eyes narrowing slightly before he could catch himself. He turned away from the retreating figures, and soon was able to extricate himself from the seemingly unending process of being welcomed for a visit. He cleaned up quickly, changed from his travel clothes to something a little more befitting in case he wound up in the Lady’s presence once more, and headed off for one of the wondrous spots he had discovered on his previous visit, which seemed at one moment ages ago, but still was so recently by the times of the elves it was as if but a day had passed.

Fall was coming to the woods, and though he enjoyed it, he still wished to see the trees in spring. There would be a sight indeed!

As he walked the paths he had briefly known, he thought of his task and the company he had kept before. How solemn and grim they had all been, each knowing the continued pull of the ring was beginning to wear on them.

Though he had not particularly liked Boromir from the beginning, with his obvious attitude towards Aragorn and the throne of Gondor, as time had passed and the man became reconciled to the fact that Aragorn was not only a born king, but he was Gondor’s king, Legolas had begun to accept him. He had seen the man’s weaknesses for what they were, but he was still one of the fellowship, and as such, someone Legolas had to trust with his life.

It was hard to be suspicious of someone in that position, especially when everyone was being attacked all the time by the power of the ring. Its pull was immense, a never-ending siren’s call to disaster. He knew he was more immune to it than the others, because of his age and wisdom, and all the things he had to fight for… Basically because he was an elf, but not in the way someone, like Boromir, would have said. It was what came of being an elf that had helped him, the years he had spent loving Middle-Earth, the knowledge of the world around him, the curiosity he had for all things he had not seen before, had not had the chance to truly know. Those were the things that kept him from truly desiring the ring.

With a slight shake of his head he walked on, the rest of the journey from their departure playing itself out in his mind. He sighed and murmured a prayer under his breath for Boromir, who had never been able to greet Aragorn as his king. He smiled faintly, recalling the way Merry and Pippen had greeted the three hunters when they finally arrived, via Helm’s Deep, at Isenguard. And he closed his eyes as he recalled the first hint of the sea, the slight scent of it on the air, salty sweet and yet bitter, the haunting cry of the gulls overhead…
Putting the king in his place by Nea
Lunian sighed once more and placed her hand over the brooch Galadriel had given her for the elven cloak she now wore. Now she knew the cloak and brooch Legolas wore were not the work of Mirkwood after all. It was hard to think of them, Estel and Legolas, going on such a dangerous and dark quest.

Not that she didn’t think they could do it. On the contrary, she had the feeling the two of them together could do pretty much anything they wanted to do if they put their minds to it. And it would be done well—come hell or high water.

But to see them now, Estel the King of Gondor, married to Arwen, and Legolas… An elf, who would always be an elf. Now that made sense, she scoffed at her own thoughts. Of course he would always be an elf!

It wasn’t as simple as that, though. It was the timelessness within the eyes and faces of all elves that made it hard to explain. She had met Frodo and the other hobbits on their return, and had trouble believing they weren’t exaggerating what had happened to them, for they all seemed quite merry and robust, with the exception of Frodo. Frodo looked as she would have expected them all to look after such a quest. Haunted, old, perhaps even broken. His world would never be the same, for he had faced evil so great a slight shade of it had worn off, covering his vision, keeping him from ever seeing the light of day as brightly as it had shown before.

But he was the only one thus touched. Sure, Estel looked older, but it had been a while since she had last seen him, during which he had the trial of taking the throne and defying Elrond’s wishes for Arwen by marrying her and making her his queen. Lunian would have been more surprised if he had stopped aging. And while there was a hint of sadness about him most of the time, it resided in Arwen’s decision, and the knowledge that the one he loved would one day die because of that love.

How horrible that must be, she thought, shuddering. How perfectly horrible to know that something so powerful, with the potential to be the greatest thing in life, could also be the cause of its extinguishment.

Legolas… If she concentrated really hard on her foggy memories of that time when he had visited Rivendell when she was a small child, she could recall him looking up at the stars, or getting lost in his thoughts.

She had heard his mother had already passed to the grey havens. She guessed that was the cause for his past distance, for even before the fellowship had left Rivendell she had heard Elrohir and Elladan discussing their old friend, and the way he still sought peace. That would have been long before he had heard the cry of the gulls.

His eyes flashed before her vision, so bright, yet too often haunted with the desire for something he wasn’t ready to give in to just yet. She had seen it take many of the elves in Rivendell through the last years, the desire to pass to the havens, but he hid it better than most.

Every passing seemed to seep deeper and deeper into her heart, cutting away at what made the world pleasurable in her mind. Without the elves, what was the point?

Men were so cruel, crude and selfish.

Estel excluded, of course.

Just then she became aware they were stopping for lunch. She blinked absently and tucked her worry stone into the little pocket she had sewn into the dress she was wearing before sliding to the ground. After stretching her back and arms, she joined the others where they sat and talked.

Just before they would have packed up, Estel glanced at her. “Care to see the Argonath?”

“Are we close enough?” she asked, looking around as if expecting them to peek out at her.

Estel grinned. “We are indeed. Come along, little sister.” With long, ground-eating strides he led her to the river, letting her look up. “The kings of old.”

His kin. She watched as he seemed to grow taller, looking with obvious pride at the stone monuments.

They were somewhat impressive, she had to admit. But…. They were so obvious. You could see them from such a long ways off, couldn’t deny what they were, nor that they had been made for a purpose. To prove the might and power of the kings.

Perhaps she was just too used to the elves, their buildings being an extension of the land around them, no need for such displays of power or dominance over the land. That wasn’t their way.

Frowning slightly at the large statues, she looked back to Estel. Or Aragorn, rather, for he was the King in that moment. Reaching up, she messed up his hair, scattering it over his face. She turned back to where several of the others were watching with veiled amusement. “Come on, Estel.”

She saw the amusement increase when Estel turned to face them, running a hand through his hair to tame the suddenly wild locks, but ignored them, moving instead to her horse. She rubbed the velvety nose and then behind the ears. “Ready to go, my friend?”
Arwen's Anger by Nea
Arwen walked quickly to the large window that faced north. She heard the riders approaching with news of her kin, and had received the message they would be arriving soon. She would wait, she would see them come, and she would meet them.

Her eyes fell upon her father first, then shifted to her twin brothers, and paused for a long, loving moment on Aragorn. Then she glanced quickly at the remaining visitors.

About to turn to prepare for their arrival, she froze. Looked again. Two riders in the back with blond hair asked her to deny sense to believe her eyes. Legolas and Lunian? Why were they here?

She frowned faintly, and then turned quickly to enter the hall they would be escorted to upon their arrival. She folded her hands before her, years of training as Elrond’s daughter and simply as an elf keeping her from bursting at the seams, wanting to know what was going on. Legolas she could understand, but why Lunian? Sure, she was glad enough to see the child, for Lunian had an amazing gift for knowing how those around her were feeling. When she was in the mood, she could usually change their moods as well, brightening a room with a sweet smile or a well-placed laugh.

But why was she here?

Of course, Elrohir had come…

But still, Lunian had always disliked everything that had to do with men, even more so once she learned of the circumstances around her own existence. She loved the elves, and was loved by them. Elrohir would have wished her to remain safe in Rivendell, rather than to accompany them on this visit.

It must be Elrond’s doing.

The thought flashed into her head, but she frowned, starting to dismiss it. Why would Elrond want to bring his mortal charge to Gondor?

Her silvery blue eyes widened as an idea came to her, and though her loyal brain tried to reject it, the sensible part of her knew it was true without needing to speak to Elrond to confirm it. He was going to try to marry her off, to leave her in Gondor. While she could understand him wanting to have her taken care of before he left for the grey havens, she sincerely doubted Lunian was even remotely interested in marrying.

The girl loved elves too much to ever be content in Gondor for more than a quick visit. Arwen had Aragorn, but Lunian would have no one, and would be very unlikely to cultivate any friendships with the humans here.

By the time the King entered with his kin and friends, Arwen’s eyes were hard and angry. She bowed her head to her king, to her family, and then drew Lunian into a hug, which startled the girl. “I won’t allow it,” she murmured, brushing Lunian’s hair behind her ears.

Lunian blinked at her, and then smiled, reaching up to touch Arwen’s cheek. “Thank you.” Her eyes searched Arwen’s face for a moment, a sudden laugh touching upon her eyes. “Am I right?” she asked eagerly, coming closer to Arwen once more. A feather light touch on Arwen’s abdomen let Arwen know what Lunian was asking.

Arwen felt her cheeks heat up as her ears blazed behind the dark curtain of her hair. She whispered her answer to Lunian’s ear. “You are, but I need to speak with Aragorn.”

Lunian laughed and hugged her again, before lowering her head. “I shall not detain Estel.”

Arwen laughed with her, knowing well the reason Lunian insisted on calling Aragorn Estel even in his own hall. As Estel, he knew the role elves played in the history of men. As Aragorn, he was at the top of the world set forever apart from the elves. Lunian didn’t want him to forget them or that, as if he ever would, considering an elf was his wife. “All shall know in due time,” she murmured at last, before looking back at the others. “And who could be the cause for such a distinguished visitor?” she asked, looking at Legolas.

Amused affection shown in his eyes as he greeted her, laying his palm against her cheek. “Who else but the elven queen of men?” he teased, tilting his head slightly to the palm she had rested against his cheek.

She smiled at him, somewhere in the back of her mind knowing so many of the men gathered around the hall held elves in awe and at arm’s length. Since elves lived so much longer than men, they tended to have a better hold on their emotions. Most of the time it was their eyes alone that gave away feeling. To the cautious and trained listener, though, so much could be caught in their voices.

Elrohir was the next in the greeting line, and she looked at him coldly. “How could you bring her? How could you allow it?”

“Father—“

“Has nothing to say when it comes to Lunian! She is yours, Elrohir. From the moment she came into the sun you have been the one to care for her. Why do you set that aside now?”

Elrohir sighed and lowered his eyes for a moment. Finally he lifted his eyes, the intensity of his gaze holding her still. It is not my wish that she be alone when we leave. Father will not stay much longer, and all Rivendell shall accompany us. Galadriel plans to cross with us, so Lothlorien will soon be emptied. Where, then, would you have her go? At least in Gondor she has you and Aragorn.

Arwen broke the contact of eyes, but held her mind to his for a while as she looked at Lunian. Her eyes caught on a few of the men in the halls straightening, watching Lunian. She blinked when a blond elf moved himself between their gaze and the girl, the conversation he was having with her continuing unbroken despite his move. Lunian continued to gaze around the hall, her head tilting slowly for the ceiling, even as she replied. What of Mirkwood?

Elrohir’s glance followed hers, a slight frown creasing his brow for a moment. He let out a soft sigh. I don’t know. It would be a hard decision, to put him in that position.

Elrohir, she laughed in their minds, he puts himself there even now. Indeed, he had shifted around her once more, going so far as to guide her to a different section of the room with a soft touch at the small of her back. Just enough to prompt, not enough to be considered outright possessive.

“I know, but unless they continue on their own, how can I force it?”

Arwen sighed softly and nodded. Then she smiled at her brother and greeted him as she should have, before greeting Elladan. Her father she greeted a little coolly. “I will not allow it, Father,” she assured him. “She shall not be forced to marry, and she has been around elves too long to be pressured into rushing.”

“She is human. She should be with her kind.”

Arwen glanced sharply at him. “She has been. You know that as well as do I.”

Elrond sighed, lifting a hand to his temple. “My daughter, she cannot join us in the havens, though I would not mind having her there.”

She looked back at Lunian, watched a slight look of disappointment touch her eyes as she looked around at the men and women that were in the hall. “No,” she agreed softly. Not as she now is. The words were unspoken, but all of her family knew them already, had pondered them in the last years.
Reaction to Gondor by Nea
Lunian reached out and touched the white bark of the tree of Gondor, then sighed softly and kept walking. She had her arms crossed over her middle, as if to keep warm, though the sun took care of that well enough. The being beside her stopped, so she stopped as well, letting her left hand drop down, retrieving her stone, her right hand still closed over her arm.

She wouldn’t be able to survive here! It was so horrible! Men, women and children with dull eyes. Already half dead before they had begun to live. She shuddered, closing her first over her stone.

A warm hand closed over her fist and the stone. “Why do you need that?” he asked softly, his thumb smoothing over her knuckles.

She blinked and looked up at Legolas, trying to pull herself back to the world about her. “Wha—“ halfway through her question what he had asked sunk in. She looked around the garden, saw the half-strangled plants and cold stone walls, and shivered. “Look at this place.”

“It is the home of a king, Lunian.”

She began trembling, unable to stop. “What did I do, Legolas? What have I done that Elrond wishes me to remain here? I could not stand it here. How much better to work as a maid for the lowest elf than be treated as a lady in such a place as this.” She had to swallow around the constriction in her throat which threatened to cut off her air supply. “Why does he wish me to suffer—“

“Shh.” As her voice fell away to tears she was drawn close to a warm, firm body which smelled faintly like the woods after a warm rain. The hand that had been closed around hers shifted, wrapping her arm around his waist before moving to her back, pulling her closer. His left hand cupped her head, holding her against him as she cried, long fingers slipping soothingly through her hair. “You won’t be forced into anything. No one would make you stay here,” he promised softly.

Legolas held her as the trembling slowly subsided. He closed his eyes and kissed her hair, breathing in her soft scent.

Though he had never thought men were beyond elves, he had not seen the dwelling Aragorn had brought Arwen to as unfavorable. Actually, as far as such things went, it was a very decent place. Especially considering what lived within it.

But she didn’t see things that way. She saw the men as crude and coarse, dirty and unrespectable. They were loud and obnoxious, without any self-control or restraint.

He could not fault her viewpoint, for he was often confronted with that reality himself. But she was not an elf. She was a human woman, and this was truly the place she would have belonged, if not for her elven upbringing.

Brought up by elves she had been, however, and the thought of staying among humans sent her into a panic. They had not been in the hall long enough for Arwen to greet all of her family before Lunian had let her hand wander to the small pocket with her worry stone. Instead of letting her get to it, he had led her outside, hoping the gardens would help.

Despite the new plants around her, it had not helped as he could have wished. All it did, really, was give her time to gather her thoughts enough to completely lose her control.

Her tears finally stopped enough she sniffled occasionally. She loosened the strangle hold she’d had on his waist, but didn’t step back. Instead she left her head on his shoulder as her breathing slowly returned to normal.

When she straightened to move away he kept her stone hand, the rock caught between their palms as he twined their fingers before she began walking once more, drawing him with her without comment.
doomed another to die by Nea
Elrond closed his eyes with a slight sigh as the blond pair walked around the edge of the building, hiding them from view. This was getting worse and worse with every day. With the ring destroyed, he longed to cross, to rest in the havens with his wife and children. He had thought of five beings as his children through the years, yet only two would be able to go with him.

Thankfully, they were going to go with him.

And now, it seemed he had doomed another to Arwen’s fait.

“It is his choice, Father,” Arwen said from behind him.

He smiled faintly, thinking for an instant how Arwen had inherited her grandmother’s gift for knowing how a person felt. Lunian had the same gift, but from a different source. Her mother had been one of the most astute beings he had yet to know, and Lunian showed the potential to reach her mother’s level, or even surpass it, with the proper training.

His mind turned back to the issue at hand—that of Legolas and Lunian. “It may not be too late. She has not turned to him as anything but a friend.”

“She has not turned to any as anything more than a friend. It has not occurred to her. That will change, before she returns to Rivendell.”

“Then you think it is possible she will—“

Arwen was shaking her head, dashing his new hopes. “No. I mean she will see women her age with babies on their hips and children at their feet. She will realize that love has come to them already, and even if she tries to tell herself she doesn’t want it, she will no longer look at things in quite the same light, as a child.”

Elrond looked out the window again, seeing where the pair had stood embraced for the longest time. Darkness clouded his vision for a long moment. “Then I have doomed Legolas to die.”
Calmacil by Nea
Calmacil greeted Aragorn warmly, and was greeted so by him. “A good journey, my lord?” he asked.

Aragorn smiled faintly and nodded. “Uneventful,” he said, in the tone of one who knows events at such a time are rarely good, boring as it may sound to anyone who did not understand that.

Calmacil nodded and looked around. “And the girl?” he asked.

Aragorn frowned at him. “She does not desire to marry.”

“As you warned,” Calmacil agreed, sure he could change her mind if given a chance. “Where is she?” He wanted a look at his future bride.

“Probably in the gardens,” Aragorn murmured, his tone amused even as he seemed to grow troubled.

“You will point her out to me, introduce us?”

“If she is alone, I shall. If not, another time will suffice. After such a trip, it would be more fitting for her to be allowed rest.”

Calmacil nodded absently in agreement but had already begun walking to the arched doorway. Beyond they could see the whole of the gardens. At first glance, all he saw was an elf couple. Then the she-elf turned towards her companion, stopping them at a bench. She sat down and pulled her knees to her chest as the male elf sat beside her. He reached out and brushed his thumbs over her eyes, then tucked her hair behind her ears.

Calmacil started. “That is her?” he asked, seeing the rounded ears.

“Lunian is her name,” Aragorn murmured, watching the elf beside her with an unreadable look. “Another time you can meet her. Leave them be for now.”

“And why should I?” he snapped, seeing the close way the elf sat beside his future bride. “Who is he, anyway?”

Aragorn sighed softly. “He is Legolas, Prince of Mirkwood, elf of the fellowship, and as dear to me as my brothers. Another time will suffice, Calmacil,” Aragorn insisted.

Calmacil winced at the tone. “Of course, sire.” Still, he remained where he was, feeling rather territorial the longer he watched the elf hone in on his woman.

She would be his, after all. The arrangement had been made. Elrond had made the match. The blond woman would become his wife.

He would be sure of that.

He tilted his head to study her, ignoring the elf. She was a little older than he would have expected, but that was an advantage. She would know more of the world than a younger woman would, and she wouldn’t need to be taught and cajoled as much.

Her hair was a beautiful honey brown, long and obviously light, seeing as how the soft breeze about them lifted it in radiant tendrils to caress the air. From where he was he didn’t know what color her eyes were, but her face was fair. Strong, but beautiful.

She would bear fine children. Her body was curved just how a woman’s should be if they were to carry and nurse several children. Her hips were wide, her body thin but strong, her breasts a little on the small side, but adequate for nursing their children.

Yes, she would be his wife.

Anger swamped him as the elf rose, blocking his view of his woman.

Then a calmness washed over him. The elf could do whatever he pleased, because in the end, he would have her. And the dear prince could go jump off a cliff if he didn’t like it.

His lip curled up in something that wasn’t quite a smile.

Maybe the elf could be helped to that cliff…

A soft chuckle accompanied the dark thought, before a quirky grin twisted the lean mouth. Not that he would ever physically harm a friend of his King’s.

No, the other ways were best.
Will you believe me? by Nea
Legolas watched Lunian walk away until the walls of the small hallway no longer shifted in the flickering torch light with her movements. Then he turned his eyes back to the hall in time to see Arwen watching him with a slightly sad and very sympathetic look. He would have frowned, as if he didn’t know what she was meaning by that look, but he knew too well, and deemed it not worth the effort to deny it.

The man who had watched them from the archway to the garden was lounged in the hall. Aragorn knew him, and Arwen kept an eye on him, which made Legolas more wary of him than the way he had been watching Lunian had.

The man had looked at her like he had already decided she was his, and he liked what he saw. While Legolas couldn’t blame him for liking her, the possessive gleam in the man’s dull eyes left him chilled. Though Lunian hadn’t seemed aware of the man as he surveyed her, Legolas had finally reached the limit of his tolerance. He stood up, standing a short ways from her, but still effectively blocking the man’s gaze.

A shiver raced over his skin and down his arms before sending a shock down his spine, drawing him a few inches taller as the man spoke to Elrond.

The elf lord glanced over at him, the sorrow in his eyes making it all too clear. This man was the one he planned on marrying to Lunian. Even if she were not so against it herself, he would have opposed it on the basis of the man’s eyes. She had been raised among the elves, had the spark that could never be quenched nor even endured for a long time by those who had it not. To put her in such a place with a man such as that…

Anger, dark and cold took over his senses, building that fire in his own eyes. He would not allow it. She would smother here, would die before her time. As short as her life would be, why couldn’t she live it among the elves? There would remain a place for the elves even after her life had ended. There was no cause to separate her from all she knew—and what she knew was elves.

Elrond shifted uncomfortably under his gaze, and suddenly excused himself rather abruptly to the man. Walking quickly across the room, he drew the elven prince to the side. “Calm yourself. I would never force her.”

“That is good.” Legolas gave him a deadly stare. “Because it would kill her to endure such a punishment.”

“Punishment?” Elrond asked in surprise, a brow arching. “Calmacil is a good man, from the line of kings.”

“A man, at least,” Legolas agreed. “But his eyes are cold and dull. He wishes a breeding mare, not a love. He looks at her as one who picks out the animal to be butchered for his feast. It would not be right, to put one such as Lunian with such a man. What she is would be destroyed.” Which would be a terrible thing, indeed.

Elrond held up a hand for silence. “She shall choose, Legolas.”

Legolas ignored the gesture. “She does not like it here already, Elrond. She panics at the very thought of being left here.” To die. Perhaps she was not an elf, but even humans would die if they lost the will to do so.

“So I saw,” Elrond admitted wearily. “But she alone shall choose, Legolas. Whatever she wills will be done.”

“There are several who would see that ends truly.”

Elrond nodded. “Indeed there are. Arwen, Aragorn, Elladan, myself, you, and Elrohir, of course.”

Legolas frowned slightly at the ‘of course’ part, but said nothing as Arwen motioned for a servant to show him to a room. He walked behind her, noticed how nervous she seemed. Surely by now she would have gotten used to elves.

“Stop scowling,” a cheerful voice murmured from an open door along the corridor they were walking in. “You’ll frighten the poor woman.”

“It seems I have done that already, though I don’t know why.” Knowing a language unknown to the majority of mortals became useful, from time to time.

Lunian looked at the woman and asked her quickly where she was headed, before dismissing her. She walked with him down a few doors, and leaned against the door frame of the cold room when he entered. “Elladan is next door, Elrohir beside him. Elrond will be across the way.” And her room was across from Elrohir’s. “Don’t frighten the poor people, Egola. They can’t help it.”

“Help what?”

“Being in awe of you, and all the elf lords here. Arwen is more relaxed, more used to showing emotions. You seem cold to them, distant.”

“And what of you?”

“They see my ears and forget I arrived with elves, as long as I am not in the company of those elves.”

“Aragorn arrived with elves.”

“And they love him. They think they understand humans, in every way they could possibly come. But they know little of elves, and so are uncomfortable…” she trailed off and smiled. It was both rueful and somewhat shaky. “I’m doing the same to them, aren’t I?”

He didn’t really want to agree with her, because he could see she might force herself to endure it just to be fair. “You see what you do through the eyes of a human who knows the elves. You are still human, but what you know will always separate you from them.” When her eyes lowered he sighed, setting his quiver beside his bow before moving to stand in front of her. He hooked a knuckle under her chin, lifting her head so he could see her eyes. He winced. “I did not mean that.”

“Yes you did, and you’re right.”

He was the one to look away. “I didn’t mean to make you feel so alone. You aren’t.”

“Aren’t I? Estel is the only one like me in Middle-Earth.” She laughed softly. “And he married an elf, but lives with humans. One man before me is hardly precedence enough for me to know what I must do.”

“You must do what your heart tells you to.”

She frowned. “My heart? It grows ill thinking of remaining here.”

“Then don’t.”

She lifted dark green eyes to his, the gold not visible in the sunless room. “Is it that easy, Egola?”

“Many have said you will not be forced into anything you do not wish. Arwen, Elrohir, Elrond. If you do not believe them, will you believe me?”

She frowned at him as he tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “Believe you in what?”

“Believe me that I will not allow them to force you to do something you do not wish,” he murmured after a long pause, trying not to say too much.

She smiled faintly, lowering her eyes once more. They fastened on the brooch that helped keep his cloak fastened. She reached up and removed it, before circling him to remove the cloak. She folded it automatically, obviously having performed the task countless times before. She laid it upon the table his bow was on, and then looked up at him. She smiled again and lifted her hand to his cheek. “I believe you, my friend,” she murmured, before tilting her head up, kissing his cheek.

She smiled once more and ducked out of the room.

Legolas closed his eyes and leaned against the wall, letting out a tense sigh. If this keeps up, she could very well be the death of me.

He let out a humorless laugh and ran a hand through his hair, not sure if he was joking or not.
Elf of the fellowship by Nea
Lunian met Arwen before dinner, tilting her head towards Estel in question. Arwen shook her head before sending her husband out to see to their guests. “Tomorrow? Or tonight?”

“I’ll tell him tonight after we retire,” Arwen promised.

Lunian smiled softly and looked out over the section of the village that could be seen from the window. A few children played in the street, and Lunian found herself watching them in utter fascination.

“What’s so interesting?”

“The children,” Lunian murmured. “I’ve never seen any before.” Elves didn’t have children that often. She had been the only one born in Rivendell for several hundreds of years. And she wasn’t an elf.

“Have you ever considered having any?”

Lunian glanced at her friend. “Of course not. I haven’t even considered finding a mate. That’s one step you can’t skip in getting around to children.” She looked up, frowning slightly. “Shouldn’t the stars be visible by now?”

“They will be soon, don’t worry,” Arwen’s voice was soothing, the touch on her shoulder calming. “Why don’t you pull your hair back from your face?” She pulled a small section from each temple and braided it back to her crown, then joined the two braids into one. Then Arwen flipped it in front of Lunian’s eyes, and brushed her hair until it caught the light. She replaced the braid, letting it keep Lunian’s hair smooth and in place. “There.”

“There indeed,” Lunian grinned. “My turn,” she murmured, sitting Arwen in a chair. She pulled small sections from Arwen’s crown, braiding them before letting them fall over her shoulders as Arwen used to wear it. “Is the meal ready?” she asked softly when a knock came on the door.

“And awaiting our Ladies,” Estel agreed. “My queen?” he asked, holding his arm for her to take. “My sister?” he added, hooking his other arm for Lunian, who laughed and put her hand in the crook of his elbow.

Elrohir smiled when he saw the trio coming. “If you don’t mind, Aragorn, I shall relieve you of Lunian. It wouldn’t do for you to deprive Elrond of her as well.”

Aragorn paled slightly but smiled before giving her hand to Elrohir so he could escort her in to the meal. Everyone rose as their King and Queen entered, and remained standing until they were seated.

The meal was pleasant enough, mostly because there were few people there she didn’t know. Only three men, in fact. One was a head guard, the other a ranger she had once met when he accompanied Estel to Rivendell. The third was watching her whenever she looked up. It was an odd look, one that she had never encountered before.

While that was interesting, it was also disconcerting and a bit scary. After a while she kept her eyes to the other end of the table, engaging Elrohir or Elladan in conversation rather than let her mind be idle enough to glance back at the man.

“Ignoring me?” a familiar voice asked softly, the words angled to her ear alone.

She looked at him with an instant smile, but her eyes fell on the man as she turned to look at Legolas. A shiver raced over her skin and she turned her head again to those on her other side. “Not at all, Legolas.”

“What is it?” he asked, his voice suddenly cold. She could see him glance around the room from the corner of her eye, and his head turned towards her before he shifted in his chair, leaning partially over the table. “Look at me.”

She closed her eyes in relief when she found his new position blocked her view of the man unless she chose to look around Legolas. She smiled as she opened her eyes, about to thank him, but the words died in her throat at the blue fire in the eyes watching her.

“What was he doing?” he asked, his voice low, the tone icy and deadly.

She blinked, trying to reconcile that voice with the elf she knew, but couldn’t. This wasn’t her friend Egola. This was the elf of the fellowship, the Legolas who had killed countless numbers among the enemy’s rank. “Egola, please,” she whispered.

As she watched, some of the stoniness left his features, a little of the fire leaving his eyes. Anger still radiated strongly from him, but it was manageable now, and no longer drowned out her own feelings. “What was he doing?” he repeated.

She decided it wasn’t wise to mess with him in such a mood, opting instead to simply tell him. “Watching me. With the oddest expression I have ever seen. It was like… like…” she still couldn’t quite fathom it, much less articulate it.

“Possession? Determination? Cold certainty?”

She shivered at his voice, at his words, and the realization he was right. That was it exactly. “But why….” She trailed off, felt a chill race over her body as her blood turned to ice and her mind numbed. “Surely that is not the one Elrond thought would be a good match,” she finally managed to protest.

Legolas’s hand rested over hers, and he drew in a deep breath, but he said nothing.

Silence was often very eloquent, especially when backed by elven eyes. She shivered and reached for her worry stone, rolling it quickly through her fingers. “No. No. I cannot—“

“Shh,” Legolas murmured, catching both of her hands in his. The grip he held her in prevented further movement of her stone. “You need not,” he promised.

Looking into his eyes, she saw again the look of certainty in his eyes when he told her she would not be forced, as he pledged he would not allow her to be forced. She relaxed under their spell and smiled. “Good,” she agreed, letting out a breath. “That is very good,” she smiled again. “I was not ignoring you,” she murmured, going back to their original conversation.

“I thought otherwise for a while, but I understand you would prefer to look upon your friends than on him.”

Elrohir turned to them suddenly. “Why are you two speaking in that tongue? It is rude to prevent some at the table from understanding, much less joining in,” he frowned at Lunian, since he knew she had been taught better manners. Though a prince and often a diplomat for his father, Legolas was, above all else, a Mirkwood elf. That title would explain if not excuse a multitude of impolite tendencies.

“The man at the end was staring at me in a very…” she shivered and skirted over the most eloquent descriptives, “poor manner. Legolas believes he is the one Elrond wished me to marry. Is it any wonder we switched our tongues as we discussed it?”

Elrohir looked at the person in question when Legolas leaned back to a more normal position in his seat. He shook his head. “Why would Elrond choose him?” he asked, disdain in the tone even as he looked at the window behind the other side of the table so the subject of their discussion would hopefully not notice. After all, humans tend to be so dense about the ways in which elves showed their emotions. “Think no more of it, dear little one. His eyes are too dull to worry over, or even to consider.”

She frowned. “Then why would Elrond have chosen him in the first place?”

She caught the look the two elf lords shared over her head, but couldn't figure out what it meant, other than they were hiding something from her. She sighed and rolled her eyes, trying not to get angry. When she failed she got up to leave. “If you two do not wish my company any longer, I shall simply retire for the night.”

“Would you allow me to escort you back?” Legolas asked at once, rising to his feet beside her before she could respond, irritating her more than their previous actions.

“I will not get lost, Prince Legolas.”

He reared back as if she had slapped him, his face paling, and Elrohir was on his feet before Legolas could recover or say anything. “I will make sure of it,” he insisted, his eyes hard suddenly.

Lunian closed her eyes and sighed softly, then threw up her hands and walked quickly away from the table, ignoring the faint sounds of Elrohir following her. When she made it at last to her room, she opened the door quickly and whirled on him when he followed her into the room. “What was that about?”

“We were just being polite.”

“Polite? Since when do I need someone to walk me to my room?”

“You have not been here long, Lunian, and you—“

“You’ve not been here much longer!” she protested. She paced over to the wall and threw the shutters open so she could see the night sky. The cool breeze and the soft dance of lights above helped cool her temper. “Why did you really wish to see me back?” she asked levelly.

Elrohir sighed softly and moved to stand behind her. “Because we no more like the look of him than did you. Rather than be sorry we had not escorted you, we risked incurring your wrath. Legolas, not having the same history with you as do I, was hit with most of it. You hurt him, little one.”

She closed her eyes, but ripped them forcibly open when all she saw was the color and light drain from Legolas’s face again and again. She sighed softly. “I will make it right,” she promised just before Elrohir left with a soft, automatic good night.
clumsy elf? by Nea
Calmacil watched the goings on in confusion. First she seemed happy with the elves, then she was angered by them and they followed her out of the hall.

Well, one did. The dear prince was left standing in the hall until he sank back down into his seat, frowning at the table. How sweet it was to see him separated from her. If he knew better, he would have thought the look on the elf’s face lost.

With a slight smile he stood up, excusing himself quickly and mostly without being noticed. Taking the back halls until he was away from the sounds given off by the party of elves, he quickly made his way to the room the short maid with curly hair had told her the girl had been assigned to. He lifted his hand to knock, but was stopped by her suspicious voice.

“Who is it?”

With a smile he pushed against the door, one hand on the knob. “You shall have to open the door to find out, milady,” he called through it.

“Actually, I’d rather not,” she informed him primly. “I am in need of nothing, and wish no more than sleep until dawn.”

“Wish you not to meet your husband to be?”

“I shall not meet him here,” she retorted. “I shall marry no one.”

“The match has been made.”

“Consider it unmade, then.”

“It cannot be.”

“Even the ring of power could be unmade. And it was. Two of those who helped in its destruction assure me this match can be undone. Who are you to stand against not only my wishes, but their assurances? Be gone. The door shall not open to anyone until morning.”

“If I had pointed ears, would your consideration be different?” he asked, anger burning in his mind and voice. He looked at the door, wondering how much force would be needed to bring it down.

“No it wouldn’t. I do not wish to marry, neither elf nor human. For the only time, good night.”

“The only good night for me would be with you.”

Silence came from behind the wooden door.

“Milady?”

Finally he walked away, considering ways to get her away from her constant companions long enough to convince her to stay with him.

Lunian closed her eyes in relief when the heavy steps left the area just outside her door. She’d gotten to the point where she had been mentally judging the distance between her window and the next one, wondering if she could manage to climb using the jagged chinks in the wall to get there to escape the man.

A light rap came on the door, causing her to jump. “Who’s there?” she asked cautiously, though she would almost be certain it was an elf, since she hadn’t heard the approach.

“Legolas.”

She closed her eyes once more, this time in relief, before quickly moving to open the door. Without thinking she threw her arms around his neck. When she realized what she had done she backed up with a soft blush. “I’m sorry,” she murmured, meaning not only for grabbing him just then but for the way she had acted in the dining hall.

He smiled faintly and tucked her hair behind her ear. Slowly he nodded. “I just… wanted to be sure you were… settled…” he opened his mouth again, but closed it without saying anything else.

She blinked and looked up at him, having never seen him not in complete control of himself. “What on earth is the matter?” she asked, reaching up to touch his forehead. Warm, but not hot.

He caught her hand and kissed her palm. “I’ll see you in the morning,” he murmured, before bowing his head slightly and walking out.

Her jaw fell open as he brushed against the doorway, avoiding a resounding crash only by twisting his shoulder out of the way at the last instant. What was going on? Elves don’t bump into things! She knew that because she had spent years waiting for one to do so someday, just because she always felt so clumsy and cloddish around them. She still hadn’t witnessed it, but that was the closest she’d ever come.
making up your own rules by Nea
Arwen shook her head as she saw the dejected slump to Legolas’s shoulders as he looked out over the city. “You have not lost your way.”

“The journey has not yet begun,” he countered. His eyes followed Lunian as she walked in the gardens below.

“You may be surprised,” she murmured.

He shook his head. “No.”

Arwen sighed softly and watched Lunian’s path as the young woman stopped from time to time, studying the flowers. A man entered the gardens, going directly to Lunian, though he paused for a moment, walking more slowly, as if he hadn’t come just to see her. It was clear to both observers that he had, however.

She laid a hand on Legolas’s arm when he began to turn. “Don’t.”

