the hearts song - chapter 3: the pendulum swings
When she got to Elrond's tailor workshop, Elienne saw the red wool cloak hanging just as she had left it. It was the loveliest scarlet color she had seen. As she took it down from where it rested and folded it in her arms, she wondered why he had told the handmaiden he expected to see it that evening.
"Perhaps he simply desired to see Eli sooner rather than later," she said, contemplating out loud. He had waited for her to attend to his dressing and though he was quite uninterested and rude to Elienne the princess, she couldn't help but imagine he may be fond of Eli the handmaiden. Biting her bottom lip, Elienne found yet another plan coming to her mind. One that may save her pride in the end and give the poor Guardian of Lorien some pause about his treatment of her at the banquet.
Though it went against all the counseling she had been given by her elders, she took the cloak and ran to dress back into her gardening clothes.
Ducking in the back door closest to his suite, Elienne tip toed through the hall and came to the open passageway into Haldir's rooms. She was quite certain Rumil knew who she was and hoped very strongly that if Haldir was there, he was alone. Slipping in, she heard quiet conversation in the back room, one voice being female. She guessed quite quickly that it was Muriel and instantly regretted that she had come in so drab a garment. Then she felt something on her head, and realized she hadn't taken off the diadem she was wearing. She went to a mirror and carefully took it off. But before she had it completely in her pocket, the voices grew louder and she turned to see the beautiful songbird staring at her.
"What scandal is this?" she said, her eyes boring into Elienne. "What did you just put in your pocket, young handmaiden?"
Elienne was petrified at what it must have looked like. She looked over the she-elf's shoulder at Haldir and could not read his expression in the least. Murial walked over to her and held out her hand. "Return it at once or I shall report your theft to Lord Elrond."
"I have snatched nothing," Elienne said, "That is a horrid accusation to make." She dipped her hand in her pocket and pulled out the diadem. "I... was to clean it... and I tried it on... and... you came in just as I..."
Murial roughly stuck her hand in Elienne's pocket and dug around, finding nothing. She took her hand out and said, "You are lying, that much I can tell from your eyes... but at least you have not stolen from the Emissary." She turned to him and said, "Lord Haldir, I can take care of this situation if you would like."
Elienne pleaded with him with her eyes and waited anxiously as he stroked his chin and seemed to be considering his options. "No... I will deal with this myself."
"Alright," Muriel said, giving Elienne a dirty glare and then moving to leave. Then she turned to Haldir and said, "I do so appreciate your care for me. My husband will be very pleased that I have not spent my time here in isolation."
Haldir nodded as she left and Elienne could not help but burst into a huge grin. When he turned to her, she resumed a stolid expression and he took a few steps in her direction he studied her intensely. She thought for certain that this would be the moment of glory. But instead he asked, "Do you have my cloak?" She sighed and pointed to where she had laid it on a table. He glanced at it and then back at her. "What were you doing?" he asked.
"Just as I said, taking off the diadem," she said, completely amazed that he seemed to still not know her. He paused, still looking at her intently. She thought perhaps at any moment a look of recognition would come over him. But it did not.
"Very well," he said and then smiled. "I am pleased to see you," he said. "I've had a most tedious evening with all sorts of obligations. It is nice to have the company of someone whose expectations I need not worry of fulfilling."
"Oh?" she asked.
"Come, have some wine with me," he said. Elienne was stunned and unsure what to do. She took a seat where he gestured and watched him as he poured the wine and continued to talk. "There's nothing like a nice warm glass of wine enjoyed with the company of a beautiful she-elf," he said. He set the glass before her and took a seat as he brought the scarlet liquid to his lips. "Drink..." he said.
She touched the glass and said, "So you did not enjoy the banquet?"
"Oh, there were moments of laughter and the food was delectable as always, but..." he got quiet and thoughtful.
"The company," she said, prying into his thoughts. "Were you ignored, as you thought you would be?"
