I'll put my usual self defeating comments on the bottom, since I have so much to say this time. Here I will simply say, enjoy.
Alagos galloped rapidly through the trees, winding between the low branches and jumping over exposed tree roots. Tinwe held on tightly, her hair flying back behind her. She drew an arrow from her quiver and shot it inches in front of the nose of the rider in front of her.
"Must you always do that?" Glennodad said with a sigh, continuing on at his slow pace.
"I can't help it," Tinwe said, slowing to a stop beside the tree where her arrow was imbedded so she could retrieve it. "Patrolling is so boring."
"That's not a bad thing, you know," Glennodad said. "Be grateful we haven't had Orcs or Goblins in Mirkwood in almost a year."
"I am grateful the kingdom is safe," Tinwe said, trotting up beside her partner. "But I feel so useless without something to defend the kingdom from."
"At least you got to travel outside our borders recently. Some of us don't have the luxury of having royalty excuse us from work."
"You're right, I shouldn't complain."
Tinwe and Glennodad rode in silence the rest of the way. They had just spent a week out on a routine patrol of the kingdom, and the most interesting thing they had seen was a stag that had darted across their path on the second day.
Tinwe was happy she had joined the Guard, but she hadn't seen any real action since they had fought off a band of wargs while she was still a recruit. That had been eight months ago. She was no longer just a recruit, but it seemed being an actual Guard member was far less interesting than being a recruit. Glennodad was right, she had got to go visit Gimli with Legolas as a graduation present, but she still was antsy.
Her mother had noticed first: "Tinwe," she had said. "You have a good life here now. Don't just throw it away on a whim."
"I know," Tinwe had replied, but she couldn't shake the restless feeling. It was better when she was out patrolling the kingdom or visiting the men of Dale, but it was still not enough. She would be okay for a few days upon her return, then she would start going out for long rides with Alagos again. It was getting worse, as well. Now she was starting to feel restless even when she was traveling. It was getting too mundane and familiar.
Legolas had also noticed. Tinwe was fairly certain that was the reason for their trip. Though he had cited his promise to Gimli as motivation, Tinwe was certain he had noticed her staring out the window while they sat together in his study. She had caught herself tapping her finger or her foot many times in her restlessness as she stared out into the world, thinking about her travels. When she did realize she was doing this, she would stop immediately and think about the present instead. Sometimes Legolas would notice the change and they would go riding or practice archery, other times he was too focused on the work his father gave him. These times, Tinwe would inevitably find her thoughts drifting towards the uncomfortable prospect of marriage. It had been almost two years since they had met up again during the War of the Ring, and Legolas had not proposed or even talked about it. Tinwe felt both relieved and unsettled all at once.
"At least we get a long break now. You can go do something more interesting than patrolling." Tinwe nodded as she and Glennodad rode into the stables, but didn't say anything. Glennodad disappeared in the opposite direction as Tinwe walked Alagos towards her stall. Maybe she could visit Gondor with her free time. She thought maybe Arwen would have some insight into her problems. It was worth a try.
As Tinwe made her way towards home, she was stopped by an elf whom she recognized as one of the king's messengers.
"Excuse me, Lady Tinwe. King Thranduil would like to see you in his office."
"Certainly," Tinwe said, following the messenger. Dressed in her riding tunic, with her bow and sword strapped to her back, Tinwe felt very underdressed for a meeting with the king. Over the past couple years, they had become more amicable towards one another, but their relationship was still uneasy. Tinwe tried to rub the dirt off her face as she walked. Whatever the king wanted with her was probably not going to be pleasant.
When they reached the king's study, she was told to wait outside while the messenger entered. She was used to the protocol by now, and waited patiently, staring at a nearby candelabrum with mild interest.
"The king will see you now," the messenger said, holding the door open so she could enter. With a short "thank you," Tinwe entered.
"Your majesty," she said, bowing politely.
"Good afternoon Tinwe. Please, sit," he said, indicating a chair in front of his desk. She sat as best she could, conscious of the quiver, bow, and sword between her back and the chair.
"What did you wish to speak to me about, my lord?" she said as she tried to sit with dignity.
"It is almost the two year anniversary of the Battle of Pelennor Fields, is it not?" he said, folding his hands and looking at her closely.
"I believe it is," Tinwe said, her mind filling with flashbacks.
