the hearts song - chapter 1: delightful deception
Takes place about 100+ years before Fellowship of the Rings.
The elves are considered adults at 50 years old, but take centuries for them to mature.
Chapter 1: Delightful Deception
Elienne had been told by Arwen that the elves from Lothlórien were among the most beautiful in the whole of Middle Earth. And Elienne had no doubt that the granddaughter of Galadriel and Celeborn was not exaggerating by any stretch of the imagination. While there was a general air of excitement at the arrival of the King and Queen of the Golden Wood to Rivendell, the anticipation had left the youngest of she-elves in this kingdom with a loss of appetite and slumber.
"You watch the road as if they will spring up from the very stones," Arwen teased. "It will be another night and half day at least before they arrive... is it the spell of meeting new company that has you so merry?"
Elienne blushed as she smiled. "As anxious as I am to see my father again, I'm afraid."
"Do not rush for it to be done! In a few hundred years you will have met all living elves in Middle Earth and then only children can bring the sweetness of a new face," Arwen said.
"Tell me again of Galadriel..." Elienne said softly, unabashed at her continued pining for the elves of Lórien. "And of Celeborn, her Lord... Tell me of his silver hair and gray eyes..."
Elienne was of light red hair, as her father and found herself not as lovely as Arwen and most of the other dark haired elves of Rivendell. She had seen Woodland elves, but was anxious to see the extraordinary beauty of the Galadhrim; the fair elf of Lothlórien.
Arwen smiled brightly. "I will tell you if you come away from the window," she said. "And join me for a stroll by the river."
So it was decided and they went. Arwen spoke about the Lórien elves just as she had when she had first returned from living with her grandmother. Elienne was only a hundred years old at that time and had decided in her youth that she would some day visit the magical wood. But it was another hundred and fifty years later and she was yet to venture out of Rivendell.
For most of her life Elrond had kept her here, while her own father King Bronian settled unrest in his kingdom of Darkwood to the East. As sad as she was to think of leaving yet another home, she had so much yet to see. Though she was familiar with the home of the Woodland elves, she had not traveled to Lothlórien or to Mirkwood and knew few of their company. But the dark days were ending and the forces that once brought fear to travelers were being held back from the free peoples.
The council being called in Rivendell by Lord Elrond would be the first gathering of the kings and queens of the Elven territories in almost an age. Despite Arwen's urging that she should wait, Elienne was certain it was altogether possible she could travel to Lothlórien when their company left Rivendell.
"...I can not even imagine that the Grey Havens or all the cities of the Valar would be as beautiful as what I saw in the Golden Wood," Arwen said, stopping over the bridge.
"I so wish to see Calas Galadhon," Elienne exclaimed, her heart almost breaking at the longing she felt. "Please, if it be within your power, as my dearest friend, help me find a way."
Arwen laughed lightly. "You make it sound as though you would be unwelcome, Elienne," she said sweetly. "I am certain it can be arranged when the time is proper."
"Elienne! There you are! I thought you off playing another prank on my father..." Arwen said. "I've been searching everywhere for you."
Elienne blinked a couple of times, her eyes sore from staring at the intricate details of her work. "What is it?"
"Are you idle now after all these weeks of anticipation?" Arwen asked. "Come! The Lóriens arrive just over the hill..."
Elienne gasped and set down her embroidery lesson. "I haven't dressed! I am still in my riding clothes!" she said.
"That was hours ago we went riding. At dawn! It's almost noon now," Arwen laughed.
"I saw it lying here," Elienne said, regarding her work, "And I got caught up..."
"It's lovely... but you do too much in one day," Arwen said taking her hand. "When will you learn you have an eternity to do all that you desire?"
Before they left the morning room, Elienne glanced quickly at her reflection and decided she did not look too obviously spent. The two she-elves ran down the steps to the greeting area and stopped on the second level watching the horses and riders enter into the Rivendell gate.
"That's him, isn't it?" Elienne said breathlessly. "That's Celeborn... Lord of..."
"NO!" Arwen said with a giggle. "That's just Haldir... he's the Guardian of the Wood... the bothersome one I told you of who would never let me roam as I pleased..."
Elienne's smile broadened. "You never mentioned how handsome he was..." she said. "I shall go and give him a good greeting."
Before Arwen could reply, Elienne rushed down the stairs and into the small courtyard. There were several elves and she-elves gathering around the Lothlórien visitors so she had to stand a bit away and wait until the rest of the company entered as well. When his horse reached her, Elienne was about to call out his name, for he had not seen her there yet, but he spoke first.
"Is it the fairest of all Elven Princesses who comes to greet us today?" he said. In his eyes was a sparkle that seemed to illuminate his entire countenance. And if it were not for the fact that he was not looking at Elienne, she was sure she would have become a puddle of dew right then and there. "Arwen, you have grown even more lovely than I remember... My Lady Galadriel has passed on not just her grace, but her radiance as well to her granddaughter."
Elienne glanced back and saw that Arwen had followed her down the stairs, but was still standing a bit back from the Lórien guests.