"Oh no," he said glancing at her. It seemed to Elienne that he was going to open up to her and her conscious warned that this deception was somehow a breach of trust. But her curiosity could not be tamed and so she indulged herself. He smiled sadly and said, "You were right about the daughter of a king taking my notice... surprising enough to me, I was even granted the honor of a dance."
"Well, that is something!" Elienne said with a smirk as she took a sip of wine. She set it down and said with eyes narrowed at him, "I'm sure she thought you were wonderful and charming, maybe even irresistible." The truth of it was she had found him rude and boorish, but in this moment, she wanted to see what his estimation was.
"Oh, of course," he said so matter of factly that Elienne almost laughed aloud. He looked down and said with a sigh, "Unfortunately notice of me is always short lived with such she-elves from royal descent. They are quick to be enamored with a strong male Elf who commands the Guards and the respect of the court of Lorien. But the infatuation dies away as soon as a handsome Prince comes along or someone of their own class." Meeting her gray eyes with his own of blue he added, "It is too much for me to hope for such affections to be sincere or long lasting."
"Perhaps there is something you are not doing correctly which turns them from you," she said.
Haldir rested his cheek in his hand and looked away into the distance. "Impossible," he said casually. "I have impeccable manners. But despite my obvious affections for the beautiful Princess, she ended our dance abruptly and turned me away."
Elienne let go of her glass and put her hands in her lap, noticing that they were trembling. "You have feelings for her?" she asked.
"I was quite taken," he said dreamily. "But I think she sensed it and was about to set me straight on the matter, as they all do. Though this one was going to be polite and take me to a quiet place to do it." Haldir sat up and looked into his wine glass. "I could not bare to hear her tell me she thought I was presumptuous, so I attempted to thwart her efforts... and she grew angry..." He looked up at her and Elienne tried to allow her face to show how extremely dismayed she felt. "I am wrong to go on so pathetically," he said woefully. He put his elbow on the table and leaned his face into his palm again. "Besides, I would much prefer someone like yourself. Someone who will not toss me aside when she grew tired of me."
"I... don't know what to say," she started, flushing. She could not go through with this ruse. Never could she have imagined the injury she might cause someone such as the Emissary. She would have to end it and yet she did not know how to do it gently. Slowly she stood and said, "I assure you, I am quite flattered by your..."
But before she could end the scene and wish him a good evening, he grabbed her around the waist and playfully drew her to his lap. Surprised, Elienne gasped and her arm wrapped around his neck. She had not been held as such since she was fairly small and it was a very interesting feeling.
"You were saying," he said, clasping his hands around her.
"You are fresh, Lord Haldir," she said with embarrassment.
"And so I can be with a handmaiden, but not with a princess," he said, nuzzling his face behind her ear, his breath warming her neck.
Elienne was completely flustered. Again, this was not how she intended their encounter would go. She pushed slightly on his shoulder, attempting to free herself, but he held her fast.
"Do I worry you, sweet she-elf?" he asked. He lifted a hand and moved it under her hair, stroking her skin lightly with his fingertips. "Do you fear me? I am noble, am I not? What harm is there in a bit of play?"
"Only that harm which you would do to my heart," she said. She closed her eyes and cringed as a shiver ran through her from the sensations on her neck.
"Sweet handmaiden," he said, squeezing the arm around her waist even more tightly, "so impressed am I with you that I may request of Lord Celeborn that you return with me to Lothlorien." Then he whispered in her ear, "What think you of that?"
Elienne tried to peel his arm from around her as she said in a trembling voice, "With your sensibilities, I cannot imagine your intentions with someone of a lower caste are anything but flirtation. You would not bond with a handmaiden anymore than you believe a princess would bond with you.
"Hmmm... You are wiser than you seem," he said in an interested tone. He loosened his grip slightly so she was able to wriggle out of his hands and stand.
"So you think me foolish?" she asked, her anger growing with her discomfort.
"No," he said, gazing at her, "Merely youthful and the sweet first fruits of love are rarely tasted with wise measure." He looked her over as he had done before the banquet, with the eyes of desire.
