8. Chapter 7
At last Ethuiel came to him and he could not contain his elation. When he took her in his arms in a strong embrace, he felt that a deep change had indeed taken place. It was not, however, the one for which he had so fervently prayed. Her hold seemed lifeless and her eyes had grown dim. He remembered his vow of patience and hid his frustration though he lamented in his heart; for it seemed to him that not only had he failed to gain her love, but had also lost the desire that she bore him and had sworn was his alone.
During the following days he saw her little, but always went to her flet at nightfall. She spoke far less and her laughter became difficult to provoke. She seemed to drift in a dead, dreamless sleep and Legolas despaired of how to wrest her from it. He knew that his time in Lothlórien was growing short. He knew that he must leave her—probably forever, and he did not wish for his dying thoughts to be of a ruined beloved.
Two nights before they were to set out once again, Legolas made his way to Ethuiel’s loft; searching his mind for a magic verse or song to free her. Alas, he arrived without one prepared. He swallowed the lump in his throat and called for the ladder. It was sent down and he sighed deeply and climbed slowly to the top. He entered and there he saw Ethuiel, standing with many dimly lit lamps around her. She wore a gossamer, silver sheath that flowed off of her shoulders, revealing her arms and long, shapely neck. Strands of diamonds were weaved into the dark tresses that hung about her bare back. Her loveliness was startling.
Legolas felt his heart leap with hope, but as he advanced, that hope died. Her eyes were still a mist of shadow and the light of the lamps shrank from her. She turned away from him and slowly walked to her bed. Standing at the foot she bade him come near. He reached her and she took his hand and kissed it.
“Of all the years that this dreadful curse has plagued me, this phase, that I am told is of healing, has been by far the worst. If it be truly mending, I cannot then bear to be healed. In my mind it has killed me at last, but laughs cruelly at my stirring death. Half of your wish has been granted, Legolas. My heart has, without doubt, been emptied yet again, quite completely. It appears, though, that the gates are porous in one direction only, that being outwardly. I plead with you now to lay your hands upon me. Take me into this bed that it might revive, at the least, the desire that lies dead in the waste of my heart." She paused and stared at him with eyes that were at once imploring and vacant. She continued, but the words came hard. "I can endure the silence there no longer. Help me lest I cut it from myself completely."
Again, Ethuiel kissed his hand and placed it upon her throat, while her hands loosed the broach of his cloak. It slid from his shoulders and floated softly to the floor. She lifted her mouth and he took it with a tender, hazy passion. His hands drifted lightly to her back and he cradled her willowy frame as gently as his strong arms would allow as he lifted and laid her upon the bed. Running his fingertips lightly over the scar that was now stayed just above her ankle, he found it closed and quiet. When he looked back into her face, the Elf saw there a flicker of want. For a moment, the lights leapt back into her eyes. Legolas needed no more assurance than this to show him that this course of action was the correct one. Drawing his love close to him, he kissed and traced the lines of her body with intense need. She sighed and whispered to his lips, provoking him further.
His passion was overbearing. He had to show her that his love for her was true;
steadfast--deathless as their kind. Legolas did not merely love her beauty and her wit. He loved her torment as well. The sadness it brought into his heart was an agony, but it was a part of her. He would endure it for as long as it could abide. The love he bore her was stronger; he had to show her that this was the unshakable truth, beyond question. Kneeling upon the bed at her feet, and locking her gaze to his, he lifted her scarred foot slowly to his lips. He would not be kept out. The thorns and razors that blocked all else, would let him pass.
Her long arms drifted above her head in surrender as she whispered his name with deep and labored breath. It set him aflame. But as he bore down with his lips, his yearning, intoxicating and thick, he felt the lash grow. It was but a slight movement; far less than an inch, but when he felt it happen, a thought—a terrible thought rent Legolas' mind as a knife slices through flesh. “Should her desire return before love, will love be allowed to follow?" The very idea made him shrink back from her.
He stood up, shaking visibly. Ethuiel sat up looking frightened and confused. She held out her palm and pleaded with her eyes. Legolas turned from her trying to find words for his anguish. He paced about the room for a moment but, at last, found his tongue. “To deny you any want is a scald upon my soul, Ethuiel; my love, my light. Although your desire is my dearest delight, without your love I will not receive it."
Ethuiel moved to the edge of the bed and spoke in a tone that expressed her offence. “I fear, my Lord, that it is yours whether you will or you nill!"
Legolas answered with a flash of anger, “Do not call me your ‘Lord' when it is clear that you will not allow it to be so!"
Ethuiel approached him and smiled warmly. Gently, she placed her hands upon his face. “You know little of what I will or will not allow. Allow me to put this question to you. What is it that each of us may have to lose in slaking my desire? For you, it is your heart, which you claim is mine at present. Now me, what is it that I shall lose in the venture? Walking death? Bareness? Ah, and of course, my maiden skin." She stared into his eyes and saw his own deep desire. She smiled wryly. “To my mind it would be well bestowed this night, and one thing fewer to carry about ever more."
Legolas smiled, dumbstruck. Clasping his hand, she led him back to the bed and knelt upon it. Gently she placed her hands upon his chest and kissed him. Again, she whispered, “Oh Legolas, what then is love without desire? It would be that which one feels for mother or father; or for dear friend. That is love which you already possess, and I have no mind to provide you with such in any case. Love is an immeasurable gem; brilliant and white. I grant you that freely, but if it cannot be mine shall I forsake all else that is left to me?" She caressed his lips with her own in urgent passion and tried to sway him to her thought. “Is not desire a precious jewel of its own? Flaming red and radiant, is its brightness and glory poorer or less priceless? I wear this gem upon my hand and it burns there for you alone. Please my dearest one; accept the only gift I have to give you." She gazed beseechingly into his eyes. “This may well be our only chance, Legolas. I leave on errand at sunrise, and you will be away ere I return. Mere hours we have left to us now."
Legolas was not prepared to hear those words. His heart fell to his feet and hot tears could not be stopped from spilling. He clutched her to his body and fell upon her. Desperately he kissed her and caressed her with trembling hands. The bitter sweetness of her touch, the texture of her gentle sighs and the feel of her body, arching softly against his, fed his hunger and his misery at once. Soon the awful thought of ruining her forever scorched his mind once more. Again he recoiled and battled with his tears.
“Oh Ethuiel!" he cried, “I yet have hope to return and find you whole! I cannot stake love against desire, for I must have both or none. Desire is as you say, truly a bright jewel, but red it does not burn if it is not worn upon the same hand with love’s white. Alone it is only the black of lust. I thought that my gem was brilliant enough to consume us both with love’s light, but it is clear to me now that your stone is the stronger and could destroy mine with one blow."
He took her shoulders strongly in his hands and held her eyes with his own. "I love you, Ethuiel. With all of my purpose and strength, I love you. I must leave you now that I might keep it safe. I shall need it where I am going."
Ethuiel’s face was wet with tears. Legolas sobbed and took her in to him for what he thought might be their final embrace. One last sweet kiss from her mouth and one long look upon her fair, sorrowful face he took. Then he broke from her and departed without a farewell.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.