"Come sister! Father says you must get up quickly!" Arwen said in a distressed voice, shaking her younger sister awake. It was dark outside, and there was no moon amongst the black sky. There was still many hours to go till dawn would creep over the mountains and cast it's light upon the city that was built into the face of the valley. Waterfalls snaked their way around it like ribbons, before falling into the lush green vale of forests below.
Tari groaned and said in a sleepy voice, "Tell him I am indisposed..." Tari pulled her silken covers closer about her lithe form and buried her head against her pillow.
Arwen ripped the covers away from her sister and said in a half yell, "Up! This is of the utmost importance!"
Tari sighed deeply and sat up, rubbing her tired eyes. Arwen was still in her nightgown, with a silver robe pulled loosely over her shoulders. Tari's elder sister had long coal black hair that fell in elegant waves down to her elbows. Arwen had ivory flawless skin, and emerald eyes that would entice even the chaste of men. Tari envied her sister very much, even though she herself looked like an angel, with her perfect complexion, long golden-blonde hair, tall and thin form, and beautiful yet secretive brown eyes. Arwen had a look of worry upon her fair elven face. "What in Valar's name does he want with me this late at night?" Tari asked angrily, staring out of her glass-less window above her bed.
"Get up and dress yourself in riding clothes! Quickly!" she hissed. Arwen tossed her a dress of layered silk-like material in shades of dark blues and greys. Tari stared at her awkwardly, her brows knitted in confusion, but went and changed out of her lilac silk nightdress behind a screen. When she emerged in the riding dress, she was surprised to see her sister holding out a small leather pack and her sword.
"Arwen, what is going-" Tari began to say, but she was quickly hushed by her sister as the pack was thrust into her arms, and her sword was placed at her waist.
"Come!" she said, and took her hand, dragging her to the door.
Arwen led her down the corridor at a fast walk. They reached the courtyard, which was filled with flowers of every color and kind. But the beauty it usually held for Tari, did not intrigue her. She saw her father up ahead, dressed in long dark crimson and gold robes, standing talking to her identical brothers. Elladan had a sword at his side, and a bow across his back. Elrohir was already mounted upon a dark bay steed, clearly ready to go to wherever it was she was going. Both had stern faces like her father, and dark brownish-black hair that fell a little past their shoulders. Short hair was not usually the way of the elves. There were two other magnificent horses standing there as well; saddled and ready to ride.
"Adar!" (Father) Tari exclaimed when she reached them, "What is going on?"
Lord Elrond turned to look at his daughter, noting the anxiousness in her words and eyes. "I have recieved news that Sauron is plotting your death, my daughter. He has sent a small army of orcs to capture you here." His voice was filled with dread and worry. But not so much as his eyes.
Tari couldn't help but let her eyes widen at this. "But why?" she asked, taking a step closer to look into her father's eye for answers. His face, however, remained impassive. Tari's gentle brown eyes were full of questions. 'What does Sauron want with me? I am of no value...' she thought to herself. 'Why will Father not tell me why he is sending me so far away from my home?'
"I am having your brothers take you to Lothlorien to dwell with your grandmother for a short while. Just until the danger has passed." Elrond said quickly, leading her over to a dark grey mare.
"But father-" Tari begins to protest. "I can fight as well as any who dwell here! You know this!"
This was true, for Tari was the most skilled in Imladris with a blade, apart from her father of course. It was unsurprising, seeing as how he had taught his daughter himself.
"Do not argue with me daughter. I am doing this for your safety, not because I want to. I will see you again soon." He said, his stern tone and dark grey eyes making it clear not to debate him any further. To reassure her, he placed a paternal kiss upon her forehead. Tari couldn't help but glare at her father. She sighed and leapt up into the light elvish saddle. Her father handed her the reins. "Be careful, the three of you." He turned back to his sons and said, "Take her through the mountain pass I have told you. It is the safest, and the orcs should not know of it. I have an escort waiting for you at the borders of Lorien." The two nodded in unison. Elladan mounted his dapple-grey stallion with skill. "Let us leave." he said to the other two. Tari nodded with reluctance, before tapping her horse's sides lightly and cantering after the two, who were just passing the stone pillared gates.
