Hello from 2021! Finally, that horrible year of 2020 is officially over!

I hope everyone had a great new year and made some awesome resolutions. I haven't posted an update since December 2020. I am so glad I'm done with this chapter! It was quite challenging and I wanted to make sure I stay consistent with Tolkien's books. I kept rewriting this chapter because I hated what I started with, so I don't know how I feel about it yet. I hope you all would enjoy this update. I want to thank everyone for their reviews! I absolutely loved them all! As always, I answered the reviews at the end.

I have an author's note and trivia at the end!

This chapter is over 12,000 words... get comfortable!


Secrets of a Raven Beauty


Chapter 13

Endure

TA 2770

A single dancing flame flickered teasingly on the wick and faintly illuminated an amber glow in Calaerien chambers. There was no rhyme or reason for its existence but Calaerien was utterly captivated by its light. Even watched woefully as the draft whisked through the chambers and jeopardized the defenseless, lone, tiny flame on the table. The light scrambled on the wick swayed defiantly, and persisted dancing in the room. Tall and distorted shadows projected across the room. For what could have been hours seemed like years that rolled on without a single thought. There was no telling how long Calaerien was perched on her couch beside the cavern wall, alone with nothing but a single flame to keep her company. The time spent there allowed twisted thoughts to plague Calaerien's exhausted mind while toying with different scenarios that could have spared her mother's life. Could the simplest action cause a different chain of events? Or was all set in stone before their existent? Calaerien was left with more questions than answers. She couldn't adjust to the empty room or any place in the Mirkwood. The bleak reality was served cold. Therefore she tucked her knees to her chin and simply watched the candle slowly thaw into a puddle of wax.

The week of Erweth's death was ladened with sorrowful laments to honor her death. The wind chime voices of the elves vibrated through Mirkwood and reached Calaerien's distant ears. But Calaerien did not have the heart to uplift her voice to mold with the verses. Later in the month came Erweth's burial. All elves gathered in the gardens to sing and bear witness their farewell to a bright and lovely fea. Death was rare but its impact devastated those who remain. Each held a candle, illuminating the downcast expressions of the elves but none carried the desolate gleam as Calaerien. The orange horizon was devoured by the barrier of dark clouds that came with rumbles of thunder. The raven beauty stood amongst her people with Tauriel at her right, holding her hand as she did all those years ago when they were elflings. Tauriel was forever a shield that cast a long shadow over Calaerien. The raven hair elf curved her attention to her cousin who stared non-observantly, her lips barely moving to partake in the lament. Her mind lost in the sea of guilt and sadness. The guard captain was all the family Calaerien had left in Middle Earth.

Calaerien's tiny fingers tightened their hold on Tauriel with an unbreakable bond as Calaerien gazed up into the heavens and whispered a promise that only she could hear. A promise to always fight for her family.

Lost in sorrow, Calaerien scarcely noticed her old friend Calaphel snaking through the crowd and came to her other side. Calaphel's soft hand grasped Calaerien's for comfort as her thumb brushed gentle circles on Calaerien's skin. The clouds shifted above, rumbling before the first sprinkle of droplets descended down. The elves sang deeper, uplifting their voices against the burly sounds of thunder. As dawn broke over the horizon with droplets defiantly plunged to Middle Earth, the elf vacated from the garden. One by one they left until Calaerien stood alone. Calaerien sought solace in her favorite tree and curled in the crook of the branches. The canopy of leaves did little to shield her from the rain that plopped in rhythm on her pale face. She was drenched with dark strands of hair plastered to her form, but she did not care. She heard,

'Lean onto me, O fair one, for all the downcast in the world yearns for peace…'

News of warg-riders prowling the Widerlands threatened King Thranduil's peace of mind. For many years, Thranduil sensed a darker power festering upon what once was called Amon Lanc but now deserved the name Dol Guldur. Orophor's capital for the silvan elves was snatched centuries ago and forced the elves to retreat deeper into the Dark Mountain. Here in the fortress, Thranduil strived to protect his people from the fell things that were drawn to a dark force on the Hill of Sorcery. Whispers of a Necromancer reached Thranduil's keen ears and thus, he continued to calm his people's minds by throwing feast after feast. During all the festivities, Thranduil refused to remain idle and commanded the watch doubled on the borders of Mirkwood. Legolas burdened his father's commands and strategized patrol routes. The duties swallowed him and his patrol, and thus, they rarely returned to the fold.

During the time Legolas was patrolling the forest and destroying any spider-infested nest, he often reflected the demise of Erweth. It amazed the prince the shock of her death stirred in his people. Legolas often took his night watch in the trees beside Tauriel while his patrol scouted the area. Under the canopy of leaves, his eyes drifted to the guard captain who looked on with pure determination laced with torment. Her hands tightened on her bow to the point Legolas believed she would break the shaft. It made the prince wonder if it was fear or guilt that drove Tauriel's ambition to protect the people. Her will was ironed with fire and ice. Since Erweth died in Tauriel's arm, Legolas noticed the strongwilled elleth slowly receded behind her own walls to find comfort within herself and nature. There was no smile or a familiar twinkle in her eyes. It was simply dim. Legolas glanced away to gaze beyond, as his mind wandered to the raven-haired beauty locked safely in his father's halls. A kind and gentle elleth who never ceased to amaze him. He yearned peace for the Calaerien and hoped easy nights for her.

The days moved on with a blink of an eye when Legolas finally returned to the fold after a six-month patrol. The grand doors whined in protest to their welcome into the Halls. Legolas and Tauriel parted from the patrol as they made haste to the king's office chambers. There, hours were consumed as the King nip-picked every detail of their report on the borders. Tauriel and Legolas knew the king withheld information regarding his excessive need to increase patrol rotation but, whatever secrets he held, he made no attempt to share them. Evening came when Legolas was freed from his father. His desire lured the prince to seek out Calaerien's company when he dreaded his father's command. He would return to the borders at first light on the morrow. Sighing inwardly, Legolas felt fatigued by elven standards, and much to his dismay, Legolas retreated to his chambers for as much rest he could muster for tomorrow's duties. From that day forward, Legolas struggled to spare time for Calaerien but failed utterly short.

The harvest time of TA 2770 came rapidly with a promise of change on the horizon. The leaves of Mirkwood forest brightened in deep hues of green and rosy flowers twisting on the tree trunks. The beauty was ladened with flowery scents in the forest and enticed butterflies and birds to fill the realm. It was a beautiful sight that was tainted with the foul stench of Ungoliant's spawns. The spiders descended from the north, infesting the northern forest with their ilk. Thick webbing consumed the forest with patches of eggs and cocooned mammals for feasting. The patrol scurried to the infestation at the behest of the king and purged the forest once more that year.

That evening, Maenor climbed a burly tree to perch himself beside Legolas and shared his watch as the elves below feasted on lembas bread and conversed merrily. The prince's eyes were firmly directed north with a full view of the complex vision of the dark forest and, watch for any signs of spiders. Maenor grumbled beneath his breath, "It will not be long before we're called to cleanse the forest again."

In all the years Legolas has known Maenor, the snarky elf had always been serious but fiercely loyal. His tone brought a smile to Legolas's lips as he was reluctantly wrenched his glance away from the eerie forest. Maenor pulled out Lembas bread from his pouch and ripped a small piece and offered it to the prince. Legolas in question took the small piece of food gladly before he assured, "Aye, but worry not, we will protect this region."

Legolas plopped the pieced of bread in his mouth, which in time, it filled his empty belly.

