The Awakening - Chapter 5: A Present Engagement
Pain shot through Hetaura's stomach as she entered her room. It had been a full week from the spider attack and her run-in with a tree branch. She and Legolas had stayed in the cave for another hour--for safety against the spiders--before the prince had dutifully and gently carried her out of the cavern back to the palace. The healers--whom she'd been seeing quite often of late--had inspected her thoroughly. Their verdict had been a comforting one--to an extent.
She was not bleeding from inside, and she was fit as anything, but soreness was to be expected for a long while, especially where the branch had been.
Yes, they had told her that. What she hadn't been told or fully expected was a bruise the color of grapes, blueberries, and blackberries stretched across her abdomen for this amount of time!
She pulled her shirt up a little and the discoloration beamed at her, making her feel ill. So, she walked over to her wardrobe and quickly changed from her tunic and breeches to her light night shift. Attempting to suppress a yawn so as to avoid pain, Hetaura stumbled to her bedside where she wiped her face with a wet cloth from a basin.
When she turned, she twisted the wrong way and bumped part of her tender side on the bed. Stars immediately appeared to swim in her dull and hazy vision. Her mind went blank as she clutched the bedpost to keep herself steady in her dizzy stance. Eyes watering and pain shooting through her stomach, Hetaura let out quite a few words she would be ashamed for anyone else to hear.
A second later, in the midst of a rather creative phrase, she heard a knock on the door.
"Go away!" she gasped through the slowly subsiding ache.
"Hetaura?" It was Legolas.
"Go away!" she shouted once more, but Legolas merely walked, uninvited, into her room. At the sight of her bent double in pain, the prince rushed to her, but he didn't dare touch her. Not yet.
"What is it?" he asked, touching her arm finally.
Heavens help her, perspiration now soaked Hetaura's brow as she tried desperately to let the soreness disappear on its own. She took a short, painful, and labored breath, and shuddered as she held it in.
"Hetaura?" Legolas' voice became more urgent when he spoke and touched her back.
Not being able to withstand it any longer, Hetaura let out a short, but meaningful groan and fell against Legolas' chest momentarily before sitting on her bed. She used her sleeve to wipe away the sweat still pearling on her brow, finally able to see, breathe, and think properly. "Oh, that hurt!" she growled.
Legolas looked at her, amused, but quickly covered his faint grin.
"What do you want?" she muttered, wrapping her arm gently around her waist.
"To...alert you of a few..." he trailed off, looking for the right word. "...changes," he concluded.
"Oh?" Hetaura looked bored already. Swinging her legs up onto the bed, she added, "What are these `changes,' pray tell?"
Legolas looked down at the tired girl and saw that her eyes were halfway shut already, so the faint light still in her room cast a long, dark shadow from her eyelashes over her cheeks. Her lips were pulled tightly together in the slight pain he knew she was experiencing. Her cheeks were flushed, and looked as they did in the wintertime when she had been in the cold for too long. He watched her sigh slowly, awaiting his response, before the prince spoke. He sat on her bed beside her and took her hand.
"Firstly, my parents have issued a new security law that no one is to venture into the forest unguarded. The spiders' numbers have increased so greatly in the past few months, they are a serious threat to use. So you are no longer allowed outside by yourself," he began.
Hetaura rolled her eyes, awaiting news that would interest her at least a little. Even though she told herself that Legolas' clasp on her hand was friendly, she couldn't help but think that there was something more there, at least to him. Experimentally, she twined her fingers with his. His expression changed, but it went undetected by the girl.
"Secondly, on a lower level, Kaanel, our recent prisoner, has been released from charges and will be staying in Mirkwood for some time, on account of the spiders." At Hetaura's blank stare, Legolas added quickly, "I just thought you would like to know that." He squeezed her hand gently.
"That's nice. May I sleep now?" Hetaura began to pull her hand away, but the prince didn't let her just yet.
Contemplating how he would put his next phrase, Legolas pursed his lips together in a thin line. Finally, he said, "My parents also wish...me to...marry." He watched the girl for a reaction of any sort. He saw intrigue and amusement only.
"Good luck. I'm sure you will find the perfect she-Elf in due time. Good night, Legolas." Hetaura furrowed her brow as soon as she finished speaking. Legolas' gaze was so intently set upon her to the point of it being unnerving.
"I have already chosen her," he whispered.
"I'm glad for you." Hetaura's voice was an even lower whisper than Legolas'.
"And she is not a she-Elf, either," he added.
