The Awakening - Chapter 8 - A Case of Nerves

The cold stone floor met Hetaura's cheek with a great deal of force. Her own strangled cry sounded out and echoed in the tower room. In slow motion, almost, she saw the ground moving away from her as she was pulled up to a kneeling position by her hair. She lifted her hand and grabbed at the roots of her hair to keep it from hurting as much. Vaguely, a voice was shouting at her. She heard her own faint reply, hindered by coughing and gagging. When Hetaura was thrown back onto the ground, she retched. Only her vomit wasn't any meager stomach content. It was blood.

It was no wonder, she realized, that she was bleeding internally when a black leather boot came in hard contact with her stomach. More angered shouting and muffled curses sounded. But Hetaura still stayed on her hands and knees, unmoving and unblinking. In what seemed like forever and her life span, Hetaura was yanked to her feet again. Tears blinded her so she couldn't see her captor. He was screaming at her, she could tell that much; he was screaming a question she felt like she had heard a million times before. When she gave a feeble response over her sobs, a hand flew across her cheek in a firm slap. Already she felt the stinging reaction on her face.

Suddenly, she heard her name being yelled at her, over and over. It sounded clearer than the other shouts. Someone was shaking her now, with a grip on her shoulders, even though the person before her had her dark locks.

She felt consciousness slip back to her, but fall away again. Though it was only a possibility, Hetaura though she'd seen Legolas' face before her, but wasn't sure. It was what seemed only minutes later that she woke. She was on lying on her side, in her room, clutching the blankets to her chin tightly. She shuddered and began to contemplate her night terror when she noticed something out of the ordinary. There was another presence in her room. Cracking one eye open, Hetaura saw Legolas, asleep in a chair beside her bed. But instead of regular eyes-open sleep, his eyes were closed and a look of deep concentration was etched on his features in place of serenity. He looked troubled, indeed.

Had she truly woken momentarily, seen him, then drifted back into slumber? What other explanation did she have to say why he was there, asleep with a less than peaceful look on his features.

As Hetaura sat up, she made a great deal of noise, but Legolas still didn't stir. That was new. When she endeavored to leave the room, there was no sound from him.

Something was different. Hetaura could feel it. She walked as quietly as she could down the hallway, and the sensation of the change was increasingly obvious, but she couldn't figure it out. She took her time bathing, giving herself ample time to think. Then, she would go tend her future husband.

That term was still odd for her. And if that was hard for her to accept, then the actual title of husband would take much adjusting.

When she returned to her room, Legolas was still asleep. This worried Hetaura very much. So she marched over to the chair he was in and stood before him. The girl stared at the Elf for a long while, thinking before coming up with how she would rouse him.

"Legolas," she whispered, receiving a twitch from his delicately pointed ear. "Wake up." In all honestly, Hetaura couldn't blame him for oversleeping. He had just returned from a three month meeting, with a fortnight set aside for the traveling. But she hadn't seen him in that time, either, and felt thusly allowed to wake him.

When Hetaura finally managed to receive a response other than a twitch, she squeaked and clapped happily. Her actions were in spite of the "mmpf" from Legolas.

"Legolas, wake up!" she cooed at him, enjoying the act from her younger days. Lightly, she poked at his shoulder. He grunted again and it sounded very akin to "I'm sleeping." It brought a bright giggle from Hetaura. "Please?" She poked his side, but when she was pulling her hand away, Legolas reached up and quickly grabbed her wrist. With a gentle, yet firm tug, Hetaura found herself in the prince's lap, held closely to his chest. His heart was beating just under her ear.

"Quiet, you," he mumbled. Conveniently for him, his hand was closed over the side of her face and most of her mouth before she could protest.

Hetaura sighed before attempting to move. Legolas must have been more awake and coherent than Hetaura gave him credit for. His other arm was securing her arms down in her lap. "You can't keep me like this you know," she told him, muffled by his hand.

"Mmm," was his comment. After, he mumbled something that was very akin to, "You would be surprised."

Even though the temptation was almost too much, Hetaura resisted licking his hand to gain some source of freedom. So she sat there, unable to do anything more than that.

