Within the Golden Hall, the walls seemed to shrink inward, and the scent of death and grief lingered in the air. Aragorn and Gimli were in the Hall where supper had been set on the board, awaiting the return of Gandalf and Théoden, who still lingered at the tomb of Théodred, the king's son. But Legolas was not hungry, and wished to be alone in the company of his own thoughts for now. As the reddened sun fell slowly over the horizon and evening drew long shadows across the valley, he descended down away from the flickering torches of the Golden Hall to the stables to visit Arod.
Legolas sighed softly to himself, as he went, remembering the silent, grieving look upon the face of the king. It must be a terrible thing, he thought, for a father to have to bury his child. The grief perhaps, would fade with time, but never disappear entirely. It would linger on in Théoden, an empty space in his heart, until his own death.
He had reached the doors of the stables, but he paused a moment, and his eyes rose to the arched dome of the sky above him. Within the fading purple velvet of the sky, the first weak glimmers of starlight were appearing. He sighed to himself as he entered the warm shadows of the stable, the welcome earthy scent of horses greeting him.
He stopped at Arod's stable, and smiled as the horse whickered with recognition, tossing his mane as he pressed his nose eagerly to Legolas' hand in greeting.
"Suilad, melon nin." He grinned, running his hand over the horse's long white nose.
"Ú-mado nin!" He chuckled as Arod nipped playfully at his cloak. "Farn aes ú-mada?"
He and Lalaith had spoken only briefly of children before the Fellowship had departed from Imladris. She wanted their first child to be a son, she had said. "As handsome as his father." She had added with a light, silvery laugh, where they had been sitting together upon a stone bench beneath the softly falling leaves of gold and crimson, and surrounded by the quiet, unceasing murmur of the falls. Her arm had been linked through his, their fingers woven together as her head rested upon his shoulder.
Son or daughter, Legolas sighed to himself at the memory, it did not matter now. All he wanted, was his Lalaith beside him again. But he was being selfish, he reminded himself. For Aragorn too, pined for his own love, Arwen, from whom he had been parted far longer than Legolas and Lalaith. And Lalaith was safe now, deep within the forest of Fangorn with the Ent, Treebeard. Still, such reminders did not lessen the aching of his empty arms.
Letting his eye fall away and rest upon the sapphire within the ring upon his smallest finger, he began to sing softly to himself,
"Im melin le, lalaith nin.
Le na ithil nin,
le na anor nin,
run a annun.
Im melin le, lalaith nin.
Le na orë nin,
le na elen nin,
arda a menel.
An le na coi nin,
a lalaith nin.
Im melin le."
"You have a beautiful voice, elven lord."
Startled, Legolas spun at the feminine voice, wondering who could have come upon him so silently that even his elvish hearing had not detected her.
Before him, within in the doorway, stood the woman he had seen earlier. She stood before him now, a dark shadow blocking the light in the doorway as a slim, teasing smile played across her face. She wore a dark gown similar in color to the one she had worn before, only the sleeves and bodice of this gown hung low, exposing the smooth contours of her shoulders, and more of her soft ivory flesh than he wished to see.
He heard a soft, almost angry huff, and glanced at Shadowfax where the silver horse stood in his own pen, glancing over the door at the woman with an almost disapproving grimace on his wise, equine face.
"And yet your voice is also lonely, and sad." She breathed wistfully, her eyes dripping with sympathy. "As if you ache for someone far away."
Legolas glanced away from her, feeling the heat rush to his face. What was her purpose here? What did she want from him, and why was she speaking thusly? For not even having the familiarity of an introduction, she was being rather brazen.
At the guarded look that came upon his face at these thoughts, she laughed, drawing nearer to him. "Forgive me, my lord. Legolas is your name, yes? I am Greta. Daughter of Gálmód. Did you notice me in the Golden Hall?"
He did not answer, and instead glanced past her through the doorway where he could see the warm red light of the fading sun beyond.
"I noticed you, my lord. You fought Gríma's men-," a dark light burned in her eyes as her eyes traveled hungrily, from his head to his feet, and back again, "very well."
"My lady, what is your purpose here?" He asked at last, his voice low and guarded.
"My purpose?" She laughed, but the sound did not rest well on Legolas' ears. "Have you not guessed yet? I came to see you." Her eyes took on a warm, dark look as she softly murmured, "To be with you, if you desire it."
His throat felt suddenly as dry as sand, for he knew the meaning behind her words. "I think not." He ground out, and brushed past her.
"Legolas, please. Do not leave me." He froze in his steps. It was not Greta's voice that had spoken, but Lalaith's, though the words she spoke were uttered in the Common Speech.