"I think I should go," she said, backing towards the door.
"Don't forget Rumil's boots," he said, raising his brows.
Elienne's eyes grew wide as her pulse quickened. "Lord Haldir," she spat, ready to dump the entire bluff right on his head.
"Oh, wait," he said as if a thought had just come to mind. "My brother has said he absolutely refuses to allow you to work in his service. He was so insistent on it we almost got into a row. I hope you are not offended. I still think your work is the finest I have ever seen, and you, a very gracious handmaiden to be so kind as to offer it."
She started to speak again, but he stood as well and she backed away, anticipating his moves.
"Please do not fear me. I truly mean you no harm," he explained. "I thought we were fond of one another..."
She looked down and said, "Lord Haldir, I have a confession to make."
"Yes," he said. "Please, tell me you do not find me repulsive... that you will allow me to sweep you away with me to my home in the Goldenwood?"
Elienne stammered. "M'Lord, we've only just met... how can you propose?"
"How can I not?" he asked, stepping forward and looking into her eyes. "You only need to look into the mirror to see why my heart beats for you ..." he cut himself off . "I forget myself... please go ahead, tell me."
She shook her head, overcome and speechless at this. No Elf had ever dared to speak to her in such a manner, but she had never known an elf to be in love with her before. She looked at his handsome, enamored face and suddenly, all his fresh boldness began to make sense. Perhaps he was the most brilliant of Emissaries, but merely unskilled with how to treat a she-elf? All her going out of her way to please him was probably new to him. If he truly did mean to bond with her, he was not being inappropriate; he was simply unskilled at courtship. Is this what Galadriel had warned her about?
He looked at her and waited with no patience in his expression. He needed to know her answer and he looked so vulnerable and dear that Elienne truly wished she was in love with him. But she was not, and no doubt he would be convinced she was yet another princess toying with his heart. She knew not what damage would be done to him and his heart tender heart now, and she knew not if it could be repaired after it was done.
"Lord Haldir," she said softly, feeling a sickness in her gut that made speaking all that more difficult but necessary. "I have done you a great wrong... I have... misled you in the worst of ways. It began so simply and has grown ever more complicated and out of control. There is nothing in my life I regret more... Never did I intend this to go this far," she said.
"I do not understand," he said with such sad eyes that she thought she would break down for the pain he must be feeling.
"I am not the hand maiden you have fallen in love with, dear sir... Would that I were because you have so successfully wooed me with your unabashed pouring of emotions that I can only hope that I have not destroyed all hope of a proper courtship. I never imagined I would regret my heritage as much as I do at this moment..." she said, trying not to allow herself any tears. "But I must confess to you that I am Elienne, the daughter of the Darkwood King... the very princess you danced with and thought scorned you at the banquet." She resisted the quiver of her chin as she confessed, "You have been the center of a most horribly gone wrong ruse, meant only in fun... but with disastrous results as I doubt even your dear Queen Galadriel could not have predicted.... I am so... so... sorry." She searched his face, eagerly hoping he would take the news graciously. She did not think she could bear it if he broke down in front of her.
His expression did change slightly, but not to one of despair or even anger or sadness as she suspected. But rather, his mouth curled slightly into a strange smile.
"Is that so?" he asked with an air of amusement.
Frozen for a moment, Elienne blinked, wondering at his response. And then a flash of insight struck her. In his eyes she saw the same look she had worn on more occasions than she could count. "You..." she gasped in disbelief, "knew? "
His small smirk turned into a grin and he crossed his arms in front of his chest and took a step back from her. "I knew my mistake the moment I saw you leading Sullendry from the courtyard," he said in merriment.
He looked at her now with satisfaction, drinking in her response. All at once she felt completely exposed and naked, as though he was not just looking at her, but into her, and in his wise, laughing eyes he was able to see all her youth and immaturity. It was terrifying and infuriating that he should hold so much power over her.
"Why did you not say something?" she asked. "Why play along, allow me to suffer so?" she demanded.