"We will speak later." That was clear enough.

~~~~

Laughter filled the prince's study. Legolas sipped the small glass of amber liquid he had brought home from Rivendell with him and grinned at Kaanel. They had been discussing what had happened since the prince had left for the council. They had only begun on Hetaura's antics, and both were in tears from laughing. But a silence came over them momentarily.

"She cried a lot, though," Kaanel said finally.

"Hmm." Legolas swirled the contents of his glass with a thoughtful look on his face. "Why?"

Kaanel smirked in amusement of his friend's ignorance. "Isn't it obvious? She missed you dearly, Legolas. Tell me honestly you wouldn't shed at least one tear for Hetaura if she went off to Rivendell or some far off place--without sending more than five missives of her welfare."

Legolas' ears perked at that. "Five? I wrote her every day, Kaanel, and only five arrived?" the prince asked in confusion.

The half-Elf caught onto Legolas' thought process. "Do you keep copies of your letters? I will show you the ones Hetaura received," he said.

"How? Wouldn't she keep them in her study, which should be locked?" Legolas looked at Kaanel in question.

The mischievous half-breed rose from his seat and nodded. "Don't worry. There are secret passageways you probably wouldn't have found even in your youth," he said.

"To Hetaura's study." Legolas looked at Kaanel dangerously. If looks could kill, the prince thought, there would be a casualty then and there.

"Like I told you, don't worry. I would never do anything inappropriate concerning your future wife, Legolas." The tone Kaanel carried was sincere--but there was still a glint of mischief in his eye.

Legolas stared--unblinkingly--at his friend. "If you do, I will maim you beyond healing," he promised.

Kaanel laughed. "Let us go to solve a mystery, my untrusting friend."

"I do trust people," Legolas declared stubbornly in his own defense. "I just do not trust the gleam in your eyes when you speak."

The two continued bickering for about five more minutes--neither giving any inclination to search for Hetaura's missives--until there was a knock on the study door. Legolas looked away from Kaanel as the door opened. He saw Hetaura's delicate hands come around the door before the prince turned his gaze back to Kaanel. The half-Elf was gone from sight. Puzzled for a moment, Legolas stood still, even as Hetaura entered.

"Legolas?" she said, bringing him from his distraction. He started a moment before focussing on the dark-haired woman.

After regaining his bearings on the previous happenings, he managed to speak. "Yes?"

"Were you just talking to someone?" Suddenly Hetaura appeared more womanly and grown up than her seventeen years allotted her.

Legolas thought a moment, halfway stunned still, at Kaanel's sudden disappearance, and then amazed at the glowing maturity from Hetaura. Finally, he spoke. "No, I was not," he lied. He knew it wasn't right, and he would probably pay for it. But he didn't want to try to explain something he had no clue about in the first place.

"Are you sure?" Hetaura eyed him skeptically.

"Yes." Then Legolas remembered. "May I see the missives you received from me?" he asked abruptly.

The woman before him blinked rapidly, startled from the unexpected question. "There are not many," she told him with a sting in her voice.

"I should beg to differ, my lady, as I wrote you daily, sometimes more," he argued. "I made copies of every letter I sent you.

She scowled slightly at the floor, but led him out of the room. "But you show me your copies you sent."

When they reached her study further down the hall, the slight frustration Hetaura felt had melted a small amount. But she was still upset he had brought up the subject in which he had neglected to address whilst he was away, or so it seemed to her. Striding over to her desk, Hetaura pulled out the four envelopes, each with Legolas' wax seal on them. She handed them to him carefully.

As Legolas scanned each one, the young woman sat in front of the fire she'd kept all winter. She was very glad Legolas was home, but there was still a feeling overshadowing it. She felt as though something was going to happen. It was a quiet feeling, quiet and sullen, like the calm before a storm. Whatever the sensation within her would predict, Hetaura knew it would unlikely be good. But the strange matter was that she had felt that way the entire time Legolas had been gone. It only increased when he returned, and that was what scared her.

Something was going to happen. It would be soon. She just knew it.

"There are only these four?" Legolas asked suddenly, pulling Hetaura from her thoughts. She tried to recognize his tone to be slightly alarmed, as though he knew there was one more.

"You read the other one in the forest, the other day," she murmured.

"Oh." He reached in his cloak pocket and pulled out a very thick stack of envelopes, tied together with twine. "These are some of the missives I sent you, Hetaura," he told her and dropped them on her desk. "The rest are still in my chamber."

No sound came from when her mouth formed an `o' in response. A few moments later, she said, "Forgive me for being so cross. I had felt offended you would bring up such a tale when I thought you hadn't sent me more than five missives." She turned and put her hands on the desk, embarrassed.

Legolas stood where he was for a moment, deep in thought. His messages had not been delivered to her. How was that possible? He had paid his messenger well to deliver them, had he not? Six pieces of silver for every piece of parchment sent. That was certainly a fair price. Yes, he'd had to use a different messenger some days since the journey could not be made in a day's ride, but they were Elrond's trusted harbingers. They could not have been persuaded to give up the missives for either drink or a higher price, surely. Perhaps the letter had been filched when the rider had been at rest. But wouldn't news return to the prince of the failed attempt of delivery? Unless, someone knew what they were doing and had switched missives to go to someone else? When letters arrived, they were given to the herald of that kingdom, then later delivered.

No, there was probably just a misunderstanding somewhere between Rivendell and Eryn Lasgallen. That had to be it. Surely no one was stealing Legolas' words to his love.

As though that was a way of telling himself his thoughts were true, the prince pushed it to the back of his head for possible later thought and discussion with Kaanel. He stood behind Hetaura and wrapped his arms around her waist. When her tension visually decreased, he rested his chin on her shoulder. "Things will be sorted out, my love," he told her. "I promise you."