“He is not—“

“She can take care of herself in this matter, Legolas. Worry only if he becomes violent. In a battle of words and feelings, no man in Gondor can stand against Lunian. There is probably not one in all of Middle-Earth who is capable of such, for that matter.” Of men. Of elves, she wasn’t so sure, but only because elves were not only wise on average, but fast learners when it came to dealing with other races, as long as their sense of pride wasn’t ruffled in the process, as too often happened with dwarves.

“And if he does become violent?”

“Then it is a short jump to reach her.”

He snorted softly as he looked down the thirty feet to the ground. “Short indeed.”

“It would pass by quickly.”

“I imagine so,” he agreed, a slight smile glinting in his eyes.

Arwen smiled and watched the girl below. Though she could have followed the conversation if she wished, she didn’t. Legolas, though, was listening intently. Not willing to let someone else take over. At least not someone like Calmacil.

A small gust of wind blew the clouds away, letting the sun light the two below. For an instant, the walls around her melted away, the man’s hair became longer, a bit darker and straight. Lunian was Lunian no longer, but Lenaith. The man became Elrohir.

Then the man moved, and the instant was gone, but the memory remained.

Lenaith turned from her study of the new flowers on the climbing plant that was slowly twining its way up one of the sturdiest trees in the gardens of Imladris. Elrohir paused as he saw her, and he slowly bowed his head deeply to her. Lenaith knelt before him, but he drew her to her feet at once, kissing her hand. He had said something, and she, still blushing, agreed. The pair walked off, deeper into the gardens, towards the little glen next to the stream and waterfall that had always been Elrohir’s favorite place in Imladris. They walked hand in hand, both with their heads slightly bowed, moving together as one, each aware the other would become very important in their lives.

They had been right about that, but then, people usually were right about that sort of thing. Elven people, anyway. Men were too rash to know it when it hit them, and too often threw it away before they knew what they had.

“Has Elrohir spoken to you?”

“About what?” he asked softly.

“Then he hasn’t,” she murmured back. If he had, there was no way Legolas wouldn’t know to what she was referring.

“About what?” Legolas insisted, turning to face her, though by the tilt of his head she could tell he was still listening to the conversation below them. The fact that he took his eyes off the two in the gardens assured her their speech had been very innocuous.

“Lunian.”

“I gathered that much. She seems to be the only topic anyone brings up around me.”

“It’s obvious why that is, Legolas.”

“Not really. It would make more sense for them to try and ignore it, hoping it blows over.”

“It’s not going to. They went through it with me. They’re trying a new approach.”

He laughed softly, without humor. “It won’t work.”

She nodded, laying a hand on his arm. “I know.”

He looked at her hand, then back at her. “Will she?”

Arwen nodded. “If you’ve admitted it to yourself, it won’t take her long to pick up on it. She may not understand for a while, since it is something she’s never been faced with before, but she’ll figure it out.”

“Eventually.”

“Since when have elves been in a hurry about such things?”

“Since when do elves find themselves in love with a mortal?” he snapped back. Then he closed his eyes and drew in a long breath which he released as a troubled sigh. “I’m sorry, Arwen.”

“Don’t apologize, get used to it.” Emotions were hard enough to control for someone just beginning on the path of love without knowing that the path would be cut short by the death of their beloved. Besides, humans were very emotional creatures, not having the years of experience to help them calm their feelings to a reasonable and manageable level, such as the elves usually managed to maintain. Usually. Being around humans could alter that after a while.

He closed his eyes for a long moment. “I’m beginning to think I’m too old for this.”

She shook her head at once. “The heart knows no age, Legolas. You are young by the standards of our people.”

“And by those standards, she is but a child.”

Arwen shrugged. “This is still new territory, which no elf after you will probably ever travel. You have to make up your own rules and standards.”
A true glimpse into an elf by Nea
A soft growl erupted Legolas’s throat as he watched Calmacil hover around Lunian even as she tried to detach herself from the man to shut the door to her room. Finally Legolas moved forward, intending to bodily remove the man if need be.

Seeing him coming, Calmacil backed off, bowing gallantly before letting Lunian close the door. The man turned to Legolas as he considered letting him off the hook and walking right on by. “Good evening, my lord,” the man said cordially enough, but with a cold, mocking note in his voice he probably didn’t know Legolas could hear.

Legolas found himself at a loss for words.

“My lord? Are you well?” This time the mockery was loud and clear, at least to Legolas’s sensitive ears.

He toyed with the idea of not responding, not giving the man the pleasure of it, but since the taunt had to do with Lunian, he was not entirely rational, and even knowing his irrationality he preferred making sure she would be left alone over avoiding a conflict with the man. “I am, yes,” he stated at last.

Calmacil nodded, smiling slightly at the ease with which he had kept the elf in his place. It was a sly, sinister little smile, but the elf wouldn’t know that, surely. He lowered his eyes in a false show of respect and began passing by, but it appeared the elf was not quite finished.

“If you force yourself on her in any way, Calmacil, you will know death by an elven blade.”

Calmacil blinked as the elf stared into him for an instant before walking away so silently Calmacil was sure a ghost would have made more noise. A shudder traced down his spine and the hairs on his neck stood up as he recalled the ice, the anger and rage in that final look. It had been not a threat, but a promise.

Suddenly very uneasy about what he thought he knew about elves, he began walking, trying to clear his thoughts. Elves were passive beings. Full of light, song and laughter. They had grand parties were the drinking and music lasted until the next day, if it ended at all.

Other things he knew began fluttering through his mind, darkening and deepening the picture. They had hundreds of years as children, thousands as adults. Warriors trained for millennia before they were given that title. Every elf currently in Gondor was a warrior, Arwen excluded, and he had heard it said she had been trained for a lifetime of humans so she could defend herself and her children if needed. Their songs were also of battles, war, pain, despair, grief. He had heard Aragorn singing one when they were younger. He had translated it, stunning the rangers with the emotions wrought with the words and music by the creatures they thought knew little of pain, since they were immortal.

Though always seeming controlled, removed, he had just glimpsed in the prince’s eyes a hint of the true being behind the mask. Controlled? Frighteningly so. The prince was the embodiment of power and strength. Every movement of the body was planned by the mind, no energy wasted in useless or graceless movement. The rage was controlled, harnessed, but Calmacil had been shown how easily the controls could be switched off, capable of erupting forth in a strength and energy with a violent vigor he had scoffed at when told of the prince’s exploits in the war of the rings. He no longer doubted. The prince was a predator, and had given him one chance to save his own life.

But though it was a somewhat terrifying reality, it didn’t matter. She was his.
By an elven blade by Nea
Lunian was in high spirits as she walked through the gardens, saying her goodbyes to the flowers, glad she wouldn’t have to see them again. Except maybe for a short visit such as this one. It was decided! Finalized! She would not marry Calmacil. She was nearly humming under her breath with her excitement, when she saw a lone figure standing still, looking up at the sky. It was in the predawn hour, when the sun was beginning to crowd out the stars above, but they could still be seen if one concentrated.

Or had elven eyes. For elf he was. Bright blue eyes searched the sky for something she couldn’t see any longer, if her eyes could have ever found it. She closed her eyes and concentrated on him, letting the feelings she’d picked up on wash over her. She reopened her eyes and looked again, confirming the confusion.

“What do you look for?”

“Peace.”

“From what?”

“Life.”

She hesitated. “It is not the call of the sea that worries you.”

“No.”

“Then what?”

He smiled faintly and lowered his gaze to hers. “A puzzle I will gladly spend the rest of my time in Middle-Earth trying to solve, if given the chance.”

She frowned faintly, because it sounded like he was asking her permission to do so. “What puzzle?”

He smiled but shook his head, and she knew he wouldn’t answer no matter how often she asked or how pleadingly. He was a Mirkwood elf, and they were notoriously stubborn. He had never shown her any different. So she tilted her head back and looked at the sky. “Can you see any of the stars still?”

“A few,” he agreed.

“Tell them good morning for me. I’m going to say goodbye to Arwen and the little one.”

“You knew the first night, didn’t you?”

She smiled at the memory. “Yes.”

“How?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I could just feel it.”

“I have known a few elves with such a talent, but I’ve never heard of a human knowing so simply of a pregnancy.”

“And how many do you know of? And how many have grown up around elves, being taught by them? It is an uneven standard you hold up, Legolas.”

“Forgive me,” he murmured softly, looking at her for an instant, his eyes enigmatic. Then he turned his head back to the sky, clearly dismissing her. “I have detained you. For that also, I ask your pardon.”

Her lips parted as she stared at him in confusion. “Why do you distance yourself from me?”

“Do you wish me to be close?” he countered, not looking back at her.

It was that that worried her most of all, that he did not allow her even to see his eyes so she would have an idea what was wrong. “You are a dear friend, Egola. I do not understand why you chose to change that now.”

“I do not,” he said at long last. “I would rather die than have you hurt or distressed. You will always be dear to me.”

He was still closed to her, his head tilted just perfectly away so she couldn’t see his eyes, couldn’t use them for clues as to his thoughts. His face gave nothing away, his pose even less. His voice…. Was full of soft sorrow, pain and grief.

She didn’t understand why he was hurting, didn’t know what to do to change that. So she did nothing, mostly because Arwen called to her then, asking her to come into the hall. When she got there she was given a hug and a pouch of seeds for the plant she had most enjoyed. Elrohir shook his head and warned her she must keep it from taking over the garden. She promised and went up to her room to gather the last of her things.

With a happy sigh she started to leave, only to find her path blocked by the man who would have been her husband, if given his way.

“You aren’t leaving.”

“Yes I am,” she insisted, moving forward to pass him, but he didn’t back away. “If you will excuse me, I’d—“

“I won’t excuse you. You’re mine and you’re staying here.”

“No, I’m not. On either count. I belong to no one, and I am certainly not staying here a moment longer than I must.” She tried to slip past him, but he caught her arm, his fingers digging cruelly into her flesh. “Let go of me,” she hissed, trying to wrench her arm free. Trying and failing.

“Not real fast. I’m not some idiot elf. I know how to change a woman’s mind.” His other hand came up, took her other arm and pushed her against the wall, pinning her there with his body.

She blinked in shock. Memories flashed in her head. Elrohir, his eyes so sad, so often. The statue of Lenaith in the small stone nook behind the waterfall. The stars above she whispered to when she thought about her mother, wondering what she was like.

She would not suffer the same fate. She twisted against his hands, gaining herself a few inches of freedom from his confining bulk.

“It’ll be easier on you if you don’t fight,” he murmured, his breath warm and moist against her neck.

She shuddered and jerked her knee up. Though she hit him solidly, the effect wasn’t what she’d hoped. His hands tightened on her and he slammed her into the wall.

“Be nice,” he growled, pressing against her. His hands held her upper arms, but not her lower arms and hands. A flicker of memory provided her with a little bit of more useful memory. He carried a dagger at his waist.

Before she could consider how badly she could hurt him, and in so doing lose her nerve, she grabbed it and struck him, burying the knife deeply into his side. Or so she thought. He yelled out in rage and backhanded her, before going for the knife she still held in her hand.

Stunned that her attempt had done nothing, she nearly froze, moving only at the last instant to the side, getting to her bed. She jumped onto it and ran to the other side, trying to get him away from the door, holding the knife ready in case he came too close.

He ran for her, and though she slashed out at him, he still managed to pin her against the corner, striking her again as the knife fell to the floor with a disparaging clatter. The rough stone walls pressed into her back, and she could almost hear the stone crying out for her to fight, but her strength was failing. She was no match for him.

She heard cloth rip, felt more pain on her arms as she continued to try and fend him off, being able only to slow him. The stone echoed her shrieks, but the heavy wooden door was closed, and even the waiting elven ears wouldn’t hear her.

Suddenly, when she was starting to be sure she would have no choice but to endure her mother’s torment, her assailant went still, a thickly fluid cough coming from him before blood ran from his mouth and splattered on her bared chest, before he sank to his knees, his eyes wide and glassy as he toppled against her. She shuddered and squirmed out from his weight, and only then saw the silver-handled dagger sticking out of his back.

She ran across the room as soon as she was clear, right into the waiting open arms. Her savior held her tightly, whispering soft elven words of comfort to her as she sobbed in relief.
hiding in the rage by Nea
“What’s taking so long?” Elladan was asking, his horse pacing anxiously.

“Arwen went to speak with Lunian. They may be a while yet,” Estel answered.

Lunian smiled to herself mentally at her sort of brother’s response, but even so it was weak. “Won’t they ask?” she asked Arwen, looking down at herself.

“Not yet. You should have a while to recover.” Arwen smiled softly and tugged the cloth that covered Lunian’s face up a little higher. “Just ride to the side of the group and look straight ahead. Don’t avoid them or they’ll know something’s up.”

“All right,” she agreed, taking a deep breath.

“I want you to take this.”

Lunian shook when she saw the silver-handled dagger.

“It is not the same one, though it was wrought by the same smith. You should carry it when traveling. I should have given it to you earlier, instead of keeping it as a last minute parting gift.”

“It was not your fault,” Lunian protested, hearing the guilt almost hidden in Arwen’s voice. It grew deeper as she continued speaking.

“I never liked him. I should have had him removed from the hall long ago.” Arwen lifted her eyes and smiled suddenly. “But you are right, it was no one’s fault but his own.”

Lunian smiled in return as she realized Arwen had forced her to admit that fact. The pain made it brief, but it was a smile. “Thank you again, Arwen.”

“Dear little one,” Arwen murmured, tucking a small piece of Lunian’s hair under her hood. “I wish we had more time together.”

“As do I,” Lunian agreed, hugging her dear friend for a long moment. Then she took the dagger with a resigned sigh. She put it at her waist and took a deep breath before the two began walking to the assembled group.

“You must forgive me for delaying you, but I had a few things to say to my little sister before you take her away.”

“No problem, sister of mine,” Elladan murmured gallantly, getting astride his horse. “Shall we be off?”

The others mounted and followed. Lunian closed her eyes and was grateful no one asked what had been said or done. She wouldn’t have known what to say.

‘You’ll have to forgive my tardiness, but I was being assaulted by a man but Arwen killed him before cleaning me up and making sure I knew it wasn’t my fault and that I would be okay?’ That would require lengthy explanations she wasn’t up to just yet. Actually, no one would say a thing if she asked them not to, but the silence and sympathy—along with the rage—were just too strong and volatile for her to handle while she was trying to get a grip on her own feelings about it, which she had to do, and quickly.

She was still shaky, but had stopped shaking. Her tears had dried, and didn’t look like they were going to come back any time soon, thankfully. The only thing she worried about was them noticing that she now wore not only her hood but a cloth covering her face, and her dress had been changed from one with light, airy sleeves that showed her arms to one that would not. If they noticed that, and insisted she change for the journey, her bruises would be exposed. And that would require her to explain…

She sighed softly and clutched at her worry stone, rolling it in her fingers even as she absently moved so she was riding between Elrohir and Legolas. Elrohir would keep her mind from wandering too far down that path, because she had been saved. And she knew he would have given anything to save her mother.

“Are you well, Lunian?” Legolas’s voice was concerned.

“Yes,” she agreed softly, deciding to go with the broadest possible definition of the term ‘well’. “Why do you ask?”

He was frowning, she knew that much without looking at him.

“You aren’t asking him a thousand questions, you aren’t looking around at the land around you, and you haven’t even removed your hood to feel the sun. All are unusual for you.”

“What is your point or your question, Elrohir?”

He frowned as well but looked away. “Are you feeling well?”

She sighed softly. “I am pondering what Arwen said,” she murmured at last, figuring that was safe enough. It was true, after all. “May I ride in contemplative silence?”

“As you wish,” Legolas murmured, his tone confused.

She closed her eyes but didn’t let her guilt override her common sense. If she wanted to make it back to Rivendell without them knowing what had happened, she couldn’t let them see her face or her arms.

Which would make it hard to eat.

She blinked at the thought, her eyes wide. How was Arwen expecting her to get around that?

She probably wasn’t, Lunian admitted. While she could draw away without being noticed for a day or two, she probably wouldn’t last to Rivendell, just because she wouldn’t always think to make sure the cloth covered her face.

She closed her eyes, and vowed to make it as far as she could.

They rode the day in silence, and no one objected to her taking her food as she stretched her legs when they stopped for the night since they knew she grew sore even though they did not. The next morning, Legolas woke her with a gentle shake. “Good morning,” he murmured when she opened her eyes.

She stretched carefully, putting her arm in front of her face before rolling so her back was to him. She sat up, checked that her face was covered, and then accepted her food before mounting for the day’s ride.

Once again she managed to keep her face hidden through meals and conversation, which were slightly stilted because of her unusually subdued nature.

With a sigh of relief she removed the cloth that evening as she knelt before a stream. She pulled off her cloak and set it aside, rolling up her sleeves so she could bathe a little before one of the males would call for her to return. She dunked her hair and lathered what of herself she could reach in her limited time, then dried off.

Just before she could pull her sleeves down, she heard the call. She sighed and rolled her eyes before something she’d not noticed caught her attention. The call was from far closer than she’d expected. She spun around, rising to her feet at the same moment.

The color drained from Legolas’s face as he looked at her exposed face and arms. He reached out and touched her cheek lightly where the bruise’s farthest edge had begun to fade. “Lunian,” her name was a hoarse croak, a tortured murmur. “What happened?”

He looked like he’d been struck, drained of all strength. She closed her eyes against the pain in his and drew a deep breath. Her eyes snapped open when she felt his hands close over the marks on her arms, shifting here and there. He swallowed as it became obvious several of the bruises were in the shape of fingers and palms. His eyes darted over her, catching a hint of bruise beneath the neckline of her dress. A long finger nudged the material out of the way, before his eyes narrowed and his jaw drew tight. The blue fire was back in his eyes, making her shiver and nearly made her back away, but he didn’t allow it. He looked at her for a long moment, and then strode quickly away.

Legolas was nearly shaking in rage as he left the small grove of trees. “Elrohir!” The elf looked up, took one look at his face and hesitated in his greeting. “Follow me,” Legolas growled, turning back to where he had left Lunian. When they arrived she was covered as she had been, and he suddenly understood why she hadn’t let the sun caress her hair on their return trip so far.

“What’s going on?” Elrohir asked, not seeing anything wrong.

Legolas moved forward, a low growl escaping his throat as she backed away from the anger she could no doubt see and feel radiating from him. He caught her carefully, trying not to hit any of her bruises, and tugged the cloth from her face.

Elrohir’s breath hissed out between his teeth as he saw the dark discoloration that covered most of her face beneath her nose, and a good portion of her throat. “Not you too,” he protested weakly, sounding ready to collapse.

Lunian’s eyes went from slightly defiant to worried in an instant. She moved forward and clasped Elrohir’s hands, shaking her head, ignoring that the cloth fell aside completely. “No. Arwen came in.” She winced as Elrohir hugged her tightly, but merely returned the gesture, laying her head on his shoulder.

“Calmacil?” Legolas asked in a low voice, barely above a growl.

“You will not kill him,” she murmured, a faint smile touching her split and bruised lips.

“That’s right. I get to,” Elrohir cut in, eyes narrowed.

She shook her head. “Arwen beat you to it.” She took a deep breath and looked between them. “Please don’t say anything. I couldn’t bear it right now.”

“What were you thinking, not telling us?” Legolas was barely holding in his rage, but his question was louder and sharper than he had intended.

Lunian paled slightly, lifting a hand to her head. “I can’t take this now!” she insisted, a fine tremor running over her.

Elrohir laid a hand on her shoulder, saw her wince for the pain, and pushed the material out of the way. He closed his eyes and took a shuddering breath. “I hope it was a slow death,” he finally muttered, before turning to Legolas. “You must try and control your rage, Legolas.”

Legolas was incensed farther by the slow dying of anger in Elrohir’s eyes. “I will not accept this so easily,” he hissed.

“You need never accept it,” Elrohir countered sharply, “but you must control your rage, for Lunian.” Elrohir replaced the cloth around Lunian’s face, and sent her back to the others, remaining to explain the harsh reality to the outraged prince. “Lunian is like her mother in her ability to pick up on the feelings of others. It is probably that which kept her silent. Having four furious, concerned and otherwise emotional elves around her while trying to deal with her own feelings about what happened would tax her control too quickly.”

Legolas closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It didn’t help much, but he forced himself to think instead of react to the rage. “How could it happen? We were right outside. Wouldn’t we have heard her…?”

“Not necessarily,” Elrohir murmured, his voice so sad it stopped a good portion of the rage in Legolas from continuing.

Somewhat calmed, he reminded himself the bastard was dead, and could never touch her, or even look at her again. That helped a lot. Knowing that letting his emotions run wild could hurt Lunian was the final thing he needed. A shudder went over him as he released the rest of it. “This won’t last long.”

“I’ll make sure we don’t stop in Lothlorien,” Elrohir assured him. “Just remember anything strong she’ll pick up on, whether she wants to or not. Try to remain calm.”

Legolas nodded, hoping it wouldn’t be beyond him. As they turned back to join the others, they saw a hooded and cloaked figure waiting for them at the top of the hill. She looked up at them, and sighed in relief when she read in their faces they weren’t going to say anything. She hugged Elrohir, then cupped Legolas’s face with her hands. She tilted his head down and kissed his forehead before hugging him, laying her head against his shoulder for a moment. He started to return her hug, but recalled the wince on her face when Elrohir hugged her. Instead he stroked her hair, tilting her head back so he could kiss her forehead as she started to move back.

“Where are you hurt?” Elrohir asked in as neutral a voice as he could manage.

She sighed heavily and reached for his hand. “My arms, shoulders, back, neck and face have the worst of it, but I’m probably bruised pretty much all over.” Feeling a flicker of anger from Legolas, she turned her head to him, sighing when he winced upon seeing her face. “I am better, Egola. I shall be fine before long.”

He stopped suddenly, remembering something. “You lied to us.”

She winced, her eyes closing in pain the physical gesture had caused. “I evaded telling the absolute truth, but I didn’t lie.”

“You consider this being well?” he asked, knowing as she swayed on her feet his rage was getting out of hand again.

“Considering what could have happened, yes!” she snapped back. Then her head swiveled to Elrohir, and she moaned. Her eyes rolled into her head and she passed out, her limp body caught by two pairs of arms before she could hit the ground.

“What was that you were saying about being calm?” Legolas ground out sarcastically. Even he had felt the tumble of emotions pouring out of Elrohir at the same time her head had turned to see him.

Elrohir sent him a look that quite plainly told him to shut up, and helped him lift her carefully, before covering her face once more so they could return to the others.
Lenaith's past by Nea
Elrohir glanced over at Lunian once more, seeing she was still unconscious, one hand dangling limply until Legolas shifted so he could fold her hand over her stomach, before placing his hand over hers. When they had come back from the stream, Legolas carrying an unconscious Lunian, some of the questions about their sudden departure had been halted. Finally Elrohir had said they would explain it when they got to Rivendell, but told them not to say or ask anything until they arrived, for her sake.

While that had worried his brother and father, they said nothing, not even when Legolas continued to hold her after several hours of riding with her in front of him. Once in a while Elrohir had caught him brushing a piece of hair out of her covered face, his look so woefully tender Elrohir had finally put Elladan between them so he didn’t have to see it any longer.

It was bad enough to know what Legolas was going through without reliving what had happened.

But the memories would not be dissuaded for long…

Lenaith being carried into the hall by the patrol sent to find her, the guard’s cloak about her. He shifted her into Elrohir’s arms, sending him a troubled look.

“What happened?” he asked. “Where did you find her?”

“I think you’d best tend to her now, and leave answers for later. There will be many long years for that, but her time is running out without care.”

Without another word Elrohir had run to her chamber, as Elladan ran to find their father. As he laid her down, the cloak fell aside, making him tense as he saw her. Her clothing was in a few small tatters, dirty, bloody, and mangled, twisted about her. Some had been cut, as her hands had obviously once been bound, raw marks about her wrists, a piece of her skirt still stuck in some of the deep marks.

He pulled them away, even as he noticed the rest of her condition. Her body was covered in bruises, not more than a hand’s span of unmarred skin from her nose to her knees. Cuts, large enough to hurt but small enough not to kill, covered her torso, with a few deeper gashes here and there on her arms and legs. Burn marks made an x below her navel. He touched her hair, those long, luxuriant blond locks shorn off, a reminder that would last longer than the bruises and the cuts. Like the burns, they were left to remind her for a long time of the torture she had endured.

Elrond and Elladan had entered, both muttering a prayer when they saw her. Elrond yelled over his shoulder for someone to hunt the people who had done this to her down, and was told the patrol had already returned to do so.

Then the three elves worked together to heal her body, hoping her soul would deem it worth it to stay in the world of the living for a while longer.

It had taken the healing of her body before she stirred. When she opened her eyes for the first time, he was beside her. She had looked at him, and her eyes filled with tears. As he bent to kiss her, she turned her head, her eyes filled with shame.

That had hurt more than seeing her so horribly mangled. He leaned in anyway, and kissed her cheek, her temple, her forehead and nose, but she moved away before he could kiss her on the lips.

“Why do you reject my love?” he asked softly, his heart breaking for her.

“I am not worthy of it.”

“As much as you were last month, last year, the year before, you are worthy. My heart has not turned from yours, has yours rejected me?”

She turned to look at him, tears still shimmering on her lashes. “I am with child.”

He felt like he’d been struck—they’d given her the potion necessary to terminate a pregnancy when she’d been found. “You are sure?” he asked, his tone betraying what they had done.

“Yes,” she agreed.

Finally he shrugged. “Then I shall be your child’s father.”

“You cannot be,” she murmured, the tears barely clinging to her lashes.

“As I say it now, so it shall be. The child born of you is a child for me.” He kissed her forehead and then her chin before lying beside her.

The tears gave up their tenuous hold, falling from her lashes. “She shall be mortal, Elrohir.”

“Or he shall be mortal,” he murmured, shrugging a shoulder. “And half elven. In the next life, perhaps, we shall all be together.”

She smiled at him through her tears, and such a sight he had never welcomed so eagerly, though her tears tore at his heart. “I truly am not worthy of you.”

“You have it wrong, my love. I am not worthy of you.” He sealed his promises with a gentle kiss, feeling everything would be all right. Her child would be brought up knowing love and light, knowing they never denied the child for the cause, they would never blame the infant for the father’s deed. He or she would be their child once born.

Thankfully just looking at Lunian kept the next chapter in Lenaith’s tragic life from flashing before his eyes.
awake to darkness by Nea
Lunian woke to the drugging monotony of a moving horse. She listened to the hooves for a long while, her senses slowly expanding so she heard other horses as well. No one was speaking, but that wasn’t uncommon. She could hear another sound, one that she wasn’t able to place at once.

A heartbeat?

Well, it only made sense. If they were moving while she was unconscious, then someone would be needed to hold her up, since they couldn’t very well toss her over her horse’s back and give the mare a slap on the rump.

Content in her still semi-conscious state, she let the world pass by for the longest time, listening to the heart beneath her ear and the horse beneath them both. Other things slowly struck her, bringing her slowly, reluctantly, into complete awareness. The air was cooler, crisper than she would have expected. She couldn’t hear any birds at all, nor could she sense the sun behind her lids.

Finally confusion and curiosity won, and she opened her eyes. At first, she thought she had failed at doing do, for the world remained black around her. But a blink assured her she wasn’t dreaming, for her vision cleared to see the light of the stars tangle in hair which seemed silver in the partial light. He glanced down at her, smiled faintly and moved just enough a long finger tugged a piece of hair from the side of her face.

Without a word he broke off some lembas, shifting her slightly so she could eat and drink without being seen by anyone except Elrohir as she cautiously removed the cloth. When she did, the softer smell of him, of forests and summer rains, overcame the more obvious smell of horse, helping her remain relaxed. She returned the water to him, waited for a little while after he set it aside, setting the material over her face again before speaking.

“Why are we traveling at night?” she asked softly.

“Elrohir has made it clear we need to get back to Imladris as quickly as possible. We have stopped for only a few minutes since you were overcome.”

She sighed softly, remembering the reason. “Poor Elrohir.”

“What do you mean?” he asked with a frown.

Reaching up, she rubbed the frown away, before frowning herself when he kissed her wrist before she let her hand fall. “First Lenaith, then me.”

She watched his eyes darken as he recalled Elrohir’s first words when he had seen the state she was in. “She was attacked?”

“Raped, beaten and left for dead,” she explained softly, in a matter-of-fact tone.

He frowned faintly. “What happened to her?”

“They healed her body, and he healed her heart. But the birth was complicated, and because of the nature of the child, she died.”

“What do you mean by the nature of the child?”

“It was fathered by a human,” she murmured quietly. “The child was born mortal.”

He asked nothing more, and she said nothing more for a long while, until the half-sitting position she was in began to wear on her. She shifted slightly, moving so she was able to face forward. “Lunian?”

“Yes?” she asked back, just as quietly.

“Are you better?”

She frowned, slowly stretching the muscles she could without being too obvious. “A bit stiff. Why?”

“Stiffness is to be expected. You’ve been out of it for the last two days.”

Which explained why she was still hungry. And why there were mountains in the distance. And why the moon was full. She sighed, knowing she could gladly sleep for a few more days. She was obviously below average in the observation department.

“Look at me,” he ordered suddenly, his voice gentle enough it was almost a request, turning her carefully at the same time. He pulled the cloth from her face, a finger lightly tracing the color. “They are fading quickly.”

“But it will be a while before they are gone,” she added when he didn’t, replacing the cloth to hide the remaining discoloration.

“Of course,” he agreed with a sigh. He allowed her to turn around, and carefully shifted his hands around her waist so he wouldn’t hurt her. “How did it happen?”

“Legolas,” she sighed, about to embark on an already explained reason for not telling at that very moment.

“Not how for the details,” he cut in impatiently. “I mean, how did he dare, with us so near?”

How did it happen so they didn’t know, so they couldn’t help her. So Calmacil had almost succeeded. She understood the question then, but wasn’t so clear on the answer. “I don’t understand men, Legolas. Estel excluded, of course.”

“Yes you do. You understand a lot about people you’ve never even spoken to merely by the look in their eyes. I want to know what you saw in his.”

“Cold. Dull. Lifeless. Angry.” She stopped the abrupt list and sighed. “Betrayed, damaged. Determined.” The hands at her waist pulled her closer when she shivered. “Crazed.” She looked at him over her shoulder. “He felt like I was his, that I was being stolen away. He didn’t want to let me go.”

“All he saw was a brood mare,” Legolas muttered, his voice harsh, his eyes cold and angry.

“That may be, but please, don’t dwell on it now. We’re too close for me to not pick up on anything you feel.”

“I’m sorry, Milady.” He kissed her temple as she started to turn back around. He sighed against her and tugged her back slightly when she began to drift back into unconsciousness. She felt warmth and tenderness envelope her as Legolas wrapped her in his arms and cloak, her forehead sliding to rest against his throat. There was some other emotion there too, but she couldn’t put her finger on what.

Finally she gave up trying to figure it out, making a mental note to think about it in the morning.
what keeps him alive by Nea
Elrohir stood still in the small glen, able to see Lenaith in so many different places, so many different times. All he had to do was close his eyes, and there she was, sometimes not even waiting until he closed his eyes. It was here they had come when they first met, here they had fallen so hopelessly in love, here he had plighted his troth, here she had died.

Before he could slip into memory, he felt someone approaching. Legolas entered, bowing his head slightly in apology for interrupting his musing.

“How is she?” Elrohir asked as Legolas started to turn to leave.

Legolas paused, a faint smile curving his lips. “She is doing well, but she is confused.”

“What about?”

Legolas looked up at him, letting him see the soft light glowing in his eyes.

Elrohir chuckled, though with the delight and joy there mingled sadness and pain. “Finally admitted it to yourself, I see.”

“Couldn’t help it anymore.” Legolas’s eyes darkened, the light being overcome for a moment by the rage again. “Seeing her like that…” He shook slightly, his hands clenched into fists at his sides.

“I know,” Elrohir agreed, recalling how furious he’d been when he saw Lenaith, and then when he saw Lunian… He’d wanted to turn around and return to Gondor.

So had Legolas. The rage pouring from him had been murderous. Now he came back from its pull, giving Elrohir a look full of sorrow and sympathy. “She told me about Lenaith.”

“Did she?” Elrohir asked, making the question more of a statement, because Legolas’s response wasn’t what he expected at such news. “What?”

“What happened to her. The attack, her death in childbirth.”

Elrohir smiled faintly, looking back at the water.

“You will see her again someday.”

“That hope is what will keep me alive until that day,” Elrohir agreed.
she opens her eyes by Nea
Lunian blinked as Legolas looked at her. What was that? She had no more answer now than she’d had the morning she’d first been able to clearly see the soft light shining in his eyes.

She didn’t have much longer to figure it out, since he’d been called back to Mirkwood. He would leave in five days, and she still didn’t have a clue. It was driving her crazy, to put it mildly. Since she always picked up on emotions, she thought she would know them all, but it appeared she was wrong.

She frowned as she walked, the stone being worried in her hand as she thought about it, and all the feelings she was picking up to go with it. Joy, hope, peace, almost ecstasy, but it was all being constantly countered by pain, sorrow, fear, defeat. Grief. Yet the positive emotions always seemed to be winning, keeping a sparkle of a smile in his eyes along with that light.

Whenever she was near him the feelings washed over her, and sometimes just seeing his eyes was enough to engulf her in them from across the garden.

Oddly enough, it made her think of comfort, warmth and security, like being wrapped in his cloak and arms had done on the trip back home. Remembering that feeling made her feel cold and empty, so she absently wrapped her arms around her.

A cloak settled over her shoulders, smelling of the forests. She smiled and looked over her shoulder to see him, drowning in that blue glow. “Thank you.”

His smile warmed her as much as his cloak. It said he was glad to be able to do anything that pleased or helped her. “You are quite welcome, Milady.” After bowing his head slightly he remained where he was, though she began walking on.

When she realized he hadn’t followed, she glanced at him over her shoulder. “Walk with me?”

“As you wish,” he agreed softly, coming to her side in an instant. The good half of the feelings she was picking up from him overwhelmed her, lifting her spirit even though it increased her confusion.

They walked in silence, broken only by the birds that flew over their heads or the skitter of squirrels who were frantically getting ready for winter. “Aren’t you usually practicing now?” she asked suddenly, for the idea had just occurred to her.

“Usually. But I’m expecting a messenger to arrive from Mirkwood today. I wished to be on hand when he arrived.”

“I thought you were going home soon.”

“That’s what the message will decide.”

“Do you want to stay, or go?”

He frowned faintly. “While I would like to see Mirkwood and my father, I would also like to remain here for a while.”

She started to ask why, but she had a feeling it would only confuse her farther, so she remained silent. Before they had finished their round of the gardens the sound of hooves entered the courtyard, so they walked there together.

The messenger bowed to Legolas, then handed him a paper sealed with wax and the royal seal. Legolas broke it quickly, scanning the message. He sighed softly, refolding the message. “Very well. If there is no pressing need for your return, we shall ride out together.” The messenger nodded and turned away, following a serving elf to the room prepared for him. Legolas folded the paper over again and took her hand, leading her back into the garden. “Father wishes me back when planned.”

Confusion washed over her again, so much so that she finally stopped, facing him squarely. “I don’t understand.”

“What’s not to understand?” he asked, lifting a brow. “Father wants me back, so I have to go back.”

“But it is your home.”

“Yes.”

“So why don’t you want to go?” Then she frowned. “But you do want to go.” She lifted her hands to her face, swamped by his emotions, concern for her coming through most dominantly as he gently pulled her hands from her face.

“Picking up my emotions, I see,” he murmured softly, kissing her knuckles. “Why does it confuse you so? Haven’t you ever been in such conflict? Wanting to do something, but wanting to do something else at the same time, both having their good and bad points?”

