Of Elves and Fey: If I Were Gone
Disclaimer: The members of the fellowship do not belong to me, and I am using them without permission. Shalidar, the fey, and Katherine are mine. I am making no profit, please do not sue.
Summary: The members of the fellowship must make a difficult decision.
Lady Katherine sat before the mirror, staring intently at her reflection. She was trying to spy the difference in her, the thing within herself that had caused the fall. She had never intended to love him, not really. Oh, she had been attracted to him from the start; had intended to love him, just not fall in love with him. She had reveled in the deception, her faery nature excited by the mischief. She had plotted in secret with her brother for weeks now, planning the perfect trap for the musicians. Now, only hours away from the "perfect crime", she was having doubts.
It was not within her nature to fall, not for an outsider. She tried to remind herself that he was just that, merely a distraction; not like her. Much to young and naive for someone such as herself. But the truth remained; staring back at her from eyes she no longer recognized. Gone were the malicious twinklings that had darkened her gaze for lo these many years. In their place was a dancing happiness, restoring the gleam to her silvery eyes. She could deny it no longer, she had fallen. Sighing heavily, she pulled the silver brush through her long white curls. Perhaps it was not so bad, this falling. Perhaps. But neither was it simple. For the fall had stirred in her a great sadness, as she had come to realize that she could not keep him here. This was not his home, he did not belong. She could not make him a captive in her land; no matter how much she wanted him to stay. The choice must be his; must be theirs.
Laying the brush down on the table, she turned to Meaghan, her handmaiden.
"Are you happy?"
"Here, in this place. Are you happy? Or do you long for what you left behind?", Katherine asked; noting the look of fear that crept into Meaghan's eyes.
"Yes, I am happy here. Although...there are times when I miss my family."
"I am sorry Meaghan. I never meant to cause you any sorrow."
"M'lady, are you feeling well? You do not seem yourself."
"Don't I?", Katherine asked laughingly.
"No ma'am, you seem so...sad tonight."
"Perhaps I am sad.", she answered, standing.
She smoothed down the front of her powder blue dress, knowing full well what she had to do. She knew it must be done, but did not relish the thought of doing it. Still, he deserved at least that much from her.
"That will be all for tonight Meaghan. Thank you."
"You are welcome, as always m'lady.", the young woman replied, bowing.
She turned to go, then turned back to Katherine.
"M'lady, if I may be so bold. You are not nearly the wicked faery that you believe yourself to be. You fell because you could, because you let yourself. Look around you, who else among the court has the heart that you possess? What other 'great' lady of the court would befriend someone like me."
Having spoken her mind, Meaghan turned to leave; praying that her tongue had not signed her death warrant.
"Yes m'lady?", Meaghan whispered, turning to face Katherine.
"Thank you. And how many times do I have to tell you to call me Katherine? My mother did not name me m'lady, after all."
"Good night...Katherine. Do not fear, he will understand."
With that, Meaghan closed the door behind her; leaving Katherine to summon her courage alone.
There was something in the air, an opressive tension. Like the castle itself was holding its breath; waiting for some epic event. Legolas knew that he wasn't the only one who felt it. The rest of the men were restless as well, pacing the large suite of rooms like caged panthers. It was odd, the ease with which they had adapted to their 'captivity' here. Perhaps it was the competitive nature of the group, the desire to win. Or perhaps it was the beauty of the place itself, a world like none other. A dream-like place that he had once thought existed only in fairy tales. Perhaps that was it, perhaps it was that this place appealed to the small child in all of them; set them at ease. But no, he had to be honest with himself, it wasn't really any of those things. It was the peace that this place offered; the chance to be no one important for just a little while. He was certain that it would wear off soon enough; that soon they would want, need to be themselves again. To have the fate of the world in their hands once more.
A soft knock on the door snapped him out of his reverie, and sent them all scrambling into the suite's main room. They all looked at each other, unsure of what to do. The whole time they had been in Shalidar, no one had ever knocked on their door. As a matter of fact, the only person who ever came to their rooms was Rahne, the handmaidem that Lady Katherine had placed in charge of their care. And she simply barged right in, no warning knock.
"Come in?", Boromir finally said; shrugging.
The double doors swung open and a young boy stood looking them over before he spoke.
"The Lady Katherine of Shalidar requests an audience with you.", he whispered, indicating this was far from a request.
The group looked at one another warily, all of them wondering what she would be doing coming to them at such a late hour. She had made it clear to them from the beginning, that they were not to approach any of the courtiers; especially her. That was a rule that Katherine herself had broken the day after their arrival. In the time since, she had spent many secret hours with them; showing them the beauty of her home. But she had never again come to their rooms herself, not since that first morning; and most definately not late at night.
