A Lady's Tale - Part Three

Analsiel stood still as words poured out of her mouth. "I accept most humbly your majesty's gracious welcome, and I know that my stay in Gondor, however long, will be pleasant one," came that calm voice that must have been hers, though Analsiel could not believe it.

The Queen smiled. "Allow me to introduce you to the court," came that soft, musical, voice.

Analsiel followed the Queen in a daze, and curtsied to all she passed. Most she did not even remember a moment later, but a few did stand out. One, a tall elf, with short brown hair and kind look in her eyes, was called Quelleanon, another was a blond mortal woman, who had a playful look to her, and was introduced as Nori. She rather might have enjoyed the introductions, if it had not been for the last person she met. That smiling Elf, was a prince, Legolas of Mirkwood! She blushed, and felt like a fool as he grinned at her once again. Then Queen Arwen told her that she would be sent back to her rooms and they would be pleased to have her company at supper. Analsiel curtsied in response, and then, much to her disgrace, fled the hall.

*

Analsiel lay on her fine bed and thought about her predicament. Cursing her mother lightly in the tongues of Men, Elves, and Dwarves, she began to cry softly, until she could no longer hold herself back, and sobbed out burning hot tears, of loneliness, anger, and embarrassment. Then her tears subsided into sleep.

It was not long later that she woke up to a soft knocking on her door. "Come in," called Analsiel hoarsely.

The door opened and in came Nori, the mortal girl, who had seemed friendly in the Lesser Audience chamber.

"I thought perhaps you might like a tour of the city," came the soft answer from the lady. Analsiel sat up, and looked at her. She was average height, but fingers were long and graceful, as was her golden hair. Her face was oddly proportioned, giving her a quirky look that made her seem friendly and silly and the same time. Despite her previous misery, she smiled at the girl. "I would love a tour."

Nori's nervousness subsided. "pack up some money, then, and change your clothes. I'll wait for you in the Front Hall."

And then she smiled, turned, and left.

*

It was only a few minutes later that Analsiel joined Nori in the Hall. She had taken a small some of money and wore the plain brown dress Queen Eowyn had given her. After seeing Arwen, Eowyn seemed only a distant memory, so Analsiel had worn the gown to remind herself of where she had come from. Nori smile was relaxed as she met her in the Hall, adn they stepped into the sunny street like old friends.

"You know," remarked Nori, an hour later as the two women sat under a tree eating fruit and sipping cold drinks to refresh them after their walk, "Men will probably be queing up to meet you, Ana,"she said, juice driping ungracefully down her chin. Ana was the nickname she insisted on using for Analsiel, saying it was too formal. Analsiel had threatened to call Nori, Nor, until Nori explained that it her name was Norinel, and Nori was a nickname. Then they had both laughed and walked on. But now, Analsiel's attention was caught by this last remark. "How's that possible? I really am nothing special. It's you , or some of the Elves they should be lining up for."

Nori grinned at that. "Oh, you can see my noble swains when we return, but you'll certainly have some of your own. If you didn't notice, you are the only other lady at court besides the Queen, with black hair, and that is rare enough to attract of few swains, I should say."

Analsiel laughed, they got their feet, and continued their tour of the city.

*

It was dusk when they made their way back to the palace. Nori had bought from a little shop a comb engraved with flowers and marked with the elvish word for beauty. Analsiel, thinking of her room at the palace, had bought a small chess set of wood from the forests near Rivendell. It graced her room nicely, and she and Nori had a game (which Analsiel won) and some hot tea before Nori left to prepare for supper. It was then that Analsiel remembered the Queen's invitation to the evening meal, and was shocked into action. She bathed herself again, wiping off the grit she had picked up from a day's walk in a new city, and climbed out of the tub, shivering. Remembering Nori's remark about swains, she withdrew from her closet a bronze colored gown trimmed in dark blue beads and gold satin. She tucked her black locks, still a bit damp from her bath into braid which she garnished with a gold tie, and eased a bluestone ring from the jewelry box. Feeling uncomfortable in all the evening finery, she slipped down to where Nori had told her Dining Hall was.

She did not feel uncomfortable when she looked into the Dining Hall. All those in it were dressed in equal finery, and Analsiel relaxed. She saw Nori at a table with the Elf she remembered from her audience, a male elf she didn't know, and, to her horror, the Smiling Elf, Legolas. She stifled a groan and walked toward them at Nori's beckon. When she sat down, Nori began introductions.

"This is Quelleanon Waterkin of Lothlorien. She lives here, but never lets us forget where she came from." This last remark of Nori's was diredted at the brown-haired elf to her left with a wink. Then she went on. "This is Firndil Firestone, he's from Rivendell. He came here with the queen." Analsiel looked at Firndil. His eyes were kind, and his face as perfect as the Queen's. She seemed inexplicably drawn to him in some way. She smiled and nodded at him. "And this," continued Nori,"is Legolas Greenleaf, prince of Mirkwood."

"We've met," remarked Analsiel dryly.

It seemed as if the Smimling Elf wanted to respond, but then the food came out, and he just smiled that awful smile, and started to eat. Analsiel sighed, turned away, and talked to other three for the duration of the meal.

It was perhaps two or three hours later that a company of musicians stepped out underneath the dais of the King and Queen, and began tuning their harps, and flutes and lutes. Then the Queen whispered to the King, and he smiled and stood. The whole hall grew silent.

"My court, your queen proposes a jest. You know as well as I that she and I open the dancing..."

At this Analsiel gulped. She was in truth a fine dancer, with natural grace, but the thought of dancing before the Quewn made her dizzy. The KIng went on "...but tonight she suggests we play a trick on one of you. Legolas, stand up."

The Elf smiled and stood.

"Legolas, you are to pick the fairest maiden here, and open the dancing with her." Analsiel lost her voice as he held out his hand to her, then found it again. "I will most certainly dance with you, milord," she said. And then she was swept onto the dance floor.

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