the hearts song - chapter 4: confrontation
Haldir watched the young she-elf go and breathed out a huge sigh. He took a seat at the table and picked up his glass of wine, swirling it around a bit. He narrowed his eyes in thought and then took a drink. Perhaps he had gone a bit too far in the merriment of the moment. As he thought on it, he could not suppress the smile that came to his lips. Seeing that little presumptuous princess squirm was the most fun he'd had in decades.
He went over in his mind what had happened that day and had to admit that Elienne had surprised him with her tenacity. She had not given in as he suspected she would before the banquet. As much as he tried to prod her into giving up her game, she had humbly taken on the menial duties he gave her and had not taken it upon herself to put him in his place for mocking royalty. With all the pride he knew she had in her, it was very much to her credit that she resisted the temptation to set him straight; and all for the sake of a silly prank.
The very idea of trying to fool him into thinking she was a handmaiden was ill advised, and yet creatively played out to the very end. She had properly held the demeanor of someone from another class, and waited ever so patiently for him to notice... which of course he intentionally did not.
She was taking his cues and playing off them, giving him what she thought he wanted to see. Had she a bit more training in the art of it, he was convinced she could pull off a convincing enough impersonation to go undercover as a human if there was ever need for it again. Although as a Princess he doubted she would be permitted the task.
Voices in the hall came closer and Haldir looked up to see Rumil and Orophin enter. They took one look at him and Elienne's glass on the table, glanced at each other and guessed immediately.
"So she finally knows the joke was on her?" Rumil asked, taking a seat across from him. "Thank the everlasting wood."
Haldir chuckled a bit and looked at his other brother, who glanced around the room. "Nothing seems out of place, I take it the young she-elf's anger did not turn violent as I suspected?"
"Oh no, no..." Haldir said shaking his head. He picked up his glass and smirked at Orophin as he said, "Though I do suspect she very much wanted to strike me." He finished the wine and set the glass down. Leaning back in his chair again he said, "But she resisted and only gave me a good verbal lashing. For as injured as her pride was, I'd say she bore the turned tables very well."
"Now, if only we will be so lucky that she will leave you alone so our time here can return to the relaxing holiday it was meant to be," Rumil said.
Haldir stared at his brother and momentarily got lost in thought. He doubted very much that he had seen the last of Elienne. He smiled as he predicted that she was not quite through with him. Someone with a combination of her pride and wit would have to at least attempt a rematch.
"I don't like that look on his face," Orophin said, taking off his outer robe and hanging it on a wall hook.
"Nor I," Rumil said. Haldir raised his brows innocently. Rumil shook his head and stood, walking to the other end of the room, "I tell you now, brother, leave me out of it. I want no part in falsehoods or teaching the daughter of kings lessons."
"You do me wrong by your suspicions!" Haldir said wagging his finger playfully at his brother. "If I choose to engage the princess at all, it will be to put our differences aside. To win her friendship to me," Haldir said. Then in a more thoughtful voice he said, "Though I suspect that would be a daunting task at this turn of event."
"I disagree," Orophin said, taking his boots off. "If she is truly injured, you should let it lie and not make it worse by approaching her." He set his boot down, put his hands on his knees and asked, "Suppose she were to think it was a trap? That you were only befriending her so you could ensnare her again?"
"All such wooing is a trap, is it not?" he asked. "But some traps we walk into willingly, don't we?" He looked at his brothers. "And not all traps are set with ill intent, are they?" Orophin chuckled while Rumil shook his head and began to dress for the night.
Haldir strummed his fingers on the table, contemplating how he should proceed. Thoughtfully he said, "I will not try to set a trap for her. She is far too unpredictable to know just what would work, and my guess is she would be expecting it."
"Then how can you venture into warming her regard for you," Orophin asked. "If she will not fall for your usual set of charms."
"I did not say she would not fall for them," he said in all earnest. "My skill in winning over the most ardent of enemies has gotten me my Emissary title for good reason. She will come around, they all do."
"Simply another enemy on which to easily prey?" Rumil asked.