"Oh?" A sudden jolt of alarm and surprise went through Hetaura. "Really?" she murmured breathlessly. Shifting uncomfortably in her bed, she wished he would stop looking at her so fixedly.
Every muscle in his body taut and coiled, Legolas nodded. He moved their hands so he could rub his thumb over the back of her hand gently. Angels help him, if she didn't respond with more than three syllables, he would burst!
Almost afraid to ask, Hetaura's question was barely audible. "Who--Who is she?" She already knew the answer, though, deep down inside. She was frightfully aware of that.
Legolas blinked at Hetaura before lifting her hand to his lips. He had to remain calm if he were to appear presentable, at least. "You," he said quietly. "I wish for you to marry me, Hetaura."
An ominous, unsteady silence spread through the room. Legolas was awaiting his answer; Hetaura was processing the reality of the moment.
A sudden memory came back to them from only a year ago. They were walking around in the forest, hand in hand, speaking of whatever came to mind. When they had reached one of the places that no one else ever visited except them, they had stopped to talk of more personal things. Hetaura had been sitting on a rock, and Legolas on the ground.
When they had simultaneously asked the other one if they ever planned on marrying, they'd blushed crimson, and told the other to go ahead awkwardly. Finally, Legolas had broken the synchronized speech by asking Hetaura to marry him, in a humorous manner. Hetaura had grinned and nodded, agreeing to him in the same approach.
But now, Legolas, someone Hetaura had known almost all of her life, had just asked her to marry him, all humor put aside. He wanted her to spend the rest of her life--her human life--with him. Did he not remember she was human and would die in due time? That would leave him alone, without anyone to hold as dear as she would have been to him. Did that not matter? If he truly loved her, she guessed it didn't, as long as he could be with her.
But did she want to be with him? Did she love him? Well, yes, she loved him, as a friend, a sibling. That's why she'd been able to agree so jokingly a year ago. But did she love him like that? Enough to spend her lifetime with him?
This was a serious question, she knew, and didn't exactly have all the knowledge to handle it as perfectly delicately as she wanted to do so.
So, sitting forward and clearing her throat, Hetaura clasped her hands around Legolas' lightly. "I don't think I can give you an answer right now, Legolas," she told him truthfully. "But I will in due time, I promise you that." She watched his eyes for his response.
Instead of the crush and devastated expression Hetaura expected to see, Legolas smiled at her. She had never fully realized how beautiful his smile was until now. It made him look younger and more childish. It took away the crease that fretting over the defensive tactics Ainer had put him in charge of had given him. The prince took Hetaura's hand and kissed it once more, but this time on her palm.
"I will await your answer eagerly," he whispered.
Hetaura sheepishly returned his smile and watched him stand. She had expected him to straight away leave, but instead, he leaned closer to her warily. He stopped a few inches from her face, and as if deciding what to do in the middle of an action, Legolas then brushed a kiss against her forehead gently.
"Goodnight, Hetaura," he murmured. Lifting his hand, the Elven prince stroked Hetaura's cheek softly.
"Goodnight...Legolas," she replied, rendered speechless by his sudden change in disposition.
Before the prince could finish, there was a shout in the hallway.
"Sleep well," he said as a departing endearment.
Hetaura waited a few safe seconds before groaning in a rather confused manner after the door had shut. "What am I going to do?" she cried in her mind, trying to sleep the moment away.
Meanwhile, Legolas was sprinting down the hallways in search of the Elf who had cried out. It hadn't been a she-Elf, so he didn't have to worry of anything dreadful, things that could only be done to women. The yell hadn't been a distressed one. Alarmed, maybe, but not distressed.
The prince skidded to a halt when he heard more shouts down the hall to his right. The treasury was down that corridor. He took off at a quickened pace until he was a few doors away. There was no sign of a disruption--to the untrained eye.
Smoke hazed along the ceiling, indicating a torch had been put out. Dirt from the cave wall was spread along the floor in front of the treasury entrance, showing a fight had taken place. Legolas saw no blood, so that was a relief to him.
When he stepped up to the door, however, he saw a body slumped against the floor. Legolas rushed forward and felt for a pulse along the guard's neck. Breathing out a sigh of calm when he felt the gentle throb of blood pounding beneath the skin, the prince let his mind wonder who would have attacked the guard, at the treasury. Not wanting to take any chances, he pulled a small, discrete dagger from the small of his back, beneath his tunic.
