Just wanted to thank all of you lovely people for reading, and the even-lovelier of you who send me reviews.
If I might impose upon you for more opinions, please take a gander at the rest of my oeuvre. For your reading pleasure, I’ve got:
* The Gift of Death, a BTVS/LOTR crossover that many have declared quite acceptable. I rather like it myself.
* if you’re into the vague and weird, as I am, there’s a fever-dream type of supernatural thingy: Picture has Boromir and Legolas in it
* a dramatic vignette, L’Heure Bleu has Spike (I love sensitive, tortured blonds) knockin’ boots with… someone.
And in the HP realm, some experimentation with angsty-porn and OC’s that I have tried desperately to keep from being Mary Sues:
* Lonely Reign in particular is said to be pretty damned funny. A favourite line: “Begone, biscuit-temptress!”
* If you’re feeling just this shade of suicidal, give Love Lies Bleeding a go—guaranteed to make you realize that perhaps you aren’t as messed up as you think you are. Smut ahoy, and chapter 3 has f/f slash. Furthers the plot, dontcha know.
The Fall of Night, Part 6
There were many things Lalaith hated. She hated how her hair would frizz up when it rained, and hated when she broke a nail. She hated when drunken men would paw at her, and that brave men had to die in battle. She hated the bad taste of certain remedies, and hated that she needed them in the first place, when she was ill. She hated knowing that Naurë would die someday, and that she was powerless to stop it. She hated that her mother had left them so long ago, and hated that her father was dead.
But most of all, she hated when Naurë was right.
It galled her like nothing else. Stupid, yes, and selfish, but Lalaith was nothing if not honest, and she knew herself to be nothing near an altruist. Whence came this pride? This competition? There was no logic to it, after all, as it was very simple indeed: Naurë was near a century of age, had studied with elves, and travelled far and wide. Lalaith had scarcely been out of Bree; this trip to Rivendell was the furthest she’d been from the city in the entirety of her life, and the longest. Of course Nana would be experienced, wise, sage.
That did not make it easier to endure.
Lalaith allowed herself to continue her nice sulk for a short while after Elrond evicted her from his workroom, plopping herself onto a stone bench beside the river. From her seat, she could observe elves from all over the Last Homely Home making their way to the feasting hall. She stared blindly at the waterfall, watching without interest the refraction of light in the mist thrown up from the water.
Naurë was right, and Lalaith wanted to scream.
Rûmil was a fine elf, but indeed, there was nothing about him that was any better than any other elf. He had a sunny nature, it was true, and Lalaith had it on excellent authority that Rûmil was amusing, but sunny nature and another quality that she was incapable of appreciating personally were no basis for lasting love.
Dammit. And she’d thought it so terribly romantic, falling in love upon first sight of him.
She sighed, a harsh sound that broke the silence around her. Naurë had always said her granddaughter was more dramatic than practical, and it would appear that on that matter as well, she was correct.
Lalaith knew she should follow the others in to supper, but didn’t want to see her grandmother, or Rûmil, or those silly twins, or even Aerlinn. Sometimes it felt like their laughter and smiles marked them as members of an exclusive club, and she held not the key to enter. It was most wearying, and made her feel stupid and defective. Defective she might be, but stupid, never.
Naurë had always declared her granddaughter brilliant, quite the smartest human she’d ever met, and Lalaith was quite pleased to agree with her Nana for once. With her intelligence came a certain amount of arrogance, of course, and ever was she battling with herself to curb it.
She sighed again. This was not a moment of arrogance; just the opposite. It was a moment of beratement, of self-loathing. Another thing to add to her list of things she hated: her own pride. Lalaith tucked a foot under her and continued to think her thoughts.
Rûmil wondered why he sought the woman, even as he did so. Upon first meeting her, he’d felt profound pity for her solemnity, and his love of challenge spurred him to spend time with her, endeavoring always to bring a smile to her pretty lips. So far, he’d had no success whatsoever, and he was at quite a loss for what to do.
