A/N—Sorry for the (more than 2 years…) lapse! I was recently re-reading this fic and when I got to this part I was annoyed because I know what comes next and why isn't it just written on its own. Hope a few of you are still around! As a reminder, I am a writer with serious lapses in updating, so keep me on Author Alert.

Chapter 21—Recollections and Waiting

The rivers were calm and beautiful, though the party left Rivendell with only the calmness. They felt the absence of Lithil, though in the beginning none spoke of it. Boromir's awakening, his promise of appealing Lithil's freedom with his father, had somewhat lessened the anger that Legolas had been harboring. In fact, the tranquility of Lorien had erased all ill will from the prince—his heart had stopped aching and was now fit to burst from joy, even Boromir, responsible once for Lithil's pain, was no longer the object of any scorn.

Frodo would look over at Legolas then quizzically over at Boromir—he wondered how they had made peace. Two people, at such odds, over something that seemed so unforgiveable, and yet there was no longer any tension between them. Lorien's magic had soothed all the evils plaguing the first part of their journey—Boromir's hunger for the ring also seemed to have diminished. And, the last of the miracles, Gimli now sang the praises of the Lady of Lorien as passionately as a lovestruck boy—Frodo wished that the powers of that elvish realm and its magical Lady could blanket the whole of Middle Earth.

Though, he supposed, it had once and the bad parts had cut it back until it was just one city in the world.

Clutching the ring at his neck for a moment, he considered, not for the first time, if it was possible to beat the darkness.

"This reminds me of Buckleberry," Merry said wistfully, "Summers of fishing and swimming."

"Oh the Buckleberry Beer," Pippin groaned in agreement, "Drinking it by the fire at night while we cooked the fish and roasted apples. Frodo, do you remember the year that Sam wagered he could buoy out ten apples blindfolded in under a minute and we spun him round, set him up by the river, and SPLASH—in he went."

This brought Frodo out of his gloomy thoughts and he smiled faintly, "We hung all his clothes out to dry and who walks past the river that night but Ros—"

"Alright now! Nobody needs reminding of that night," Sam blushed.

"Rosie and there was Sam, naked as the day he was born, holding a mug of beer over his—" Pippin tried to finish the story but was cut off when Sam threw a river rock right past his head.

The Hobbits made Boromir smile, they reminded him of children, and he reached over to tousle Pippin's hair, "Tell me more about the Shire, little ones, because I haven't heard of this Buckleberry yet—or this Rosie."

The mere mention of Rosie's name was enough to color Sam's cheeks and Legolas had to smile at the Hobbit's quaint affections. He wasn't the only one to be amused and after hearing several tales of Sam's secret love, Boromir teased, "But Master Gamgee, surely one of the Nine Walkers, a member of the Fellowship, will warrant a glance from the pretty girl? Without a doubt, she should have noticed you already, a fine Hobbit such as yourself, but when you return you should immediately take to wooing her. This is no time to waste love with wanting."

That night, beside the fire, Boromir was awake on his watch, and Legolas was in his waking dreams. It was the first time they had been alone together, under a clear nighttime sky with a moon so bright it was almost blue.

"We have names in the Old Tongue for a moon this color," Boromir remarked, half to himself, "when I was a boy I would sit out on the balconies of the great tower and count the stars, and ask Kai what their names were."

Legolas turned his head, hearing the Nothing Name that he had so detested startled him into listening but Boromir held up a hand of peace, "I don't mean to offend. You must understand, that from my birth until a few months ago she only had one name to me. It is not easy for me to unlearn something so common. It would be like renaming the moon. I have known her longer than I knew my own mother, or my own brother, and it has not been easy, seeing her in a different light."

"What happened to your mother?" Legolas asked.

"She died after Faramir was born."

"Does that happen often among men?"

Boromir nodded sadly, "All too often, many mothers die for the sake of their children, but that is little consolation to the children who survive. My father was different before my mother, at least I think he was. I was very young, and I do not remember much, but Ka—Lithil—would often speak of the change her death brought to him. He had been a happy man, content….now my father is an honorable man, but he is always searching for something anymore. "

Legolas considered for a moment his own childhood. Without Lithil, without his older siblings, he would have had a much different life being raised by only his father.

"My mother also died," Legolas reminded Boromir, "but that is rare among my people. My father, too, was never the same. He is…colder. Some say he seems mad but I think it is that he does not try to tame his vices any more. He tried to fade after her death, but my siblings and I all called him back."

"What is fading?" Boromir asked, cautiously, "Lithil sometimes spoke of it, off-handedly, but she would not explain it."