Turning slowly, his heart gave a sudden, painful thud. Her face was no longer Greta's. The gown was the same, its dark green tone appearing black in the thickening shadows. But the rest of her, her form, her hair, her face. All were Lalaith's.
"Is this better?" She whispered, sweeping slowly nearer as the evening wind washed through the stable, and caught her golden hair brushing it about her face. And though the words were those of the speech of Men, it was Lalaith's voice. "I am now, the one whom you long more than anyone, to see." She slowly circled him, blocking again, his path toward the doorway.
Legolas closed his eyes a moment. This was not right. Something was wrong. But his brain seemed suddenly fogged and drowsy, as if his blood were saturated with the sickening poison of spider venom.
"Legolas?" She asked softly as she drew close. "Please." Her words were still being drawn forth in the choppy tones of the Common Speech, and he could not understand why she would not speak their own tongue. "Look at me. It has been so long. I have missed you so." She now drew close enough, that he could feel the heat of her nearness. Her soft breath, scented of sweet cloves, washed his face as her hands slipped into his.
Slowly, he turned to her, and opened his eyes to see Lalaith's pleading gaze beneath his own. "Stay with me." She whispered. "Be with me." Lifting her face upward, her eyes softly closed, as her lips strayed close to his, warm and full, and inviting. And he could not fathom why it felt so wrong, as Legolas slowly began to bend his head down toward hers.
Gimli uttered a happy grunt of satisfaction as he clambered up to the table across from Aragorn who was puffing calmly away at his pipe, where a plateful of meat and bread had been set out with a tall pewter mug of ale beside it.
"Where is Legolas?" Aragorn asked softly as Gimli, without delay, began the business of shoveling food into his hungry mouth.
"Eh, what's that?" He coughed, glancing up as he took a gulp of ale. "Ah, he needed some time to be alone. He was headed down toward the stables, last I saw him."
Aragorn nodded thoughtfully, toying with his pipe between two fingers, and turned to glance out the great open doors, thrown open to the evening breeze. "Elves find great peace in turning their gaze to the stars."
Gimli grunted his agreement, shoving another piece of bread into his mouth and mawing it noisily. "And he needs a bit of peace, poor lad."
He smiled through his beard and nodded as the lady Éowyn pacing the length of the room, passed the table where he sat across from Aragorn
Slender and fair faced she was, almost like a young girl, clad in a gown of twilight blue, her golden hair bound back in a circlet of gold. The noble blood of her forebearers showed proudly through her eyes even as her smile flashed over her two guests, lingering a moment longer on Aragorn before lifting to gaze up at the doorway, watching ever for the return of her uncle, and Gandalf, from Théodred's tomb. They were yet a long time in coming.
"Good lot, these horse folk." Gimli muttered, raising his glass to Éowyn who heard him and smiled, before he took a long drink that left traces dribbling down his beard. "Except for that-, ugh," he made a face, "woman, if that's what she was. Reminded me of a hungry little spider, for some reason."
"Her name is Greta. She is Gríma Wormtongue's sister." Éowyn sighed, pausing beside them. "Very like her brother, I fear."
"Ugh." Gimli muttered. "Then good riddance, I'd say, when she stopped slinking around out there on the porch, and left."
"She left?" Éowyn's smooth brow furrowed. "Where did she go?"
Gimli shrugged, and put a fist to his mouth in an unsuccessful attempt to stifle a low belch. "Not sure." He harrumphed, clearing his throat. "Legolas had been out there, watching for Gandalf and the king. But they're still lingering down there at the lad's tomb." He released a low somber sigh. "Legolas finally said he wanted to be alone for a time, and left, down toward the stables, and as I came back in, I saw that Greta leaving, too."
"My lords," Éowyn stammered, her voice fraught with sudden concern, "come with me."
Without waiting for an answer, Éowyn turned and with a whisper of her dark blue skirts, strode quickly toward the doors, as Aragorn, a question in his eyes, set down his pipe, rose, and followed behind. Gimli too rose, though he cast a look of regretful longing at his unfinished plate, and trotted along to catch up with Aragorn.
Legolas could feel the breath of his love against his lips, knowing he had but to close the distance, and claim her mouth with his own, but-, a soft warning seemed to tug at the back of his mind, and he hesitated.
An image formed slowly in his mind, a hazy indistinct picture of Lalaith resting upon a cushion of leaves, as she held the medallion Galadriel had given her, in one hand lightly caressing the jewels with her thumb, as she held in her other hand, a small green leaf. Her eyes were fixed upon it, a sad, lonely look resting in her eyes.
"Legolas." Her soft voice echoed, as if from a great distance.
"Legolas?" The woman before him asked also with Lalaith's voice, as her hand touched his shoulder, snaking slowly around his neck.