“Of course, but never so intensely. It feels like it’s a decision between life and death for you,” she lowered her head so she didn’t see his eyes any longer. She couldn’t stand all the powerful emotions washing through her because of one look, the touch on her arms as he kept her from covering her face again.

He sighed softly and drew her against him, holding her tightly when she would have pulled away. He released her arms only to draw her fully against him, pressing her head against his shoulder.

As he held her, the emotions running through him began to calm, so she was able to calm down as well, slowly relaxing into his gentle hold. He sighed again and released her, cupping her face in his hands for a long moment before leaning closer. He kissed her forehead, briefly closing his eyes as he did so, and then drew back.

“Elladan will be expecting me on the field,” he murmured softly, before he bowed his head slightly and walked off.

The look in his eyes stayed with her, haunted her steps as she wound her way through the gardens again. Finally, needing some solace of some kind, she climbed up into the large tree Elrohir had jokingly called hers one day. She’d taken him up on it, and still climbed up from time to time to think. Usually, though, she was wearing leggings when she did so.

But it didn’t matter. All that mattered was she was here, out of sight, where she could think.

So why couldn’t she think?

Her thoughts made no more sense now than before, her only viewpoint the same one she had had while walking in mindless circles in the garden. She sighed and rubbed the nail of her thumb over the stone as she tried to figure out what the new look in Legolas’s eyes meant. Something told her that if she only knew that it would explain everything else, but its truth remained elusive even as day slipped to evening, and fell into night.

Hunger gnawed cruelly at her stomach, but she didn’t heed it, listening instead to the sounds of the night as she tried to come up with some precedence for what she was seeing. Had she ever seen it before?

Not directed at her, that was certain. She would remember seeing such a light before. So, how about towards anyone else?

Lunian stared at the stars above with a soft sigh, her eyes seeing but her mind not knowing. It had wandered from her body back to the time when she had found out about her mother.

“Little one, come back!” Elrohir called, his voice distressed and pained. “Lunian!”

But she didn’t go back. She couldn’t. Her stomach felt empty, clenched horribly tight, her chest ached with the breath she couldn’t take, her throat tight. A pained breath managed to enter her lungs through the obstacles, leaving mere instants later in a low sob.

Without thinking where she was going she ran on, not really surprised when she came to her tree. She swung up into the branches, ignoring the way they beat at her face and arms as she didn’t look for the easiest way to get up, just going as high as she could as quickly as she could manage.

Once there she wrapped her arms around her knees, which were drawn to her chest. She rocked back and forth, her mind not comprehending what had happened, what had been said. Finally her confusion and pain overcame her, letting her sink into welcome darkness.

She woke with the sun coming in through the window of her room, the covers drawn about her. A figure was sitting next to the bed, and stirred as her breathing changed.

“How are you feeling?” Elrohir asked, pain, worry and guilt tied up in his voice and eyes.

She said nothing, letting the darkness take her over.

For the next weeks it was much the same. She would wake once in a while, but had no will to speak or move.

Until she heard Estel speaking with Elrohir. They were discussing the path to… Mordor? Surely that couldn’t be right. When Arwen came in to see her, she was assured it was right, that Estel and Gandalf, along with Legolas, a man from Gondor, a dwarf and four hobbits would be leaving soon to destroy the one ring.

Arwen’s face had been composed, but her eyes were worried. And happy, and pained. At once full of joy and sorrow, lighting up when Estel entered the room…

“NO!”
breaking his heart by Nea
Lunian stared numbly at the branches before her, hearing her name being called, feeling their worry increase as she didn’t return their calls.

“Legolas! Anything?”

“Nothing,” Legolas answered, his voice heavy. “Where would she go, Elrohir?”

“Assuming she went—“ Elladan’s words were suddenly cut off, a pained breath hissing out of him, a familiar sound, considering the number of times she’d seen and heard the impact of Elrohir’s elbow or hand with Elladan’s gut.

“Maybe in her tree. That’s where she always used to go when upset or needing time alone. Though recently she was taking to the glen more.”

“I’ve already checked there,” Legolas muttered.

“So have I. Repeatedly.” Elrohir sounded so old, so tired. If she wasn’t so numb she would have felt sorry for him, and would have climbed out of the tree just to please him. But she was numb, just numb enough not to feel pain, though she was aware of the world around her enough to know she was cold. So cold, icy, inside and out.

Footsteps below her tree indicated they were close, and very agitated. How else would an elf make so much noise? “This is it, but I can’t see anything.”

“Allow me,” Legolas’s mutter reached her, and she heard some of the lower branches being shaken. She had wrapped his cloak around her almost at once when she climbed up here to begin with, so he wouldn’t be able to see her unless he climbed right up beside her. Elrohir and Elladan had never climbed above the first several limbs, so she figured she was safe.

But as she began feeling his worry, along with seeing as the higher branches moved slightly, she knew she had underestimated the effect of putting a wood-elf in such a situation. It mattered little that he was only half wood-elf, because half or whole, wood-elf he was, and he knew how to climb trees. Too soon she caught a glimmer of gold, then of the sky as he looked up, his eyes locked in hers for a long moment. “She’s here!” he called down.

“Praise to the Valar,” Elrohir murmured softly. “Is she conscious, at least?”

“Yes,” he called back, frowning slightly at the question.

Lunian had never thought about that. Elrohir or Elladan had somehow gotten her out of the tree while she was blacked out before. Probably Elrohir.

“Lunian?” the elf in question called. “Are you all right?”

No. She wasn’t. She said nothing, turning her head away from where Legolas was still working his way up to a comfortable place beside her. “She looks fine, Elrohir. We’ll be down by dinner.”

She could hear the frown in his voice. “All right. If you’re sure…”

“Yeah,” Legolas called, waiting silently until, apparently satisfied, they had been left alone by the twins. “Lunian?” he asked then, focusing all his attention on her.

She didn’t look at him, didn’t answer, just let her mind sink slowly into the darkness that had been threatening to overcome her before.

She was jerked rudely back to reality when strong hands fastened over her arms and shook her. She opened her mouth to protest, and he stopped, but left his hands on her. “Do you have any idea what we’ve been through looking for you?” he growled, his eyes narrowed. “We were thinking the worst—that you were going to be hurt and we wouldn’t find you in time to help you.” He moved in closer, his eyes leaving a burning trail over her face. “And you were up here watching the day pass you by?” he hissed the last, nearly shaking in his anger.

She sighed softly and leaned her head back against the trunk of her tree. “Leave me alone, Legolas.”

“I cannot. I want to know what possessed you to do such a thing. Elrohir was nearly out of his mind with worry when you didn’t show up for dinner last night. When you still hadn’t appeared by morning, he was absolutely frantic.” His hands tightened on her arms, his eyes telling her in no uncertain terms he had been right there with Elrohir emotionally. “Why did you do that to him?” To them both.

She closed her eyes against the burning light in his, unable to believe, even less to deal with it. “I wanted to be alone.”

“You could have come in for meals, to sleep. How long have you been up here?” Concern was battling with his anger, enough that he realized how tightly he was holding her arms, releasing his hold slightly, frowning as he noticed how cold she was.

“Since you left me in the gardens.”

He closed his eyes and shivered softly, moving even closer so his warmth brushed against her chilled side. “Is it my fault you’re up here?” he asked softly, his voice and eyes pained.

“No.” Not really. Not entirely. It was her fault for forgetting what such looked like, for not recognizing it soon enough to stop it. “You leave in a few days. You should prepare.”

“I’m not getting out of this tree until you do,” he insisted stubbornly.

“Your father will be angry. Maybe you should surprise him by showing up early. If you left now, you could be back for the last of the fall festival.” She was grasping at straws, needing to send him away where she wouldn’t have to look at those eyes. Where he could regain his senses and admit that he was wrong, that he couldn’t possibly be feeling what his eyes said he was.

“You want me to leave?” he asked softly. When she nodded, he sat back slightly, his breath leaving him in a slow hiss. “Why?”

“It is time for you to leave. What do a few days matter?”

“A few days can make a big different, Milady.”

His slightly husky ‘milady’ sent shivers over her skin, but she wouldn’t be so easily deterred. “Yes they can,” she agreed absently instead. “Shouldn’t you spend them at home?”

When she dared to look up at him, she almost cringed at the woeful weariness in his eyes. Knowing she was the cause made it so much worse than seeing and feeling it. But she couldn’t give in. Thank goodness he couldn’t feel her emotions the way she could feel his.

He swallowed, his head bowed, his shoulders slumped slightly. Defeat. Sorrow, not from him this time, filled her, but she managed to remain firm. “I stay here until you get down,” he finally said, his voice hollow, the sweet, soft edge suddenly gone from it. The edge that reminded her of the soft murmur of water running joyfully over stones. The edge that could have been compared to bells and laughter, but for the depth of tone.

“Very well,” she declared, getting down as quickly as her stiff muscles would allow. She fell into a graceless heap when she got to the ground, but managed to regain her feet as he stepped down beside her. Without looking at him she walked quickly to the hall, planning a good long soak to ease her muscles.

One that would hopefully wash away the memory of that lifeless tone. That would wash away some of her guilt at hurting him while keeping her firm in the belief that it was the only way to help him. And which would hopefully wash away the tears already building behind her eyes, clawing for release.
she meant it by Nea
Elrohir watched Lunian pass, then looked at Legolas. He frowned immediately. “What happened?”

“I lost her before I ever had her,” he answered hoarsely, still feeling like he couldn’t get enough air, like his heart was being ripped from him, and like he could collapse onto the floor. Only a show of will that surprised himself kept him upright, but he didn’t want to see what his face told the world.

“What did she say?” Elrohir asked, his voice angry and eyes dark for his friend’s obvious pain.

“She told me to go home. To leave.”

Elrohir blinked, and slowly smiled. He clapped his hand on Legolas’s shoulder, and laughed delightedly. “You haven’t lost her at all, Legolas.”

“You didn’t see the look in her eyes, Elrohir. She meant it.”

“I’m sure she did.” Elrohir grinned at the confusion Legolas wasn’t trying to hide even as he led him into the library, pushing him down into a chair after closing the door so they wouldn’t be overheard. “Stop reacting to the pain, and think. Lunian cares about her friends, correct?” he barely waited for Legolas to nod. “And she knows how they’re feeling most of the time, always if she’s looking at them and can see their eyes.” Legolas nodded once more, still not making any sense out of whatever point Elrohir was driving at. “And she’s seen the light in your eyes recently.”

“It’s hard to hide,” Legolas grumbled softly.

“Exactly.” When Legolas just blinked at him, Elrohir sighed and sat down across from him. “She would never hurt one of her friends willingly, unless she thought it to be in their best interest. I would guess she figured it out, and decided to send you away thinking she cared nothing for you in the hopes you would be able to convince yourself you don’t love her.” He grinned again despite the still solemn air. “I bet she came up with some reason you should leave at once.”

Legolas looked at his friend in mounting confusion and painful hope. “But she is empathetic to my feelings,” he knew that much from having watched her confusion increase since their return to Imladris. “How could she handle destroying me?”

Elrohir sighed. “She probably felt everything you felt just as keenly, for when she’s concerned for someone the link becomes stronger, letting her pick up on things she would have missed. It probably ripped her apart at the seams, but she can be very stubborn when she wants to be, and strong when she needs to be.” He shrugged. “If she had convinced herself, as I believe she must have, then she would have endured anything to cut you off from her, to save you.” Elrohir smiled again. “She does care about you, Legolas, that anyone with eyes can see. Though she may yet think of you as a friend, she wishes you no pain, and would rather loose her friendship with you than watch you place yourself in the same hopeless position Arwen is trapped in.”

“And if you’re wrong?”

Elrohir smiled faintly. “I can’t be wrong, because then I don’t know her at all.” His smile broadened to a grin. “Come with me,” he murmured, getting up quickly, leading Legolas down the hall. He stopped before a room Legolas had never entered, and tapped his ear before pointing at the door. Soft sobs could be faintly heard through the light wood, obviously muffled somehow by the person within. Before he could move to enter, to comfort her, Elrohir laid his hand on his arm, stopping him. He led him away while still shaking his head. “No, leave her be. She will avoid you until you leave.”

“How can I leave like this?”

Elrohir lifted a brow in surprise. “Since when have elves been so hasty in such matters?”

Legolas let out a breath that bordered on a growl. “Since they began falling in love with mortals!” he snapped back before lifting a hand to his temple.

Elrohir smiled and placed his hand on Legolas’s shoulder again. “Return to Mirkwood, my friend, and give it time.”
the letter by Nea
Lunian frowned as she read the letter for the tenth or twelfth time. What does this mean?

She looked at the flowing script, the simple words, and was utterly confused. Why does he do this to me?

The letter had been on her bed when she returned from avoiding seeing Legolas off. From what was within, it seemed they had never ceased to be friends.

She let out a groan of frustration and threw the letter aside, falling onto her back before rolling to her stomach, pulling her pillow beneath her chest so she was propped up enough she could see into the gardens. After all she’d put herself—and him—through, he leaves her this letter? As if nothing had happened, as if she hadn’t hurt him so deeply his eyes lost their spark before she had managed to flee from him.

He would be back in the spring, and he hoped to find her well so he could enjoy her company once more.

What?!?
the simple face remains by Nea
Elrohir smiled in greeting, his eyes twinkling in laughter. “You stumped her with that letter, Legolas.”

“She’s not getting off as easy as that,” Legolas smiled back, his bright eyes taking in the slight hints of snow still on the ground in the shadows and on the mountainside. “Does she expect me?”

“Not today, or she would have gone into hiding,” Elrohir laughed. “She’ll be in the garden when we arrive.”

“Perfect,” Legolas murmured, contentment filling him, overflowing as he thought about seeing Lunian again. “Father believes I have lost my senses.”

“Perhaps you have.”

He couldn’t help but smile at that and turned his horse towards Imladris, following Elrohir quickly. When they entered the courtyard he didn’t wait, merely went straight into the gardens, winding his way through the plants and trees to the glen where he expected she was.

Sure enough, she was sitting upon the large flat stone that jetted out into the water, watching little bits of ice float by, carried beside auburn leaves left over from the autumn. Her hair fell over her shoulders as she leaned forward, her hands clasped around the knee brought to her chest. A small, distant smile played on her lips, a contented look in her eyes.

“Milady?”

She turned her head and her eyes went wide. In the next instant she was on her feet, looking ready to run away from him. She held still, however, as he approached, caught in his eyes, perhaps, or by her own confusion. “Legolas?” When he was directly in front of her he held out a hand, offering her assistance to the ground. The surprise slowly melted from her eyes as she watched him, succeeded by such pure sorrow he tightened his hold on her hand even though she was safely on the ground.

Already she was rolling the stone in her hand. He caught that hand with his free one before bringing both to his lips. Then he kissed her forehead and turned, drawing her with him for a walk.

When it was time for dinner he led her back to the hall, releasing her to her room before going to his own. He smiled faintly after changing from his travel clothes as he knocked lightly on her door.

“Just a moment!” Then the door flew open and instead of walking into the hall as she had obviously intended, after coming to a dead and somewhat stiff halt she reversed her path, retreating into her room. “Legolas?”

“Milady?” he asked, smiling slightly at the way she refused to look up at him. She had since getting off the rock. He cupped her chin in his hand, drawing it up slightly. “Look at me, Lunian,” he murmured.

She shivered and shook her head. “No.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t.”

He smiled again as he heard the pain in her voice. Pain he would have heard the last time they spoke if he had only been thinking instead of reacting. “Then I’ll look at you,” he declared, pulling her head up while letting his other hand smooth her hair back, the combined touch doing exactly what he had expected it to. Her eyes flew open, catching on his. As her gaze tangled with his he let his fingers twine in her hair, wrapping the golden length around his fingers.

She frowned after a moment, and began earnestly searching his eyes for a sign of the emotions she was expecting to find. Finally, daunted, she reached up, laying her palms against his cheeks, tilting his head down a few degrees. Her frown grew, her brow furrowed when he smiled. “Legolas?”

“Yes, Milady?” he asked.

She blinked at his teasing tone, before closing her eyes as realization hit her. She dropped her head and backed up. “I had to try.”

“I know, and I understand.” He kissed her temple before drawing her firmly into the hall. “But you cannot stop it.”

“There must be a way.”

“It’s far too late.”

“No!”

He turned to face her, saw the distress draining the gold from her eyes as she halted in shadows. He sighed and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “Do not be troubled for me, Lunian. I would rather die than live forever never having found love.”

“But you cannot find it with me!”

“I already have.”

“No! I shan’t love you back.”

“It doesn’t matter, because I love you. That is all. I love you.”

Tears gathered in her eyes, and she turned around, walking back to her room. “How can you love me? I’m mortal.”

“I know.”

“How? How can you possibly love me? It does not make sense.”

“It does not matter, my love. The simple fact remains that I do love you.”

She sighed and wiped at her cheeks, brushing away the tears that had overflowed. “I will not be the cause of your death. I refuse to be! One elf has already died because of me.” With that, she slammed the door in his face an instant before he heard the lock click home.

‘One elf has already died because of me.’ What did that mean? Frowning, he decided it was high time he pinned Elrohir down on a few matters.

After the dinner that Lunian avoided, he had no problem pulling Elrohir aside. As the library door closed behind them, Elrohir looked at him, suspicion and amusement in his eyes. “What did you say to her?”

“I told her what she already knew.”

Elrohir frowned. “And then you left her alone?”

“A locked door in the face isn’t exactly a subtle hint, Elrohir.”

The frown deepened. “Doesn’t she understand she can’t stop it?”

“She said she refuses to be the death of me.”

Elrohir sighed and leaned back in his chair, shaking his head slightly.

Legolas pressed ruthlessly on. “And that an elf had already died because of her.”

Elrohir’s eye brow’s lifted. “She said no more on the matter?”

“Nothing.” Unless you count a resounding slam.

The elf frowned, and then sighed. His eyes grew distant as he became lost in memory.

Lenaith smiling happily at him in their glen, lifting her hand for a butterfly that was flying nearby, one of the few that had survived the chill of the previous nights. Suddenly a grimace contorted Lenaith’s fair face, her hand moving to her bulging abdomen. “Elrohir… the child!”

He knelt beside her at once, and started to help her to her feet, but she gave up, remaining where she was with a soft grunt.

“Well, here shall have to do,” she panted, pain etching lines in her face that age never had and never would. A sharp cry escaped her not long later. “Elrohir, do you still accept this child?”

“With all my heart. She is part of you.”

“Good. Take good care of her, until I can assist you,” she murmured. “I love you,” she whispered before she screamed again. It was the last thing she said, though the screams continued for a long while. The birth was a difficult one, the child being partially born as the sun finished rising, but not fully for a few more hours. Once the child was truly free of Lenaith’s form, he found she had indeed born a daughter as she had always predicted, and reported the news to her.

She smiled faintly but closed her eyes, pain contorting her face again as the afterbirth began emerging. He set the child aside, amazed she made no sound as her mother lay screaming beside her. The day wore on, and though others came and went, both the child and Lenaith were left in his care. The mother because it was plain to all that she had very little time left on this earth, the child because it would be up to him to decide if they were to keep it or find it a place in a human house somewhere else.

As the sun set, Lenaith closed her eyes after one final scream, her body slumping lifelessly to the ground. As he stared blankly at her, the child’s small face puckered up, reddened, and a cry of seeming pain erupted from her at an incredible pitch, as if she wished to deafen every elf in a hundred league radius. Picking her up, he tried to soothe her, promising he would be there for her until she no longer needed him. She—her need for him—had kept him from giving into heartbreak and grief.

“Legolas, Lunian’s mother was Lenaith.”
and when I die? by Nea
Lenaith.

An elf.

Lunian’s mother was an elf.

She was half elven.

Her mother had been raped.

That’s how she was conceived.

Why her mother died.

Why the elf Elrohir loved so much died.

She was an orphan, taken in by the elves who would have been her grandfather, her uncle and her father, none of whom were truly related.

Legolas closed his eyes, sighing softly, trying to get the explosion of thoughts clear in his head. This explained a few things.

It also gave him new insight into Lunian, and hope for the future.

But first, he simply couldn’t stand it anymore.

Getting up quietly, no longer aware of Elrohir sitting across from him, he walked down the halls until he came to her room. Testing the handle, he found it was still locked, so he went outside and found a tree close enough to work. He climbed quickly up and jumped onto the balcony, walking easily through the open doors.

Lunian was lying in bed, still awake, but her back was to him, watching the door. “Hope you don’t mind, but I let myself in.”

She jumped and twisted around, her hair spread over the pillow until she sat up. “What are you doing?” she asked in a soft voice, pulling the covers around her shoulders even though she was still dressed for the day.

“I had to see you,” he murmured, crossing to her side. Without speaking he sat down beside her and pulled her into his arms, hugging her stiff form to him. “Elrohir told me about your mother,” he finally murmured, kissing her temple.

She got even stiffer, though he would have sworn it wasn’t possible. “Did he?” she asked softly, her tone cold.

“Sure did,” he agreed, holding her tighter. “I’m sorry, my love.”

She surged away from him, getting up from the bed. “Don’t call me that!” she snapped, pacing at the foot of the bed as he made himself comfortable, the pillows propping him up enough he could see her but still be comfortable.

“Why not? It’s what you are.”

“I can’t be. I won’t be. I refuse!”

“Sorry, but you can’t refuse.”

“Why not?” she asked crossly, stopping to glare at him for a moment.

He chuckled softly. “It doesn’t work that way.”

She threw up her hands and began pacing again. “You have to stop it.”

“I thought we had already gotten past that. No one can stop it.”

“Someone should have.”

He sighed softly and sat upright. “Why?”

“Because this could kill you!”

“Could,” he agreed.

“Doesn’t that scare you?” she asked, stopping again.

“No.”

“Why not? I’ve had all my life to get used to the idea that one day I will simply no longer exist, and I can’t come to grips with it. I know it will happen, and I accept it, but the idea of no longer existing… How can you accept it so quickly?”

He sighed softly. “Lunian, in the ways of elves I am young. In the ways of men, I am ancient beyond reckoning. I have seen generations of humans pass by as so many leaves falling in the autumn. I have lived long enough to know the price of love is one I am willing to pay. For me, there is nothing else to consider.”

She let out a noise of frustration and began pacing again. “And when I die, what then?”

“Then I shall either die beside you or hold to the hope that your mother’s blood is enough for you to be reborn.”

When he answered without hesitation she looked at him, swallowing at the light in his eyes before she looked at the floor. “What do you want with me? Why not someone who can live beside you for the rest of time?”

“All I want from you is what you’re comfortable with giving. If friendship is all you desire, then I shall be content with that. Just don’t cut me out again.”

She sat on the bed, tracing a pattern of swirls on the cover for a long while. “I don’t think I could stand to,” she admitted at last, before crawling up beside him with a sigh. She kissed his cheek and laid against him, her head on his shoulder, her hand over his heart as if she were a small child who had had a bad dream and sought reassurance the world was really not as bad as she had imagined. She didn’t stir as he kissed her forehead, and didn’t protest when he settled his arm around her waist or covered her hand with his, letting him make lazy arches on the back of her hand with his thumb.
turn your heart from mine by Nea
Lunian smiled as she heard a soft footstep behind her. He’d let her hear him on purpose. “About time you showed up, Egola. I’ve been waiting all week.”

He chuckled softly and slid his hands around her from behind, linking them at her waist. He kissed her temple with a soft sigh. “And I’ve been waiting to do this since I left.”

She turned to face him, pulling away. “Then maybe you shouldn’t have been gone so long.”

“I’m here as often as I can be,” he replied, his tone giving away his desire to be near her more often even as he kept his hands determinedly at his sides.

“You have a kingdom to see to.” She tossed the comment over her shoulder as she began walking, knowing he would follow her.

“My Father sees to that.” He fell into step beside her, easily keeping his stride to match hers.

“And how does he feel about this? I know you cannot have kept it hidden.” Just as she knew he had told his father about her after he realized he had grown to love her. But they had fallen into a routine, him and her, which they followed every time he arrived. She would comment that he shouldn’t be there so often, he would say something about his father taking care of it, she would ask after the king, and he would tell her how his father felt about her mortality.

“He knows the heart chooses for itself.” He finally stated, as he always did, in one way or another, catching her hand as they walked from the glen to the waterfall behind which the statue of her mother was hidden. “How have you been, my love?”

“It has only been three moons, Egola.” He came to visit about six times in the year, always for at least two weeks. Longer, if he was allowed.

“Has it? It has seemed an age.”

She smiled faintly and allowed him to lift her hand for a kiss. “It has been three years that we have known each other.”

“Yes,” he agreed, his voice content and yet surprised. “It seems it cannot possibly be such a short time.”

“Short for the elves, perhaps, but a lengthy time for mortals. Have you finally turned your heart from mine?” She stopped and faced him, the question completely serious.

His smile was small and pained. “I am afraid I must admit I have failed in that, Milady. Of course, I never desired to do so, though normally I would do anything to please you.”

“Are you happy, loving me so hopelessly?”

He squeezed her hand and gazed out upon the land. “A bird is happy when it flies, a fish when it swims. A flower knows joy when it blooms.” He turned to face her, holding her still with a gaze that spoke only of love. “A heart is happy when it loves. However it must be, hopeless or joyful, I am happy loving you.”

She sighed and looked at the path, rolling her worry stone in her free hand. “In the hopes that when I die you shall live, it would be wise for me to never love you in such a way.”

“I shall be gravely wounded when you die, whether you come to love me or not.”

Whenever he said something like that, so perfectly accepting of that which she still refused to believe would happen, her heart clenched and swelled at the same time. She cared for him so much, but he would be hurt by that feeling. Or would he? Was it merely enough for him to love her to be at death’s door without her?

She shivered and started walking once more, hoping movement would help keep her thoughts at bay. “What if your father has you marry a she-elf?”

“He would not.”

“But if he did? If you married an elf—“

“Do not speak of such!” he turned to her, his hands closing over her shoulders. He shook her softly. “Do not even consider such a thing,” he said more quietly, his hands gentling as the fire in his eyes began to dwindle to manageable levels. “My Father would never force me into a loveless marriage, for such it would be. Nor would he doom another to that fate.”

“Doesn’t he wish you to produce an heir?”

He shrugged it away and turned her back down the path to return to the waterfall. “Even the elves of Mirkwood shall pass into the undying lands. Not five generations of men shall pass before the world no longer sees us walking upon Middle-Earth. For us it is a short time, and he can remain here until then.”

“You say he can remain. You cannot?”

“You knew early on that I hear the call of the sea. It fades when I am near you, when I think of you. When you die I shall hear it again, and there will be nothing left to hold me here.”

“Not Aragorn? Nor Gimli?”

He smiled faintly and drew gentle lines up her arms with his fingertips. “You are half elven. You shall have a longer life than most humans, even if you refused to admit it at first. Already you have shown proof of this. You have not aged since I arrived three years ago.”

“So you may get eighty years with me alive. Gimli shall live longer than that.”

“My love, a dwarf is no compensation for you.” She would have laughed, except he kissed her forehead.

She lowered her eyes and sighed faintly. Why did he always have to remind her how unconditionally he loved her? How selflessly, how utterly perfectly? Even if she wished to, she could never love him like that. It wasn’t in her human heart to do so. Better to never test those waters. She would only end up hurting him.
sneaky elves by Nea
Thranduil stopped speaking when he saw Legolas’s eyes stop focusing. “Legolas, are you awake?”

Legolas held up a hand for silence, his head tilting slightly to one side, angling his ear towards the window which overlooked the courtyard.

Faintly they could hear a commotion. Legolas’s name was mentioned over and over in a desperate female voice, along with the word message. The rest was lost in the noise of the guards. Legolas blinked and looked up at his father, who instantly ordered the messenger and message be brought in.

Legolas settled back in his seat beside his father as the doors opened and the guards came in, their weapons to the messenger’s back. He heard his father berate them for their conduct in treating her so, but Legolas was having trouble breathing, much less hearing his father.

“Lunian?” he asked, his voice bringing the dark golden head up, dirt and blood mingling on her cheeks with her tears.

“Egola,” she croaked, jerking free of her captors and racing to him. He held up a hand to the guards and opened his arms a split second before she was in them, hers thrown around his neck, holding on for dear life. Her tears wet his shoulder as she buried her face against his neck.

“Shh, Milady,” he soothed softly, before giving in to the desire to have her to himself, alone, away from all others. He bent carefully and scooped her up, carrying her quickly from the throne room to the library, which was just down the main corridor. He sat down in a chair, still holding her, and waited for her to calm down enough to speak.

What had happened? Her face had been red, ravaged by her tears and whatever had put the small cuts all over her normally pale skin. Her arms were covered in the same marks, but only on the outsides. She was wearing leggings, something Elrohir had often said she did but which he had never before seen, once she was taller than his knees, anyway. There were small rips and snags along them. He blinked as he recognized the pattern of marks. It looked like she’d ridden hard through a dense network of brambles or other brush.

She was still clutching something in each hand. One held a somewhat mangled and dirty piece of paper, with a slightly crumpled wax seal on it. He would venture to guess that a small stone rested in her other palm, covered in sweat and worry.

Finally she took a shuddering sigh and leaned back a little. “They wouldn’t tell me why I was to come, but I think it’s Estel or Arwen, or one of their children. Why else would Galadriel come to see Elrond? They wouldn’t tell me what happened, what was going on. They said I had to come and give you the letter, that you would know what to do, but that I had to come to you quickly. They put me on my horse after so solemnly saying goodbye, and told me to hurry. They wouldn’t tell me why…” She ran out of words, and perhaps realized she was making little sense.

“Can I see the letter?” he asked, a little humor creeping up on him with the relief that she wasn’t fleeing for her life. Galadriel in Imladris, hmm? He could venture a guess as to why, but he really hoped it wasn’t so, for her sake.

When she handed him the crumpled, sweaty, muddy paper, he quickly broke the seal and began reading when he was finally able to flatten it out enough it would unfold. Legolas of Mirkwood: Greetings from Imladris. Already he knew Elrohir had penned the note, which made his heart sink for Lunian. As you no doubt have guessed by now, the time has come for us to pass to the havens. Galadriel, Gandalf and Bilbo are to travel with us, as will Frodo, when we reach the Shire. Father argued we should send Lunian to Gondor to be with Arwen, for she has known Arwen for most of her life. As you can see, I won that ‘discussion.’ I have sent her to you, because I know you could not see her in Gondor as often as you have in Imladris, and because I saw the way she looked around her in disgust whenever we visited that dwelling of man. She will not be happy if she is not among the elves. As Lothlorien and Imladris pass with us or travel to Mirkwood, I felt it best to send her to you.

I hope you can forgive us for deceiving her in this way, but we could not bear to say farewell to our dear little one. As I am at the top of that list, I hope you can find a way to assure her we all love her deeply, and hope the time will come when we can see her once more. If I could remain for her, I would.

Elrohir

“Well? What’s it say?”

He smiled faintly at her impatience, and kissed her temple. “They are well.”

“Then why did they send me here?”

“Elrohir thought you would rather be here than in Gondor.”

“Of course, but why couldn’t I stay…” she trailed off and paled, the blood and dirt on her cheeks standing out in relief. “They’ve gone, haven’t they? They travel to the havens.”

“Yes, my love. That is why Galadriel was there, why they all said their goodbyes. It is also why they have sent you here. As the last elven realm, Elrohir thought you would be happiest here.”

She stared at him in shock, her eyes still wide, her skin too pale. Slowly though, a faint smile spread over her lips. “I finally get to see Mirkwood,” she whispered, before leaning against him again, falling asleep with her head on his shoulder.

Thranduil entered without warning. His brows rose when he saw Lunian curled in Legolas’s lap, her breaths long and relaxed. “What is going on, Legolas?”

Without a word he passed the letter over, waiting silently as his father read the letter carefully twice. Then the King of Mirkwood looked again at the woman curled in his son’s arms, slowly reaching out to turn her head so her face was in the light.

“You should get her to bed. Tend to her cuts and then have Forsetan see about some decent clothing for her.”

Legolas smiled as he got to his feet, bowing his head. “Thank you, Father.” Without wasting any more time talking he strode quickly to the room connected to his, laying her upon the covers while he sent Forsetan to fetch some herbs for her scraps. He washed her face carefully, removing dirt, blood, sweat and tears, leaving her face pale once more, though without the normal if faint hint of color in her cheeks. After finishing her face and neck he moved to her arms and hands, gently prying the worry stone from her fingers before washing her skin clean.

As Forsetan treated the small cuts and scrapes, he slowly worked a comb through her hair, removing bits of brush and leaves as he removed the tangles. When they had both finished, he was shooed from the room.

When he was allowed to reenter, Forsetan had dressed Lunian in a simple gown. He picked Lunian up, and Forsetan removed the soiled top cover before pushing the others out of the way so he could place her under them. He went through the connecting bath room to his own chamber and found paper and a quill, writing quickly where essential items were in case he was called away at the moment she woke up. He folded the paper over and placed it on the stand beside her bed with her worry stone on top, holding it in place and assuring she would notice it.
everything was right with the world by Nea
Lunian opened her eyes to see a richly painted wall. She blinked and looked again, and frowned when the view remained the same. Not to say there was anything wrong with the view. It was a beautifully painted picture of a garden. Of course, it was an impossible garden, with flowers of all seasons blooming in a brightly lit area with a waterfall in the background.

When she turned to look out her balcony, there was instead a wall there, and she remembered with a painful start that she was now in Mirkwood. She reached for the pocket with her worry stone, but found no stone. And no pocket. She pushed the covers aside and sat up, becoming dizzy at once. Little lights danced around the edges of her vision, which were fading to a dirty brownish-black.

She decided not to try getting up just so quickly, and looked around the room as her lack of movement slowly cleared her vision. Though it was more enclosed than she was used to, it was decorated in rich hues, mostly red with a bit of blue here and there. The entire room was a garden mural, with a bright sky and a few lazy clouds painted on the ceiling. She smiled, and noticed the ‘tree’ beside her was actually a table, barely noticeable since it was only slightly extended from the wall. Her worry stone was upon it, sitting upon a piece of paper that had been folded over.

Guessing the contents correctly before she read the note, she was happy to know Legolas would be right through the wall should she ever need him.

Legolas.

He had been her saving thought through the last few days. Since setting out from Imladris she had stopped only when it was utterly necessary, eating and drinking only enough to sustain life. Her horse had felt her desire for speed, and they had fairly flown through the dark woods with more haste than made sense, the end result being her face and arms had been stung by countless twigs, her hair caught in several until her hood had finally decided to stay up.

Then she had wound up captured by the guards, who insisted a mortal would never be sent by an elf as a messenger. They kept trying to turn her away, and she kept insisting, feeling the fear and despair of the reckless journey threatening to engulf her. Finally someone had come from the palace insisting she be brought in. She heard his voice, full of the murmur of the water laughing over the rocks, and it was all going to be all right. He would make it right.

As his arms came around her, it was. Everything was right with the world as long as she was with him.

And that was a scary thought if ever she had had one.

But still, it had been so good to see him after so many dark days of hurrying forward in what she hoped was the right direction to reach the palace.

Lunian shifted so her legs dangled off the bed, and slowly stood, fighting another wave of dancing lights and the blackness that threatened to overcome her vision. On feet made unsteady by her uncertain eyes and the light feeling in her head, she walked slowly to the door Legolas has said joined their rooms.