"Fading is what happens when an elf loses the will to live, and all that keeps them living slowly leaves them. It is not quick, and it is very painful. When our hearts are very broken and we give up on repairing them, sometimes we begin to fade. It can be stopped, with enough of a will to live, but they say you never regain what you lost."

Boromir nervously stabbed at the fire's glowing embers, "Why didn't she ever fade? I gather now that her heart was always aching her, that she was much more sad than I ever realized…why didn't she give up?"

Legolas looked up at the blue moon, big and round, as his wife's belly was soon to be, "Because when elves bond, it is not as a human's marriage. When elves bond, their souls get sewn together so closely that you cannot see where one begins and the other ends. Elves can sense their mate, near or far, and if one fades, the other will almost certainly follow. Her life is like an echo to mine, if she feels pain I know she feels pain."

He looked over at Boromir, with pity in his eyes, "She would never show you pain, but I know she also tried very hard never to show herself any pain, because anything she allowed to hurt her, I would feel."

"So it was never for our benefit, her happiness?"

"In Lorien, I had some time to ask her about her imprisonment," Legolas' voice was even, and Boromir hoped that the report from Lithil had not been so damning but he feared it was, "and she has many good memories, but many bad ones as well. Not every master she ever had was cruel, not all her years were horrible. She said most years she was not even the focus of the Stewarts, she was more decorative, something that was there but not particularly of interest. As if she were valuable furniture about the Tower. But some masters were terrible, and when she had these she had to teach herself to not feel pain."

"Did she speak of me?"

"She did, of your childhood. I confess, she never mentioned your mother but I should have guessed from how she was given you and your brother to raise."

Boromir smirked, "She was a good nurse."

"She thought well of her charges too—she said that your father was a man greatly changed from his former self, and that he favored you. Also that he had taken it into his head that you, his son, should gain an elf-bride and bring elvish children to his line. An obsession in a father might be passed to a son, he was not the first Stewart to covet elvish blood." Legolas shook his head, "It was not a happy story for me to hear, but the stories are never simple. She will not say that any of the Stewarts were merely born cruel, but she will say that they are made what they are by sad fates. To hear her, she truly convinced herself to see the best in even the worst of her captures."

"I would not say we were the worst." Boromir prickled.

"I did not say that you were." Legolas sighed, "I hope your father is enamored of you, takes your word for law. Regardless of how she came into the Stewart's house, it is time she returned to her own."

Boromir looked off into the sky, "I did want her for my own, you know. I had thought her beautiful my entire life, and since she never aged the older I became the more reasonable a wife she looked in my eyes. But she never wanted me as I wanted her, never loved me the way I fancied I loved her. But she had to obey me, and I thought if I commanded her to love me, perhaps one day I wouldn't need to command it anymore. I was wrong… and I am ashamed of myself. No longer do I need to borrow another man's wife- on my life, I will have my father release her, for he dotes on me and will give me what I desire."

Legolas reached over and offered a hand of peace to Boromir. The Stewart shook the elf's hand and silence, peaceful silence, lingered around them.

Lithil wandered the forests of Lorien at night, singing softly to her child and feeding it energy from the trees. This night, unlike others, the powerful but coy energy of Galadriel began to approach the young mother.

Come to my mirror, my little one. The lady's voice echoed in Lithil's head, the command was gentle and inviting and it was not hard to obey. Wordlessly navigating to the alcove that held Galadriel's great mirror, Lithil wondered if the time was come for her to go shieldless into battle. Worried, she wrapped her arms around her swelling child, large enough now that it was noticeable all the time, and wondered if this last week since the Fellowship left was all she had for herself and her child, was all the peace left to her. She had been filling her child with energy, building up its strength, wondering all the while if it would be strong enough.

No, the time is not come…yet.

Lithil descended the stairs and faced Galadriel, bowing before the queen. Galadriel smiled and bid her rise, her eyes sweeping over the rounded belly with pride, "You have been diligent with growing of your child, even since Legolas has left."

"Yes my lady… I have not the luxury to slow my pace too greatly… I fear if the child is too small, the journey that lies before me will be too great for it."

"A wise mother that provides for a wound yet to be inflicted, but a foolish mother who worries so for the would that she forgets the child. Do not push too greatly, but do not push too little."

"My lady speaks wisely, but in riddles."

Galadriel laughed, "Riddles are good for children. I have called you here for a purpose, one I have not revealed to all in Lothlorien, one that I have kept to myself. However, it is time to share it with those who might benefit from knowing."

