A/N – As promised, here is the final chapter of this story. I hope you've all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks to everyone for reviewing and PMing me. It's always a pleasure hearing from you.
I've got my Cloud Strife fic up on the site. It's called "Addiction". Check it out if you're interested in reading the angst I subject poor Cloudy.
Chapter 15 – What Hurts the Most
Legolas strode in the direction of stables to prepare Alagos for the long journey to the Grey Havens. It was not yet light out and he wanted to be well beyond the Pelennor Fields before the sun rose. Without the Rhûn party to travel with, he could cover more ground by himself in the coming days.
There was another reason he wanted to leave before anyone stirred. He despised saying goodbye and saying it to Silivrén would be a disaster.
His thoughts drifted to the dream he had. Elves didn't normally sleep unless injured or suffering. Although he had slept through the night…most of it was fitful tossing and turning. Nienna visited him in his dream. She was a Vala, sister to Mandos, the Doomsman and keeper of the Halls. It wasn't often Elves were visited by the Valor in their dreams. Yet he had been visited twice. The first time by Varda, who had told him of his quest and advised him to travel east beyond the borders of his home. Following Varda's advice, his travels took him to Rhûn. And now Nienna visited him and had further advice.
"Tis critical you follow your heart," said Nienna.
"How can I when I have no faith in myself? I could have prevented all of this by refusing her from the start. I need to face what I've done and accept the pain as my punishment."
"This overwhelming guilt you feel cannot be justified, but your love for Silivrén can."
"No, I have done her wrong. She has forever lost her chance for happiness with another."
"She is for you, Legolas. You know this to be true. And she will need you more than ever when she discovers her true heritage. Remember these words. Glory comes from daring to begin. I fear an onerous journey awaits you if you choose to let her go."
This was the only time in his life he decided he would not heed the advice of the Valor. No one else knew about Silivrén's Elven heritage so there was little risk she would ever find out…unless Rataman decided to tell her and Legolas didn't think that would ever happen. No…he would cross the sea to Valinor and pray that the bond between him and Silivrén would be severed.
Legolas reached the stables and silently stepped inside. From their stalls, the horses acknowledged his presence with soft sounds as he passed. At the last stall stood Alagos. Usually the stallion began to prance excitedly whenever Legolas approached. But oddly Alagos remained motionless as if afraid to move.
Legolas discovered the reason for his stallion's stillness the moment he opened the stall door. Silivrén was sound asleep, curled up beneath the stallion's feet. He understood why she was there and his plan to slip away before dawn was quickly squashed. As he knelt down beside her, he knew deep down inside he was relieved to look upon her one last time.
He reached out and brushed the hair out of her eyes. When he gently caressed her cheek with his thumb, she stirred with a sigh.
Silivrén opened her eyes and seemed disoriented at first. When she sat up and saw Legolas kneeling beside her, she immediately closed the gap between them and slid her arms around his neck. "Legolas…"
Legolas complied and folded his arms around her. He closed his eyes and inhaled her scent, locking it away in his memories. "What are you doing here, Erelei?" he whispered in her ear.
"I knew you would try to leave without saying goodbye. Do you think I do not know you well, Legolas?"
He smiled to himself. "Aye, you know me quite well."
She pulled away to look into his eyes. "Why must you go? Why can you not stay here in Minas Tirith?"
"Eldarion knows about us."
"I do not care if he knows."
"He has ordered me to leave."
"No, he cannot do this. He is your friend."
Legolas reached up to cup her chin. "Listen to me, Silivrén. I cannot stay. I must go."
She threw her arms around his neck again. "I won't let you go. Never."
"I will die if I stay."
Silivrén began to weep. "I will die if you go."
He held her again, trying desperately to hold back his own tears without much success. He held her for a long time, even as he sensed the approaching dawn. Finally he pulled away and placed both hands on her face. "Just remember, Erelei…I love you."
Silivrén saw the tears on his face and knew he spoke the truth.
As Legolas stood up, he pulled Silivrén up on her feet. Then he leaned in to capture her lips for one final kiss. It was over too quickly. He vaulted up on Alagos's back.
Silivrén grabbed his boot and began to sob again. "No, Legolas! Please…don't go!"
He swallowed the lump in his throat and nudged the stallion with his heels. Alagos moved forward, forcing Silivrén to release Legolas's boot.
She stared through a haze of tears as the Elf disappeared out of the stable. Her legs gave out beneath her and she fell to her knees. "Elbereth, help me!" she pleaded to the Gods.
Eldarion brooded from his seat upon the throne of Gondor. Seated below in the chairs reserved for his advisors was Silivrén.