"You and my son have been together long enough that the prospect of marriage should not be ignored for much longer," he said, startling Tinwe with this forwardness. "As a prince, Legolas has certain obligations, and you as his wife will have them as well."
"To what are you referring?" Tinwe asked, fairly certain she knew the answer.
"I believe it would be in everyone's best interests if you considered withdrawing from the Guard and finding something to do more suitable to a mother. Riding around the forests and fighting Orcs is dangerous and could have unintended consequences."
"Are you afraid I am going to get hurt and not be able to have children?" Tinwe asked, not bothering to beat around the bush since the king obviously wasn't.
"I think you have a tendency to be a little unpredictable and that could hazardous to your own health and that of your children. Why do you not try healing? Legolas informed me that you patched him up when he was injured."
"I have some healing skills," Tinwe said modestly. Having stitched herself back up countless times, she should have probably given herself more credit than that. "But I am not nearly as good as my mother or brother. They are far more gifted."
"Be that as it may," Thranduil said, still watching her closely. "I highly recommend you find another position to take up. Take a seriously look at your relationship with my son and think about your futures. I hope you will be able to make the right decision when the time comes."
Tinwe knew she was being dismissed. She stood up and bowed again, leaving the king's study feeling worse than she actual thought she would going into it. Had the king actually just told her that she had to choose either Legolas or the Guard? It was like choosing between which arm she wanted to keep. She couldn't see herself without either. She loved Legolas, and knew that she could not live without him. Though he was a relatively new chapter in her life, she could never see herself growing tired of his company the way she did with everyone else. But she also loved the Guard, which was more to her than just a job. It was freedom. She traveling and fighting were the two things that made her feel truly alive. As she had many times before, Tinwe wished that her life could stay exactly the way it was right now. Though, if she was honest with herself, she knew that her own nature would never let her maintain the delicate balance of her current life indefinitely.
Not wanting to go home, knowing exactly what her mother would say to the problem, Tinwe decided to go see if Icaria was home. She rarely saw her friend anymore. Either Tinwe was off on patrol, or Icaria was with Thorontur.
"Coming!" Tinwe heard as she knocked on her friend's door. When Icaria opened the door, she beamed at her. "Tinwe! Come in, come in! I feel like I haven't seen you in ages!"
"Thanks," Tinwe said, entering the room. "Do you have a few minutes? I need to talk to you."
"Of course! It's been far too long since we talked. Thorontur, do you mind?" Tinwe looked around and saw him sitting on the couch in the corner. He smiled at her as his eyes met hers.
"Not at all. I have errands to run anyway. I will see you later for dinner," he said, kissing Icaria and nodding to Tinwe as he disappeared into the hallway.
"What did you want to talk about?" Icaria said, indicating for Tinwe to have a seat. "Do you want some tea?"
"Yes please," Tinwe said, taking off her gear this time so she could sit comfortably. "And I just wanted someone to talk to after having a rather uncomfortable meeting with the king."
"Uh oh, what's wrong?" Icaria said, pouring Tinwe a cup of tea and handing it to her. "I thought the two of you were getting along better."
"We are," Tinwe said earnestly. "But he just reverted back to his original opinion of me and asked me to choose between Legolas and the Guard."
"He didn't!" Icaria said in shock, which made Tinwe feel better. "That is rather rude."
"Well, he didn't say it exactly like that," Tinwe said slowly. Her eyes moved downwards and rested on the ring currently on her friend's finger.
"He 'suggested' I choose a more suitable pastime for a mother."
"Wait, does that mean Legolas is going to propose soon?!" Icaria said, putting down her cup of tea, her excitement rising. "It's about time! I can't believe he's taken this long. Thorontur and I had only been together for a year when we got engaged."
"I don't know if he is or not, but we have been together a long enough time that it is a distinct possibility. But you're missing the point here, Icaria. If I marry Legolas, I will have to give up the Guard."
"Tinwe," Icaria said seriously. "You have been running around Middle Earth for millennia. You and Legolas were meant for each other. Don't you think that love is worth the sacrifice?"
"I honestly don't know, Icaria," Tinwe said, staring into her cup of tea. "Nothing has ever scared me as much as the prospect of marriage."
"You are thinking about this far too much. Legolas would never make you do anything you didn't want to. Sure, the king will probably always be pressuring you to give up the Guard, but that doesn't mean you have to. Legolas won't let him bully you that way."
