My beloved readers;
I know that this took rather long to write, but I think it is always more difficult to write the last chapter. As most of you have already guessed, I have decided to wait for the third movie to come out to continue the story. Why? The movies give me the visual background that I need for the story. This way I can build the story without going too far into the description of the events and places. Besides, everyone has watched the movies and it is certainly a much easier common reference point.
The story has grown on me as much as it has grown on you and it has become obvious to me that I will have a hard time not writing it as you, my one and only readers, might have a hard time not to read it. If I find something to strike my inspiration, I will certainly write other fanfics, but I need to work on the idea for now.
You can be sure that I will continue right after ROTK comes out. Even now I have a couple of rather good ideas how to conclude or continue certain things and I think that the third part of Irulan will have even more action and depth to it. I think it will also be much more interesting and mature, since she will continue to grow and change along with the others around here.
Until then, I will simply have to bow and ask permission to leave. At least for this story, since other stories might ignite in my mind any moment. The show it over and the curtain opens for the last act until December. I can only hope that I will find you then, once more. I will turn now and do what I meant to do for a long time - reply your wonderful e-mails and read other fanfiction. If any of you feel like writing to me in the meantime about anything, I will be happy and honored to converse.
Irulan remained in a critical state for three days. Her breathing was so low, Aragorn and Gimli often suspected the worst, and trying hard not to show any panic in Legolas' presence, they crept closer to the bed in an attempt to check on her. Legolas, though, needed no checking. Her breathing was rather obvious to him. As was anything else about her. Every bead of sweat that formed on her brow, her moan, every slight tilting of her head was evident to him. Though Eowyn, Aragorn, Gimli, Gandalf and even Eomer approached him many times, saying that they would look after Irulan, that he should go and rest, he refused. He also refused to eat or sleep during that time. Even for an elf, it was a tiresome thing to do.
But Legolas felt not tired. He only felt afraid. Those three days he thought about many things. Most of those were about himself and Irulan. He thought and re-thought every moment they had had in each other's presence, starting from the day her hand had landed on his shoulder as a gift of the gods, until the day they had together watched Gandalf flowing down the hill like a foaming river. Then he always found himself looking at her blanched face, tucked in beneath blankets, thinking about what it would feel to lose her. First the idea cut him like a sharp edge and he hastily darted away from it. But in time he found the strength to face it and although it hurt no less, it became at least possible to take it into consideration. He told himself over and over again that she was mortal. That he was bound to lose her sooner or later in this or that way. But in the glare of his emotions, reason fell into heaps very much like the Uruk-hai Irulan had cut. So he remained alone in the room, counting her breaths, fearing that even if he left or slept for an instant, he might return to find her gone from this world. He was not ready to say goodbye. And by the looks of it, he never would be. Minutes dragged by and turned into hours. Hours swayed into days.
Gandalf came in many times, checking on Irulan and trying to replenish her strength that seemed to flow out of her, no matter what they did.
"She seems...utterly exhausted, my friend," the wizard had said, a frown on his face, "her body can not find the strength and stamina to recover itself. Yet....she is alive and we must have faith in that." Legolas had only nodded and had tried to smile despite his pain.
Eowyn would come in, sitting in a chair across his, looking more worried about Legolas than Irulan. He had been unable to keep himself from making a comment about that one time, and she had smiled and said "The Irulan I know is strong. She has defied death many times, you tell me. I am so sure of her, I need not worry. Yet you, Master Legolas....." Ever since that incident, it became a ritual between them and whenever she started that particular sentence Legolas would feel both annoyed and yet amused because he knew what would follow: a long monologue about how Irulan would oppose to his behavior and what good it would do if he joined her in her state and how he should pull himself together -being both the man and the elf- and at least TRY to eat. Legolas would nod and smile to her, as he did to Gandalf and she would leave soon afterwards, accepting defeat - temporarily, of course.
Aragorn and Gimli knew him too well to ask him for such a thing. So they just joined him in his silence, occasionally talking about the incoming news and about the latest word from both Gondor and Mordor. They were a necessary, yet painful reminder of the fact that the world was still turning, and that it would not stop for the love of an elf and a human. Both men were extremely amused by the fact that Irulan's fight had turned into an unbelievable legend, traveling from mouth to mouth, igniting disbelief and shock. Very few humans were aware of Darma Druids, so that never came out. Instead, ironically, her identity as the Black Knight was revealed and her fight -as amazing as it had been- was even more exaggerated. She was very fast becoming a myth in Middle Earth, and a very popular one, favored by both women and men.