And ended up in another room which he definitely did not sleep in. A large tub rested against one wall, a basin the other, and a door right across from her. Only a few more steps. She grit her teeth and gathered her energy, ignoring the lights dancing through her head as another wave of dizziness was added to the black edges slowly crowding out her sight. She opened the door and clung to it, unable to see anything in the room she had entered. She sank to the floor, unable to stay on her feet any longer.

“Legolas?” she asked the air, and heard a soft sound suddenly. Arms surrounded her, helped her up. “Legolas?” she asked again, her last coherent thought one of wanting to know who was standing so close she could smell the slight scent of wine on their breath.
held at arm's length by Nea
Legolas sipped his wine and listened with half an ear to the music being played in the adjoining room. Soon his father entered, having taken his leave of the party as well.

“How is our young guest?”

“Guest?” he asked sharply, lifting his eyes to his father’s.

Thranduil held up his hand in a silent bid for peace. “What would you like me to call her? Our new live in mortal?”

Legolas frowned slightly and took another drink. “Since she first woke she has been too dizzy to get out of bed. It will pass once she gets enough food and drink in her system once more. She did not stop often enough on the journey here, in her haste and worry.” She had made herself ill. Anger filled him for an instant, directed towards a few elves who had left for the undying lands not long before.

“Will she manage to join us for dinner tomorrow?”

“I believe so,” he agreed, finishing his glass and shoving down the anger. He rose and bowed his head to his father, before moving to check on Lunian. He knocked softly on the door, and then opened it when no answer came. She was asleep again, or still, he wasn’t sure. She had been in bed since he’d caught her as she fell to the floor in his room.

She stirred as he sat in the chair beside the bed, slowly opening her eyes. “Legolas,” she murmured.

“Correct, my love.”

She smiled and slowly eased herself into a sitting position, closing her eyes and lifting a hand to her head as her smile vanished.

“Still dizzy?”

She nodded and winced.

“Here,” he gave her some water to drink, after sprinkling a power into it and swirling it in the goblet until the particles had dissolved. It let off a soft odor, but had no flavor. She drank obediently, and then piled the pillows behind her so she could sit back comfortably. “Better?”

“Yes, thank you.” She watched him for a while, then looked around her. “Where am I?”

“The room that is yours as long as you want it.”

She smiled faintly again. “I like the paintings.”

He smiled at her and moved so he was sitting on the bed, able to take her hand. “I thought you would.” He kissed her hand and twined their fingers together. He looked around at the murals, the rich colors. “This room was prepared at the same time mine was, when Mother was with child. If she had born a daughter, this would have been her room.”

“So I’m in your non-existent sister’s room?”

“No, you’re in your room.”

She smiled at him and then looked down at her free hand, at the worry stone she rubbed there. “What did the letter say?”

“Elrohir wrote that he thought you would prefer it here, that they all loved you but could not bear to part with you in such circumstances, and that if he had the choice, he would have stayed for you.”

“That’s just silly. He had to leave when Elrond left, or he would have had to remain here.” She shook her head. “Sometimes, I think he takes the vow he made to her a little too seriously.”

“He is your father, Lunian. In all ways except blood.”

“Blood is enough, sometimes,” she reminded him softly, her eyes shadowed as she obviously let her thoughts turn to her death.

“Sometimes,” he agreed. “But not where the heart is concerned, no matter what kind of love it chooses.” He sighed softly when her eyes fell away from his, obviously not agreeing with him. How long did he have to convince her? The eighty years she had mentioned? He would guess longer, if she stayed away from orcs and the giant spiders in the forest. Aragorn was past ninety already, and showed the potential to live for a long while yet. Well, he amended silently, long in the ways of men.

Lunian was half-elven, so she would get even longer to live, would she not? And even if not, having her nearby was going to be very enjoyable. As much as he had always enjoyed Rivendell, Mirkwood was his home, at least until he could no longer deny the desire to cross. She yawned and let her weight carry her deeper into the pillows. With a soft smile he kissed her forehead before leaving her be.

His feet took him to the small garden which was in a hidden exit from the palace. Hidden, because it was not worth the door on it as a way to get out and away from the palace. The garden was small, secluded from the rest of the world on all sides by sheer rock. Five strides had him across the length of it, only three would leave off the width. But it was a decent little garden, easy to get to, unknown to many so there were not constantly voices he tried to avoid. He settled himself down on the bench at the ‘far’ end of the garden and considered what was happening.

On the one hand, he was glad Lunian was here. After all, it meant he could spend time with her nearly every day. No longer would he miss her so much his heart would threaten to slow to an unrecognizable whisper. No longer would his father have to send him away to become well again.

Yet, at the same time, it would be a torture, having her so close all the time. He wanted to reach out, enfold her in his arms and never let go. He wanted to make her happy and keep her safe, but she had done nothing to indicate she would tolerate anything more than what liberties he had already taken. Not that anyone, even Elrohir, could get upset or cautious about those. He would slide his arms around her waist, pull her into hugs once in a while, kiss her cheek, forehead or temple.

He wanted her closer. Closer and closer until there was no longer a Legolas and a Lunian. Closer until there were no more thoughts about mortality or immortality. Until she stopped trying to keep him at arm’s length for his own good.

Keep him at arm’s length she did, however. While he didn’t know how much time he had with her, he knew pushing the matter would only push her away. Unless she came to him, they were at an impasse.
when apart from him by Nea
Lunian rolled the stone in her hand and looked at her reflection. Two days along with elven medicine had made the cuts on her face and arms much less noticeable, but there were still some deeper scrapes that would need a little longer. Her hair was pulled back in the way Arwen had always liked, because it made Lunian feel a little more in place with all of the elves.

She swallowed and looked at the deep green gown Forsetan had left for her. It was nice, but heavier than she was used to wearing. It did keep her warm, though. The palace was cooler than the open rooms of Rivendell, since the sun never quite made it through the rocks to warm the rooms.

A cheerful fire blazed in a small hollow left by painting a cave there. Only once had there been a fire lacking, and she hadn’t been in the right sorts to notice if the fireplace was open to Legolas’s room or not. She would guess it was, but the flames were too large and bright for her to see around them to find out.

There wasn’t a pocket in this gown, because she hadn’t had it made with one. The seamstress had begun putting a little pocket in all her dresses in Imladris once she figured out why Lunian kept asking for little bits of material. So, she would have to hold onto her stone, because there was no way she was leaving it behind.

“Are you ready for dinner, Milady?”

She took a deep breath which did nothing but amplify her nerves, and closed her eyes as she released it. Warm arms slid around her waist, and a soft kiss touched her crown. “As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess.”

He didn’t move away, studying their reflection in the mirror instead. His look of satisfaction dwindled as his keen eyes caught the movement of her hand. “Why are you nervous?”

She sighed and clutched the stone for a moment before answering. “Your father is going to be there.”

“Yes,” he agreed, the frown between his brows saying he still did not understand her nervousness.

“So, how could he possibly like someone who may cause his son’s death?”

He closed his eyes, his breath exhaled sharply, warming her ear through her hair. Pulling her closer, he kissed her temple before catching her eyes in the looking glass. “He will like you, merely because I love you. I would be surprised if by the end of the night he failed to understand.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I know you don’t,” he murmured softly, with a small, almost wistful smile. “But you are yet young. My father has seen ages of elves on Middle-Earth. His wisdom is beyond any I can claim for myself.”

Now she was daunted. Legolas was one of the wisest beings she knew—probably because of the harsher, more demanding life he’d had to live as a prince among wood-elves than other elves his age—right up there with Elrohir and Elrond. Elrohir she grouped with them out of fondness more than anything else, but knowing her bias and changing her opinion were unrelated events. Yet Legolas claimed Thranduil was beyond him.

Elrond was not exactly thrilled with Aragorn as a husband for Arwen, and once Lunian understood the light in Legolas, she had seen the same look bestowed upon Legolas as he had previously only granted Arwen. Sorrowful, guilty. As if there might have been something he could have done.

“Let’s just get it over with,” she finally decided, turning slightly to look at him.

He smiled and kissed her forehead before leading her to the hall. He took her hand after she closed her door, linking their fingers. “You have nothing to fear from my father, my love.”

She closed her eyes, still a bit uncertain about allowing him to call her his love, but she could not deny he loved her, so she remained silent. She tensed more as the sound of conversation became apparent from the room Legolas was leading her to. Part of the tension eased out of her when she found only five elves in the room, with extra room for only her and Legolas set for the meal.

At the same time, though glad she would be stared at by fewer elves, it made it much more likely those few would voice their opinions. Also, Thranduil would less likely hold his tongue in his displeasure of her. All rose as they entered, slowly turning to face them. She saw shock and interest in all eyes, except those of the oldest looking elf there. Thranduil himself, no doubt, since he was seated at the head of the table.

“I am pleased you felt well enough to join us this evening, Lunian,” he murmured, bowing his head slightly at her.

She bowed her head as she curtsied slightly, one hand still held by Legolas’s hand, the other clenched around the stone that grew slick with sweat. “I have been waiting to thank you for allowing me a place among the elves once more. From the bottom of my heart I thank you for your kindness, my lord.” Only when she had finished did she look up, surprised to see amusement in his eyes, though his face remained stony.

“It was in the interest of Mirkwood to have you here, Lunian.” He motioned with his hand at the free places, and Legolas led her around, letting go of her hand only to seat himself after seating her.

“If I may ask, how can that be?”

Thranduil lifted a brow and looked at his son. Legolas looked levelly back at him for a moment, something challenging in the instant before the king broke the contact to look at her. “Has Legolas not told you?”

“I don’t believe so,” she murmured, frowning at the prince in question. He caught her hand and brought it to his lips, brushing a soft kiss over her knuckles.

“Do you not know you have captured my son’s heart? Condemned him to die?”

She lowered her eyes from all the elves, staring instead at the glass before her. “That I knew, too well. I did not understand what was happening until it was too late.” She looked at the king after a moment, letting him see her sincerity. “If I had seen what I found later everyone else had, I would have done anything I could to stop it.”

“What could you have done?” Thranduil asked. “Legolas saw what was happening and did nothing.”

“He was willing to risk loosing his life to a broken heart.” She took a deep breath, knowing Legolas was not going to like what she was going to say, trying to brace herself to withstand the shift of his emotions. “If I had known what I would end up doing to him, I would have taken the only step possible myself.”

“The only way to stop true love is—“

She interrupted, not wanting him to spell it out. She wanted to be done with this conversation as quickly as possible. “For one of the two to die before they are too entwined.” She shrugged, ignoring the shock radiating from Legolas, running up her arm in tingles of pain as his grip tightened uncomfortably. “I would have gladly given my mortal life so he could continue his immortal one.” She flipped the stone about in her hand after making her declaration, her eyes falling to it after a moment. When she first realized it, she had contemplated doing it anyway. She had been wearing the dagger Arwen had given her. Or, since she was high up in a tree, she could have run out of it. Only the thought of what it could do to Legolas had stopped her. Somewhere in her suddenly clear but still confused mind she had realized it was too late for such measures.

Thranduil watched the motion of her free hand, took in the white knuckled grip Legolas had on her other hand. Mortals were so interesting to watch, much like elven children. Their emotions were so quickly expressed on their faces. Lunian was truthful in her claim, and he would bet she had come close to carrying out the prevention. He also would bet he knew what had stopped her. She cared about Legolas deeply, and even if it was not the love Legolas clearly felt for her, it was something.

Deciding to watch her a bit longer, he continued in the path he had intended to pursue initially. “Death has nearly collected from him several times in the last years.”

Her eyes flew to his, shock radiating out from her, the interesting gold of her eyes being lost as her pupils dilated. “What?”

“So he did not tell you,” he mused, feeling the glare Legolas sent his way without letting his eyes wander to his son. “When apart from you he begins to fade.” Every time he came back from visiting Imladris, Legolas was energetic, happy, even if there was a slight cloud covering his bright eyes. After a while, sometimes just a few weeks, others up to a few months, the cloud covered all the brightness, and his energy began to wane. That was when Thranduil would send him back to Imladris. Just the idea of going was enough to bring some life back into Legolas.

Now the girl paled, making the small marks that remained on her face stand out clearly. Her right hand closed tightly around whatever was in her hand, her left suddenly ripped away from Legolas’s. “Excuse me, my lord,” she whispered, her eyes dark and alarmingly frightened as she got unsteadily to her feet. When Legolas started to rise, she put a hand on his shoulder, pressing him back down. “No,” she murmured, the tone a nearly hissed command. Her fingers tightened on his shoulder for an instant before she strode quickly from the room. Before she had taken three steps out of the room, her footsteps changed to a run, carrying all hints of her quickly away.

Legolas started to get up again.

“No. Stay here for now,” Thranduil murmured, his thoughts following the girl. He could see how Legolas had come to fall in love with her. She obviously had a caring spirit, and Legolas had mentioned once that she could feel emotions from those around her, especially if touching. That he had been skeptical of, until he saw her cringe when Legolas’s emotions swung to anger as he clenched her hand. She had pulled away from Legolas as if injured when he mentioned his son began to fade when he was not with her. “You never told her?”

If looks could kill… “No, I never told her.” Legolas’s reply was nothing short of a snap.

“Why not?”

“She has had a hard enough time accepting this isn’t going to go away. The hope she has been clinging to is that when she dies, I will continue to live without her. You just shattered that.” Legolas’s lips were pursed tightly, his eyes narrowed dangerously as he looked at the door she had walked through before breaking into a run.

Thranduil smiled slightly and leaned back in his chair. This could get interesting for a few days. Then it would be resolved, and his fun would end. Hopefully, he couldn’t help but think, their misery would end at the same time. “Give her at least until after the meal before you go to her, son.”
onesided argument reveals all by Nea
Lunian stared blankly at the fire, some part of her mind wishing it would just consume her. It would be so much easier to simply die than figure out what to do. How she had hoped Legolas would turn from her, how she prayed that her continued distance from him, as she insisted on no more than friendship, would make him doubt.

Human love was a fickle thing. In Gondor she had met a woman who had had three husbands, claiming she had loved each in turn. Her children did not know whom to call daddy.

But the love of the elves, love of the immortals… It was different. It burned within, sustained the torchbearer through fights, illness, separation—anything, as long as there was hope. It chilled with jealousy, sending ice through the veins, froze them when something was wrong.

Why had she not seen that? Why had she insisted on seeing Legolas through the eyes of a human, when she had spent her life trying to see through the eyes of an elf? Even before she knew she was not entirely human and long before she knew how she came to be half-elven—and an orphan—she had wanted to be like the elves. Though that could have been simply a desire to be like those around her, she had never really grown out of it. Her human blood disgusted her, her human features mocked her desire, for she felt like she should have been an elf.

Wishful thinking, she scoffed at the flames. It made no difference how much she wished, she would never be an elf. She was stuck in this form she could feel aging, could feel dying with every breath she took.

Legolas didn’t see that, though. He saw the parts of her that were made from her mother, the parts that made her like the elves, like Estel. She had their love of the stars, a little of the wisdom they had in abundance, but none of their years. She was like an elven child. Still unsure where she belonged in the scheme of things, a little uncertain what she wanted to spend her time doing, unknowing about so much in the world that she could only be taught through time or experience, of which she would undoubtedly die without.

Still, it must have been a part of her elf-like person that wished with the heart of a human that Legolas’s love would prove unfaithful. If it had, if he had been able to be separated from her, then he could have lived when she died.

The thought of him dying at all frightened her. Frightened? What an understatement. It terrified her. All of the elves were too good, too full of light and laughter, grace and eternity to die. The world would be loosing its greatest gift when they journeyed to the undying lands, a gift the world of men were mostly unaware of now. It was such a shame, really.

A little laugh sounded in her head, followed by the annoying voice she could only silence when she completely avoided thinking. Yes, such a shame indeed! Now, why don’t you get back to the real topic at hand, little one? What are you going to do about Legolas?

She sighed and crossed her arms over her chest, clenching the stone tightly. Legolas. Well, what could she do?

You know what to do.

She growled in frustration and turned away from the fire as if it had spoken. Her attempt to keep him away for his own good was pointless now. That did not mean she had to let him close, though.

Come on, get to the truth. I am so tired of you avoiding it.

But avoiding it meant he had a chance.

He will die if he has no hope. Why do you still refuse to give him that hope, when you know it is all he needs from you?

She snorted and looked at the floor. If she gave him hope, but felt nothing, that was so much more cruel than holding him away.

Not that that is a problem.

What was that supposed to mean?

Oh come on. You know precisely what it means. You know as well as I do how you felt when Thranduil said he faded without you.

The feelings flashed over her again. Pain, despair, grief…. All the makings of a broken heart. But that could simply be because she cared about him.

Ha ha, very funny. Cared about him? You are becoming the master of understatement, dearie.

Besides, she had been holding his hand. He obviously had not wanted her to know that little bit of information.

Because he ‘cares’ about you. He knew you were convinced he would fall out of love with you, and did not wish to cause you the pain knowing it would never happen would cause.

“Oh, shut up!” she snapped aloud, pressing her hand to her head.

I would say make me, but you have to admit the facts before I’ll fall silent again. I’ve been good the last few days.

“Only because I was too dizzy to think.” She smirked when the thoughts stopped for an instant. “All right! I’ll think about it.”

What was it?

Do you really need me to answer that?

No, she sighed softly. So, Legolas loved her. She had known that for a few years now, but it still amazed her.

Okay, I get the point. Now figure out how you feel about him.

“He’s my friend,” she answered aloud, not really caring any elf passing by could probably hear her having a one-sided conversation with herself. “Arguing with yourself is a sign of insanity,” she whispered softly.

Arguing with yourself is fine, she argued back, it’s when you start loosing the arguments that you have to worry.

Now who was being funny?

Shut up and think about the elf.

Oh, fine.

Obviously she cared about him.

Hearing a mental laugh, she frowned and amended her statement. Deeply. In the last few years he had been her best friend, supplanting Elrohir in that capacity. The thought of him leaving… to the grey havens, she added hastily, not able to think about him dying a moment longer….cut into her. The world would simply not make sense any more if he was no longer a part of it.

If he were gone forever, what would she do?

The thought of it had her sinking to the side of the bed, wrapping her arms around herself. It would simply not matter what she did. She would have lost her last reason for being. He was her only friend remaining, really, since Arwen and Estel were busy with the demands of ruling and raising a family. Without him, life would become existence. A dull, hazy grey one at that.

Well?

All right! So she loved him.

About damned time.

Wait a minute! Loving him is different from being in love with him.

The voice laughed softly. Nice try, honey, but I’m not buying. You love all of your friends. If he were just a friend, admitting you love him wouldn’t be so damned hard.

All of her protests fell silent as she found no way to get around that statement.

Of course not. It’s the bald truth.

Boy, she sure had a smart aleck side to her. Why couldn’t her little voice sound like Elrond or Elrohir? No, hers had to sound like her at her most human.

Oh come on, you really think a human could have gotten you to fess up?

“You are not an elf, that’s for sure.” She barely caught herself from saying for damned sure. She’d been talking to herself for too long.

“Then what am I?” a slightly amused, slightly confused voice asked from the doorway.

Lunian spun around, sighing as she drew in a breath. “I’m going to hang a bell on you so I know when you’re coming.”

“So, if you weren’t talking to me….” He trailed off, looking around the room with a slowly arching brow. “Who were you talking to?” he began smiling as she pretended interest in the small flowers painted near the floor.

Finally she gave it up with a sigh. “So I was talking to myself. So what?” she challenged, lifting her gaze back to his.

He was still smiling, and shrugged one shoulder. “Doesn’t bother me. But why were you arguing about not being an elf?”

She winced and debated how much to tell him. Then she debated if she should tell him anything at all. “I was… well, I was…” Abruptly she made up her mind. “Forget it.”

“Elves never forget, my love.” He crooked a brow at her, and then suddenly looked away. “I came to apologize for what my father said.”

“It was true, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” he agreed, his tone heavy.

“Then why apologize?”

“Because it hurt you,” he stated softly, lifting his eyes to hers. She was caught in the emotions flickering beneath the surface. Pain, anger, despair, hope, joy, and love. Oh, the love. It shown so brightly when he looked at her they could use him as a beacon in a storm.

Thus faced with the intensity she had chosen not to see before, she was also forced to accept the depth of the pain she had no doubt caused him. She sank back down on the bed, dropping her eyes away from his.

“Lunian? Are you all right?”

Slowly she shook her head.

“What’s wrong?” his voice inched up the scale, becoming higher and sharper even as he moved across the room, dropping to his knees in front of her so he could see her face.

She couldn’t bear to see the worry in his eyes, the concern. His love had stripped him bare of his defenses, the wisdom of his years and the ability to cultivate a stony mask all who had so many years generally maintained without thinking about it. She closed her eyes, only some small part of her conscious, and thankfully silent, mind realizing a tear spilled from her lashes. “I’m sorry, Egola.” So sorry. She could have killed him with her indifference, when she was far from indifferent.
sleep well, my love by Nea
Lunian looked at the painted wall where her balcony should have been, and shivered softly, pulling the thick covers up more tightly around her. The wind howled through the mountain pass, the whistling call echoing eerily down the halls, reminding her of Estel’s stories of the worgs.

Knowing she would get no sleep like this she finally stood, pushed her thick nightgown down from where it had bunched about her hips, and moved quickly to the fire, holding her hands out to warm them for a time as she debated what to do. Since her worry stone was on the other side of the chilly room, she worried her lower lip instead, sucking the left corner into her mouth to suffer the gentle gnawing of her teeth.

With a sigh she crept slowly to the bath room, giving herself ample time to pull back. Still, she knew herself well enough to know sleep would continue to prove elusive, so she pushed the connecting door open, hovering in the doorway as she looked around his room, lit by the fire they shared.

She was about to turn back, sure exhaustion would take her eventually, when he spoke her name. “Lunian? What’s the matter?”

She instantly felt foolish for waking him, and began backing up even as he pushed the covers aside and rose. She felt like she was about two inches tall as he approached her, the firelight turning his bare chest bronze, his eyes darkened slightly in concern. “I… I have trouble sleeping in places unknown to me,” she finally managed to get that much out.

“You slept in there the last few days,” he pointed out, his tone and words quite reasonable.

“I was ill,” she explained. When he didn’t speak, she tried to articulate what seemed silly even to her. “I don’t know why it is, but when I am somewhere new, I can’t sleep unless…”

“Unless?”

“Unless Elrohir is near.”

His eyes were enigmatic in the soft shadows cast by the flickering light. “So I did hear doors opening and closing in Gondor,” he murmured softly, a slow smile tilting his lips when she nodded, a blush creeping over her cheeks. “And how did Elrohir make it so you could sleep?” he asked, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

“Sometimes he sat in the chair beside my bed, sometimes he sang lullabies, sometimes he let me curl up next to him…” she trailed off and blushed again, turning quickly to her room. “I’ll fall asleep sometime,” she muttered faintly.

An arm curled around her waist, stopping her retreat. He kissed her forehead and walked away, picking up a shirt which he pulled over his head, tugging his hair free with one hand. “May as well get comfortable,” he murmured softly, nodding his head at his bed.

She blushed once more, and knew there was no way she could gather the courage to crawl into his bed. It was not proper. Since when have you—

Don’t make me come in there and hurt you, she snapped at the voice. Soft laughter echoed through her skull but the voice remained silent.

Legolas was apparently watching her face, or had simply decided he was tired of waiting. Either way, her choice was taken out of her hands when he bent slightly in front of her, picking her up gently. He laid her down on the bed and followed before she could think to move. He pulled the covers over them and tugged her against him, before kissing her temple. “Sleep well, my love,” he whispered before his breathing evened and his gaze went glassy.

Still finding sleep somewhat elusive, most likely due to the fact Legolas was pressed against her from head to toe, she studied what of his room she could see in the firelight. While her room was painted as a garden, his was the forest, with several different types of trees lifting their branches to the sky. Silvery glints glimmered on the ceiling, and she could recognize a pattern in the stars. It was comforting.

So was the warmth the elf beside her exuded. The tension slowly left her, sleep pulling her lids down until she was fast asleep, cuddled in the arms of the elven prince who smiled faintly before shifting her a little more comfortably closer, kissing her temple before letting true elven sleep wash over him.
Lord Rondy? by Nea
“Good morning,” a soft, familiar voice murmured in her ear even as warmth spread down her back as he pulled her against him with hands at her waist. He kissed her temple before resting his cheek against hers. “Sleep well, my love?” he asked softly.

“Egola,” she protested faintly, escaping his embrace before Thranduil could enter the dining hall. His question followed her, and she avoided blushing only by keeping her eyes from landing anywhere near him. “Very well, thank you,” she murmured primly. In fact, she had been sleeping better in the last two weeks than in the last few years.

“Anytime,” he chuckled softly, drawing the nearly avoided blush over her cheeks. He kissed her cheek near her ear before sitting down to breakfast, the kiss coming, quite deliberately, just as his father walked in. “Good morning, Father,” Legolas murmured, bowing his head slightly, nearly every inch the devoted son. The part that wasn’t, his bright blue eyes, were laughing and loving when he looked at her.

She managed, somehow, to keep from rolling her eyes despite the laughter that swelled inside of her as well. Being in love will do that to you, you—

She snapped off the voice before it could continue, simply by looking at Thranduil. The voice wouldn’t dare make her mess up in front of Legolas’s father. Only because I’m you, and just as in love with the elf as you are. The voice was mocking, but remained silent after that last shot. “Good morning, my lord,” she murmured, bowing her head.

Thranduil shook his head slightly. “I sincerely doubt you called Elrond my lord all the time.”

She smiled faintly. “You are correct, of course. For several years I had trouble getting names right.”

Legolas choked on his wine. “Oh my stars,” he muttered when he was able to speak, a grin slowly sliding across his face. “What did you call him?”

She smiled faintly at him, not about to admit that, for Elrond’s sake. She looked back at Thranduil, who watched the exchange with amusement ripe in his gaze. “I called him Elrond, mostly, but never in front of visitors who were not friends of both of us.”

“We three are exempt from titles, I believe,” he stated after an amused silence. “You may call me Thranduil, Lunian.”

She bowed her head slightly before sitting across from Legolas, who was still watching her with a smile, apparently considering what she used to call Elrond. After breakfast he caught her by snaking a hand around her waist, drawing her to his side.

“Would you care to walk with me in the woods?”

She thought about it, but slowly shook her head. “Not today.”

“Are you becoming a recluse?”

“No, I just don’t want to think about orcs or spiders on a walk today.” She had plenty to think about without throwing danger into it.

His arm tightened around her. “Did Elrohir ever teach you archery?”

“No.”

“I think it’s time you learned.”

Which explained why she was suddenly standing on the archery field, holding a bow that seemed much too large. “Legolas, there is a reason Elrohir gave up on me becoming an archer,” she warned as he tried to shift her stance.

“What’s that?” he asked absently, lifting her elbow as she blew a strand of hair out of her face. He stepped aside with a nod, and she watched the arrow fly crookedly, way off to the left.

“I shot Elladan our first day of practice,” she finished, wincing as a few elves dodged her arrow from the path they had been walking on. Where it was supposedly safe. “Elrohir had to remove the arrow, and the lessons never resumed.”

“He gave up too early,” Legolas murmured, frowning at the path her arrow had taken.

“He never expected me to worry about giant spiders,” she countered, sighing as he handed her another arrow. “Are you sure about this?”

“You should learn,” he insisted, correcting her stance yet again. “Just try not to shoot me.”

She dropped the arrow. She fumbled to catch it but it hit the dirt at their feet. His jest caught her off balance, and she felt blood roaring through her veins as she crouched to retrieve the arrow. “I’ll do my best to miss you,” she promised at last, as her fingers finally held the arrow tightly enough to pick it up. She stood up and let him reposition her, trying to take in all the comments he made about why he shifted her so uncomfortably.

“Look at the target, using the arrow to point at it. Aim higher than you think you need to, and then let go.”

She did as he said, and the arrow flew reasonably straight…. for about six feet.

“You lifted your hand when you let go, which pushed the arrow down,” he explained softly, retrieving the arrow. He brushed the small dirt clod and grass from the tip. “Try again, keeping your hand and arm as straight as you can.”

Two hours later, the fingers of her right hand were somewhat numb from the circulation being cut off by the length of time he took to reposition her, and the way the string slipped over them when she was finally allowed to release the arrow. Her arms and shoulders ached from the tension of the bow, and her left forearm was covered in a bruise from her elbow nearly to her wrist from the string hitting it because of the way she held her arm, despite Legolas’s repeated attempts to change her position. Her feet felt disconnected, and she still couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t have herself angled a little more towards the target so she could better see where she was aiming. Maybe if she was, the string wouldn’t get caught in her hair nearly every time she fired an arrow.

“Egola!” she finally whined. “Enough!”

He blinked and looked up at her, before smiling sheepishly. “Sorry.” His eyes shifted from those of a warrior and a teacher to those of a friend, and he took the bow and arrows from her before sliding an arm about her waist to walk with her back into the palace.

She dug in her heels.

“What?”

“Aren’t you going to show me how it’s supposed to be done?” she asked, really just wanting to see if he did all the things he kept insisting she needed to.

With a laugh he turned from her, fitted an arrow to the bow and fired before she registered he had laughed. The arrow stuck proudly in the center of the target, staying there unlike the one of hers that had struck the lower edge, shaking for a moment before falling to the ground. She still didn’t know if he stood how he insisted she should.

He turned back and lifted a brow. “Someday you’ll be a—“

“Terrible archer.”

He smiled down at her, teasing lights dancing in his eyes. “Aren’t you that already?”

“Nope. Anyone who can be called an archer at least knows how to get the arrow to go forward.”

He frowned and looked off to the side, looking for the arrow she had somehow managed to send spinning behind them. He left her side, returning with it a moment later. “I still don’t know how you managed to mess up your grip so bad. You must have lowered your right hand and…” he trailed off and shook his head. “I don’t know. I’ve seen arrows go straight up, straight down, wobble in the air before nose diving, but that was one I’ve never seen.”

She shrugged slightly. “Well, glad I could educate you. One of us had to learn something after all that time.” Something other than when the elf tells you not to hold your arm like that, don’t hold your arm like that. She rubbed her green flesh absently, trying to coax it to stop discoloring. As if that would work.

“You did better by the end.”

“Otherwise you would have given up on me as well.”

“Not a snowball’s chance in Mt. Doom,” he murmured, sliding his hand around her waist, tugging her to his side.

She closed her eyes on a slight sigh, glad that for once her little voice decided to stay quiet. Only because I love it when we’re this close to him. You seem to ignore the way heat spreads out from wherever he touches you. I’m not going to.

She pursed her lips and touched the hand at her waist, sliding her fingers between his, not catching the surprised, hopeful and slightly pleased smile that flashed briefly across the elf’s features. She didn’t feel it either, because she was too busy not thinking about emotions at that point, trying to keep that voice silent.
caught and lectured by Nea
After making sure Legolas would be stuck with duties for a while, Thranduil left the hall to speak with Lunian. He had been wrong about how long it would take them to resolve it, and he was beginning to get worried. Yes, Legolas loved her, and he would bet Lunian loved him as well. Yet she didn’t show it, her elven training made apparent in the way she could hide her feelings behind shadowed eyes most of the time. Once in a while, usually when her hand was clenched over something which she would roll through her fingers, then he could tell what she was feeling. The rest of the time, she had remarkable control over her expressions, especially considering her humanity and age, which surprised him after his first meeting with her, having assumed she was like most mortals, though with an odd gift for knowing what emotions were generally suppressed in elven faces… at least to human eyes.

He walked quickly down the hall, a grim expression sliding through his stony mask as he looked at her door. As he passed Legolas’s, though, a faint noise came from within, making him pause in confusion. With a frown he quickly opened his son’s door, startling the person inside into a surprised shriek.

Lunian’s hand flew to her throat, and then recognizing him, she lifted it to her forehead as she sighed and closed her eyes. “You nearly scared me out of my skin, Thranduil,” she murmured softly. As he stared at her, he could see the instant she realized he had just caught her in his son’s room. She opened her mouth, her eyes wide, her mind racing as she tried to come up with an explanation.

He held up his hand. “Silence.” Her mouth closed. “Did my son invite you in here?”

She winced. “In a manner of speaking, but not the one you mean,” she murmured, her eyes not quite meeting his.

“How so, then?”

“He said if I needed anything he was in the adjoining room.” She blushed as she realized how that could be taken. “Not that we…” she trailed off, looking helplessly around.

Thranduil’s eyes narrowed on the unmade bed, the indentions from heads on the pillows. “You’ve slept in here?”

“Yes,” she agreed softly, her chin coming up as she faced him squarely for the first time. “I have trouble sleeping in new places. Being near someone I trust allows me rest.”

“Your room should no longer be a new place for you.”

“This palace, as ornate and beautiful as it is, is much colder than Imladris. The wind howls, the constant fire crackles and pops, hisses. The sounds and chill toy with my mind, darkening what little sleep I have been able to find when not near Legolas.”

“All you do in here is sleep?”

“Generally. Occasionally we talk as well. Two or three times he has braided my hair.” She was beginning to relax, now that the truth was out in the open. She sat on the foot of the bed and resumed brushing her hair.

But he had been coming down this hall to speak with her concerning his son, and finding she slept in his bed, and probably in his arms, didn’t exactly let her off the hook. “And what are you going to do about him?”

Her eyes widened and flew to his face once more, the light of the fire shining on her, making her eyes appear reddish gold until another flicker of the flame hid her eyes in shadow. “What do you mean?”

“Have you told him you love him?”

She paled, looking back at the fire, her hand clenched around the handle of her brush. “He knows I love all of my friends.”

“You do not see him merely as a friend any more than he sees you as such. Why do you deny him the pleasure of knowing that? The happiness that would come from having his love returned?”

She sighed and lifted her free hand to her forehead again. “I am mortal,” she murmured softly. “Human. He deserves to be loved by someone who can love him in the way he loves me. Completely, selflessly. I would hurt him simply because I can’t love anyone like that. I don’t have the wisdom or time to do so.”

“And you think this distance you have forced doesn’t hurt him?”

“I know it does,” she conceded, staring into the fire as if it would tell her the words she was looking for. “But what would hurt him more? To have what he most desires turn to him in love, only to die? Or to be kept apart, loving him as a friend for as long as life lasts?”

“You do not love him as a friend. But let us set that aside for a moment. What if he goes on patrol in the woods and is killed?”

At his blunt words she looked up at him again, her eyes wide and dark against her blanched skin. She looked at the stonework around the fire and shivered suddenly, pulling her legs up on the bed with her, wrapping her arms tightly around her knees. “Then I would die as well.”

He blinked in surprise. That was not the answer he was expecting. “How so?” he asked, letting himself be distracted for a while to explore her answer.

“I have enough of my mother in me to fade. I have nearly done so before.”

“Your mother?”

“Lenaith, an elf of Lothlorien who moved with her father to Imladris, and who was loved by Elrohir. She died giving me life.” She looked up at him, her eyes dull, as if there had been so many emotions flickering through her she had simply been numbed by them. Slowly her head sank back onto one knee, the other falling down once more as she studied him. “He did not tell you that?”

“He did not,” Thranduil agreed, blinking in some slight surprise even as his mind made a quick few connections. He felt a bit better, knowing why his son loved a mortal. She was much more elf-like than human-like, but mortality had made its claim on her by letting her come into the world with rounded ears as its sibling, death, had taken her mother. He moved a bit closer, sitting in the chair beside the bed. “You claim you would fade if he died?” She nodded slightly, her gaze glued to the fire again. “And what if he stopped loving you? If he suddenly found you beneath him, not worth his time or attention?” he let that sink in for a split second, cutting off her protests by making his point. “Then why do you inflict the same agony on him? You may not be intentionally cruel in your distance, but it is cruel, nonetheless.” He looked around the room for a while, his eyes stopping on the stars above them. “I came to tell you you should give him some hope, so he doesn’t begin to give up, but it seems you already have been giving him hope.”