~~~~

The young woman shook her head stubbornly. Ainer was in her study attempting to change the future princess' thoughts about the spiders. For the past hour, Hetaura had been sitting on her study chair, refusing to acknowledge anything that the said `advisor' was saying. How often in the past had she given Legolas ill words and caused matters to go awry was beyond Hetaura to count. And now the old Elf wished to do the same to Hetaura.

"Ainer, for the last time I will tell you, no, I do not think we should send out Elves to exterminate the spiders! They haven't bothered us in the past years--"

"Save when you and Legolas were out in the wood one day, some months ago," Ainer put in.

Hetaura fought to keep control. "Yes, but we were in their territory. Except for that one occasion, we have not been attacked. There was concern, yes, about their increasing numbers, but we have lived in peace since then. I see no need for action when it very probably would put an end to how we live now." Hetaura put her hands in her lap and made tight fists of them both. Oh, but that Elf was infuriating just by a mere change in her expression.

"In fear of the spiders' attack? That is how we live now, Hetaura, in case you have failed to notice. The Elves fear the day when they will hear a call to arms to slay the arachnids. You wish to ruin that?" Ainer looked calmly at Hetaura despite her harsh tone. The princess felt as if all of her insecurities were on the surface, and the ill advisor was memorizing each of them for later use.

They sat in silence, each waiting for the other to say something to cause the tension between them to erupt. Hetaura refused to admit Ainer's point that was so clear. Ainer awaited Hetaura to make a sudden irrational moment. Nothing came, except for the knock on the door.

Hetaura hesitated briefly. "Enter," she said at length. Legolas came in. The princess-to-be saw the look of want Ainer had in her eyes when he came in, and was not at all pleased with it. "Ainer, you are dismissed. We will continue our previous discussion another day," Hetaura announced, venom dripping from her words. That earned a nonplussed look from Legolas.

She and Ainer held each other's gazes with disdain seeping from them. After a moment, the advisor rose stiffly and exited the room. Hetaura let out a weary sigh the moment the study door clicked shut. She propped her elbows on the desk and dropped her head into her hands. Legolas was at her side immediately.

"What ails you, my loves?" he asked her urgently.

Hetaura kept silent a moment, choosing the right words before speaking. "That...that so-called advisor is determined we head into a massacre against the spiders! Where does she think that we will win a war against them? Why would we even battle against the nuisances? They haven't bothered us so what need have we to attack them?" She was positively shaking in her frustration.