Eomer came in, too, regularly, looking like he wanted to cry, but always managing to keep his feelings at bay. Especially in Legolas' presence. Their common worry for Irulan was so strong that for the moment, the hostile feelings between them had vanished. Or at least pushed under the rug. The captain of Rohan had even started conversing with Legolas and to the elf's irritation, as their conversations went on, he had turned out to be a rather respectable human being. When Eomer had reached the point which he believed to be close enough, he had swallowed uneasily and then, rather nervously, asked Legolas what he thought about her situation. Legolas had stared at him for long moments, not understanding his question. Eomer had wriggled some more and then finally croaked "You know..being an Eldar...do you think....she will make it?", and stubbornly avoided eye contact.
"I do not doubt it for a moment, Master Eomer," Legolas had said with a soft voice and watched the man taking this information to heart and very apparently relaxing. After the few minutes, the Rohirrim had left without a word and Legolas had allowed himself an amused smile.
So he sat there and watched Irulan's face painted in black in white when the moon joined his watch, and then the drastic colors softening and slowly merging into different hues when the sun came up again. He watched her face underneath every angle of the light, in the light of fire or in total darkness, as his elven eyes could still see her clear enough. Often he sat by her side, caressing her cheeks as she was burning with fever and whispering comfort and support to her in his native tongue. He paced in the room, sometimes remaining at the window and looking out into the world, all the while his ears never missing a single breath coming from her.
And this is how, on the later hours of the fourth day, Irulan's eyelids fluttered and fought a battle, and finally enjoying a brief victory, remained open, to drink in the sight of Legolas as the first thing in many centuries. He dared not breathe or move as she blinked and, not looking away, tried to shake off the daze and the glaze in her sight. After many moments, Irulan came to the conclusion that one, she was not dreaming and this was Legolas sitting across her; two, she was lying in a bed in a room, all memory of the past days erased from her mind for the moment; and three, she was not dead. After all, given the incidence at Fangorn Forest, Irulan had grown wise enough to know that she would not feel weak or in pained in death.
A frown settled on her face very slowly, narrowing her eyes. "Legolas?" she whispered, or rather tried to whisper, since the dryness of her throat was astoundingly painful and her lungs would not deliver enough air to utter the word with justice. Only then did Legolas smile softly, his eyes shining like jewels and very gently seating himself next to her, held her hand, never looking away. "Yes," he whispered, as if he feared that a louder tone would disturb her, "I am here, Irulan." Then she surrendered to sleep once more and Legolas left the room right afterwards for the first time in days, barely keeping himself from running and found Gandalf to report. Aragorn was with the Wizard and they both followed him back, Gandalf checking on Irulan's pulse, a satisfied smile on his lips. Legolas locked eyes with Aragorn and to his surprise, saw the ranger blinking hastily to suppress tears. Once more amazed by this man he was fortunate enough to have as a friend; he placed his hand on his shoulder and gently squeezed it.
Aragorn did not look at him and never shed those tears. Yet, to Legolas it made no difference. He sighed sadly, remembering his comments and discussions about the ranger's relationship with Arwen. Once more, shame filled him. He had not been too different than Eomer, himself. He had thrown foolish and hollow reasons at his friends, finding satisfaction in their inability to reply. How blind he had been! How ignorant! Thankfully Gimli ran in then, thundering with excitement and in his agitated state, even managed to wake up Irulan once more! The fellowship laughed despite themselves, a dark cloud passing in the sky and finally revealing the sun once more. The sun that was Irulan, who lay there, looking confused but nevertheless extremely happy to see her friends at her side.