"Maybe, but marriage does tie me down, even if I don't give up the Guard. I need to go back and visit my friends out east and to the south. I can't just leave on a whim if I were married. I would have to arrange and plan everything."
"I don't think you're giving Legolas enough credit," Tinwe said, settling back into the couch. "He would probably follow you to the ends of the earth if you asked. Just take him with you when you travel. He would probably enjoy it."
"He's really busy right now on a project he is working on with his father," Tinwe said with a sigh. "It will probably take a long time before he's finished. It could be decades before he's done. I don't think I can last that long cooped up here."
"What is he working on?"
"I don't know, he avoids my questions when I ask. I gave up trying to figure it out."
"That's rather suspicious," Icaria said, her brow furrowed in thought. "What would he and his father have to work on without others knowing?"
"If I knew, I would tell you," Tinwe said, frowning. "It could very well be the plans for a ship to travel into the West. I know there are a number of elves who are considering leaving soon. There are rumors that Lord Elrond, Lady Galadriel, and Lord Celeborn are going to leave soon, and it may be related to that."
"Perhaps," Icaria said, obviously deep in thought. "You don't think King Thranduil is planning to leave as well do you?"
"It's hard to say. I suppose if he does leave that will take some of the pressure of me, so he may chose to stay just to keep me in line."
"That's a bit harsh," Icaria said, watching Tinwe. "I think he is probably just concerned for Legolas."
"You're probably right," Tinwe said, finishing her tea. "I should probably go change. It will be time for dinner soon and mother hates it when I sit on her chairs in my riding clothes."
"You better go then," Icaria said with a laugh. "And don't worry so much about the future. Do what feels right."
Despite what Icaria had said, Tinwe couldn't let it go. What King Thranduil had told her was eating at her incessantly, and making her even more restless. Legolas noticed quickly that something was bothering her.
"Okay, what's wrong?" he said, setting down the papers he was reading and looking up at her as they sat in his study as usual. Tinwe turned to look at him, her book open to the same page she had started twenty minutes ago.
"What do you mean?" Tinwe said unconvincingly. "Nothing is wrong." Legolas gave her an incredibly skeptical look.
"I know something is bothering you, Tinwe. You have been mumbling to yourself for the last five minutes."
"I'm sorry, I'm just thinking," she said, cursing herself for her actions.
"About?" Legolas pressed, watching her in a fashion uncomfortably similar to the way his father had the previous day.
"Just the Guard," she said, shrugging it off. If King Thranduil had not told his son about the conversation he had had with Tinwe the previous day, then she was not going to bring it up either.
"What about it?"
"You're pretty nosey for someone who refuses to tell me what you are doing all the time," she said sourly, going on the offensive. "You were gone for nearly three weeks last month and won't tell me a thing about it."
"No need to get angry about it, you will find out soon enough," Legolas said, backing off against her attack. "If you don't want to talk about it that's fine. Just don't pretend like nothing is wrong. I can tell something is bothering you."
"I'm sorry," Tinwe said with a sigh, giving up on her book and putting her head in her hands. "I'm just on edge lately. I feel useless here."
"You're not useless," Legolas said, standing up and walking around the desk to stand behind her, his hands on her shoulders. "It's just a quiet spell. They'll be Orcs and Goblins for you to fight again, you can be sure of that."
"I suppose you're right," Tinwe said, trying to convince herself it was true, but failing. "I just need to develop patience. I've never been good at that."
"I am well aware," Legolas said with a smile, kissing her forehead and walking towards his desk, where he picked up a stack of papers. "I need to take these to my father, but when I get back, we can go for a ride, alright?"
"Alright," Tinwe said, smiling at him. It faded as soon as Legolas disappeared through the door to her left. She just couldn't have peace of mind until she knew for sure what was going to happen. Being caught on the brink of some extraordinary change was killing her. She knew it was coming, but she didn't know when or what form it would take. The most terrifying prospect was that she would have to face her fear, choosing between the life she loved and the love of her life.
After a week of having no luck forgetting the king's words, Tinwe felt like she was on the verge of a total breakdown. Legolas worried about her mental health, and he made her stay with him more and more often so he could keep an eye on her.
"Tinwe, I know you don't want to talk about what is bothering you, but you are starting to scare me. You barely eat and you barely sleep. If you won't talk to me, will you talk to someone else? Please?"