Legolas bent and wrapped his arms around her shoulders to calm her. "But you did the sensible thing, holding an audience with her. Ainer can be quite persistent." He was silent a moment. "Now tell me, what was that poisonous glare you sent her?"

A strangled laugh escaped Hetaura's throat as she sat up straight. "Do you forget the many times she has tried seducing you in the past? Her warm regards have not gone astray," the young woman said. "But you are mine. I don't take lightly to would-be advisors trying to steal you from me."

The prince laughed melodiously. "I remember that all very well. And you should know that my heart is yours and no one can lead it from its path," he murmured and nuzzled her cheek softly.

A shiver coursed down Hetaura's spine. She wasn't sure if it was from the chill in the room or her prince's show of affection. After pondering it a moment, and deciding it had been both, she leaned her head on his shoulder briefly. "What did you need?" she asked lightly.

"Hmm?"

"Did you need to speak with me, or did you just want to be with me?" she rephrased.

He stood. "Kaanel said you needed to have a word with me, actually," Legolas stated. "About the other day...?"

Hetaura nodded. "Ah." That one syllable solved all the mysteries. "He's been spying on me again, and must have sensed my distaste in Ainer's company so sought me better. He did a fine job of it."

The prince laughed again. "He is good at what he does, though, I must admit." He walked to the fireplace and built the flames back up.

"Yes. I know he watched me while you were away. Was that your doing?" Hetaura asked as she followed him to the fireplace. She folded her arms over her chest to give him a stern look.

When Legolas had finished puttering around with the fire, he sent her a serious look. "Aye, it was my doing. I wanted him to watch after you, since I wouldn't be able to," he said softly. There was a forlorn look in his eyes as he watched her. After a moment, the prince walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her. "I felt guilty for leaving you here alone. The only thing I could do to ease my guilt was to know someone was taking care of you."

Hetaura shut her eyes as a surge of emotion pulsed through her. There was a stinging behind her green orbs that she tried to ward off. She returned her love's embrace and rested her forehead on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry I had to leave you for so long," he murmured. "I did not think that the council would have been so long." Legolas stoked his hand down her hair softly.

The tears welled up and somehow made it through her closed eyes. "Legolas," she whispered. "It's all right." She tried to tell herself more than him, though, that it was all right. That things would be all right.

"I shouldn't have left you." The prince held her tighter to him and kissed her hair. "I'm sorry I caused you tears. No more tears now."

With a slight nod, Hetaura tried her hardest to keep her emotions at bay. She clutched his tunic shoulder and shivered, despite the fire blazing beside her. The chill within her had been there a long time and had ceased to bother her, but for once she couldn't help but wonder if it would forever be there.

~~~~

"Now, just hold still, lady."

The young woman standing on the stool in the middle of the room had not been able to follow that order for the past hour. Why did the seamstress think that she could follow it now? Hetaura muttered to herself as she held her arms out straight and stood as tall as her form allowed. She'd been poked so many times now that it vexed her even more when a straight pin came in contact with her flesh. Her only sound of displeasure, though, was a growl, sometimes a curse. And each time she cursed, the old Elf looked at Hetaura sternly.

For two straight hours, including the one where she had grown impatient, she had been at the mercy of one of the seamstresses. Yes, she had to admit, she admired the Elf's work greatly, but Hetaura hated the process between picking out the cutting out the material and sewing it together. Deciding which dress and what materials she wanted were easy, and even cutting it out was not a bother. But Hetaura's only job when it came to pinning everything together with her in it was to stand for hours on end.

Her left leg was falling asleep and her right foot was wanting to twitch madly.

"Elwen, can we please cease for a small time? This is quite a tedious part of making a dress," Hetaura complained. She flexed her hands to stretch her arms out.

Elwen sighed. "As you will, Hetaura," she said and put the remaining pins in her hand back into a small container.

Hetaura said a small prayer of thanks and jumped down carefully. After she was sure she wouldn't sit on any pins in the back, she sat down in one of the unoccupied seats in the circular room. When she was situated, she picked up the sheet of parchment that had her dress design on it to look it over. It was long, and the sleeves reached the middle of her lower arm. The top of the bodice fit snugly just below her shoulders in a straight line and had shiny white ribbon sewn on along the top. The skirt of it was straight most of the way down and flared out at her knees. It had a slight train that was maybe a foot and a half long. The materials she had chosen were very soft, and all white.

It was Hetaura's first dress, and it was for her wedding.

