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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!


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!


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?
Aug. 24th, 2006 04:47 am (UTC)
Re: Beautiful
I wonder, Mistress, might I have your leave to unlock this post?