She looked up at him, followed his gaze back to the pillows that rested against the headboard. A blush colored her cheeks, and she shook her head. “What I told you was true. Ever since I was little, I would crawl in bed with Elrohir when I couldn’t sleep.”

“Legolas is not Elrohir. He does not see you as a daughter any more than you view him as a father or a brother.” Thranduil frowned, briefly wondering which one it was, but there were more important matters at hand. “He already has the pain of loving you. Why not allow him some of the happiness? Allow yourself that happiness,” he amended, seeing the slight shadow in her eyes. “I think you need to as much for your sake as his, and not simply because you can feel his pain and sorrow.”

Her eyes closed, her hand tightening over the brush she had been turning again and again in her hand as he spoke.

A soft noise in the doorway went unnoticed by her, but Thranduil stood as Legolas came in, looking curiously between them. His eyes met his father’s without hesitation, even as he laid his bow and quiver aside, walking to kneel on the bed behind Lunian, rescuing the brush from her fingers. He slid it through her hair even as he glanced up at his father. “Did you come to see me about something, Father?” he asked softly.

Thranduil watched Lunian’s eyes close as the brush returned to her crown, and slowly shook his head. “I wished to speak to Lunian. I have, so good night to you both.”

“The same to you, Father.”

Lunian heard Legolas, and slowly forced her eyes open and then to look at Thranduil. He smiled faintly. “Good night,” she offered softly. He bowed his head and left without another word. She sighed when Legolas stopped brushing her hair a few minutes later, moving away from the bed. He took his clothes into the bath room, closing the door so he could change into something more comfortable for sleep. It was mostly for her, she knew. Those shirts were scratchy on the outside, though lined with soft material so the wearer was unaware of their duel nature.

With a sigh she crawled up to her half of the bed, drawing the covers up until she couldn’t look past the edge. She heard and felt Legolas come closer, though, the mattress shifting as he laid behind her, the blankets moving out of the way, pulled down slightly as they accepted him into their warmth as well. He put an arm around her waist and tucked her against him, his front to her back, his breath warm against her ear.

“What did he want?” he asked softly, running his thumb over the back of her hand.

She shook her head slightly. “I need to think about it, not recount it,” she murmured, turning her head as far as she could to face him.

He frowned slightly, but kissed her cheek, the skin behind her ear, and her nape before getting fully settled against her, his hand tightening for an instant before he let out a deep breath into her hair. “Sleep well, my love,” he murmured as he had every night since she had first come to him for a peaceful night’s sleep. Within a few minutes she could feel he was asleep, but despite the warmth of his body and the blankets, sleep proved elusive for a long time as she fought within for an answer. Part of her, the annoying little voice that didn’t know the meaning of the word caution, to be exact, insisted she tell him. In fact, it began urging her to wake him up just to do so.

The rest of her was a little smarter, urging she take things slowly, wondering if the wise elven king was right about this, or if her youth had granted her something he couldn’t see for loving his son.

You love his son too…
new teaching method by Nea
A shiver raced through Lunian’s slender frame, making Legolas blink. He moved his hands quickly over hers, repositioning them where they needed to be. As quickly as he could, he changed her stance, shifting her by a hand at her hip and one on her shoulder. The tension in her body had nothing to do with the unaccustomed pose, which surprised him into forgetting his teacher attitude as he slowly stepped back, releasing the contact he had gained when he stepped against her, having used his own form to mold hers into that of an archer. He tilted his head and studied her as objectively as he could.

“All right,” he murmured softly, watching in fascination as she closed her eyes before releasing the arrow. By some lucky wind it hit the target, though nowhere near the center.

She said nothing, looking blankly at the arrow. “I hit it?” she asked in shock.

He chuckled softly and handed her another arrow. “Care to try again?” he asked, a slight smile lifting the edge of his lips when she sighed and rolled her eyes.

She lined herself up, fitting the arrow with an ease that came of practice. It was after she had it in the string that the process broke down. Half the time the arrow fell off to the side when she drew it back, until one day he had finally told her to hold in it place with her finger until she was ready to shoot. She had not been happy with him after that comment, and he had felt pretty stupid himself when she let go. She had sliced her finger and nearly shot him in the foot with the same attempt.

She blew the strands of hair out of her face, but they fell back before she could start lining the shot up, so he tucked them behind her ear. She went still at the soft touch, then drew a shaky breath and opened her eyes, letting go of the arrow. She blinked quickly and frowned. When he turned his head he stared at the arrow with her. “You seem to be improving rapidly,” he murmured, looking at the arrow. It was just a small distance from the center.

She shook her head and picked up another arrow without being coaxed. She went through her shaky routine, and he couldn’t stop himself from testing out his interesting new theory. He brushed her hair back again, before shifting her slightly on her feet with a gentle tug at her hip. She closed her eyes and opened them for an instant before firing. Another hit.

“Maybe I should have started this method of teaching weeks ago,” he teased, enjoying the blush that crawled over her cheeks.

“I would have shot you,” she murmured softly.

“Intentionally? Are you sure you would have managed? Until today, the target would have been the safest thing to stand in front of out there. Or to either side,” he added, enjoying the darkening of her cheeks, the slight laughter beginning to build in her eyes.

She smiled and reached up, touching his cheek. She tilted her head up and kissed his cheek before looking back at the target. “Thank you for your patience with me, Egola.”

“Most elves are patient,” he murmured, wondering at the seriousness in her voice. She smiled faintly and resumed her attempts, allowing him to change her around until he was bored with the pastime. “Enough,” he determined. “Walk with me,” he demanded, taking her hand after laying the bow aside.

“In the gardens?”

“Yes,” he agreed, not feeling like worrying about the spiders or orcs today, knowing as long as she was with him his concentration would be severely damaged if it worked at all. He shifted his grip on her hand, twining their fingers together. “How do you like it here, my love?” he asked suddenly.

She frowned faintly, looking around. “It is not Rivendell,” she murmured, seeing the small garden they were in, the faint sun being able to drip through the leaves of the large trees above them. “I have not Elrond, Elladan or Elrohir here,” she continued. She could feel conflicting emotions coming from him through the contact of their hands. She tightened her hold. “But I have you, and it is yet new.”

“You have me,” he agreed, lifting her hand, brushing a light kiss along her knuckles. “Will I be enough?” he asked with a frown. The question seemed to be rhetorical, but she stopped, making him stop and look down at her as well. He shook his head as if to be rid of his murmur, but she wasn’t going to let it go.

“Do you love me?”

He lifted a brow. “I thought we had this conversation already.”

“Numerous times. Is it still true?”

“Will be until there is no longer a me to love you.”

She nodded her head, lifting a hand to his cheek. “As long as I have you, it will be enough.” She smiled faintly, brushing her thumb against his cheek. He closed his eyes to savor the touch. “So you’d best not get shot on an orc patrol.”

His eyes flew open, his spine snapping straight. “What?”

She sighed softly. “Something I was considering, a while ago.”

“Me being killed?” he asked dryly. “I know you don’t love me the way I love you, but I will not push.”

“I know that,” she murmured impatiently. “I was just thinking what ifs. What if you were suddenly gone forever? How would I feel?” She looked away, releasing his hand so she could walk a bit farther down the path.

“What did you decide?” he asked softly, a brow lifting as a shudder wracked her frame, her arms lifting to wrap around her middle. “Lunian?”

“I would have faded,” she admitted quietly, the words coming as if from a great distance.

Legolas blinked in shock. “Faded?”

“I am half elf,” she murmured softly, still not looking at him. Tell him everything, you silly girl! No! She shook her head in denial. Fine. Then I will. She clamped her lips shut, as if daring them to so much as try.

Thankfully a servant came to the gardens then, telling them the meal was ready, stopping any conversation they could have had
I cannot love you as you love me by Nea
Legolas tried to catch her eyes as the meal wore on, but she refused him, her hand moving quickly over the stone in her palm. It took forever for him to catch his father’s eye when he finally gave up getting Lunian to look at him. Eventually, his father agreed, and the meal was prematurely ended. Lunian was out of the room in a flash, leaving Legolas blinking in surprise.

“Legolas?”

He looked at his father, knowing shock and uncertainty were probably obvious. “Father?”

“Wait a few minutes,” Thranduil decreed with a faint frown.

Uneasily Legolas settled back into his chair, counting to a thousand before he could take it no longer and left the room. He felt nervous, something he had not often experienced, and he was not exactly sure why he was now. Okay, so maybe he had an idea. If Lunian would fade without him…did that mean she did love him?

No, of course not. At least, not any more than any of her other friends.

Elrohir thought she did.

He wanted her to have a place among elves when he left. Mirkwood was the only place.

Legolas would have accepted her to Mirkwood whether or not he was in love with her, merely because she was the daughter of a friend, and as a sister to others.

But would Thranduil have accepted her?

With a shake of his head, Legolas ended the conversation and entered his room, finding Lunian not there as he had expected. He frowned and walked through to her room, not bothering to knock since he didn’t expect her to be inside. She was, so he froze, knocking belatedly on the open door.

“Come in,” she called absently, brushing her hair.

“I am,” he answered, leaning against the door frame.

“Oh,” she murmured, not pausing as she brought her hair to the side, quickly weaving it into a single rope. “Good night,” she added after a moment, pushing back the covers of her bed before getting in.

He frowned, considering leaving her as she was for a moment… but he wanted answers! “Lunian?”

“Hmm?”

He hesitated once more. “Do you love me?” he flinched slightly at hearing himself, but waited without even thinking of retracting his question.

She let out a breath. “Of course I do,” she stated simply, tugging the blankets up higher. “Night.”

He blinked and looked at the still form beneath the covers. “Good night,” he finally said, unsure what to do or say. She had said she loved him, yes, but the admission came so simply, so… obviously, as if it was a given. Surely if she loved him as he loved her the confession would have been harder. Taking a deep breath he tried to dampen his confusion as he moved back to his room.

Lunian sighed when the elf finally left her room. The confusion tainting the air went with him, and she was able to relax. Guilt set in. Why?

Because he was asking you for the utter and complete truth. You did not give him that.

I told him I loved him! She protested back.

As if it was to a child sitting on his mother’s lap. As if there was never any question, as if it held no reason for surprise or joy. Merely as something expected.

She sighed softly, but decided not to answer.

Then maybe I can finally get you to listen. Go in there and lay down beside him. Give him that, at least!

No! You just want me to end up in another awkward situation!

I want you to tell the poor elf the truth before he loses hope. Even now his heart could be breaking. You care, you know you do, so why do you insist on pretending you don’t?

I can never love him—

You already do. Now get up and TELL HIM! Or I will continue on until the sun has failed to rise in the east.

She groaned softly, but never before had the voice been so insistent.

That’s because, stupid as you sometimes are, you’ve never endangered him like this before. GO!

She rolled her eyes and got up, throwing the finally warm covers back in annoyance before swinging her legs off the bed and standing in a stretch. She walked through the bathroom, nearly colliding with Legolas. He was standing just beyond the door, staring blankly ahead of him. “Legolas?” she asked softly, moving carefully around him in the narrow space until she stood directly in front of him. His eyes seemed hollow, blank, almost as if he was asleep… and yet it was not the blankness of rest. She shivered as the voice returned. He’s dead. You’ve broken his heart.

He is not! She snapped at the voice, but worried her lower lip. “Legolas?” she asked again, shaking his arm when he still didn’t move. More calls and shakings did nothing. Panic began to well up within her, so she tried pinching the tips of his ears, something Elladan had hated. He still didn’t move. I told you!

SHUT UP!!

Lunian’s breath was coming both fast and ragged as she looked up at the blank eyes of the elf she loved, horror and panic attempting at the same time to choke her, making what air she did manage to take into her lungs seem too little, and too late. The room began to darken as she put her palms against his cheeks, tilting his head down towards her. “Legolas?” she asked again, drawing him down much too easily. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, before touching her lips to his.

A quiver went through the body against hers, and she looked up in time to see him blink. He stared blankly at her for a moment, then frowned slightly as he looked around. He tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear. “I thought you were going to sleep in your room,” he murmured.

“I changed my mind,” she whispered, her hands still on his cheeks. “What happened to you, Legolas?”

He blinked and slowly shook his head. “I cannot rightly say. I came in, confused,” she could feel the confusion coming from him once more, along with intolerable amounts of pain, “and then I don’t remember anything until I blinked and found you in front of me. Why?”

She shivered. “You weren’t here,” she murmured. He frowned. “You were standing here,” she elaborated, “but there was no emotion, no feeling. You were blank, gone.”

He winced mentally, knowing what must have happened. He detached himself from her so she wouldn’t pick up on it, moving to his wardrobe with a casual shrug meant to answer her concerns. He pulled out a faded shirt and exchanged it for the one he was wearing, looking back to see her chewing on her lower lip. “What’s wrong, Milady?”

She closed her eyes, her head hung low. “I love you.”

He tilted his head. “So you said before,” he agreed softly.

Sighing, she opened her eyes to see the cold fireplace. “Legolas, you aren’t hearing me. Forget what I said before, and listen to me now.” Slowly, as if it was painful to do so, she lifted her head so he could see her eyes. Pain, fear, and despair lined up and fought to be at the fore. “I love you,” she whispered.

As she watched he blinked, as if sure his ears were deceiving him. Then he came closer, his eyes cautiously searching hers. “What did you say?”

“I love you,” she repeated, the saying no easier for practice.

The light in his eyes blazed into a fire, threatening to consume her as she watched joy, pleasure, and triumph enter his eyes. Then he blinked and all was hidden, caution dominant once more. Slowly he shook his head. “You cannot be sure. I touch you enough it could be my own feelings you identify.”

She rolled her eyes, not believing the elf refused to believe her. After all, it wasn’t as if she had just suddenly told him. She had been trying to work up to this for a while. “Trust me, I argued that for a long time,” she finally answered him, her hand resting against her temple. “It is not that, nor is it simply because you are the only one here I know.” The other elves made little effort to know her, since they saw her as mortal, and only mortal—going to die so soon that it was not worth knowing her.

His eyes lit up when he found only truth within her, a smile turning his lips up in a remarkably goofy smile. “I love you,” he murmured, the love he felt for her shining so brightly in his eyes it stunned her. She had only seen a fraction of what he felt, barely scratched the surface. As the fire flickered slowly into a warming blaze as the logs succumbed beside them, his eyes seemed to glow with their own light. He bent his head and let his forehead touch hers. “My love,” he breathed, kissing her cheek beside her mouth.

She drew a deep breath, full of his scent, and pulled back slightly. “You were right today, Legolas, when you said I don’t love you the way you love me.” She continued before her words could sink in and hurt him. She wasn’t meaning to. “I cannot. I am human, and can only love you with what little strength a mortal has.” She let out a shuddering breath as she looked back into his eyes. “But as much as a human can love, I do love you,” she admitted.

Anything else she may have said was lost as he crushed her against him in a tight hug. He shuddered and suddenly picked her up, carrying her over to the bed. He laid her down and stretched out beside her, his hands cupping her face as his thumbs drifted in lazy arches beneath her eyes. “Marry me,” he demanded after a few moments of soft, idle kisses.

She froze, making him smile quirkily.

“Come now, Lunian,” he chided softly. “It is the logical next step.”

She lowered her gaze, her eyes following the flickering shadows on his neck as she tried to find something to say. “It may be the logical step, but for two things. First, I have just gathered the courage to tell you that I love you, and second, I am not an elf.”

“So?” he asked, frowning.

She closed her eyes in exasperation. “So, you cannot marry a human.”

He lifted an eyebrow while frowning. “Who says? Or have you forgotten Arwen?”

“I could never forget her, nor Estel. She will die when he does, eventually.”

“As will I when you die,” he murmured, still frowning. “Why not allow ourselves some of the comfort the other can offer?”

She shook her head. “Legolas, I love you. Therefore, I will not marry you.”

He stared at her in silence for a long moment. “That makes absolutely no sense.”

She sighed in annoyance. Usually he picked up on things before she could finish speaking. This time, when it would be infinitely more comfortable to simply say nothing more, he was clueless, and she had to spell it out. “You will go to the havens after I have died.”

“I will probably die when you have.”

“Except for the possibility that I will be reborn. That will keep you alive.”

“That is only a possibility. It is far from a certainty. The pain of loosing you will be enough for me to follow you in death.”

She shook her head empathetically. “Elrohir lives only for that hope.”

“And for you. I shall have neither.” He drew her against him, kissing her quickly. “Let us not dwell on the future. Too much has happened for that to spoil the day.”

“Spoil it? This has been one of the most horrible days of my life.”

“But one of the best in mine,” he countered, kissing her again.

She closed her eyes. “I say it now, Legolas, and I stand by it for the rest of my life. I will not marry you or any other, nor will I bear children.”

He blinked. “Okay, you’ve explained the first half, now what for the second?”

“Would you want bastards as children?”

“I want children, with you. I…” he trailed off, frowningly admitting to himself he still planned on trying to change her mind about marrying him.

She shook her head at him. “I will not change my mind. Beyond their status as legitimate or not is their blood. My half human blood is likely enough to keep them on these shores. It is too much to deprive you of one you love without her being your wife and the mother of your children, and without forcing you to leave those children behind as well.”

“Then I shall not go.”

Shaking her head once more she started to sit up. “No, Legolas. When I die you will pass into the West, or you will spend time with Gimli. You will not die. You will wait, and hope.”

Legolas started to argue with her again, to express the large number of doubts he had on that score, for he could not imagine living without her—already he had been quite close to death for loving her. He noticed her nibbling her lower lip, though, and sighed. “I will try to live, my love,” he finally promised, wishing to put her at ease. “It will not be easy.”

“As long as you truly try,” she whispered, resting beside him once more. She kissed the tip of his nose before snuggling up against him, falling quickly asleep.

For Legolas sleep was not as easy. He felt incredibly buoyant, yet at the same time as if he would never be able to get up again. Having her return his love was more than he had dared hope for in the last months with her, for she had proved rather stubborn in the matter. Though she had shown signs of growing closer, a large part of him had not expected them to live to reach this stage.

He nearly hadn’t. The strain of such devastating emotions was taking its toll on him even now, drawing him closer to the earth with a pull the elves do not usually feel. He sighed softly and drew his love even closer, the feel of her snuggled so willingly against him enough to help lighten the burden she had unwillingly laid upon him.

She still had hope he would live on without her, despite everything she had witnessed or heard of. He had none. She saw it, felt it, and it terrified her. In her mind, elves were not made to die. It was a horrible and tragic thing if they did. For her, humans were entirely different. They were dying from the moment they first existed, death looming over their shoulder, his grim presence making them live life all the harder, ignoring the wisdom that could be gained through careful study, because they simply did not have the time. It was right and natural for them to die, and their deaths would no more phase her than would that of a gnat. She saw herself as an insignificant insect compared to the elves, something here for an instant and then gone without leaving a lasting memory.

But such was simply not the way of the elves, and certainly not for him. To him it was tragic for any life to be cut short, as long as the life had been lived well and on the side of good. It was the orcs, spiders and other such creatures that were insignificant to him. Though death was not a concept all elves had to grapple with, all knew it, for they could grow weary of their lives and submit to the eternal slumber their existence seemed to forbid. It didn’t. Elves did die, not merely in battle or by broken hearts, but by growing too tired to continue. It was natural for many, eventually. Of course, try explaining several thousands of years to one who has not yet seen a thousand seasons, and most likely never will.

Still, she loved him. It was his hope, his youth, his eternity. She loved him. As long as he had that, he would manage to find a balance somehow, despite all these confusing and conflicting emotions. Part of him wanted to announce it to the world, another part wished to wake her and claim her, another to chain her to him however he could, whether by marriage or metal. Yet another voice in his head urged caution and patience. She was still young, after all. Not by the ways of men, but she would probably live a good while beyond their typical lifespan.

It was to that thought, the thought of holding her as he did for the next few hundred years that he finally fell into dreams, the other emotions drained away as the three words that made everything all right passed through his mind again. She loved him.
stubborn human by Nea
Legolas’s life was nearly pure bliss for many years after that night. Orc sighting were extremely rare, injuries more so, deaths unheard of. Lunian was beside him, and she was his. The only thing that nagged at a hidden corner of his mind was the conversation they had had the morning after she had confessed her love for him.

“I love you,” he murmured, waking her with a soft kiss.

She smiled, her eyes still closed as she carefully stretched, partially dislodging herself from their intimate position, but then she draped her limbs around and against him once more. “And I you, Egola,” she teased softly, opening her eyes to smile into his, accepting another kiss with a contented sigh.

Silence reigned for a long moment, both soaking up the feeling of lying together, even if clothes yet barred the way.

“Legolas?” she asked softly.

“Hmm?” he replied, reopening his eyes.

“Do you accept it?”

“Accept what?” he asked, immediately alert though he prevented his body from tensing at the last moment. Death? Love? Pain? Torment with or without her?

“My decision about marriage and children.”

He blinked. In the grand scheme of things, that issue had been sidestepped. He frowned slightly, thinking about it. “I will not say it has pleased me. After having you love me having you as my wife is the only thing I desired. Children I did not let myself dwell upon, but I have always wished for them.” Even when he saw her merely as a child.

“But?” she asked softly, pinning him with gold-flecked green eyes.

He smiled faintly, pausing to kiss her before replying. “But if you do not accept me as your husband, I shall not force it.” She sighed softly, clearly meaning to argue her reasons again. “My love, know this,” he murmured, stalling her with a finger against her lips. “Should you ever change your mind, understanding that I shall always wish you as my wife, you need merely ask me to refresh your memory about the night you brought light back into my heart, and I shall propose before you can finish asking.”

“A proposal? Was that what that was?” she asked, teasing after the solemnity had faded enough to allow it. “‘Marry me?’” she repeated. “That was it? Two words for a race of beings who pride themselves on being of beautiful and elegant speech?”

He chuckled softly and drew her even closer, silencing her mirth for a long, sweet moment. “I was caught in the moment,” he allowed, “reduced to being a mere shadow of my generally wise, elven self—“ he said no more for she swatted his shoulder, then laid her head against him with a smile. “If you allow me a next time,” he whispered softly, “I swear I shall do better,” he promised.

She made no answer, pretending she had not heard him.

“What are you thinking about?”

Legolas smiled and turned rapidly, tucking her against him before she had enough time to offer a squeak of protest. “You,” he answered when she relaxed into him, her body melting against his.

Lunian lifted her arms so her hands rested idly against his shoulders as he nuzzled her neck, soft kisses finding their way up to her ear before trailing towards her mouth. “Really?” she asked softly. “Why so grim, then?”

“Dwelling on the time when darkness still entered my heart,” he answered, kissing her soundly before lifting his head to rest it against hers.

She understood at once, her eyes darkening slightly before she found a humorous thought, her eyes lighting up, full of gold as her lips quirked. “Your father certainly was…surprised I could be so insistent.”

“So was I, to be perfectly honest. I knew you would never break down against me, but the king… I expected that would be another matter when he got that look in his eye.”

She shivered slightly, recalling the look all too well. It was one that spoke of power and determination, along with a will to use both to get what he wanted. “You really should have the dungeons fixed up. They are not a very pleasant place to spend any amount of time.”

“That is the point behind them, my love,” he murmured in amused affection, kissing her temple as his mind slipped back to those dark days when Thranduil had had Lunian imprisoned for disobeying the direct order he had issued that she marry his son. He shivered, pulling her even closer. “I was too furious—and worried—to so much as speak to him for two days. Then all I could do was yell or go completely dumb. He expected you to cave in.”

She sighed, recalling how close she had come to agreeing to the marriage just so Legolas would return to normal. Seeing any elf so disturbed is a sight hard to bear, but when that disturbance is a combination of anger, love, hate, despair, grief, agony and impending death, anyone would have a hard time even without feeling the emotions tumbling through the poor elf. Add in that the poor elf that happened to be affected was the one she loved, and she had come so close to breaking down she had been weeping when Thranduil finally ordered her released and brought before him. Without even allowing him to speak she was in Legolas’s arms, as he had met her halfway into the room.

Many of the elves had been disgusted and disturbed by the obvious… display… that they had put on, but they had been separated for too long to notice or care. Since then, though, she had often noticed, and she hated it. Legolas was looked upon with pity for his love towards a mere mortal by most. The few who did not find her utterly beneath them were the ones who knew how deep and true that love ran… and they still made no move to know her, to befriend her. Stopping another sigh, she knew she had made the right choice in refusing to marry him. She could not have stood being looked down on when she was officially the princess, and he would have probably noticed that they did so. After all, a princess was a much more public figure than a mere ward. Besides, how could anyone expect the last group of elves on Middle-Earth to accept a mortal as a possible future ruler?

“What is it?”

She blinked and looked up, seeing blue eyes fixed searchingly on her face. She checked his quickly, let his emotions tumble over her more certainly, and found he was a bit concerned, but mostly confused. She shook her head and forced a smile. “Nothing, my prince,” she replied, kissing him quickly.

Legolas tilted his head at her, frowning slightly. Her eyes had darkened, and showed a habit of sliding away from his. “Lunian,” he murmured.

Lunian winced at the lowness of the command. If an elf could growl, that was his. Looking up again she saw that what had been speculation before was now certainty. He knew she was hiding something, and he wanted to know what. It was only natural, she supposed, but it was still irritating. “Legolas, it is not worth troubling you. I’m fine.” She cupped his face with her hands, two fingers splayed across his ears, threatening to rise. A flicker of flame leapt into his eyes, but he stopped it from taking over, though his hands tightened on her waist. “And I love you,” she murmured, sliding her fingers up, rubbing slowly, torturously along the rim of his ear.

He shuddered and took her lips in a heated kiss before lightly biting her lower lip, withdrawing after that moment. “And you will someday tell me what darkens your eyes?” he insisted, tilting his head off to one side while he studied her.

“Someday, if you do not figure it out before I have the chance,” she agreed. She ran her fingers towards her on his ears, pulling him forward for another kiss as effectively as if she had grabbed his head and yanked him against her. She laughed softly when the kiss broke.

“Am I amusing you?” he asked, his voice low again, but closer to a purr this time.

With a smile she watched him fight for control of the fire within once more. It wouldn’t be long before he gave up on that. “Amusing, distracting,” she shrugged a shoulder and watched him struggle. “I was thinking for once I’m almost glad to be human. My ears are not so… sensitive.”

“Your loss,” he countered, moving to nibble on her ear. When his teeth closed over the place her ear curled instead of continuing to a point as did his, she couldn’t help but shudder, thinking how it affected him. “You were saying?” he teased, his breath tickling over the skin his mouth had just left.

“Nothing at all,” she murmured, stroking his cheek with one hand, silently urging him to forget words for a while.

Not that he needed much prompting. He swung her around, her feet leaving the ground for a few turns before he caught her up, carrying her back into their room.
torment by Nea
“Lunian?” Legolas tilted his head slightly, his hair falling over his shoulder as he listened for a moment. “Lunian, my love?” He stepped forward a bit, before pausing to listen again. Suddenly a beautiful smile turned his lips as he tipped his head back. “Enjoying yourself?”

She sighed, rolling her eyes. “How do you do that?” she asked in exasperation.

Legolas laughed softly and reached up to steady her—not that she needed the help—as she climbed down. “I am an elf, you know.”

“So?” she asked, a bit annoyed he had found her… again. “Elladan and Elrohir are elves as well.”

He simply smiled at her, his long fingers lifting absently to brush through her hair, gently disentangling a few bits of leaves and twigs. “How long were you waiting?”

“I don’t know. I’ve lost track of time.” She looked over her shoulder at the bit of sky she could see as they walked back to the mountain. “A few hours, I suppose.”

“Hmm… and what is the finder’s fee to be, I wonder, for finding the prince’s missing love?”

“How about sharing a lovely dinner with your love in your chambers?”

A slow smile turned his lips again. “That could be arranged,” he agreed softly, his voice somewhat lower than usual.

“And it has,” she murmured, a faint hint of his smile on her lips before she broke away from him, running as quickly as her feet would take her.

Legolas waited a while, stretching leisurely before taking after her with a smile. Of course, as it wouldn’t do for the prince to race down the corridors, he took the back stairs and hallways, amusing no small number of servants as he headed to where his love was waiting. He slowed only when he could see his room, his blood racing, pounding in his ears, making him warm all over as he anticipated her being inside somewhere, somehow.

As he began to pass a tapestry, he tilted his head, for he could again hear a racing heart other than his own. It was combined with heavier breathing than usually accompanied elves, and a small bit of dirt peeked out from under the tapestry’s end. With a faint smile, he stepped into the door of his room, pretending to scan it thoroughly. He allowed a slight frown, heard the soft sound of a familiar lower lip being settled between teeth, and hid a smile of his own. As if absently he laid his sword aside, loosened what of his hair had been bound back, and then began to work on the fastenings of his tunic, all while remaining half in and half out of the door to their chambers.

He stepped slightly farther into the room, so the watcher in the hidden nook could see more or less shadows as he stripped off the shirt, another smile escaping him as he heard his watcher’s breath catch. “So you’ll have me find you again, will you?” he asked softly, stepping slightly into view before stretching again, being sure to let the lights play across the skin he’d bared. “Very well,” he agreed, stepping into the room.

It was a simple matter from there, really. All he had to do was enter the ‘escape tunnel’ which had been hidden by a false board along the wall. He’d always found it highly amusing that the tunnel was behind a board designed to look both as rock, and painted as a hollow tree. Still, he hadn’t had much use for it in a few thousand years…

Which meant he was spending a bit more time avoiding cobwebs than he would have liked as he wound his way back to the hall so he was once again not far from his room, able to see the tapestry he had been watched from.

Slowly, as the minutes ticked by, the tapestry’s end nearest his room moved slightly, a few fingertips becoming apparent before the entire thing moved, allowing a female form to slip into the hall. He smiled as she inched her way fairly silently—especially for a human—to the door, and bit the inside of his cheek as she cautiously peeked inside. He nearly laughed as she then tilted herself for a better angle, before withdrawing, her fingers heading to the hidden pocket where she kept her worry stone.

Deciding that was far—and long—enough, he slipped up behind her, mentally shaking his head at how easy it was to do so. “Found you.”

She jumped and whirled around, color rising in her cheeks. She let out an annoyed breath, rolling her eyes. “Legolas!”

“What!” he mocked, though mildly.

“How do you DO that?!?”

“But I may need to know for the future,” he countered, “so why should I tell you?”

“Because it’s beyond startling when you do that,” she mumbled, lowering her gaze to glare at his shoulder.

He shifted his weight slightly, straightening from his slouched position against the wall, a flare of triumph flashing through him as her eyes visibly strayed over him, the color darkening. Slowly he moved forward, sinuous, lithe, as she more jerkily stepped away from him, turning the corner into his room rapidly as if it would let her escape him. “And when I do this?” he asked, pressing against her.

She drew a ragged breath and turned her head to the side, her lashes drifting down to caress her cheeks before they lifted again. She made an inarticulate murmur which could have meant anything, before stiffening slightly. “Legolas!”

“Hmm?” he murmured, more interested in how close his mouth was to her ear than anything else.

“The door…” she trailed off, her breath leaving her in a soft sigh as his teeth closed lightly on the rim of her ear.

Still not caring about anything beyond her, he absently reached his foot out and kicked the door shut before taking her hands in his and trapping them against the wall on either side of her head, spreading his feet wide to bring him a bit closer to her height. He nuzzled her cheek with his nose, deliberately torturing her for a long moment as she alternated between straining against his hold and turning utterly pliable to his touch.

“Legolas,” she breathed.

“Yes?” he asked, slowly lifting his head to see her eyes.

What he saw made his breath catch. Her eyes had darkened slightly, her pupils large as she watched him, her cheeks flushed, lips slightly parted. As he watched she wet her lips, soothing a nibbled lower lip. “More,” she whispered softly, pushing against him in such a way her hair was pressed to his lips.

His hands lost their will to restrain her, causing an almost immediate reversal in situations as she reached out, charting the muscles of his abdomen before moving higher, over his chest, lingering briefly on his shoulders before reaching ever higher… until a low groan escaped him as she lightly stroked his ears.

The pace was far from leisurely from then on. Lunian’s dress soon fell over his tunic and shirt as he stepped back just enough to allow it before pulling her closer again. She wasn’t having that just yet, arching her hips away from his to tug at what clothing he had retained. With a husky laugh he helped her, though his boots were—as ever—a source of annoyance for them both.

Finally unclothed, he put his hands at her waist and lifted her into the air, kissing her navel, her abdomen, between her breasts as he slowly let her back down, smiling darkly as he felt her legs wrap around his waist. After nipping at her neck for a moment, he diverted to her ear again, when he got a bit of a shock—Lunian had managed to get to his ear without him noticing, and was being beyond cruel as she suckled the tip ever so gently, the tip of her tongue scraping gently along the slight ridge.

A noise such as had never come from any elf either had ever heard before escaped him, before he lifted her once more, ignoring her protests as she was taken away from his ear.

She stilled when he let her back down… her legs tightening around him as they both took a moment to enjoy the pleasure of being joined again. After that moment her fingers tightened on his shoulders before she shifted, pushing herself closer, holding him tighter even as he shifted so he was supporting her with one arm, the other rising to hold her head as he went back to kissing her.

She let out a shuddering breath and dropped her head to his shoulder when he began walking towards their bed. Each step was something new, something pleasurable to be savored… enough so he almost wished it was a longer trip. Letting go of her didn’t change much, as she was holding him so tightly there was only a slight slipping of the contact, which was quickly reestablished when they were settled on the bed.

From there they settled back into the routine of all long-time lovers, reacquainting themselves with each other until there truly was no separate being—the joined body had but one wish, one desire, one thought… Until the body exploded, shattered into a thousand pieces before slowly reforming into two bodies joined, two bodies on a mussed bed, two in a room, and finally, the world was back to including everything they did and didn’t know.

With a slightly worn smile Legolas lifted his head from Lunian’s shoulder, kissing his way from ear to lips before mustering up the energy to reverse their positions, pulling a blanket along to keep his human love warm as she ended up sprawled across him. Lacing the fingers of one hand through hers, he stroked her wrist, her palm, and her fingers intermittently while his free hand tangled in her hair before smoothing it out down her back, running his fingers over her spine on his return trips, sometimes with the faintest whisper of a touch, others with enough pressure to make her stir slightly, shifting in a semi-conscious attempt to snuggle closer.

When her response indicated true revival of energy—small kisses to his shoulder, returned stroking of their linked hands, slow shifting of the legs between and outside his own—then he kissed her temple, savoring the soft scent of sweat that clung there before he nipped her earlobe.

She slowly stretched, turning so she was looking down at him, and folded her arms on his chest, laying her head down on her arms, her entire body melting against his. She smiled slowly. “What?” she asked, closing her eyes slightly as his fingers made a return trip up her spine. Absently she arched into it before reopening her eyes.

He kissed her quickly, then stretched himself, ignoring her soft mewing noises of displeasure as she was dislodged. “When did you tell them to bring dinner?” he asked, hearing her stomach complaining the hour… and feeling his own do the same, though there was no noise as of yet.

