Chapter Eighteen - Questions of Love
Legolas was distracted. He had not been able to forget his conversation with Narawen. Every time he tried to think of something else, his mind was brought back to how selfish he was, to the worthless life he had led. Narawen had led a good life, she had given her husband all the love she had and had been a good wife and this is how the world repaid her.
Elrond had noticed that Legolas had been quiet since his meeting with Lady Narawen. He hadn't spoken at all during supper. He sensed that she had given him a lot to think about, exactly what he had hoped for when he asked her to invite him for tea. When his scouts had reported that the Green Wood party approached Imladris he had gone to see her. He had found her in tears, clutching a tunic, which he assumed had belonged to Numbor. She had been reluctant to get involved in another person's life and Elrond knew that she had only said she would do it to please him. They had become close since returning from Eryn Lasgalen, she had been more willing to talk with him, even if she still had her moments of solitude.
Elrond decided to find out for himself exactly what happened. "Did you have a good time with Narawen?" he asked, turning to where he sat.
Legolas started slightly at the sound of the Rivendell Lord's voice. "I did, it was pleasant, I did not see her enough when you were in Eryn Lasgalen."
"I am glad to hear everything was good." They both looked around the dining room. Those who had joined their lord for supper were starting to leave the table and take their places on the sofas or on the dance floor. Legolas' eye was caught by the sight of Ariel being whirled around the dance floor by Elladan. They looked very much at home with each other. Elrohir had not been at supper, he had sent his apologies to his father saying he had business to take care of. Legolas found this a little strange but who was he to question one of the sons of Elrond?
"I detect something a little off in you countenance Greenleaf. I sense the Lady said something which unsettled you."
"We spoke of love. Which I am sure you were hoping for when you asked her to invite me to her home."
"How did you know?" Elrond said, smiling at how the sharp mind of the Prince had seen through his deception.
"She had tea things for two people already set up in her parlour. It was as if she knew when we were arriving and that she would be inviting me to join her."
"You have seen through my plan. I just hoped that what she had to say might have some effect on you."
"And it did. The way she has continued with her life after losing her mate is just astonishing."
"She almost didn't survive. On many occasions I had feared that she would fade. Neither myself or Galadriel were able to do anything for her and she grew closer to Mandos every day. Recently though, something has happened. Her pain is still there and I know she will never forget Numbor, but she seems more willing to face the world."
"She has suffered so much, it makes my problems look insignificant."
"Something troubles you greatly. If you would tell me what it was, I may be able to offer counsel." He looked at the Elf Lord and saw the sincere desire to help etched on his face.
"My father has decreed that I will find a wife before the Midsummer ball this year."
"The King did mention this during our meeting at the ball. He asked for my counsel on the matter."
"For your counsel?" Legolas was confused by this. How would Elrond be able to help in this matter?
"Yes, my counsel, I do have a child successfully married." Legolas raised an eyebrow at this statement.
"I do not recall you being too pleased about Arwen's choice when first you heard of it."
"I will admit that I had my reservations but I see how happy she is in Gondor and I realise that it is the best thing she could have done."
"Do you miss her?"
"Everyday. But I realise that it is the best place for her. I doubt I will remain in Arda much longer. My sons will take Lordship of Rivendell but Arwen would have been very much alone. Now she will have the companionship of one who loves her. She will have immortal love. Yes she will die a mortal death but she and Ellessar will be together forever in the Halls of Mandos." Tears were beginning to form in his eyes. Legolas could see that the idea of never seeing his daughter again saddened him greatly. "What am I saying? The lives of my children is not what we are talking about you. It is your future we need to guide."
Legolas sighed. "I can see why my father wishes for me to do this. Mother has heard the call of the sea and they wish to sail. But they do not want to leave the Kingdom without a queen. Plus I am sure my father is considering the succession. He would wish for a grandchild bred from good stock. Finding a mate is not as easy as it would seem though."
"You are open to the suggestion of marriage and family though, that is a good start."
"But I do nothing to help myself."