"You exaggerate purposefully to make me blush," Arwen said disapprovingly. The raven-haired princess looked at Elienne and rolled her eyes slightly. Indeed, Arwen had spoken of Haldir from time to time, and never favorably. But it was not Elienne's nature to be so swayed by a poor opinion when she had not yet developed one of her own.
"Haldir, Guardian of Lórien," she said as formally as she could and with a slight bow.
He looked down and jumped from his horse.
"Ah, yes," he said gently. "Thank you." He handed her the reigns of his horse and began to walk towards Arwen.
Elienne's mouth dropped open at the shock of being taken for a stable servant. Haldir's broad frame blocked Arwen's expression from her as they embraced. The thought of having her pity and his was beyond what she could bare. So as was her wont, Elienne chose to turn the tables on the situation. As soon as Arwen moved to speak and clarify his misunderstanding, Elienne spoke up.
"Tis an honor, M'Lord," she said, giving Arwen a wink. "I shall give him the finest of treatments as any horse has been given in these stables."
Arwen tilted her head and narrowed her eyes, knowing that Elienne was up to something. Thankfully she played along.
With a brief acknowledgement, Haldir nodded and said, "Thank you... but nothing out of the ordinary is necessary. Sullendry needs rest more than fussing."
"Understood, M'Lord, whatever M'Lord says," Elienne said with a bit more sarcasm than she would have wanted. He frowned slightly and she smiled wide and merrily led the steed away.
Once in the stable though, Elienne began to grumble. Rather than speak to herself, she addressed the horse.
"What is the matter with your master?" she asked with a pout, "Does he not know royalty when he sees it? If he was as talented an Emissary as his reputation, he should have known by looking in my eyes that I was the daughter of an elf King..." She gently stroked the animal on its nose and said, "You can tell, can you not, Sullendry?" But the beast only blinked at her and then looked away. "Oh, pity, I thought you might be one of those sentient horses I heard rumors of."
Sighing loudly, Elienne led the huffy steed to a large stall and kept her eye on the other stable attendants for clues as to what should be done with it.
"I can take over, if you like, M'Lady," one of the elves said kindly.
"No," she said with raised brows and a bit of a smirk. "I have tended to Arwen's horse just this morning, I am not completely incompetent. I only need some direction on what to do with this..." She pointed to the strange leather seat on the horse.
"Ah... that is a saddle, M'Lady. It must have been a gift from Rohan... it aids the seat of the rider in long journeys from discomfort. Many of the Lórien elves have brought them," he said as he moved to unfasten and lift it from the beast's back.
The elf's name was Farnal and Elienne knew him well. He was gentle and quiet, but very proud in his knowledge of horses. Beneath the saddle was a woolen blanket soaked with sweat. This look of a horse Elienne was familiar with and felt more at ease.
"Farnal," another elf from across the stable called out. Farnal looked at Elienne and she smiled.
"Go ahead, I'm alright now," she said, patting the horse. "I'm sure we'll be fine."
"This is a special horse," Farnal said. "And he is sentient... but like his master he has a bit of an attitude, so do not expect much." He then put a finger to his lips as if to keep what he said a secret.
"Oh," she said standing back a bit from the horse. After Farnal left, she placed her hands on her hips and said, "This should be interesting."
The horse stared at her and shook its head, the bridle clinking somewhat. It then glanced away. Moving towards Sullendry a bit more carefully than she had before, Elienne gently removed the bridle and then set it down. She turned around and looked at the large pale horse.
"You are most beautiful," she said. "And I am sorry I did not know how smart you are. But now you know how I must have felt being taken for a stable hand... not that there's anything wrong with being a stable hand..."
"I doubt you're making points with that horse."
Elienne turned to see who it was and didn't recognize the fair stranger at first. When their eyes met he gave her only the slightest hint of a smile and bowed gently.
"You're King Thranduil's son... Legolas. Am I right?" she asked. "I have seen your likeness painted in the annals."
"And you are Lady Elienne of Darkwood," he said. Then his eyes darted around the stable and fell back on her. "But why are you here... attending to a horse? Should you not be in the grand hall with the others?"
"Oh... that..." She picked up a brush and turned stroking Sullendry with it. "There was a bit of a misunderstanding..." She was about to explain when she saw something most disturbing. "This poor creature has a spur in its skin!"
Legolas came around to see she was about to pull it out.
"No!" he said cautiously. "It should be treated first with ointment to be sure you do not cause more damage."
Elienne stood back slightly and said quietly, "You speak to me as though I am a child."
The blond elf turned to her, his eyes as gentle as his voice. "At nearly 220 you are an adult she-elf, but in some things you are still in need of training... there is no need to feel shame for it." He stepped away from the horse and said, "I will gather some herbs, though it is probably uncomfortable, it is not a serious condition."
Elienne watched him go and looked at the horse. It stared at her with wary eyes.
"I've never owned a horse you know," she said to it. "But if I did, I would never let it get a spur that worked itself into such a painful sore..." The horse seemed to watch her as she walked around the other side, examining it carefully for more damage. "I would have much more pity on the one I'm riding than your master has had on you..." She found another spur and grew more annoyed. "You poor creature!" she said stroking the horse's mane. She climbed up on a small ladder and began to search through the mane to make sure it was clear. "I am going to give you a warm bath as well as a good meal of carrots..." she whispered in the steed's long ear.
