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A Bard's Tale

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Prologue

"Hey Siri, call Sugarbear."

Flipping open the visor mirror, Laurelin carefully applied her lip-liner and the red lipstick she always wore for performances. It was one of her long standing good luck rituals, and like so many artists, she was very superstitious and reluctant to do anything that might jeopardize a positive streak of gigs.

"Now calling Sugarbear," replied the pleasant British male voice she currently had her iPhone's Siri set to. While she waited for her brother to pick up, she dusted on a bit of powder and made sure her hair looked decent. She still had a few minutes left until she had to go inside and get set up. Her brother's groggy voice finally came on the line.

"Laurelin, is that you, girl? Are you alright, is anything wrong?"

She slapped a hand to her forehead. "Hey Vin, it's me, nothing's wrong. I'm so sorry, I forgot about the time difference. I didn't mean to wake you up, I'm about to go into a little pub and play, and I just wanted to hear your voice. I'm just...I don't know."

"It's alright, hun, I'd rather talk to you than sleep. Have you got a weapon on you, just in case any of those New Zealand boys have one too many and try to get frisky?"

She laughed and shook her head. Her brother had always been obsessed with her safety, and probably always would be. "I have two butterfly blades tucked into my boots, and a hunting knife in my luggage. Would you relax? New Zealand is a very safe country, nothing like when I went to Morocco."

Vincent grunted. "There are nuts around every corner, you know that. How was your trip there? Were the flights okay?"

"It was fine. I got stuck between two old grannies for the longer flight, but I didn't mind, it was almost like getting to visit with Mawmaw again."

He chuckled before he went silent. "Did you talk to Dad and Momma and let them know you got there safe?"

She sighed and picked at a hangnail. "I called Daddy at the office. I'm not ready to talk to Momma yet, not after her weird freak-out when I told her I was coming here."

Vincent breathed a sigh into the phone, and she could hear him pouring something into a glass. "Don't be too hard on her, you know she just wanted you to grow up normal and protected, and not be affected by what she sees as her mistake."

She shook her head. "Well shit, Vincent, I just love knowing that I'm the family mistake."

"Dammit, Laurelin, that's not what I meant and you know it. Do what you think you need to there to make peace with it, and then get your ass home. It's time for you to settle down. Maybe you could open a tree farm or something. Charge people to come and commune with nature, and play and sing for 'em while they do. You could probably make a fortune off all the folks from California that would go for that."

"Oh hush, you nut," she laughed, then sobered with other thoughts. "Hey Vincent, blood or not, you know I love you. You're my favorite brother."

"That might mean a little more if I wasn't also your only brother," he said dryly, making Laurelin grin. "But I love you too, hun. Knock 'em dead with your music tonight, and let me hear from you again soon, alright?"

"Alright, bye Sugarbear." She pressed the end call button with a smile still on her face, then smirked.

"Hey Siri, did I make the right choice coming to New Zealand?"

The phone beeped, and the male British Siri voice answered. "I think you'll find out the answer to that question very soon, Laurelin."

She opened her mouth and then frowned. "Well, that's definitely a new one on me. You must have downloaded an update. Hey Siri, wish me luck!"

After the beep, Siri spoke up. "Break a leg, Laurelin! On second thought, please don't."

Smiling, she turned off her phone, shoved it in her bag and got out of the car. Quickly retrieving her violin, guitar and sheet music, she squared her shoulders and headed for the main door of the pub with a spring in her step and a smile on her face.


Chapter One

Laurelin rolled to a stop in the tiny rental car she drove, and yanked the hand brake before reaching for the free map she had picked up at the airport in Christchurch when she first arrived. The little Irish pub she had performed at had been a short drive from the crossroads, and with the night so dark, she couldn't really make out the terrain, but surely there should be some sort of lights to show Ashburton. Even with such a thick cloud cover, there would be reflected light...wouldn't there?

It was only her second day in New Zealand, and she was glad her friend, Katy, had been able to get her a little job straight away, since the money always helped, but what she was really longing to do was to get out and explore, both the countryside and Maori culture. Laurelin had a deep respect for indigenous peoples and their very rich histories. She liked nothing better than to hear stories and tales from village elders, or the closest equivalent, and she had spent many happy nights around an open fire doing just that. No book could rival the storytelling that came straight from the mouth of another human being.

Her music was what allowed her to travel and indulge that desire, having spent much of the past nine years as what her older brother, Vincent, referred to as a musical nomad. Laurelin did not own her own home like her brother, staying instead with her parents during the brief time she spent in Dallas, and kept no steady job, preferring to wander wherever she could get a paid gig playing and singing.

Her parents were disappointed when she decided against college after she graduated high school, but she argued that there was no better education than the wide world beyond the US. Other countries encouraged a 'gap year' for young people before starting university, she just decided a gap decade might be more her speed. Besides, she reasoned she could always look into higher education after she tired of wandering, or even just teach violin and guitar, which seemed to appease her family somewhat. Ultimately, since she made more than enough to pay her own way, there wasn't much else they could say to dissuade her.

But really, all that was just an excuse she told herself to justify her trip to New Zealand. Not six months earlier, her mother had dropped a giant bomb right in her lap: Mark wasn't really her father and Vincent wasn't really her brother. Her mother actually had a brief affair with someone she met during a summer internship studying the mountain environment near Ashburton, before returning to Dallas where she discovered she was pregnant. When Laurelin was still a baby in arms, her mother, Melissa, met Mark, who had been left a widower with his toddler son, Vincent.

They fell in love and married soon after, blending their family, but never revealing that fact to either of their children until that very year. Vincent had been just as shocked as she had, but he didn't get the dose of angst she did, because not only had he been the product of a loving marriage, his real mother had passed in a car crash, and he even had a grave he could visit.

Besides being a bastard, Laurelin had no clue who her father actually was beyond a grainy picture her mother had given her of the two of them together, or if he was even dead or alive. He certainly didn't know about her existence. She didn't even have a last name she could search for him with, and she was secretly very embarrassed that her mother had carried on with someone she knew so little about. Further, she had no information at all about his background, family or anything, since her mother claimed he had spoken very little English.

Puffing her cheeks full of air, she had nearly decided to turn the car around and go back the way she had come, but while she was lost in thought, the sky had opened up with such a thick curtain of rain that she couldn't see two feet beyond the front of the little car. Sighing, she shut off the engine after another moment, and pushed up the volume on her phone, tapping the steering wheel to the beat of Nacho's new single, Báilame, singing along with the chorus.

"Báilame, ie-ie,

con esa boca bésame,

con ese cuerpo arrópame,

Con tus manos siénteme.

~o~

"Báilame, ie-ie,

con un besito mójame,

con tu cintura gozaré,

con ese swing atrápame."

Having grown up in Texas, the Spanish language had a special place in her heart, and she loved to listen to and support other artist's singing. The voice could be truly magical, and transported her, evoking emotions in her like nothing else could, although she thought violin was a very close second.

A bright flash of lightning split the sky in front of her in a jagged zigzag, causing her to jerk in alarm, her heart pounding in a rapid rhythm. The cold from outside was seeping into the little car, now that the heater was no longer running, chilling her hands. Fumbling for her phone, she frowned when she saw there was no signal. Since she could check neither her location or the weather, she slid down a little in the driver's seat and tugged her velvet coat tighter against her.

Katy had promised they would share a bottle of wine and catch up after Laurelin returned from the pub, but getting lost, combined with the violence of the unexpected storm had effectively derailed those plans. In annoyance, she paused the music that was playing, no longer soothed by the sultry latin beat.

Time went by at a crawl, and there was no sign of the storm letting up. Twice she had turned the car back on to thaw out with the heater, debating getting back on the road and trying to crawl her way toward the direction she thought Ashburton lay. But when she turned the headlights on, she discovered a thick, impenetrable fog had settled around where she was stopped, and finally decided it might be too dangerous with the bizarre mix of the weather.

The car started to shake and shudder ominously and the sound of the rain was joined by an ear-splitting booming noise, even louder than thunder. Laurelin flung her hands out to grip the seat on one side and the car door on the other, shouting in terrified denial.

"An earthquake too? Oh, hell no!"

A bright light flashed blindingly, the air vibrating with electricity and the car permeated by the sudden smell of ozone. She clenched her eyes tightly closed, every muscle tensed with fear, and her heart trying desperately to beat its way out of her chest. For the very first time in her life, Laurelin fainted.


When consciousness slowly filtered back, daylight was shining brightly in her eyes. Groaning, Laurelin tried to stretch futilely from where she was crumpled across the driver's seat with her head resting against the window, and pushed open the car door and stepped out. While there were still a few clouds in the blue sky, there was no sign of the violent rains of the night before. She lifted her hands over her head until her back gave a satisfying crack. She had been in such an ungodly, awful position that her neck and shoulder were still throbbing painfully.

Turning in a slow circle, she looked across the landscape in confusion, wondering how on earth she could have gotten so far from the city. Where was the flippin road? For as far as she could see, there was grass, scrub, and gently rolling plains, with hills and mountains in the distance. Just how long had she been unconscious? The storm had completely washed out the road she had been traveling on, there was no other explanation. Reaching back inside, she snatched her phone and tried to call Katy. Her phone had no signal, but she tried it anyway, even attempting New Zealand's emergency number of 111 as a last resort.

Rubbing her brow in frustration, she finally climbed back in the car and pushed in the clutch to start the motor. Putting it into first gear, she turned around and slowly started driving back the way she had come. Although she had no paved road to follow, she knew she would eventually reach a town. If the storm and earthquake had been as bad as it seemed, the first thing she needed to do was let her family know that she was safe.

It was very slow going without a flat surface to drive on, and she crawled along in first, bumping and shaking over ruts and stones over the hilly ground, chewing her lip in worry as the needle on the fuel gauge got closer to empty. The sun was high overhead, and she had been driving more than three hours according to her phone clock when the engine sputtered pathetically and stopped.

She slapped the steering wheel in frustration, set the brake and climbed out of the car, running her hands through her hair as she looked around. Turning in a complete circle, there was nothing but rolling hills as far as the eye could see. How was it possible for her to become so thoroughly lost and removed from all people? How uninhabited was South Island, anyway? Shouldn't there at least be...sheep?

She walked around to the front of the car and sat on the hood. Well...surely her friend would have already reported her missing. Search planes or helicopters would easily spot her out in the open as she was. If they knew to look, and if they weren't too busy dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake. Looking toward the sky, Laurelin frowned when she realized she had not seen or heard any sign of aircraft, which was likely proof that all the emergency services were working wherever they were needed most, around the worst damage. She shook her head, beginning to truly worry about her prospects for the first time.

Opening the car door, she rummaged in her things, taking a quick inventory. She had a couple of granola bars and a pack of Smarties in her purse and an unopened bottle of water, but that wouldn't last long. Water was a far greater concern than anything else. Cracking open the plastic bottle, she took a small sip, just enough to moisten her mouth and screwed the cap back on. No telling how long she would have to make it last. Hopefully, not long.


Crushing the empty water bottle into a plastic pancake, Laurelin pitched the trash onto the floorboard of the little car and massaged her stiff neck. She had spent a miserable night sleeping in the car again, had finished the last of the water, and had nothing left to eat but a granola bar and the few Smarties she still had saved. Things were not looking promising.

She had changed out of her performance clothes into dark jeans, boots and a warm sweater, glad beyond words that she had her bag with all her stuff in it. Over the years of travel, she had learned to pack fairly light, and all she needed was contained in a single, average sized traveler's backpack.

"Dear Lord," she sighed. "If you're listening, please don't let me die in some remote patch of ground on South Island. I know I'll hear my brother crowing 'I told you so' all the way up to heaven."

Grabbing her guitar from the back seat, she opened the case and pulled out her instrument. She went and sat on the hood, strummed a few chords and smiled as a song came to her, one she knew by heart. She started singing Message In A Bottle by The Police, grinning at the irony and instantly feeling just a bit better.

~

"Just a castaway

An island lost at sea

Another lonely day

With no one here but me

~o~

"More loneliness

Than any one could bear

Rescue me before I fall into despair

~o~

"I'll send an SOS to the world

I'll send an SOS to the world

I hope that someone gets my

Message in a bottle"

~

A loud squealing that sounded like a pig caused Laurelin to stop mid-song and look around wildly in the twilight gloom. A rumbling she hadn't heard while playing and singing was growing louder, making her eyes widen while she scrambled off the hood and threw her guitar back into the car, feeling for the butterfly knife in her waistband. What she saw racing up the hill in the failing light of sunset made her squeak in alarm, jump in the car and hit the lock button, scrunching down in her seat and praying she had hallucinated the scary sight of horror movie monsters.

The rumbling grew louder and peeking through the passenger window she could see the noise came from a large group of riders on horseback quickly coming up the rise. They seemed to be aiming right for her…

She screamed and threw herself down onto the floorboard, covering her head with both hands. The sounds continued, seemingly growing louder now that she didn't have her eyes to distract her. There was no doubt in her mind that someone was most likely being murdered right outside the car. Brutally. Something smashed into the little car, making it rock violently.

Oh God, she thought desperately, why did I ever want to come to New Zealand? What good is a beautiful country if it's fatal! I just want to get out of here alive… Oh please, oh please, oh please...

By the time the terrible noise quieted enough to allow her curiosity to compel her to lift up enough to look around, she was covered in nervous sweat and had a killer cramp in her left butt cheek. She rubbed it gingerly while she slid into the passenger seat, the new sight in front of her much more welcome.

There were men with torches milling around calmly and leading horses behind them, while some were still mounted. But why were they all covered with big, scary weapons, and dressed like…

"Vikings," she whispered, and swallowed when one of the bigger looking men turned in his saddle to stare directly at her, as though he had heard her speak. She tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. "Okay, so clearly a bunch of LARPers or reenactment fanatics, but maybe they can still help me." And stop talking to yourself aloud, she berated silently.

Hitting the button to unlock the door, she slid out and stood, immediately choking on the terrible, rancid smell that surrounded her. Coughing, she looked down at the decapitated head on the ground and stared in revulsion. It looked like some of the fantasy monsters she had seen at Comic Cons, maybe even movie set quality, but sheesh, did they even have to try and make it smell as bad as it looked? She felt sorry for the poor guy who had to wear that costume, complete with stench. Nasty.

She approached the big man on horseback who looked like the person who was in charge. He tracked her with his eyes as she came closer, and she waited as he dismounted and then stared up in surprise.

"Well damn, you're really tall, huh?"

The man frowned and pulled off his helmet, his eyes running up and down her body in blatant appraisal, making Laurelin roll her eyes inwardly. It was fine if a man approved of her figure, as long as he just looked and didn't try to touch. If he did try to touch her, she's be forced to kick his ass. As long as he would help her out by bending over so she could reach it, anyway. To be such a giant, the boy had obviously eaten his Wheaties growing up.

"ðætte ârfæstnes êower?" (Who are you?) He stepped closer, with no hint of a smile. "ðe cotlîf âræfnan êow ferian settan?" (Which village do you come from?)

Her smile slipped as her brows furrowed, trying to figure out what language he was speaking. Not one she was familiar with.

"Don't you speak English? That's… the language of New Zealand, along with Maori, isn't it?"

Another man approached, also eyeing her up, but with an even less friendly demeanor and started speaking with the first man. "Hit hê samðe samðsamð brême orgilde ûser werðêod. Gên hire of hê merehrægl mæstling elðêodisc ðêana ðæge pro bêgra seldcûð tunge." (She is as one of our folk. But her clothes are strange and she utters a strange tongue.)

The first man crossed his arms, staring down at her with a frown. "Man nân n¯ænne râd ûs of pro ic. Hêo scîete tîrêadig to ðæge pro of stîfig forðcyme." (She is not one of us. Her cloth is very fine and she acts of high birth.)

His eyes flicked beyond her and he walked over to the carriage she must have ridden. He touched the cool metal and walked slowly around the thing. "ðider m¯æð wægn ontêon ðe scridw¯æn?" (Where are the animals to pull this cart?)

"Yfel wyrcan n¯ænig pro oncunnan, mîn hlâfording." (I do not know, my lord.)

Laurelin trailed slowly behind the two men, finally giving up on her attempt to place the language. Considering they were dressed like Vikings, maybe it was some Scandinavian language, but that hardly mattered. She would have to rely on her charades skills, and not for the first time. Planting herself in front of the big man in charge, she pointed to herself and smiled brightly in a universal sign of friendliness.

"Laurelin."

She repeated the motion and her name until she could see in his eyes that he understood she was introducing herself. He pointed to her.

"Laurelin?" he tilted his head questioningly and she nodded. He pointed to his own chest. "Éomer."

"Éomer," she repeated carefully, and the barest smile lifted his lips, making her grin. She stuck her hand out to him. "Éomer, I'm happy to meet you."

He took her hand in his and bowed over it, just grazing her knuckles with his lips and looked to the man beside him after he released her.

"êower onsêon, Éothain?" Éomer murmured. "Hê bêga tîrêadig mid burgspræc." (You see, Éothain? She is a noble with courtly manners.) "ðætte hiera hê un−l¯æd hêore âcenning." (Everything about her shows she is of gentle birth.)

Éothain glanced at her. "Yonder fricca hire of hê folc?" (Where are her menfolk?) "ðolian êow mynian winnan mid hiera of hê?" (And what do you intend to do with her?)

Éomer held out his arm to Laurelin and she chuckled and wrapped her arm around his. He shot a look at his second and shrugged, then started back toward his horse, Firefoot, flashing a small smile at the woman beside him.

"âlæccan hiere of hê cuman cafortûn." (Take her to court.)


Laurelin stood frozen, watching the Viking riders, as she had dubbed them in her mind, piling the ugly monster things into a pile and setting them on fire. There was a disturbing amount of fake gore and general grossness, and she couldn't figure for the life of her why cos-players would want to burn up such expensive props and costumes after going to the trouble to make everything look so real, and...smell so real… But...it couldn't be real. Could it? There had to be a logical explanation for their actions. If she could just speak with them and be understood, she was sure everything would make perfect sense. Somehow.

She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself while she stared into the fire, watching hot embers and licks of flame wing skyward toward the bright stars. Éomer walked up beside her, glancing down at her frozen, disturbed expression, his suspicions of her being a very delicate, sheltered woman further confirmed.

"Mîn gumðêod clipian ðæge þá orcas," he said quietly. (My folk call them orcs.)

Catching the last word he said as familiar, she squinted up at him, fleetingly reminded of having studied Beowulf in an AP Lit class in high school, and the class discussion of modern fantasy monsters having borrowed heavily from that work.

"Orcs?"

He gave an encouraging nod at her attempt to speak Rohirric. "Gése." (Yes.)

She pinched her nose closed and made a disgusted face, then waved a hand in front of her nose, as though waving off a bad smell. "Orcas," she said, perfectly imitating him, causing Éomer to chuckle and nod his understanding.

"Gése, ðæge pro swæccan besmîtan." (Yes, they smell foul.)

It was readily apparent to him that the woman, Laurelin, had never seen an orc before, and he wondered again how she had been separated from her protectors and cart animals, so that there was no sign of them and no discernible tracks.

He again examined her long golden hair worn loose, and large green eyes set in a lovely face, to say nothing of her remarkably fine figure displayed so openly in the tightly fitted trousers she was attired in. If it weren't for the long overcoat she wore in such a rich fabric that at least covered some of her, it would be entirely indecent, the mode of acceptable dress in her land obviously being quite different to his own. Such a beautiful woman clearly needed protection, from man and beast alike.

When he imagined his sister caught in a similar predicament surrounded only by strangers, and with orcs on the prowl, it made his guts twist inside him. He had taken note of the ring she wore, certain it indicated marriage, which stood to reason as she was certainly of age and perhaps even had children of her own. He would take Laurelin to his home, and if her husband or family were not readily found, he would watch over her himself until they came for her, which he was certain they would, and it would likely be very soon. Surely they were already searching for her.

He sighed wearily and turned his gaze back toward the fire, musing at the mystery of where she hailed from that orcs were not known. Whoever her people were, he found he envied them that.


After another uncomfortable night of sleeping in her car, Laurelin was woken early, while it was still dark, by the man she had come to know as Éothain, who mimed for her to get her things and follow him. She nodded understanding and scrambled to gather her strewn belongings back into her backpack, then went to the car's tiny trunk and pulled her violin case out and finally retrieved her guitar from the backseat in its hard-shell case.

He looked at all she carried and frowned. "Temian êow be−ðurfan sê ðâ ðe?" (Do you need all this?)

Her eyes widened when she realized what he must be asking, panicked at the idea of being forced to leave the tools of her livelihood out in the middle of nowhere. Who knew when or if she would be able to come back and retrieve them after she got back to civilization?

She held up her hands to show him to wait, and she opened her guitar case and pulled it out, put the strap around her neck and quickly strummed some chords and sang along with them. He nodded in understanding, cracking the first smile she had seen on his face, then pointed to her smaller case.

"Just one second and I'll show you," she said, although she knew he couldn't understand, but hoped he understood her tone, at least. After she secured her guitar back into the case and latched it securely, she pulled out her bow and violin, tightened and rosined her bow, then played a little of Bach's Concerto for Two Violins, since she knew it by heart and didn't require the sheet music for it.

By the time she stopped playing and lowered her violin, several of the men had wandered closer to listen, including Éomer, who was smiling at her in obvious approval. She hugged the violin against her chest and pointed to the guitar case and turned wide, pleading eyes back to Éomer.

"I know you're the man in charge, so please, I must have my instruments with me. I must," she emphasized.

He gave a nod and turned to Éothain. "Lengan hire of hê innierfe." (Bring her possessions.) He watched her as she put the smaller instrument away and secured it. "Sê cwide licgan dimf b¯æm âtrahtnianhæbbe hwistlung on−gemang attraction with pron ðe ic fierdian." (It will be a treat to have music while we travel.)

When Éothain picked up both instruments and her backpack and took them to a horse and started securing them, Laurelin beamed at Éomer in thanks. He smiled and nodded in acknowledgement, some things needing no translation to be understood.


Lyrics taken from:

Báilame by Nacho

Message In A Bottle by The Police

 


 

~o~

Chapter Text

After a week of travel with the Viking riders, Laurelin thought she would not be sorry to never sit on another horse again, and neither would her miserable backside. And she had never wished for a shower more than she did then, as she and all the men could easily gag a maggot with their combined scent of Eau de Horseshit and ripe B.O. Not even her most challenging time backpacking through the African bush had been as dirty for so many days in a row, or with no opportunity at all to bathe.

When they rode into the village that she came to understand was called Aldburg, was when she really began to face the fact that civilization seemed to be nowhere in sight, and she didn't have any means of reaching it on her own. There hadn't been a single sign of any cities or towns while they traveled either. They were definitely in the deep boonies.

The first month there really wasn't so bad, or even the month after. They assigned her work in the kitchen of the biggest house, which she did without complaint, in exchange for room and board. She had friends that had worked at an Israeli kibbutz and told her about the lifestyle, and she herself had stayed at many a youth hostel where you not only took care of yourself, but sometimes helped out new friends, as well. She kept telling herself it was just some medieval immersion experience, and before long, an eighteen wheeler supply truck would pull up on the dirt track into town, or maybe even a small plane or helicopter would fly in.

But by the sixth month, when she had learned a few words in their language, which she had been told was Rohirric, and how to converse somewhat passably in what they called the Common Speech, she came to know without a doubt that she wasn't where she had been before the massive storm and earthquake. She had yet to come up with any kind of explanation for how that was possible that didn't break her brain, or make her feel scared and panicky.

None of the people she questioned about Christchurch, New Zealand or even America showed any sign of understanding and gave her looks as though she were the one that was crazy, instead of the other way around. And the odds of it being some cult of isolated nut-jobs seemed more and more unlikely as she got to know the people around her. They all seemed completely normal without even a hint of being brainwashed, kool-aid drinkers.

By the time nine months had passed and she had been through most of Aldburg's winter, and still no sign of civilization or the outside world was found, she was seriously questioning her own sanity, and whether she was actually in an asylum somewhere, stuck in some type of delusion inside her own head.

With Vikings. Lots of them, and all big, blonde and muscular from the kind of physical work they did. She supposed she could admit that she had always liked Norse mythology, and Thor and Loki especially, but she would go for the Marvel movie's lanky Loki and his appearance before she would pick a blonde, muscle-bound Thor. If Loki looked like his movie actor, anyway. She couldn't stand facial hair on a man, whether in real life or a movie. Still, she wasn't attracted to any of the men she saw in Aldburg, which was nothing new for her. She had determined when she was still a teen that she just wasn't wired the same way as most people, and had long since made peace with that fact.

But she figured if she was crazy, she might as well try and make the best of it, and embrace her delusions. She learned about their way of life, as much as they would share, and she learned more about the care and keeping of horses than she had really ever wanted to know. Laurelin had always liked animals. She grew up with cats and dogs both, but the Eorlingas, as they called themselves, seemed to practically worship their horses. They were very nice horses, no doubt there, but they were on everything: tapestries, carvings, worked into their leather saddles, etched into their wooden bed-frames, as well as their swords and shields. It just seemed a tad excessive, although maybe not so surprising for a group of people that made it a point to live so simply and close to the land.

The one bright spot in everything, and maybe the only thing that kept her from pulling all her hair out by the roots, or constantly breaking down into a weepy puddle of woman, was her music. Surprisingly, there was actually a good deal of free time after her work was done, and when you had no TV, cell phone or laptop to occupy yourself, a hobby or skill of some sort was a necessity. Early on, she had done a lot of writing in her journal to try to process her unbelievable predicament, or just played for herself in the tiny room they had given her to sleep in. But when winter came and sitting near a roaring fire was necessary for warmth, Laurelin had begun to bring out her guitar or violin, to play in front of others.

The reception of the folks that lived or worked in Éomer's big house, as she did, was enthusiastic. Many nights, she was encouraged to play her violin, which she did freely, alternating between classical music and Celtic style improvisation, depending on what the mood called for. But her favorite was when she was feeling soft and sleepy and more than a little drunk with too much of their strong ale in her belly, and she played and sang songs from home. Those were the best nights, but also the worst, and always ended in an ocean's worth of tears when she was alone in her bed.


One evening after she had finished playing and was just preparing to depart the main hall to go to bed, Éomer stopped her. He was often away for weeks at a time, but during the cold winter when the weather was bad, he was out on fewer patrols with his men, and they had been able to talk and get to know each other, which Laurelin had enjoyed. She found him a little gruff, and sometimes he seemed pretty grim, but he always treated her kindly and like a lady, even addressing her as such and she was glad fickle fate had decided to throw her into his path.

He had asked her about her family as soon as she could speak and understand enough of the language to communicate. She told him the truth: she had gotten lost and separated from everyone in a big storm, and she had no idea how to get back to her mother and father. He had shown noticeable surprise to learn she was not married, and never had been. At that time, she had started thanking him for acting like a big brother in the absence of her own. She smiled up at him and waited for him to speak.

"I see you have adjusted well to life here, Lady Laurelin, but I can't help but feel you are more suited to a grander setting than Aldburg. With how skilled you are with music, and what you have told me of playing for other lords in your travels, I have decided to take you to Edoras. The King's hall of Meduseld has never had a bard, and I believe my uncle would welcome you there in such a role. Does this sound agreeable to you?"

Her smile grew as he spoke, the old hope rising again that going to a different city or town might bring her closer to finding a way home, and she nodded eagerly. "I would like that very much, Lord Éomer, thank you."

He pursed his lips and inclined his head. "When the weather turns I will take you with me. I can introduce you to my sister, Lady Éowyn. I'm sure she will be willing to help you get acclimated to Edoras."

Laurelin smiled brightly up at him, and sensing he had said all he wished to, she curtsied as she had learned to do constantly, after landing in medieval land. "Sweet dreams, Lord Éomer, and thank you for all you've done for me. I would have been lost without your kindness."

He gave a slight bow. "Rest well, Laurelin, and know it has been my honor to help you in whatever way I could."

He watched her walk away until she disappeared through the doorway, stroking his beard with a thoughtful look on his face.


When they rode into Edoras two weeks later, Laurelin was amazed by how beautifully situated everything was, high up on a hill, able to see for miles in every direction. It looked like the perfect place for the Eorlingas' herds of horses, and strategically, she supposed they would have plenty of warning if anything unsavory approached.

She shivered under the warm coat she wore, having never forgotten her initial introduction to orcs, and having since admitted to herself that there had been nothing fake about them. She pushed the thoughts away and focused on the faces around them in an attempt to avoid the panic she felt anytime she thought too much about the real life monsters that roamed around Rohan. The stark reality of being stuck in Beowulf-world was beyond terrifying.

There were many curious faces that stared at her as they rode up to the golden hall, surrounded as she was by Éomer's men, and better dressed than most of the women, still wearing her own velvet coat she had brought from home. If her clothes made the people think she was more important than she really was, that was just fine by her. Kitchen work was one thing, but she really hoped she wouldn't have to do anything that involved shoveling horse shit or something equally nasty. She was a city girl, born and bred, and had never had a hankering to become anything resembling a farm hand.

All the horses came to a standstill and Éomer hopped down from Firefoot and approached her mount. Having to wear skirts the same as all the other Rohan women meant Laurelin had been forced to learn to ride sidesaddle, which she absolutely hated. By the time Éomer reached her, she had managed to unhook her leg and was ready when he grasped her waist and lifted her down.

"Thank you," she murmured, as he wrapped her arm around his and began leading her up the long path of stairs to the hall. "I think I would have landed on my face if I attempted to jump down again, like last time."

He smiled down at her. "Probably best to avoid diving into the dirt face-first in future."

"You try riding sidesaddle in a skirt and then we'll talk," she muttered.

He chuckled and smiled as his sister stepped forward, coming down to greet them. "I believe I shall pass, and leave that to you ladies. And speaking of ladies… Éowyn, may I present Lady Laurelin of America, and this is my sister, Lady Éowyn."

Both women curtsied, Éowyn narrowing her eyes as she examined the woman on her brother's arm, and sensing some disapproval, Laurelin quickly stepped away from the horse lord and clasped her hands before her demurely.

"How do you do, Lady Éowyn, it's an honor to meet you."

Éowyn's brows climbed. "The honor is mine, I'm sure. I have never heard of America before, and what an unusual accent you have."

Laurelin nodded. "Yes, it's part of my Texas heritage. They say if you're going to have a conversation with a southerner, you better have lots of time on your hands with the slow way we draw out our words. I suppose there's some truth to that, but I prefer to think of it as caressing each word, instead of spitting it out like throwing knives. Language is never as happy as when it's dripping from a southerner's tongue like honey from a comb."

Éowyn opened her mouth and looked to her brother, uncertain of how to respond to Laurelin's comment, but Éomer just smiled, offering an arm to each of them and they went the last few steps in silence.

It was only when they actually entered the hall, dimly lit, with only one fire burning and very few torches lit that Laurelin's easy smile slipped away, and she felt the first glimmer of uncertainty. They approached the throne, where an old man with unkempt gray hair was huddled, wrapped in thick, fur-lined robes and apparently dozing. A pale, dark-haired man in black stood and approached them, coming down the throne steps and smiling.

"Ah, you've returned, Marshall. The King will be pleased to see you. And who is this?" The man turned and examined Laurelin from foot to head, and she felt her skin begin to crawl under his gaze.

"Gríma. This is Lady Laurelin. She is a skilled bard, and I thought uncle would enjoy some fine music to brighten his hall."

The man narrowed his eyes and turned to Laurelin, the silence lengthening until he finally spoke. "I am Gríma, counselor to King Théoden. We look forward to hearing you play and display your – talents. I suppose we must find you a room if you are to live in the hall to serve the king."

Laurelin curtsied, but felt silence might be the better course, so said nothing.

"I shall see she is settled in the lower level," Éowyn said, turning toward Laurelin. "Please follow me."

Laurelin bowed her head to the two men and followed the tall, willowy Éowyn, speeding her steps to catch up to her and lowering her voice to only be heard by the other woman.

"He seems...um, a little...scary?"

Éowyn glanced at her and nodded, her lips pressed together. "Yes. Keep well out of Gríma's path if you wish to avoid trouble. His subtle ways are not to be underestimated."

Laurelin swallowed nervously and fought a wave of panic. "Thank you for the warning. I'll certainly try my best. Should I know anything else about...living here, or in Edoras?"

Éowyn tilted her head, continuing in silence until she stopped in front of a thick wooden door, opened it, walked into the room and handed a key to Laurelin. "Don't wander alone after dark, which goes hand in hand with my other warning, to avoid all of Gríma's guards. They are loyal only to him, and few of them have any honor to speak of, unlike the rest of Rohan's men." She tapped a finger against the key in Laurelin's hand. "And always lock your chamber door, especially when you sleep."

Walking back out the door, Éowyn turned, regretful for the fear she could see on Laurelin's face, but could think of no further advice that would be relevant and helpful. "Do not fear overly much. You will soon learn what is what here. Dinner is at the sixth hour in the main hall. If you need anything before then, come and find me. The kitchen is just at the other end of this passage, and one of the girls there can point you in the right direction. They will also fetch you washing water to remove the dust after your journey, just let them know you're ready for it."

Éowyn closed the door, and Laurelin immediately sank down on the edge of the narrow bed, her mind racing in fear, trying to sort out her feelings about her new home when the door was suddenly thrown open, a disapproving Éowyn pointing a chastising finger at her. "You didn't lock it. Do it as soon as I close the door, do you understand? Best to get in the habit right away, any time you are alone."

Laurelin sprang up. "Yes! I will, I'm sorry." After she turned the key in the lock, she finally heard Éowyn's retreating footsteps and breathed a sigh of relief, then took a moment to wonder just exactly what kind of gothic horror she had landed in.


In the following months, Laurelin learned to deftly avoid just about all of the men in Edoras, not willing to take any chances after Éowyn's pointed warnings. Since none of the men wore signs to proclaim which of them were honorable, and which weren't, she decided to play it safe.

She played and sang for King Théoden quite often, and while he seemed to spend most of his time in a stupor from his dementia, she would occasionally catch him looking at her with some clarity in his eyes.

Gríma also seemed to have no objections to her music, or he at least tolerated it without comment, which she took as approval from the likes of him. He was clearly a crafty, scheming man, and she stayed out of his way entirely, and out of his sight as much as possible. When Gríma's guards were present in the hall, she pretended they were invisible. Even though she could feel their eyes on her, she made it a point to never look in their direction or do anything that would encourage notice or interest, and tried to dress as demurely as was feasible.

The fine new gowns that had been supplied for her appearances before the king seemed to also give her some status and importance which she likely wouldn't have had otherwise. They were very similar to Éowyn's in appearance and design, and Laurelin was grateful for anything that might further mark her as a lady, and afford her any extra protection from the distinction. She certainly didn't want to be subjected to the same lifestyle as the common folk, and if that made her selfish and spoiled, then so be it. She had never signed up for a life of misery, dammit, and she already missed electricity and indoor plumbing as bad as all get out.

Éowyn was polite but made no overtures of friendship, and Laurelin respected the distance the other woman held her at and got used to mostly keeping her own company. She took long walks in the light of day, wrote her thoughts and frustrations down in her journal, or obsessed over the small bunch of photos of friends and family she had always carried with her during her travels.

She became deeply introverted after moving to Edoras, creeping around the edges of village life there, but never really entering into it or making any friends to speak of. She never thought she would come to miss her time in Aldburg, but when she lived in Éomer's home she had at least always felt safe, which was something she never managed in the dark hall of Meduseld.


~o~

Chapter Text

Legolas drew a deep breath and released it slowly, walking to the far side of the mostly empty great hall of Meduseld. He had his Lothlórien cloak on and hood pulled up, just a little weary of all the stares and gasps he elicited from the people of Rohan who had never seen an elf before. It was perhaps what Elizabeth had first experienced when she came to Greenwood as the sole human female in the kingdom. Thinking of his family brought a brief smile to his face, particularly his young sisters whom he had a pronounced soft spot for, though he certainly loved his brothers too. But not even those pleasant memories could cheer him for long, and his brows soon furrowed again with troubled thoughts.

The oppressing feeling of darkness had lessened somewhat since Galdalf had freed King Théoden from Saruman's enchantment, but he found he was gripped by the same restlessness since they had first ridden into Edoras. As though he were waiting for something to happen. But what? Was there to be some attack that he was meant to forewarn others of, or some similar danger? But surely Galdalf would be aware…

His gaze strayed to a shadowed corner nook with a small chair, partially hidden from the rest of the hall and he went and sat down, still mulling over his confusing emotions when he felt something beneath him and leaned to the side, pulling the object from the thin cushion covering the seat of the chair.

A book. But the people of Rohan had very few books, more preferring an oral tradition of their histories, so where had this volume come from? He examined the smooth, red leather cover and fine gold embossed design, depicting flowing vines of leaves in a design that looked rather rich and entirely elvish, frowning as he wondered how something of elvish origin had ended up in Meduseld.

He opened the book to where it fell open naturally in the middle and drew in an astonished breath at the words written neatly in English. Where in Elbereth's name had an English book come from? To his knowledge, only Elizabeth had such things and she had certainly never traveled to Rohan. He glanced up to be sure he was still unobserved, then sat back, his eyes scanning eagerly over what was written.

I swear, if just one more of these Viking-wannabes tries to grab at my ass then pretend innocence, I'm going to strap my smaller knives to each butt-cheek and dare them to try it then! Instead of playing at getting cozy with me, it would seriously benefit them to make friends with a razor and a big bar of soap. I've seen cleaner pigs. If I had a recipe for how to make Ivory, I would make a killing here. Or...actually, when I really think about it, maybe not...they might not know what to do with soap. Probably wash their horses with it.

And I could fill an entire volume on how badly they need to invent tampons or anything that isn't an unfortunate adult diaper for when the red witch comes to visit, and thank God my period is so irregular so it isn't often. Being a woman in this Medieval Times sideshow sucks. Big time. But if I ever get bored of living, I can always commit suicide by marriage to one of these bearded giants, and if his lack of hygiene doesn't kill me outright on the wedding night, at least I have death by disease or childbirth to look forward to. Hell, what's not to love?

Legolas chuckled, thoroughly entertained by the frank and decidedly satirical voice of the writer, and turned the page to continue reading.

As a sick experiment, I find myself wondering what would happen to this male dominated society if I had a copy of Playboy to add to the mix. Would pornography really make them any hornier than they already are, or would it do something truly harmful as I suspect, like increase violence against women, as we're already seen as objects?

With Gríma constantly drooling on his fancy robes and leering at poor Éowyn, I admit the horror of rape has been on my mind a good deal of late. I'll always be grateful to Éowyn for her warning to lock my door when I first came to Edoras. More than once, I've heard my door handle turn late at night when no one should be about. The newest kitchen girl – I think her name was Breta – just up and disappeared one day. I've heard the gossip, and I can't help but think it's one of the sons-a-bitches that work for Gríma who knocked up the poor girl and ruined her. I just hope one day they get what's coming to them.

Women do have some type of respect among the Eorlingas, but in a society such as this, they really have little say as to what happens to them. It's just like our history in so many ways. They are the property of their fathers, brothers or husbands. That's the most chilling prospect for a women like me, used to freedom and the American way, and when I consider a fate like that, everything in me rises up to yell: Fuck. That. Noise! I would rather go to my grave a cantankerous, neurotic virgin rather than have some man-ape telling me to to get to the kitchen and make him a sandwich, then beat me black and blue if I tell him to do it his damn self. This may be some people's fantasy to live in this kind of primitive world, but I think I can safely say it's never been mine. If I could figure out how to wake from this freakish nightmare and go back home, I would do it in a heartbeat. I might even make a vow to never set foot on another airplane and live out the rest of my life traveling only in the US. I doubt I could keep it though. God knows I have wandering feet, even though I do love the land of my birth.

It's strange the things you miss from home when you contemplate never seeing it again. Lately, it's been the blistering, shimmery heat of a Texas summer, the bluebonnets waving cheerfully in the breeze when I drive down highway 67 in Betsy. I miss walking in the woods with the big mesquite trees, all stubborn and cantankerous as the state they thrive in. And I especially miss the smell of Mom's burgers and Daddy's cologne, and the way he always welcomes me home with a bone-crushing bear hug.

But here I am making myself even more sad, now that I know he isn't really my father. And now I hear Darth Vader's voice in my head: 'No. I am your father'. Curse my brain full of pop culture and movie quotes, they always surface at the least appropriate time. But at least I'm smiling through my tears now, so that's something, I guess...

Legolas ran a finger across the small discolorations on the page that he knew were from the tears of the writer, feeling a pang of sympathy from his own feelings of missing home. Some of what was written he didn't fully understand, but he certainly understood the emotions expressed and caught most references. He thumbed through more pages, then opened the front cover, his heart inexplicably thumping harder in his chest as he read the name written there in the same hand.

L.G. Wyche

His lips pressed tightly together as he read the name again, curious as to what the initials stood for, when a strange sense of familiarity flooded him. He turned pages until he came to the final entry, his finger following the series of small, green twining leaves drawn around the border of the page.

Gríma is getting worse. Every time I play for Théoden, I swear I see moments of stark clarity and the real man boldly staring out at me, managing to break through the bonds of his dementia. He's so strong, I just know it, and I want to help him. But no sooner do I see or FEEL the connection with Théoden, and that smooth bastard, Gríma, swoops in to mess things up again. Fuck him and the horse he rode in on. He's definitely the villain of this little world I find myself trapped in, but I have a bad feeling he's not the worst thing out here. There's… I don't know. Something else. Like that pressing sense of pending doom I always used to get when I was a kid, just before something bad happened or somebody died.

Everything is so different to when I came here two years ago. I wish I could define this feeling but I'm not sure how, and my nightmares of the giant spider monster are getting worse again. Like I feel eyes on me all the time now, watching...watching. Maybe waiting for something? I want to run away from the danger that seems so close I can almost feel it pressing against me, but where can I run to? Better the devil you know than the devil you don't, and I haven't forgotten the monsters that roam the range here. Things keep changing in Edoras, and not for the better. I'm scared. No, not just scared, I don't think I've ever been more terrified in my entire life. Whatever IT is, I think it's coming soon, though I have nothing more to go on than that familiar feeling in my gut.

Even though I can speak their language fluently now, I'm still viewed as the foreign freak by these people, and the realist in me knows that won't ever change with their prejudice against outsiders. I'm like a candle in the dark, praying not to be snuffed out. God help me. I've never felt so alone.

Legolas closed the book with a sober expression, and stared across at the crackling flames of the great hall's fire. He understood what the writer was trying to describe perfectly, as he felt exactly the same way. He scanned the few women bustling around the space, attending to chores, or conversing together quietly, wondering if any of them were the mysterious visitor that came from English lands, then immediately rejected the possibility. They all looked like ordinary Rohan folk. Whatever the appearance of L.G. Wyche, he felt certain he would know her on sight. He further thought that he would very much like to speak with her.


Éomer flicked the piece of straw he had been twirling between his fingers and looked up when the door to his cell was flung open. Háma stood there smiling, his expression more hopeful and filled with joy than any he had worn in a long while.

"My lord, you are free! Gandalf has come and the king is restored to himself once more. Gríma has chosen banishment as punishment for his crimes and has fled Edoras. I have come to take you before King Théoden."

Having stood to his feet, Éomer released a shocked breath. "Gríma is gone?" At Háma's nod of assent, some of the grimness left the Marshall's face. "Thank Béma. Lead on, Háma."

The two men hurried from the cell, neither of them taking note of the forlorn woman watching them from behind the bars of her own cell.


Théoden drew a slow breath and gripped his nephew's shoulder. "I know you did all you could to thwart Gríma's influence and also obey me, and it was a difficult line to walk. I am grateful for your loyalty, Éomer."

Éomer lowered his head in acknowledgment. "You are my king, uncle."

Théoden released his nephew and nodded grimly. "You have done your duty, just as Théodred did his, even unto death. I could ask for no more from either of you." The king's eyes drifted over the people in the hall, a frown growing on his face as he leaned nearer to his nephew and dropped his voice. "When I was bound, I remember music and a sweet voice singing to me."

Nodding, Éomer crossed his arms. "That is the Lady Laurelin, a gifted bard from some far, foreign land who I and my men found by chance, stranded in the East-mark. I took her to Aldburg where she learned to speak the common tongue and earned her keep by working in the kitchens of my house. After a year, when I discovered how truly skilled she was at playing and singing, I brought her here to Edoras, thinking her songs and tales might well please you."

Théoden's eyes narrowed in thought. "But where is she now?"

Háma stepped closer to the two men on the king's dais. "When Lord Éomer was imprisoned, Lady Laurelin fell into disfavor with Wormtongue when she spoke out against him, and he ordered her imprisoned as well. She yet remains there."

"Fetch her here, I would speak with her." Théoden sat back down on his throne as Háma hurried to do his king's bidding.

Before long, Háma led a wide-eyed, somewhat disheveled woman before the king. She stared in amazement, scarcely able to recognize the handsome older man sitting on the throne, compared to the decrepit, elderly king who had so obviously been suffering from dementia. The transformation was nothing short of miraculous, and Laurelin was completely captivated, to the point that she took no notice of several new faces in the hall. The king smiled and she hurriedly curtsied and looked down, blushing.

"Lady Laurelin." She looked up into the proud blue eyes of the king, shining with intelligence and awareness. He extended a hand to her. "Come here, child."

She quickly walked up the three steps and slipped her hand into his, noting how strong his grip was and met his gaze. He examined her face for a silent moment, judging what he could see of her character, then surprised her by pressing a light kiss to the back of the hand he still held.

"You played and sang your songs, trying to reach me. I felt it. I want you to know that your music was the only thing that could, even briefly, cut though the haze over my mind, allowing me small glimpses of reality. I...appreciate the kindness."

Laurelin released the breath she had been holding, her face breaking into a wide smile. "I knew it! I knew that horrible man did something to you. Once in a while, I saw you, looking out at me, and I only wanted to help."

"It was a help. Something to reach for through the haze," Théoden said, squeezing her hand. "Will you play and sing for me now, so I can hear it with a clear mind? Just one or two songs, then you may go and freshen up. I know the cells are far from comfortable, and I do regret you suffered them unjustly."

"Of course," she nodded, smiling happily.

Théoden's remarkable recovery was the best news in...well, since she had been stranded in Rohan. She quickly retrieved her guitar from the shadowy nook where it had been stored during her time in jail and pulled a seat close to the steps of the king's dais and tuned her instrument quickly while she decided what to sing. Smiling, she looked up at Théoden and launched into one of the bard songs from Skyrim, one of her favorite video games, which she had already translated into the common tongue in her free time and adapted to fit Rohan.

~o~

"We drink to our youth, to the days come and gone

For the age of oppression is now nearly done

We'll drive out the evil from this land that we own

With our blood and our steel we will take back our home

~o~

"All hail to Théoden, you are the brave king

In your great honor we drink and we sing

We're the children of Rohan and we fight all our lives

And when our father's halls beckon, everyone of us dies

~o~

"But this land is ours and we'll see it wiped clean

Of the scourge that has sullied our hopes and our dreams

~o~

"All hail to Théoden you are our brave king

In your great honor we drink and we sing

We're the children of Rohan and we fight all our lives

And when our father's halls beckon, everyone of us dies

~o~

"We drink to our youth to the days come and gone

For the age of oppression is now nearly done."

~o~

In the back of the hall, several of Éomer's men had raised their ales in proud salute. "Hail, Théoden King!"

Laurelin grinned to see more cheerful and smiling faces in the hall than she ever had before, and somehow knew things would be much better, now that their king seemed to be restored to his right mind.

She had already heard gossip that Gríma was gone, which was a huge relief since she had called the man a lying son of a motherless goat, and got thrown into the cells for her trouble. She had actually regretted having lost her temper and was very glad she had been stranded in a place like Rohan, and not somewhere that lopped a woman's head off for getting a little uppity with someone in authority.

Still smiling, she tucked her guitar away again and paused, feeling a strange sensation, like an itchy awareness between her shoulder blades, which she knew meant someone was watching her. Frowning, she whirled around, searching the hall, noting a few new faces, but none of them were paying her the least attention.

When she finally saw a cloaked and hooded figure tucked away in the back of the hall, she knew she had found the one watching her. He was so deep in the shadows she had almost missed him, but she could just make out his eyes in the glow of the firelight, and see they were trained on her. Whoever he was, his mama had obviously never taught him it was rude to stare. She narrowed her eyes and held his gaze boldly, not about to be intimidated, and his eyes seemed to crinkle as though he were smiling, but she couldn't really tell. He was very tall, that much was certain. What was it with all the tall men in Rohan?

Quickly losing interest in the staring contest, she headed off for the lower level of the hall, where the kitchen and servant's quarters were, including her little room, eager to get clean and change into something fresh and a little better suited to hobnobbing with a king.

Less than an hour later, she hovered in the doorway, clean and dressed in her wine velvet gown, uncertain at the sight of some new people she had never seen before, but noting with relief that the staring fellow was gone.

She had heard more gossip in the kitchen before she came back up, about a wizard who was responsible for freeing Théoden, and looking at the old man with the long, white beard and white clothes, she was sure he fit the description. He looked like he was straight out of some storybook or fantasy movie, and when he glanced at her and winked, she quickly looked away, embarrassed to be caught examining him just as rudely as the man had looked at her earlier.

Éowyn walked up to her, a slight smile on her face. In the year since Éomer had brought Laurelin to Edoras, the king's niece had gone from coldly ignoring her, to frosty cordiality, to finally looking like she might be tempted to approve of Laurelin at some future date. The bard just did what she always had with such hard cases— tried to kill her with kindness, and wait to see if the ice ever melted.

"I suppose I should commend you for defending my brother to the point of being imprisoned yourself, and I will, if you assure me you did it for loyalty's sake, and not in a misguided attempt to win his affections in some way."

Laurelin stared in open-mouthed horror and shook her head firmly. "Lady Éowyn, I swear that was the furthest thing from my mind. Your brother is a good man, and Gríma was a snake in the grass, but I have no aspirations or interest in any man beyond friendship, and that's the honest truth. I know I probably shouldn't have said what I did to Gríma, but my mother always told me I tend to leap first and look later." Laurelin squinted uncertainly. "Does that...translate?"

"Yes." Éowyn smiled more genuinely. "We have a similar saying here. Would you like to come meet Gandalf? He's the wizard I saw you looking at with so much interest."

Laurelin chuckled nervously and shook her head. "Not if he turns people into insects for staring. I actually thought I might just step out for a bit of air. After so many days in a cell, I think I really would enjoy that."

Éowyn tilted her head and nodded. "Then perhaps you'll come back after your walk and play a bit for everyone."

"That would be my absolute pleasure," Laurelin said with a grateful smile, then sidled to the closest way out and made good her escape, immediately drawing a deep lungful of fresh air and sighing in appreciation. Without the evil snake and his thugs, the shadows felt safe again. Following the path cast by the torches in the dark, she went around to the back of the hall where fewer people usually ventured and leaned against the wall, staring up at the stars. They weren't the same constellations she had grown up with in North America, but over time she had learned to find them just as beautiful, and they shone much brighter without city lights to interfere.

A movement from the shadows drew her gaze and she startled to see a man even shorter than her, with a long, red beard, smoking a pipe. He looked very solidly built, and had some rather fierce looking weapons on his back.

"Oh, excuse me, sir, I didn't see you there. Am I disturbing you?"

The man blew a dense, gray plume of smoke into the air and gave her a long look. "Not at all, lass, I was just enjoying a smoke before the evening meal. You're welcome to stay if you'd like. Are you from Edoras?"

She chuckled and wrapped her arms around herself against the night chill. "No, I'm definitely not from here. I was separated from my own people in a terrible storm two years back, and the people of Rohan found me and let me stay with them. To be honest, I have no idea how to get home again. I don't even know the way from here," she finished wistfully.

He lifted his pipe from his mouth again and nodded. "I thought your manner of speech sounded very different to these folk, and you don't quite look as though you are from the same stock as the women hereabouts, if you'll pardon me saying so. I am Gimli, son of Glóin, at your service." He made a small bow and looked at her expectantly.

She grinned and extended her skirt to either side of her and dipped low, performing her best curtsy. "How do you do, Sir Gimli? I am Laurelin Grace Wyche, and it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

He nodded approval. "You have some fine manners, Lady Laurelin. You must come of a good family, wherever you hail from. What is your land called? Perhaps I know it."

Laurelin straightened and wrapped her arms around herself again. "I think I come of a very good family, though they're just average folk, not royalty or anything, and I'm from America. Texas, to be specific."

Gimli pursed his lips and finally shook his head. "I have never heard of this Texas, America. Are there any dwarves there?"

Realizing that must be what he was, she nodded. "Absolutely. There are lots of dwarves in my country. They live wherever they choose, and have productive, happy lives. Their culture is probably a little different from yours, though, as I believe they prefer to be called Little People in America."

Finished smoking, Gimli tapped out his pipe as he pondered her words, and finally looked back at her, his eyes gleaming brightly from under his bushy brows. "Well, if there are dwarves in your land, I suppose it must be a fine place, no matter what they choose to call themselves."

She nodded, a faint smile on her lips. "I bet you would like it."

He smiled and offered his arm. "Well, shall we go in now, lass? I think it must be about time to eat, and I know I smelled some fine roasted meat coming from the kitchens."

Laurelin took his arm, and they began to walk back together. "Are you a meat lover then, Sir Gimli?"

He smacked his lips loudly and laughed. "Very much so. And yourself?"

She sighed in wistful remembrance. "Lord have mercy, the cooking and eating of meat is a favorite pastime in Texas. You would love it, all the succulent chicken, pork and beef you can sink your teeth into. For appetizers, there's meat. For the main courses, meat, and for dessert, sweet meats! It's paradise. And the slow-cooked ribs; they're enough to make a grown man weep for joy. And then we also have this dish called chili..." She slapped a hand against her heart and smirked at Gimli, and he grinned back.

"Tell me more about your people's cooking methods, Lady Laurelin. That's sounds well worth listening to!"


Gimli and Laurelin made it back into the hall in time to sit down at one of the long tables set up for dining, and dug right in. She was introduced to the wizard, Galdalf, who was enjoying smoking his own pipe, and to the man who was identified as a Ranger, Aragorn. She gathered he must be important, not only due to his grave, mature manner, but also for how the other two seemed to defer to him.

"Where is the elf?" Gimli asked, after seating Laurelin beside him and looking expectantly at Aragorn.

"I believe he said he wished to take a solitary walk before retiring."

Laurelin was staring between them in puzzlement. "I'm sorry, did you say an elf? Like….a tiny little person...with pointy ears?" She held her hands up to indicate a small size between one and two feet and Gimli roared with laughter while Aragorn smiled and shook his head.

"You've obviously never seen an elf before, Lady Laurelin, which isn't really surprising as they tend to keep to their own lands. They are usually quite tall, much like us in appearance. Although, yes, they do have pointed ears, and the men do not grow beards."

She leaned back in obvious amazement, her green eyes wide. "Well, shut my mouth! The few times I've heard something spoken of elves here, I thought it was just made up stories, like where I come from."

Aragorn and Gimli both gave her strange looks at her odd expression, before the Ranger answered. "As I said, they do keep to their lands. I doubt there are many in Rohan who have ever seen an elf before Legolas, and perhaps think of them as myth."

Maybe it was like some of the video game elves she had played as, but that really just seemed too outlandish to be real. Laurelin turned back to her meal with a shrug, thinking of tv commercials of Keebler elves, and had a sudden, strong craving for fudge striped cookies.


Sitting bolt upright in bed, with a terrified scream trapped in her throat, Laurelin stared wildly around her dark bedroom in a panic before dropping her face into her hands, shuddering while she waited for the dream to lessen its grip on her as it always did once she was awake.

Some people had arachnophobia just because they didn't like spiders, she had it because she had lifelong nightmares of giant, murdering arachnids, stabbing her to death. Since she was just a little girl she had the same dream, but as she aged, it became far more detailed and increasingly more frightening.

Throwing back the covers, she scanned the room again in the dim light of the fire that burned low on one side of her bedroom, trying to decide what to do next. There was no way she would try to sleep again, and she really wished it were possible to go out and get some air… Her head jerked up when she remembered Gríma was gone, and it was safe to go outside, despite it still being dark.

Hurrying over to the wardrobe that held her clothes, she pulled out her most comfortable pair of faded jeans and a dark t-shirt, desperately in need of the familiar. When she had on her boots, she put on her velvet coat, opened the lock to her door and crept out, taking silent steps on the balls of her feet. Opening the outer door as quietly as possible, she sighed in relief when she took a deep breath of the cold, crisp air.

She headed to the back of the hall, as was her usual preference, and sat down on the edge of the stone walkway, staring up at the bright stars, one in particular twinkling brightly as though it were winking at her. Laurelin smiled at her silly thought, then gasped as a shooting star streaked across the sky, standing to her feet again to have a better view.

Tilting her face up to the stars, she wondered what she should wish for. Her first inclination was to wish to go home, but she felt it might be a waste of a wish, as she had already wished that thousands of time. Maybe she should be a little more wily with her wish?

"Oh beautiful, wish-granting star in the sky, I wish for….chocolate," she whispered, then giggled.


Legolas tracked the movement of the woman with his eyes from where he was concealed in the dark. He had thought he had found L.G. Wyche the previous day, when she had been brought into the hall to play and sing for the king. He was enchanted at the first glimpse of her lovely face, so different to the Rohan folk, as he had somehow known she would be. But when she sang he had been truly moved, for it was obvious she had a rare gift for music, quite beyond anything he had heard from a human, not counting Elizabeth. It was...surprising.

He was further intrigued by the way she had immediately felt his gaze on her, and had unerringly found him in the dim light of the shadows where he had lingered, boldly challenging him and holding his eyes with her own. Perhaps he should have taken the opportunity to introduce himself then, return her book and discover her name, as well as how she had come to be in Rohan, but something made him hesitate. What if he was wrong, and that woman wasn't the one who had written in the small book he carried, the one from English lands?

A falling star blazed across the sky while he mulled over his thoughts, and he held his breath when he heard her whisper words in English, proving beyond any doubt that she truly was the one he was meant to seek out. And she wished for chocolate? He smiled, shaking his head in amusement, and wondering if Elizabeth could be prevailed upon to share her highly prized chocolate with this young mortal, should they ever meet.

Crossing his arms, he decided he would seek her out in the hall tomorrow. He had no wish to frighten her by appearing before her suddenly in the dark like a wraith. When she shifted her weight, he caught a glimpse of her unusual attire she wore beneath her fine outer robes. Further proof of her foreign origins, as if he needed more.

Yes, tomorrow he would seek her out and reveal that he too spoke English, and gain her trust. It would be a welcome thing to speak to another person from Elizabeth's lands, and perhaps he would learn more about that place that had always fascinated him.


Lyrics from:

Age of Oppression, a Skyrim bard song, as sung by Malukah


 

~o~

Chapter Text

The following day, Gimli and Legolas were sitting in the sun outside the hall, both tending to their weapons, Legolas repairing several of the fletchings on his arrows, and Gimli sharpening his axe. Legolas still wore his hood, and while they worked, he sang one of the many English songs he had learned from Elizabeth, having been put in mind of them from the night before.

~o~

"You'll remember me when the west wind moves

Upon the fields of barley

You'll forget the sun in his jealous sky

As we walk in fields of gold

~o~

"So she took her love for to gaze awhile

Upon the fields of barley

In his arms she fell as her hair came down

Among the fields of gold

~o~

"Will you stay with me, will you be my love

Among the fields of barley

We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky

As we lie in fields of gold"

~o~

From the far side of the hall, still out of sight came the same rich, sweet voice from the day before, singing the next part of the song. Legolas looked up and smiled as the voice came closer.

~o~

"See the west wind move like a lover so

Upon the fields of barley

Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth

Among the fields of gold

~o~

"I never made promises lightly

And there have been some that I've broken

But I swear in the days still left

We'll walk in fields of gold"

~o~

The woman came into view walking down the steps, fair and blonde, like many in Edoras, but with bright green eyes and features much lovelier and more like his own folk, even more readily apparent in the bright light of day. Legolas stood to his feet as she fell silent. Her eyes were wide when she stared up at him, and there were tears in her eyes.

"You know Sting's music," she said in amazement, speaking in English. "Do you speak my language?"

He cocked his head at her unusual accent and rhythm of speech with the way she drew out the words, so different to Elizabeth, but nodded with a small smile. He was pleased to finally be face to face with the L.G. Wyche from the book he carried.

"Yes, I do speak English. I have for many years."

The tears in her eyes spilled over and she sprang forward, surprising him further when she wrapped her arms around his neck in an enthusiastic hug. He smiled and gently patted her back, reminded of all of Elizabeth's easy hugs and ready affection, and wondered if it were not something native to English culture to be so demonstrative. When he felt the fine trembling in her limbs, he remembered what he had read of her fears and sorrows and immediately wrapped his arms around her in sympathetic comfort.

When Gimli cleared his throat loudly, she stepped back and wiped her eyes with a small laugh, her gaze still focused on Legolas. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to attack you like that. It's just, I'm so...happy to know I'm not really all alone here."

Thrusting her hand out, she smiled, lighting her whole face with excitement. "Where are my manners? I'm Laurelin Wyche, pleased to meet you."

He took her hand, bowing over it and kissed it. "I am Legolas, and the pleasure is mine."

"What is this strange tongue you two are chattering away in?" Gimli grumbled, squinting up at them.

Laurelin turned to him, looking chagrined and immediately switched back to Common. "Oh. I apologize, Sir Gimli, I didn't mean to be so rude. It's just the first time I've heard my native English since I came to Rohan."

He cleared his throat again, looking embarrassed. "No apologies needed, lass. I was just curious." He glanced up at Legolas. "But I am more interested in how the elf knows your tongue."

Legolas shrugged. "As I have mentioned before, Gimli, my father's wife is from afar. It is from her that I learned to speak it.

Laurelin whipped her head back toward Legolas, and looked more closely at his face. It was a decidedly handsome face, with strong features and very piercing blue eyes, but he didn't look all that much different to other really good looking tall, lanky men she had seen in the past. Besides, being that good looking, he likely had an ego to match, if her past experience was anything to go by. She repressed a sigh at the thought, and the sinking disappointment that he wasn't really like her at all, despite knowing English.

"Then...you're an elf?"

"Take off the hood, Legolas, and show her properly. The girl has never seen an elf before."

Legolas raised a bemused brow at Gimli but reached up and pushed back the hood and lifted his hair free and waited for the inevitable reaction, or overreaction, as he had come to expect from mortal women over his appearance.

Laurelin gave him a brief, cursory glance, with no change in her neutral expression, then turned back to Gimli with a broad smile. "And now I've seen an elf, so I suppose I can cross that off my list of things to do before I die. Can I persuade you to come and share luncheon with me now, Sir Gimli? I saw it is to be roasted pork, which you mentioned was your favorite."

"Oh! That does sound very tempting," Gimli said, gathering his axe and offering his arm to Laurelin, which she readily accepted without a backwards glance. They walked up the steps into the hall, already in conversation, with the dwarf beginning to regale her as to the wonders of the beautiful Lady Galadriel and her realm.

Legolas watched them go with a puzzled frown. That was not at all what he had been expecting from the woman. She had barely glanced at his hair or ears, when so many of her kind seemed incapable of looking away. He sat back down and took up his arrows again with furrowed brows.

But it had been decidedly pleasant to hear English spoken again, which he had not had the pleasure of since leaving home, and he did miss his young sisters quite a lot. Surely there would be no harm in seeking her out later for a private conversation in English. This...Laurelin.

His head raised sharply as he realized why her name had struck a chord when he heard it, his father's words instantly returning to his mind from years earlier, sharp and clear.

When the light of the golden tree shines on you, protect and nurture it, for it shall be precious to you and greatly enrich your life.

He lifted a hand and rubbed his brow, considering if that was what his father meant, and if it could truly refer to this young woman. Laurelin was the name of the Golden Tree of Aman, and the fact that she also came from the same far off place as Elizabeth, and he just happened to be the only one who knew her language seemed too much of a coincidence to ignore. He glanced back up the stairs, his eyes narrowed in consideration.

Well, he thought musingly. Perhaps I might at least determine if she needs protecting or nurturing, and whether Adar's message actually could pertain to this mortal.

He placed the repaired arrows back into his quiver and started humming the same song he had been singing earlier, a small smile on his lips.


After luncheon, Gimli, Laurelin, Aragorn and Gandalf were sitting comfortably together near the fire. All three males were smoking pipes, and Laurelin was drinking some of the ale the Eorlingas brewed and were so fond of. She always watered hers down a good deal, finding it much too strong otherwise. The Rohirrim always laughed at her for it, but she had long since decided she had much rather be made fun of, then to stumble around half drunk all the time. She had always been a definite lightweight when it came to any kind of booze, and living the Viking life hadn't changed that.

Gandalf took a generous swallow from his tankard and wiped the foam from his mustache and beard. "They do make a fine beer here in Edoras. Not quite as rich as what is served in the Shire, but rather close."

Aragorn smiled faintly and blew out a plume of smoke, looking at Laurelin. "It is quite strong. I think Lady Laurelin is wise to water hers to weaken it."

"If I didn't, I would spend most of my time tipsy, with a silly smile on my face. I can't hold my liquor at all."

"It's best to know your limits, lass. No shame in admitting it." Gimli winked, gnawing on the tip of his pipe, and she smiled back, feeling a spreading warmth of affection in her chest and very comfortable with all of them.

A shadow fell across her and she glanced up to see Legolas standing just behind and to one side of her. He smiled down at her, and she froze for a second before she sprang to her feet and looked at Gimli.

"Please excuse me, won't you? I have something I must run and attend to, but I'll see you all a bit later?"

She rushed away without waiting for a reply, and Legolas stared after her in disappointment. He had been looking forward to speaking with her to find out more about how she had come to Edoras, and to converse with another English speaker. Gandalf chuckled and blew a smoke ring, drawing the elf's gaze to him.

"It seems there is one in Edoras who is not so very enamored of you, Greenleaf. That makes for a bit of a change, hmm?"

Legolas sat in the chair so recently vacated and sighed, catching Aragorn's curious gaze before he looked away. He would try again later. Surely she wasn't actually trying to avoid him, that would be ridiculous, she didn't even know him. Somehow, he would find a way to speak with her privately before the end of the day. If she would not seek him out, then he would track her down.


Laurelin did, in fact, manage to evade him several more times throughout the day, always with a hasty excuse of needing to be elsewhere when he approached, leaving no doubt in his mind that she was, indeed, trying to avoid him. And only him, as she had no qualms over spending time with Gandalf, Aragorn or Gimli, but with the dwarf as her preferred companion.

As his frustration grew, he devised a plan for how best to corner her and get to the bottom of how he had managed to put her off so thoroughly after their initial meeting. She had seemed disposed to like him at first, even hugging him eagerly, and she still continued to smile at him and converse with him until… Until he had removed his hood to display his pronounced elven features. That was when her behavior changed, and she had avoided him since. So...something to do with his being an elf.

He well knew from Elizabeth that there were no elves at all where she and Laurelin came from, and that they only existed there in myths and children's stories. Perhaps Laurelin was having difficulty believing he was truly real, and therein lay her discomfort.

Very well, he would just have to change her mind. He would show her she had nothing to fear or dread from an elf. He might even sing her an elvish song. Music seemed to be the language she best communicated with, so he would speak to her through it and set her heart at ease, and perhaps even secure her friendship. Satisfied by his chosen course of action, he settled in to wait for the right moment to catch the woman on her own.


After the evening meal, and when she had finished playing for the king, she went out to walk alone. Legolas followed her from a distance, becoming curious when she wandered some ways from Meduseld, nearly to the wall that enclosed the entire settlement. She walked to where a handful of trees grew clustered together, and leaned against the largest one and wrapped her arms around it tightly.

Legolas smiled, charmed by her apparent appreciation for the tree, when an idea struck him. He walked up silently behind her.

"Laurelin," he whispered, at the same time he laid a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently when she startled in fright and speaking in English to set her at ease. "Shhh, be still for a moment. Do you know that trees can speak to you if know how to listen?"

She glanced back at him with wide eyes. "But that's….how do you know that?"

He smiled, glad she hadn't turned and fled as soon as she saw it was him. "I'm an elf. We have a great affinity for things that grow, and trees especially." He glanced up at the tree and laid his free hand against it, reaching for its vital essence, when he turned to stare at the woman in surprise.

"This tree knows you, and you know the tree….you speak to it." He tilted his head as he let his hand fall away from the tree, thoroughly captivated. "It is a rare thing for one of your kind to be able to speak with trees. How did you first discover it was possible? I do not think such a thing is common where you come from. Elizabeth, my father's wife, has no such awareness."

She turned to face him, and his hand fell away from her shoulder. Laurelin shrugged and darted a glance up at him before dropping her eyes again. "I'm weird," she said quietly. "I've always been this way. I dream of trees, wear their likenesses." She held up her hand, caressing the small silver ring of twining leaves on one of her fingers. She looked away as a blush darkened her cheeks. "I even have a tattoo on my back. Trees are my spirit sign, or...something." She shook her head. "My brother calls me a tree-hugging hippie. I suppose I am."

Legolas' brow furrowed in puzzlement. "Hippie? I do not know this word."

"Oh, um.." She chuckled and glanced at him again briefly before fixing her gaze on the ground at her feet. "A little hard to explain without the cultural references of the 1960's, but I guess they were people who rejected the accepted values of the time and explored different ways of thought and philosophy for themselves. A kind of a rebel, I guess. Also used to refer to people that love Mother Earth."

He opened his mouth then closed it again, less concerned with her explanation and more by her markedly fearful and reserved behavior. He reached for her chin and tilted her face up so he could look into her eyes, which reminded him of a terrified deer when she finally met his gaze.

"Why have you avoided me, and now look at me with such distress? I swear to you, I would never do anything to harm you. Elves are peaceful by nature. I realize there are none of my people where you hail from, but..."

"No, that's..." she cut him off. "It's not...you didn't do anything, I..." She closed her eyes and drew a shaky breath, then reached up and took his hand from her chin and clasped it tightly between both of her own, looking down at where she rested her fingers across the backs of his knuckles. "It's even worse when I touch you," she said with a frown, then released his hand as though she had been burned. Laurelin walked several paces away, before turning back to face him with a determined set to her raised chin.

"Alright, look, I really don't know how to do subtle, so I'm just gonna lay the truth out here for you, and then if you want to run away screaming, you're welcome to. Does that sound acceptable to you?"

He tilted his head, amused again by her manner of speech as he had been when he read her writing, but concealing his reaction to keep from giving offense. "Of course. Honesty is always best. Please."

She nodded and started twirling the ring on her finger in a nervous, absent-minded way as she gathered her thoughts. "So, this all goes back to when I was just a girl. I already told you I'm an oddity, and I know a lot of people think that of themselves, or that they don't fit in, but I really didn't. I was skinny and scrawny as a kid, and a lot smaller than most other girls my age. I always identified with the ugly duckling." Laurelin looked at him questioningly. "Are you familiar with that story at all?"

Legolas nodded, smiling encouragingly. Elizabeth used to tell the story to his young siblings, and he supposed he could see some correlation, as the duck was actually a beautiful swan. He thought that fitting for the young woman in front of him, as she was rather graceful and elegant in her appearance, much like a swan.

"Right. So, I was the odd duck, completely different to other girls. When puberty arrived, they all sighed and drooled over boys, but not me. Never me," she muttered with a determined shake of her head.

"I thought boys were nasty. When I would see couples kissing, I just thought it looked awkward and uncomfortable, and I didn't ever have any other feelings about it. I could admire a pretty woman or a handsome man, but like you would an inanimate object or a work of art, right? I was completely uninterested in anything resembling physical intimacy, and I was just fine with it. The one time a man tried to kiss me, all I could think about was all the germs on his lips and that he was about to infect me with them, so I ran away."

Legolas crossed his arms as she spoke, able to hear in her voice that she was revealing a great deal of her inner thoughts to him, and that it clearly cost her to do so with a total stranger, as he was to her. He felt a glimmer of respect for her frankness and honesty despite her discomfort.

She stopped pacing and turned to look at him, squaring her shoulders. "Until..." She swallowed visibly and looked away again, the fear returning to her face, making Legolas frown. He walked to her and lifted her chin again, forcing her to meet his eyes.

"Until?" he prompted.

She stared into his eyes for several seconds before her gaze drifted from his eyes down to his mouth, and he felt her desire hit him with the force of a striking arrow, making him draw in a sharp, surprised breath.

"Until you," she whispered, closing her eyes in obvious misery, her cheeks darkening in an embarrassed blush.

He stared at her for a beat before smiling at how she kept her eyes clenched tightly shut. Pulling her closer to him, he stroked a hand across her back in a comforting hug.

"Laurelin, it is perfectly normal to have such feelings, and nothing you need be embarrassed over. You are so young, it is not surprising that you have never experienced desire before now."

"I'm almost thirty years old!" she groused into his chest. "That's not really that young in my neck of the woods."

He rested his chin on her head, stroking a hand through soft strands of her golden hair and repressing a grin at the realization that she fled from him, not because she hated what he was or feared him, but because she was attracted to him and didn't know what to do with such feelings.

The mischievous side of his nature chose that moment to surge forward as he thought he might well show her desire was nothing to run in terror from. He reached for her face and cradled it in both hands to prevent her darting away from him, as she seemed prone to. She examined him suspiciously through narrowed eyes.

"You're laughing at me, aren't you? I can feel it!"

Legolas shook his head with a smile, surprised she was able to sense that from him so easily, then allowed his expression to turn serious. "Laurelin, look at me." She raised her eyes back up to his defiantly, and Legolas felt an unexpected surge of affection for her. "I am not laughing at you, although I will admit I find you rather adorable at this moment."

"Well, damn," she sighed, "that's probably worse."

He resisted giving in to any further humor and focused on her face, tracing her lovely features with his eyes as his voice fell to just above a whisper. "I wish to show you something. Close your eyes now, and relax." He allowed his fingers to drift down from her face to also touch the sides of her neck, while he kept his voice low and soothing.

"Listen to the sound of the wind rustling in the leaves. Feel the rush of blood in your veins and each breath in and out. All of this is natural. Your body is a part of the natural world, at one with the stars in the sky and the trees of the earth."

She closed her eyes and listened to his words, her brows furrowing in concentration. He smoothed a thumb across her brows. "Stop trying to think about it. Just feel. Whatever your feelings are in this moment, accept them." He leaned down, letting her feel his breath fan across her face while he touched his nose against the side of hers.

"Embrace them." He pushed a lock of hair behind her ear, caressing the edge of her round ear, and she gasped as a shiver ran through her body, her lips parting and drawing his gaze there.

"Welcome them," he whispered, then pressed his lips to hers lightly, waiting to see what her reaction would be before he decided whether or not to go any further.

When she immediately lifted her head to deepen the kiss, he let that guide him, catching her bottom lip between both of his, and ran his tongue along the seam of her mouth, coaxing her to open for him, which she did with a quiet sigh and wrapped her arms around his neck, leaning into him fully, her soft, feminine curves moulding flush against him.

Legolas teased her tongue, tasting her and brushing against it with his own, stifling his own low moan of enjoyment to keep from startling her. Wrapping her fully in his arms, he pulled her tighter against him, long, sweet moments slipping past until he realized he had quite managed to lose himself in the surprisingly affecting kiss, just as much as Laurelin had.

He lifted his head and she opened dazed eyes to stare up at him. He noted she had a ring of gold around her pupils in the larger ring of green, and the gold caught and reflected the starlight, just as the rich color of her hair did.

"Glóriel adaneth," he murmured in Sindarin, running a finger through her wavy hair that hung down beside her face.

"What?" Her eyes were still soft and she remained pliant and docile in his arms, when he moved the same hand back to slowly stroke her cheek.

"It means golden woman. Your hair and eyes shine brightly under the light of the stars. It's quite lovely."

She smiled and stared unflinchingly up into his eyes, seemingly at ease, with her gaze full of interest and humor. "When you said you wanted to show me something, oh boy, you weren't kidding! If this is how elves make friends, then I think I can safely say I support it."

He smiled, just managing to keep it from turning it into a smirk. "Perhaps this is not the usual way elves make friends, but I felt very strongly I should make an exception in your case. At any rate, since you not only accepted my kiss, but also returned it, you are now bound to me irrevocably as mellon nín, for life."

She gaped at him, then narrowed her eyes. "You're pulling my leg, aren't you?"

Legolas grinned. "I assume you do not mean that literally, so it must be an expression, that means…?"

"It means you're teasing. Joking. Trying to trick me. You are, right? I didn't just commit to something serious, like marriage, with my first and only kiss, did I? Because if I did, I'm afraid we're going to have to pursue a medieval divorce. I don't kiss and marry on the first date, or...starlight stroll, whatever. My mama raised me to be a lady, not some dime-store floozy, tramp that gives it up to the first handsome elf she meets."

He released her with a chuckle and stepped back. "I am teasing you, mostly, although the mellon nín for life part is true. And I'm not sure I understand half of what you just said. I thought you spoke English, but now I am not so certain. What is medieval divorce? And I have never heard of a dime-store floozy tramp either, although I take it that would be an insult."

Laurelin crossed her arms and smirked. "A divorce is what you get to legally dissolve a marriage, although in our case we would just need an annulment since we didn't do anything remotely resembling sex, so we aren't actually married. You already figured out the floozy tramp part, it's a woman of loose morals who sleeps around, and I guess those kinds of women could be found working at dime-stores, but I'm not really sure." She shrugged. "And I do speak English, but it's the American South version. Where did you say your daddy's wife came from?"

He sat down on the soft grass and leaned back, propping himself up with one bent arm."Elizabeth is from England. Then am I to understand that sexual relations create marriage for your people, as well? I thought it was by spoken vows alone."

She sat down beside him, carefully arranging her skirt. "Well, yes, vows do make marriage, but unless it's consummated, I reckon it's not really marriage. Or that's what I was taught, anyway."

"But marriage is for life and irreversible. Why would your people have an established method to dissolve it?"

She laid down, facing him, and rested her head against her palm. "Alright, well imagine this scenario. You go out for an evening on the town, drink too much and get falling-down drunk. Then, you wake up married to someone you don't remember marrying. A complete stranger you had sex with, but otherwise don't know. Wouldn't you want to be able to undo that mistake?"

He shook his head. "If a person were foolish enough to get themselves into that situation, they should be made to live with the consequences of their actions, even if it means a marriage they would not have chosen with a clear mind. To do otherwise would be dishonorable, particularly in light of joining bodies, as you specified."

Laurelin rolled her eyes. "You're kind of a hard-ass, huh?"

He raised an amused brow and made a show of reaching back to feel his derrière, making her snicker. She had already taken note of his obviously firm posterior, so she supposed the hard-ass label worked in a complimentary way too.

"It means you're tough," she clarified. "Uncompromising. You see the world in all black and white, and don't make allowances for shades of gray."

"Gray is just white that's been polluted by black." His expression lost all of its teasing look before it turned brooding, and he looked away. "I stand against the dark that would taint purity. Like my home, poisoned by foul creatures and orcs in a struggle that has gone on for centuries." He looked back to her and met her eyes. "I fight to defend gentle ladies like you, and to make this world safe for my sisters and brothers, and all the noble folk of Middle-earth. If the dark one has his way, we will all fall under his power, but that cannot be allowed to stand."

She wet her lips, her own face reflecting the sober nature of her thoughts. "You're talking about whatever that pressing feeling of doom is?" He nodded and she looked down, then sat up and folded her legs to one side. She met and held his gaze. "But what is it?"

Legolas also sat up, mirroring her position. "A dark lord. I will not speak his name aloud. Names have power, and I would not wish any agents of the enemy to be drawn to you."

Laurelin cleared her throat and leaned closer to him. "A dark lord, huh? Wait, wait, don't tell me, let me guess. He wants to take over the whole world and make us all his slaves?"

He raised a brow at her decidedly flippant tone. "You are correct. He wishes to expand his power and dominate all life."

Her lids swept down, hiding her eyes while she stared at her hands, clasped tightly in her lap. "I'm not in my...my world anymore, am I? Orcs..." she shook her head. "We don't have those. Or elves. Only in fantasy."

His heart went out to her, so very young and alone, and so afraid of the unknown threat all around her, but he could not tell her a falsehood. "No, Laurelin, you aren't there anymore, I'm sorry."

She looked up at him again, her eyes full of tears she tried to blink away. "Do you think I'll ever be able to get back to my home again?"

He did not even know how she had gotten there, but from Elizabeth's tale of her journey and how difficult it had been for her to even find a way to Middle-earth, he thought it very unlikely. He reached out and laid his hand against her cheek.

"No, child, I think you are here to stay." Laurelin nodded as the tears overflowed, and Legolas rubbed his thumb beneath her eye, catching some of them.

"I know," she said in a wavering voice, thick with grief. "I've really known for a long time, it's just… I hoped."

He pulled her to him, pressing her head against his chest and sliding his arms around her as he would to comfort one of his sisters, gently sliding his fingers through her hair again while she wept.

"Facing the truth does not mean giving up your hope. You can make a new home here. I know my family would welcome you to Greenwood, and you would love it there. Trees as far as the eye can see." She chuckled and he smiled at the sound. "Elizabeth will likely adopt you as one of her own, and my sisters would adore you. Skilled musicians and singers are greatly prized in elven realms."

She pulled away, wiping at her nose and eyes and sniffling. "But you barely know me. Why would you go out of your way? I'm not your problem, and I know you have important things you have to do with your companions."

"I will help you because you need it," he said firmly. "I am easily able to assist you, and it is right for me to do so. I do have obligations that must come first, as you say, but once they are met..."

She squared her shoulders and brushed away the last of her tears. "That's alright. Don't trouble yourself, I'll manage somehow. I have for the past two years. Éomer has always been good to me, and with Gríma gone and King Théoden recovered, maybe it won't be as bad as it was."

He shook his head, leaning closer to catch her eyes with his. "Nothing is certain until the enemy is defeated, and though I cannot explain fully now, I believe you belong in Greenwood. The longer we converse, the more convinced I am of it. My entire family speaks English, all eight of my brothers and sisters, as well as Elizabeth and my father, and one or two others besides."

Her mouth fell open in shock. "Did you say you have eight brothers and sisters? Are elves like… I mean, don't you have any hobbies?"

He laughed softly and shook his head. "Generally, elves have much smaller families, as immortals don't feel any pressing need to replace themselves like mortals do. But Elizabeth has always had a great thirst for children. Nearly unquenchable, for a time."

Laurelin looked at him askance with furrowed brows. "What on earth are you talking about...mortals and immortals?" She paled and stared at his mouth. "I hope you're not going to suddenly bite my neck."

Legolas pursed his lips. "Why do you think I would bite your neck?"

"Vampire?" she squeaked.

He gave her a narrow-eyed look that made her blush. "We don't have such things here, Laurelin, and if you have them in your land, I am truly sorry for your people."

"We don't really, just in stories and popular entertainment," she admitted with a shrug. "But you don't exist there either, so who knows what's real and what isn't around here. Now, will you explain what you meant about immortals and mortals? Call me crazy, but I thought everyone was mortal."

He stood and extended a hand and helped her up, and they wandered back to the trees, Legolas leaning against one, and Laurelin on another, facing him. He explained about the origin of the elves, and of mankind and dwarves, and their different life expectancies, even briefly mentioning wizards like Gandalf, and their origins.

Laurelin rubbed the knuckle from her first finger slowly across her bottom lip while she processed what he was telling her. "So there are normal men like the Rohirrim, that live about as long as people where I was born, but then there are special men like Aragorn. How old did you say he was?"

"He is eighty-seven."

She shook her head in amazement. "Damn, he looks really great for a senior citizen." She chewed her bottom lip and asked the question she was most curious about. "And how old are you?"

Legolas smirked and crossed his arms. "Are you certain you really care to know the answer?"

She wrinkled her nose. "You're darn tootin'!" At his puzzled look, she giggled. "That means yes."

"Ah. I see I have a ways to go before I fully learn your version of English. My current age is two thousand, nine hundred and thirty-one years."

Laurelin blinked and let that slowly sink in before something else occurred to her. "Okay, so you're really old, and your daddy is obviously much older, but he married someone from my world. So...won't he be awful sad when she dies in a few decades, or whenever?"

"That would be true if Elizabeth were a mortal, but she had become an immortal long before she ever came to Greenwood. My father would not have married her otherwise, as mortals and immortals rarely intermarry, for the grief it inevitably brings when the mortal party dies at the end of their brief life span."

She ran an absent hand against the bark of the tree she leaned against. "Yeah, I can see how that would suck. But, wait...won't you have to watch all your friends die too? Aragorn and Gimli, and...anyone else?" She stopped before she added herself to the list, as that would be ridiculously presumptuous and imply that he would actually care what happened to her, but she saw on his face that he knew she had been thinking it.

His blue eyes filled with torment and grief before he looked away. "Yes, you are correct. I will have to suffer the pain of those losses. But it is the price for loving mortals, and I am willing to pay it when I must."

Her eyes filled with sympathetic tears when she thought of it from his point of view, and all his future sorrow, as one after another of his friends aged and died. "You're kind and brave, Legolas. I'm not convinced I would want to do that if I were in your place." She ran a hand through her hair and sighed. "Are you sure you don't want to throw me back in the water? You already have several big fish in your bucket, and I'm just a minnow. No need to add to your burden with such a puny, little fish."

His eyes softened and a slight smile curled his lips. "Your speech is very colorful, but no, I would not willingly give you up now, mellon nin. I believe you need me, and I find I am already attached. Such is the way for elves when a connection is felt."

Laurelin looked up at the stars and nodded. She already felt quite attached, herself, which was really surprising in its speed. Aragorn and Gandalf were both caring and seemed genuinely concerned for her well-being, and Gimli she already loved like a best buddy. She looked back at Legolas and found him watching her intently and forced out the question that had been simmering on the back burner in her mind the whole time they had been talking.

"Why did you kiss me? You must have had an actual reason. That's not a casual thing to do, not here in a place like this."

He knew she was going to ask him, he had been waiting for her to work up her courage, and was satisfied that she finally had before they were forced to retire for the evening.

"Mostly, I kissed you because you feared it, and the best way to conquer fear is to face it, head on."

Pursing her lips, she nodded. "Very generous of you to go out of your way just to help me over my fear. Are you always this self-sacrificing, or do you ever do anything just because you want to?"

The same slight smile lifted his lips as before, but there was an intensity in his blue eyes when he looked at her then, that she had not seen from him before. She shivered in the realization that a three thousand year old man was staring at her out of those eyes.

"I did say mostly. I am not as noble as all that, Laurelin. If I did not wish to kiss you, then I would not have. You are a beautiful, intelligent woman, and far different to other mortal women I have known. There is such an awareness, an understanding and knowledge in your eyes, that it is easy for me to forget you are not one of my own people. Were you not a mortal woman, perhaps..."

He closed his eyes and sighed, stopping himself before he said too much, then opened them and looked at her again, the heavy weight of sadness apparent in his gaze. "I may be cursed to always be drawn to what I cannot have, or so it seems."

"That definitely sounds like the opening of a story, to me."

He leaned his head back against the tree. "Yes. Perhaps one day I will tell you."

Hearing the finality in his words, she knew he was warning her away from more personal questions and took the hint, returning instead to a previous point of curiosity. She walked across to him and held her hand out. He gave her a puzzled look, but took her hand as she seemed to want him to and watched her frown down at their joined hands. She placed his hand against her neck, then lifted it to her cheek, then finally clasped it between both of her hands before she released him with a satisfied smile.