His guard stood at the door and when Eldarion waved his hand, the man hurried forward and bowed his head at the foot of the throne steps. "My Lord, Prince Legolas is nowhere to be found. His horse is also gone from the stables."
A quick glance toward Silivrén and Eldarion saw her stiffen. A nod sent the guard rushing out of the hall. Eldarion studied Silivrén's face. Her skin was white, almost ghost-like. Her expression was completely blank, devoid of any emotion. The only telltale sign of her sadness was the redness in her eyes.
Ever since she arrived in Minas Tirith, she hadn't spoken a word to him or showed any interest in their upcoming betrothal. The fact that she would soon be queen should have sparked some kind of emotion. But there was nothing. She ceased to exist.
He misjudged the profoundness of the love shared between her and Legolas. He had hoped it to be a passing fancy…merely a lust fulfilled. But now he knew she loved the Elf with all her heart.
It concerned him that she might take her own life if someone didn't watch her day and night.
Days passed and Silivrén confined herself to her chambers. She didn't eat anything her maids brought to her and she wouldn't accept the invitations from the ladies in court to join them for tea. She wanted nothing to do with anyone. Her overwhelming misery was making her ill and she felt powerless to stop it.
Teress entered her chamber as she did every morning to personally tend to her. "Silivrén, you cannot stay in this room indefinitely."
"I can if I want to," was Silivrén's quiet reply from where she sat on the window ledge, staring out at the open plains of the Pelennor.
The handmaiden walked to the window and tenderly caressed the back of Silivrén's head, smoothing her light chestnut hair. "Tis normal to be nervous regarding such matters."
Silivrén closed her eyes as tears pooled in them. "You know nothing of what I feel, Teress."
"I know more than you think, child, for I had a hand in raising you from your birth."
Silivrén shook her head and the tears spilled down her cheeks. "If you did then you would know to whom my heart is bound."
"I have known for a long time. Tis not with the king but with a certain Elven prince."
Silivrén raised her eyes up to the handmaiden. "You've known?"
Teress sat down on the opposite side of the ledge. "Your mother was a wonderful woman. She was kind and gentle to everyone and was loved by her people without abandon."
Silivrén wondered why the handmaiden suddenly spoke of her mother.
"Ophelia was under my care before she was betrothed to the king. She was in love with an Elf, yet she had been forced to marry your father. It seems your path has followed that of your mother."
"Did she ever…love my father?"
"She did in her own way, but I knew her heart still belonged to Thavron."
"How did she overcome her grief at never seeing him again?"
"Time heals the wounds of our hearts."
Silivrén placed her hands over her chest. "But I ache terribly. I feel as though my heart bleeds inside me…I cannot bear this pain. Why did he have to leave?"
Teress shook her head in sympathy. "He feels your pain tenfold. He loves you, Silivrén and remaining here would only bring death upon him."
There was a light knock on the door.
Teress left the window ledge and walked to the door, opening it to reveal King Eldarion. She quickly bowed before him. "My Lord." She didn't raise her head until after the king walked passed her into the room.
"Leave us, please," Eldarion said softly.
Teress gave Silivrén another sympathetic look before exiting the room and closing the door behind her.
Silivrén looked away from Eldarion as he approached her.
"Will you never again grace me with your smile, Silivrén?"
"I have nothing to smile about." There was no need to pretend. He knew about her love for Legolas.
"You could have turned down my proposal, Silivrén, yet here you are."
"I do this only for my father."
"Tis a noble deed, but worthless to me. I want a wife, not a soulless apparition."
Silivrén swung her legs off the window ledge and turned angry eyes at him. "How could you send him away like that? He is your friend. He was your father's friend."
"How could I?" Eldarion countered. "I had no such desire to see him leave. But if he stayed then I would have been forced to lose my trust in him and in you. What would stop him from secretly meeting you? What would stop you? I had no choice!"
"I marry you for my father and for my people. But I will never willingly lie in your bed."
He frowned at her. "I feared this would be your decision."
"You may force me to do your bidding, but I will never love you."
"You say you do this for your father and your people. You want nothing for yourself?"
Tears filled her eyes and she refused to wipe them away. "You've made it clear I cannot have what I want."
"I would never agree to such an arrangement and even if I could…Legolas has too much pride and too many morals to love another man's wife. I could have asked him to stay, but I know he would have left anyway."
She remained silent as the tears slid down her pale cheeks.
With his Elven blood, he sensed the intense sorrow in her heart. He envied Legolas for having her love. But Eldarion had his own pride and his own morals. He walked toward a picture on the wall. It was of Arwen, his mother. Her brilliant blue eyes reflected light, even in the painting. He silently spoke to her. What should I do?