"What secrets are you telling my horse?" It was a voice from the entrance of the stable.
Elienne looked and nearly fell off the ladder. Haldir walked over with a curious look on his face. "I thought I told you to give my horse a good rest, not a good meal? Have you trouble following such simple directions?"
"I would be done by now if you had taken proper care of your charge!" she said, stepping down. "The poor creature has not one, but two spurs."
Haldir looked concerned and moved towards the horse, eyeing the obvious red spot.
"I have never owned a horse because I could not bear to watch it passing when it grew old, but if I did I can not imagine wearing it raw as you have done," she said. After she said it the horse stomped its front hoof very close to where she was standing. Elienne jumped back, moving her feet out of the beast's reach.
"It's alright, Sullendry," Haldir soothed. He then glared at Elienne and said, "I do not own this horse and he is as immortal as you and I. He lends me his service graciously and without complaint... which is more than I can say for all the attendants at Rivendell." He looked down his nose at her and added, "You are relieved, I will see to Sullendry myself."
Elienne was a bit surprised and a touch hurt at his curt response to her. Besides Elrond, only his personal advisor Erestor had ever dared to speak to her harshly, and mostly when she more than deserved it. But then Elienne realized with an inward smile that she still had the Emissary of the Galadhrim believing she was a stable hand.
She stood by as he searched through the bag attached to the saddle for something and pulled out an ointment packet. He rubbed it on the horse and whispered over it, probably using a spell of healing. As he removed the spur, Elienne came up with a plan to take this ruse to an even more mischievous and soulfully delightful level, if only she could pull it off. If what Farnal and Arwen had said about Haldir was right, she would certainly cause quite a stir if she could put him in his place and embarrass him for treating a Princess with such disdain.
"I'm sorry," she said meekly.
"You're still here?" he asked as he walked to the other side and rubbed ointment on the second spur. "I thought you would have been grateful to be relieved of your duties..."
"M'Lord," she said, bending on her knees before him and looking down. "I have misjudged you and have given you cause to look down upon this great hall in which I am honored to reside. Please," she looked up at his bewildered face, "I beseech you, give me a chance to right this wrong... allow me some other bit of service to you that I may be worthy of your pardon."
"It is most unnecessary," he said. "Stand up..."
"Please," she said taking his oily hand. "I will not rest for centuries knowing I have dishonored the Guardian of Lórien... have mercy on my conscience and bid me do something for you... the most menial of tasks even... I care not what it is."
Haldir looked at his horse and said, "I can see she is most insistent..." Sullendry whinnied a bit and looked at Elienne. Haldir seemed to think a bit on the notion before he lightly pulled his hand out of hers. He inspected the second sore spot and seemed to think it not in need of a spell. Then patting Sullendry, he walked towards the exit of the stable saying casually, "Your wish is granted. You may finish up here and come by my suite just after. I have laundry and boots needing to be cleaned by tonight."
"Yes M'Lord! Thank you M'Lord," she called out after him.
On his way out, he simply waved back at her and his exit was followed quickly by Legolas entrance.
"I had to travel all the way to the kitchen to find the right herb," he said. "Rivendell is indeed a large establishment."
Elienne was beside herself with enjoyment. She smiled and said, "You have gone out of your way for no reason, my dear prince." She approached him and gave him a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Come, see.... Haldir treated and healed his horse already."
Legolas looked stunned at her reaction and followed her slowly.
"It is taken care of..." she said. "Oh! I must hurry and finish this task..." she gasped, brushing the long mane into silky locks. "I must make haste, if I am to finish Lord Haldir's laundry and be ready myself in time for the banquet tonight!"
"Laundry?" Legolas asked. "Yet another misunderstanding? How can this be? You should not agree to such things..."
"No," Elienne said raising her brows, "This has passed from a misunderstanding into a delightful deception!"
Legolas looked at her with eyes that were a touch sad in their concern. "Haldir has a great respect for royalty, having served under the Lord Celeborn. Great will be his distress when he learns of your true identity. It is not proper for you to do such chores..."
Elienne put down the brush and took a bucket full of water from a nearby hook. "Why not? What is the difference between myself and any other elf? Does my bloodline require me to refuse duties I wish to assume? Rather I think it my right to do as I will... even if it is the laundry of a March Warden."
Legolas didn't answer at first. He looked to be thinking on his answer sincerely. He helped wash the steed and then out of the silence spoke his words.
"It is a matter of respect, Elienne," he said. "Honor is very important to those who serve royalty. I know Haldir not well, only of his reputation as an Emissary. If he feels he has dishonored you I believe it may become a dark shadow on his mind."
"But it was I who dishonored him when I spoke harshly to him about Sullendry... you were not here for it. I was very rude to my elder and I was wrongfully so. I only ask to repay him in kindness to win back his favor before he learns who I truly am... I do not want him to honor me only because I am the daughter of a king... but because he truly respects me," she said.
Again, Legolas merely looked at her, taking in what she had said.
"Does that not ring true?" she asked.
"You speak more quickly than one can think on it," he said. "It sounds true when you say it, but it does not feel so true in my heart... yet I have nothing to add to my argument save this... tread carefully, young one."