"I have no worry about our abilities to defend our borders, my friend." Maenor claimed, his voice naturally deep and heavy with thought, "It concerns me that there will be no end to these foul creatures. They come time and time again. I yearn for the time when this was once called Greenwood of Old. "

Legolas listened intently, brewing on the content of his comrade's words and before he had a chance to reply, he heard the rhythm of hooves approaching from the distance. The patrol below silenced to the intrusive sounds and swiftly became animated with distrust. They gathered themselves into the tree, never leaving a print behind, and concealed themself in the canopy of leaves. Nothing was amiss. In their line of view came forth a lone rider, galloping on the trodden path and kicked pieces of mud in the horse's wake. The wind whipped the dark cloak, yanked the cowl back, and revealed the face of Filvendor, the king's spy.

Baffled by his appearance, Legolas lifted his fist to steady his people before he leaped off the branch. The prince landed perfectly on his feet on the moist ground, his boots slightly submerged in the mud to alert the spy of his whereabouts. Filvendor whispered a command in the chestnut stallion's ear, which the horse snorted disapprovingly but came to an easy halt before the prince. Fog escaped each time the horse snorted indignantly as it stomped its hooves and wanted nothing more than to burn its dominating energy.

Filvendor's presence gave the prince pause, for Legolas had no memory of his father sending word for the spy's return. As Legolas's mused on this unexpected greeting, Legolas noticed the once calm and charming flare to Filvendor's demeanor was replaced with a subtle dire tint in his green eyes. The very sight had Legolas on the edge when Filvendor instructed seriously, "My prince, we must make haste to the king."

Without question, the patrol came down from the trees and hastily escorted Filvendor to Thranduil's halls. For the spy would never abandon his post unless a true reckoning has occurred. They came to the fortress, greeted when the grand doors whined opened. Several elves glanced at the spy with curiosity but others were filled with concern. Soft whispers flowed around the patrol as they crossed the narrow bridge to the throne. Cradled on the throne was King Thranduil, adorned with his crowd of leaves and berries, hosting a meeting with Advisor Sarnor and his son Olithir. The advisors turned their gaze away from the king, baffled by the spy's presence. Any murmurs that echoed on the throne platform came to an utter stop when Legolas and his patrol delivered Filvendor before the king. King Thranduil rose from his throne and came to the edge of the elevated platform.

"Welcome Filvendor my friend of old." The king greeted, his voice deep with recognition but held a certain reprimand for the spy's presence. "What brings you to my halls?"

Filvendor stood in a crescent line with the patrol when he felt an encouraging squeeze on his right hand from his wife, Gaelira. He stepped forth, alone and basked beneath the intense gaze of his king. Bowing his head respectfully, Filvendor swept his hand across his chest in an elven fashion. As he straightened, he explained confidently, "My king, forgive my unannounced presence but I bear news from beyond the Woodland Realm and it will affect us all."

The King cocked a curious and neatly formed eyebrow as he looked upon his most trusted spy. He noted the urgency in Filvendor's voice, the concern in his eyes, and the rigid tenseness in his posture. At that moment, the king dulled the rebuke in his posture and prepared himself to heed his spy's intel. King Thranduil came down from the throne, his hand tucked behind his back, and came forth before the spy. He gave Filvendor his undying attention and added, "Pray tell, for I am most parched for this news…"

"Smaug the terrible has come down from the north and attacked Erebor and the city of Dale."

A soft gasp erupted before silence devoured everyone on the throne platform. Filvendor's words hung heavily like an unwanted odor. It elicited every warily glance that emitted nothing but disbelief. Long has the King under the Mountain ensconced on piles of gold and fine gems. Even hoarded starlight jewels, the King's weakness that was enclosed with heavy desire. The years before brewed with rumors of a sickness corrupting the mind of King Thror. With each new pile of gold filling the mountain, tales of the wealth matured and outstretched beyond the realm. Many came far and wide to gravel on the throne steps of Thror. Those very tales lured a terrible fire-breathing dragon from a place where such gems and gold grew scarce. A serpent whom King Thranduil wagered infested the Grey Mountains after Melkor bred the first drakes.

"Tell me everything." The king ordered thickly, eager to swallow the news.

The spy expressed, "I was near Erebor when a wind like a hurricane came down from the north. In the sky, came a dark shadow, piercing through the clouds, roaring, and breathing fire. The dragon first landed upon the mountain, setting the woods aflame, and burning everything in sight. The bells from the Dales rang. Many dwarves flee from the front gate but Smaug was waiting for them. They found their death in the mouth of the dragon. Nothing but fire and ash filled the halls of Erebor when he claimed the treasure. Then he set his eye upon the Dales. Most of their warriors were killed. Girion, Lord of Dale has fallen to this terrible beast!"

Tauriel felt her stomach twist uncomfortably as her heart palpated faster and faster. Dread was no stranger to the captain of the guard, but this was nothing like she was ever seen in her long life. She did not carry the same resentment for dwarves as her fellow kin, for she was too young to have lived through the perils of Doriath. She curved her attention to the prince who shared her bewilder look before she broke the gaze and glanced back at the king. A pause swelled, intensifying thickly in the air save for the birds chirping from above in the cavern. Filvendor's words plunged the elves into dark and twisted thoughts of the dangers of dragon fire. Stories of infamous serpents like Scantha and Glaurung enticed a rational fear for these beasts who were not easily destroyed. None dared to break the silence before the King has spoken. King Thranduil dwelled in tranquility on this news, neither surprised nor shocked for he had warned the King under the Mountain of what his greed would summon.

He acknowledged, "So the king under the mountain's greed has finally summoned the foulest of creatures."

There was no telling if the King thrived on the news of the dwarves' plight. The animosity between elves and dwarves soak deep in their memory since the days of Doriath. King Thingol's doom led to the sacking of Menegroth. Those who were unfortunate to remember the days of Doriath were festered with rancor and it deeply rooted for the generations to come. Their association with the dwarves of Erebor stood upon thin ice that cracked and splintered over the years but never collapsed for the gems of pure starlight resided in the mountain. Starlight which the elfking yearned for. But this dragon, a terrible and frightening beast prickled King Thranduil's mind and he feared the proximity of the mountain could endanger his people.

Thus, he mustered his legion of warriors and march to the mountain when the revelation became clearer. The army came before a cliff overseeing the slopes of Erebor. The elk snorted as King Thranduil halted his people as he overlooked the devastation of Smaug. Smoke rose to the horizon from the embers of the charred foliage on the slopes. Statues of dwarves were shattered before the front gate. It was now a barren wasteland, a new home to a fire breathing dragon. Since the Battle of Dagorlad that cost his father's life and one-third of the army, he was cautious of engaging with dark forces. King Thranduil knew too well of dragon fire and despite the brutality that Dale would endure, King Thranduil would not risk the lives of his kin. With that, King Thranduil retreated to his halls.

No aid went to Erebor or the Dales that season and any day since.

The months rolled on without any sense of time as news of Smaug was carried to every corner of the land. Messengers from Imladis, on Lord Elrond's behest, came to Thranduil's halls. The elves of Mirkwood welcomed their distant kin to their home. The intelligence of the dragon's activities was shared with the far lands, for most were concerned and requested updates. There were only wisps derived from fear of the dragon leaving its hoard to feast upon the mortals of Dale. Smaug swept through the city, claiming maidens and all to fill his empty belly until Dale fell into ruin. Any survivors fled to Laketown or beyond for refuge from the dragon. King Thranduil ordered Filvendor to return to the outskirts of Erebor and collect the intel of the dragon.

