5. Chapter 4
Legolas raised her chin to look into her eyes. "If it could be emptied yet again and if I could place there but a tenth of what my heart holds for you, ours would be a love greater than songs could tell of, unless of course the songs were composed by you lissier. Even for you it would make a great task."
"I would that it could be done," she answered. "And I would compose such music to express my love and my joy, that it would spread them hither and thither and cause the deserts to bloom and little children to grow an inch where they stood," she said laughingly, but after a moment she grew shadowy once more. "But sadly, it shall not be." she sighed.
Legolas' face darkened. "Do you tell me then that you cannot ever love me? If that is so then I am fooled, or merely a fool; for to me, the desire in your eyes was clear."
She shifted her self about so that she could look at him strait on then placed her face next to his so that she could speak into his ear. "You are no fool Legolas Greenleaf." she whispered and kissed him gently, but seductively on the lobe. He felt it course through him like a shock to his feet. "A lissi," she whispered again. When she looked on him he saw a smoldering want in her eyes. He was nearly undone. "My desire for you is as great as it is old." she said with her lips nearly touching his.
She sat up slowly and a nostalgic grin came over her face. "Oh Legolas, you cannot even know. I desired you before I knew what desire was. I think I was a child of perhaps five when I first saw you and knew only that I did not care to look on anything else if you were near. By the time I reached seven I would stare out of my window and see you standing in front of the House of the Tree. I would gaze on you for hours if permitted. It often got to a point when my eyes would ache and burn, for if you were in sight for a long period of time, I refused to blink." she chuckled to herself. "I was afraid that I might miss something; a movement, a smile, a laugh. Oh Elbereth! I never would have got over it had I missed a laugh!
"On one occasion, I recall, I believe it was the Festival of the Guard, there was a maid who was speaking to you for what I felt was far too lengthy a time. I must have been boring a hole through her, for my mother noticed and said, 'Do not stare so Ethuiel. If you desire such a gown, I shall make one for you!' Had she only known of my true desire, ha! I tell you that maid could have counted herself lucky that I was not yet acquainted with bow and arrow, for I would have shot her dead where she stood!"
They were both laughing rather hardily and she placed her hand on her forehead and turned away.
Legolas, beaming cried, “Oh do go on, lissier!"
Ethuiel faced him again and told him thus, "I confessed it to my mother the next day. I went to her and said, 'Mother, when I am grown, I wish to wed Legolas Greenleaf of the House of the Tree.' Do you know what that woman did?" He shook his head. "She said, 'Very well little one. Shall we go and ask him now?' I thought I would turn to stone!" They laughed long at this.
At length he said, "I remember your mother well. She had a great wit and was always quite droll." Ethuiel nodded in agreement.
In a moment she said, "I loved you then Legolas. It was a child's love, but love nevertheless, and I believe now that it would have grown to that of a woman. Had Gondolin stood, perhaps I would have made you a bride."
Legolas looked bewildered and hurt. "Is it time that killed that love that it cannot be revived?"
She sat up straight and looked at him gravely. "If any love could pass the rocks and razors that bar my heart, that love would be yours alone. I do not say that I cannot love you. I say that I cannot love. And joy too is estranged from me. Even in Lórien they elude me. Why do you think that I sought to come and dwell hither? It was my hope that Galadriel, the Lady of Light, could heal me of my pain, and return what was lost to me. Alas, it seems that even Galadriel cannot restore what is dead.
"My ability to love, I think, died in the street with a poisoned dart in her back; and my facility for joy lays breathless at the bottom of a well with a balrog beneath him."
She got up from the couch and began clutching at her skirts and pacing the floor. The cruel memories of all that had befallen her flooded her mind in a torrent of blood-lust and loss. Behind her eyes flashed the vision of her mother's last moments; sharp and vicious; gasping in agony, and screaming for someone to save her child with her last breath. The last thing she saw as she was being swept away from the carnage was her mother's lifeless body being trampled and kicked by beasts of unimaginable hideousness and finally being set aflame to burn in the street.