"Daro." He ordered, suddenly stepping back from the woman who bore Laliath's visage, but he knew now, was not her. He drew in a quick breath, fighting the fogging poison in his mind, and glared hard at her. With as little cloth as she bore about her shoulders, it was clear to see that this woman, though she appeared as Lalaith, bore no medallion around her neck.
"Man na le?" He demanded.
The woman did not answer, but drew a step back and gulped, suddenly awkward and unsure.
"Pedich i lam edhellen?" He asked again. "Henia?"
Still, she said nothing while her eyes grew wide and frightened.
"Ú-na Lalaith nin." He muttered at last, the bitterness thick in his voice. "Ú-anirion le." Legolas finished, drawing quickly back, and away from the woman.
"I do not know by what sorcery you have cheated my eyes." He ground out, finally speaking her tongue. "But I do know you are not the one you appear to be."
"But let me be her, for a moment, Legolas." She hissed, daring to draw a step closer, and holding out her hands imploringly. "She need never know."
"A you mad?" Legolas seethed. "You dare to suggest that I betray her trust in me? Stand aside, and let me pass. Never in all the centuries of my life, have I struck a woman. I do not wish to, now."
"Oh, but I wish to." Breathed a voice from the doorway, and the lady Éowyn suddenly appeared, Aragorn at her arm, with Gimli trotting along behind them. The ranger and Dwarf stopped at the threshold, and their faces drew up in expressions of shocked surprise as Éowyn strode fiercely toward the other woman, lifted a balled fist, and struck her hard in the face, sending her with a strangled cry of shock, sprawling ungracefully upon the dity, straw covered earth of the floor, and as she fell, the golden sheen that had taken her hair flickered, then fled as the light of a torch, suddenly extinguished.
"This is her true face." Éowyn seethed as Greta slowly pushed herself up on her hands, and turned to shoot a scathing look up at her attacker. "Greta, sister of the Wormtongue, as devious as her brother."
Aragorn and Gimli entered the stable slowly, their eyes focused on Éowyn as she stood over Greta, her eyes flashing with bridled fury, proud and queen-like in her pose.
"My lady," Greta cried, "How could you dare to judge my actions to be anything but honorable?"
At this, Éowyn drew in a sharp breath. "Your pardon, Lord Aragorn." She clipped, as she turned, and drew with a sharp rasp, his elven knife from its scabbard at his belt, and turned back to Greta, the curved blade clenched in her fist. "I think it best, Greta, for you to take your horse and ride from here, as hard as you can. Find that snake of a brother, in whatever hole he has crawled into, for no one else would welcome you, now." Éowyn cocked a brow, and with a twist of her head, added lightly, "Unless of course, you wish for your throat to be lain open from ear to ear. Which do you choose?"
Greta looked from Éowyn's flashing eyes to the curved knife in her hand, and gulped hard.
"I want to see my mama." Said the child who had given her name to be Freda as her long, honey colored hair brushed against Gandalf's arm. Exhausted, she could barely lift her head from the wizard's neck as he and Théoden, who carried in his own arms, the half conscious form of Éothain, the girl's brother, came trudging up the hill toward Meduseld. The children's great brown horse, Garulf, Freda had called him, followed faithfully behind, needing no rope to lead him.
"All in good time, my child." Gandalf said, keeping his tone light as he nudged the little girl's chin with his finger, making her smile. "All in good time."
He was interrupted by the hard pounding of horse's hooves coming from ahead, and he glanced up in time to see a figure, dark hair streaming behind her, and a scowl that darkened her whole countenance, flash by upon a horse.
"Ah, yes. The venomous little spider is off to seek out the worm." Gandalf muttered, as if at something he had fully expected. He barely turned to watch the retreating figure, before he his eyes found the little girl's face again.
"You'll be wanting supper, I think?"
Freda's eyes lit up, and she lifted her head, nodding enthusiastically.
"Well, then." Gandalf grinned, and started again up the hill, following as Théoden led. "Let's not let it grow cold!"
Suilad, melon nin. - Greetings, my friend.
Ú-mado nin! Farn aes lin ú-mada? - Don't eat me! Don't you eat enough food?
Daro. - Stop.
Man na le? - Who are you?
Pedich i lam edhellen? - Do you speak Elvish?
Henia? - Do you understand?
Ú-na Lalaith nin. - You are not my Lalaith.
Ú-anirion le. - I don't want you.
*I love you, my laughter,
You are my moon,
You are my sun,
Sunrise and sunset
I love you my laughter,
You are my heart,
You are my star,
Earth and heaven.
For you are my life
And my laughter.
I love you.