Trade with Ereber and the Dales came to a swift end and therefore, King Thranduil turned his eyes upon the men of Esgorath. Since the news of the dragon, the center trade of the north declined as merchants from far and wide refused to travel north. Esgorath fell from their pinnacle with only the Woodland Realm as their last trade route. Thus, Mirkwood became its crutch for survival.

King Thranduil poured over the reports given to him by his advisor Sarnor regarding their trade revenue with Esgorath. He gulped hungrily the wine from his goblet, as he leaned into his cushioned chair. Tension had accelerated as they advanced through the third age. Much has changed beyond the borders of Mirkwood, but the king was determined to endure. Brooding beneath the candlelight in his chambers with only the moon to keep him company, the king massaged the tender spot on his right temple. Long has the years been since the time when Orophor walked through the Woodland Realm. In such dark days, the king yearned for his father's council.

Thranduil rose from his desk and approached the open window in the carven. He basked under the moonlight as memories of his father flashed in his mind. Orophor, a Sindarin elf of Doriath, was proud in his own way, resentful of the Dwarves of Moria and intrusion of Lorien. There were few fond memories Thranduil held dear when he lived in Doriath. He remembered his mother, a fierce elleth who was strict but loved with a full heart and taught him the Sindarin way of life. When the destruction of Doriath robbed him of his first home, it also robbed Thranduil of his mother. The years in the woodland realm were ladened with harsh times but there was a beauty to found in every corner of this lush forest. One such beauty was his wife, who followed him after Doriath. It required four hundred years for Thranduil to earn his father's approval of his late bonded, despite her Sindarin heritage. In his youth, Thranduil did not understand such things until he fathered Legolas who now, in turns, became fond of Calaerien, a Silvan elleth. It did not escape his grasp of his Orophor's intend of merging the Sindarin elves with the Silvans. For the Sindarin were considered wiser and possess superior skill than their Silvan kin. The Silvan elves welcomed Orophor as their king. Here and now, as the current king of Mirkwood, King Thranduil yearned to keep his line Sindarin. His mind trailed to Lady Rivalel, whose heritage was saved by her parents who once lived in Doriath. Thranduil knew her parent before the Battle of Dagorlad claimed their lives. They bore Rivalel in the Greenwood the Great when they fled Doriath and chose to follow Orophor's rule. Her bloodline was noble, pure and King Thranduil found her worthy of his son.

As he looked on, lost in his own thought, King Thranduil worried for his only child.

Dawn climbed over the horizon with a rosy hue overlay on the morning clouds and the birds and crickets chirped in gladness. Legolas was greeted by the grand door opening to his arrival after a four-mouth patrol on the borders. The dragon only placed layers of responsibility upon Legolas's shoulders for he was the eyes and ears for his father, except for his spies who only return years at a time. Most of the patrol delighted in the halls and parted to reunite with their loved ones. Legolas and Tauriel wasted no time and made haste to the king's office chambers. It was never wise to make an ill-tempered king wane his patience. Behind those private walls, Legolas spent hours forming reports and discussed strategies with the king and the captain of the guard. It was dusk when Legolas retreated to his chambers to find rest in an elven slumber. It was the feast of starlight, a most beloved celebration but Legolas grew weary from the burden of his responsibilities to make an appearance.

Alone in his chambers, he perched himself before the warm hearth with a goblet of wine in his hand. The chair cradled his drained body. The heat licked his skin, relaxed his tense muscles, and almost lured him into a waking slumber. Though he yearned for rest, Legolas's heart was restless to the whispers reaching his ears. Whispers that expressed concern for a certain seamstress that Legolas suspect was Calaerien. The elleth's recluse nature trapped her in a solemn battle in her chambers. Even as an elfling, Calaerien handled her grief behind walls. Legolas's hand tightened on the stem of the goblet until his hand reddened and he glared at the dancing flames. Why hasn't Olithir comforted Calaerien in her time of need? Was he not courting the elleth? There were brief memories when his father congratulated Olithir for pursuing the elleth. That encouragement alone had Olithir requesting Calaerein to the dancefloor when Erweth resided in Lothlorien. Legolas sighed and rubbed the tender flesh of his temple.

The elleth stirred an unfamiliar sensation in his core. Legolas shifted in his chair to find a comfortable position for slumber but thoughts of Calaerien swayed in his mind, teasing his consciousness which denied him what he desired most at the moment. It had been over a year since Erweth's death, and during that time, Legolas only caught glimpses of the elleth who recoiled to the shadows again. Memories of when he came to her chambers that night circled his mind and he remembered how warm she felt in the crook of his arm. Beyond her sorrows, Legolas suspect something ladened deeper in Calaerien's distant behavior. There was a much great deal of things that escape him. Despite this downfall, Legolas hope to reach the elleth, his dear beloved friend. Sighing, Legolas rose from his chair and approached his desk beside his bed. With a sheet of parchment and quill, he wrote a letter beneath the moonlight.


The time came when Calaerien mustered the courage to gather her mother's belongings and gingerly tucked them away in Erweth's unmentionables. Everything in the chamber reminded Calaerien that her mother no longer walked the living world. Even her scent lingered in the corners of the chambers. Calaerien shut the chest, her heart constricted painfully. She struggled to breathe before she forced herself away from the memories that dallied in the chest. Erweth finally received what she desired most: To walk in the Halls of Mandos with Romonil. The thought brought a bitter smile to Calaerien's lips but it faltered when anger fermented in her chest. Calaerien wanted to be angry, scream, or anything that would let her mother know that she was furious. But how could she? If Legolas resided in the Halls of Mandos, Calaerien would not hesitate to follow him there.

With each passing day, Calaerien felt her fea dimming, fading from the loss. This world has already taken too much from her. Fear clawed its way to her mind, festered, and bred dreadful thoughts of losing Legolas or Tauriel who patrol the borders. Every fiber in her being desire to hold Legolas once more, much like when he came to her that one night. His comforting arms embracing her form. It was a place where Calaerien felt safest. That very thought elicited painful constriction of her heart. She missed his bright and loving fea, his warmth, the dimples that protrude on the side of his cheeks when he smiled genuinely and how his bright essences lured her in like a beacon in the night. But these dark days kept him from her.

These thoughts roamed in her mind, driving her to the brink of insanity. Sighing, Calaerien emerged from her chamber during the night when the realm was quiet. She stole away to the queen's yard, hoping to find Legolas leaning against the tree but knew her hopes would be in vain. The prince patrolled the borders this night and there was no telling when he would return. The ancient tree came into her line of view. It shuttered when Calaerien placed a tender hand upon its barks and the tree exclaimed.

'Bless my bark! My soul has longed for thee. Come! Bask in the starlight with me!'

She smiled sadly for she could not deny that her grief was the cause of her absence. Due to this reflection, she mentally apologized before her hand slipped away from the bark. Calaerien tugged her skirt up to climb around the ancient tree roots and perched herself on a thick root beside the burrow. The crisp wind thrust through the yard, fumbling with her stands while she traced the designs of the tree bark with her fingertips. Everything from the fresh scent of damp grass to the dirt comforted Calaerien, for she relished such things. She removed her slippers to allow her feet to submerge in the moist dirt, loved the coolness and grass wiggling between her toes. Sighing softly, Calaerien's eyes drooped to the burrow where her weapons were lost in the foliage with peaks of white, pink, and orange floret ready to blossom. Any desire for training dwindled over the months.