"On our first night of travelling here I had relations with one of the women of the party. I have no feelings for her and I certainly would not want to marry her, but I slept with her anyway. That is not the action of a noble elf."
"No that is the action of any elf when tempted by such delights as Lady Thriwien's."
"How did you know it was Thriwien?"
"Lucky guess." Legolas raised a sceptical eyebrow. "Or perhaps I may have overheard her describing to her sisters how you were still a fine lover and they ought to take advantage of the fact that you are not married yet."
Legolas groaned. That was all he needed, all three of them trying to seduce him. "How am I supposed to live a good life with such things always tempting me. Since my father made his decree I have tried, but I just cannot say no."
"And you feel ashamed at this?" Legolas simply nodded, not wanting to say it out loud. "You have finally grown up, your Father was beginning to fear that this day would never come. I am not going to make you feel better about the way you have acted, it is good that you should feel some shame, it means that you have not completely accepted your lifestyle. Do not let your shame prevent you from moving forward. Listen to Ariel, she will steer you in the right direction. She has a talent for it."
"You and your sons are pleased to see her here aren't you?"
"More than anything." They looked up to see Ariel teaching Elladan one of the dances she had learned in Gondor at Lady Eowyn's wedding feast. "Ariel is like a daughter to me. She was brought to me for her education as a young child, but our relationship was always more than that of teacher and pupil. My sons loved her as they would their own child and now she is grown, they think of her as a sister." He continued to watch her and sat back in his chair. "Yes, she has grown to be a fine woman," he mused
"She is still angry with me," Legolas said as he noticed a scornful glance thrown his way. "I have tried to apologise but she maintains her silence. She is determined to make me suffer."
"And do you?"
"Do I what?"
"When she refuses to talk to me, yes. I have formed a bond with her. I do not know what it is but I know my heart aches when she refuses to accept my friendship."
"She always was stubborn. I remember an occasion when she was just seven years old. Some books had gone missing from the library and Elrohir suspected Ariel had done it, knowing of her love of poetry. He brought her to tears when he reprimanded her. A few days later we learned that Elladan had taken them to read to a lover. Elrohir tried to apologise to her but she refused to speak to him for a month. It was all we could do to get her to be in the same room as him."
"Why doesn't that surprise me? I suppose I can expect no more from her though. She has done her best and I have thrown everything back in her face. I am a poor excuse for an elf."
"No Legolas you are one of the greatest in a long line of greats. In all of elvendom there are few who stand as tall as you. As I have already said, it was you who fought alongside men in the War for the Ring. You are a large part of the reason that we all still live. There is not a soul in any of the kingdoms of elves, men or dwarves who does not owe you a debt of gratitude. Your personal life may be questionable but never think that you not worthy of the praise others seek to bestow on you."
"Thank you Lord Elrond. Such words are gratefully accepted, especially when they are from you." They exchanged a glance, each seeing the sincerity and gratitude on the other's eyes.
"What was I taking about?" Elrond said suddenly realising that he had strayed from the point. "Oh yes, your marriage. Ariel tells me that despite your transgressions with other ladies, there are contenders for your hand." Legolas looked over at Ariel. He had not expected her to be so free with her tongue when it came to his business. "Do not be angry with her. She has been getting worried that her teachings were not enough. She is encouraged by your relationship with your General though. Should she be?"
"No, she should not. I do not deny that Thrimalia is very beautiful but it would be wrong to try and form any relationship which goes beyond friendship. She is to be my most trusted advisor and she is my pupil. I gave my word to her family, when they allowed her to leave their home to live near the city, that I would protect her. To take her as my lover would be going back on my word."
"You did not answer my question. You reply with what should happen not what might happen. Just because it would be unorthodox for you to marry Thrimalia does not mean that you will not. Do you have feelings for her?"
"I do not know. I sense there is something between us, but it is as if there is more that I must do before I can know what it is. Does that sound strange?"
