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And What if We Don't Return?

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Chapter 1

A Great and Pointless Last Night


There is a great many caverns under Rivendell. So many great places to hide should there be war, or places merely to think when no one will let you. I find myself hiding in an art hall quite often. Tonight, I am not alone.
"Strange to see you here tonight Aragorn," I say. My voice bounces of the walls. Little more than a whisper can alert the entirety of Rivendell to your presence. I have made a mistake on being louder.
"And you as well, Legolas. What brings you so deep into these tunnels so late at night?"
"I could not sleep. My mind is too full of thoughts and worries. After all, there is much to think about."
"Indeed. And what thoughts plague you?" Aragorn is quieter than I. He makes no mistake. Nor does he try to divulge my presence to anyone else. We all need a quiet place to think tonight.
"Everything," I answer, "And nothing. Everything we may face is nothing we can control. And yet, the fears may not be named irrational. What brings you here tonight Aragorn?"
"I was simply thinking of what I was leaving. I made a promise Legolas. One I cannot be certain to keep."
"And what would that be?" My eyes finally meet his. He's standing while I sit defeatedly on the ground staring at nothing and drawing pictures in the settling dust with an arrow. I am no picture of elven royalty tonight. I must enjoy my last night before the quest as who I am. Not as who I was raised.
"I promised to come back. I promised to come back for Arwen. She gave up her immortal life for me and I don't even know if I will ever come home." His eyes are in a faraway place; probably with Arwen. I get to my feet, my sheath of arrows rattling as I do so. "You'll come back. I'll make sure of it," and I leave the room for my quarters. I have thought enough for tonight. I head back to my quarters with a feeling of panic building inside me. Panic: not at my upcoming mission but over the jealousy that overtook me when Aragorn mentioned Arwen. Whether or not he comes home, he'll have someone to come home to. If I die in my absence, I will never have the chance. I will never have someone to come home to whether I live or die. So what does it matter whether I die or not?

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I am walking toward my quarters dreading the loneliness of such a big place and no one to share it with when I come across one of my guards.
"Legolas! Why are you so late? Do you know what could have happened? We could have told the king and..." She trails off mid-sentence as she sees my expression. "Are you alright?"
We are reaching my door but I am in no hurry. The previous panic has given way to exhaustion. Still, I wasn't okay. And so, in answer, I shake my head.
"What's wrong?" Her voice is quieter now and more serious. She genuinely cares.
The young elf is by the name Riel Shamber and for some reason always gets more involved with my well-being than anyone else ever has. Even my own father had been more removed. I had hardly gotten to know her though I wish I could have. Rivendell isn't like Mirkwood. They don't have the same amount of separation in social class. But alas, it is still there. Therefore, to know her would be inappropriate. However, I was not worrying too much about my royal obligations tonight. I was just myself.
"I was just thinking. I knew I wouldn't have been able to sleep. A dangerous quest lies ahead where I may not return. It almost seemed a waste to spend my last certain and safe night sleeping."
She nods, "and also a waste to spend it alone." I realist the pleading look in my eyes that must be there. The look that says 'I know. Don't let me spend it alone'. She is beautiful. I never realized that before and I don't know why. Her eyes are a deep blue and her hair is as black as midnight. You can tell she is strong both of body and mind. Her eyes and smile tell stories she never will and her hand flares out to her side like she is trying to grasp something that isn't there. A flickering thought makes me wonder if I have ever been that ungraspable thing.
In a moment of pure impulse, I grab her hand. Her eyes grow large. "Tonight, I am not royalty," I whisper. "Tonight, I am just Legolas."
A small smirk plays on her lips. "And what does 'just Legolas' intend to do with the hand he holds?" She says in a playful tone.
"This," and I kiss her hand. I gently regain my posture and look into her eyes as if for permission.
"Than come with me." I guide her into my room with her hand still in my grasp. The door is closed behind us and I realize that we are completely alone. A flutter runs through my heart. I have never been alone with a girl before.
She walks up to me. "Legolas?"
"Riel?" I respond.
"Please come here," she whispers. "For me." I nod and close the small distance between her and I. Our faces are about an inch away and her eyes are almost startling with their intensity. So, keeping with my impulsive mood for the night, I press my lips to hers.
She makes a small squeak of surprise but almost immediately kisses me back. My hands quickly encircle her waist and her arms fold around my neck. I deepen the kiss and it's almost as if time has stopped. There is only this and there has only ever been this. I like the feeling.
I pull away and my expression, I can imagine, is a perfect mirror of hers. Her eyes are large but you can see the smile in them. Her cheeks are pink with more of a glow than a blush.
"I-I have to go," Riel stutters and walks for the door.
"No!" I say much too loudly, but there is a funny undertone of boyish panic and so she smiles instead of startling. "Please," I try again in a more composed tone.
"I really can't!" She says with sadness bleeding into the expression of happiness she holds.
"Please. Everyone I have ever loved has left me. Please stay," my voice is so quiet I can hardly hear it. Still, I am shocked by the truth of my words. Her hand lingers on the door nob for only a moment before she takes it back and walks toward me.
I'm not even sure if she could have foreseen what she did next. She pushed me on to the bed and kissed me with a fierce passion. We talked for a while after that. We told stories and laughed and cried at each others good days and hardships. Around dawn, I was woken by Riel stating that I had only an hour before I must leave. I sit in bed almost stunned. However, something makes me look up.
Riel is dressed in warriors gear and has two packs at her feet. This confuses me because there is no need for two...unless. Unless there was only one for myself.
"Riel? What are you doing?" I ask with a warning tone to my voice. Why do I even ask when I already know the answer?
She walks over to me. "I'm coming," she says plainly. I can feel the color drain from my features and I am suddenly nauseous.
"No! I won't let you! I can't!"
"You claimed all your loved ones have left you. I won't," the calmness in her voice only makes me feel worse.
"You'll get yourself killed! I don't want this kind of loyalty! I command you, as your prince, to stay here!" I scream.
"I'm not leaving you!" She yells. Any elf in the palace could probably hear us now. I didn't care.
"If you love me you'll stay! If you care at all for me you'll stay." Tears roll down my cheeks as pristine as crystals and her expression softens if only slightly.
"I'm not coming to jump between you and another's sword Legolas. I'm coming to make sure we both make it home in one piece."
"You can't make sure of that," I whisper. She's endlessly stubborn but I'm glad her voice isn't as commanding anymore. Leaving is hard enough without someone to yell at me.
"Shhhh Legolas," her fingers stroke through my white-blond hair. "Look at me." I oblige. "I'm coming. And you can't stop me. I won't get hurt. I promise we'll make it home."
Then, she meets her lips with mine in a slow, soft kiss. She wipes the tears from my face and I let her. It's nice to be cared for. For the first time, I'm excited for the journey as much as I hate to be. I give a half-smile and know that for once, her features mirror my determination.