35. Chapter Thirty-Five
Long months passed and winter took hold of the lands outside of the Golden Wood. Though the Queen's Ring no longer held such sway as to keep the land as it once was, still the power of the Noldor herself held the elements back.
Haldir slowly recovered. His mind screamed, when first he woke, but the arms of those he loved entwined about him and eased his terror. Within a month of the attack, he was walking again. The three of them would stroll amongst the trees and all who watched did so with a smile upon their lips. Though Haldir's face held pain and sorrow, still he smiled as his hands were held, on the right by Haldirriel's and on the left by Legolas'.
As spring lengthened into summer Gimli, called beyond his adulation to his Lady by the work still to be done in Minas Tirith, left them. Bitter was the parting of Legolas and his Dwarf friend. Many promises were made of future meetings. Haldirriel, touched by the Dwarf's steadfast love and loyalty to Legolas, gifted him with a gilded leaf from a branch that meandered through Galadriel's own bedchamber. The Dwarf, when told where the leaf came from, became tongue-tied, clung to Haldirriel for a moment, then gruffly walked south, accompanied by a host of Galadhrim, led by Orophin himself.
Thranduil sent an escort for Siriondil. Though they had been parted many years, Haldirriel felt a deep sense of loss. She wanted to keep her brother close by her side for at least another month or even year. Gravely, she stood as he embraced her. "I owe you my life, Haldirriel. I knew you would come for me; save me, but I knew not how. Thank you, again." She could only hold onto him tighter. At last, he pulled her away and kissed her on the forehead. "Come back home soon. I know you must stay with Haldir until he is healed, but you need healing yourself. You need the oaken forests, you need your people." She nodded; he sighed. "I do hope to see you again. Do not sail without a fare well." She wept and leaned against him. He kissed her one more time, then turned and disappeared into the forest.
At last, summer came full upon them. Haldirriel sensed the tension in Legolas and tried to ignore it. However, one evening, he came to them. "I cannot stay any longer." He shuddered. "The sea-longing. It calls me and I can no longer fight it. I will not sail, I promise, not without you, but I must be away and hear the gulls and smell the salt in the air. I must go to Minas Tirith."
Legolas took his lover in his arms and kissed the tears from his cheeks. "Please understand."
"I do," the Lórien Elf cried in deep distress, "believe me, I do understand, but my heart is breaking. Will we see you again?"
"Oh!" Legolas cried aloud, "I will return. At least once a year. And then, when the time is right, we will sail together. And I will take Gimli with us."
Both Haldir and Haldirriel laughed. "It will be a good joke to play upon the Valar. A Dwarf in Valinor."
"I have one request," Legolas blushed and hung his head.
"Anything!" both Haldir and Haldirriel answered.
"It has been a year now since... I know you were horribly assailed, Haldir, but I have missed..." He blushed again.
"As have I," Haldir said quietly. "I am grateful to you both. You have been kind and patient with me. I could not..."
"It is too much to ask," Legolas sighed. "I am sorry. I will leave on the morrow, with your permission."
"Nay," Haldir put his hand on Legolas' arm. "Give me some time to prepare."
Legolas shook his head. "I cannot ask this of you. It is too soon. When I come back, next spring, perhaps?"
Haldir hung his head. Haldirriel walked Legolas to the door. "Will you come by to fare well us tomorrow?"
"You know I will. I have to pack. And do something, other things. I want to find Rúmil, try to reconcile him to his brothers. I feel it is because of me that they are sundered."
"If that is what you wish, though Rúmil brought the sundering upon them. He is as stubborn as..." She laughed lightly. "He reminds me of your Adar. Thranduil did about the same thing when Galadriel and Celeborn came to Lórien, did he not?" After a brief pause, she kissed him lightly. "He will be ready, when you return."
He nodded and left.
"I cannot bear this," Haldir cried. "I cannot bear his leaving us. And unfulfilled too."
"He understands, Haldir. He loves you deeply and he will wait."
"Nay! I am ready. Just - not here. Haldirriel, can we go to the hot springs? You remember them - where we bonded."