Two eyebrows furrowed in curiosity to the corner piece of parchment paper sticking from the roots of the flowers. Gingerly she snatched the letter and read,

My lady Calaerien,

With each moon that falls from the sky, I

grew with regret for my absence in your time of need. For that, I beg

your forgiveness and I hope the nights are king to ye. The loss of a loved one is

a painful burden that I share with you. Please, during your time grief,

I beg of thee not to submit to your grief. Remain steadfast, and in time,

you will gather the strength to endure. A strength that I know

is buried deep inside.

Forever a dear friend of yours,

Legolas

Calaerien was at a loss when she first when the note, her eyes widened in surprise before she inhaled sharply to suppress a pleased chuckle that slipped from her lips. She reread the letter several times, loved each word he wrote for her. It even had his scent lingering on the parchment. Even with the burdens of this kingdom on his shoulders, the prince still thought of her. Familiar butterflies fluttered her stomach and lured Calaerien to hasten her return to her chamber. From there, she forged her response and tucked the secret note with the roots of their ancient tree.

The night Legolas return to the realm after another patrol, he went to the yard and found Calaerien's letter.

Prince Legolas,

Your note was a most delightful find.

As for your apology, there would no need to forgive for I understand

the burden which you carry on your shoulders. It has been many moons

since we gathered here in secret. I take comfort that my cousin is in good company with you.

I pray to the Valar for Tauriel's and your safety on the borders.

Yours truly,

Calaerien

From that moment forward, correspondence letters were securely tucked with the ancient tree in the queen's yard.


Harvest Season, TA 2773

Calaerien perched upon the stool working with her spindle and tapping the pedal to rotate the wheel of the wooden machine. Fibres cotton was sucked into the orifice hole and tethered on the bobbin. She kept the newly designed thread tight, perfectly balanced for the loom, where she'll weave her threads into rolls of fabrics. But her hands lacked the same determination and passion as before. The years moved in a blink of an eye, such is the life of an elf. After Calaerien came out of her mourning period, she returned to her craft but only accepted scanty few commissions as she eased back into the routine. Her chamber was completely disarrayed to the point Calaerien could hear her mother scolding her from the Halls of Mandos. Unrolled fabrics, unfinished gowns, and unbounded threads littered across the floor and her couch. How it became this way, Calaerien could not answer. Her deft hands collapsed to her lap as she sighed forlornly. Her fea struggled during these days without the warm and bright fea of the prince to guide her through such darkness. She rose elegantly from her stool and approached her unmentionable where she tucked away a small wooden box. Opening the lid, within was an abundant amount of correspondences from the prince. It was their way of communication during the prince's hectic responsibilities. She removed the recent letter, rereading the elegant handwriting,

It is my hope Calaerien, that this kingdom endures

the darkness which I knew brews in the east. It burdens my mind.

It is what I fear that may come. Your

letters have given me hope and hope is

our greatest strength.

~ Legolas

Calaerien's heart slowly sank to her stomach for she too has felt a shift in the air. Something evil lurked in the shadows like a wolf amongst sheep. She theorized the dragon played a part in the darkness, though it was pure speculation. Deep down, Calaerien knew it would be only a matter of time before all evil things will come into the light and devour it with hunger. Sighing inwardly, Calaerien returned the letter and thus, the box into her unmentionables. Closing the chest with a firm thud, Calaerien's mind wandered to the prince. She yearned to see the contours in the prince's face, to feel his warmth and witness the small dimple on his cheek. But it has been many moons since her eyes landed on the prince in these halls.

"Do not believe in hope when there is none."

The king's voice came to her mind again, haunting and shaming her for desiring Legolas. Though she had no choice in the matter. Even since she saw him in the clearing, Calaerien knew her heart no longer belonged to her. The prince was her friend, born of Sindarin heritage which was considered noble and much more refined than any silvan elf. He was out of her league. Lost in her own twisted thoughts, she scarcely heard the soft steps from behind her door when a knock broke her train of thought. Two eyebrows furrowed in curiosity, for she was not expecting any visitors this day.

Calaerien came to the door before she hesitantly cracked it open and between the tiny gap in the threshold stood the lighthearted Calaphel.

"Good Morn, Calaerien." She greeted in gladness, her voice embellished with wind chimes, and smiled widely. Obviously pleased to catch the young elleth off guard by her unannounced presence. She chuckled and jested, "I do hope you do not intend to keep me out here, Little Calaerien."

Calarerien blinked in surprise for she was trapped in a dumbfounded trance before she hastily widened the threshold. It was not her intention to appear rude to her first patron and friend. Without any invitation, Calaphel took an eager step forth and pressed a kiss on Calaerien's cheek. Calaerien blushed to the affection and before she could utter a word, Calaphel swooped into her chambers. Smiling in gladness, Calaphel rounded the elleth before she came to an abrupt halt. Calaphel's jaw dropped, utterly horrified by what was before her. A disarrayed mess that would send chills to every servant in the realm.

Without so much of a pleasantry chatter, Calaphel turned on her heel, crossed her arms over her chest, and scolded, "Calaerien, had a Balrog destroyed your chamber?"

Heat rose to Calaerien's cheeks for she was embarrassed to the sheer thought of the mess in her chambers. She was not expecting to host guests, therefore she tensed uncomfortably beneath Calaphel's criticizing stare. Her small fingers played uncomfortably with the shirt of her gown as she explained, "I was working on different commission and did not expect company today."

"I concur." Calaphel agreed, her eyes drooped to the ground and followed the train of fabrics that littered around the chamber. Sighing, Calaphel softened her judgmental glare before she planted herself on the couch. She tapped the cushion beside her and cooed, "Come, sit next to me, my friend."

Calaerien was almost hesitant before she came to Calaphel's side and moved a green unfinished gown to perch herself next to the golden-haired elleth. She struggled to relax when Calaphel smiled, her eyes glistered with love for her young friend. Calaphel tucked a stubborn strand of raven hair behind Calaerien's ear when she added softly, "My dear, I have been worried for you. When I lost my mother, I was mournful for some time as well."

Calaerien pursed her lips before she sighed in defeat. She placed her hands in her lap to once again fidgetted with her gown. It was her only distraction. She murmured candidly, "I miss her dearly."

"Aye, as do I." Calaphel offered softly, understanding Calaerien's plight. She planted a comforting hand over Calaerien's and smiled in a way that only Calaphel could master. It put Calaerien at ease when Calaphel inquired in a serious tone, "Please be honest with me. How are you doing in these conditions?"

Calaerien glanced at her friend, their eyes connected before Calaerien answered firmly, "I am holding my own."

The older elleth nodded in comprehension, trusting the truth in Calaerien's word and allow Calaphel some peace of mind. Calaphel was no strange to the loss of a loved one and knew trials that came with it. Suddenly, Calaerien watched in utter fascination when Calaphel kind and calm expression morph wickedly followed by an impish smile. Calaphel inquired suggestively, "And how's your prince?"

"Ai!" Calaerien exclaimed, her eyes widened followed by a deep blush that contoured her slender cheek. This reaction only earned her a chuckled from Calaphel who utterly enjoyed teasing her. Calaerien straightened with her chin tilted and she attempted to soothe her humiliation, "Calaphel, I do not know what you speak of."

Calaphel laughed outright, almost patronizing when she added, "Do spare me, little Calaerien. I remember the dance. The way you two were gazing into each's eyes." Calaphel exaggerated with a dreamy voice before she continued, "I would not be surprised if Lady Rivalel choked on her wine."

Two eyebrows furrowed deeply on Calaerien's fair face when she inquired, "Why would you say that?"

Calaphel glanced at Calaerien, baffled by her question when she retorted, "Because, the Sindarin elleth has had her eyes on the prince since you both came here."