Lithil was confused but allowed herself to be led closer to Galadriel's Mirror—of all things in the world Lithil thought she might be able to withstand, she did not count the Lady's mirror among the number. The power of such a thing, looking into a future that might or might not happen, was something Lithil could live her life without experiencing. Some crave power, crave knowledge—Lithil craved only love and the right to have it, so the Mirror caused no heady longing in her heart.

But it was not the Mirror that Lithil was being led to, but a tall figure in a white robe.

"I see that you crossed the bridge when you came to it, even though you were sure you could not."

Lithil's scarred ears perked and she gasped, "Gandalf!"

The white figured turned and smiled indulgently, "Once, yes, I was Gandalf. Perhaps I will be again."

Lithil ran toward the wizard and thrust herself into his arms, "We thought you were dead—dead forever! How could you rise after falling with the Balrog into the darkest places? How did you survive?"

"By being re-born." His eyes twinkled and he held Lithil at an arm's length, looking down at her swelling babe, "It seems to me you have discovered being reborn and letting go of the darkness for the light since I have been gone. Tell me how it is I see before me a princess and mother when I left a broken, scared, and pessimistic elf who could not bear the idea of confronting any more darkness."

Lithil smiled and thought of how she had changed, and how she had not even noticed until Gandalf, risen from the dead, had pointed it out. The elf too sad to reveal her name to the Stewarts had told Legolas, truthfully, that she did not blame them all for her capture; the elf who loathed the sight of Gondorian sigils and used to cry at the memories of the place could pet and dote on sons of that country while not holding their fathers' crimes against them; the elf who thought to never be free to make her own choices or even see her own people had now left behind her fear of being caged, and embraced the most tender parts of life without fear.

Galadriel watched the reunion of the two with no small amount of pleasure, "Lithil has grown since last you saw her, Mithrandir."

"In more than one way." Gandalf smoothed one of his ancient hands over the newest life among the Fair Folk, "Come, speak with me, let us be carefree for a short time before the cares descend on us again."

Gandalf offered Lithil his arm as if to lead her somewhere to speak, but before accepting Lithil looked over at Galadriel and asked, "Is it Mithrandir who will lead the elves to war?"

"No," Galadriel assured her, "Though he will meet you on the field of battle."

"Then there is still some time?"

"Some." The lady did not give anything definite away, but she desperately wished to tell the younger elf of what was to come. She wanted to warn Lithil, to cry with her and laugh with her, to tell her which threats were idle and which were serious, to let her know how important the role of a mother was at this time—how Lithil's strength would come to define more than one nation as she rallied every soldier behind the image of a loving mother.

But sometimes, most of the time, telling people what was to come didn't help. They needed to experience it. Galadriel and Elrond had both cryptically promised Lithil and Legolas that this road, of her walking in the Fellowship's shadows, was the hardest but the best—even so, their promises would mean little until they were fulfilled. Had Lithil known she would face a Balrog, she would never have left Rivendell; had she known that she would lose Gandalf, she would never have left the bridge; had she known a year ago that she would be in Rivendell, pregnant, and happy she would have called it a dream and been too frightened of what could go wrong that she would never give anything the chance to happen.

No, Lithil needed to walk this road and feel all the thistles and all the treasures for herself.

As Lithil and Gandalf walked off to a more distant part of the wood, Galadriel summoned Haldir.

He came within moments, dressed in the silvery robes of his people, and bowed before her, "My lady."

"Haldir," Galadriel began and concealed completely the pain that shot through her at speaking his name, "You must begin a task for me, it is of the gravest importance and must be carried out swiftly."

"Whatever my lady commands shall be done."

He was an exceptional soldier, an excellent warden of her woods, and it had darkened her day when she read his fate in the fickle waters of her mirror, "The elves will be marching to war soon, you will begin preparations for our army. Fletch the arrows, make more blades, bend the bows, bake the bread, and sew the cloaks. Everything must be ready within the month, there will be no coming back here until after the fate of the world has been decided."

Haldir's eyes widened, and his heart quickened with momentary fear, "My lady, all shall be as you command, and more."

She nodded at him and he left to begin preparing the army. Galadriel sensed that the time was nearing, though the mirror could never give her a date precisely. She sensed the noose tightening, she sensed the Fellowship breaking, which would lead some fragments of them to Rohan… then to Helm's Deep.

Where the elves would honor their old allegiance to men.

A/N- Helm's Deep! Who guessed it? Remember—Author Alert is best for me, I get very caught up in work and can go for months (cough, or years, cough) without any updates. Hopefully with the Hobbit films coming out my love for LOTR will continue being fanned and you guys will get updates more frequently.