And after that, she began to heal. Slowly at first, but then faster and faster - as it became obvious when her voice was heard yelling again in the Hall. Irulan had defied Fever -which was known as an impossible thing to do- and she had defied death. Yet she, once again, failed to defy Legolas and the Fellowship, who naturally assumed complete control over her state - 'for her own benefit'! Legolas never left her side and that was good -especially since she seemed to have developed a new and rather childish fear of the dark (she never told him this, of course, and thankfully he needed no asking for his presence)- but when he took the role of her nurse, Irulan knew she was in for trouble. She knew how to get rid of Eowyn. She knew how to step on the very nerves that made Gandalf throw up his hands and leave. She even knew how to smile warmly and convince a stubborn Eomer. But Legolas....
"Legolas, I am NOT hungry. And I assure you, I am old enough to know it!" said Irulan and her yet still husky voice had a distinctive edge to it.
Legolas, though, never missed a step as he smiled and gracefully lay the tray on the bed by her side, sitting beside it, himself. "Yes, my love. That may be how you feel. Yet you have to force yourself to eat."
"But I have!" she said and against all her control, it came out too much like whining.
"Irulan, that was hours ago. You promised that you would eat if I did. And I have."
"So have I, damn it!"
He had already delved the spoon into the soup and was looking at her with a warm expression on his face, spoon at hand, waiting. "Are you becoming a child again?" he said finally, his lips breaking into an amused smile.
"You treat me like one, that's why!" she said and almost stuck out her lower lip, but immediately stopped herself from doing so.
"Very well," the elf said with satisfaction and before she could say anything else, gently shoved the spoon into her mouth.
Irulan swallowed and grimaced with fury. "Can I at least have the dignity to eat myself?!" she blistered.
"No," said Legolas curtly and filled another spoon under her watching gaze. Seeing that she was beginning to be difficult again he sighed and said "Irulan, you know you can not. You spilled the whole soup on yourself yesterday and almost burnt yourself."
"That was yesterday! My hands were shaking. I feel better today, Legolas," she said and for a moment forgot that it was rather absurd to be begging him for permission in such a matter.
He placed the spoon back into the bowl and turned to her, eyebrows raised. "Show me your hands, then," and that irritating blank expression was back on his face again. Irulan pursed her lips and put her hands on her laps, staring back in defiance. "Irulan," said Legolas with a warning tone, "I meant lift up your arms."
"I am a Darma Druid, for Heaven's sake! I am the Black Knight! I can certainly lift up my arms!"
"Let's see it then, love," Legolas said with incredible calmness.
She bit her lower lip and looking down on her hands, tried to lift them. Lifting them was not the difficult part, of course. It was keeping them there. Only seconds had passed when her fingers began to shake gently and the tremor moved up to her hands. Irulan dropped them back before it reached her arms. She turned her face away with frustration and anger. Legolas remained silent for a moment, then gently leaned in and kissed her. "The sooner you eat, the stronger you will become," he whispered, placing a loose strand behind her ear. Irulan refused to look back. "Or would you rather sit here while we leave for Gondor?" Her head snapped around and she locked eyes with his unwavering blue gaze. Then, sighing in desperation, Irulan nodded ever so slightly, trying not to scream and cry with fury. Legolas leaned back again and picked up the spoon once more.
And so the torture continued. But deciding to be wise, Irulan began to give in when necessary. Not only did it make Legolas extremely happy when she did, but she also feared that they might indeed leave her behind, now that she was injured. In truth, the Fellowship had not the slightest intention of letting her out of their sight for a single hour, but they had come to the conclusion that threatening Irulan with this option was the only solution. And it worked. She obliged, and although there were times when she simply could NOT be submissive any longer, she eventually cooled down and picked up the struggle once again.
Legolas soon took her out to walk outside. Edoras was windy and he kept saying that she might get ill, especially now that she had become so thin and weak, but Irulan assured him that she would certainly die if she remained in that bed for another day. Being an elf, he knew what enclosed spaces could do to the psyche and finally nodded in understanding. But just when she thought she had for once actually won an argument, he told her to wait and disappeared. A few minutes later he strode back in to meet her with garments stacked up on his arms. Irulan watched in horror as he dressed her in a manner that would have made her sweat easily on Caradhrass, but for the sake of going out, bit her tongue and shut up.