"I thought that was what I felt, but I was so distracted when you were kissing me, I had to be sure."

"Of what?" he asked, hiding a smile at her matter-of-fact confession at how he had affected her.

"I don't know, your elf magnetism and electricity, or something." She smirked. "Everywhere your skin touches mine, I tingle. Like a static shock, but weaker and actually pleasant. I never felt anything like that before."

Legolas tilted his head, intrigued. "Give me your hand." She did and he repeated her experiment, but putting her hand on his skin instead, then laughing. "I feel it too. It's like a hum or a vibration when you touch me."

She chewed the inside of her cheek, as she considered the possibilities. "I wonder if it's just hands, or if other body parts would react the same way. I bet naked touch, like for sex would be weird, like having built in vibrators everywhere. Not that I know anything at all as to what sex is like, beyond theory. I wonder what could cause it?"

Laurelin raised her brows and looked at Legolas, who was watching her with a face blank of all expression, and she nearly slapped herself when she realized what she had said.

"Sorry, I was just thinking out loud. I wasn't really planning to try and jump your bones, so you don't have to worry." When he opened his mouth to ask her what it meant, she beat him to the punch. "To jump someone's bones means to try to have sex with them. It's slang, just a little bit nicer than saying you want to fuck, which is a completely crass and vulgar way to put it."

"Ah," he said with a look of understanding. "I am familiar with fuck. One of Elizabeth's favorite English curse words, in fact."

"Really?" Laurelin grinned. "Then I think I just might get along with your stepmom, after all, if she's not too prim to let loose with a good cuss word once in a while."

Legolas chuckled and held his arm out to Laurelin. "Shall we retire, my lady? The hour grows quite late, and I'm sure you need your rest."

She glanced back at the trees and sighed, resting her hand around his arm as they walked back toward the hall. "I would really rather sleep out here, and talk with you all night, but I suppose I better conform or tongues will wag."

"I am quite relieved you are comfortable in my presence now, and will no longer flee at the sight of me. There is so much I would enjoy discussing with you. Oh, and I have been trying to return this to you as well." He pulled the little book from under his tunic and presented it to her.

She took it with a look of relief, then narrowed her eyes at him. "You didn't actually read my journal, did you?"

He shrugged. "Yes, a little. I was surprised to see such a book in Rohan, and when I discovered it was in English, I tried to determine who it belonged to." He tapped the cover. "I thought it would be in elvish when I saw it, those designs are very similar to the ones from my home."

Laurelin stifled a yawn. "If it's similar to your people's art designs, then I reckon I would really like elvish things."

Legolas saw her to the door of her room, with a promise to sing her some of his people's songs the following day. After she locked her door and got ready for bed, she fell to sleep quickly and slept more soundly than she had in all the time she had lived in Edoras, with no nightmares to plague her.


Lyrics from Fields Of Gold by Sting

~o~

Chapter Text


 

The next morning, Laurelin grabbed a quick breakfast from the busy kitchen, then wandered up to a mostly empty great hall. Gandalf and King Théoden were sitting together at one of the long tables, seemingly deep in discussion, with what looked to be a map spread out before them. She pushed opened one of the heavy doors and hurried out into the sunshine, stopping to stare at all the armored men wandering about. It seemed more riders had arrived during the night.

The stables looked full to bursting with people tending their horses, so she turned toward where a crowd was gathered in an open area apart from the hall that soldiers and guards used to spar and train. Working her way through the press of bodies, she was finally able to see why a crowd had gathered. Lady Éowyn was dressed in a split skirt affair that allowed for greater movement, with a leather vest and arm guards, and she was engaged in a very serious looking sword fight with Éothain.

Fascinated, Laurelin pressed into the very front row of observers for a better look. She had heard Éowyn referred to as a shield maiden, but hadn't realized that meant she was a fully trained warrior. Éothain had several inches in height over her, but she used the shield to her advantage and pressed her attack, landing a hit on his unguarded flank. Several of Éomer's men let out hoots of approval.

Laurelin noticed Aragorn and Legolas watching across the way from where she stood, and her heart started to pound alarmingly when the elf smiled at her. She smiled back, fighting a blush, then returned her attention to the fight, embarrassed when her thoughts immediately replayed the kiss they shared the night before in great detail. The whole evening with Legolas had felt far more like a really good dream than something that had actually happened. She needed to get her attraction to the elf under control, before he realized it was still an issue for her.

Gimli walked up beside her and pursed his lips as Éowyn took a hard hit across her shield that forced her back a step, before she yelled a battle cry and launched herself at her opponent, ending the duel with her sword at his throat when he overbalanced from her hit in his heavy armor, and fell.

Gimli laughed, clapped his hands together and looked at Laurelin as the spectators dispersed. "Well, my lady, are you ready to take your turn and defeat one of these men?"

She snorted and shook her head. "No way! I don't know the first thing about swords, bows or axes. I'd probably hurt myself more than any opponent. At home, I carried a weapon my people use, but you folks don't have anything like it here. This is all I have on me now, for protection." She pulled out her butterfly knife just as Aragorn and Legolas walked up, flipped it open and did a few flashy flips and spins with it just for fun. Gimli eyed it and scoffed.

"Bah. That looks useful to clean your nails with, and little else. What weapon did your people have that we do not?"

She flipped the knife closed again and gave it to Legolas when he held his hand out in silent request. He opened it and examined it while she looked back at Gimli.

"They're called guns. Very accurate for ranged attack. They use small projectiles called bullets that are propelled at great speed by an explosive powder. Like a bow and arrow, except guns and bullets are a lot smaller and more convenient to use, and can be concealed on the body like knives can. Deadly too, one shot equals one kill in a skilled person's hands."

Legolas closed her little knife and looked at her when Aragorn spoke up. "I take it you're skilled with this weapon you describe?"

She grinned. "Yes sir, I am. On still and moving targets, my specialty is head-shots, right between the eyes." She made a finger pistol and stood with her feet planted like she did when she practiced, sighting on a wooden post in the distance. "Bang."

Legolas smiled. "Bang?"

Laurelin dropped her hands and relaxed her posture. "Guns are really loud when you fire them. That's the explosive part from the powder. I always wore ear protection when I used my sidearm."

Gimli stroked his beard thoughtfully. "Could you draw an example of one of those weapons? I wonder if I might be able to make one for you."

"Aren't you just the sweetest thing?" She laid a hand on his beefy shoulder, her smile widening when he coughed as his cheeks reddened. "I certainly could make some drawings for you, Gimli. A gun is pretty straightforward and probably wouldn't be too hard to make if you had the materials, but it's the powder for the bullets that would be tough to replicate. I don't know the exact recipe except it has charcoal, sulfur, and something from animal dung. I just bought ready-made bullets from the store back home, I never made any myself. I would be afraid of blowing my arm off if I tried and set the powder off by accident."

Legolas handed her knife back and she tucked it into her waistband where she kept it before he offered his opinion. "Since you are skilled at range, you should learn the bow. Arrows are always readily available and require no explosions to fire."

She squinted up at him. "But I don't have a bow or anyone to show me what to do with one, and why should I bother? There's probably more armed men around me here than anywhere else I've ever lived."

Aragorn frowned, the lines on his face growing more pronounced. "It is never a bad thing to learn to defend yourself, Lady Laurelin, especially in these times."

"I can teach you," Legolas added. "We could begin today, if you wish to learn."

She looked between the three men, remembering the orcs she had seen, a shiver of fear running up her back and making her scalp prickle. "Do you think I should?" she asked, doubt clear in her voice.

Gimli patted her arm. "Go on, lass. Let the elf show you a few things." She sighed quietly and nodded her acquiescence. Gimli turned toward Aragorn and began walking away. "Come, Aragorn, let's go and have something to eat while Legolas shows off for the girl."

Legolas raised an annoyed brow at his dwarf friend and beckoned for Laurelin to follow him back to the hall. He went and retrieved his bow, then asked Éomer about borrowing one that might suit Laurelin to practice with. The horse lord looked curiously between them with furrowed brows.

"You will find something workable in the armory." He gave them directions, and Laurelin followed Legolas once more, stopping to snag two apples from one of the baskets near the door. She munched hers while he examined several plain bows stored haphazardly in a large barrel, finally settling on one and taking an extra quiver full of arrows.

She tilted her head when he next led her to the stables where he proceeded to lead a white horse from one of the stalls. Crossing her arms with his apple still clutched in one hand, she smirked.

"Do we need a horse for you to teach me the bow? Must be some new technique I've never heard of," she drawled in English, happy that they could speak it without anyone objecting when it was just the two of them.

He shook his head with a smile. "We can ride out a ways. Edoras is so crowded at present, it would be difficult to find a place to practice without undue distraction." He looked at her skirt. "I can lift you in front of me and hold you in such a way to accommodate your gown."

Laurelin shook her head and lifted her skirt to show him the dark pants she wore beneath. "I can ride astride just fine. I'll never ride sidesaddle again if I can help it; it feels too unnatural."

"Ah, good. That will be much simpler. Come, I'll help you up. Arod will easily carry us both."

She tucked the apple into one of her dress pockets while Legolas secured both bows and quivers across his back, lifted her up onto the horse, then leapt up behind her. He wrapped his arms around her securely and tangled his fingers in Arod's mane. She turned her head to meet his eyes, so close to hers and nearly forgot what she wanted to say, the beautiful, startling blue of his mesmerizing gaze taking her breath away.

"Um..." Laurelin looked down. "Bareback without even a bridle?"

He shifted his knee against the horse and murmured something she didn't understand, and the horse walked out of the stable and turned toward the road leading to the main gate before he answered.

"We do not need a saddle or bridle. The horse is more comfortable without, and I have no difficulty making him understand me."

He smelled so nice, clean and a little spicy, with a scent she couldn't really define, that she found herself leaning nearer just so she could sniff him, which she was sure made her a total creeper. Laurelin ignored all the stares of the men and village folk they passed, and tried not to think too hard about how nice it felt to be surrounded by the warmth from Legolas' firm body, and the rocking of the horse as they swayed together. The reality seemed so sensual to her that she almost felt indecent, and fell back into idle chatter to cover her nerves.

"It's a good thing you speak fluent horse since I only know a word or two in their language, like 'hyah' and 'woah'. I guess if we don't gallop we'll probably be alright, just don't let me fall."

"You have nothing to fear," he murmured. "Even if we gallop, I would never let you fall, Laurelin."

They passed through the gate and with his mouth nearly against her so that his breath fanned across her ear and neck, she couldn't stop the affected shiver that ran through her, and she knew he had to have felt it. She was relieved that he made no mention of it, and her worry flew from her mind after he told her to lean forward. He tightened his arms around her.

"Noro lim, Arod," he called, just before the horse took off like a shot, making her squeal in alarm. (Sindarin: run swiftly)

She closed her eyes and laid as far against the horse's neck as she could, her fingers cramping from the death grip she had in his mane, and certain her life was about to come to a brutal end when she heard Legolas chuckle against her ear.

"Relax your body. You're fighting both me and the horse."

"I don't know how!" she wailed, clenching her eyes even more tightly closed so she wouldn't have to see when she smashed into the ground face-first. Legolas let go of Arod's mane with one hand and wrapped it around her waist, pulling her back more firmly between his legs, so that if any space existed between her ass and his crotch previously, it certainly didn't anymore.

"Oh, sweet baby Jesus," she moaned, no longer feeling like she was going to fall from the horse, but with an even more alarming pulse of achy heat throbbing between her legs, that she felt every time she looked at Legolas and now had a label for...arousal.

"That's it, you feel the difference! That's perfect, you became one with me by instinct, just as you should." He rested his face against hers when she raised her head to look ahead and she could feel his smile. "Enjoy the feeling of the wind in your face, Laurelin, and the power of the horse beneath you. It's exhilarating, isn't it?"

She hummed in agreement, not about to admit what it was she actually felt. Legolas spoke to Arod again, guiding him to slow into a trot and turning him back to face Edoras before they came to a stop. He slid down off the horse, then reached up to pull her down, steadying her when her legs proved a bit wobbly. Laurelin stepped away from the elf, avoiding his eyes again.

"I think I need a minute to swallow my heart back down into my chest, where it belongs." She turned and walked several steps away, tugging at the snarls in her blonde hair from their brief and terrifying gallop. A thought struck her and she whirled back and pointed at him in accusation.

"I'm pretty sure I said don't gallop! What part of that made you think that I actually wanted to?" He opened his mouth and she made a slashing motion with her hand. "And, by God, you better not say you were trying to help me get over my fear by facing it, or me and you are gonna mix."

He finished stringing both of the bows and glanced up curiously, filing away yet another one of her colorful expressions. Laurelin's version of English was a rather entertaining language unto itself. "It seems you have a bit of a temper. You were never in any peril, and I thought you would enjoy a run. I apologize if I misjudged."

Her heart plunged clears to her toes when she thought there was a tightness around his eyes that hinted at possible anger, or some other negative emotion, and her shoulders slumped as she fixed her gaze on the patchy grass around them. "Sorry. I can go from zero to jackass pretty quick. I shouldn't have shouted, and...I did kinda enjoy it."

He held out the smaller bow, careful to keep all signs of amusement off of his face when she took it and met his eyes briefly, before looking away. "I was, in fact, perfectly aware of how much the ride affected you, Laurelin."

She jerked her eyes back to him, a look of horror on her face as her cheeks reddened. He smiled guilelessly. "You felt the same intense, overpowering effect as I did, deep inside you, did you not?"

Laurelin swallowed visibly and pressed her lips together, trying to decide whether to answer him or not, still unable to tell if he was yanking her chain or being sincere, and decided on a non-committal response.

"Hmm." She ran her hand down the wood of the bow and turned and paced away, giving him her back.

Legolas smirked, thoroughly enjoying teasing her, and her resulting confusion and failing attempts to control her attraction to him. Lifting his own bow, he assumed an innocent, passive expression and moved toward her.

"Shall we begin?"


Laurelin's first archery lesson actually went surprisingly well. Legolas proved to be a very patient and thorough teacher, first drawing his own bow and nocking an arrow, explaining proper stance, then releasing his arrow to hit a nearby tree before turning his attention to showing her how to do the same.

She struggled the most with how to hold the arrow and get it situated against the string without dropping said arrow, but after a handful of tries she started to get the hang of it. Actually figuring out how to fire the arrow successfully would probably have taken her much longer, but Legolas got behind her and placed his hands on top of hers on both the bow and arrow. Trying to keep her heart rate down while he was wrapped around her was the biggest challenge yet. After drawing the arrow back, he let her feel the position, before he quietly told her to release. It landed just below where he had shot his, making her grin.

He stepped away from her. "How did that feel?"

"It felt..." She tilted her head. "Good."

Legolas handed her another arrow and waited until she fit it to the string. She glanced at him curiously.

"I notice there are no cheats on this bow, like with a kiss knot, arrow rest, or any other fancy bells and whistles. Wouldn't those things make it easier for me to learn?" She lowered the bow she held and looked closely at his longbow, noting just how plain it was, with none of the stuff she had seen on compound bows from back home.

He raised a brow in bemusement. "You yourself name them cheats, yet you would have me teach you their use and make you dependent on them?" He shook his head, holding his bow up in emphasis. "Skill comes from the person more than the tool. So long as you have a passably decent bow, you need nothing more than the application of knowledge, and practice."

Laurelin accepted his words with a nod before she gave him a teasing grin. "Once upon a time, I was an elf, ya know."

His brows furrowed in confusion. "Pardon?"

She chuckled, her green eyes lighting with amusement while she tossed her head with a suddenly haughty look. "I was a wood elf, known as a Bosmer, and I was a hero who saved the world from the villains. I was a master archer and assassin, always attacking from the shadows and killing from stealth. My victims never even knew I was there until one of my arrows or daggers pierced them. Elinwen was my name."

"You...what?" The confused look on his face increased until she laughed.

"It's a game I played. Did Elizabeth ever tell you about television or movies?"

He pursed his lips. "Perhaps...some mention of it. Like drawn pictures of people that speak and move as though they are real?"

"Right," she said, her smile widening. "Close enough, anyway. So, there are these games, called roleplay, and in them, you make up a character to play as, from a list of imaginary races. There were cat people, lizard people, humans, including a half elf, half human race called Bretons, and then there were lots of elves. Altmer were high elves, and a lot of them were really stuck up, racial supremacists. Then there were Dunmer, known as dark elves. They were a little snotty with other races too, but they have fire magic, so they're good to play as. Then there are Bosmer, called wood elves, who excel with bows and live in the trees." She shrugged. "That's why I chose that for Elinwen, because I liked their tree houses. And lastly, there were Orsimer, commonly known as Orcs. They had green skin and tusks from their mouths which made them pretty ugly, but they were really strong, so a good choice for straight warrior or berserker characters."

Legolas stowed his bow across his back and gave her an offended look. "Orcs are not elves. Their origins are not fully known, but they are certainly nothing like my people."

She rolled her eyes. "It's a game, Legolas, none of it is real. And they aren't like the ones here either. It's just an imaginary story and world someone made up for fun, so other adults can play it to relax."

The wind blew his hair back from his face, his strong features set in stern lines. "You spent your time with a game where you pretended to be an elf that is an expert at killing, assassinating from the shadows, and you would do this for...fun?" He gave her a disapproving look. "I wonder at the life you have led if you play at such things for pleasure."

The smile slipped from her face. "I guess from an outsider's point of view that must sound pretty screwed up. But I lived in a fucked up world, so as coping mechanisms go, I don't think mine was too bad." She drew the bow again, sighted carefully on the tree while wishing for her gun, and only released her breath after she fired, slightly mollified when her arrow at least hit the tree, although down and to the side of where the others were grouped.

"This thing pulls to the left," she grumbled, flopping onto the ground and examining her hands. If it weren't for her guitar and violin playing already having toughened them, she would probably have gotten epic blisters from the bowstring. She reached up to massage her right shoulder where the muscles there had started to ache from the unfamiliar use.

Legolas looked at the tree and nodded. "It does shoot a bit left. It's good you were able to feel it and still hit the tree, even though it affected your aim. Your other weapon training has given you some advantages you can apply to learning the bow."

"Goody for me." She pulled the apple from her dress pocket and tossed it up and caught it. "I won't be able to shoot an apple off the top of someone's head anytime soon though."

He took off his bow and both quivers and laid them down with the training bow, then sat near Laurelin, catching the apple when she threw it at him. Pulling a small knife from his belt, he cut it into sections and handed her one before biting into his.

She smiled her thanks and they ate companionably, finally tossing away the sections of core into the scrub. "The elf you played as," he began, making her look at him, and again admire the masculine perfection of his features, looking for any flaws in his skin that would show his great age, and amazed when she found none. Could he really be as old as he claimed or was he just bullshitting her? She didn't really think he would lie, but it was hard to wrap her head around something like that being real.

"You gave her an actual elvish name."

Laurelin squinted at him. "What do you mean?"

He leaned back, supporting himself with the flat of his hands against the grass. "In Sindarin, which is the language we speak at home, Elinwen means star maiden."

Her mouth opened in surprise. "Really? That's a...weird coincidence." She smiled, amused by the thought of having channeled an actual elf when she picked the random name, but Legolas' gaze grew more focused on her, with an intensity that made her stomach flip with sudden nerves.

"Your name is also elvish. Well known among my people, in fact. Laurelin means song of gold."

She chuckled, pushing her long, blonde hair back out of her eyes. "Oh, come on now. My name isn't elvish. My mom made it up from some dream she had when she was pregnant with me. As far as I know, I don't think it has any meaning at all, she told me she just liked the way it sounded."

He sat up, bringing him much closer to her, and she swallowed and froze, hypnotized by the beautiful blue of his eyes and the way he was looking at her. "It is actually a name of some significance. In the history of my people, there is a story of the great trees of Valinor. There were two of them, in fact. The gold tree called Laurelin, and a..."

"Silver tree," she whispered, all the color draining from her face with a look of shock. He leaned forward and gripped her upper arms, pinning her firmly with his eyes.

"Yes, called Telperion. And you know of them. How?"

"But I don't! Not really, not with...names and all." She bit her lip, her eyes focused on the pointed tip of one of his ears as she remembered. "I told you that I dream of trees sometimes. I just...I drempt of a gold and silver tree together once, in some bright, beautiful place. I thought it was heaven."

He stared into her eyes for another moment, clearly able to see that she was fearful, as well as concealing something from him, but he would never attempt to force a confidence from her that she was not ready to give. There was not even the smallest bit of doubt left in him that this Laurelin was the golden tree his father spoke of, yet he could not dare tell her that an elven king had foreseen her coming to middle-earth long before she was even born, and frighten her further. But perhaps he might hint.

"Laurelin, have you ever stopped to consider that your coming here was not mere chance, but maybe part of something deliberate, or even some unknown purpose?"

The golden ring in her eyes caught the light, even as her expression grew sad. "I would like to believe that, I think. Only, what on earth kind of purpose could a nobody singer from Texas, like me, have to offer anyone? It's far more likely I'm the victim of some major screw up in the time-space continuum. Any second now, a Time Lord is gonna pop in with his phone booth and demand I go back to where I belong and quit messing stuff up."

Legolas frowned and slowly released his grip on her, reaching a hand to cup one of her cheeks. "I do not know of this time lord you speak of, but you sound much like Elizabeth with the negative view you take of yourself. You have a great deal to offer to the people around you, and many gifts. Is there something in the land you come of that teaches this irrational self-hatred to their women?"

She smirked. "I can't speak for Elizabeth, but my poor self-image was a carefully learned skill that took nearly three decades to perfect. If I didn't think so little of myself, I might even be really proud of how well I had done without a master to teach me."

He smiled and shook his head, his hand drifting down to rest on her shoulder. "I feel as though I have known you far longer than only a few days, but I do not know why."

Laurelin wrapped her hand around his forearm where he touched her shoulder and smiled warmly. "Me too. It's a...feeling, like you say. Not something I know how to put into words."

Legolas ran his eyes across her face, briefly lingering on her lips before he sat back, dropping his hand. "Shall I sing you an elvish song now, as I promised?"

She scooted around to face him more, crossed her legs and nodded eagerly. "Go ahead. I'm all ears."

When he started to sing, she closed her eyes and smiled in appreciation, losing herself in the rich, full timbre of his voice and the strangely soothing sounds of the language he sang in.


When Laurelin opened her eyes, she grinned to find her head cradled on Legolas' lap with his fingers moving gently through her hair. She glanced up to see him haloed in sunlight, turning his hair to a cloud of silvery platinum. She rubbed her eyes and yawned.

"You like like an angel." He pulled a lock of her hair forward and she saw he had braided a section above her ear.

"I have heard the comparison before, but never having seen an angel, myself, I cannot say whether it is true. I understand they have wings, which I clearly don't."

She reached up and felt the braid, running her fingers down it and brushing past his in the process, smiling at the faint tingling across her fingertips from his touch. It looked far more intricate and involved than the three strand plait she was accustomed to. She looked up at him curiously.

"What happened? I was lying on the grass listening to you, then I was out cold."

Legolas smiled faintly. "I suppose I should have known better than to sing you a lullaby. Elizabeth claims elven lullabies have special powers over humans. Perhaps she is not wrong."

Laurelin stretched and readjusted her position. "Your lap is surprisingly comfortable."

He pushed back his hair where the wind had blown it forward. "Why is that surprising?"

Deciding she really probably shouldn't be laying on him any longer, she sat up and shrugged, feeling again for the braid that hung down across her chest and fingering it. "Because you're all..." She waved a hand at him. "Super masculine and manly warrior, or elfy warrior, whatever, and I don't think of someone like that being very comfy to lie on."

His eyes narrowed. "I'm uncertain if I've been complimented or insulted. Elfy? Is that even a proper word, or did you just make it up?" he asked teasingly.

"I probably made it up." Standing, she dusted herself off, walked a few steps away and twirled around in a circle with her arms thrown out and head back in pleasure, to catch the sun on her face. "It's such a pretty day today. I'm glad the sun came out."

Legolas stood and joined her, looking at her speculatively. "Do you dance, Laurelin?"

On impulse, she did a series of chaînés turns moving away from him and then finished in a deep, classical curtsy and gave him a cheeky smile. "I took ballet lessons for fourteen years, if that counts."

"Yes, it counts. You're very graceful. Tell me, by any chance, do you know the merengue?"

She gave him a flabbergasted look. "You dance the merengue...here? What the hell? Do you… Oh." She paused and smacked herself on the forehead. "Elizabeth, right?" At his nod, she smirked. "I do know how to merengue. A little, anyway. I can waltz and rumba too, but I never learned any other ballroom style dances, and I think I'm probably really rusty and awful. I only took a handful of classes one summer when I was a teenager."

He grinned, thinking of how pleasant the next feast would be if he had a partner like Laurelin to dance with him, then quickly sobered as thoughts of the quest and the unknown future before him reasserted themselves. He looked back toward Edoras and exhaled quietly. Turning, he went to gather the weapons.

"Come, Laurelin," he said quietly, his demeanor gone serious again as he walked toward where Arod was grazing contentedly.

She trailed behind him, crushing the fabric of her skirt in her hand nervously. "Can I ride behind you this time, Legolas?"

He gave her a very amused look that made her blush. "You do not need to. I will refrain from teasing you on the ride back."

She narrowed her eyes at him in obvious annoyance when she realized he had tormented her on purpose, but he merely chuckled. She lifted her chin and looked away from him with a haughty expression.

"I will ride behind you, thanks."

"But then you will have to have both weapons and quivers strapped across your back. Are you certain you want to do that?"

"I'm sure," she muttered, and held her hand out for the equipment and quickly got it settled on her back, finding the weight wasn't really too bothersome.

Legolas leapt up onto the horse's back, then extended a hand to her and pulled her up behind him. When she gingerly rested just her fingertips on the belt at his waist, he clicked his tongue at the horse and Arod started off at a slow, gentle walk.

As Edoras drew closer, Laurelin sighed and leaned her forehead against his back and finally moved her arms fully around his waist, smiling when he laid his much larger hand across both of hers, covering them.

"I wish we never had to go back," she confessed, laying her cheek against his cloak-covered back.

He glanced over his shoulder at her. "What would you rather do?"

"Go to your home. Meet your family and Elizabeth. Wander among the trees there."

He nodded but made no comment, and she had a moment of panic when the gates of Edoras grew larger.

"Legolas, can we run? Just for a few minutes before we go back?"

He looked back at her, catching her gaze with his as he seemed to look deep inside her, his eyes softening before he smiled. "Of course we can. Hold tight to me." She scooted right against him and tightened her hold, and he squeezed her hands.

"Arod, nor!" he called, and she laughed when they charged ahead, Legolas guiding the horse away from Edoras again while they galloped. (Sindarin: run)

She molded herself against his body, moving with him and the horse. It really was exhilarating, and she realized for the first time in two years, she actually felt happy and safe. Laurelin closed her eyes, tangling her fingers with Legolas' and doing everything she could to hold onto the rare, beautiful feeling.


~o~

Chapter Text

That evening, the hall was jammed full of people, King Théoden having decided his bard would entertain the warriors with a bit of music. Laurelin had come well prepared, dressed in one of her prettier dresses of spring green after she bathed and brushed out her hair, but left in the fancy braid Legolas had given her on their special day on their own. She had both her violin and guitar, as well as all of her sheet music, and she had tried to choose songs that would well suit Rohan's people.

She started off with the violin, playing a couple of lively Celtic style pieces of her own composition, then switched to her guitar to allow for singing. She smiled at Gimli, seated beside Legolas and Éomer, with Éowyn and Aragorn sitting nearer to the King at the head of his table, and Gandalf beside Théoden.

Placing the sheet music for the next piece she planned to do on her small stand, she ensured her instrument was still in tune, then strummed the musical opening and started to sing.

~o~

"True, you ride the finest horse I have ever seen

Standing sixteen one or two, with eyes wild and green

And you ride the horse so well, hands light to the touch

I could never go with you, no matter how I wanted to

~o~

"Ride on, see you, I could never go with you

No matter how I wanted to

Ride on, see you, I could never go with you

No matter how I wanted to

~o~

"When you ride into the night without a trace behind

Run your claw along my gut, one last time

I turn to face an empty space where you used to lie

I look for the spark that lights the night

Through the teardrops in my eye

~o~

"Ride on, see you, I could never go with you

No matter how I wanted to

Ride on, see you, I could never go with you

No matter how I wanted to"

~o~

There were loud, enthusiastic shouts from around the hall, and Éomer turned to look at her with a smile and a much softer expression than she was used to seeing on his face. She grinned back and swapped her music, then started the drinking song she had done her best to translate into Common, hoping it would be liked.

~o~

"A long time ago, way back in history,

when all there was to drink was nothin but cups of tea.

Along came a man by the name of Charlie Mops,

he invented a wonderful drink and he made it out of hops.

~o~

"He must have been a scholar or a lord or a king,

and to his praises we shall always sing.

Look what he has done for us he's filled us up with cheer!

Lord bless Charlie Mops, the man who invented beer, beer, beer

tiddly beer, beer, beer."

~o~

She sang all the verses, nodding encouragement when more and more joined in on the chorus. The reaction at the end was even noisier and more boisterous than the previous song, as Laurelin expected, so she played several more instrumental pieces while the serving girls made the rounds, refilling empty tankards with fresh ale, as drinking ditties always seemed to give everyone a renewed thirst. She felt Legolas' eyes on her like a touch and glanced up as she began to strum the opening for her final piece for that set, her eyes drifting around the room as she sang.

"A serpent lights the ancient sky

A threat of tainted stars

Evil stirs and in its wake

The souls of mortals sway

~o~

"And sorrow reigns

Over fields of red

And spirits pace

Through the shadows cast by their graves

~o~

"These are days and nights of venom and blood

Heroes will rise as the evil falls

Brave the strife, reclaim every soul

That belongs to the Beauty of Dawn

~o~

"Darkness strikes to blind the strong

But Faith will guide our swords

Loyal hearts we'll stand as one

And fight with shields of Hope

~o~

"Pride fuels the deadly fire

That devours our hearts of gold

The drums of war will rage and roar

'Til the sun burns bright once more

~o~

"These are days and nights of venom and blood

Heroes will rise as the evil falls

Brave the strife, reclaim every soul

That belongs to the Beauty of Dawn"

~o~

She looked for Legolas again, and was relieved to see that the tightness that had been around his eyes and mouth since they rode back into Edoras was gone, and his lips even turned up in a slight smile. Laurelin hoped that whatever was heavy on his mind had been eased somewhat.

She started to take the strap off to put her guitar away when her eyes turned to Aragorn, and she was struck by such a strong wave of sadness and empathy when she looked at him. He seemed so serious and weighed down; so grim, as though he carried the weight of the entire world on his shoulders alone, and she had a sudden, overwhelming need to sing one of Enya's songs for him. It was such a beautiful and soothing song, that she hoped it might bring a little peace to his spirit, and her heart told her it would.

After a minute of shuffling through her folder, she finally found it, and placed it triumphantly on her music stand, softly strumming the opening bars. With her eyes on Aragorn, she began to sing the lilting lyrics that the artist had created for her song, Aníron.

"O môr henion i dhû:

Ely siriar, êl síla

Ai! Aníron Undómiel"

(From darkness I understand the night:

dreams flow, a star shines

Ah! I desire Evenstar)

As soon as she sang the first line, she saw Aragorn and Legolas both look sharply at her, and continue to stare with rapt focus. Aragorn's mouth opened in a look of surprise, and she took it all as a good sign that she had chosen well, feeling the song swell from deep inside her in a warm rush. Just as beautiful music, perfectly suited to an occasion always did.

There was no greater feeling in the world, and affirmed again why she had chosen music as her vocation. Or, perhaps it had chosen her. She smiled softly at Aragorn as she began the second verse, thinking she saw a misting of tears there in his grey eyes, and felt her own eyes fill that she had so touched him.

~o~

"Tiriel arad 'ala môr

minnon i dhû-sad oltha

Ai! Aníron Edhelharn.

(Having watched the day grow dark

I go into the night – a place to dream

Ah! I desire Elfstone.)

~o~

"Alae! Ir êl od elín!

I 'lir uin el luitha guren.

Ai! Aníron Undómiel."

(Behold! The star of stars!

The song of the star enchants my heart.

Ah! I desire Evenstar)

~o~

"I lacha en naur e-chun

Síla, éria, brónia.

Ai! Aníron Edhelharn."

(The flame of the fire of the heart

shines, rises, endures.

Ah! I desire Elfstone)

~o~

While Laurelin put her guitar in the case, she saw both Legolas and Aragorn rise and approach her, and she stood, reaching for the music. She thought perhaps they wanted to know something about the piece, as had been the case in the past when she sang a song for a particular person and had it touch them. But when she turned, they were both looking at her with disturbed expressions, and her smile slipped away when Aragorn took her arm in a careful but firm grip, and spoke as he led her to the door.

"Come outside with us, Laurelin. There is something I need to understand."

A wrinkle of worry crinkled her brow as Aragorn practically frogmarched her outside and steered her to the walkway that surrounded the hall, guiding her to where the torches burned bright but where no others lingered, so they could speak privately. When he swept the area with his eyes, satisfied, he turned to her with a frown.

"You told us you had come from a far distant land, and that no elves dwell there. You even claimed Legolas was the first elf you had ever seen. Is that not true?"

She chewed the inside of her mouth nervously, able to see just how upset Aragorn was and completely mystified as to how she had managed to piss him off so thoroughly.

"Yes, that's true. I am from a long ways away, and Legolas is the only elf I've ever met. But what does that have to do with anything?" She glanced at Legolas, at least relieved that he didn't look angry, although he did seem to be puzzled by something. Aragorn blew out a breath and she turned back to him again.

"Then how do you know an elvish song, and one obviously relevant and directed toward me if you have known no elves in your life? I am no fool, Laurelin. What exactly was your intent with singing that?"

She ran a hand through her blonde waves, beginning to feel the prickle of tears that came from confusion and upset, blinking quickly to ward them away. "My intent was to comfort you, Aragorn. I thought you looked sad, and sometimes a song will come to me for a person and I sing it just for them, and it makes them happy. I'm really sorry if I was wrong, I only wanted to try to lighten whatever burden you seem to carry..."

She frowned as his other question registered. "And what are you talking about, an elvish song? This song," she held up the sheet music in her hand in emphasis, "is by an Irish singer named Enya. It's called Aníron, which is after some of the nonsense sounds she wrote instead of actual words. It's a tradition in Irish music to sometimes do that. Just sing pretty sounds that aren't a real language, but sound somewhat similar to their native Irish tongue."

Aragorn stared at her with doubt clear in his grey eyes and ran a hand through his dark, shaggy mane of hair and shook his head. "Truly, I find that very difficult to believe."

She made a disgusted sound in the back of her throat and slapped the sheet of music to Aragorn's chest, his hand coming up automatically to take it. "Legolas can read it to you, since you refuse to believe me. There's no point in trying to explain myself further when you've already made up your mind that I'm a liar."

Turning, she hurried off, whipping around the corner while Aragorn scanned the foreign script and offered it to Legolas, who was still staring at the space where Laurelin had disappeared.

"Can you read this language written here? I have never seen anything like it before."

Legolas took it and studied it for a moment before he looked up. "She was telling the truth, Aragorn. This is Elizabeth's language as well, called English." He pointed to some of the writing at the top of the page. "These letters, here, spell out the same sounds as the Sindarin words make." He read through the whole thing from start to finish, exactly the same as what Laurelin had sung.

Aragorn stroked a hand across his beard. "But how is such a thing possible, if what she says is true. Could this Enya she speaks of, secretly come from elvish lands, perhaps even be an elf herself? And even so, would she write such a song that seems to have been penned specifically for Arwen and myself?" he asked in confusion.

"I do not know." Legolas ran his eyes across the page of music again. "There are things about Laurelin that I am still puzzling over. My father foretold her coming into my life over fifty years ago, which is well before her birth, but why or for what purpose yet remains a mystery. I was told to protect and nurture her, for she will be precious to me, and I cannot help but feel she has some future significance for my family. Why else would my father have mentioned her to me?" He sighed. "So much remains uncertain. Until the ring is destroyed, we must stay the course. Further than that I cannot see, at present."

Aragorn rested a hand on Legolas' shoulder. "If all you say is true, mellon, and I feel in my heart it must be, then I have wronged and likely offended Laurelin with my hasty accusations and doubting her word. You know her better than I. Should I seek her out now, or wait until the morrow to make amends?"

Legolas rested his own hand on Aragorn's opposite shoulder. "Let it lie for tonight. I will go and speak with her when she is done singing for those in the hall, and I am certain her heart will be better prepared to hear you by morning."

"Le hannon, mellon nin," Aragorn said with a small smile. (S. Thank you, my friend.)

Squeezing the Ranger's shoulder in farewell, Legolas went in search of Laurelin.


Much later that evening, Laurelin was holed up in her room. Sitting cross-legged on her bed, dressed in dark yoga pants and her favorite, soft Labyrinth t-shirt with David Bowie on the front, she studied the picture of her mother with her real father for the millionth time. Maybe if she stared long enough, some of her life's mysteries would be revealed, or the whole thing start to make sense. Or maybe she would just go cross-eyed.

She thought it looked like she mostly got her biological dad's eyes, and clearly his hair color as well, since her mom was a brunette, but she wasn't sure there was much resemblance otherwise. Obviously, she hadn't gotten his height. At five feet, five inches, she was the exact same height as her mother, and wondered what it would have been like to be really tall, like Legolas and Aragorn.

Thinking about both of them made her heart sink again, and she tilted her head up and blinked quickly until the tears were forced back once more. After going back and singing another set of songs for the king, she had managed to make it to her room without spilling a single one, and she was determined to keep them from leaking out. Who cared if her chest was hurting like someone had stabbed her with something sharp and pointy? Apparently no one, and she wasn't about to waste water and get all nasty and snotty in a pity party for one.

A soft tap sounded at her door, making her jump in fright and stand to her bare feet. "Who is it?" she queried softly in Common.

"It is Legolas," he replied in English. "May we speak, if you are not resting?"

She swiped at her hair to smooth it down, briefly wondering where her mirror might have wandered off to, before padding to the door. She turned the lock and swung it open, sweeping an arm into the room behind her.

"Come on in, I wasn't sleeping."

His eyes swept her, taking in the form-fitted bottoms and nearly see-thru top before he glanced away, feeling a surprising rush of heat to his face. "Forgive me, you are dressed for bed. I shouldn't intrude."

Reaching for his hand, she tugged on him. "I'm not dressed for bed. These are just my comfortable lounging clothes from back home, not pajamas. Nothing indecent. Come out of the hallway if you want to talk."

Glancing at her, he allowed himself to be pulled into the room, then waited while she closed and locked the door behind him. "Am I to be your prisoner, that you lock me in your chamber?" he asked with a faint smile.

She shrugged without any visible expression, her eyes trained on the ground. "Just force of habit, I reckon. Besides, I'm sure a locked door wouldn't keep you anywhere you didn't want to stay." She shifted her weight, digging the bare toes of her right foot against the cold floor. "I guess I'm lucky you're still speaking to me after that little drama earlier."

He watched her, noting her body language and the way her hands shook before she clasped them together and felt his heart ache for her, allowing his voice to soften.

"Will you not look at me, Laurelin?"

"I...can't," she whispered, her voice breaking and making her turn more away from him.

Legolas reached for her, unable to keep his distance in the face of her sadness. Tilting her chin up, he rested his thumb across her cheek while she glared fiercely up at him.

"I'm not crying," she said in a determined voice. "I'm not. I'm perfectly fine."

His eyes softened further as he saw she did manage to keep her tears contained through force of will alone, and nodded in agreement, dropping his hand.

"I explained to Aragorn, and he understands that you told the truth. He would have come to speak with you tonight, but thought you might wish for him to wait until tomorrow to approach you again. I know he regrets that he gave you pain."

She made a startled sound and covered her mouth with one of her hands, the tears she held back finally breaking free and cascading down her cheeks before she lowered her hands to her sides and smiled up at Legolas. "Really? He's not angry or upset with me anymore?"

"No, he isn't. Come here, laich." (Sindarin: sweet)

Hurriedly wiping both of her cheeks, she gratefully leaned against his firm chest and rested her hands loosely around his back when he pulled her against him and wrapped his strong arms around her in a comforting hug. When one of his hands came up to brush her cheek, she felt the now familiar electric tingle that always raced through her when they touched.

She stepped back after a moment, all smiles. "Thanks for coming to tell me, or I'm sure I would have spent the night fretting over everything and trying to come up with a new way to convince Aragorn that I'm not a liar." She pushed back her long messy hair, fingers lingering unconsciously on the little braid. "But I still don't understand, Legolas. What did the lyrics even say that could upset Aragorn so much?"

He gestured for her to sit on the bed, which she did, settling cross-legged beside her pile of pictures while Legolas pulled the only chair in the room nearer to her and sat down, his expression serious.

"What I tell you now is in confidence, and only because I know Aragorn would not mind you knowing, in light of what occurred tonight." He paused and Laurelin leaned forward in anticipation.

"Aragorn has long loved a maiden that he met when he was still very young, and some years after that, they came together again, and the maiden loved him as well, and they pledged to one another."

Laurelin smiled. "That sounds so sweet. I wouldn't have guessed it of Aragorn with how serious he always is. So, he's in love. But that's wonderful!"

Legolas watched the play of expressions across her face, marveling at the deep level of empathy and interest she always showed to those she counted as friends.

"Yes, but there are difficulties that have prevented their union, as her father will not consent to their being wed until Aragorn comes fully into his birthright as rightful heir to the throne of Gondor...as king."

"What? Aragorn is a king?!" She stared incredulously, shaking her head. "That's….wow, that's..."

"He was born to be king, but Gondor has not had a king sit the throne in many long years. Much must be done for him to reclaim it, and that is one of many burdens he bears." Eyebrows furrowing, Legolas captured Laurelin's gaze with his own, and there was a sorrow there that made her tilt her head, not understanding the cause.

"There's...something else, isn't there? Something that makes you sad. What is it?" she asked gently, reaching out and resting her hand on his, relaxing when he turned his hand over and wrapped his fingers around hers.

"Yes, there's more." He focused on where her hand rested in his, his thumb stroking across her fair skin there. "Their union will be bittersweet for many. The Lady Arwen is an elf, and in joining with Aragorn, she will forsake the immortality of our people and live a mortal life, being forever sundered from her family at her death."

"But, wait." She frowned and shook her head. "She can choose to become mortal? How does that work? I thought you said elves were immortal, or can you all just change your minds and decide otherwise?"

"No, it is a unique choice granted to those of Lord Elrond's line. It does not hold true for other elves, although..."

She held her breath when he looked up, searching her eyes intently. "Elves can die. Our bodies are not immune to injury, and we can also fall prey to the grief of a broken heart and fade from it."

Exhaling, she bit her lip. "Fade? What does that mean?"

"To fade is to lose the will to live, thereby releasing the spirit from the body to go to the Halls of Mandos."

"What are the Halls of Mandos?" she asked, with an even more confused expression. "Is it...like heaven?"

He pursed his lips. "I do not believe it is exactly the same, but perhaps close enough. It is a place of waiting, not an ultimate destination for the spirits of the departed."

She shrugged, figuring it might take some intensive study to understand their religion, or specifics to their afterlife, then shook her head and looked down. "Can you tell me what the song really said? What you and Aragorn heard? I felt so strongly that I should sing it for him, but I still don't know why."

Legolas smiled and told her as much as he could recall of the lyrics, and her cheeks reddened in embarrassment at the obvious romantic intimacy implied.

"Then Aníron means desire in your language? The song title's actual elvish translates to 'Desire' in English?"

His lips twisted in gentle amusement when she slipped her hand away from his in her embarrassment. "Or, perhaps, 'I desire' is the more proper equivalent to the Sindarin, in this case."

She sang the line that began with Ai! Aníron, but stopped before she said Undómiel or Edhelharn, going still at the look that overtook Legolas' face, as though he was both moved and confused.

"It is quite something, but if I did not know otherwise, I would think you a native Sindarin speaker. I could scarce believe my ears when you began to sing earlier, there was not a single fault of inflection or pronunciation. I think it is that in particular that made Aragorn doubt your word that you spoke no elvish."

She chuckled and turned to gather the pictures on her bed. "Then I guess a popular singer from my world is secretly an elf, or has some kind of mystical powers that let her compose songs from another dimension or world, whatever the hell middle-earth is." She turned to see Legolas looking at her photos and she lifted them and held them out toward him.

"These are pictures of my family and friends from back home. Do you... want to see?"

"I would enjoy that," he replied with a nod, and she patted the space beside her, arranging the small stack while he sat down next to her. One at a time, she handed each picture to him, naming the people with her and recounting whatever occasion prompted the photo taking. Several times, she ended up telling funny little stories about her dark-haired brother, Vincent, who featured in many of the photos, or some of her friends from high school she had been close to.

"This is me, Katrina, and Selena again at the Hard Rock Cafe in Houston, on that trip we took down to the Galveston beach. The weather wasn't the greatest with that tropical storm that blew up out of nowhere, but we still had fun anyway. The clubs that weekend were jam packed full of people, it was actually kinda crazy."

He smiled down at the grinning faces in the photo, then glanced over at her, his eyes lingering on her t-shirt. "Then what you are wearing now really is how the women in your land usually attire themselves. And what is the meaning of Labyrinth and who is the man on your blouse?"

She straightened her shirt so the entire image showed clearly. "Well, first off, this is called a t-shirt. They're made in all different colors, often with characters from tv shows or movies on them. And you can purchase them at lots of places. This is David Bowie, a famous singer, and he was also the actor in one of my favorite movies growing up, called Labyrinth. In it, he was the Goblin King that took children who were wished away by their families, and..."

"Oh," Legolas interrupted with a grin. "I know this tale. The maiden defeated the Goblin King's magic and saved her little brother, then many years later she married him when he courted her after she was grown to a woman."

"That's right and wrong," she said with a shake of her head. "Sarah did beat Jareth, but she never married him. The movie ended when she was still a young teenager."

"Ah. I assume Elizabeth added that part then, to please my sister. It was a favorite bedtime story of my eldest sister, Catherine, when she was still quite small." He smiled with a look of nostalgia.

She picked at a loose thread on her knee. "How old is she? You mentioned all your siblings were a lot younger than you, so she's what...only a thousand years old?"

He laughed. "In fact, she and my brother Edward, her twin, are...thirty now, I suppose. Very young for elves, or half elves, as they are."

"They're my age?" she asked in surprise. "I didn't expect that. I thought since you were such a geezer, they must be too."

Legolas raised a brow. "What is a geezer? I gather from your tone that it is not complimentary."

"It means you're older than dirt," she said teasingly, "which you are. For a fossil, you're pretty damn hot though, so take that as the compliment it's meant to be."

"Hot? To be hot is a compliment in English?" He looked completely bewildered and she couldn't stop her helpless laughter at the look on his face. She held up a finger to signal for him to wait until she finally stopped giggling.

"Yeah, it's a slang compliment. Like...my heart is pounding out of my chest, and my body temperature is rising through the roof because of how attracted to you I am. Hot." She shrugged at his amused look.

He held out his hand for the next photo and she handed it over before she realized it was her with her two girlfriends on the beach in their swimsuits. She froze, wavering between snatching it out of his hand or behaving in a cool, nonchalant manner as though she wasn't phased. She finally attempted the second, having missed the ideal window of time for a successful snatching, but her blazing cheeks destroyed any hope she had of success.

"Oh, Jesus," she moaned. "I really didn't mean to show you that one. That's...just how women dress to go swimming in Texas. Totally common." She cleared her throat as he kept his very focused attention on the photo.

"Yet, you wear more of a covering than either of your friends." There was a question in his voice.

She brushed her hair behind her ear and winced. "They have on what are called bikinis, and I wear a one piece swimsuit to hide my tattoo from my friends and parents, who would have pitched an absolute hissy fit if they knew I had one. I told you before that I have a tattoo on my back, didn't I?"

"Yes." He looked up and met her eyes. "But I have never seen a tattoo. What is it?"

She gave him a speculative smile and tilted her head, wondering if she would shock him, and suddenly eager to find out.

"Alright, you asked for it."

Laurelin tossed the pictures aside and stood, turning her back to face him and tugging her shirt up and her yoga pants down just enough to show off the entire thing across her lower back. She heard him draw in a sharp breath and glanced back over her shoulder at him.

Legolas' lips were parted as he studied the tattoo, and his hand finally raised to touch it, running his fingers lightly across the base of her spine, where green vines and leaves twined together in a design that looked as though it could have been taken straight off the artwork and banners from his father's kingdom.

He looked up and met her eyes, his fingers still resting against her tattoo. "This is permanent on your skin?"

"Yes, it is permanent. I actually kinda did it on a whim after an African fortuneteller in Capetown told me the same thing as the Romani Gypsy fortuneteller in Spain, and I just thought the odds of that being random chance were...slim to none. But I like it and don't regret it."

She shifted slightly, suppressing a shiver as he kept his fingers pressed to her ink, slowly tracing the design again. "What do you think of it?" she asked, curious as to what a medieval-minded person would make of body art.

"It's..." He frowned and shook his head, starting again. "The design is lovely, much like the art we have at home. I am not certain how to feel about permanently marking the body, however. I am inclined to think it unwise to take such a step, especially for one so very young, when you may well wish it undone in future. Yet, on you," Legolas looked up, trapping her green eyes with his startling blue. "It is quite fetching, and..." He tilted his head, a hint of a tease in his smile. "Hot."

Laurelin groaned, pulling her shirt back into place and whirling to face him. "Please don't use slang again! Not ever. That is just all kinds of wrong coming out of your mouth. You're too precious and pure for it."

She attempted her best clipped English accent, and adopted a very serious expression to match. "You may only offer such compliments as would be right coming from you: 'My lady, you pierce my soul with the beauty of your smile. Favor me with your next dance or I shall expire for want of you!" She rested the back of her hand against her forehead in a dramatic pose while Legolas chuckled in amusement at her antics.

"Perhaps you should compliment yourself and leave me out of it entirely. Apparently, you are far more eloquent in the endeavor than I." He glanced at the photos she had set on the bed but had not shown him yet, lifting the only one in a frame and studying it, the smile slipping from his face as his brows drew together when he drew in a quick breath.

"Laurelin, who is this in the photo with your mother?"

She leaned over him. "Well…. Um, that's actually my birth father. I've never met him and that's the only picture I have of him, sadly. I didn't even know of his existence for most of my life, since my mom only told me two and a half years ago. My whole trip to New Zealand was some pitiful attempt on my part to, I don't know...try to connect with where I began? Pretty silly in retrospect. Legolas?"

There was a tightness around his eyes again, that she had learned to interpret as a sign of upset from him. She touched his arm lightly, finally drawing his attention away from the photo and to her.

"This is your true father?" he asked, in a deep, serious voice. "You are certain?"

She pressed her lips together and nodded. "That's what my mother tells me, and I hope she would know who she slept with to make me. Why?"

The lines of tension disappeared from his face as though they had never been there and he smiled pleasantly. "I merely find it interesting. I can see quite a resemblance between you and your father, when I look closely."

"Really?" She studied the photo again, running a finger down his long, blonde hair in the image, musing over what he had been thinking when the picture was taken. He did not smile, and she wondered why.

"He looks so serious, maybe even a little sad. Don't you think so?" Laurelin looked back at Legolas, who was watching her instead of looking at the photo.

"Perhaps. I find it difficult to truly discern emotion from these images alone. I think I must leave you to your rest now."

He stood and she fought a strong wave of disappointment, hiding it by busying herself with gathering her photos and placing them back in the pouch she kept them in.

"Of course. Thank you for the visit, and I hope you have sweet dreams."

Legolas lifted her hand, making her look up and meet his eyes when he bent over to kiss it, leaving her hand tingling pleasantly as he stepped away. He unlocked the door, then paused, turning to face her again with blue eyes that seared into her with some strong emotion she couldn't define.

"You were definitely meant to come here, Laurelin, I have not a single doubt in my mind. In time, you will know this as well. I ask you to give me your trust. Be patient, and full understanding will come. Will you trust my word in this?"

"Yes, of course I trust you," she said immediately, although she had absolutely no idea why he would ask her that. "I trust you with my life and more, Legolas, even if I don't know what the heck you're talking about." His smile was so soft and tender it almost felt like a caress, and she returned it as he opened the door.

"I will strive to be always worthy of your trust. Rest well, brennil glóriel." (S. golden lady) Legolas closed the door and lingered several paces away until he heard her light steps and the click of the key in the lock.

With a dark look and an unsettled heart, he turned and started for the stairs, intending to find Aragorn. He needed to discuss what he had just discovered about Laurelin's father, and whether the Ranger would advise him to keep silent on the surprising revelation a while longer, or to reveal to her that her father was, in fact, an elf.


Lyrics adapted from:

Ride On by Celtic Woman

Beer, Beer, Beer (British Folk Song)

Beauty of Dawn by Malukah

Aníron by Enya


~o~

Chapter Text

When Laurelin opened the door of her room the next morning and stepped out, she found Aragorn leaning against the opposite wall with arms crossed and his hood pulled up. She thought he looked an awful lot like some of the sneaky, rogue characters from the video games she used to play, and smiled faintly.

He had his grey eyes fixed on her from the instant she opened her door, and she was struck again that he and Legolas had very intimidating stares when they chose to use them in such a way. She wondered if that was just what real warriors were like, or if it came from their greater years and life experience.

Aragorn smiled, gentling his expression considerably, and she dropped her eyes to the floor and clasped her hands together as he approached her.

"Lady Laurelin, good morning. I trust you rested well?"

She looked up again, holding his gaze calmly. "I did, thank you. And you?"

"Not as well as I would have liked," he said with a regretful look. "Our parting last night has grieved me. I would ask your forgiveness for the things I said, and for doubting your word. I know now that you have a true and generous heart. Your gift of song did touch me, and I thank you for it."

"It was just a misunderstanding, so there really isn't anything I need to forgive," she said in relief. "The whole thing is forgotten already." Laurelin smiled radiantly and stepped toward him, then froze. "Would it be inappropriate for me to hug you in friendship? I confess I tend to do it without thinking, but maybe that's wrong here?" She bit her lip, looking to him for direction.

Aragorn smiled and opened his arms in invitation, and she grinned and stepped into his embrace, breathing in his scent of leather and man and poignantly reminded of her daddy's warm hugs. When she stepped away, he offered her his arm.

"Will you come and walk with me, lady? I would enjoy speaking with you, if you have time to spare."

She laughed softly and took his arm, feeling like she was in a period film for the billionth time, but finding she liked it and thought modern men might be more tolerable if they adopted some manners from times gone past. It was what she imagined it would be like in Camelot, with all the chivalrous behavior, and she imagined Aragorn as King Arthur, especially now she knew he was born to be a king, whether he actually became one or not.

"I have nothing but time for you, Lord Aragorn." She glanced up at him. "Or should I address you differently," she gestured helplessly and dropped her voice, "because of who you are?"

He glanced at her. "No special form of address or title is necessary between us. You may use my name alone if you wish. I understand Legolas acquainted you with some of my history and circumstances yestereve when he came to speak with you?"

They walked out a side door from the hall and into the grey, overcast morning light. There were men with horses everywhere, coming and going from the stables and in and out of the city gates, like a hive of buzzing bees.

"He did," she confirmed, relieved as he turned them to walk toward her favorite cluster of trees some ways from the hall. "I understand that it was all in confidence though, and I would never betray that. It's your business and no one else's, anyway."

Aragorn smiled faintly. "You have a very loyal nature. It's not surprising Gimli favors you, to say nothing of the obviously close friendship you have developed with Legolas in so short a time. That is a remarkable thing, in and of itself."

"How so?" Laurelin stared up into the grey clouds, estimating it would rain by midday if the weather did not burn off before then.

"Elves are generally very private and reserved. As someone not of their race, it can be difficult to know them, and they often keep mortals at a distance, for obvious reasons."

"But Legolas isn't like that at all," she said with a frown. "Despite the looming pain of imminent grief for him, he has chosen to give his care and friendship freely to us. I can't think of anything or anyone more selfless and devoted."

With obvious approval in his gaze, he nodded. "You see him with clear eyes. The elven heart is often a mystery for many, but you seem to have a natural understanding. It can be painful to love an elf, for the great burden our mortality places on them, and the realization of the suffering we cause them, however unwillingly. But respecting their choice to befriend or love us, and the gift of receiving their love in return, is greater than can easily be expressed in words."

"You and your lady are inspirational," she sighed. "To be brave enough to navigate the difficulties and differences from your backgrounds and still stand firm in your love for each other..." Her eyes filled with tears that she blinked away. "I really admire you both so much."

His grey eyes twinkled warmly when he smiled down at her, leading her back toward the hall again. "Thank you. If I may be so bold as to offer a bit of advice...you will meet many elves in future. Let your friendship with Legolas prepare you, and I think you will do very well. Above all, let your heart be your guide. In many ways, elves are not so different to mankind. I believe you will find you have a great deal in common with them."

She gave him a flabbergasted look. "Many elves? Oh! You mean if Legolas takes me to his home so I can meet his family?"

"Aye. I know that is what he intends, as soon as he may be able. I think you will enjoy the woodland realm. There is great joy and light there, even amidst the dark."

She stared out past the boundaries of Edoras, trying to imagine what it would be like to meet more people like Legolas. That sounded pretty good to her. "Thank you for the advice, Lord Aragorn. I'll do my best to follow it."

He bowed over her hand as they arrived next to the side entrance to the hall, then straightened to his full, imposing height. "Thank you for the walk, Lady Laurelin. You may wish to find Gimli and Legolas while there is yet time to say goodbyes. The threat of Saruman is pressing, and many of us ride out at midday to go and meet it with King Théoden."

Her gaze strayed to the stables, wondering just how many were preparing to go and fight. She needed to find her friends, and quickly.

"I will, thank you. And I'll pray for protection for all of you. "

He bowed with a hand to his heart and a gracious smile, then turned and walked toward the largest stable. With a sigh, she slipped into the great hall.


When Laurelin entered Meduseld, she was relieved to immediately see Legolas and Gimli sitting in a corner nook together, and hurried over to join them.

"Lady Laurelin, I am pleased to see you this morning." Gimli said, stroking his long beard. "I would hate to be completely deprived of your company before we must. There is space for you, there beside the elf."

"Good morning to you both," she murmured, and sat down next to Legolas on the divan, turning to him when he addressed her.

"I gather you spoke to Aragorn."

Nodding, she clasped her hands together on top of her lap, after smoothing down the blue gown she wore. "Yes, we spoke and had a nice little visit. But he says you are all to leave soon. I really wish I could go with you..." She sighed and shook her head. "No, I don't really wish that, if you're going off to fight, and all. I just wish.."

"That we would not be parted," Legolas said, smiling gently when she nodded. "I do not think we will be, not quite yet. I believe this is only a temporary separation, if all goes well."

She brightened at his words and looked at Gimli. "If you watch each other's backs, I'm sure nothing will be able to take you down."

"Nothing will get the better of this dwarf," Gimli said with a chuckle. "But to ease your mind, lass, I will be sure to watch out for the elf so he comes back whole. I hear he is to take you to elvish lands when our quest is done. You are just as welcome to come and meet my kin, as well. Erebor has many wonders to behold, and we would set you such a feast of meat you would not soon forget."

Legolas looked at Gimli with an amused shake of his head while Laurelin smiled radiantly, and reached out and took one of the dwarf's beefy hands in her own. "Thank you, Sir Gimli. I would love to visit your home and get to know dwarf traditions. I traveled far and wide before I came to Rohan, and I do miss the call of the open road, something fierce."

He patted her hand with a pleased smile before he released her and stood, pulling his pipe from an inner pocket with a wink. "I must go and find Aragorn or Gandalf and share a pipe. Legolas will keep you company until I return."

After Gimli left, Laurelin looked at Legolas with a worried frown and switched to English. "I do wish he didn't smoke so much, it's really not good for his health."

Legolas had scarcely taken his eyes from Laurelin since she sat beside him, and he shifted in his seat, angling so he could observe her more easily. "It is something many of the men enjoy, and I think it harmless enough. But you are troubled. Tell me what worries you."

She crossed her legs, turning more to face him. "I'm just scared for all of you. I don't know why, or even what y'all are gonna face, but I don't want any of you to get hurt."

He blinked, briefly distracted. "Y'all? I have not heard this before."

Laurelin made an exasperated sound. "You. All," she said in slow, careful emphasis. "It's just another lazy southern shortcut, and you oughta be used to it by now. Words are like honey butter in our mouths, we slather 'em thick, and they drip slowly from our tongues."

His eyes dropped to her mouth, and he smiled slowly and parted his lips, immediately ready to tease her, then remembered he had wanted to ease her mind of worry. Glancing down, he refocused his thoughts away from distractions involving honey and her tongue.

She narrowed her eyes. "You don't have to say it, I can already see what you're thinking."

"Can you?" he challenged, his more noble thoughts completely derailed by the look in her green eyes. "Then tell me. What was I thinking?"

Laurelin sat straighter with a small smile. "Well, I'm not a mind reader, but it was pretty obvious you had some kind of thought about honey and my tongue. You're a terrible tease. Or am I wrong?"

He no longer fought the smirk trying to escape. "You are correct. I did not think I was quite so easy to read, but that was rather uncanny."

She shrugged, a considering look in her eyes.. "You're not easy to read, but I think I might've finally managed to tap into your wavelength, at least a little."

Legolas crossed his arms, pondering if her empathy and ability to sense emotions from others might not be a prominent part of her elvish heritage. She drew his attention again by giving him a slow, sensual smile that shocked him, with a simmering look of heat in her eyes that instantly had all his male instincts ready and eager to respond. Leaner nearer, she dropped her voice to just above a whisper.

"Sugar, let me tell you something...you're not the first tease that's ever crossed my path. I've never wanted to dish it before, but I am certainly capable of it. I'm just wondering if you would be able to take it from someone like me."

He met the challenge in her eyes with his own, pleased when she showed no signs of backing down. How was this the same, fearful young woman he thought he had come to know? It was possible he had not even scratched the surface of who she really was.

"What do you mean, by 'someone like you'?"

She bit her bottom lip between her teeth with a secret smile. "I'm a twenty-first century woman, which I'm certain is a type of creature you've never come across in the wild. My kind have taken flirting to a whole other level, enough to drive you out of your mind, I'm betting. What are you gonna do when I break open the bars of your little cage?" She reached out and tapped her finger against his chest. "And what you keep locked up tight in here, comes out?"

Legolas trapped her hand in his, his gaze growing more intense as he felt a new excitement rise inside him as never had before. "This sounds like you are issuing a challenge, Laurelin, which I am quite happy to accept, as I have never once backed down from any contest. What are your terms?"

She grinned, relaxing her hand in his. "Full on flirtation, and anything goes. The first one of us affected enough to ask the other for a kiss – loses. You'll break long before I will, I guarantee it."

Her overconfidence and lack of understanding of the patience of elves assured him of an easy victory, and his lips curled in anticipation of the game ahead. This type of unpredictability was what he had come to enjoy from Elizabeth in the early days of their friendship, but even she would have never been this bold. Laurelin was turning out to be an endless source of delight, and they had really only just met.

"Shall there be a prize for the winner of this little game of ours?"

"Sure," she said in easy acceptance. "The winner can ask for anything they want from the loser."

"Anything? That might be a risky concession." His eyes narrowed as a number of scenarios played out in his mind, and he could see from the look on her face, that she was engaged in similar thoughts.

Tightening her grip on his fingers, she smirked. "High stakes. Sounds just fine to me, but if it's more than you're willing to risk, you can just concede to me now."

He tilted his head, clearly amused. "I accept your terms, and when you beg me to kiss you and I win, I shall remind you that you chose them."

Laurelin snorted a laugh. "Oh honey, I can't wait to make you eat your words."

He lifted her hand, brushing his lips across her skin, before placing an open mouth kiss against her fingers, the tip of his tongue just grazing her enough to be felt. He could see how his touch affected her, but instead of appearing overcome by it, she merely looked entertained. He revised his original opinion, with a thought that winning might actually take a bit of effort.

His dropped his voice deeper, speaking in an intimate murmur. "I can think of a few, other things I would prefer you have me eat, than words, Laurelin."

Her brows climbed in surprise as she drew in a steadying breath. "Oof, shots fired. I'm impressed. You don't waste any time in your attack, or take anything lying down, do you?" She cringed after hearing her own words, but Legolas pursed his lips and shook his head.

"Too easy."

She grinned, unable to resist. "Which you will find, Mister Hot Elf, that I am not."

He lowered their joined hands to rest on the cushion between them, releasing her. "I believe I am actually becoming rather warm." He rubbed his freed hand down his trouser-covered thigh in an entirely un-Legolas-like move. Laurelin wondered just how far she might try to push him, right out of the gate.

"I can rub that for you, if you want some help. Or rub anything else you'd like me to take care of for you. I think you're a little tense, and I know just what you need to release that tension."

With effort, he controlled the mix of shock and mirth he felt at her words, and turned a bland smile to her. "Do you? Pray tell, what might that be?"

She glanced around the hall, making sure they weren't observed. "Are you really going to make me say it out loud, Legolas? I could maybe show you, if we went someplace a little more – private."

"Aren't you worried that might be a bit risky? You specified that anything goes, but what if I decide to touch you more than I have before?" He shook his head. "I think it would be prudent to add a few guidelines to follow, such as no contact below the waist."

Tilting her head back, she smiled up at the wood beamed ceiling. "You agreed to anything goes, remember? You can't change the terms now, or you'll forfeit to me." Laurelin slid even closer to him to whisper in his ear. "Are you ready to accept defeat graciously?"

"No," he responded quietly, stifling the affected sigh that tried to break free. With her breath against his ear, he struggled to keep his own breathing even with difficulty. She had not yet realized just how sensitive his ears were, or she would likely not be experimenting with something so potent. Or, would she attempt to exploit it in pursuit of victory? He experienced a definite feeling of relief when Éomer and his second walked in, and Laurelin immediately scooted an acceptable distance away from him.

"Saved by the bell," she murmured in annoyance. "If we were someplace where we wouldn't be interrupted, I would have had you completely at my mercy now."

He swallowed against a dry throat as those words caused a number of rather explicit images to play behind his eyes. Legolas allowed his mind to empty, mildly annoyed that she had somehow managed to unbalance him so easily, and forced calm on himself.

Laurelin glanced at him when he made no response and laughed quietly. "Well, all this succeeded in knocking my worries for you boys clean out of my head, so that was useful, at least. You're not sulking, are you?" she asked with an uncertain look.

"Of course not." He gave her an easy, relaxed smile and stood. "Let us go out and get some air, and you can tell me what you plan to do in our absence."

"I plan to sulk," she said flippantly, "and maybe even pout." She smiled across the way when Éomer gave her a friendly nod, and followed Legolas out.


The hours flew by, and after receiving kind pats on the shoulder from both Gandalf and Aragorn, and a brief, hearty, one-armed hug from Gimli, Legolas took her aside after the others headed for the horses. She clasped her hands together and stared up into searching blue eyes that seemed to reach into her very heart and soul. She made no attempt to hide what she was feeling, the fear and worry, but also the affection and care she felt for each of them, and laid it all bare to his perceptive gaze.

He placed a hand on top of her shoulder with a sober, nearly melancholy expression. "I almost do not feel we need words between us at all, but there are still things I would say to you. Many things I wish to acquaint you with, but it must yet wait for another day."

"Just come back," she said firmly, "and we can talk about anything you want to. I might even let you beat me at our game."

His serious face melted into a teasing smile, and she felt her tense muscles relax at the sight of it. "I will come back, Laurelin, and there will be no 'letting me' win anything. You shall see."

She nodded with a small smile, trying to memorize his face in the final seconds that remained. "Godspeed, Legolas. You and all the men that fight with you."

He pulled her against him and pressed a quick kiss to her forehead. "Novaer, Laurelin." (S. Farewell/be good)

She watched him walk away and mount Arod, then pull Gimli up behind him. Minutes later, they and the host that rode with King Théoden were beyond the main gates of Edoras, on their way to fight, and maybe to die.

Laurelin wrapped her arms around herself and shivered in the warm afternoon sun, fighting the same fear she had felt since coming to Rohan, but now with worry for her new friends added to the mix.

"You seem quite close to Lord Aragorn and his companions," Éowyn said, coming to stand beside her with eyes also fixed on the riders as they grew more distant, moment by moment. "Particularly with the elf, Legolas. Did you know him from some other place?"

Biting her lip, Laurelin shook her head. "I had never met any of them until a few days ago. But Legolas' father is married to a woman from my land, and he is familiar with my culture and speaks my language because of it." She glanced at Éowyn and shrugged. "Legolas, Aragorn, Gimli and Gandalf were all very nice and generous, and offered me friendship. I feel very fortunate to have gotten the chance to get to know them while they were here."

Éowyn brushed back her long hair with a thoughtful look. "I see. There is much for me to do in my uncle's absence, but I would like it if you played for me after the meal this evening, Laurelin. I think those of us left behind may bolster each other's spirits in the absence of our friends and family."

Laurelin smiled genuinely and bowed her head in acknowledgement. "It would be my great honor to serve you, Lady Éowyn."

With a pleased look, Éowyn turned and walked back up the steps to Meduseld. But Laurelin lingered for some time after, still staring off into the far distance where the riders were not yet lost to sight.


 

Chapter Text

 


There was a subdued mood and undeniable grimness over the women, children, and few men that remained at Edoras, and groups began to prepare to depart for the safety of Dunharrow, to seek safety in the caves there in the case of an attack on the king's seat of power at Meduseld. Éowyn coordinated the logistics of it all with seeming ease, and Laurelin assumed it was the sort of thing she had probably spent much of her life learning to do.

Laurelin soon went and hid in her room until time for her to play. She spent the hours working on translating a couple more songs and trying not to fret over what awaited her friends when they made it to Rohan's famed fortress of Helm's Deep. She had never been there herself, but had heard plenty of talk of it during her two years of living among the people of Rohan. When the hour for dinner finally arrived, she was relieved to dress and head upstairs with her guitar in hand.

She was seated at Lady Éowyn's side, and across the table sat Holmgeir, the man in charge of the soldiers that remained in Edoras, although Laurelin wasn't certain as to what rank or title he held. He had been in Edoras for the entire year she had resided there, and she knew him to be a serious, honorable man with a family, as she had seen him many times with two small children.

The majority of the conversation revolved around who was posted where and how to get more foodstuffs where they were needed for the people, and Laurelin tuned out for much of it, concentrating instead on swallowing each bite of food she put in her mouth. Her appetite had long fled, but she wasn't about to disrespect the hard work of the farmers and cooks that had made her dinner possible, or show anything less than complete gratitude to the people who had taken her into their lives and homes.

Dinner wasn't even finished when a guard, dressed in full armor spattered with dirt and muck came bursting in, followed by two others, urgency on their faces and in their steps.

"Lady Éowyn, there are orcs within sight of Edoras. We killed a handful of scouts, but we need more riders to deal with the rest."

She and Holmgeir both stood. "How many approach?" Éowyn demanded in a calm, cool voice.

"It looked to be no more than twenty or thirty, my lady, but we must make haste before they threaten Edoras."

Holmgeir turned to Éowyn. "My lady, I will lead the men. They will not draw near if we ride out to meet them."

Éowyn sighed. "Yes, go, and may Béma guide your swords."

All the men in the hall left with Holmgeir, and Laurelin stood and wandered nearer to Éowyn, who wore a dark, angry look.

"Aren't you going to fight with them?" Laurelin asked curiously, then nearly took a step back when Éowyn rounded on her angrily.

"Not as long as there are men to fight in my stead, since we women are not permitted in battle. Or hadn't you noticed our sex is only fit to mind the hearth?" she said with a bitter twist to her mouth.

Laurelin nodded with a sympathetic look. "I understand your anger. It used to be the same in my country, where women were only expected to occupy a very narrow place in life. It didn't change until women rose up and refused to accept it any longer, and demanded more."

"Do you imply your women are warriors in your land?" she asked in obvious disbelief.

"They sure are." Laurelin grinned when Éowyn's eyes grew round with surprise. "Where I come from, women can do as they like; be warriors, leaders, teachers. They fight shoulder to shoulder with other men and women on battlefields, and it's completely normal."

The king's niece looked away, obviously still reeling. "That is astonishing! And somehow wonderful. I have long thought the way things are is not truly right." She glanced at Laurelin.

"We're not in any way inferior to men just because we have breasts and are the ones to have the babies," Laurelin said with a shrug, crossing her arms. "One day, your men will see it too, but it will likely take some time before there's any real change. Our earlier histories are similar to what your country is like now."

Éowyn examined her as though she were seeing her for the first time, and smiled tentatively. "I wish I had taken time to speak more with you before now. Your land sounds rather admirable. You must miss it."

Laurelin smiled, recognizing the olive branch Éowyn was offering for what it was. "It's got its problems along with the good, and I do miss it, yes. But Rohan is a country full of fine people too, and I'm grateful to have been allowed to live here among you."

"The Eorlingas are a good people, but some changes would not go amiss." She lifted her chin proudly and smiled. "Would you like to walk with me down to one of the watchtowers? We should be able to see when the riders return, perhaps even catch a glimpse of battle, if it is not too far off."

"I would be delighted." Laurelin grinned and followed Éowyn all the way down to the front gates of Edoras, where they climbed one of the high towers that allowed an impressive view in every direction. The only man on watch at the top bowed to Éowyn and moved aside so they would have more space.

Turning slowly, Éowyn squinted in the fading light of dusk, searching the distance, then frowned in disappointment. "I can't see anything," she remarked. "They must be too far out to spot." She turned to Laurelin who was facing north with a rapt look of concentration. Éowyn looked in the same direction but saw nothing. "What do you stare at so intently, Laurelin?"

"I see them," Laurelin said, gripping the wooden railing.

"You do?" Éowyn looked again, but shook her head. "I see nothing."

She glanced quickly at Éowyn and smiled, turning north once more. "I've always had really good vision. It looks like the battle is well over, and only men and horses are left standing. All those orc things seem to be dead."

"Good news. I suppose we may return to the hall and await the men there."

"Shit," Laurelin cursed in English. With wide eyes, she reached for Éowyn and squeezed her arm, jerking her chin to the east. "There's more orcs. A lot more. Can you see them there, just coming down that hill toward us?"

Éowyn spotted them and smiled grimly. "Yes, I see them. Gudbrand, sound the bell," she said to the man on the tower, then took Laurelin's arm and swiftly pulled her back down the tower steps, shouting to be heard over the loud clanging of the bell. "We must hurry back up to the hall to hand out weapons. I'll get my sword and shield, then see what we can find for you."

Stumbling along behind her, Laurelin shook her head. "I don't know how to use a sword. I fired a bow for the first time the other day, but I'm not sure I could hit anything on purpose. Probably not."

People came out of their dwellings and hurried up the main road for the great hall, calm but with worried and fearful looks, and Laurelin did her best to swallow her own terror, pretending to be just as calm when Éowyn looked over at her as they passed many of the slower folk.

"If you cannot use a sword, I will see you have a bow and daggers. Hurry, they will be upon us soon!"


Laurelin stared down at her hand that held a sharp dagger in a death grip with a curious detachment sometime later. She wondered exactly how a city girl from Dallas, like her, was standing in some primitive village in the back of beyond, with black monster goo on her, defending little kids hiding in a king's wooden Viking hall.

She nudged the dead orc at her feet further away from her with the tip of her shoe. When she had the luxury, she thought she might like to throw up. Later. In private. And maybe cry. No, scratch that, definitely cry. The ugly kind with lots of snot and wailing. Yep. Puke, then cry. It was a decent to-do list.

Someone whistled loudly, jerking Laurelin's attention away from her inner musings and back to the reality that surrounded her. Sweeping her gaze down the main road, she saw Éowyn coming back toward the hall, surrounded by all the men that had ridden off much earlier. Hopefully, that meant what was left of the orcs were dead. Please God, let them all be dead.

Holmgeir leaned nearer to Éowyn and said something and she chuckled, still smiling when she reached Laurelin. She glanced down at the dead orc. "Holmgeir says you're the right kind of bard for Meduseld. The kind that guards it with a dagger in each hand. This is your doing?"

"I think so," Laurelin said with a frown. "One of us had to die, and I guess I talked him into it, although I'm not real sure how. It all kind of went past in a blur." She grimaced at the black on her dress before she held up a black splattered arm. "Please tell me this shit washes off."

Éowyn sheathed her sword. "What is shit? she asked, making the English word actually sound pretty.

"Horse dung," Laurelin clarified in Common, raising a brow when several of the soldiers around her chuckled.

"Orc blood is far more foul than horse dung, but yes, it does wash off." Éowyn frowned and reached for Laurelin's right arm, examining the back of it. "You're wounded," she murmured, calling attention to all the red on the back of her dress. Laurelin twisted around to look behind her curiously.

"Huh. Look at that. I wondered why I felt so wet back there. I thought it was just nervous sweat."

Removing both daggers from Laurelin's tight grip, Éowyn handed them off to one of the men, then took Laurelin's good arm and steered her up the steps, slowing to accommodate the bard's wobbly gait. Lifting a hand to her eyes as spots danced in her vision, Laurelin stopped and closed them.

"Sorry, I think I'm either gonna throw up or pass out." As the roaring in her ears grew louder, she shook her head. "Definitely pass out," she whispered, right before she was picked up by one of the soldiers. She clenched her eyes more tightly shut as they started moving and laid her head against an armored shoulder, breathing through her mouth as a precaution, so any unpleasant smells didn't overcome her.

When she was gently lowered to a chair inside the hall, she opened her eyes and smiled weakly up at the unfamiliar blond giant who had carried her. "Thank you so much…?"

"Anskar, my lady. Son of Geirmund."

She nodded. "Anskar, son of Geirmund. I'm Laurelin. Without your help, I would have been counting sheep out on the hall steps, so thanks again."

He chuckled with an amused twinkle in his blue eyes. "Think nothing of it, Lady Laurelin. May I help you dress your wound? Grete is down at the front gate tending the wounded there and it may be some time before she makes it up here."

She nodded tiredly and stared askance at the glass of amber liquid Éowyn reappeared with and thrust at her. "Come Laurelin, you must drink this. It will help with the weak knees and shakiness you're experiencing. That was your first kill, wasn't it?"

Laurelin took a small sip and made a face. "Yes. Blatantly obvious, I'm sure."

Narrowing her eyes sternly, Éowyn pointed a finger at the glass. "All of it. And it won't take you long to get used to killing orcs. We may manage to turn you into a shield-maiden yet."

"Oh, good," she said dryly, then threw back the entire contents of the tumbler like an overlarge shot. Shuddering, she grimaced. "Christ! That stuff could melt the hair off a dog."

"It's good for you," Éowyn said with a glimmer of amusement in her blue-grey eyes, and moved back to help Anskar by cutting the sleeve completely off Laurelin's dress with a small dagger, to reveal the whole wound. "Botild, bring cloth for bandages," she called to a woman who had just entered the hall with her arms full of supplies.

"Here you are, my lady." She set her burden down on a nearby table, curtsied and hurried back out.

Laurelin stared at the jumble of cloth and bit her lip, then spat when she tasted something disgusting. She tipped the glass up again, draining the last few drops and hoping it was strong enough to disinfect her tongue of whatever nastiness was there. A bath spiked with bleach actually sounded rather appealing.

"You do know to wash your hands before you touch my open, bleeding wound, right?" She tilted her head back and saw Anskar nod.

"Aye, my lady. My mother was a healer and boxed my ears more than once over the subject of clean hands. I will go and wash quickly now, and bring water back to clean the cut." He pulled his gauntlets off and headed down the steps to the lower level.

Éowyn walked toward the door. "I must go and oversee the orc bodies are taken and burned outside the city, and any other wounded are seen to." She stopped and smiled, shaking her head regretfully. "I suppose you will have to sing for me on another night when you haven't done yourself in by grappling with orcs."

Laurelin smiled faintly back, then dropped her head forward as she felt the first strong, throbbing pain from her cut, and sighed. Wherever Legolas was, she sure hoped he was having a better night than she was.


Legolas smiled in anticipation when Edoras came into sight once more after they crested the rise that had briefly obscured it. He had been struggling against a growing feeling of anxiety for several days, or ever since they had left Meduseld, really. Though it seemed rather foolish in light of the fact that the fight they had won at Helm's Deep had not been at all near to Edoras. Yet, he knew he would not feel easy until he saw Laurelin and determined all was well with her, as he considered her to be his charge; her safety and protection his obvious responsibility. His father had intimated as much.

The Grey Company and Théoden's riders surrounded him, with Elladan and Elrohir on his right and left. He had been very pleased to see them both again. They traveled with the Dúnedain, just as they had so frequently in the past, who had brought messages and support for Aragorn with them.

"I have not seen you smile in that way for some time, Prince," Elrohir quipped, turning his grey gaze back to where the Golden Hall shone like a beacon in the sunlight. "Have you taken to toying with the innocent adaneth here, in the absence of any elleth to sigh and fawn over you?"

"Certainly not," Legolas said, turning a stern look on Elrohir in an attempt to stop the teasing he knew could be relentless and unforgiving from the younger of Elrond's twin sons. "Although – I do have a friend here that happens to be an adaneth." Partly anyway, he added silently.

"Is she a matronly grandmother, or young and pretty? I will venture a guess that she is young and pretty, as has ever been your marked preference in females." Elladan turned his serious grey eyes toward Legolas in inquiry, that were a perfect match to his brother's. His more earnest, introspective personality had always made it easy for Legolas to tell them apart, compared to Elrohir's playful, outgoing ways.

"I fail to see the relevance of her physical appearance, either way," Legolas said in a frosty tone that would have made his father proud. "The eyes of friendship are blind to such things."

Elrohir laughed. "See how he swells with offense, brother? I believe you have revealed this adaneth to be not merely pretty, but perhaps even a beauty of some merit."

"Lady Laurelin is young and indeed, quite a beauty, but I'll tolerate no disrespectful talk about her." Gimli all but growled his words from where he rode in back of Legolas. "Just you elves mind your manners when you speak of such a fine and gentle lass."

"We intended no disrespect toward your Lady Laurelin, Sir Dwarf. Far from it." Elrohir's expression turned as grave as his elder brother's, once more making it nearly impossible to tell them apart.

"An elvish name," Elladan murmured, turning curious eyes back toward Legolas. "Then this lady is not of Rohan, but Gondorian by birth?"

"She is neither." Gimli seemed mollified by the assurances and interest of the twin elves and more disposed to friendly conversation than before. "Her land is not a place known to any here, and it was during some violent, unnatural storm that she became separated from her own folk. The Rohan people found her wandering alone in the countryside and brought her to live among them, where she now holds the position of bard to King Théoden. You shall have a fine treat this evening if she sings for the company."

Elrohir's face relaxed into his habitual smile. "I will look forward to meeting this lady, who seems to hold the loyalty and regard of elf and dwarf alike. The prospect of music is always welcome, and not something I looked to find while away from home."

Legolas' lips turned up as he thought of how Laurelin's music might well surprise and delight Elladan and Elrohir, when Elladan gestured forward, drawing his attention.

"Look there. I see cremation mounds outside the city. Orcs have been here." He turned a grim look to Legolas, who wore a similar expression as they also surveyed what could only be freshly dug graves a fair distance from the main gates, also indicating some human loss.

Sharp anger burned inside Legolas, mixing with the worry already surrounding him like a cloud. He urged Arod to even greater speed, Elladan and Elrohir sensing his urgency and keeping pace with him as they soon reached the city gates ahead of the bulk of the riders. In a rushed blur, Legolas helped Gimli down and turned Arod over to a stable groom before hurrying up the hall steps and throwing the doors open, scanning the space eagerly for his friend, but not finding her.

Éowyn looked up and smiled from where she was seated at breakfast, quickly rising to greet them, looking curiously at the dark-haired elven twins standing behind Gimli. "Welcome back, my lords. I received word of your victory and imminent return, but you are come even sooner than I expected. Are my uncle and Lord Aragorn not with you?"

Legolas forced down his impatience and bowed his head respectfully. "Lady Éowyn, it is good to see you once more. King Théoden and Aragorn are but moments behind us. Pray, is all well here? We saw unexpected signs of battle and orc attack."

Éowyn smiled grimly. "You are correct. A goodly number of orcs came to test us the very day the bulk of our forces departed. I suspect they thought to have an easy mark here, but we women are not the prey they hoped for." Her smile widened with a hint of pride. "Even Laurelin killed one of the beasts, though she did receive a trifling wound as repayment for her efforts."

"And where is she now?" Legolas asked, stepping closer.

"She sent word that she is resting in her chamber this morning, due to a lack of proper sleep." Éowyn clasped her hands together with a soft sigh. "I believe nightmares plague her as she has had little previous exposure to the horrors of warfare. I have even given her a sleeping draught the past two nights, but I cannot say if it has been a help or not."

"If you will excuse me, I will ease my mind and go check on her." Legolas turned for the stairs, still flanked by the twins while Gimli remained behind to join Éowyn at the breakfast table, beginning to answer all her questions and tell her the tale of the battle.

Legolas' brows drew together in distress when he saw Laurelin's chamber door was slightly open, and spied her blonde hair on the floor just inside the room, seeing she was clad in similar, fitted trousers and t-shirt as she seemed to prefer when alone in her room. Pushing it carefully open, he knelt and brushed her hair off of her unconscious face, drawing in a sharp breath when he felt her skin. He looked at Elladan in alarm.

"She burns." He gathered her up in his arms and laid her on the bed, smiling encouragingly when she opened bleary, fever-bright eyes and looked up at him in obvious relief, whispering to him in English.

"Legolas? Oh, I'm so happy to see you! But...are you stuck in the spider nightmare too?"

He frowned, clasping one of her hands in his, nodding to Elladan to remove the bandages on her right arm to check the wound there. "Spider nightmare?" He knew she was very likely confused or delirious from the fever, but he wanted to keep her awake and talking.

Tears filled her eyes while she gave a tiny nod. "It always kills me, over and over, so many times, stabbing me with a horrible, sharp stinger. I almost wish I could just stay dead than to keep going through it on automatic replay. Can you wake me up so it stops?"

He placed his other hand on top of her hand he held. "There are no spiders here, Laurelin, and you are awake. You have a fever, likely from your wound, but we shall take care of that."

"It is poisoned, but not severely, as the flesh around it still appears mostly healthy," Elladan said, then turned to his brother. "Elrohir, go and fetch boiled water for the athelas, and I'll make a poultice."

At the sound of the unfamiliar voice speaking Common, Laurelin moved her head to examine Elladan, who turned back to meet her searching gaze.

"Another handsome elf?" she mumbled in surprise. "This is definitely a better dream than the last one." She squinted when both versions of the dark-haired elf smiled in amusement. "I must be really off my nut though, because I see two of you instead of just one. That can't be right..." She looked back to Legolas for reassurance or confirmation of her addled state.

"This is Elladan and Elrohir, Laurelin, they are twins and elder brothers to Arwen, Aragorn's betrothed. They are also my friends, and Elladan is a skilled healer. He will soon have you well again."

She smiled at Elladan again as Elrohir slipped out, releasing a shaky breath while Elladan rummaged in a pouch he carried, pulling out some unknown plant and setting it aside. "How bad do I look Doctor Elladan? Will I make it, or will I be pushing up daisies soon from six feet under?"

"It is a title for healers in her land," Legolas answered, at Elladan's questioning look. The dark-haired elf nodded in understanding, turning to speak to the woman in soothing tones.