Lord Elrond watched his daughter ride away, his stormy grey eyes glazed with tears. His daughter had never left the confines of the Imladris before now. He had never allowed her to roam. "If only she knew..." he whispered, more to himself than to anyone else.
Arwen strode to his side, a puzzled look on her face. "Did you never tell her why she has been hunted all her life? Why you never let her leave Imladris's borders?" she asked in a breathy whisper.
Lord Elrond shook his head sadly. "No... I know I should have, but I didn't. I wanted to protect her from all the evil in this world... I should send her across the sea to her mother. At least there she would be safe."
"Sauron would still look for her." Arwen said lamentably, dropping her emerald green gaze to the ground. "Who did you send to meet them at the borders?" she asked.
At this, Elrond smiled, and laughed in an amused way before answering, "Oh, someone special..."
Elrohir, Elladan, and Tari were almost upon her grandmother's borders. They had evaded the orcs easily, and made their way south past the outskirts of the forests of Lothlorien. They stopped to rest only once, and then started out again as the first rays of light shown in the sky. Tari knew that her brothers were very skilled in tracking and hunting, and that they would let no harm come to her. But despite herself, she kept glancing over her shoulder to make sure that she was not being followed. She felt as though something unseen was watching her every move. As the three rode to the crest of a hill, they beheld the great elven realm of Lorien. The trees seemed to glow with an ethereal light, and their green leaves seemed to be brushed lightly with silver. The city was deep within the heart of the woods where the trees seemed to reach to the sky. Those who do not hold favor with the Lady of those woods, would be set in a trance, and wander the never-ending trails forever... A lone rider upon a white horse stood at the borders. "There he is..." Elrohir said, pointing to the figure.
"Who is he?" Tari asked peculiarly, staring at the man who was still very far from them.
Elrohir and Elladan exchanged solemn glances, before smiling. "Don't worry, he isn't going to kill you, dear sister." Elrohir said with his father's amusement.
"Who-is-he?" she asked again, more forcefully. Elrohir ignored her and urged his horse down the hill. Tari rolled her eyes at the bright sky and followed. As they drew level with the man, Tari could distinctly make out his features. It wasn't a man, it was an elf. He was very handsome. He had a perfectly sculpted body, long silver-blonde hair, high cheekbones, and bright blue eyes that seemed to light up as they came to rest upon her. His face seemed to be carved by angels. The elf smiled as they came to a halt. They all dismounted. Tari's brothers went to exchange greetings with the elf.
"Hail, Princes Elrohir and Elladan," the elf said, bowing his head to them. Elladan and Elrohir returned it. He approached Tari with an aphrodisiac smile. He took her hand gently in his and kissed it lightly. It felt as though her hand had been caressed by the silkiest rose petal. "Princess Tariathon, it is a great pleasure to finally meet you." he said in a voice that made her heart flutter. 'Stop it Tari...' she thought to herself angrily. 'You just met the elf, and yet he already makes you feel this way.'
"What might your name be, heruamin (my lord), for I have yet to hear it." she asked in a polite a tone as she could muster.
He looked at her oddly, his bright eyes glimmering with puzzlement. "You do not know?" he asked, "Have you never been told of me?"
Elrohir stepped over to her and laid a hand on her shoulder. "Tari, I would like you to meet Prince Legolas of Mirkwood: your betrothed."
Tari felt her jaw fall a few inches. "My what?" she stammered, staring at each of them in turn.
"Your betrothed." Elladan repeated tonelessly.
Tari felt herself shaking with not only shock, but anger too. 'Why was I never told that I had been promised to someone I do not even know!' she thought furiously.
"Tari..." Elrohir began in a consoling tone, sensing his sister's distress.