Hanging her head to hide her face, Ethuiel began to cry. She whispered through her tears. "Oh, Silriel were your wit not so sharp and your face not so fair might I have loved again though you could not? Could my eyes see aught else but your tears?" She stormed about the floor at a frenetic pace. She thought of the father who did naught but laugh and sing in her presence, falling, falling, burning as he went down. It struck her as a falling tower of dread. "Oh, Ecthelion," she cried out, "Mightiest of Elves with gentlest hand! Were your voice not so melodious could mine sing of joy once yours was silenced?" Legolas watched the lash grow in horror. "And now Gandalf the Grey shares my father’s fate." Ethuiel turned and pointed her finger at Legolas. "And you left him to it!" The scar opened and began to bleed out. "How could you leave him Legolas? How could you do it? Why, why?" She was trembling with fury. He sat spellbound with wide eyes and mouth agape. She crumpled to the floor in a sobbing heap.
Legolas broke from his trance and rushed to where she lay. He lifted her from the floor and brought her to her bed. He laid her down and went quickly to fetch water and bindings to cleanse and dress the wound. When he returned he found that she was quiet and pensive. He sat down beside her and examined her foot and leg. "Elbereth Gilthoniel." he muttered. The blood had slowed to a trickle, but it looked exceedingly painful. She did not wince though when he began to clean and wrap it. As he was going about it, she spoke. "Forgive me Legolas. I did not mean that terrible thing I said to you." There was a shadow of a smile on her face and she batted her eyelashes at him. He mirrored her and wrapped his arms about her tightly.
After a time Legolas spoke again. "Although I do not wish to rouse you further tonight, I do wish to speak with you at greater length in regard to your 'inability to love or feel joy' as you say. How do you believe such a thing of yourself, Ethuiel? Clearly, your concern for Gandalf and for all Middle Earth is great, and yet you say you do not love. You are, I am told, The Lady’s champion. Surely one could not hold an office of such import who did not possess a great love for her. How do you know that your love is dead, especially when it is unmistakable that so many love you?"
She looked at him with a puzzled expression trying to find a way to make him grasp her plight. Finally she said, “Have you ever got a burn Legolas?"
He looked then equally confounded. "Well yes I am sure I have on occasion got a slight burn."
"Are you burning now?"
"Don't toy with me woman!" he said with a smile. "Certainly I am not burning now!"
"How do you know?"
"Well, I know it very plainly for I remember how it felt."
As he said it, he understood her meaning. There was a little smirk on her face. "I too remember how it felt. It is precisely how I know that I do not feel it now; for anything.
"As for your concern with my office," she continued, "the Lady chose wisely though she knows I do not love her. She knows that I would protect her viciously and to the end as a tigress protects her cubs. But also she knows that such ferocity would be elicited by hatred of them as opposed to love of her. She sees my seething wrath and knows its efficaciousness." She paused and sighed deeply. "But know also that neither do I say that I do not care for my Lady. I feel more fondness for her and for her children than do I for any others who live--save you vana edhel." She paused and smiled at him, but continued with a haunted face. "And yet, despite my lack, she loves me most dearly. She tells this to me often, and shows it to me always. Ah, but if I could love as does Galadriel. I covet the way she loves; her lord, her children, the land and her people--all. I fear that when she does at last sail over the Sea, she will take fully half of the love in Middle Earth with her. I hope what she leaves will be enough. I do care, Legolas; but for me--there are limits."
He sighed heavily, but embraced her and kissed her cheek. He wished to speak further on the matter, but saw in her eyes that she was weary. She had also given him a good scare with that leg, and he did not wish to relive the episode a second time that evening--or any if it could be avoided. He chose not to risk inciting her; at least not until the light of day was about them. "I believe that you may yet be healed, Ethuiel," he said soothingly, "but I will not press the matter further this night."
She began to climb out of the bed saying that she was thirsty. Legolas stopped her and said that he would fetch some water, or wine, or miruvour--or an Orc's head on a stick if she were hungry as well. She declined explaining that she had taken her supper earlier and that some water would suffice, but perhaps another time.
vana edhel - It literally translates to "fair elf", but I like to think of it as "pretty boy". :)
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