“It is a thankless task, Rûmil,” Elladan had advised him gravely, humour sparkling in his grey eyes. “She is a decent sort, to be sure, intelligent and lovely, but hopelessly staid. Elrohir and I have pledged ourselves to getting a laugh out of her, but…” The dark elf shrugged eloquently. “I cannot say we feel much optimism.”
Why, then, his determination to make her laugh? For she was not unusually attractive, or smart, or talented. In fact, she had a huge strike against her: she was human. Mortal. From Bree, for Elbereth’s sake, the dingiest and most backwards of cities in Middle-Earth. Might as well have been half-orc.
Perhaps it was the irony of her name; Lalaith meant “laughter” in Sindarin. Perhaps it was the challenge of the thing; Rûmil had never been one to back down from a challenge. Orophin said it was ‘pig-headed’, while Haldir merely called him ‘stupid’. Rûmil, a devoté of the art of semantics, preferred to think of it as ‘tenacious’.
Perhaps it had been the way Haldir had threatened him with the beating of a lifetime if he hurt Naurë’s granddaughter; when warned away so strongly, who could resist the temptation? Only a stronger elf than he, Rûmil was sure. In any case, his urge to make Lalaith more closely resemble her name was irresistible, and thus his trek around the gardens in search of her.
When he found her, he stood at the opposite end of the garden for a while, merely watching. He must have made some sound or movement, because of a sudden, Lalaith stiffened and then turned to face him, squinting through the almost-night. “If you’re going to stare, you might as well come sit and be comfortable while you do it,” she told him crossly, then resumed her staring out over the water.
Rûmil arched a golden brow as he approached; open hostility was rare even between elves who loathed each other, and her voice had been clearly hostile. Once again, he reminded himself he was with a human, not an elf. “You are well?” he inquired. “We missed you at dinner.”
“Somehow, I doubt that,” she replied, ignoring his question. “I will thank you not to lie to me.”
“I was not lying,” he said tightly, feeling his temper begin to slip. “We did indeed miss you, and wondered if aught were wrong.”
She shot a glare at him and he noticed for the first time that her eyes were green, an unusual colour for those of Man who lived west of the mountains. Rûmil had always thought green a soothing colour, cool and fresh, but her eyes were none of those. They were fierce and angry and, he realized, making him long to shout at her for her brazen rudeness.
Not that he ever would, of course.
“You are well?” he repeated, striving for a neutral tone. Of course, neutral tones are difficult to accomplish when one’s jaw was clenched, and those green eyes narrowed at him.
“As can be expected,” she answered him in clipped tones. “I would not keep you from the remainder of your meal, and the dancing.” It was clearly a dismissal.
But Rûmil was not the brother of the two haughtiest elves in Lorien for nothing. And there was the matter of his tenacity, as well. He settled more comfortably on the stone seat and crossed his arms over his chest, looking for all the world like he was content to sit there the rest of his considerable lifespan.
Lalaith sighed noisily. Rûmil smirked. She huffed. He smirked more. Finally she turned to face him, hands disappearing in the folds of her sapphire-blue skirts, leveling a frown on him that had doubtless sent many a human scurrying off. “Will you not leave me alone?” she growled. “I wish for solitude.”
“You wish to sulk,” he said amiably, very nearly suppressing a quiver of amusement when her eyes flew wide in outrage.
“Go away, or I will hit you,” she hissed.
“Ah, violence,” Rûmil said with a sage nod. “Haldir has told me of the constant threats Naurë makes on his life. I am not surprised you would be as bloodthirsty as she.” Oh, she was angry now. Bright colour appeared in her cheeks, contrasting nicely with her dark-chestnut hair, and her eyes were fairly blazing with fury. She looked much prettier, he noted.
And then one of her hands was flying at his face. With languid warrior’s grace and speed, he intercepted it effortlessly, his long fingers ringing her wrist tightly enough to restrain, loosely enough not to hurt. “Do you truly think yourself up to the task of defeating me in combat, Lalaith?” he asked, his tone just condescending enough to make her breath come faster in her rage. His use of her given name instead of the more polite ‘my lady’ had not gone unnoticed, either.