"You are in no danger, Lady Laurelin. It is entirely possible you would have fought off the poison on your own, but the athelas will have you better in much less time."

She reached out and plucked the plant from where it lay beside her and inhaled the fragrance from the small, white flowers. "I know this scent," she murmured in English, closing her eyes and smiling dreamily. "Something similar used to grow all around us, perfuming the air with its purity. What was it called?" She opened her eyes, locking gazes with Legolas, the golden rings nestled in a bed of green in her eyes seeming to glow brightly in the reflected lantern light. "It was...vanessëne. I had forgotten somehow, but… Yes, that's right...do you remember it, Legolas?"

To oblige her, he bent his head and inhaled the scent, then smiled as though agreeing. Satisfied, she returned to examining the athelas, lightly touching the blooms.

"What does she say?" Elladan asked in Sindarin. "She spoke a Quenya word for beautiful scent. She knows elvish?"

"She does not speak elvish," Legolas replied in the same language, with a confused shake of his head, "though she sang a song entirely in elvish from her land, but had no idea it was an actual language. There are none of our people there, or none known; she comes of the same place as Elizabeth and speaks the same tongue. I believe she may still be delirious, as she talks now of remembering a similar flower that used to grow all around. I do not truly know what she may be referring to."

Elladan tilted his head. "A mystery, then, or merely the ramblings caused of the fever."

Elrohir entered the room carrying a basin, with several large, clean lengths of cloth draped over one arm, and Aragorn following behind him with a cup and pitcher. The Ranger filled the cup with water and helped Laurelin to drink some of it before setting it aside on the only table in the room, and came and laid his hand across Laurelin's hot, fevered brow, his eyes softening when she reached up and took his hand between both of her own, smiling up at him gently.

"Edhelharn, please do not be sad. You will be reunited with Undómiel very soon, I think. Take heart for the journey before you."

"Shhh, I thank you for your words, but rest a while, lady, and conserve your strength." Aragorn kissed her hand before he released it, and knelt down next to where Legolas sat on the edge of the bed, turning to examine the blackened wound Elladan was cleaning before preparing to apply the poultice.

"She offers you comfort, Estel, though she be the one suffering, and not even fully in her right mind." Elrohir appeared more thoughtful and introspective than was his custom, with not a hint of a tease in his eyes or voice.

Legolas looked at the younger twin, where he stood across the room with his arms crossed. "It is just a part of who she is, Elrohir. No mere fever could change it."

"That is truth." Aragorn nodded his agreement to Legolas' words. "She is a very caring, gentle lady."

Elladan set aside the soiled cloth he had used to clean the wound and took the crushed athelas poultice Aragorn held out to him. "I will heal her, now the corruption is removed," Elladan said in a quiet voice, pressing one hand with the athelas against the back of her arm where the injury was, and wrapping the other one around her arm, lower down, to hold it in place. He began to chant the healing spell, the faint glow from his hands spreading until his entire body shone with soft, white light.

Laurelin gasped and opened her eyes, turning her rapt gaze to watch Elladan in fascination. Her own body began to slowly shine with a warm glow, which mirrored Elladan's bright light until the golden radiance which haloed her body nearly eclipsed his shining, white light. The golden rings in her eyes gleamed like true gold, and she reached her other hand out frantically, only calming when Legolas took it and held it firmly in his own again.

The feverish haze gradually faded and clarity immediately returned to her green eyes. "Legolas, what's happening to me?" she asked in English, with wide, fearful eyes. "Have I really lost it, or am I...glowing.like the ass-end of a lightning bug?"

He chuckled in amusement, relieved she sounded much more like herself than she had mere minutes before. "You are, but it is nothing to fear. Elladan is healing you in the way of elves. It will fade soon."

She swallowed visibly and nodded, then whipped her gaze back to Elladan as though he had called out to her, her brows furrowing as he finally stopped his chant and released his hold on her. She snatched one of his hands back with her newly healed arm and sat up, turning to face him with a look of rapt concentration.

"You're sad….and..." she sucked in a sharp breath, "so angry. Whatever it is you're blaming yourself for, it wasn't your fault. You couldn't have prevented it." Overcome by the very strong emotions she felt from him, her eyes filled with tears and spilled over.

Elladan allowed her to keep hold of him, surprised that she seemed able to read such long-buried emotions from him like words written on a page, and by mere touch alone. But when he healed her, he had discovered some strange things about her, as well. Perhaps it had been more of an exchange than he had anticipated.

"How do you carry this much pain around inside you and still function?" she whispered, searching his grey eyes. "You have to forgive yourself. I know you don't know me from a hole in the wall, and it's probably really rude for me to stick my nose in your business like this, but you deserve to enjoy your life and be happy." Pausing, she tilted her head as though she were listening to something, then nodded. "I somehow think...your….your mother wouldn't want you to feel the way you do."

Exhaling slowly, she let go of him and dropped her eyes, embarrassed by her odd, impulsive behavior. She wiped her eyes and face, her cheeks flaming under all the stares she could feel on her. Laurelin ran her fingers along the back of her arm, stunned all over again when she felt nothing but smooth, perfect skin where the festering wound had been, and looked up in surprise.

"My cut is….totally gone!" She frowned and looked at Aragorn's calm face. "How did he do that? Is it from….all that glowing? Like elf super powers?"

When Aragorn began to explain, holding Laurelin enthralled, Elrohir chuckled from where he stood near the door, and met his brother's eyes, something passing silently between them before he directed his comment to Legolas in Sindarin. "It is obvious she is very heavily elf-blooded, but she does not seem to know it."

Legolas pursed his lips. "Her father is an elf, but no, she is not yet aware she is anything other than of mankind, as it was concealed from her by her human mother, for unknown reasons. When I am able to take her to Greenwood, to my family, I will tell her then."

Aragorn continued his quiet conversation with Laurelin, asking after her well-being and what had occurred with the orcs to cause her injury, while the three elves spoke together in elvish. Elladan stood and walked to where Legolas and his brother conversed.

"Her ears have been altered from what they should have been," Elladan said with a disturbed look. "I noticed there is very fine scarring on the backs of her ears, barely visible along the rounded edge, and there is old pain there, long felt. I healed what I could of it, but I cannot restore her to what she should be. Perhaps my father could, but I am not certain."

Legolas and Elrohir both winced in sympathy, and Elrohir's grey eyes filled with quick anger. "Who would mutilate her ears so, and for what purpose?"

"Likely it was done to conceal that she is half elf," Legolas sighed, rubbing his brow. "There are no elves in her land, and we are thought to be only myth and made-up stories there. Perhaps her human mother feared what might happen if her secret were discovered? Elizabeth has told me that there are cruel healers who will do all manner of unthinkable things to study those who are perceived to have magic or unusual abilities. That is why she fled to middle-earth and my father's kingdom, for she spent most of her life hiding her immortality from those who would try to use her magic to their own purposes."

Laurelin and Aragorn laughed together over something, drawing the eyes of the elves and making Legolas smile at the welcome sound. Elrohir watched him with a shrewd, assessing gaze.

"Yet this lady is still mortal, though her span will surely be many long years, due to her elven heritage. It seems you risk your heart here, or have you already lost it to this young beauty?" Elrohir looked across at her, grinning to find her watching him with a considering look. "She truly is lovely and clever, so perhaps I understand why you take such chances."

Legolas frowned. "We are friends, and I do care for her in that way, but there can be nothing more for me. Not with a mortal; not even one as remarkable as Laurelin." He looked away, avoiding the perceptive eyes of Elladan.

"My ears are burning something fierce," Laurelin drawled, standing beside Aragorn and looking fully recovered. "So, does that mean you boys are gossiping about me like a bunch of old fish wives?" She shrugged. "Or maybe it just means I need to wash behind my ears better." Laurelin winked at Elrohir, making his brows climb in surprise.

"Now, I am ever so grateful for your kindness and excellent care, but if you fine fellows wouldn't mind stepping out, I really do need to change into something a little more appropriate for upstairs." She waved a hand at her baggy t-shirt and yoga pants.

Elladan and Elrohir gave brief bows and turned for the door, followed by Aragorn, who murmured a farewell before stepping out. Legolas lingered a moment longer, searching her eyes and feeling the last bit of the knot of worry inside unravel when she smiled at him.

He smirked, the teasing that came to him so naturally reasserting itself as he slipped back into English, reminded of the unresolved challenge that was still ongoing between them. "Would you like me to stay and help you with your gown, in case you feel faint again? Or...anything else?"

She shook her head, laughing. "You better calm down, Don Juan, or your friends will probably come back and drag you away." Crossing her arms, she bit her lip. "They don't strike me as the kind to stand idly by while you flirt your little heart out. As much as I'd like to keep you all to myself in here, I think I'm going to be forced to share you now."

Legolas raised a curious brow. "Who is Don Juan?"

Taking a step closer, she stared up at him, tracing the swirling pattern on his suede tunic across his chest with her index finger, smiling when he caught her hand and held it flush against his heart. "He was a notorious seducer of women, but you really aren't anything like that. I just like to tease you."

"Yes, you certainly do," he murmured. "As much as I enjoy teasing you. It is even possible I relish teasing you more than I should." He pushed back a lock of her hair, slowly tracing her ear, satisfied by his little test when her eyes slid closed and she shuddered.

"Oh, my sweet lord," she moaned, meeting his blue eyes that watched her so intently, then blushed. "S..Sorry, my ears have always been abnormally sensitive."

"Why are you sorry?" he asked with a tender caress to her cheek. "Elven ears are exquisitely responsive, and I find nothing at all abnormal about that."

Her eyes widened. "Really? Then you..." She gnawed the inside of her cheek, glancing eagerly at one of his ears. "Can I touch yours, just this once? Or, would that be – too much?"

Legolas licked across his bottom lip and nodded, reaching out to push the door to her room closed. "Yes, you may, but be aware that extreme sensitivity means the capacity for pain is equal to the capacity for pleasure."

Cringing, Laurelin shook her head. "Then I better not. I would hate to hurt you, and I know from experience how awful ear pain can be."

Moved by a strong surge of empathy, Legolas reached for her hand and lifted it to his lips and kissed her knuckles. "You will not hurt me, Laurelin. I know you are curious, and it is doubtful any other elf would ever allow you such a liberty. Go on, I want you to," he urged when she visibly hesitated, lifting her hand closer to his ear in invitation.

Finally, she carefully brushed the tips of her fingers along the top of his ear, quickly becoming fascinated. "It's like – the softest velvet, especially at the very tip. That's amazing..." Pressing closer, she leaned into him and reached for his other ear, stroking them simultaneously.

Closing his eyes, Legolas concentrated on keeping his breathing steady and even...and ended failing spectacularly. He pulled her more tightly against him, deciding it was a mistake to close his eyes in the first place, as it only served to amplify the pronounced pleasure he felt every time she ran her fingers against his skin there. He had not expected her touch to undo him and desire to rise so swiftly, or he would not have invited it. If he did not stop her, she would soon get an education in elven eroticism that he was certain she would be uncomfortable with.

"Laurelin," he gasped. "You must...stop. Now. Please. I..."

With the smile still on her face, Laurelin met his eyes and immediately froze, swallowing visibly at what she saw in his gaze. Slowly, she dropped her hands to rest on top of his shoulders, suddenly aware of what it was she felt, hard and insistent where she was pressed so tightly against him. It brought an unexpected thrill of fear and excitement, like the point of no return at the top of a roller coaster. It made her feel audacious and bold.

"You look like you're about ready to eat me alive."

He clenched his jaw, the muscle in his cheek throbbing as he fought to regain some control. "Yes, I would say that's exactly what I would wish to do at this moment. For an elf, that is one of the most erogenous places on the body."

She raised an eyebrow. "Really? You mean that's like if I put my hand down your pants?"

Pursing his lips, he released a slow breath, distantly amused that she seemed to have lost all her fear in the face of her curiosity about his body. "Not quite, but perhaps a fairly close second."

Her gaze turned contemplative, then calculating. Lacing her hands together under his hair at the back of his neck, she smiled teasingly up at him. "What would happen if I kissed your ears as opposed to just touching them? Or maybe licked them instead?"

Legolas held her gaze with his own, his lips curling in challenge. "Try it, and we shall both discover the answer at the same time."

She chuckled, then hesitated, immediately looking far less certain. "Are you saying you don't know what you would do? Just… Well, what have you done in the past? I'm sure that in nearly three thousand years, there must have been some elf gals that..." She stopped and frowned when he shook his head.

"No other has ever been invited to touch me in the way I have allowed you to touch me now. During my life, there has only been one other, apart from you, who I would have ever desired such things from, and she never cared for me in that way, and instead wed another that she truly loved."

Laurelin traced the line of his jaw with her fingertips and shook her head. "Then she obviously wasn't the right one for you, any more than I could ever hope to be." With sad eyes, she started to pull away and was halted when he tightened his arms around her, preventing her escape.

"Wait. Why do you say that? You imply that you would wish to be the right one for me?"

She narrowed her eyes and lifted her chin. "No, I would never presume. It's bad enough you already care for me as a friend, but you definitely deserve better than somebody who can only be in your life for what amounts to about five minutes of your time." Pulling out of his arms, she put distance between them, her teasing smile firmly in place once more. "I'm just... dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind," she sang.

But Legolas did not smile back, crossing his arms instead with a thoughtful look. "Perhaps you should let me decide for myself what I deserve. I had never truly considered it before, but I suppose it may be possible that from a different point of view, five minutes of pure, shared joy could potentially sustain a person for all the days to come after."

Lowering the sheet of music she had just picked up, she turned back to him with a cryptic look. "Are you saying that you would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful, than a lifetime of nothing special?"

When her lips twitched in a tell that showed she was trying to hide her laughter, he stalked over to her, bristling with sudden irritation. "Exactly what part of this discussion do you find amusing? I am in earnest."

She shook her head, trying to quell her smile. "No, I'm not laughing at anything you said. It's just I have so many damned movie quotes floating around in my head, and you just triggered one." At his confused look, she tossed down the page of music. "Oh hell," she groused, knowing that an attempt to explain a Steel Magnolias quote would be useless.

She went up on her tiptoes to press her lips to his in a kiss that left Legolas reeling from the amount of unrestrained feeling he could sense from her. Slowly, her eyes opened again, her lips drawing back from his.

"That's all I was trying to say," she sighed, with a flirtatious smile as she walked away from him.

"Well said," he murmured, tempted to pursue her for another kiss, then shook his head as a different thought occurred to him. "But since you kissed me, then that means I win, and may now require whatever I wish from you."

She laughed. "No, darlin', you didn't win anything. Remember, I specified that the first one of us affected enough to ask the other for a kiss, loses. I never asked, I gave you a kiss instead, so technically, our battle is still ongoing unless you give up."

His brows furrowed. "Your interpretation of the rules seems rather fluid. If I should choose to give you a kiss, would you not count me as the loser?"

Laurelin shrugged. "Only if it's on my lips, and only if you ask me for some sugar first, sugar."

He inhaled slowly, trying not to think of where else she might like him to kiss her. He needed to get control of his impulses before they got the better of him. He still intended to win against her, come what may. "That is a term of endearment from you? Honey or sugar? You seem to use them interchangeably."

"Yep, that about sizes it up. In the south, kiss and sugar can mean the same thing, so if someone asks you to 'gimme some sugar', it means they want a kiss. No different than calling your spouse or romantic interest a sweetheart, really, and honey is sweet too, so the same concept. What do elves say?"

His eyes twinkled when he smiled. "That depends on the elf, I suppose, but meleth nin is quite common in Sindarin. It means 'my love'. Elizabeth calls my father 'love' in English, and he either calls her Bess, which is not only a diminutive of her name, but also means 'wife' in elvish, or else he uses mîr nin, which translates to 'my treasure' or 'my precious'."

Laurelin blushed. "That's just adorable that your daddy and stepmom are so openly affectionate in that way. My step-daddy who raised me, always calls my momma 'hun', short for honey, and she calls him by his name or sometimes darling when she thinks Vincent and I aren't in hearing range and she's in a really good mood." She laughed softly and sighed. "Its too bad you'll never meet them. I bet you would have liked them both, they're really good people, and Vincent too. We may not share blood, but he's a damn fine man, and he was always the very best brother to me. I just wish..." She drew a slow breath and shook her head. "But there's really no point. As the saying goes, 'if wishes were horses, every beggar would ride.' I suppose that's true." Legolas laid a hand on her shoulder in comfort, and she smiled up at him, grateful for his empathy.

"I will leave you to change, but first..." He enveloped her in his warm embrace and hugged her tightly against his chest. "I cannot adequately express how relieved I am that you are well and whole. Please try to avoid all orcs in future, if only to lessen my worry for you."

He released her and she grinned and pushed back the fall of her dark blonde hair over her shoulder. "I swear to do my level best to take off in the opposite direction of any and all orcs I come across. Will that be sufficient?"

"I suppose it will have to be. Shall I wait for you outside, or is this the kind of getting ready that takes females hours to achieve?"

Laurelin rolled her eyes. "Heavens, I don't take that long, but there's no sense in you waiting on me. I'll be along in a little while."

"Don't forget to lock when I go out." Legolas paused, smiling at her exasperated look.

"Yes, dad. Now, would you get, already?" She made a shooing motion with her hands, still smiling after she turned the key in the lock and went to pick her dress for the day.


~o~

Chapter Text

 


 

Elrohir was waiting at the top of the stairs when Legolas emerged from Laurelin's room. He was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed and a knowing smile on his face, calling out to his friend in Sindarin.

"Ah, Prince, I thought you might have gotten lost in the young lady's room, on the way to her door. A long and perilous journey that it is. I contemplated whether I should attempt to go back and save you from yourself, but perhaps you know best."

Legolas suppressed a sigh, coming to a stop just shy of the top step where Elrohir stood. "Yes, I do know best. Why are you so convinced that I am in danger with Laurelin? For one so young she is rather perceptive, as she told me you would likely come to retrieve me if I lingered there much longer."

Elrohir pushed off the wall with a shrug. "I did note that she was quick-witted. How is it that you do not know your own heart enough to recognize what is so readily apparent to others? It may be you are too close to see it clearly, but I have watched many and well recognize the signs of an elf in love."

"You are mistaken," Legolas replied vehemently. "Even had I the choice that you do, I would never choose to be mortal. Were Laurelin fully an elf..." He stopped and shook his head, refusing to contemplate what-ifs that could never be. "But she is not, so my heart is safe. Locked firmly away, so you need have no further concern for me."

Looking beyond him down the stairs, Elrohir grinned. "Here comes the little beauty now. Since you have no interest in her beyond friendship, then you will not mind if I take time to know her? I do find her appealing, as well as a bit of a mystery."

Legolas narrowed his eyes, annoyed by Elrohir's obvious attempt to provoke him and smiled coolly. "I have no objection, and I am sure she would welcome another offer of friendship, provided it is sincere." He turned to meet her and smiled more genuinely, missing Elrohir's smirk in his direction.

She smiled back, but her brows drew together as though puzzled when she looked between them. "Are you two trying to beautify the king's hall by installing yourselves as statues? Because if so, I have to tell you it's working."

Grinning charmingly, Elrohir extended a hand with a small bow. "Lady Laurelin, you are the one to bring beauty and light to any darkness. May I escort you to King Théoden? I did hear him say he wished to speak with you only a few moments ago."

She glanced at Legolas then placed her hand in the dark-haired elf's, and let him lead her forward. "Thank you." Looking back at Legolas, she gave him an amused smile and spoke quickly to him in English. "No spark from this elf's touch, anymore than his brother. I guess that's something I feel only from you."

Legolas stood for another moment on the top step, watching them walk away before he laughed softly, realizing that with a single comment, she had managed to fully restore his good mood. Shaking his head, he moved to follow them.


King Théoden smiled in welcome when Laurelin approached, beckoning her to his throne where he was lounged comfortably.

"Come and sit beside me, my dear."

She pulled up a small stool close to his throne and looked at him expectantly while he stared out distractedly across the hall at all the men clustered around Aragorn, as well as a large number of Rohirrim riders. She took the opportunity to really look at him while his attention was elsewhere. He seemed far more sad and burdened than when she had last spoken with him before he departed for Helm's Deep, the lines around his mouth and eyes more pronounced. Impulsively, she laid her hand on top of his in sympathy.

He met her eyes, the skin around his own crinkling when he smiled at her and laid his other hand on top of hers. "What sweet comfort you bring to an old man, child. These are difficult days that are upon us, but we must brave them nonetheless. Tonight, we will have a feast to remember the lives of those who have been lost and honor their sacrifice, as well as to celebrate our victory at Helm's Deep." He searched her face. "I understand from my niece that you also helped defend Edoras."

Laurelin ducked her head in embarrassment. "More like I flailed like a mad woman and fell on an orc, accidentally killing it in my panic."

Théoden leaned his head back and gave a delighted laugh, patting her hand fondly before he released it, stroking a thoughtful hand across his beard. "It is good to laugh, and remember the joy of all we fight to preserve. I would like you to prepare fitting songs for this evening. Nothing too dark or grim, but that which will entertain and perhaps inspire a bit of hope for what we may yet face."

She bit the inside of her cheek and nodded. "Of course, Sire. Is there to be more war, do you think?"

He gave her a gentle, paternal smile. "You must prepare yourself for much more, Lady Laurelin. But do not despair, for I believe we shall prevail, and I would have you know you will always have a home in my hall. I hope you will think of us as family in the absence of your own. I would look on you as a daughter for the kindness and care you have given me, for no blood daughter could have done me more good than you have with your music."

Her eyes misted with tears, while she gave the king a shy smile. "I can't tell you how much that means to me, my lord. I would treasure being allowed to think of you as a father."

He reached for her hand and squeezed it warmly, nodding. "Then it is done. Henceforth, you will be an honorary member of my house, and a Lady of Rohan. Will you give me a song now, 'ere you go and prepare for tonight?"

She smiled radiantly and nodded. "I will. I wrote one recently, and I would sing it for you if you care to hear it?"

He nodded kindly, and she slipped away to fetch her guitar, smiling when Legolas caught her eye before she seated herself beside Théoden again, smiling up at the king. She took a steadying breath, feeling strangely like she was baring her heart to everyone around her. Looking down at her strings, she strummed across them, then opened her mouth and began to sing.

"Every night I sit and stare at the sky

Remembering my day

Thinking of tomorrow

~o~

"Looking back at all the things that I try

All I would change

And what I would keep the same

~o~

"It seems that my life follows the moon

At time it's half empty and sometimes it's full

Spinning around through darkness and light

Falling so low and rising so high

~o~

"From afar the moon is perfect and bright

The surface so smooth

And that's how I'm supposed to look

~o~

"But I'm tired of using distance to hide

The scars and shadows of my heart

Cause they make me who I am

~o~

"It seems that my life follows the moon

At time it's half empty and sometimes it's full

Spinning around through darkness and light

Falling so low and rising so high

~o~

"When I feel strong, I chase the days

Dancing in circles through phase after phase

And when I feel lost, I try to remember"

~o~

Laurelin looked over to where Legolas, Elladan and Elrohir were together, but all sitting quietly and apparently listening to her song, and smiled at them as she continued.

"That I

I follow the moon

I follow the moon

~o~

"I'm holding on tight, through darkness and light

Joy can be fleeting and grief takes time

I follow the moon

I follow the moon

~o~

"It seems that my life follows the moon

At time it's half empty

And sometimes it's full"

~

Laurelin placed her hands across her strings to still the final note, and glanced up hesitantly at Théoden, smiling when he nodded his approval, his blue eyes twinkling warmly.

"Thank you, Lady Laurelin, that was lovely."

With a glad heart, she slipped away to the little nook where she kept much of her music, as well as her violin and guitar, surprised to find Legolas waiting for her there. He bent and kissed her forehead, and she smiled, aglow in all the approval and affection she could feel from him without a single word spoken between them. She had never had a friendship like the one she shared with him, where it seemed so much of their communication was non-verbal.

Lifting her violin case from the floor, he gestured to it. "Shall we go sit under the trees, and I can help you with your music for tonight?"

She nodded in surprise. "How did you know that was what I was going to do now?"

He managed to look appealing and sheepish at the same time. "Elven hearing is very sensitive. I did not try, but I confess I overheard much of your conversation with the king. Your song was very beautiful, even moreso as it was apparent you wrote it from your heart."

To hide her blush, she bent to retrieve her thick folder of music. "Thank you. Um, shall we go?" Turning, she nearly ran chest-first into one of the twins, not certain who was who, as she couldn't tell them apart. The one in front of her smirked, making her think it was probably Elrohir, who she recognized as a tease.

"Elladan and I shall accompany you," he said, confirming she had been correct in her assumption.

She gave him a simpering smile and shoved her hard-shell guitar case into his arms. "How kind. You won't mind carrying this for me then, will you?"

"Certainly not. There is nothing I enjoy more than being a pack animal. Do you want to climb on my back and I can carry you as well?"

Tilting her head, she glanced at the other twin with a mischievous smile, making him give her a crooked smile back. "Be careful what you offer, Elrohir. I can see in this maiden's eyes that if there were fewer curious gazes trained on us, she would already have affixed herself to you."

"I haven't had a good piggyback ride in years," she said laughingly in English, stepping around Elrohir on her way to the door.

"Why is it called piggyback?" Legolas queried in the same language, trailing behind her, leaving the twins to bring up the rear and exchange mystified looks as to what was being said.

"I get the sense we are unwanted extras with these two." Elladan addressed Elrohir.

Shifting the guitar while they walked, Elrohir shrugged. "I cannot pass up the chance to watch him stare in star-struck wonder at this maiden. That will be sufficient entertainment all on its own."

As they left the hall and gained the outdoors, Legolas sent a narrow-eyed look over his shoulder at Elrohir. "Ego, Elrondian," he muttered in Sindarin, making both twins grin. (Fuck off/scram/get lost, son of Elrond.)

"I don't know what Legolas just said, but it sounds like you boys are trying to pick a fight with each other." Laurelin glanced back at the elves as they got further from the hall and other people. "Based on what I know about males, that must mean you're all really good friends, huh?"

"We are firm friends," Elladan confirmed with a smile. "Some time back, Legolas came and stayed in Imladris for a time, which allowed us to get to know him."

She fell into step closer to Elladan. "Where is Imladris? Is that where you come from?"

He nodded. "It is an elven realm and our home. Our father is lord of Imladris. It is a place of great beauty, situated in a valley with a river running through it."

They reached the trees and settled beneath them, Laurelin's instruments deposited beside her by Legolas and Elrohir, while she squinted at Elladan. "I understand your sister is the lady betrothed to Aragorn?"

"That is correct." He plucked a strand of grass from the ground and twirled it in his fingers.

Laurelin opened her folder of music and glanced back up again at Elladan and Elrohir. "And how do you two feel about that? You didn't want to pound Aragorn into the ground for stealing away your baby sister and infecting her with his mortality?"

Elrohir gave a chuff of laughter. "Mortality as an infection; is that how you view it?"

She shrugged. "Well, I never really thought about it before I met Legolas and learned about elves, because everyone's the same where I come from, but maybe? The idea of never running out of time sure sounds appealing, at least on the surface. I guess living forever might not be that great of a deal though if you're the kind of person that gets bored easily."

She honed in on Elrohir again. "But let me ask you something. Do you think someone who only lives eighty years is childish and pitiable, or are they beings with dignity, living lives of worth, despite being much shorter than yours?"

His teasing smile morphed into something much softer as he looked at her and considered her question. "The length of a life does not grant greater worth, nor is an immortal superior to a mortal. Our paths may be different, but both have value."

Satisfied with his answer, Laurelin looked at all three elves with a teasing light in her eyes. "As far as the question of who's the ignorant child goes, it's kinda funny because all three of you would be like children in your experiences, compared to mine."

With an idea already in mind as to what she might be referring to, Legolas held his tongue, waiting to see which twin would take the bait first. As he expected, it was Elladan, who had always been considered the more mature and responsible of the twins, and wouldn't appreciate being likened to a child. Especially not by a woman who had not yet seen thirty full years. He hid his smile.

Elladan shook his head in disbelief. "I cannot imagine what experiences you could have had that would have been beyond any of ours. What amazing thing have you done that you make such a bold claim?"

Setting aside her music, she pushed to her feet. "I have leapt from a great height, head first..." She made diving motions with her hands. "Soaring through the air and living to tell the tale."

"You dove into the water from a great height?" Elrohir guessed.

Laurelin shook her head. "No, I never even touched the water, although I did hang over it." She gave a quick explanation of the bungee jumping she did at Victoria Falls in southern Africa, which seemed to baffle the elves.

"But why do such a thing?" Legolas questioned with a frown. "If it is dangerous, why take such a risk?"

She winked. "Because I was terrified, and facing your fears head-on is the best way to conquer them. And what do you know? I ended up really liking it."

Legolas' mouth lifted on one side, his eyes bright with secret amusement. She brushed her long hair back over her shoulder.

"But why not? We only have one life, so why not try everything you can? Bungee jumping has proven quite safe, and I did it because it was an amazing feeling, like conquering death itself. Don't knock it until you try it."

Having listened quietly, leaned back on his hands, Elladan finally spoke up again. "I think we have established that you are clearly mad, with a thirst for danger, but what else remarkable can you claim, besides leaping from a height with ropes tied around your legs?"

Rolling her eyes at his easy dismissal, she planted her hands on her hips, deciding to bring out the big guns. "I've sailed the seven seas in ships the size of cities. I've flown high up in the air, higher than the clouds and faster than an arrow shot from a bow, in things called airplanes, created to quickly transport people from one side of the earth to the other."

"How fast?" Legolas wondered aloud, and she shrugged and answered him in English.

"More than five hundred miles per hour is cruising speed for a commercial airliner."

His brows rose, and he quickly translated her words to Sindarin, causing the twins to look back at her incredulously. "That's impossible," Elrohir proclaimed confidently.

She curtsied and smiled smugly. "How do you do? I am Miss Impossible, and I hail from the Land of Impossible Things. What I described is a common, everyday thing for the people I come from. Just as common as you folks would ride a horse to cross a field, we ride in airplanes to cross the world. I've personally been on hundreds of them." She sat back down again and pulled a stack of music onto her lap, then made an excited sound a moment later as she plucked a colorful paper out from among them.

"Here, look at this!" She beckoned them close, and they crowded around her to look at what she held. "I actually forgot I had this." Unfolding the paper, she pointed to a picture. "That is what a jet airplane looks like. See on either side? Those are the engines that power it, and make it possible to fly, and the shape of it is very important too, like a bird."

"American Airlines," Legolas read from the page, examining the image before meeting her eyes. "That is the name of your land, is it not?"

"Yes, I'm an American," she nodded as Elrohir exclaimed.

"These images are remarkably clear, Lady Laurelin! I have never seen drawings so realistic."

Laurelin smiled faintly, flipping the brochure over so they could see the smiling air hostess dressed in her sleek uniform. She wasn't about to try to explain photography when she didn't understand the science behind it herself. It wasn't until she ended up in Middle-earth that she realized just how much technology she used on a daily basis that she was fairly ignorant of. Who the hell knew how a microchip was made, or what really caused a smartphone to work? She sure didn't.

"Here, you can take it and look at it." Pushing the brochure into Elrohir's hands, she scooted back and started shuffling through various sheets of music, trying to turn her mind away from thoughts of modern technology she would never see again, or the fact that she would never board another airplane. Her flight to New Zealand had been her final flight, short of some miracle. She shook her head at the realization that she actually missed talking to Siri on her phone. Just a computer program with voice files. How silly.

A light touch on her arm made her look over to Legolas where he was seated beside her, watching her intently. "Seeing the reminders of your old life made you sad," he murmured softly in English.

"A little," she admitted, knowing she couldn't hide her feelings from him and not keen to try. "But I just realized some of my closest relationships back home were with pieces of electronic equipment and not people. My phone, my laptop... That's...I don't know how to feel about that. It seems kinda sad and hollow."

"But that is no longer true. Now you have me," he said with a confident smile that made her smile in spite of herself.

She cut her eyes back to him, doing her best to keep her expression neutral, knowing the other elves were likely watching. "I haven't had you yet, sugar, but I'd sure like to pick up where we left off on our game, if we could ditch our chaperones."

Glancing quickly over to the other elves, who still seemed engrossed examining the photos on the brochure, Legolas gave her a conspiratorial smile. "Perhaps we might manage it under the cover of dark. What do you say to a midnight ride?"

She smirked, unable to hold her expression in check any longer. "Are we talking about a ride on a horse, or a ride, minus the horse?" she asked, lowering her voice in emphasis.

He blinked and opened his mouth, seemingly lost for words and she howled with laughter at his utterly flabbergasted expression, laying back on the grass and clutching her ribs and gasping for air when he raised a bemused brow at her.

Elrohir turned toward them. "You might at least share the joke, particularly if Legolas bears the brunt of it, as seems so from the look on his face."

Elladan scrutinized Legolas and then Laurelin, with a considering gleam in his grey eyes. "I think you would do better not to ask, brother. I may not understand the tongue they speak, but I believe I well understand tone of voice, and their comments were not meant for our ears."

Laurelin leaned up on her elbows and tilted her head at the twins with an innocent smile. "What? We were just talking about riding. Don't elves like to ride? In Texas, it's a favorite pastime, and according to legend, nobody does it better than a cowgirl."

"What is a cowgirl?" Elrohir asked in confusion, turning to face her.

"Pretty much what it sounds like. Traditionally, cowboys and cowgirls tended really large herds of cattle from horseback, but being a cowgirl has a looser definition in my time, and can mean any lady that rides well or knows fancy riding or tricks."

Legolas bent his leg, resting an arm on his knee, his curiosity obviously piqued. "What kind of tricks?"

"Some of the best can rope a calf's back leg at a full gallop, jump down and wrap three of their legs, immobilizing the calf in just a few seconds. They have competitions where the fastest compete against each other for money or prizes. It's exciting to watch, along with the bull riding, jumping and racing." She looked back at Meduseld shining in the sun and smiled faintly. "I think the Rohirrim would be in ecstasy if they ever went to a Texas rodeo."

While she had been speaking, Elrohir had begun to riffle through her music and held a page out with a sage nod. "Play this one."

Legolas laid back and laced his hands behind his head and closed his eyes, enjoying the warm sun on his face, and the pleasant company. Laurelin reached out and took the music from Elrohir, glanced at it and pursed her lips. "You want me to sing this song? Are you sure?"

Elrohir gave her a befuddled smile. "Certainly. Why not?"

She glanced over at Legolas, but seeing his eyes were closed, she blew out a quiet breath and figured what the hell. "Elladan, can you open the big case there and hand me my instrument?"

He gave it to her and she got comfortable, glanced down at the music and started playing, wondering just exactly what elves would make of some of the racier twenty-first century pop music.

"You know just what to say

Things that scare me

I should just walk away

But I can't move my feet

~o~

"The more that I know you, the more I want to

Something inside me is changed

I was so much younger yesterday

~o~

"I didn't know that I was starving 'til I tasted you

Don't need no butterflies when you give me the whole damn farm

By the way, right away you do things to my body

I didn't know that I was starving 'til I tasted you"

~o~

Legolas sat up with a startled look and she glanced over and shrugged the best she could while playing, but continued with the next verse, secretly enjoying watching the expressions on the twins frozen faces.

~o~

"You know just how to make

My heart beat faster

Emotional earthquake

Bring on disaster

~o~

"You hit me head on, got me weak in my knees

Yeah, something inside me is changed

I was so much younger yesterday

So much younger yesterday

~o~

"I didn't know that I was starving 'til I tasted you

Don't need no butterflies when you give me the whole damn farm

By the way, right away you do things to my body

I didn't know that I was starving 'til I tasted you

~o~

"By the way, right away you do things to my body

I didn't know that I was starving 'til I tasted you

You, yeah, 'til I tasted you

~o~

"The more that I know you, the more I want to

Something inside me is changed

I was so much younger yesterday"

~o~

With a blank face, Elrohir held out another page, and she pressed her lips together to realize the tips of his ears looked decidedly red. She made a mental note to ask Legolas if elves blushed on their ears like humans did on their cheeks. Glancing down at the new one, she shook her head.

"If you were embarrassed by the last one I sang, this one will straight up kill you, dead."

He bit the edge of his mouth with a look of horrified fascination. "What does it say?"

She sighed and started reading. "Baby, I'm preying on you tonight, hunt you down eat you alive. Just like animals. Maybe you think that you can hide, I can smell your scent for miles, just like animals. So what you trying to do to me, it's like we can't stop, we're enemies..." Pausing, she looked at Legolas, who was clearly reading along with her. "I better stop now, before I read them the line that talks about the man being inside the woman, don't you think?" she asked, switching to English.

He nodded, swallowing visibly. "Yes, I think that would be best."

Turning back to the twins, who seemed to have recovered their composure, she smiled. "Sorry about that. Popular culture was fairly promiscuous, and that comes out pretty heavily in the arts and entertainment. You seem to have found my naughty songs cluster that I seldom ever perform, by a variety of different artists."

Elladan frowned. "But why even sing about such private things, and of which you clearly have no knowledge?"

She gave him a crooked smile. "Oh, I have plenty of knowledge about the physical act, if that's what you're referring to. All the mechanics, anyway, just no practical experience. They make you study all that in school where I come from, so it's part of everyone's education. And why not sing about it?" She shifted, trying to get more comfortable. "Someone wrote those songs out of their own experiences, and love and lust are just another part of people's reality. What's vulgar and nasty to one person, may be sensual, beautiful and alluring to another. I try not to judge, especially about things I'm not experienced in myself."

The twins shared a look and Legolas had his eyes trained on Laurelin's face while she spoke, still trying to quiet the words of the song she sang about hunger and tasting, which insisted on repeating in his head, over and over.

"You have a rather unique opinion on the topic," Elladan finally offered. "Particularly for an untouched maiden, but it is interesting nonetheless."

She set another piece of sheet music down, knowing they would enjoy this particular song, and since it was by Enya, she wondered if it had any more elvish in it. There were a couple lines that she thought might be, but she wouldn't know until she sang it for the elves and got their verdict. Laurelin met Elladan's eyes evenly.

"How do you know I'm an untouched maiden? I could easily be the opposite of both."

Legolas inhaled and opened his mouth, prompting her to turn to him. "It's in the eyes, Laurelin. Elves can tell by looking in a person's eyes whether someone is married or not."

It was her turn to breathe in and open her mouth. "How? What does it look like?"

Elrohir caught an apple Elladan produced from a pouch at his waist and threw him before looking at Laurelin. "How can you describe the color blue to a person born blind? We have that sight, and so it is apparent to us."

"I think I'm insulted," she said with a deprecating smile. "Humans can't help being blind to stuff you see with your elven super powers."

He shrugged. "It's possible you may learn to spot it yourself, one day."

She rolled her eyes. "I can't learn how to be an elf, silly. I'm not an expert on such things, but I'm pretty sure you have to be born that way. I can't join an elf club and become like you, or I might be tempted."

Elrohir waggled his dark eyebrows at her with a cheeky grin and bit into his apple. She looked at Legolas, tilting her head when he looked hastily away from her.

"Here's a song I think you all will enjoy. It's one of my favorites, and I was thinking of singing it tonight." She cleared her throat and strummed the strings of her guitar softly.

~o~

"May it be an evening star

Shines down upon you

May it be when darkness falls

Your heart will be true

~o~

"You walk a lonely road

Oh! How far you are from home

~o~

"Mornië utúlië (Darkness has come)

Believe and you will find your way

Mornië alantië (Darkness has fallen)

A promise lives within you now

~o~

"May it be the shadow's call

Will fly away

May it be you journey on

To light the day

~o~

"When the night is overcome

You may rise to find the sun

~o~

"Mornië utúlië (Darkness has come)

Believe and you will find your way

Mornië alantië (Darkness has fallen)

A promise lives within you now

A promise lives within you now"

~o~

"Lyrics in Quenya," Legolas said with a small smile. "Is this also by Enya as did the other song in Sindarin?"

Laurelin nodded in excitement. "Yes, the very same. Doesn't this maybe prove there's an elf lady hidden in my world as a popular Irish singer?"

"What is her appearance?" Elladan asked curiously.

"Well..." Laurelin set her guitar aside and pulled her legs up to her chest, arranging her skirt and wrapping her arms around her legs tightly, resting her chin on her knees. "There are no pointed ears, but she has dark hair, like you and your brother, fair skin and beautiful hazel eyes. I'm not sure how tall she is, but I think she's lovely, and her voice has a really otherworldly quality to it, it's nearly hypnotic to listen to."

"Like yours, then," Legolas said with such a sincere, admiring look that it made her blush and look away, at a loss as to how to respond to such a compliment.

Elrohir took a glass jug from Elladan, drinking from it and then passed it to Legolas, who drank and then held it out to Laurelin. She took it and looked at it uncertainly.

"What is it?"

"It's wine, made from our vineyard at home." Elladan gestured to the bottle. "It's a very pleasant vintage, you should try some."

"I guess you all don't mind too much about drinking after each other and such, huh?" She tipped up the jug and took a sip then lowered it and licked her bottom lip with a thoughtful look. "I have basically just shared saliva with all three of you, which is the same as all of us open-mouthed kissing. Now that I've made you all feel ill..." She took another sip and handed it back to Legolas and smirked. "You're welcome."

Elrohir chuckled. "If you think the prospect of kissing you would be repellent to any elf here, I believe you are mistaken."

She tilted her head to the side, a small smile still on her lips. "That's very sweet of you to say, but how do you feel about kissing Legolas, or your own brother?"

All three elves appeared uncomfortable and avoided each other's eyes, making her giggle uncontrollably. Legolas looked at her and narrowed his eyes, switching back to English. "I am sorely tempted to kiss you, here and now, if only to warn them both away. I know they are currently wondering what it may be like to kiss you themselves, after you put the thought into their minds."

She wiped the tears from her eyes from laughing so hard and raised a brow. "I don't think they're wondering about that, but go right ahead and kiss me in front of your friends, handsome. I'll win the game, and then I can make you do something for my entertainment alone. Maybe even have it coincide with that midnight ride I'm so looking forward to."

His lips twisted in obvious disgruntlement, making her smile widen. "I will still beat you, even with you ever changing the rules. I have a plan for when we are alone again that is sure to bring me victory."

"Keep telling yourself that." She stood and stretched, switching back to Common. "I'm going to go say hello to my friend for a few minutes." Legolas followed her with his eyes until Elrohir threw a small stone and hit him in the chest, drawing his attention and speaking in Sindarin.

"Which friend does she visit?"

Legolas jerked his chin to where she had stopped. "The tree there. They speak to each other."

Elrohir looked baffled. "How does she not know she is an elf, speaking to trees? I can't imagine that is something her human people where she was raised would know of."

Elladan set aside the wine with a frown. "She has only just met Legolas and us, Elrohir. How could she be expected to know, when she has not even been told?" He pinned Legolas with his eyes. "Are you certain you do not make a mistake by continuing to conceal her heritage from her?"

"We have only another couple of days together, at most," he said with a sigh. "I would not have her spend that time angry and upset, when she might spend it in joy instead. When we are in Greenwood, surrounded by other elves, my young sisters, and Elizabeth, who is from the same place as Laurelin, it will be easier for her to hear. I have thought carefully on this, Elladan, and Aragorn advised me to wait, as well. She shall know soon enough."

"As long as your choice is deliberate, and thoughtfully arrived at. Perhaps waiting is the wisest course," Elladan conceded. "What do you say we teach her an elvish song to sing with us to the company tonight? That way, she will have a taste of the language and culture of our people and begin to become accustomed to them, making it easier for her to accept as her own when the time arrives."

Legolas smiled his approval. "I think that an excellent plan. Which song should we choose?"

While Legolas and Elladan discussed various songs they all knew, Elrohir kept his curious gaze on Laurelin. Lifting the wine bottle to his mouth, he glanced at his brother and Legolas and remembered what Laurelin had said, then lowered it with a frown. Sighing, he placed the cork back in the top, fearing the outspoken maiden had ruined the communal bottle for him forever.


Lyrics from I Follow the Moon by Malukah. Please go listen to this amazing song on youtube and support this artist, she is so gifted. :)

Lyrics also quoted from:

Starving by Hailee Steinfeld

Animals by Maroon 5

May It Be by Enya


~o~

Chapter Text


 

Aragorn stood at the side of the great hall full of people, with Legolas next to him as they waited for King Théoden to come speak and begin the feast. Merry, as newly inducted Esquire of Rohan, had already made friends among the Rohirrim, and was recounting the tale of the battle with the Ents that he had been part of.

Laurelin entered from a side door, beginning to make her way through the crowd, and Legolas tracked her with his eyes, making Aragorn smile and gently tease his friend.

"Lady Laurelin looks lovely tonight in the golden gown she wears, and with her hair arranged in that manner, her Eldar heritage is undeniable. She will likely attract the attention of elf and man alike. Do you not think so?"

Legolas gave him an indulgent look, recognizing the gentle teasing typical of Aragorn, then swept his eyes across the room, noting Elladan and Elrohir were watching her approach as well. He shrugged. "Having a number of admirers is not a bad thing, particularly when most of them are more protector than admirer."

Crossing his arms, Aragorn surveyed the crowd. "You are saying most of her friends here would stand in the role of father, or perhaps elder brother to her?"

Hesitating while he briefly admitted to himself no brother would treat Laurelin the way he had, he finally nodded. "Indeed." He smiled and glanced at Aragorn. "She has many brothers to watch over her and see her safe."

"Hmm." Aragorn watched Laurelin talking animatedly with Gimli and suppressed a smile.

King Théoden, with Éomer and Éowyn on either side of him, mounted the king's dais and proposed a toast to the courage and sacrifice of those no longer among them, waiting until all had a drink in hand to raise his goblet high.

"Hail, the victorious dead!"

All those in the hall raised their own cups and echoed the toast and drank, before sitting down to the banquet to feast. Laurelin found herself tucked in beside Gimli at one of the long tables, with Anskar, the soldier who had helped originally tend her wound, on her other side.

"What shall you sing, lass, for the gathering this evening?" The dwarf managed to get his question out just before his mouth was filled with a large bite of gravy-drenched meat.

The bard swallowed a mouthful of ale before she smiled at Gimli fondly. "I have a good many possibilities prepared, but I won't actually know which of them I'll perform until I get up there. I try to go with what the mood dictates, as much as possible. I might even do that one you taught me from your home...you just never know."

Belching quietly after gulping his mead, Gimli gestured across the table. "Lady Laurelin, you have not yet met another member of our fellowship. This is Master Meriadoc Brandybuck, a Hobbit of the Shire."

Merry smiled around his mouthful of bread. "And lately created an Esquire of Rohan," he boasted proudly. "Are you an elf, Lady Laurelin?"

Laurelin grinned and shook her head. "I'm pleased to meet you, Master Meriadoc, and no, I'm not an elf." She reached up to touch the braids Elrohir had given her that circled the crown of her head, while leaving loose locks on the sides of her head to cover her ears. She pushed back her hair on one side, revealing a rounded ear to the small Hobbit. "You see? I'm just a woman with a fancy elven hair-do."

He shrugged, reaching for another bread roll from the basket on the table. "I think you still look like one, and your name sounds like it too. Speaking of names, you can call me Merry, if you like. Everybody does."

"Thank you, Merry." She pulled a piece of chicken off the bone, chewed and swallowed before she spoke again. "You're the first Hobbit I've ever met. Is your homeland of the Shire big?"

His smile widened. "Probably not to you big folk...it's little, full of little people." Merry's smile softened. "But it's green and fine, and growing things flourish there. What of your land? You don't sound or look as though you are from Rohan?"

Laurelin wiped her fingers on a linen square, and looked across at Merry. "I'm from a place called Texas. It's a mighty big land, full of enormous creatures and people. Why, one of our famous fellas is called Big Tex, and he stands over fifty-five feet high! When he speaks, his voice is so deep and booming, that it shakes the ground all around him. When he takes a step, it causes an earthquake!"

Gimli, Merry and Anskar all stopped eating and turned to look at her. Feeling Legolas' eyes on her, she glanced across to the table where he sat with Aragorn and the twins, apparently eavesdropping and watching her with a raised brow. She winked and turned her attention back to the astonished Hobbit.

"But...you are not so very big as all that, Lady Laurelin! Is this giant man you name Big Tex an oddity?"

She took a sip of ale and shrugged. "He is one of our bigger men, it's true, but Texas history is full of stories of similar big folk. So much so, that it's a well known saying that 'everything is bigger in Texas'. Carrots and potatoes grow as large as men in our rich, black soil. Why, we even have a breed of jackrabbit with horns, and they grow so big and are so strong, we tame them and ride 'em. Yes, sir. A jackalope is a fine mount, but they have a temper too, so you have to be a confident rider to manage them." She nodded proudly. "I tamed one from the wild, myself. He was a good and faithful mount, and he could hop me anywhere in a flash, so quick was he."

Merry stared at her in open-mouthed astonishment, clearly buying it, hook, line and sinker. She managed to keep her poker face until she looked across at Legolas, who shook his head at her with an amused smile, causing her to break into light-hearted laughter. Gimli cleared his throat and blotted his mouth with a long strand of his beard hair.

"I fear the lady has been telling you some very wild tales, indeed, young Hobbit. Who ever heard of a rabbit large enough to ride!"

"I should have liked to have seen a giant rabbit as a mount," Anskar chuckled, leaning a little nearer to her with a smile. "If only to admire you sitting atop it, Lady Laurelin."

She wrinkled her nose and smiled teasingly at her little audience. "Gimli is mostly right. There's no such thing as a jackalope, it's one of many Texas tall tales, as they're known. Truth so stretched and sprinkled so liberally with exaggeration, that it turns into something else entirely." She grinned at Merry.

"There really is a Big Tex, but he's just an enormous statue built by my people to welcome all who come to our yearly gathering of the Texas fair, and Texas truthfully is a really big place." She lifted her cup for a drink again and tilted her head. "It would take you well over a month to cross from one side of it to the other on horseback, and more than twenty-eight million people live within its borders."

Slapping his hand down on the table, Merry laughed loudly. "I like your tall tales, Lady, and you tell them so colorfully. I think I should enjoy going there. Will you sing us any songs from your land tonight?"

Laurelin nodded. "Sure, I have a couple I translated, so I can sing them for you in a little while." She set her linen napkin aside and braced her hands on the table to stand, smiling in acknowledgement when Anskar stood and offered her his hand to step back over the long bench.

"There's really no way to step over a bench gracefully in a dress," she muttered, with a fistful of her gown held strategically, drawing a wide smile from the Rohirrim soldier. He lifted her hand and kissed it, his blue eyes suddenly reflecting more than a casual interest in friendship, setting off alarm bells for Laurelin.

"I think all you do is ever graceful. Even swooned in my arms when I carried you, there was no mistaking you as the fine and graceful lady you are."

She rolled her eyes to cover the discomfort she felt at the reference to when he held her and hastily slipped her hand away from his. "Clearly, you've never seen me in a fight against an orc, Anskar, or you would revise your high opinion."

He stepped nearer to her again and dropped his voice to a low murmur. "There is nothing that would alter my admiration for you, Lady Laurelin," he said without a trace of humor on his bearded face or in his earnest eyes. "Indeed, I find those feelings only grow by the day."

She looked away with a blush and collided with Legolas' focused gaze, becoming even more flustered when he narrowed his eyes at Anskar.

"I really must go and see to setting up my music. Please excuse me."

Anskar sat down and returned to his meal after she left, and Gimli glanced at him sidelong, having heard the exchange and shook his head, thinking the callow lad was wasting his time if he thought to pursue Laurelin, when it was more than clear she had no interest in his attentions. Not with the elf near. He chuckled to himself and turned his full attention back to the food before him.


Elrohir leaned closer to Legolas when Laurelin began to play her violin, filling the hall with lovely music while those still eating finished up. He addressed him in elvish.

"I believe you have made a tactical error, this night, Prince." He swirled the ale in his cup, looking at it thoughtfully while Legolas glanced at him.

"Of what do you speak?...as though I even need to ask," he said, repressing a sigh.

Elrohir smirked, catching Elladan's eye, who leaned forward on the table to join their conversation. "Shall you tell him, brother, or shall I?"

"No, carry on, brother," Elladan returned dryly. "You are more fond of telling others what they already know than I."

Legolas smiled at Elladan, sharing an amused look of understanding.

"I shall inform him, then," Elrohir continued, as though his brother hadn't spoken. "Your mistake was to leave your gentle lamb unguarded, and now predators have caught her scent and shall doggedly pursue."

Legolas shrugged. "I believe you underestimate Laurelin, son of Elrond. She is more than capable of fending off unwanted interest." The Prince of Greenwood smirked. "But even so, I intend to leave the young man in no doubt that she is not meant for the likes of him, or his kind."

Elrohir cocked his head to the side after he drained the ale from his mug. "And how shall you go about that?"

Smiling enigmatically, Legolas swept his gaze across those in the hall, coming to rest on Laurelin, but made no response.

Elladan gave his brother a crooked smile. "Keep your eyes on him anytime he is near the maiden tonight, and I believe you shall have your answer before the evening is done."


Laurelin smiled when Merry clapped enthusiastically as she set her violin aside and strapped on her guitar. He had installed himself very near her with a seemingly endless supply of ale, which he emptied often. She wondered how such a little person could hold his liquor so impressively; she had had only a single, full strength mug, and already felt a little muzzy around the edges.

"Will you sing me a song from your land now, Lady? I've been waiting to hear."

"It would be my absolute delight, Master Merry," she said, already strumming the opening. "This is a well known folk song that I grew up on. It's called The Yellow Rose of Texas."

~o~

"There's a yellow rose in Texas

That I am going there to see

Nobody else could miss her

Not half as much as me

She cried so when I left her

It like to broke my heart

And if we ever meet again

We never more will part

~o~

"She's the sweetest little rosebud

That Texas ever knew

Her eyes are bright as diamonds

They sparkle like the dew

You may talk about your dearest maids

And sing of Rosa Lee

But the Yellow Rose of Texas

Is the only girl for me

~o~

"Where the Rio Grande is flowin'

And starry skies are bright

She walks along the river

On a quiet summer night

I know that she remembers

When we parted long ago

I promised to return

And not to leave her so

~o~

"Oh, now I'm gonna find her

My heart is full of woe

We'll sing the songs together

We sang so long ago

We'll play the banjo gaily

She'll love me like before

And the Yellow Rose of Texas

Shall be mine forevermore

~o~

"She's the sweetest little rosebud

That Texas ever knew

Her eyes are bright as diamonds

They sparkle like the dew

You may talk about your dearest maids

And sing of Rosa Lee

But the Yellow Rose of Texas

Is the only one for me"

~o~

Merry nodded and thumped his mug down on the table beside him. "Why, you must be the yellow rose of Texas, Lady Laurelin, all dressed in that gold gown and with your sparkling eyes, hair and such."

She bit her lip to keep her smile from getting any bigger, completely charmed by the small Hobbit, and changed her music out for a new piece. "Are all Hobbits such sweet talkers, or is that just your talent, Master Merry?"

He grinned and puffed his chest out. "I s'pose that's just me, though lots of Hobbits are pretty well spoken, if I do say so myself."

"Here's a song I think you'll find amusing. It's more the kind you would usually find sung in a pub." She cleared her throat and launched into another Skyrim bard song she had translated, finding the Rohirrim culture a pretty decent match to fictional Nords.

~o~

"Oh, there once was a hero named Ragnar the Red

Who came riding to Whiterun from ole Rorikstead

~o~

"And the braggart did swagger and brandish his blade

As he told of bold battles and gold he had made

~o~

"But then he went quiet, did Ragnar the Red

When he met the shield-maiden, Matilda, who said:

~o~

"'Oh you talk, and you lie, and you drink all our mead

Now I think it's high time that you lie down and bleed'

~o~

"And so then came clashing and slashing of steel

As the brave lass Matilda charged in full of zeal

~o~

"And the braggart named Ragnar was boastful no more

When his ugly red head rolled around on the floor"

~o~

The Eorlingas yelled and laughed loudly at the song's end, several of the men raising their mugs in a toast. Laurelin chuckled, then looked up and locked eyes with Éowyn, across the room, who looked far less amused. Quickly picking out the song she had decided to sing for Éowyn many days before, she adjusted her guitar, raising her voice to be heard over the chatter.

"That is the very light-hearted look at a fictional shield-maiden. But I would like to sing you all a true tale now, based on an ancient queen who met tragedy and atrocities committed against her family with strength and courage. This is Boudica's song." She looked down to focus her thoughts and get into the proper mindset to perform the song properly and started to play, her face taking on a serious expression.

~o~

"At night I still hear the screams

Haunted by everything you took from me

But lying there in my blood

I vowed to myself that my day would come

~o~

"When you'd hear my battle-cry

Fire and wrath burning in my eyes

You kicked a queen to the floor

And raised a warrior"

~o~

Laurelin stood to her feet, her chin raised proudly, locking eyes with Éowyn, who seemed entranced by the song, and the raw power the bard poured into her voice. Her demeanor was surprising, almost as though she turned into a different person when she sang. She walked nearer for an unimpeded view.

~o~

"This is the rise of Boudica

This is the rise of Boudica

Make way for the warrior

~o~

"This is the rise of Boudica!

Make way for the warrior Queen!

~o~

"This is the rise of Boudica

Boudica

Boudica

Remember my name

~o~

"Boudica

Boudica

I'll fight you 'till my dying day!

~o~

"These scars will never heal

So I bandage them in layers of steel

'Til I see a girl no more

But a she-wolf ready to win this war

~o~

"Now hear my battle-cry

Fire and wrath burning in my eyes"

~o~

Laurelin kicked a stool in front of her, sending it skidding across the floor in dramatic emphasis to the lyrics, making several people gasp. Her eyes burned with an almost feral intensity as the song built again, her voice swelling.

~o~

"You kicked me to the floor

And I became a warrior

~o~

"The fear never goes away

But I'm ready to fight it

Once I was the prey

Now I'm a Lion

~o~

"This is the rise of Boudica

This is the rise of Boudica

Make way for the warrior

~o~

"This is the rise of Boudica!

Make way for the warrior Queen!

~o~

"This is the rise of Boudica

Boudica

Boudica

Remember my name

~o~

"Boudica

Boudica

I'll fight you 'til my dying day!"

~o~

There was a prolonged silence until Laurelin looked up and grinned at those watching her, and Gimli roared with laughter, breaking the tension and slapping the table where he was seated beside Merry.

"I think you were singing about a dwarf woman, lass. Our women are fair fierce in a fight, once roused to it." He leaned closer to Merry and started recounting a tale of one of his ancestors who was renowned for having fought as well as the men.

Laurelin smiled across the way, sharing a look with Éowyn that made her very glad she had followed her gut and sung the song for her. The king's niece walked over casually while Laurelin changed her music and paused briefly for a small sip of water.

"Boudica, you say? I believe I shall always remember her name, now." Éowyn murmured, when she stood beside the bard and pressed a golden goblet into her hands, motioning for her to drink from it.

"I said I would sing something just for you, and that song came to mind." Laurelin took a big swallow, then proceeded to choke and cough, making Éowyn watch her with an amused grin and shake her head. Finally clearing her airway, Laurelin pointed an accusing finger. "It seems you're always trying to lay me out with strong drink, Lady Éowyn."

Éowyn raised a brow. "What else are friends for?" Taking the goblet back, she turned and headed for Aragorn, where he was standing surrounded by his own company of Dúnedain warriors.

Feeling a spreading warmth from the booze and Éowyn's declaration of friendship, Laurelin sat down with her guitar and began a set of drinking songs.


Elrohir and Elladan walked up beside Legolas where he stood at the back of the room, watching the revelry from the shadows, and the younger twin addressed him in elvish. "Should we not go and sing with the maiden now? The merrymaking shall devolve from here, I think, and none be sober enough to hear our song if we delay longer."

Legolas glanced to where Laurelin was chatting with Gimli, not having done any songs for the past quarter hour. He nodded. "Yes, let us go and see if she wishes to sing with us." They walked over and she smiled up at them in apparent excitement and set her guitar aside, standing.

"Are you boys ready to perform for the crowd? I think if we wait much longer, everybody's gonna be too drunk to notice."

Elrohir smirked and gave his brother and Legolas an amused look. She looked between them in confusion and continued. "How do you want to do this...standing or sitting down?"

"I think it best to stand." Legolas took her hand and led her to the king's dais, guiding her between himself and Elrohir, with Elladan on his other side, the four of them forming a loose, semi-circle. She looked between the tall elves around her and grinned.

"I'm standing in a forest of elves, and somehow I feel right at home." Legolas smiled down at her and nodded his readiness. Mouthing a countdown of three and drawing a breath, she and Legolas sang the first stanza on their own, their voices blending in a transporting, beautiful harmony, that had conversation and noise quickly quiet down.

~o~

"Fanuilos heryn aglar

Rîn athar annún-aearath,

Calad ammen i reniar

Mi 'aladhremmin ennorath!"

~o~

(Snow White! Snow White! O Lady clear!

O Queen beyond the Western Seas!

O Light to us that wander there

Amid the world of woven trees!)

~o~

At the beginning of the second stanza, Elrohir and Elladan joined their voices to Legolas and Laurelin, and the hall went completely silent at the sound of the haunting elvish song, sung so movingly. Aragorn and the men around him actually all smiled, forsaking their habitual grim expressions in apparent delight at the song in their own native Sindarin.

~o~

"A Elbereth Gilthoniel

I chîn a thûl lin míriel

Fanuilos le linnathon

Ne ndor haer thar i aearon."

~o~

(Gilthoniel! O Elbereth!

Clear are thy eyes and bright is breath,

Snow-white! Snow-white! We sing to thee

In a far land beyond the Sea!)

~o~

"A elin na gaim eglerib

Ned în ben-anor trerennin

Si silivrin ne pherth 'waewib

Cenim lyth thílyn thuiennin."

~o~

(O Stars that in the Sunless Year

With shining hand by thee were sown,

In windy fields now bright and clear

We see your silver blossom blown!)

~o~

"A Elbereth Gilthoniel

Men echenim sí derthiel

Ne chaered hen nu 'aladhath

Ngilith or annún-aearath."

~o~

(O Elbereth Gilthoniel!

We still remember, we who dwell

In this far land beneath the trees,

Thy starlight on the Western Seas.)

~o~

While they sang, Laurelin had looked back and forth between Elladan, Elrohir and Legolas, but midway through the second time, she found her gaze fixed on Legolas. She had been told as to the meaning of the elvish words she sang, but even without the translation, she could feel the history and age of the lyrics, and was moved to a misting of tears in her eyes by the sense of sadness that was so apparent from them.

Legolas smiled in understanding as their song came to an end, and lifted her hand to his mouth for a kiss, looking over to meet the man that approached them. The Ranger, clearly one of the Grey Company from his manner and dress, bowed with a hand to his heart and a kind smile, and addressed them in Sindarin.

"I am Hathor, and I thank you most sincerely for the song. It has been some time since I was last treated to the beauty of pure Eldar voices. I find myself refreshed after listening, which is most welcome when the road ahead is yet long."

Laurelin tilted her head and looked at Legolas, unable to tell what was being said, and waiting to see if he would translate for her. Smiling, Legolas nodded at Hathor and responded in Westron. "We thank you for your kind words, but Laurelin does not understand elvish, as she is from afar."

The Ranger blinked in confusion and looked at Laurelin, studying her face. "Forgive me, lady. My name is Hathor and I wished to compliment your song," he said in Common. "I just assumed you spoke Sindarin, after hearing how well you sang it. Then...are you not an elf?"

Chuckling, Laurelin shook her head in amusement. "I'm not, but I'll take it as a compliment if elven females are as lovely as their male counterparts." She swept her teasing gaze across all three elves around her.

Hathor smiled, crinkling the lines around his eyes. "Your manner of speech is very charming. I have never heard such a unique accent, from where do you hail?"

Smiling faintly, she shrugged. "Texas. You won't have heard of it. It's...well, it's a world away, really."

Stroking a hand across his beard, he seemed to consider, then shook his head. "You are correct, I have never heard of your land. But...are you certain, absolutely certain, that you have no elven heritage? My own people have elven blood, but distant now and much diluted from what we once were, and you look to have even more of such traits than we."

"Are you the same as Lord Aragorn," she asked in fascination, "and live a long time like him?"

He crossed his arms, still smiling in amusement. "Indeed. We that ride in the company are all Dúnedain, with the exception of the sons of Lord Elrond." He nodded respectfully toward the two elves standing silently by. "I am even a few years Lord Aragorn's senior," he said with a twinkle in his blue eyes.

Grinning, Laurelin shook her head. "Well, I'll be! You don't look a day over thirty-five. If Aragorn is eighty-seven, then you must be..." she tilted her head. "Ninety?"

"Exactly so, and you look about the same age as my daughter, so I would venture you are perhaps twenty, or a little younger?"

"Bless your heart for being kind, I'm just a couple of months shy of thirty." She glanced over and saw Legolas looking away as though bored with the conversation and rolled her eyes, turning back to the Ranger with a smile. "And then you have venerable elf boy over here, who thinks we're children, with our decades compared to his centuries."

Legolas smirked and glanced at Hathor before he settled his eyes on Laurelin. "You are children, and you especially, Laurelin. Why else would you so desperately require my wise guidance and vigilant protection?"

Crossing her arms, she narrowed her eyes, turning to face him and slipping into English. "Wise guidance, my ass, Legolas."

His smirk deepened. "Your ass for Legolas? Ah, that sounds like an offer. Must you mention something as enticing as that, when we stand surrounded by others and I have no hope of accepting your generosity?"

Her mouth fell open in shock, then she snickered helplessly, shaking her head. "Damn, and here I thought you elves were supposed to be polite and reserved, and then you go and kick it up a notch and bring it right back to our game. So, are you implying you're an ass guy?"

His brows drew together in puzzlement. "What do you mean, an ass guy?"

"You know...some fellas are partial to breasts, some to legs, some to eyes, and probably a large percent to ass. Which is your preference?"

He nodded slowly in understanding. "I believe I prefer the whole. I have never had an obsession for a particular part of a female's body." Legolas paused with a thoughtful look. "Although, now I think on it, I realize I do have a certain – favored spot on you."

She examined her nails, pretending to look bored. "Oh? Well, do tell."

"I think it would be more pleasant to show you, which I really can't do here. Remind me when we go for our ride if you are still curious then. Now, I have something I wish to give you..."


Elrohir stepped toward the baffled Ranger and gestured to the table with numerous kegs of ale. "Come, Hathor, let us go and share a drink." He jerked his chin toward Laurelin and Legolas who continued to chatter away in their strange tongue, seemingly unaware of anyone else. "They do that quite a lot, off in their own private world, and from the sound of it, they aren't likely to emerge from it anytime soon."

Hathor chuckled. "My daughter is much the same way with her betrothed." He threw a curious look over his shoulder at the pair and shrugged, thinking it well looked like young love to him, but as a bachelor he hardly felt qualified to judge. It was possible they were just very close friends.


Laurelin smiled, trailing along behind Legolas when he took her hand and led her off the dais to a less crowded part of the room against the wall. He released her and her eyebrows climbed when he pulled a ring from an inner pocket of his tunic and held it out toward her. He smiled at the uncertain look on her face.

"This is my signet ring, Laurelin. I wish you to keep it and wear it. It shall afford you an additional layer of status and security, above even what King Théoden has offered you. Any who see it will know you are under my protection, and all that signifies."

He took her right hand and slipped the ring onto her middle finger, then lifted her hand and kissed it with a satisfied smile. She gnawed her bottom lip and examined it. The main part of the band was fashioned like a leaf curling around her finger in silver and green, and the top had twining leaves and an elaborate design that she took to perhaps be his initials in elvish. It was remarkably beautiful, and was exactly the type of ring to suit her particular tastes and preferences.

"Does this mean I'm the ward of Warrior Legolas, or are we going steady? Or some other meaning I haven't thought of? Where I come from, when a man gives a woman his ring, it implies something particular."

"What does it imply?" he asked with an amused smile, having noted Elladan and Elrohir's reaction to what he had just done.

"That they're together...as a couple. With a different kind of ring and a question asked and answered, it can mean that they're engaged to be married, but I know that isn't the case here. I think you just want me to be safe when you're gone. Correct?"

"Correct. However..." He gave her a crooked grin. "If others assume a significance from your wearing this ring that shall keep the unwanted attentions of eager young men hereabouts at bay, that can only be an additional benefit to you, yes?"

She looked away with a blush rising in her cheeks. "Of course you saw that, didn't you? Probably heard it too, with your super hearing. That was the fella who carried me into the hall when I about fainted from shock after the orc, and dressed my wound for me. I guess it must have given him some ideas." Laurelin looked back at Legolas and caught his amused shrug.

"I cannot fault his taste, only his choice. Many possibilities await you in the future, but I know you are not meant for a man of Rohan."

Laurelin looked out across the crowd in the hall with a faint smile. "What, you don't think I'm pining away for one of these bearded giants to club me over the head and drag me back to their lair, where they force me to have a half dozen of their giant children? All born with full beards?"

Legolas laughed, the bright sound drawing the eyes of all those nearby. His blue eyes twinkled teasingly when he looked down and met her eyes again. "You have an obvious dislike for beards. Why is that?"

She smirked. "Look at it from my point of view. Would you ever want to kiss a woman with a big, bushy carpet on her face?"

"No, I would not," he said with furrowed brows and a disturbed expression. "That would be the same as kissing a dwarf, which I cannot contemplate without shuddering in horror. I would much rather kiss you."

She wrapped one of the ribbons from her gown around her finger, focusing on the motion. "Maybe I just prefer elves to men." Pausing briefly, she released a quiet breath. "Or maybe I'm cursed to be drawn to what I can't ever have," she whispered, repeating his own words back to him from the first evening they spent time together.

Needing to see her eyes, he reached out and lifted her chin to study what lay in the green depths of her gaze, feeling his heart straining forcefully against the constraints he had imposed on himself. The hall and all the people in it seemed to fade away while their eyes remained connected, communicating much without a single word spoken. Legolas smiled softly.

"Have you already decided that you may not have what you wish? There is a choice open to us both, Laurelin, but I think we can only make it together, with clear understanding and no illusions as to the outcome. But we must wait a little longer. Now is not the time for such a weighty talk."

Conscious of eyes on them, she stepped away, removing herself from his touch and adopting a teasing smile. "You're right. This really isn't the time or place. Our ride is coming up soon, and now that my singing duties here are done, I'm going to get changed into something more appropriate for some bareback action with Arod."

She wandered away, singing quietly to herself as she headed toward the stairs leading to the lower level, and Legolas chuckled at what she was singing in English, clearly intended for his ears alone: 'save a horse, ride a cowboy'.


Elrohir sidled up next to his brother and crossed his arms, mirroring his twin's stance. They both had their eyes trained on Legolas and Laurelin, and the small display Legolas had initiated so openly before all the interested eyes in the hall. Elladan's brows rose in surprise when he caught the prince's amused gaze as he raised his head back up after kissing Laurelin's hand. The ring with the seal of his house and symbol of his authority as Greenwood's heir could be seen clearly on her finger where Legolas had placed it.

Scanning the crowd discreetly, Elrohir bumped Elladan's shoulder, giving a minute nod toward the Rohan soldier who had indicated interest in Laurelin earlier that evening, noting his disappointed countenance. "Legolas was in earnest about leaving the man in no doubt as to Laurelin," he murmured quietly in elvish. "According to Rohan tradition, she will now be considered betrothed to the prince."

Elladan's lips lifted in a slight smile. "Indeed, she shall. But I wonder if she is aware of that fact, or if Legolas has also left her in the dark concerning that, as well?"

Gimli walked up and gave the twins a gruff nod. "We are having a drinking game to see which can drink the most between dwarf, hobbit, man, and elf. Since the young princeling is otherwise occupied with a certain young lady, it falls to you two to represent your race. Shall you accept the challenge?"

"With pleasure," Elrohir said with a grin.

Gimli clapped his hands and laughed in anticipation. "Then let us get to it. Follow me."

"Do you think any of them realize just how much it truly takes to make an elf drunk?" Elladan asked his twin in elvish while they followed the dwarf.

"Probably not." Elrohir's grey eyes brightened with anticipation. "But it will make for an easy win for us, and by extension, victory for our people."

"How will our people bear the honor of such glorious distinction?" Elladan asked sarcastically, accepting the first mug of ale from one of the Rohan men and nodding his thanks.

"Bottoms up!" Gimli chortled in glee, putting his mug to his lips, and setting the game in motion.


Lyrics taken from:

The Yellow Rose Of Texas : Folk Song

Ragnar The Red : Skyrim bard song as performed by Malukah

Boudica by Karliene

The Passing of the Elves by Howard Shore, as covered by Filippo Galvanelli

All of these songs are on youtube, so you can go listen to them if you're interested! :)


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven


 

Laurelin stared down at the ring on her finger, tracing it with a light touch across the design on top and getting lost in her thoughts for several minutes, before she sighed and turned to put away the dress she had worn. She exchanged it for her most broken-in pair of blue jeans and a fitted black t-shirt, carrying her things over to the bed with a fresh pair of socks and her boots, and sat down heavily.

 

After her discussion with Legolas and his loan of his ring, she was feeling a little melancholy over her prospects versus her desires. She had no illusions about what she was and what Legolas was, and didn’t see how anything could ever really work out between them, even if he was crazy enough to actually consider her romantically, which she seriously doubted.

 

His three thousand years compared to her thirty. She had ten years to each thousand of his. Ridiculous. It took cradle robbing to a whole new level, and she wondered idly what jail-bait would be to an elf. Tugging on her jeans, she decided she would just enjoy the time they had together and deal with any misplaced feelings for him that she was harboring, after he was gone.

 

Too bad she wasn’t immortal like him, or couldn’t run pick up some of the fabled elixir of life from her local Winn-Dixie. She grinned to herself at the silly notion, automatically thinking of a song that expressed what she was feeling, and starting to sing it while she dressed.

 

“I wanna be immortal

Like a God in the sky

I wanna be a silk flower

Like I'm never gonna die

~o~

“I wanna live forever

Forever in your heart

And we'll always be together

From the end to the start

~o~

“That's what we do it for

To reserve a place

It's just another part of the human race

That's what we do it for

~o~

“To reserve a space

In history, it's just

Part of the human race, race

~o~

“I'm forever chasing after time

But everybody dies, dies

If I could buy forever at a price

I would buy it twice, twice

~o~

“But if the earth ends in fire

And the seas are frozen in time

There will be just one survivor

The memory that I was yours

And you were mine

~o~

“Everybody dies, dies

Chasing after time, time

~o~

“When you love somebody

They'll always leave too soon

But a memory, a memory

Can make a flower bloom

~o~

“We wanna be remembered

Don't wanna live in vain

But nothing lasts forever

This world is in a losing game

~o~

“I wanna mean something to somebody else

Feel a significance in the real world

It's not enough to live out a lucky life

~o~

“I'm forever chasing after time

But everybody dies, dies

If I could buy forever at a price

I would buy it twice, twice

~o~

“But if the earth ends in fire

And the seas are frozen in time

There will be just one survivor

The memory that I was yours

And you were mine

~o~

“Everybody dies, dies

Chasing after time, time

~o~

“No I don't wanna be afraid,

Afraid to die, die, die

I just wanna be able to say

That I have lived my life, life

~o~

“Oh, all the things that humans do

To leave behind a little proof

But the only thing that doesn't die is love, love, love

Love, love

~o~

“I'm forever chasing after time

But everybody dies, dies

If I could buy forever at a price

I would buy it twice, twice

~o~

“But if the earth ends in fire

And the seas are frozen in time

There will be just one survivor

The memories of our lifetime

~o~

“Everybody dies, dies

Chasing after time, time

So keep me alive

So keep me alive

So keep me alive, alive”

 

 


 

 

Legolas jogged lightly down the stairwell to the lower level where Laurelin's room was. He had taken time to go and change out of his more formal tunic and trousers and back into his travel and fighting attire, and had likewise retrieved his weapons. Danger was only something to fear for the unprepared, and that he had never been.

 

Drawing near her room, he could hear sounds of her movement within and went to lean against the wall facing her door to wait. He wasn’t certain how long it would take her to ready herself, but he had no intention of rushing her, more than content to linger in the passage until she emerged. Legolas was fairly satisfied with how the evening had progressed. All who attended the feast had seemed to enjoy themselves, and there was no better way to honor the dead than to live your own life to the full and welcome joy in every way possible.

 

The painful loss of his mother and the fleeting childhoods of his siblings had taught him the importance of cherishing all the little moments. Each day that passed was a small death of all that had transpired in that particular gathering of time, and would never again return. A succession of experiences that so quickly added up to a rich and rewarding life, brimming with beautiful memories that could be revisited, like precious gems from a treasure chest. But living life in such a way had to be deliberate and nothing taken for granted.

 

Laurelin started to sing, making his lips lift in a small smile. He leaned his head back against the stone wall, listening to the words of her song. The smile slipped quickly away and his brows drew together with a look of pain. Why did she sing of the very thing he both feared and dreaded...mortality...loss. One of the lines struck him like a blow to his heart, and his hand raised to press again the beating organ in his chest.

 

The only thing that doesn't die is love, love, love…

 

That was true, wasn’t it? His love for his mother had never dimmed and never would. Would it be any different when his mortal friends reached the ends of their journeys? Surely his love for them would not fade. That was the nature of a true love.

 

He would need to do all he could to make the most of what time was granted him with Laurelin, and he at least would never have to feel regret...after. Make every moment a treasure to look back on. Memories could still bring comfort, and he would have the joy of her friendship for many years after all the others were gone, due to her elven blood. That was a small blessing, and one he had not expected when they first met, and he was grateful for it.

 

I wanna mean something to somebody else

 

“You have given much to me, and it has meaning,” he whispered. “Ant lîn vîr vin faer nîn.” (Sindarin: I shall treasure your gift in my heart.) Drawing a deep breath as the pain of his fear slowly eased away, Legolas closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall, listening to the rest of her song.

 

 


 

 

Snatching the door of her room open, Laurelin froze to see Legolas waiting for her, leaning casually against the wall with his arms crossed.

 

“Oh, sorry, have you been waiting very long?”

 

His eyes swept her tightly clad jeans and t-shirt swathed form curiously. “Not long. Is this your riding attire?”

 

She glanced down at herself and paused, turning back into the room and answering over her shoulder. “Jeans were practically made for horse riding. This is what everyone wears back home.” She shook out her velvet coat before she glanced down the hall to confirm they were alone and then slipped it on. “But I know these people would find it scandalous, so I’ll just keep my coat on until we’re outside Edoras.” She grinned at Legolas. “I know you’re enlightened enough not to protest that I’m dressed indecently though, right?”

 

They started for the stairs, walking side by side, and he glanced down at her. “I have no wish to protest what you wear. I very much enjoy the sight of you in your native dress.”

 

Laurelin laughed quietly, mindful of the lateness of the hour, and smiling at Gimli when he raised a mug of ale toward her from across the hall, clearly still embroiled in a drinking game of some sort, with all the people clustered around him.

 

“Native dress? I never thought of jeans in that way, but I reckon it is a Texas tradition, or American tradition, really. It’s practically a national symbol.”

 

They left the hall, walking to the stables where Arod was kept, and she glanced at Legolas with a teasing look. “I’m having a hard time picturing you wearing modern clothes, but...” She slowed her steps briefly with a slightly dazed expression. “Holy shit, you in a pair of fitted jeans and a tight sweater, or maybe even shirtless would be – dangerous to the female population of my world. In fact, if you went there, you’d probably be like some big shot celebrity with your looks and abilities. Strange to think of. Maybe that’s what happened with Enya.”

 

He smiled in amusement and led Arod from his enclosure after tying a rolled blanket around his neck. “Come, Laurelin. Let me lift you up.”

 

She approached him, nodding toward the weapons strapped to his back. “Are you expecting to do battle while we ride?” Arranging her coat after he lifted her onto the horse, she relaxed back against his chest when he settled behind her, wrapped an arm around her waist and started Arod walking out of the stable.

 

Legolas smirked. “You are armed, are you not?”

 

Leaning her head back against him so she could see his face, she grinned. “I have a knife in each boot. How did you guess?”

 

“Because a wise person knows to prepare for any eventuality.”

 

“I think you just insinuated I was wise, but don’t worry, I promise I won’t let it go to my head.”

 

He chuckled and pulled her closer to him, pleased when she laced her fingers with his where his hand rested around her middle. The night was clear and cool, and there were very few people about as they passed through the main gate and out into the open. Legolas lowered his head until his mouth was near her ear.

 

“Do you wish to run, or keep to a slower speed for the present?”

 

She tilted her head, her green eyes gleaming brightly in the faint light. “Whatever. If you want to, that’s fine. I’m here more for the company than the activity, but I’m sure you’re already aware of that. Hey, is that the main herd, just on that far rise, over there?”

 

Legolas stared off in the direction she pointed, and looked at her in faint surprise. “You can see them? It’s quite a distance away.”

 

Laurelin squinted and smiled. “I think there’s a light-colored horse leading them?”

 

“There is,” he confirmed.

 

She shrugged. “I’ve always had better than average eyesight. It’s just another one of the weird things about me, along with talking to trees and generally being obsessed with nature.”

 

He made an exasperated sound, guiding Arod to a flat, open area. “It’s not weird, Laurelin. Those are things of beauty, and nothing to be ashamed of.”

 

“I’m not ashamed of them.” She rolled her eyes, even though he couldn’t see. “I know I’m different, that’s all. It’s not bad or good, it just is, and I’m fine with it. Don’t you ever poke fun at yourself?”

 

“Certainly not,” he said in a dry, serious tone. Leaning her head back, she wrinkled her nose at him.

 

“That’s alright, Mister Grumpy, I’ll be glad to do it for you.”

 

He dug his fingers into her where he held her around the waist, in retaliation, and she laughed and wriggled, grabbing at his hand to still it. “Legolas, don’t! I’m so ridiculously ticklish that I will fall right off this horse if you don’t quit.”

 

“Are you?” he murmured, relaxing his fingers again as he urged Arod to come to a stop. Slipping down, he reached up and pulled Laurelin down from the horse and set her on her feet in front of him, keeping his hands against her sides.

 

“And what about here?” He attacked her ribs on either side with the light touch of his fingers and she shrieked and twisted away, trying to escape him. Using her own momentum, he spun her around, wrapped her own arms around her and pulled her back against his chest, trapping her.

 

She tried to tug her arms free and gave him an annoyed look. “I can get out of this hold, you know. I just don’t want to hurt you, and I would have to to be able to do it.”

 

“How would you hurt me?” he asked with a triumphant grin.

 

She blew at a loose strand of hair near her eyes and answered matter-of-factly. “I would elbow you in the gut, use the hardest part of my boot to stamp on the instep of your foot, break your knee, and then kick or knee you in your male parts. Oh, and I could also use the heel of my hand to break your nose.”

 

He leaned his head around to look at her. “Where did you learn such specific attacks?”

 

Wriggling against him until he released her, she turned to face him, pushing her hair back over her shoulder. “I took a series of self-defense classes when I was nineteen and started to travel. My family insisted on it. You aren’t allowed to carry guns on airplanes, so I needed to know some basic hand to hand fighting too, in case I ever got in a situation where I needed it. It might be useless against someone like you though, you’re probably too fast and strong for me.”

 

“Come, I’ll put my arms around you in the same hold, and you show me in slow motions all that you described.” She did as he asked, slowly acting out the different moves, ending grinning up at him after pretending to break his nose. He nodded in satisfaction. “Good. Those are useful lessons should you ever end up grappling with a foe.”

 

She turned and walked several steps away, looking back at him over her shoulder. “I guess, but I’m really a lover, not a fighter. I mean, don’t get me wrong, when it’s between me and the other guy, I won’t hesitate, but I sure didn’t enjoy killing that orc.”

 

Legolas smiled softly and walked closer to her until she faced him. “Yes, you are a lover. A kind and gentle soul, meant to bring beauty and joy to those around you.” He brushed light fingers along her cheek and rested his hand on her shoulder. “I wish I could shield you from the dark things of this world, but that is not always possible. I hope in the days ahead, you shall encounter no more orcs until I can get you safely to Greenwood.”

 

Staring up at him and admiring his handsome face, she smiled. “Me too.” Reaching up, she took his hand from her shoulder and laced her fingers with his. “What do you want to do now?”

 

In a swift movement, he spun her and leaned her down into a ballroom dip, making her laugh in surprise. He gave her a cheeky smile and tilted his head. “Dance?” He lifted her back up and she peeled off her coat, folded it into a bundle and tossed it aside.

 

“Well, I can’t do ballroom dances without brushing up on the steps again. But, I can show you a little something I worked up when I performed with a fellow singer once. He sang the song and I danced while he did. It is kinda sexy though. Do you think you can take it?”

 

He crossed his arms, wondering what could possibly be more sensuous than some of the dances Elizabeth had taught him, and nodded. “I’m fairly certain I can contain myself,” he said dryly. “I do already know many dances from your land which I would consider to be blatantly erotic in nature.”

 

“Oh, okay, good. Then I guess this probably won’t bother you.”

 

Laurelin bit her lip and stuck her thumbs through her belt loops and started humming the melody of Nick Jonas’ Bom Didi Bom, and began what she had danced to her friend’s cover of the song. It had been a long time since she had danced in a club, or done anything Hip Hop style. She fell easily into the steps of her own choreography, flipping her loosened hair and smiling when she did the section that she thought of as cowgirl step, grinning at Legolas’ frozen expression, wondering what he was thinking.

 

Legolas admitted to himself that he might have made a mistake being so flippant. Laurelin’s dance really was like nothing he had ever seen before, and with the tight clothes she wore, every roll of her hips and supple twist of her body highlighted her lovely shape. He found himself becoming uncomfortably warm around his face and ears and swallowing against a parched throat. With every sinuous movement, her shirt rode higher on her waist, showing tantalizing glimpses of the tattoo on her lower back. Was her dance intended to be another ploy to win against him in their game? If so, it was a brilliant tactic, as he wanted nothing more than to pull her against him and kiss her senseless. Clenching his jaw, he tried to stiffen his resolve and unstiffen another part of him that he was attempting to actively ignore.

 

She held a pose with her back to him and smiled at him over her shoulder, her expression turning uncertain when he just stared without any outward sign of his thoughts or feelings. “Um, that’s most of it,” she said, turning to face him. “I used to perform quite a lot in my ballet years, but this dance was the first thing I had done in front of a crowd in quite a while. I do like dancing in clubs though, so it was something fun and different to dance up on a stage again instead of just sing.” Laurelin looked down, beginning to feel embarrassed and wishing she hadn’t offered to show him the dance. “But lots of folks don’t like that kind of dancing, so I...I hope I didn’t offend you. It’s easy to forget you’re not from my world, with all you know about it from Elizabeth, and everything.”

 

Releasing a loud breath, Legolas closed the distance between them and wrapped himself around her in a tight embrace, turning his face into the soft waves of her golden hair and breathing in her sweet scent of honeysuckles, as she had told him it was called. It wasn’t a flower he was familiar with, but the smell of it on her skin undeniably drew him, just as surely as she did. Slipping his hand beneath the hem of her shirt, he ran his fingers across her bare skin where her tattoo lay, feeling a distant satisfaction when she shuddered in reaction. Lifting his head, he brushed back her hair from her face and gave her a long look.

 

“I did not dislike your dance, Laurelin, nor was I offended by it. Quite the opposite, in fact. The way you move is a captivating sight to behold, and far more alluring than I could have anticipated. You were correct, I never have seen such a dance as that. My lack of response was merely me attempting to control my rather strong reaction, not censure. I’m certain you are aware by now, of just what that reaction was, since I have pulled you into my embrace and made no attempt to hide it from you.”