"Not at all. Everyone has there destiny, if you are not yet ready to know who it is you love, then you are not ready. As much as you want to please your father, you must be sure that you truly love your mate. Do not marry thinking that you will grow to love your wife, it will leave both of you hurt. We do not choose who we love, if we did Middle Earth would be a very different place."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I mean that if we chose who we loved, many of us would not have married who we did. We would be able to have both political alliances and love. I was betrothed to another before I met my beloved Celebrian. Had I married as Gil-Galad wished my life would have been very different."
"Well for a start you would be my son." Legolas spat out the mouthful of wine he had just taken.
"What?" he cried, unsure he had heard correctly.
"For a short time I was engaged to be married to your mother. It was when I was Gil Galad's herald. He wanted a political alliance with the Silvan elves of the East and your mother was a Silvan Princess. It lasted a little over six months. When I met Celebrian your mother could see that I had fallen in love and she confessed that she had a lover in the Green Wood. I then married Celebrian and she returned East and married Thranduil."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"I want you to see how important it is to find the right elleth. I agree that it is time that you take a wife, but I would not want you to make the mistake of thinking that you can choose who you love, that it is something you can simply make a decision about. If it was, I would have chosen to love your mother and things would have been very different now. Trust in Ariel's teachings and she will not allow you to make a mistake."
"You speak of her teachings, but I do not recall ever having been given a lesson by her."
"Her methods are more subtle than that. It is something passed down from mother to daughter which Ariel would not want me to reveal to you. Just believe me when I say if anyone can help you, it is she."
Legolas had to get out of that room. He needed time to absorb everything that had been said to him that night. "Lord Elrond, would you please excuse me, I would like to get some fresh air before retiring for the night?"
"Yes of course. Sleep well Legolas, maybe your head will be clearer in the morning." Legolas stood and bowed to his host before making towards the door to leave. He was about to leave when he heard somebody calling his name. He turned around and saw Elladan beckoning for him to go to him. He walked over to where the Rivendell Lord danced with Ariel.
"Legolas, please rescue me." He looked at Elladan with a confused look on his face. "She is running me positively ragged with her spirited dancing. I must take on some refreshment or I may die. Please dance the next with her or I fear I will collapse."
"We can stop and rest for a while if you wish," Ariel said, clearly trying to get out of dancing with Legolas.
"Do not be foolish, you have hours left in you yet. I am sure that Legolas would be happy to continue with you." Before either could protest he had placed Ariel's hand in Legolas' and was walking away from them towards his father. Not wanting to cause a scene they began to follow the steps of the song that the small band was playing.
"I am sorry Ariel," Legolas said, wanting to try once more to apologise.
"You know what for."
"Yes I know, I just want to hear you say it, to admit that you have done wrong."
"I apologise for what happened with Thriwien. I was stupid and weak and it should never have happened."
"Do you know what Highness, I do not really care. I am not here to be your chaperone. These are your mistakes to make. It is my job to help you find a wife, not to stop you from seeking pleasure where ever you wish. It is none of my business whom you choose to share your bed with if in the end you choose a bride."
Legolas was amused by her outburst. Even amidst an angry tirade directed at him she still called him Highness. The song stopped and they stopped dancing. "I was about to take a walk in the gardens, would you care to join me?" he asked. He wanted her input on what Lady Narawen and Elrond had said to him.
"Of course Sire, it is getting a little stuffy in here." He offered her his arm, but she walked ahead of him without taking it. Obviously she had not forgiven him fully for his indiscretion.
They walked out of the room and through the house towards the gardens. They walked in silence for quite sometime before the tension became too much for Legolas. "I take it you know these gardens well. You must have spent many hours here when you were younger."
"Lord Elrond taught me about trees and plants out here and I spent many hours with the twins out here as I was growing up."
"Do you have a favourite spot?"
Ariel looked at him. Reluctance showing in her face. She was not entirely sure she wanted to share such an intimate memory with him, especially given what had passed between them recently. She took a few minutes to think about it before turning and walking towards her favourite spot in Rivendell. If she was ever going to get through to him, she needed to show him that she trusted him.
"I took tea with Lady Narawen earlier," he said trying to start a conversation with her.