"Oh sweet princess, need I really answer that question? Were you in my position, you would have savored the twist of irony," he asked. "I think you should salute me as clever, as good an antagonist as ever there were to match your wits." He sighed as he looked at her and said, "You really thought I was in love with you, didn't you? It's a pity my skills for the stage have gone to waste as I have taken up other pursuits."
He looked so incredibly smug and full of his own glory that Elienne had to restrain herself from giving him a good thwack. "Incorrigible is what you are!" she accused. "And what you did in here... treating me as some mortal trollop!"
"I am no more guilty than you," he said with a laugh. "Who is it who saw fit to lead on a lonely Elf, insisting that royal she-elves find him irresistible? This game was led by you, I was merely playing along as you laid out your hand." Again he looked at her carefully and mocked. "Breathing as heavily as you are, you sound like a stallion after a good run..." Then he tilted his head and said cheekily, "Are you disappointed that I'm not really smitten with you? Is that the real trouble here?"
She turned away from him, her face burning with the shame of it. "The only thing mildly disappointing in that matter is that I will not have your petition for my entrance into Lothlorien."
He laughed out loud and said, "I would not wish your mischief in our woods if it were to scare off all the dark spirits of Mordor. You can count me as a strong voice of counsel against such an invitation if ever it were to rise to the realm of possibilities. At least until you grow up and gain some sense to you."
That comment, as light as his voice was when he said it, stung in Elienne more than she could have imagined. It was her one desire to visit the Goldenwood and with the Emissary's opinion of her, she doubted even Arwen's requests would aid her now.
Looking down she said hoarsely, "Now that we understand each other clearly, I will take my leave. Good night, Lord Haldir."
"Come now," he said as she reached the door. "You can not seriously be angry? It was all in good fun, was it not? You are not going to take this so seriously as to..."
She whipped her head around and interrupted him with a glare. "You are most fortunate you did not kiss me in your game of 'good fun', Emissary. For the boundaries you did cross were enough to bring against you a formal complaint."
Instantly his manner became formal and the merriment left his face. "I understand, M'Lady," he said stiffly. "If I have truly offended you, your anger is just."
She jutted her chin in the air and looked down upon him, feeling a bit of her dignity restored. "Good evening," she said and slowly took her leave.
When she got to the back door and ran out into the night, however, her heart began to feel the full ache at the insult this night had brought her and she could not stop the tears. Never had she been so humiliated in her life.
She stopped herself from going into the palace and instead ran for a path into the woods just beyond the back wall. Since she had continued the game beyond what she had agreed, Elienne could not face Arwen on the matter. And Lord Elrond would certainly think it served her right. So she found a cozy tree nook and sat down in it and wept softly, allowing herself to feel the full indulgence of her self-pity.
It was only fitting that a half an hour into her cry, just when she felt she could use some good consoling that she heard footsteps coming closer. Tipping out a bit to see whom it was Elienne spoke through her tears.
"I should have known," she said. "How long have you been watching me?"
Legolas squatted down beside her and said, "Since you left his suite." He looked at her with such bright searching eyes that she thought she would die of the mortification.
"So long?" she asked breathlessly.
"Then why did it take you so long to come to me?" she asked, wiping her wet face with her sleeve.
After a small silence he said softly, "I had to gather my own strength. It would be easier for me that my heart was to break than to see you so..."
Hearing the slight tremble in his voice, she believed him at once.
I am a rather pathetic soul, no doubt?" she said with a laugh through her tears.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "I feel no pity for you... only compassion."
"You are such a treasure to me, Legolas," she said, looking up at him. He took the cue and sat beside her, wrapping his hands around his knees.
"Do you know what happened?" she asked.
"I regret to say I can only guess that my prediction was correct," he said.
"What do you mean?" she asked carefully.
"An Emissary such as Haldir could not have been so easily fooled. It was inconceivable," he said. "I should have warned you he knew who you were. If I were as true a friend, I would have prevented this turmoil for you. But I confess, I did not know it would disturb you so greatly to have the joke turned around..."