The horse was done and the conversation was over. Elienne couldn't help but think Legolas was being far too cautious, but it did soften her heart towards this new friend to see he was so concerned for someone he had only just met.
"I must hurry!" she said, running for the door.
She stopped at the exit and turned back to him. "Legolas," she said, catching her breath. "It is true what they say about the Lórien elves... they are the fairest of all..."
"Yes, it is true," he acknowledged.
"And yet... you are from Mirkwood," she said.
He laughed lightly and said, "Yes, I am."
"Well Prince Legolas, you are as fair as any elf I have yet seen," Elienne said decisively. "And at the banquet this evening, I will make a purpose to speak to you often."
"And I you," he said with a smile as he watched her go.
When Elienne arrived in the Galadhrim Guesthouse, she noticed there was a quite a bit of activity in the main foyer. Slipping in she hoped to blend in their company and go unnoticed as she moved towards the hall. But she was not so lucky.
"Aye, who goes there?" she was asked. A slender elf slowly approached, looking her over. Another came to his side and had a much more pleasant look on his face as he waited for her answer.
"You may call me 'Eli'..." she answered quickly. "I am here to retrieve some laundry and a pair of boots for M'Lord Haldir."
"Our brother is not here for an hour and he already has handmaidens at his beck and call," said the pleasant looking elf.
"Eli, it is?" the first asked. "As in Elienne?"
Elienne froze for a moment, slightly disappointed that her game would be discovered before she carried it through.
"Is that not the name of the daughter of King Bronian of Darkwood?" he pried further.
"It is," she said. "But it is a common name among women as well as she-elves..."
"You are not her then?" the second asked with a small grin.
"Why would the Princess of Darkwood be retrieving laundry for a mere March Warden?" she laughed as she turned and proceeded down the hall.
"Why indeed," she heard one of the elves say.
Her heart was a flutter as she entered the suit and called, "M'Lord?" She didn't see him in the main area, but saw his clothes lying in a pile with a pair of very muddy boots upon them.
"Everything should be right there," his voice called out from the other room. "Be tender with the silk... it was a gift."
"Yes, M'Lord," she said picking up the garments. The outer pieces were crusted over with mud and filth and the boots seemed to be made of a thick hide at first glance, but then Elienne realized that they were water soaked. "You have seen much action on your trip from Lórien," she said, trying not to let the disgust come through in her voice.
"Yes..." he said, his voice sounding distant and quiet.
As she lifted the clothes in her arms and smelled the foul stench, her eyes rolled back and she gagged somewhat. "More than a few rolls in the mud wrestling Orc's, I presume?"
"If the task is too much for your fine sensibilities, you can withdraw your offer at any time," he called out louder this time. His voice had in it a bit of amusement and no shame over the state of his clothing.
"No, M'Lord," she said sweetly, though her face bore a different expression. "I am happy to be of service to you... I shall have this back in time for the banquet."
"Very good," he said.
Elienne's curiosity got the better of her and lay the clothes down and tiptoed close to the doorway of the other room. Peeking around the corner, she saw the large elf lying on his back on a lounge, his bare feet up and his eyes closed. He was dressed in a long silver robe, rather ornate for someone not of royal blood, but somehow beautifully fitting for someone of his countenance. He was even more lovely than she had previously thought when he first arrived on horseback. She took the site of him in, smiling dreamily to herself when suddenly his eyes flew open and he turned his head towards her.
"What is it?" he asked. "Do you require further instruction?"
"Why are you in here?" she asked. "Why not mingle with the others? Do you so dislike company?"
"Not at all," he said with gentleness, "I very much enjoy a good time of fellowship, however preparing for the journey and then the days between Lórien and Rivendell were not ones of rest for me. I only hope to catch enough idle time before this evening so that I may be of better company than I would be right now."
As Elienne took a step further into the room, Haldir's eyes fell on her feet, indicating subtly that she was stepping over a boundary. A handmaiden would never be so bold, but this was part of the fun for her and she would not have it stolen.
"You seem good company enough to me," she offered, standing her ground.
"Only because I am using all my restraint to be so," he said wistfully.
"Ah..." she said. She wondered if he would be so honest if he knew who she really was. To admit he was being courteous only because he had to was acceptable to a handmaiden, but not to a princess. She was growing fonder of this game as it continued. "So if I stay... I should see the real side of you? The side you hide from others? The nasty grumpy side?" she teased.
"No, if you stay, you shall see my eyelids and hear me snore, for I plan to sleep now no matter what it is you decide to do, young she-elf," he said. He turned away from her and closed his eyes again.
She had much to do, but the part of her that wanted to test him and stay won out for quite a while. She stood there still and silent until she could baear it no more and took a small step towards him. He spoke, startling her.
"Do you not have duties to do?" he asked.
"I wanted to hear your snore," she whispered, "but it was so quiet I thought I should come closer."
"If you believed me when I said I snore, you are quite gullible indeed... now... run along... and be back here well before the dinner chime, I shall need those boots to dress proper for the banquet."
As she backed out of his room she said, "Lord Haldir, I wish you sweet dreams of beautiful Elven Princesses."