 

She smirked, sliding her hands across his shoulders and resting them at the back of his neck, letting her eyes drop to his lips before she looked back up at eyes that were narrowed at her. She had taken note of his obvious arousal and had begun to think of all sorts of fun and naughty things she might do, like pouncing on him and attacking his ears.

 

“Go on, Legolas, ask me. You know you want to kiss me, and there’s no shame in losing to a young thing like me. Not much, anyway.”

 

He tilted his head as though considering, then shook it with a resolved look. “I will not give in. I am determined to beat you.”

 

She lifted a brow and pursed her lips. “But what if I kiss your ears?”

 

“Then I shall kiss yours,” he fired back, “and I won’t stop until you beg me to relent.”

 

“Why are you so damn stubborn?” she huffed.

 

He grinned. “Why are you?”

 

Stepping away, she shot him an annoyed look. “Fine, but if you aren’t going to kiss me, then I need you to not touch me again...for at least ten minutes, while I cool off.” Turning her back on him, she walked toward Arod, patting his head when he turned toward her. “Hey there, boy. How about a kiss, hmm? No tongue though, I have to draw the line with you Rohan horses somewhere.” The horse lipped at her cheek, apparently understanding her despite the language she spoke, making her laugh. “Oh, you’re frisky, aren’t you? I like that.”

 

Legolas had taken the blanket and spread it across the ground, removed his weapons and lay down on his back. Lacing his hands behind his head, he stared up at the bright stars in the clear night sky. “If you are attempting to make me jealous, it won’t work. Arod and I have an understanding. He would never attempt to steal your affections away from me.”

 

Wrapping her arms around Arod’s neck, she buried her face against his mane and then kissed his nose before glancing back at the elf laid out on the ground. “You may have an understanding, but with me bouncing around on top of him, he’s getting a helluva lot more action out of me than you are.”

 

Laughing aloud, Legolas turned his head to look at her, his blue eyes bright with amusement. “I can’t believe you just said that.”

 

She wandered over and flopped down onto her belly beside him. “Forthright and plainspoken. That’s a Texan for you.”

 

Turning to face her, he rested his head in his hand and glanced down the line of her body, his eyes settling on the vines and leaves of her tattoo, visible where her shirt rose with her movement. He reached his hand toward it and then stopped, meeting her eyes again.

 

“Am I allowed to touch you yet?”

 

Laying her head down on her folded arms, Laurelin closed her eyes, smiling. “Knock yourself out, sugar.”

 

He kept his gaze focused on her back as he traced the design with his index finger, trying to determine why he was so fascinated by her marked skin, and turned curious. “Laurelin, you mentioned you got this tattoo after fortune tellers told you similar things. May I ask what it was that they told you?”

 

“Green leaves,” she said, opening her eyes again.

 

“Pardon? They told you green leaves? That’s all they said?”

 

“That’s not all they told me,” she said with a laugh, shivering again at his touch against her. “They said my happiness will come from green leaves, or one of them said green leaf, but I’m sure she meant more than one. I’ve had the thought that it might have something to do with your home, since it’s called Greenwood, and is undoubtedly full of trees sporting green leaves.” Laurelin closed her eyes again and Legolas looked from her face to her tattoo in shock.

 

“Greenleaf? Truly?” he whispered, laying his hand flat over the design.

 

“Mhh hmm. Green leaves. I love green leaves on trees, so it sounded like a pretty great fortune, to me.” She gasped, her eyes flying open when she felt Legolas’ lips brushing warmly against her back and turned her head to stare down at him. “What are you doing?”

 

He raised his head, smiling softly with a gentle look in his eyes. “Kissing your tattoo, as I have been wanting to. Recall I said I would show you my favored spot, and that’s it.”

 

“You have a body art kink?” She rolled onto her back to look at him more easily.

 

“Kink?” he echoed with evident confusion.

 

“A preference for something sexually arousing, often unusual or different from the norm.”

 

“Ah.” He nodded slowly. “I don’t believe I have a kink, just an appreciation for your body art specifically, and only because it is on you.”

 

She shrugged. “If you say so. I think I’ve developed a Legolas ear kink, myself. I’m just dying of curiosity to know what happens when someone kisses your ears. I volunteer to lead the experiment. For Science!”

 

He leaned nearer to her, his hair falling forward over his shoulder and mouth twisted in a crooked smile. “I did say you were welcome to try, as long as you are prepared for the consequences, which I myself cannot fully predict. You may find it is the same as tugging the tiger’s tail, as it were.”

 

Sitting up, and bringing their faces close together, she lifted her chin. “I’m not afraid of you, darlin’.”

 

“Nor would I have you be.” He met her challenging gaze with a tender smile and leaned nearer to her ear to whisper his next words. “But have a care for an elf’s erotic trigger point.” He ran his lips and tongue along the edge of her ear, quickly backing away when her gasp turned into a breathy moan.

 

Her eyes fluttered open and she raised her hand to touch her ear and looked at him in concern. “That’s pure witchcraft. You just set fire to my body, like nothing I’ve ever felt before, and you barely touched me. How did you do that?”

 

Legolas smiled and laid down on his back again. “One day, I shall tell you all my secrets. Until then, it must remain a mystery.”

 

She made an exasperated noise and laid down with her head on his shoulder and rested her hand on his chest. “For the annoying crime of being cagey, I’m gonna use you as my pillow.”

 

He wrapped an arm around her, pulling her closer and kissed the top of her head. “That sounds like a reward, not a punishment.”

 

“It’ll be a punishment if I fall asleep and drool all over you. And snore. I might snore like a freight train. It’ll probably rattle your teeth.”

 

Stroking gentle fingers through her hair, he pointed to the sky overhead. “Look there, laich. That is Eärendil, the brightest star in the evening sky.”

 

Laurelin looked to where he was pointing. “It’s beautiful. I used to want to be an astronaut when I was five or six, so I could fly to space and see all the pretties that came out at night. I lost interest when I learned astronauts were really just glorified rock collectors and satellite repairmen. I still might have liked going to the moon though, if only to see earth from that vantage point.”

 

“Your people can fly to the stars?” he asked in a wonder-tinged tone.

 

Angling her head so she could see his face, she smiled. “Yes. Kinda the same as airplanes, but space shuttles are launched by explosives to go all the way out into space, and then they land like an airplane when they come back down to earth.”

 

“That is quite something to imagine.” He traced a finger over one of her golden brows and down across her cheek, to her lips with a thoughtful air. “But you have no need to pursue the stars. If you only sing to them, they shall come down to you, just to listen to your lovely song.”

 

She studied his face, the golden rings of her eyes shining brightly. “What does laich mean, Legolas?”

 

He smiled, admiring the spring green color of her eyes next to the gold. “It means ‘sweet’ in Sindarin. I suppose it is my equivalent of when you call me sugar.”

 

She gave him an impish look. “And you really think I’m sweet?”

 

“I do. There is honey on your tongue when you speak in your lovely way, or when you sing, and also when you offer it to me with your kiss.” He brushed his thumb over her bottom lip. “I have never known greater sweetness than what I’ve received from you, dear one. Not in all my many years.”

 

Laurelin narrowed her eyes. “You’re trying to get me to kiss you with all these sweet nothings and head-turning compliments. I’m not gonna fall for it. Besides, Arod is a pretty good kisser. I might not need you anymore. Plus, he never gets tired of me riding him, which is a bonus.”

 

He rolled her to her back and leaned over her with a predatory smile. “You are a very naughty young lady, and also ridiculous. It’s clear you are suffering from a lack of being kissed, so I shall remedy that deficit now.”

 

She bit her lip to stop her grin, her eyes sliding shut when she felt his breath on her face as he leaned down, his hair falling like a curtain around them. His lips brushed against her cheek in a soft kiss, then she felt his lips on the tip of her nose. When he kissed her other cheek, she opened her eyes, having caught on, and sighed as he moved away.

 

“That’s cruel and unusual. You, sir, are a tease of the first order.”

 

Pushing his hair back from where the wind blew it forward, he smirked. “You are no less a tease yourself, lady, so do not affect false innocence with me. Did you not specify that anything goes when you issued your challenge to me? I have actually shown remarkable restraint compared to what I might have done to tease you. Recall our first ride on Arod together as an example.”

 

“Oh, kiss my ass,” she grumbled under her breath in disgruntlement, turning to face away from him on her side and stare out toward Edoras.

 

Legolas examined her jean-covered backside with a cheeky smile. “You seem to have made a habit of late, of offering me your ass. Perhaps I might take advantage of your generosity another time, but not tonight, I fear.”

 

She clicked her tongue in annoyance. “Now who’s being ridiculous? And you can dream on with your little fantasy. I never offered you my ass and I’m not about to. It’s mine and I’m not giving it away.”

 

With her back to him, he realized he was able to clearly see the fine scarring along the tops of her ears Elladan had mentioned, and wondered that he had not observed it before. He found himself pondering if she was even aware of something having been done to her, or not.

 

“Laurelin,” he began hesitantly, arranging his face into pleasant interest when she looked back at him in inquiry. “I notice you have some old scarring on the back of your ear. Did you have an injury there when you were younger?”

 

She sat up, reaching to lightly touch the top of her ear, then looked at him self-consciously. “Yeah, um, I was born with a birth defect. I can’t remember what it was called, something in Latin, but I had to have corrective surgery on my ears after I was born, and then again when I was a toddler, I think. Some rare genetic thing, apparently. My mom’s family never had anything like that, so I suppose it could have come from my birth daddy, but I don’t really know.” She shrugged and looked up, frowning at his sad expression.

 

“I’m sorry. That must have been quite painful to grow up with. You’re very brave to have withstood it.”

 

Clicking her tongue, she shook her head. “I wasn’t brave. It was what it was. Lots of people are born with abnormalities that they need surgery to correct. That’s the wonder of modern medicine, that so much can be cured or fixed.” She pulled her bent legs close to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, holding Legolas’ gaze. “I will admit I’ve always been a little...I dunno, I guess...shy about my ears? It’s the main reason I’ve always kept my hair so long to cover them.” Blushing over her confession, she looked away.

 

Legolas moved next to her and pulled her against him, brushing a kiss to her hair before he reached for her face to stare into her wide, green eyes with a tender look. “There’s nothing whatever that you need feel self-conscious over. You are perfect, all of you, just as you are.”

 

She smiled faintly with a spark of humor in her gaze. “You’re good for my self-esteem. If I listen to you long enough, I might really start to believe in all these fine qualities you claim to see.”

 

“You should trust more in the words of your elders, young one,” he said with a raised brow. “My eyes have seen much. Heed the wisdom I have attained and it shall be a benefit to you, granting you knowledge beyond your few years.”

 

She grinned and nodded in apparent agreement. “Okay.”

 

He gave her a suspicious look. “Okay?” he echoed. “Why do I get the sense your agreement is heavily motivated by irony?”

 

“Because it is,” she replied matter-of-factly. “I’m actually kinda laughing at you right now, Mr. Age and Wisdom. If you’re so old and I’m so young, then that basically makes you a pedophile, to my way of thinking.”

 

Legolas frowned. “What is a pedophile? I do not know this word.”

 

She ran her fingers down one of his braids. “It means you’re sexually attracted to children.”

 

He gave her a disturbed look, his voice growing cold and clipped. “I am no such thing, and that is a repugnant insinuation. Your physical form has reached its adult state a number of years ago, and you are capable of having children yourself. The only part of you that retains a link to childishness is your naivety and inexperience, and your obvious failure to discern what is appropriate for humor and what is not.” Standing, he walked several paces away and crossed his arms, looking out at the distant stars.

 

Wincing, Laurelin stood to her feet and followed him, coming around to face him and answering his stern expression with an apologetic look. “You’re right and I’m sorry. Sometimes my warped sense of humor makes me run off at the mouth when I shouldn’t. I really didn’t intend to insult you or your honor, or whatever, with my teasing, and I totally deserved that spanking you just gave me.” She searched his eyes uncertainly. “Forgive me?”

 

His severe demeanor turned softer at her words, and one side of his mouth lifted in a half smile. “Of course I forgive you. Nothing more need be said of it.”

 

She turned and looked up at the sky where he had been gazing, sighing in relief when he pulled her back against his chest and wrapped his arms around her. Laurelin tilted her head back to look at him musingly. “You’re pretty intimidating when you’re upset, ya know. I could definitely see your bad-ass warrior side coming out there. But I think I prefer your lover side much more.”

 

Chuckling, Legolas looked down at her smiling face. “My lover side? Have we now crossed over from friendship to lovers in your mind?”

 

She blushed. “No, that’s not what I’m implying. Friendship is love. A form of it. Anyway, what I was trying to say is I really like the sweet, friendly part of your personality. The warrior is good too, that side of you just might be a little too hardcore and intense for me to handle, right now. I’m sure I can get used to it though.”

 

He bent over and nuzzled against the side of her neck. “I heard King Théoden say you and Lady Éowyn will accompany him to the Harrowdale muster, and those of us with Aragorn also go there. When we depart for Dunharrow tomorrow, will you ride with me?”

 

She tilted her head, wordlessly offering greater access to her neck, which he took advantage of, pressing his lips just beneath her ear in a soft kiss. “But Gimli always rides with you. Won’t he be offended if I take his place?”

 

“He will not mind. Gimli can easily ride with Aragorn, Elladan or Elrohir; he is comfortable enough with any of them. My time with you grows short, and I would spend every moment with you that I can until we must part. Tomorrow’s ride will take many hours.”

 

Laurelin laid her head back against him. “Well, when you put it that way, I don’t see how I could possibly resist such an offer. Will I ride front or back?”

 

“Front,” he said, finally lifting his head. “If you rode behind, you would have a face full of my weapons, and that wouldn’t be comfortable for you. I also prefer to have you in my arms, which will make the ride that much more pleasant.”

 

She pressed her fingertips into his arms surrounding her, idly testing the lean, hardened muscles there. “There will be a lot of eyes on us if we do that though, more than when you did your little ring display with me earlier tonight.” He smirked and reached for her hand, straightening his ring on her finger. “Just don’t try any hanky-panky, you hear? We’ll have to behave ourselves and act like a respectable and properly engaged couple.”

 

Tilting his head in surprise, he turned her around to face him. “You knew?”

 

“Of course I knew,” she said with a puzzled smile. “What, you thought I didn’t? You might give me a little credit for not being a complete idiot. I have lived here for two years and it’s not like their courtship and marriage traditions are some big mystery.”

 

“And you don’t mind?” he asked carefully.

 

“Why would I mind? You’re trying to protect me from any well-meaning fellows I have no interest in, like a good friend should. Hell, if anything, I’m grateful. When we leave Rohan to go to your home, I’ll just give your ring back and nobody will know about the little joke we played here. And if I ever run into anyone from Rohan again, I’ll just say it didn’t work out between us, and we broke up. That’ll work, right?”

 

He frowned, disgruntled at the description of them as ‘broken up’. It sounded terribly final and indicative of a permanent separation, which he neither wanted, nor did he have any desire to contemplate the potential for Laurelin to be severed from him in such a way.

 

“I...do not think you will see any more Rohan folk for some time after I take you to my land, so it will not be an issue, either way.”

 

She beamed. “Great. Then I won’t worry about that. I’ll just enjoy pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes here. Do you think we’ll be believable as a couple? We haven’t really known each other for all that long. For instance, I don’t know your favorite food or color, or whether you prefer the mountains or the sea. Do you steal all the covers when you sleep? These are important things that I think most women know about their fiances.”

 

“Fiance? You must teach me this word.”

 

“It’s a French word that’s used in English for a bride or groom-to-be. The same as saying betrothed, but that’s considered archaic now, and just about everyone English-speaking uses the term fiance.”

 

“I suppose I know the archaic form from Elizabeth. I would have used betrothed or intended to refer to you as my prospective bride.”

 

Laurelin blushed and looked down. “I know it’s just pretend, but it’s really strange to hear you refer to me that way.” Looking back up, she drew a breath, searching his eyes. “Do you think everyone will really buy that you’d want to marry someone like me, with my mortality and all? Before, you said that never happens, so maybe we’re just liable to get caught in our lie.”

 

Cradling her face in his hands, he leaned down and kissed her forehead with a sober look in his blue eyes before he released her. “Though it is rare, I believe anyone who sees us together will easily believe our feelings for one another are romantic love. We are both naturally free with our affections, which is decidedly against convention and could be misconstrued as more than it is. Elladan and Elrohir already seem to believe I feel that way, and I suspect Aragorn too, based on how he teased me about you before the feast.”

 

“We’re social rebels.” She smirked. “I guess we’re really good actors, too, if we’ve already managed to fool them into thinking we’re more than close friends. I bet the fact that most of our conversations can’t be understood by anyone but us has helped that impression. Plus, we do get along really well, not to mention how we like to tease the bejeezus out of each other.” She turned away from him and wandered slowly back to the blanket, laying down on her belly again and turning her face away from where Legolas still stood.

 

Her heart was paining her with every quick, determined beat, but she had no choice except to go on pretending like Legolas wanted. Since he seemed to want all of Rohan to believe they were together, then she was resolved to give an Oscar worthy performance to that effect. If you were going to do a thing, you might as well do it thoroughly. She was at least glad he couldn’t tell what her real feelings were, or she thought she would be in hot water, for sure.

 


 

 

Lyrics from Immortal, by Marina and The Diamonds

For what I visualized for Laurelin's dance, this is a little convoluted, but if you want the sound and visual...search for Dhoom 2 "Crazy Kiya Re" HD on youtube and watch the beautiful Aishwarya Rai dance from 7:24 to 9:04, but mute the sound and listen instead to Bom Didi Bom by Nick Jonas and Nicki Minaj. The tempo for the dance versus the music is a little off, but obviously Laurelin would have been doing the movements at a slightly slower pace.

 


 

 

 

~o~

 

 

Chapter Text



 

 

Legolas was singing softly when Laurelin came slowly out of the fog of a beautiful dream, one she had dreamed many times of the gold and silver trees together. Warm and cozy where she had fallen asleep lying in his arms, she turned her face more against him, ready to sink back into the dream when Legolas stopped singing and spoke, tapping a finger against her cheek.

 

“You must awake now, laich . Dawn is but two hours off, and I must return you to your room so you may rest in comfort before we begin our journey.”

 

She tightened her arm around his middle. “I am resting in comfort. You’re my pillow and my heater. Besides, since we’ve been out here this long, we could just stay and watch the sunrise together.” Laurelin looked up at him with sleep-heavy eyes. “Unless you’re tired and want to go to bed without me laying half on top of you? In that case, we can head out.”

 

Legolas smiled teasingly. “I am also very comfortable lying here with you, although I have discovered you deceived me earlier.” At her muzzy, confused look, he smirked. “You said you drool and snore in your sleep, when you really only cling firmly to me, and occasionally sigh in a rather delightful manner. I was quite entertained watching you.”

 

Blushing, she dug her fingers into his ribs, then tried a different spot when she got no reaction. “You’re not supposed to watch me sleep, you creeper, and why aren’t you ticklish?” she complained, sending him a helpless look that made him laugh.

 

“Assuming I had such a sensitivity, it is likely you would only be able to discover it on my bare skin and without my tunic in the way.”

 

Sighing heavily, she sat up. “Then I guess I’ll never know. I seriously doubt I’ll ever get to see you shirtless. Y’all don’t casually strip off and run around in little bits of nothing like we do back home. You’d probably die of shock if I were to take you with me to a Florida beach with nearly nude people everywhere, basking in the sun.”

 

Sitting up and leaning forward, he began combing his fingers through her snarled hair, working out the harder knots with nimble fingers. “Why do you think that? If what I saw in your photos is how all your people attire themselves, then I’m sure I would quickly become accustomed to it. I don’t find nudity offensive in and of itself. It is the body in its natural state, and where is the shame in that? In the right time and place, it can be a thing of beauty. Perhaps that is something I find admirable from your land, that you seem to have a true comfort and ease with your body that I have never seen from another maiden, yet you still retain your sweet innocence.” He began braiding back the hair along the top of her head while he continued speaking.

 

“You frequently touch and hug your friends here, and I enjoy that. I come of a culture that is far more formal and reserved. Perhaps the people here, as well as my own could learn something from you, and how you freely share and express your heart through touch, as well as your music.”

 

When he finished her braid, she turned and planted a loud kiss on his cheek and smiled warmly at him. “I think you’re really just a hippie, the same as me. Some day in the future, what do you say we run off like the rebels we are and start the very first hippie commune in middle-earth together? We can hang out with the trees, build tree houses and live off the land. If we ever get bored, we can wander for a while, or go stay with the dwarves for a bit. I bet Gimli would like that.”

 

He pursed his lips in thought. “That actually does sound surprisingly appealing. But you would not find the prospect of starting an entirely new settlement in an unknown place daunting?”

 

“Why would I?” she asked in confusion. “I was a world traveler before I came here, and I visited lots of different kinds of villages, towns and settlements, some permanent and others nomadic in nature. It’s not really complex to make a home from very little. As long as you have a source of fresh water and game for food, or a place to grow your food, and some basic materials to build a shelter of some sort.” She shrugged. “Humans have been doing it for thousands and thousands of years, so how hard can it be?”

 

“It’s an interesting idea, but I think further discussion is best kept for another time.” He stood and extended a hand to Laurelin, pulling her to her feet. Quickly rolling the blanket, he walked to Arod to secure it around his neck again while Laurelin retrieved her coat from where she had tossed it.

 

“Time to go back, I guess?” She watched him replace his weapons with obviously practiced movements, wondering just how many times he had gone through the same motions during his life.

 

He looked up after securing the final buckle of the harness that held his knives, quiver and bow and nodded, his expression taking on what she thought of as his no-nonsense warrior side. “Yes. If you still desire to watch the sunrise together, we can, but it must be from within the walls of Edoras, where we can be seen by others. I want no shadow of dishonor tainting your reputation, and I have already kept you here with me longer than was likely prudent.”

 

“But if everybody thinks we’re engaged, will that really matter?” She slipped into her long coat and buttoned the front so her jeans would be less visible, and more imitate the appearance of wearing a dress.

 

Holding out his hand in summons, he lifted her up onto Arod’s back and sprang up behind her with his usual acrobatic grace, wrapping an arm around her and speaking to the horse, waiting until he was trotting to answer. “In this place, we must have a care. It would likely have been wiser if we had others along with us, like when Elladan and Elrohir accompanied us before. I know your culture no longer practices such things with females, but that is the way of life here. Were I not so eager to spend time with you alone, I would have considered more carefully. I hope with you wearing my ring, our few indiscretions may be overlooked.”

 

She sighed gustily. “As much as I’d like to just say fuck all that rigid mess, with rules, constraints, and the oppression of women and do as I like – I know I have to conform, at least to an extent.” Laurelin tugged her hair back out of her face. “I’m the visitor here, not the other way around, so I’ll do whatever you think is best. I don’t have to like it though,” she muttered rebelliously.

 

Legolas smiled, leaning his head down to rest his cheek against hers. “Shall we have a quick run first, before we go back?”

 

Grinning, Laurelin took a tighter hold of the thick mane in her hands, deciding to try to get the horse to go fast herself. “Arod, run like the wind!” She leaned forward as he took off in a burst of speed across the open plain, whooping in laughter at the feel of the cool rushing wind in her face and the warm elf curled around her. Her excitement was infectious, making Legolas laugh softly, pulling her more firmly against him while horse and riders moved harmoniously together.

 

Half an hour later, they thundered up to the front gate, Legolas speaking to slow Arod to a trot as they passed beyond and started up the road to the stables. After handing Arod off to a young boy eagerly waiting to groom him, Laurelin and Legolas walked up to the front of Meduseld and sat on an empty bench to the one side of the main doors, Legolas removing and setting aside his longbow first.

 

The sky was just beginning to lighten from black to grey, and pale light started to reveal the detail of the landscape beyond Edoras. Laurelin leaned nearer to Legolas with a teasing smile.

 

“How about I give these folks a little bit more ammunition for their gossip about us with something a little more romantic? I bet there’s more listening ears than we can see right now...” Turning her face forward, she bit her lip, seemingly amused by her thoughts before she tilted her face toward the sky and started to sing softly in the Common Speech.

 

“While you sleep, dream of me

I'll be keeping our memories

Living in my heart and soul

Waiting for the day

When we will be together again

~o~

“Carry me to my love

O'er the sea to the clouds above

Where I know he's waiting for me

Carry me to my love

O'er the sea to the clouds above

~o~

 

Turning to look at Legolas with the smile of a co-conspirator, she continued her song, turning to gaze toward Elladan and Elrohir where they came walking up from around the side of the hall. To keep from laughing at the uncertain expressions on their faces, she closed her eyes and reached for Legolas’ hand, warmed when he squeezed her fingers in silent acknowledgement as she sang the final part of the love song.

 

~o~

“Take me away to the shining light

Over the waves peaceful at night

There among the stars glowing in the dark

You'll watch over me

Smiling down patiently

~o~

“Carry me to my love

O'er the sea to the clouds above

Where I know he's waiting for me

Carry me to my love

O'er the sea to the clouds above"

~o~

 

Opening her eyes, she sat up straighter to see the sun peeking just over the horizon and smiled at the sight of a new day; one that she would be able to spend entirely with Legolas.She had the feeling it would be an amazing day, filled with special moments she would be able to cherish in his absence.

 

“I don’t know if we are intruding on love birds here, but you are sitting in a public area if you are not aware,” Elrohir quipped, coming to stand in front of them.

 

“We’re aware,” she replied with a smirk, then lowered her voice. “And we’re not love birds. I’m just trying to put on a good show for the folks that think there’s more to this than there really is.” She tapped Legolas’ ring on her finger in emphasis.

 

Elrohir shared a look with his brother and crossed his arms. “I see. Am I to understand you are intending to deceive the good people of Rohan into believing you are betrothed to Legolas, and that you actually are not?”

 

“That sounds about right.” Laurelin shrugged.

 

It is for her comfort and protection, Elrohir, which you know is my primary concern. It has been her idea to make something of a game of it, ” Legolas said in Sindarin.

 

Releasing Legolas’ hand, Laurelin stood. “Well, I guess I better go get ready. I think we’re supposed to ride out in a couple more hours.” She glanced at Legolas on her way to the door, switching back to English. “Where should I meet y’all, down at the stables?”

 

Nodding, Legolas replied in the same language. “There, or just beyond. If you have a riding dress, it’s probably best to wear it.”

 

“Don’t worry, I’m not about to parade around in front of a bunch of soldiers in my tight jeans. Those are just for you.” With an impish smirk, she walked through the doorway into the hall, leaving Legolas smiling in amusement.

 

Elladan spoke up in elvish. “ Where did you take the maiden while we were engaged with beating your dwarf friend at a drinking game, son of Thranduil ? You were gone for many hours.

 

We went riding, and gazed at the stars. She fell to sleep for a time. Nothing untoward occurred, so do not give me that look, Elladan .”

 

The elder twin raised both brows with obvious censure on his face and in his grey eyes. “ f you do not intend to offer for her, you must have greater care for her honor, Legolas. Would you not object to such behavior if it were one of your sisters in a similar situation ?”

 

Drawing a breath, Legolas looked away. “You...are correct. I suppose I should have been more circumspect. I have not yet made a firm decision as to my course with Laurelin. I am still of two minds on the matter .

 

Elrohir sat down beside him on the bench with a sympathetic look. “It is a difficult choice. One I never thought to see you faced with. Not after all the cool looks you gave any elleth who showed more than polite interest toward you in Imladris .”

 

Legolas smiled faintly. “ My mind was still full of Elizabeth. Thankfully, that eased after a time. But my feelings for Laurelin are nothing like what I experienced then. Were she not mortal, I do not believe I would have hesitated for an instant.

 

Elladan gave his friend a long look. “ Perhaps that is the question you must ask yourself: do you care for her enough to take her just as she is, mortality included, or is that price too high to pay?”

 

Legolas gave a thoughtful nod, watching where the sun rose above the horizon, highlighting the blue sky and shining brightly across his face with warm, golden light.

 

 


 

 

Laurelin burst out of the hall with her backpack over one arm and carrying her guitar with the other, having sudden flashbacks to racing through any number of airports with the same things, just minus her violin since she decided that would be too much to transport. She and Éowyn were only meant to stay until after the gathered riders departed for whatever far off battle they were headed to, then they would return to Edoras. Likely to wait and fret until they had news as to the outcome, but that wasn’t a detail she intended to dwell on anytime soon.

 

“Lady Laurelin.” Éomer stepped into her path, reaching for her bag and instrument to carry them for her, and she smiled gratefully with a murmur of thanks. “The king wishes you to come and speak to him. Follow me.”

 

She trailed behind the tall Marshal, finally spying the king among a cluster of his soldiers. She recognized the man beside King Théoden she had been introduced to once as Erkenbrand, who stood out from other Eorlingas with his bright red hair.

 

“Lady Laurelin,” King Théoden welcomed her with a gracious smile. “I summoned you as I wish to give you something before we depart for the muster.”

 

She looked up at him in surprise when he walked to a horse with a caramel colored coat and golden mane, taking the reins from the soldier holding them and extending them to her. “This stallion is called Wynsang, which means joyful song in the Common Tongue. I have so named him in your honor, child, as he is my gift to you.”

 

Shocked, Laurelin stared from the king to the horse in wide-eyed surprise, blinking back the sting of affected tears. “For me? Sire, I am...so... overwhelmed by such a fine and generous gift. Thank you, sincerely.” She walked over and held her hand out to the horse, stroking his velvety soft nose when he bumped her hand eagerly, and grinning in delight up at King Théoden, who smiled in apparent satisfaction.

 

“I see he takes to you. I am glad of it. Do you wish to ride him?”

 

Laurelin bit her lip and looked over her shoulder, trying to spot Legolas, when the king gave an amused chuckle.

 

“Or perhaps you already have someone else you have decided to ride with, hmm?” King Théoden reached for her hand and lifted it, drawing attention to the ring Legolas had placed there. “I thought that was what I saw last evening before I retired.” Laurelin looked down, blushing, and the king lowered her hand and stepped closer.

 

“I am not surprised with the way your eyes shine since he has come to Edoras. I am very happy for you, child, though I shall be sorry to lose you.” He pulled her into a one-armed hug against his side, and she fought her guilt over the deception she was caught in, making her blush deepen.

 

“Thank you, my lord.” She looked up and met his wise blue eyes. “But you won’t ever lose me. Fathers and daughters have a bond that can never be severed by circumstances, distance or time.”

 

He gave her a long look and smiled, resting a hand against her cheek. “I believe you are right. Now run on and find your young man. Doubtless he is eager to spend all the time that remains with you.”

 

Impulsively, she threw her arms around his neck in a hug, and he laughed again in surprised delight and patted her back. Grinning up at him, she turned away, nodding her silent thanks to Éomer, who had secured her guitar and bag to Wynsang while she spoke with the king.

 

She laughed inwardly to think of Legolas being referred to as a ‘young man’, winding her way through all the men and horses until she saw the top of Legolas’ head a ways beyond the largest stable. He smiled in welcome when he saw her approach.

 

“The king gave me my own stallion,” she gushed in English as soon as she reached him.

 

His brows climbed in surprise. “Truly? That is a very generous gift.” He looked beyond her. “Will you not be riding him?”

 

“But...I thought you wanted me to ride with you? I already told the king I was, but I can ride my own mount if you prefer.”

 

He reached for her hand with a smile. “Of course I wish you to ride with me. I only thought you might be eager to ride your new present. Perhaps discover if he is a better kisser than Arod.”

 

Arod tossed his head and snorted, making them both laugh. “He’s just teasing you, Arod. You’re still my favorite horse to kiss, just don’t tell Wynsang I said so.”

 

Arod nickered and she shook her head in amusement. “That horse is too clever for his own good.”

 

Elrohir walked up, leading his own horse behind him. “Greetings, maiden. Are you to ride with us to Dunharrow?”

 

“Yes, with Legolas, because apparently he gets bored on long rides and needs me to keep him entertained.”

 

“Is that the excuse he gave you?” Elladan asked with a dry look, emerging from the stable on his mount with Gimli riding behind him.

 

“Arod has developed a preference for Laurelin and no longer wishes me to ride without her.” Legolas turned a teasing smile on her and she sauntered up to Arod with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes.

 

“How about a big kiss for your favorite lady, boy?” Arod immediately turned to her and lipped at her face, even catching her lips with his horsey mouth and making her sputter and back away. “Wait! I told you no tongue, you crazy horse! Ew, I’m infected!”

 

Gimli and the elves laughed at her and Legolas took a step nearer to her, dropping his voice and addressing her in English. “Let this be a lesson to you. When you tease over kisses, you are liable to be covered in them when you least expect it.”

 

“You better watch out,” she warned with a threatening look. “Or I’m gonna kiss you now while I’m covered in horse spit and make you suffer with me.”

 

He backed away with a smirk. “I believe I shall wait and hope for better things.”

 

“Coward,” she muttered, wiping her arm across her face with a disgusted look.

 

Aragorn approached on his own horse, nodding as he passed them, heading toward the front gate, his Dúnedain riders following behind. Elladan and Elrohir spoke to their horses, setting them to a slow walk and joining the line following Aragorn out of the city.

 

“Come, Laurelin. We had best go or we shall be eating the dust from all of King Théoden's riders.”

 

After being lifted easily by the strength of the elf alone, which never ceased to impress her, she settled quickly atop Arod. Legolas mounted behind her and situated her against him more comfortably, making her smile that they already seemed to have established a routine between them on how best to ride as a twosome. They followed at a walk behind the Grey Company.

 

“I’ve gotten so used to being held by you and riding Arod bareback that I think it’ll be tough to go back to a saddle and actually having to guide the horse myself. I sure hope Wynsang is a patient stallion and won’t buck me off for being a bit rusty when it comes time to return to Edoras.”

 

“Just speak to him as you would to a person, perhaps even ask him to be tolerant while you learn one another. Horses are intelligent creatures and understand much more than you may realize.”

 

Smiling, Laurelin patted Arod. “Oh, I know they understand plenty. That’s why Arod and I are becoming best friends, because we respect each other, right buddy?” He whinnied a response and she looked back at Legolas with a grin. “See?”

 

He gave her an indulgent look with a raised brow. “Yes, I can see you’re quite a natural. But you weren’t raised with horses, were you?”

 

She shook her head, lacing the fingers of one of her hands with his, where it rested around her front. “No, I grew up in the city. We had cats and dogs as pets, but we never owned any horses. I think the first time I rode was when I was about six or seven on a pony at the state fair.” She smiled in remembrance. “I fed my pony an apple and he tried to follow me after the ride was over. He made quite a fuss when his handler stopped him.”

 

“You’ve apparently always had an affinity with horses. Perhaps it could even be something inherited from your unknown father.”

 

“I reckon it could, but I don’t know. And now I guess I never will since there’s no way for me to go back.”

 

Legolas opened his mouth, fighting the temptation to tell her exactly who her father was, then shut it again, knowing how it would upset her and likely spoil what little time they had left together. “I shall say to you what I leaned from Elizabeth is a saying from your land.”

 

She glanced back at him curiously. “What saying is that?”

 

“Never say never. Many things you may not expect are in the realm of possibility.”

 

“Boy, don’t I know that as gospel truth! Just look at me. I shouldn’t be here, yet here I am, caught in the middle of a war with some dark lord, in a culture my own people moved beyond centuries ago. And magic.” She shook her head in amazement. “I can’t forget all the magic here, which you really see very little of back home, except for those fortune tellers. The ones I talked to were pretty scary.”

 

“How so?” Legolas asked curiously. “Did you fear they would harm you?”

 

“No, nothing like that.” She shivered in remembrance. “It was just their eyes, like they could see clear down to the bottom of your soul, and any secrets you were harboring was theirs for the taking. That kind of scary. Like powerful sorcery scary. You have eyes like that too, but you’re far more polite about what you look for when soul-searching, and they weren’t.”

 

He smiled in faint amusement. “You think when I look at you I am searching your soul? Pray, what do you think I would be seeking?”

 

Tilting her head back against his chest, she examined his eyes while he did the same with hers. “You probably do it subconsciously, and I dunno, maybe a match, a likeness or understanding. Like kindred...simpatico. I think souls look for other complementary souls for fellowship and communion, to feed that ravenous need we all seem to have inside us.”

 

“What need do you feel we all have?” He was captivated by her thought process and wanted to hear her conclusions on the subject.

 

“To be seen for who and what we really are, and to be respected and admired without having to make apologies for pieces of ourselves. Because we’re a whole, and all those pieces make us who we are, even the less admirable parts. Like all the broken bits in a mosaic. If you look at them up close, a piece at at time, they often just look like busted junk, but seen from a bit of distance as part of the rest, it becomes a beautiful and completely unique work of art.”

 

She ducked her head, focusing her gaze on their joined hands before she glanced back at him. “That’s how I look at people, anyway.”

 

He rubbed his fingers across hers as he pondered her words. “I admire the way you look at people, Laurelin, and how you treat them. I find the more I learn of you, the greater is my thirst to know even more. Why do you suppose that is?”

 

She gave a self-deprecating smile and shrugged. “I feel the same about you, so I guess that means we’re destined as….soul friends?”

 

Legolas chuckled. “I have never heard of a soul friend. Do you not mean soulmates?”

 

She pulled her hair around to one shoulder and wrapped one of her few surviving hair ties around it to keep it from flying into her mouth, as it seemed to be determined to do. Then she turned her head enough to be able to look him fully in the face. “Well, to me, soulmates are your one true love that you can’t contemplate living without. Do you think we’re soulmates, Legolas?”

 

His brows furrowed in thought and he opened his mouth to reply, but she had already turned her face forward again toward the riders ahead of them.

 

“See, if you hesitate and have to think about it, then it’s never soulmates. So, that would make us soul friends. We’re kindred spirits in lots of ways, but maybe not in the most important.”

 

“Which is what, in your opinion?” He wasn’t certain he agreed with her assessment or her label for just exactly what they were to each other. He needed to ponder further on the matter before he reached a final conclusion, but he was leaning more and more toward them being meant for one another. Everything seemed to point to it, even her tattoo. If only she were not mortal...

 

“Heart fire. My definition of it. Someone who affects you so much, so deeply and on so many levels that you catch fire from it. It’s the eternal flame of the heart that can’t be quenched. There’s no denying it and no getting past it once you finally run into it. Heart fire is absolute devoted love that burns hot, and it burns forever. Passion in its truest and purest form.”

 

He frowned, strangely uncomfortable at her honest description, and by the flash of jealousy that surged through him. He did not think she had ever loved a man so deeply during her life, but perhaps he was wrong. “You speak as though you are intimately acquainted with the subject. Have you felt the kind of love that you describe before?”

 

She glanced back at him with a half smile. “Aw, don’t pay any attention to me, sugar, I’m just runnin’ off at the mouth again. I’ve always been a student and admirer of people in love, but I don’t really know much about it personally. Maybe I’ll be like Snow White, and someday my prince will come find me.”

 

He raised an amused brow. “You dream a prince shall come for you?”

 

Laurelin smirked. “I think most girls grow up on that little fantasy. We even have songs for it, like this one...”

~o~

“Some day my prince will come

Some day I'll find my love

And how thrilling that moment will be

When the prince of my dreams comes to me

~o~

He'll whisper, I love you

And steal a kiss or two

Though he's far away

I'll find my love some day

Some day when my dreams come true”

~o~

 

She exhaled a long breath, not having thought about that song or her childhood fantasies in years. “There’s more to it, but I think you get the gist of it. It’s a bunch of foolishness, all that royal fantasy garbage. I never could stand Disney princesses anyway, so I left all that behind me at the wise age of nine.”

 

He pursed his lips. “Are you saying you have something against princes and princesses? That seems surprisingly narrow-minded, coming from you. Those with such titles were born to it, they did not choose it.”

 

“Exactly,” she said with an emphatic nod. “Look, in America, we kicked royalty out on their pampered asses when we sent King George’s men back across the pond. Now, I’m not anti-royal at all, don’t get me wrong, and royals in my time are more like normal people, or...no, more like celebrities, I guess, but they don’t have absolute power over anything. But it’s the folks who raise themselves up from nothing, by their own talents, skills and hard work, they earn a lot more respect from me than someone lucky enough to be born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Make sense?”

 

“Yes, I suppose,” he said with furrowed brows. “But I do not agree with your assessment. Those born to positions of authority must also earn respect through their own hard work and actions, and be a person of integrity to be able to lead others under their banner.”

 

She looked at Aragorn riding ahead of them and thought of King Théoden as well and nodded. “You’re right. It’s not the same here, and I can’t really apply my beliefs from my world to this one. It’s just too different, so I guess I have to start with a fresh opinion. Based on Aragorn and King Théoden, I think royals here are due every drop of respect they receive. If every king were like them, then I would have no problem whatever with a monarchy.”

 

Legolas smiled. “I’m glad you are able to make a clear judgement based on your experience here, and set aside a former opinion that no longer applies.”

 

Laurelin grinned. “Ya know, I sang for a king once in North Africa. He offered me fifty camels if I would agree to become one of his wives.” At Legolas’ shocked look, she laughed. “Yep, exactly. I got the hell out of there as quick as I could get to the airport. I learned that blonde women take chances in that part of the world, and I never went back.”

 

“It is difficult for me to imagine just how far and wide you have traveled. I have never ventured terribly far beyond Greenwood before this quest, beyond the time I spent in Imladris. I think perhaps I should like to travel around a bit and see more of the world than I have before.”

 

She dragged her fingers up and down his hand around her waist in a slow caress. “If you want a travel partner, just let me know. I’m always up for going someplace new.”

 

He caught her fingers between his playfully before he released them, smiling when she continued to stroke his fingers. “Gimli also wishes to travel to some of the places we were only able to see briefly before we came to Edoras. Perhaps we three could go together, if you are not adverse to traveling in mixed company.”

 

“You know that doesn’t bother me. You’re both dear friends, and those make the best companions on any kind of trip.”

 

“Good. Something to look forward to. Or, perhaps I should say, something else to look forward to. I am still very eager to introduce you to my family, and hear your first impressions of my homeland.”

 

Laurelin gave him a warm look. “It’s a forest land, full of trees, right? I can tell you right now that I’ll absolutely love it. Lush woodland has always been my favorite type of environment. Are your trees happy when you talk to them? I bet they are with so many elves to visit with.”

 

He smiled in pride for his homeland, then turned more serious. “It is beautiful, but not all the trees live in joy. I mentioned before that we have long battled against the darkness. Servants of the dark lord within our borders in the form of orcs, spiders and evil men. It has often been wearying toil, with every two steps gained, it seems one is lost. Yet, we can do no other but continue to fight on.”

 

“That sounds tough, living life in a war-zone like that. Can I ask what your job was back home? Like, are you a high ranking leader, or someone important in your land’s army? I just assumed from how skilled you are and your carriage and demeanor that that was probably the case.” She gave him a questioning look.

 

“I have been one of the leaders of the elves of my land for a very long time,” he said with a faint smile, “and I patrol the borders and keep our people safe when I am home. I have no particular rank, though I suppose I function as one of our captains. Does that answer your question well enough?”

 

“It does that one, but I have another one. Who taught you the bow? Your daddy? I’ve never seen anyone as skilled as you, and I’m curious how you got your start.”

 

He turned sad, his blue eyes clouded and full of distant memory. “I learned the bow from my mother. Her name was Calarien, and no other in all the land could match her bow skills or swift movement through the trees. She taught me much of what I know.” His voice fell to a quiet, solemn tone.

 

“That was long ago, before she was lost in a great battle to orcs who overwhelmed her position and the company with her. She was briefly taken captive, but we were unable to reach her...before...she was executed by the enemy leader. Though my father slew him, it was already too late to save her. I never got to tell her goodbye, and I was not permitted to see her body...after. My father was nearly driven mad with rage and grief. I have only seen him that distraught one other time, when Elizabeth was briefly taken captive by orcs, before we were able to liberate her.”

 

His grief and sorrow as he spoke flowed through Laurelin like waves that she didn’t try to fight off, but welcomed, and by the time he fell silent, her chest ached and her face was drenched in empathetic tears. Lifting his hand from around her waist to her mouth to press a soothing kiss there, she tried to stifle a sob, making her voice break when she spoke. “I’m so sorry, I never meant to make you relive that.”

 

Turning her face back toward him so he could see her, he lowered his head to press a kiss to her cheek, damp with tears she cried for him. Legolas felt his heart swell with love for her, deeply affected by her gentle compassion and care for his grief. He knew she had willingly experienced his pain with him, just so he would not have to feel it alone. He closed his eyes while he rested his face against hers.

 

“Thank you for your understanding and tears, dear heart, but please do not apologize.” He opened his eyes and gently rubbed away the wetness on her face with the thumb of his free hand. “I wish to share all I am with you, especially my memories of my mother. Even the difficult ones. Do you understand? I do not wish to withhold such a large part of who I am from you merely to avoid pain. Some things are worth the pain, and this is one such instance.”

 

Reaching back, she rested her hand on the back of his head as they stared into each other’s eyes, hers filling and spilling over with fresh tears. He kissed her tears, tasting the salt of them on his lips and breathed in her sweet scent. Some emotions went beyond the ability of words and spoken language to express, and he basked in such a sharing, and the welcome release he felt from it that he had never before realized he desperately needed. He smiled and she returned it with a small nod of understanding.

 

“Your pain is mine, Legolas, as your happiness is mine. And it always will be.” She gently bumped her forehead against his and closed her eyes, leaning back more into his chest. “Heart buddy,” she whispered.

 

She was quiet for several minutes as they rode on, and he finally realized she had fallen asleep. Tucking her head more securely beneath his chin to keep her head from bouncing uncomfortably with Arod’s movement, he pressed a kiss against her hair, whispering his own words.

 

“Sleep, naur en gûren . I will watch over you.” ( Sindarin: fire of my heart )

 

~o~


 

Lyrics to:

Carry Me by Eurielle

Someday My Prince Will Come by Barbra Streisand

 


 

 

~o~

Chapter Text

 


 

By the time the riders reached the southern end of the Harrowdale valley, Laurelin was awake and aware, staring across the landscape in interest. Throughout the valley they rode through in the shadow of the mountain, there were scattered camps as far as the eye could see, with tents, campfires and horses everywhere. Carts with supplies stood here and there, and standards of many different Éored fluttered proudly in the strong breeze. It was like nothing she had ever seen before.

 

“That is our destination, up there,” Legolas said against her ear, pointing to the top of a high cliff still some distance away.

 

“Looks pretty steep. Is there a road leading up there?”

 

“Yes.” He shifted his arm around her to rest his hand more loosely at the side of her hip, just below her waist. “There is a winding path we shall take. Look there and you can see it.”

 

“Oh yeah, I see. Damn, that looks narrow.”

 

Legolas hid a smile, lightly patting her waist where his hand lay. “I will not mind holding you tight against me while we traverse it, if it will keep your fears at bay.”

 

“My fears?” Laurelin looked back at him and clicked her tongue in feigned annoyance. “I’m not afraid. I bet it’ll be a hoot riding all the way up there.” She shifted atop Arod and frowned. “Although I will be glad when we finally get there. Right now, my backside is aching as bad as all get out. I’m not used to riding such a distance, and for so many hours.”

 

“Shall I rub the aches away, once we gain your tent?” he murmured against her ear. “I feel certain I can do wonders for you with just my hands alone.”

 

Laurelin choked on a laugh and met his mischievous gaze over her shoulder. “We’re right back to that, are we? I suppose we still don’t have a clear victor to our game. Since I’m not about to let you win, I will accept your offer on one condition: equal reciprocation. You rub my anything and I get to rub yours right back.”

 

“My anything ?” he chuckled in amusement. “I’m not certain I am able to agree to yet another new interpretation of the rules of our challenge, as it seems as though it would be heavily in your favor.”

 

She shrugged and looked at him with a raised brow clearly meant to taunt. “Give me free rein to do as I like to your ears, without consequences, and you can rub whatever you want on me.”

 

“That I cannot agree to, for the simple fact that I do not truly know how I shall react, but I fear it will be instinctual and possibly beyond my conscious control. At least initially.”

 

“Really?” she asked with an interested look, glancing at his ears with obvious longing. She turned away with a sigh. “We’re back to square one, I guess. I think we’re going to end up in a draw.”

 

Legolas slid his arm fully around her waist again, settling back into their usual positions while riding together. “At any rate, I was not trying to manipulate you into letting me touch you in some intimate way, I only thought to relieve your pain. Perhaps it is better I not. Since we met and I feel so comfortable saying or doing whatever comes to mind, I have let propriety slip when I should not. I have already been berated by Elladan for my carelessness, and rightly so. You deserve all honor, Laurelin, and I apologize for any liberties I have taken that I should not have. I hope you will forgive this lapse.”

 

Laurelin gave him an exasperated look over her shoulder. “You quit that now, ya hear? There’s nothing at all wrong with anything we’ve done together. I love you and you love me, and expressing physical affection is perfectly natural, especially since we’re both natural touchers. Alright, I admit we have some obvious sexual attraction to each other that complicates a straight friendship, but we’ll figure it out eventually.”

 

She didn’t think a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement would ever be possible for either of them, and she was certain he wouldn’t want that any more than she would. She had other friends back home who had been sexually attracted to one another, but managed to keep their relationship as just friends. She would strive to do the same. Surely she was strong enough to master those urges; she would have to be.

 

“You love me?” Legolas murmured with a soft smile.

 

Keeping her gaze forward so as to avoid his perceptive eyes, she gave a brief nod. “We’ve already established that. We’re best buddies. Soul friends. Best friends forever.”

 

“And that is all you feel for me? Are you quite certain?”

 

His tone was only slightly teasing, but she swallowed nervously, feeling vulnerable and exposed. “Of course I’m sure. Why wouldn’t I be?”

 

He hummed noncommittally, repressing a smile. During all their time together, he had learned to read her tells when she was not revealing the whole truth or trying to conceal something from him, and the tight grip she had on a portion of her skirt while rubbing her thumb absently against it was one of her strongest, as was her ramrod straight posture.

 

“Relax,” he said quietly, reaching for one of her shoulders to apply gentle pressure to the tense muscles there. “You will increase your soreness if you tense up so. It’s not much further now. Have you considered what you shall sing if the king calls on you later?”

 

As she began to consider, listing several options and asking his opinion, she slowly lost her discomfort, gradually relaxing back against him, making him smile that his distraction had worked so well. Clearly, she was no more ready to admit what feelings she might have for him, anymore than he was, or rather had been. She was not aware of just how much she had shown to him in her eyes during her more unguarded moments. In time, those things would surface. There was no call to push for more so soon.

 

“That’s interesting art. Looks kinda primitive though.” She broke into his musings, gesturing toward the statues they had begun to pass on their way up the winding path to the high cliff camp for the king and his advisors, including those of Aragorn’s party.

 

“Yes, the statues are quite old. From the second age, I believe, made by men who used to live here.” Arod put on a sudden burst of speed when they turned the corner and began to descend the next section of road sloping sharply upward. Laurelin tightened her grip in Arod’s mane with a yelp.

 

“I think this fella is ready to be there and get us off his back for a while.” She patted him beneath his mane sympathetically.

 

“We must give him a thorough grooming and rub down. Would you like to help me?” His blue eyes twinkled and he smiled appealingly, flashing white teeth, and causing Laurelin to loose her train of thought at the sight. After several more seconds of openly staring at him, she shook her head trying to clear her sudden daze.

 

“I’m sorry, what? I...think I missed what you said. Your full smile should be labeled an illegal drug for females, cause I about went into cardiac arrest there. You should be more careful with something of that magnitude.”

 

Laughing softly, Legolas lifted one of her hands and pressed a kiss to her fingers. He remembered Elizabeth once making a similar comment about the power of his smile, and was glad to know Laurelin found it even more beguiling, apparently enough to cause her to become speechless. Perhaps that might be useful to know for the future.

 

“It was not important, laich. We shall be there soon.” (sweet )

 

 


 

 

After the company arrived at the high camp, including the king and his men, and saw to the grooming and care of their mounts, they all parted ways to find the tents they had been appointed to stay in. Laurelin’s was near the king’s own tent, very small, but private, which she appreciated. There was a bucket of water waiting inside near her cot, with a small towel draped over the top. She tied the tent closed and stripped off her filthy travel things, doing the best she could to clean up after the long ride.

 

Dressing in clean clothing from her backpack, she dabbed on a dot of her precious honeysuckle oil behind her ears and brushed out her hair to remove the tangles and snarls. She decided to leave it down, not willing to take any more time to braid it back as she sometimes did.

 

“Lady Laurelin?” inquired a hesitant voice at her tent entrance. She quickly untied it and beamed down at Merry, dressed in his Rohirrim armor. He examined her and grinned. “You look as fresh as a daisy, and you even smell like flowers.” He extended his arm to her with chin lifted proudly. “Lady, I have come to escort you to the fire where a meal is being served. I don’t know about you, but I’m starved.”

 

She rested her hand atop his arm and allowed him to lead her. “I’m hungry enough to eat a horse right now, Merry,” she confided in a whisper, “and I know the Eorlingas would frown on that, so just point me in the right direction.”

 

Smiling, he led her to the far side of the encampment, where Aragorn’s riders were scattered about a number of fires, eating, smoking or talking in small clusters. Several nodded as she passed, and Hathor, the only one of the Dúnedain she knew by name winked in a friendly manner, making her smile and wave back.

 

Seating her on a split log beside Gimli that served as a bench, Merry handed her a bowl of stew and a hunk of bread before sitting beside her and digging into his own. Gimli paused and gave her a shrewd, assessing look.

 

“It seems you’ve recovered well from the journey here, lass. Had a nice bit of refreshment in your tent?”

 

She nodded, chewing and swallowing before she answered. “Yep, I did. I was covered in dust from foot to crown, but I think I got most of it off. That’s something I miss like crazy from back home, and that’s hot baths. Cold water will do to get clean, but it’s not pleasant trying to get clean with chattering teeth.”

 

“We took a few cold dips in streams and rivers well before we came to Rohan, didn’t we, Gimli?” Merry looked around Laurelin to see the dwarf nod in agreement.

 

“We did.” He took another large bite of stew before continuing. “Spent a fair few mornings shivering while I walked, until my beard dried. Never did see the elf jump in the river like most of us did from time to time, but he somehow always manages to look clean and not smell offensive. I’ve yet to catch him out on his secret.”

 

Laurelin leaned closer to Gimli, dropping her voice. “Maybe he just magics the dirt away when no one is looking. I’ve seen how elves can glow and do some other odd stuff, so I wouldn’t put it past him.”

 

Gimli grunted, shoveling another meaty bite of stew in, and chased it with a hunk of bread. Laurelin grinned down at her food, getting caught up in a fantasy of Legolas waving glowing hands over his hair and body, and all dirt and filth speeding away from him in abject terror. A hand gripped her shoulder and another was laid on Gimli’s shoulder while said elf leaned his head down between them.

 

“What tales the two of you spin around the fire when you think I cannot hear. Elves bathe the same as anyone, but perhaps we are just more discreet about it.” He stood and looked down at Laurelin with a raised brow. “And I can assure you there is not a bit of glowing involved.”

 

Looking at Legolas askance, Gimli shrugged and continued eating while Laurelin frowned at the elf.

 

“Stop spoiling my happy fantasies,” she complained in English. “I like imagining you glowing in the nude, like a nightlight.”

 

He smirked, switching to the same language. “Why are you imagining me in the nude, sweet maiden?”

 

Turning her back on him, she huffed to hide her blush. “Oh, hush! It’s not like that! How else does someone take a bath? You can’t do it with all your clothes on. I sure don’t. I bathe just as naked as the day I was born.”

 

Legolas tilted his head and then frowned. “Now I am imagining you in the nude, when I had no such thought before now.” He gave her a long, considering look. “You are quite a brilliant strategist, turning my own tactics back against me. Here I thought when you first issued your challenge, it would be so simple to defeat you. To have you beg me to kiss you again, as I did the first night we were together.”

 

She scrubbed a hand against her cheek in a further attempt to cover up her high color. “Not so simple, huh? I’m telling you, I won’t fall to your temptation, handsome elf. I will never beg you to kiss me.”

 

“Never?” he asked in a low tone that made her repress a shiver of awareness. “I will certainly make you eat your own words, sweet Laurelin, and I do not say that idly. Perhaps one day when you least expect it, you shall beg. Mark me.”

 

“A little time, a little tease. A little more of your kiss, what I really need. Don’t leave me low, don’t leave me low. Don't leave me low, don't let me go. Don’t mess me up, don’t mess me up... Don't make me beg,” Laurelin sang with a cheeky smile, drawing Merry’s interest away from his food and to her.

 

“That sounds an interesting song, Lady Laurelin. But what do the words say?”

 

While Laurelin stammered out an awkward excuse about it being a really difficult song to translate, Legolas smirked and gave her a look that clearly implied she had brought it on herself. When she quickly excused herself with some made-up reason to flee, Legolas laughed quietly to himself and sat down to eat with the others.

 

 


 

 

Laurelin wandered around the camp, exploring, and peeking into the king’s large tent as she passed, admiring how homey and comfortable it had been made to look. Even away from home, a king was still a king, and she supposed some comforts were a given.

 

Seeing her new horse tied up beside a few others she knew, she crossed the open space eagerly. Holding her hand out, she approached Wynsang slowly, knowing she couldn’t assume his approval and acceptance from only one meeting. When he nickered softly and lifted his head, bumping his nose against her hand, she relaxed, patting him and running her fingers through his golden mane.

 

“What a good boy, you are,” she cooed, nuzzling her face against the side of his head. “We are going to be best friends, aren’t we, Wynsang? I bet you can even kiss every bit as well as Arod.” She glanced around, leaning nearer to her horse’s ear. “But don’t tell him I said anything, alright? He might get jealous.”

 

“One would think you a true daughter of Eorl to see how well you have learned to communicate with the horses.” Éomer smiled with faint approval as he lead Firefoot to where the king’s mount was secured, and began to remove his saddle. “Quite a marked change to when I first found you, lost and confused, and scarcely able to ride a horse without assistance.”

 

Blushing, Laurelin ducked her head. “Don’t remind me. I still shudder in horror to recall landing face-down in the muck, more than once. Hopefully, I can manage Wynsang without help.” The horse blew a breath in her face, making her smile.

 

Lifting his saddle off Firefoot and setting it aside, Éomer started to groom his horse. Pausing to give her a piercing look, he resumed brushing down his horse. “Now you are to be wed to an elf. I should never have thought it before, but seeing you with Legolas, it seems strangely...right. I hope you shall both enjoy many happy years together.”

 

Biting her lip at the new wave of guilt over deceiving those who had helped her so much, she opened her mouth to tell Éomer the truth, but then shut it, unwilling to have Legolas appear in any way dishonorable. “Thank you,” she murmured, burying her face in Wynsang’s mane again to hide her mortified blush. “I’ll see you later.”

 

Hurrying away, she followed a trail leading off from the main camp until she discovered a little sanctuary of trees. Slipping through the brush, she spun around in the small, hidden clearing between the tall trees, grinning at the find. Lying down on her back across a bed of soft leaves, she watched the clouds drifting by.

 

After a short time, she sighed and rose, retracing her steps to her tent. Spying her guitar, she pulled it out and sat down on the little cot, absently strumming chords. She was in an odd mood, teetering on the very brink of a coming war, with unknown outcomes, but still with most of the people she cared about safely nearby. Though certainly not for much longer, and fear was starting to poison the time that remained. Closing her eyes, she started to sing quietly.

~o~

“I'm scared of what's inside my head

What's inside my soul

I feel like I'm running

But getting nowhere

~o~

“Fear is suffocating me

I can't breathe

I feel like I'm drowning

I'm sinking deeper

~o~

“White light fades to red

As I enter the City of the Dead

~o~

“I feel it burning through my veins

It's driving me insane

The fever is rising

I'm going under

~o~

“Memories flash before my eyes

I'm losing time

The poison is killing me

Taking over

~o~

“White light fades to red

As I enter the City of the Dead”

~o~

 

Feeling a faint electricity race over her skin at the soft touch against her cheek, she opened her eyes and smiled up at Legolas, who was looking down on her with sad eyes. Wondering if she had made him feel that way, and hoping she hadn’t, Laurelin stood and put her instrument in the case.

 

“Were you looking for me?” she asked, turning to face him.

 

Lifting her case from where it lay across her cot, he extended his free hand to her, squeezing gently when her hand was held securely in his. He could see the uncertainty in her eyes, just as he felt the despair and hope warring for dominance in her voice while she sang. Above all else, he wanted to shield and protect her from trouble and grief. If only such a thing were possible.

 

“Come back to the fire, your presence has been missed. You can play and sing if you feel to. I know it would be appreciated by many. Or, just come and sit and visit.”

 

At her nod, they left the tent and walked across the camp together. She was silent as they walked, and he said nothing, seeming to feel her mood. Something inside her was trying to break free of her hold, and she was fighting against it, tooth and nail. She just had to keep control of the bubbling volcano inside her a little longer, and erupt in private after he was gone. Just a bit longer.

 

 


 

 

The late afternoon passed, and those who had spent time together in camaraderie around the fire had gradually drifted away to tend to chores, duties or other things, including Legolas. Somehow, Laurelin found herself all alone as dark fell, still fighting her emotions but slowly losing the battle. But since there was no one else nearby, maybe she didn’t need to fight herself right then. She had been hearing a song in her mind for hours and was desperate to sing it.

 

Settling her guitar in her lap, Laurelin kept her eyes lowered and let the song come out of her in English, knowing that no one but Legolas would even be able to understand, which was mildly terrifying, but she couldn’t keep it bottled up any longer, not after the emotional overload of the whole day. If she did, she felt like she would burst. It was entirely probable he wouldn’t even be within hearing range, anyway.

~o~

“Come into these arms again

And lay your body down

The rhythm of this trembling heart

Is beating like a drum

~o~

“It beats for you – It bleeds for you

It knows not how it sounds

For it is the drum of drums

It is the song of songs...

~o~

“Once I had the rarest rose

That ever deigned to bloom.

Cruel winter chilled the bud

And stole my flower too soon.”

~o~

She finally lifted her eyes and had them immediately captured by Legolas, who was watching her intently from just beyond the ring of light cast by the fire. Somehow, she had really known he would be right there, listening to her. His blue eyes were like a searing hot iron, burning a mark into her heart and soul, but she couldn’t look away, not with that smoldering heart fire inside her that she both loved and feared. It was much too late for retreat; she had to see it through to the end.

~o~

“Oh loneliness – oh hopelessness

To search the ends of time

For there is in all the world

No greater love than mine.

~o~

“Love,

Still falls the rain

Love,

Still falls the night

~o~

“Be mine forever

Be mine forever

Be mine forever…

~o~

“Let me be the only one

To keep you from the cold

Now the floor of heaven's lain

With stars of brightest gold

~o~

“Oh, they shine for you – they shine for you

They burn for all to see

Come into these arms again

And set this spirit free

~o~

“Love,

still falls the rain

Love,

still falls the night

~o~

“Be mine forever

Be mine forever

Be mine forever

~o~

“Be mine forever

Be mine forever

Be mine forever

~o~

“Be mine forever...”

~o~

Her own emotions overwhelmed her in a panicked instant. She tore her eyes from his, laid her guitar aside, and rushed off into the shadows. Had she ruined everything? Would he know how she felt about him now? There was no way to hold her composure together any longer or pretend distance with him, so she hurried her steps back to the winding path leading toward the solitary cluster of trees she had discovered soon after they arrived at Dunharrow.

 

Surrounded by the comfort and privacy the tall trees afforded, she tried to calm her trembling and exhaled in relief, ready to berate herself for making something out of nothing and overreacting. A warm hand wrapped around her own from behind, causing her heart to pound harder, even as her skin tingled pleasantly.

 

With gentle pressure, Legolas pulled her back around to face him, also taking her free hand so that he held them both captive while he studied her face intently in the faint glow of moonlight and starlight. A full minute passed where they did nothing but stand and stare at each other. Laurelin tried to think of something to say, but she couldn’t, all she could do was feel, and those feelings were all-consuming. Legolas was the one to break the silence, his expression more serious than she had ever seen it before.

 

Anthon 'ûr nîn anlen, Laurelin." He lifted one of her hands, kissing the tops of her fingers softly. “Sevil i veleth nîn.”

 

Briefly stunned silent by the look in his eyes when he spoke to her in elvish, she opened her mouth to ask what he said, when he took her face between both of his hands and leaned nearer, whispering other words in English. “You win, Laurelin. Please – kiss me.”

 

Sliding her arms around his waist, she searched his eyes as he drew closer. “I was just about to beg you to kiss me, so actually, that makes it a tie.”

 

He smiled in tender amusement and lowered his head further, finally pressing his warm, soft lips to hers. Laurelin sighed and closed her eyes, getting lost in the sweet fire of his kiss, and the feel of his tongue against hers, wrapped in his strong arms and held tightly against him.

 

Whether in her world or his, there was no place she had ever felt safer or happier than when she was with him. It was as though he was some vital piece of her puzzle that she had always lacked and been searching for, but never realized. She imagined she could feel his heart beating in time with hers, in a desperately urgent rhythm. He moved his lips across her cheek, trailing beguiling kisses to her ear.

 

“I could not bear to be parted from you without the vital succor of your kisses to sustain me in the days ahead, mallos.” (Sindarin: golden flower)

 

When his lips brushed against the edge of her ear, she nearly saw stars behind her closed lids, so intense was the sensation of pleasure. “Oh, God, Legolas,” she breathed, trembling from the power of his touch. “Do you really have to leave right now?”

 

He eased back from her, tracing the line of her jaw with the light touch of his fingers and smiling at her passion-glazed expression. “Soon enough. We still have a couple of hours, yet, but what time I have is yours for the taking. Would you sit here with me among the trees and let me hold you until then?”

 

She moved her hands to slide slowly up his arms and rested them on his shoulders, a shy smile curling her mouth. “Honey, I’m yours until you have to leave, and you can do whatever you want with me in that time. But are you sure you only want to hold me? I can give you a lot more than just the memory of my kiss to take away with you. If you want, you can have all of me. I’m willing….”

 

He released a ragged breath and shook his head with a tormented look, his arms pulling her close again. “Never in all my days have I been so tempted to do something I know I should not. I am certain you are well aware that your kisses are not all I would wish for, if circumstances were different.” He rested his forehead against hers and closed his eyes. “If I allow myself to begin – to indulge such strong desire...touch all of you; to taste your passion and join it to my own… I know I will lose myself in the joy of you, and responsibility and reason would fly from me on swift wings.”

 

Opening his eyes, he lifted his head and pushed back a lock of her hair with an apologetic look. “Elves can be utterly overcome by their strongest emotions and longings. I know myself well enough to guard carefully against such an outcome where you are concerned. The gift you offer to me so sweetly is beyond precious, beyond price, and it should not be squandered in haste or taken lightly. For such a treasure, I would never seek to give you less than the total worship that is your due, and that is not possible now.” Legolas looked deeply into her eyes. “Do you understand, laich? This is not a rejection, but perhaps only a postponement if fate is kind to us.” (Sindarin: sweet)

 

She focused on the embroidered design on his tunic right in front of her eyes, blushing at his words. They were more beautiful than poetry, and left her feeling warm all over at his earnest sincerity. “It kinda is a rejection...” She looked up and smiled. “But it’s the nicest one I could ever imagine, slathered in compliments and coated in kindness. I could never expect any less from a knight in shining armor, like you. You’re the real deal, armored or not.”

 

Legolas smiled, his eyes soft. “My words are offered sincerely and from my heart. I have made no attempt to flatter you.”

 

Laying her head against his chest, she relaxed into him, leaning her full weight into him and tightening her arms around his middle, wishing she never had to let go.

 

“I know,” she murmured. “I can feel it.”

 

 


 

 

Lyrics quoted from:

 

Beg by Jack & Jack

 

City Of The Dead by Eurielle

 

Love Song For A Vampire (Be Mine Forever) as covered by Karliene (don’t watch the video as it’s rather graphic and icky, just listen to the song!)

 


 

 

 

~o~

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 


 

Legolas and Laurelin found a comfortable spot on the ground, leaning against the trunk of a large tree. He situated her between his legs with her back resting against his chest and his arms wrapped around her. She ended up turning so her side was against him and she could reach her arms around his neck and pull him to her for the kisses neither of them could seem to stop indulging in.

 

“Why did we even waste time on our silly game?” She stroked her palm against his smooth cheek with a regretful sigh. “We might have had a couple more days of this if one of us had given in sooner.”

 

He caught her lips against his again, burying his fingers into the hair at the back of her head and rubbing his nose against hers as he drew back to look at her with blue eyes glowing with warmth. “It is for the best that it worked out this way. I do not know how long I could have successfully limited myself to the delight of kissing you, alone.”

 

Lifting one of her hands to rest against his, palm to palm, he laced their fingers together, slowly stroking his thumb across hers. His need to join himself to her had only grown stronger with their increased physical closeness, fraying his newly fragile control to near breaking point. Withstanding days of such temptation seemed more than he could realistically expect of either of them, and it was possible that in the areas of teasing and flirtation, they had each met their match.

 

With a sudden, mischievous thought and an excited smile, Laurelin partially rose to her knees, leaned closer to Legolas, and closed her lips over the tip of his ear. Circling it with her tongue, she felt a surge of excitement when he gripped her behind tightly with both hands and gave a low, affected moan. She didn’t even have time to let out the squeak of surprise trapped in her throat when he rolled her down onto the leaf-covered ground beneath him and kissed her with so much passion, she soon became the one moaning. He settled between her thighs and ground himself against her, caressing one of her breasts through the bodice of her dress, before he reached beneath her skirt tangled around her to follow the line of her bare leg until he touched the edge of her panties.

 

He lifted his head, ending the kiss and staring down at her flushed face while he felt along the edge of the silky fabric covering her backside. “What is this?” he asked with a dazed, distracted look, the black of his pupils more apparent than the blue, making her think of cat’s eyes in the dark.

 

That is my Victoria’s Secret bikini cut panties, with lace accent. My favorite pair, in rosebud pink.”

 

He glanced down at her bare leg where he had pushed her skirt up with a tormented expression. “Rosebud... pink?”

 

She bit her bottom lip to hold back the giggles building inside her at the look on his face. She had never seen Legolas look or act like he just had, like she was intentionally torturing him. “I guess that answers the question of what you do when I kiss and lick your ear. So, what are you gonna do now?”

 

He looked from her amused face back to where his hand was hidden beneath her gown. “I shall...stop touching you...very soon. In just a moment.” Continuing to follow the edge of her panties with his fingers, he glanced at her. “Where are the lace accents you mentioned? I feel none.”

 

Reaching for his hand, she pulled it away from her ass and boldly placed it very low on her abdomen, just above her pubic bone where the small panel of lace was. He looked up at her in surprise and she raised her brows with a cocky smile. “Do you feel that, handsome? Pink lace. It’s a special kind they make that’s soft and not scratchy. I don’t like scratchy material against my skin.”

 

Legolas drew a slow breath and watched her closely with cautious hesitancy, his eyes turning pleading while he felt across the small piece of fabric separating him from touching her intimately. “Stop me, Laurelin. You must, before I go any further.”

 

She shook her head, smiling wider in challenge. “I’m not going to stop you, sugar. I don’t want you to stop. In fact, I’m here to be the devil in your ear telling you I want you to never stop.”

 

With passionate hunger and blatant yearning in his blue eyes, he moved to kiss her again, plundering her mouth with lips and tongue while he decisively pushed aside the scrap of fabric to slide his fingers through the heat and silken wetness at her core.

 

Ai, Elbereth,” he breathed as soon as he felt how hot and wet she was. He wanted to rip away the gown that hid her body from his sight, but knew he could not give in to such madness. Nor could he join his body to hers, no matter how much he wished to. But to be able to touch her so intimately, to have her welcome it, nay, nearly demand it… This was still another of her precious gifts to be savored.

 

Laurelin moaned into his mouth when his touch sent overwhelming shocks of pleasurable sensations tingling through her. She gripped his shoulders, sliding her fingers through his soft strands of hair, arching her back when he moved the touch of his fingers to a part of her that caused her to positively see stars.

 

“There,” she whispered against his lips, opening green eyes gone unfocused from her overloaded senses. “Right there. Oh. Dear, sweet Lord! Don’t you dare stop.” She moaned again and bit her lip, her eyes sliding shut.

 

He kissed her flushed cheeks and trailed his lips to her neck, moving up to barely graze his mouth against her ear in a feather-light kiss. “I will not stop, uiveleth. I cannot.” (Sindarin: eternal love)

 

While Legolas continued to kiss her ear, and stroke her with his fingers, she started to tremble. Her quiet sounds took on a more urgent tone, making him lift his head from where he had been kissing her neck to watch her face so he could memorize the look of her pleasure.

 

“Kiss me,” she begged, thrusting her breasts up against him in reaction to what he was doing to her. He kissed her again, devouring her lips with eager passion. Keeping his gaze on her, his breath stilled in his lungs when her eyes flew open and locked with his while her release hit her in quivering waves, her body taken with the spasms he could feel against his hand. The joyful, unguarded look she showed to him freely at her peak brought a sheen of tears to his eyes at the very sight of the intimate gift that now belonged to him.

 

He slowly stilled his movement, shifting his focus once more to trying to keep his own desire contained, and after a moment he withdrew his hand and righted her clothing. Her sweet, feminine scent on his hand was nearly more than he could bear, and he just managed to stop from lifting it to his face to bask in it, or discover the taste of her by sucking it from his damp fingers.

 

Blinking slowly in sated satisfaction, Laurelin licked her lips to moisten them, pulling him close for another kiss, one full of tenderness and frank appreciation. She pushed against his shoulder until he rolled, reversing their positions so she was looking down on him lying beneath her. She kissed one of the tense muscles of his neck and glanced down his chest to where she could see the outline of his arousal straining against his leggings, feeling a renewed rush of her own desire at the sight. She slid her fingers lightly across his hardness, looking up in confusion when he took her hand and pulled it away.

 

“Why are you trying to stop me? You just gave me an earth-shaking experience, and now it’s your turn, Legolas.”

 

With furrowed brows, he shook his head. “No, that is not necessary. I only wanted to give you pleasure with my touch. I did not do it to get something back from you. I am content.”

 

She turned a pointed look back to the impressive erection he was sporting before meeting his eyes again. “You are clearly not content in your current condition, and I want to take care of that for you. Are you telling me I can’t touch you after I just let you touch me where no one else ever has? Because that doesn’t sound fair to me, at all.”

 

He searched her eyes. “You truly want to? It is not just from a sense of obligation that you would make this offer?” After watching her another moment, his lips parted in reaction. “You do wish to touch me, don’t you?”

 

Laurelin smiled teasingly. “Yes, I want to, and no, it’s not at all because I feel obligated. Stop being all noble and trying to make yourself suffer when I’m dying to make you feel as good as you just made me feel.”

 

His lips curled in a small smile and he released her hand. “Very well, if you are certain. It seems I have already well and truly shattered all my fine intentions of waiting for a perfect time and place.”

 

She nuzzled against his neck, trailing kisses there. “This is the perfect time and place, because it’s now. There’s never a guarantee of tomorrow,” she said, moving her hand down his chest again and pausing just above his belt. “Now, you just need to tell me what you prefer to have on you, my hand or my mouth? I’ll happily use either...or both, even.”

 

Ai, huitho!” he swore, closing his eyes and bumping his head against the hard ground beneath him, making Laurelin laugh softly at his reaction. (Sindarin: Ah, fuck!)

 

“Your hand, please.” He opened his eyes again, meeting her amused gaze with his own, their symbiotic sharing of humor having become as natural to them both as breathing.

 

“Are you absolutely certain that’s your preference? This is your honey-tongued vixen you’re turning aside, here. Last chance...”

 

“I’m certain, and do not tempt me with more, you siren. I have already fallen utterly to your charms.” He removed his belt when she tapped it and unlaced the top of his leggings, his breath stuttering out in a shaky sigh when she slipped beneath the fabric and wrapped her hand around him in a firm grip, before loosening it to run her fingers up and down, exploring the entire length of him with a light, curious touch.

 

“Give me your mouth, laich. Your touch is such sweet torture.” He pulled her against him and moaned in pleasure when she tugged on his bottom lip with her teeth and then sucked it into her mouth while she worked him slowly with her hand.

 

Laurelin nuzzled against his jawline, dragging her lips across his cheek and smiling when he eagerly thrust up into her hand. It was different than what she had thought it would be like to touch him. He was so very hot and overwhelmingly male, and far more generously endowed than she had realized. A needy new part of her wanted to know what it would be like to hold him with all of her.

 

“You feel like steel wrapped in velvet, sugar,” she whispered. “I can’t tell you just how much I wish I had this part of you inside me right now.” When she licked along the tip of his ear in a slow caress, he groaned her name and turned his head for her kiss again.

 

He spent long moments exploring her lips and tongue while enjoying more pleasure than he had ever known. His breathing gradually took on a ragged edge, and he pulled away from her lips, at last, just hovering near them while she looked at him.

 

Legolas held her gaze with a look of pure rapture in the vivid blue of his eyes and whispered her name as he came in powerful waves that broke over him like a wild, untamed storm, making him spill his release on the bare skin of his abdomen.

 

Closing his eyes while his heart calmed, he placed his hand over hers, finally stilling her movement. Laying her head down on his chest, she kissed his chin and watched him, happy at the newly relaxed smile he turned to her, making her grin smugly. Chuckling, he lifted her hand off of him and squeezed it, then quickly wiped himself with some loose leaves and arranged his clothing back to its usual state before he pulled her into his embrace once more. She nuzzled into his chest, squeezing him tightly in her happiness.

 

“Now aren’t you glad you didn’t turn that down? Instead of being frustrated and aching, you can start the next part of your journey with a twinkle in your eye and a bounce in your step.”

 

His smile widened. “I shall still ache most profoundly when we are parted, laich, but it will be from missing you, not from my body’s desires.”

 

“Sweet talker,” she said with a shy smile. “Here, sit up and let me pick the leaves out of your hair. It really does make you look like you just had a roll in the hay, and I don’t want anyone else to know our business.”

 

He sat up, beginning to pick leafy bits out of her hair as well. “Was this business? I thought it was pleasure, or it certainly was from my point of view. Perhaps I must put in a greater effort when next I give you… How did you put it, ‘an earth-shaking experience’?”

 

Laurelin chuffed a laugh, touching a hand against his hair, finally freed of leaves and debris, and looking its usual, immaculate self again. “If you put in a much greater effort than what you did with your magic touch, I might not survive it. Death by orgasm.”

 

“Orgasm?” he questioned with a puzzled look. “What is that?”

 

She raised her arms over her head, stretching out the muscles in her back. “That’s the name for the height of sexual pleasure, the peak, the exact moment of release. The French people even call it ‘the little death’, which now that I’ve experienced it once, I guess I understand. Amazingly powerful.”

 

He opened his mouth and then closed it, smoothing down a final lock of her hair. “I suppose Elizabeth never had a cause to teach me that word.” He smirked and shook his head. “Or, perhaps she thought I would have no need to know it. We call that moment eithel gellam in elvish, which I suppose would translate to...a well, or perhaps a spring of joy.”

 

Smiling in consideration, Laurelin gave a brief nod. “That sounds about right, and much nicer than orgasm. I think most people prefer the slang of calling it come or coming. How do you say come in Sindarin?”

 

Tolo,” he said with an amused smirk. “And tolo a nin is come with me. Do you plan to learn elvish to beguile me further?”

 

“Don’t you think I should if I’m going to go visit where everyone speaks it? Tolo a nin, Legolas. How does that sound?”

 

He leaned forward and kissed her, cupping her cheek. “It sounds adorable and perfect when you say it. I would come or go anywhere you wished me to, if you ask me in that manner.”

 

“I think I feel rather accomplished, after that. And it wasn’t even too hard...” She stopped and shook her head. “I mean, you were hard, but making you come wasn’t...um, difficult,” she said triumphantly, making him laugh.

 

“No, I imagine not, after all your teasing. To say nothing of your skilled touch.” He narrowed his eyes teasingly. “I would almost think you had studied how to give pleasure, yet such a thing would surely be out of the question for an innocent like you, would it not?”

 

“Hey, I like to read! Plus, I did mention that everyone studies sexuality as a normal part of a basic education. Just because I never thought I would use that knowledge doesn’t mean I’m completely clueless. And I’m really glad to know that elves aren’t any different from humans where it counts. That would be a crying shame to be so attracted to you, only to discover we were incompatible.”

 

In a swift movement, he tugged her forward and laid back down on the ground, causing her to land sprawled haphazardly on top of him. He raised his brows at her surprised look and kissed the tip of her nose. “The two of us are entirely compatible, lady. In every way you can think of. One might almost say we were made for each other.”

 

Her slight smile faded while she traced the line of his brow and down his cheek with a sober look. “Legolas, what did you say to me in elvish earlier, before we kissed? It sounded serious.”

 

His eyes were soft as he moved his gaze across her face, memorizing her pensive expression to add to all her other looks he had begun to hoard like treasure. “Yes, it was serious. I cannot reveal that to you just yet, but I promise to tell you all I said, and more, when we are reunited after my quest is complete. We have a great many things we must discuss when the shadow is no longer a threat. Will you wait and be patient with me until then, melethril?” (Sindarin: lover)

 

She shrugged, her demeanor turning playful again. “I reckon I’ll have to be, with you determined to be mysterious. Keep your secrets while you can. I bet I can wheedle ‘em out of you eventually.”

 

He sighed as though resigned. “I’m certain that you will, particularly now you have a good many more methods of persuasion at your literal fingertips.” He smiled at her soft laughter, and reached up to palm the back of her head and lower it to him so he could reach her lips for a slow, sensual kiss that had his blood singing hotly in his veins once more.

 

“Again?” she asked, lifting her head in surprise, making him smirk in response as she shifted against him, inadvertently grinding down on the evidence of his obvious renewal of interest. Sitting up with her straddling him, he rested his hands on her upper thighs, gripping and releasing them in a semi-caress.

 

“Elven stamina is substantial, meaning we recover quickly from all manner of bodily exertions, including those sexual in nature.”

 

She blinked owlishly, then gave him an impressed look when he somehow stood up with her still on top of him and placed her on her feet. “That was a neat trick.”

 

Shaking out his hair to remove the latest leaves he had picked up by lying on the ground again, he nodded. “You would likely be amazed by some of the things I am physically capable of.”

 

Also taking the opportunity to straighten her hair and clothing, Laurelin looked at him with a puzzled frown. “From anyone else, I would say they were just bragging, but from you, it sounds like a statement of fact.”

 

“Yes, it is,” he said absently, tilting his head at an angle. He took one of her hands in his. “Tolo, Laurelin. Elrohir is calling for me, we must go.”

 

“At least I know two or three elvish words now,” she muttered. “Gotta start somewhere, I suppose.” Her heart had started to race wildly in fear and dread. She knew he had to leave, she had known it all along, but that didn’t make her feel any less panicked or anxious at the prospect.

 

The time it took them to walk the path back from the seclusion of the trees to where Aragorn, Gimli, Elladan, Elrohir, and all the members of the Grey Company stood ready to mount and depart, went past in a flash. Merry and Éomer were standing together, also come to see the company off. Elrohir stepped forward and began speaking to Legolas in elvish, and he released Laurelin’s hand to speak with both twins.

 

She felt lost without the physical connection to Legolas, so she wandered over to Gimli with a forlorn look. She opened her mouth, on the verge of spewing sentimental nonsense at the dwarf, when she shook her head. “I don’t want to waste your time saying a bunch of useless things, Gimli, so I’ll just say the two most important: be careful, and I love you. You’re my best dwarf friend, and I can’t stand the thought of losing you, so just you make sure I don’t, ya hear?”

 

His brown eyes gleamed warmly in the reflected light of the torches that were lit or being held around them, and he smiled into his beard and gave a brief nod. “Aye, lass, I do hear you. You’re a very fine lady, Laurelin, and I’m pleased to call you my friend. When next we meet, we shall take a journey to Erebor together, and we can even have the elf come along with us.”

 

Laughing in delight, she bent down and hugged him tightly. “It’s a deal, and we can make him do all the unpleasant jobs around camp that we don’t want to,” she whispered. Gimli laughed and patted her back as she straightened.

 

“I heard that,” Legolas called from a good twenty feet away. Laurelin rolled her eyes and shared a conspiratorial smile with the dwarf, looking at Aragorn as he approached her.

 

“Lady Laurelin, I would take my leave of you, now. It has been my pleasure to get to know you during our time here and in Edoras. I thank you again for your gift of music that you share so freely. It has brought a lightness to my spirit in these dark days. Please take care of yourself, and I hope we may meet again under more joyful circumstances in the future.”

 

He opened his arms and she rushed into them, squeezing him tightly around the middle like she used to do with her Daddy. “You take care of yourself too, Aragorn, and thank you for your friendship. It means a lot to me.”

 

Aragorn took her face in his hands and bent down and pressed a soft kiss to her forehead, his eyes full of a gentle understanding, and she was certain that he was aware of her feelings for Legolas. “I will watch over him for you,” he mouthed silently, confirming her suspicions beyond all doubt. “Thank you,” she mouthed back. Smiling, he nodded, released her and went to mount his horse.

 

She felt a light touch on her shoulder and turned, meeting the twin grey gazes of Elladan and Elrohir. “Farewell, maiden,” the closest twin said, placing a hand to his heart and bowing. “It was a delight to meet you and hear songs and tales from your land. Try not to pine too much in our absence, and perhaps we may have the chance to renew our friendship in the days ahead.”

 

Laurelin smirked. “Goodbye, Elrohir. Safe journey and try not to tease Legolas and your brother too much.”

 

He grinned and shrugged, stepping back as his twin stepped forward. Elladan also bowed with a hand to his heart and a kind smile. “Lady Laurelin, it has been my joy to know you, even for this brief time. May the stars bathe you in their light, and your path be fair and free of all danger. Farewell.”

 

“Bye Elladan, and take care.”

 

She watched them walk to their horses with a faint smile, thinking she had no trouble at all telling them apart, when Legolas took her hand, capturing her attention again, and addressing her in English, as was their custom.

 

“I must go, laich.” He straightened his ring on her finger, as he had made a habit of doing, a small furrow between his brows.

 

“Oh! Here,” she interrupted, pulling off her own silver ring of vines and leaves that she had worn for many years, reaching for his hand to slide in onto his pinky finger. “Since I have yours, it’s only right that you take mine. I meant to give it to you earlier, but I got a little distracted by other things.”

 

He smiled, amused that since they had exchanged rings, they would actually be considered betrothed by elven custom, as well as Rohan tradition. His smile slipped away as he realized he could not tell her that either, not until their next meeting.

 

“I have every intention of returning for you, as you know...” He hesitated and reached for her other hand, so he held them both. “But if something unforeseen should happen and I do not return – find someone trustworthy to guide you to Greenwood and show this ring to my father, Thranduil. He and Elizabeth will welcome you and care for you in my place.”

 

Biting her lip, she shook her head. “No, that’s bad luck to talk like that, Legolas. You’re coming back, and I refuse to accept any other outcome, do ya hear me? That’s an order, buster.”

 

He chuckled and nodded. “Very well. I shall do my utmost to accede to your wishes.” He gave her an apologetic smile, full of sadness. “It is time.”