Tari jerked away from him, her gentle brown eyes aflame with choler. "I cannot believe this... I will not be forced to marry someone I do not even know." she whispered, determinedly keeping herself from shouting. Legolas took a tentative step toward her, reaching out a comforting hand. Tari stepped away from him. "Keep your distance, Prince." she said, her voice layered with venom. Legolas let his hand drop back down to his side, wondering how someone so beautiful could be so cold. He stared into her eyes, and he was surprised to see a deep dislike there. A hatred that she apparently held for him. Yet he knew that it wasn't fully directed at him... It was held for her father, and brothers, and sister for never having told her she was betrothed. She did not utterly loathe him.
A loud shriek rent the air like the crack of a whip. "Yrchs..." (Orcs) Elladan whispered with the merest hint of fear in his strong voice. "Come! Tari!" He took her hand and dragged her to her horse. She mounted quickly, just as the others did as well.
"Follow me..." Legolas said, kicking his horse's sides lightly with his booted feet, and plunging into the forest.
The three followed after him, the lurchs hot on their trail. Tari could hear their thunderous footfalls from behind her as she tried to keep up with her brothers. An arrow whizzed past her, hitting a tree with a menacing 'thud'. She urged her horse faster down the trail, panic rising slowly within her. More arrows were shot toward her, two of which struck her horse. It stumbled and fell with a whinny of pain, throwing Tari from the saddle. She hit the ground hard, and rolled to a stop, feeling dazed and weak. Her head pounded painfully, and she felt blood ooze down her forehead. Tari heard Legolas shouting, and her brothers yelling her name. She groped for her sword, but remembered that it was with her horse. Suddenly, something grabbed her roughly by the neck and dragged her upward forcefully. It had rough, callused hands and putrid breath.
It was an orc. "I've caught her!" it shrieked in delight, "Sauron will be pleased! I have our prize!" Tari struggled desperately to get out of his firm grasp, but to no avail. He grabbed her arms and twisted them up behind her back painfully hard. Tari let out an anguished yell as a searing pain shot up her arms. This only made the orcs laugh with pleasure. She felt herself being dragged backward. Tari looked around, and saw Legolas, Elladan, and Elrohir running toward her; each had a weapon. Legolas's eyes were no longer gentle, but kindled with ferocity like blue flame. He drew a single arrow, and aimed at the yrch holding her. At the same time, the orc drew a sharp dagger and set it to Tari's throat. She winced slightly as she felt the cool blade cut into her skin, letting her blood begin to flow onto her clothes, staining it crimson.
"Release her!" Legolas yelled, his voice full of anger, and yet also barely concealed fear.
The forty some yurchs laughed derisively. The one holding Tari called to him in a malicious voice,
"Shoot elf! If you do, I'll kill her here and now! She will fall onto this dagger before I hit the ground!" Tari felt him press the dagger against her harder, and felt it cut deeper into her skin. Blood was now trickling slowly down her neck. She felt dizzy at the loss of it. Tari looked over to Legolas, and gazed into his eyes with a pleading look. He stared back at her. The anger was gone from her eyes. All there was now, was fright.
Legolas made up his mind in a split second. He fired his arrow. His aim held true as the arrow spiraled toward the orc, hitting it squarely in the forehead. The laughter had not quite died from it's eyes as it fell to the ground, it's dagger cut slightly into Tari's throat. She let out a gasp of pain, and clutched her hand to her throat to stop the now steady flow of blood. Elrohir, Elladan, and Legolas charged forward into the orcs.
Tari fell to the ground, her hands still pressed over her bleeding neck. Tari heard the clash of steel on steel, and the singing of bows as they released their arrows. She knew that she was in the middle of a deadly battle, but she was too weak to care. Her eyes closed as her lightheadedness took over her senses. She felt strong arms lift her from the ground, run with her, and lift her into a saddle. Tari forced herself to open her eyes to look at her rescuer. It was Legolas. He strained himself to give her a reassuring smile, but knew that she was losing blood quickly.
Elrohir finished off the last orc with his sword, and ran over to Legolas. "Go!" he yelled, "Take her to the city and do not look back!" Legolas did not need telling twice. He wheeled his horse around and took off at an amazing gallop down the trail.
Tari tried to stay awake, fearing that she would not wake up if she did. But despite her efforts, sleep took hold of her and dragged her into a dreamless slumber. Before her eyes closed, she managed to whisper, "Thank you..."
