Hello. Most of you probably already realize this: I don't own anything Tolkien created. I just borrow briefly.
The characters Lunian, Lenaith, Nallina, Carathwan, Luthier, Irithil and Ethwan are mine, though.
That said, this is my first attempt at a non-Legolas LOTR fic, and I've tried a slightly different style in parts, so bear with me and let me know if you think it doesn't work.
Welcome to Trial by Fire!
Chapter 1: Death is peace
Carathwan sighed slightly, turning to go back inside. She stopped, flushing when she nearly ran into someone.
"Something wrong?" he asked, one hand wrapping around her arm to steady her as she backed up.
She felt the heat slide from her ears into her cheeks. "No," she assured quickly.
Apparently too quickly, because his light blue eyes narrowed slightly on her. Without releasing her he looked beyond her flushed face to see what she'd been watching. "Ah," he mused, an affectionate smile turning his lips as the couple in the garden took another turn, their fingers twining. "Jealous?"
She opened her mouth to deny, then shrugged. "Who wouldn't be, really?" she said at last, looking back at her friend and the prince. "They're beautiful together…"
"And she no doubt has little time for you."
"True," she sighed, but shrugged once more. "I cannot begrudge her that. She was searching so hard to find him… no, I can't begrudge her that."
He nodded slightly, watching Legolas pull Lunian against him, her back to his chest as they watched the light dance on damp leaves for a time, their fingers twined, arms crossed together over her waist.
"Pardon?" he asked, glancing back at her, almost absently releasing her arm.
"Are you jealous?"
Glorfindel smiled slightly, and clasped his hands behind his head. "I suppose I am, but like you, can't begrudge them anything. I more from his view, of course, as he has waited for her for over a thousand years."
Carathwan watched them draw slightly apart—just enough that they could resume their walk through the garden. "I can't imagine," she shook her head.
"Most can't," he agreed. "To die for something you love is comprehensible, but to live without it for so long… that—not so much." He shook his head slightly.
"But with her here, how could he have done anything else?"
He smiled faintly, a small noise of emotion—maybe amusement—left him. "He couldn't. But it took him many years to come here, Carathwan."
She started to correct him, opening her mouth on 'Cara is fine', but paused. Instead she closed her mouth and looked again at the prince. "Why?"
He looked at her in surprise, his hands falling to his sides. "There was no guarantee she could be reborn."
"So wouldn't he have wanted to come here, to be with family, with friends when he lost her?"
He snorted, shaking his head. "Foolish child," he mused, fixing such a solemn, wise and sad gaze on her that she closed her mouth on her protests. "Here, with family, with friends… he could not have faded away."
"But he could have—"
"It is possible for en elf to die here, yes, but not Legolas, not from fading. Not when his mother was here. His father. All of his childhood friends. All of his lost acquaintances. There would have been too many people around him for him to die of grief."
"Then he should have come here right away."
He sighed. "No, Carathwan. Until he knew he could survive, could wait for her to be reborn, could live on the hope that she would be reborn, it was right for him to linger there, where he had the chance to die if he was sure his eternity would be nothing but torment."
With a frown she studied a small rock beside her toes.
With a weary sigh Glorfindel looked back at the couple. "Legolas."
The prince and princess turned at the call, their circlets glinting for a moment in the sun before they began their approach. "Glorfindel?" Legolas asked when they reached him, after inclining his head slightly.
Glorfindel smiled faintly. "Elrond would like to see his granddaughter at the feast this evening."
Lunian rolled her eyes at the oh-so-subtle hint. "I'm beginning to feel like we need to just built a talan somewhere in between the two and let them come to us."
Legolas chuckled. "Imagine getting either to climb up the ladder, love, and I think you'll reconsider."
She half-frowned, before finally snorting, tilting her head against his, a small smile curving her lips. "Well, we'd be left alone."
Legolas laughed, lifting her chin with his palm, setting his forehead against hers. "Give them time, love. Things will settle down soon."
"And if they don't?"
"Then we can choose either one of the two places, or somewhere in between… though I think it will need to be on the ground."
"Or at least be partly on the ground," she countered. "I kind of miss our talan."
"You lived in a tree?" Glorfindel asked, blinking at her.
She laughed. "The entire time we lived in Fangorn, Findy," she agreed teasingly. She looked up at Legolas, who tilted his head slightly to kiss her temple, before settling his forehead there.
"Give them time," he repeated. Then he quirked a brow at Glorfindel. "You may inform him we'll be there."
"For tonight, at least," he replied dryly.
Lunian shrugged. "Well, I spent more of my past life with elves that were not of Imladris."
"But spent all but a handful of days in this one with those elves."
"True enough… but Legolas spent far more time with the elves of the Greenwood…" She sighed.