The blade was un-scratched, seeing as the prince had never used it, nor had he ever wanted to. Light glinted off of it faintly, and little designs along the flat of the knife, ivy and roses twined around each other, appeared momentarily.
When Legolas stepped into the treasury, he hadn't known what to expect. Maybe he was thinking more along the lines of a band of thieves, or a dark shadow overhanging the safe door. But what he hadn't expected was a single person, leaning against the door, in the process of picking the lock.
Legolas cleared his throat conspicuously, dagger still drawn and ready to throw. The thief turned around quickly. The candlelight from the candelabras washed over his face to reveal--
"Kaanel?" Legolas already recognized the miser, even in faint light. They had discussed many things over the past week and a half, even become friends. "What are you doing?"
"What does it look like I'm doing? Robbing your treasury that was so heavily guarded so I may continue my journey." Bowing slightly, Kaanel waved his hand in an exaggerated manner.
"Your sarcasm is noted." Legolas paused. "A new law has been issued that no one is allowed out of the city," he added, twisting the words a little. He didn't think that would stop the half-Elf, but he at least had to try something.
"Without an escort, you mean," Kaanel corrected, nonetheless. He found amusement in the prince's shocked reaction. "I know many things. Your proposal to your lady was romantic." The thief drew a dagger from a shoulder sheath and tossed it up and down. "But I have heard better that wooed the woman at once--"
"I did not come to see how much you knew of our private lives," Legolas interrupted quickly. "I came to shop whoever was attempting to steal the Elven fortune of Mirkwood. Now, if you would stand down--"
"Stand down?" Kaanel let out a loud, hearty laugh. Legolas began to advance on him in hopes of stopping him. Kaanel immediately lowered his dagger in the prince's direction. Silence came abruptly after, startling Legolas. "If you think I would stand down, you are mistaken. Kaanel of the Northern Realm never stands down. Never."
Perking his ear back slightly, Legolas caught a quiet sound, but he knew what it was, and what it meant at once. "As you say...Kaanel of the Northern Realm," he consented.
Scoffing at how easy it had been--almost too easy--Kaanel continued to pick the lock. A second later, he felt a sharp pain in the back of his head, then all went black.
Legolas rubbed his wrist as he began walking back to his quarters. He was a few doors away from Hetaura's at the moment, so he could check in on her. Some things Kaanel had confessed in the last hour--under a few noggins of ale and the best interrogators, of course--had left the prince disturbed and unnerved.
So, he knocked lightly on her door before remembering the hour of night. Slowly, he entered. She was asleep, on her side. Her features, instead of being peacefully set in sleep, were etched as though in supreme concentration.
Her eyebrows were knitted together, and her lips were pulled tightly in a thin line.
Legolas walked over to her and knelt at her bedside. Very gently, he caressed her cheek. The young girl let out a quiet, sleepy whimper. Hesitantly and experimentally, he leaned close to her face and brushed his lips against hers lightly.
"Good night, my love," he whispered as her features softened. "I will speak with you in the morning." The prince slowly exited the room, prolonging the moment when he would have to leave her again.
As soon as the door clicked shut, Hetaura's eyes snapped open. She was awake, had been since he'd come back. To hear him speak so softly, touch her so gently; it burned a hole in her, and let her heart dance on air. For some reason, to see him, in a sense, like that made her feel different, somehow. Somehow...
A light tap on her shoulder caused Hetaura to open her eyes wide with a start. She looked up to see her tutor standing over her at a towering height. Surprise took her for a moment, then confusion. What had she done wrong?
"Yes, sir?" she asked, not understanding the frustrated look he was giving her.
"You were asleep," he growled. "Again."
Hetaura bit her lip in annoyance at herself for falling asleep once more. "Sorry. I didn't sleep at all last night because--"
"I know. No need to go into detail once more." The instructor sat down at his desk and folded his hands. Speaking calmly, he said, "Hetaura. I am going to dismiss you early today so you may gain some sleep. If we stay at this rate, we'll have nothing done, so you may go."
Hetaura stared at her mentor for a moment in shock. She'd never been dismissed early--never. What a spot to go on her record. She was most likely to have a make up lesson soon for this lost time, she figured as she left the classroom. Or, he'd make her stay behind tomorrow, most likely, to finish up today's work.
The girl was so caught up in her thoughts of what her teacher would almost certainly do to her that, when she turned a corner, she didn't see the person coming her way, either. Hetaura landed on the floor with a thunk and her canvas bag of study books followed with a louder crash. She let out a rather vulgar cry as she saw stars floating in front of her eyes and pain shot through her abdomen.