Tari's eyes fluttered open at last. She was in a room that seemed to be washed in a celestial glow. Tari was lying in a soft bed of white and silver silken sheets and blankets. It felt like she was resting upon a cloud. Then, she remembered the orcs. She gasped, and clutched her throat. Her fingers felt soft gauze wrapped lightly and gently around her neck. She saw that she was dressed in white silks embroidered with thick silver thread. The sleeves belled out elegantly at her elbows. Tari gazed around the beautiful room. There were no walls, only intricately designed pillars that looked like trunks of young trees, with vines wrapping their way up them and stretching to the next pillar. There were long curtains that hung down from them, and they swayed slightly despite the fact that she felt no wind.
Tari threw the comforter off of her, and swung out of the cozy bed. She stood up, and walked carefully to the nearest curtain. Tentatively, she reached out, and pulled it back. Tari let out a gasp of surprise, and stumbled backward. She wasn't on the ground, but hundreds of feet in the air. The room she was in, was set upon a talan; a platform built off the branches of trees. "I must be in the city..." she whispered. Tari turned to look at the rest of the room. On the night stand next to the bed, there was a crystalline vase. It had two white roses in full bloom sitting in it. Tari made to walk towards them to examine them more closely, but stopped when she heard footsteps approaching.
The curtain opposite from her was drawn back, and in walked Legolas. He was dressed in a fine silver threaded tunic, with black leggings and soft leather boots. Half of his silver-blonde hair was pulled back into an exotic spiraling braid. Tari saw that he held another white rose in his hand. "Quel amrun, arwenamin." (Good morning, my lady) he said with a smile, walking serenely over to the vase, and setting the flower with the rest. Tari gave him a questioning look. Legolas seemed to notice this, and said, "You've been asleep for three days. I have been bringing you one rose, for each day I waited for you to wake."
Tari did not answer this, but gazed at him mutely. 'He has been waiting for me?' she thought with a hint of happiness. At the thought, she felt angry with herself. Three days ago, she had glared at him with the utmost hatred. Three days ago, she had flatly said she would not marry him. 'Why does he not despise me after all that I've said and done? Why did he even save me in the first place?'
"Because I care too much about you, to let someone so innocent and beautiful die at the hands of orcs." Legolas said with a grin. Tari blushed, both inwardly and outwardly. 'He delved into my mind and read my thoughts...' Tari thought dismally.
"That is not very polite, my prince." she said sternly, trying to retain her dignity and defiance.
To her utter surprise, Legolas laughed and said heartily, "My lady, you blush at my words, and then try and remain disgusted of me. I wish you would not think so little of me."
"I think of you as one of the lowliest creatures to inhabit Middle Earth." she said in a deathly whisper, not meeting his gaze.
Legolas still held his smile. "You don't mean that. If I had not been betrothed to you, I doubt you would be this cold."
"You're probably right." she answered, "But the fact remains that you are."
"Then pretend I'm not." he said, walking over to her. Tari stood her ground, and did not back away from him this time. She didn't shy when he gently took her hands in his. "Tari," he whispered, dropping his formal manner and tone, and replacing it with a soothing gentle voice. Tari looked up at him, and found herself lost in his eyes. They were so full of compassion; so soft and docile. "If I was not betrothed to you, what would you say? Look into my eyes and tell me truthfully..." he said softly.
Tari gazed still at him, his face waiting patiently for her answer. "I-I don't know." she answered quietly.
"Yes, you do. I can tell. You are just too afraid to tell me... Do not make me read your thoughts to find the answers that I seek." Legolas said unrelentingly.
Tari dropped her gaze to the ground, not wanting to say what was in her heart. 'I cannot tell him the truth...' she thought miserably, 'He would think me a fool... Why does he not leave me be?'
"Because I want the truth." Legolas said, having read her thoughts. "You know my feelings for you, and now I want to hear what yours are. What you told me before was out of anger and shock. But now, I want to know what you really feel." There was a deadly silence, in which Tari continued to stare at the ground, still not answering him.