 

Throwing her arms around his neck, she buried her face against his shoulder. “I only wish we’d had more time. I wish I could tell you...everything. All the things burning a hole in me that I still need to say.”

 

Sighing, he turned his face into the fall of her golden hair, inhaling her fragrance of honeysuckle sweetness one last time. “It will keep until we meet again. Galo Anor erin râd lîn. (Sindarin: May the sun shine upon your path.)

 

He pulled away, releasing her from his embrace and already half turned away from her. Her eyes widened in sudden panic and desperation, determined to try to force the words from her throat before it was too late. “No, Legolas! I lo...”

 

Turning back to her with a fierce look in his eyes, he cut her off by seizing her face between both his hands and kissing her with passion and emotion, shocking her into silence when he finally pulled away from her lips and rested his forehead against hers. Looking searchingly into her eyes, he smiled at what he saw there.

 

Le melin, Laurelin,” he whispered, then turned and walked to Arod. (Sindarin: I love you.) When he and Gimli were mounted, all the riders with Aragorn began their journey, disappearing down the path leading deeper into the mountain.

 

Shivering in the cold wind that blew, she watched them go with tears in her eyes until they were lost to sight, lifting a hand in farewell and forcing a smile when Legolas turned to look at her a final time before rounding the curve in the road that swallowed them up. She sighed, nearly overcome with sadness, when she felt a touch on her hand and another on her shoulder. Looking up, then down, she smiled at the kind faces of Éomer and Merry, both giving her understanding looks.

 

Éomer inhaled slowly and dropped his hand. “My uncle wishes you to come and join us in his tent for the evening, Lady Laurelin. Perhaps a bit of company would not go amiss for you, now.”

 

“And I’ll be there, too.” Merry squeezed her hand before releasing her, and jerked his chin in the direction of the king’s tent. “Plus, there’s lots of food left over from dinner, if you’re hungry.

 

“Why, thank you both.” She took Éomer's arm when he offered it and smiled down at Merry. “I can’t think of a finer way to while away the rest of the evening than with such excellent companions.”

 

“I’ll sing you a Hobbit song from my land, if you like. Once we reach King Théoden, and if he’s agreeable to it.”

 

“That sounds perfect, Merry.” She glanced back at the path leading through the dark mountain a final time, then turned her face forward, toward the king’s tent.

 

 


 

 

“That’s a fine friendship you have with the maiden, Prince,” Elrohir drawled while they continued along the rocky path nearly an hour after they departed. “I don’t know why I ever thought you felt more than friendship for her. Why, I should enjoy kissing and whispering my love to all my female friends as well. Perhaps we might even start a new tradition among our people. What say you?”

 

Legolas sighed and looked imploringly at Elladan. “Can you not shut your brother up, just this once? Otherwise, I know I shall have to listen to his triumphant crowing, and an endless barrage of I-told-you-so from him for the remainder of this journey.”

 

“But I did tell you so,” Elrohir grinned.

 

Elladan gave Legolas an apologetic look. “If I have not been able to shut him up for all the years since our birth, I fear I will enjoy no sudden success in that area, now.”

 

“So, tell us,” Elrohir continued, pointedly ignoring his elder brother. “You have made your decision?”

 

Glancing between the sons of Elrond with a pensive look, he nodded. “I have, as you saw and heard, but Laurelin has yet to fully make hers.”

 

“Which she cannot do until she knows of her background and elvish heritage,” Elladan murmured with an understanding look.

 

“Yes, exactly. I wish I could have acquainted her with more about her father and her heritage, but I could not bear to tell her only some without revealing all. It seemed kinder to wait than to leave her alone in sorrow and confusion.” He sighed. “And now I must turn my mind away from these thoughts and to what still lies before us.”

 

Elladan and Elrohir shared a silent, sad look when Legolas glanced away in distraction, both of them touched but grieved by the painful path he had chosen with Laurelin, so like what their own sister had decided.

 

Gimli cleared his throat roughly from behind Legolas. “If it is any consolation, I think you have made the very finest choice in Lady Laurelin, Legolas. I offer my congratulations on your upcoming nuptials.”

 

Smiling faintly, Legolas glanced back at his dwarf friend. “She has not yet agreed to be my bride, Gimli. So, while I thank you, I fear your congratulations are still a bit premature.”

 

Scoffing, Gimli pursed his lips. “The lass loves you, ‘tis plain for anyone with eyes to see. I am sure she shall willingly grant you her hand.”

 

“I have faith you are correct. I shall ask her without delay when we are reunited. There is a tradition from her land when a man proposes to a woman that I hope to replicate to please her.”

 

“What tradition is that?” Elladan asked curiously.

 

“For the man to go down on one knee when he asks for the lady’s hand, and to offer a ring set with a pure, white gem, as a symbol of the promise between them. Elizabeth has told me this ritual has deep meaning for women from her culture, as Laurelin is.”

 

“That sounds a fine ritual,” Gimli said approvingly. “Have you such a gem to offer her?”

 

“My father has many, which I know he shall be happy to offer me for such an occasion. I will be the first of his children to wed.”

 

“King Thranduil will want an elaborate celebration for his firstborn. Elladan and I shall even willingly make the journey to share in your joy.” Elrohir smiled when his brother nodded in agreement. “How long shall your betrothal be before you marry?”

 

Legolas gave a faint shrug. “I suppose the traditional year, unless Laurelin has other preferences for an appropriate length of time, either shorter or longer than elven custom.”

 

Having slowed his horse to ride near them and listen to their conversation, Aragorn smiled at Legolas. “I wish you great joy with Laurelin, my friend. It is good to see you so happy, as you have been with her, and I think you well suited to one another. As she is still so young, you will also have many long years together, which is another blessing.”

 

“Yes.” Legolas hid the flash of pain he felt at the reminder of her mortality, but quickly recovered his smile. “I did not look to find the gift of such love amidst the darkness of our quest, yet I shall be ever grateful for it.”

 

As conversation turned to other topics and carried on and flowed around him, Legolas fell into silent musing over the future, and relived in memory his most cherished moments of time he had shared with Laurelin.

 

 


 

 

 

A quick note on my use of the Sindarin: eithel gellam...I haven’t the faintest idea what would be the elvish term or word equivalent to orgasm, so I dug around an elvish dictionary until I found something that seemed to work. The literal translation is – issue of water, spring, well...and jubilation.

 

 


 

~o~

Chapter Text

 


 

By the time Laurelin, Éomer and Merry reached the king’s tent, Merry had Laurelin laughing outright and Éomer chuckling in amusement with his colorful story of how he and his fellow hobbit, Pippin, had spent time among the Ents and trees, and even impressed them all with their spectacular and deadly rock-throwing prowess.

 

King Théoden watched them approach expectantly, accepting the cup Éowyn presented him with a nod of thanks and a tender look for his niece. Portable camp style chairs were set up near the king, and they all sat down at his invitation, with Laurelin taking the seat nearest the king.

 

Éowyn kissed her uncle’s cheek and looked between her brother, Laurelin and Merry. “I bid you all a good evening. I am weary from the journey and shall seek my rest now.”

 

Laurelin frowned, wondering why Éowyn's face looked like it had been carved from stone, while her eyes were sad. She chalked it up to Éowyn likely dreading the departure of King Théoden and Éomer, just as she herself was.

 

Each spoke a farewell as Éowyn withdrew, King Théoden's eyes coming to settle on his bard fondly. “I trust you farewelled your betrothed in a manner befitting sending a man off to fight, my dear?”

 

Chuckling, Éomer came and sat down again, having risen to fetch his own ale. “I believe the entire Mark could have been set alight by the heat of the final kiss she shared with Legolas. I daresay he shall have many fine memories to keep him content in his idle moments.”

 

“Éomer,” she groaned in helpless protest, making all three males laugh as her face darkened to a shade most resembling a ripe tomato. “I was never kissed by anyone before Legolas, my lord.”

 

“And never shall be kissed by any but him,” Éomer nodded in firm approval. “As it should be, Lady Laurelin. I suppose you have no idea of when you will wed until he returns?”

 

“We...did not discuss those details.” She bit her lip in chagrin. “But he plans to take me to meet his family when he comes back for me.”

 

Éomer raised his brows with a sympathetic look. “Surrounded by elves and their strangeness. I don’t know that I envy you that. I wonder how they shall treat a mortal woman in their midst?”

 

“Actually, they’re not so bad,” Merry said with a knowing smile. “When we were in Rivendell in the house of Lord Elrond, we were all treated very well. Given fine rooms and plenty to eat and drink. I don’t know if Legolas’ home is the same, but there’s magic in the very air of Rivendell.”

 

Laurelin leaned nearer to the king while Merry continued telling Éomer about Rivendell’s wonders. “My lord, shall I go and get my instrument and play for you for a while? I wouldn’t like to send you off without giving you a gift of my own, and I have so little to offer beyond my music.”

 

He reached for her hand, holding it gently in his large grip. “Your company is as much a gift as your music. Your instrument is there,” he said, indicating the far side of the tent where her guitar case stood upright against a chair. “Éomer brought it earlier when he found it by one of the fires. But do you wish to play? I will not ask it of you if you feel melancholy in the wake of your betrothed’s departure.”

 

She smiled, placing her free hand on top of his. “I am never melancholy when I am near you, my lord. It would be my delight to entertain you in the time that remains to us.”

 

“You are a good girl, Laurelin, and always you seek to comfort me. Go then, and bring your instrument child, for I like nothing so well as to listen to you.”

 

She pecked a kiss to his cheek and went and retrieved her guitar, sitting near the king again while she tuned her instrument quickly, then started to strum chords idly, thinking of what to play. A song came to mind, one that she knew by heart. Closing her eyes, she played through the introduction, then opened her eyes and started to sing.

 

~o~

“Fear not this night

You will not go astray

Though shadows fall

Still the stars find their way

~o~

“Awaken from a quiet sleep

Hear the whispering of the wind

Awaken as the silence grows

In the solitude of the night

~o~

“Darkness spreads through all the land

And your weary eyes open silently

Sunsets have forsaken all

The most far off horizons

~o~

“Nightmares come when shadows grow

Eyes close and heartbeats slow

~o~

“Fear not this night

You will not go astray

Though shadows fall

Still the stars find their way

~o~

“And you can always be strong

Lift your voice with the first light of dawn

Dawn is just a heartbeat away

Hope is just a sunrise away

~o~

“Distant sounds of melodies

Calling through the night to your heart

Auroras, mists, and echoes dance

In the solitude of our life

~o~

“Pleadings heard, and arias

Gently grieving in captive misery

Darkness sings a forlorn song

Yet our hope can still rise up

~o~

“Nightmares come when shadows grow

Lift your voice, lift your hope

~o~

“Fear not this night

You will not go astray

Though shadows fall

Still the stars find their way

~o~

“And though the night sky's filled with blackness

Fear not, rise up, call out and take my hand

~o~

“Fear not this night

You will not go astray

Though shadows fall

Ahh, ahhhh

~o~

“Fear not this night

You will not go astray

Though shadows fall

Ahh, ahhhh

~o~

“And you can always be strong

Lift your voice with the first light of dawn

Dawn is just a heartbeat away

Hope is just a sunrise away”

~o~

 

As the lyrics ended, she changed to a new melody, feeling something spontaneous rising inside her and began to hum softly. Her reluctance to say goodbye to Théoden was foremost on her mind after Legolas’ departure. The king was the very soul of Edoras, to her, and when he had been gone to battle at Helm’s Deep, Meduseld seemed cold and empty. He had the kindest, biggest heart of any man. How could she begin to express how much she loved him as a father and how dear he was to her? Those feelings began to form words, and she sang them out, strong emotion coloring her voice.

 

~o~

“Father, I'm here

~o~

“Can you hear my voice calling out to you?

Let it draw you back, from the battle, bold

And comfort you in this bitter cold

~o~

“If ever you feel weary or weak

Let the words of my song gently enfold

In memory and in dream, this pain is never what it seems

Reach for joy and let it speak

~o~

“On the wind my whisper shall come

Beloved Father, you are not alone

I'll kiss your brow and take your hand

And now, you're home

~o~

“In the cloud and sky the praise will ring

To celebrate your great victory

Let the riders sing of so mighty a King

This newborn hope, your legacy

~o~

“But in the failing dark, forgive me if I should shed a tear

And whisper goodbye, in sorrow or cheer

~o~

“Only know, Father, I'm here”

~o~

 

 

Stilling her strings, she set her guitar aside, too overcome by strong feelings to sing anymore at that moment, and keeping her eyes lowered. King Théoden took her hand back in his strong grip and lifted it to press a kiss there, drawing her eyes to his. His blue eyes glowed with affection and warmth, and his kind smile clearly communicated his understanding and acceptance of her strange mix of emotions, making her eyes fill with affected tears.

 

“Thank you for your song, child. I think that was the most beautiful one you have ever sung for me. I shall remember it, and keep it close when I ride to battle.”

 

Laurelin smiled and wiped her eyes, grateful for his sensitivity when Théoden turned and began speaking to Éomer, allowing her to regain her composure, but kept her hand in his.

 

Merry handed her a tankard of ale with a smile, and for once, she tipped it up and drank deep, enjoying the warm burn in her belly. Listening to the conversation of the men around her and looking out at the dark beyond the king’s tent, she hovered briefly in that moment of contentment, perched perilously between war and the unknown future.

 


 

 

Éomer stood with crossed arms, staring down at Laurelin, who was curled up in one of the larger chairs with a back, deeply asleep. In the two years he had known her, he had never seen her anything less than composed and fully in charge of herself. Seeing her in such a vulnerable state was strange, but oddly endearing, as she seemed much younger at rest, more like a girl than a woman, fully grown. He looked at Merry with raised brows.

 

“How many ales did you serve Lady Laurelin, Master Merry?”

 

The hobbit shrugged, setting down his empty mug and looking over at the sleeping woman. “I didn’t give her much. Only three. She seemed thirsty, so I refilled her glass a couple times. I’m off to find my bed now. G’night.”

 

Merry trotted off, leaving the king and his nephew to deal with the bard. Chuckling, the king came over from his table where he had been working over a map. He shook his head, sharing an amused look with Éomer.

 

“I suppose he wasn’t to know she can scarce even drink one ale without it setting her tipsy, much less three at full strength,” the Marshal mused. “I will carry her to her tent and set her abed.”

 

Théoden put a restraining hand on his nephew’s arm. “You have no cause to enter a maiden’s tent and begin any gossip of you and the lady. I am an old man, and father to her in all but name. I shall see to her. I yet have strength in my arms, and with such a slip of a girl, I doubt she is heavier than my sword.”

 

Smiling in amusement, Éomer nodded. “Then I leave her to you, uncle. I must go and speak to Éothain before I seek my own rest. I will see you at dawn.”

 

“Éomer, hold a moment more. While I have you alone, I would make my wishes known concerning Lady Laurelin. I have left instruction for all other matters with Éowyn, who shall rule in our absence, but in this I would have your word as a man and my heir.” He paused to gather his thoughts before continuing.

 

“Should the battle go ill for me, promise you will care for her. None can say if her elf shall survive to claim her. If he does not...” Théoden paused and gave his nephew a long, searching look. “Marry her yourself, Éomer. She is already a lady of Rohan, as I have made her, but as your wife, she would be truly safe and cared for. She is wise and kind, her purity unquestionable, and I know you find her comely. She could be a fine queen for you in the days to come, and grant you heirs to continue the line.”

 

Éomer’s brows furrowed in thought, and he drew a slow breath and nodded. “I will not lie and say I never had thoughts of such a possibility between Laurelin and myself. Had I ever received any encouragement from her, I should have pursued her long since. But I can only vow to take her to wife if Legolas does not live, and if she would accept my suit. If Legolas returns or she refuses me, I will still watch over her as I would Éowyn, and honor her as kin. This I swear to you, uncle.”

 

“Then let it be so, I am content with that vow.” Théoden pulled Éomer into a rare embrace and watched his nephew and heir leave the tent. Turning back to where Laurelin lay sleeping, he felt a burden lifted from him to know she would be cared for, regardless of his own fate. Even if he were to survive the battle and return victorious, he was an old man, and his days were drawing to a close.

 

Bending down, he lifted Laurelin in his arms, settling her against him easily, smiling that he had been correct about her slight weight. It was a brief walk from his command tent to the small tent given for her use. Leaning down, he lay her gently on her cot, smiling as her eyes opened groggily to meet his.

 

Fæder?” she whispered, using the Rohirric word and making his eyes tear at the endearment, as he answered her in kind.

 

Gese, hit sy Fæder. Awefecung, mín dóhtor.” (Yes, it is Father. Sleep, my daughter.)

 

She smiled at him and touched his cheek in a brief caress. “Ic fríge ðu, Fæder.” (I love you, Father.) Her eyes slipped closed again as she fell back into sleep. Théoden went down on one knee and brushed a kiss to her forehead. Pulling a warm fur over her to ward away the mountain’s chill, he stroked a hand across her hair, smoothing it off her face as he watched her a moment longer.

 

Ic fríge ðu, wúscbearn.” (I love you, dear child.)

 

Standing to his full height, he looked down and smiled at her in peaceful repose, then turned and left the tent.

 


 

 

Laurelin stumbled from her tent, holding up a hand to block the early morning light from her painful eyes and throbbing head. She knew she shouldn’t have had a refill of ale...or two. But it was just so pleasant with the slightly warm, happy fuzziness. That would be the last time she would use alcohol to bolster her spirits. She snickered at her own pun and winced as she arrived at the fire and sat down beside Merry. He took one look at her and poured her a hot cup of the strong chicory the Eorlingas used as coffee. She sipped at it, grimacing at the bitter taste, and wishing for the luxury of cream and sugar to make the taste more tolerable, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.

 

“You don’t look like you feel too well, this morning, Lady Laurelin. Didn’t you sleep well?”

 

She squinted at him, licking at her top lip where she had burned herself on the hot brew. “I slept fine, it’s the waking up part I’m struggling with. I drank too much last night and now I have a headache for my reward.”

 

He grinned and looked at her closer, noting her slightly bloodshot eyes and apparent sensitivity to light. “So that’s why you fell asleep on a chair in the king’s tent. I thought you were just tired and too lazy to go to bed.”

 

“Hey! I’m not lazy. I was...overcome.” She blushed in embarrassment. “How did I get to my tent last night? I assume you didn’t carry me.”

 

Merry slapped his leg and hooted with laughter at the suggestion of his being able to carry a big person, immediately quieting when Laurelin grimaced at the sharp sound. “Sorry! No, I didn’t carry you. At best, I might have been able to drag you. When I left, Lord Éomer and King Théoden were still with you, so maybe one of them took you?” He shrugged and snatched a sausage out of the pan over the fire, tossing it from hand to hand with impressive dexterity until it was cool enough to hold and eat.

 

She sipped at the hot drink a while longer, watching all the busyness around camp and smiling up at Éomer when he walked up and sat down, pouring himself a cup of the chicory-like stuff. Merry gathered another two sausages, biting off half as he walked.

 

“I’m off to find Lady Éowyn,” Merry mumbled around a mouthful of meat. “She said she needed my help with something.” He shuffled away, leaving the Marshal and the bard on their own by the fire. Laurelin smiled after the hobbit, wondering where in creation he put all the food he was constantly eating. She was sure if she ate as much as him, she would weigh five hundred pounds. Laurelin turned her gaze to Éomer to find him watching her with a sober look, as he was wont to do. Grinning, she leaned toward him.

 

“So, are you the big, strong man that kindly carried me off to bed last night?”

 

Giving her a smile that was nearly a smirk, he swallowed another sip of his drink. “If ever I were to carry you off to bed, you would surely be awake for it.”

 

She broke into surprised laughter. “Or if I wasn’t, I bet you would wake me up right quick, huh? More studs around here than just the horses, apparently.” Laurelin shook her head in amazement. “Who knew there was an actual sense of humor lurking under your gruff Marshal exterior, Éomer?”

 

He looked abashed, dumping the grounds of his drink out onto the ground. “Forgive me, that was inappropriate. You are an engaged lady, I shouldn’t...”

 

“Éomer,” she interrupted with a smile. “We’re friends, and you’re my oldest friend here. It’s perfectly fine to tease your friends, and I like you a lot better as a real person than with all the stiff rules and decorum. Alright? You can say anything to me, I don’t get offended. In fact, I adore a tease. Legolas can’t open his mouth without teasing. It was discovering that we had that in common that drew us closer together so quickly.”

 

Studying her face, his expression softened with a slight smile. “I think you quite a rare woman, Laurelin. I believe I regret I did not take the time to know you better, as I could have these past two years. I have also never thanked you for defending me so...colorfully, when I was imprisoned, even sharing my punishment. There are few women who would brave discomfort for a man, as you did.”

 

“Sure there are,” she said with a wide smile. “There are lots of women who would brave just about anything for a man they cared for. That’s what friends do. Plus, I do owe you my life too. If you hadn’t found me, I know I wouldn’t have lasted long out there on my own.”

 

He shook his head, his hazel eyes growing more earnest. “There is no debt between us. If there ever was, you have long since repaid it with your care for my uncle. I wish to thank you for that.”

 

“You uncle is one of the very finest men it has ever been my privilege to know, same as you. Good stock you come from.” She stared off toward the king’s tent, smiling softly. “I love him dearly. He’s been so good to me, just like a father. I wish he didn’t have to go off to fight, but I know that’s what kings have to do. I just...I’ll miss all of you.” She looked back at the Marshal, reaching a hand out to him, which he clasped in his own. “I know I have no right to ask anything of you, but I hope you’ll promise me to be careful, as much as is humanly possible. It would grieve me if anything happened to you, Éomer.”

 

“I will gladly make that promise to you, lady. And it was the king who carried you to your bed last night.” He smiled with a teasing twinkle in his eyes that she much preferred to his stern expression he wore habitually. “He did not wish me to open either of us up to gossip by my carrying you into your tent and putting you to bed.”

 

Her memories rushed back of what she had thought was a dream with the king, and she smiled happily. “Fæder,” she murmured. “I remember it was him now.”

 

“Your Rohirric improves.” He released her hand, preparing to rise.

 

“Not really.” she said, smoothing the skirt of the dark green gown she wore. “I can only say a handful of things, and understand just a little more than that.”

 

Canne êow becnâwan ð¯ær and there yfel secgan êow yfel ymbðeahtian êow a ranc ðêah frêolic f¯æmne? (Can you understand when I tell you I think you a noble and beautiful woman?)

 

She twisted her lips and shook her head. “I don’t have any idea what you said, sorry.”

 

“Probably for the best. I must take my leave of you now, Lady Laurelin, and I do not think I will see you again before I depart. I must go and lead my Éored.” He stood to his full, impressive height, and Laurelin stood and looked up at him.

 

“Am I allowed to hug you, or would that be too inappropriate?”

 

Smiling, he brushed her hair back over her shoulder on one side. “I will give you the same parting embrace as I give my sister.” Taking her face between his hands, he leaned down and kissed her softly on her forehead before he released her and stepped back.

 

“Forehead kisses are nice, but I prefer neck hugs like we use back where I come from.”

 

Éomer tilted his head, considering. “That is a tradition from your land?” At her affirmative answer, he nodded decisively. “Very well, teach me.”

 

She grinned widely and threw her arms around his neck and squeezed tightly, then planted a quick kiss on his bearded cheek. Stepping out of his arms, she clasped her hands in front of her demurely.

 

“Well? Which tradition do you prefer, yours or mine?”

 

He considered briefly. “I think they have equal merit, though perhaps I do prefer yours, or your enthusiasm, at least.” His hazel eyes shone with faint amusement, and the slightest hint of teasing. “I think your Legolas is a lucky elf. Farewell, Laurelin.”

 

Laurelin watched him walk away, finally turning to go for a walk of her own. The sky was blue and full of soft, fluffy clouds, promising a fine spring day. She ended up following the path back to what she considered her and Legolas’ spot among the trees. Sitting down with her back against the very same tree as where they had sat together, she closed her eyes and relived it all, sighing as she finally rose to retrace her steps to camp. She found Merry poking a stick into the fire with a disgruntled look.

 

“Hey Merry, what’s the matter? You look like someone stole your last sausage.” She came and sat beside him on the log bench.

 

He exhaled and threw the small stick aside. “The king has forbidden me to go to the battle with them, as he thinks I shall be a burden. ‘Tisin’t fair, really.”

 

Laurelin gave him a sympathetic nod. “Well, look on the bright side. You can come back to Edoras with Éowyn and me, to keep us safe. Someone has to stay behind to guard all us womenfolk. You don’t think that’s a noble and worthy task for an Esquire of Rohan?”

 

Merry stared at her with a sober, thoughtful expression. “I suppose you do need someone to protect you. You’re not a shield maiden like the White Lady, are you?”

 

She shook her head emphatically. “Absolutely not. I can’t fight the way you all do here.”

 

Éowyn approached them, looking no less grim than when Laurelin had last seen her the previous night, but her eyes looked more hard than sad. “Laurelin, the king summons you to attend him in his tent. They will soon depart. I have already bid he and my brother farewell, but you must hurry if you are to do the same.”

 

Laurelin stood. “Thank you, I’ll go right away.” As she started off, she heard Éowyn address the hobbit.

 

“Merry, come with me. I shall need your help for a while.”

 

When she entered the king’s tent, he was fully armored, with his sword sheathed at his side. He looked entirely majestic and lordly, and Laurelin curtsied automatically when he turned to look at her. He held his hand out to her, and she went and placed hers in his.

 

“How did you sleep, my child? No illness this morning, I trust?”

 

She blushed and looked down. “I slept just fine after you tucked me in so nicely. Thank you, my lord, I apologize for drinking too much and falling asleep like I did.”

 

“I think you are entitled to have a few ales in the circumstances.” His blue eyes twinkled in a gentle tease.

 

She laughed. “Well, thank you for overlooking my foolishness, but I won’t be doing that again. I did have a bit of a headache this morning. I’m just not cut out for drinking. I’ll stick to ale-flavored water in future.”

 

He squeezed her hand and released it. “I would say my farewell to you now, Lady Laurelin. You are to depart with the riders that remain behind under the command of Erkenbrand to protect Rohan in my absence. He shall see you safely back to Edoras, and I wish you to remain at Meduseld until I or Éomer return. If we are victorious, we will need the songs of our bard to help us celebrate.”

 

Resting a hand against her cheek, Théoden gave her a compassionate look. “But, if I do not return, you must promise not to grieve too deeply for an old man. Live your life in joy, for much lies ahead of you. Marry and be happy.”

 

Laurelin’s eyes filled with tears and overflowed. “I can’t promise you that, I’m sorry. What daughter wouldn’t cry for her father to return home to her? But I will promise to wait and hope in Meduseld, and look always to your return. And don’t forget... Ic fríge ðu, Fæder, ic fríge ðu.” Her voice broke and he pulled her against him, stroking a hand down her unbound hair.

 

“Sweet child of my heart, I know partings are a difficult part of life, and you have had many of them of late, but you must dry your tears now and be brave. Let my last look of you not be one of grief, but joy.”

 

Hurriedly wiping her face, she forced back the rest of her tears, and looked up to meet King Théoden’s blue eyes with a smile, noting they were suspiciously moist.

 

“Keep company with Éowyn, Merry and Erkenbrand after I am gone, and take meals with them. I do not want you to sit on your own in your tent and wallow in sadness, and wear down to nothing but skin and bone.”

 

She laughed in sudden delighted amusement. “You really do know me well, don’t you? I promise to obey.”

 

He nodded in satisfaction. “And lastly, do not neglect Wynsang. A horse wants to be ridden, and you will find comfort in him. That is why I picked him for you.” He leaned down and kissed the top of her head and held her face in his hands, taking in the sight of her smile for the last time. “Farewell, Laurelin. Béma keep you safe from all harm.”

 

Wrapping her arms around his neck, she kissed his cheek and pulled back to meet his eyes, sure to keep all sadness from her face. “The Almighty watch over you, my Lord King, and bring you victory.”

 

Théoden strode from the tent and mounted Snowmane, saddled and waiting for him. The call to ride was given, and the sound of thundering hooves filled the valley as the host departed for Gondor.

 

Laurelin stood on the overlook at the edge of the cliff, watching for the better part of an hour. Sighing, she finally turned back toward the camp, thinking to go and find Merry and Éowyn, feeling desperately in need of company. It would probably be a nice ride back to Edoras. Éowyn was funny and pleasant to talk with when she wasn’t angry, and Merry was always amusing and personable. With those thoughts in mind, she set off to track down her friends.

 


 

 

Erkenbrand entered the king’s tent hours after the riders departed for Gondor, eyeing the young woman who was waiting for his return. When she looked at him hopefully, he shook his head.

 

“They are not in the camp, and Lady Éowyn's horse is also missing. I think it’s quite obvious where they have both disappeared to. You knew nothing of their plans, either the hobbit or Lady Éowyn?”

 

Laurelin stared down at the tent floor glumly. “No, neither of them said a word to me. King Théoden told me to stay with them, and we would all return to Edoras together. If they are not here… I suppose I’ve been left behind to wait and wonder on my own.” She met Erkenbrand’s eyes again. “I guess if you don’t need me, I’ll go to my tent until dinner.”

 

“That is fine, lady. A rest will likely do you good.”

 

She went back to her tent for the first time since she left it that morning, stopping to stare at her cot. On top of the thick fur lay a gold, jewel-crusted hair ornament that she had seen Éowyn wear many times, and underneath that, a bundle of cloth. Picking up the ornament, she set it aside and unfolded the fabric, gasping at the beautiful sheer white gown, lined in gold thread around the neck and cuffs. When she held it up against her, it was obvious it had been made to fit her.

 

Sinking down onto the cot, she picked up the hair jewel and stared at it in her hand. Had Éowyn left those things for her? Was it meant as a final goodbye, and she wasn’t intending to come back? Or, why else would she give away something as precious to her as the hair comb? Or, maybe it was a message.

 

“Boudica,” she whispered. “Oh, Éowyn, what have you done?”

 

Feeling responsible, Laurelin bent her head down and lifted the hair jewel to rest against her forehead, weeping frightened tears of sorrow and regret.

 

 


 

 

 

Lyrics to Fear Not This Night, from Guild Wars 2, as sung by Asja Kadric.

 


~o~

Chapter Text

 

 


 

 

The Black Corsair ship that sailed the river Anduin onward toward Gondor rose and fell with the rhythm of the waves beneath it. Legolas stood on the deck of the ship’s prow, absently adjusting his balance to the rise and fall, and gazing forward to watch the undulating movement of the water. It was a hypnotic sight, fair and pleasing, but as the cry of another gull came to him on the wind, he smiled, for it held no power over him.

 

When he had first smelt the scent of salt on the breeze, and heard the crash of the waves and the call of the birds, he had felt the fabled sea longing, much spoken of among his people, and that Lady Galadriel had warned him of. It burst over him, sharp and intense as the water breaking on the shore urging him to follow. Then just as swiftly it withdrew, like the tide sweeping out to sea once more and taking all urgency with it.

 

When he searched inside himself, he could still feel a faint echo of it, as a distant memory. Yet, it was nothing more than vague inclination. One day, it would likely come to the forefront again, but in the meantime, his one, true longing remained Laurelin. That was what flowed from his heart and filled his entire being, leaving space for little beyond.

 

In his mind, she sang to him, the siren’s call of her blocking out all else, until all he could see was her, all he could hear was her. He wanted to do as the words to her song suggested, which floated so pleasantly in his mind, but changing slightly to be more relevant: 'Carry me to my love. O'er the sea to the land beyond, where I know she's waiting for me. Carry me to my love.'

 

Giving in to the urge, he began to sing it out softly in English, feeling a warmth spreading through him until he fell silent again. Turning, he smiled at Elladan who had come to stand beside him, also gazing out over the water.

 

“Where is Elrohir?”

 

Elladan crossed his arms. “Resting for a time. Should you not do the same?”

 

Legolas brushed back a strand of hair that the wind tossed over his eyes. “I am not weary. The sound and smell of the sea invigorate me, and the hush of the night and dark grant refreshment enough.”

 

“Neither do I feel a need of rest, at present.” Elladan slanted a look at his friend. “Are you well? When first we approached the sea, I thought you seemed affected by it.”

 

Licking across his lips, Legolas tasted the faint salt tang there from the spray that blew up from the higher waves. “Perhaps I was, but no more.” He smiled, thinking of Laurelin. “I am well.”

 

“Your thoughts turn often to your maiden. Do you worry for her?” Elladan asked, turning his grey eyes to the stars above.

 

“I do.” His brows furrowed. “I fear she shall suffer loneliness in Edoras until I come again for her. Though I know Lady Éowyn remains there too, they are not as close in their friendship as others Laurelin cares for, but perhaps that will change and they will take comfort from one another.”

 

Elladan nodded slowly. “She has lived among the people there for some time, Legolas, and is comfortable enough among them. I am certain you have little need to worry for her in that way. She has the strength of spirit to endure much, I think.”

 

“Why do you feel this?” Legolas asked curiously, turning more to observe Elladan’s expressions.

 

“It is my impression from when I was healing her.” Elladan clasped his hands behind his back, turning thoughtful. “In younger elves, always there is a feeling from their faer that is light, quick and free-flowing, much like water from a river that runs fast. But in elves who have lived long years, it is different. The spirit is more dense, like a thick, heavy syrup; still it pours, but much slower and with far greater weight. My Naneth-nana and Naneth-ada have that feel to them.” He turned serious eyes to Legolas. “Laurelin feels much the same.” (Sindarin: Mother’s mother, Mother’s father)

 

“But she is so young.” Legolas shook his head. “And to me, she feels young.”

 

“She is undeniably young,” Elladan agreed. “Yet I know what I felt, although I cannot explain it. It would be interesting to hear what my Naneth-nana would think of her.”

 

Legolas tilted his head. “That would be interesting. Perhaps I may have the chance to take Laurelin to Lothlórien some day.” He took a step closer to the elder son of Elrond. “While we have time to pass, I had something I wondered if you would help me with, Elladan.”

 

“Of course,” Elladan smiled. “How may I assist you, Thranduilion?”

 

The prince bit his lip before releasing it. “I would like you to show me a bit more...on how to heal.”

 


 

 

Laurelin stood beside the top stair of Meduseld with her arms crossed, looking out over the surrounding plains. The main herd was running far to the east that day, and she watched it in a kind of detached numbness that she hadn’t been able to shake since returning to Edoras nearly a week before. Every day, and nearly every hour, she wondered where all her friends were, where Legolas was, or what the king was doing at that exact moment. Were they safe? Had they been victorious?

 

The waiting was difficult, but that wasn’t the worst. Since she had woken up that very morning, she had been on the verge of tears. All day long, a dread had been growing inside of her; a spreading cancer of fear and denial. That same feeling she had so many times throughout her life when tragedy or disaster loomed. Something terrible had happened, or was about to happen, and she looked constantly for riders to bring news, but at the same time, she prayed none ever came.

 

If that warning feeling could only be wrong this one time, the time that it mattered most. She couldn’t even admit to the possibility of anything having happened to Legolas. He was larger than life, untouchable by danger, a super hero in the truest sense. If her dread was because of him...she would crumble into dust. Her heart would cease to beat. So she shied away from thoughts of it being him, which left...everyone else she cared about.

 

Arriving back at Meduseld with Erkenbrand and his men had been a strange experience. The red-haired man in charge was brusque with her and had no interest at all in music or song, and because of that, she hadn’t cracked open her guitar case or pulled out her violin and bow even once. He and his men left her entirely to her own devices, which she appreciated, but it also caused some confused angst as she was at loose ends with nothing whatever to occupy her time.

 

In many ways, it felt like she had gone backwards to the days when Gríma was a constant menace, and she tried to make herself as invisible as possible. With the king gone, along with Éowyn and Éomer, there was no one left to care if she took regular meals. No one to notice the dark circles under her eyes or the heaviness of her steps. She really was invisible, because no one bothered to see her.

 

Laurelin had tried to obey the king and take meals and visit with others in the main hall on the first night, but it was always full of Erkenbrand’s men, and they only spoke Rohirric among themselves. It emphasized once again that she was an outsider, and unwelcome to all but a few. After that, she kept her distance and ate in the kitchen with the servants. At least, she did when she could force down any food at all, and with her stomach tied in knots with anxiety and worry, she couldn’t manage much.

 

In the wake of all that, the top stair and platform overlook of Meduseld had become her daily haunt. Sometimes for hours, she would stand there and watch for riders or anything of note on the horizon, but every day was the same and no news came. She wondered if she could go mad from the waiting.

 

Sighing, she turned to wander down to her trees when something caught her attention from the corner of her eye. Turning to the southeast, she focused on what she could clearly see of a single rider. Like a statue, she watched the man approach, dressed in the armor of a Rohan soldier.

 

She followed his progress with her eyes all the way to and through the gates of Edoras, where he came to a stop at the base of the stairs of Meduseld. Dismounting in a hurry, he rushed up the steps, two at a time, an undeniable urgency to his demeanor. Laurelin found herself holding her breath as he strode past her and straight through the main door.

 

Unnoticed, as usual, she slipped in the door behind him and moved to the corner nook in the back of the hall. The same one she had once sat beside Legolas in a lifetime ago. From that vantage point, she could both see and hear, and leaned forward in anticipation when the soldier stopped before Erkenbrand with a brief bow.

 

“Lord Erkenbrand, I come to bring news of the battle at the behest of King Éomer. The battle is won, but Théoden, King of Rohan has died on the field of battle outside Minas Tirith. He fought the Witch-King and perished from his wounds. The White Lady, herself, vanquished the Witch-King and lay unconscious from her wounds, and I know not if she has lived or died in the days since I departed to ride here. She was taken to the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith, and King Éomer remained with her.”

 

Everything else the messenger said was just noise as Laurelin sagged against the wall. Dead. The king was dead. Gone. He would never ride back through the gates of Edoras in victory, as she had desperately hoped, or smile his kind, gentle smile at her when she sang for him. He was never coming back. Never. How could it be so final?

 

And Éowyn too? If Éowyn died it would be her fault, and no escaping it. She had sung her the song of Boudica, and told her about modern women in warfare from her world. What could she do? How could she stand these terrible truths?

 

She had to….get away.

 

Rushing to the doors, she pushed one open and jogged down the stairs, breaking into a run to reach the stables and her horse. Opening Wynsang’s stall, she led him to a wood mounting block and climbed on his bare back, shunning a bridle and saddle for the first time in her urgency.

 

“I need to get out of Edoras, Wynsang,” she whispered to him in English. “Please take me now.” She grabbed handfuls of his golden mane and bowed her head as he trotted away from the stables and through the gates, starting to run as soon as he cleared them. Leaning into her horse as she had learned to do from Legolas, she released the first sob of grief. More rose like bursting bubbles in a boiling cauldron of pain and loss, choking her, strangling her, until her breath was short and she started to feel faint.

 

“Wynsang, stop,” she croaked with a cracking voice. When he came to a gentle standstill, she slid down from his back and landed in a heap on the ground, bending over and laying her face against the long grasses that waved in the breeze. Closing her eyes and giving in to more weeping from the deep pit of black sorrow inside, she wondered if she would survive the pain. Every part of her felt cold and hot. The sun was too bright, the wind too sharp against her skin, and every second that passed was an eternity of drawn out anguish. Her heart beat painfully inside of her, like someone was stabbing her over and over with shards of broken, jagged glass.

 

Could you die of grief? She was pretty sure you could, and she knew you could die from a broken heart. Hers felt busted wide open, leaking away her former happiness as though it had never been, and every minute she almost expected to see blood coming from her mouth from the severity of her invisible wound. Turning over, she laid flat on her back and stared up into the sky. Clouds drifted lazily past in an endless parade of white, in odd shapes.

 

Maybe love was a curse. To love was to risk and gamble, but what could she do? It was something she herself craved, so how could she fail to give it in return? And Théoden had told her not to grieve for him. She laughed at the absurdity, the sound turning into an animal wail of pain as she rolled on her side and curled into a ball. She didn’t want to feel anymore; she needed escape.

 


 

 

Wynsang bumped her shoulder, then lipped at her face until she opened her eyes, realizing she had fallen asleep on the open plain. By the position of the sun, she had been out for hours, and dusk was fast approaching. Sighing, she pushed herself upright and tried to brush the dirt and plant matter from her face and hair. When that seemed more effort than it was worth, she stood to her feet and looked around. Apparently, she had ridden quite far from Edoras, and hadn’t even realized. Her stomach gave a sick flip when she thought of going back to Meduseld and all the ghosts of that place, ready to haunt her. She wrapped her arms around her horse’s neck and kept her gaze on Edoras.

 

“I don’t want to go back, boy,” she whispered to her last remaining friend. “Not ever. I want to climb on your back and ride far, far away from here. I don’t know where I would go, but...” She paused in thought, as the only place she wanted to go that was an actual possibility came to mind. “I would go to Greenwood. Go meet Elizabeth and listen to elves sing. If only I knew the way.”

 

Turning toward her horse to stroke more of his mane, she had a sudden realization. “Shit. Wynsang I don’t know how to get on your back without a saddle or something to stand on. What am I gonna do, walk all the way back to Edoras beside you?”

 

He blew a gentle breath in her face and lowered himself until both of his front legs were bent under him in a bow and she could reach his back. She kissed his nose and looked into his sweet brown eyes. “I love you, buddy, you’re the best.”

 

Carefully, she climbed onto his back, holding on tight as he regained his footing and started to trot back toward Edoras. She encouraged him to increase his pace to a run, then slowed him again when they approached the gates. As they rode up to the stables, Laurelin felt like the walls were closing in around her. After grooming Wynsang herself and making sure he was fed, she walked slowly back to Meduseld, feeling tired, sore and at least a hundred years old.

 

Avoiding looking at the king’s throne, where she had sat and played and sung for Théoden more times than she could count, she headed down the steps to where her room lay and locked herself inside. She changed into something soft to sleep in, climbed into bed and curled up into a ball again. Closing her eyes, she prayed for the escape of sleep, hoping she wouldn’t wake again anytime soon.

 


 

 

After two days of scarcely leaving her room, eating nothing and drinking little, Aesa, the main cook of Meduseld came and pounded on her door, demanding Laurelin come out and eat. In the days that followed, and at the cook’s insistence, the bard started taking regular meals in the kitchen again, but she was also frequently given additional treats, over and above the usual fare. Such things as fresh bread slathered in fruit preserves, sweet pies with the flakiest crust, and the candied yams she knew Laurelin had always had a weakness for. Two weeks later, after cleaning her plate of a slice of apple pie, Laurelin looked over at the cook to find her watching her with eagle eyes.

 

“You’re trying to make me fat, aren’t you?”

 

The buxom woman pursed her lips and nodded, answering in her thickly accented Common, as she usually spoke Rohirric. “Yes, you need to fatten. Your man will not want to marry you if he comes again here and you are more stick than lady. Even elf want something to hold onto, I think.”

 

Laurelin snorted, amused in spite of herself. “Is that right? Well, you sound like you know all about what husbands want.”

 

The cook stopped cutting the carrots in front of her long enough to point her knife in Laurelin’s direction and wave it in emphasis. “Yes, I know. Fifteen years I have marriage to my Leidorf. He a good man and I keep him happy.” She waved a free hand at her large bosom and gave the bard a confident nod. “Men like big these. If you want to please your husband, you will eat more and grow bigger there. Then he will give you babies. I have three babies,” she said proudly. “All boys, fine and strong.”

 

Nodding, Laurelin smiled, faintly amused at the fiction of Legolas actually being her fiance and turned on by a big set of knockers on her. He didn’t strike her as a boob guy anyway, though she remembered he had copped a feel when she licked his ear. So...maybe?

 

Pushing the crumbs around on her empty plate, the temporary distraction of her thoughts dimmed and she felt her ever present grief rising again to the forefront. It was touching to Laurelin that Aesa had noticed her fading away and did something about it, but eating more didn’t change anything else about the pall that still hung around her like an invisible cloud.

 

“You must stop sad over king,” Aesa said, cutting into her thoughts. “He not want you make sick for him. He good king, want happiness for you. You understand? To honor king, you must live happy life.” She scrutinized Laurelin, giving her a shrewd look. “He tell you this, yes?”

 

Laurelin looked away, seeing the kitchen blur from the tears that filled her eyes. “Yes,” she said in a thick voice. “He did tell me that. But it’s hard to do right now. He was... Fæder,” she said, using the Rohirric word and drawing a sympathetic look from the cook.

 

Gese, Fæder.” (Yes, Father) The cook let out a stream of Rohirric that had Laurelin staring at her in bafflement, until she tried again in Common. “Father’s wishes for you must be heeded. You grieve for time.” She held up her hands, holding them a foot apart. “You be sad for this long, then you move on. You feel too much, must learn to harden heart.”

 

Laurelin stood and smiled politely, full up on both food and well-intentioned advice for the time being. “Thank you for the pie and the talk, Aesa. I appreciate your kindness to me. I’ll see you later.” Aesa waved in acknowledgement and turned back to her work.

 

Laurelin climbed the steps and went outside, feeling drawn back to her previous perch she had spent so many hours occupying daily before the awful news came. Looking out on the land, she tilted her head curiously when she saw a line of carts, horses and people heading for Edoras. She knew exactly what it was, as she had seen several caravans come through during her time living in Meduseld, and the weather was warm enough again to encourage merchants to travel and sell their wares.

 

A thought took root in her mind in that moment. She had been waiting many weeks for Legolas, and who was to say he would even come for her anytime in the next several months? Did elves ever get in a hurry to do anything? Plus, he might still be busy for a long while yet with whatever quest he had to finish. If the caravan was going to wherever Greenwood lay, maybe she could go along. It was worth asking about, anyway. The worst that could happen is they wouldn’t go anywhere near it, and she would just have to sit on her hands and wait out whatever amount of time it took for Legolas to come get her.

 


 

 

Clutching a letter tightly in her hand, Laurelin approached Erkenbrand. She cleared her throat to get his attention, smiling tentatively when he turned away from his men he was speaking to, in order to face her.

 

“Lady Laurelin, is there something you need?”

 

“Um, yes.” She looked down at the pink envelope in her hands. “I’ve decided to leave Edoras with the caravan that’s passing through. They’re heading out in the morning, at daybreak, and I’ll be with them. I wonder if you would mind giving this letter to my...my betrothed, when he comes for me? I’ll probably already be with his family in the elvish city by the time he comes here to get me, but he’ll need to know. It’s...uh, the elf, Legolas.”

 

The big man gave her a long look before holding his hand out for the note, which she quickly handed off to him. He drew a deep breath, his auburn brows carving deep lines in his face when they drew together. He shook his head, frowning in disapproval.

 

“Are you certain you do not make a grave mistake departing here in the company of such people? There are not likely to be any warriors among those peddlers and merchants. Though you be a lady of Rohan, as King Théoden made you, I cannot spare men to travel with you for your protection, as much as I would wish to. With so many away to battle, I am already short on warriors. Were you my daughter, I assure you I should not permit you to stir one step outside the city gates without a proper escort.”

 

Two full years worth of annoyance from medieval male, bullshit and coddling came to a head in that moment, and her mouth tightened in anger. “Thanks for your concern, Lord Erkenbrand, but I assure you, I am my own woman and I make my own decisions. I traveled far and wide for many years before I came to Edoras, and I don’t expect this journey will be all that different. I will say farewell now, as I doubt we’ll speak again before I leave.” She planned to make a hasty retreat, but Erkenbrand laid a restraining hand on her shoulder and pursed his lips before speaking again.

 

“I do not know you well, lady, but I have heard some talk of you here in the city these past weeks. You are clearly a true-hearted woman, who our king held in high esteem to raise a foreigner like you to a position of respect. I have seen your obvious grief since news of our lord’s loss, and I honor you for your commendable devotion to him. Though I still think you make an ill-advised choice in departing, as you say, it is yours to make.” He reached for her hand and bowed over it. “I wish you well on your journey, Lady Laurelin, and fortune in all your days to come. Farewell.”

 

Touched by his words, all the irritation drained from her and she smiled sadly as he released her hand. “Thank you.” She nodded a final time and went to the stairs, intending to finish her packing and say her own private goodbyes to her two years of life among the Eorlingas.

 


 

 

It had taken more effort than she thought it would, but Laurelin managed to get all her things she wanted to bring with her into her traveler’s backpack. Finding a way to transport her instruments nearly turned into her walking and having Wynsang carry them, but the burly caravan leader had found a cart with room, and allowed her to stow her things there so she could ride her horse instead.

 

When she had discovered the merchants followed a set route, which took them past Legolas’ home and ended at the city of Dale and dwarf realm of Erebor, where she knew Gimli came from, she had immediately thought it was a sign. She very quickly inquired about joining the group to travel along with them.

 

At first, she hadn’t understood they were going near Legolas’ home, as she wasn’t familiar with a place called Mirkwood, thinking that sounded pretty ominous, but after asking where Greenwood was and them listening to her describe everything Legolas had told her of it, the merchants seemed to know just what she was talking about. Apparently, Mirkwood...or Greenwood, same place, was ruled by a very proud and powerful king, and the merchants had traded there in the past.

 

But the most interesting thing the caravan had brought with them to Edoras, was news and gossip. It seemed people everywhere were talking about the defeat of the dark lord, Sauron, and the brave fellowship that had accomplished the valorous and daring deeds. The heroes were said to be an elf, a dwarf, a wizard, a man, and a handful of hobbits. Laurelin had smiled when she first heard that, certain it was her friends that everyone spoke of. Further, she had been overjoyed to hear that the White Lady who vanquished the Witch-King – who Laurelin thought sounded terrifying – was alive and well, having recovered from her wounds.

 

The guilt she had been carrying over Éowyn had eased some then, and it made her glad to know that brother and sister still had each other. Éowyn would probably be invaluable to her brother when they returned to Edoras as he began his rule there as the new king. It was likely for the best that she wouldn’t be underfoot to cause problems for Éomer, and she felt he would have no use for a bard, never having been as interested in her music as Théoden.

 

As she rode along with all the carts and others on horseback that day, her mind wandered back to thoughts of Gandalf, Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas, and even little Merry. She hoped they were enjoying some well deserved rest wherever Minas Tirith was. Laurelin had always heard references to Gondor, but with such slow and primitive travel methods, it always seemed so far away. Maybe one day she would be able to travel there and see their capital city, which she had sometimes heard described as wondrous.

 

According to the caravan leader, they had many weeks of travel ahead of them before they reached the edge of Mirkwood, so she steeled herself for discomfort and hardship of a similar kind to when she trekked through the bush in southern Africa. Hopefully in the end, it would all be worth it once she reached the elves. Patting Wynsang, she started humming a tune for her horse to walk to.

 


 

 

The caravan seemed to travel agonizingly slowly compared to the speed Laurelin had become used to enjoying while galloping on Wynsang, instead of staying to a walk or trot as she was forced to do to keep from outpacing the slower wagons and carts. Still, the landscape was pretty, and seeing fresh places kept her engaged enough to ignore the pain in her heart at her continued grief any time her thoughts drifted back to King Théoden.

 

When dark fell, the wagons and those on horseback, like her, had already set camp for the night. She continued to stay near a decidedly taciturn dwarf with a big sword that she had attached herself to, right out of the gate. He made no objection to her presence at his fire the first night she joined the travelers, so she had taken that as permission.

 

She had initially attempted to be friendly and inquire as to where the dwarf was from, and what business he was traveling for, but when he growled that his business was his own and none of her affair, she had shut her mouth and kept all further curiosity to herself. Other than some mundane questions and answers regarding the fire, food or water, silence was the order of the day, which was just fine by her.

 

Many of the rougher men in the caravan gave her the shivers when they looked at her, so it seemed a surly dwarf that scared everyone else, and also tolerated her, was far preferable. Other than his gruffness and borderline rudeness, she had no objection to him at all. He always seemed to have something in his hands to work on, whether whittling on a piece of wood or the upkeep of his many daggers, in addition to his sword, and if nothing else, she admired gumption and an industrious nature. He had also finally told her his name was Khomir on the second day when she cautiously introduced herself. It seemed a good name for a dwarf, although she admittedly hadn’t heard very many more than the few family members Gimli had mentioned to her.

 

After her nightly ritual of unloading her things from Wynsang’s back, taking off his saddle and giving him a thorough grooming, she didn’t have much to occupy her beyond her own doubts, fears and grief. Over and over, she questioned if she had made the right choice leaving Edoras as she had. Legolas had said he would come for her, but when? Six months? A year? How long was she meant to wait? It had already felt like forever. Maybe time wasn’t the same for elves, since they never ran out of it.

 

Sitting down near the fire, she stared into the flames, as she did on so many nights since she joined the caravan, and tried to keep her lonely tears contained. Until she was deprived of it, she hadn’t realized just how much she had come to appreciate her life in Edoras. There was a lot she had taken for granted, with regular meals and baths, mostly friendly people, and a space to call her own. That was probably more than a lot of people had, but without Théoden's presence…she could never see staying on in Edoras, knowing he was gone.

 

One of the horses on the other side of the camp let out a loud snort, drawing her attention in that direction. When another nearby horse echoed it, she looked over to where she had left Wynsang munching grass. The other horses were picketed, but she didn’t bother with her horse since he never tried to wander far from her. He had his head raised and was looking in the direction of the other horses when she glanced at Khomir.

 

“There’s something out there,” he said, rising to his feet and reaching for his sword lying next to him.

 

“Like what? Maybe some sort of predator? Like a wolf?”

 

They were near woodland and had been for several days, so she thought that possibility likely. Any kind of predator could spook the horses if they caught their scent and were nearby. She also rose to her feet, intending to go and calm Wynsang when her arm was seized in a tight grip. Surprised, she glanced down at the dwarf who was staring at the far side of the camp where several of the horses had broken their picket lines and were charging away. The first scream came immediately after, and people started running toward them in an obvious panic.

 

“What is it?” Laurelin shouted in fear when Khomir brandished his sword with a fierce scowl, and a familiar shriek that always reminded her of squealing pigs split the night, making her blood run cold and her heart pound in sudden fear. She knew exactly what made that sound.

 

“It’s orcs, girl!” He gave her a hard look and pointed in the opposite direction to the disturbance. “Run now, while you have the chance, and don’t stop until you’re well away.” He started toward the center of the camp with determined strides to where a cluster of men had started to engage the orcs she could then see clearly.

 

With wide, panicked eyes, she took a step away from the fire and whistled for her horse, then called to him. “Wynsang, come! Hurry, boy!” Taking off running into the trees, she heard her horse trotting behind her, and wondered if she shouldn’t try to be smart and mount him to ride away from danger. A nearby crash in the brush decided that question for her, and she employed a burst of speed to avoid whatever it was, shrieking in alarm when an ugly monster emerged from behind a large tree off the path she was following.

 

Dodging again, she darted off in another direction, then changed to another, having become completely turned around and no longer able to tell which way the camp was that she had originally run from, as she passed tree after tree. She could no longer hear her horse over her own gasping breaths, and her side was starting to ache with a stitch from her sudden terror-fueled flight. The tallest orc she had ever seen moved directly into her path holding a massive sword, with a vicious, animalistic snarl on his face.

 

“Shit!” she yelled in panic. She heard another pig squeal behind her just before she was struck a staggering blow to the back of her head and neck that sent her sprawling across the path.

 

She heard an angry horse scream and saw Wynsang from the corner of her eye, trampling the orc that had struck her. Blinking quickly while her head swam, she tried to clear her blurry sight, struggling to her feet only to be knocked down again with a burning pain across the front of her leg. Laurelin screamed and huddled into a protective ball, covering her head with her hands to try to minimize injury, but she thought she was well and truly about to die, and felt a wave of helpless despair at the realization.

 

The big orc fell down dead right beside her, his yellow eyes open and staring in death, a long, white arrow protruding from one side of his chest. Screaming again in horror, Laurelin crawled away a few feet, as far as she could manage before she fell forward with her cheek against the ground. Her strength was spent, and thoroughly overcome by weakness and dizziness, she lay there among the leaves.

 

Like some sort of slow-motion, fantasy dream, a half dozen elves in gleaming armor moved into her line of sight. They were deadly, fierce, moving with fluid grace. Their long hair waved elegantly behind them, highlighting their inhuman beauty and perfection. As they pressed nearer, orcs were cut down with both swords and arrows. A majestically tall, powerfully built blonde elf led the charge, holding a gleaming sword in each hand.

 

They all seemed to glow brightly in the moonlight that showed their shapes so clearly before her eyes went dark and she lost her sight, but she could still hear. In that moment, she became absolutely certain she was dying, as she couldn’t move her body at all, and she had read that hearing was the very last of the senses to fail. She could feel a warm touch on her forehead and experienced a slight reassurance that she could feel anything at all. When she heard words in English, she wanted to cry with relief that it must be Legolas’ family who had come, although she obviously didn’t recognize the man’s voice who was speaking.

 

“Father, she is fading. Her blood loss is great, and continues unabated.” There was a slight pause before he spoke again with greater urgency. “I cannot stop it by pressure! I fear we may already be too late.”

 

“Be calm, Edward, we are not too late. Elizabeth, Nedirien, tolo. Natho den.” (Sindarin: Come. Help her.)

 

Laurelin floated in the sounds, and then above them, feeling further and further from them with each second that passed. Weightless, like a floating feather in a gentle breeze. This must be what it felt like to die. Moving away from the living piece by piece. But where would she go when she left her body? She would never get to see Legolas again.

 

No!

 

With the last of her failing consciousness, she put all the effort of her entire being into a final scream inside her mind before she slipped away.

 

Legolas!

 


 

 

 

The hobbits were all sitting at the ornate dining table, clustered together, eating, talking and enjoying some of the finer comforts Minas Tirith had to offer to the valiant heroes that had managed to save all of Middle-earth with their courage. Gimli was working on his own mountainous plate of food, while Aragorn and Gandalf were chatting, smoking and drinking a fine ale.

 

Legolas smiled, taking it all in but frowning a moment later when a feeling of foreboding settled firmly into his gut. All day, he had felt strangely anxious and restless, though he could think of no cause for it. Their quest was well and truly done, the ring destroyed and the dark lord vanquished, with bright days stretching out before them, filled with hope and the promise of joy. What could possibly be making him feel…

 

Rising from the table, his face took on an expression of shock and horror as he heard a scream of his name, loud and sharp, in Laurelin’s voice. Searching the room in confusion, he staggered back a step when he felt her sudden presence inside him before it was torn forcefully away, leaving no trace of her behind.

 

“No! Laurelin!” he called out in desperation, trying to sense her presence inside him and fear rising when he could not. Surely it was not… Not yet, it was too soon! They had barely even begun, he wasn’t prepared to lose her. He would surely fade…

 

Valar, please!

 

Aragorn was beside him in an instant and gripped his shoulders to steady him, searching his gaze in concern as everyone in the room fell silent. “Legolas, what has occurred? You called for Laurelin. Is something amiss?”

 

“Aragorn.” He rested a hand on his friend’s shoulder, trying to sort out what he must do. “She called out to me. I heard her voice clearly and I felt her presence, then it was gone as though it had never been.” He met his friends concerned grey eyes with anguish in his own. “I fear something terrible has happened. I must fly to Edoras and ensure she is well. Forgive me… I will – return as soon as I can.”

 

Shaking his head, the recently crowned king of Gondor dismissed his concern. “Spare no thought for that, only do what you must. Would you wish a companion to accompany you, or you prefer to go alone?”

 

“I will go on my own. I shall be swifter that way, and I feel an urgency that I must not delay. I will retrieve my things and leave immediately.” His eyes swept his friends, all staring at him in solemn concern. “Forgive me friends, I have an urgent task I must attend, but I shall return as quickly as I may.”

 

Releasing him while everyone murmured well wishes, Aragorn gave a small nod of understanding. “Go with our good wishes, and may fortune favor your steps and speed you on your way.”

 

Legolas embraced Aragorn and hurried from the room, already eager to be on Arod and out of the city. If he was fortunate, he would be in Edoras four days hence. He only hoped he was not already too late to protect Laurelin from whatever shadow might threaten her.


 

~o~

Chapter Text


 

 

Laurelin was sitting on a large, flat rock next to a flowing stream. It was the same beautiful place she had dreamed of her whole life, but for some reason the gold and silver trees were absent. A pity, as she would have liked to have gone and sat beneath their welcoming branches and listened to them whisper to each other.

 

She closed her eyes and smiled, trailing her fingertips in the cool water of the stream and starting to hum in contentment. How peaceful and comforting it was. Maybe she would even lie down beside the stream and take a nap. She did feel very tired, and her limbs were so heavy.

 

Bright light shone through her eyelids, causing her to blink them open again and cringe at the shape before her. It seemed to be the shape of a man, but the light was so bright she couldn’t fully make it out. Holding a hand up to shield her eyes, she called out in sudden fear.

 

“Are you...God? Am I in heaven?”

 

The light faded enough for her to see the tall, majestic person in front of her clearly, and she dropped her hand and stared. His long blonde hair and golden robes made him look like Archangel Gabriel or Michael, and the sword at his hip seemed to confirm it. “An angel?” she whispered, then saw his pointed ears just as a slight smile lifted his lips.

 

“I am neither your god, nor am I an angel. We are not in heaven, but inside your mind.” He looked around in a careful survey of their surroundings, his brows rising in what she thought was a look of surprise before he focused on her once more. “You are gravely injured, but I cannot permit your spirit to depart your body as it is attempting to, Laurelin.”

 

Trying to understand what he was talking about, Laurelin searched her memories but couldn’t recall anything at all beyond her name he spoke. “I don’t understand. Who are you, and why are we here?”

 

“I am Thranduil. I am father to Legolas, and I have come to assist you in your need.”

 

Her eyes widened at the mention of Legolas and memory came flooding back in a rush, her eyes filling with tears. “Legolas? But I’ll never see him again. I’m dead! How can you help me when I’m already dead?”

 

Stepping closer, he extended a hand to her. “You are not dead. You are receiving help, even at this very moment. You shall live to see Legolas once more. Take my hand.”

 

Hesitantly, she reached out and placed her hand in his, jerking at the intense heat that immediately poured through her at his touch. He took her other hand and held them both in a tight grip, his unnaturally bright blue eyes staring into her own, making her sway in sudden dizziness and a renewal of terror.

 

“What did you do? I was so cold and now I’m burning up! Are you sending me down to hellfire?”

 

Thranduil’s mouth twisted in mild amusement. “I am not sending you anywhere, child, do not fear me. I have anchored your spirit with my own, and now you are safe. I know you are weary. In another moment or two, I will let you sleep. Only now, speak to me a little longer. Tell me why you have come seeking Greenwood without Legolas.”

 

She glanced away, her eyes filling with tears, and she bit her lip to try to still its trembling. “Because...King Théoden is dead and I couldn’t stand Edoras without him. He was like a daddy to me and now I don’t have a dad at all. I just...I..” She bowed her head, unable to force out more words through her weeping. Releasing his grip on one of her hands, he rested his own large hand on the back of her head and pulled her against him, and she felt waves of comfort soothing her.

 

“You shall have a father again soon. Your true father, and the one you have always needed.” He reached for her face and lifted it, commanding her gaze again with his own. “Now, sleep.”

 

As Laurelin began to slip into unconsciousness again, she smiled, thinking she really quite liked the somewhat strange but pleasant dream she had just had.

 

 


 

 

The first thing to filter into Laurelin’s awareness was the faint sound of birdsong. It was a happy, bright twittering, making her lips lift in a small smile at the welcoming normalcy of peaceful nature. Slowly, she tested her limbs by wiggling her toes, then her fingers, finally prying open her sleep-heavy lids to see where she was.

 

She was lying on a good sized, comfortable bed with plush, high-quality bedding. The room was large and expensively furnished, making her brows draw together in puzzlement. Where was she?

 

The door opened and a beautiful, brown-haired woman came in carrying a tray full of silver dishes and cutlery. Seeing Laurelin’s eyes were open, she smiled kindly and spoke to her in Common.

 

“I see you have awakened, at last. I am Nedirien, chief healer of Greenwood. Do you know where you are or have you any memory of the attack?”

 

With a look of amazement, Laurelin stared at the female elf, as she quickly realized she was. The very first one she had ever laid eyes on, and she was even more beautiful than she had expected. “My name is Laurelin. And I...yes, I remember orcs, and then...” She inhaled sharply. “I thought I died, or did I maybe just dream all that?”

 

Coming and helping Laurelin into a sitting position and arranging the pillows comfortably behind her, the healer assisted her in taking a sip of the liquid in the goblet. “You did very nearly pass from this life, but the king held your spirit to your body until we could heal you sufficiently.” Clasping her hands together, Nedirien gave her a long look.

 

“You are fortunate our queen had already discovered a way to transfer blood from one body to another, for it is primarily her blood which runs through your veins now and has saved your life. You lost most of your own.”

 

Laurelin’s hand flew to her leg where she knew she had been cut, reaching beneath the covers and the soft nightdress she wore and shaking her head in confusion, giving the elf a questioning look. “I remember I was wounded by an orc sword, but my leg is whole now. Did you do that glowing healing thing that elves do?”

 

Smiling in amusement, the healer’s pale blue eyes lit with humor. “In fact, there was quite a large amount of glowing involved, as you say. How do you feel? If you could take some broth, I encourage you to try as it will speed you in recovering strength.”

 

With a puzzled nod, Laurelin accepted the bowl and spoon Nedirien gave her, taking a spoonful and swallowing, and then several more. “Strange after so much trauma, but I’m actually feeling pretty good. Um, did you say your queen gave me her blood?” She wondered at the compatibility of blood between humans and elves, when she fully realized what the healer had said about the king holding her spirit to her body. Did that mean all that had happened in what she assumed was a dream about Legolas’ father had actually happened?

 

“Yes, Elizabeth has given you a great gift by sharing her blood with you in such a way. Her ability to heal is something even beyond elves. It will be interesting to see just how alike you may be to her now, or somewhat lessened, like her children.”

 

Going pale, she gripped the bowl in her hands more tightly. “Wait, did you say Elizabeth is queen? Then….Legolas’ father who was in my head was the king?”

 

Giving her a puzzled look, Nedirien took the bowl and spoon from her, intuiting that she would eat no more at present. “Certainly. Were you not aware that Legolas is prince and heir to this realm?”

 

She stared down at her hands as all their past conversations returned to her, realizing he must have intentionally hidden the information, even his feelings about royalty making more sense. Her cheeks burned in embarrassment and the first lick of anger as she thought of how he must have laughed at her childish ignorance. Elladan and Elrohir obviously knew it too...and Aragorn. Probably even Gimli, yet none of them had said a word to her. What else had they hidden?

 

“Well, fuck,” she whispered in English, her heart falling in sadness and disappointment while her thoughts raced. Maybe she hadn’t known Legolas as well as she thought...or at all.

 

An amused chuckle came from near the door of her room, causing her to raise her head in surprise. Standing there was yet another ridiculously tall, and stupidly handsome male elf, this one with long, wavy black hair and blue eyes in a similarly electric shade of blue as Legolas.

 

“Ah, I’m glad you are awake,” he said in English. “Mother and Father will be pleased.” He gave a half bow, his white teeth gleaming when he smiled. “How do you do, lady? I am Edward, prince of Greenwood and younger brother to Legolas, who I believe you are well acquainted with.”

 

Nedirien nodded to Edward, walking toward the door. “I shall leave you to watch over her, my lord. I must go and update the king on Laurelin’s progress.”

 

“Thank you, Nedirien,” he acknowledged, moving to take a chair and sit close to Laurelin.

 

Swiping at her messy bed hair and feeling mortified at her likely vile appearance to meet Legolas’ brother, she turned to look at him. “I’m Laurelin,” she muttered, “but you already know that. You look a lot like your brother.” She tilted her head. “But with obviously different coloring.”

 

His easy smile widened. “I have heard the comparison once or twice before. But say something else! I have never heard anyone speak in the way you do. It’s fascinating, where do you come from?”

 

Blushing, she twisted the ring on her finger nervously, then frowned when she looked at Legolas’ ring there and realized what she was doing. Folding her hands, she met his gaze calmly. “I’m...American. Have you ever heard of America?”

 

Edward placed a hand on his chin in thought. “Is that...one of the colonies of England?”

 

Laurelin scoffed, briefly forgetting who she was speaking to. “Colony, my ass. I guess maybe an Englishwoman might think of it that way, but the United States of America is its own nation, entirely independent and free of England for more than two hundred years.”

 

He smiled with a twinkle in his blue eyes. “I perceive I have offended you with my ignorance. Pray, forgive me, I intended no insult.”

 

She swallowed, embarrassed all over again. “No, that’s…fine. I didn’t mean to snap at you. I’m...still kind of reeling, to tell the truth. The last thing I remember is nearly dying, and your daddy stopping me, which is still frightening to contemplate, and then that lady healer just told me I was given your mother’s powerful blood and I might have some weird healing thing from it….? And I never knew Legolas was a prince and your family was royalty, and all. I don’t understand any of this, really, I’m –sorry.”

 

Giving her an understanding look, Edward drew a small dagger from his belt and leaned nearer. “I understand your confusion and I think it only natural in the circumstances. It is far easier to show the healing referred to than to explain. Watch.” He slit the skin open on the heel of his hand, then extended it toward her so she could see as the cut slowly drew back together as the seconds passed, and the skin returned to what it had been before, but in less than a minute.

 

She looked up and met his eyes in open-mouthed amazement. “Holy shit! How did you do that, magic?”

 

He smirked, and the expression was so similar to Legolas, she felt a sharp pain in her heart at the sight. “Yes, it’s a kind of magic from my mother. If you have the same now with her blood, you will be glad of it.” He held the dagger toward her. “Would you like to test to see if you are the same?”

 

She extended her hand to him. “You do it. It would be too bizarre cutting myself, but I’m super curious.”

 

Taking her index finger, he made a shallow, inch-long cut, then grinned when it healed almost instantly. Laurelin drew in a shocked breath, unable to look away from her finger. “Do it again,” she whispered. “I can’t believe what I just saw.”

 

He obliged, and the same thing happened as before. Laying her hand back in her lap, she rubbed away the small bit of blood on her finger left behind from the cut and shook her head. “I don’t think I can really wrap my head around that. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. How did your mom get the way she is?”

 

Putting his dagger away, Edward leaned back comfortably in his chair and told her the story as he had heard it, about the mysterious water his mother and her brother drank and how it changed them and their companions, and the resulting immortality and healing his mother had ever since, and many long years before she had come to Middle-earth or Greenwood.

 

Laurelin’s heart started to pound alarmingly at the implications. “Wait, immortal? Did you just say that’s….how your mom became immortal? How does… Does that mean…?” When her vision swam, she bent her legs under the blanket and rested her forehead against her raised knees, trying to slow her rapid breaths.

 

She felt a hesitant touch on her shoulder, and Edward leaned closer. “Are you well, Laurelin? Perhaps we should not speak more on this now. I’m sure you need time to get used to the way things are now. Would you like some wine? I can get you some.”

 

“Yes, please,” she said quietly, wondering just exactly when she was going to wake up from this latest dream. If the one with the archangel/Legolas’ daddy had been a doozy, this one topped it by far. Instant healing and immortality? Ha! What a hoot!

 

The door opened again and she raised her head, frowning at the sight of the angel-daddy, accompanied by the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, with impossibly long, black hair. When Edward wrapped her fingers around a goblet, she lifted it and drained it while still keeping her eyes on the couple that watched her in apparent amusement.

 

“So, I guess this place is peopled entirely by supermodels, huh?” she questioned in English, drawing a laugh from the woman at the door, who came and sat herself down on the side of the bed next to her.

 

“You know, I thought the exact same thing when I first came to live here among the elves. I’m Elizabeth, Laurelin, and I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’re here. It’s such a gift to have someone from my own background and world to visit with.”

 

Laurelin bit her lip and winced. “You don’t mind that it’s someone from the colonies and not England?”

 

Elizabeth tilted her head with a musing look. “You’re American, from the sound of it, and...from the south?” At Laurelin’s solemn nod, Elizabeth smiled kindly. “I think the US a lovely country, full of very fine people, and I visited there in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Tell me which state you are from...Oklahoma? Texas?”

 

“Yes, ma'am, I’m from Texas, you have a good ear. Dallas, Texas to be exact.” She shifted her gaze to the king as he drew closer to her bed, chewing on her lip as she looked between them. “I don’t know how to begin to thank y’all for rescuing me and saving my life. Words just aren’t enough. I knew beyond any doubt that Legolas would come from the very finest family. But it’s funny how he never told me his family was royal. I guess he thought I didn’t need to know that.”

 

Elizabeth and Thranduil shared a look while Laurelin ducked her head and pulled the ring off her finger and held it out to Elizabeth. “Here, I need to return this. I was supposed to give it back before I ever came here, but...I...ended up not waiting for Legolas to come back and get me like I was supposed to. Nearly a fatal mistake, I guess.”

 

Thranduil crossed his arms, finally speaking. “I feel certain he would wish you to keep it until you can return it to him yourself. I’m sure he gave it into your care for a purpose, and wearing it is a statement that you are under his guardianship and protection.”

 

She dropped her hand, still clutching the ring and avoided the gaze of the king, before finally forcing herself to look up to meet his eyes. “You know, you’re fairly terrifying. Is it any wonder I thought you were God or an archangel when I first saw you in my mind, or dream, whatever that was.”

 

He smirked and Elizabeth laughed while Edward chuckled quietly from the seat he had taken again, near the bed. Elizabeth raised a brow at Thranduil and met Laurelin’s gaze in amusement. “Don’t tell him that, Laurelin, he already thinks he’s God.”

 

“I am only your god, mîr nin,” he murmured, “as it should be.” (Sindarin: my treasure)

 

Edward sighed, speaking under his breath. “At this rate, I shall have another sibling before long.”

 

Elizabeth shook her head fondly at her firstborn with an affectionate smile. “You never know, Edward.”

 

Laurelin grinned, turning her head to meet Edward’s bemused eyes. “Aw, don’t be like that. It’s admirable your parents love each other that much, with forever kind of love. You don’t know how very rare that is where I come from.”

 

She looked uncertainly between the king and queen as another thought floated through her mind, and she chewed her lip in worry. “Um, can you tell me if my horse made it through the fight, or is he...gone?”

 

“Your horse is well,” the king said with a sudden gleam in his eyes. “He is in the stables. I think it would be prudent for you to visit him there as soon as you feel able. You are likely to find it a very enlightening experience.”

 

“Oh,” Laurelin said, brightening. “Thank you, sir, I will. Do I have to stay in bed or will the doctor lady mind if I get up? I really do feel perfectly fine.”

 

Elizabeth stood. “Get up and do as you like, my dear. There are clothes for you there on the table,” she said, gesturing to the other side of the room where clothing and grooming items were waiting for use. “We shall leave you to it, but if you want company or need anything, you have only to speak your wishes to the guard on duty just outside the door. Most of the guards speak Westron, so you should have no trouble.”

 

Blushing again, Laurelin looked at Elizabeth gratefully. “Thank you so much, for everything. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop thanking you for all you’ve done for me. Honestly, I wish I had a way to repay you for all your trouble.”

 

Smiling, Elizabeth rested a gentle hand against one of her shoulders. “You have thanked us quite enough. No repayment of kindness is required between friends, and I’m sure we shall become fast friends. I have a very good feeling about you, and I am seldom wrong.”

 

Edward stood, flashing his charming smile at Laurelin. “It’s true, mother is rarely wrong. I believe you must resign yourself to friendship all around, lady.”

 

Laurelin shrugged. “That sounds mighty fine to me. It just so happens I’m awful short on friends right about now.”

 

The king extended a hand to Elizabeth, who took it and stood beside him. “Welcome to the realm of Eryn Lasgalen, Laurelin, the Wood of Greenleaves. You are to be our guest for as long as you wish to stay.”

 

She smiled as they walked through the doorway, pulling it closed behind them. Opening her hand, she stared down at Legolas’ ring, not certain how to feel about everything that had happened to her, and wondering if there was anything else he had forgotten to mention to her. Sighing, she threw back the covers and stood to her feet, intending to bathe, dress and go visit her horse. She needed the touch of the familiar at that moment, and Wynsang’s comforting presence was just what the doctor ordered.

 

 


 

 

 

After getting cleaned up and dressed, making herself look decent, and asking the guard outside her door for directions, and after she stared in another bout of open-mouthed amazement at how good looking he was, she managed to get lost. It wasn’t hard to do, since he had told her to turn right at the garden, but there seemed to be endless gardens. Which one was the correct one?

 

She climbed up onto a bench, planted her hands on her hips and looked around. The next garden over had roses, so she decided to see if she turned at that one, if it would take her anywhere useful. With her eyes up, staring in amazement at all the elaborate and artistic carving of the wood detail along the walkway above her, she wasn’t paying attention to where she was walking and ran face-first into an elf, who caught her and kept her from tumbling over.

 

“Oh, I’m so sorry! I should have been looking where I was going” she stammered, staring up into yet another handsome face. This one was nearly as tall as Legolas, with blonde hair and grey eyes. He stared at her curiously with a slight smile.

 

“No apology is necessary.” He released his grip on her arms and took a small step back. “You are a visitor to the Woodland Realm?”

 

She nodded and reached up to push her hair back over her shoulder. “Yes, I’m new here. In fact, this is the first look I’ve had of anything outside the bedroom I woke up in. I kind of arrived here...unconscious...from an orc attack.” Feeling awkward, and unable to interpret the elf’s strangely blank expression, she bit her lip. “My name is Laurelin.” That seemed to be the right thing to say, as he smiled and gave a slight bow.

 

“I am Langion, and I am pleased to meet you, Laurelin. I am sorry you had misfortune on your journey here. I trust you have recovered from your ordeal?”

 

She nodded. “Yes, I’m fine now. I had excellent care from...” she tilted her head in thought a second. “Um, Nedirien, I think she said her name was? Oh, and also, uh, the king and queen...and Prince Edward. I think they all saved me, but I’m just a bit fuzzy on what exactly happened after I passed out.”

 

Blushing at the realization that she was probably grossly oversharing with some strange elf she had assaulted, she swiped her hair back again in a nervous movement and heard him inhale sharply. Laurelin glanced back at him curiously to see his eyes were trained on her hand.

 

“You know Prince Legolas, as you obviously wear his ring. You have seen him recently, then?”

 

She fiddled with the ring and bit her lip. “I last saw him a couple of months ago in Rohan, before he went off to win the war in Gondor. I’m guessing you’re one of his friends?”

 

Langion crossed his arms, looking more closely at the woman in front of him, puzzling over her manner of speech and bearing, which was quite different from any mortal woman he had ever seen or spoken to. It was strange she would wear Legolas’ ring, but she was human and rather pretty, so perhaps not strange at all. Had he managed to fall for a mortal, after all, mayhap even against his will? His brows drew together in concern.

 

“I am friends with the prince, yes. We were children together. Have you come to Greenwood at his invitation?”

 

“Um, yes and no. He was going to come get me from Edoras and bring me here, but...” She blushed and dropped her gaze. “I joined a caravan and traveled here without him. I wasn’t certain how long it would be until he returned, and I really needed to get away from there.” Clasping her hands, she stared at Langion solemnly and shrugged.

 

“He was going to bring you here, himself,” Langion mused. Stepping nearer, he dropped his voice. “I hope you do not find my inquisitiveness intrusive, but may I ask if you are betrothed to Prince Legolas?”

 

“N..No!” She shook her head vigorously, her cheeks darkening in an embarrassed blush. “Nothing like that, we’re just friends! He wanted to bring me here to meet Elizabeth, since we come from the same place, and I got lost and don’t know how to get back home. He thought it would make me feel a little less lonely to be with someone that spoke the same language, and all. He was just being kind.” She pulled the ring off and stuffed it into her dress pocket. “I knew I shouldn’t have kept wearing it,” she muttered under her breath.

 

Relieved, Langion smiled. “Forgive me, I did not mean to make you uncomfortable with my questions. I shall not detain you any longer.”

 

“Wait!” Laurelin took a step to block his path. “I’m really lost. Can you tell me how to get to the stables? I was trying to go visit my horse, but I don’t actually know the way.”

 

He turned slightly and stepped nearer, extending his arm to her in the way she had become used to from all the polite males in middle-earth. “It would be my privilege to escort you there, Laurelin.”

 

After she placed her arm around his, they started walking and Laurelin began to curse herself for an impatient fool. She should have just stayed in Edoras, faced her grief, and waited for Legolas like she told him she would. Why had she left? It had all gone horribly wrong when she struck out on her own, and she certainly didn’t fit into Greenwood among the kingdom of supermodels. Stuck out like an awkward and mousy little sore thumb is what she did.

 

“You are sad, lady,” Langion murmured with an understanding look.

 

She glanced up at him ruefully and was struck by what she saw in his eyes, coming to a halt to stare at him, something odd coming over her again like it did with Elladan. “You’re sad too,” she whispered, searching his gaze until it was almost like she felt something give and she was flooded with emotions that were not her own. Her eyes filled with tears that spilled over while she reached for his bare hand, clasping it tightly in hers as she traversed the enormity of his pain.

 

“Oh, Langion, I’m so sorry.” She bit her lip to try to still its trembling while he stared at her in surprise. “You loved her, desperately, and she refused to accept your love. It’s not your fault. If she could spurn such a true and deep love, then she was never really worthy of your heart, at all.”

 

His grey eyes misted with tears while he stared off to the side with a look of torment. “How do you know this about me?” he asked quietly, meeting her eyes again and examining them more intently than before.

 

“I don’t know,” she said with a small shake of her head and furrowed brows. “Sometimes I can feel the emotions of the people around me, almost as if they’re my own, and I hear in my head some of what caused them. I’ve always been this way.”

 

He drew in a surprised breath as understanding came. “You are elf-blooded, lady. I did not notice it right away and assumed you fully human, but I see it clearly now. You have a remarkable sensitivity.”

 

She shook her head. “No, I’m not an elf. My parents were both humans that live back in the faraway place where I came from. I’m not from middle-earth at all, and we don’t have any elves back home.”

 

Langion stared intently at her, clearly able to see her elvish gifts, now he was actively looking for them. Obviously, she did not know it herself, and seemed to balk at the very idea. Perhaps she had an unknown grandparent that was an elf, if both her parents were human. That seemed likely, but he would not force the issue on her if she had no wish to discuss it. He drew a deep breath, somehow feeling lighter in his spirit since she had touched his pain, bringing some manner of release from the burden of it. What had she done to him? Smiling tentatively, he wrapped her arm around his once more.

 

“Well. Shall we continue so you may visit your horse?”

 

“Yes, thank you.” Laurelin swiped the back of her free hand against her damp cheeks, wondering why those strange episodes happened sometimes, and glancing up at him self-consciously. “I’m sorry if I intruded on something personal I shouldn’t have. It can’t be comfortable to have some strange woman poke her nose into your business. I don’t do it on purpose, it just happens.”

 

He smiled gently. “Do not be sorry. You have given me the unexpected gift of compassion and understanding, and I find that I feel the better for it. Thank you.”

 

“Really? I’m so glad.” Her face lit with a bright smile, and Langion had the passing thought that pretty was a poor description he had given her before; for when she smiled, she was truly lovely to behold, with fair light shining from her eyes.

 

When they arrived at the stables, Langion reached for her hand and kissed it with a friendly smile. “I shall leave you here, lady, and hope we meet again on another day. I should enjoy getting to better know a person of such gentle kindness.”

 

Laurelin beamed at him and nodded. “I would eagerly welcome your friendship, Langion, and thank you for saving me from being lost.”

 

With a twinkle in his eye, he nodded and turned back to the direction they had just come from and Laurelin wandered into the stable, looking around at the horses until she spotted her horse in the very back with his head hanging low.

 

“Wynsang!” she called eagerly, laughing when he lifted his head and nickered in apparent relief. Rushing to him, she opened his stall and went in, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her face against the side of his head, inhaling his comforting horsey scent. “I’m sorry if I scared you, buddy, I didn’t mean to...and thank you for protecting me from that nasty orc. You’re the best horse a gal could ever have.”

 

“I see your stallion is glad to have his mistress back,” came an amused voice from behind her. “He has been rather forlorn since the king turned him over to my care.”

 

She glanced back with a smile, then did a small double-take, before she stared in open-mouthed shock. “Oh, sweet baby Jesus, it can’t be. I must be seeing things,” she whispered in English.

 

The tall elf frowned and came closer, his own face frozen in an uncertain look. “You sound very like...Melissëah?” he said in a wonder-tinged voice.

 

Laurelin swallowed her heart back down into her chest, addressing him in Common as she began to feel light-headed and shaky. “Melissa is my mother. Is your name….You aren’t called Thurindir, are you?”

 

His lips lifted slightly while his eyes misted with tears. “I am Thurindir, and if Melissëah is your mother, then...”

 

“You’re my father,” she whispered, her own eyes filling with tears.

 

They stared at each other for a suspended moment, each of them coming to a true understanding of who they were to each other, though total strangers. Slowly, he reached out and took one of her hands in his, his green eyes eagerly examining her face until he rested his free hand against her damp cheek.

 

“A daughter. Valar! How is this possible? I have a daughter, and how beautiful you are. I can readily see much of your mother in you. What is your name, child?”

 

“I’m Laurelin,” she said, her voice breaking as she continued to stare up at him while she cried silently, his elven ears apparent as they hadn’t been in the photo she had, but her mother obviously knew...she had to have known. Her real dad was an elf? How the fuck could her father be an elf?

 

Goddammit, Momma! Why wouldn’t you tell me this? She railed silently in her mind, thing after thing from her life before and growing up, now making perfect sense. How she had always felt like an outsider, no matter where she went. All the years of insecurities she had suffered, all the time she thought of herself as just an oddball freak of nature, when really she was… In horror, her free hand flew up to her ears, a new wave of anguish taking her breath away. A deformity? Fuck!

 

“I’m so sorry, but I just can’t do this right now,” she whispered in a broken voice. “I have to go...think.” Turning away from the elf, she set to work, swiftly saddling Wynsang and readying him to ride, then leading him out of the stable without meeting Thurindir’s eyes again.

 

He watched her in sorrow, able to feel her great upset and shock and not wishing to add to it. “Laurelin,” he called after her in a kind and gentle voice. “Daughter. When you are ready to speak with me again, I shall be waiting for you.”

 

She nodded with her eyes still on the ground and mounted quickly, urging Wynsang to trot off into the woods and away from any elves. What she wanted right then, above anything else was to be alone.

 


~o~

 

Chapter Text

 

 


 

For more than an hour, Laurelin rode dry-eyed and expressionless, deeper into the trees and lush woodland, unseeing of anything while trapped in a numbing haze of pain. Images of her past, her entire childhood, all her interactions with her mother were suddenly tainted and seen through a filter of selfishness and cruelty. If her mother had really loved her, how could she have lied to her like she had? No angle she considered it from brought her to any other conclusion...her mother was ashamed of her and had tried to hide who and what she really was.

 

“Wynsang, stop boy.”

 

Her horse came to a halt and stood still while she dismounted. Laurelin began to pace in the little clearing they stood in, becoming more agitated as minute after minute slipped past. Anger started to replace sadness, until like a filled glass, her fury spilled over and flooded her entire being. How dare her mother put her through what she had? Twenty-seven years worth of lies and deceit, and all she had suffered because of it. Tilting her head back, she screamed, all the primal rage inside of her turning the sound into something frightening and inhuman. But then, she thought viciously, she wasn’t really human anyway, was she?