The young boy stepped out of the way, and Katherine entered the room; looking around warily. Legolas' breath caught in his chest, his heart skipping a beat. No matter how many times he saw her; it never failed to take his breath away. She wore a pale blue dress, the front split down the middle to reveal the creamy pale underskirt beneath. It drug the ground behind her when she walked, whispering against the stone floors. It seemed that she always wore blue, as if she had known how much he loved it; known how much he loved her in it. Her long silvery white hair was loose for a change, falling down her back in loose ringlets; glimmering in the candlelight like diamonds. Her long gossamer wings fluttered softly, wafted by an unfelt draft. Legolas was always in awe of the wings, always wanting to reach out and touch them. He wondered what they would feel like against his skin, how soft would they be. Her silver eyes met his, and he saw such sorrow in them; such despair.
He felt his heart crack, a tight knot of fear forming in the pit of his stomach.
"Thank you Galen, that will be all.", Katherine said, dismissing the boy; who closed the doors behind her.
"Is there something wrong Katherine?", Legolas asked.
"I am afraid that something is horribly wrong Legolas.", she whispered, placing a small hand on his arm.
"What?", he asked, placing a hand over the top of hers.
Katherine looked at the hand covering hers, its warmth sparking something deep within her. If she had ever doubted that telling him was the right thing to do, those doubts were quickly banished. She looked into his eyes, saw the concern burning there; knew that she had no choice. She loved him, and that love now guided her.
"I am afraid that I have not been honest with you, with any of you. And I feel now that honesty is greatly needed. Let us sit for a moment.", she said; moving to sit in one of the overstuffed brocade chairs. The men all found seats near her, fear building within them.
"Okay, what is it. I must tell you, you have us a little freaked out here Katherine.", Boromir said, smiling at her.
"I am sorry Boromir, since I suppose that 'freaked out' would not be a pleasant thing. This was not an easy decision for me, you must understand that. It is not in my nature to care about the feelings of mortals such as you, not in my nature to feel regret."
"Okay, we get that. Just tell us what the hell is going on.", Boromir prodded, his nerves on edge; his mind calling up at least a hundred horrible scenarios.
Katherine related to them the details of the plan that she and her brother had devised. Told them of the great boredom, of the need to be entertained. They had been chosen, she had said, because of their youth; their freedom. And the fact that they were pleasing to behold had not hurt their cause either. For three weeks, she had spent every waking hour with them, putting them at ease, gaining their trust. Trust had been the key to it all, the factor of utmost importance. Without their trust, their would have been no challenge. For the prize at the end would be their lives, the great victory the look of utter betrayl in their eyes as their destiny became clear. The look of sheer hopelesness as the faery wine passed their unsuspecting lips.
"So, what are you saying?", Merry asked calmly.
"I am saying that you would have been captive here forever. The wine that Rahne would have offered you, the wine that you would have excepted because you trusted her; would have sealed your fate. You would have never left Shalidar, no matter how much you may have wanted"
"Why are you telling us this?", Aragorn asked warily, thinking that perhaps this was part of her 'game'.
"My reasons are my own Aragorn. You only need know that decisions must be made. You have the power now, to stay or to go."
"It doesn't sound to me like you or your brother have any intention of letting us go. You just said that yourself.", Pippin reminded her.
"That was the plan, to trick you into staying. But there was always the possibilty that you would turn down the wine, that your trust would not have been so fully won as had been thought. That was the beauty of the plan Peregrin, the unpredictabilty. The decision is now truly yours to make. Faery nature may be easily sparked to mischief, but it is fair at the core. Play by the rules and win, and you will be rewarded. Beat the king at his own game, and you will be returned home."
"Would you be sorry to see us go? Would you miss me if I were gone?", Legolas asked, his blue eyes mysteriously damp.
"I would miss you terribly Legolas. That is why I came here, why I told you this. Because I believe myself to be in love with you. And it would sadden me deeply to never again gaze upon you.", she answered him, her voice tinged with great sadness.
"Then ask me to stay."
Katherine stood and walked to one of the room's windows, looking out at the full moon that hung low in the sky.
"I can not.", she answered; never turning to look at him.
"Why?", he asked, walking to her.
Katherine turned to him, anger momentarily flashing in her silver eyes. He was going to make this difficult for her, and her faery nature rebeled at that. It was faery nature to be easily offended, moving as swiftly to joy as to rage. Dancing from one diversion to another with rapid quicksilver interest. One minute desperately in love and singing all praises; the next livid with hatred and despair. And his question had sparked her pain.
"You do not know what you ask of me Legolas. It is painful enough, this falling. It tears at my heart, rips at my soul. And now, to know that you will leave me. I can not bear it, it is pain unlike I have ever known existed. But that is, I fear, a far cry from the pain that a life here would cause you. You have a life out there, in your world. A life that you never asked to leave. Here, you have nothing."
"I thought that I had you.", he whispered.