"That is not the half of it," she said. "Were he simply to have played along I could have had a good laugh, but he played me for a fool..."
"I dare not say it with anything but caution," Legolas said. "But is that not what you were trying to play him for?"
"I did not attempt to make him think I was in love with him!" she explained. Legolas eyes grew large and his lips parted slightly as he sat up. "Yes!" she said nodding and grateful that he was indignant over the news. "He took me in his arms and wooed me as I have heard that mortal men do... telling me of his love and desire for me... he even hinted at a proposal of bonding!" Elienne knew she was exaggerating a bit, but she didn't care. What he had done was just as horrible as if he had proposed and not meant it.
Legolas expression became distant and he looked away from her and she continued, enjoying that he was feeling so much concern for her. "His portrayal of adoration of me was so enthralling I might have said 'yes' were I not afraid he would recount it when he learned of my true identity."
"And this he did while knowing who you really were?" Legolas said icily.
"He said it was 'part of the game'," she said sniffing. Her tears were almost completely dry now. Having Legolas empathy was giving her strength to put the shame behind her. It wasn't she who was foolish, but rather Haldir who had wronged her immeasurably. It was a most pleasurable validation. "And he has made it clear he will do all he can to prevent me from taking leave of Rivendell to visit Lothlorien. And that is the worst of it... all of my dreaming of the beautiful forest will have been for not."
"I... hadn't realized that was your intended destination," Legolas said.
"It doesn't matter now," she said. "Rivendell shall remain my home, thanks to the Emissary of Lorien."
Legolas straight brows pressed together as he looked on her. "You could come to Mirkwood," he said. "That is, if you wouldn't mind a much darker set of trees. But it is still lovely, especially in spring, with the wildflowers growing nearly everywhere."
"I had not thought of that," she said, dabbing her dry eye.
He jumped to his feet and stretched out his hand. "Come, it is late and you should sleep. I will speak to my parents about the possibility of giving you such an option. They should understand a young she-elf's desire to see more Elven kingdoms."
She took his hand and said, "Your thoughtfulness has enabled me to forget my sorrows almost completely!" She smiled and added, "What care I for the thoughts of a mere Guardsman?"
"You should not bring yourself to care any thoughts which are wrong and hurtful to you," he said. " I will see to it that his thoughts are in line in regards to you. Of that you can be certain."
"There you go again," she said, taking his arm as they walked to the palace. "I shall be so in debt to your kindness that repaying it will be nearly an impossible feat."
They stood at the back door and he said, "Repayment is not necessary between companions such as we. For the lightness of heart I feel at returning your smile is of the greatest worth."
Elienne was so caught up in the joy of Legolas kindness and willingness to take Haldir to task for her, that she leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek. But in the quickness of her movement, he turned slightly and she missed, brushing his lips with hers. He drew away a step in surprise. He stared at her and swallowed. He looked as stunned as she was.
"Good night, Lady Elienne," he finally whispered. Hesitating briefly, he took off in a rush before she could speak.
Elienne covered her hand with her mouth, wondering what the Prince could think of her being so forward. This evening she had experienced so many emotions that her head seemed to be spinning. She turned and ran up the steps, wishing she could be there to hear whatever it was Legolas was going to say to Haldir. She could only imagine what the day would present to her tomorrow. She was filled with both dread and anticipation. When she entered the wing of the palace that she and Arwen shared, she could tell Arwen had not come in yet; most likely still in the company of her grandparents. It occurred to her that Arwen was very much supportive of Elienne's desire to visit Lothlorian and this made her smile mischievously. Maybe she was wrong about his influence over Arwen's. Between the scorn of Legolas and Arwen's already dislike for him, Haldir was going to find Elienne had gathered some rather strong allies.
"If Haldir thinks his will can outshine the charms of the Evenstar on her own grandparents, he will find himself very much mistaken," she said to herself as she dressed for the night. "I will live in the Golden Wood... and he will be sorry he ever crossed me."