He turned back towards her, his eyes popping open at her strangely. She giggled, running out of the room before he could comment. She picked up the large bundle of clothing and boots and headed out of the suite.
Elienne left the building through the garden and up the stairs to a side door rather than push through the elves in the foyer and risk brushing their finery with the filthy clothes she was carrying. As she flew out the door, she heaved a large sigh and ran around to the back steps of the palace so that she could cut through rather than parade through the main courtyard where she might be stopped by a half a dozen questions. Once in the library, she heard voices coming in from the main hall and ran up the spiral staircase, hoping that Elrond would not be in his wing.
But despite her efforts to keep her goings on a secret, she ran directly into the one person who would quite possibly spoil the entire plan by performing one of his famous inquisitions. One thing about being thousands of years old, it gave Lord Elrond the ability to know just what questions to ask to get the very answer she would so skillfully hide from others. There were large curtains in the hall and she thought at once to slide behind them, but she caught his eye and he stopped his slow pace completely and turned towards her.
"Elienne, what are you doing here in my wing... and what is it you are carrying?" he asked. "After all your endless chatter about the Lórien elves over the last century I would think when they arrived you'd be like a shadow to the Lady of the Golden Wood." His half smile and the gleam in his eyes made it clear he was in a ripe mood to give her a good tease rather than a grumpy correction. This may not be the end of her game after all. For as many times as she had sewn the hems of his robes together or decorated the wreaths of his halls with the beautiful but foul smelling Finderal leaves he had never forbid her from such pranks, only given her lessons on the proper context.
Staring at the clothes she said with a sigh, "These soiled garments belong to Haldir..." She looked up at his amused expression and explained. "He thought me a handmaiden... and so I have offered to clean his clothes and boots ..."
"You, do laundry?" Elrond said. "Suppose you break a sweat..." Then in an overemphasized pronunciation he added, "Or per chance, a finger nail?"
Puckering her lips at his jibe, she narrowed her eyes and said, "It should be well worth it to see his expression when he learns the fair Princess of the Dark Wood has touched his undergarments and seen the full extent of foulness an elf can produce. And from what I can smell so far, it is as bad as any mortal could ever hope to create. I think he has not changed this jerkin for a century... maybe two!"
Elrond raised a brow and said, "I see you have wasted no time in welcoming one of my guests in your own manner..."
"But of course... it is only fitting," Elienne said with a smile.
"And when will this delicious moment of yours take place? When you return the clothes?" he asked.
"Oh no!" she said. "Not until I am introduced formally to him... by you of course." She gave him an impish look and said, "If you have the heart to play a small knowing part in this charade."
Elrond gave her one of his famous smirks and said, "You honor me, Princess Elienne. But as host, I dare not so obviously involve myself." He picked up a boot from the bundle and frowned at it. "This is quite corroded..."
"I hope to do my best," she started. "I fear I may have taken on a bit more task than I have skill to complete. The only thing worse than being taken for a handmaiden would be to be unable to complete a handmaidens chores!"
"Indeed," Elrond said. "And we cannot risk you further embarrassed, what fun would there be in that? Though it would serve you right." He paused, as if thinking something over and then gave her look that said he might regret his next suggestion. In a voice of resignation he said, "I may have something that will bring this leather back to its natural state..."
"Yes?" she said hopefully.
He rolled his eyes and motioned to her to follow him and so she did. They walked down through his personal wing back to a large room full of his garments in all stages of repair. She had been in this room many times before, always intrigued by the strange sweet aromas and peculiar bottles of multi-colored liquids that lined the shelves.
"Lay the clothes in the basin of water there by the door, and bring the boots here," he said, taking off his outer robes.
She smiled at him and said, "Then you are going to help me?" Elienne held the boots out with one hand as she pressed the clothes into the warm, floral liquid. She got a little on her hand, it felt thick and soft as oil but ran off her hands as though it were merely water.
"It occurs to me, proving you to be of use to Lórien may be one way to rid Rivendell of you and finally find us some peace," he said, taking a boot from her. "Once Emissary Haldir sees your value, he will petition to bring you with him back to the Golden Wood... as a personal hand maiden."
"You will not allow it!" Elienne implored with a laugh as she followed his lead in cleaning the boot.
"I will insist! " Elrond said.
They smacked the boots on the counter so that the dry mud fell off as easily as powder. She hadn't the time to ask him once again to promote her as a guest to the Golden wood before a scolding Arwen interrupted them.
"Father, whatever are you doing in your tailoring room when we have such guests as we have not had for centuries?" she asked. She looked at Elienne and something came over her of understanding. She smiled glancing back and forth at them. "What are you two up to?" she asked.
Behind her entered an elf that Elienne at once recognized from the morning. "You have brought Legolas!" she said, scampering around the table to where he stood.
She took his two hands in hers and looked upon his face as Arwen asked, "You two are acquainted? How can this be?"
"No, I have only just met him, but I already love him as though he were my kin," she answered.
Legolas eyes, which were at first fixed on her, suddenly shifted self-consciously to Lord Elrond and then down to their clasped hands.
"I have checked on the horse again and his ailment seems to have cleared completely. He also looked rather rested," Legolas said.
"That is good to hear," Elienne said to Legolas, dropping his hands and turning to Arwen.