She did not tell Legolas about her restless sleep and how she kept having nightmares in which she confronted herself over and over again in Helm's Deep, because she did not want him to fuss over her more than he already did. But maybe she did not need to. For Legolas remained with her during the night and seemed not surprised when she woke up from those images, panting and gasping, her eyes widened with the horror. When it became truly unbearable, Irulan asked him to lie with her in the bed, and Legolas obeyed with apparent joy. 'No doubt that he has been dying to do just that!' Irulan thought with amusement and decided to leave the matter at that.
Since it would be utterly uncomfortable for him to lie on the covers while she was feeling cold even underneath them, he had to join her under the covers. And it felt so incredible to fall asleep with Irulan lying in his arms, that Legolas immediately began to think how dreadful it would be once she was healed and this permission expired. As it had been with every achieved closeness with her, he immediately grew so fond of it, the idea of parting with it literally pained him.
But he forced himself to push these thoughts away and enjoy the present. And the present was better than it had been in a very long time. Irulan was healing. She was also suspiciously obedient - which was an extremely good thing, of course. She had overcome the Fever. The fellowship was with them. Their journey would continue. Legolas sighed and leaned back on the pillow, gently embracing Irulan's shoulders as her head rested on his chest.
Irulan, on the other hand, felt secure and comfortable in his presence. She found the courage to think about things that she had not dared to consider before. Such as the Fever and the Shifting. As impossible as it was, she had overcome Fever. But Irulan was not naïve. She knew well enough that she had done nothing. In fact, Legolas had overcome the Fever. Her only luck had been that she had loved him back. He had healed her heart. He had chased her and forced her to face her feelings. Even more important, he had made her accept the fact that love DID exist and that it was not something to run away from, but something to be cherished and lived till the very end. He had risked his own life by approaching her. Had it not been for Legolas, she would have never come this far. And that's why no other Darma Druid would. For how many Sisters were loved by such a man - if loved at all? And how many were capable of returning that love? Little did Irulan know that the Druids were not out of her life, yet, and that she would confront them in the most unthinkable of circumstances not too far in the future.
Those nights would always stand out in their memories. Failing to sleep, Legolas and Irulan talked long hours, content just to be in each other's arms. They talked about the things that they had not found the chance to share during this journey. The hectic running and fighting had stopped for the moment and both took advantage of this interlude to delve into each other's spirit and past as much as they could.
Thanks to Gandalf, Irulan's wound healed almost completely. Even the scar faded quickly, leaving behind only a little scratch. That scratch though, remained on her throughout her life, sometimes oddly pulsing with pain and throwing her mind unwillingly back to the very night she had faced both madness and death and had overcome them with love.
The Fellowship remained by her side always. They were torn about how to treat her, so they treated her in every way and fashion and Irulan became used to their chaotic relationship. After all, she had killed hundreds in front of their very eyes, so she was definitely not a little girl. And yet, although they respected her by heart, her wounded state made it impossible for them not to be a little overprotective when it came to her.
Middle Earth was not finished with Irulan, though. Neither was Irulan finished with Middle Earth. In the days and weeks to come, her incredible journey and affiliation with the people that constituted the cornerstones of their times in this world would continue. And unknown to her yet, she would face events of such horror and glamour that her current memories would look weak and diminished compared to those. Her story had barely begun. She was walking on the path she had chosen, not aware that it would turn her into something unparalleled and wondrous, something that was worthy of a myth, destined to ring in many hearts and minds for time after time.
For now, though, Irulan was only a rather unusual mortal woman, walking with Legolas in the moonlit wheat fields of Rohan, her arm secured in his. It was a not so chilly night, and the air felt dry and clean. Irulan reached out to touch the wheat stems swaying in the soft breeze and smiled to herself, remembering the valley of wind and grass. So many unthinkable things had happened in such a short time, such miracles had unfolded before her eyes....once again she thought how blessed she was.
"What are you thinking about?" said Legolas and she turned to find him smiling down at her.
"Everything," she said, smiling back herself and taking a deep breath, feeling the soft and sharp scents of nature mingling in her lungs. "All that has happened. Things that will happen."
"Does it really matter?" he said softly, not looking away from her profile.
Irulan blinked in surprise. "Does what matter?"
"The past. The future."
She thought about it for a moment, as the only sound remained the wheat stems brushed away or gently crushed beneath their heels.
"Are those things not what make us who we are?"