The painting, of course, didn't reply. But he felt a stirring in his own heart. He loved Legolas in his own way. The Elf had been there when his parents had died. He had comforted him and spent many long nights telling him tales of his adventures with Aragorn and Arwen. Perhaps his love for Legolas was not the same as Silivrén's, but his heart ached for the Elf just the same.
Eldarion turned back to face Silivrén. Her tears were like blood, seeping from an open wound that didn't want to heal. He knew she'd never belong to him. "I cannot bear the suffering in your eyes, Silivrén."
"What would you have me do?"
Silence stretched between them until she thought he would leave her question unanswered.
"I would have you be with the one you love," he finally said.
Her sobs caught in her throat as she looked up at him.
His eyes found hers. "I will take you to the Grey Havens myself."
Her tears renewed, yet now they were tears of joy and not sorrow. She ran and genuflected before his feet. "Thank you, my Lord. Thank you."
"Do not thank me yet, Silivrén. Legolas has two days ahead of us and knowing the Elf as I do and the dexterity of his stallion, he would have ridden him hard."
Silivrén jumped to her feet, her eyes already glowing with the prospect of seeing Legolas again. "But I have his stallion's progeny."
Eldarion gave her a nod. "Pack lightly. We will leave immediately." And then she graced him with her smile. Her sudden enthusiasm stirred him into believing he was making the right decision. Indeed he envied Legolas and did not blame the Elf for falling in love with her.
As he watched her sprint around the room, looking for things she needed to take, there was a glow about her. It was almost Elven-like. He had never noticed it before and had only seen it on his mother, Arwen. But it was likely his eyes played tricks on him. Only an Elf or peredhil could possibly possess such a trait. (half-Elf)
Eldarion and Silivrén rode for three days. Even though the captain of his guard insisted on accompanying them on this mission of great importance, Eldarion had successfully convinced the man to remain at Minas Tirith. The road to the Grey Havens wasn't a treacherous one and there were plenty of friendly folk along the way who would graciously open their doors to provide accommodations to the Gondorian king and his ward.
So many thoughts filled Silivrén's head as they traveled onward. What if Legolas had already sailed? What if he had perished during the journey to the Grey Havens? What if the calling of the sea was far greater than his love for her? She quickly began to doubt herself and the purpose of her pursuit of him.
"You look troubled?" Eldarion asked her while they walked their horses, giving them a much needed rest.
"I fear I pursue him in vain. He may already have sailed."
"If all else fails, my offer still stands, Silivrén. I know you will never love me as you love him, but I would still have you be queen at my side."
Her eyes softened as she looked at him. "You are a great king and you should have a devoted queen at your side, one who give you her heart. I do not deserve you, Eldarion."
He smiled and looked away. "I can still hope."
Silivrén truly felt bad for him. Perhaps he felt something in his heart for her. But she would never feel love again. Not the way she had with Legolas. She wanted Legolas or no one at all. "What will you tell my father?"
Eldarion shrugged. "I will say that I reconsidered my proposal. He need not know the reason."
"Our union would have joined our lands," she reflected.
"Tis true, but in light of things…" his sentence trailed off.
Eldarion sighed heavily. Prior to their departure from Minas Tirith, Silivrén's handmaiden had sought a brief counsel with him. She spoke of a secret no one else knew. Although she was sworn to never tell Silivrén, she left it to Eldarion to decide whether to inform the girl.
"Rhûn has no true heir," he finally said.
Silivrén frowned and drew her horse to a stop. "What do you mean?"
Eldarion drew his own horse to a stop and turned him around to face her. "This may come as a shock to you, Silivrén, but you deserve to know the truth."
The seriousness of his tone disturbed her. A thousand things rushed through her head. Was it about Legolas?
"The king of Rhûn is not your real father."
Her eyes widened. Of all the things she had thought, this was not one of them. "I…I don't understand."
"Your handmaiden, Teress. She informed me before we left. Your real father was an Elf your mother loved."
She swallowed the sudden lump in her throat and looked down. "Thavron…" The name Teress spoke of earlier. It had to be the Elf her mother loved. Despite the gravity of such an admission, deep in her heart she felt it was true.
"Rataman knows the truth. He kept it from you, fearing he would lose you."
Tears welled in Silivrén's eyes. "He lost me long before this and now I wash myself of such guilt."
"Legolas must have known. Only a full-blooded Elf would sense your true heritage."
"Why didn't he tell me?"
"Perhaps he was threatened to swear his silence." Eldarion turned his horse back toward the path. "Our horses have rested enough."
They loped their horses onward.
