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New Story: Knew I Love Once?

AU, or is it? Legolas and Arwen at the Rath Dinen.


Disclaimer: I own none of this. The characters and world of Middle-earth belong to JRR Tolkien. The poetry belongs to William Faulkner. I am making no money from this endeavor. Primary beta-reader on this story is ignoblebard.

Knew I Love Once?


'Knew I love once? Was it love or grief?
This young body by where I had lain?
And my heart, this single stubborn leaf
That will not die, though root and branch be slain?'
William Faulkner


The chill winds of March blew through the silent courtyard of the Rath Dinen. The night was without a moon; the stars were veiled as if mourning the death of the king. Arwen Undomiel, Dowager Queen of Gondor, swathed in black, stood a silent solitary guard over the body of her husband as he lay on his bier. The day of which she had been warned had come all too soon, and the Gift of Men seemed a bitter mockery in her heart.

He came just before the stroke of midnight, a figure of shadow, moving as silently as the wind blowing a stray leaf across the cobbles. He turned aside to pause, head bowed, for a time at the two smaller beds that lay close to that of the king. Then, just as quietly, he was at her side.

"I never felt the weight of the years until this hour." His voice was soft, familiar, with the gentle, lilting cadence that still sounded strange to the ear of one raised at Imladris.

"You are young," she said. "Too young to speak as one who is weary of life. I have lived for nigh unto three thousand years, and still this day has come too quickly for me."

"The waters of my life are poured out as if upon the sand, Arwen," he sighed. "This is what the love of Mortals has brought us to."

"Not into sand, Legolas. They fell upon fertile ground."

Up above, one light burned in the dark sky; Earendil, the Mariner. The one they called the Evenstar.

* * *


'O mother sleep, when one by one these years
Bell their bitter note and die away
Down Time's slow evening, passionless as tears
When sorrow long has ebbed, and grief is grey;'
William Faulkner


The darkness robbed the scene of all color. His pale wheaten hair looked the hue of ash, she thought; his garments too. "You do not wear black, Thranduilion," she said.

"The color of my cloak would not change the tenor of my heart, Lady Undomiel. This was how he knew me, and this was how he would have wanted to see me, on the occasion of our last farewell."

"Is it a farewell, Legolas?" she asked.

"It must be," he replied sadly. "He has gone where I cannot follow. You may join him beyond the circles of this world, while for me, there is only the sea. I have refused the call long enough."

"You may carry the memory of him into the west, where it will be yours until Ambar Metta."

"But never more than a memory." He turned to her, with fathomless glittering eyes. "I have a grey ship that lies waiting at Pelargir, to bear Gimli and me hence. There is room for you on it, Arwen."

"Would you tempt me to change my fate at this late hour?" She shook her dark head, where scattered strands of silver were newly sprung. "That road is closed to me long since. I made my choice long ago and will not falter now. I will go north to Lothlórien, to wait beneath the trees in the hope that I may be reunited with him when the time comes."

He sighed. "It is not a vain hope. I will have the memory forever, but yours was, and will be, the reality."

* * *


'Though warm in dark between the breasts of Death,
That other breast forgot where I did lie,
And from that stalk are stripped the leaves of breath,
There's still one stubborn leaf that will not die . . .'
William Faulkner


The wind whistled softly between the stone pillars of the tombs. The great bell chimed the midnight hour.

"The time has come," Legolas said. "Before we part I would have a final peace between us, Arwen, and your pardon. For things that I did and should not have done, and for those I should have done and did not. And for thoughts . . ."

"You would ask forgiveness for loving him?" she said. She reached out her hand, and only her keen elven senses could have noted that after all these years he still flinched imperceptibly away as if expecting a blow. But she caught him behind the head and held him steady as she laid a gentle kiss upon his brow. "No more than I should ask pardon of you. Farewell, Legolas Thranduilion, Prince of Eryn Lasgalen, Lord of Ithilien. Beloved . . . friend of my lord and husband. May you find peace in the Undying Lands"

He took her hand and raised it to his lips. "Farewell, Arwen Undomiel. May you find your Hope beyond the waters of death."

He left her then, and as she turned to watch him go, a ray from Earendil caught in a solitary tear that stood at the corner of her eye The last light of a Silmaril to be seen on the shores of Middle-earth lit the way as his silent footsteps took him down the grief-shrouded streets of Minas Tirith, to the docks and to the dark, sundering sea.

'But restless in the wild and bitter earth,
Gains with each dawn a death, with dusk a birth.'
William Faulkner, 1932


* * * * * * *




Author's Notes: This story was created to work with any number of universes -- Mael Gul or not. Slash, or not. You may read whatever you like into this cryptic exchange between Legolas and Arwen. This story is dedicated to Aislynn Crowdaughter and to my beta reader, IgnobleBard, with whom I had a discussion that led me to run across this poem, so perfect for Legolas.

The poem quoted is by William Faulkner, 'Knew I Love Once,' from 'An Anthology of the Younger Poets,' Oliver Wells, ed. Centaur press, 1932. The poem is reproduced here, without permission, although I believe it is long out of print. If you can find a copy of Faulkner's poetry in print, do the right thing and go buy a copy. If not, it's a great poem -- enjoy!

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
crowdaughter
Aug. 22nd, 2006 08:29 pm (UTC)
Beautiful
Hi! This is sad and beautiful, and it works very well with the poem. But Ai! The ambiguity of their encounter is very deep indeed in this.

"You would ask forgiveness for loving him?" she said. She reached out her hand, and only her keen elven senses could have noted that after all these years he still flinched imperceptibly away as if expecting a blow. But she caught him behind the head and held him steady as she laid a gentle kiss upon his brow.