"Father..." Arwen said sweetly to Elrond. "They are waiting."
"I am afraid my daughter is more than right. I will only be able to give you guidance, here, Lady Elienne... the duty is yours to complete it," he said.
"I cannot do it on my own!" Elienne insisted. "You must help me, Elrond."
The Rivendell Lord hummed slightly as he put on his robes. It was not often that Elienne tried to persuade him after he had proclaimed his will, but while she had restored flowers and garments before, she was not experienced enough with the leather of this type of boot to not fear she might ruin them.
Legolas walked towards the table with the boots and asked, "Perhaps I can be of assistance?" He looked them over and Elrond gave Elienne a funny expression as he explained to the Prince the process.
Through the window there was a laughter like Elienne had not heard for many long years. Her eyes darted to Arwen, who smiled and exclaimed, "Children!"
The two of them ran to the window and looked down on the courtyard. What they saw filled them both with such excitement that they joined in the laughter. For below were five children of various ages, one she-elf even as young as two, running around and playing. In the midst of them, Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel danced and sang with them in their merriment.
"Oh, look!" Elienne said, pointing to an elfling of age five. He was running full force towards Celeborn with two large fists full of leaves. When he reached the powerful King elf, he tossed the leaves up in the air so that they fell down in his hair and all around. The elfling screamed in delight as Celeborn bounded after him, lifted him high and spun him around. Arwen and Elienne laughed out loud until their eyes watered.
Hearing them, Galadriel looked up towards the window and with a brilliant smile that made Elienne feel she could float, she waved to them. The beautiful queen moved through the children, her hands outstretched and they flocked around her.
Elienne turned to see Elrond and Legolas watching her and Arwen.
"It is such a delight to have children so near...but they grow up so quickly," she bemoaned.
"Need I remind you that some of us stretch our childish ways longer than others?" Elrond said. "For all of your two-hundred and twenty years, you have brought us the reminder of your youth nearly daily"
Elienne was a bit embarrassed at being reminded of her age. She looked at Legolas who seemed to be staring at her in an odd, thoughtful way.
"Legolas himself has said I am merely a child, just this morning," she said, keeping her eyes on him. "But looking at those children, I do not feel it, I feel very old...can you not remember what it felt like when you were my age?" she asked the Prince. "Did you feel so immature as you suppose I am?"
In a distant voice, Legolas said, "I was fighting Sauron in the second age when I was your age... I knew little of games and laughter in those dark times..."
Elienne felt suddenly grim. She had heard the stories from Lord Elrond and mostly had thought of them as merely that, it seemed like so long ago. "Oh..." she said. "I am sorry... I must seem very foolish and silly to you."
"No... Don't be sorry," he said. "It gives me pleasure to see that at least some are able to live youth longer and in fullness as it should be done."
Arwen came away from the window and said, "Compared to some, we are all still children... for instance, Celeborn and Lady Galadriel who await you in the courtyard, Father." She took his hand and lifted it as she began walking backwards with a sideways smile.
Elrond followed his daughter and said to Elienne, "Legolas knows well of these arts and will instruct you."
Elienne looked up at the Mirkwood Prince and said, "I'm sure I will learn quite a bit from his ancient wisdom."
Legolas smiled as Elrond and Arwen left them and said, "And perhaps I will learn to laugh a bit more."
"Oh... that is a requirement if you are to be my companion in mischief," she said. He looked a bit confused, so she began to explain all of what she was planning for Haldir. And though he was not as supportive as Lord Elrond, neither was he discouraging and they worked quite well together on the art of restoring leather to its original supple texture.
It was an hour before the banquet and the red cloak was not yet dry. Legolas had duties to attend to with his father and had left over an hour ago, giving Elienne instructions on drying the clothes evenly so they would not wrinkle even when worn for days. But at this rate, she would not have time to deliver the laundry and get ready unless she left some of it behind.
"No doubt he will be wondering where I am..." she said picking up the perfectly reformed boots and crisp garments. "We will just hope the cloak was not on the list of things to wear this evening..."
Running swiftly, she made it to his room unnoticed by the others dressed and mingling before the banquet.
"M'Lord?" she said, trying to get back into the character of a maidservant.
"Is it that servant girl, here with my clothes finally?" he quipped. "Come in, come in..."
She entered and saw he was still in the silver robe she had seen him in before. There were three other Lórien elves in the room now, already dressed and having their hair braided by a few Rivendell she-elves. One of which looked at Elienne and almost spoke a question before Elienne shook her head insistently.
Haldir approached her, eyeing the other she-elf suspiciously, but she went back to her work on the blond hair she was braiding.
"I think they are communicating secretly, Haldir," he said. But Haldir ignored the comment and looked her over with concern.
"Where is my cloak?" he demanded.
"Your cloak," she repeated, perturbed at his quick judgment of her. He nodded. "It is still drying..." she answered.
"I cannot complain, it is a thick cloak..." he said and then picked up the boots from her hands.
"These are not my boots," Haldir said with disappointment. He looked at Elienne and said, "You've made a mistake and brought me someone else's." He put them down and picked up the clothing from her. "This looks right, but..." he smelled it and then gave her a sly smile. "The river must be enchanted indeed to be bring such freshness."