Legolas watched the gulls flying around the cove and calling out to each other. Ever since he arrived two days before, he had hoped to finally feel the pull to sail west. All Elves felt it, especially in the Grey Havens, so close to the sea. But still…he sadly felt nothing.
It was not meant to be. He was meant to die on these shores and never set foot in Valinor.
His heart ached sickeningly and he reached up to rub his chest. The thought of purposely putting himself in danger…perhaps a quick trip to the Black Gates…to have an Orc put an end to his life…He seriously considered it.
He turned his head to the source calling his name. It was Círdan, the Elf who built the ships sailing west. There weren't many Elves left on these shores. He wondered if Círdan would be the last to sail.
"Tis finished," the shipwright softly said.
His boat was ready. There were no excuses left for him to hold to this land. Legolas stood up and began following the shipwright along the path beside the sea's edge.
"I recall the time your father came to sail," Círdan said with a smile. "I never would have thought he'd leave without his only son. He complained that you were always undermining him, but he knew you weren't ready."
I'm still not ready, Legolas wanted to respond, but he remained silent as they continued through various arches and stairways…until Legolas received his first glimpse of the boat that would sail him to Valinor. It wasn't a very large boat, but it reminded him of a larger version of the boats he and the other members of the fellowship used as they left Lothlorien so long ago. He paused at the final archway.
Círdan noticed the Elven prince had stopped and he turned to him.
Legolas stared at the boat. "I…I need to see to Alagos."
"Your stallion will be well-cared for," replied the shipwright.
"…are already onboard," Círdan finished.
There was no coming back. Once the boat left the Grey Havens, the Sundering Seas would carry it onward to Valinor. He didn't have the ability to guide the boat in any way. What if he forgot something? What if he needed to come back? No, there was no coming back.
Legolas swallowed the lump in his throat as he nodded and moved forward again. He reached the plank resting between the pier and the boat and turned to the shipwright. "Thank you, Círdan."
"Pass my greetings on to Thranduil."
"Perhaps someday soon I will also be leaving these shores."
Legolas turned to the plank and quickly crossed it before he changed his mind. He hopped into the boat and aided Círdan in removing the plank. Then he moved to the stern to untie the rope. He tossed it to the pier and moved to the bow. He no sooner untied the rope and tossed it to Círdan when he heard his name being called.
He rushed to the stern and looked toward the arches on the second level. Racing across them on Anorcelair was Silivrén. Close behind her was Eldarion. He wasn't sure if she was being pursued by the young king, or if he followed to assure her safety.
The boat slowly edged away from the pier.
"No…" But he was powerless to stop the boat's progress.
"Legolas!" she called out again.
Legolas watched with an open mouth as her mount hurdled over obstacles and jumped entire flights of stairs.
In the next instant, the mare reached the pier. Silivrén vaulted off her back and raced toward the edge. The distance between the pier and the boat increased.
Legolas moved to the edge of the boat and watched with growing concern. "Silivrén, no!"
Silivrén reached the edge of the pier and leapt off. Her arms flailed briefly before her hands miraculously caught the edge of the boat, while the rest of her fell into the water. She reached up as Legolas quickly pulled her up and over the side.
He stared at her in disbelief. "Silivrén…what're you doing here?"
"I'm coming with you."
Silivrén grinned and threw her arms around him. "I know about my real father. I know everything now."
"Who told you?"
She turned her gaze toward the pier as the boat quickly distanced itself from it.
Legolas followed her gaze in time to see Eldarion's horse reach the pier. The Gondorian king raised a hand in farewell. "He let you go?"
"He said he could not bear to see either of us suffering."
He smiled as he returned his gaze to Eldarion and raised his own hand in farewell. Then he looked down at Silivrén and it seemed a miracle she had arrived when she did. If she had come any later…his boat would have been gone. "Do you realize what you are giving up, Erelei?"
"I care only for what I will lose if I do not go with you. I cannot live without you, Legolas."
"We can never come back."
"I know." She frowned at him, wondering why he was trying to talk her out of going. "Do you not want me to go with you?"
Legolas placed his hands on her face and leaned in to tenderly kiss her lips. "I want you with me, my Erelei. Forever."
The two shared several more kisses before turning toward the Grey Havens. The pier was still in sight and Eldarion waved once again. They waved back to him, knowing they would never see him or these lands again.
When the boat proceeded out of the cove and into open waters, Legolas led Silivrén to the back of the boat and they sat together on the floor, leaning against the side. He put his arm around her shoulder and she turned her face toward him with a smile. Nienna, the Vala, had been right. Silivrén was for him. He wanted no other. And now he looked forward to their new adventure together when they reached the shores of Valinor.