Legolas chuckled softly. "Perhaps we should consider a few weeks at one, a few weeks at the other?"
She tilted her head to consider, and then nodded. "Yes," she agreed. "I wouldn't want to be away from Cara and Lina too long, and your friends are there, so…"
"Then that's what we shall do," he murmured.
"Or really, since it's not that far a walk, we could build somewhere between. A leisurely walk either way for them or for us."
"We've time to think about it, my love," he reminded her, glancing from her to Glorfindel. He inclined his head slightly, then nodded at Cara. "I assume that was all, Glorfindel?"
"It was indeed."
"I suppose we'll see you at the feast then," Lunian murmured with a smile.
"Lunian?" Carathwan asked impulsively when the pair turned to head into the woods. "Would you join us for lunch tomorrow?"
Lunian glanced up at Legolas, who smiled faintly and nodded. "I shall make your excuses," he promised.
"Don't be silly, Cara," Lunian chided, moving away from Legolas to hug Carathwan. "I'd far rather spend time with you than the ancient elves Legolas so enjoys." She glanced at Legolas over her shoulder, a teasing smile playing on her lips and dancing in her eyes.
"Those ancient elves are in most cases younger than I am, love," Legolas warned, his voice sinking into a near growl that cast a shiver over Lunian.
She laughed throatily and returned to his side, looking up at him with a look Carathwan didn't quite understand, though Glorfindel apparently did—he chuckled, shaking his head. "At the feast then, little one."
He sighed. "I rather wish you hadn't remembered that."
She laughed softly before allowing Legolas to draw her into the woods.
"Findy?" Carathwan asked after a long moment.
"Go ahead," he sighed.
She laughed, muffling the sound with her hands when she couldn't stop in a decent amount of time.
He sighed again, shaking his head.
Watching him let her laughter fade rather quickly, though there was still heat in her cheeks and ears. "Lord Glorfindel?"
"I think," he drawled dryly, "that you may as well call me Glorfindel after laughing so heartily at me."
"Oh, no, with you," she murmured, laughing again at the doubtful look he gave her.
He smiled faintly and shook his head. "What were you going to ask, Carathwan?" he asked after a time.
She paused, then shook herself, remembering. "What was she like as a child?"
"You mean the first time around?"
She nodded, flushing a bit.
He leaned against one of the pillars supporting the roof that was over their heads, his eyes clouding slightly as he looked back through his memories. A slow smile curved his lips. "Interesting," he mused after a long moment. "She was human enough she had more trouble pronouncing things than elven children do, so nearly everyone ended up some muted version of themselves."
"Ladan, Rohir, Rondy." He laughed at the last one.
She gaped at him. "Rondy?"
"Lord Rondy, actually," he grinned. "He allowed it, but had this look in his eyes that warned everyone quite well that he would no tolerate anyone else ever using the same."
"Understandable. Lord Rondy doesn't have quite the same impact as Lord Elrond, does it?"
"Anymore than Sauron would have been feared as Lord Snuggles or some such nonsense."
She laughed at the thought, though the name could never conjure in her the fear or shadow of fear she sometimes saw in the eyes of others.
She glanced up at him, and started to shrug it off, but something about the way he watched her made her stop. She sighed, looking down at that pebble again. "So many have seen so much, and I…"
"Was raised here, away from the pain of the lands beyond these," he murmured. "It is not a detriment, Carathwan, though so I fear you feel it to be."
"But I haven't seen all the places that are sung about, I've never seen battle… I even missed Tanthien attacking Prince Legolas!"
"And are more innocent, more pure for that," he countered softly. "If they were given the chance to have met those they love on these shores, without worrying about death and destruction, without needing the skills of war… invariably they would do so. Yes, they've seen more, yes they've more to sing of… but it doesn't matter here. Here, there is nothing evil that is not within us. And those who haven't seen the evil possible carry far less of it with them. Think about that for a while, child."
She looked at his eyes for a long moment, and saw a weariness there she hadn't before. "Is it so trying, being here?"
"Death is peace, Carathwan. Peace denied to many, and given to those who wanted it not. Do not be so hasty to judge your life by the lives of others."
She managed a weak smile. "Are you trying to say you would rather have been born here, after the elves that were going to ever do so left the other shores, raised without knowing the places elves sing about, without even seeing the things that make the elders shudder, their eyes shuttering, unable to know that which ties so much of their world together?"
He sighed. "I would rather that none had left the Undying Lands once arriving. That those who began the journey West had never stopped. That the Silmarils had either never been crafted or never lost. That bloody oaths and kin-slayings were not part of the past. I would rather many things."
"You didn't answer."
"No," he agreed. "I suppose I didn't." He looked at her for a long moment, inclined his head slightly and turned, entering the sprawling abode of Elrond once more.
Carathwan let out a heavy sigh.