~~~~

If someone had walked into the room at that very moment, they would have thought Hetaura was a ghost. Her skin was so pale that it matched her outfit. It wasn't her wedding dress, but it was another white dress she had made months before. Her hands shook as she tried to bring the goblet of wine to her lips. After a while, Sheelewen took the cup from her and set it on a table, exasperated.

"Hetaura, `tis only the rehearsal," she said softly. She took Hetaura's hands in hers and tried to rub some warmth into them. "My child, your hands are like ice you are so nervous. I fear tomorrow."

Hetaura scowled at the floor and let Sheelewen contend with her own nerves in her own way. True that it was only the rehearsal for the wedding, but Hetaura felt like it was the real thing. She agreed with Sheelewen that she feared the next day. And that was as far as she would let herself think. She would not allow her mind to go any further than the ceremony and the party afterwards.

"Are you ready?" Sheelewen asked a few minutes later.

Hetaura nodded. "I may as well, if everyone else is ready," she mumbled.

With that, she and Sheelewen walked out of the little cabin built a small distance from the clearing Legolas had shown her a few weeks past. As she had been told, she walked out after a few other she-Elves and down an aisle. There, she saw Legolas, looking as calm as if he were taking a stroll around the palace. How he was able to do it was beyond Hetaura, since she had such nerves inside her. When she reached the middle of the aisle, she paused. She felt dizzy. With an inward shake of her head, Hetaura told her feet to move. She took a few more steps before her light-headedness increased. She had to stop again and grab her head to keep it from spinning off of her neck. Vaguely, the concerned voices reached her ears before her vision dimmed and she remembered nothing more.

At least, nothing more until she was back in the small room a few yards from where she had collapsed. Hetaura rubbed her eyes before opening them. Legolas was standing over her with a very amused look on his fair visage. She could have swatted that smirk off of his face once she realized why he was giving her such an expression.

"You, my love, have such a case of uneasiness that you fainted," he murmured as he sat on the small pallet made for her. "Lift up your head." He shifted so his back was against the wall and Hetaura's head was in his lap.

She sighed. "I know. I'm sorry," the young woman murmured. "Hopefully it will not happen tomorrow." They were both silent, but a slight drizzling of rain could be heard outside. "Aren't you nervous?" she questioned.

Legolas looked around the room for a moment then down at Hetaura. All of the collected calm he had appeared to be earlier was now gone. His eyes were anxious and there were slight lines on his forehead from a strain. He just looked impatient and irascible. She was amazed. "I am as nervous as I have ever been in my life. I have never felt like this in my life, not even when my mother died and my father remarried. I am so happy, and so nervous at the same time."

"Oh." Hetaura took one of his hands and held it tightly between hers.

Feeling as if there was nothing to say, the prince rested his other hand on her forehead to push her curls back from her face. Hetaura's eyes fluttered shut under his touch and a look of concord came over her features. That brought a smile to Legolas' lips. "I love you," he whispered, finding that was a good thing to tell her. "I always will."

Okay. Ainer more or less made her cameo appearance, and I don't know when she'll come back. I hope no one likes her. Nandin wasn't here, but he'll be there almost first thing next chapter. Let me know what you think of him, and of Kaanel's appearance here, too. And, as I have posted all I have written, I am open to suggestions on what you would like to read...funny little plots, a romantic evening stolen, another nightmare for Hetaura...stuff like that. And if you want humor, expect a lag. My jesting is poor, and when I do make jokes, they're not the best. So, if you suggest something, email me (angelof_music001@yahoo.com) in detail of whatever funny you want.

Anyhow...Riona is going to go work her bum off to write the next chapter. Until then, aa' menle nauva calen ar' ta hwesta e' ale'quenle. (May thy ways be green and the breeze on thy back.)

Lady Riona

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