"I already talked to Icaria, but it didn't help," Tinwe said, her head resting on her hand as she sat at the small table in Legolas's study. She felt exhausted but her mind wouldn't relax enough to let her sleep much anymore. She knew that she must look dreadful.
"How about your mother or your brother? Maybe they can give you something to help you sleep."
"Maybe," Tinwe said, knowing full well the closest thing she would get to a restful night's sleep at this point was for her to get knocked unconscious for several hours.
"If I go get dinner and bring it here, will you try and eat something?"
"I'll try," Tinwe said. "I'm just not very hungry right now." Legolas watched her for a few seconds before sighing and getting up, leaving her alone with her thoughts again.
She couldn't keep going on like this. She could feel her health failing as her mind fractured. Putting her head down on the table, she felt the cool wood against her forehead. She felt half awake and half asleep, drifting between strange, disjoined dreams and her waking thoughts that tormented her endlessly. Why was she so conflicted? She shouldn't be so afraid of the future like she was. She hadn't feared much of anything in centuries. She had faced death so many times, she felt like it was an old friend by now. Death should be what she feared most. But no, the prospect of making this impossible choice was far worse than death. At this point, death almost seemed welcoming. Almost.
She sighed, wishing for the thousandth time that day that she had stayed out east and had avoided all of this. When she heard the door opening again, she sat up, her tired eyes watching as Legolas brought a tray over to her.
"If you aren't going to eat anything," he said, indicating the bread and cheese he had brought. "At least have some tea. If nothing else it will make me feel better."
"Alright," Tinwe said, taking the cup of tea he handed her. "Thanks."
Tinwe slowly drank the tea, and she nibbled on a slice of bread despite her lack of appetite. She hadn't eaten since the previous day and needed something in her stomach.
She didn't notice as Legolas kept glancing up at her from behind his desk, watching closely as she ate.
The next thing Tinwe remembered was waking up, her eyes focusing on a bedside table. Looking around, she realized she was lying on Legolas's bed, still fully dressed in her light blue gown. She felt more awake than she had in days, and realized Legolas must have drugged her to get her to sleep. It was well after midnight, judging by the moon she could see out the window, and as her eyes took in the rest of the room, she noticed Legolas sleeping peacefully next to her, propped up against the backboard of his bed. He must have fallen asleep watching her, as he had a book open in his lap.
Silently, Tinwe stood up, walking over to the window to get some fresh air. She felt a mixture of anger and gratitude towards Legolas. She was angry he had drugged her without telling her, but thankful he hadn't, because her mind probably would have fought off sleep much more effectively if she had known.
Watching the moon, her thoughts drifted back to where they had been when she had fallen asleep. Love or freedom? It was a choice she felt was waiting to spring upon her very soon. She had to know. Not knowing was part of the problem.
Moving silently, Tinwe started back into the room. Perhaps she could know. She started searching the room, determined not to wake Legolas.
She was at it for nearly an hour when she found a box hidden in the back of a drawer on Legolas's desk. Looking at it, she couldn't breathe. Carefully removing it from its hiding place, she put it on top of the desk, just staring at it. She glanced up at the door that led to the bedroom where Legolas still slept. Exhaling sharply, Tinwe looked back down at the box and opened it.
Sitting on a pillow of green cloth were two silver rings, shining innocently at her as they reflected the moonlight. Tinwe was fairly certain that her heart stopped for several seconds as she looked at them.
Without another thought, Tinwe closed the box and proceeded to flee as fast as she could away from the reality she had just uncovered.
So I posted this because I have been procrastinating hard core, thanks to the end of the semester bearing down on me, and wanted to see what you all though of the direction I'm taking this in. If I get enough negative comments regarding the next few chapters I may go back and redo them, but for now, I hope this wasn't too awful to read. At least Legolas will play a bigger role than he has in the last few chapters. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed this story so far, I really appreciate the comments.
On a somewhat related note, if you all enjoy my story, I suggest you go read Lady Silma's stories I have posted on my favorites page. Shadow of the Past comes first. I've read them several times now while deep in procrastination mode and they are slightly addicting. I give Lady Silma a great deal of credit for showing me that I am severely lacking in my knowledge of elven customs, so bear with me if any of you are hardcore fans and find contradictions between my work and Tolkien's.