A Lady's Tale - Part Twenty
Summer had come in earnest, as if it had been waiting for Arwen to be well again. A month after her near death, Aragorn and Legolas and all the others had returned after successfully beating the Orcs out of Mirkwood. The air in the castle was happy and pleased and the court was preparing to celebrate Midsummer's Eve, the longest day of the year. All the maidens were jittery and giggly, for Midsummer was the time when young asked permission of a girl's father to court her.
Arwen had dismissed all her ladies for the day, and told them to prepare for the great party that would occur on the wooded grounds of the palace. They were running from room to room, giggling and asking opinions on dresses until they all decided to bring everything they might possibly wear into Lhunidil's room which was the biggest.
The normally mature and civilized girls gossiped and giggled like spoiled children, teasing each other mercilessly about who would be asked by whom. Then at last, Arwen, in a golden gown that looked to have been made of gossamer, came to the room and herded them all out, complimenting each girl on how she looked. Then they stepped out into the light of a thousand glowing lanterns.
There must indeed have been a thousand, thought Analsiel, as she stepped out into them. They surrounded at least a hundred tables filled with delicious foods and resting on blankets of soft green grass. Not a single man or woman there had there shoes on. Arwen smiled and placed the ladies shoes back inside next to all the others. Then she led them out. It was custom for each girl to step forward into the ring of all the celebrants to be admired by all there, and so that men could decide whether to ask for them or not. It was a bit barbaric, but the whole court enjoyed the fun of it.
Meranyn went first. She looked lovely in a gown of brilliant blue with her hair tied up in a complex mesh of braids. Then Astianen, who looked a bit uncomfortable in a purple gown with her brown hair woven with ribbons, but who smiled and stepped away very quickly. Next was jolly Vanadar, who smiled and laughed and looked positively jubilant in her dress of spring green. A more subdued Luinduriel followed in pale yellow with her dark brown hair plaited past her waist. Analsiel had gotten to know the timid Elf better since her return from Mirkwood, but it would be interesting to learn her heart. She caught her breath when Firnciliath came out. Her friend was wearing a gown of brilliant crimson and gold in a feathery concoction of midsummer magic. Her light brown hair shone in the firelight. Nervously, Analsiel touched the silky folds of her gown, wondering if she looked anywhere near that radiant. Quelleanon wore a blue dress that was simple, yet elegant, and had a high neck that set off her short hair well. Then Nori. Analsiel wanted to burst with pride when her beautiful friend stepped out. Her dress was a blinding white, and it was trimmed in gold. She had the dress fitted the same time Analsiel had had hers done, and it looked perfect. She watched with interest as Nori flashed a hopeful smile at Legolas, who looked shocked. Lhunidil looked almost angrily after Nori when she stepped out in her dress of green and silver. Suddenly, Analsiel realized she was wearing the same colors as Legolas. Was that on purpose? she wondered.
But then it was her turn. The silk folds of her pale pink dress rustled about her as the warm winds caressed her bare shoulders. Her sleeves were of floaty gauze that was a shade darker that her gown and they began just below her shoulders. At her neck, she wore a choker of brilliant red stones that matched exactly the stone on the hilt of Ruthruin. It also provided a sharp contrast to her soft gown. The same jewels were placed all through her loose black hair with invisible ties. The necklace and jewels had been a sort of thank you gift from Arwen, and Analsiel wore them with pride.
If she had looked about her just now, she would have seen almost every face shining out at her. But at this moment, all she could see was Firndil. He was at the table only six feet in front of her, the high table, and his red and gold tunic shone like fire. His hair was combed back and it shone in the lamplight. But mostly she saw his face. He looked at her with such love and happiness that she could hardly contain her own joy. She knew he would ask for her.
Then she sat down and the other maidens came after her, one by one until Arwen came out. All were beautiful, but when the feast finally began, everyone was hungry.
Long after, late into the evening, as everyone wiped their hands to clean the last of their meal from their fingers, Aragorn stood. Arwen smiled and stood with him. The Queen looked tired, but happy. Then Aragorn spoke. "You all know what happens now," he said, grinning at his happy court. "Ladies, if you will all step towards your father, we will begin."
Analsiel stood as her hopes and happiness sank into the ground. All the magic of midsummer seemed gone, as she came to the quick realization that her father was in Rohan, not here. Then she noticed Aragorn approaching her, and tried to smile. "What shall I do my lord?" she asked, trying not to be too obvious in her misery.
Aragorn's eyes danced. "Well, you are hardly a princess, but I think I will do as a substitute father for tonight!" As suddenly as they had come, all of Analsiel's worries left her. Her teacher, mentor, and king would serve as her father for the most wonderful night of the year. Her face lit up. "Thank you, my lord," she said softly, not knowing what else to say.
She noticed that Astianen had been "adopted" by an elderly gentleman who she often went to visit. All the other fatherless maidens had found someone to reject or accept their suitors, including Meranyn. So the ceremony could begin.
Some Elves that Analsiel did not know went first. Then she began to recognize some of the women and even some of the men. It was very good to know so many faces after having been away so long, for at court people came and went like breaths of wind. Then a few others, including some of the older ladies who were of course immediately picked by their husbands, as was the custom. Then a few of the noble ladies. Meranyn was asked for by four men, each of whom presented her with a gift. Several ladies burned with jealousy. And then Arwen's ladies took their turn. Astianen was approached first, by a very handsome lord whom Analsiel had seen around the palace and knew by the name of Enrel. He seemed overjoyed to have been accepted. Then Luinduriel and Vanadar were each asked by one, and Quelleanon by two Lothlorien Elves. When Nori stepped forward on her father's arm, many people smiled. But Legolas looked away, and refused to meet her eyes. Her face was still a little disappointed when two men asked for her, but she was very gracious in accepting them. Firnciliath was surrounded by four handsome elves when she stepped forward. She smiled at every one of them as they gave her gifts. Her happiness was real though, only when she looked at one of them. Analsiel made a mental note to find out who he was. Then she realized with a start that it was her turn. Aragorn led her forward, and suddenly everyone got quiet. She could see what they were thinking and almost hated them for it. Who would ask for someone like the Lady of the Silver Light? Someone so powerful could be dangerous. But then Firndil stepped forward out of the hush and walked up to Aragorn boldly. "Majesty," he said solemnly, "I ask for permission to court this lady."
Aragorn stared. An Elf, asking for a human? Well, wasn't he married to Arwen? And why not, anyway? He smiled. "Happily, I grant it."
After that, men and Elves alike flooded up to Analsiel. Aragorn rejected three and gave permission to eight others besides Firndil. He was most surprised perhaps, when his two sons, Eliding and Elrohir, both asked for permission to court Analsiel. But Analsiel was most surprised of all.
Lhunidil was asked by four Elves, including Legolas. Legolas looked none too happy about it, but Lhunidil smirked for the rest of the evening. Analsiel tried not to dwell on the hurt she saw in Nori's face. It wasn't hard, since all her suitors kept pestering her for dances and walks.
By dawn, all the revelers had decided the night had been long enough. They slowly returned to their beds to sleep away the day, after making their partners promise to meet them later. Analsiel had told all her suitors to leave her alone for the day. She was tired, and needed to think. It was a new day.
Nothing really happens in this chapter, I know, but I put it in anyway just in case anyone was getting bored of all the non-stop action! Sorry if this one bored you. The next is more interesting.