"Hetaura?" She recognized the amused voice. She was terribly sure of it. Looking up, the girl saw Sheelewen, suppressing a smirk. "What do they teach you in your studies now?" she asked, referring to Hetaura's choice of words.
"I learned that particular phrase from spending too much time with men," she growled, standing slowly. "Don't worry; Legolas is not one I learned it from."
Sheelewen watched Hetaura gingerly pat her stomach and knew her bruise was still terribly raw and susceptible to bumps. "Hmm. Speaking of my beloved stepson, I with to hold speech with you over a few matters concerning him." The Elf Queen held out her arm to Hetaura.
Hetaura immediately blanched. She had lost sleep over Legolas' proposal to her the previous night, as her instructor told her to make up for. The question had been on her mind the entire time since then. All night, she had lain awake, pondering over and poking at it. She'd been unable to figure out what to say to him--at all, not just a response to his proposition.
"All right." Hetaura slipped her am through Sheelwen's, and they walked in a companionable manner through the hall until they had reached Thranduil's study. This made Hetaura feel worse and more uncomfortable as they entered. She would have to talk to the king, too?
"Do not worry. It will be just us, Hetaura," the queen said softly, sensing the girl's thoughts. "This conversation is between you and I only, and will never go past these four walls." She smiled encouragingly and reassuringly at her.
Hetaura nodded and stepped in after her adoptive mother. Sitting in the chair Sheelewen had gestured to, she didn't feel as uncomfortably as she'd thought she would. After all, it was only Sheelewen, right? No one else.
"So," the queen began, "my stepson proposed to you last night, correct?" She smiled still, as though the tumultuous nerves inside of Hetaura didn't exist--at least in her little world.
"Yes," the girl replied slowly, nonetheless. "It...It took me by surprise."
Though it didn't come as an unknown fact to Sheelewen, she acted as though it did. "Why?"
"I had thought of us as best friends, brother and sister moreover. But to hear Legolas ask me to marry him--it was all a bit sudden and unexpected." Hetaura was trying desperately to keep good grammar. Another thing influenced from the male Elves was poor sentence structure.
"How did he go about it?" The Elven Queen sensed Hetaura's attempts at her grammar and laughed inwardly.
"Well he, at first, informed me of the law of not being allowed in the forest on my own, then of Kaanel's release from charges." She paused. "And he then finally told me that you and Thranduil wished for him to marry. He began coyly, so I knew he wanted to wed me before he actually admitted so." Swallowing hard, Hetaura began to sing a song in her mind to keep herself calm. It was a horribly annoying song she and the Elves sang when they were down in their cups from time to time.
Sheelewen grinned. She was obviously using her telepathic powers to hear Hetaura's thoughts. "As chivalrous and courageous as Legolas may be, he was never skilled in his play of words when nervous or frightened.
Hetaura snorted slightly, then cleared her throat. The thought of Legolas nervous greatly amused her. She couldn't quite picture it, since he had seemed rather composed the previous night.
"Will you decide to marry him, Hetaura?" Sheelewen asked, breaking into the girl's thoughts.
Blinking a few times to bring herself back to Thranduil's study, Hetaura shook her head. "I don't know yet. I don't know if I love him like that. I never knew he possessed these feelings for me until last night. Or, really, about a week ago." At that memory, she fingered her bruise lightly.
"That is understandable." Silence reigned for a few uncomfortable moments. "But when you decide, Hetaura," Sheelewen said as she stood, taking slow steps towards the young girl, "please let me know beforehand. I do not with to see my son hurt, although I know you would not do so intentionally." She bent down and pressed a kiss against Hetaura's brow, like Legolas had done last night. "There is nothing against you, sweet one."
"I know." Hetaura remained seated.
"As you are aware, Elves have very sensitive feelings."
"I know," she murmured again as the queen left her in silence.
A few moments later, Hetaura stepped out into the dimly lit hall, on a lookout for Legolas. As much as she enjoyed his company, she didn't want to speak with him at the moment, not when she had so many thoughts on her mind. She needed a dip in the hot springs to clear her mind, she thought. The naturally fragrant water would help with that greatly.
So, with a set of extra clothes under her arm, Hetaura set out toward the exit of the palace some minutes later. When she was only a few feet away from the way out of her home, she felt strong, yet gentle hands on her shoulders, pulling her back slowly against a rock hard chest.
