32. Chapter Thirty-Two
A full two hours were needed to make the litters. During that time, the Silvan Elves made preparations of their own. Legolas left her for a moment to speak with Orophin.
Haldirriel did not keep watch upon the preparations, but as twilight began, Amroth came to her. "Will you and Prince Legolas return to Eryn Lasgalen with us?"
She took his hand. "I would go home, if I could, but you know I have given my heart to Haldir of Lórien. I cannot forswear that bond. I would not. As for Prince Legolas, his life has changed and he is also bound, for a time, to Haldir. Neither of us will accompany our people. I am sure the prince will send a missive with you to his Adar, if you are willing to carry it."
"I would do so even if you sent it." Amroth smiled. "You have been sorely missed. The prince is rarely home, and life in Eryn Lasgalen is, what word should I use? Tame, yes, tame indeed."
She stood and embraced him. "I cannot thank you enough for your help. I doubt we would have victory if you had not offered the help of your company. I miss the tall oak trees by the stronghold. Mellyrn do not have the same feel, though those who live in Lórien seem to love them as much as we love our forest."
"They do. They speak as if the Valar themselves lived within their woods."
"Amroth. Take care when you leave here. We have no idea if Yrch were flushed from the caverns and tunnels during the battle. More could be about."
"And you, my Lady. Take care yourself. I would feel more at ease if a contingent of our own people rode with you. I am not sure how skilled the Elves of Lórien are. Will they be able to protect you?"
Haldirriel smiled. "You are a very silly Ellon. The Elves of the Wood are not the only warriors in Middle-earth!"
"I will not tell King Thranduil you said that."
"I have missed you too, dear friend. Now, find Legolas and take his missive home with you."
He bowed and left her. An Elf horn blew three clear notes. She was surprised to find tears in her eyes as the Silvan Elves left for Thranduil's kingdom. She straightened her back and turned towards Haldir. "Oh! Legolas. I did not hear you return."
"I sent a missive to my Adar telling him of the events here. Amroth took it with him. It is difficult watching them go, is it not?"
"It is. I miss our home." She shook her head. "I suppose I am remiss in saying such a thing. Wherever Haldir is, that is home. However, I miss the trees and the rivers, the Elf-children playing. There is more life in our land than in Lórien, now that the Lady's power has diminished."
"I suspect she will leave soon for the West."
"I think that would break Haldir's heart."
"Nay," Legolas said quietly, "she is no threat to you."
"I did not say that. Merely that Haldir loves her as his Queen."
Legolas sighed and held Haldir's hand. "It is still cold. He would not fade, would he, Haldirriel?"
"Nay." She grasped Legolas free hand in hers. "We will not let him. Are the litters ready? I would be away from here. Much as I love the trees, this part of Thranduil's realm has yet to recover. I am uncomfortable here."
"Orophin is in charge. As soon as he gives the order, we will be away."
At that very moment, Orophin's clear voice rang out. "Away now to Lórien. Too long have we delayed. Pick up the litters and let us be off."
Legolas and Haldirriel took Haldir's though there was some small altercation amongst the Galadhrim and it took Orophin to resolve the conflict. "Legolas and Haldirriel will carry our Marchwarden."
She could have hugged him for that. Though evening was settling upon the land, the Elves did not need light to find their way to the river.
They crossed the Anduin and made camp on the eastern side. Darkness was upon them. Haldir and Gimli had still not awakened; the two bond-mates laid Singollo's litter next to Haldir's and Gimli's. During the night, Haldirriel and Legolas took turns with the watch. Though the Galadhrim had set pickets around the perimeter of the camp, neither Elleth nor Ellon could bare to leave their family unattended.
"I will take first watch, if you do not mind?" Legolas asked. "I cannot sleep."
Haldirriel smiled. "Neither can I, but we both must. Take the first watch and wake me when it is time. We have a long march tomorrow. By tomorrow night, we may find ourselves in Caras Galadhon."
"As soon as we cross the border, I believe more Galadhrim will join us. Our pace should increase with fresh hands helping to carry the litters. I agree; we should reach Lórien's city before dark."
"If he wakes...?"
"I will call you."
She nodded, set out her bedroll, and fell instantly asleep.
Legolas sat and watched her; his heart ached. Now that their mission was near completion, he would be leaving her... and Haldir. His heart caught in his throat at the thought. If Haldir survived, 'But he must; he will. He is a Marchwarden. He has been through worse.' He shuddered. 'Nay, this is the worst. None could live through this. Mayhap I should delay my departure.' On his way to Lórien, Legolas had sent a missive to Thranduil stating he would be stopping for a visit within the month. That timeframe was long since past. Yet, his Adar would understand the delay once Amroth reached the Elven king's stronghold and placed the missive in his hands. His lips tightened. 'I will not leave until he bids me leave.' Tears fell. "Haldir." He bent over the still body. "Stay with us. The tales of Valinor are much exaggerated. The rains fall there, the wind blows. Glorfindel says there is discord among the Elves there. Please, Haldir, you would not be happy there. Not yet. You can heal here, with me at your side. Please, Haldir."
"Does he hear you?"
"Orophin! Rúmil!" He blushed. "I hope he does."
"So you think it best he remains here in Middle-earth? Even after what was done to him?"
The Green Elf stood up and looked Haldir's elder brother in the eye. "I do."
"But you do not plan on staying with him? How can you be bonded and be apart?"
"I will stay till he is well. Really well. I will know when the time is right."
"You are so very wise?"
The coldness in Orophin's voice startled Legolas. "I claim no wisdom, but I believe my heart will tell me."
"Your heart that even now is torn by sea-longing? For how much longer do you think you can keep the longing at bay?"
"I already vowed I would not leave until Arwen..."
The three Elves stood, silent, as the mention of Arwen's choice once again assailed them.
"So you wait?" Elladan's voice startled them from their reverie.
Legolas sat, and did not reply, sorrowed by so many things. He saw Haldirriel stir and offered her his arms. At the moment, he did not know which of them needed comforting more.
Elladan and Elrohir followed his lead. "Come Orophin, Rúmil. Lay down your anger and sit with us," the elder twin said calmly. "Elrohir, move over a bit. Legolas, would you stoke the fire?"
Legolas nodded and left the comfort of Haldirriel's arms. He walked into the forest, suddenly very glad for the diversion.
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