 

She fell to her knees, her shoulders slumping as something else occurred to her, bringing a sharp, bitter pain to her heart – Legolas knew. All those cryptic things he had said, the odd change that came over him as soon as he saw the photo of her parents. He knew, and he had never said a word to her, anymore than he had told her about his being a prince. Lies of omission, but lies and deceit just the same. It was staggering to think how two of the most important people in her life, of her mother and Legolas, had fed her a steady diet of lies. Elladan and Elrohir obviously knew too. Even Hathor, the Dúnedain Ranger, had clearly seen what she was.

 

What a fucking idiot she was. No wonder Legolas had laughed at her about being a child. She was a child...a blind, stupid, naïve little girl, thinking everyone around her had her best interests at heart, when the opposite was proving true. No one gave a good goddamn about her, not really, or they would have trusted her to handle the truth of how things really were.

 

Except….Théoden had. Why did she have to lose him? He was the only person in middle-earth that had loved her unconditionally and never lied to her about anything. How she longed for one of his fatherly hugs right at that moment. Wrapping her arms around herself, she started to rock in small, tight movements, reaching a hand up to touch Wynsang when he lowered his head and blew a soft breath in her face in concern.

 

“I know you love me too, buddy,” she whispered. “Maybe that was why Théoden gave you to me, so I wouldn’t be all alone after he was gone. He was so wise.”

 

She stayed in the same position, unmoving, not feeling the passage of time or noting the course of the sun as it fell lower. By the time she heard the soft hoof-beats of other horses approaching, her legs had gone completely numb. Lifting her head enough to look behind her, she felt a small wave of relief to see it was Elizabeth, although she could also see there were two armored guards with her, but they kept further back, for which she was grateful. With her anger toward Legolas still simmering just beneath the surface, she really didn’t want to see or talk to another elf right then.

 

Elizabeth came and crouched down beside her, her expression so concerned and kind that Laurelin had to look away to keep from crying. With gentle fingers, Elizabeth pushed back the hair hanging in Laurelin’s face.

 

“I spoke to Thurindir,” the queen said softly in English. “He was concerned for you when you did not return. I wanted to ensure you were not lost in the woods and unable to find your way back to the halls.”

 

Biting her lip, Laurelin sighed tiredly. “I’m sorry to put you to any further trouble, but I seem to excel at that. I didn’t really notice it was starting to get dark...and I guess I am lost. So lost, I don’t know if I can ever find my way again, and I’m not real sure what to do next.” She met Elizabeth’s eyes, tearing up at the compassion she saw there and clenching her jaw to control her emotions. “I’m just fate’s bitch, Elizabeth, and I guess she gets off by kicking the shit out of me. I’ve just been sitting here aching from it.”

 

Elizabeth chuckled and reached for one of her hands, holding it tightly in her own to impart a measure of comfort. “You aren’t fate’s bitch, my dear, not really. So, you’ve discovered you are half elf and half human, which makes you no different than any of my children. Where is the tragedy in that? Once you become accustomed to the idea, I think you’ll find the knowledge quite freeing.”

 

Laurelin stared at her ruefully. “I guess Thurindir told you he was my daddy, though I’m still not sure how that’s possible. But I guess if we’re both here, that’s undeniable truth it’s possible.”

 

Pursing her lips, Elizabeth shook her head. “He didn’t tell me, but I already knew. I’ve known of you for some years. The king has the gift of future sight, which as his bond-mate, I am able to see glimpses of, and he foresaw your coming to Greenwood quite a long time ago. In a more recent vision, he saw that Thurindir was your father. Even our coming to your aid in time to preserve your life is entirely due to Thranduil’s prescient gift.” Elizabeth leaned nearer with a teasing smile. “Thank the Almighty for bad-ass elves that can come to our rescue, hmm?”

 

A surprised laugh spilled from Laurelin, making her smile at Elizabeth and shake her head. “Well, why the hell not have an elf that can see the future? They seem to be able to do just about anything you can think of, without even messing up their perfect hair.” Elizabeth chuckled in amusement while Laurelin slowly sobered and looked down.

 

“Elizabeth...can I ask you something? Why do you think my mother would hide who I was from me, even having surgery performed on my ears when I was a baby to conceal it? I’ve dealt with lifelong pain in my ears because of it. She told me I was born with a birth defect!” she exploded, looking away. “If she really loved me, she would never have hurt me like that, would she?”

 

Stroking a hand against her cheek, Elizabeth turned her to face her again, kindness and compassion in her beautiful gray-green eyes. “No, I don’t agree with that. As a mother, I can tell you that there is nothing I wouldn’t do and no horror I wouldn’t brave to ensure the safety and protection of my child. Whatever choices your mother made, no matter how much they hurt her or how they inadvertently hurt you, she would have done it to protect you.” Elizabeth dropped her hand from Laurelin’s cheek and reached for her hand again.

 

“Think carefully for a moment of what would have happened if an elf were discovered in our world, by people in power, either in some government or the medical field. Do you think you wouldn’t have been taken away from her, experimented on, maybe even to the point of death? I’m certain that is why she would have found someone to alter your ears, as she did. If I were back there and had to hide a child’s undeniably elven feature, I might have done something similar.”

 

Laurelin exhaled in a slow release of breath. “I guess...I never thought about it that way. That someone might have tried to hurt me if they discovered I was different.” She looked down as all the implications raced through her mind, thinking it sounded like the plot for some tv series, of an elf in hiding from the evil powers trying to exploit them. Maybe while they helped others and solved crimes. She smiled at the thought.

 

“Do you think our experiences kinda sound like B movie story-lines?”

 

Elizabeth smiled warmly. “In fact, there was one movie from the eighties that I related to in a number of ways. Did you ever happen to hear of Highlander, the very first movie they made in that series?”

 

Laurelin gasped in sudden excitement. “You mean with Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, where immortals crept through the centuries and had to cut off each other’s heads to win the prize?”

 

Elizabeth laughed and nodded. “Yes, the very one. Since I was also an immortal creeping through the centuries, I found it rather ironic and quite amusing.”

 

Pulling her legs out from beneath her to let the feeling come back into them, Laurelin grinned. “I loved that movie! Especially the part in the eighteenth century, when the Highlander insulted the one guy’s wife, and he kept getting stabbed in the duel but didn’t die, and his wig kept flopping in front of his eyes!”

 

“That was my favorite scene,” Elizabeth said with a delighted chuckle.

 

They smiled at each other in a shared understanding that no one else in middle-earth had, Laurelin squeezing Elizabeth’s hand in a rush of warmth and gratitude. “Legolas was right. I do feel so much better after meeting you. You’re an incredible and wonderful woman, Elizabeth, and I’m so grateful I’ve been able to come here and meet you.”

 

Pulling her into a hug, Elizabeth smiled and drew back to meet Laurelin’s eyes with a teasing look. “You are also an incredible and wonderful woman, Laurelin. Don’t sell yourself short just because you find yourself surrounded by a slew of pretty elves; they have as many imperfections as humans, they just do a far better job of hiding it. Now, I think we should go back and find some dinner. No doubt you’re famished, and my other children are rather eager to meet you if you feel equal to company this evening.”

 

“Oh, I don’t know,” Laurelin drawled, standing to her feet and dusting herself off with a grin. “I was really planning to go spend a miserable evening all alone in my room, crying and wailing in an epic pity party, but somehow that doesn’t sound like quite as much fun anymore.”

 

“Good,” Elizabeth said with a humorously quirked brow. “You can always save that for another time or when you’re bored. I would much rather pick your brain tonight. Tell me, is Queen Elizabeth still ruling, or has she passed?”

 

Mounting Wynsang and starting to follow Elizabeth back to where her guards waited, Laurelin nodded. “Oh, yeah, she is. I ended up in Rohan in 2018, and she was still alive and well, then. Prince Harry is married now too.”

 

“Oh, delightful! Did you watch the wedding on television? Was the bride’s dress beautiful?”

 

The four riders returned to the halls with the two women chatting together in English the entire way. Renion and Thandir, the queen’s guards, were well used to listening to it after so many years and followed along behind the ladies in stoic contentment.

 

 


 

 

Legolas slowed Arod as he approached the gates of Edoras, raising a hand in greeting toward the guards he recognized keeping watch. After leaving his horse in capable hands to groom and feed him, he rushed up the steps of Meduseld, passing quickly through the doors. Erkenbrand rose from a nearby table where he was seated with several other soldiers, to greet him.

 

“Lord Legolas, I did not expect to see you back in Edoras so soon. The land sings your praises, and of those others in your company. May I assist you in something, or shall I have a room readied for you to stay?”

 

Giving the man a strained smile, Legolas drew a deep breath, having already scanned the space for Laurelin. “Thank you for your welcome, Erkenbrand. I have come seeking Lady Laurelin. Is she in her room, or can you direct me to her if she is not?”

 

Erkenbrand nodded in understanding. “I see. Yes, she mentioned you would come. The lady is no longer in Edoras, or indeed, Rohan. She joined a caravan, intending to go to elven lands, I believe. The king’s death seemed to hit her very hard, you understand, and I believe her grief may have driven her decision to depart.” He turned and went to a small table against the back wall of the hall, near the king’s dais, then returned with a letter in such a style as the elf had never seen before. Erkenbrand held it out, smiling kindly. “She left this for you, my lord.”

 

Murmuring his thanks, Legolas moved away and sat down on a solitary bench. The paper was pink, with his name written in English across the front, in Laurelin’s hand. After examining it, he discovered it was a paper container for the actual letter concealed inside. Breaking the seal, he withdrew the letter and opened it, eagerly reading what was written.

 

 

Dear Legolas,

 

If you’re reading this, you’ve obviously discovered I’m not in Edoras anymore. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more patient and wait for you to come for me. I tried, I really did, but hearing Théoden was gone was a knife to my heart and Meduseld feels haunted to me now with the ghosts of past memories. That makes the grief so much harder to bear.

 

When the caravan arrived today, and I learned they were going right past your home, I took it as a sign that I should just go on ahead. I figured it might be who knows how long until you return, so I hope you won’t hold it against me that I took off without you. The siren call of the open road still has power over me, even here.

 

By the time you read this, I’m probably all settled in with your family and making friends with the trees. I can’t wait to see you again though, so I hope you’ll hurry on home now. Until then, I’ll always be on the lookout for you.

 

Oh, and I’ve heard all the stories of how y’all defeated Sauron (now I know the dark lord’s name), and I’m so proud, as well as grateful for the heroism it obviously took to accomplish that. Though I never doubted you would win for a minute. Maybe I’ll write a song or two about all my brave friends, and travel the land singing your praise…

 

Are you on your way to me yet? No? Well, hurry the hell up, handsome, I’m tired of waiting for you!

 

Love,

Laurelin

 

He lowered the paper with a frown of frustration and a sigh. How like a mortal to be so impatient; it had not been so very long at all since they parted. He would have retrieved her before summer’s end if she had only waited for him. He read the date she had written on the letter, already several weeks past. Refolding it, he put it back in the pink holder and tucked it into his tunic, deciding on his next course of action.

 

After Arod had rested sufficiently, he would set out for Greenwood. His disquiet had only grown since discovering Laurelin had left. Even in the company of others, the wilds were dangerous, and there were many dark things that still roamed. He truly hoped she was safely with his family, but he could not quiet the fear in his heart for her until he saw her with his own eyes and knew her to be well. In that moment, he thought it would be useful if he really were like an angel as Elizabeth and Laurelin had likened him to, and had wings to fly.

 

If he rode hard, it might only be ten more days of travel if fortune favored him, or greater than two weeks if it did not. Either way, he would be home again soon.

 

 


 

 

Laurelin listened and watched the eight children, or really, mostly adult children, of King Thranduil and Queen Elizabeth throughout dinner, with half amusement and half fascination. In high school, she had a friend that was the oldest of six children, and she thought that sounded like a lot, but eight was like having your own sports team.

 

Curiously, she looked over at the king who was seated to her right at the long table, watching him watch two of his younger children in a light-hearted argument as to who was the faster runner, with obvious affection and amusement. She smiled when he turned those powerful eyes of his toward her, obviously aware of her scrutiny.

 

“Did you ever think you would become the father to nine children? Or was that something you always knew would happen in your future?”

 

Swirling the wine in his goblet absently, he watched his wife settle their youngest daughter on her lap and kiss her fondly before he turned his regard back to Laurelin. “I did not always know. It was only a short time before Elizabeth and I wed that I had the first vision of two of our children. Some years later, I saw others. If you had asked me even two hundred years ago if I believed I would father more children, I would have given you an emphatic no, but the future is fluid and frequently impossible to predict.” He examined Laurelin with a keen, knowledgeable look that made her wonder if he could know all of a person’s secrets just by looking inside them as he seemed to be doing to her.

 

“I had visions of you quite sometime ago, young Laurelin. But the choice you made to travel to Greenwood on your own has now altered much of what I have seen.” He pursed his lips, tilting his head thoughtfully. “Though I believe what has happened was likely meant to, and is now a benefit to you, as well as to those who love you. For where you were mortal previously, now with Elizabeth’s blood flowing in your veins, you are transformed just as she was and are no longer as you were before.”

 

Chewing the inside of her cheek as she thought of what Edward had told her about how his mother became immortal, she glanced across the table and found the prince clearly following her conversation with his father and smiling at her encouragingly. She drew a deep breath and faced the king.

 

“So, you’re saying that now it’s possible I’ll be as ancient a relic as you, some day?” Edward snickered, making her bite her own lip to keep her teasing smile contained.

 

Thranduil narrowed his eyes while one side of his mouth lifted in a half smile. “That possibility is now within your reach, yes. Though you have a very long way to go to reach my number of years, or even that of Legolas. Like my other children, you have scarcely begun.”

 

Running her fingers over the ring still in her pocket, she stared frankly at the Elvenking, trying to guess his age, but finding he also looked like he could be somewhere in his mid-thirties, much like his eldest son. “If Legolas is around three thousand years old, then how old are you, if you don’t mind my asking?”

 

He drained his wine goblet and smirked. “I am more than double his age.”

 

Laurelin raised a dubious brow. “Then you’re, what...about five thousand and change?”

 

“You wish to know my exact number of years?” He laced his hands together on the tabletop with a thoughtful look. “I was born to my parents early in the second age, which would now make me...six thousand, four hundred and fifty-six years of age.”

 

Staring in dumbfounded awe while she tried to wrap her head around that, she blinked slowly and shook her head. “Holy shit,” she whispered under her breath. “You’re older than...” she turned to Elizabeth in complete disbelief, as she was also following the conversation. “The pyramids?”

 

The Elvenqueen gave her an amused smile. “The King of the Woodland Realm is not renowned for his great wisdom and power for nothing. It takes time for such a depth of understanding to come.”

 

“And how old are you?” Laurelin asked breathlessly, bracing herself for another shock.

 

Elizabeth chuckled, meeting her husband’s eyes. “I am a mere five hundred and seventy-five, which means there are nearly six thousand years difference between myself and my husband.” Turning to her eldest, she raised her brows with an expectant look. “Edward, I can see Laurelin’s eyes starting to glaze over, so perhaps she would enjoy a walk now with someone her own age.”

 

Rising with a smile, Edward held his hand out to Laurelin and looked at his twin, Catherine, who nodded and joined them. When they were well out of the halls and walking in one of the many large gardens, Catherine started to hum a pretty tune, making Laurelin smile.

 

“Do you sing, Catherine?” Laurelin sat on a stone ledge surrounding the one side of the flower bushes they lingered near and looked expectantly at the striking, statuesque blond.

 

“Take her anywhere near a certain librarian and she shall sing like a bird,” Edward quipped, crossing his obviously muscled arms and grinning down at his sister, who was only a few inches shorter than he was.

 

She gave him a wounded look. “Eddie, I do wish you would forbear not to tease me in such a manner. You know I should never do so to you.”

 

He reached for his sister’s hand and smiled in an appealing way that made Laurelin suppress a grin for how much it reminded her of Legolas.

 

“Forgive me, Kitty. You know I cannot always keep that part of my nature in check.”

 

“Sounds like being a tease is something of a family trait.” When both twins looked at her curiously, she shrugged. “Your big brother seems like he can’t open his mouth except to tease.”

 

Catherine came and sat beside her with a smile. “Was he truly so light-hearted while in your company? I am glad of it. When he went away, he was so dour that I have been very worried for him.”

 

“He was a little on the serious side when we first met, but I think hearing English again cheered him up some. He told me about you and your siblings, and I could tell he really missed you all.”

 

“Have you any brothers and sisters, Laurelin?” Edward pushed back his dark hair with an elegant flick of his hand that made him look like a model from a Calvin Klein commercial.

 

Laurelin looked away with a deep sigh. “I had a brother. His name is Vincent, but he’s lost to me now.” She focused on the rising moon, her voice falling to just above a whisper. “Like so much.”

 

Catherine surprised her by wrapping an arm around her shoulders and leaning close to press a kiss to her cheek, her eyes so like her mother’s, soft and full of kindness. “I know we can never replace your family, Laurelin, but perhaps we can become new brothers and sisters to you. When you were healed with our mother’s blood, you became very like us, and I understand you are also half elf and half human, are you not?” Laurelin nodded, still looking down and biting her lip.

 

“You see? We have many things in common. Will you not give us a chance?” She smiled her beautiful smile and Laurelin smiled faintly back.

 

“I’m honored. Beyond honored, really, by the kindness y’all have shown me, and I want you to know it means a lot to me.”

 

Edward clasped his hands behind his back. “Y’all,” he murmured, testing the word on his tongue, then glanced at Laurelin questioningly. “Y’all?”

 

She grinned and nodded. “A Southerner’s contraction for ‘you all’. Sounds pretty cute when you say it. Legolas didn’t understand what the heck I was talking about the first time I used it in front of him, and I had to explain it then too.” Remembering how that conversation with Legolas had gone, and all the flirtation that followed, she blushed and stood.

 

“Well, I guess I’ll head off to bed, now it’s startin’ to get late. Thank you both for keeping me company. Um, can either of you point me in the right direction to get back to my room?”

 

Catherine stood. “Edward, can you show Laurelin where she is meant to stay?” Her brother nodded and she turned back to Laurelin and hugged her quickly. “Tonight, I am promised to go and tell a bedtime story to our youngest sister, Celestia. Mother had all your things moved from the healing rooms to your permanent quarters. They are much larger and finer, and I’m certain you shall be far more comfortable there.”

 

“Oh,” Laurelin said in surprise. “That sounds...nice.”

 

“We can go riding tomorrow if you like, Laurelin,” Catherine threw over her shoulder with a final smile, quickly disappearing down the path leading back into the halls.

 

Turning back to Edward, she found him watching her expectantly. Offering his arm, he waited until she took it to lead her down a different walkway.

 

Tolo, Edward,” she said tentatively, relaxing when the younger prince grinned approvingly.

 

“You are starting to learn Sindarin. That is a fine idea, since you will be living here now. There are many in the kingdom who only speak elvish, either Sindarin or Silvan. Some few also speak Quenya, but you will have no call to learn it. Sindarin will be best for you, I think.”

 

“How would I go about learning the language? Right now, I only speak English and Westron.”

 

“Really?” He pursed his lips. “I think Mother speaks a dozen languages, or perhaps more. I know all three forms of elvish, and I also obviously speak English and the Common Tongue.”

 

“I had a year of Spanish in high school, but that didn’t teach me diddly squat as to how to actually speak it. I think your mother is obviously some kind of wonder woman, and you’re boy wonder.”

 

He chuckled, flashing her his charming smile again and she smirked, thinking she was glad Legolas had made her immune to all other elvish mega-watt smiles by showing her his.

 

“I think it would be best to introduce you to Tirion and see if he is willing to help. He is in charge of the library, and taught Quenya to my mother. My siblings and I all learned from him as well, and Celestia is currently taking lessons to do the same. Since he learned English from my mother, and also speaks Westron, he would make the best tutor. As the English you speak is so different to Mother’s, he may welcome the chance to increase his own knowledge from you.”

 

“Would this Tirion happen to have anything to do with what you were teasing your sister about earlier?” She rolled her eyes when he smirked. “So, Catherine has a crush on her teacher? That’s pretty common where I come from.”

 

He stopped in front of a door and opened it, gesturing for her to precede him before he followed her inside and shut the door behind him. Laurelin glanced around in interest before Edward walked into the middle of the room and drew her attention back to him.

 

“A crush refers to a temporary infatuation, does it not?”

 

“Yep, that’s exactly what it means.” Admiring the fancy but comfortable looking blue couch, she sat down on it, scooting over to make room when Edward sat beside her.

 

“For Catherine, it is not that. Mother and I both believe she truly loves him, and I suspect Tirion may even return her feelings, or he would if she were of age, which neither of us will be thought of until we are at least fifty, but a hundred years is seen more as a full adult for an elf, or even for half elves as we all are.”

 

Laurelin stared in surprise. “You mean to tell me that you and Catherine aren’t considered adults...and I’m not either? That’s nuts, I’ve been living as an adult, fully responsible for myself, financially and otherwise since I was eighteen years old!”

 

It was Edward’s turn to show open surprise, his brows climbing in amazement. “Truly? Is that not a bit young to be functioning as an adult, even among the lands of men?”

 

“Nope.” She crossed her arms. “Not remotely, and I’m not about to go backwards after nearly twelve years of adult living and making my own choices and decisions. Hell, I don’t even know who would be expected to take over and tell me what to do here, unless...”

 

The prince winced in sympathy and nodded. “Yes, I can see from your expression that you’ve guessed already. Your father would be expected to fill that role.”

 

“I don’t even fuckin’ know him,” she said incredulously. “I have a single picture of Thurindir, and before today, I thought he was just a man from my world that my mother had wild sex with a few times, and got pregnant with me from!”

 

Edward glanced away, tugging his top lip between his teeth and his ears turning pink along the edges. She never had gotten the chance to ask Legolas about elves blushing on their ears, but it seemed obvious that was what it meant. Laurelin rubbed her brow, and sighed.

 

“Sorry, I’m – sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you, I can be...very blunt. I should have said someone she had an affair with. Does that make it better?”

 

He frowned. “An affair? That is...a temporary...physical relationship that mankind sometimes engage in, is it not?” She nodded and he leaned nearer, growing more serious. “I think there are perhaps some things you do not understand about elves and love, Laurelin. My father told me that for an elf, desire is rarely felt without love, and to join bodies, or...have sex, as you term it, is to be wed according to elvish custom. There is no concept of a middle ground for us, it is all or nothing. Your father was wed to your mother when they conceived you.”

 

Her face drained of color, and she grasped the arm of the couch in a death grip, her eyes widening further at all the implications of that knowledge. “Are you telling me elves never fool around? Or...or, experiment sexually...like, at all?”

 

“That is correct. We cannot do a thing if we do not feel it.” His brows drew together at how pale she had become and how her hands shook. He reached for one of her hands, thinking to give her comfort over her upset at what she had assumed of her parents. “Without love, desire never rises for an elf, or even half elf, I daresay. You have not experienced such desire for another, have you?”

 

“No,” she lied in a whisper. “I always thought there was something wrong with me, because all the girls around me seemed interested in boys, but I never was. That makes a lot more sense to me now.”

 

“That must have been confusing, having so many things from your elvish heritage that you had no understanding of.” Turning to face her, he rubbed his thumb across her fingers. “I will gladly explain whatever you wish to know. As elder brother to seven siblings, I’m quite adept at teaching all manner of things concerning our customs and ways. My father imparts knowledge to me, and I frequently disperse it to my brothers and sisters as they have need. Ask me anything, truly.”

 

She gave him a weak smile, reminded of how her brother always tried to watch over her. “You’re a good brother, Eddie. Do you mind if I call you that?”

 

Edward grinned. “I do not mind. It sounds strangely right coming from you, and it makes it seem even moreso that you are gwathel nin. That means ‘my sister’ in Sindarin,” he clarified, at her confused look.

 

Slipping her hand away from his, she swiped her hair behind her ear, debating whether to ask what she was wondering or not, then rushing ahead before she could talk herself out of it. “And what does ‘ le melin’ mean again?”

 

“That is the more formal way of saying ‘I love you’ in Sindarin.” He tilted his head. “Did Legolas teach you some elvish when you were together?”

 

She nodded her head, trying to appear casual and disinterested even while her heart was trying to gallop its way out of her chest. “He did teach me a few things. He was telling me about your mom and dad and the different terms of endearments elves use. I remember him saying your daddy calls your momma ‘ mîr nin ’ too, and that it means ‘my treasure’? Is that right?”

 

“Yes, although I do not think knowing how to say those things will be particularly helpful for you now,” he laughed.

 

“How do you know?” she asked with a crooked smile. “Maybe I’m just a really affectionate and loving person, and I want to go around telling all y’all what precious treasures you are. Le melin, Eddie, for being a sweet friend to me.” She batted her eyelashes playfully, making him grin.

 

“I do not mind hearing that, but perhaps such teasing is best said only in private. I fear if anyone not of my family hears you say such a thing to me, it will be assumed we are courting, or perhaps even betrothed.”

 

“Dear God,” she groaned. “We can’t have any of that foolishness. Don’t worry, I’ll only tease around people I know won’t make anything out of it. Actually, it’s probably best I don’t tease at all.”

 

Edward perched on the edge of the couch, preparing to rise. “I feel certain that it would be quite beyond your capacity to refrain from teasing for any significant amount of time. With my family, I well recognize the signs of a lifelong tease. To deny it is to deny your nature.”

 

“Smart-ass.” Laurelin smirked. “Besides, it takes a tease to know a tease.”

 

He raised a brow with a slight smile that made him look very like his father, his blue eyes twinkling. “I never claimed I was exempt from the family tradition of teasing, Laurelin.” Standing to his full height, his eyes softened when Laurelin laughed, glad he had been able to distract her from some of the negative emotions she had experienced during the day when meeting her father for the first time.

 

She seemed to believe him unaware of her attachment to his brother, but he could well see in her eyes that she loved Legolas. Some of his father’s gifts had assuredly passed to him, and a keen awareness of others and the world around him was one of them. If his brother did not return Laurelin’s feelings, which was entirely likely, even probable, he knew she would need the comfort of friendship even more, and he wished to offer her that.

 

The lost and lonely look in her eyes touched him deeply, and holding her in his arms while her life hovered in the balance during the time his mother and father fought for her life left him feeling strangely attached and responsible for her. It was a new experience, and combined with the rare kinship they shared as English speakers and half elf, half human…

 

“Will you be alright here on your own?” he asked with a gentle look. “After such an experience as what happened with the orcs, it can take time to feel well again. I can stay here in this room and watch over your rest while you sleep in the bedroom, if you like. It would be my honor to be of use to you in this way. If you wish it,” he finished quietly.

 

Laurelin stared up into his eyes, seeing past the teasing and easy smiles to the true Edward beneath for the first time, and the obvious care he seemed to have for her, struck speechless by it. The day’s tension, sorrow and emotional highs and lows broke over her in that moment, like a bursting balloon.

 

He was clearly offering her a safe place, she could feel it from him, and she desperately needed it in that moment. With a muffled sound, somewhere between a gasp and a sob, she stood and threw her arms around his neck, tightening her hold when he squeezed her closely in his arms. Edward enveloped her in his selfless comfort while she cried silent tears against his chest.

 

“You are no longer alone,” he murmured against her hair, rubbing a slow hand across her back. “There is no shame in giving in to what you truly feel, and there is no judgement. Not from me.”

 

“Thank you,” she said through her tears, wishing he would hold her even tighter against him, when he did. She laughed with a slight edge of hysteria to it, rubbing at her cheeks and runny nose self-consciously. “Can you read my thoughts too?”

 

“No, why do you think so?”

 

She pulled back enough to look up at him, struck again by just how tall he was, so like Legolas. “Because I wished you would hold me tighter, and about two seconds after I had the thought, you did.”

 

He rubbed a hand against her cheek, brushing away her tears, focusing on the movement before looking into her eyes again searchingly. “I care for your pain and wished to soothe it. You have needed this release for some time, I felt it. I understand you do not yet know me well, but you may trust me with anything. If ever you wish to talk, sit together in silence, or crave the comfort of touch, you need only tell me. All I have spoken is sincere.”

 

Looking down at where her hand rested against his chest, she nodded. “I know. You’re a rare and wonderful person, Edward, and the gift you just gave me is huge.” She looked up into his concerned eyes and smiled, feeling it was more genuine than it had been that entire day. “But don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine here on my own. I’m a big girl, and I can handle a few nightmares now and again.”

 

His brows furrowed with a doubtful look. “Very well, if you are certain. I will come and check on you in the morning then, shall I?”

 

“That sounds perfect.” She started to step away from him, when he took her head between both of his hands and bent to kiss her forehead. She closed her eyes with a sharp pain to her heart, again reminded so poignantly of Legolas.

 

“Sweet dreams, Eddie,” she smiled up at him, recovering quickly.

 

“And to you, Laurelin. I mâr nîn i mâr gîn, which means my home is your home. Rest well.” With a final look over his shoulder, he opened the door and left silently.

 

Sighing and suddenly feeling very worn out and exhausted, she opened the door to the connected bedroom, kicked off her shoes and pulled back the thick coverlet and crawled in, still fully dressed. She was asleep seconds after she snuggled into the pillow. Her final conscious thought to wonder where Legolas was and what he was doing.

 

 


~o~

 

Chapter Text

 


 

Slashing one of his twin knives against the throat of the final wolf, Legolas grimaced and surveyed the group of dead animals. They were feral and vicious to attack midday, the entire pack, but so thin and starved it was hardly surprising. He had not expected that on the direct path he had chosen to travel, but the wilds were anything but predictable.

 

Wiping the blood from his knives on the thick fur of the closest beast, he whistled for Arod. By the time the horse trotted up, he had done what he could to clean his weapons and himself on the leaves of a nearby bush. If he passed a source of water before the next time he stopped to let Arod graze and rest, he would wash.

 

Looking up at the thick clouds overhead, he inhaled the rain scent in the air. Perhaps if the rain did its work in the next several hours, he might be washed while he rode. That would save time. Mounting Arod, he patted him in gratitude for his extra speed to reach Laurelin.

 

Ci vilui, mellon nin. Menib.” (S. Thank you, my friend. Let’s go.)

 

Scanning the landscape as Arod quickly settled into a steady run, he fell again into a semi-meditative state of rest. He had made excellent time thus far, and would be home even quicker than he had predicted if nothing unforeseen interfered.

 

When the sky opened up and the soft rain began to gently dot his skin, he tipped his face up in welcome, a slight smile on his lips.

 

 


 

 

Days passed where Laurelin spent a good bit of her time primarily in the company of Edward and Catherine. They took her on rides, showed her their favorite places, and slowly acquainted her with more of the elvish way of life, which she discovered suited her perfectly. It was so strange to realize that she wasn’t really so much a hippie in her ways, but an elf.

 

Two days after her emotional meltdown in the woods, she felt ready to seek out her father and begin to get to know him. The first few times they were together, the conversation remained light and easy, and she appreciated his sensitivity as he seemed able to tell she wasn’t yet ready for more. Their talks mostly revolved around her experiences in Rohan and their culture, the friendship she had enjoyed with King Théoden, and her lifelong passion and pursuit of music, which seemed to please her father greatly. Finally, after more than a week of wondering and hesitating, she asked to know about how he and her mother had met, and how they came to part ways.

 

They had taken a walk beyond the stables and into the trees, and were sitting side by side with their backs against the massive trunk of a Beech tree. She twirled a pretty green leaf between two fingers that she had picked up off the forest floor, thinking it looked a great deal like her tattoo leaves and smiling at the thought.

 

“When you came to find yourself in Rohan and not in the land you had been, did you pass through a mist or very thick fog, too dense to see through?”

 

Lowering the leaf, she nodded. “Yes, but not only fog, there was also a violent storm with thunder and lightning, and then the ground shook with earthquake. I fainted from fear, and when I woke up, I was in Rohan.”

 

Thurindir leaned his head back against the tree. “I can understand your fear, for I have never experienced such an extreme or savage bout of weather. When I crossed, it was through a dense, moist fog that I thought nothing of until it cleared and I knew at once I was some other place than I had been. Originally, I was in an edge of forest leading to plains. My task was to gather from the wild horses that roamed free, those animals which wished to come with me, to bolster the number of mounts for kingdom use. Instead, I stood among hills and mountains; beautiful, but shocking as I could not discern how I had come to suddenly be some place so different.”

 

“What did you do?” Laurelin asked, watching his face while he spoke.

 

“I walked on. There were woods I could see not far from where I stood. As I got closer, I heard a lovely voice on the wind, singing, and I followed it until I came upon a small dwelling with a woman sitting outside. I was enchanted from the moment I beheld her, and when she looked up and our eyes met I could see all the beauty and light of her spirit shining like a beacon to guide me, such a rare and wonderful thing to find by mere chance.” Thurindir looked at Laurelin then, and she knew he was seeing her mother, Melissa, and picking out parts of her he could clearly see in her, their daughter.

 

“She spoke to me, to ask if I needed help, I’m certain. Although I did not understand her words, I could hear the concern and eagerness to offer assistance in her tone. I asked if she could tell me where I was, first in Westron, then I tried elvish, but it became obvious to us both that we had no common language between us.” He laughed softly, so deep in his memories it was as though he were there again.

 

“Melissëah began to act out with her movements, things she wished to ask or communicate, some of it quite comical. But it was when she caught sight of my ears when the wind happened to blow my hair back, that I knew she had never before beheld an elf. She went so still, and stared from my ears back to my face, over and over. I could see her quick mind trying to make sense of something beyond her own experience and knowledge, and the moment when she accepted that I was different from her, but not something to fear.”

 

He paused briefly, glancing up to the canopy of leaves overhead. “Taking my hand in hers, she led me into the dwelling, sat me at a table and made a meal for me. All the while, she spoke to me, and her voice and the lovely cadence of her speech lulled me into complete comfort.” Bending one of his long legs, he rested his arm on top of his knee, pausing briefly with a soft smile on his lips.

 

“I ceased to be concerned with where I was or how I had come to be there. That seemed unimportant. All I could think of, was I had found the one my heart had been waiting for, and that I loved her. We had not spent even a full hour together, but I knew we were destined for each other.” He met Laurelin’s eyes with a smile.

 

“I came to understand that she was engaged in some manner of study of the trees and hills thereabouts. There were many things there in her dwelling that were strange to me, such as the box with talking people within, yet not.”

 

Laurelin chuckled. “Television. I can imagine that would have been a jarring thing for you to experience.”

 

“Yes,...television,” he repeated carefully in English. “I remember that word. Also,...meecruwav?

 

“Oh! Microwave,” Laurelin said with a snort, trying to imagine her elvish father in a modern setting, making a bag of popcorn or warming up a cup of tea.

 

His faint smile faded, and he looked away. “That night, she made me a bed on the long couch, and went to her own chamber and shut the door and went to sleep, but I could hear she was restless and her sleep seemed troubled by bad dreams. When she awoke and I heard her crying softly, I went to her, longing to bring her comfort and keep whatever the nightmares were from tormenting her.” His voice fell more quiet, and his hair slipped forward, half veiling his face when he looked down. “We wed that night, and I have been her husband, and she my beloved wife, ever since. For the thousand years since we were parted, until now, I have mourned her and missed her, and so shall I always.”

 

“A thousand years? What are you talking about?” Laurelin touched his shoulder with a frown, drawing his gaze back to hers. “I’m only twenty-nine, and Momma is only in her early fifties.”

 

He drew an astonished breath. “She still lives? And...you are so very young, truly? I thought your appearance was as one so youthful due to being of my blood.”

 

“She was still alive and well the last time I saw her, two years ago. If I had any doubt about this being a completely different plane or dimension from my earth, I don’t anymore. Even time moves differently between the two places, or so it seems,” Laurelin said ruefully, reaching for her father’s hand. “But how did you come back here, after being with Momma? Didn’t you want to stay?”

 

Thurindir sighed, and the sound was heavy with regret. “We had been together for the better part of two months, and her time in study there was drawing to a close. I was to accompany her back to wherever she was to go next. In the early hours before dawn, in what was to be one of our final days there, I left her sleeping and went for a walk to farewell that place. I retraced my steps where I had originally come, musing over the unexplainable wonder that had brought me to my love, when I was again swiftly surrounded by a thick mist.” He stretched his leg out again, the breeze catching his long blond hair and lifting it back and away from his face.

 

“In alarm, I tried to back away from it, but it was already too late. When it cleared, I stood once more in the same area as I had been, before I was taken from Middle-earth. I lingered there for many years, hoping to again find the strange connection that would allow me to pass, but it was not to be. So much time went by that I assumed even were I to find my way again, as a child of man, she would no longer be living. Eventually, my kin came seeking me, and I returned here with them, where I have remained. How many times since, I have bitterly regretted taking that walk. If only I had remained there with her...”

 

His eyes were full of such grief and sadness, Laurelin leaned her head against him, wrapping her arms around one of his. “I’m sorry, Daddy. Everything would have been so different if I had grown up with you fathering me. Mark did the best he could, but I know there were times he was baffled and confused with how I was, and didn’t always know how to respond.”

 

“Daddy?” Thurindir echoed with a small smile. Laurelin looked up and nodded.

 

“That’s the English word for ada, Edward told me. Do you mind if I call you that?”

 

His green eyes misted when he raised a hand to touch her cheek. “It fills my heart with joy to hear it, my daughter. Your coming is as miraculous to me as a perfumed wind and the dawning, warm sun after many days spent in utter darkness.” He pressed a kiss to her forehand. “And so, your mother married again. I am glad of it, for her sake. I should not have wished her to be alone.”

 

“Sometimes, she used to seem so sad for no reason, and she would hold me tight, and cry. I think now I understand why, and so much more about her makes sense. She was missing you, but she thought by hiding it all from me, I could just be normal and happy. I couldn’t though, not really. I still needed you.”

 

Thurindir gazed tenderly into her eyes, his own shining with love. “You are the reason. The mists took me there and gave me your mother so you might be born, I know this to be true now. Such a rare and precious thing, you are. Many lives have already been touched by you, and though I do not possess the gift of foresight, I can still see clearly that you shall touch many more, in countless ways. As your father, I could not be more proud of the person you are, and will yet become, my beloved child.”

 

Laurelin beamed up at him, well able to feel his love for her and reveling in the sense of complete and total belonging. Something she had always wanted, but could never find before. Legolas’ words returned to her, when he spoke of her having been meant to come to his world, and now she knew what he was referring to and agreed with him.

 

Though she would always miss her mother, Mark and Vincent, and friends and places from her previous life, it seemed she was where she was supposed to be. Had she remained there, she would have watched them all age and die, while scarcely aging herself for a very long time, as she had discovered was the way for half elves, but she would never have known why or understood anything about who and what she truly was.

 

Now, she would have a father and friends who loved her and understood her, and they would never have to be torn away from each other or suffer the pain of losing one another. It seemed incredible that from the soil of all her grief, loneliness and anger, there now sprouted a new happiness, fresh and green. It had the promise of growing stronger, with many added branches and the blossoming flowers of new friendships and experiences. The world before her seemed bright, and the days ahead began to whisper a soft welcome. She looked down at the leaf in her hand.

 

Green leaves.

 

Maybe those fortune tellers had got it right, and all she needed to do was be patient and let it happen. Snuggling contentedly against her father, she smiled, closing her eyes and enjoying the warm comfort of his presence.

 

 


 

 

Several days later, Laurelin was sitting cross-legged on a wooden bench at the side of the practice grounds, watching while Edward and Catherine honed their fighting skills together. In the next area over, King Thranduil and Queen Elizabeth could be seen sparring together with swords, flowing around one another with the kind of grace and fluidity that she still had a hard time getting used to. When she had lived a few hundred years, it was possible that she might even acquire more grace, dignity and a refined bearing so many of the older elves seemed to have inherently. Looking down at how she was sitting, with her dress spread oddly to accommodate it, she wrinkled her nose. Maybe not.

 

Catherine came and sat beside her, slightly breathless, but smiling. Edward followed with a disgruntled look, having sheathed the long knives he had used, the same as his sister and very similar to what Legolas had carried.

 

“You would not have won if you had not exploited a ticklish spot on me that no one else except Mother even knows about. That is not a fair way to fight, Kitty.”

 

Making an amused sound, Catherine raised a golden brow at her dark-haired twin. “There is no such thing as fair fighting, Eddie. Why do you cling to that idea? It was Mother who encouraged me to use whatever means necessary to win in a battle. Did you know she tickled Father the very first time they fought, and that was how she defeated him?”

 

Edward crossed his arms. “We all know that story, sister. Mother is a formidable warrior, but I still think it likely that Father let her win. Have you not seen his enigmatic smile when she speaks of it? I can read Father better than you can, and I am certain that was the way of it.”

 

Catherine smirked. “You just cannot bear the thought of being beaten by a female, Ed, admit it.”

 

“That is not true,” Edward said with an offended look before he turned his gaze to Laurelin. “I shouldn’t mind at all being beaten by Gracie.”

 

Laurelin chuckled and rolled her eyes. Since she had told Edward and Catherine her second name was Grace and that her mother used to call her Gracie as an affectionate name, they had both taken to using it frequently when speaking with her, referring to it as her ‘mother name’. A fair exchange, she supposed, since she also used their names for each other, of Eddie and Kitty.

 

“You know I can’t fight like any of y’all do here. I might try to throw sand in your eyes and kick you in your unmentionables, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. I can stab something right in front of me, and I can shoot a gun, which is now a useless skill, since none exist here. Otherwise, I guess I’m just a pathetic damsel, as galling as that is to me.”

 

Taking a step closer, Edward offered his hand, pulling her to her feet. “Why will you not agree to let me teach you? It would not take so very long before you would be competently able to defend yourself.”

 

“Legolas gave me one lesson with the bow,” she said with a shrug. “But I just feel like I’m not really cut out to be a fighter. Out of the two fights I’ve been in, I got a poisoned wound I had to be healed from, and then in the second fight, I almost died. Not really very confidence inspiring. Music is the main thing I do well...or, maybe not super well, compared to the musicians and singers I’ve heard in the great-hall here, but good enough back where I came from among mankind.”

 

Catherine laced her arm through Laurelin’s with a grin. “I’m going to talk you into singing in the great hall soon. You know you can’t resist my pleading eyes for much longer.” Catherine gave her a sad look with a cute little frown, making Laurelin laugh and shield her eyes.

 

“Don’t turn your super powers on me, girl! You know you have more charm than should ever be allowed, and you could probably talk a tiger right out of his stripes.”

 

Edward smiled when Catherine giggled with a mischievous look at him. “Kitty is right, Grace, you really must give in and sing for us. I don’t know why you’re so shy about it, when you were accustomed to performing before crowds and were bard to a king.”

 

“Maybe I will, in a few days,” she said absently, her eyes drawn back to the king and queen when their swords clashed in a blinding flurry of strikes and counter-strikes. When they drew apart, the queen smiled and said something that made the king give a full-throated laugh and sheathe his sword. Laurelin smiled, having become addicted to watching them together every chance she got. “Your parents are total BAMFs.” She looked from Catherine to Edward and wiggled her brows teasingly.

 

“Which means?” Edward prompted, glancing to where his parents were leaving the practice yard and offering an arm to Catherine and another to Laurelin to lead them out to the walkway beyond, turning toward Laurelin’s room.

 

“It stands for bad-ass motherfucker, but it’s a compliment, not an insult, even if it is a vulgarity. You say that about someone that’s super tough, impressive and awe-inspiring. If we were back in my land, they would be superstars, for sure, so it’s a good thing they’re here and not there. They wouldn’t have any privacy otherwise.”

 

Coming to a stop in front of Laurelin’s door, Edward tilted his head curiously. “That’s...an interesting compliment. I’m not sure Father would appreciate it, but I’m certain it would make Mother laugh. Shall we come for you here, or meet you in the hall a little later?”

 

Laurelin shook her head. “Not tonight, thanks. My daddy is coming to spend the evening with me here. But if he wants to, we might come sit with y’all for a spell after dinner.”

 

Catherine kissed her cheek, and Edward leaned down and did the same. “I suppose we must be generous and share you with your father, but do come if you can. Otherwise, we’ll see you in the morning,” Catherine said with a smile. “Don’t forget you promised to submit to Celestia and allow her to arrange your hair and dress you as she chooses.”

 

Shaking her head, Laurelin grinned. “I haven’t forgotten. I’m actually looking forward to being her living Barbie doll, just to see what she’ll turn me into.” She opened her door and slipped inside, still smiling as she headed off to bathe and get ready for dinner with her father.

 

 


 

 

Drawing a deep breath, Legolas surveyed the obvious signs of battle as Arod trotted slowly among the trees. Speaking to the horse to bring him to a halt, he slid from his back and walked across the clearing. A cremation mound of what had been orcs stood to one side, and new graves with the disturbed earth sent a strange shiver down his spine.

 

A caravan, it had obviously been, from the cart and horse tracks he could still see etched into the dirt and grass all around. Turning, he walked in a westerly direction. So close to home, he was surprised to see a caravan be attacked by orcs, but perhaps the fall of their dark master had made the remnants desperate, causing them to attack at random.

 

Could this have been the group Laurelin had traveled with? Surely not. His expression grew grim, and he hurried his steps when he caught sight of something that made his heart pound in dread and denial, even as he drew closer to confirm it. His breath fled from his lungs in a rush, the color draining from his face as he stared at the dried patch of blood still visible on the grass and leaves. It was far more than any person, man or elf, could lose and still survive.

 

Kneeling, he picked up a golden leaf, covered in blood. He stared at it until his sight blurred with tears. It seemed he could even smell a sudden honeysuckle sweetness on the breeze, and he stifled a grief-stricken gasp of pain that rose from the core of his being. He knew. He knew it was her blood. She had called out to him, and he had not been there as she needed him to be. Oh, merciful Eru, why had she not waited for him? Why had he not anticipated her impatience and rushed back to Edoras to retrieve her? He could have taken her back to Gondor. He could have…

 

He allowed his tears to flow only a moment longer, then reached up to dash them away, his expression hardening. No, he would not allow himself to fall to grief and fade. He could not, his family still needed him...his brothers and sisters, his friends. There was still a chance. Still a hope. He would not believe her lost until he knew it for certain. He must continue home. It was less than two hours to his father’s halls, if he rode hard.

 

Tucking the leaf into his tunic to rest beside her letter, he retraced his steps to Arod. After he was mounted, with Arod galloping past the trees, he heard the lyrics from one of her songs in his head, unable to stop the words repeating, over and over.

 

Fear is suffocating me

I can't breathe

I feel like I'm drowning

I'm sinking deeper

~o~

Memories flash before my eyes

I’m losing time

White light fades to red

As I enter the City of the Dead

 

 


 

 

Celestia giggled, her high eight-year-old voice making Laurelin smile, remembering herself as a little girl, and how much fun it was to play dress-ups. The youngest princess came to stand in front of where she had ordered Laurelin to sit while she styled her hair in an elaborate concoction of curls and braids, and took her hand to pull her to her feet.

 

“Now that your hair is properly arranged like a lady, instead of the wild way you keep it, we shall go to Mother’s clothing room and choose a suitable gown,” she said primly.

 

“Hey, now,” Laurelin laughed, allowing herself to be tugged along behind the young girl, who seemed far too tall to only be eight, obviously on her way to being just as tall as most of her siblings.

 

When Celestia pushed open the door to what was obviously her parent’s massive bedchamber, Laurelin came to a stop. “Um, I don’t think we’re supposed to be in here, darlin’. I mean, I’m sure you’re welcome, but it’s not really proper for me to enter the bedroom of the king and queen, ya know?”

 

Grinning, Celestia shrugged. “Do not fear, they are not usually nearby at this time of day, and as long as the door isn’t locked, it’s quite safe. Come along.”

 

Laurelin’s brows climbed at that, smirking at the locked door part while she entered a large, bedroom-sized closet, full of more gowns than she had ever seen in her life.

 

“Wow,” she breathed, drawing a proud smile from her companion.

 

“I know! Isn’t it glorious?” Celestia gushed enthusiastically, sweeping a hand out to encompass the room. “Catherine, Alassë and Rainë have quite a few gowns among them, but not as many as Mummy nor as fine. As Mummy is also not as tall as my sisters, I don’t fall down as much when I wear them.” She narrowed her eyes in a serious scrutiny of Laurelin’s figure that made the bard repress a smile. “I think you are a close enough size to Mum so her dresses will look well on you.”

 

Elizabeth breezed into the room, stopping to smile at them both and kiss Celestia’s cheek before she went to a tall wardrobe and took out a grey cloak, folding it over her arm. She looked at Laurelin’s hair and nodded approvingly. “I see my daughter is working her magic on you, and has come to choose something grand enough to fit her vision for you. Use what you like, and I’ll look forward to seeing you arrayed as a high lady when I return from my ride.”

 

“See you later, Mummy!” Celestia crossed the room, quickly sorting through gowns.

 

“Bye, Elizabeth, have fun,” Laurelin called after the queen, turning back to watch the princess’s progress. She had a green gown in one hand and a purple one in the other before putting the purple gown back and pulling out a gem crusted gown in silver. She added a golden version to the pile in her arms, along with something in a pale blue, and a final selection in white.

 

“Here, let me help.” Laurelin took several of the dresses and set them on the bench where Celestia piled the others. Celestia quickly went and closed the door and locked it, then nodded at the dresses.

 

“Let’s try all these on, then we can pick shoes and jewelry to go with it. Oh! Then I can use some of the cosmetics you said you have in your rooms, right?”

 

Quickly undoing the dress she had on, she slipped free of it and nodded, picking up the first one from the pile. “Yep, you can paint my face up if you really want to. I just hope you won’t make me look too much like a clown. Unless that’s a look you’re going for, in which case that would be okay, I guess.”

 

Celestia frowned. “What does a clown look like?”

 

After she explained and described clown make-up, Celestia laughed. “No! We shall not make you look ridiculous. I want to see what you like like when I fix you like Mummy.”

 

“I hate to break it to ya, kid, but I’m never gonna look as good as your mother.”

 

Helping to do up the laces in the back, Celestia gave Laurelin a superior look. “You are welcome to think that until I prove you wrong. I can make you very beautiful, just wait and see.”

 

Smiling indulgently, Laurelin nodded, deciding to humor the little girl. “Alright, but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t turn out quite like you imagine.”

 

“I won’t be disappointed. Do you like my brothers?”

 

Unrolling part of a twisted sleeve, Laurelin looked back at Celestia. “Of course I like your brothers, why wouldn’t I? They’re all charming and sweet.” She paused and considered. “Except Gâlen, he’s a real stinker.”

 

“Does that mean he smells bad?” Celestia asked in obvious confusion.

 

Laurelin chuckled. “No, sorry, that’s an expression that means he’s very teasing and mischievous. I like him too, I just feel like I have to keep more of an eye on him so he doesn’t play a prank on me, know what I mean?”

 

Pursing her lips and motioning for Laurelin to turn in a circle, Celestia nodded. “Yes, I know. I agree Gâlen is a stinker, but don’t tell him I said so or he may not give me rides on his back anymore. I like that gown, but I think I prefer you in color. Try the blue. And tell me which of my brothers you like best.”

 

After Celestia untied the laces in the back, Laurelin pulled off the white dress, giving the princess a long look. “Why do I have to pick a favorite? Can’t I just like them all equally?”

 

Celestia rolled her eyes in annoyance, making her look much more like eight year old little girls she was used to from back home. “I want you to have a favorite so you can love him and get married. How about Edward? He likes you and you already spend a lot of time together. Maybe you should try and kiss him and see if he would be a good husband for you. That’s what Mummy and Daddy do, so I think it must be important.”

 

Laurelin’s brows drew together in puzzlement as she wrestled the next gown on. “Why do you think I should marry one of your brothers? That seems...odd.”

 

With a skill that seemed well beyond her years, Celestia started tying ribbons on the front of the gown into pretty bows, where they went down the front of the lace covered bodice. “I like you and wish to keep you,” she stated in a matter-of-fact tone, “and if you marry one of my brothers, that shall make you my family, so I will always be able to visit you, even if you go to some other place. I could even go and visit you at your new home if that happened. But if you do not, then if you ever decide to go away, how shall I be allowed to see you again? What about Legolas, since you already know him? I know he may seem very old to you, but he’s kind and good and he would look after you. I think pick him or Edward because they are both very skilled fighters, as well.”

 

Taking Celestia’s hands in both of hers, Laurelin smiled and pulled the young princess to sit on the bench beside her, stroking her long brown hair back from her face and smiling into her pretty green eyes.

 

“That’s just about the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard, you sugar girl, you. But we can be the very best friends without me marrying one of your brothers, ya know? They wouldn’t ever want to be married to me, and it’s really important that both people agree on that point. And if I ever do leave, I promise to always come back and visit you, no matter how far I have to travel to do it.” She held up her hand with her little finger sticking up. “Pinkie promise.”

 

Smiling tentatively, Celestia gave her a curious look. “What is a pinkie promise?”

 

“It’s a sacred promise made between two people. When you make a pinkie promise, it means you’re making a vow you can’t never ever break.” Lifting Celestia’s hand and wrapping her pinkie around the little girl’s, she nodded, adopting a serious expression. “I, Laurelin Grace Wyche, do solemnly swear to be best friends forever with Celestia, Princess of Greenwood, and to spend time with her and think of her, always, whether near or far.”

 

With pink cheeks and excited eyes, Celestia repeated the vow and Laurelin hugged her and kissed her cheek. “Now nothing can ever break our bond, because we’re heart sisters of the pinkie promise, alright?”

 

“I agree. Pinkie promise.” Celestia sprung up from the bench and pulled on Laurelin’s hand. “But let’s hurry. I want to finish you before dinner so Edward can see you.”

 

Submitting to more bow fixing, Laurelin sighed, thinking it might be a challenge to change Celestia’s course once her mind was made up on something. She would need to be sure to warn Edward discreetly of his youngest sister’s scheme later.

 

“I feel like I’m being gussied up like a prize cow to go to auction,” she said under her breath, changing into yet another dress. For the first time, she felt sympathy for all Barbie dolls and fashion models from her old life.

 

 


~o~

Chapter Text

 


 

After another hour and a half, and having been subjected to more careful fixing than she’d ever endured in her life, Celestia led her by the hand into the family dining room and clapped her hands until she had everyone’s attention.

 

“I present to you Lady Laurelin Grace of the house of Wyche, from the distant land of Texas, America. Dressed and prepared this evening by none other than the magnificent Princess Celestia.”

 

Laurelin curtsied as she had been ordered to before they entered the room, giving Elizabeth a helpless look. “I didn’t know what I was really getting into when I agreed to a play date with Celestia. I bet I look like a prize mule at the state fair. Just tie a ribbon around my neck.”

 

Laughing, Elizabeth came near, walking a slow circle around Laurelin. She put her arm around Celestia, who was grinning from ear to ear with obvious pride while her mother kissed the top of her head. “Well done, little love. I think you’ve managed to exceed your past glories.” Turning to Laurelin, she nodded. “You look absolutely ravishing, my dear. It’s just as well there are only elves and none of mankind in this kingdom, or I fear we should have to beat them off with a stick. What do you think, love?”

 

Thranduil approached and crossed his arms, examining Laurelin thoroughly in the golden, gem crusted gown from his wife’s collection. With the way her hair was arranged and the matching gold colored gems hanging from her ears and clasped around her throat, she well looked as though she belonged in a palace of her own. The color on her lips and eyes also seemed to enhance, and what a perfect night for her to be so arrayed. He smiled.

 

“It is perhaps equally fortunate that there are no dwarves nearby, for they should mistake you entirely for golden treasure and attempt to add you to their hoard.” Stepping closer, he lifted her hand and kissed it with an unusually warm look in his bright blue eyes. “You look quite lovely, young Laurelin. Impressive, little star.” He stroked the cheek of his youngest with a tender smile, who beamed at the combined praise of both parents.

 

Laurelin blushed in embarrassment. “Thank you. If I look lovely it’s entirely due to this little magic gal. I’m pretty sure she cast some kind of glamour on me, ‘cause I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror at all. I’m guessing I’ll probably turn back into a pumpkin at midnight.”

 

“I swear you shall not,” Celestia declared emphatically and held up her hand with little finger extended. “Pinkie promise?” Smiling, Laurelin wrapped her little finger around Celestia’s and winked.

 

“Pinkie promise. Always.”

 

With glowing eyes, Celestia skipped away to Edward on the other side of the room and Elizabeth touched Laurelin’s arm. “After enduring Celestia’s wishes for an entire afternoon and evening, I believe you have gained a devoted admirer forever. That gown never looked as good on me. Please keep it as a gift, my dear.”

 

Opening her mouth to protest, Thranduil made a chiding sound and shook his head. “Never refuse a queen, Laurelin. They always manage to get their way in the end.” He turned his smirk to Elizabeth and she narrowed her eyes back, though she said nothing as they stood staring at each other. The silence was on the verge of becoming awkward when Gâlen approached her, giving her a quick once over. His unusual eyes, a striking lavender at certain angles, filled with a teasing light.

 

“Very pretty, I’ll grant you, but it looks terribly uncomfortable. I’m certainly glad I’m not a girl to be subjected to such things.”

 

Alassë pinched his arm and smiled at Laurelin. “We’re glad he’s not a girl too, aren’t we, Laurelin? He would be terrible at it.”

 

Rubbing his arm with an annoyed look, he moved another step away from his older sister. “I didn’t say it would be hard. I’m sure I would have been a very graceful and charming female, had I been born that gender.”

 

Laurelin stepped closer and dropped her voice to a whisper. “Stick to being a male smart-ass tease, it works for you.”

 

Laughing outright, Alassë took Laurelin by the arm and walked with her over to where her two other sisters were chatting together. Frowning, Gâlen met his father’s amused gaze and raised his dark brows in surprise when Thranduil nodded and rested a hand on his shoulder, murmuring in a low voice. “She is correct, Gâlen. I believe you were born to be something of a cocky mischief maker. But even that can be a true asset, provided you learn how to direct it.”

 

His mother came up on his other side, slipping her hand into his. “Take your father as an example, dear boy. I believe there never was a more successful or compelling smart-ass to walk the face of Arda.”

 

Mîr nin,” Thranduil sighed, raising a brow at her while their son grinned and kissed his mother on the cheek and squeezed her hand gratefully.

 

“You always know how to make me feel better, Mother. Father, are we allowed the good wine tonight?”

 

“One glass. Come, let us sit down to dinner.”

 

Catherine shook Laurelin’s arm, drawing her attention back to her and her sisters. “Oh, sorry. What were you saying? I’m kinda addicted to watching your parents, I think.”

 

She giggled, moving with the other members of her family to the formal dining table, and pulling Laurelin into the chair beside her. “Yes, you and the rest of the kingdom. And I was saying , that since you are attired in such a lovely gown, we can’t possibly waste all of Celestia’s fine work. You must come and bring your instrument and sing in the great-hall this evening, mustn’t she, Edward?”

 

Her brother lowered his wine glass where he was seated across from them and smiled at Laurelin appealingly. “I think you really must give in to us, Gracie. You truly are a vision of loveliness, and it would be very cruel to deprive others from appreciating such an entrancing sight.”

 

Laurelin gave him a narrow-eyed look. “You’re laying it on awful thick tonight.” She pointed a finger between Catherine and Edward. “And I’ll say it again, the pair of you could sell sand in the middle of the desert. Fine, I’ll go, but if you laugh at my singing compared to these angel-voiced elvish ladies, I’m gonna pout in my room for a solid week. My ego is very fragile.”

 

Edward aimed a triumphant smirk at Catherine across the table as soon as Laurelin turned to speak to Finellach. He promised to help her track down some new strings that would work for her guitar, as she was down to her last set.

 

 


 

 

When Legolas rode into the stables and left Arod in the care of one of the elves on duty, full dark had fallen and it was well past meal time. He was debating where to go first, to his father’s study, hoping to catch him alone, or to the great-hall where he knew he would be likely to find most of his brothers and sisters. He had decided to try to speak with his father when he heard something that made him stop in his tracks and tears of relief mist his eyes. A song coming from the hall floated to him, the high sweet sound of his beloved’s voice every bit as welcome as her kiss.

 

Like one possessed, he immediately changed directions and slipped inside, pulling up the hood of his cloak and sliding into the deepest shadows cast by the firelight. All eyes were trained on Laurelin while she sang, and he drank in the sight of her as one dying of thirst, his breath catching in his throat. How had she manged to grow even more beautiful during their parting? The gold dress she wore picked up the gold ring in her eyes and emphasized her small waist and full breasts, while her hair arrangement made her look even more elvish than before. Her eyes appeared larger, lined in dark color as they were, and the vibrant pink of her lips seemed to beckon him closer, begging him to kiss them, which he fully intended to before the night was through.

 

His lips lifted in a small smile as he listened to the words of a new song she began, which she sang in the Common Tongue. It seemed she was speaking directly to him, as though there were no one else in the room. His fear and grief of the past weeks drained away during her song, like poison cleansed from a wound, and his spirit grew lighter.

 

~o~

"When the world seems like it’s falling in

People fighting when no-one can win

I hold on to what you promised me

Soon together we could be free

~o~

"I have given everything for you

Now my fate is in your hands to see this through

I have offered all I have to give

All I want is just to start to live

~o~

"There are times when my hope fades away

But this feeling always stays the same

Will you follow your heart this time?

I know I have pledged all of mine

~o~

"Climb the mountains

Sail the seas

Side by side, just you and me

Touch the skies and

Breathe the air

Say that we have been there

~o~

"I have given everything for you

Now my fate is in your hands to see this through

I have offered all I have to give

All I want is just to start to live"

~o~

 

Was her fate truly in his hands? He knew what he wanted for them both, it only remained for him to tell her all that lay in his heart and declare his love openly, in a language she understood. Laurelin lifted a new sheet of music in front of her, and her eyes looked so full of hurt and sadness, that his own heart clenched painfully in response. When she started to sing in English, raising her eyes and seemingly staring right through him, he felt as though someone had struck him.

 

~o~

"Sparkling angel I believed

You were my savior in my time of need.

Blinded by faith I couldn't hear

All the whispers, the warnings so clear.

~o~

"I see the angels,

I'll lead them to your door.

There's no escape now,

No mercy no more.

No remorse cause I still remember

The smile when you tore me apart.

~o~

"You took my heart,

Deceived me right from the start.

You showed me dreams,

I wish they would turn into real.

You broke a promise and made me realize.

It was all just a lie."

~o~

 

Sparkling angel? Were the words of this song also intended for him? Had she seen him? His hands clenched into fists at his sides. Was she angry with him, now she knew he had not been entirely open with her during their time in Edoras? He could do nothing but wait until she finished singing and he could speak to her...to explain.

 

~o~

"Sparkling angel, I couldn't see

Your stark intentions, your feelings for me.

Fallen angel, tell me why?

What is the reason, the thorn in your eye?

~o~

"I see the angels,

I'll lead them to your door

There's no escape now

No mercy no more

No remorse cause I still remember

The smile when you tore me apart

~o~

"You took my heart,

Deceived me right from the start.

You showed me dreams,

I wished they would turn into real.

You broke your promise and made me realize,

It was all just a lie.

Could have been forever.

Now we have reached the end.

~o~

"This world may have failed us,

It doesn't give the reason why.

You could have chosen a different path, not lies.

~o~

"The smile when you tore me apart.

You took my heart,

Deceived me right from the start.

You showed me dreams,

I wish they would turn into real.

You broke a promise and made me realize.

It was all just a lie.

~o~

"Could have been forever.

Now we have reached the end."

~o~

 

Legolas’ brows drew together in distress when she looked away with a sheen of tears in her eyes. Edward and Catherine rose and went to her, helping her gather her instrument and music. When Edward wrapped an arm around her shoulders and leaned down to whisper something to her, making her smile, he tensed, ready to go and make his presence known.

 

“Not yet, Legolas,” Thranduil said from just behind him, resting a hand on his shoulder. “I know you wish to speak with her, but come and hear me first, my son. There are things you must know, about what has occurred and the changes Laurelin has gone through since coming to Greenwood.”

 

Releasing a breath, Legolas turned and looked into his father’s eyes. “Yes, let us speak. I have much to acquaint you with, as well.” The King and Prince quietly left the great-hall, having been seen by very few.

 

 


 

 

Edward met his twin sister’s eyes over Laurelin’s head, communicating his concern and asking whether they should stay with Laurelin once they reached her room, in the silent language they had perfected over their life lived together from conception. Catherine gave a minute shrug, leaving the choice to him, and he smiled his thanks.

 

“You two are awful quiet. Was it that bad? Sorry I got a little emotional there at the end. I don’t know why I felt like singing that song, it’s not exactly happy.”

 

Catherine squeezed Laurelin’s hand she had taken in her own while they walked. “I thought your songs were magical and lovely. I could listen to you for hours on end. I don’t understand why you make fun of your talent, it is really quite extraordinary. Did you not see all the smiles on the faces of the elves who drew near to listen to you? That is an undeniable compliment. And Mylion, Mother’s dear friend who came to speak with you after, or perhaps gush at you would be more accurate.”

 

Edward smiled. “Kitty is correct, but yet you still seem sad. Will you not tell us what troubles you, Gracie? A load shared is a load lightened.”

 

Laurelin opened the door to her suite and held it opened until they were all inside, then she shut it and went and collapsed on the couch, picking at one of the braids that had started to pull painfully. Beginning to unwind it, she looked at Edward and smiled, chalking up her sudden, odd mood in the hall to some weird hormonal imbalance.

 

“I’m not sad or troubled, Eddie, though you’re awfully sweet to be so concerned for me. I think I’m just tired.” She smirked. “You try spending half the day in Miss Celestia’s beauty parlor and see if you don’t need a nap from it.”

 

He raised a brow at her from where he sat in a chair, opposite the couch. “I have. Have you forgotten I am a superior elder brother, often prone to indulging my younger siblings? I have suffered many indignities for the sake of love. I even let her put bows in my hair.” He shuddered dramatically.

 

“You are not the only one, brother dear,” Catherine said dryly. “As the eldest sister, I have done the same.”

 

“Good.” Laurelin pulled another tie from her hair and started unweaving the next braid. “You both have to pay your dues for the privilege of being the eldest children of your parents. I love that you both take that role seriously. Just like my brother. He was the best damn big brother a girl could ever ask for.”

 

Before she could turn maudlin, she stood and beckoned to Catherine. “Come help me out of this get-up, will you? I can’t reach the laces on my own.”

 

Edward stretched out his long legs and got comfortable as the door to the bedroom shut, getting ready for an extended wait.

 

 


 

 

Legolas opened the door to his father’s study, preparing to depart for his rooms to get cleaned up from his long journey, but looked back, his head tilted musingly. “I still find it difficult to believe Laurelin is no longer mortal. I would never have even thought of Elizabeth giving her blood in such a way, and with that outcome. I must thank her, she can’t know what a gift she has given me in this.”

 

“She knows, Lassë, why else do you think she was eager to do it, and planned accordingly?” (Quenya: leaf)

 

Smiling, Legolas fully turned back to face his father. “And what do you think of Laurelin, now that you’ve had time to get to know her? Her manner of speech is quite different.”

 

“Her manner of speech is unique, and sometimes decidedly irreverent. I will be honest and tell you she is not what I expected when I once considered the type of lady you would marry.” He paused and pursed his lips with a musing look. “But she may prove to be even better.”

 

Legolas gave his father an impressed look. “That is high praise, indeed. She would likely blush the color of a red rose could she hear that you approve her.”

 

Thranduil smirked. “She is amusing and I enjoy her company, and you know I do not say that of very many. I am still curious as to why she carries clear memories of Valinor and the Two Trees in her mind, but that is likely something best asked of Galadriel and Celeborn.”

 

“There are many things about her that I think it will take an age to fully understand. I will go now and freshen up before I speak with her.”

 

“Wait.” Opening a drawer of his desk, he took out a small, ornate wooden box and held it out. “You will want these, when you feel the time is right for them.”

 

Taking the top off curiously, Legolas inhaled appreciatively at the sight of the three rings nestled inside, much the same as Elizabeth and his father wore, but in a different style, similar to his signet ring with curling leaf, except silver set with white gems that glittered beautifully in the reflected light. He grinned at the Elvenking. “It seems you know everything, as usual. This must mean she says yes?”

 

Chuckling, Thranduil shook his head. “That is something you will have to discover for yourself, my son. But I’m certain you already know the answer in your heart.”

 

“Thank you, Adar. For all your help and gentle care for Laurelin in my absence. I’m very grateful.”

 

“As you should be,” he returned in a gentle tease. Thranduil gestured to the open door. “The night begins to grow late. You had best hurry if you wish to speak to her before she retires for the evening.”

 

Nodding, Legolas swiftly left his father’s office behind him, heading toward his own rooms. Looking down at the little box in his hands, he grinned in eager anticipation.

 

 


 

 

Edward looked over when the door to the bed chamber opened and his sister came out, his brows climbing in surprise when he saw Laurelin. Not only had she shed all the clothing and trappings that she wore with the gown, but she was attired very strangely in fitted and revealing leggings, and an odd tunic with a picture of a man on her upper body.

 

“What manner of attire is this, Grace? That is quite an abrupt change from what you looked like an hour ago.”

 

Folding her legs underneath her, Laurelin curled up comfortably on the far side of the couch while Catherine seated herself right beside her. “This is what people wear back where I grew up. Just comfy clothes to hang out in, and after that dress I really need comfy. Hopefully, you aren’t bothered by it. Legolas never cared, so I thought you might be alright with it too.”

 

Folding his arms, Edward shrugged, his eyes drawn to her bare feet. “I think you may wear whatever you wish in the privacy of your rooms, as long as you don’t venture outside in that. Why do you have color on your toes?”

 

“That is a thing ladies do in Mother’s land as well, Eddie.” Catherine looked down to where Laurelin wiggled her pink painted toenails and smiled. “It is called toe nail polish. Apparently, Mother also had some when she first came to the kingdom here, but she ran out.”

 

Laurelin sighed sadly. “Yeah, I only have two bottles left. This color is called Pretty In Pink, and it’s my favorite. When Celestia saw it among my things, she insisted I had to use it.”

 

Edward gave her a questioning look. “But why? Your feet were inside your shoes the entire evening, so what point of such ornamentation when no one would see?”

 

Smirking, Laurelin shared a look of understanding with Catherine. “You wanna tell him, or should I?”

 

Crossing her legs and arranging her skirts, Catherine gave him a chiding look. “Oh, Eddie. The reason is that Laurelin knew her feet were pretty, despite being hidden, and that can give a lady pleasure to know she has something lovely on her person that makes her smile, despite no other being able to see.

 

“Hidden treasure,” Laurelin said with a shrug. “It’s what lingerie companies thrive on. Maybe nobody else will ever know that I have silk bows on my underthings, but the sight of them always makes me happy, so why wear stuff that would bore a nun to death?”

 

“Oh!” Catherine touched Laurelin’s arm, drawing her attention to her. “I must show you the blue night gown Mother made me. It has the loveliest white lace accents!”

 

“Your mother sews too?” Laurelin shook her head. “And I love lace accents, as long as they aren’t the scratchy kind. I can’t stand scratchy lace.”

 

“You’re both being intentionally cruel to subject me to your chatter on lace...and lady’s undergarments! As we are not brother and sister by blood, you ought not speak of such things in front of me, Gracie, it isn’t proper.” Edward gave them both a dark, disapproving look.

 

“Oh, get over yourself, junior prince.” Laurelin winked. “It’s not like I actually tried to show you my undies. Now that wouldn’t be proper. And you’re definitely wrong, cause I think I am your blood sister, since it’s your momma’s blood in my veins now.” She studied her toenails, scratching off a place on her skin where she had smeared the polish. “Maybe I might even be considered an understudy for the role of honorary princess, since I’m the queen’s blood daughter. But probably not, I doubt I’m cut out for the part.”

 

Observing her brother’s increasing irritation, Catherine stood and brushed back her long blonde hair and stroked a hand across the top of his dark hair soothingly. “Very well, Ed, we shall cease teasing you with women’s fashions and change the subject to something more agreeable. Would you like to discuss horses, weaponry, or all the admiring looks you received from ladies in the hall this evening?”

 

He groaned and pulled Catherine’s hand away from his hair, holding it captive in his. “Sister, why do you pick on me tonight? I have been nothing but kind to you, of late. Have I made even a single reference to Tirion, or teased you about the way you stare at him like a moonstruck calf? No, I have not.”

 

Catherine gasped and snatched her hand back from her brother. “Edward, don’t you dare say another word!”

 

Laurelin snickered. “I think I’m about to be treated to the rare sight of a full-on twin throwdown.” She shifted, getting more comfortable on her couch perch, then waved a hand at them. “Go on, I’m already placing my mental bets as to which of you comes out the winner here.”

 

A sharp knock sounded at the door, and Catherine walked away to answer it while Laurelin leaned forward and smirked at Edward. “I think you just lucked out, son. Kitty was about ready to bury her claws in you.”

 

“Yes, I think you are right,” Edward murmured with a small, naughty smile. “But she’ll forgive me before night’s end.”

 

“Legolas! You’ve come home!” Catherine cried in delight, throwing her arms around her eldest brother’s neck and drawing the surprised gazes of Edward and Laurelin. Legolas returned his sister’s smile and hug, but his eyes were locked in an intense stare with Laurelin’s across the room.

 

“Welcome back, brother.” Edward rose swiftly and went to embrace his brother, blocking Laurelin’s view and allowing her to look away at last.

 

Laurelin’s heart was trying desperately to pound its way out of her chest, and an ocean’s worth of confused emotions were swirling inside her gut, making her stomach feel like a battle of the butterflies. She hadn’t been prepared to see Legolas so soon, and her overpowering reaction to the sight of him was as shocking as a brick wall to the face. But swiftly and surely, one emotion was rising above all others, silencing their clamor as her eyes filled with anger and her expression she turned to him was mocking when he spoke to her.

 

“Have you no greeting for me at all, Laurelin?” He glided further into the room with his usual warrior’s grace while Catherine closed the door, both twins trailing behind him.

 

“Hey there, Prince Legolas. Nice to meet you, now I know who the real you actually is. But don’t let me keep you, I’m sure you have much more important things to do than waste time talking to a silly child like me.”

 

Edward and Catherine shared a surprised look. What they had assumed would be a normal friendship between their brother and Laurelin was clearly something far more. The strained patience on Legolas’ face and the anger on Laurelin’s an obvious sign of much deeper issues and feelings.

 

“I have come all the way here in haste, laich, seeking you when you were not waiting for me at Edoras, as we both agreed you would be. You cannot know the agony of fear I suffered when I found you gone.”

 

Catherine tugged on Edward’s arm, mouthing we should go to him, before Laurelin made a sound of annoyance and stood to her feet, staring up at Legolas and crossing her arms.

 

“I left a letter telling you why I had to go. And you could have told me about my real father, since you obviously knew as soon as you saw the picture of him. So, thanks a bunch for leaving me completely unprepared for the shock of the century!”

 

“Laurelin,” Legolas said in a chiding tone. “If you will calm your anger, I will explain my reasons for the choices I made.” He reached for her hand, but she raised it out of his reach with a look of hurt upset and shook her head, turning to Catherine and Edward, who had watched the scene play out in front of them in growing discomfort.

 

“I guess I’m gonna have to say good night. I’m not fit to keep company with anyone right now. Maybe I’ll see you both tomorrow?”

 

Catherine hugged her quickly while Edward held her eyes before glancing at his brother, noting his furrowed brows and frustrated expression. He looked back at Laurelin, seeing the hurt sheen of tears in her eyes and reached for her hand, squeezing it comfortingly.

 

“Good night, Gracie. If you feel a need to talk, Kitty and I are always nearby.”

 

“Thank you,” Laurelin whispered, squeezing his hand gratefully before releasing it.

 

Laurelin turned away while Legolas walked his siblings to the door, as he was obviously intending to stay and speak with Laurelin further.

 

“I shall come and see you all in the morning, before time for Celestia’s lessons,” Legolas murmured quietly.

 

Catherine kissed his cheek and Edward nodded an acknowledgement with a small smile. After they walked out, Legolas quietly closed the door.

 

Edward pulled Catherine by the hand until they were well away from Laurelin’s door, then he stopped and faced his sister, while she spoke what they were both thinking. “They love each other, Ed. I never expected to see our brother in love, and with one even younger than we are, but perhaps they are suited. What do you think?”

 

“They most definitely have strong feelings for each other, and I already suspected that of Laurelin for our brother, but if it truly is love for them both, as you say… Why was Laurelin so angry with Legolas, and why do they fight?”

 

Catherine shrugged as they began walking back toward the private rooms of the royal family. “I suppose time will reveal all, and we must wait and see what comes of it, if anything.”

 

 


 

 

Lyrics adapted from:

All I Want by Eurielle

Angels by Within Temptation

 


~o~

Chapter Text

 


 

Legolas turned back into the room, sighing at the sight of Laurelin’s stiff posture and the anger still on her face. Thinking to calm her some, he asked the first point of curiosity that rose.

 

“Why does Edward call you Gracie?”

 

Frowning in confusion, obviously not expecting that question, she lifted her shoulder in a small shrug. “They both started it when I took to calling them Eddie and Kitty, and I told them my mother used to call me by my middle name, Grace, except she used Gracie sometimes when I was little. They call it my mother name, and I guess they use it as a familiar endearment. Couple of characters, they are.”

 

Legolas smiled. “That is adorable, as are you. I knew my family would take to you.”

 

She cocked an eyebrow, resisting his deft but apparent attempt to soothe her anger and hurt. “I guess you’re done talking, so I’ll say good night to you too.” Turning away, she walked into the bedroom and slammed the door behind her, facing him again in outrage when he immediately opened it and strode into the room, stopping just in front of her. Legolas stared down with a far more dangerous and determined look on his face than she had ever seen directed at her.

 

“Do not think you can shut me out so easily, Laurelin,” he said in a low and intense tone. “I will not leave you in anger and hurt and allow you to falsely believe I concealed the truth just to hurt you. I hoped only to protect you from pain, and reveal all to you once we came here together. I had every intention of preparing you first, if you had only waited.”

 

Protect me? That’s not how it felt from my end, Legolas! I had a right to know everything you hid.” Running her hand through her hair in frustration, she let loose her full anger on him. “Why? Why didn’t you at least tell me you were a fucking prince?” she shouted, having successfully worked herself into a real lather.

 

“I’m not a fucking prince,” Legolas replied with equal heat, stepping nearer to her. “I am a chaste prince! I will only be a fucking prince if you agree to wed me and make it possible for me to assume that title.”

 

Laurelin’s mouth fell open in silent shock and she shifted her weight while she tried to decide how exactly to respond to that , narrowing her eyes when his lips twitched. She hurriedly looked away, trying to stave off the laughter that was building inside her at his brazen teasing, but didn’t even last half a second before dissolving into helpless giggles. Legolas chuckled and stroked a hand down the length of her golden hair where it flowed down her back and pulled her into his arms.

 

Closing her eyes, she wrapped her arms around his waist, enjoying a brief taste of the paradise she remembered of being held by him, before pulling away. “Dammit, Legolas,” she sighed, once she had full control of herself again, and looked up into his laughing eyes. “You won’t even let me stay angry for five minutes?”

 

“You may be angry for as long as you like.” He tapped a finger to the tip of her nose and grinned. “As long as it isn’t directed at me. I far prefer your laughter and smiles to your glares.”

 

She smirked. “I do have a pretty good glare, don’t I?”

 

He raised a brow. “Truly terrifying. I pity our future children when they anger you.”

 

She ducked her head to hide the surprised blush that rose at his words. “Our children? That’s...what? You’re assuming an awful lot, buster. You know what they say about people that assume, right?” Crossing her arms, she rested her weight on one leg. “Last time I checked, you need a husband and a wife having sex to make kids. There’s definitely none of that happening around here, unless it’s the king and queen, and they seem to have that whole thing completely covered. Besides, I’m not even sure if I ever want children.”

 

He lifted her chin, forcing her to meet his eyes while he searched her gaze, smiling confidently. “But you will marry me.”

 

“What makes you say something like that?” she asked, dismayed to discover that he had somehow managed to neatly maneuver her back into his arms while she was too distracted by her flustered state to avoid it.

 

He traced the edge of her ear, smiling more widely when she shivered. “Because you love me, Laurelin.”

 

She swallowed nervously, not sure what to do with her hands, and finally rested them flat against his chest in preparation to push him away. “Says who? I’ve never once made any kind of confession or declaration.”

 

Legolas lowered his head, staring deeply into her wide, green eyes, his smirk softening into a tender smile. He ran his thumb along her cheek and across her lips. “Your declaration is in your eyes, as it is in your heart. You love me, just as I love you, now I am free to declare it to you openly, as I so longed to in Rohan. It makes little difference to me whether you say it aloud or not, when I feel it so strongly and know it to be true.”

 

“No, you don’t love me,” she insisted stubbornly, ignoring how he already seemed to know exactly how she felt about him, and remembering some heartbreaking gossip she had been subjected to the week before by one of her father’s friends. Erthoreth was a very pleasant, but overly talkative female elf who clearly lived to gossip. She claimed the Prince was once in love with the queen and had even asked for her hand before he went away to recover from a broken heart at her rejection. At the time, she felt as though she had been stabbed in the chest. With that disappointment still stinging her heart, she flung what she had heard at him without further thought.

 

“You love Elizabeth, and why not? She’s amazing and wonderful; I think I love her. Hell, I heard you even asked her to marry you, didn’t you?”

 

He lifted his head and frowned. “Someone has been telling you old tales, I see,” he said in frank displeasure. “Yes, I love Elizabeth as a friend and family, but I confused what I felt then for true love, which it wasn’t. I had a….” He paused in confusion. “A...smash?”

 

Laurelin snorted, amused in spite of herself. “A crush, you mean?”

 

He nodded, his lips twisted in a crooked smile. “Yes, exactly so, a crush. It was my first experience with romantic feelings, but well before Edward and Catherine were born, I had realized that what I felt for Elizabeth wasn’t what I once believed it to be. For an elf, true love never fades, but those feelings for her did.”

 

“Who’s to say you don’t have the same kind of feelings for me?” Laurelin raised a dubious brow. “How do you know it’s real this time? Maybe you just have a thing for earth girls. I could be another flash-in-the-pan infatuation.”

 

He sobered, his expression turning serious while he studied her intently, the silence lengthening between them before he drew a long breath and spoke in a quiet voice. “Do you know what it means for an elf to commit their heart to a mortal? How very serious and rare that is?”

 

“Of course,” she mumbled, glancing away and thinking of her father’s devotion to her mother, then returning her gaze to his when he gently gripped her upper arms.

 

“Laurelin, I had already made that choice the night I left Rohan. I struggled against it for a time, but I could not bear the thought of being untrue to what was in my heart, or squandering what time we might have together. You remember I told you I would explain what I said?”

 

She swallowed and nodded. “Yes, you said the next time you saw me, you would tell me what your elvish words meant.”

 

“I said this in Sindarin: ‘Anthon 'ûr nîn anlen, Laurelin. Sevil i veleth nîn.’” He cupped her cheek with one hand, his bright blue eyes soft with feeling. “I give you my heart, Laurelin. You have my love.”

 

Her lips parted in astonishment, her fingers curling tightly into his tunic. “That’s really what you said to me before you left that night?”

 

“That is what I said.” He bent down and slid his nose alongside hers. “You have both my heart and my love. You need only accept them, and accept me.” Legolas rested a hand against her cheek, staring into her upturned face. “But there’s more. I can give you further proof that we were always destined for one another.”

 

Her eyes that had slid closed in response to his touch on her face, flew open again. “Prove we were destined? That sounds like a mighty tall order.” Her doubtful look made him grin.

 

“It’s here,” he murmured, moving a hand down to brush across her lower back. “Your tattoo.”

 

She glanced back over her shoulder. “What about it? I don’t see how my tattoo could prove your argument.”

 

“What did the fortunetellers say to you that prompted you getting the tattoo?” He had slipped his hand beneath her t-shirt and was giving her goosebumps by lightly stroking his fingers across the ink on her bare skin.

 

She rolled her eyes. “You want to know what they said exactly? Well… They told me that my future happiness lies among a bed of green leaves….or green leaf, one said.”

 

He looked briefly surprised before he laughed softly. “This only gets better. Destiny has spoken very literally – you see, you even belong in my bed.”

 

What are you talking about?” she asked, pushing against his chest in frustration. “Would you stop speaking in code and just spit it out already?”

 

Grinning, he wrapped his arms around her tightly, the hand over her tattoo now dipping just beneath the waistband of her jeans teasingly. “The answer to the riddle of your fortune is contained in my name. Legolas, in English, means...Greenleaf.”

 

Her brows rose in open shock as she examined his face as though seeing him for the first time, the confusing puzzle pieces of her life slowly coming together in stark, undeniable clarity. The way every step she took had always seemed to lead to Legolas, since before she even met him. The way she felt only when they were together, and the extreme attraction between them. Could it really be as simple as that – they were meant to be?

 

“You,” she whispered in wonder, her hand lifting to trace the chiseled lines of his face and jaw. “You’re...my Greenleaf? That’s… I can’t believe it.” All along, she had felt her fortune had been referring to something abstract, or to Greenwood, but she had never once considered it could be a person. Could it really be a person, and someone as unattainable as Legolas, at that? It still seemed impossible.

 

“I’ve always thought that it was wrong for me to love you,” she admitted in a small voice.

 

He rubbed his nose against the tip of hers, breathing in her scent and savoring the warm softness of her body pressed against his. “It’s not wrong for you to love me, Laurelin. There is nothing that stands between us now. I am your Legolas. We belong to each other.” He paused, tilting his head in consideration before he spoke again. “But there is still one question I need your answer to.” Pulling away, he held both of her hands in his and went down on one knee, making her gasp with wide, startled eyes.

 

“Laurelin, my sweet golden lady, and the eternal fire of my heart. Will you make me the happiest of elves, and consent to be mine forever?” Reaching into his tunic, he held out a beautiful curling leaf ring, sparkling with a large diamond at the top, and she was instantly mesmerized, glancing from the beautiful ring to his eyes, frozen in the moment. As the seconds ticked by, his blue eyes began to dance with amusement, his lips quirking up in an encouraging smile. “In case you were unaware, the only acceptable answer to this question is a resounding yes.”

 

She stared at him a moment longer, then bit her lip and looked away, her eyes quickly filling with tears of sorrow. “But you’re a prince, Legolas. You’re important. One of the super heroes of middle-earth, for God’s sake, and heir to your daddy’s throne. It might be alright to go slumming with someone like me the way you did in Edoras, but marriage…that’s... I’m just...I’m nobody, only plain Laurelin.” Her head hung and her hair veiled her face as a single tear flowed down her cheek. “I don’t deserve you,” she whispered, “and I never will.”

 

Sighing heavily, he tucked the ring away, stood and pulled her against his chest, stroking her gold waves and kissing her forehead gently before reaching for her chin to lift her face so he could look into her eyes. “Sweet love, you are so appreciative and aware of the gifts of all those around you, but always so blind to your own. How can I open your eyes so you see your own great worth?”

 

As another tear rolled down her cheek, her eyes lit with dark amusement, her lips turning up in a small smile. “I don’t know, but if you figure it out, you let me know. It might be nice to take a break from always beating the ever-lovin’ mess out of myself when no one’s looking.”

 

Legolas laughed softly, stroking the tear from her cheek. “You see? Your humor is a rare gift, and always breaks through the darkest clouds to shine your light. I believe I began to love you when I first read your journal. Had you turned out to be a dwarf, I would still have asked you to be mine.” He smirked. “Though I would likely have asked you to shave your beard before I kissed you.”