"Where are you going?" Legolas whispered in her ear. He slipped his arms around her waist carefully, wary of her bruise. "Without an accompanying friend, I might add."
Hetaura swallowed as her heart jumped inside of her. "To the...hot springs to, ah...to clear my mind some," she murmured.
"But you know you are not supposed to leave the palace by yourself," he chided, still close to her ear. A cold shiver ran down her spine when his warm breath brushed against her neck.
"Yes," she said, barely audible. "I know."
"Would you like for me to find someone to go with you, or can I trust you to do so?" he asked, even now holding her very lightly so as not to disrupt her bruise.
"I can do it; you can trust me." Hetaura murmured. Unable to keep herself from doing so, she covered his hands with her own. She felt strength there. Not the usually thought of strength to fight dragons and whatnot, but a strength that signified gentleness and caring. That knowledge sent tingles through her.
"All right." Legolas turned Hetaura around and rested his hands on her forearms. "How is your bruise?" he asked.
Hetaura lifted her tunic a little to allow him to see the discoloration and contusion. It was green and purple, now, instead of purple, black, and blue. Lowering her top again, she awaited the Elf before her to speak.
"I am sorry it happened to you," he murmured, taking one of her hands. He brought her hand to his lips and gently kissed her palm. "But, I suppose we shouldn't be sorrowful over the bruise, when you could have been killed." In a very soft mannerism, Legolas proceeded to brush his lips against her fingertips.
Hetaura nodded, unable to speak. For a full week and a half, she had seen a different side of Legolas she had never known. He had gone through his fancies with other she-Elves, yes, but he had never been so--so...gentle, for lack of better word in thought, with them as he was with her right now.
Legolas lifted his hand to Hetaura's cheek and rubbed his thumb under her eye where he saw a tear falling. "Why do you cry?" he asked quietly.
She blinked and locked her gaze with Legolas'. Bringing her hand to his wrist, the girl shook her head. "I don't know," she whispered. She found herself wanting to say, `Because I love you,' but she didn't. That thought threw her off ground.
Legolas smiled at her, as though she had spoken her thoughts aloud. Slowly, he leaned in close to her. "May I?" he requested a few inches from her mouth. Wordlessly, Hetaura nodded her consent.
It was a brief kiss, nothing like she had expected at that moment. The girl had expected a deep, draining kiss that would have left her breathless and staggering. But instead, Legolas had merely tipped her chin up with his finger and brushed his lips against hers; that was all. It left Hetaura's head spinning, regardless the length.
When her eyes fluttered open, though, the young woman saw Legolas' azure eyes, darkening in his passionate emotions and feelings. Obviously, the kiss had affected him in about the same way it had her.
`Good news," Hetaura told herself as they were frozen in time. `I know longer have to clear my thoughts at the hot springs. They are now none left to make sense of."
A few seconds later, smiles broke out on both of their faces. Legolas smiled because he knew he was in love. Hetaura smiled because she'd made up her mind.
"Legolas," she whispered.
"Yes?" He was at full attention.
"I have made my decision." Hetaura watched Legolas' anxious features, already knowing what she spoke of, and took a sense of amusement in the fact that he was wrapped around her finger at that precise moment. She could bend and twist him at her will. That appealed to her, so she drew the moment out as long as she dared before proclaiming her answer.
Another cliffie. ,_, You may want to become used to them, as they are a frequent ending. I have good news for everyone! About the day I had come down to Louisiana to visit my grandparents, I found a little kitten hiding from the dogs. About two and a half weeks later, I finally caught him and tamed him. Last night (7/3/04) my dad said I could keep him! I'm very happy now, regardless the fact that the cat is a spastic maniac at times. Anyway, I just thought I would share that with you all. And, my parents are coming down from Virginia this Saturday, and we will be leaving to go home around the fourteenth, so hopefully, I'll have another chapter or two up before that to keep you all going. Thanks for reading! LadyRiona
I have good news for everyone! About the day I had come down to Louisiana to visit my grandparents, I found a little kitten hiding from the dogs. About two and a half weeks later, I finally caught him and tamed him. Last night (7/3/04) my dad said I could keep him! I'm very happy now, regardless the fact that the cat is a spastic maniac at times.
Anyway, I just thought I would share that with you all. And, my parents are coming down from Virginia this Saturday, and we will be leaving to go home around the fourteenth, so hopefully, I'll have another chapter or two up before that to keep you all going.
Thanks for reading!