Legolas released her hands, and took something out of his pocket. He took one of Tari's hands in his, and set it in her palm. Tari looked down at the object. It was a locket. A very beautiful locket on a long gilded chain. It was golden, and in the shape of a heart. The face was engraved with vines and roses, that encircled around a single stone in the center. When Legolas had set the locket in her hand, the stone had turned from a colorless gem, to a deep shade of pink. Tari looked at him curiously, wondering why he would give her such a beautiful piece of jewelry.
"This is my gift to you." he said in a hushed voice. "It is yours, whether or not you return my feelings for you. If you despise me still, then I shall go to your father and ask him to end the betrothal. I would not want you to be unhappy for the rest of your life, with a man you do not love. I could never truly be happy and content with you, if you could never be happy with me..." Without another word, he turned and left the room, leaving a stunned silence in his wake.
Tari felt a deep wrench of repentance in her heart as she watched him leave. She sat down on her bed slowly, and buried her head in her hands, feeling a few tears escape the corners of her eyes. 'How can I be so heartless?' she thought miserably, recalling the pained look on his face as he had said those last few sentences. 'It is not his fault that we were betrothed... He gave his heart to me and I tore it apart...'
"Tari." a soft empathizing voice called.
Tari stood up quickly, and turned. Standing in the 'doorway' was the most beautiful being she had ever beheld. Dressed in white and gold linens, with hair so gold, as to rival the sun. It was Lady Galadriel. She smiled graciously, and walked over to her grand-daughter, her bright sky-blue eyes sparkling. It seemed as though she was gliding. "Hello, my dear." she said graciously. Tari answered with a half-hearted smile. "Prince Legolas seemed very distressed when I passed him a few moments ago... Do you know what about?" she asked, although having the gift of fore-sight, she already knew the answer.
"No, my Lady..." Tari answered sullenly, her eyes downcast as she sat back down upon the bed. Her grandmother came over, and sat down beside her.
She looked down at what Tari was holding. She smiled broadly. "I see he has given you the locket I had made..." she said brightly.
Tari looked at her curiously. "You made this?" she asked in bemusement, staring at her grandmother questioningly.
"Yes, I did. It is a very, very special item... You see-" she took the locket carefully from Tari, and said, "The jewel here, changes colors to whatever emotion you are feeling... Legolas has a ring similar to this, with three jewels." She opened the locket, revealing the inside. There were two heart shapes, where one would usually put a picture. But instead, there was a face that was an entire shade of light blue. The other side, showed Legolas's face. He looked very distraught, and Tari could see that his bright eyes looked like they were glazed with tears. "The left face," Galadriel explained, "shows the emotions that Legolas is feeling, and the right, shows where he is or what he is doing. Consider it as my gift to you both." she shut the locket with a small 'snap', and handed it back to Tari. "Dark blue means content, red means hatred, silver signifies fear. White, means that you are in need. Green shows anxiousness; when you are worried. Yellow means happiness. Light blue means that you are depressed or sad. Grey means that you are somewhere between life and death. Black, the last color, stands for death. It would only turn to that color, if you were to die."
Tari hesitated, staring at the moving picture of Legolas, before asking, "What does pink mean?"
Lady Galadriel smiled mischievously before answering quietly, "It means you are in love..."
After passing the Lady Galadriel, Legolas went down the stairs that spiraled around the great tree's trunk. When he reached the bottom, he couldn't help glancing back up into the thick wide branches, where he could see Tari moving in her room. He saw her bury her face in her hands. 'Is she crying?' he thought worriedly. 'Even now that I've left her alone, I still cause her pain... I want only her to be happy, even if it's not with me...' Legolas turned reluctantly, and walked down the soft dirt path, his feet making no sound as he walked.
It was late, and no elves were out walking alone like he was. He followed the silver lantern lit trail to the magnificent gardens. Lavender and roses engulfed his senses as he strode among the many flowers and bushes, thinking silently to himself about how he would ask her father to call off the betrothal. Legolas found a comfortable spot nestled between the roots of a great tree, and sat down. He closed his eyes, feeling a deep sense of loss as he thought about her. 'I have never met a fairer maiden than she, and yet none so bittersweet.' he thought gloomily. 'I should leave tomorrow... Go back to Mirkwood, and live out my days in half-peace...'