If this is set in the Mael-Gul universe, then it is very sad indeed that after all these years, Legolas would still not have completely left the mindset of the slave inside behind, and the scars and wounds of his former subjugation would be still very present; and yet, it would be hopeful because it would mean that Arwen (and Aragorn) had done their best to make sure that that time was over. Set in that universe, the phrasing of the words with which Legolas asks Arwen's forgiveness have also a decidedly dark note. "Things I should have done and did not..." Ai. Dark indeed. However, I like the idea that they'd have this final moment of peace and forgiveness between them.

If this is not set in that universe, however, it works as well - although it is sad to think that Legolas should feel still that guilty for whatever he had or had not with Aragorn, that he would expect her to hit him for it.

I also love the sad and contemplative mood of this, as well as the inherent tragic of the different fates Legolas and Arwen have before them. Very poignant in the exchange about Legolas having the memory while Arwen will have the reality for her.

This story is dedicated to Aislynn Crowdaughter and to my beta reader, IgnobleBard, with whom I had a discussion that led me to run across this poem, so perfect for Legolas.

Thank you, and thank you for sharing this beautiful, ambiguous piece!

Aislynn


randy_o
Aug. 23rd, 2006 02:41 am (UTC)
Re: Beautiful
But Ai! The ambiguity of their encounter is very deep indeed in this.

Nigh unto incomprehensible at times, I fear. Unless the reader is willing to write the backstory. LOL

Actually, this was meant to be somewhat of an amends for the 'cold douse' of The Night That Covers Me. I found the Faulkner poem soon after I had completed that piece, and it seemed to contain the message that love can persist even under the most adverse of circumstances.

This tale can be seen as one of the possible endings to that one -- with the Rings destroyed and the curse gone, I could see everyone coming to their senses and beginning to heal. But some wounds never heal completely. As sad as it is, this is the only 'happy' ending I can foresee.

I thank you for your most gracious comment.
crowdaughter
Aug. 23rd, 2006 06:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Beautiful
Nigh unto incomprehensible at times, I fear. Unless the reader is willing to write the backstory. LOL

Hm. Should I say I am working on it? :-)

But seriously, the compelling thing is that this little ficlet works very well within the Mael-Gul universe - at least in a few of the possible outcomes - as well as without it. The sad mood and the difficult relationship between the two survivors of their king are as true. That makes it even more believable and lovely.

Actually, this was meant to be somewhat of an amends for the 'cold douse' of The Night That Covers Me. I found the Faulkner poem soon after I had completed that piece, and it seemed to contain the message that love can persist even under the most adverse of circumstances.

You certainly succeeded in that... and you gave a great story to a wonderful poem. :)

Greetings to You and Cheers!

Aislynn

randy_o
Aug. 23rd, 2006 11:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Beautiful
you gave a great story to a wonderful poem. :)

I googled that poem and found no matches, so I think it is long out of print and forgotten. It deserves wider recognition. I wonder, Mistress, might I have your leave to unlock this post?
crowdaughter
Aug. 24th, 2006 04:47 am (UTC)
Re: Beautiful
I wonder, Mistress, might I have your leave to unlock this post?

Gladly!

Aislynn
scarlet1061
Aug. 23rd, 2006 03:37 pm (UTC)
So Sad
It's a beautiful story, though I can't see the Legolas from Mael Gul in it.
Maybe a Legolas from other universes, where Legolas and Aragorn had "a moment" in the golden wood, on the quest, and at least one was sorry about it....

But it can of course be so many others as well.

Thank you for a touching (I am crying now) story.
(Smiles between the tears :-) )
randy_o
Aug. 23rd, 2006 11:20 pm (UTC)
Re: So Sad
It's a beautiful story, though I can't see the Legolas from Mael Gul in it.

Ah, I can. The nightmare over, the curse long ended, Legolas reflects at the bier of the man he loved and still loves, despite all. His love for the beautiful boy, Estel, is the stubborn leaf that refuses to die, though root and branch be slain.

Thank you for a touching (I am crying now) story.
(Smiles between the tears :-) )


I never like to make a lady cry, but I am glad this humble tale moved you. :)
(Deleted comment)
randy_o
Sep. 26th, 2006 07:43 pm (UTC)
I thought from Aislynn's comments (on her LJ) that this could be (among other possibilities) a sequel to "The Night That Covers Me". I don't see it, though - not unless that Legolas changed his mind at the Moment of Truth, and rediscovered his old love. (But the entire tenor of that story suggests that love was long dead.)

About the only way it could be a sequel to that story is if, upon, the destruction of The One Ring, everyone involved woke up, shook their heads as if they were coming off a two-week drunk, and said, "What the hell was I thinking?"

And theoretically, this is possible. In which case I feel very sorry for Elrond. However, Aragorn could realize how much he has hurt Legolas, make an amends, and Legolas could recapture the love he felt for the man. I am fankly hoping that this is what happens in Mael Gul, and that the two of them can have a more healthy relationship once the spell is broken.

What Legolas thought he needed forgiveness for, though... Thoughts, perhaps, yes. How could he (at some level) not resent Arwen, or at least regret her claim on Aragorn? Deeds done or undone?

Undone? about the only thing I can think of is that he would have declined to help Aragorn with his little problem as it applied to the begetting of an heir, and Arwen had to get a taste of what her father had wrought. A certain justice there, but this was more as applied to the non-Mael Gul universe and Legolas's general nature.

Still - lovely writing. One could almost wish to see you write the true sequel to "The Night That Covers Me", but that would be dark and grim indeed.

Thank you. But I think that one is best left to the imagination. There are limits to even my courage.
greywing12
Mar. 13th, 2007 09:00 pm (UTC)
*dabs eyes*

-sniffle- It is still sad, though I have not yet read Aislynn Crowdaughter's work, and so am possibly missing something.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )