A/N: Take this as you will- it's a mindspit, written in less than fifteen minutes. This is basically a one shot deal. I was a bit tired of all the 'arranged marriage' fics (although some of the stories I've read are just... wow, incredible!) The way I see it, all those kinds of fics have the same basic formula- girl is supposed to marry Legolas, one or both of them is dead set against it, in the end they all become happy about it. Um, sure. So I took this 'formula' and ran with it.... hopefully it's not typical. =) By the way, I leave 'her' nameless for a reason.
Once again, constructive criticism is welcomed. Flames are not. I really don't see the point in flames- most people just make fools out of themselves instead of making a point.
Please read and review. Thank you for reading this!
::Scampers off and hides::
It was autumn.
A time of falling leaves, cooling winds and the slow turn from planting to harvesting. Winter had yet to blow its chilling breath down the necks of so many and yet a strange feeling of endings hung in the air. Leaves that had once flourished in the warmth of the sun now began to draw into themselves, slowly curling and becoming hard and brittle, as if they were trying to hide from the changing of seasons.
It was fall.
Or rather- Fall.
A descent from the high grace of childhood to the dark depths of maturity. A fall from the simple to the horribly complex.
How fitting then that the marriage ceremony would take place in Autumn.
She stared at the elf before her, sitting across the table. The elf whose face, in a few weeks time, would be the first thing she saw in the morning and the last before she drifted off into slumber.
As her father spoke with his, she studied his face carefully. Firm lines tempered by sweet curves and hollows. Serious blue eyes and small pink lips that were set in neither a frown or a smile. Golden hair framing his face like sunlight, hair so unlike her own strands. His features were too soft to be truly handsome yet too strong to be pretty. He was simply beautiful, like one of the marble statues in his father's court come to life.
No, it was not a horrible thing to be bound to that face for all time and yet his beauty was not enough to lift her heavy heart.
She should have been happy or at the very least grateful for the marriage. After all, she knew that the Prince of Mirkwood had a good heart and was of high virtue. He was brave and true to his friends. He was kind and gentle even to the servants of his father's kingdom. Her own wise father had picked good husbands for her older sisters and she had no doubt that this match would not prove differently. Her family was not royalty but her father was the King's most trusted advisor. Her family was wealthy enough to deem worthy of a royal arrangement and because Legolas was the youngest son of five, she need not have been born of royal blood at all. She had grown up in the royal court. And it was fitting, was it not? The poetic justice of it- the youngest son joining with the youngest daughter. It was beautiful to the ears and pleasing on paper.
She should have been happy, yes, but she wasn't.
As her father and the King discussed the wedding plans, she looked away from the table and out towards the window.
The sky outside was a pale shade of blue and hardly a cloud marred the expanse. It was a beautiful sight and many summer days had passed wearing that exact same shade of sky. Yet she knew it was false. She knew that if she stepped foot outside the air would be cool and abnormally still, not at all like the tumbling warm air of summer. The grass on the field below would crunch under her heels instead of curving silently as they did a few months before. Summer was gone and yet the sky told a lie to her vision.
Yes, appearances were just that. False. On the outside she knew that her face was just as impassive as Legolas', neither happy or sad. With her hands on her lap and her head bowed slightly, she knew that she looked as if she were giving her agreement in silence.
Inside though, her heart was breaking.
And it made no sense, really. For she had led a happy life and would probably continue to do so. She knew that as the Prince's wife, she would be pampered and spoiled like a kitten. Adorned in pretty dresses and shoes like a doll. Admired and adored like a jewel.
Yet she was not any of these things really. Not a kitten or a doll or a jewel. Just an elf. A maiden who had lived the first few years of her life in the safety and protection of her home. There was nothing too special about that, was there? As she grew older, she watched as her sisters walked out of the door and into a world where elf maidens became something more and yet less. They became wives and companions and yet gave up so much in return, no longer the pure and simple girls they once were. She never heard her sisters complain once about their marriages, in fact they did just the opposite. She knew her sisters were happy, that they felt completed by their husbands and yet....
Yet she never understood why.
She was no different from her sisters, after all. Nor was she any different from any of the other elves in the kingdom. In fact she felt that she was quite ordinary compared to others. So why couldn't she find joy in this- her own marriage to a Prince? Why was she so unhappy to be bound to Prince Legolas, to give up her freedom for a life of harmonious union?
It wasn't as if she were wild and unruly by nature. Some of the elf maidens she knew liked to climb trees and practice archery and she knew that their freedom was like water to them. They wanted to stay unbound and independent of a match. Other maidens embraced marriages whole-heartedly, fluttering their lashes and whispering sweet words to any male elf within a short distance in hopes of entrancing one for their own designs. She was neither one nor the other, her heart not given to such extremes.
So why this feeling of discontent and sadness?
As she stared out of the window, as her father and the King droned on about details she had no interest in, a bird flew into the vast reaches of her vision. Many miles away from the earth, its small yet glorious body rose up into the sky, free from restraint and capture. She held her breath and watched its wings fight against the invisible currents of the air, watched as its beak opened and closed in delight at the feel of the wind on its feathers. So very free, this creature was. So very alive and beautiful and...
So wonderfully free.
An urgent and sudden need came over her at that moment, wild and inexplicable. She wanted to run to the window and call out to the bird. She wanted to beg it to take her away, to plead with it to take her on its back and sweep her away from this room, from this marriage. She would have told it of the hundred fears she had, of the immense sadness she felt at the prospect of losing her innocence. She would have shed tears if it had come to the windowsill then, she would have wailed and torn her hair and wept bitterly if it had come to see her but, ah, such fanciful imagery for a nearly grown elf. Emotions of that nature were rare and whispered about in small circles. Even for an elf her age, such a burst of emotion would not be indulged. She was young in years but not in mind.
To show even a sliver of discomfort on her face would not be pleasing.
She uttered a small sigh as the bird finally disappeared from her sight and she turned her head back to the table.
The Prince was staring at her.
His large blue eyes were focused on her like beams of light in the dark. Dark. Yes, dark for that was how his eyes looked to her then. So dark, like the churning waters of the fabled magic river that swept memory from the minds of those who drank from them. His eyes were dark and filled with an emotion so intense and yet so...alien to her that she knew not what to make of it.
She looked away and lowered her head.
And yet... and yet, had he seen her looking at the bird? Had he known of her feelings then as she looked outside with jealously? Legolas was known for his keen sight and clever mind- had the longing in her eyes given her away? Would he know that she did not wish to be married then? That she was a maiden in every sense of the word and did not wish to change that? Did he suspect how frightened she was of him and of what he might do to her, of how he might make her world so different from the one she loved and clung to, even now?
Did he realize that she was not ready for such a change? That she was not yet ready to love and to be loved?
A flash of hope crept into her mind and she sat still, feeling the heavy weight of his gaze still on her.
"Ah, we have been talking for far too long, my friend. Our children are perhaps tired of hearing our voices! I suggest that we take this up after we have eaten."
Her father's laughter at the King's words startled her from her thoughts and she raised her head slowly, allowing a small smile to form on her lips.
"What say you, my daughter?" her father asked. His green eyes sparkled happily at her, unknowing of the fear and yet terrified hope that ran through her mind.
"'Tis not your voices I tire of, father." she said. "But the grumbling of my stomach. Such planning deserves to be done when the mind and body are both filled."
The King and her father laughed merrily and they rose from the table to walk towards the grand dining room. She waited patiently for the Prince to rise up and when he did, she followed him silently to the door.
But she blinked in surprise when he closed the door and turned to face her. His entire being seemed to emanate a sense of strength and quiet reserve which was not surprising. Not really. He was an elf, after all, and a Prince.
And yet she had never felt this strange sort of intensity before. And silence had never been so thick around her. She looked away again- at the embroidery on his tunic, at the necklace around his smooth, white neck.
"My Lord?" she said, the question hanging in the air.
"You wonder about this marriage." he said in a voice that betrayed no emotion. "And of my intentions towards you. You are not sure if this is what should be."
She took a deep breath then, to still her racing mind.
"Yes, my Lord." she said in a whisper. "I will hide nothing from you. You speak the truth."
"You are afraid." he said. "And perhaps a bit overwhelmed."
Her heart rose, singing. The Prince understood her then! He knew and he understood! She raised her eyes and looked at him, biting back the words of gratitude on her tongue. He would tell his father to cancel the marriage then, wouldn't he? If Legolas knew how she felt, what she thought, then he would surely show her mercy. He was a kind elf and....
His soft hand on her cheek silenced her thoughts and she looked at him in confusion.
"You need not be afraid." he said. His eyes grew dark and the emotion that had been so alien to her now flitted across his face once more. "And you need not wonder about my intentions, dear lady."
"My Lord?" she asked. "What do you mean?"
"I have watched you for so long." he said. His features softened and his touch became a caress on her cheek. "We have grown up together in my father's court and our families could not be closer than they are now. And yet somehow you and I have never spent more than a moment's time together. So many years, my lady, and so long have I wished for nothing more than to bask in the warmth of your smile. You take my quiet worship of you for aloofness and I wish it no longer. Even as children, I have taken notice of your kind heart and softly spoken words. Your love for books, your passion for strawberries in the summer, the tapestries that have come woven from your graceful hands... they have all been noticed by my eyes. All these years I have been trying to make myself worthy of you- for you deserve a husband who is strong and able to protect his family. I have studied with the wisest elves of our times and learned all I could of our healing arts."
She could say nothing as his words floated into her ear and sank down to her heart.
"I waited until I felt I was ready to enter into such a union with you." he said earnestly. "Until I knew that I could be everything I should be to you. It was not your father that approached mine but the other way around. I was the one who asked my father to speak first."
The air she took in felt cold and dead, as if it were already winter.
"My Lord," she said weakly. "My Prince, you do not understand..."
He smiled sweetly at her, happily. Happy as her father had been and his father had been.
"But I do, my lady." he said. "You were afraid that I did not love you. That this marriage was nothing more than a simple arrangement. It was not, I assure you. I saw the pain in your eyes when you looked outside. I saw the confusion in their depths, the quiet grief and I want you to know now that those emotions were felt in vain. I love you, be sure of this as you can be sure that the sun will rise and set each day."
He had seen then and yet not seen. He had recognized the expression in her eyes and not the meaning.
All hope died in her at the realization.
"I wanted the ceremony to be in the fall." he said quietly. His warm, gentle fingers felt like brands across her skin as he touched her. "Autumn. When the leaves are gold and brown. The colors of nature's riches, my lady. As each leaf flutters to the ground, it will be as if the earth itself is throwing down its bounty at our feet. I hope it pleases you, my lady."
She smiled quietly for it was ironic- his words.
Yes, it did please her.
For it was fitting wasn't it?
That a part of her soul would fall with every leaf that fell from the trees until every single one was bare and dead to the world.