“It’s no doubt already here,” she answered lazily, stretching over him again, seeking a comfortable niche. She smiled at his blink, knowing that behind it was hidden shock, confusion, and a small bit of embarrassment. She trailed a finger down along his nose, lingering lightly against his lips, withdrawing it only after he had a chance to graze on the pad. “I had them take it to my old room so we could get to it when we wished,” she explained, slowly sitting up, her legs falling outside of his until she drew them up so she was kneeling, more or less, and straddling him.

The position brought to mind an equally physical hunger… but her stomach growled again, prompting him to forget one hunger in favor of another as he sat up, kissing her soundly before he intended to pick her up and carry her into the other room.

“Oh no you don’t!” she protested, squirming out of his hold. “What if they’re still in there?”

“Then they would no doubt be less flustered by seeing you than by seeing me,” he countered, crawling forward. He caught her before she could back up off the bed, pressing kisses to her throat and the underside of her jaw until her head was lolled back, her eyes slightly unfocused, heart and breath faster than before. He smiled at the sight, aware his own respiration was a bit on the fast side, but released her with a last caress down her arms.

By the time Lunian had her eyes open and focused, her elven lover was again in the room, laying their food tray down on the bed before her. He went back for something else, so she settled in, watching the muscles under his skin bunch and release with every step, every breath. He was magnificently unaware of his own perfection… though he lifted slumberous eyes when their meal was laid before her in its entirety, a blue flame flickering beneath lowered lids assuring her he hadn’t been unaware of her scrutiny.

“You’re hungry,” he murmured, half as if observing, half to remind her.

“I know,” she agreed, still watching him.

He closed his eyes, his ears pulling back slightly. A flicker of something passed over his face before he reopened his eyes, the fire carefully banked for now. “Eat,” he instructed quietly, moving to help himself.

The meal was at once leisurely and hasty—they ate little, but quickly, spending long moments between bites to simply watch each other, unaware of any cause for shame or embarrassment in their pastime. Finally they were done, and stacked the things back onto the tray, which Legolas then set on the table where his sword would have usually been placed. He took one last mouthful of the wine, sharing it with Lunian when he returned to the bed. They kissed until the taste of wine was gone, until she had sunk back down on the mattress.

“Insatiable elf,” she accused, shifting her hand on his jaw to feel the muscles shifting as he kissed her again. She sighed into his mouth, smiling as he stiffened at a small touch from one fingertip. It was so easy to torment him.
Gimli learns more of the elves by Nea
Yes, Lunian is half elf… but I don’t know what exactly governs whether or not she gets to choose life as either an elf or a human, so I’m making it a writer’s prerogative to just leave it at this: She is mortal, and she will one day die.

With that said, Legolas’s votes are getting interesting: 6/6 in favor of each. I think maybe I wasn’t quite specific enough… I was asking if he should live or die after Lunian dies.

I don’t really know all the biology to elves, so I don’t know if Legolas would have any control over whether or not Lunian becomes pregnant, so I’m going to assume that after being around for ages on end, they know herbs or something that would keep pregnancy from occurring, and we can all just assume that Lunian’s taking those… Though, Lady Jade, I must admit I like the idea, and I used it in a story that will likely never get posted, because I can’t seem to keep it going.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“It is strange company you keep, my prince,” Lunian laughed.

Gimli chuckled at Legolas’s stunned blink.

“One might almost think you no longer wished to be an elf,” she continued, closing much of the distance between them. She had been introduced, briefly, to Gimli the night before at dinner, but he had not been told of her connection—her reason for being among elves rather than humans—beyond having been a ward of Elrond and a sister figure to Aragorn when he was in Imladris.

Legolas watched her approach, saw with joy lightening his heart that she was happier than she had been in a while, her eyes laughing as she smiled brightly. “Would it please you if I were?”

She shuddered. “What a horrid thought!” She frowned severely. “You would have had a much harder time with me if you were, considering all humans I have ever been around, save Estel, have been no good.” Or heard of, really, considering her blood father.

He winced, the years having been enough his rage at seeing her so battered was dulled so that he was more concerned for her feelings than his own.

She shook her head and gazed at Gimli. “I must say, you are the first dwarf I have ever known.”

“Even dwarves have been known to visit Imladris,” Gimli countered, thinking of his father’s roll in the adventure that ended with dwarves in possession of a mountain, a watery bed gained by a fiery dragon, and a small hobbit with the ring that could have destroyed Middle-Earth.

“Only at the council, in my lifetime,” she countered softly, still gazing at the dwarf.

Since her study was more curious than disgusted, as he had sometimes gotten from elves, he didn’t mind. Much. “Why did you not see any then?”

She smiled, a little sadly. “I was nearly dead,” she replied softly.

Dwarf and elf stared at her in surprise, Legolas’s back straightening as if a rod had been shoved through it. “What?” boomed Gimli as Legolas fought rushing to her side. He had wanted to explain things to Gimli before giving it so simply away, but it was getting harder by the second, especially when she began fiddling with her worry stone.

“Elrohir told me how he lost the she-elf he loved. She had been raped, beaten and left for dead by a human, but was found and healed. She died giving birth to a mortal child.” Lunian clenched her hand, recalling the hollow pain in Elrohir’s eyes as he dully recounted her beginnings.

“Your heart broke for him, for the pain you inadvertently caused,” Legolas murmured, his eyes full of compassion as he studied her. “Why did you not?”

“I couldn’t do that to him. I was all he had of her, the only thing tying him to Middle-Earth. Along with being half human, my worry for Estel on the quest, and so for Arwen, brought me back.”

Gimli frowned and looked between the two, aware he was missing something, but unsure at what level he was missing it. “You’re only half-human?” he asked, settling for the easiest.

“Half human, half elven,” she agreed with a soft sigh. She turned her head to the approaching elf a moment after Legolas had, but Gimli never heard the footsteps. Being used to Legolas, though, he was not surprised when an elf emerged from between the plants bearing a message.

Legolas read it and nodded. “Inform him I am on my way.” The elf bowed and left, leaving Legolas only a quick moment to excuse himself. “I am sorry, my friend, but my father summons. Perhaps…” he trailed off, looking to Lunian.

She laughed. “Of course. It will be quite enjoyable on both sides, I believe.”

Legolas nodded quickly, his mind already switching over to wonder what business could have his father calling him so soon after a guest—especially a member of the fellowship, even if a dwarf—had arrived. “Thank you,” he murmured, falling into his own tongue as he caught her chin for a quick kiss before leaving them behind.

Gimli blinked after him, making Lunian chuckle. Humans being what they were, she had thought that merely an elven trait. Of course, since he and Legolas had become such friends, it could have rubbed off on the dwarf. “I suppose he was being polite?”

She laughed aloud. “I can think of many words to describe Legolas, but polite would not be among the ones he would gather from friends.” Of course, when he was the prince of Mirkwood, he was infinitely polite, but when relaxed… well relaxed alone was enough to not title someone at the same time polite. Kind, generous—certainly, but not polite. Politeness required responsibility to act in a matter unneeded in informal settings.

“Really?” he asked, interest inherent in the word.

She sighed softly. “Aye, Master Dwarf. Really.” She smiled slightly. “Come, I will show you the gardens, such as they are.”

Gimli was not about to give up so easily, but he walked with her, finding her easier to keep up with than Legolas. Then he noticed she had matched her steps to his, lifting her in his esteem. Of course, that Aragorn and Legolas considered her a friend had been enough for him to feel somewhat at ease, and he was beginning to get the idea that while Aragorn may see her as a sister, Legolas certainly did not.

“Just say whatever you are so consumed with, Gimli,” she murmured suddenly, her voice somewhat detached.

He looked up to see her studying the leaves above them, watched her pluck a russet leaf from a bough hanging just low enough. She twirled it through her fingers as she looked at him, one brow lifted in waiting. He cleared his throat. “Well, it just seems to me Legolas is rather close to you.”

She smiled slightly, but there was a sad air about her at the same time that made him think her almost fragile. Certainly she was, compared to the elves, but she had strength in her own right. He was sure of that, because when his legs had been unable to keep up with Legolas as he ran up the stairs, he had started to fall, but slim arms had suddenly caught him up, up-righting him before he could growl out protest at falling. He was not as light as he had been during the quest. Not overly ample, but not as light. He blinked away the thoughts as she spoke softly. “I suppose he is,” she agreed.

“You’ll have to speak up a bit. My hearing is not what it was, and I was never an elf.”

She sent him a laughing look, letting him see clearly she knew he had heard her. “But the world has many ears, and those I would avoid,” she countered, her voice still soft, though since she spoke directly at him he caught the words more easily. A slight sadness touched her again, so they walked in silence for a while, until she suddenly stopped and turned, a smile tilting her lips even as Legolas emerged. “Business done?” she asked softly.

“Indeed,” he agreed. “Back to pleasure.” He smiled at her before looking down at Gimli. “Have you been shown round the gardens then?”

“Such as they are,” he agreed.

Legolas sent Lunian a bemused look, which she pointedly ignored, still twirling the leaf in her fingers. He tugged the leaf free, working it into the tail of the braid that hung down to her hips before turning back to his newly arrived friend.

The three traveled through the gardens, and then the palace, stopping finally—to Gimli’s thinking—in a small room that was near the library. The other occupants of the room left quickly, which Gimli found annoying though he did not mind the peace from their prying eyes. He was a private person, even for a dwarf, and immensely disliked being stared at in such a manner.

At dinner, he once again found it to be a fine affair, with plenty of food and wine. Tonight, though, he spent more time talking, since he had two friends with him. Lunian seemed to come alive this time, laughing and joking, teasing even. At a moment when the conversation was loudly dominated elsewhere, he went back to his food, but soon Legolas and Lunian were bantering again, the looks on their faces quite obviously that of deep caring. As Lunian laughed again to some story he told of dwarves, asking questions with an animated face and sparkling eyes, he caught a look on Legolas’s face which was so odd as to capture his memory. The elf looked happy, confused, worried and upset all at the same time, with joy utmost.

He was still mulling that over when they disbanded for the night. “May I escort you to your room, Lunian?” he asked, bowing before her.

She laughed softly, bowing her head. “I would be honored, Gimli,” she returned. “But I am afraid it is a bit out of your way.”

He huffed. “I can find my way,” he promised.

Legolas laughed softly, knowing Lunian had felt the feelings slipping through him, since he still had not had a chance to tell Gimli. “Let us all go,” he murmured, taking her hand as they walked through the halls.

“Well, I guess this is where we leave you, elf,” Gimli declared when they stopped outside the room Legolas and Lunian had shared for the past years.

Lunian looked up at Legolas, asking him what to do. He smiled and touched her cheek. “Actually, my friend, this is where we leave Lunian. Unless you are too tired to speak with an old friend for a while?” he lifted a brow at Gimli.

Gimli looked at the door, then down the hall in confusion. “I…” he trailed off as Lunian flushed slightly. “I am not too tired,” he agreed at once, noticing the interlocked fingers of his two friends for the first time, since they had allowed him to lead.

Legolas smiled slightly, shifting back into his tongue as he addressed Lunian. “I will explain, my love.”

Lunian laughed softly. “I do not think you have to, Legolas,” she countered, keeping her tongue in the one Gimli could understand. “It seems he knows well what melamin means.” She touched his cheek before slipping into their room.

“Indeed I do,” Gimli agreed with a grunt. “So I was not wrong?” he asked softly, struggling to keep up as Legolas strode quickly down the hall to the guest room Gimli had been given. Only when they were both inside and the door had closed did Legolas turn towards him.

“You were not wrong,” he said finally.

“Harumph.” Gimli muttered unintelligibly and eased his weight onto the soft bed with a sigh. “I like her.”

“So do I,” Legolas murmured, sounding decidedly amused.

“I would hope you more than like her, if she is sharing your room.”

Legolas frowned faintly, and then sighed. “It is no secret, Gimli. I love her, have for several years now. When she admitted to loving me, I asked her to marry me.”

Gimli glanced at him in annoyance. “Why didn’t you say so!” he asked loudly. “Has the wedding already taken place, or is it going to still?”

“It hasn’t, and it’s not.”

Gimli blinked and wriggled a finger in his ear. “Come again?”

Legolas was frowning at the corner. “She refuses to marry me, for whatever reason. Her given reason is that it will be hard enough for me when she dies without adding in it being the death of my wife, but it is a weak argument. It will be her death I mourn, whether she is my wife or not.”

“It is just silly to think it would be worse if she were your wife than if she was not, if you love her!” Gimli agreed heartily.

Legolas sighed softly and looked at his short friend. “She hopes by disallowing the marriage she will keep me from fading when she dies.” He shook his head. “I have little hope, on that score, but I have promised I shall try to endure life without her.”

“Ah… fading?” Gimli asked, frowning slightly.

A faint smile touched Legolas’s lips, but not even the slight amusement could touch him any deeper than that right now. The sadness of the past years built whenever he thought about the future if Lunian wasn’t beside him at the time. Her closeness, her scent and warmth, drove any sorrow almost perfectly effectively away. Sometimes a little would remain or return, but a quick kiss or even a slight touch would soon correct the matter. “An elf may fade when he or she loses the will to live. More commonly called death by grief, or a broken heart.”

Gimli stared blankly at the elf. “Anyone of any race can lose the will to live.” His tone was skeptical, as if suicide had never entered his mind at the same time as elves had.

Another faint smile tweaked Legolas’s lips. “It is different for elves, I believe. It is not a conscious decision to die, usually. It is more that with nothing to look forward to, no reason to remain, we simply… fade. Cease to be.” He shrugged a shoulder as if the matter were of no importance whatsoever.

“You think you would… fade, if Lunian died?”

“I have nearly faded for being parted from her, and for believing she did not love me. As I said, I have little hope to survive her death.”

Gimli blinked and marveled anew at what strange creatures elves were. “What does she think of the whole business?”

“She has tried everything she could think of to avoid my death, including trying to send me away in the hopes I would fall out of love with her. All to no avail. My love for her rivals that of all elves for the stars.”

Gimli had often seen Legolas forgo physical rest as a member of the fellowship, choosing instead to stand at the edge of the group, staring up at the stars, so he knew elves dearly loved the stars. Being so enamored of something one could not touch was a bit beyond complete comprehension for him. Lunian, though, her he could understand loving. Not in the way Legolas claimed to, of course. He preferred females with beards, especially when they were shorter than he was. “You could have done much worse than her, I think,” he rumbled at last. “Much worse indeed.”

Legolas chuckled at that. “Most hint that I should have fallen in love with an elf. That it is more ‘natural’.”

Gimli frowned. “Were not humans once elves?”

“In a manner of speaking,” Legolas agreed, not wishing to embark on a history lesson with any dwarf at such a time of night.

“Then why should anyone be against Lunian because she is half human?”

“She is mortal, so loving her will probably be the death of me. They know it, they fear it.”

“You don’t,” Gimli stated curiously. He did not feel that Legolas was worried about the possibility, in fact, he had treated the entire situation almost as if it was amusing, from what Gimli could tell, at any rate. Which wasn’t much, though he was better at reading Legolas than any other elf… even if he got the feeling Legolas let go of his control of his features from time to time so he, and others not of the elves, didn’t feel so overwhelmed by the seeming lack of emotions and life.

“There is no point in worrying about it, Gimli. I have come close to death many times, but I have lived a long life, which I can now call full, having such friends as I do, and having one to truly love.” His eyes seemed to darken, growing even deeper and wiser for a moment, making Gimli think of the Lady Galadriel. “Loving Lunian is to live each day feeling as if it was eternity, that the joy and peace will last forever. In that way, I have lived longer loving her than I have lived before. On the same note, the idea of life returning to its previous state, bereft of those things, lacking only in her presence… there is no comprehending it. Without Lunian, I have no light, no joy, no peace. What is an elf without those things?”

“Human?” Gimli asked, fidgeting on the bed. How serious elves could be, and how horrible the thought of Legolas dying! “Let us speak of this no longer,” he declared, unable to grasp the concept.

“It avoids understanding for you as well, my friend?” Legolas asked softly, his eyes returning to normal. He smiled faintly. “Then I shall return to my beloved, and leave you in peace.”

“Out with you!” Gimli demanded gruffly, drawing a soft chuckle from the departing elf. Gimli couldn’t help but wonder about Lunian’s feelings about the whole thing. Of course, she would probably not be as candid about it, seeing as loving her was killing an elf. Gimli shook his head. “Poor girl,” he muttered grimly. It was a heavy burden for any to bear.
strike out their eyes by Nea
“Haven’t they anything else to do?” Gimli grumbled.

Lunian smiled slightly. “I doubt it. After all, it is hardly likely they have anything pressing to attend to. Elves are generally leisurely creatures.”

“Huh,” he huffed, glaring from beneath bushy brows at the elves that were staring at the odd pair as they wandered through the gardens. “Legolas wasn't.”

“During the quest, I assume.”

“Of course,” he growled.

She smiled faintly, knowing he did not like being stared at, and sympathizing completely. “I did say generally. Besides, Legolas was in a different position than elves usually are, where swiftness mattered. Still, he is somewhat hasty for an elf, from what I’ve seen. He is still young, though. I cannot speak for his conduct in his father’s court, for that business leaves me utterly cold and I tend to avoid the throne room at such times.”

“Does he always sit with his father?”

“When his father wishes him to. He was not planning on it, especially since you’re here and it won’t be long before I begin refusing to take long walks outside with him.”

“Why would you refuse?”

“My human blood is enough I have to wade through the snow instead of walking over it, most of the time. Once in a while I get lucky, but the experience of plowing through snow drifts is one I do not enjoy repeating. I prefer to remain in the gardens of the palace during the winter.”

Gimli snorted in sympathy, and quickened the pace to take them away from the curious and derogatory eyes behind them. She kept up easily, leading him around to a small bench hidden away beneath some weeping willows.

As the day wore easily on the two found common ground in their curiosity. Lunian asked Gimli numerous questions about the dwarves, and Gimli asked a bit about Rivendell, for he wasn’t sure what of the elves and humans she would know. After a while, he remembered wondering how she felt about having an elf in love with her, but before he could ask she turned her head towards the path, and a blond-haired prince emerged soon after.

Legolas sent Gimli a quick smile, but his attention was elsewhere. His arms wrapped around Lunian, his head bending to nuzzle her neck, pushing her hair out of the way to do so. “Having a good morning?” he asked softly, his voice barely carrying over to Gimli.

“Why wouldn’t we be?” Lunian asked, tilting her head up, her lips brushing against the elf’s jaw.

He smiled, his eyes dancing with laughter. “I don’t know, but sometimes those raised by elves have a problem with other races.”

“Especially if they happen to be elves themselves. The rest of us group together since we feel so inadequate around beings of such intrinsic beauty.”

Gimli blinked at her words, wondering if she was entirely serious or partially joking.

Legolas leaned back a bit, frowning slightly as if not sure himself how to take her words. Finally, giving up, he cupped her cheek with his palm and kissed her. He drew her closer, then looked over her head to see Gimli. “Would you care to join me for lunch?”

“Why didn’t you say so before, elf?”

Legolas chuckled softly and released Lunian, capturing her hand for the return trip. Gimli frowned, trying to fit the new picture presented to him in his mind. Legolas was a warrior, the elf of the fellowship, the deadliest companion Gimli had traveled with… at least when his quiver was full. Now, though, the calm, poised elf was displaying a side of gentleness, amusement, and an incredible soft spot when it came to the woman beside him… more so than Gimli would have ever imagined possible, but before Legolas and the Lady Galadriel, he had not thought much about or of elves at all.

All through the day and continuing to the evening meal, Gimli watched the two, saw the teasing side of Legolas he had not known existed until Helm’s Deep, and even then it was nothing like this. He was about to ask how many years they had been together, but then he noticed something that wiped the question from his mind. Lunian would only look at three people in the room: himself, Legolas, and the king. No one else was treated to her smiles, her laughing eyes…

Just then Gimli noticed the way the elves stared at her. Open dislike was on their faces, distaste as obvious for her as it was for him. They didn’t see her as half-elf, merely as human, the reason their prince could someday die. He knew Mirkwood elves were suspicious of outsiders, but this was beyond that, this was nearly hate. He expected it directed towards himself, he was, after all, a dwarf, and there had been bad blood between their races for many years. But Lunian was hardly a dwarf. She was like Aragorn and Legolas combined, full of wisdom and laughter, seriousness and teasing. She had a way about her of looking into someone and knowing how to make them feel better. How could anyone not at least tolerate her?

They didn’t. Suddenly he understood the sadness that haunted her except for the rare moments when she was utterly alone with her friends.

He watched impatiently for some elf to appear that had befriended her, but none showed up. As long as Legolas was talking to her, though, she was smiling, content. Thranduil drew his son’s attention away, and Gimli watched her eyes darken as she looked quickly at the disapproving faces around her. She diverted her eyes to him, and as they talked her eyes began to clear once more.

Still, Gimli was furious by the time the three walked down the halls to their rooms. “Help me find my way, elf,” he growled.

Legolas lifted a brow at him, but kissed Lunian quickly at their door before following Gimli down the hall. “I was meaning to thank you, Gimli,” he murmured as Gimli’s door closed behind them.

“Me? What for?”

Legolas smiled at the harsh, abrupt tone, thinking how easily dwarves could alienate elves simply by being themselves. “Since you came Lunian has seemed… happier.”

“And no wonder.”

Gimli smirked as Legolas’s attention was immediately focused completely on him. “What do you mean?” he demanded, a frown drawn between his brows.

“With all the elves around except you and your father looking at her like she’s an orc, it must be a relief to have someone to talk to when you’re busy.”

“What are you talking about?”

“For having such keen eyesight, you are completely blind.” Gimli growled at the confused elf. “Look at her, watch her for a while. They may have hinted to you someone else would have been more appropriate, but they despise her, and don’t try to hide it.”

Legolas frowned, and slowly shook his head. “I… I think you’re just oversensitive.” He didn’t deny the elves glared at Gimli, but he was, after all, a dwarf.

Gimli huffed. “Think what you will then, lad. But use your head to take care of her. You have noticed she has been better with me here… do you think it might have something to do with having another person here being given the same evil looks she has probably received for the last few years?”

Legolas shook his head again and left without a word. Gimli couldn’t be right. How could anyone dislike Lunian? Especially anyone among the elves? No, Gimli couldn’t be right.

Reassuring himself of that one more time, he opened the door to his room. Lunian was sitting on the floor by the foot of the bed, watching the fire flicker up, slowly consuming the logs. She was already dressed for bed, her hair braided to one side, but it was her eyes that caught his attention. Something sad seemed to permeate them, a weariness he didn’t understand. Both he had seen in her before, but he had not really considered the cause, as long as she was happy with him.

With a sigh he knelt beside her, drawing her into his arms. He kissed her temple before resting his chin on her head, watching the fire with her for a long moment as he tried to read her emotions. Though he had been working on that since finding out how empathetic she was, he picked up nothing, so he finally moved to see her eyes. Immediately as she looked at him a smile crossed her lips and lit her eyes.

It was what he had seen before that change that struck him. Pain, loneliness, sorrow, misery. A funny little ache settled in his chest, before working down to make his stomach churn.

Lunian frowned and lifted a hand to his cheek. “What’s wrong?” she asked, her thumb moving in a soothing arc over his cheekbone.

He closed his eyes, feeling shamed for having failed to see her pain when she so quickly knew his. His life had been heaven, hers had not, and he had not known. Anger started to rise up in him, and he wished to demand to know why she had never said she was unhappy, but the cold truth stopped him. She would have said nothing, because if he knew, he would be concerned and worried about her. She had probably figured he had had enough of both already without adding more. So she had said nothing, suffering in silence.

Her thumb moving brought him back, so he opened his eyes to look at her. She blinked and tilted her head in confusion. “Egola?”

He sighed and cupped her face in his palms. “What troubles you so? Makes your life here so miserable?”

“I am not miserable,” she protested at once. “How can I be? I have you.”

“But no one else. In Imladris you had Elrohir, Elladan, Elrond, and all the elves around viewed you as their niece or grandchild. Who do you have here? Me? Father? How can two replace Imladris?”

She lowered her gaze to the button of his shirt, one finger tracing around it lazily. “Perhaps they cannot,” she finally stated. “But they are enough.”

“Are they?” he asked. “Is there no one else who has befriended you? No one you walk through the gardens with?”

“Gimli,” she answered immediately, making the ache return.

He sighed and got up, stooping to pick her up as soon as he was on his feet. “Why do you never sit with me when I am in court?”

She snorted softly and shook her head. “Why would anyone wish to sit through that? It is incredibly boring. Land disputes, marriage contracts, petty infractions. I would rather be in the gardens.” Her arms wrapped around his neck as he lowered them both into bed. “Why all the questions, my prince?”

Slowly he shook his head. “Nothing, my little one.” He slipped his hands beneath her nightgown, letting the warmth of her back help ease the chill of his thoughts. He pulled her closer, burying his nose against her throat. He kissed her collarbone and took a deep breath filled with her scent. “Sleep well, my love.”

She smiled at him, her eyes filled with utter love and trust, neither of which he felt he was worthy of at the moment. She blinked, the smile turning to a slight frown as she felt something of his feelings, but he had learned to shield himself out of necessity over the last years if he tried, and he was doing his best. When she gave up trying to figure him out, she smiled faintly once more, leaning across the slight distance that separated them. When her teeth closed around the tip of his ear he moaned softly, his fingers digging into her hip as her gentle assault had the anticipated effect within a heartbeat.

“Looking for trouble?” he asked, his voice barely above a growl.

She wound her arms around his neck as he leaned over her, pinning her against the bed. “Hmm,” she murmured, opening her mouth on his jaw. “Did I find it?”

He chuckled low in his throat at the look of anticipation glistening in her partially closed eyes before diverting to kiss her instead of answering immediately. “Whether you wanted to or not,” he agreed when he lifted his head.

She shifted beneath him, her hands moving under his shirt to link at the small of his back. “I don’t go looking for what I don’t want,” she assured him, completely unnecessarily as she shifted once more, the suddenly solid contact making him tense and freeze for a long moment. Her breath escaped in silent laughter before she lifted one hand to his face, one lone finger drawing a line down his ear, drawing him irrevocably closer as a shudder raced down his spine.
you must remember by Nea
Anger glowed brightly within him as he watched Lunian reluctantly bid Gimli a good journey. Since Gimli had called him blind, he had been unable to see things as he had before. No longer was his vision tunneled between Lunian and his father. Now he saw what Gimli had seen so easily, and anger warred with his self-derision. How could he have failed to see that which hurt her?

As Gimli marched away, Lunian sent the dwarf a sad, longing look which tore into Legolas as he saw the elves around her ignore her existence. He closed his eyes, immediately seeing a typical moment in her life before she had been sent to him. There was always someone near who cared about her, be it one of Elrond’s family who viewed her as one of their own, or one of the elves who worked around the house for one reason or other. She would be greeted with a smile, good tidings for the day, and told any news that had happened their way. Here she was left alone, looked down upon by the people he had assumed would welcome her… assumed had welcomed her.

What could he do? Hide her away from the world?

He couldn’t do that, because he wanted the same world to see her as he saw her, to love her as she deserved to be loved. Not as he loved her, of course, because that would be just way too much jealously for any elf to handle, even for him.

So what did he do?

Love her.

Knowing that was all he could do in the end, he slipped up behind her, sliding his arms around her, drawing her back against him before kissing her hair, ignoring the looks he was given. When she turned to glanced back at him, keeping her back to those who watched, he tucked her head against his chest and glared over her head at them. Several blinks later the group backed off, and he drew Lunian into the gardens, trying to think.

“Egola?”

He sighed faintly but couldn’t stop a slight smile. “Yes, love?”

“What is it?”

Shaking his head, he tried to let it go. “I was just trying to figure out how I managed to convince you to love me.” He kissed her quickly, hoping to keep her off balance enough she wouldn’t know he wasn’t being entirely truthful. “It was the smartest thing I ever did.”

“Many would disagree.”

“Let them. I don’t care.”

She blinked and lowered her eyes, frowning slightly. “You are the prince.”

“Yes. What has that to do with anything?” He pulled her closer to his side, not missing the way she kept her arm between them.

“You should care about your subjects.”

He sighed softly and came to a stop, turning her to face him. “As subjects, I care about them. But when they are simply elves who think they have a right to meddle in my private affairs, I tend to be unable to find them useful.”

“Are any there any private affairs in the lives of royals? As a public figure, your life is just as public.”

“All they need to see is that I love you, and that should be enough.”

“How could it be enough? Their prince has chosen a mortal love who will one day die. Why do you assume they wouldn’t care, wouldn’t be worried? They would disapprove even if you were not the prince.”

“And I would still love you, prince or not. Elf or not, I would love you. Why should I care if they do not approve?” He pulled her a bit closer, but she resisted enough they remained just enough apart they could still see each other’s faces.

Her eyes warned him not to pull her closer until she had said her piece, so he let her retain the slight distance. “You can say that because you are the prince. If you were just a common elf, their disapproval would affect your life everyday.”

He tucked some of her dark gold hair behind one ear and sighed softly. “Perhaps that is true, but it matters not. I am the prince, and I love you. What anyone else thinks is irrelevant.” Shadows clouded her eyes, seeming to drain the depths of gold. Shaking his head he touched his forehead to hers. “My father accepts it.”

She sighed and melted against him. He thankfully gathered her into his arms, kissing her temple. “He accepts it only because he must. He does not like it, any more than do I.”

“Because I may well die of grief when you die?”

She looked up at him sharply, her eyes hard. “You promised you would try to have hope.”

He closed his eyes for an instant at her accusatory tone. “I did, and I shall. But it seems impossible. How can I live when the light of my world is gone?”

“The thought that it might return,” she replied, her voice merely a whisper against his neck. “You must remember that.”

“Love, when you leave me, I will be doing well to remember anything.” Even his own name. He drew in a deep breath full of her scent and that of the few blooming flowers that remained so late in the autumn.

She had no response, so he held her tighter for a moment, then walked with her to a bench secluded from the rest of the gardens by an ancient, gnarled tree and the ending of the mountain. She curled up to his side, lying her head on his shoulder. Pulling her close, he struggled again with a feeling of utter helplessness he had not felt since he was barely no longer a child and his mother left. There seemed to be nothing he could do. There were no orcs or uruks for him to track or hunt, no dark power to battle to offset his utter lack of control.

When she shivered he drew his cloak about her, but that only helped for a few minutes. As her human blood made her cold he tugged her to her feet and walked with her back to the palace.
death of a day by Nea
The sun draped red velvet across the land as it slipped into bed, the stars already beginning to glow on the eastern horizon. Lunian smiled to see it so clearly once more, for the setting of the sun and the appearance of the stars was something she had missed most of the time while in Mirkwood.

A pair of strong arms slid around her waist as Legolas bent his head down beside hers, rubbing his cheek to hers before kissing her shoulder, ignoring the elves around them studiously.

There were only four elves with them on this trip, but that was four too many in her opinion. She would much rather have come alone with Legolas, and only partially understood why that couldn’t be. After all, he was the prince, and they couldn’t let him go anywhere on his own, now could they? Never mind he had been the elf of the fellowship, one of nine who helped save the world, he was their prince, and could not possible take care of himself.

And orcs could fly.

A soft chuckle rumbled against her back, ending with a trail of kisses up her neck to behind her ear. “Patience, Milady. When we get there we can slip away from them.”

She smiled faintly and closed her eyes, leaning back. She lifted one hand and touched his cheek, letting her fingers wander towards his ear. As she had expected, he caught her hand before she could touch the erogenous zone. “Good,” she murmured softly in return, turning her head just enough she could smile at him and accept a quick kiss before she faced the sunset once more, glad they had paused for the evening meal so they could enjoy the colorful display.

Legolas rested his head against hers and watched longer than she was able, seeing the stars mingle with the last bloody hues. The death of another day was at hand. He mourned the passing of this day as he had the last, and all the previous ones since he had come to realize he loved a mortal.

She was half asleep on her feet, her eyes half open as she leaned against him, so he picked her up and carried her to where one of the elves had laid out her blankets. His things had been studiously placed a distance away, so he released her to retrieve them, pulling his cloak over them both after stretching out beside her. “Sleep well, my love,” he murmured in her ear, not loudly enough anyone else could hear without trying to. It was their tradition, and no one else needed to bear witness to it.
Girl talk by Nea
Arwen frowned at the herald’s message. “Elves?” she asked in surprise. Her son and daughters looked up at her expectantly. “I do not know, my children,” she answered with a blink. She walked to the balcony to see the approaching visitors. “They are elves,” she agreed at once. No one else rode without saddle or bridle, and few could claim such horses, even as near to Rohan as they were, since Shadowfax. All were blond, but that was a common thing for elves. Five males, and a female.

“Who is it, Mother?” Eldarion asked, coming to her side. His eyes were sharp, but not sharp enough.

“Arwen?” Aragorn asked as well, coming to stand beside his son.

She smiled to see them, for Eldarion had outgrown his father in height, at least. “It is Legolas,” she replied, seeing the bow of Lothlorien Galadriel had given him, “unless I am very much mistaken, but they are wearing hoods.”

“Why would they do so?”

“Unsure of their welcome, perhaps,” she mused, before turning her eyes back to the female. “I wonder…”

“What?” Aragorn asked at once.

“There is a female along.”

“A female?” he asked, his tone blank. “Then Legolas has married? She would not be a guard, and no one else would… Could it be?” he breathed, his mind moving to the same thing she had wondered. “Can you tell?”

“Not yet, impatient man. It is possible, but the shadows of her cloak defeat me.” But she was pretty sure. After all, a woman is a woman even when with the elves. “I think it is,” she confided softly.

“Is who?” their children chorused together.

“Legolas is the prince of Greenwood, isn’t that so?” Eldarion asked softly.

Arwen took a deep breath, pained her children were so unknowing of the elven ways and people. They had only known her, with an occasional visit from her family, but they had passed to the undying lands many years ago. “Yes,” she agreed as Aragorn sent orders for the visitors to be brought into the hall at once.

The royal family gathered by the throne, taking their places or standing by, waiting for their visitors with undisguised curiosity. First visible were two tall, male elves with silvery blond hair, quivers on their backs and swords at their sides. Next came the couple. The male drew the eye in the way all things so beautiful tend to do, his stature proud, light clinging to his hair and eyes as if he exuded it himself. In comparison, the female seemed dull and almost lifeless. On her own, she would have been deemed a lady, or even a princess by men, for she had that assured bearing, the confidence of knowledge, but her plumage simply was not as bright. Dark gold hair, her shorter stature, and eyes that seemed not to have decided on a color only added to the illusion. He had a longbow of the Galadhrim, a quiver of gold-feathered arrows, and twin daggers strapped to his back. She had a plain, dark brown bow and matching arrows. After the couple, two more guards came in, tall and proud, perhaps disapproving, with bows, quivers, and daggers. The male waved the guards away as they made their way to the throne.

“Aragorn! You are looking well,” Legolas exclaimed, coming forward to embrace the king to the annoyance of all guards in the hall.

Arwen smiled sadly, for she knew what he hadn’t added. For your age. Aragorn was graying, his skin had wrinkles, but he was still strong. “It has been too long, Legolas,” she murmured, greeting him with a touch to his cheek.

He smiled and returned the greeting. “A short while, for some,” he replied, his eyes somewhat downcast for an instant. Then he looked at her offspring, his eyes lighting with amusement as he glanced around the group. “Quite prolific, aren’t you?” he chuckled softly, sweeping back his hood.