"My lord?" a quiet and pacifying voice called through the semi-darkness that had fallen on the forest.
Legolas opened his eyes, and immediately straightened up. "My Lady Tari?" he asked in a questioning way, even though he could see her very clearly. 'Why would she seek me out?' "You should still be in bed, milady, you need rest."
"I have strength enough..." she answered. To his utter surprise, she was smiling down at him. And even more so, when he saw that she bore the locket he had given her. The bandages that had once been around her neck, were now gone. Legolas saw the gash upon her throat; testament of the orcs. Legolas got to his feet, not breaking his gaze with her.
Tari kept her gaze determinedly fixed on the ground as she spoke. "I've come to offer my apologies, if you would accept them. You were right when you said I was angry and shocked. I should not have dismissed you so carelessly. It had not been your choice that the betrothal was made, you had no part in it. I pray that you forgive me for my harsh words. I am sorry..." she bowed her head to him solemnly, and turned to walk away. She had barely taken two steps, when she felt someone gently take hold of her arm, and hold her back. Tari whirled around to find herself mere inches from Legolas's face. His gaze was no longer sad, or tormented, but longing and felicitous.
"There is nothing to forgive..." he whispered, laying a hand on the side of her face, and caressing her cheek gently. Tari felt unable to move, for she was held spellbound by his words, his eyes, and his touch. 'I shouldn't be doing this...' she thought desperately. And yet, she could do nothing to keep the next four words from escaping her lips.
"...I love you too..." she whispered. She let her weary head rest against his strong chest as he pulled her into a sweet embrace...
A loud horn sounded from somewhere. It's call rang through the trees like the call of some monstrous bird. "Come quickly!" Legolas said, grasping her hand and leading her away down the trail. His face showed fear and anxiousness; thought not for himself.
"What has happened?" she asked frantically as he led her to the stairs.
"The orcs have breached the city." he said hastily, his eyes full of a kindling fear. "Go quickly to the Lady! I must go!" Legolas said hurriedly, ushering her up the first few stairs before leaping back down to the bottom.
"Wait!" she called after him, as he ran off, grabbing a bow and a quiver of arrows as he went.
"I will find you!" he called back, his voice no longer filled with fear, but with a strong determination. Tari ran up the stairs as fast as her legs would carry her. When she reached her talan, it was to find Galadriel waiting there for her. She looked even paler, and very distressed.
"Come here child!" she said frantically, beckoning her granddaughter over to her.
"What are we going to do?" Tari asked, looking at her intently for an answer.
"I have to send you away..." Lady Galadriel said quietly, stepping over to her and grasping Tari's shoulders firmly.
"What do you mean?" Tari asked, not fully comprehending what she was saying.
Her grandmother's eyes sparkled. But they weren't sparkling with happiness or joy, they sparkling with tears. She took the Tari's locket from her hand. "My Lady!" Tari protested, reaching for the locket.
"No, Tari. You cannot keep it. Where I am sending you, you cannot have anything that reminds you of here, for I fear you may try to find a way back..." Galadriel said, grasping the locket firmly, so Tari could not snatch it back.
"Grandmother what are you saying! I am staying here! I will not leave! If it means that I must face the orcs, then so be it!" Tari said defiantly, her eyes gleaming with anger.
"I'm sorry Tari, but this is the only way you will be safe... I cannot risk you being captured."
"I will risk it!" Tari protested furiously, "I will not leave him!" she yelled, referring to Legolas. She had confessed her love to him! She was not going to flee from battle while he fights valiantly to protect her!
Lady Galadriel was chanting something in elvish, her hand still placed firmly on Tari's shoulders. A white light was slowly beginning to emanate from Tari. "No!" she cried, unable to move because of the spell enchanting her. Tears were flowing freely down her face as she struggled, yelling at her grandmother to stop. Darkness was slowly engulfing her sight, and unconsciousness was taking it's hold. Before she had gone completely, she yelled out her betrothed's name...