" M'Lord," she said. "Those are your boots I assure you."
"They are new..." he started. "They are the same Lórien style, but..." Then he picked one up and studied it. "There was a hole from an arrow, here," he said pointing to the calf.
"Repaired," she said with a shrug and a fling of her silky red hair. "As is the sole of the other and the finish has been restored so that if you land in whatever sort of cesspool you found yourself in last time, they should be much more likely to repel the festering stench and keep your toes dry and warm."
There was a giggle from the she-elves as well as a good chuckle from the elves whose hair they were braiding.
"It was a mire actually," Haldir said impatiently. "Rúmil, maybe you should give her your boots as well. As I recall, I was not the only one who fell in!"
"Oh yes! Please allow her the service!" the other said. Then to the she-elves he commented, "Every time the temperature rises I've had to endure the memory Haldir and Orophin's mishap in that mire."
The one who must have been Rúmil said, "I would not presume to take advantage of so gentile a she-elf as Eli."
Elienne glanced at him, hoping he had not determined who she was, but grateful for his refusal.
"And to set the record straight," Rúmil continued gruffly, "I did not fall in. I jumped in to fetch our noble brother!"
"In any case, you have done well," Haldir said, changing the subject and looking Elienne directly in the eyes.
"Anything to be in your good graces, M'Lord," she said with a slight bow. "It was nothing to me."
He narrowed his eyes at her and said, "If it is truly nothing... then you would not mind repairing Rúmil's boots as well."
"Haldir," Rúmil said in a warning tone.
"She said it was 'nothing'," he repeated, raising his brows in a question to her.
"Yes M'Lord," Elienne said, "That is what I said." She suddenly hoped Rúmil had figured out her identity and would insist on his refusal.
Haldir raised his hand and said, "So unless the lady declines for some of her other many duties, it makes good sense that we should put her amazing talents to work... enjoying the full hospitality of Rivendell."
The last thing she wanted to be doing while the guests were here was to be stuck working on more stinking boots. Tomorrow there would be a picnic, and she had not even had a chance to meet Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, or Legolas' parents. At this rate her game was playing against her. Upset at that prospect, she was about to give up on the prank and explain the entire thing, but the challenging look in Haldir's eyes prompted her otherwise. The airs of this elf being restored to their proper place was too tempting and she decided it may very well be worth the extra work.
"Very well," she said sweetly to him. "If it would so please you, M'Lord..."
"It would," he said, folding his arms over his chest.
"I will pick them up tomorrow," she said and bowed. Elienne began towards the door but heard Haldir clear his throat. She was beginning to get nervous about the time remaining for her to get herself dressed but she turned quickly towards him and tried not to show it. "Is there more you need, M'Lord?" she asked melodically.
He gave her a strange look and she returned it.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
Elienne was a bit confused. She couldn't tell him she had to get ready for the formal banquet, for it was only for royalty, close kin and company and yet she did not feel right making an out right lie that could be easily questioned. "Does it matter?" she asked lightly, trying to hide her angst.
He tilted his head and said, "Please, bring my boots with you into the other room..." He turned and disappeared through the doorway.
Under her breath Elienne said, "Certainly, as I can see they are much too heavy for M'Lord."
"My brother turned away the other handmaidens sent to assist us," Orophin commented. "I think he was expecting you would offer him your services, since you have been so helpful to him so far..." The look in his eye and smirk on his mouth made Elienne wonder if her scheme was having some unforeseen side benefits. Until now it hadn't crossed her mind that the handsome Emissary could take notice of her beyond her skills as a servant. Elienne had enjoyed the flirtation of many elves before, but always there was the knowledge that her position as princess was most likely what interested them.
"Oh," Elienne said breathlessly, "Of course he should want help plaiting his hair." She scooped up his boots and started for the room.
When she entered Elienne glanced around nervously not seeing Haldir anywhere. Orophin's hint to her was full of unexpected promise, but now she would be even more disappointed if when she was not stunning when she finally did meet the Emissary as a Princess. She was beginning to fear that by the time she got back to her room she would barely have time to get dressed properly, let alone put a curl to her hair and a rose to her cheeks.
"M'Lord?" she called.
Haldir appeared from around a dressing barrier fully dressed and adjusting the fit of his garments.
"They are indeed like new," he said sitting down in a chair by a mirror. She approached him, took up a comb and began to quickly, but gently comb the soft blonde strands and smooth out the tiny tangles. "I do not impress easily..." he continued. Touching his jerkin he said, "You've made the wool as soft as silk. You are very skilled for one so young."
She didn't answer. If she told him she had help, he would want to know from whom. If Lord Elrond had taught her anything with his interrogations, it was that if you do not want direct questions, do not answer an implied one.
"You have very soft hair," she said, trying to change the subject to him.
"Which you will find makes it refuse anything but the tightest of braids," he said looking at her in the reflection of the mirror. As she worked on the same braid for the third time she realized he was right. Glancing around she saw a glass of water and dipped the comb in it.
"I was drinking that!" he said.
She ran the wet comb over his hair and said in a voice very much like she remembered her own mothers, "Thirst does not show at a banquet, messy braids do."