 

She giggled and wrinkled her nose. “Nasty. If that’s really true, then you’re a lot more romantic and non-superficial than I am, cause I can’t honestly say if I would have still been as quick to fall for you if you turned out to be Gimli’s brother, or something. Your good looks are at least a little part of what I find irresistible, and I’m honest enough to admit it.”

 

“Irresistible?” he teased gently, smiling at her eye-roll and renewed blush. “Surely you must know you are utterly irresistible to me, laich. I wish you could see yourself through my eyes.”

 

Laurelin focused on his chest right in front of her, finally looking up to meet his eyes. “I’m not fishing for compliments, but I am genuinely curious. What do you see in me? What makes you ever want to touch me?” She bit her lip, and he could see the vulnerability she tried to hide, feeling his heart near burst with love for her and all her ways, even her uncertainties and insecurities.

 

He drew a deep breath and released it, considering what to tell her. “As only one small example, and I have many others, recall when you were feverish with your wound. Though suffering from physical pain and discomfort, you gave comfort to Aragorn, and encouraged him that he should be reunited with his lady ‘ere long, and that was after you had already bolstered his spirits through your song. Then, no sooner were you healed, you reached out to Elladan.”

 

Legolas pushed a lock of hair behind her ear, continuing. “Long has he carried the anger and pain you felt. When his mother was taken captive and wounded by orcs, Elladan and Elrohir rescued her and brought her to their father to be healed, but she chose to depart for the Undying Lands and left her family behind in middle-earth, due to her anguish suffered from the experience. Elladan especially, never ceased to blame himself for not accompanying her on her journey in the first place to have prevented the attack. But since you spoke with him, I noticed a change in him, a gradual lightness in him I had never seen before.”

 

Laurelin looked down, and Legolas lifted her chin, bringing her eyes back up to his. He smiled with a touch of pride in his eyes. “I believe you are a healer of hearts, sweet lady. Through your music and through your words. When we spoke of my mother, you took a portion of my grief for your own, releasing me of a great heaviness. You touched my heart as no other ever has.”

 

He stroked a hand across her cheek tenderly. “It was in that moment that I fully chose to bind myself to you in love, and wished to spend the rest of your mortal days as your husband, if you chose to accept me. But now, I shall never have to give you up to mortality or be parted from you, which is a greater joy than I can readily express to you in words.” Leaning down, he kissed the new tears that his words brought forth, smiling gently in thankfulness at the open love shining from her eyes that she no longer tried to hide.

 

“Legolas...I do love you. So much I ache with it. I’ve loved you from the beginning, and of course I accept you. I think I might just need some time to get used to the whole idea.”

 

“You shall have all the time you need, sweetness.” He pulled the ring back out and slipped it on the ring finger of her left hand, as he knew was the tradition, then leaned down to kiss her. Legolas cradled her face in his hands and kissed her slowly and tenderly, then rested his forehead against hers. “You are mine now, and I will never, ever let you go.” He shook his head against hers in emphasis.

 

She smiled broadly, ready to burst with happiness and feeling like she was floating on a cloud. “Never?” she teased. “That sounds like possessive talk. Is that the kind of husband you’ll be?” His blue eyes took on the same intensity that always made her shiver and turn into a lusty puddle of woman.

 

Seeing an answering heat to his own in her eyes, he gave her a cross between a charming smile and a smirk. “I certainly shall be the kind of husband who possesses you, endless times. You asked what makes me want to touch you. Here then is my answer – I long to touch you because of what I see in your eyes, and what I also feel in your heart. The fact that you are more beautiful to me than any other I have ever beheld is merely an added gift.” He kissed her nose, his smirk growing.

 

“Ah, but what a gift. Many times I have relived the memories of your touch on me, bringing me to pleasure.” His eyes darkened when his pupils grew larger as he locked his gaze to hers. “But my favorite part to recall is when I touched you, and watched you fall apart from it. Such a feeling of bewitching power over you, you granted to me then. I want much more of your seductive submission and eager passion. I further long to lose myself in that sweet place inside you, which shall belong utterly to me. To lay my head between your thighs and worship you with my lips and tongue until you beg me to stop. To kiss your breasts...my mark across your back...all of you.”

 

“S..Stop,” she whispered, closing her eyes against the lust in his eyes that already had her soaking her underwear, and beyond ready to jump his bones. “We just so happen to be standing in my bedroom, entirely alone. If you don’t think your words will push me to action, you’re dead wrong.” She opened her eyes and looked up at him in challenge. “Are you wanting to pick up where we left off that night among the trees, or are you just trying to tease me to death?” She held up her left hand and wiggled her fingers at him, showing off the glittering ring. “This right here is a license to fool around before the wedding, if you’re not too old-fashioned to want to.”

 

Legolas glanced over at the bed. “We could.” He smiled teasingly, and Laurelin knew what he was going to say before he said it. “Or we can wait. Think how much sweeter the fruit will be when we are both starving for a taste. How long do you wish our betrothal to last until we wed?”

 

“How about five minutes?” she muttered, frowning at his amused smirk. Laurelin sighed, reigning her arousal back in and shrugged. “I don’t know, how much time do we need? Do we have to plan a big wedding, like with flowers, caterers, bridesmaids and groomsman, cake...a big honeymoon trip?”

 

“Do you wish for all those things?” he asked with a dubious look.

 

“Do you? I don’t really know what a prince’s wedding is like here, but it’s a pretty big deal in my world. Fairly elaborate and involved, and usually costing a fortune. Personally, I think that sounds like a nightmare, but if that’s the sort of thing you and your family want, I guess I’ll go along with it.”

 

Taking her hand, Legolas led her back to the sitting room and seated her on the couch beside him, resting an arm across the couch back and pulling her into his side. “Elvish wedding ceremonies are not so elaborate as all that. Typically a gathering of family and friends, and the couple speak words of love and devotion, and exchange rings. If parents are living and present, there are blessings spoken over the union and gifts given. After, there is a feast to celebrate, and usually dancing and singing.”

 

Reaching out, he took her left hand in his right, stroking across the ring she wore with his thumb. “But all of that is merely public celebration. The true marriage only occurs after, with the joining of bodies and binding of two fëa together into one. Only then will we truly become husband and wife in full.”

 

She focused on their joined hands before looking up into his eyes in confusion. “What is fëa? I never heard that word before.”

 

Fëa, or faer as it is said in Sindarin, is the word for spirit. As part of the bonding ritual, our spirits will join and mingle, much as a reflection of what our bodies shall do at the same time. When it is complete, we will be a part of one another, never separated through distance or circumstances, but literally joined. You will be able to feel me and sense me as a part of your own spirit, and I too will be able to feel you in the same way. Depending on the strength and magnitude of our bond, we may even be able to speak together in our minds. I think it likely since I was able to hear you call to me in your distress when I was still in Minas Tirith.”

 

Laurelin gasped. “You heard me call you? What do you mean? How?”

 

He laced their fingers together, turning contemplative. “I believe we already had a rather profound sort of connection from very early in out acquaintance. I felt a familiarity with you, as though we had already met and knew each other, though I am still puzzled as to why. Though perhaps that is the way of finding one’s mate. Then, in Gondor, I could feel your presence as though you were right beside me, and I heard your voice clearly, crying out my name. It was at that moment that I set off in haste to Edoras to find you, to protect you from danger if I could. Such dread I suffered as I traveled, and then when I found the place where the attack occurred and saw your blood...” He stopped and drew an unsteady breath, his voice falling to just above a whisper. “I thought that I was already too late. That I had lost you, and your cry to me was as you perished.”

 

“That is what happened,” Laurelin confirmed with a regretful sigh, sorry that she had caused him to suffer through her choices. “An orc’s sword severed a major artery in my leg when he sliced me with it. I think it was only a couple minutes before I bled out, almost completely. Before I lost consciousness, my last thought was of you, and that I would never get to see you again. I screamed for you in my mind, then I woke up in some dreamscape with your daddy standing over me, telling me I wasn’t allowed to die. He’s scary as all get out, so I wasn’t about to argue with him.”

 

She smiled when Legolas laughed softly. “Then he did some weird magic something or other by staring into my eyes, and anchored my spirit, as he called it...then I woke up in a bed in the healing rooms, here in the kingdom.”

 

A moment of silence passed while he considered all that had happened and how different the outcome might have been. “Never had I been more thankful for my father’s gift of foresight and timely visions. I spoke to him a short while ago and he acquainted me with all that occurred with you. He knew to come to your rescue, and Elizabeth planned to give you her blood, as they both saw you would have perished without it.” He reached for Laurelin’s face, stroking a thumb across her cheek softly. “In so doing, they have given me a far greater gift than I ever thought possible, by granting you the same immortality as her.” Leaning down he kissed her, and she stroked a hand across his cheekbone and traced the outline of his lips when he pulled back to look into her eyes.

 

“Honestly, that’s gonna take a while to get used to. I can’t wrap my head around it, so mostly I’ve just avoided thinking about it.” She held out her hand to him. “Give me your knife, I know you have one on you somewhere.”

 

Legolas reached beneath his tunic and pulled out one of his smaller knives and handed it to her, hilt first. Turning so she had both hands in front of her, she quirked a brow at him. “Watch. Edward showed me this cool trick.” Slitting her middle finger in a long, shallow cut, she watched in fascination as the skin sealed closed as soon as the blade passed through it. She rubbed away the small amount of blood left behind on the unblemished skin on her finger and shook her head. “I don’t think that’s ever gonna lose its shock value for me.”

 

He took his knife back from her and replaced it in the sheathe, then reached for the hand she had cut, tracing it softly. “You heal at the same rate as Elizabeth. Remarkable, as I thought it would probably be a lesser version, much like my siblings, but it seems as though it is exactly the same. I am glad of it. Should you ever come to harm again, as you did at the hands of that foul orc, it would only be a brief, trifling wound for you now.”

 

She made a sound of protest. “Maybe trifling to you, but I’m not real fond of pain. I mean, it’s nice to know it won’t kill me, but if I can avoid all that entirely, I would prefer to.” When Legolas examined her face, his grip on her hand tightening slightly in reaction to his thoughts, he had his no-nonsense, mess-with-me-and-I’ll-fuck-you-up, warrior expression firmly in place.

 

“I will stay near you and keep you always by my side in the days ahead, and nothing shall harm you unless it come through me. And that, I will not allow. With my quest complete, you are now my primary focus.”

 

Laurelin smirked, pulling her hand away to tick off points on her fingers as she named them. “So, you’re possessive, overprotective...if we add jealous to the list, I think you can win the medieval man award.”

 

He gave her an amused smile, his face relaxing in intensity. “You will never give me a cause to be jealous, so I think it doubtful I would experience that emotion where you are concerned.”

 

“Really?” She smiled teasingly, pretending to think. “Not even when I tell you about how Éomer talked about carrying me off to bed before he left for Gondor?”

 

Pushing his hair back, Legolas furrowed his dark blonde brows. “In what context did he say that?”

 

“I fell asleep in the king’s tent when I drank too much and woke up in my bed in my own tent. When I asked Éomer if he had been the one to carry me, his reply was: ‘If ever I were to carry you off to bed, you would surely be awake for it’.” Laurelin laughed when a muscle throbbed in Legolas’ cheek and he narrowed his eyes. “Wait! Stop. I’m only teasing,” she giggled, reaching a hand out for his. “He was just playing with me, sugar, he didn’t mean it.”

 

He reached over and lifted her at the waist as though she weighed nothing, settling her over him so she straddled his lap and their heads were at the same level. She stared directly into his eyes, burning brightly with something indefinable that sent a shiver of awareness down her spine.

 

“I think you are far too naïve to have any true understanding as to the thoughts and desires of men, sweet maiden. Though it may have been said in jest, I well recognized Éomer had more than a passing interest in you. He desired you, just as the other young man in Edoras. There was more than one set of lingering eyes that I wished to warn away from you when I gave you my ring, and when I kissed you openly before I departed Dunharrow.”

 

Resting her hands on top of his shoulders, she lifted her brows in faint surprise, finding a whole new insight into Legolas’ character. “Damn. It seems you managed to stake your claim much sooner than I ever thought you would have, and you weren’t actually joking about any of it like I believed you were. Apparently, you’re far more calculating than I gave you credit for.”

 

The faint smile on his lips did nothing to dim whatever it was in his eyes while he stared at her so intently, and in that moment she recognized it as an expression she had seen on King Thranduil’s face, once or twice before.

 

“I’m certain you are not yet aware of how shrewd and cunning I can be when the occasion calls for it. I have made possible plans for our future, laich , which I will need your input on when the time comes to make a choice.”

 

She blinked in confusion, not really understanding what he might be referring to, but decided to question him about it some other time when he threaded the fingers of both of his hands into her hair. Applying gentle pressure to cause her to tilt her head back, baring more of her neck, he pulled her closer and grazed his lips against her skin there, his warm breath a moist, airy sensation that raised instant goose-flesh.

 

“But we can speak further on that soon,” he whispered. “Just now, I want to explore this graceful throat from which such lovely sounds arise. My siren...”

 

Somehow, just his lips and breath against her neck while he held her in place was nearly enough to make her desperate. Each feather-light kiss he lavished on her was soon followed by another and another, always at a new place until her skin tingled all over and she burned with desire. How was such a thing possible when he had touched her nowhere but her neck? She moaned when he lightly sucked her earlobe.

 

“Yes, just like that,” he murmured in a satisfied tone, working his way back down the side of her neck. “That is the sound I heard from you, over and over in my mind during the time we were parted. To hear it again now is as sweet water to parched lips.”

 

Deciding her passivity was at an end, she rocked her hips forward in his lap, sliding herself across the erection she was then able to clearly feel. If she had learned only one thing about him, it was that regardless of what he might say, he was still vulnerable to her persuasion, and she was determined to see just how far she could push him. Shrugging off his hold on her hair, Laurelin leaned forward, intending to go straight for his ears, knowing that was a hair-trigger to his unrestrained passion. But before she could reach her goal, she found herself on her back on the couch, staring up at him looming above her. He shook his head with a chiding smirk.

 

“Elladan was right about you having an appetite for danger. You track my weak points with all the skill and awareness of a predator scenting prey. Do you wish to have me at your mercy so you can devour me, laich ?”

 

“Hey, you started it. I was behaving, just like you wanted, and then you purposefully try to drive me out of my mind with desire. Don’t cry foul when I fight fire with fire, buddy...and yes,” she dropped her eyes from his and let them roam down his chest and across his waist until she stared boldly at the partially visible bulge in his pants. “Devouring you sounds pretty good right now, if you’ll be a cooperative elf and let me have my wicked way with you.”

 

Legolas drew a wavering breath, continuing to hold himself above her, but without allowing their bodies to touch. Finally, he lifted himself and slid further down the couch, giving her space to sit up, which she soon did. “I am still not yet accustomed to your bold sensuality, Laurelin, and misjudge your reactions. I suppose I keep expecting you will respond to my teasing with timidity or retreat, when that is not your true nature.”

 

They stared at each other from several feet apart, with Laurelin still debating trying to go after his ears again, but when she saw him watching her as though ready to dodge again, she blew out a breath and looked away in annoyance.

 

“Great. Thanks a lot for turning me on and leaving me to deal with my own frustration. I guess I’ll just have to take care of myself later, since you aren’t interested until some unspecified future date. You can let yourself out, I’m going to change for bed.”

 

Walking to her room in a huff, she opened a dresser drawer and pulled out a camisole and sleeping shorts set with quick, angry movements. Tugging her t-shirt off, she unhooked her bra and laid it aside before shrugging into the silky camisole. She pulled it over her head, then wiggled out of her jeans, kicking them off her feet. Hearing a sharply drawn breath, she looked to the side to see Legolas standing just inside the doorway, watching her with a rapt expression.

 

“Still here?” she asked, stepping into her shorts and straightening the waistband after she pulled them up. She picked up her clothes and folded them, setting them on top of the dresser before reaching for her brush to work the tangles from her hair. Legolas took it from her, having crossed the room so silently, she never heard him approach, making her jerk in reaction.

 

“Jesus, Legolas! You need to wear a bell so I can hear you coming.”

 

“I apologize, I did not mean to startle you. You have such keen eyesight, I assumed your hearing might be equally sensitive. I will try to warn you when I approach in future.”

 

“It’s fine,” she sighed, relaxing into the pleasure of having her hair gently brushed out. He set the brush aside a moment later and combed his fingers through her newly tangle-free locks.

 

“You have lovely hair, the same light golden color of honey in the sunlight. It’s grown since I last saw you. You must take from your mother’s people in that way. Elven hair grows much slower. Long hair is highly prized for the effort it takes to reach a great length. Do you want me to braid it for you?”

 

She shook her head. “I don’t like to braid it to sleep.” She moved to the bed to pull back the covers and sat down with her legs folded under her. Laurelin smiled, seeing the way his eyes moved across the strappy camisole she was wearing, knowing it hid nothing of the shape of her breasts, leaving her fully outlined by the silky fabric.

 

“Coming to bed?” She patted the space beside her invitingly. “I promise not to try and attack your ears again. It would be nice to be held though.”

 

He nodded, smiling softly. “I would enjoy holding you for a while, laich . Perhaps until you fall asleep.”

 

When he walked around to the other side of the bed, she leaned across it, blocking him while she stared up. “Can I ask a favor first? You can say no if you want, but would you take off your tunic so I can lay on your bare chest? I’ve been dreaming of that for a while now. I promise to be good and lie still...” She fluttered her eyelashes and gave him a pleading look, pouting out her bottom lip.

 

“What kind of face is that you are making at me?” he asked laughingly, beginning to unfasten the clasps on the grey tunic he wore.

 

Sitting up again, she rolled her eyes. “That was my attempt at pleading puppy dog eyes, complete with pouty lip that I learned from Catherine. I guess I won’t try it again since it didn’t make you want to give in to me, based on your reaction.”

 

He removed his belt and sat to take off his boots before slipping off his tunic and turning to face her. “There is seldom a time I do not wish to give in to you, Laurelin. Surely you must realize that by now, and as you can see I have acceded to your latest wish. Perhaps your pleading face is more effective than you realize.”

 

She watched him with eager eyes, gnawing the inside of her cheek while she mapped his row of abs – more a lean eight-pack than a six-pack – and his defined chest of obviously hard muscle, even better than she had imagined it would look. When she met his eyes, she could see he was clearly amused by her scrutiny when he lay down beside her.

 

“Do I meet your high standards, lady?” he inquired with a teasing grin.

 

Laurelin studied her nails, feigning nonchalance. “Gee, I dunno. I mean, I suppose you’ll do. Love isn’t based on looks anyway, and we’ve already established that I’m not the least bit superficial, so...” She gave a long-suffering sigh that turned into a shriek when he attacked her most ticklish spots along her ribs and waist. “Ah! Legolas, please! Quit!” She dissolved into helpless giggles, trying to escape his nimble fingers that easily avoided her attempts to catch them or swat them away. She lay breathless on her side, staring at him when he finally relented and stopped tickling her.

 

He propped his head in the palm of his hand and watched her, his lips curling up. “The ring of gold in your eyes seems to glow brighter when you are happy.” He ran the backs of the fingers of his free hand across her cheek. “And when you are sad or troubled, it dims. But always the green remains vivid. Such lovely, expressive eyes.”

 

Reaching out, she rested her hand against the warmth of his chest, feeling the steady rhythm of his heart beneath her fingertips. “Your eyes are brighter than the stars, like a nebula, and such an unusual color of blue that I want to dive into them and drown.” She propped her own head in her hand, mirroring him. “Did you just stand there and watch me get undressed a few minutes ago?”

 

He studied her amused eyes and slightly upturned lips, trying to predict what her reaction would be to his answer, but not certain he could. Would she be angry?

 

“Yes.”

 

Laurelin watched him for another minute with no change in her expression. “Alright. Can I lay on you now?”

 

Indifferent? That was certainly not what he expected. “You don’t mind?” he asked, turning to his back and pulling her against his chest, enjoying the feel of her against him with little clothing in the way.

 

She hummed in contentment and nuzzled her face against him before turning slightly to press a kiss to his chest before settling. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an accidental preview. I didn’t expect you to follow me, and you probably didn’t think I would be stripping off when you walked in. Am I right?”

 

He stroked a hand through the length of her hair. “You are correct. I would not have followed you if I had known you intended to immediately undress. Having done so though, I cannot find it in me to regret it. You are lovely.”

 

She rubbed a slow hand across his abdomen, tracing the muscles there and moving her touch up his chest. Laurelin tilted her head back to look at him. “I’m sure this will come as a complete surprise, but I’m pretty taken with the sight of you too.”

 

“You are a woman of taste and discernment, so I expect no less,” he said with a humorous smile.

 

She returned to tracing patterns on his skin with a light touch. “I went to a nudist beach once, in Italy.” Glancing up to gauge his expression, she smiled. “It was weird, because no one really looked twice, like it was the most normal thing in the world to walk around in front of strangers, completely bare-ass nekkid.”

 

“You will not be doing that here,” he said firmly, trapping her wandering fingers in his grip.

 

“No? Well, if that’s how you feel, I’ll be sure never to walk around in front of you in the nude. I don’t want to offend your precious and pure, princely little eyes.”

 

“Hmm.” He narrowed his eyes. “Why do I get the sense you are still trying to play our game from before, but with new stakes?”

 

Laurelin glanced up, stifling her smirk at his bemused expression. “Do you want to make a new bet?”

 

“I think that would be unwise,” he said with a sigh. “I can already see you are steadily trying to push me into a similar reaction to when you kissed my ears. Go to sleep, laich .”

 

“I can’t,” she fired back. “You got me turned on earlier and now I can’t relax. Laying on your bare chest probably isn’t helping either, as much as I like it.” She rolled over, turning her back to him. “If you really want me to sleep, you’ll probably have to leave.” She closed her eyes, waiting for him to get up and get dressed again, surprised when he scooted right against her, sliding his hand beneath her camisole and across the bare skin of her belly.

 

“Since I made you too uncomfortable for rest, it’s only right I quench the fire I raised. If you wish me to?”

 

Suddenly embarrassed at the idea of him getting her off and then leaving immediately after, she shook her head. “Thanks, but I’ll pass. A one-sided deal isn’t going to work for me anymore. To quote you: I think I’ll wait and hope for better things.”

 

He stopped the caress across her belly, going motionless before he withdrew his touch, pressing his lips against the bare skin of her upper arm. “Are you certain? I can feel the tension in you, like a bow strung too tight.”

 

Sitting up, she turned around to face him. “Your brother told me that desire doesn’t usually arise for elves without love, but I sure wish it would have stayed away a little longer. Whenever you’re near me, I feel like I’m starving to death right in sight of the greatest feast, with the most delicious food I can imagine, but I’m not allowed to eat anything. It’s….frustrating. Maybe there’s a good reason for all that traditional shit, with rules and chaperones and such. It’s probably to keep the couple from driving each other out of their minds.” She closed her eyes and ran a thumb across one of her brows where her head had started to throb. “You should probably...go. I’ll be better tomorrow.”

 

Lifting her head with a sudden thought, she threw back the covers and slid from the bed. “And here. I can finally give this back to you.” Opening her clothing drawer, she pulled out his signet ring and held it out.

 

Rising fluidly from the bed, he walked to her, and she tried to keep from watching him in all his bare-chested glory. Tried and failed. He took it with a slight pucker between his brows, holding up his right hand to show it to her. “Why were you not wearing it? I have not removed yours since you placed it there.”

 

Laurelin rested a hand on the dresser to keep from fidgeting from an overabundance of nervous energy. “I stopped wearing it cause when I bumped into your friend Langion, he asked if I was your betrothed,” she said, emphasizing the word before adopting a concerned face and putting on a fake English accent. “My lady, I see you wear the Prince’s ring. Forgive me, but may I ask if you have somehow bewitched him and convinced him to marry you? No? Oh, what a relief!” She smirked and winked, making Legolas smile.

 

“He would have assumed you were mortal, and was likely concerned for me because of it. We are of a similar age, and have been lifelong friends. When he knows the facts, I am certain he will approve you.”

 

“Aw, I’m just playin’ with you. He said he wanted to get to know me better after I had that little episode with him similar to what happened with Elladan, so I don’t really think he dislikes me. Shame about him falling for someone who scorned him, though. She must have been out of her tree, cause he seemed like a total sweetheart to me.”

 

“Yes.” Legolas looked down at his ring absently, thinking about the elleth who had stolen his friend’s heart, but not valued it. “Reniril was proud and vain. I do not know why she agreed to wed Langion, as I never saw love for him in her eyes. It was a relief when she left with her family for Mithlond. I believe as long as she was here, Langion held out hope she would change her mind, but that wasn’t to be.”

 

Moving into him to wrap her arms around his waist, she laid her cheek against his chest and sighed. “There are a lot of people who are unlucky in love, or strike out before they find someone that makes them happy. Maybe Langion will still meet his real soulmate.”

 

Legolas embraced her, brushing a hand down the length of her hair and bending over to rest his lips on the top of her head. “That is my hope as well, laich. I never expected I would find you, my other half, until there you stood before me in Edoras.”

 

“Hmm,” she closed her eyes in contentment. “You give the best hugs. It’s like you melt around me and surround me completely. I love that.”

 

He smiled, reaching for her chin to pull her mouth up to meet his. Laurelin turned her head, staying just out of his reach and smiled coyly. “I think you better keep those dangerous lips away from me from now on. I am tired and I would like to be able to sleep, which I know I won’t if you start tempting me again, sugar.”

 

“Not even a goodnight kiss for your fiance?” He smiled his ovary melting smile and she clenched her eyes tightly closed, shaking her head.

 

“Nope, nope, nope, not looking! You know that’s an unfair use of your power over me, on par with ear kissing, which you’ve denied me! So you better behave yourself, or prince or not, I’m gonna wrestle your ass to the floor and find all your hidden tickle spots.” She cracked an eye open after a few silent seconds to find him grinning down at her.

 

“Are you challenging me to tussle with you? Do you really think you can win against me?”

 

“There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” she said with a smirk. “I just might have some moves you’ve never seen.” She backed away from him and turned toward the bed. “But I don’t think we better start that now, or I have the feeling we’re going to end up doing something you don’t want.”

 

Laurelin sat down and took her journal off the table beside her bed and opened it to her last few entries while Legolas got fully dressed again. He came to stand in front of her and she smiled up at him. He bent and kissed the top of her head with a look that clearly said he had hoped for more, and she gave him a shrug and a lifted brow that said it was his choice if he got more or not. Legolas sighed with a look of annoyance and she smirked.

 

“I will leave you until morning, laich, as you wish. Shall I come and fetch you before Celestia’s lessons? I would like for us to tell my siblings of our betrothal, together.”

 

“That’s fine, but don’t you need to tell your daddy and Elizabeth first, or will they be there? I need to go talk to my dad first thing too. I would hate him to hear it from some gossip before I break it to him.”

 

He shook his head with a small smile. “My father and Elizabeth already know. He had the rings ready for me when I arrived earlier, which means he had already foreseen that we would wed.”

 

She blinked in surprise. “Oh. Huh. So...he doesn’t mind his firstborn son and heir marrying the daughter of his stable master?”

 

"Why should he mind?" He searched her expression, wondering what it would be like to see her interact with his father. "Thurindir is a fine, noble elf, and his position one of great honor. Further, though Adar is a proud elf, he judges a person by who they are, not by their birth or associations, which in your case is quite similar to my siblings, being half elf and half human. He enjoys your company, he told me so himself."

 

She smiled and looked down in embarrassment. “I like him too, even if I still find him intimidating. I also love watching him and Elizabeth together. They’re just so beautiful and magical as a couple.”

 

He tilted her chin up, capturing her eyes again and smiling gently. “We will be no different, my sweet love.” Bending down, he pressed his lips to hers in a soft kiss that had the butterflies in her stomach taking flight. She sighed when he pulled back with a satisfied smile. “Sleep.” He caressed her cheek a final time and walked from the room, and she heard the main door close soon after.

 

Looking down at her journal in her lap and the ring on her finger, she shook her head in amazement at everything that had happened just that evening. Reaching for her pen, she clicked it open and turned to a blank page.

 

Engaged to Prince Legolas of Greenwood? I guess it’s someday, because my prince came. Who knew? Apparently, I really am a damned Disney princess, and the joke’s on me. I reckon when I received Wynsang, I got the animal sidekick, and since I do sing… Shit, I guess I never had a chance!

 

Seriously though, I don’t think anything will surprise me after this. I wonder what my dad will say?

 


~o~

Chapter Text

 


 

Wynsang and Arod both raised their heads in their stalls at Thurindir’s surprised exclamation.

 

“To the prince? But you and Prince Edward are both still children, daughter! I beg you to wait at least another fifty years until you are nearer to full adulthood. If your feelings remain unchanged in that time, then I will fully approve your choice.” He leaned closer and pitched his voice to a whisper. “Though I feel I must warn you, King Thranduil is a very proud elf and may not grant permission for his son to wed you. We are Silvan elves, Laurelin, not Sindar, and he may see your heritage as beneath them.”

 

Laurelin rubbed her brow tiredly. “Daddy, it’s not Edward I’m going to marry, it’s Legolas. He loves me and I love him, and King Thranduil knows all about it, even before I did. Apparently, he had visions of me for years.” She held up her left hand so the ring was easily seen, the diamond sparkling brightly in the daylight. “He had this ring made for Legolas to give to me when he asked me to marry him yesterday.”

 

Thurindir looked even more shocked at her words. “Prince Legolas? Truly?” He leaned back against the wood post behind him with wide eyes. “That is even more difficult to believe. I should never have thought it of him.” Shaking his head, he met Laurelin’s eyes. “Even if this is true and the king does approve you, that does not change that you are still much too young to even be considering marriage.”

 

Planting her hands on her hips, Laurelin narrowed her eyes. “Momma was only twenty-two when you married her. I’m nearly eight years older than she was, and I’ve been an adult since I was eighteen! Look, I love you and I want you to be part of this, but it’s my life, Daddy, and I have to live it the way I feel is right. I’ll come find you later, alright? After you’ve had some time to get used to the idea.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek before hurrying out of the stables and back toward the halls.

 

Her father’s words had begun to shred her own fragile belief as to her suitability for marrying her prince. Although she had been raised with the firm conviction that all people were equal, she was also realistic enough to recognize that some social prejudices could be very difficult to overcome, and felt guilty at the prospect of putting Legolas in the position of having to always defend his choice of wife. Why couldn’t things be more simple between people?

 

Stopping just before she reached the path that would take her to the royal family’s rooms, she paused in indecision. Maybe it would be better to wait and not tell anyone? If she went back to her own little apartment, Legolas would eventually come to check on her, then she could convince him to keep the whole thing secret a while longer. That would probably be for the best. If no one found out, then they couldn’t disapprove, right? Right. Whirling to go back the way she came, she startled to find Legolas standing right in front of her nose. Peering up at him self-consciously, she blushed.

 

“Um, hi.”

 

He frowned at her furtive body language and uncomfortable expression. Taking her hand, he led her back to one of the many gardens and sat her on a secluded bench beside him and sighed, giving her an expectant look. “It is apparent that you had decided to flee from me, had I not been right there to prevent it. Please tell me what has occurred to unsettle you so. I want nothing but truth between us, Laurelin.”

 

She reached for his hand, feeling some of the panic inside her quiet down at his electric touch. Looking up into his blue eyes, she smiled a dreamy smile at how handsome he was and how much she loved him, relaxing further when he returned her smile with a hint of amusement in his own.

 

“Perhaps it was only a brief moment of doubt, now overcome?” he teased gently, lifting her hand to his lips for a kiss.

 

Laurelin shook her head. “I don’t really have any doubts, but I worry about the doubts everyone else will have. When I told my dad about us, he seemed to think I’m still a child that isn’t old enough to marry, even though my mother was only twenty-two when he married her!” She quirked an eyebrow and gave him a crooked smile. “I don’t suppose you would want to elope and go start that hippie commune together, would you?”

 

His brows drew together and he glanced away. “I had not considered your age at all, though I suppose from Thurindir’s point of view, he would think of you as more elf than human and expect you to follow our customs and traditions.” Legolas met her eyes again with a look of concern. “How do you feel about that, sweet? Would you prefer to wait until you are considered of age according to elvish tradition, or do you feel yourself more aligned to human custom in this instance?”

 

“I’m not a child, Legolas. I told my dad that I love him, but it’s my life and I’ll live it as I please, and I please to marry you, and I’m not gonna wait until I’m a hundred years old to do it!” she finished with a fierce scowl.

 

Legolas chuckled and leaned down to kiss her softly on the lips before pulling back with a satisfied smile. “I shall be pleased to do your bidding, lady, and marry you whenever and wherever you please.” He tilted his head thoughtfully. “I am promised to return to Gondor very soon, and you shall come with me. If you wish, perhaps we can even consider marrying there, with Aragorn, Gimli and all our other friends to celebrate our joy with us.”

 

She smiled, her face glowing at the prospect of seeing all their friends again, and if she were already married to Legolas when they came back to Greenwood, so much the better. It would be pointless for anyone to protest a done deal, wouldn’t it? She nodded in agreement. “That sounds just fine to me. In fact, I think it sounds perfect.”

 

He stood and held his hand out to her. “Good. Let us go and tell my brothers and sisters now. I know they shall be excited for us.”

 

Grinning, and feeling a hundred pounds lighter at the prospect of soon traveling with Legolas, she followed him to the sitting room where all his brothers and sisters were gathered. Celestia was the first one to spot them, and gave an excited shriek and ran to her brother. Laughing, he caught her in his arms and spun her around while the others drew near.

 

Laurelin watched Legolas holding his youngest sister with obvious tenderness and remembered what he had said about them having children together and looked away with a blush, her stomach giving an odd little flip at the thought. Gâlen, ever sharp-eyed, lifted Laurelin’s left hand and held it up with a smirk.

 

“This is a new ring I have not seen on your finger before, Laurelin. Where did you get it?”

 

Setting Celestia on her feet, Legolas gave his mischievous brother an amused smile and took Laurelin’s hand from him and lifted it between them. “That is what we wanted to come and tell all of you together. I have asked Laurelin to marry me, and she has agreed.”

 

The gasps and surprised smiles and murmurs were drowned out by Celestia’s triumphant shout. “I knew you would pick Legolas, Laurelin!” She threw her arms around her and grinned up at the bard. “See? I told you one of my brothers would want to marry you after I made you so beautiful last night.” Turning to Legolas, she nodded sagely. “You wanted to marry her as soon as you saw her in the gold gown yestereve, didn’t you, brother?”

 

Laurelin gave a subtle nod to Legolas and he laughed, delighted to discover his young sister seemed to have some design as to them marrying. “In fact, I did have such a thought when I entered the great-hall where she was singing last night and found her attired so beautifully. That was all your work, little one?”

 

Celestia nodded proudly, looking for all the world like a preening peacock, making Laurelin look away to stifle her grin from turning into full laughter, meeting Edward’s pleased smile. While Celestia proceeded to list all the steps she had taken to transform Laurelin into a vision of beauty, Edward and Catherine both came and pulled Laurelin aside, taking turns hugging her.

 

“Welcome to the family officially, Gracie,” Catherine said with a bright smile. “I was unsure what the outcome would be of your disagreement with Legolas last evening, but I’m pleased to know everything was settled amicably between you.”

 

“I almost feared for my brother in the face of your anger,” Edward quipped with dancing eyes.

 

“Aw, I wasn’t really going to hurt him.” Laurelin smirked. “Not much, anyway.”

 

Thranduil and Elizabeth entered the room, both with expectant smiles on their faces. Elizabeth came and hugged Laurelin, lifting her hand to admire the ring there. “It suits you perfectly, my dear, as I knew it would.” She glanced across the room at her husband before meeting Laurelin’s eyes again. “Thranduil designed your rings himself, you know, just as he did ours. I know you will wear them all your days in joy.”

 

Laurelin blinked back tears while Elizabeth kissed her cheek. “Thank you, Elizabeth. I know it seems like all I do is thank you, but I seem to always have so many new reasons to keep at it. Your whole family is such a gift. Thank you for sharing them all with me.”

 

“Nonsense,” Elizabeth said in a gently chiding tone. “You are a part of this family, as you were always meant to be. I’ve been looking forward to this day for many years.”

 

Thranduil walked up with his hands laced behind his back and stared at Laurelin with a slight smile while she worked up her courage to make a request of him. “Am I allowed to hug my future father-in-law?”

 

He tilted his head and nodded. “You are.” Stepping forward, she grinned as she was almost completely enveloped in his arms and robes, smiling up at him teasingly as she backed away. “You could hide a child in there and no one would ever know.”

 

“He does!” Celestia quipped, hanging from her brother Thomas’ back with a bright smile. “Daddy’s robes are the best place to go for hide and seek, because he never tells.”

 

“Aha!” Gâlen said in apparent triumph. “Now I shall always know where to find you, Celestia.”

 

Celestia rolled her eyes, making her siblings laugh.

 

Thranduil turned to look at Legolas, and then at Laurelin when Legolas came to stand beside her and took her hand in his again. “Legolas, I know you have said you have obligations you have yet to meet in Gondor, but before you depart again, I wish you and Laurelin to stay for the feast to announce your betrothal to the kingdom, two nights hence.”

 

Legolas smiled and nodded. “Of course, Adar. We shall look forward to it.”

 

The Elvenking quirked a brow. “That should give you sufficient time to teach Laurelin the necessary dances for the evening.”

 

With a worried look, Laurelin turned to look at Legolas. “Dances? What kind of dances?”

 

Leaning close, he whispered in her ear. “Time to brush up on your merengue skills, sweet love, as well as a few other dances. Care to go someplace a bit quieter for a bit of practice?”

 

She shrugged. “Sure, why not? You know I like to dance.”

 

Calling a farewell to his family, Legolas led her away from the noisy throng and out into a quiet hallway she had never been down before. Opening an ornate door at the end of the passage, he pulled her along after him, shutting the door behind her. Glancing around the entryway, she looked at him curiously.

 

“Where are we?”

 

“These are my chambers,” he said with a slight smile. “Come, there is space to practice in the sitting room.”

 

Fascinated by the chance to see his personal quarters, she wandered from the large sitting room into his oversized bedroom. In giddy appreciation, she inhaled his scent that seemed to permeate everything. From his bedroom, she investigated a large closet, smiling at how much green clothing he owned, then she went into his bathroom. It essentially looked like a whirlpool bath from some Calgon commercials she had watched as a kid, but with water continually flowing in and out of vents designed to keep the water fresh.

 

Legolas leaned against the edge of the doorway with his arms crossed, enjoying watching her familiarizing herself with his private space. Crouching down, she ran her fingertips through the water, pleased to feel it was also heated. She smiled up at him.

 

“Nice bath, prince. Much better than mine. I don’t suppose you could be talked into sharing with a peasant, could you?”

 

“Which peasant might that be?” he asked with a musing look.

 

She pointed a finger at her chest. “This one right here.”

 

Crossing the space, he reached down and pulled her upright, into his arms. “I see no peasant here, only my lovely princess, who I would be delighted to share my bath with.”

 

When she smiled eagerly, he kissed her nose. “Just as soon as we are wed.”

 

She deflated and gave him a disappointed look. “Spoilsport. I could wear my swimsuit, you know. I still have the one I traveled with when I landed in Rohan. That wouldn’t be too indecent, would it?”

 

He tilted his head in consideration. “The one you wear to cover your tattoo?”

 

Laurelin smirked and shook her head. “Nope. It’s a bikini I wear to show off my tattoo.”

 

He gave her a pained look. “What color? Please do not say rosebud pink.”

 

She shook her head with a wide grin. “It’s not rosebud pink, Legolas.” Just when she felt some of the tension leave his muscles, she sprung her trap. “It’s actually called Bashful Pink, and I think it’s a much prettier shade on me, but you can be the judge and let me know.”

 

Groaning, he pulled her closer to him and rested his chin on top of her head. “Do you enjoy my suffering that you torment me with such knowledge, laich?

 

She laughed. “I’m not tormenting you. I’m offering you a gourmet dinner on a silver platter. You’re the one who keeps sending it back to the kitchen, so don’t blame me if you wind up starving to death.” Tilting her head back, she smiled enticingly, lightly scratching her fingers across his back. “Don’t you want even a little taste? Just one little bite of what you’re craving to keep you going? No? Alright then. I tried, Mr. Iron Will.” When she attempted to pull out of his arms, she found herself held fast and unable to move, a thrill of excitement racing through her at the almost wild look in his eyes.

 

Legolas searched her gaze sharply. “If you knew how close I am to carrying you off to my bed at this very moment, you would not keep pushing me in this way.”

 

“Oh yes I would, and you want me to. You’re standing at the very edge of the cliff, Legolas. Jump with me; there’s nothing to rival the feeling of free-falling into the unknown. Who’s going to know but me and you?”

 

He glanced away with furrowed brows. “Every elf that looked at us would know. Remember our conversation with Elladan and Elrohir, about elves being able to tell if a person is wed by looking in their eyes?”

 

She narrowed her eyes in quick thought. “Alright, but that’s after full sex, right? There’s still lots of other things we can do. It’s not like we haven’t fooled around before. Please? I just want to make you feel good. I wish you would let me.”

 

Legolas swallowed and looked down at her. “What would you do to me? Tell me so I may anticipate it.”

 

“Aw, honey, you’re the one that likes to tell. I’m the one who wants to show.” She slid her hands down his back, coming to rest them on his firm backside. “Do I have your permission to show?”

 

For a suspended moment, she thought he would give in, when just like a door closing, his eyes filled with resolve and she saw him exert his warrior’s will and shake his head firmly. “We cannot, love. You know we cannot. But soon, I promise you. Very soon.”

 

Lifting her hands off him, she shrugged and stepped away, making sure to hide all signs of her hurt feelings. “That’s fine, it’s your choice. Whatever. Are we still gonna dance, or maybe we should do that later?” Turning, she wandered back into the sitting room, twirling the ring on her finger while she waited.

 

Coming up behind her, Legolas wrapped his arms around her and leaned down and kissed her temple, breathing in her honeysuckle scent. “I’m not rejecting you, my beauty, please don’t think that.”

 

“Did I say anything like that? Nope, I sure didn’t.”

 

He nuzzled against her neck, pressing more kisses to her skin beneath her ear. “You do not need to say it, I feel your hurt as though it were my own. You cannot hide from me.”

 

She tilted her head back curiously. “Really? How does that work?”

 

“Though we are not yet bonded, since I have been near you again, I have felt our connection growing stronger.” He turned her so she was facing him and pulled her against him. “I am curious to try something. Close your eyes.” Laurelin shut her eyes obediently, waiting for his next instructions but soon started to fidget with impatience.

 

Legolas chuckled. “I can feel your annoyance very clearly. Think back to the first night we kissed, when you were trying to only feel. Concentrate on what you are feeling this exact moment.”

 

“Alright,” she muttered. “Now what?”

 

He bent down and rested his forehead against hers and closed his own eyes. “Now, reach out for me with your awareness and emotions. I’m right here with you… Can you feel me?”

 

Biting her lower lip, she tried to imagine what he was describing, remembering the sensation of something giving way the time she touched Langion’s emotions. She tried to repeat what she did then, when she felt the same thing happen with Legolas, though far more overwhelming and all-encompassing, flooding her entire being with his emotions.

 

Gasping in awe, she felt like she was suddenly floating in and through a cloud of love and adoration. Like a fish in the ocean, she swam through the many layers of his emotions, examining them and marveling that it was how he felt about her. How had she been able to inspire so much devotion and depth of feeling from him?

 

“I feel you,” she whispered in fascination.

 

“And I you,” he said in an equally wonder-filled tone. “You are pure golden light.”

 

“You’re….silver, and blindingly bright.” She basked in the comforting glow from him she could somehow see clearly, though her eyes remained closed.

 

Distracted by some new obstruction she encountered, she pushed into it like she had done before, and was instantly inundated by so much raw, unfiltered desire, she moaned helplessly as she was overcome by it. Like getting caught in a powerful current, there was no way to break free from it, so she stopped struggling against it and tried flowing along with it. She was swept away by all of it; heat, fire and passion, seemingly never-ending.

 

From a distance, she heard her own moan again when she felt Legolas’ mouth against hers, devouring her lips and tongue with open-mouthed kisses, the vibrations of his touch somehow gliding across her bare skin. His fingers traced every inch of her body, and slid lightly over her core. So much ache pulsed inside her, she became consumed by it. A hot, wet tongue across her nipples left her breathless, then moved lower across her belly. It was dazzling, dizzying. Like the best sex dream she could have ever imagined, but she hadn’t fallen asleep, had she?

 

Forcing her eyes open to try to understand what exactly had just happened, she took in the scene around her in stunned amazement. They were both lying on his bed, and he was kissing her as though their lives depended on it while they were nearly naked. How had that happened? When had that happened?

 

Her voice felt scratchy and strange when she tried to speak, but she knew it was important to ask him...something. What was it she needed to know again? His hand squeezed one of her breasts, while his mouth closed over her nipple again, the light scrape of his teeth lighting her nerves with pleasure, like nothing she had ever felt before. Why couldn’t she think? Like coming awake from a deep, drugged sleep, she finally found her voice.

 

“Legolas! What are we doing?”

 

Lifting his mouth away from her breast to look at her face with an even more dazed expression than the one she wore, his brows furrowed in confusion. He looked away from her, surveying the trail of clothing that littered the floor as understanding dawned. Groaning, he rolled off of her and lay down on his back, closing his eyes and rubbing a hand across his brow.

 

“I think you...” he swallowed audibly before he continued. “You somehow managed to pull my desire for you to the forefront, and it was so overpowering I could not think, only feel. It seems we acted on those feelings together.”

 

Glancing down her body and then over to him, she blinked. “I’m...completely naked. Huh. You sure do work fast, unless we were in some kind of a time warp. Typical that you would still have your pants on though, and so not fair.”

 

Scrubbing a hand across his face, he rolled away from her and sat on the edge of the bed with his back toward her. “Forgive me. Please, will you dress? I cannot look at you as you are now, or I fear I will fall back into the same fever as gripped me before, and I dare not.”

 

Eager to comfort him, as she could feel shame and embarrassment from him so clearly, she sat up and wrapped herself around him in a hug and kissed his cheek. “Hey, it’s okay. There’s nothing you need to feel sorry about. That was a little strange, but I most definitely liked it. Are you sure you want to stop now?”

 

“Laurelin, please,” he sighed, reaching a hand back to pull her to his lips for a desperate kiss and look at her with tormented eyes. “Do not tempt me further now, or I shall ravish you and be unable to stop until I take you fully as my own. We must not. Not yet.”

 

Sighing, she kissed his cheek again and let go of him, sliding off the edge of the bed. Gathering her clothes from where they were strew all over the floor, she smirked at her panties having obviously been the first thing discarded as they lay furthest away. She redressed quickly and walked over to him and presented her back.

 

“Can you retie me in the back? I can’t reach those, with the way you undid all of them.” Looking over her shoulder, she winked at him, smiling as the worry melted from his eyes to the humor that was more natural to him.

 

“I suppose I was trying to be thorough,” he quipped, quickly relacing the back of her dress.

 

Turning to face him, she brushed a stray wisp of his platinum hair away from his face with a teasing smile. “Well, that was fun. I think I like whatever this connection is we have, and I want to explore more of it.”

 

Standing to his feet, he raised a brow, making quick work of retrieving his own clothing and getting dressed again. “I think it best we not try any more of that until after we are wed. Had I know something as overpowering as that could so easily occur between us, I would not have suggested making the attempt to share emotions.”

 

She crossed her arms, still puzzling over just exactly what all that had been, and trying to think of how they might find out. “What about your daddy? Couldn’t he tell us what’s going on here, if we explain it to him? He seems to know just about everything.”

 

Legolas gave her a crooked smile and shook his head. “Do you really want me to ask my father to explain why we were gripped by some sexual frenzy when we shared our emotions, and rolling around on my bed together, nearly naked and on the verge of joining? Would you ask that of your father?”

 

She shrugged. “I might, if I thought he could give me answers. Maybe.”

 

“Hmm.” He took her hand and led her back into the sitting room. “Somehow I doubt you would. You are much more private and less blunt regarding intimacy than you would seem on the surface.”

 

Laurelin grinned. “Already figured that out about me, huh? Well, I guess you’re right. What about if I ask Elizabeth?”

 

He gave her an uncertain look. “I suppose you could speak to her if you really wished to, although I’m not certain she would be able to offer any true insight as to what is happening between us.”

 

“I might talk to her then, if the situation presents itself. Okay, which dance are we doing first?”

 

Looking relieved at the change of subject, Legolas extended a hand and pulled her into the hold for formal dancing.

 

“Let us begin with a waltz.”

 

 


 

 

Later that day, Laurelin returned to her rooms to bathe and change for dinner with Legolas’ family, mulling over whether her father had sufficient time to think about things and if she should go speak with him before the evening meal, or leave it until the next day.

 

Hearing her outer door slam, she smiled and put her hairbrush down. “I’m in here, Catherine! If you’re alone, you can come in.”

 

The princess breezed into the room, closing the door behind her with a wide grin and holding out the bundle of fabric in her hands. “I have brought gifts from mother and father. A gown for you to wear tonight...” She laid it down on the bed and held up the other with a flourish. “And this magnificent creation for you to wear to your betrothal feast.”

 

With a murmur of amazement, Laurelin reached a hand out to touch the shimmering ice blue fabric of the feast gown. As the light moved across it, it seemed to glint like tiny diamonds, almost as though it were alive.

 

“Wow,” Laurelin breathed. “That’s some dress. Cinderella can eat her heart out.” She gave Catherine a doubtful look. “Do you think I can pull this dress off? I kinda feel like you have to ooze confidence if you wear something like this.”

 

Catherine nodded. “Absolutely. It will be perfection on you. I can’t wait to see you dancing with my brother in this.”

 

Smiling as she remembered their merengue practice, she bit her lip in amusement. “That does sound like fun. I’m a little nervous though. I don’t have a clue how to be a graceful princess wanna-be. Do you have any pointers you can give me?”

 

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Catherine folded her hands on her lap and gave Laurelin a long look. “This is all you must do – keep your eyes on Legolas, and everyone and everything else will fade away. Follow his lead, just as you do when you dance. Nothing else is more important than celebrating your love together.”

 

With furrowed brows, Laurelin sat beside Catherine and took one of her hands in hers. “Hey, you’re sad. Tell me what’s wrong?”

 

Nodding, Catherine gave a little shrug. “I am happy for you both, please don’t think I’m not, only...” Catherine sighed deeply. “I envy you, is all. The one I love only sees me as a child, and I know it will still be many years before I have any hope of changing his mind. I’m glad Legolas does not judge you by your age. I wish other elves were more like him.”

 

With a sudden idea taking root in her mind, Laurelin put an arm around Catherine’s shoulders and hugged her. “Never say never, Kitty. I’m a perfect example that you can’t predict what will happen from one day of your life to the next.” She grinned. “For all you know, your fella might decide to sweep you off your feet and marry you a year from now, you just never can tell.”

 

Catherine laughed and stood to her feet. “I’m certain that will not happen, as much as I might wish it to. I must go, Grace, mother wants me to help her with preparations for the feast, and I have a dress fitting after that. I’ll see you at dinner tonight.”

 

“Alright, I’ll see you then.”

 

When the outer door closed, Laurelin sprang to her feet and got ready quickly. She had a sudden need to visit the library and assess the situation for herself.

 

 


 

 

Laurelin peeked out from a tall bookcase, watching the brown-haired elf sorting books and scrolls at a tall counter. Wondering exactly how she should go about approaching him and what exactly to say, she chewed her lip in distraction. Setting down the book in his hand, he turned and stared directly at her, then started to approach her with determination in his gold eyes. Swallowing nervously, Laurelin brushed her hair behind an ear and smiled when he stood before her.

 

“Lady Laurelin, I presume?” he said, addressing her in English.

 

She tilted her head and shrugged. “Guilty, as charged, but how do you know who I am?”

 

He crossed his arms, his lips curling in a small smile. “My young pupil, Princess Celestia, was scarcely able to focus on her lessons today, she was so full of excitement over her brother’s betrothal, which she claims credit for, by the way. I am Tirion.” He gave a slight bow. “I am pleased to meet the lady I have heard so much of in recent days, and I offer my congratulations on your betrothal to Prince Legolas.”

 

“A pleasure to meet you, Tirion, and thank you. I’ve actually heard a good deal about you in recent days, as well.”

 

He looked puzzled. “Have you?”

 

Laurelin nodded. “Oh, yeah, totally. Edward was telling me that if I wanted to learn elvish, you’d be the fella for me to hunt down.”

 

“Your English is remarkably different to Elizabeth’s, and your accent something I have never heard before. Perhaps we might both have something to teach the other, though I hear you are soon to travel away from the kingdom, so perhaps upon your return?”

 

Beaming up at him, Laurelin extended her hand. “It’s a deal.” When he took her hand to bow over it, she placed her other hand on top of his and stepped closer, dropping her voice. “And what can you tell me about Catherine?”

 

Frowning, he stared into her eyes with an uncertain look. “You wish to know something about Princess Catherine?”

 

Staring up at him, she pushed against his emotional barriers, easily batting them aside. “What do you think of her?” Feeling the same give, she sucked in a breath as his emotions flowed through her, a smile slowly growing on her face. He looked stunned as she leaned closer. “Let me give you a little advice, friend. Catherine is not a child, anymore than you are. Carpe diem. Do you know what that means?”

 

“Do I want to know?” he asked with a disturbed look.

 

She grinned and released her hold on him. “It’s Latin, and it means ‘seize the day’, I’ll go you one further, and advise you to seize the princess.” She shrugged. “It’s up to you what you do, but Catherine’s older than I am, and I’ll be married to Legolas before the year is out. There are definitely times where patience is not a virtue, and where love is concerned, waiting isn’t always the wiser course. On occasion, you elves really need to learn to hurry.”

 

His expression grew serious as he scrutinized her, seeing more than she realized. “I believe you mean well, Lady Laurelin, but you do not yet have the age and perspective yourself, to understand that some things take time and cannot be rushed. Like fine wine, much improves with age and time. Even love.” He gave a slight bow. “If you will excuse me, I must return to my duties.”

 

Suddenly realizing just how far she had managed to overstep, she bit her lip and moved nearer to him. “Wait! Please? I’m sorry for being a busybody and poking my nose in where it clearly doesn’t belong. I normally wouldn’t do anything this pushy, but I love Catherine, you see, and I just want her to be happy.” She searched the librarian’s golden eyes, looking for understanding.

 

Tirion’s stern expression relaxed with a slight smile. “I well understand your motivation for speaking to me, and worry not, I am not offended.” His eyes took on a teasing light. “After Celestia’s stories of you, I was prepared for your somewhat blunt manner.” Laurelin glanced down with a blush, looking back up again when she heard him chuckle. “I will look forward to teaching you when you return to the kingdom, Lady Laurelin, and hopefully get to know you better. We have a common interest in our love for the royal family.”

 

“Um,” she looked around, making sure they were still unobserved and dropped her voice a little lower. “Will you do me a favor, and maybe don’t mention that I said anything to you to Catherine...or Legolas...or...”

 

“Our conversation will go no further than we two, you may rest easy.”

 

Laurelin exhaled in relief and grinned. “Thanks, I owe you one. I think you’re a real sweetheart, Tirion. See you later!” She breezed out of the library, and Tirion paused, chuckling under his breath as he replayed the conversation in his mind.

 

He thought Prince Legolas was going to be kept very busy by his exceedingly young, vivacious and rather precocious wife. Hopefully, he would prove equal to the challenges that she would lay before him. Tirion found he was suddenly curious to watch them together at the betrothal feast. Perhaps he might even permit himself one dance with Catherine during the course of the night. That would not be too inappropriate. A waltz was her favorite, and surely as her former teacher, King Thranduil would find no fault in a single dance between them. Smiling in anticipation, he returned to his work in earnest.

 


~o~

Chapter Text

 


 

Legolas knocked on Laurelin’s door and waited until she called for him to enter before he pushed it open and went inside. Closing the door, he tilted his head.

 

“Are you dressed, sweet?”

 

“Yes,” she said, her voice coming through the open bedroom door. “Come here and tell me what you think of this before I change out of it. I was just trying it on.”

 

He passed through the sitting room and paused on the threshold of her bedroom, struck speechless at the sight before him. Laurelin stood arrayed in a pale blue gown that sparkled in the light, looking like something plucked right from the night sky. The shimmery fabric hugged her breasts and dipped into her waist and over her hips, then flowed outward from mid-thigh in a full skirt with many layers. Her upper chest was bare, showing off the diamond necklace at her throat, while fitted sleeves went all the way to her wrists. Inhaling sharply, he ran his eyes up and down her twice more before he was able to find his voice.

 

“I am near blinded by your beauty, Laurelin. You are exquisite. This is what you are to wear for the feast tomorrow night?”

 

She nodded with a hesitant smile. “You think it’s alright on me? I don’t look ridiculous? I’m not exactly tall and willowy like all the lady elves around here, but as long as you like it...”

 

He walked forward and took her face in both of his hands and kissed her gently. “You will make the stars in the sky jealous of your glory, for you shall outshine them all.”

 

Blushing, she ducked her head. “I’m glad you like it. The king and queen were so generous to have this made for me to wear. How do you think I should fix my hair?”

 

He stroked a hand across her hair and stepped back to take in the full sight of her again. “I prefer you to wear it down and unbound completely, no braids or adornments.”

 

“Really?” She tilted her head curiously. “You like it that way the best, you don’t think it makes me look wild? Cause that’s what Celestia called it.”

 

Legolas smiled slightly. “I suppose there is an element of the untamed to it, but I think it best suits you, so it is my preference.”

 

Laurelin grinned. “Good. That will be easy to do.” Turning her back toward him, she glanced at him over her shoulder. “Can you unzip me so I can change now?” She nodded toward a deep green gown laid across her bed. “That’s what your dad and Elizabeth sent for me to wear tonight.” She undid the diamond necklace at her throat and laid it aside.

 

Pulling the zipper all the way down to where it ended across her lower back, Legolas brushed his fingers across her tattoo before he stepped away. “Do you need me to do up the other gown once you get it on?”

 

Stepping out of the blue gown in just her matching purple bra and panties, she laid it carefully aside, nodding. “Yep, just give me a second.” After wiggling her way into the green dress, she turned her back toward him once more.

 

“I think I far prefer the speed of zippers, to buttons or hooks,” he quipped, as he finished fastening the last hook. Turning to face him, she grinned.

 

“Well, you know I prefer t-shirts and jeans to all this, but it is kinda nice getting all dressed up, once in a while.”

 

He took a step back and smiled in satisfaction. “I like you dressed in my color, laich , it makes your eyes stand out in a breathtaking way.”

 

She shook her head and smirked. “Oh, so you own the color green now, do you?”

 

He shrugged. “I am named for it, so it is not surprising I should have an affinity for the color of the leaves of the forest that surrounds us.”

 

Slipping her feet into the low heels Elizabeth had also sent, Laurelin went and wrapped her arms around Legolas’ neck, staring up at him. “Do you mind that I’m so little beside you, instead of taller like most of the ladies around here?”

 

“Why would I mind that?” he asked in puzzlement. “I like you petite as you are, my little golden flower. There is slightly less difference in our heights than between my father and Elizabeth, and I daresay he isn’t the least bothered by her smaller size either. A smaller stature does not mean a diminished spirit. In that way, you easily dwarf much taller ladies.”

 

She traced the edge of his ear with a light touch. “Are you saying I have a spirit the size of Texas?”

 

His eyes slid closed at her touch and he hummed in pleasure. “Yes, I think that sounds fitting.” Opening his eyes, he bent down and kissed her on the lips. “Shall we go and join the family, sweet?”

 

Laurelin nodded with a smile. “Lead the way, lover.”

 

Legolas smirked. “I do like the sound of that. In elvish, it is melethril, or if you are addressing me, the masculine is melethron.”

 

Her brows climbed as they walked through the sitting room toward the door. “I remember you calling me that at Dunharrow, didn’t you?”

 

“I did,” he said with a teasing smile. “We were already lovers at that point, so it seemed fitting.”

 

She blushed and stepped through the doorway. “By loose definition, anyway.”

 

“I was referring to the most important definition, that of the heart.”

 

“Oh.” She wrapped her arm around his when he offered it and leaned her head against his upper arm. “I like that one the best, I think. Though the other definition is pretty amazing too.”

 

“Yes, I quite agree with you,” he murmured. “Though now I have so many more vivid images of you to dwell on from what occurred earlier today, I am uncertain if it is a blessing or a torment. One thing is certain, I am very eager for us to wed, even more than I was before. I suppose we must wait and see if we manage to make it all the way to Minas Tirith, but if not… The wilds can also be lovely.”

 

“I hope you mean that, sugar. I’m startin’ to get a complex with you turning me down all the time. I think I’ve decided to stop offering. If you want me sometime in the future, then by God, you’re gonna have to beg.”

 

He quirked a brow and looked down at her. “Beg? Down on my knees?"

 

Laurelin chuckled. “I wouldn’t make you get down on your knees.”

 

“What if I want to?” he asked in a low tone. “I can’t think of a more perfect position in which to worship you as I wish to.”

 

She bit her lip and looked at him from under her lashes. “I’m game if you are. We can take turns...worshiping each other.” Looking away, she shook her head. “And damn it all if you haven’t gotten me completely turned on right before we’re supposed to act normal in front of your dad.” She gave Legolas a bemused look. “He’s gonna take one look at us and know. You realize that, right?”

 

Legolas laughed softly and opened the door leading to the family dining room. “I have an instant cure for that, sweet. Just imagine kissing a dwarf with a full beard. Or Gimli.”

 

Laurelin made a cringing face. “Yep, that worked. Thanks.”

 

“My pleasure,” he murmured.

 

“Not yet,” she whispered, looking up at him with a smile as they entered the dining room with the family waiting for them. “I’m saving that for later.”

 

 


 

 

Legolas stood on the edge of the family sitting room, smiling at Elizabeth and his sisters, gathered around Laurelin while they all sang together. Laurelin played her guitar as accompaniment and his eighteen year old brother, Finellach, who was also musically gifted, played her violin.

 

Turning, he wandered over to where Edward and Gâlen were engaged in a game of chess, with Thomas offering occasional advice or commentary.

 

“Legolas.” Thranduil called to him where he was seated on a couch by himself. He went and sat down by his father with a smile and waited for him to speak. The Elvenking gave him a long look, set his wine glass aside and rested one arm across the back of the couch in a relaxed manner.

 

“I wanted to take a moment and ask how you are, and if you have any questions regarding any notable changes you may have observed in Laurelin since she received Elizabeth’s blood.”

 

Thinking immediately of the strange episode they had shared that afternoon, Legolas’ brows furrowed in thought. “Changes? I...perhaps. I had not considered that being a factor. What sorts of things might that encompass?”

 

Pitching his voice quieter, Thranduil pursed his lips. “As you know, Elizabeth has a great deal of unique magic of her own, and I now feel much of the same in Laurelin, as well. Once love is felt, something in her magic seems to compel, quite forcefully, toward a bonding. In the area of physical intimacy, even I found difficulty in resisting until Elizabeth and I were married. If you have experienced something similar with Laurelin, I wanted to encourage you not to feel obligated to delay your joining due to tradition or any expectation you think I or others may have. Do as you feel best. After your betrothal feast, wed immediately if you choose.”

 

Looking across the way at Laurelin, Legolas sighed and turned back to meet his father’s eyes. “I confess we had a strange occurrence between us earlier today. What began as a simple attempt to share emotions became something else entirely. It was a very near thing, like a trance that Laurelin was able to break me free from, or we would already be wed.”

 

Nodding thoughtfully, Thranduil pursed his lips. “I thought as much. Do not feel shame for whatever happens between you. The pull between bond-mates is not to be underestimated, and may even be likened to a form of madness until the joining is completed. As you both already feel the urge so strongly, I think it would be unwise to delay for very long.”

 

The prince looked down with a small smile. “Laurelin advised me to speak to you after the episode, to seek your counsel, but I did feel shame and embarrassment after my loss of control.” He looked up and met his father’s understanding gaze, his smile growing. “Thank you for offering the advice I was too foolish to ask for.”

 

Thranduil smiled in response. “We are all fools in love, my son, at one time or another. You may speak to me of anything, without embarrassment. If there is aught you would know, either of emotion, intimacy, or how best to be husband to a young wife, ask.”

 

After a moment of consideration, Legolas leaned nearer. “I did have a thought, and wondered if you think this would be a possibility...”

 

Listening to his son’s query, Thranduil finally nodded. “I don’t see why not. I would think you should be able to manage that with little difficulty. You are not a young elf, and I’m certain you will have sufficient control. There is also a spell I think you may find useful in the days to come, that I would teach you. I have used it many times over the years, and any number of them on Elizabeth.”

 

“What spell would that be?” Legolas asked curiously.

 

Crossing his long legs, Thranduil smiled. “A sleeping spell.”

 

 

 


 

 

 

Peering up at Legolas while he walked her back to her room, Laurelin was relieved at how much more relaxed and at ease he seemed after spending the evening with his family. After their little afternoon faux pas, he had seemed so tense and distracted, she had begun to worry about him. Time with his father and siblings might have been just what the doctor ordered.

 

“It looked like you had a nice visit with your dad tonight.”

 

He glanced down at her with a smile. “Yes. We spoke of many things. My father has much wisdom to share, and a good many insights to offer me on how to be a good husband in the days to come.”

 

She smiled faintly. “He definitely seems like he knows all about that. I never saw a happier woman than Elizabeth, so he must be an expert.”

 

Tilting his head, Legolas chuckled. “They have had their difficult moments and disagreements, as any couple does, but yes, they are very happy together.” He looked down at her with a grin. “But no more happy than we shall be together.” Stopping in front of her door, he pulled her against him and leaned down, hovering just above her lips. “I will surround you in my love, and satisfy your every need and desire.”

 

Brushing her lips against his teasingly, she smiled. “You’re gonna be my sugar daddy, huh?” At his confused look, she laughed. “That’s a rich older man, who lavishes his little honey in gifts and attention.”

 

“I’m not certain I agree with that definition, but I will lavish all of you with all of me. I trust you will find that to your liking.”

 

She pretended to consider. “I think you may be able to persuade me to like just about anything.”

 

Catching her bottom lip between his teeth playfully, he released it and kissed her deeply, smiling down at her when her eyes opened with a dazed look when he pulled away. “Yes. I look forward to persuading you many times and in many different ways in the days that lie ahead. Good night, melethril. I will see you in the morning.”

 

“Night, handsome.” Laurelin slipped into her apartment and floated to her room with a happy sigh. Falling backward onto her bed, she closed her eyes and smiled, getting lost in her own recollections and fantasies of the day. Hearing the sound of her door closing quietly, she sat up with a grin and jumped up from the bed.

 

“Are you back already? I thought we said tomorrow…?” Laurelin stopped in her bedroom doorway and tilted her head curiously to find Catherine dressed as a guard and grinning at her. “Kitty? What are you doing, and why are you dressed that way?”

 

Rushing forward, Catherine took her hand and pulled her back into the bedroom. “Hurry and change into some trousers and one of your soft tunics, Grace. My sisters and I are sneaking you out of the halls with us for some swimming and drinking in the woods, just we four.”

 

With an excited smile, Laurelin turned toward her dresser and pulled out some clothes and started changing. “Sneaking out? Hot damn, that sounds like fun. Do I need to bring my swimsuit?”

 

The princess shrugged. “I suppose you can if you wish. We just swim in the nude. Where we go is very secluded, and there will be no one around to observe us.”

 

Debating, Laurelin finally decided to wear it, just in case, and put on the bikini under her clothes, then nodded at Catherine after slipping on her shoes. “Alright, I’m ready. How are we doing this?”

 

Catherine stopped at the door with her hand on the latch and pulled her hood up so her face was hidden by shadow. “Follow behind me and be as quiet as possible. Alassë already has mounts, and Rainë snuck into father’s best wine stores earlier and got us several bottles. It will be glorious!”

 

“I feel like I’m seventeen again, and trying to leave the house without getting caught,” Laurelin whispered while following Catherine down dark passages and empty walkways.

 

“Here,” Catherine whispered back, pointing to a gap in a hedgerow they stopped in front of. “Through here and we are free.”

 

Squeezing through, Laurelin smiled when Rainë pulled her to her feet on the other side. “I see you made it with no trouble, Grace,” Rainë said with her sweet smile. “I’m excited to have you join us.”

 

Alassë beckoned all three of them to where she had the horses waiting behind a nearby tree, and she was also dressed in a guard’s leathers. She smirked at Laurelin and Catherine. “I miss sneaking out. We used to do it often until Langion caught on and threatened to tell father of our exploits.” Smiling confidently, she mounted her horse. “I know how to sneak past him now though. In fact, I don’t believe he is on duty at all tonight, and the other guards aren’t nearly clever enough to notice us. It’s lucky for them we aren’t orcs.”

 

Laurelin kissed Wynsang’s nose with a grin. “Hey there, boy. Are you ready to do something clandestine this evening with us gals?” He nickered softly and turned toward Catherine when she scratched behind his ear.

 

“Will you carry us both, Wynsang?” The caramel stallion raised and lowered his head, looking for all the world as though he were nodding, making the eldest princess smile. “Excellent. Here, I’ll give you a boost, Grace.” Once Laurelin was mounted, Catherine hopped up nimbly behind her and nodded her readiness to her sisters.

 

“Follow me, and I’ll lead us safely past all the patrols. No talking until we are well beyond them,” Alassë cautioned, whispering to her horse to start him walking northward through the trees.

 

After more than three quarters of an hour, Alassë dismounted and smiled triumphantly. “See? Foolish guards are embarrassingly easy to sneak past. We should continue on in this direction now.” Turning, she stepped past a tree, gasping when she was seized and pulled back against a hard chest, her arms trapped at her sides. Looking back to see who had her, she quirked a brow. “Fuck,” she swore in frustration.

 

Langion stared coolly down into her grey eyes. “What was that you were saying about sneaking past foolish guards?”

 

She glared up at him and struggled against his hold, but couldn’t break it. Trying a different tactic, she smiled sweetly. “Langion, how nice to see you! We were just heading back to the halls. You go on ahead of us and make sure it’s safe, and we’ll be right behind you.”

 

He swept his gaze between all four females and smiled down at the one he still held. “When will you learn you are no match for me, Alassë? What you were planning was obvious when you checked the guard postings earlier, and two extra guard uniforms mysteriously disappeared. I am a seasoned, hardened warrior, with honed instincts, while you remain a child at play.”

 

“The only thing honed and hardened on him is his ass,” Alassë said in English with a smirk, knowing Langion would not understand, making Rainë giggle, then slap a hand over her mouth with a blush.

 

Laurelin smiled where she was still mounted and shrugged. “He does have a nice ass, I’ll give you that, but show me any male elf around here who doesn’t.”

 

Releasing Alassë with a frown and a shake of his head, Langion looked at Laurelin with a quirked brow. “Lady Laurelin, it is nice to see you again. I have recently heard you are, in fact, betrothed to Prince Legolas, and that you are not actually mortal. Is any of this gossip true?”

 

“That’s all true. But when we first met, I wasn’t betrothed to him, not yet, so I was telling you the truth as I knew it at the time.”

 

He nodded in understanding and smiled. “I see. Then allow me to wish you joy. I am pleased my friend has at last found the one his heart has longed for.”

 

“Well, thank you. That’s mighty sweet of you. Now, what do you say you look the other way this once, and let me and the girls continue on our way?” She smiled appealingly, making him smile back.

 

“Though I am not currently on duty, I am still sworn to protect this kingdom, including young princesses determined to engage in risky behavior.”

 

Alassë made a sound of annoyance and crossed her arms, drawing his gaze again. “However, I can offer you a choice. You may continue with whatever plans you have.” He glanced at the bottles sticking out of Rainë’s bags laid across her horse’s back and narrowed his eyes. “Which I assume is drinking and swimming in the fresh springs?”

 

“Yes, that’s correct,” Catherine confirmed from where she sat behind Laurelin.

 

“But I must accompany you and keep watch over you, then see you safely back to the halls before dawn. Otherwise, you will return now to the halls, whichever you prefer.”

 

Sauntering up to Langion with her arms still crossed, Alassë smiled, keeping her eyes locked to his while she spoke English to her sisters and Laurelin. “I say we go and let him sit and watch. The sight of us naked is likely to be all the excitement he will experience in the next hundred years.” She whirled around and raised her brows at Catherine and Laurelin. “Think of it as a kindness to the poor fellow.”

 

“Alassë,” Rainë said gently. “I don’t understand why you always speak so cruelly of Langion. He is a fine captain, and only doing his duty by guarding us so diligently.”

 

“He’s a pompous stick-in-the-mud, who apparently lives to spoil my fun, and always goes out of his way to do so,” Alassë said with a dark look. “If I am cruel, is that not reason enough?”

 

“What is it to be?” Langion prompted them again in Common.

 

“We agree to you accompanying us, Langion,” Catherine answered for all of them with a smile. “And thank you for offering us an option that still allows for our outing.”

 

He shrugged and took Alassë’s arm to lead her back to her horse, waiting for her to mount. “Legolas and I used to indulge in similar harmless fun in our younger days.”

 

Laurelin smiled at that. “I think I’d like to see Legolas drunk, just once. I can’t imagine him not in control.”

 

Langion mounted behind Alassë and settled his arm around her and set the horse to walking. “I could tell you many tales of Legolas as a very young and reckless elf. There were times I think King Thranduil really wished to lock us in the dungeons until we developed more caution and sense.”

 

Catherine laughed and started a story about how she and Edward had been saved from their father’s wrath when they knocked over a rack full of Dorwinion in their rough play, by Legolas taking the blame.

 

Alassë shifted against Langion and glared over her shoulder at him, then smirked. “Langion, is that your dagger poking me, or are you merely excited to be riding with me?”

 

He chuckled and rearranged his belt, putting his mouth close to her ear to speak quietly. “In fact, it was my dagger. Do you think a child such as you would bring forth any other response from me?”

 

“I am no child,” she replied, staring back at him without humor, before she gave him a flirtatious smile. “But perhaps you are too great a coward to acknowledge any other possibility, and will continue to cling to old memories and your own boyish fantasies of happiness.”

 

He sighed, sounding very weary. “Will you always hold a grudge against me for swatting your backside for your naughtiness when you were small? It has been more than twenty years since that occurred.”

 

“You had no right,” she huffed, “and you only did it to embarrass me in front of my friends.”

 

He said nothing for several moments as they rode before he sighed again, more quietly. “Perhaps you are right,” he murmured. “I apologize, Alassë. I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me for wounding your pride and not seeking your forgiveness sooner.”

 

She searched his eyes suspiciously and then inhaled sharply in surprise. “But...something is changed in you. What happened?”

 

Smiling and glancing behind him, he turned back to the young princess in his arms. “Lady Laurelin opened my eyes to some things I was blind to before, and I find I am the better for it. And...happier.”

 

Twirling a lock of her strawberry blonde hair around a finger thoughtfully, she looked back at him and gave him a genuine smile. “Then I am glad for you. Perhaps you will agree to spar with me again now you are more amiable and less miserable?”

 

He shrugged. “Will you receive my well-intentioned corrections and not get offended as before?”

 

“Certainly,” she agreed easily. “I’ll kick your ass,” she laughed under her breath, in English.

 

Leaning down, Langion whispered in her ear in flawless English. “I do not think you are capable of kicking my ass, not yet, although you’re welcome to continue admiring it if it gives you pleasure. And I’m greatly amused you think the sight of you and your sisters naked would be some sort of kindness to me.”

 

Gasping, she stared at him in wide-eyed shock. “How long?” she demanded in English. “How long have you been able to speak and understand English?” Her cheeks warmed in a rare blush as she thought of all the unguarded things she had said in front of him, confident he could not understand.

 

Langion laughed softly. “I suppose it has been around eight years now since Legolas taught me. You have a sharp tongue, Alassë, but you are well named, for always you manage to make me smile, even when you heap abuse on me.”

 

Looking down, her cheeks darkened further. “I’m...sorry. I should not have been so cruel to you. That was wrong of me.”

 

“Are you blushing?” he whispered. “Beware, young one, you actually look like a pretty female at this moment.”

 

Narrowing her eyes, she looked back at him. “Don’t get used to it, it won’t happen again.”

 

Langion smiled but made no response, looking back at Laurelin and raising a brow when she smiled guilelessly and winked at him, starting to sing in Common.

 

"Woke up sweating from a dream

With a different kind of feeling,

All day long my heart was beating

Searching for the meaning

~o~

"Grey-blue eyes, I was so color blind

We were just wasting time

For my whole life, we never crossed the line

Only friends in my mind, but now I realize

It was always you

~o~

"Can't believe I could not see it all this time

All this time

It was always you

Now I know why my heart wasn't satisfied

Satisfied

~o~

"It was always you, you

No more guessing who

Looking back now I know it was always you

Always you

~o~

"All my hidden desires

Finally came alive,

No, I never told a lie

To you so why would I

Start tonight

~o~

"Grey-blue eyes, I was so color blind

We were just wasting time,

For my whole life, we never crossed the line

Only friends in my mind

But now I realize

It was always you…"

 

Laurelin smirked and turned her gaze toward Alassë, then raised her brows expectantly at Langion, making him frown and turn a musing look back to the young princess he rode with. When he glanced back at the bard, she was engaged in conversation and no longer looking in his direction, but he found himself thinking curiously over the words of her song for the remainder of their ride to the spring.

 

 


 

 

Tipping the bottle back for another drink, Laurelin grinned at the naked princesses swimming in the beautiful springs and turned and walked over to where Langion stood guard with his back toward them and held out the bottle to him. When he turned his gaze more away from her, she chuckled.

 

“You can look at me, Langion, it’s safe. I have on a bikini, which is what we wear in front of everyone to go swimming where I come from. Everything important is covered.” She stepped nearer him and held the bottle out again.

 

Glancing at her cautiously, he took the bottle and drank from it with an uncertain look. “This is truly what your people wear to swim in mixed company together?”

 

She nodded. “Yep, it sure is. We don’t usually swim naked, as that’s not really seen as polite, but this is,” she said, sweeping a hand toward her body. “Oh! Tell me what you think of this.” She whirled around and pointed to her visible tattoo. “We call this body art. This is my Legolas mark, but before I ever met him and knew his name was Greenleaf. Kinda neat, isn’t it?”

 

Examining the mark, Langion considered it with a long look. “That is Legolas’ mark? I have never seen anything like it. It does not wash off?”

 

Laurelin shook her head and turned back to face him. “No, it’s permanent. Legolas likes it quite a bit.” Examining how empty the bottle was, the bard frowned. “Strange I’m not drunk as a skunk. I never used to be able to drink anything without getting plastered in a hurry. Maybe it’s an immortal perk?”

 

Langion examined her dilated pupils with a smirk. “Perhaps you should slow your rate of drinking, Lady Laurelin. I can already see it is affecting you to a degree.”

 

“But I want it to affect me. I think this might be the equivalent of my bachelorette party, so I aim to make the most out of it.” Tilting the bottle back, she drained the last of it and grinned. “I’m not usually real big on red wine, but this is really nice.”

 

Crossing his arms and scanning the area around them, he nodded. “You are drinking some of the king’s finest Dorwinion. I would think you should enjoy it.”

 

“He does have really great taste, so I guess that’s not surprising.” Putting the empty bottle on the ground, she smirked. “Alright, y’all, you better look out, cause I’m coming in!”

 

She took off at a run and shrieked when she splashed into the water, making the princesses laugh and scream, respectively. Smiling, Langion shook his head, wishing he had Legolas to keep him company at that moment while he guarded his sisters and betrothed. Looking at the position of the stars, he sighed. Dawn was another three hours away, and he wouldn’t rest easy until he had all four females safely back in the halls. Preferably undiscovered by the king, or anyone else who might find fault with their behavior.

 

After all his years of wildness with the prince, he was quite adept at sneaking in and out under the noses of his fellow guards, and was sympathetic to the pressures the princesses faced and understood their occasional need for escape. He crossed his arms, enjoying the light-hearted laughter of the young ladies behind him and feeling a faint echo of the old thrill he used to get on adventures in his younger days.

 

 


 

 

Catherine shook Laurelin’s arm again, looking up at Langion in concern when she didn’t stir at all from where she was curled up in a ball, sleeping on a patch of soft grass close to the spring. “I cannot rouse her. How shall we get her back? I do not think I can hold her very easily on the horse and manage to ride too.”

 

Langion held his hand out to Alassë. “Give me the blanket you carry. I shall wrap her in it and ride holding her before me. Catherine, you ride with your sister. We must make haste, or we will be seen before we can gain the halls, and that won’t please King Thranduil should we be discovered.”

 

The three sisters shared worried looks, none of them eager to invite their father’s disapproval for their unsanctioned overnight departure. Gathering their things and Laurelin’s discarded clothes and shoes together quickly, they were all mounted and riding as fast as they dared, back toward the halls within minutes.

 

Langion led them, holding Laurelin against him, and feeling more than a little uncomfortable with his dearest friend’s betrothed wearing almost nothing, with her arms wrapped tightly around his neck and her breath fanning warmly across his ear. He could feel the tips of his ears heating in complete embarrassment at the unavoidable intimacy of their positions. He would far prefer it if it were Alassë in his arms instead of Laurelin. He shook his head. Where had that thought come from?

 

“Langion!” Alassë hissed from where she had ridden up beside him. “There is a patrol ahead. We must split up. You get Laurelin back to her rooms, and I’ll sneak Catherine and Rainë in through the east entrance, alright?”

 

He frowned but nodded. “Yes, go. I will see to Lady Laurelin.” When the princesses turned and rode away through the trees and were soon lost to sight, he turned his eyes heavenward, his worry growing as the sky lightened with dawn approaching.

 

Ai Elbereth, natho nin!” Langion muttered under his breath, shifting his burden to a more secure hold, and praying he wouldn’t get caught in such a compromising position. (Sindarin: Ah Elbereth, help me! )

 

 


 

 

After several close calls, and after the sun was well up, Langion breathed a sigh of relief when he finally pushed open the door to Lady Laurelin’s apartment and slipped inside. Closing the door, he leaned back against it to catch his breath, allowing his eyes to slip briefly closed that he had gotten the woman in his arms safely back without detection.

 

“This is decidedly not the reunion I envisioned with my dearest friend, Langion. Care to explain exactly what you are doing with Laurelin? I am certainly having difficulty coming up with any excuse for this unusual set of circumstances that makes any sense.”

 

His eyes flying open in surprise, Langion stiffened, meeting Legolas’ cool gaze from where he was seated on the long couch. Laurelin moaned and shifted in his arms, throwing the blanket wrapped around her off her upper body, revealing just how little she wore beneath. Taking all of it in with a glance, Legolas stood to his feet and Langion saw his friend’s jaw clench with an angry look he well recognized.

 

“Ah, Prince, this is not at all what it may look like.” Moving forward in a rush, he pushed Laurelin into Legolas’ arms, relaxing when she immediately wrapped her arms tightly around Legolas’ neck and made a sound of contentment, pressing a kiss to the price’s neck, mumbling his name and settling into sleep once again.

 

Langion smiled in relief at being relieved of his burden and backed a step away. “I caught Catherine, Alassë and Rainë sneaking out with Lady Laurelin yestereve. They were set on going into the woods to drink the bottles of Dorwinion they filched and swim in the fresh spring. I accompanied them to watch over them and see to their protection, but your betrothed drank so much we could not rouse her, and I was forced to ride back to the halls holding her while she slept, as none of your sisters could manage it on their own. To avoid detection, it took me much longer to bring Lady Laurelin back here than I would have liked.”

 

Legolas brows drew together as he listened to Langion’s explanation, and he looked down at Laurelin’s sleeping face before meeting his friend’s concerned eyes again. “The girls took Laurelin out and got her drunk?” he asked, with obvious annoyance in his tone.

 

Shaking his head, Langion rubbed his brow. “That was not their intent, no, but I do not believe Lady Laurelin understood just how potent Dorwinion can be, and drank much more than was likely prudent.”

 

Sighing, Legolas looked down at Laurelin again with a mix of affection and exasperation that made his friend smile. Meeting Langion’s eyes, Legolas smirked and shook his head. “Does this remind you of some of our close calls avoiding detection by my father in our younger days?”

 

Chuckling, Langion nodded. “It does, indeed. I was able to use some of my knowledge gained in our exploits to keep from being discovered while carrying your mostly naked betrothed. I was quite surprised when she told me her people wear...” he tilted his head. “Bikinis?” He shook his head. “In mixed company, and she also showed me your mark on her back. Very curious culture she comes of, but she is a lovely young lady, and I am very happy for your joy, Legolas.”

 

The two friends shared an amused look when Laurelin moaned and hid her face more against Legolas’ neck. “Thank you, Langion. I am in your debt for watching over Laurelin and my sisters. I see I will have to keep a much closer eye on this one, in future. Shall I see you at our betrothal feast later this evening?”

 

“I would not miss the chance to share in your joy, Prince, and that of your kind lady. She has given me a great gift, though I cannot explain to you what exactly occurred or how she did it...”

 

Legolas smiled. “I understand. Laurelin has a gift for touching hearts and emotions. I can both see and feel the difference in you, and I am very glad of it.”

 

Resting a hand on Legolas’ shoulder where Laurelin was not laying, Langion smiled. “I will leave you now to tend your lady and look forward to seeing you both this evening.”

 

After Langion left, Legolas looked down again at Laurelin sleeping in his arms and smiled. “Ah, laich , what am I to do with you?”

 

Laurelin’s eyes slowly opened and she smiled up at him. “Take me to bed, sugar, I wanna sleep on you.”

 

Tilting his head in consideration, Legolas turned toward her bedroom and carried her through, kicking the door shut behind him.

 


 

 

Lyrics quoted from It Was Always You by Maroon 5

 

 


~o~

Chapter Text

 


 

“Alright, Grace, I think you can open your eyes now. I’m no expert with these cosmetics, but I think you look very pretty, if I do say so myself.” Catherine smiled down at Laurelin, and Alassë pressed closer and cocked a teasing brow as she examined her.

 

“Now, all of you is sparkling, including your eyelids, which I never knew was possible. Legolas will be blinded.”

 

Examining herself in the hand mirror Rainë passed her, Laurelin shrugged. “Never underestimate the power of a smoky eye with a touch of glitter.” She looked at all of the princesses milling around her bedroom that had been transformed into a dressing room, tilting her head at Celestia. “Well, what do you think, little lady? Do I pass your inspection?”

 

Narrowing her eyes critically, Celestia shook her head. “No, not yet.” Walking to the dresser, she lifted a pair of diamond earrings and held them out to Laurelin with a smile. “Put these on and you will be ready, I think.”

 

A sharp knock sounded on the bedroom door, making Alassë smirk. “There is my brother now, come to claim you, Grace. Are you ready for me to open?”

 

Standing to her feet and trying to calm her nerves, Laurelin nodded, smiling at the sight of Edward and Legolas standing in the doorway. When neither of them said anything, Laurelin bit her lip nervously. “Well? What do you think?”

 

Legolas came toward her and lifted one of her hands to his lips for a kiss, his eyes soft with feeling. “There are no words adequate to describe you, my heart.”

 

Celestia frowned. “Oh yes there are. There are lots of words. Beautiful, stunning, sparkly. I think sparkly may actually be the best one for tonight, brother.”

 

Legolas playfully pinched Celestia’s cheek and grinned down at her. “I stand corrected, little one.”