Legolas shook his head and looked up at the moon that was standing out in a cloudless sky, brilliant to the eye and a cooler, yet nevertheless no lesser beauty to the sun. "Sometimes I think that we are but the same -that we are one- and that those things only make us different."
"Maybe different is good. WE are different, Legolas."
Legolas nodded and smiled again. "Yes we are. But we are united." They had arrived by the apple tree in the middle of the wheat field. Irulan and Eowyn had often walked through these fields, talking about love, loss and longing, ending up under the shadow of this very tree that stood like the last remnant of his race - a single green patch in the middle of yellow fields. Legolas stopped and bent to pick up a fallen apple. Irulan watched him as he used his knife to cut it open, then carefully taking out a black seed, threw the rest away. "I have a gift for you," he said as he held her hand and turned her palm up to place the seed into it.
Irulan smiled with amusement and looked down on the single dark speck in her palm that was washed with the bluish light of the moon. The apple tree above them shook gently in the breeze and its smell filled her nostrils. "You give me an apple seed?" she said and looked up at him with wonder and intrigue.
Legolas looked at her for a long moment with that intense gaze that looked right into her soul. A look that spoke of a love so deep, it was and would always remain beyond Irulan's understanding. Only when her limitations were shed with the loss of her current physical form, and when her spirit broke free in death, would she be able to grasp it. "I give you life," he said softly, his voice like an unwritten melody, "In your hand you hold an entire tree. Every branch it will shoot, every fruit it will bear, every hue of every petal of its uncountable flowers that will adorn it spring after spring is there." He smiled and began to encircle her with soft steps that made no sound at all. Irulan looked down at the seed as his voice filled the entire world. "The sour-sweet taste of each apple is there, Irulan. The intoxicating fragrance of its flowers is there. The moss that will crawl on the tree's bark; the birds that will touch it; the people that will pass beneath it, looking up at it and thinking of love, beauty, perhaps of sorrow and desperation are there."
Legolas completed the cycle and stood before her once more and for no apparent reason, Irulan felt under a spell. There was an entrancing aura to the night and to this place. "It is all in your hands. The possibility of all that becoming real depends on your one simple movement. You could throw it on hard and bitter soil, and each of those things will vanish instantly, never to be. Or you could lay it on fertile earth and watch it grow."
Legolas took her other hand then and gently kissed her palm. Even though they had shared much more intimate moments, the kiss made her heart catch fire. "Irulan," he whispered, once more looking at her. In the moonlight and under the swaying branches of the tree, he looked even more out of this world than he ever did. "There is so much we can become. So much we can make possible. And all is only in your hands. You are a goddess. You will choose life or death. You will choose being or not being. Your will is above all."
Irulan just stared at him agape, not knowing how to break free of the spell, much less what to say. Legolas looked up at the tree then and remained like that for many moments. Irulan enclosed her fingers on the tiny seed in her palm and felt its rough surface against her skin. Even now, she imagined it pulsing with possibilities, with countless awe inspiring things. Even now, it was striving to be given a chance - a single chance to reach to the skies.
Suddenly Legolas reached out with his free hand and touched the bark. "Do you know what I think of you?" he said, his face dancing the dance of shadow and light. Irulan shook her head, still dazed in the strangest way. "This tree," he said softly, "has stood here for many years. Its existence meant nothing, Irulan. With all its beauty, its effort to hold on to and continue life; with all the intricate things happening in its nature every moment, it had no value. Not until one night you decided to take this path and lay eyes on it."
Legolas sighed, lost in a world where only elves could roam. "Alas, then suddenly all the storms it had withstood; all harsh droughts it had passed through; all bitter winters it had survived gained depth and meaning. Finally it found its place among the countless interacting living and breathing things in life. Perhaps it stood three thousand years before you came," he said and turned to her, stepping closer as his warmth enveloped Irulan like a protective blanket. "But it was not alive till your eyes gazed on it, even if momentarily. It was worthless until it became a single detail in your life."
Irulan shook her head and looked up at him, slowly encircling her arms around his neck. "Who am I to stand in the way of such a force?" she said finally.
Legolas pulled her to himself and kissed her under the single apple tree in a field of wheat in the land of Rohan under the watching gaze of the moon and the stars, as the seed of love sprouted between them.