"Is that so?" he asked, tipping the glass and looking in it.
Elienne was at the end of the braid and realized she had no wax ready to keep it. "Hold this," she said to him. He lifted his hand slowly and she took it and placed his fingers on the braid, looking around for a candle, any candle. Her eyes fell on one and she quickly took it to a lantern and lit it.
"Your methods are unique, fair handmaiden," he said as she took the braid from him.
She dripped the wax on his hair and secured the braid. "I have no hair wax," she said. "I did not plan on this duty... though I am honored."
He lifted a small round container on the edge of the mirror and held it up. "I would be remiss if I did not have my own," he said.
"Oh," she said. Then she said, "My specialty is she-elf hair... and our wax is in much more elegant containers..." She worked on the sides of his hair next, using his hair wax. Then she stepped back and asked, "Satisfactory?"
He turned his head and looked in the mirror. "I have done better myself from time to time... but it will do..." he said. And then in a voice a touch sad he added, "I do not suspect I will capture much attention this evening for it to matter."
Elienne was curious about that comment and his strange despondent tone. "Why is that M'Lord?" she asked sincerely concerned. Then she added, "An elf as handsome and charming as you, surely you are looking forward to meeting the many royal she-elves who may take a fancy to you?"
In a voice bordering on self-pity he answered, "Not me, M'Lady... I should be as lucky as to catch the attention of some young maid servant as yourself..." He looked at her reflection in the mirror with expectation. Elienne felt both warmed by such a compliment and strangely sympathetic towards him. She wondered how someone as strong and handsome as the Emissary could ever imagine such a thing to be true.
"M'Lord..." she said, "I am at a loss that you would have such a low opinion of yourself... I am quite certain you could have the daughter of a King should you set your mind to it."
"The daughter of a king?" he said, his tone turning arrogant once more. "I would not wish that fate on my worst enemy!"
Elienne stood up straight, trying not to take offense. "Why is that, M'Lord?"
Haldir stood and went after his boots.
"They are a spoiled lot, afraid of work and much too silly for someone in my line of work to bother with," he said, taking a seat on the lounge. He held up the boots towards her as if he wanted her to help him.
"Oh, I see," she said, grabbing the boots with a bit of pull. She squatted down before him and he stretched out his foot.
"Not at all like you," he said sweetly. She slipped his foot into the leather and began to lace them up, feeling both flattered and insulted at the same time. "A she-elf as attentive and kind as you have been to me is a rare find..." Elienne yanked on the new leather lace she had strung earlier in the day. "That's a little tight," he said casually. "I'm not going to be running this evening."
"That you know of," she answered quickly, stuffing his foot into the other boot. For some reason he actually seemed amused. When she finished, she put her hands on her hips and asked, "Is there anything else, M'Lord needs assistance with?"
"I'm sure I can think of something," he said, adjusting the bootstraps a bit. "Perhaps you can tell me what you have done to these to make them so..." He looked at her, his eyes running over her form and he said in a soft voice, "...supple?"
Elienne felt a flush come over her and she stood slowly and tried to think of an answer. Nobody had looked at her quite like that before and she wondered why she simultaneously felt both pleasure and fear from it.
"Haldir, you have another guest," someone called from the other room
Sighing, he stood and went to the door. Elienne following behind him and her heart leapt seeing that it was Legolas. Even though she had come this far, she almost wanted him to give her away so that Haldir could be shamed for his treatment of her. But he didn't even look at her, instead he addressed Haldir directly.
"Emissary, your presence is required in the main hall. We would like to discuss some security issues for the guardians on duty this evening and your input was suggested as highly valuable," he said.
Concerned and forgetting herself for a moment, Elienne asked, "Is there any danger?"
Legolas bowed slightly, as though he did not know her and said, "Any time there is a council of elves word of it spills out among the forces of darkness. But there is no danger so long as we are keen and wary of possible intruders."
Haldir turned to her and put his hand on her shoulder in a way that felt most condescending, "Worry not, young she-elf, you will be well protected... I will make sure of it. Brothers, please, come along with me... we should return to these ladies their evening."
The group was about to leave with Haldir leading them when he said, "I hope to see my cloak this evening, dear handmaiden."
"Of course, M'Lord," she said as he walked out with the others. Behind them, Legolas lingered and turned coming close to her.
"What have you been doing? Arwen is beside herself over your absence..." he said quietly.
"The Guardian of Lórien seems to be a bit more concerned over his appearance than one would expect," she said. "Right now I suspect he will be more lovely than I at the banquet."
Legolas gave her a curious look and said, "Perhaps he may think so... But M'Lady...you must go to her at once or she will be cross with me as well."
She nodded and Legolas jogged after Haldir and his brothers.
Elienne turned to the other handmaidens that were there. They looked at her with curiosity and were just waiting for her to explain what was going on.
"It's a... prank," she said. "One that is costing me greatly and I very much hope is worth the effort."
They smiled and one of them said, "If you're playing it on the older elf, M'Lady, we couldn't be more pleased. He hasn't been here for a day yet and already it's clear he is more difficult then friendly."
"If you want to know about it, I'll tell you while you help me dress," Elienne said. They nodded with giggles and the she-elves all ran for Elrond's palace.