"You have my heart. But look around you, remember what you have learned. I am Lady of Shalidar, you are a gypsy in the eyes of the court. It could never be, no matter how much I desired it. Were the court to find out, your life would be in danger. I am Lady of Shalidar, my lapses in judgement are to be forgotten. You are a gypsy, such lapses would get you killed. I can not ask you to put your life in danger. I can not ask you to give up everything. I will not. The decision must be yours alone. You have until the sun sets on the morrow. It is your choice to stay or go, to drink the wine or walk away."
Katherine kissed him on the cheek, breathing in the masculine scent of him. She wanted to ask him, wanted to beg him to never leave her. But she could not. She would never be able to live with herself if something were to happen to him, the blame would be all hers. Legolas placed a light kiss on her forehead, hugging her tightly. It wasn't right. How could she come to him, tell him she loved him, and then do everything but ask him to leave? He felt her pull away from him, felt her hand run lightly down his arm, across his hand. Their fingertips met, not wanting to let go. He looked into her eyes, amazed by the fear he saw blazing there. She smiled weakly at him, and turned to go. He watched her move slowly to the door, her head down, her gaze on the floor. He had never seen her like that, never seen her head bowed. His heart melted, seeing the insecure and terrified woman that lived within the queen. At the door, she turned back to them, her eyes never meeting theirs.
"Remeber this gypsies, by the setting of the sun tomorrow, your decision must be made. It must be unanimous. For there is no half way. You all stay, or you all go. Choose wisely."
She left them with their thoughts, the sound of the heavy door closing reverberating through the room like a death knell.
Katherine sat on her throne, her mind swirling with a thousand emotions. King Naill set beside her, eager for the game's conclusion. He looked at his sister, somewhat surprised by her silence.
"You are very quiet tonight sister. I would think you would be eager to see your game reach its conclusion."
"I am happy my lord king. I simply did not want to seem overzealous.", she lied; smiling at him.
"Mayhaps. But I think that there is something more. Mayhaps your mind is filled with thoughts of what you might well do with your new toys, the handsome gypsy minstrels."
"All is not won yet Niall. They could well still outsmart us both."
"They may well. But elsewise, I am sure that you will enjoy their company."
"I think, brother, that you think me more like you than is true. For it is not I who has a different lover in my bed every night.", she replied sarcastically, beaming him a beautiful smile.
"Do not overstep your bounds Lady Katherine.", the king warned.
Before Katherine could answer, the pages sounded the trumpets, and the two groups were led in. Katherine took a deep breath, steeling herself against the pain and fear that the next few moments would bring. The king called forth his small band of gypsies, three to be precise. They stepped forward, fear shining in their eyes.
"Pompadour, Melodio, Craig of Fairington; you have champoined me well in this endeavor. You have made me well proud, but the court has spoken. You have lost in this, and thus I have lost as well.", the king said, his voice tinged with anger. "A king does not loose well. As promised the court, you shall be dealt with accordingly."
The three gypsies looked at one another, terrified. Katherine's heart went out to them, her brother's threats far from idle.
"My lord, should not a king also be merciful to those who have served him well? I pray, send them home; honor the courage they have shown."
"Lady Katherine speaks true. Consider yourselves lucky that she is oft my conscience in matters such as these. You will be returned home with all good gladness. Galen will lead you back to the glen, back to the doorway home. Never forget that it was by my mercy that you went."
The young page led the three men out of the great hall, the cheers of the faery court following them as they went. Katherine motioned for Legolas and the others to step forward, her eyes locking momentarily with his. The king looked at them, his face a mask of calm; his eyes gleaming with mischief.
"As for you, gypsies, you too have done well. You have championed the Lady Katheine in her cause, and passed all challenges. Well met indeed. The choice is now yours to make. As promised this court, you have a place here as Royal Musicians, so long as it pleases you. We wish to welcome you with all good gladness. Yet, the choice is yours. You may wish to return to your world, to the lives that you left behind. Should that be your choice, it will be done with all happiness. But first, mayhaps a toast, to celebrate the victory. What say you Katherine?"
"A splendid idea my lord king."
The king clapped his hands, and Rahne entered carrying a silver tray; seven silver goblet resting on it. She moved to the men, watching as each took a goblet, looking at the ruby liquid it held. She ascended the steps, offering Katherine and Niall their's as well; smiling hopefully at Katherine. She motioned for Rahne to remain, and the young woman took a place behind Katherine's throne, her eyes locked on Merry.
"A toast then.", the king said, raising his glass. "To Lady Katherine's champions. Huzzah!"
He lifted his glass, watching as the courtiers did the same. Katherine raised her own glass, her eyes locked with Legolas' over its rim. He looked at his friends, then back to her, a smile dancing across his lips. She watched in silence as, one by one, the gypsies raised their glasses to their lips and drank.
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