Calaerien swallowed hard, hated the bitter truth regarding Lady Rivalel. A surge of jealousy fermented in her chest at the thought of the beautiful lady tempting her prince. She did not like the idea of it, in fact, she loathed the image of Lady Rivalel sitting on the throne at Legolas's side. Swallowing the images could almost choke Calaerien, but she shook her head of those thoughts. Deep down, all she truly cared for was the prince's happiness. If Lady Rivalel was Legolas's choice, Calaerien would only support him.

A predatory chuckle snapped Calaerien out of her thoughts as she looked to Calaphel who's eyes danced with mirth, "I believe I hit a nerve. You were not too happy with that idea."

Calaphel pinched Calaerien's arm in a friendly gesture. How should love the cute reactions from Calaerien. When Calaerien made no attempt to respond to her bait, Calaphel sighed out of boredom before she waved her hand and murmured, "Fine, keep your secrets. I suppose I would share your plight if another pursued Maenor. Now, I came because I hoped to commission your services."

Calaerien blinked in surprise when her eyes roamed her chambers at the number of unfinished gowns that seemed to pile up. She hesitantly started with a guilty tone, "I... well..."

Calaphel followed Calaerien's glances at all the projects littered in her chambers. She only smiled kindly and explained, "I have a confession, my friend."

Calaerien looked to Calaphel, surprised by her own desire to hear when Calaphel has to say. Calaphel continued, "Do you not hear anything different?"

Baffled by the question, Calaerien almost believed this was another one of Calaphel's tricks when she retorted suspiciously, "Nay..."

"Listen carefully." Calaphel urged with an excited whisper.

Calaerien sighed by humored her friend as she focused only on her hearing. Soft melodies from the Forest River mixed with birds and snorts from elk reached her ears, but Calaerien continued to search. The candlelights burning on the wick festered her hearing followed by the billowing of her curtains. Then she heard Calaphel's heartbeat slowing increasing with anticipation, but then, between all the sounds that pulled at Calaerien consciousness, there one something hidden beneath. Thump, Thump... Thump, Thump... Calaerien's eyes narrowed on Calaphel's belly, as realization dawned on her and she brought her curious eyes to Calaphel.

Calaphel smiled in triumph, her eyes glistened in gladness. Eagerly, Calaphel snatched Calaerien's hand and place her palm on her belly, "You hear it, yes? I am expecting..."

Calaerien's lips parted in surprise before she released a breath that she did not realize she was holding. Excitement fermented in her chest as she inquired, "Truly? This is exciting news, my friend."

"Aye." Calaphel retorted with the same level of enthusiasm, "Maenor and I were not sure if we should bring an elfling in these dark times, but we yearned for a family of our own... You understand, yes?"

There was a subtle need for acceptance lingering in Calaphel's eyes. A gleam that almost surprised Calaerien for Calaphel always carried a lighthearted but strong will demeanor. Images of Maenor and Calaphel parenting an elfling filled Calaerien with warmth for there hasn't been an elfling in Mirkwood for centuries. Deep down, Calaerien knew Calaphel would make a wonderful mother, a thought that only bred a kind smile to her lips. A smile that was genuine and reached her depressed gleam in her eyes and transformed them into gladness. Calaerien could barely contain her enjoyment when she retorted, "Aye... And yes, I would be honored to create clothing for this little one."

"Oh I know I could count on you!" She exclaimed in gladness, her natural enthusiasm tainted her tone followed by a wide smile. "Let me know what the sufficient price would be. I am sure we will come to an agreement."

The elleths rose from the couch as Calaerien escorted Calaphel to the chamber door. They embraced momentarily when Calaphel pulled away, her hands firm of Calaerien's shoulder, and smiled lovingly on the young elleth. Calaphel was grateful not only for Calaerien's skills but her acceptance regarding her pregnancy. There was an irrational fear gnawing at the back of her mind of her kin scolding her for choosing to bring an elfling into the world. But Calaerien eased her mind and a weight was lifted from her shoulders. Calaphel murmured, "You pleased me greatly, my friend. Do not be a stranger."

Calaerien nodded in comprehension before she retorted, "I promise, Calaphel."

Calaphel smiled again, her hand dropped to her side before she opened the door. She paused before she glanced at Calaerien ordered maternally, "Calaerien, do clean your chambers."


Noon came that day and Calaerien finished several bundles of threads which she attached to her loom. With her, came the stool and perched it before the wooden machine. Her favorite step of crafting was weaving fifteen hundred count threads for her layers of sheets. It often relaxes her mind but as she sat before her loom, any desire that once festered in her core diminished from her fingertips. Gazing non-observantly, Calaerien found herself lost in a labyrinth of thoughts. It was regarding the babe swelling in Calaphel's belly. It wheeled in her mind, taunted, and harassed her until she questioned her own sanity. Why would this bother her so? News of an elfling was beyond precious and brought true pleasure to her kin. Soon, news of an elfling will spread like wildfire amongst her people and all would shower the babe with gifts.

There hasn't been an elflings since Calaerien was in her youth. She was the second youngest elf in Mirkwood.

Curiosity prickled her mind of what pregnancies were like. How did it feel to have a babe in the womb? Never before had Calaerien been interested in the idea of childbearing but here and now, her mind wandered to such things. It produced regret for never asking her mother these questions. Her eyes drooped down to her own stomach, where her hands laced together over her flat belly. Her imagination toyed with ideas of bearing an elfling with Legolas... Then she felt her cheeks flushed to the idea before she shook her head of those thoughts. Even if Legolas returned her affections, there was no promise he would look kindly upon having an elfling. Most elves reframed from producing children due to the fears of today's world. Surprise pregnancies were unheard of amongst her kin. However, Calaerien understood Calaphel's desire of creating her own family.

Sighing to the tormenting thoughts, Calaerien found herself gazing at Romonil's weapons on the cavern wall. It has been several moons since her fingers thrived on the tantalizing resistance of a bow. Her father's bow was the forbidden fruit. Then suddenly, she felt a twitch, a flame rising from the embers that have gone cold. The corner of her lip lifted into a determined smug. With swift movements, Calaerien snatched her father's effects and escaped her barren chambers. Insolently, she sought for the archery range where she would hone her skill in broad daylight until the inquisitive eyes of her kin.

On the northern slopes of the mountains of Mirkwood was the finely designed yard perched on a ridge. It had a protective wall surrounding the vast range with neatly trimmed trees hoovered it. It overlooked the expansive forest below, leading to the far distances where the Grey Mountains were concealed by thunderous clouds. It was not all an archery range but held a spacious space for the stables of well-bred horses and elks. Nearby was a training field for swordplay where several elves clashed their weapons and sharpened their combat skills beneath the bright sunlight. Many of Calaerien's kin came to the yard, conversed in gladness, and exchanged advice and tips. Elves raced on horses along the edge of the yard, laughing and taunting each other. Calaerien loved to witness two foals that stumbled out of the stables next to their mothers but were lured out by the commands of the elves.

Calaerien strolled the yard and found it oddly overwhelming. It was disconcerting when she received questioning glances from her kin, who were aware of her mother's distaste of Calaerien learning any form of weaponry. She swallowed hard and kept her chin up as she adorned herself with her father's effects. She came to the archery range and planted herself before her target. Sounds of whooshes blared in her ears as her kin honed their skills. A satisfying thud of their arrows finding their mark almost made Calaerien green with envy. The elleth took a deep breath, expanding her lungs to release the tension that swelled in her chest.