 

Stepping forward, Edward opened a black velvet case and held it out toward Legolas. “Father sent this. Perhaps you’d like to do the honors, brother, of inducting Gracie into the ranks of Greenwood princesses?”

 

Lifting the silver circlet, Legolas settled it on Laurelin’s head and nodded his approval at how right it looked on her, as though she had been born to be his princess. Glancing around the room at all the other tiara-wearers, she smirked. “Well, I guess I’m part of the club now. Should we get this show on the road?”

 

Laurelin took Legolas’ arm when he offered it, smiling at Celestia when she raced out ahead of them. “Mother said I could try the cake if I got there early. See you all in the great-hall!”

 

Edward and his other sisters all followed along behind Laurelin and Legolas, Alassë tugging on Legolas’ free arm. “Will Langion be coming tonight, Legolas, or is he on duty?”

 

Raising a teasing brow, Legolas looked across at his young sister. “He will be there, but do try to be polite to him for once, Alassë. Surely you are old enough now to leave your little feud behind you?”

 

“I have a dare for you, Alassë,” Laurelin said with a smile. “If you’re bold enough to accept my challenge.”

 

“What challenge is that?” she asked with a frown.

 

“Get your former adversary to dance with you. One dance with him, and you win.”

 

“And if he refuses to dance with me? Let me guess...you win?”

 

“Nah, I don’t win, but you definitely lose.”

 

Alassë raised her chin with a haughty look. “I’ll consider it. I’m not sure Langion deserves the kindness of my dancing with him. Perhaps if I find myself feeling particularly charitable. I’m going to spy out who’s already in the hall. Come, Rainë.” The two sisters turned down an adjacent hall, their laughter soon heard trailing behind them.

 

“Well, Eddie. I suppose we had best be ready to reign in Alassë or Gâlen, whichever one needs it first.”

 

Edward shrugged and offered his arm to his sister. “There’s always the possibility they may both actually behave for the evening.”

 

Legolas chuckled and looked over and shook his head at Edward who smiled ruefully. “I suppose that is rather far-fetched, isn’t it? Ah well, there’s always hope for the future. Kitty and I shall go and keep watch. Good luck with your entrance, Gracie.”

 

Laurelin grinned. “Thanks, Ed, but I have Legolas to keep me from falling on my face, so I think I’ll be good. Oh, and Kitty, I have the same dare for you tonight as I did for Alassë, except with Tirion. Are you up for it?”

 

Kitty gave Laurelin a wicked smile. “I accept. I shall have Tirion on the dance floor before the night’s end, or I’m not a princess of Greenwood.”

 

Laurelin bit her lip to stop her wide smile while Legolas led her through a doorway into a small waiting room with chairs, where they were to remain until it was time for them to make their big entrance together.

 

“I never realized it before,” Legolas mused, seating her beside him. “But you are quite the little matchmaker. You and Elizabeth seem to be two of a kind in that way. Do you really intend to try to get Alassë interested in Langion? She’s hated him since she was small, and with him so newly trying to get past his longtime obsession with Reniril, I think that pairing very unlikely.”

 

“You didn’t see them riding together last night.” She fanned her face dramatically and smiled. “I was nearly scalded by the heat coming off those two. Give ‘em a little time and they’ll figure it out, I’m betting.”

 

“What are you willing to bet?” Legolas asked with a smirk.

 

“I don’t know. What do you want?” Laurelin crossed her arms, smiling when his eyes moved down across her visible cleavage at the top of the gown.

 

He pursed his lips with a naughty smile. “If Langion doesn’t dance with Alassë by the time of the toasts, you have to sing it with me, in front of everyone.”

 

She groaned and looked away. “Legolas, not that. It’s so cheesy, you wouldn’t really make me do that, would you?”

 

“Yes.” He reached for her hand. “I like it, and I want to sing it with you. Why do you find it silly?”

 

“It’s so...Disney princess!” Caught in indecision, she finally nodded. “Well, okay, I guess I’ll agree, but only if you win, which I’m positive you won’t, cause I know he’ll want to dance with her.”

 

Smiling confidently, Legolas turned when the door opened and Feren and Galedir stepped in, wearing their golden armor. “My lord,” Feren said, bowing. “We are to escort you and your lady to the feast, if you are prepared. The king and queen await you within.”

 

Legolas stood and nodded. “Thank you, Feren.” Extending a hand to Laurelin, he gave her a long look. “Are you ready, sweet?”

 

“Not really,” she muttered, drawing the smiles of both guards while she squared her shoulders. “But I reckon it’s too late to run off now, so let’s do this.”

 

As they walked back down the passage toward the great-hall, she looked over at Legolas, admiring just how fine he looked in his formal trousers and tunic made in matching fabric to her gown. How he managed to still look so very masculine while wearing a similar circlet to hers was a complete mystery. Feeling her gaze, he turned to her with a teasing smile that made her own widen.

 

“I never knew any fella could look so damn hot wearing a tiara, but honey, you got it nailed,” she whispered in English.

 

“I’m glad you approve,” he whispered back in the same language. Feren opened the doors to the great hall and stood aside to allow Legolas and Laurelin to walk in front of their guards. “I was just imagining how much I shall enjoy taking that gown off you later, and kissing every inch of you.”

 

She gasped, just managing to hold onto her composure as they started walking forward with all eyes on them. Smiling brightly, she turned her gaze to him briefly, catching his laughing eyes and raising a brow with a look that promised retribution for his over the top teasing, when he least expected it.

 

 


 

 

Elizabeth smiled, standing beside her husband and watching Legolas and Laurelin approach. “They do look well together, don’t they, love?”

 

Scanning the crowd and bringing his eyes to rest on his eldest son and his betrothed, his stern expression softened. “They do. I believe this will actually be both betrothal and wedding feast, for I judge they shall be wed before this time tomorrow.”

 

Cutting her eyes toward the king, Elizabeth raised a dark brow. “Like father, like son, eh?”

 

Thranduil gave Elizabeth a warm look. “You would fault a husband for finding his wife impossible to resist?”

 

“Never.” She took his hand and allowed him to seat her at the feasting table once Legolas and Laurelin were beside them. You know how much I like your more untamed side, she continued in mind speak.

 

Then we must assuredly revisit just how much of that side of me you truly desire, after the feast.

 

Taking a sip from her wine glass, she gave him a coy smile in response when he nodded to the servers, signaling the beginning of the feast.

 

 


 

 

With dinner eaten, the musicians gathered and began tuning their instruments in preparation for dancing to begin. Thomas sidled up beside Langion at the wine table and smiled, flicking back his platinum hair and dropping his voice to a quiet murmur.

 

“Greetings, Langion. Legolas has given me an urgent message for you.” When Langion tilted his head curiously, Thomas smiled. “He says to please not dance with Alassë until well after the toasts, and he will be deeply in your debt. That is the whole of the message.” Grabbing a glass of wine, Thomas wandered off while Langion turned and looked for Legolas and found the prince’s eyes already on him. Smiling, Legolas lifted his glass with his brows raised in obvious question. Langion smiled, nodded and drank a sip of his wine, chuckling when Legolas grinned with a pleased look.

 

The king and queen took their place on the dance floor to open the dancing, and the musicians began to play a waltz. Smiling, Laurelin watched them where she stood beside Legolas and Edward, once again admiring them together. Edward took her hand in his and bowed over it.

 

“Come sister. Now that mother and father have opened the floor for dancing, you must come and give me your first dance.”

 

Laurelin curtsied with a smile. “You’ve accepted me as your sister now, huh?”

 

As they began to waltz, Edward grinned. “Of course. You are my sister from this day forward. How do you feel about having so many brothers and sisters now?”

 

She laughed when he spun her expertly and pulled her immediately back into the steps without missing a beat. “I love it! I never knew big families could be so much fun before I came here, but I’m a big fan now.”

 

“That is good to hear. Shall you and Legolas have many children, do you think?”

 

Blushing, she looked over to where Legolas was dancing with Catherine before looking away. “Um, I think it’s too early to be thinking about that. I still feel kinda young to be thinking of having any children of my own. Maybe ask me again in ten years? Or thirty, even.”

 

He nodded with a teasing twinkle in his blue eyes. “Very well, I shall.”

 

When the dance ended, Edward led her back to Legolas and relinquished her to his brother with a bow. Smiling, Laurelin spied Alassë across the way talking with Langion, and smirked up at Legolas. “I think I’m about to win our bet.”

 

“Oh?” He looked over to where Langion stood, smiling when Alassë soon wandered off. “Perhaps the time of your victory is not yet at hand. But it is time for our Merengue, I think. I have been waiting many years for you to come so I could finally dance this with you.” He kissed her hand and led her out onto the floor when it cleared, nodding to the musicians.

 

Beginning with the quick footwork, Laurelin laughed when Legolas spun her in a series of fast turns, then pulled her across to an open position where they danced side by side before pulling her back into his arms and smiling down at her. Lifting her, he spun her around and set her back on her feet, then leaned her back in a deep dip, continuing with what they had practiced. Pulling her close, he led her back into basic merengue steps, caressing her face playfully on one of the turns.

 

As they twirled across the floor, she caught sight of her father watching them from the far side of the room with a musing look. She laughed again as they did another series of movements consisting of elaborate hand and arm movements, ending linking them together. As the big finale, Legolas lifted her high in the air, then spun her around and caught her with her head leaned back near the floor.

 

They made their way off the floor as the next dance began, Laurelin a bit breathless but smiling when Legolas handed her a glass of wine. She eyed it and took a careful sip. “I think I better watch out for this stuff. It creeps up on you a lot quicker than I thought it would.”

 

“You will be fine with a glass or two, but no more.” He leaned closer to whisper in her ear. “I have plans for you later, and your being sober is essential.”

 

She gave him a bland look, swirling the wine in her glass and pretending to purposefully misunderstand. “What, you want to play a game of chess, or something? I kinda suck at strategy games, just so ya know.”

 

“Laurelin.”

 

Legolas and Laurelin both turned and smiled at Thurindir, Laurelin moving to hug him. “Hey Daddy, did you like the dance? I saw King Thranduil was keeping you busy talking during dinner.” She kissed his smooth cheek and grinned up at him. He rested an affectionate hand on her cheek.

 

“Very impressive, daughter.” He looked over and met Legolas’ eyes. “I knew the prince was a talented dancer, but I did not realize you were equally gifted.”

 

Legolas bowed his head in humble acknowledgment. “Laurelin’s level of skill is far beyond mine, but she very graciously indulges my enthusiasm for dance.”

 

She raised a brow at Legolas. “Oh, hush up with that talk. You know you can do stuff I can’t.”

 

He gave her a cheeky smile. “As my lady commands.”

 

Looking between them in amusement, Thurindir took Laurelin’s hand in his. “Come and share a dance with your father, child.”

 

He led her back to the floor, sweeping her into the crowd of other dancers, and she was relieved it was another waltz, which was one of only a few dances she knew. Relaxing into it, she smiled up at her father, giving him an impressed look after another minute.

 

“Hey, Daddy, you’re a really good dancer too. I guess I must have got it from you, cause Momma doesn’t ever dance.”

 

Thurindir smiled faintly before his expression grew more serious. “I wish to apologize to you for my negative reaction when you told me of your betrothal to Prince Legolas. You are correct that your mother was much younger when we married, and my objection was rather hypocritical. I suppose I was thinking of you more as an elf than human, when you are both equally, and clearly adult enough to make your own choices in life.” He looked across the way to where Legolas stood with his arms crossed, watching them.

 

“Seeing you together, it is obvious the great love you have for one another, and after speaking with King Thranduil, I no longer have any reservations about you marrying the prince. His family clearly values you and treats you as the treasure you are. Therefore, I wish to offer my own blessing on your union. I am very happy for your joy, my daughter.”

 

With tears in her eyes, Laurelin threw her arms around her father, stopping right in the middle of the dance floor to hug him. Returning her embrace, he smiled down at her and kissed her forehead when she pulled back to look at him.

 

“Thank you. Your approval and blessing means the world to me, and I know to Legolas, as well. Blinking away the sheen of tears in his own eyes, Thurindir took her hand and led her back to Legolas, taking the prince’s hand and placing Laurelin’s in it.

 

Anthon i dhâf mîr nîn. Berio den.” (I give you my treasure. Protect her.)

 

Legolas nodded with a gentle smile. “Henion. Gweston i nidhin de chared. Laurelin na-i naur en gûren.” (I understand. I swear I will do it. Laurelin is the fire of my heart.)

 

Thurindir smiled and walked back to the other side of the hall to rejoin Thranduil and Elizabeth at the high table, and Laurelin frowned at Legolas. “What? He said something about his treasure? I recognized that...”

 

Pulling her closer to be heard over the music and talking in the hall, he gently brushed her hair back from her face. “He said you are his treasure. He gave you into my care, and charged me to protect you, and I swore to him I would. I also told him that you are the fire of my heart.”

 

She drew a deep breath and looked up at the ceiling, blinking quickly to try to hold back the affected tears that gathered. “Oh boy,” she breathed. “I don’t think I’m gonna get through the night without crying, for real.”

 

Brushing the backs of his fingers across her cheek, he leaned down and kissed her forehead. “There is no shame in tears of joy, sweet love.”

 

She smiled up into his blue eyes so full of his love for her, that it made her stomach flip with emotion. “I really want to kiss you right now.”

 

“I will make no objection if you do,” he whispered.

 

Glancing around them, she bit her lip and sighed. “I think I better wait. I would feel awkward in front of everyone.”

 

Taking her hand in his, Legolas smirked with a sudden thought. “My lady, you pierce my soul with the beauty of your smile. Favor me with your next dance or I shall expire for want of you.”

 

She laughed aloud, making him grin. “I can’t believe you remember me saying that, and actually quoted it verbatim. I guess you really do listen to what I say. Seems like a hundred years ago since we were talking together in my room at Meduseld, doesn’t it?”

 

“Perhaps not quite a hundred years, my young love,” he said with an indulgent look.

 

“There you go, throwing my age in my face again,” she sighed. “At least you tease me for being young and not because I’m old.”

 

“You will never be old to me,” the prince quipped. “Not even when you are twice the age I am now, for I will always be your elder.”

 

She shrugged with a mischievous smile. “I always liked older fellas, so I think I’m okay with that.”

 

A bell chimed and Legolas straightened. “We must return to the high table. That is the signal for the toasts to begin.”

 

 


 

 

For the next half hour, blessings were spoken over the couple from Thurindir, Elizabeth and Thranduil, making Laurelin cry twice. As gifts were given and that part of the celebration drew to a close, Laurelin gave Legolas a concerned look when he smiled in triumph.

 

“The toasts are over, laich. Remember our bet?”

 

Unable to see any way out of it, she raised a bemused brow at him. “Yeah, but I think you cheated! I saw your brother go and say something to Langion, and you raised your glass to him like you were making a deal. Admit it.”

 

He smirked. “You did not specify that I couldn’t ask Langion to wait until after the toasts, but you did agree to sing with me if Alassë did not dance with him before that time. Give in to me, my beauty. I will repay you for the kindness later.”

 

“Oh, alright,” she grumbled. “Come on. We need Fin to play for us.”

 

After retrieving his brother and waiting for him to prepare, Legolas went and stood beside Laurelin on the dais in front of everyone, smiling down at her as Finellach played the opening to their song on the violin. She smiled up at her prince and started to sing in the Common Tongue.

 

“The day we met

Frozen, I held my breath

Right from the start

I knew that I found a home

For my heart to fall

But watching you stand alone

All of my doubt suddenly

Goes away somehow

One step closer

~o~

“I have died every day

Waiting for you

Darlin’ don't be afraid

I have loved you for

A thousand years

I'll love you for

A thousand more”

 

Legolas stroked a hand across her cheek as he sang the next part to her, and she couldn’t take her eyes from his, as though everyone around them really had disappeared, and they were the only two people in the world.

 

“Time stands still

Beauty in all she is

Every breath, every hour has come to this

One step closer”

 

They sang the rest of the song together with beautiful harmony, and Catherine reached out and took Tirion’s hand, hiding the fact with her voluminous skirt, smiling when he tightened his grip on hers. He leaned down and whispered in her ear, and they slipped out the closest door together.

 

“I have died every day

Waiting for you

Darling don't be afraid

I have loved you for

A thousand years

I'll love you for

A thousand more

~o~

“And all along I believed

I would find you

Time has brought your heart to me

And I have loved you for

A thousand years

I'll love you for

Thousands more

~o~

“I will love you

For a thousand years...”

 

Laurelin’s eyes filled with tears again while her face was lit with a luminous smile. Leaning down, Legolas kissed her and the hall was filled with applause that made her duck her head and laugh, blushing. Seeing how happy he looked, she was glad she had done as he wished, even if it did feel a little too Disney princess for her taste. Taking his arm to go and sit with their parents again, she didn’t think they could have had a more beautiful engagement party.

 

 


 

 

Langion smiled, deeply touched by watching his friend’s joy when Alassë bumped him with her elbow, drawing his attention away from the betrothed couple as their song finished.

 

“Did you see that?” she whispered. “Tirion and Catherine just left together, and they were holding hands! I wonder what Father will say? If I saw it, he certainly must have.”

 

Turning a severe look to Alassë, he wrapped her arm around his and led her to the dance floor and pulled her into his arms when the musicians began to play again. “You should concern yourself with your own business and leave your sister to manage her concerns without your commentary or interference.”

 

Alassë snorted. “What was that, Langion? Oh, you were making a joke! Imagine anyone in my family actually minding their own business. What a ridiculous notion.”

 

“If you were the one in love, you would not appreciate others meddling, I’m quite certain.”

 

She smirked. “I will never be in love.” Alassë gave a horrified shudder. “My heart is impervious to anyone who would try to breach it. I scorn the very idea. I intend to do great things with my life, and being some dowdy wife would be a waste of my time and talents.”

 

“Is that right?” Langion asked with an amused smile. “Somehow, I feel you will quickly change your tune if a worthy male ever takes note of you, though I can’t imagine why one would. Sharp-tongued thing that you are would likely scare anyone away.”

 

“Yes,” she said with a satisfied smile. “There is a method to my madness, you see. If I am frightening enough, I shall never have to deal with silly elves with romantic notions, which is as I prefer.”

 

“I don’t believe you, Alassë. You want someone to court you, but you are too afraid to admit it to yourself. You would become soft and sweet if someone dared love you.”

 

She glared up into his eyes, her fair cheeks blazing with color. “You are deluded, as usual, and you know absolutely nothing about me.”

 

He kept his gaze locked to hers, smiling at what he saw in her eyes. “Oh, I know you very well, princess. Far better than you know yourself,” he murmured.

 

Her heart started to thump harder in her chest at the way he was looking at her, and she turned her head and looked away, her cheeks coloring further, making Langion’s smile grow.

 

“One day,” he continued, “when you are older, and perhaps some small bit wiser, we will speak of all the things you refuse to admit to yourself...and to me.”

 

She turned a simpering smile to him, her eyes sparking with anger. “You can go fuck yourself,” she spat in English and tried to pull away from him, but found herself held fast. He made a chiding sound as they continued to dance.

 

“Temper, Alassë. You know you cannot scare me away with your sharp tongue, and nor may you leave until we finish our dance. You might as well try to enjoy being in my arms while you may.”

 

“You better be prepared to meet me in battle tomorrow,” she hissed. “I have a great many frustrations I intend to take out on you.”

 

Langion smirked. “I am always willing to help you find release from your pent-up frustrations, little princess.”

 

She scoffed. “As if you are capable of granting a female release from anything. I’m sure I would find more pleasure from my own hands.”

 

Choking on a laugh, Langion gave her a surprised look. “Do you already feel such things? And may I ask which elf has awakened these sleeping feelings in one so very young?”

 

“You don’t know him,” she ground out, cursing her unguarded tongue for revealing too much and refusing to meet his eyes.

 

“Little liar,” he chuckled, finally sobering and giving her a long look. “Perhaps you are no longer as young as I used to think of you. You are half human, after all, and women are grown much quicker than elleth. Do you truly feel desire, Alassë?”

 

She looked at him from under her lashes. “What if I do? Are you interested in my sexual appetites, Langion, or do you have fantasies of swatting my backside in a different context than when I was young, hmm? Perhaps I should ask who has awakened your sensual hungers? If you think I have not caught your unguarded looks toward me, then you don’t know me as well as you think you do.”

 

He drew a slow breath as the dance came to an end. “How you love to provoke me. I will give you this caution once only. Beware how far you push me. I will eventually push back.” Bowing over her hand, he met her eyes again before he turned and left the hall. Stomping her foot, she turned and stormed off in the opposite direction.

 

Thranduil looked at Elizabeth seated on the throne beside him and frowned. “The vultures are circling our daughters tonight, Bess.”

 

Her lips lifted in a smile. “You know Tirion is no vulture, and I’m quite certain Langion is not either. Besides, you’ve had visions of them both, so what is the point of protesting?”

 

He lifted a brow and pursed his lips. “Why do you think I’ve had visions of them?”

 

She shook her head and gave him a teasing smile. Because I’m often in your mind, love, and I’ve seen them. I’m much better at sneaking in when you aren’t aware now.

 

I am always aware when you are with me, mîr nin. Though you have perhaps been paying closer attention than I thought, he replied back to her in mind speak. He glanced over at her and smirked. Besides, visions or not, I shall never make it easy for any elf to claim our daughters. They will have to work very hard for the privilege .

 

Elizabeth laughed quietly and reached for his hand, relaxing when he caressed her fingers softly. I would expect no less of you, love.

 

 


 

 

 

Laurelin kissed her father goodnight and smiled as he departed the hall. The feast was finally over and she was relieved it seemed to have gone off without a hitch. Thranduil approached her and surprised her by pulling her against him for a brief hug. Peering up at him, she grinned.

 

“Well, what should I call you, now we’re gonna be family?”

 

He glanced across the nearly empty great-hall then raised a brow, looking down at her. “What would you like to call me?”

 

She shrugged. “How about Dad?”

 

“Dad,” he said musingly, and nodded. “You may call me that if you wish.”

 

“It’ll just be one more voice in the crowd calling you Dad.” She smirked at Legolas when he came to stand beside her.

 

“I do not call him that,” Legolas pointed out, crossing his arms.

 

“That’s because you’re pure elf, not mixed blood, English-bred, like the rest of us.”

 

“My blessing on you this night, my daughter,” the Elvenking said, stroking a hand down the back of her hair.

 

She smiled. “Thanks, Dad.”

 

Thranduil turned and laid a hand on his eldest son’s shoulder while Elizabeth hugged Laurelin and murmured a good night.

 

I dass carnen, Legolas. Mab el bess mâr. ” ( Sindarin: The task is done, Legolas. Take your wife home. )

 

Le hannon, Adar. Cuio vê. ” (S. Thank you, Father. Farewell. )

 

“Good night, Legolas. It was a lovely party and I’m very happy for you both.”

 

“Thank you, Elizabeth. For everything.”

 

Elizabeth kissed Legolas on the cheek and joined the king, and Laurelin waved as Legolas took her hand and led her out of the hall and into the night.

 


Lyrics quoted from A Thousand Years as covered by Peter and Evynne Hollens

 


~o~

 

Chapter Text

 


 

Laurelin hummed happily as they walked, the stars above them twinkling brightly on the moonless night. Looking up at Legolas when he turned toward his rooms instead of in the direction of her apartment, she touched the diamond necklace at her throat, thinking it would be nice to take it off soon. Jewelry was pretty to look at, but not much fun to wear for hours at a time.

 

“Are we going to hang out at your place for a while?”

 

He smiled faintly. “In fact, this is now our place, and we will spend the remainder of the evening here.” Opening his door and waiting for her to follow, he closed it behind them and engaged the lock.

 

“Care to explain what you’re talking about? I still have my own apartment until we leave for Minas Tirith, don’t I?” Laurelin followed him into the sitting room, her brows climbing in surprise when she saw her belongings lined up neatly on the far side of the room.

 

“Come and sit beside me, sweet.” Legolas patted the space beside him on the plush couch and she sat next to him with a confused look.

 

“I’m...staying here tonight? Are we getting up and leaving really early or something?”

 

He removed his circlet and then reached for hers, setting them both on a table beside him. He brushed a hand across her unbound golden hair, leaned forward to press a light kiss to her lips, and smiled. “I wish for us to wed this night, Laurelin. With the feast behind us, there is no cause for any further delay, and I think it will make our journey together more pleasant and relaxed. Will you become mine, love?”

 

“Just like that?” she asked in surprise.

 

Legolas reached beneath his tunic and pulled out a small box from a pouch at his waist and opened it, showing her the rings inside. “These are our wedding bands. We can speak our own vows as we choose, then shall come the consummation and bonding.”

 

“Really?” She leaned back against the soft couch and kicked her shoes off. “I thought you wanted us to wait. Did you change your mind?”

 

“I did speak to my father as you suggested I should, and he advised that we not wait. He said there is something in Elizabeth’s blood, now yours, that may have caused what happened between us before. I would prefer we wed deliberately, rather than through some magical occurrence where we are scarcely aware of what we are doing and not in control, wouldn’t you?”

 

She nodded, staring down at the rings. “I agree, but what do we do?”

 

Taking the rings from the box, he reached for her left hand and slipped her band on beside her engagement ring, looking up to meet her eyes. “I bind myself to you in love and devotion, Laurelin, for all eternity, as your husband. Before Eru Iluvatar, as you are mine, I am yours.”

 

Biting her lip, she took the larger ring from him and slipped it onto the ring finger of his left hand, looking into his earnest blue eyes. “Legolas, I bind myself to you in head-over-heels love and devotion, as your wife for all eternity, in this life or the next. By Eru Iluvatar, we belong to each other, and I love you forever.”

 

Smiling in love and happiness, he reached for her, pulling her against him and kissing her gently. Resting his forehead against hers, he chuckled when she grinned up at him in giddy excitement.

 

“Are we married now?”

 

“Not quite,” he said with a soft smile. “We have spoken vows from our hearts, and now it is time for the best part. I get to love you, at last.”

 

“You already love me. I think you mean you get to make love to me, right?”

 

He tilted his head. “Yes, if you prefer I say it that way. I will make love to you. First, I must remove this gown that has been tantalizing me all evening with what is underneath.”

 

She twisted the rings on her finger and exhaled in a rush. “Oh God, I’m nervous. I didn’t expect this to be our wedding night too. Thank goodness I’m not on my period, or that would just totally suck,” she muttered under her breath, making Legolas smile and rest a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently.

 

“Turn your back toward me, love.” When she shifted around, he rubbed the tense muscles on her shoulders and back, kneading them until he felt some of the tension drain from her. “Would you perhaps like to soak in the bath and relax for a while, or do you prefer we retire to the bed?”

 

“I don’t know. What do you want?”

 

He stood and held his hand out to her. “Let us go and sit in the bath for a time, and we can decide further from there. You did say you wanted to share it with me.”

 

“Uh, yeah, but that was before I had performance pressure.”

 

Cradling her face in his hands, he kissed her nose. “There is no pressure, and no time constraints. We may do anything or nothing tonight, whatever you are comfortable with. If you are tired, we can sleep.”

 

She gripped his arms and smiled tentatively. “Really? You wouldn’t mind if I stripped out of this dress, crawled in your bed and just went to sleep?”

 

“Of course not...and it is our bed, laich.”

 

He followed her when she walked down the passage to the bedroom. Stopping next to the bed, she looked back at him expectantly. “Can you unzip me? I really would like to get out of this dress now. It’s not the most comfortable thing in the world.”

 

After undoing her zipper, he turned away and began opening the hooks on his tunic, thinking how nice it would be to always share space together in their days to come. “I’m going to get undressed and get in the bath. You are welcome to join me if you so desire.”

 

He tossed his tunic aside on the back of a chair and walked bare-chested to the bathing room, sitting on a low stool to remove his shoes and the rest of his clothing before he went and climbed down into his oversized bath. Sinking into the warm water, he leaned his head back against the edge and closed his eyes, repressing a smile when he heard Laurelin’s soft steps approaching. He made sure to keep his eyes closed until he heard that she was settled, to keep from embarrassing her.

 

Opening his eyes, he turned to look at her sitting beside him and smiled, relieved to see that she looked at ease, despite being obviously naked. She smirked and reached a hand out to rest it against his bare chest. “Hey there, handsome. Do you come here often?”

 

“In fact, I do,” he replied playfully. “But I don’t believe I have seen you here before, lady. Is it your first time in a prince’s bath?”

 

She quirked a brow and leaned closer. “My first time for lots of things, I think.”

 

He pulled her against him, so she lay half on top of him, and glided a hand across her bare back and behind, enjoying the feel of her and smiling gently. “My first time, as well. We shall learn together.”

 

Glancing down at him in the water, she pulled herself over the top of him, biting her lip as their bare bodies brushed against one another. Curiously, she straddled him and glided her hands up his arms and across his chest, learning the shape of him and the contours of his skin over his muscles.

 

“I definitely prefer you without clothes. All of this glorious muscle gets hidden otherwise, and that’s a right shame.”

 

“The sentiment is mutual,” he murmured. “Perhaps in future, you should always be naked when you are near me.”

 

Drinking in the sight of her bare breasts just above the water, he tried to temper the hunger he knew was burning in his eyes, realizing he had little success when she met his gaze and blushed. But her easy smile soon allayed any concerns he had of making her uncomfortable with his frank interest.

 

“So, I’m thinking you may be a boob guy, after all. You definitely seemed pretty focused there during our little episode.”

 

Reaching a hand out, he caressed one of her breasts, inhaling in wonder at the softness of her skin there, and her sigh when his thumb brushed against the delicate pink tip of one of her nipples. With his mind clear, unlike the last time he touched her there, he was able to make such an observation and further admire her beauty. “I am taken with all of you, Laurelin. There is no part of you that I don’t find beautiful.”

 

They stared at each other for another extended moment, adjusting to the newness of such intimacy. “May I kiss you?” he asked quietly, moving his hand down to rest on her waist below the water.

 

Placing her own hands on his shoulders to pull herself closer to him through the water, she smiled. “You don’t have to ask, you can just do whatever you want.”

 

Watching her closely, he laid his hand flat across her back, musing over just how small and delicate she was beside him, as his hand easily spanned from one side of her back to the other.

 

“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or presume. This is still very new to us both.”

 

Straddling his lap fully, she settled warmly on top of him and wrapped her arms around the tops of his shoulders, smiling against his mouth. “But kissing isn’t.”

 

With her breasts pressed against his chest, and the silken feel and heat of her straddling his erection between them, he hummed when she kissed him and tugged on his lower lip playfully with her teeth. “This kind of kissing is. No clothing between us.”

 

Leaning back, she glanced down his chest to where the water obscured the rest of him. “This bath is kinda spoiling my fun though, cause if I try to kiss you where I want to right now, I’m gonna drown.”

 

“We can’t have that,” he said decisively. She laughed when he immediately stood, gripping her backside to keep her in the same position against him, while she wrapped her legs fully around his waist as he climbed out of the bath, carrying her to a shelf with towels and tossing one around her to catch the dripping water on their skin. Striding back into the bedroom, he kissed her again as he lowered her to the bed onto her back, lying down beside her.

 

Sitting upright, she pushed against his chest, wordlessly encouraging him to lie flat as she ran her gaze across his nude form, while she sighed happily. “Greek gods and supermodels really have nothing on you.” She smirked, her green eyes turning eager. “Now all this is mine and I can do just as I please, and you won’t try to stop me, right?”

 

“Right. You may do as you like,” he agreed, running a hand down her bare thigh and looking his own fill of the sight of her. He drew a slow, deep breath, forcing calm and patience on himself to allow her to explore him as she wished, unrushed by his own eager desires. Her nervousness seemed to have faded during their brief time in the bath, and he was glad of it, knowing everything would be much easier between them if she were relaxed instead of tense.

 

“Good. I have things I want to try...” Laying half across him, she went straight for his ear, licking and kissing him there until there was nothing but the sounds of gasping breaths and his impassioned moans filling the room. His hands wandered her curves, learning the soft dips and valleys of her shape, and the flare of her hips while she began to move down his neck, nibbling and kissing a path against his skin there, further stoking his desire and heating his blood. He firmly crushed his urges that were beating against him in time to his heart, demanding he lay her beneath him and lose himself deep inside her softness and warmth.

 

Calm, I will remain calm and in control, he ordered himself sternly. I must never hurt her.

 

His eyes opened when she swiped a tongue across one of his nipples, startled by how good it felt when she sucked him there and circled his other nipple with the light touch of her finger. She stopped and glanced up at him. “Do you like that?”

 

“Yes,” he breathed. “I do like it, surprisingly so.”

 

She raised a brow, licking a slow circle around his nipple again while she kept her eyes on his and smiled. “I’m not surprised. The male nipple is often just as sensitive as the female.” She glanced down and bit her lip. “Now, I’m gonna do what I really wanted to at Dunharrow that you turned down.”

 

His lips parted in uncertainty when she scooted down, took his throbbing erection in one of her hands and slid her mouth over him, the wet suction and slow movement of her tongue unlike anything he had ever imagined being able to feel. His hand automatically grasped a handful of the hair on the back of her head and his own head pressed further back into the pillow it rested against while his eyes slid closed.

 

Ai huitho! AI! Elbereth! Avo dharo! ” ( Sindarin: Ah fuck! OHH! Elbereth! Don’t stop! )

 

At his stream of desperate elvish, she laughed with him still in her mouth, the vibrations from her throat intensifying the sensations against him. Thrusting up involuntarily, some distant part of him realized that he likely shouldn’t do that, but the last of his conscious thought fled when she moved her tongue again with much stronger suction, taking him even deeper.

 

All his awareness narrowed to the pull of her mouth and the wet warmth of her tongue on him. Time stretched to infinity while he floated in that place of extreme pleasure, his body unable to resist for very long, the climax that swiftly overtook him. A shiver of deeper, renewed arousal flowed over and through him, when she looked up at him and licked at the corner of her mouth with a smile of satisfaction, realizing she had swallowed down his release without pause or hesitation. He had not expected that.

 

Drawing a shuddering breath, he released the tight grip he had on her hair and welcomed her kiss, feeling something surprisingly possessive and primal awaken inside him when he realized the taste on her tongue was his. Flipping her down onto her back in a swift movement, he looked down at her in anticipation, the cloudy haze of desire in her gaze driving his own ever higher.

 

“That was beyond anything I have ever experienced, my siren, and I would like to repay you in kind, while also satisfying my own longing to learn your body intimately.” He stroked light fingers between her breasts and down to the sparse patch of golden curls above her womanly flower he was desperate to explore.

 

“I need to learn elvish as soon as I can,” she said with a teasing smile. “I really want to know what you’re babbling when I go down on you.”

 

Legolas looked back up and smiled at the amusement in her eyes. “It was a combination of ‘oh, fuck’ and ‘please don’t stop’ I believe, as well as a few other things I can’t fully recall.”

 

Laurelin laughed and rested a hand against his cheek. “That’s what I was hoping, so I’m glad I was right and you liked it.”

 

Raising his brows and giving her a disbelieving look, he shook his head. “Like is an exceedingly pale description.” Resting a finger on her lips, he rubbed it across them in contemplation. “Your mouth is a whole other world, the stroke of your tongue like some powerful magic.” He glanced back up at her and lowered his head to one of her breasts, nuzzling against her. “Now, it’s my turn,” he whispered, palming one breast in his hand and suckling the other into his mouth, nipping at the curve of the underside of her breast when she gave a breathy moan of approval.

 

“And I will let your lovely sounds be my guide.” He stroked through the hot, wet folds of her sex with his fingers, circling the little button at the top with his thumb, as he had discovered gave her great pleasure the first time he touched her there. He kissed the dip of her navel, exploring it with his tongue and smiling when she giggled and tried to twist away from him.

 

Gently pushing her thighs further apart, he took a moment to fully admire her and inhale the heady fragrance of her desire. He looked back up and met her eyes, hiding none of his powerful hunger and nigh unquenchable need for her. “You really are a beautiful flower here, blooming just for me.” Spreading her open with his fingers, he bent his head down and kissed her, running his tongue across her for the first time and groaning at the fire that raced down his spine at her taste and the knowledge that she was so wet because she wanted him just as much as he wanted her.

 

Laurelin wailed his name and made a pleading sound when he licked her little nub, and honing in on it, he repeated the same, lapping at her there when she thrashed and anchored a hand in his hair, gripping it desperately.

 

“Oh, please, oh please, oh God! Legolas, please,” she chanted, with eyes closed and head moving restlessly on the pillow.

 

Exploring her folds with his fingers while he continued to lick her, he felt his own throbbing length aching with urgency to be buried inside her. A sharp surge of male pride flowed through him when she quickly stiffened and shuddered, taken with the same quivering spasms of her release as he had felt before, and he didn’t stop and lift his head until he felt a great sigh of satisfaction from her. She whispered his name and he looked up at her and smiled at the soft, happy look in her green eyes.

 

“I greatly enjoy the sounds you make in your pleasure, laich. Shall I do that again?” he asked, lightly circling her with his fingers.

 

She shook her head. “Not right now. Now, I have an undeniable need to have you inside me, like I need air.”

 

Liking the sound of that, and more than ready to comply, Legolas moved back up beside her, arranging the cushions to support him as he sat with his back against them. “Come, you be atop me. I want you to have control of this, for your comfort.”

 

Sitting up, Laurelin moved to straddle him, placing her hands on his shoulders to balance. “I’m controlling everything? I’ll try, but I don’t really know what I’m doing.”

 

He smiled teasingly, resting his hands around her narrow waist. “I’m sure as a cowgirl, it shall come naturally to you, as everything else has. Let’s see you finally ride your elf, sweet.”

 

Laurelin snorted and leaned forward to kiss him. “After all my teasing about riding, I guess it’s only right.” She reached for him, angling him properly against her and tilting her head. “And now?”

 

Legolas looked down at where he was poised to enter her and nodded, focusing on holding himself still so he didn’t mindlessly thrust up into her. “Now, go slowly. Very slowly to allow yourself time to adjust to me.”

 

Biting her lip, she rocked against him in a small movement, allowing him to slip a little further in through her slippery wetness and trying to adjust to his size and girth. Keeping his eyes locked to her, he called healing into his hand and rested it low on her abdomen as she took more of him, little by little. He blocked what pleasure he was feeling from his conscious thought to concentrate on pouring healing into her, both of them gasping when she moved forcefully down on him in one big push, sheathing him completely inside of her. He froze, waiting to see if what he had attempted had worked, when she gave him a wide grin.

 

“That didn’t hurt a bit! I really thought it would.” She furrowed her brows in confusion as he breathed a sigh of relief and allowed the glow to fade from his hand. “Why were you glowing at me?” Her eyes widened in realization. “You made it where I wouldn’t feel any pain, didn’t you?”

 

He smiled faintly and pulled her nearer to him for a kiss, marveling at the wonder of being a true part of her, at last, and the indescribable feeling of her tight, wet heat surrounding him. “Yes, that was my intent, and I’m glad it worked.” He pulled back, and stroked her hair back from her face. “I never want you to have pain from my touch, Laurelin. Not this first time or anytime in the future. I only want you to experience pleasure and joy when we are joined.”

 

She rocked her hips forward again, stroking her hand against his cheek and smiling into his dear face. “You are the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful person I have ever known. I never heard of any man trying to circumvent a virgin woman’s pain. Maybe try to do what they could to minimize, but get rid of it completely?” She shook her head, her eyes growing misty with emotional tears. “You’re one of a kind, and I’m so lucky. I love you.”

 

“And I you,” he said with a tender smile. Gripping her backside, he pushed deeper into her, kissing the moan from her lips, his eyes darkening with strong desire. He whispered words in elvish and Laurelin felt a zing of something strange filling her, tugging oddly on her emotions at the edge of her awareness.

 

“What was that, Legolas? What did you do?”

 

He lifted her hips and lowered her down on him again, directing her movement for their mutual pleasure. “Our joining has begun, and will continue to build while we make love. Are you happy with this position or would you prefer some other?”

 

Smiling that he seemed to have easily sensed her preference, she gripped his face between her hands. “I want you over me so I can look up at you while you work those magical hips of yours.”

 

Smirking, he rolled, moving her smoothly beneath him while keeping their bodies joined together. Wrapping her legs around his waist, she squeezed him as tightly as she could with her inner muscles, drawing a shocked look and an elvish swear from his lips. She chuckled.

 

“Does huitho mean fuck?”

 

He nodded, thrusting more deeply into her again, his eyes half-lidding in pleasure. “It does.”

 

“So, is huitho nin how...Ah...” She paused and bit her lip when he changed his angle, briefly making her forget how to speak. “How I tell you to fuck me?”

 

Chuckling, he nuzzled against her ear. “Puitho nin would be the correct command. Is that want you wish to command me to do?” he murmured, tugging her earlobe with his teeth.

 

Her eyes closing at the amazing and overwhelming pleasure from what she felt inside and outside, she nodded again, opening her eyes to seek his gaze. “Yes. You’ve been so sweet and gentle with me up to now, but I want the untamed and less polite and careful you. I want wild and free Legolas, so puitho nin like you mean it, and don’t hold back anymore.”

 

His pupils grew larger, his eyes darkening with a look that made her shiver and dig her nails into his shoulders when his movements grew more forceful, rocking the entire bed and making her moan when he licked her ear, nearly driving her out of her mind with the combination of sensations. Reaching down between them, he stroked a finger over her nub, making her cry out and come around him without warning, her eyes flying open while she spasmed around him.

 

Before she fully came down from her peak, he was whispering into her ear all the ways he was going to make her come during the course of the night. He drove her desire for him higher and higher, then brought her over and over, just as he said he would, the movement of his thrusting hips continuing tirelessly.

 

Every part of her felt electrified by his touch, every nerve tingling and hot, and each orgasm drained a little more of her energy away while she felt Legolas’ presence inside her grow stronger and easier to sense. It was like he really was branding himself into her, body and soul, and she never wanted to go back to how she was before he filled her.

 

Swallowing against a dry throat, she brushed his loosened hair away from his face that made him look like some wild fae from her most erotic fantasies. How could someone so perfect actually be real? Her thoughts began to grow distant and hazy again when he lifted her leg higher around his hips so he could drive deeper and push her closer to the edge of the cliff of pleasure once more.

 

“Legolas,” she said breathlessly, moaning when he kissed her ear again. “You have to come with me this time. Please? I need you to.”

 

Examining her expression and seeing how tired she was growing, he eyes softened in concern and he nodded. “As you wish, my love. Together.” He focused on her face, watching for the signs of her approaching climax, and allowing himself to fully feel his own pleasure when she clenched around him, both of them shuddering with release. Time stood still for a moment while they stared into each other’s eyes, locked together in their intimate embrace while they shared their strongest emotions.

 

Turning to his back and pulling her on top of him while they remained joined, he kissed her sweat-damp forehead, his eyes closing in satisfaction and contentment as he felt the warm hum of their completed bond surging strongly between them.

 

“Are we completely married yet, or do we have to do more?” she mumbled into his chest.

 

He laughed and reached for her face, tilting it up to him for a kiss, smiling at her teasing smirk. “We are as married as we can possibly be, sweet. Can you feel me as part of you, now our bond is complete?”

 

Yep, I sure can . She frowned. “Did I just say that...not out loud?”

 

Yes, I heard you in my mind. Can you hear me as well?

 

Laurelin’s brows rose. “That’s...freaky. Say something else.”

 

I adore you. You are an amazing lover. I will never have enough of you.

 

She blushed and looked down. “Now speak to me out loud. I miss the sound and vibration of your voice already.”

 

“Are you happy with our first lovemaking experience?”

 

“Happy?” She shook her head. “That’s the understatement of the century. You know what a clitoris is for, I’m gonna build a damned shrine in your honor. I don’t know how the experience we just had is possible between two virgins, but I sure am glad of it. You’re….damn, you’re...” She shook her head, making him grin.

 

“Good. It was my goal to leave you somewhat speechless.”

 

She snuggled against him and kissed his chest, her eyes drifting closed. “Mission accomplished, you elven stud. I think I need a nap. You definitely wore me out. In a wonderful, amazing way.” She smiled with her eyes closed, starting to drift off. “Le melin, Legolas.”

 

Stroking gentle fingers through her disheveled hair, he watched her a moment longer, smiling when he felt her slip into peaceful slumber. Pulling her more comfortably against him, he covered her with the rumpled bedclothes and kissed the top of her head.

 

Le melin, Laurelin laich nin. ” (S: I love you, my sweet Laurelin. )

 

 


 

 

Legolas came out of his deep reverie and back to full awareness of everything around him to the sound of Laurelin singing softly, making him smile. Rolling to his side and sitting up, he stood to his feet and walked silently to the bath where she was soaking. Standing in the doorway and watching her, he listened to what she was singing so quietly in English.

 

“We met a few weeks ago

Now you try on callin’ me baby,

Like tryin’ on clothes

~o~

“Salute to me I'm your American Queen

And you move to me like I'm a Motown beat

And we rule the kingdom inside our room

~o~

“And all at once, you are the one I have been waiting for

King of my heart, body and soul, ooh whoa

And all at once, you're all I want, I'll never let you go

King of my heart, body and soul, ooh whoa

~o~

“Late in the night, the city's asleep

Your love is a secret I'm hoping, dreaming, dying to keep

Change my priorities

The taste of your lips is my idea of luxury

~o~

“Salute to me, I’m your American Queen...”

 

Legolas smirked and walked into her line of sight, amused when she sat up straighter and blushed, amused further by the eager excitement he could feel from her at his sudden appearance.

 

“May I join you, my American Queen?” He teased gently.

 

Her blush deepened and she nodded, watching him settle beside her. “Just a stupid pop song that came to mind.”

 

“It sounded rather fitting.”

 

She gnawed the inside of her cheek, reaching out to touch his hair. “You know, I never saw your hair loose, without any braids before last night. I really like it. You look so...”

 

He quirked a brow. “Untamed? Wild and free?”

 

Laurelin laughed. “I guess so. Natural. I really like it.”

 

“Were I not so often in battle, I would wear it free more often. If you will come in front of me I will wash your hair for you.”

 

She dipped her head back further into the water to completely wet it, then came and sat between his legs on the little ledge for sitting. Closing her eyes, she smiled while he gently lathered her hair in whatever elven magic stuff they used on their hair. It made her hair softer then anything she had ever felt before, but left no residue behind like conditioner she always used to use.

 

“I think I’m ready to purr like a happy cat with you stroking my hair.”

 

“You do rather purr when I stroke you,” he murmured. “I’m quite fond of the sound.”

 

“Stop tryin’ to make me blush. You make a good many sounds yourself, ya know.”

 

“Hmm.” He moved his soapy hands down to cup both of her breasts, then moved his caresses lower, across her thighs. “You do make all of me sing at your touch.”

 

Pulling away from him, she leaned back to rinse her hair, smiling when she opened her eyes to see he was also rinsing his own hair, having quickly washed it. Moving to the far side of the bath, she sat on the edge of the tub, out of the water, with her legs still dangling in it while she took the towel she had laid there and blotted the water from her hair with it.

 

He floated over to her, lifting her foot out of the water to kiss her ankle, following the inside of her leg with his lips, kissing higher and higher until he tugged her against his mouth, stealing her breath with the light caress of his lips and tongue against her center. Leaning back and supporting her weight on her hands, she watched him, getting more and more aroused when he flicked his eyes up to hers.

 

In the mood to tease him, she scooted back, well beyond his reach and stood, wrapping the towel around her body and smiling at his narrow-eyed stare of obvious disapproval. Turning her back on him, intending to saunter off, she laughed when she was quickly spun back around and pulled into the strong arms of a very wet elf. Tugging the towel off her again and tossing it away, he lifted her in his arms, giving her little choice but to wrap her legs around his waist. Her gasp turned into a moan when he drove into her, looking down into his blue eyes that smoldered with desire.

 

“You are already so wet for me, it makes me half mad trying to decide what I want more...to be inside you or have my mouth on you to taste your sweet nectar.”

 

She hissed and bit her lip at how he filled her so completely, stretching her to fit around him. It was the most amazing feeling, their connection so much more than just the physical. She dove into the desire he felt for her, and offered back her own, smiling at his soft groan of acknowledgement.

 

“I have a quick trigger anytime you look at me. I spent most of our time in Rohan together, soaking wet for you. I couldn’t help it.”

 

Legolas sucked a spot on her where her shoulder met her neck, brushing his nose up against her ear. “I know, I could smell that you wanted me, and I wanted you just as desperately. So many times I imagined what it would be like to do what we are doing now. Yet, the reality is so much better than the fantasy.”

 

She shuddered when he kept hitting the perfect spot inside her, but it wasn’t quite enough. “Faster,” she breathed. “And harder, much harder. Please, sugar.”

 

He took the three steps to reach the wall and leaned her back against it, using the leverage to do as she asked, keeping his eyes on her face while they moved together in their passionate dance. When he could feel she was close, he kissed her ear, gently scraping her earlobe with his teeth. “Come, my beauty, show me how much I please you. Tolo a nin, melethril nin.” (S. Come with me, my lover.)

 

Laurelin kissed him while they rode the peak of pleasure together, feeling his hot release inside her and deeply satisfied that he hadn’t held anything back. Leaning her head against the wall behind her, she closed her eyes and smiled, thinking there was nowhere else she would rather be than with Legolas, held tightly in his arms.

 

“I feel the same, laich. You are the light of my life.”

 

Opening her eyes again she gave a wordless response, her heart in her eyes as she touched his cheek and traced his jawline, sighing when he lifted her off him and set her on her feet, smirking at the wetness between her legs.

 

“Now I think I need another bath.”

 

He lifted his head and inhaled deeply through his nose, smiling smugly and shaking his head. “I think our combined scent on you is my preference. You can wash it off now if you like, but I’m going to put it right back before another hour has passed.”

 

She rolled her eyes and walked toward the doorway, looking back at him where he followed her. “How about food? I’m kinda starving after all our activity.”

 

He walked into the closet when they were in the bedroom again, and emerged a moment later in a loose pair of pants. “I will go and check. I suspect there is food waiting for us outside the door.”

 

When he returned, she was laying belly down on the bed in one of his tunics, but raised up quickly at the sight of the tray he was carrying. He smiled at what she was wearing, settling beside her and offering her a bite of fruit from the abundance of food that had been left for them.

 

“Are you gonna feed me too?” She took another bite of some kind of sweet, sticky bread from his fingers, sucking on one to get all the yummy sweetness. He paused before reaching for something else to feed her, his gaze focused on her mouth.

 

“I enjoy feeding you. That mouth of yours...” He raised his brows and gave her a heated look.

 

Deciding it looked like fun, she offered him a bite of fruit from her fingers, smiling when he bit down on her finger teasingly before accepting the food. “What time is it?” she asked curiously.

 

“It is just after dawn.”

 

She licked her own finger and turned, so she was laying across him and looking up at him. “Are we leaving today, or not?”

 

He shook his head and continued to feed her small bites. “We will leave when I can stand to keep my hands off you long enough to travel at least a few hours at a time.”

 

Laurelin laughed. “What, you don’t think it’ll be good foreplay watching me bounce around on a horse and imagine it’s you instead? You can learn control by forcing yourself to wait until we stop at the end of the day.”

 

Legolas gave her a crooked smile. “Come climb back on top of me now and I shall show you control, young one.”

 

She shook her head and raised her brow, giving him a flirtatious look. “That’s actually really hot when you go all mature, experienced, sugar-daddy on me. Makes me wanna jump you again. Maybe I’m the one who needs to learn some control.”

 

He chuckled, combing her still damp hair back from her face. “We are scarcely married, Laurelin, this in not a time to control our desires, but to fully indulge them. If you want me, I am more than eager to oblige.”

 

“I suppose this is our honeymoon,” she shrugged. Sitting up, she stretched her arms up over her head and looked back at him with a grin. “So...ready for round three?” Sliding off the bed, she walked over to the door and tilted her head. “I think we should try out the sitting room.”

 

She disappeared down the hallway and Legolas stood. Popping another bite of fruit into his mouth, he grinned in anticipation and followed her.

 


 

 

Partial lyrics quoted from King Of My Heart by Taylor Swift

 


Chapter Twenty-five

Alternate Scene/Partial Wedding Scene Rewrite

 


 

The faint breeze blew pleasantly down the walkway that Laurelin and Legolas traversed, and she glanced at him when he led her onto a narrow stairwell sloping sharply upward that she had never seen before, slipping her hand into his to guide her to follow behind him. Taking her shimmering skirt in her other hand and lifting it slightly so she wouldn’t trip on it, she looked up at him curiously in the dim light.

 

“Where are we going?”

 

He glanced back at her with a slight smile. “You will soon see.”

 

She pressed her lips together to stifle the grin that tried to break free, feeling a strong flutter of excitement even as she wondered what exactly he had planned. After walking up more steps than she had in a very long time, Laurelin made a pleased sound when they stopped at an overlook that let them clearly see the stars, as the tops of the forest trees were well below them and didn’t block the view.

 

“Oh, it’s so beautiful! I didn’t even know this place existed.”

 

Pleased with her reaction, Legolas turned to face her, his hair silvery in the starlight. “I knew you would enjoy the view, but I do have another purpose in bringing you here.” He pulled a small, ornate container from a pouch under his tunic and opened the top, revealing two rings inside.

 

“Are those…?” Laurelin whispered.

 

“Our wedding rings, yes. I wish for us to marry tonight, Laurelin. Now, in fact, if you are agreeable. There is no true reason to delay until we reach Gondor, and I fear our journey together will be far less comfortable if we do attempt to wait longer; to say nothing of the strange frenzy that gripped us before. I prefer we wed deliberately, with clear minds and of our own free will.” Legolas held her gaze, waiting patiently as her expression went from surprise to thoughtful consideration.

 

“I would be fine with us marrying tonight if that’s what you want, but what about your family? Won’t they be kinda shocked or disapprove of such a sudden move on our part?”

 

Legolas shook his head, taking both rings out of the box and putting it away again. “Not at all. In fact, my father suggested we might want to wed immediately after the feast, as it is something that you potentially received through Elizabeth’s blood that nearly forced us into joining when we shared our emotions. He actually advised we not wait.”

 

She clasped her hands together and nodded, relieved they wouldn’t face any opposition since she could see Legolas was determined to go ahead with his plan. Clearing her throat softly while she tried to quell her sudden nervousness, she looked up at him questioningly. “Alright then, so what do we do? I don’t know a thing about any of this, so you’ll have to tell me what I’m supposed to do.”

 

Reaching for her hands, he smiled gently, well able to sense her nervous uncertainty and intending to do all he could to set her at ease. “Now, we speak our vows, and it can be whatever you feel from your heart, though according to elven tradition we must also invoke the name of Eru as part of our pledges to one another.” Slipping the smaller wedding band onto her left ring finger to nestle beside her betrothal ring, Legolas stared into her green eyes for a silent moment, his own full of adoration.

 

“From this moment forth and for all the days to come, I bind myself to you as your husband, Laurelin. I offer you my devotion, love, and all of who I am. By Eru Iluvatar, I swear to protect and cherish you, always, and I bless the greater powers that have brought you to me from so far.”

 

Looking down to slide the larger ring onto his ring finger, she drew a shaky breath and blinked rapidly, already feeling teary at his earnest words and wanting to get her own pledge out without becoming weepy. She looked up into his eyes of brightest blue, her heart thumping harder in her chest at the magnitude of the moment they were caught in, and wanting to remember everything about it, right down to the way the starlight highlighted his broad shoulders and his white teeth when he smiled at her encouragingly.

 

“Legolas, my very own Greenleaf and soulmate who I have traveled so far to find, I bind my heart to yours as your wife. I love you desperately, and I give every part of me to you. By Eru Iluvatar, as you are mine, I am completely yours.”

 

Legolas leaned down and kissed her so softly and beguilingly, that a warmth started low in her belly and spread outward in a slow burn that sizzled through her veins, making her sigh and reach up to twine her arms around his neck. He pulled back enough to nuzzle against her neck, rubbing a hand across her back with one hand, and gripping the curve of her hip firmly with the other.

 

“Next comes the true marriage – our bonding. Shall we go to our rooms now, laich, so I can love you as I have been imagining for so long?”

 

Not fully trusting her voice at that moment, Laurelin nodded and flashed him a small smile when he took her hand and led her back the way they had come, stopping and turning to face her when they finally stood in front of the door to his chambers. He lifted her into his arms and opened the door, carrying her across the threshold and making her laugh when he kicked the door closed behind them.

 

“I didn’t know you knew about the tradition of carrying the bride over the threshold.”

 

He grinned. “I learned all I could of your marriage customs from Elizabeth. We are a joining of two people’s cultures and traditions, and I want to honor your human customs as much as our elven heritage.”

 

Pulling his head closer so she could kiss him again, she smiled against his lips a moment later. “Thank you for being so thoughtful. It really does mean a lot to me.” When he set her on her feet, she reached for his left hand and nodded in satisfaction at the sight of his wedding band before meeting his eyes. “I love the way your wedding ring looks on your hand, and I especially love knowing that it tells the whole world that you’re one hundred percent mine. Did I ever mention I was a little possessive? No? Well, now you know.” She slipped her shoes off and kicked them aside.

 

He examined her hand with both rings and nodded in agreement, his smile and eyes changing to the more intense look that always made her want to rip his clothes off. “We share that tendency, as I am no less possessive of you, sweet. And now that we are speaking of possession, I think we should proceed to the full exploration of such, without any further delay...” Legolas smoothly unzipped the back of her dress and placed his warm hand on the bare skin of her lower back, stroking her there with a light, teasing touch.

 

She busied herself with the clasps of his tunic to keep from acknowledging the faint embarrassment that colored her cheeks, sighing happily when she pushed it open, kissing his muscled chest while she eased his clothing off his shoulders and arms. When he slid her dress down her arms and let it pool on the floor around her feet, she bit her lip and peeked at him through her lashes, chuckling when he swept her up in his arms again and walked through to his large bedroom.

 

“At this rate, I’m gonna get spoiled to your carrying me everywhere.”

 

“I fail to see a problem with that,” he murmured, lowering her to her feet and unhooking the back of her lacy pink bra that was a perfect match to the panties she wore. “I am very happy to discover you are wearing pink for me on this night, especially, as I believe it has become my favorite on you. Does this shade also have a name?”

 

“Um, it’s actually First Blush, which I guess is fitting,” she said, ducking her head when he slipped the straps down her arms and let the bra fall to the floor, leaving her mostly naked. Fighting through her embarrassment, she lifted her head, curious to see his reaction then bit her lip at how he was looking at her with a mix of hunger and tenderness. He cupped her chin in one of his hands, lifting it even higher so he could see her eyes more easily.

 

“Does it make you uncomfortable for me to look at you as I am, sweet?”

 

Laurelin thought about exactly what she was feeling and shook her head with a shy smile. “Not too much, I just have to get used to it.” She laid both of her hands against his chest and moved her touch down his front, stopping at his waist. “I do like the way you look at me, and...how you touch me.” She dropped her gaze to the front of his trousers and reached for the fastening to undo it. “But I think I should be able to look too though, don’t you?”

 

“Of course,” he said in a low tone. “I will remove the rest of my clothing if you wish it.”

 

She frowned when she thought she had the clasp on his pants undone, only to discover there was another one, and nodded. “Yeah, that would probably be best since I haven’t quite figured your pants out yet.”

 

Turning, she undid the diamond necklace at her throat and set it aside before climbing onto the bed. She settled with her legs folded beneath her and sat on her heels. Laurelin absently twirled a lock of her hair, twisting it tightly around her finger while she watched him sit on the edge of the bed and quickly remove his boots and other garments. Standing to face her when he was fully naked, he plucked the circlet from her head and took his own off, setting them both on the table next to the bed before turning to look at her again, smiling at how her eyes moved over him in eager curiosity.

 

“Come to me, sweet.”

 

Unwinding the lock of hair from around her finger, she raised up to her knees and crawled to the edge of the bed where he stood, resting her hands flat against his chest and looking up at him. Taking her face in his hands, he leaned down to kiss her, sliding one of his hands around her back to pull her against him. When she was breathing heavily and feeling more than half drunk with desire, he gently pushed her back to lie flat on the bed, working his way down her body with his lips and fingers that left electric fire everywhere he touched her.

 

Only distantly aware of when her panties disappeared, she moaned loudly when he pulled her to the edge of the bed and knelt down between her spread thighs, his lips and tongue there quickly pushing her into an explosive climax that left her feeling weak and boneless. Smiling lazily when he worked his way back up her body, climbing back onto the bed beside her, Legolas gave her a self-satisfied smile in response.

 

“Alright, that smug little grin of yours is clearly a challenge, and I eagerly accept.” Running light fingers across his chest, she looked at all of him laid out before her, resting her eyes on his impressive erection, wondering just how much she could manage to take. She had lots of knowledge of how to do what she was planning, despite never having practiced, and hoped it would be enough to make her good enough at it to rock his world. No teeth, she reminded herself, giving him a mischievous smile before she leaned down, gripped him with one hand and took him fully in her mouth.

 

Legolas gasped, the sound turning into a low groan of pleasure while he slipped his fingers into the silky hair at the back of her head. Her mouth on him was like nothing he had ever felt before. If he had thought her intimate touch on him was incredible, this was an entirely new level of experience. Every time she took him deeper, moving her tongue against him in an entirely amazing way, his grip on her hair tightened until he was half controlling her rhythm without even trying.

 

When it became too much to withstand, he thought to try to warn her but she took him even deeper than before and he was caught up in the rush of his climax racing through him before he knew what was happening. With eyes closed, he concentrated on calming his heart and his breathing, moaning again when she finally released him, pressing a small kiss near his right hip. Looking down at her, he grew immediately hard again when she looked up at him with desire clear in her green eyes and licked her lips to tease him.

 

“That was….I...didn’t expect….but you were...”

 

Laurelin laughed, moving up into his arms to kiss him lingeringly, over and over, grinning at his admiring smile. “I love you, Legolas.”

 

“And I love you, my heart.” He rubbed his nose against hers, basking in the feel of her naked body pressed against his own, but keen for much more. “You stole my ability to speak for a moment. But I must have the wonder of all of you now.”

 

She sighed and rolled onto her back, still a bit nervous at what was to come in spite of her brief boldness, but his lips and hands moving warmly across her body soon had her shifting restlessly beneath him, begging for more. Spreading her legs wider in open invitation, she bit her lip and tensed when he positioned himself to enter her.

 

Legolas kissed her ear, licking along the rounded edge while he called healing into his right hand, which he rested low on her belly. “I will never hurt you, my sweet love, try to relax and trust me,” he whispered. She looked up into his blue eyes, the tenseness melting from her muscles at the confidence and tender concern she saw there.

 

“I trust you,” she said, just as quietly. Her lips parted in silent wonder while she processed the sensation of him slider deeper inside her through the slippery wetness of her desire; so slowly, but never stopping until he was fully a part of her. He watched her face closely, reading her expressions and looking relieved when she smiled in wonder, realizing the faint glow she saw was him healing her as he breached her for the first time, so she wouldn’t feel any pain.

 

He grinned when he saw she understood what he had done and kissed her with all the love in his heart when her eyes filled with grateful tears. Drawing a sharp breath, his own eyes widened when she tightened strong inner muscles around him, drawing his focus back to their mutual pleasure. When she moved her hips, pushing him even deeper inside her and indicating her readiness for more, he lifted his head and drew a breath to speak the spell to begin their bonding.

 

"Vérë essë, ménë yanta fëa. Vala lasta!" (Quenya: Bond begin, yoke us in spirit. Gods, listen, give ear!)

 

A strange energy started to pulse inside Laurelin, and she could feel a prodding against her senses and emotions that she recognized immediately as Legolas, making her look at him. “What’s happening to us?”

 

“All is well,” he murmured, kissing her and stroking her hair back from her face reassuringly. “It is only the start of our bonding you feel. Our spirits are being knit together and joining us into one.”

 

Closing her eyes, she was taken by sensation and pleasure, and a burgeoning heat pushing her along to some destination she did not yet know the way to. Oh, but the feel of him moving inside of her consumed her in a way she had never known or even been able to imagine. His strength and power were evident in the fluid movement of his hips, and the flex of the muscles in his arms and shoulders. She moaned when he angled his thrusts to hit something inside of her that sent her into another climax very quickly, but even stronger than the one before.

 

He kept his eyes on her face, unable to look away from the sight of her when she was caught in the height of eithel gellam, comparing it to the first time they shared pleasure, and finding it far superior. Her entire body glowed faintly with a pale, golden light, her eyes brighter than he had ever seen them, and it was no small point of pride for him that he had awoken that in her. (Sindarin: literally ‘well of joy’, used to refer to orgasm/sexual climax)

 

The feel of her body beneath him, the tight, wet heat of her intimate embrace gripping him could not be withstood for long, though through sheer force of will alone he managed to resist when she peaked again. It was magical how easily he could read her signs, and swiftly push her to the pinnacle of physical pleasure, or delay it and cause her to wait, thereby increasing her enjoyment when she finally came again.

 

Legolas thought their bond was nearly complete when he felt her wish for him to join her in release, and he knew it for certain when he heard her voice whisper it in his mind.

 

Come inside. Fill me completely. I love you, Legolas.

 

Panting with the effort his control cost him, when she again spasmed around him, he gave into the explosive sensation racing down his spine and bursting from him where their bodies were wed, a bright light filling the room as the last of the bonding spell worked its irreversible magic on them.

 

Staring into each other’s eyes through it all, Legolas turned them slightly so they were partially on their sides while their hearts slowed and they recovered. He noted the drowsy look of satisfaction she wore, giving her a smug smile in return. Laurelin shook her head, grinning back.

 

“After that performance, you have more than earned the right to brag that you are the world’s greatest lover.”

 

He pushed a lock of hair out of her eyes and answered in her mind. I am your lover, which is the greatest privilege, and all I could ever want. I adore you. I could never have imagined becoming part of you would feel the way it does. Already, I want you again and again.

 

Laurelin’s eyes grew wider when he spoke in her mind, and when he grew immediately hard inside her again.

 

Are we...telepathic now? This is awesome!

 

Chuckling quietly, Legolas pulled her on top of him and lay flat on his back, sliding her legs up until they rested on either side of his waist, allowing him to sink deeper inside her. “Yes, we can speak in each other’s minds, now we are bonded. How does it feel to be my bride in full?”

 

Pushing herself upright and resting her hands against his chest, she rocked back against him, biting her lip at how much deeper she could take him in that position. “Perfect,” she purred, her eyes half-lidding when he pushed his hips more against hers. “I’m completely happy and right where I want to be.”

 

“I’m glad to hear it,” he replied in a deep tone. “For you are also precisely where I want you at this exact moment.”

 

He held his hands up and she laced her fingers with his, using her leverage against his hands to move more easily, as he obviously intended. Shaking back her hair, she smiled down at him, intending to do her best to show him just how well a cowgirl could ride.

 

 


 

 

Hours later, Laurelin awoke and shifted her head on Legolas’ chest to look up at him. After bathing together, they had somehow ended up on the sitting room floor when she had challenged him to a wrestling match which she had fully intended to lose anyway, but had fun rolling around with him, and she also recalled christening the couch at some point.

 

Realizing he was asleep, though his eyes were wide open, she watched him in fascination. She had never once seen Legolas unconscious or sleeping, and it was thrilling to be able to finally see him as a normal person who sometimes let his guard down and actually slept. Even if he did do it with his eyes open, though they were clearly glazed and unfocused, which at least made it a little less weird. Feeling a little like a creeper after watching him for several minutes, she turned her attention to his lips and studied them. They weren’t overly large, which was her preference, but well defined and so warm and soft when he kissed her with them.

 

But other than his eyes and lips, her favorite facial feature on him had to be the dimple in his right cheek. Only visible when he smiled in a certain way, and usually only when he teased, you could theoretically go a long time without knowing he even had a dimple. It melted her heart like chocolate in the summer sun every time she saw it, as though it were a precious gift he only shared with the people who were close to him. When his lips lifted in the exact smile she had been thinking of, and the dimple suddenly appeared, she gasped, her eyes flying up to his to find him watching her.

 

“I had no idea you were so taken by dimples, sweet.”

 

Blushing to be caught watching him, and apparently also broadcasting her thoughts, she leaned up to kiss his dimple, but he turned and caught her lips against his instead, humming in approval when she kissed him back.

 

Pulling away, she wrinkled her nose teasingly at him. “Only your dimple, sugar, because it’s so adorable and almost boyish-looking, which is really something at your age. Such a contrast too, cause there is definitely nothing boyish about you otherwise. No sir.”

 

When a particularly explicit image flashed through her mind of the two of them going at each other up against the bathing room wall, her eyes widened when he smirked, realizing he had sent the image to her.

 

“Oh,” she breathed. “That’s...really..surprising. How do I send something like that to you?”

 

“Picture it in your mind with as much detail as possible, then push it through the bond. I should be able to see it.”

 

Finding it easier to focus with her eyes closed, she imagined exactly what she wanted to do to Legolas, then tried to transfer it to his mind. When she opened her eyes, he was giving her a puzzled look.

 

“You...want to lick something white off of me? I don’t recognize it.”

 

Sighing dreamily, she rested her face against his chest, but tilted her head so she could still see his eyes. “That is whipped cream, and if I had a cherry to go on top, I would make an elf sundae out of you and lick you all up.”

 

He smiled in amusement. “As tantalizing as that is, I think I had best feed you like a good husband should, for you’ve eaten nothing since the banquet last night, and it’s now past dawn.”

 

Rolling to her back, she stretched out on the soft rug and smiled. “Your love is my food, your kiss is my wine. I die in your arms and come to life again when you touch me. What need have I for mortal food when I have the nectar of the elven god of love to sustain me?”

 

He loomed over her with a slight smile and a surprised look. “That has the sound of poetry to it. Have I inspired you to a whole new way to tease me?”

 

She pouted out her bottom lip. “Indeed I do not tease you, Sir Elf, I but speak from my heart. Do you label me false?”

 

Legolas chuckled. “Hearing such a different form of English from you is unexpected, but no less endearing than your usual manner of speech.”

 

Sitting up, she pecked a teasing kiss to his lips. “Remember, I like to roleplay. If you ever want to be Mr. Rochester to my Jane, or Jareth the Goblin King to my Sarah, I’m always game.”

 

He shook his head, pulling her closer again and kissing her slowly, rubbing his nose against hers as he leaned back. “I would much rather be Legolas to your Laurelin, for no other story could possibly be more thrilling to experience than our own.”

 

When he pulled her to her feet and lifted her into his arms, she gave him a mischievous smile. “I definitely can’t argue with you there, handsome.”

 

“See how well you suit the role of agreeable bond-mate,” he said with a smirk, beginning to carry her to the bedroom where the food tray waited. “Now, after I feed you, I have a small container of honey which may suit you in place of your whipped cream, if you care to try. Then, we shall probably have need of another bath. Of course, in the bathing chamber, there are such lovely walls...”

 

Laurelin giggled and leaned nearer to kiss the spot where his elusive dimple sometimes appeared. “Le melin, Legolas. This is the best honeymoon ever.” (S. I love you)

 

He smiled down at her, his eyes shining with the great love flowing between them. “Le melin, Laurelin, gûr nin.” (I love you, Laurelin, my heart.)

 

 


~o~

Chapter Text

 


 

 

Laurelin smiled, trailing her fingers through the same stream she often visited, looking around and thinking the beautiful place she had spent so much time in during her life was even more lovely than it had been before. So bright, the air filled with warmth and total comfort.

 

Sweet voices sang songs that reached her on the wind, the gentle breeze blowing softly and caressing her skin. There was something lulling in the soil, the water, even the very air. A soft touch on her hair made her tilt her head back and close her eyes in pleasure. Looking up she smiled to see Legolas standing just behind her, glancing around them in curiosity and uncertainty.

 

“Where are we, sweet?”

 

Frowning in confusion, she took one of his hands in hers, shaking her head. It was where they always came, wasn’t it? But she had no real name to give it. Should it have a name, or was it alright to just think of it as the beautiful place?

 

“I...don’t know. I’ve always come here. I think it’s a place of peace and refreshment.”

 

With furrowed brows, he looked back down at her after sweeping his gaze around them. “Valinor,” he murmured. “I’m certain that is where we are, but I do not understand how, or even why.” He met her eyes with a sober look. “You are dreaming, and I followed you when I heard you call to me. You sounded frightened, but you do not seem so now. I am glad of it.”

 

Laurelin stood, trying to understand what he was talking about, but her memories felt fuzzy and distant. “I...can’t remember.” She slid her hands up his arms and rested them on his shoulders, smiling up at him. “But I’m glad you’re here with me now, it feels...” she tilted her head, then nodded. “Right.”

 

He looked around a final time, feeling wary, everything inside him tense as though expecting danger, which seemed odd when all was apparently peaceful, and Laurelin looking so happy and content. Not to mention the fact that they were in her dream, and no harm could come of a dream, could it? He pulled her closer against him, trying to ignore his instincts that continued to warn of some imminent threat. Legolas looked down at her, tightening his hold.

 

“Let us away. Come with me now, laich. I need to love you again.” He lowered his head, staring into her bright green eyes with the luminous gold ring, and sought her lips. “Awake, and return to me,” he breathed against her mouth, and kissed her.

 

 


 

 

When full awareness gradually woke her, she smiled, her eyes slowly opening to the feel of Legolas kissing her neck and tugging her leg up around his hip. She also realized that they were both naked.

 

“I thought I was wearing one of your shirts when I fell asleep last night.” Her voice was still thick and heavy from disuse, and she didn’t yet feel totally awake.

 

“You were.” He moved his mouth across her chin before brushing his lips over hers, staring down into her amused eyes that half closed when he smoothly thrust up into her, rolling her fully beneath him.“But you told me two days ago that you like me to wake you up this way, so I removed your clothing.” He was still, content for that moment just to be inside her, before he started a lazy, unhurried rhythm.

 

“Oh, so you’re just trying to do me a favor, huh?”

 

“Perhaps it is a mutual favor. I had a desperate need for you and could wait no longer. Do you remember your dream before you awoke?”

 

“Flip over,” she whispered, sitting upright on him when he complied, resting her hands on his chest while she moved. She shook her hair back out of her face and met his gaze, smiling at the smoldering look of desire and admiration in his blue eyes when he placed his hands at her waist and watched her ride him. “I remember you were in my dream with me. Is that right?”

 

“Yes.” He made no mention of her frightened call for him in his mind, which had caused him to seek her out in the first place. If she did not recall her nightmare, perhaps it was as well. He certainly had no desire for her to again experience the kind of terror he had felt from her while she slept.

 

“It was nice.” She canted her hips, circling them in a way that she knew could drive him half out of his mind with pleasure, closing her eyes and smiling at his quickened breath and low moan.

 

Laurelin, a-charo, avo dharo! Tíro nin." (Laurelin, again, don’t stop! Look at me.)

 

She obeyed, opening her eyes and meeting his gaze again, smirking as she repeated her movements.

 

Mibo nin,” he murmured, pulling her down to reach his lips when she leaned closer to him for a kiss. (Kiss me.)

 

Sometime later, she lay in his arms, happy and their desire sated for the time being. He brushed her hair back from her face, continuing to run gentle fingers through it in a soothing manner.

 

“You understood everything I said to you in Sindarin,” he mused. “I didn’t use any English for quite a while.”

 

She tilted her head back to look at him. “I remember most of what you told me those words meant before, but I admit I sometimes cheat and listen for the meaning of what you’re saying straight from your head. It’s still weird to be able to do that with you, but also really useful.”

 

Istol peded edhellen?” He smiled teasingly with dancing eyes. (Can you speak Elvish?)

 

She raised a brow with a haughty look. “Pedin edhellen. Well...sorta.” (I speak Elvish.)

 

He chuckled and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I suppose it doesn’t really matter what language I speak to you in now, since you can hear the meaning in my thoughts, regardless.”

 

Laurelin snuggled closer, running a hand across the firm muscle of his chest as she loved to do when they laid together in the amazing afterglow of their lovemaking.

 

“Shall we try and depart for Minas Tirith tomorrow, my sweet?”

 

She sighed and turned her face enough to be able to kiss his chest. “I guess if we really have to. After five days of having you all to myself, I think I’ve become completely addicted to the um...frequency of...”

 

“Our incredible loving?” He finished with a cheeky smile.

 

Laughing softly, Laurelin nodded. “Yep, exactly. I teased you about not being able to wait until we stop for the day, but I think I might be the one that’s gonna struggle the most with that. You’ve turned me into some insatiable thing with your unbelievably mind-blowing skills.”

 

Reaching for her hand on his chest, he laced their fingers together, smiling at her much smaller hand held by his own larger one. “There is no reason we cannot stop for breaks if we feel so inclined.”

 

“Sex breaks?” She gave him a disbelieving look that made him smirk.

 

“Our desires for one another are an appetite, like any other. Would you think it strange to stop for food and drink as we travel?”

 

“No, I guess not.” Tilting her head, she reached her hand down and gripped him, running her fingers up and down his length and found him half-hard, as he always seemed to be since they married. “Since you’re my very favorite thing to eat now, it’s nice to know you won’t make me starve for very long at a time.”

 

“I’m your favorite thing to eat?” he echoed laughingly.

 

She half sat up and turned to look at him with a teasing smile, running her eyes across his naked body laid out beside her on their bed. “Well, you are the most delicious snack of an elf to ever live. I declare I could put you on a plate and sop you up with a biscuit, like honey.”

 

He sat up, his smile growing more faint and his eyes assuming a look of hungry intensity. He ran his fingers up her bare leg and through the damp folds of her sex. “This is my honey, and my wine. I can grow drunk on the taste of you alone, laich, and that is exactly what I wish to do. Lie back and let me worship you.”

 

Laurelin bit her lip to stifle her hesitant smile. “Now ? You don’t want to go eat some breakfast first?”

 

Legolas pushed her back with gentle pressure and a quirked brow. “Yes, right now. I want my mouth on you more than any breakfast, for this is my greater appetite. Surrender yourself to me, little wife. I have come to greatly crave your shy and sweet submission to my desires.”

 

She blushed at his words, settling against the pillow. “I guess when you put it that way… But I get to have you under my power later, and I won’t take no for an answer either.”

 

He stroked his long, slender fingers around the narrowest part of her ankle, nudging her legs further apart with an intense look, smirking up at her as he settled between her thighs. “I wouldn’t dream of saying no to you.” Closing his eyes briefly while he inhaled her fragrance, he stared up at her with a look that never failed to make her shiver on the inside; like pure, distilled Legolas, without any filters or veneer of politeness to hide what he really felt. Lowering his head, he kissed her inner thigh. “I want to make my lovely siren sing.”

 

At the first brush of his mouth against her, she sucked in a sharp breath and gripped the bedding tightly with both hands. “I really hope you’re ready, cause I think you’re about to get a whole damn opera.”

 

His amused chuckle was the last thing she heard before she was lost in the cloud of drugging pleasure only he could bring her to, and her own helpless sounds in response.

 

 


 

 

The following day, Laurelin visited the royal family to say her farewells, while Legolas saw to preparing their horses with what they would carry with them. Alassë walked Laurelin back to the stables, catching her up on what had been happening during the days she and Legolas had been secluded together.

 

“But why was Catherine so sad when she hugged me? Did something bad happen?”

 

Wrapping an arm around Laurelin’s, Alassë sighed and nodded. “Yes, very bad from my sister’s point of view. The day after your betrothal feast...” She paused and grinned. “Which was apparently also your wedding feast...” She laughed when Laurelin rolled her eyes and blushed, muttering under her breath.

 

“Hey, blame your brother. He was the one who was impatient. I didn’t exactly expect to get married the same night as the party. But what about Kitty?”

 

Alassë smirked and shook her head. “Father told Tirion he is not allowed to court Catherine until she is nearer to being of age.”

 

Laurelin gasped, her eyes turning sad. “She has to wait until she’s a hundred years old?” she asked in disbelief.

 

“Not quite, but close. Father said since we are half elves, we will be full adults at seventy-five, so that is how long Tirion and Kitty have to wait before they can move on to formal courting and betrothal.”

 

Releasing a gusty sigh, Laurelin shook her head. “That seems so unfair when I’m already married to Legolas, and I’m not even thirty years old. Not quite. I’m pretty much the same as y’all too, being half elf and half human. Did Kitty mention that to your dad?”

 

“She did, but Father said you and Legolas had unique and special circumstances that made any kind of delay impossible.”

 

Raising a bemused brow, Laurelin sighed again, thinking the main difficulty between her and Legolas was they each had a bad case of jump-your-bones-itus. But maybe it was more than that. She wasn’t an all-powerful, future-seeing elf like the king, so it was possible there were other factors too.

 

“Well, that just sucks. Maybe it’s a good thing Legolas and I are going away for a while. It might make it worse for Kitty to have to see us together when she’s been ordered to wait.”

 

“Perhaps. I really couldn’t say.” Alassë shrugged as they reached the stable, then turned and threw her arms around Laurelin in an enthusiastic hug. “I know I shall miss you, so please do not stay gone forever. I should like to go to Minas Tirith myself, if only to see some new place and get away from...certain people.”

 

Laurelin gave a low whistle and chuckled. “I’m guessing you’re referring to a specific tall, blonde captain I saw you dancing with the other night? It looked like you were having a pretty heated discussion.”

 

Alassë crossed her arms and scoffed. “He’s impossible. I won’t waste time thinking about him. While you are gone, I will work on further improving my fighting skills, and then it’s possible Father may allow me to accompany you and Legolas if you decide to travel again. I should dearly love to get out of this kingdom, for at least a few years.”

 

Smiling faintly, Laurelin nodded in understanding. “When you have a case of wander lust, there’s no cure for it but to travel. Maybe we can sweet-talk your daddy into letting you come with us on one of our trips. Legolas mentioned he wanted to travel for a while, so I know this won’t be the only time.”

 

“Thanks, Grace,” Alassë said with a grin. “That’s something I can look forward to.” She pecked a quick kiss to Laurelin’s cheek and then hurried over to hug Legolas beside the horses before she walked back toward the halls with a wave. “Have a good trip, you two, and watch out for orcs and thieves!”

 

Laurelin went further into the stables and smiled as she hugged her father. “Bye, Daddy. I’ll miss you while I’m gone.”

 

“And I shall miss you, daughter.” He looked out of the stables where Legolas waited, dressed in his travel clothes and with all of his usual weapons on him. “But I know your bond-mate will care for you and keep you safe on your journey.”

 

Pulling back, she looked up into his eyes, the same green as her own and smiled. “Le melin, Ada .” (S. I love you, Daddy.)

 

Le melin, iell .” (I love you, daughter.) He rested a hand against her cheek with a pleased look. “You are starting to learn Sindarin?”

 

She tilted her head and grinned. “A little. Mostly I just pick it out of Legolas’ head.”

 

Thurindir’s brows rose in faint surprise. “Truly? You have an exceedingly strong bond, then. That is a surprise, although perhaps not so much, considering Prince Legolas is the son of King Thranduil and Queen Calarien, both exceptionally gifted elves. I am glad of this, for your sake.”

 

Standing on her tip toes, she kissed her father’s cheek, smiling as she heard Legolas speak in her mind.

 

Come, my heart. We must away, and my father wishes to bid you farewell.

 

Looking behind her, she hurried her steps when she saw King Thranduil standing beside Legolas, talking. She felt a rush of love and affection for them both. It was amazing that two such incredible, powerful and totally bad-ass elves were her family, in addition to her own wonderful father. How had she managed to get so lucky?

 

Thranduil turned at her approach, reaching for her shoulders to rest his big hands there, and staring deep and searchingly into her eyes. He smiled with a pleased look a moment later and bent and kissed her forehead.

 

His voice sounded clearly in her head. Your bond with Legolas is strong and deep. This will be a great comfort for you in all the days that lie before you.

 

Laurelin blinked in surprise, staring curiously up at him. Is this something new since Legolas and I are married now, or can you just speak to me this way because you’re a super elf?

 

His mouth quirked up on one side in amusement. I could speak in your mind at any time if I so choose due to my own gifts , but as you have my wife’s blood and are also my son’s bond-mate, we share additional connections that make communicating with you in this way nearly effortless.

 

She glanced over at Legolas who watched them with crossed arms and a slight smile, making her smile in return. Your dad is so fuckin’ cool, I can hardly wrap my mind around it. Legolas laughed aloud as she met the king’s ancient regard again, and Thranduil smirked.

 

She bit her lip and blushed, realizing she must have said that to both elves, instead of just to Legolas as she intended. “Oops,” she muttered, her blush deepening when the Elvenking pinched her cheek in a surprisingly playful move before his hands fell away from her.

 

If ever you have need of me, Laurelin, call to me in this way and I will hear you.

 

“Thanks, Dad, I will.” She moved toward him and he bent down, anticipating her so she could easily kiss his cheek. After Legolas lifted Laurelin onto Arod’s back, he turned to his father and embraced him. Thranduil rested a hand on Legolas’ shoulder.

 

“I know I do not need to tell you to stay vigilant as you journey. There are creatures of darkness that continue to roam that will be drawn to you both. Together and bonded, you are more a beacon to such things than ever before.” From beneath his robes, the king pulled a small bundle and handed it to Legolas with a significant look toward Laurelin. Nodding in understanding as he immediately saw what was wrapped in the cloth, he smiled.

 

“Thank you, Adar. We will venture cautiously and see you upon our return.”

 

“Or perhaps even sooner than that,” Thranduil replied with a mysterious smile, then turned and walked back toward the halls.

 

Securing the bundle to Wynsang beside all the rest of their things he carried, Legolas mounted behind Laurelin and set Arod to a slow walk. As they made their way through Greenwood, they were quiet for a while.

 

Laurelin thought of their friends they would be reunited with when they reached Minas Tirith and grinned in eager anticipation, wondering what it would be like to see Aragorn as a king. With these thoughts in mind, she started to sing as they continued between a walk and a slow trot.

 

"All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

~o~

"From the ashes, a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be blade that was broken,

The crownless again shall be king."

 

Legolas brushed his lips against her temple in a light kiss. “Did you learn that from Aragorn?”

 

She nodded, turning to look at him. “Yes, I heard him singing it real quietly in front of the fire one night in Meduseld. I liked it, so I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget.”

 

“I think it would please him if you sang it for him.”

 

“You think so?” She wrapped both of her hands around one of his, turning pensive. “I guess singing for kings is what I do. Tell me what Minas Tirith looks like.”

 

He pulled her more firmly against him and leaned down to kiss her neck, then proceeded to describe the city of white stone in detail, from the layout of the different levels, to the people who lived there, holding her captivated.

 

“I heard a good bit about it while I lived in Rohan, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever get the chance to go and see it myself.”

 

“And now you shall. I think you will enjoy it there. At least for a time. There aren’t nearly enough trees and living things there to truly satisfy an elf. When you long for the trees, I can take you to Ithilien.”

 

“Where is that? Still in Gondor?”

 

Legolas nodded. “Yes, it is not terribly far from Minas Tirith. There are some woods there in South Ithilien that are truly lovely and would grow moreso were there elves nearby to tend them. I did have a thought. You mentioned perhaps being open to starting a new settlement, and if you like Ithilien, we might even look to that in the future.”

 

“Our very own hippie commune, you mean?” She tilted her head back, laughing when he winked in a perfect imitation of her, with a slight nod.

 

“Just so. I thought that might please you.”

 

Laurelin sighed happily, pulling his head down so she could reach his lips for a kiss. “Why are you so good to me?”

 

He brushed his nose against hers with a tender smile. “I love you, utterly. Your happiness makes mine, just as I know my happiness completes yours.”

 

Leaning her head back against his chest, she continued to stare