Arwen moved forward to the woman. “Shy, Lunian?” she asked, pushing the hood back with a flick of her wrist. She studied the woman before her, the slight aging that had become apparent, some more maturity lent to the face. No wrinkles, no creases in her skin which was still youthfully soft, no silver touches in her golden hair. But she had aged, her eyes a little more solemn, less on the verge of laughter than when Lunian had last come to Gondor. Silently Arwen asked the powers that be to give her a sign it was more the passing of the elves that caused this change, or the mere passing of time, instead of the way Lunian had been treated the first time she had come. She had been back, on occasion, of course, but Arwen had found little time alone with her, with the demands of both mother and queen.

“Of course not, my sister,” Lunian murmured quietly, reaching out to touch her cheek. “A bit surprised, since I had thought your choice would have you aging with the rest of us mere mortals, but not shy.” Then she turned to the king, and her eyes lit up with laughter once more. “You look awful, Estel!” she laughed, leaping forward to hug her brother while the royal guards stiffened at the sudden proximity.

He laughed and set her feet back on the ground. Brushing some hair from her face, he teased her right back. “And you look like a woman.”

“I am,” she said softly, her eyes darkening for a moment as she looked around. She blinked when she gazed upon Eldarion. “Is this the little prince I recall?”

“It is. Eldarion, do you remember Lunian?”

Eldarion blinked and frowned, studying the woman intently. Slowly he shook his head. “I am afraid I do not.”

“It has been twenty-five years since I was here last, you have no call to remember me.”

He blinked in surprise, looking first at her youthful face and then at her ears. Then he glanced at his father, and back. “You are of our line?” he asked quietly, wonder in his voice as he assumed he was correct.

However, Lunian shook her head. “No. I am half-elven, as your grandfather. I was not given the choice he was, though.”

“So you are mortal?”

“Yes,” she agreed, bowing her head slightly to emphasis her point.

Arwen knew the touchiness of that subject, undoubtedly not only in her household but that of the entire Mirkwood realm. “You have not visited in many years, little sister. How have you found the former Mirkwood?”

Lunian smiled faintly and glanced back at Legolas, who wound his arms about her waist in a very definite display of possessiveness. “That is a hard determination to make, Arwen. It would take a lot of time, and thought. Instead, why not introduce me to your children, and then allow us a brief time before the meal for rest?”

Arwen managed to smile even as she felt like kicking herself. She had been too long with humans, to have forgotten the protocol elves would prefer. “Of course, little sister. The rooms used before are free, if you would wish to choose some.”

Legolas bowed his head slightly and left the room with Lunian’s hand in his, the guards that had undoubtedly been ‘provided’ by his father following. When the elves left, Arwen followed, intending to speak privately with Lunian. Legolas waved the elves into their rooms, and entered the one he had used before, with Lunian still trailing behind.

Arwen started to lift her hand to knock on the door, but Lunian’s voice stopped her. “Come on in,” she called, laughter threading through the words.

Arwen entered, closing the door behind her before looking for the couple in the room. She blinked when she found them. Legolas was half sitting and half laying on the bed, the pillows propped up behind him, his weapons and travel cloak discarded on the chair, along with Lunian’s cloak, and her bow and quiver. Lunian was stretched out beside Legolas, her head on his abdomen, her hair spread over his chest where his long fingers kept drawing it back as gravity tried to pull it down. One small hand was laid lightly at his side, and one of her legs was between his. They looked like they had just awakened from a deep and peaceful slumber, or had just returned from the pleasurable exertion of a physical union.

Neither of which was possible, since they had barely had time to drop their things to the chair. Still, it told her a few things she had been wanting to ask. While giving her others. Since Legolas was in the room and not showing any signs of planning on going away, Arwen settled on one of the most obvious and discussable issues. “You are an archer now?”

The couple laughed softly, Lunian turning her head slightly towards Arwen as Arwen found herself some room to sit at the edge of the bed. “Not exactly,” she hedged.

When Arwen lifted a brow for elaboration, Legolas took up the conversation. “Lunian has managed to hit the target most of the time.”

“As long as it is stationary, of a reasonable size, and not too far away,” she added, glancing up at him with a teasing light dancing in her eyes.

He sighed theatrically and shrugged the shoulder she wasn’t leaning against. “What can I say? I’m nearly a failure at teaching archery.”

“Just at teaching me. I’ve seen some of your other students. They do very well.”

Arwen grinned. “Who did you shoot this time?”

Lunian looked at her indignantly. “No one.” Then she smiled, giving in. “Barely.”

Legolas chuckled softly and kissed Lunian’s crown before shifting slightly. Lunian took her leg from between his and sat up, allowing him to leave. He touched her hair in a tender caress, then picked up his cloak and drew it about himself once more, the hood used to help hide his status as elf and prince from the humans in the palace who still had no idea what to do around any elf that was not at the same time their queen. His quick wink when he glanced back from the doorway was evidence enough he knew they wished to speak alone.

As soon as the door closed Lunian and Arwen both moved forward to lay on the bed as they used to when speaking of such things. It having been a while, they were definitely out of practice. They both sat back up, rubbing their foreheads. Lunian’s already displayed a bump. She gingerly moved forward, making Arwen smile as she did the same.

“I thought we would receive word when Legolas took a wife,” Arwen murmured in way of a question.

Lunian looked up at her, her eyes so solemn Arwen again felt the loss of the girl she had once known. “You would,” she stated plainly.

As Arwen looked into Lunian, she found a lot of answers to questions she could not politely ask. They had been lovers for many years, which had been obvious by their casually intimate position when Arwen entered their room, but they had never married. “Why do you refuse him?”

Lunian smiled faintly, lowering her eyes. “I want him to have hope.”

Arwen flinched, but Lunian didn’t look up, probably expecting and certainly accepting such a response. All the pieces fell into place for Arwen then—Lunian’s reasoning, and she could probably come up with Legolas’s objections, too. Still, parallel thoughts swamped her for the first minute, forcing her to face once more that she was no longer an elf, that she had chosen a mortal life. Facing death with a certainty made her more sympathetic to Lunian’s position than she imagined Legolas was. “That may be a lot to ask.”

Lunian looked up then, her eyes clear, solemn, and full of sorrow. “I know.”

Arwen nodded, and the two elf-like mortal females stared at each other until a knock came on the door, announcing dinner was awaiting their presence. Together they went to the hall, and found their places besides the ones they loved. Arwen made a mental note to speak with Legolas some time privately before they left.
caught up in each other by Nea
Aragorn didn’t know which one to talk to. The way Legolas had clung to Lunian made it plain enough she was deemed his, as did the disapproving glares of the guards. Goodness knows he had gone through enough of that sort of look before he and Arwen were married. He would no doubt still be getting them if he wasn’t the king, and if they hadn’t moved to a human realm where elves were not often found, especially since the majority had already passed to the undying lands.

Should he speak with Lunian? Or Legolas? And either way, did he have a reason to? Their relationship seemed to be working well enough for the two of them, even if it was not for the elves of the former Mirkwood.

But how much of a relationship was it? The last time he had seen Elrohir, they had discussed the matter of the frequently visiting prince. It had been obvious to everyone with eyes or ears after their initial visit to Gondor that Legolas loved her. If she had refused to love him back, by now he should have faded or gone into the west, finding no joy in Middle-Earth to hold him on these shores any longer.

So, she must have come to love him in return. Aragorn sighed softly, shaking his head. Legolas had known this could happen, and had determined to let it, if it was meant to be.

“Why so solemn, Elessar?”

That made his choice for him. Of course, he could still speak to Lunian if he felt it necessary after talking with the elven prince. “I was just wondering about how this started,” he murmured, forgetting Legolas hadn’t been thinking along the same lines he had.

“At the beginning of the—“

Aragorn realized his error quickly and shook his head. “You and Lunian,” he explained quickly, stopping the history lesson. Elves and history. You would think they would give up teaching it to beings who die so quickly, and stick to telling it to those who would live long enough to make it worth the effort of speaking and listening. “You had a chance to let it go, let it pass by untouched, untested. You chose not to.”

Legolas bowed his head slightly in acceptance of the truth of Aragorn’s words. “Yes.”

“But she never had the same choice.”

A soft sigh slipped from Legolas’s lips. “No, she did not.” The words were quietly resigned. Legolas leaned against the arched doorway leading to the garden, watched a few flowers wave in the slight breeze. “She would have avoided it, rejected it, hidden away so it couldn’t find her,” he added softly after a moment’s silent thought. Aragorn noticed Legolas’s ears pulled back ever so slightly, as if catching on a sound, so he was surprised when the elf continued. “Even knowing the price I have to be thankful I was the one given the choice. The only regret I have is that my decision to allow it a chance resulted in a situation that causes her pain, knowing I could die.” He shook his head slightly and lowered his darkened eyes from the view beyond to that of the ground just before his feet. “That alone, I would change.”

Aragorn noticed a movement in the halls behind the prince, and was about to speak when it was too late. Lunian rested her chin on the elf’s shoulder, her arms wrapping around his waist. “I would change only the uncertainty of my own end,” she murmured softly, tilting her head so her ear was against his throat.

With a look akin to sorrow Legolas placed his hands over hers, and then turned so he was able to kiss her cheek. “And have Elrohir your father?” he asked softly, drawing her around so their positions were reversed.

“Hmm,” she agreed softly, laying her head against his shoulder. “Maybe in my next life.”

Legolas closed his eyes in seeming pain. He said nothing, leaning his head down as he shifted her ever so slightly so she was nestled into his protective stance from head to toe.

Watching with a frown, Aragorn felt completely ousted. They were a functioning unit, cut off from the rest of the world without caring that they were excluding everyone else. He sighed softly and looked out at the garden, smiling as he saw Arwen coming towards him.

She smiled at him and accepted a kiss before glancing at the couple with a raised brow, silently asking him what happened. He half-shrugged and drew her slightly to one side, wrapping her loosely in his arms. “They got caught up in each other.”

Another brilliant smile lit her blue-grey eyes as she looked up at him through her lashes. “That is not hard to do with one you love.” Her palm rested against his cheek, a finger rubbing against the outer curve of his ear.

He still hadn’t figured out her fascination with his ears. But he smiled slightly and kissed her forehead, drawing her to his side as they continued down the hall, leaving the two lovers to their own little world.
today is all I have by Nea
From his position against the wall, Legolas smiled as he watched Lunian play with the two youngest daughters of Aragorn and Arwen. She fitted into their playful world as easily as if she had been playing with small children all of her life, instead of the more likely scenario, that she had only seen children from a distance and then only rarely through her life. Elf children were a somewhat rare sight, considering the elves had thousands of years in which to have children, and so were in no hurry, and that they had the knowledge that their journey to the undying lands would not be far off, in immortal terms.

“You miss them,” Arwen whispered beside him, speaking of the children he could have had, if Lunian was not so adamant about the issue, or if he had not fallen so hopelessly in love with a mortal. As the only elves in the room, their whispers would be as effective as exiting the room to avoid being overheard.

“Sometimes I wish for what could never be.”

A glance from the corner of her eye and a slightly raised brow asked him to continue.

He didn’t mind doing so, so with a half-hearted shrug he did. “I wish Aragorn could join us in the West, that Frodo was never touched by the evil of the ring, that Lunian had been born as her mother was, that I could have prevented Calmacil from hurting her, that she would have married me, agreed to be my princess and the mother to the next generation, that I could strike out the eyes of all those who don’t truly see her…” he trailed off as one of the guards came into the room. “That she and I could just be together, for the rest of immortal time, loving each other as we were meant to do,” he finished even more softly.

Arwen strained to hear the last, and sighed softly when she managed. “No other elf will accept what we have chosen, Legolas. They do not believe any mortal is worth the price. Even Elrohir, knowing well the pleasure you and I obtain from such love, even he does not understand the willingness we have to leave our immortality for that love.” She looked at her children and slowly shook her head. “Our loves prepare for us in different ways, but with as much love. Aragorn has given me a kingdom and a family. My children shall console me for a time, and I shall carry their memory until the end.” She paused, her eyes darkening as she dwelled upon that dark day which seemed so close to her mind. Then she pierced Legolas with a look as compelling as her grandmother’s. “Lunian chose to separate your love from anything or anyone else. When she is gone, you can take it with you wherever you can find solace. Her very existence should give you hope where I shall never find any. It is possible, Legolas, that she will be born again.” She blinked and released him from her gaze, but her words held him as she looked at Lunian and her children. “When you kneel beside her lifeless form, you will have to ask yourself if you want to chance her rebirth without your presence in this life.”

Legolas looked back at her for an instant. Then he focused on Lunian, who felt his gaze and glanced up with a smile that faded rapidly to a frown. She was on her feet at once, and beside him almost in the same instant, reaching cool fingers to his cheek, then his forehead.

“Egola? Are you all right?” she asked, worry in her tone and on her face.

He smiled slightly at her concern, and kissed her forehead before drawing her gently against him. “I am, my love,” he agreed softly. “Just forgetting tomorrow is tomorrow, and today is all I have.”

Lunian looked up at him for an instant, as if not quite believing he was being perfectly honest, but she sighed and kissed his jaw before returning to the young princesses who had watched the exchange with confusion, not understanding the sorrow that seemed to permeate the room.
block out the world outside by Nea
Bright blue eyes watched the storm come in, the cloud’s underbelly darkening with increasing fury as the first cracks of lightning filled his ears. He sighed softly.

“Don’t like storms?” Lunian asked softly, ducking under his arm as he turned slightly to face her.

He drew her to his side and turned his eyes back to the storm. “I like watching them,” he murmured absently, “but the sound I don’t enjoy.” The sudden, extremely sharp and loud noise was something he could very well do without. In the midst of large, violent storms he sometimes got headaches, which only made it all the worse. It was one reason he liked being in Mirkwood at such times. The mountain insulated them from the worst of the noise.

Lunian winced in sympathy, and settled in to watch the storm for a while. As the slashing rain came closer, she got an idea and tugged him inside with her.

“What are you doing?” he asked curiously as she pulled him down the hall, down some stairs, and down another hall into their room.

She smiled slightly but dropped his hand to reach the window, closing it up quickly to keep some of the outside noise outside. Then she turned to him, her smile growing wider, with a hint of playfulness. “Shut the door,” she commanded.

Legolas blinked but kicked the door shut, his mind working to assimilate the look he found in her eyes. It was demanding, needy, driven, but above all… it was seductive. A shudder tripped down his spine as he waited for her next direction.

“Come here,” she whispered, her voice failing her as she saw the answering drives in him. Lust, desire, possession, heat. Ah, the heat. Unending fire that reached into her core and would warm her up, first inside out, and then as he touched her, outside in.

When Legolas took his first step towards her, a shiver raced over her skin, and her eyes locked to his so she missed the rest of his approach, drowning in the blue flame of his desire. Fleetingly she wondered if human men were like this, so easy to rile up, so quick to accept such an offer, but she would never know and she simply did not really care to. Why should she, when her elven lover was standing just a hair’s breadth away, his head tilted down so their gazes were yet locked, his lean, lithe body held perfectly poised like a predator cat about to pounce?

“Closer,” she managed, trying to keep command in her voice since he had accepted her game. A sensual smile tilted the very corners of his mouth for an instant, but that couldn’t compare to the look in his eyes, the heat which rolled off of his body and waved over hers. He leaned forward, bringing their bodies into perfect alignment, pausing with his mouth a whisper away from hers.

She lifted her limp hands, set them on his hips and slowly swept up, leaving his shirt as it was, but only because she momentarily had a higher aim. Over his sides, the muscles of his stomach rippling as he closed his eyes, trying to maintain enough control for her to give up the game, and then over his chest, the defined muscles she could feel beneath her fingers before they were on his shoulders, then moving around his hair to his neck, rising up until her fingers stopped, poised, just before touching his ears. “Closer,” she insisted, sweeping her fingers to the points.

With a shudder his control was gone, a hungry growl erupting from his chest as his mouth took hers roughly, his hands clasping her waist to pick her up and hold her even closer as slight, uneven and hardly steady steps took them to the bed, where he more or less tossed her before crawling over her, pressing her down insistently.

She shivered and smiled, thinking idly she would have to play power games more often… before another kiss abolished thinking altogether.
Aragorn's education by Nea
Lunian looked down from the amused look Estel gave her, her cheeks heating. Was it that obvious? She ran a hand through her hair, sure it wasn’t so mussed it would give them away. A quick glance down her front assured her no clothing was missing or unfastened.

“Your eyes,” he explained softly, noting and correctly interpreting her self-exploration.

She blushed again, and sat beside him in the library. “How was your storm?” she finally asked, seeking to divert his attention any way she could.

“Not as good as yours, I imagine,” he teased with a soft chuckle, still amused by the rather obvious display of emotions in her usually enigmatic eyes. “Who would have thought elves to be so rough?” he asked, touching her lip with one finger.

Her fingers flew to her lips, her cheeks coloring yet again as she realized her lips were swollen. She looked down and smiled faintly. “I teased him into it.”

“Into what? Bruising you?” At her words Estel frowned slightly and his lips tightened, but she couldn’t tell if it was disapproval, concern, anger, or a teasing mockery meant to be a combination of all three.

“Into loosing his control,” she answered faintly.

Estel blinked in surprise, looking at her as if she had tried to sell him snake oil. “Legolas lost his control?”

“Mm-hmm,” she agreed, picking up a book that had been laid on the floor near where she had put her feet.

“I don’t think that’s possible,” Estel breathed, a stunned look on his face.

She laughed quietly. “It’s quite possible. This wasn’t the first time…” she trailed off and blushed, before clearing her throat. “That he’s lost control of himself. After Calmacil, he nearly snapped in rage. Elrohir barely brought him back.”

Aragorn frowned, still unable to think any elf could lose control, much less twice in a single human’s life. “Rage I suppose I could see, especially in that case.” He would certainly have had a hard time if anyone tried to hurt Arwen. He mentally rolled his eyes at his own assessment. He would have had a hard time retaining control of himself if any woman, whether he knew her or not, was forced or nearly forced into such a situation. “But elves always seem to have so much control,” he added, thinking about the cool demeanor elves generally displayed to all the world. Even Arwen… she had burst out in laughter, in smiles, but that was simply not the same, and he’d never seen her lose control.

“Not always,” she countered, her voice certain as if it was a long established fact.

“How so?” he asked, intrigued by the possibility.

She looked up at him, another blush darkening her cheeks and neck. Her fingers turned something in her palm, and she bit her lower lip. “You should know,” she remanded after a moment, looking down at her hand.

“I don’t,” he protested.

Her eyes flew to his, suspicion there first, as if she thought he was teasing her. Then surprise, along with a faint sorrow entered her eyes. “You don’t know?” she asked, waiting for him to shake his head. “Poor Arwen,” she murmured, wagging her head.

“What do you mean?”

Lunian shook her head again and looked up. “Does she touch your ears?”

“Yes,” he agreed, thinking of Arwen’s seeming obsession with his ears.

“Did you never wonder why?”

“Of course I have.”

“But never asked.”

“No. Why?”

Lunian rolled her eyes to the ceiling, but her reply was cut off when Legolas entered the room. Aragorn blinked in surprise to see the contented look plainly on Legolas’s face as the elf walked silently to them, picked Lunian up as if she weighed no more than a leaf, turned, sat, and settled Lunian onto his lap, his arms wrapped around her waist as he buried his face in her hair with a slight yawn.

Lunian looked at Aragorn for a moment, seeming to seek his attention. Then she shifted in Legolas’s arms, one hand moving to pull his head to hers. The kiss was a bit more passionate than Aragorn would have expected to be treated to viewing of, and he was about to look away when Lunian held up a finger, telling him to wait. She then took that finger and traced it lightly up Legolas’s ear, paused for a moment on the tip, and then drew down the outer curve.

Aragorn had been watching dispassionately, but stiffened and blinked in surprise at the response the slight touch garnered. Legolas tensed, shuddered, and pulled his mouth away to take a harsh breath of air before he groaned softly and dropped his head, biting Lunian’s shoulder lightly as another shudder wracked his frame.

Aragorn blinked again and watched Legolas try to regain his grip of his normally iron control. Lunian’s gaze flickered to Aragorn’s for an instant before she turned her attention back to the elf holding her, her hand smoothing the material of his sleeve in slow sweeps as she sought to help calm her elven lover down.

Aragorn looked down, frowning slightly as he thought about what he had just witnessed. The tips of elven ears were an erogenous zone? Heat swamped his face and neck as he considered all the times Arwen had touched his ears. Though he had of course touched hers, from time to time, he had never done so intending to stimulate her. Considering Legolas’s recent reaction to the light touch, she must have been greatly restrained at those times.

He got up from the bench, noticed only by Lunian. She glanced up at him and nodded slightly before resting her head against Legolas, who was beginning to relax, the line of his shoulders not as rigid as before.

He found his wife with three of their daughters, and watched her for a while. She smiled at him without pausing to more than flicker a look in his direction to indicate she knew he was there. As she laughed with their children, he wondered if the ear thing was something general to all elves, or just males. There could be other qualifiers as well. Maybe it didn’t work for her because of her partially human blood.

If it did, it was a source of great power he had been completely unaware of. Aragorn smiled slowly, the planes of his face shifting, a few of his small wrinkles changing direction. He would enjoy finding out.

Later.
the power humans wield by Nea
Legolas smiled to see Lunian watching the land about them as eagerly as when she had first traveled beyond the mountains around Imladris. She turned her head towards him and smiled brightly, her horse sliding over to his after a slight pressure from one of her legs. “Hi,” she murmured softly.

He smiled back and pulled her onto his horse with him, shifting her hair out of the way so he could kiss her behind her ear. “Good afternoon, Milady,” he purred into her ear, before closing his teeth lightly on its curve, knowing that would make the guards look away as nothing else could.

She chuckled softly, knowing well what he was doing, and then freed her ear by turning to face him. She shifted her legs so one was bent up against his middle, rather than turning entirely and straddling not only his horse but him. Despite the travel clothes she wore, with the guards still watching discreetly, it was hardly appropriate.

Not that he would have minded in the least.

She reached up and began braiding his hair as he usually did when traveling, but had failed to do this morning. He had been otherwise occupied at the day’s beginning, and then the look on Arwen’s face had been so amusing the mundane thought of braiding his hair had fled his mind.

Chuckling softly at the memory he turned his head obediently so she could braid the other side as well.

“What?”

He grinned down at her and playfully caught her bottom lip between his teeth. After nibbling gently for a moment he kissed her briefly and released her mouth. “I was just thinking about how… flustered Arwen was this morning.”

A soft snicker came from behind him, but neither one turned to look, though they shared an amused look. “I must say that was a first for me. Seeing any elf flustered is unusual,” she murmured softly, “but Arwen?” she shook her head and laughed softly, her eyes glowing with happiness. “I guess Estel figured it out.”

“What?” he whispered back, trying to stop the shiver that had come with the feel of her warm breath against his ear.

“The power humans can wield over elves,” she answered softly, mischievously.

“Power?” he asked, crooking one brow to add to his question.

She laughed softly and framed his face with her hands, her fingers carefully away from his ears. “Indeed,” she breathed, shifting those fingers close to his ears tauntingly.

Legolas stiffened at once, silently cursing how sensitized to the slightest touch she had shaped him to be before her insinuation stopped his mental ranting. He blinked and considered it more fully.

Lunian laughed as his eyes widened, shock mingling with humor and finally, devilish delight. “Understand?” she asked quietly, laughing again as she too recalled the pleased, if flustered, look on Arwen’s face that morning.

Legolas lifted a brow as he looked down at her, then dipped his head in a nod that became a line of biting kisses from her chin to her ear, where he once again caught her earlobe between his teeth.

She sighed softly and shivered, for she responded more to a touch there than would most humans. After a moment she shifted at last so she was straddling him, wrapping her arms about his neck as his shifted to pull her slightly closer. He nipped gently at her lower lip as she smiled slowly. “Insatiable elf,” she accused, approval, amusement, and affection mingling in the words.
not to notice by Nea
When they arrived at the palace, it was just after lunch. Lunian found herself walking through the halls singing softly, not caring if the elves thought her odd or not. In their minds, she would always be odd, so why should she care what they thought?

She was determined to no longer let their attitudes get to her. After all, she had Legolas, and in his current mood, one elf was all she could handle!

Her soft laughter at the thought hid the sound of an approaching elf behind her, so she jumped slightly when arms caught her up against a strong body. Knowing him instantly, she laughed harder and broke away, beginning a chase that took them all the way back to his room.

As the door closed behind him, she laughed at the predatory look he gave her, backing slowly away from him as he came forward. Soon she was on the bed, and he was leaning over her, his arms braced on either side of her. She reached up and smoothed some of his silvery blond hair away from his face, thinking fleetingly before he drove all thoughts from her mind about the elves that had watched them pass.

She hadn’t even noticed the disapproval. The censure. The disgust.

No, she hadn’t noticed that at all…
thinking under pressure by Nea
Legolas sighed softly and watched Lunian wander in the garden, her eyes downcast. He shook his head and entered the library as he had been intending when he instead stopped to watch her, folding his frame into one of the chairs there.

She had been so bright, buoyant and joyful when they had been in Gondor. After the first week she had begun to long for a more elven place, but she had been quite happy. Even when they returned to Mirkwood, her playfulness and enthusiasm had remained for several months.

But no longer. Now she was once again quiet, reserved, and withdrawn from all the world except for himself, his father when Thranduil had a moment for her, and Gimli, on his one visit since he first met Lunian, and that was only for a few short days on his way to Moria.

He hated seeing her like this, knowing now beyond any doubt that it wasn’t maturity or the passing of time that brought this change over her, but merely the disapproval and general lack of friendliness of the elves of Mirkwood towards her, with only himself and his father as an exception, noticeable or otherwise.

He didn’t know how much more of this he could take.

He ran a hand down his face, trying unsuccessfully to wipe the weariness he felt away. His exhaustion had nothing to do with having been awake for the last two days, and everything to do with the knowledge that he had to come up with something, and quick! He was beginning to get too concerned about her again, his own health failing as she crawled into her shell, her little stone being used almost constantly when she was around anyone but him.

What could he do? He had to take her away from here, that seemed obvious enough. But where could they go? Imladris and Lothlorien were both emptied. Gondor was full of humans, Arwen and Aragorn not enough to offset that little annoyance.

The answer flashed through his head as simply as if it had been painted behind his eyelids the whole time.

Fangorn.

He started to dismiss it, thinking it a ludicrous idea, but it refused. Why not?

He thought about it for a while, easily calling up his memories of the forest, the ancient trees that had made him feel young again. He smiled at the memory, wondering how Lunian would handle it if he started acting as a child.

Chuckling softly, he admitted she would probably have more fun and enjoy him more if he didn’t have the duties of prince.

A frown stopped the mental image. If he moved to Fangorn, his father would insist some go with them. He would, in essence, be their king. Of course, it would not be for long, and not many would go, knowing she would be with him. After all, as Lunian once said, how could a group of beings so peaceful be in such great need of a ruler? He would be able to work it out so he could spend more time with her there after the first months.

Nodding his head he got to his feet, hesitating at the door, trying to decide which way to go. Should he tell Lunian what he had decided? Ask her if she would be willing to travel with him? He winced at her reaction if he assumed incorrectly. She would give in with grace, of course, but he would be rather lonely at night for a while most likely. On the other hand, what if he spoke to her and then his father strictly forbade it?
It is decided by Nea
Thranduil’s eyes narrowed on the silence of the woman his son loved. She had been so vibrant when they returned from Gondor, but she had faded to a shadow of her former self. With a soft sigh he wondered if Legolas had noticed.

He snorted at the thought, knowing there was no way his son wouldn’t notice such a change in the woman he did his best to spend all waking and sleeping moments with. Still, was he aware how close to fading she truly was?

Hesitation paused that thought, and he brought it out again for a more careful analysis. She was mortal, but half-elven. Could she fade? If it was possible, she was on the verge of doing so. Why?

“Silomern?”

“Yes, my lord?” the elf asked, one brow lifted ever so slightly. He stepped forward from the slight shadows beside the throne he had been standing attentively in.

“Have you noticed anything about Lady Lunian?” he asked softly.

Silomern’s lips tightened, his eyes narrowing just slightly. “Besides her humanity?” the elf asked, a harsh, uncompromising note in his voice.

Thranduil frowned at his right hand elf. “She is half-elven, as well, Silomern. Besides which, Legolas’s bond with her should be enough for you to view her more kindly.”

Silomern blinked in startled surprise. “Half-elven, sire?”

“How else would a human have lived so long without aging?” Thranduil snapped, angry on her behalf, understanding now. With a wave of his hand he ordered the elf from his sight. “Be gone.”

Silomern swallowed and blinked before backing from the hall, aware he had displeased his king even if he didn’t understand why.

Well, he had gotten the answer he wanted, and he didn’t like it in the least. “Celadrim, summon my son here.”

The elf bowed and strode quickly from the room.

Thranduil waited, frowning, rubbing a hand over his chin. When Legolas entered, a brow lifted in question, he waved the other elves from the room. Only when they had not only left but closed the doors and could no longer be heard did he move. He motioned Legolas to his side, then frowned at the stone floor.

Legolas waited patiently. His father often kept him waiting while he thought out how best to word something or how to go about getting to the point.

“My son,” Thranduil started, “I wish to speak to you about Lunian.”

Legolas glanced down slightly, trying to keep a frown from his brow. “Yes Father?” he asked, congratulating himself for his steady tone.

“I have noticed her change, Legolas. It troubles me, but I know not what to do about it.” Legolas glanced up at his father’s gentle tone. Thranduil nodded knowingly, with sympathy and compassion in his wise eyes. “A royal decree is out of the question. That would only make things worse, even if she knew nothing of it.”

Legolas nodded, a muscle twitching in his jaw. “I know.”

Thranduil nodded in approval, seeing his son had worked things out, at least to some degree. “Have you any solutions?”

Legolas lowered his gaze once more. After a moment’s hesitation, his choice was made, and he spoke softly. “One.” When his father said nothing, he looked up. “I wished to speak with you on a somewhat different matter.” Not waiting for permission, he ploughed ahead. “I wish to remove to Fangorn with any elves who wish to go. The woods are ancient, have probably been on Middle-Earth longer than the elves. There is a lot we could learn there, and I think some of our people would agree to travel with me.”

With them. Lunian and Legolas. Any who went would have to do so accepting that she would be with the prince, would have to accept him as their king, and his decision as law. Those who left would have to accept her as their queen, in function if not name. Even during the journey, when she would probably become more lively once more, and then in the construction of homes, they would start to see with more than the eyes of elves who believe there is nothing in the world of men that could affect them positively in any way. Hopefully, they would begin to accept her as those in Imladris had since her beginning.

If all went well, she would find a home among the elves that would go with Legolas to Fangorn.

Slowly he nodded, seeing the true wisdom in such an idea. “Have you asked Lunian to go with you?”

“Not yet. I was on my way to do so when I was summoned.”

“Then you are dismissed,” Thranduil murmured. “You will announce your decision when you are ready.”

“Yes, Father.”
sizing the mortal up by Nea
Lunian smiled slightly, lost in her memories.

Legolas stood at the head of the table, one hand raised in a plea for silence. Not a minute passed before every being in the hall was quiet, waiting for the prince’s announcement.

“Elves of Middle-Earth,” he began, smiling slightly as he glanced at a few who had traveled from Lothlorien, and still did not view themselves Mirkwood elves. “In my time with the fellowship, when the hobbits were separated from the rest of us, Aragorn, Gimli and I came to an ancient wood. The trees are lighter than those of Mirkwood, though they more so show their age. Ents, tree herders, live within the forest still. They would welcome elves in their woods once more.” He paused and drew himself up to his full height, his eyes flashing as he looked around the hall. “I plan to remove there within a year. Any who wish to explore that ancient forest, to know it before we all leave these shores are welcome to join me. There is no need for haste in your decision. Enjoy what remains of the night,” he bowed his head slightly, concluding his little spiel, and held out a hand for Lunian.

She blushed slightly, not having expected being put on the spot, but she rose beside him, tucked into his embrace while he glanced to his father, receiving a nod of dismissal.

After that, he had taken her back to their room and crawled into bed, saying nothing more than his typical, ‘sleep well, my love,’ before he fell into a deep sleep.

That had been three months ago, and since then elves had been crawling out of the woodwork to see her, speak to her. The first dozen times she had been knocked for a loop, but she had gotten used to it. When they first came, they said only a few things, asked her a question or two, blinked as if in surprise, and left. They always returned before more than a few days had passed, with more questions or more things to say.

Legolas had said they were sizing her up, and she had to agree. She could think of no other reason they would go from glaring at her coldly from a distance to approaching her themselves.

“Lunian?” a soft voice asked.

She blinked and turned, seeing a she-elf behind her. “Yes, Nallina?”

Nallina’s ears flushed slightly and she lowered her eyes. As far as elves went, she was young. No more than nine hundred years. “I wondered if you would walk with me in the gardens,” she murmured softly, still not looking at her.

Lunian smiled, her heart leaping up in her chest. “I was on my way anyway. Have you a preference?”

Nallina shook her head. “Not really. I like being outside, but…”

“You don’t want to wear weaponry just to be around flowers,” Lunian finished dryly.

Nallina’s wide blue eyes blinked at her in surprise, and then she smiled in pleasure. “Exactly,” she agreed.
on their way by Nea
The mare beneath her pranced to the side, avoiding the stallion Legolas was riding. He spoke to the horse in irritation, but she would not be so easily soothed, so they were forced to ride separately for much of the day.

When they paused for lunch and general rest, Legolas tried to have a serious conversation with the two horses, but they wanted nothing to do with it, still skittering away from each other.

Lunian laughed and approached him with a teasing smile. “I think you’ve lost your touch.”

“I’d rather have your horse here than this stubborn mule of an excuse for a horse,” he snorted, glaring with extreme annoyance at the horse she had been given to ride.

She laughed again and reached up to rub the horse’s neck. “She doesn’t like him, Egola. That’s all.”

“But as long as that’s true, they won’t let us ride beside each other.” His eyes reminded her silently they always rode side by side if not on the same horse when traveling together.

She tilted her head at him, then looked at the horse. Though she missed her horse, her mare’s granddaughter, though young, was still endearing herself to Lunian rather quickly. “What do you say? Can you set aside your difference of opinion with that beast of a horse,” she ignored the way Legolas’s horse’s ears flattened when she said that, “so he and I can ride near each other? After all, it is what the prince desires.” Her horse stared at her for a long moment, then bowed her head, hanging it low as if to graze. Laughter escaped her again, and she sent a teasing glance to Legolas. “You’ve lost your touch with the ladies, I’m afraid.”

“Do you love me?” he asked softly, tilting his head at her.

“Of course,” she agreed, feeling several eyes uncomfortably focused on her.

“Then I haven’t entirely lost my touch.”

She shook her head. “I’m afraid that’s not conclusive proof. I’d love you if you turned into an orc, at this point.”

“An orc?” he asked, his tone doubtful.

“As long as you still loved me,” she agreed, smiling at his disgusted face for the idea of being turned into an orc.

“There will never be a chance for that to be false,” he promised, kissing her, intending only a quick touch before he would pull back, but one led to another, and another, until they were unlocked from a rather passionate embrace by the clearing of a male throat.

Silomern watched them with a slight frown, but glanced down when Legolas looked at him questioningly. “We are ready to move on, my lord.”
make it right by Nea
Wiping the sweat from his brow, Legolas couldn’t help but pause to watch Lunian as she helped with the set-up of one of the completed talans. She glanced down at him and smiled, waving a few fingers before returning to work. He smiled faintly and returned to work, lending his hand at the timbers they were forming for use in the other dwellings.