Calaerien prepared herself, notched the arrow to the string, and attentively pulled it back. Romonil's bow was nothing like her own. It was a bold, large, and much more deadly of a weapon. The resistance was much more intense, causing her muscles to quiver. It was tantalizing, taunting her to release before she was ready. However, Calaerien was not swayed. She only narrowed her eyes on her target, calculating the distance before her fingers released it. The arrow soared in the distance and landed below the target.

A frown emerged on her lip when she heard, "Your mother would be disappointed."

A familiar voice fractured Calaerien's concentration. Calaerien scowled to the thought of her cousin behind her with a disappointed grimace on her face. The elleth lowered her bow before she curved her attention over her shoulder with the wind tugging her hair to her face. There stood Tauriel, much like how Calaerien imagined it. The captain of the guard's arms was firmly crossed her chest and everything in Tauriel's postured carried indignation.

"She's not here to be disappointed." She retorted bluntly, her voice polluted with aggravation and mixed with chagrin. She kept a defiant and level gaze with Tauriel who only sighed in frustration. Calaerien disliked Tauriel reminding her of Erweth's displeasure of her learning weaponry. Despite Erweth's reasons, it kept Calaerien ignorant of defending herself if a time of need came. They grew distant since Erweth's death, lost in a labyrinth of their own sorrow. A thin line compressed on Tauriel's face as Calaerien continued, "I thought you were on patrol."

"I returned a fortnight ago, which you would have known if you had not holed yourself in your chambers."

The comment almost clawed at Calaerien for she detested Tauriel's reprimanded tone. She bristled but refused Tauriel's bait. Huffing through her nostrils, Calaerien turned away with irritation flowing through her veins. Her hands yanked an arrow a little too roughly from the quiver as she returned her eyes to her target.

"I am surprised you have skill with the bow since you never trained…"

Tauriel's suggestive tone caused Calaerien to stiffen slightly under her scrutiny but Calaerien kept her attention away from her cousin, fearing the truth would roll off her tongue. There was no need to give King Thranduil further suspicion regarding her… relationship with the prince. If she could call it that. She had no desire to feel those icy blue eyes of the king narrowed solely upon her again.

"Do not believe in hope when there is none."

His voice echoed in Calaerien's mind again, and only fueled Calaerien to hastily notch her arrow and aim at her target. The voice hurt more than Tauriel's reprimanded voice. Everyone in her life assumed what she should and shouldn't do. Limits that kept Calaerien locked in a box until Legolas turned the key to set her free from those confinements. Calaerien loved her mother, but she would never return to the box nor retreat from the unspoken boundaries. Then Tauriel sighed loudly and shattered Calaerien's thoughts.

Tauriel softly strolled closer to Calaerien, rounded to her side followed by a strict order, "Move your hand lower."

Calaerien blinked in surprise at Tauriel's instructive tone for she almost suspected there would have been an argument bursting between them. She cast a furtive glance at Tauriel from the corner of her eye and found Tauriel assessing her stance with those sharp and experienced eyes. A nudge prompted Calaerien to tuck her right foot inward. Firm hands came to Calaerien's shoulder and curved them back for a stronger posture. Then Tauriel redirected Calaerien's hand on the shaft. From all the small tweaks, Calaerien found herself balanced and comfortable with her father's bow.

"Breathe deeply when you pull back the arrow…." Tauriel directed, taking a step back, and watched her cousin follow her instructions. As Tauriel circled her cousin, she found no other problem in her stance. It surprised Tauriel to find muscle in Calaerien's arms and sharpness in her eyes. How long has her cousin been training beneath Erweth's nose? Why did Calaerien never trusted her with that information? Tauriel sighed forlornly to those thoughts when Calaerien released her arrow and it soared powerfully before it pierced the dead center of the target.

Calaerien lowered the bow, eyed her arrow. It was a good shot compared to her previous attempts, but there was no victory. She did not feel any better than she did before.

"Calaerien…" The tender voice of Tauriel elicited Calaerien to glance at her. Tauriel came before her cousin, placed a firm hand on Calaerien's shoulder. For but a moment, Tauriel was hesitant and her eyes softened to reveal just Tauriel. An elleth who was burdened with sorrow but also compassion. Calaerien missed this side of Tauriel. She missed her cousin.

"I do not wish to fight with you. I...I..." Tauriel drifted, her eyes drooped from Calaeriens'. "I..I.. am sorry."

Calaerien furrowed in worry when Tauriel spoke with regret. Whatever anger filled her heart melted to reveal nothing but love for her cousin. A strong elleth who strived to protect her with all her might, but at the end of the day, she was simply Tauriel. Calaerien cradled Tauriel's cheek in a loving manner when Tauriel returned her sorrowful eyes to her. No words slipped from Tauriel's for whatever words she could have spoken were lodged in her throat. Tauriel brought her hand up and clasped it over Calaerien's wrist followed by a desperate smile.

"I know. Do not burden your heart, my dearest cousin." Calaerien murmured, her voice laced with tenderness for her only cousin. She brushed Tauriel's cheek, welcoming her with open arms. "I do not place blame upon you, neither would my mother. Please be at peace."

Tauriel slowly brought her eyes back to Calaerien, who warmed her with her smile and gentle eyes. Tauriel released a deep breath after her shoulders were lifted from a terrible weight. The cousins laced their hands together and strolled back to the fortress, conversing like they have done when they resided in Lothlorien.


Spring - 2774

Years have come and gone in a blink of an eye. It was an odd sensation for Calaerien to believe her mother hasn't walked Thranduil's Halls in four years nor enjoyed the countless feast thrown for every occasion. It was the first day of spring, the feast was nothing short of dazzling and splendorous. Birds looped through the cavern hole, singing, and chirping in their wake. The orchestra played a jovial tone which elicited elves to dance, sing and gather in groups to converse. They found joy in the simplest things and loved the wine. Calaerien strolled the brim of the celebration in the Grand Halls, basking in the merriment. Clad in a light peach gown and a sheer white overlay embellished with dramatic red floral designs and gold beadings. Raven hair unbounded freely down her back like a black river at night. The atmosphere induced a smile on Calaerien's face until she glanced at Calaphel who relished the company of several elleths. Beside Calaphel stood Maenor who kept his hand on the small part of her back, almost embracing his bonded with his protective form. Their intimacy made Calaerien pale with envy. News of Calaphel's conception sparked swiftly as all were quick to adorn Calaphel with praises and were beyond eager for an elfling. Their laughter brought a bittersweet smile to Calaerien's lips and without her permission, her hands surfaced her flat and empty belly. Every fiber in her being was envious of Calaphel.

Was it possible for her to experience childbearing with whom she desired most? Would it be wrong to bring an elfling in these dark times? Deep in her heart Calaerien knew the time of peace would come to an end. Calaerien furtively brought her attention to the crescent royal table and found the King alone with only a goblet of wine to company him. The realization came to her when she noted the king never participated in these events but rather watch from afar. Was it to overseer the gladness of his people or control from the shadows? There was no answer to her muses but as she gazed at him, only his voice seeped into her mind.

"Do not believe in hope when there is none."

Sighing in defeat, Calaerien glanced away and her hand slipped from her unproductive belly. Why was she fond of the unattainable? The grand doors whined open, gripped the curious glances of the elves when Prince Legolas emerged to the feast. Silence stilled the halls for the briefest moment before the elves adorned the prince with greetings, eager for his attention. Dark grey robes hugged his toned body and outlined the shimmer of his silvery hair. He smiled affectionately upon his subjects who welcomed him to the feast. It has been many moons since his last appearance at any feast. Nothing about the crowd overwhelmed the prince but Calaerien noted how genuinely pleased he was to see his kin in high spirits.

