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Promises

Chapter 1: Promises

by Viv

AN: I’ve extrapolated that elves who are close to each other can communicate over distances. There is some slight evidence for this elven ability in the text, but it’s unclear and all my guesses are purely that: guesses.

Also, a quick note about the structure of this story: it is told in a series of drabbles, scenes of exactly 100 words.

Standard disclaimers apply: Professor T, I wouldn't borrow your world if I didn't love it so much. And, as with all of my stories, if anyone wishes to heckle, please let me know so I can come play, too.

Please see additional canon-related author notes following the story.


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Promises

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Lóridel lies with her love beneath the trees of dwindled Greenwood and feels the cold slow breath of fate.

“I go at my father’s behest,” Legolas explains, one hand deep in the hair at her nape. “Lord Elrond will want to know that the creature escaped. And how.” His jaw sets in the proud angle of elflords past. She touches it once, on a sigh. She feels his fingers tighten against her head, an unconscious caress.

“Be quick, then. Return to me ere winter is done. I cannot bear an echuir without you. And be safe, my love. Promise me.”


#


Songs swirl in the firelit room; legends rise into the air. Longing and lonely, Legolas gazes into the flame and reaches across the distance...

She dances with trees, to a soft-breeze song.

“These Eldarin elves do not dance,” he tells her.

“Tragic,” she laughs. “Come home, then.”

But he sobers. “I cannot. After midwinter, I shall embark upon a fell errand. I can say no more, but do not look for me.”

Her dancing feet pause; faery lights dim.

“Shadows grow already in the south,” she confesses; her soul shows flashes of fear and uncertainty. “War gathers. Please be careful.”


#


Her long hands knead deep in dough; Thranduil’s kitchens warm with the smell of her baking. Outside, winter lies heavy and white on the forest.

Darkness pricks her mind. She frowns, and her hands pause in the dough. The bulb of blackness unfurls, and she sees Legolas, and fire. Her breath hitches.

“Where...?” But the image is gone, now replaced by feelings. They come in a torrent: battle, duty, camaraderie, confinement, enveloping darkness, and, finally, death.

It is an alien feeling, cold and flat and grey. Her fingers flex in the dough, but the room is no longer warm.

"Mithrandir."


#


“Now why did we not wish for some of our own kinsfolk?” sighs the dwarf.

Legolas gazes far into the north, searching. On a fell breeze, he catches an image, still warm with her spirit. He smoothes it like fine paper.

Her hair knotted in a filthy kerchief, Lóridel stoops in a hand-dug hovel east of Anduin. Fear streaks her face. She nods once to the straw palate at her feet, and two elves bring in a third, his silver hair gore-matted and stained. A scout.

“I do not think that any would come,” Legolas answers. “War marches upon them.”


#


Days cease; Lóridel lives in night. Thranduil has sent her home with the rearguard, a last defense against annihilation. The Greenwood waits now: silent, expectant, hopeless. As her courage wanes, Lóridel searches southward for Legolas.

She sees him at war: his arrows like shooting stars in the darkness, his voice like a clarion, soothing and inspiring. She sees mortal women in a white city turn in awe as he rides past.

His fëa sings always of the sea now, and Lóridel knows that the distance between them has grown beyond mere leagues.

She resigns herself to a lack of dawn.


#


Legolas promised to visit the Aglarond with Gimli during a time of peace and freedom. But now he can no longer visualize peace and freedom. They are just words.

An elf is stolid, he reminds himself, even unto death. An elf looks to the judgement of Mandos if he should fall or fail. But even this reassurance cannot quell his fears.

The armies of the west form for their last advance. Legolas’s horse snorts, eager for the charge.

“Lóridel,” he whispers, under the hiss of six thousand swords unsheathing.

The Oroduin rears tall before him, and the Black Gates open.


#


“The darkness has gone?” the archer asks, his eyes murky with pain. Lóridel nods and soothes him. His wounds will heal by midsummer, she knows. Lóridel waits for him to sleep, and then she creeps beyond the tent and into the forest glen.

Dignitaries of two realms sit stiffly at a rough-hewn table; her lord faces Celeborn across its length. A treaty lies between them.