"I know. Lord Elrond told me. Is she well?"
"I think so. She did not seem so sad as she had when I saw her last in Eryn Lasgalen. She gave me much to think about."
"Such as?" Ariel was not going to play guessing games with him. They were beyond the point where they had time to be coy with one another.
"She told me about the love she shared with her husband when he was alive. That the pain she feels now is nothing compared to the happiness he gave her when he was alive. That love is worth any amount of heartache. That my liaisons with so many ladies would not act as a sufficient substitute forever."
"The lady seems to speak much sense. Did you agree with what she said?"
"I think so. It has certainly made me consider the benefits of marriage more." They continued to walk in silence but Legolas had a question rolling about his head which he could hold in no longer as they grew close to their destination.
"Ariel, have you ever been in love?" Suddenly she placed her fingers to his lips.
"Ssshh," she whispered. "I hear voices." Legolas stopped to listen and sure enough he heard two people talking just over the hedge they were stood by. It was a man and a woman and Legolas and Ariel were sure they knew both those voices. They looked at each other astonished and silently crept along the hedge until they came to a gap, through which they saw Elrohir and Narawen sitting side by side, deep in conversation. Their knees were touching and he held her hands gently. The moon shone fully on the garden, illuminating them like a beautiful dream. This was clearly not just a moment between friends.
"Have I told you how beautiful you look tonight?" Elrohir asked.
"Only ten times," she replied, giggling a little.
"Well it is as true now as the first time. You are truly stunning." He dropped one of her hands and plucked a wildflower from the ground. He then reached up and gently placed it in her hair before settling his hand on her cheek. She sighed heavily and leaned into his touch. "What great deed have I done to deserve your presence in my life? Why am I so lucky?" he asked.
"It is I who am the lucky one. I thought my life was over when I lost Numbor. How is it that a lonely widow could gain the affections of a wonderful, handsome warrior like you?"
"You deserve to be happy more than anyone I have ever met. I know I cannot replace Numbor in your life, your love was very special, but can you find a place in your heart that is just for me?" She lifted his other hand and placed it over her heart.
"It is already done milord. I know I have not said this before, but I do love you." Tears were forming in her eyes.
"And I you." He moved his hand to the back of her head and pulled her closer to him before capturing her lips in a kiss. Legolas and Ariel both realised at the same time that this was a very intimate moment they were witnessing and they should not be spying. They looked at each other, indicating that they should go back to the house.
Once they were out of earshot of the two elves, they began to speak.
"I had no idea that Elrohir had a lover. He gave nothing away when I was with him earlier," Ariel said.
"It does explain why he was absent at dinner though, and why she seemed anxious towards the end of our meeting."
"I suppose," Ariel mused, a small smile forming on her lips. "They make a very handsome couple do they not?"
"Aye they do." He was confused by what he had just seen.
"What troubles you Highness?"
"I do not understand. Earlier she spoke to me of the great love she had for her husband. How can she now love another? Surely true love happens only once in a lifetime."
"That is where you assume too much. I have come to observe that a person does not love only once. Those with a warm heart have an infinite capacity to love. Think about it, in a lifetime a person loves their parents, siblings, friends, children and partners. The heart of an elf or man or any other creature will feel love for so many people that the assumption that true love happens only once in a lifetime is simply illogical."
He looked at her closely and she smiled up at him. "I think it is time that I retire, we have an early start in the morning. Good night Sire" She curtseyed to him and walked towards the house.
"Good night Ariel," he said quietly. He was now quite shaken, with that thought. He ran a hand over his face. All of these thoughts in his head were consuming his sanity. He knew that they would either lead him to the greatest happiness or the greatest heartache, it was just unfortunate that he had no way of knowing which would come to pass.
This is just a quick note for Beth who reviewed the last chapter. You are right, Legolas does do an awful lot of hand kissing. This is an intentional thing. I think it fits with the Casanova persona I have created for him as I believe that a kiss on the hand followed by looking into the other persons eyes is a very seductive action. If a man does it right, you are just hooked.