The sight of him tugged on Calaerien's heartstrings as her fea vibrated and yearned at her heart's desire.

The crowd parted as Legolas went deeper into the Hall and merged into a conversation with a group of elloths who laughed merrily. Calaerien steered toward the doors, to obtain a clearer view of him when her eyes were drawn in by glimpses of golden hair. From the crowd came forth Lady Rivalel, clad in a dark purple gown and lavished in gems and ribbons. She held a secret smile that was almost seductive and alluring. Lady Rivalel ensnared the prince's attention and lured him to a private conversation. Though he smiled politely at the elleth, there was no evidence of his dimples protruding his cheeks. He spoke animatedly toward her when he glanced away and his eyes scanned the hall... hunting... searching...

It may be vanity that elicited her to believe he searched for her amongst their kin. Calaerien intended to make herself known to the prince when she felt a pair of eyes on her. Sensing the direction of the scrutinizing, Calaerien lulled her attention to the king and almost froze in alarm. Those icy blue eyes bore solely upon her with such disparagement, as if he read her mind and knew of her intentions. Everything regarding his gaze burned her core and left her fea charred. There was a subtle warning in his gaze and it forced Calaerien to hastily glance away, fearing she would crumple. Her heart ached deeply until her knees quivered. The pain was beyond unfathomable and without another word, Calaerien turned on her heels. She made long strides to escape the sounds of jovial laughter and dancing.

The grand doors welcomed her retreat and Calaerien scurried to the narrow bridge in the fortress. Once she was out of sight, she breathed heavily as if she was held beneath the water. Every part of her body shivered uncontrollably, her fea ached when she suddenly heard, "Evening, Calaerien."

The voice stopped her in her tracks and caused her heart to skip a beat before it constricted agonizingly. Reluctantly she turned and found the prince in the corridor, only steps away from her. How she did not hear his approach? Calaerien did not know, nor was she unpleased by his presence. He carried a concerned expression that deepened when he noticed the distressed look upon Calaerien's face. Without warning, he came to her side and inquired worriedly, "What ails you Calaerien."

Those deep blue eyes bore into hers, searching through the window for every crevice of her soul. It left her feeling naked and exposed. The damn which imprisoned the river of her heart cracked and weakened beneath his gaze. The very thought was almost her undoing. It took almost every fiber in her being to keep herself in control despite the quiver of her lower lips. She shook her head to buy herself another second before she retorted with much effort, "I am well. No need to have concern for me."

"Aye, you are truly convincing," Legolas added sardonically, cocked a single and unconvincing eyebrow at her attempts. Calaerien swallowed with much difficulty as another crack weakened her barriers. Legolas reached out to tuck a defiant strand of Calaerien's hair but thought better of it and returned his limp to his side. There was a shift in his expression when the prince took a furtive step away from Calaerien after he realized how close they were. Legolas articulated softly, "The feast has barely begun, and yet, you choose to leave..."

It was not a question but an observation that Calaerien curious and almost pleased that he was aware of her whereabouts. Her fingers tugged playfully with her skirt, tracing the floral designs before she retorted softly, "I have no desire to feast this night."

"Has Olithir troubled you?" Legolas questioned with protectiveness, his voice was stricken hauntingly to the point it sent a chill down Calaerien's spine. Every muscle in his body tensed, ready for battle.

"Olithir?" Calaerien repeated, baffled by Legolas's assumptions and even more so by his behavior. Never before has Legolas reacted to the mere name of Olithir. She assured in bewilderment, "No of course not."

The harsh glint in his eyes dissipated, followed by two eyebrows furrowing on his fair face. He sighed before imploring, "I assumed he would escort you back to your chambers if you do not wish to stay at the feast."

"You have me confused?"

"Is he not courting you?" Legolas inquired, it was his turn to be confused. Calaerien could almost hear the gears turning and steaming to his endless thoughts. Whatever intensity that tainted his voice was replaced with amends when he offered, "He is... a worthy elf and would be deserving of you, my lady."

Calaerien found something odd lingering in his gaze. They were first guarded, reluctant to reveal anything when the cracks of yearning broke through the deep depths of his gaze. She had never seen that before. It left Calaerien surprise, confused... and then frustrated. It vexed her how oblivious Legolas could be. How could he not see the devotion she doted upon him? Her eyes only hungered for him and yet, he believed her heart fancied the son of the advisor? Every fiber of her being had to suppress the storm rampaging through her veins.

Calaerien explained tersely, "I ended his advances many seasons ago."

"Ah, forgive me, I have no claim to assume in your private affairs." Legolas expressed, slightly relieved by the news but removed all emotion from his voice when he offered, "If you do not desire to return to the feast, I shall escort you to your chambers,"

"I intend to go to the garden." Calaerien declared, her voice calm after her momentarily vexation. There might have been a flash of disappointment in his expression, but it was so brief that Calaerien believed she had conjured it. She extended casually, "...Perhaps escort me there?"

The corners of Legolas's lips tugged upwards into a dashing smile that almost lifted Calaerien's despondent heart. With a nod, Legolas fell in line with her pace across the narrow bridge. Calaerien's arms drooped to her side as she observed the empty fortress save for a selected few elves on duty. The river below them offered a soft melody in their ears. She shyly cast a glance up at the prince, marveled to have him by her side. Calaerien inquired thoughtfully, breaking the comfortable silence, "If I may, what made you believe Olithir was courting me?"

Legolas stiffened slightly, almost embarrassed by the question when he answered truthfully, "My father made it known some time ago in court," His voice drifted off, his cascaded attention below where the river coursed beneath them. He continued softly, "I assumed…. I suppose it no longer matters."

Silence consumed them and left them alone with their own thoughts. Every fiber in Calaerien's being begged her to say something... anything but felt her voice lost to the ages. King Thranduil's deep eyes barreled in her mind, almost made her recoil to those thoughts. But if there was the smallest chance that Legolas may in fact return her affection... She would not care if Morgoth himself threatened her. Her heart would overpower any ill-will thought or action. The narrow bridge slowly thinned, drew the elves closer together until their hands briefly touched. The familiar sense of intimacy coursed through her and vibrated her fea to their connection. Even as they came to a platform before the archway leading to the gardens, neither was eager to step away.

The garden was lavished with bright and deeply hued flowers and full trees. The Forest River rushed through the lushed garden, connecting with small streams. Birds flew freely, chirping to the evening sky as many build nests. The horizon stretched with deep colors of red converting to pink and gave a romantic ambiance. They approached Calaerien's favorite tree which blossomed with white flowers and had a canopy of leaves shivering to the brisk wind. Calaerien first relaxed against the trunk, loved the rough feeling of bark pressed against her skin. Ocean blue eyes firmly pinned on the prince who leisurely peered around the garden, almost as if he'd never seen it before. Everything in his posture slowly calmed to the warm horizon after months of being on patrol.

'Welcome! Welcome my friends! I am glad to see thee!'

The eerie voice of the tree whispered in their minds, lured smiled to develop of their lips. The dimples in Legolas's cheeks revealed themselves when he connected his gaze with Calaerien who enjoyed the carefree surroundings. As their eyes lingered, Calaerein could do nothing but smile. It surprised her how easy it was to fall into a comfortable silence with the prince. Calaerien decided to utter, "I desire to thank ye for your letters. They were... a light in my darkened world."