Lóridel inhales deeply, tasting freedom in the ashes of Dol Guldur. On that table, within that document, lies the future of her people. Of her.

She smiles slightly and takes her place at the table.


#


“You used to love trees,” Legolas says, wanting to convey the wise smell of Fangorn and the texture of ancient bark beneath his fingertips.

“I still do. My arborists replanted the eastern glade,” Lóridel replies. He sees her near the gates of Thranduil; they open at her gesture. Soot streaks them, and Legolas wonders how close the enemy came to defeating those gates.

“But we’ve much to do,” she continues. “Repairing our homes, healing the forest. We could use your help.”

He closes his eyes against the stab of guilt.

“I have made promises,” he whispers.

She smiles sadly.

“Yes.”


#


It has been years, yet she knows his face.

“I have wrought a forest fair,” he says, “only waiting for you to dance among its leaves.” He conjures an image of a place called Ithilien. The flowers are so suffused with color she can hardly stand it. “Come to me,” he urges.

She can almost remember the feather touch of his fingers, the warmth of his mouth, the tendril of his song through the night. These things seem like another life, both darker and dearer.

She hears the elvenking’s footsteps approaching.

“I have made promises,” she says, hiding the sob.


#


Each dawn is a trial, a test of his resolve.

The sea song pulls at his blood; it entangles his fëa. He holds it at bay through will alone. If she would but come here, he is certain she would know this yearning, too. And then they could sail west together to the bright bliss of Eressea.

When he dreams, the images are always of her... and of grey ships sailing for sunset. He wonders how long he can resist the lure, how long he can wait for her.

Each day in this Middle-earth is a proof of his love.


#


Lóridel pulls a long needle through her linen, letting the pattern work itself. Her thoughts are far away.

She knows he is building a ship. She admires its clean lines, the ash wood and silver sails. Legolas’s constant joy makes her yearn to be part of his adventure.

But even the wanting hurts. She does not understand how can he abandon his family, his people. His father named the Eryn Lasgalen for him, believing such a gesture would lure his errant son home.

Lóridel’s needle slips, pricking something other than cloth. She watches a red stain spread along her design.


#


They called the king of men Estel, the hope of his people. Legolas wonders where the hope has gone for his.

The gold of Lothlorien has faded, and the wise of Imladris have long sailed into the west. Only Gimli, dear though a dwarf, remains now by his side. Legolas always imagined Lóridel here with him, at the end. How furtive is fate.

The Queen of Gondor, once the Undomiel, weeps softly for her husband, placing upon his unmoving breast the last bloom of elinor.

Legolas sets a hand on Gimli’s stout shoulder as Estel, hope, is interred for evermore.


#


Lóridel lies beneath the green trees of Eryn Lasgalen. She has asked to be alone, and with sad eyes, her elvenking has given her leave.

Strange. She always expected grief to be sharp, as a wound or a birth or a kiss. But she does not ache now. She feels light, insubstantial. Incomplete.

Legolas’s grey ship sailed this dawn. She watched it from half a world away. With him sailed a dwarf, his dearest friend.

Now Lóridel holds her hands against the sky and watches her thin hröa fade.

“I will wait for you in Mandos,” she whispers. “I promise.”


#


Fin.


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ANs:

1. The name Lóridel is a hodgepodge of Nandorin bits, generally following the form of Nimrodel. "Lor" is a modifier meaning "golden."

2. Fans who have read the Silmarillion and the HoME books will be confused by the ending: There is no reunion in Mandos for these two. Legolas sailed westward with the expectation of winding up in Eressea, and things don't die there, so he would live out the remaining years of Arda there. Legolas and Lóridel would be separated for all eternity. Well, yes. That's the tragedy. See, Lóridel is not Eldarin. She's never been to Aman, never bothered with lore of the Noldor, never studied the wisdom even of Teleri like Thranduil. Her knowledge of the west is vague, so she's trusting that a reunion is possible. She may have some misplaced faith.

3. I've taken some license with the timeline here. Technically, the battles in the north did not begin until March 11. But Legolas speaks of the approach of such a war in LoTR (“Passing of the Grey Company”), so there might have been skirmishes a few days before the major assaults on Lorien and the woodland realm.