“No,” she said between gritted teeth, “But I thought it worth the effort to try.” She yanked on her arm, but his grip was unbreakable. Lalaith tried to peel his fingers from her wrist with her free hand, to no avail. “I will scream if you do not release me,” she warned.
Rûmil shrugged, the motion graceful. “As you will. All it will accomplish is to make the others think I am ravishing you.” He tilted his head consideringly. “Which is an option. You have only to suggest it, and I would be most pleased to comply.”
Lalaith stared at him a long moment, eyes wide in horror. “I cannot believe I hummed at the thought of you,” she said, obviously scandalized at her own lapse in judgment.
He perked up. “Indeed? My lady, you honour me.” And lightning-quick, he shifted his grip from her wrist to her hand, bowing low over it to brush a kiss on her fingers.
She snatched her hand back, inspecting it closely for visible signs of… something, and muttered, “You repel me.”
“Really?” Rûmil seemed not at all bothered by this declaration; more fascinated, really. “Never has a female said that to me.” She looked skeptical. He slid a glance her way. “Usually they were too busy crying my name in ecstasy.”
“Bleh,” was her reply, and she grimaced. “To think I found you attractive.”
“Tis understandable,” Rûmil told her complacently. “I am very handsome, and you but a mortal woman. It is no mystery you would want me.”
“You are horrible,” Lalaith whispered, and to her horror, she felt tears start in her eyes. She shot to her feet. “Do not follow me,” she warned when he rose as well. “I swear, I will kill you if you do.” And there was something deadly in her voice that convinced him that she at least meant to try, so he stood there, half amused, half shocked, as she ran away from him.
Haldir was just leaving her grandmother when Lalaith came into the corridor; he tried to speak to her, but she dashed by him and darted into her room, shutting it none too gently and throwing herself across the bed. She buried her face in her arms, ignoring his gentle knock on the door, and though she tried to block it out, the sound of Nana’s voice echoed in her head.
“Beautiful is empty, Lalaith. Beautiful loves no one, it will strip you until regret is all that is left. Be you careful.”
The tentative love she’d harbored in her breast for Rûmil had been cruelly destroyed, like a tender shoot of a plant reaching toward the sun, only to die and wither from neglect and cold. Lalaith did indeed feel stripped, raw and bare, naked but for a girdle of regret squeezing round her, leaving her breathless with disappointment and pain.
And Naurë had been right. Lalaith had succumbed to her affinity for beauty, had allowed Rûmil’s beauty to blind and distract her from the reality of his being. She was worse than an idiot; she was a fool. An intelligent woman who had disregarded wise advice, had embraced an obviously poor choice, and now suffered the consequences.
“Stupid elves,” she whispered to the darkness. “I wish we had never come here.” Lalaith longed for her own race, longed for the familiar faces of the people of Bree and the surrounding countryside. She even longed for the Hobbits who sometimes travelled to the city, to see their cheery faces and silly weed-pipes and ludicrous expectations of seven meals a day. “If I ever see another pointy ear, it will be an age too soon.”
Lalaith rolled to her side and gazed out the window. In the moonlight, the dainty filigree adorning the arches and gables of Rivendell looked like long, slender fingers caressing the sides of the buildings with the intimacy of a lover. Here, everything was clean and lovely and perfect, and so utterly, completely alien that she felt like an intruder, unworthy and unwanted.
She thought that she might kiss the dirty, offal-streaked streets of Bree when next she returned to that place, her home. It might be smelly, and ugly, but it was familiar. It was home, and she was welcome there. There were no friends for her in this elf-city on the river, only Nana.
Lalaith closed her eyes, still hugging the pillow tight, and said a prayer of thanks for her grandmother. They had had harsh words earlier, but had done before as well. All would be right in the morning; there would be forgiveness and a kiss waiting for her at breakfast. As she fell asleep, her lips formed two last words.