A rosy hue grazed her cheeks for her bluntness as she once again toyed with her skirt. Her eyes trapped by his gaze as he came closer to the elleth, stood but a foot apart. Her legs becoming weak. He whispered, "I am glad to of service to you."

The air changed, as nothing exists but the familiar intimacy between them. She blushed when his eyes dropped to her lips and back. Was it possible for Legolas to return her affections? Air was ensnared from her lungs when her heart constricted with anticipation. The prince took a furtive step closer, focusing Calaerien to lean heavier back against the tree and forced her to swallow to his proximity. Her heart raced, pounded in her ears, and no doubt he could hear. Legolas tucked a loose strand behind her ear before his hand traced down the contours of her cheeks and outlined her bottom lip. The years that parted them only made the desire grew in Calaerien chest. But there was a warning in the back of her mind.

'Do not believe in hope when there is none.'

The king's voice echoed in her mind, attempted to demolish her confidence. But there was hope. It lingered in his eyes and felt it through his fingertips. She felt his yearning, his fea brightened blindly and shimmered against hers. It never occurred how close they were, how they leaned until she felt his warm breath grazing her tingling lips. Everything urged her to close the gap, the distance that laid before them for so long. Nothing lingered between them. Not rank, nor heritage. Simply an elloth who stood before an elleth, risking everything.

She brought her fingers to his chin, never felt the soft skin of his face. It still felt odd how she was allowed to do such a thing, but she loved it. Breathing heavily, Calaerien whispered, "Legolas... I have something to confess." She almost felt her heart jump in her throat as she confessed, "I can not keep this to myself any longer."

They were mere inches apart when he inquired, "What do you speak of?"

Damn it all. Damn the consequences of everything. He was her reason to live, to dream, to breath, and to endure in this harsh world... She carried the burden of her secret for too long. Calaerien leaned forward when they heard, "Prince Legolas."

An intruder shattered their private moment, and all ended in a mere second. Legolas took a hasty step back, leaving a breathless Calaerien leaning hopelessly against her favorite tree. They glanced at each other, flushed and baffled by the intense air that developed between them. A hard-line came Legolas's lip as he reluctantly curved his attention to the servant who glanced between them in bewilderment. The servant expression, "You're father demands your return to the feast."

Legolas nodded in comprehension, slightly affronted, and uttered, "Aye."

The cloud of passion dissipated from his eyes as he gave Calaerien a sideward glance that was mixed with remorse and yearning. His eyes lingered on her for a moment before he followed the servant through the archway of the fortress. Calaerien's body was swathe with heat then disappointment. The elleth watched the prince disappear from her sight at the behest of the king. A hand came to her lips, brushed where she felt his warm breath. Calaerien released a deep breath followed by a chuckle. There was hope and her dimmed fea burned from the embers and enlighten her dour world.

It was then she knew. The raven beauty would confess the secrets of her heart.


To be continued

Such a tease, right?

So what do you do? I am still unsure of it but, I wanted to get the next chapter out. Sorry about all the angst but everyone deals with grief differently and elves experience emotion much more intensely. I hope I conveyed everything properly. This was a challenging chapter, so I hope it was worth the wait.

Important, Please read A/N:

I wanted to let all of my readers know that my updates may slow down. I am returning to my hectic, crazy life, so I may not have as much time on my hands to update, but please be patient with me. I promise I will not give up on this story, for I absolutely hate starting anything and not finishing it.

Thank you for understanding!


References:

Smaug: The reference of how he destroyed Erebor/Dales, eating maidens, and such came from The Hobbit.

Grey Mountains: Referring to Melkor breeding drakes and the Grey Mountains infested with dragons came from The Complete Guide to Middle-earth.

Thranduil's History came from the unfinished tales. (Except for his mother, Tolkien never mentioned her.)

- - - - If I got any Lore wrong please let me know which book has the correct information. - - - -

Trivia:

1) There was ONCE a possibility that Celeborn and Galadriel had a second child but it conflicted

with Tolkien's other writings. Do you know who could have been their second child? (Hint: The answer is in the Unfinished Tales)

2) When Aragon served Steward Ecthelion II of Gondor, what did the Gondorians call Aragon?

3) Who is Annatar?


Comments

Clichefandomgirl: Thank you so much for your kind words! I definitely understand the need to escape for a while, I do that too. I just recently finished Stardust but Neil Gaiman. It was my escape for a while!

SkyFl0w3r: Thank you for your review and I am glad you felt that way. I also noticed there aren't many stories outside of the journey of the ring. So I would have to agree with you on that subject. Thank you for your kind words regarding my writing style. Sometimes I wonder if it's TOO much if you know what I mean.

MSWishbone: Thank you for your reviews. Even though Legomances aren't your thing, I'm glad you gave mine a chance!

Ply-Mouth: Thank you for your review. Erweth's death was planned from the beginning, and I've been pushing her death off for a while, but it was time for her to reunite with Romonil. I like to think of Erweth/Romonil as my cross-star lovers. As to your question about writing the 'Girl falls into ME' plot, well I have thought about writing one. However, I don't know how original it would be. :/

CrazyCherryBomb: Thank you for your review and I hope the wait wasn't too unbearable!

MrDarcy'sWife: Thank you for your kind words on my writing. I put a good amount of effort into it.

City-of-Dime: It may seem bad, but I am relieved that you were sad when she passed. It means I did my job right! :)

SassinessisBliss: Thank you for taking the time to review this story. I'm glad you're enjoying it. Keep reading, I have more surprises coming!

FluffySlipperz: Aww, sorry, but not sorry for making you cry. I'm glad you liked these OCs and felt something for Erweth. I put a lot of weight on the character's emotions and their development, so I am happy to know I did well. I am very happy you noticed her loving-sacrifice. To be honest, I was nervous about the scene between Legolas and Calaerien. I wasn't sure if everyone would like it instead of adding the classic drama of blaming each other and etc.

April2016: Thank you for your review and for telling me you've cried for Erweth. I shouldn't be pleased with that but I am. I'm glad you felt everything in this story. It was definitely what I was aiming for, no matter how challenging it may be.

FantiomaticSupperTolkienLover: I have no idea if you were trying to be funny, but I was cracking up when I read your review. I may have snorted a time or two... maybe three times. It was a much-needed laugh, so I thank you for that! And thank you for your review!

Simplegirl4u: Thank you for your review! So regarding Erweth using weapons: All but Calaerien were trained in some form of defense but Erweth forbid Calaerien because of fear. It is implied in chapter 6 that Calaerien was 'neglected of practical skill such as defending her.' So, therefore, defending oneself is a practical skill but I could see how you would be confused since I did not directly write that Erweth knew how to defend herself. So I apologize for that and hope this answer cleared it up. Regarding Calaerien's grief, if you refer to the first and second chapters when her family was killed in the clearing, Calaerien did not grief openly and stayed in the chambers. Thank you for your review and your opinions, I hope I explained everything clearly. I am especially glad you liked Calaerien vs. Olithir part. That was fun to write. I really wanted Calaerien to be a total badass and tell him where to stick it, but I had to remain true to her character. And don't worry, I am going to finish this fic! As for the 'happily ever after' request, well you'll have to keep on reading. ;)

TenDualCommandments: Writing emotions can be challenging, so I glad you felt everything. Thranduil is/kind of a turd, but it adds flavor to the story. Wait until you see what's gonna happen soon! ;)

OneWhoReadsTooMuch: Well, you know what they say: "It's the shy ones you want to watch out for." LOL.

Thank you to all the guests, favorites, new followers, and PM messaging! Everyone, you rock!