Her eyes widened. "Yes! Oh, yes, Haldir. That would be perfect." She turned and called to the Wood Elf. "Legolas! Come back a moment?"
The Silvan Elf waved and began to climb again to the talan. "What? Is there aught amiss?"
"You tell him," Haldirriel beamed. She turned to Legolas, "Haldir has something he would ask of you." She shivered in anticipation.
"Please sit for a moment?"
Legolas did so, looking quizzically at them both. "I do not understand."
Haldir sat next to Legolas and took his hand in his own. "I cannot do it here. I do not know why."
The Wood Elf interrupted. "I told you I understand, Haldir. We will wait. I can wait. I will wait."
"Nay. Please, let me finish. I want this to be special, as special as our bonding; therefore, I would like to travel back to the hot springs and reaffirm our bond there. As soon as possible."
"You..." Legolas could hardly catch his breath. "You would do that?" He laughed aloud and hugged Haldir tightly to him. "Haldirriel! Did you hear this? We are going to... Oh! Valar be praised, we are going to be one again." Tears welled and fell. He hugged Haldirriel tightly. "We are going to be one again."
She cried and held him to her. "We leave on the morrow?"
He leapt up; joy-filled singing filled the talan. "We go to love again! We go to live again!" He danced about as Haldir and Haldirriel laughed wildly, tears streaming down all their faces. "I will send a note to Aragorn," Legolas quickly sobered. "I will tell him I leave for Gondor in a fortnight. That is enough time, is it not? Nay, nay! In a month. Or perhaps two." He giggled. "This is inconceivable. This is wonderful. This is beyond belief." The three fell to the talan's floor, laughing, hugging, tickling, tasting.
By morning, they were packed. The Queen had heard the laughter and surmised the healing of Haldir was nigh unto complete. When they came to her, requesting permission to take the journey, she smiled broadly. "I will send a company with you, though Beorn's kin now guard the area well. When you are ready to return, do so. I do not care how long it is. My Elves will search the area, ostensibly for Yrch, but they will be there if you need them. Otherwise, ignore them." Celeborn smiled and agreed.
Within the hour, they were mounted and headed north to the Loeg Ningloron. Within two days, they would reach the River. They would camp there and then, when morning came, the three lovers would leave the company and ride west to the hot springs. Orophin commanded the troop; his face filled with delight at the assignment, though his heart ached for Rúmil. The younger brother refused to be part of the family and had moved to the southern border of Lórien. They never saw him again and it broke both Orophin and Haldir's hearts. But now, the fulfillment of the Lady's promise had come true. Haldir was well and truly healed. Nothing could take the joy from this day.
As evening came the first night, Haldir turned westward. "Remember Gimli? Remember how he could smell Kheled-zâram? I thought him quite mad, but I believe I can smell it myself."
Haldirriel walked to his side and rubbed his back. "That was so very long ago."
"It was," Legolas said as he quietly stepped next to the two. "I am sorry he is not with us."
"He would be bored to tears. Sitting by the campfire waiting for us to return. Who knows how long we will be," Haldir laughed. "He was hardly patient whilst we traveled the first time. You remember, Legolas? How he started moving about after...?" Haldir blushed. "That was a fine time we had."
"It was indeed," Legolas smiled back at him.
"And without me? I do not think it could have been such a fine time," Haldirriel groused. She turned and walked back to the camp.
Both Ellyn smiled. Haldir took Legolas' hand and held it to his chest. "Soon, melethron nîn, soon we will be one again, wholly, completely. Can you wait?"
"Not easily," Legolas' breath was becoming drawn and ragged. "I think it best we return to the camp now, else I do something we would both regret. The joy of our coupling at the hot springs will be worth the sacrifice we offer now."
Haldir sighed. "I suppose so."
Legolas laughed and embraced him. "Come, Haldirriel will be saddened if we do not return."
They broke out their bedrolls and placed them next to each other's. The camp settled for the night. None of the bonded three slept as anticipation gripped them.
A/N - 1) Loeg Ningloron - Gladden Fields 2) Kheled-zâram - Mirrowmere