Some of the elves had protested when he had insisted he and Lunian needed nothing more than the others for their dwelling, proclaiming he would need somewhere to hold court. They still hadn’t agreed entirely on that part, but their talan was complete. There were some plans up for grabs about an informal court room nearby, but nothing definite yet. He could live without one, but he knew it would be a good idea to at least make a show of being the ruler.

He preferred being the leader, to the king. Well, why not?

He grinned at his thoughts, liking the freedom he had gained from moving outside, away from the palace. It was the freedom he had only felt before when traveling or visiting another realm for a short time. He liked it.

Out of consideration for Lunian’s human eyes and the aches of the rest of the group, they called a halt when the sun began to slip behind the trees. After the meal, which was happy if subdued, all the elves with talans finished went up to sleep. Those who didn’t shared the clearing that had been worn bare by the constant passing of feet. Not that there had been much in the way of vegetation beneath the trees, anyway.

Legolas lifted a hand to one of the workers in his group, saying a silent goodnight before he looked around. He spied Lunian standing with a group of she-elves near the edge of the clearing. He slipped up behind her and slipped his arms around her waist. She had been expecting him since the she-elves had all glanced at him at one time or another during his silent approach.

She glanced at him over her shoulder and smiled, then nodded at the group, excusing herself. “Yes, my lord?” she teased when she turned to him.

He smiled back, kissing her quickly. “I wondered if Milady would care to join me in rest.”

“Rest only?” she pouted, causing several blinks in the group behind her.

He laughed softly. “If you can stay awake, you’re welcome to do so,” he teased back, seeing exhaustion in her eyes. She started to respond, but he shook his head. “Love, I can see that you are fighting sleep even as we stand here talking. For my sake if not your own, go to bed.”

“Your sake?” she asked, looking a bit disgruntled.

“How am I supposed to carry you up a ladder while you sleep?”

She rolled her eyes and shook her head before walking away from him towards their talan. He nodded his head at the she-elves before following Lunian.

The elves remaining on the ground looked after them for a long moment, then collectively lowered their eyes in shame.

“How could we have been so unseeing?” Nallina asked softly. “Why were we unable to understand?”

Silomern, who had come only to help with the construction before he would report back to the king, shook his head. “We failed to see several things. Not only that she is more like an elf than a human, but also the great love they have for each other. Perhaps here the gross error so many of us committed can be put right.”
the king has tasted the bitterness by Nea
Legolas’s grip of the parchment in his hand tightened, as did the muscles in his jaw. Lunian was sitting in the window seat he had built for her in their talan, her eyes staring out at the world beyond, not a muscle betraying she knew he had entered, but he knew she was aware of him. She always knew where he was, just as he could always point someone in her direction.

The years in Fangorn had been good to them both. The community of elves had accepted her as an elf with rounded ears who needed more rest and less wine, which had allowed her the bright, laughing spirit she had usually been in Imladris.

She was ageing, though. Slowly, but she was growing older. A hint of silver was struck off every now and again in her dark golden hair. He had played with the hairs while she slept against him on occasion, finding a few more each time, but there were still a very small number. Small wrinkles had appeared around the corners of her eyes and at the edges of her mouth. Still, her eyes were bright and her laughter joyful.

The last time he had seen Aragorn, he had tried to picture Lunian in such a way: mostly silver hair, wrinkles folding and creasing the skin which was no longer youthfully radiant. The picture had been fairly pleasant. Aragorn’s eyes had been clear though, clear and bright, just as determined as when he was a youthful eighty-seven on their journey to save Middle-Earth.

Thinking of Aragorn he looked down at the letter Arwen’s servant had delivered. “He is gone,” he stated at long last.

Lunian still didn’t move, but a tear slipped from her eye. “I know.”

Legolas moved to her side, then knelt before her, brushing the tear away, finding a companion on her other cheek. “How?” he asked softly, worried when her eyes refused to focus on anything even now that he was close.

“A human messenger had to bring tidings from Estel’s land. Your grief reached me before you came to tell me. He has lived over two hundred years. His time has been coming for a while.”

He closed his eyes and shook his head. “He could have lived longer,” he whispered, forgetting he had meant not to disclose that part of Arwen’s letter.

“Could he?” Lunian asked, catching his gaze for the first time. “If he died, it was his time. Who else could determine it?”

He bowed his head, letting it rest against her knee as he tried to find the same peace with Aragorn’s death as it seemed she had. Gentle fingers combed through his hair, the only sound in a world that seemed to have gone silent in mourning.

After a time he looked up, seeing a few more tears had run down her cheeks. He wiped them away before getting to his feet, lifting her into his arms before seating himself where she had been. “How can you accept it so calmly?” he asked, for the tears had nearly dried on her cheeks, and no other showed signs of falling.

She smiled wearily and stretched out in such a way he could still see her face but so they were not actually looking directly at each other. Her gaze went blankly to the window, seeing nothing, for the thickness of thoughts. “Humans are meant to die from the beginning of their lives, Egola. We must accept that early on, and live our lives accordingly. You know this.”

“But I still cannot understand how you accept death. What is death, to you?” It was a question he had never considered asking. For elves it was an end, unless their lives had been cut too short. But what was it to those who grew up knowing they had to one day die?

“Eternal rest, peace. For those who have lived well and fully, it is seen as a reward, in a way, though it still has its bitterness all mortals must taste.” She sighed softly before looking at him. “Elves were not made to die. Do not worry yourself about it. You shall never know the taste.”

He bowed his head but made no reply, for they had gone down that road often enough already. “Are you planning on leaving?” he asked, surprising himself with how difficult it was to speak. His throat felt strangely thick. He blinked in surprise, feeling his eyes growing watery. He was about to cry? He hadn’t cried since his mother left—several thousand years ago. As he had trouble breathing, heat coming into his face, dryness clawing at his throat while moisture scratched behind his eyes, he was glad it had been a long time, and wished it could have been longer.

Lunian was upright and in his arms before he could finish registering the escape of a single droplet of moisture. “Estel was seventy years older than am I. You have a while yet, Egola.” She drew back, frowning in distress when she found the dampness on his cheek. Framing his face in her hands she leaned forward, sipping up his tears, before she kissed his eyes, cheeks and nose, letting him take control for a longer kiss before they separated just enough to curl into each others arms, turning together to watch the sun set on the reign of the human king, and on the times of his elven queen’s happiness.

From now on she would wander in heartbreak, despair, not accepted to the undying lands as he would be, should he choose to one day go. As Legolas drew his love closer, recalling the years he had spent with her, he could not imagine his life without her, and wondered if Arwen would have faded away before Lunian died, or if he and Arwen could try to console each other before leaving the world forever.
never aging, always changing by Nea
Gimli grunted and backed away from the edge of the talan, his graying beard waving in the gentle breeze that swept through the upper branches of the tree. “A wood-elf haven,” he grumbled, looking at the talans mostly hidden in the trees around him.

Legolas smiled slightly and led Gimli on to the talan he had been given for his use the first time he had visited.

“This is still available?”

“It was built with guests in mind,” Legolas agreed absently. Of course, they had not gotten many guests. Some elves had traveled from Mirkwood, but the journey seemed pointless when all would be reunited in the undying lands before too much time had passed. Aragorn and Arwen had come a few times, but he and Lunian usually visited them every three or four years until Aragorn’s death. Since then they hadn’t made the journey once. “You are welcome as long as you like, my friend,” Legolas murmured softly, seeing Gimli was aging as well.

It seemed like everyone around him was aging, while he never did.

His disgusted thought was brought up short as a bit of common sense hit him square between the eyes. Of course they did! Of course he didn’t! He was an ELF, he didn’t age in a way that was noticeable in the lifetime of any mortal!

He had never wished that it had been any other way. He would not change his race if he could. Though he didn’t age, he certainly changed, as his friendships outside the elves would show anyone at first glance. He had, after all, been born a Mirkwood elf, at the time when they were as suspicious of strangers as dwarves who guard gold.

He did still wish Lunian had been born an elf, as she should have been, of course, but he had given up hoping she would live forever. He had many years yet to live.

Gimli’s huffing brought him back from his musings.

“Dinner will be shortly. If you do not join us, some food will be brought up to you.”

“Thank you, Master Elf,” Gimli muttered gruffly, his small dark eyes shining as he looked up at Legolas.

Legolas smiled slightly and bowed his head. “It is good to see you, too, Master Dwarf.”

At dinner Lunian saw the sympathy in Gimli’s gaze as she slowly managed to get her bones to move her to her feet, then into a crouch so she could greet him at eye-level. “It is about time you returned, Gimli,” she murmured softly. “It is good to see you well.”

Gimli frowned slightly, sending a worried glance to Legolas from the corner of his eye. Then he looked back at her and nodded. “You too, Lady Lunian,” he muttered gruffly.

She smiled, seeing in the exchange he hadn’t told Legolas her request of him the last time he had visited. She had told him then to return in a few years. He had, and it was time. She nodded and braced herself for the pain she would encounter when straightening. Thankfully, Legolas hadn’t picked up on it yet. It had only become bad in the last season, her joints protesting nearly every move she made. Slowly she eased herself up, bracing herself on Gimli’s obliging shoulder.

“Tomorrow, I think,” she whispered softly, knowing Legolas had heard but wouldn’t ask until they were alone, if then.

After dinner she pulled Nallina aside and handed her a letter, making her promise to read it on the next full moon. Nallina tilted her head at it, then shrugged and laughed at being handed a puzzle, hugging Lunian quickly before flittering off somewhere else, still as youthful as when she had first approached the young woman Lunian had once been.
the sun sets in winter by Nea
It was time. Lunian removed the tie from the end of her braided silver hair, letting the long, thin tresses hang down to her waist before she slowly made her way to the ground. Gimli was waiting for her at the tree’s base, and she smiled faintly at him before nodding in the direction of the horses.

Legolas didn’t understand why she wished to go to Imladris, but had made ready, and stood beside his horse as he waited for her. “Well, friend Gimli, have you learned to ride yet?” he asked teasingly.

Gimli gave him a soulful look, but allowed the solemnity of the moment to pass, falling into the easy camaraderie he had shared with the elf in times long since passed, to the ways of anyone who would one day die. “Of course, you silly elf.” He tried to hoist himself onto the horse, but succeeded only in falling to the ground. Legolas helped him up and onto the horse quickly and thankfully without comment, before swinging himself onto the other horse’s back. Gracefully as ever, Gimli noted, a tad bitter, since he saw the way old age had crept up on Lunian as easily as he knew it was coming to him.

“With whom shall you ride, Milady?” Legolas asked softly, smiling down at the woman he obviously adored.

Lunian sighed and offered him her hand. With a grin he pulled her up, not feeling the pain shoot through her for his abrupt movements.

“Take it easy, Elf!” Gimli barked from the other horse. “Don’t pull her arm off!”

Legolas frowned in distress, looking at Lunian, seeing for the first time pain lines bracketing her mouth as she clamped her teeth on her lower lip. “Love?” he asked softly, rubbing her arm gently.

“I am better,” she said softly. She didn’t look at him. “Let us go, please.”

Feeling like he was missing something important, he urged the horse to a walk, then called to Gimli’s horse, who seemed content to stand in one place all day. In silence they rode, pausing only for meals.

Lunian must have been hurt when he pulled her up, Legolas decided when she winced upon touching the ground once more. He stayed at her side, offering her a hand when he could, but she waved him off.

“Come and eat, Elf. Let her walk it off.” Gimli’s voice called him away, but Legolas’s eyes followed Lunian as she moved with a look of pain on her face around the camp, her movements horribly slow.

Finally he could take it no longer, moving to her side before he was aware of stirring. “Lunian, my love, what pains you so? Have I hurt you?”

She bit her lip and cried out when his hands closed over her shoulders, and she carefully backed away. “I am sorry, Legolas, you have not hurt me. I am merely stiff from riding all day.” She failed to mention the pain in his eyes was just as cutting, though in a different way. “I will be better in a while.”

‘I will be better in a while’ seemed to be her answer for everything as the trip to Imladris continued. Legolas grew increasingly concerned, and then worried. When he saw her hand had curled over the worry stone which had been little used in recent years as far as he knew, his uncertainty grew beyond anything he had experienced before.

After a seeming lifetime, they reached Imladris, or the physical remains of the once great elven dwelling. A few shadowy remains of buildings yet lingered, along with crooked stairs and broken paths. Nothing else indicated anyone had lived there once, save a few overgrown patches of flowers that didn’t seem to belong where they were.

It was to the small glen that she and Elrohir had often frequented that Lunian walked. She took a deep breath and looked around, a faint smile replacing the weariness that had been on her face for far too much of the journey. She moved to a tree and sat down so her back was to it. She sighed peacefully and closed her eyes.

Legolas looked at Gimli, who looked back without any sign of knowing why they had to come to Imladris for her to sit beneath a tree. Legolas moved to sit beside her, offering her his warmth as a cool breeze slithered through the barren branches around them. “Lunian?” he asked softly, reaching out to tuck some of her hair behind her ear. The silver mass shifted on the wind, brushing across her wrinkled skin.

She smiled faintly and opened her faded eyes. “Did Elrohir ever tell you I was born in the garden?” she asked softly, as if speaking to herself. “He said I was born right here. He and Lenaith had been here when I began coming. I wouldn’t let her move inside. I wanted to be born in the sunlight.” Shaking her head she closed her eyes. “I may have enjoyed the stars, but I was never a child of them. I was born as the sun began rising, Lenaith died as it set.”

Legolas frowned, not understanding what she was getting at, if she was indeed getting at anything. He took the hand with the stone in his, squeezing it gently. “Lunian, why are we here?”

She blinked at him, seemed to come back from a great distance. Then she smiled and reached out to touch his cheek. “I was born here at sunrise many years ago. I will die here, at sunset.”

“In many more years, perhaps,” he agreed, still frowning.

She closed her eyes and shook her head. “Today. My time has come, Legolas.”

“No.”

She smiled at his protest, the denial building in his eyes, but nodded her head. “I shall not see the stars this night.”

Legolas’s mind had gone utterly blank. She couldn’t die. Not yet. “You could live for many more years,” he pleaded, moving to his knees beside her so he could look into her eyes.

Weariness looked back at him, combined with a love so pure it was dizzying. “I am old.”

“You are young,” he countered.

She shook her head with a slight smile, closing her eyes as if she lacked the strength to keep them open. “In the ways of elves only. I am no elf.”

“Half.”

“Half,” she agreed. “And you must remember that, and all it could mean. I do not wish to die twice.”

He searched her face, seeing with painful clarity the wrinkles of her translucent skin, the silver of her thinning hair, the slight opaqueness in her eyes. He opened his mouth to protest again, but could no longer deny what he had forced himself not to see, not to understand.

She smiled gently, understanding his problem, his protests, his fears. Undoubtedly she had thought of them all at least once before now. “I have lived a long, full, and ultimately joyous life. I am ready to rest, and it is time for me to do so.”

His throat constricted, roughening his voice when he was able to speak. “You could stay with me a while longer, let me say goodbye properly.”

She smiled again, a faint, wistful smile that cut into him. She was saying goodbye. “I have already stayed longer than I should have for you. My body is worn out, my eyes grow dim. I must go before my mind follows the rest of my physical form. I will not remain so you can lose me even as I sit beside you. That would be much worse than simply saying goodbye here, which you would see if you would think with your mind for a moment.”

“How can I think when my heart is breaking?” he whispered, feeling moisture build in his eyes and claw at his throat.

“You shall have many years to think about it later, Legolas. But now, the day is waning, and we have other things to discuss.” She reached out and touched his cheek, feeling each feature of his beloved face with her fingers.

Legolas looked up at the sky, seeing his time with her would be incredibly short. Never before had a day slipped away so quickly, nor had any elf wished so fervently for it to stop, back up, and simply start over if it had to start at all. He shook his head slowly, looking at her for a long moment.

Lunian caught her lip between her teeth at that look. Sorrow, pain, despair, anguish, but worst of all, heartbreak. “Don’t you dare die on me now. I’m the mortal, I’m the one, the only one, who dies today. You promised me you would remember. I want to see you again, Legolas, when I can see clearly once more, when my hands don’t ache so I can touch you without pain, when we can have the lifetimes forbidden to mortals.”

He closed his eyes, swallowed, and shuddered. In his mind all of his doubts returned, compounded by seeing her giving up on life, her strength seeping from her even as he tried to get her to stay with him. Could he continue?

Could he chance her rebirth without his presence?

He still didn’t know what his ultimate decision would be. Pain turned to numbness, leaving him only aware of her eyes. As the sun was hidden by clouds the pupils opened wider, hiding some of the gold, only to have the gold reappear as soon as the sun did. He had thought to watch that change all of his life, and the decision was nearly upon him, but he still didn’t know.

“I am sorry, my dear one, my love, but there is no other way.” She touched his cheek, her finger trailing down to his jaw.

He caught her hand and brought it to his lips. She gave him a watery smile, and turned her hand in his. When she pulled it back, the worry stone rested in his palm. He frowned and looked up at her.

She half smiled and closed her eyes. “I shall not need it any longer. Perhaps you shall.”

With a swallow he closed his hand tightly around the stone, sensing the sun beginning to drip behind the mountains. “I’m not ready to die,” he whispered, catching her eyes again. “Nor to be alone.”

Another twist of her lips. “That is why Gimli is here, Egola. He may not be adequate compensation, but he is a friend.” She shifted her tongue from the one Gimli knew for a moment. “And his passage will not be valid after his death. Keep him with you.” She looked beyond him, glancing first at the waterfall and then at the sky. “Say goodbye to her for me, will you? I always put some autumn leaves next to her statue.” Gimli shifted uncomfortably, frowning at this, apparently wondering if she had taken leave of her senses. “The day is slipping away.”

Despair welled within Legolas, shaking him to his core. “Not yet.”

“You have a few minutes,” she agreed. “Remember, and you will not lose me.”

His hands trembled as he reached out to her, cupping her face, brushing at her cheeks, feeling the curve of her ears, tracing her lips and eyes. He let them slip to her hair, one stroking through the fragile length as the other held her head gently as he moved forward, kissing her with all his anguish and love. Then he drew her into his arms, wanting to hold onto her forever. He bent his head to hers again, trying to convince her the only way he could, since words had already failed.

Lunian shook her head when he lifted his to kiss her forehead, a silent denial to his plea. “Are you sure?” she asked softly when he didn’t release her.

A tear slipped from his eye, splashing next to her pale lips. “There is no other way,” he whispered softly, blinking his eyes rapidly to keep her in focus, holding her closer still.

Her smile was remarkably composed, considering the chaos his insides were in. Death would have almost been a relief for him at that moment, but he wouldn’t make her see that. He could endure to her end, at least. She touched his cheek one last time. “Let the stars be your comfort.” She drew a deep breath, savoring the night air and the slight scent of flowers and autumn leaves to go with that of her elven love. “You have my love, Legolas of Thranduil.”

The steady gaze held his even as life seemed to seep out of her from her feet, which were outside his embrace, up her legs, through her arms, and finally her breath congealed in her throat, the lashes fluttering shut with the last bit of life she possessed so he didn’t see it slip out of her golden green eyes as the world bled into darkness.

The world was awash with his tears as he cradled her, rocking slightly. He gave up trying to hold them in and let them take over.

Gimli shifted from his position, sitting beside Legolas as the elf openly displayed his grief. Gimli kept his own to a few tears, surprised at the noise a heartbroken elf could make, his soft sobs echoing in the silent woods. Ineffectively Gimli patted the elf’s back, knowing he could do naught but wait.

Eventually Legolas’s sobs quieted, his tears slowed. He released the limp form he had cradled, laying her gently upon the ground. Tenderly he stroked her silvery hair away from her face, drying the path of his tears on her face. “Gerich meleth nīn,” he whispered softly, kissing her forehead.

“What does that mean?” Gimli asked as quietly as such a robust dwarf could.

Legolas drew a shuddering breath, a finger tracing Lunian’s still features, resting lightly on the cooling lips. “You have my love.”
mother and daughter together at last by Nea
Gimli glanced up when Legolas emerged from behind the waterfall. He watched as the downcast elf walked slowly over to the mound of freshly turned earth.

Legolas stared blankly down at the black ground, seeing without noticing for a long moment. Then he blinked and shook himself. “You were careful not to disturb them?” he asked softly, his grief growing as he noticed what he stared at.

“Aye,” Gimli agreed, leaning against the shovel Lunian had quietly told him to bring with him on his previous visit to Fangorn, though she had not explained either its use, or why she did not have Legolas bring one.

Legolas nodded, tilting his head as he thought about the history of this glen. “It is rather ironic, Gimli. Here Elrohir and Lenaith fell in love. Here Lunian was born, and Lenaith died. Here I fell in love with Lunian, and here she died. Mother and daughter laid to rest beneath the ground together, when neither should have ceased to walk upon it.”

“What now?” Gimli asked after a moment’s pause.

Legolas looked down at his hand, at the grey stone he held. He traced the small silver lines with his nail, recalling Lunian doing similarly on thousands of occasions. Maybe she had been right, he mused thoughtfully, rolling the stone in his hand. After a moment he turned to Gimli. “We return to Fangorn.” If nothing else, the elves should know not to worry about him, to travel on to the undying lands.

“That’s the spirit, lad. She wanted you to continue on.”

Legolas slowly turned his head to face the dwarf. “That’s all it is Gimli. I exist. I no longer live.”
why do I breath? by Nea
Nallina let out her expectant breath with relief. “Here comes Lord Legolas!” she shouted down to the others around.

They all froze for an instant. Then motion occurred in a flurry, some rushing up to the branches to see beyond the forest, some going to the mountain, others calling from where they were. “Are you sure?”

“Is Lunian with him?”

Nallina sighed softly. “She is not with him.”

Silence gripped the group, held it even as Legolas and Gimli entered the forest, dismounted and turned together to Legolas and Lunian’s talan. Nallina was the only one bold enough to stop their lord. “Lunian, my lord?”

Lifeless eyes lifted to hers. “Gone.” The one word was a hollow echo.

Nallina stepped back as if struck. A walking corpse would seem more lively than the Lord of Fangorn did at that moment. “My lord, are you well?” she asked softly, hoping he would give her some hope with his answer.

He let out a short, bitter laugh that no one would dream of associating with humor. “Well? I know not why I walk, why I eat, why I breathe. There is no reason, no point. The only thing I know for certain is that even death could not be worse than this.” His eyes bored into her, chilling her until he released her to approach the tree he lived in. “Go to the havens. I am no longer here for you.”

Nallina trembled and fought within herself, but slowly her feet followed him, and she entered the talan. The dwarf was there, eating silently while casting worried looks at Legolas, who sat on the edge of the bed he had shared with Lunian for so long, his face in his hands. “My lord?” she whispered softly. He made no move to show he had heard her. “She left a letter with me, when you three journeyed to Imladris, or what of it remained. She wanted me to call you Egola if you didn’t respond, and to tell you to hold onto hope, not to abandon her.” Nallina swallowed at the burning intensity of Legolas’s eyes. His head had jerked up when she called him Egola, angry at first before his mind assimilated what she had said, and then she wasn’t sure what was running through his mind.

He looked away, and his hand clenched around something. Slowly he nodded. “Has everyone prepared to depart?”

“Yes, my lord. We began when I read her letter, and waited only for your return.”

His eyes were unreadable when he glanced up. He nodded. “I will be ready—“ he trailed off and glanced back at the dwarf. “Give us until the following day,” he changed his mind, taking into consideration the ageing dwarf’s lack of riding talent.

Nallina bowed her head and left the talan, frowning as she tried to decipher how he felt. Would he live? Was he going to pass with them to the undying lands?

Inside the talan, Legolas and Gimli’s thoughts were both running in similar directions. Neither knew, and not a word was spoken about it as each prepared for rest. If Gimli noticed Legolas’s hand remained clenched tightly about the stone in his palm, he said nothing.
before the tale is told by Nea
Their path had been completed in haste, no one wishing to delay in the hopes their hasty exit would save their lord, but he watched them board the silver ship without moving, no expression discernable in either his face or his eyes. His hair alone moved, shimmering on the wind under the light of the stars.

Nallina turned to him, the last in the line. “You are coming?” she half asked, half insisted.

Legolas took a deep breath and slowly shook his head. “I cannot.” He sighed heavily, all the weight of the world in the sound. “Not until I know it is what I wish to do. As long as I am here, I have the option to fade away. If I pass to the undying lands, that choice is taken, and I may have to endure an eternity of emptiness, on the verge of fading without ever quite doing so.”

Nallina could see his pain, but she could not understand the desire to die. Still, she knew it was not her place to question him. Instead she nodded and swallowed, looking towards the ship that awaited them.

“Go,” Legolas murmured, seeing her indecision. “Tell my parents I yet live, though in uncertainty.” When she nodded he glanced down at his companion. “Master dwarf, you have been granted passage on that ship. There may never be another. Go, and see Galadriel once more, or stay, and perhaps find yourself standing helplessly by as one of the last elves on Middle-Earth passes into death.”

Gimli hesitated for only a moment. Then he looked up at Nallina and nodded. “Tell the Lady for me that I hope to see her again one day, and that she is never far from my thoughts.” When the she-elf looked at him in surprise, he shrugged. “Can’t leave the lad to pine away alone, can I?” She smiled before turning to run to the ship, leaving the last of the fellowship standing on the shores, watching the ship with little overall emotion. “Come on, elf. Let us at least wander while you think. There are many places yet I have not seen. May as well see some of them before the tale is told, one way or another.”
this existence is enough by Nea
As Legolas looked out at the destruction that was still clearly visible, he sighed softly. He could bring to mind without any effort the last time he had been here.

Gimli shuddered dramatically. “I never thought to come here again,” he muttered.

Legolas shrugged. “It was one of the few places left to travel to.”

“We have already been here. Let us look no farther.”

Legolas drew a deep breath, only partially aware how much cleaner the air was this time around. “Very well, Gimli. Where would you have us go?”

“We could always go to Lothlorien,” Gimli grumbled softly.

Legolas would have smiled, once, but now it was too much effort. “There are no elves there any longer, my friend.”

“I know, but the memory will be more cheerful than this.” Gimli huffed and turned his back on the former black gates of Mordor.

Closing his eyes for a brief moment, Legolas finally followed Gimli as the dwarf walked back towards the west. Always west he wanted to go. With a sigh Legolas conceded he knew the reason for that. A small part of him wished to see his mother, his father, and hear of the ring bearers again. But the majority of him was still undecided, uncertain, filled only with a vast and consuming emptiness.

He had traveled around Middle-Earth with Gimli, and everyplace he had never been with Lunian had still reminded him of her somehow, whether he could imagine her reaction to it or dreamed she was there to see him with it, or was glad she wasn’t, as in the case of Mordor.

It was so much worse when they traveled somewhere he had known her. Lothlorien he had avoided, knowing he would find her there just as much as he had in Imladris after her death. Everywhere he turned he could remember her there, her smile, her laughter, her concerned or worried green eyes. It was all too much.

The sea called to him once more, the pull louder than ever, taking over his waking moments, haunting his dreams with its bitterly sweet taste. Was that the taste of death she had described? The only thing that kept him on these shores was knowing he would not be allowed to fade away if he would rather die. There was just enough there to keep him alive… but the existence he was in was not enough. He had not truly smiled since she died. He had not had a moment’s true, unshadowed happiness, and the false moments had been very few and years between.

The final decision was almost upon him. Gimli grew ever older, his legs having trouble keeping up since their horses had been turned to pasture and ultimately died several years back. He knew those waiting in the west for him would be loosing hope, but somehow he could not quite bring himself to care. The only one he wanted to see again wouldn’t be there.

With a sigh Legolas rested his hand upon Gimli’s shoulder. “It is time,” he murmured, and they wound their weary steps towards Mithland.
death stared back by Nea
Gimli situated himself in the bottom of the grey boat Legolas had built, then turned to glance at the elf in question. Legolas stood silently on the shore, looking into the mist that rolled off the waves. Gimli shook his head as he interpreted the look, correctly, as one of indecision. He sighed and waited.

Legolas's sharp eyes could not pierce the mist, could not see the undying lands to discover if there was any hope there. Turning around he looked back at Middle-Earth, the land he had spent his entire life traveling. He no longer had family, a kingdom, a home, or even friends there. Everything had passed away or was ready to do so, as Gimli's white beard indicated. There was nothing for him there.

But was there anything in the west? His mother. His father. Elrond. Galadriel. Elladan, Elrohir. Elrohir. he pulled that name out for closer study, thinking of the murmur of the trees he had felt as he cradled Lunian's lifeless form. They had whispered he was not the first. The bones in the ground had been enough to assure him of that. Elrohir might know how to continue on with only the faintest spark of hope.

Hope.

It was what Lunian had wanted him to have, what everyone who knew the whole truth had tried to assure him was true, though they could no more know that than anyone else. I do not wish to die twice.

He swallowed and clenched his hand around the sweaty grey stone as he recalled Lunian's words, and Arwen's as well. Could he really risk Lunian being reborn without being there? Could he let what little will and life remained within him pass away, when she could be waiting for a chance to live? Could he truly die himself? He had known death for an instant when she died, and it was a bitter taste indeed.

Hope.

It was nothing. It had no warmth, no value in exchange, no ability to warm the night or keep hungry animals at bay.

Hope.

It was everything. It held the heart and soul in the body, warmed the spirit through the coldness produced by loneliness and despair, filled the void left by loss, accepted the pain and gave light instead. It was the most valuable thing anyone could have. It was in the West.

It would be many long years before he saw her again, most likely. Assuming she would be reborn. She would probably be born of Lenaith and Elrohir, and even if Lenaith had been reborn immediately, she would have needed most of Lunian's life to age enough for Elrohir to marry her, and that only if she did not take the time for a second childhood, opting instead to more or less pick up where she had left off in her life.

Could he wait? Would the slight flicker of hope that was kindled in him now survive the passage, much less the time he would have to wait before he could see her, hold her, tell her to sleep well while resting beside her at night?

Having no answers, he glanced at the stone in his hand, traced the silver lines. He turned and looked at the shore behind him. Death stared back.
the keeper of the stone by Nea
Nallina's eyes widened in shock and pleasure. "Lord Legolas!" she cried, "And Gimli," she laughed, wading out to meet the small craft. "It's about time," she informed them. "Your parents will wish to see you at once."

"Of course," Legolas agreed. He was slightly revived, the sweetness of the air and the dizzying green around him combining to force some light back into the empty shell he had become. "Do you wish to come with me, Gimli, or seek out the lady?"

"I think you'll be all right from here, and family reunions should be merely that."

Legolas almost smiled and followed Nallina. Gimli was waved off down a separate path before long, but the two elves continued on. With every step life tried to flow into him, but he was not ready to allow it.

Above and around them elven dwellings boasted colorful happiness, songs on the air. Felts, talans, and open aired homes like those of Imladris were scattered along the road. Many stopped them and welcomed Legolas back home, but there were many he had never seen, who certainly were not wood-elves. Were these elves that had never stopped in Middle-Earth? Gone west ages before? He had never considered there could be so many elves.

"It is beautiful, isn't it?" Nallina asked softly.

Legolas nodded in awe and turned his head as he heard something. A small river flowed nearby. Without asking he diverted his path to find it. A gentle brook greeted him, and accepted his weary feet after he removed his boots.

Soft musical laughter flowed around him, and he felt peace stir within him for the first time since the sun had set on Lunian's life. He looked down at her worry stone, followed the silver lines with his finger.

A small child ran into the clearing, laughing joyously, her blond hair shimmering on the slight breeze. "I win!" she called back to someone a ways behind, seeming oblivious of the tears in her leggings or the mud on her bare feet. Then she turned to him, and tilted her head in inquisitive study. He took in her slightly square jaw, her green flecked silvery blue eyes, and blinked. She grinned at him. "Hi. My name's Lunian."

He couldn't breathe. "Lunian?" he rasped.

"Yep," she agreed, walking over to him. She looked at his hand. "Whatcha got?"

He numbly opened his fist.

She picked up the stone before he could think to stop her, sure someone was playing a dangerously cruel joke. Her squeal of delight stopped him from reacting. "My worry stone!" she exclaimed. "Do you remember, Father?" she asked over her shoulder without looking away from the stone she turned in her small fist. Tiny fingers brushed her light blond hair behind a delicately pointed ear. "You were trying to teach me how to swim, and told me you had dropped it at the bottom of the pool so I would go down and get it." She laughed delightedly. "When I figured out you had tricked me, I stormed off and spent the day pouting in my room. Then Arwen came in," her eyes darkened slightly in sadness unbefitting a child so young, "and told me it was a good worry stone." She brightened as if the sun had come out from behind a cloud. "She was right."

Looking over her shoulder, Legolas blinked to see Elrohir leaning against one of the white trees with his arms crossed over his chest, watching the child with amused affection. "I remember, little one," he agreed softly.

The little Lunian before him turned back, smiling with blinding happiness. "Thanks for keeping it for me," she chirped. Then she moved forward, taking his face between her small hands. She inched up on her tiptoes and turned his head down, touching her lips to his in a little girl kiss that anyone watching would view with tenderness and a bit of humor, since though the action was seen as somewhat inappropriate since it was such an intimate touch, it was seen as perfectly innocent because of her youth.

He knew better. For an instant, a flicker of the Lunian he had known was in her eyes, in the small, secretive smile she gave him as her fingers slid slightly closer to his ears before she dropped her tiny hands and turned, running to Elrohir, showing him the stone.

"I see, little one. Your mother will be anxious," he murmured, sending her off.

"Okay," she heaved an exaggerated sigh and ran off, her blond hair streaming behind her. "Bye, Egola!" she called just before he lost complete track of her running steps.

With a blink he fell from his perched position to the ground.

Elrohir laughed and sat beside him, grinning still when Legolas buried his face in his hands with a groan. "It's about time you came, Egola," he teased. "Lenaith and I were beginning to worry you had forgotten Lunian was blameless in her mortality."

"Lenaith?" Legolas breathed.

Elrohir chuckled delightedly. "She was here when I passed, my friend. Not many years went by before her father agreed that with her memories of her previous life she was old enough for us to wed. It was not long before the elves of Fangorn traveled here."

"And. Lunian?" he asked, his voice still scratchy, remembering all too well that he and Gimli had laid her lifeless body in a dark hole next to the bones of another female.

"Was born a few years later. You stayed in indecisiveness for a long while."

"Only to mortals." Legolas shook the comment aside.

Elrohir shrugged, accepting the inevitable argument that elves could always make when it came to matters of time. Then he grew pensive, slowly turning to face his friend. "She is an elf now, Legolas. While she does have many memories of her past life even as we speak, she may never recall them all, since she was human then."

Legolas truly smiled for the first time since she had died. "Elrohir, I am in no hurry." He could let her have her elven childhood. The time would seem extremely short compared to the torturous existence he had been enduring.

With a nod, Elrohir smiled faintly. "That's good. Her mother was entirely denied watching her grow, and I had under thirty years. We are in no hurry to give her to you just yet."

A slow smile built in his eyes before turning his lips. "Elrohir, she is already mine. While I will let her have her childhood, that will not change. You cannot keep me from visiting."

"I would not. She has looked to the east since she was old enough to do so on her own." For him.

Legolas closed his eyes and tilted his head back, welcoming the warmth of the sun. He rested against the rock and let the life and joy around him seep back into his being, strengthening his will now that he had more than hope. He had certainty.

If she had been reborn without her memories, he would have had to wait for her to turn to him in love all over again, hoping she did so, not put off by his age. With her memories of her life before, with him, he merely had to wait for her to feel she was ready to leave her mother and true father's house.

He wouldn't need a worry stone for that, and he knew Elrohir and Lenaith would make sure she didn't need one, either.
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