"The Lady Elienne is not easy prey. She is more like a wild sentient horse than a deer. I shall have to rely on my wit and cunning... to go forward with no plan... make an offer and then respond and react to her," he said. He was about to throw out some suggestions when he picked up the sound of breathing at the door. Someone was listening.
"Who's there?" he asked, standing up. "Come into the light..."
Around the corner stepped the Mirkwood Prince, seething with ire. He gave Haldir a look whose physical counterpart would have pierced the strongest of armor. Haldir took it in stride and played as though he was unaffected, taking a seat and clasping his hands on the knee of his crossed leg.
"I expected you much sooner Prince Legolas," he said.
The comment seemed to have the desired effect, catching the young Prince slightly off guard. He glanced at Haldir's brothers and said, "Please, if you would excuse us, I have personal matters to discuss with the Emissary."
Haldir noted how polite he was and nodded to his brothers, gesturing with his hand to the door. Both of them were in various stages of dress, but seeing the intent on Legolas' face, neither put up any protest. Rather, they collected their slippers and robes and took their leave.
"Please, have a seat," Haldir said, standing and picking up the glass. "I will pour you a glass." He walked over to the refreshment counter to pick up a clean glass and the bottle.
"I have no desire to share wine with you," Legolas said. "I have come to clear up any misunderstandings you may have regarding Elienne."
"Oh?" Haldir said spinning around with the wine bottle in his hand. "You have not heard then. All has been settled. I know who she is and she knows that I know... we have cleared the entire matter between us." He was giving Legolas a smile, but knew that there was more to be heard from the Elf.
Legolas took a step forward and accused harshly, "You have dishonored her by your actions of immodesty. I have heard from her own lips how you carried on, and in full knowledge of whom it was you placed your hands on."
Haldir's patience was beginning to fade. He gathered himself and set down the bottle on the counter. "I regret that my intentions were seen as less than noble," he began. "But in all honesty, she had nothing to fear from me."
"Less than noble?" Legolas said. "There is nothing noble in falsely proposing to anyone, let alone a sensitive and fragile young romantic like Elienne! Suppose she had been swept away in the moment? Just how far would you have taken her, Guardian... or should I say 'predator'? As you have just said you see her as something to hunt or trap rather than respect and honor."
Haldir bit down hard to keep from speaking out in kind as he took in Legolas brutal suspicions. Such an attack on his character from a Prince of Elves was an insult difficult to bear and it was all he could do to not defend himself with the fullness of his emotions about it. But for honor's sake, he calmed himself and replied, "I believe it is you who misunderstand what happened between myself and Elienne."
"Do you dare to call her a liar?" Legolas asked. "Is no level too low for you to stoop?"
Through his teeth Haldir let out, "I am not suggesting she lied." He closed his eyes and sighed then looked at Legolas and said, "Only that perhaps because of the unfortunate shame she felt at having her own game turned upon her, when she told you of it she was more engaged with emotion than reason."
Legolas seemed to be thinking on that and Haldir gave him credit for at least having a touch of openness on this matter. Perhaps he wasn't so smitten with infatuation with the pretty little she-elf as Haldir suspected.
"Please, sit," Haldir said. "I understand you are very affronted by me at this moment. But if you give me the opportunity to disclose to you my part in it, perhaps your opinion will change."
Again, to Legolas credit the young prince seemed to calm a bit and he took a seat. But in his eyes he still carried a look of accusation, so Haldir began slowly and carefully.
"You do her an injustice to even imply Elienne would have gone along with such a proposal given under false pretenses," he said. Turning Legolas eyes upon his own prejudice against her, he said, "I assure you, I would not have allowed the events to unfold the way you suggest, but neither would have Elienne!" He chuckled remembering it. "You should have seen her squirming to get away from me. She was more frightened than enchanted."
Legolas eyes glared at Haldir and he said, "If you mean to persuade me by finding humor in her suffering you are sorely mistaken. I find this sort of game distasteful and bad mannered."
Haldir sighed and leaned back with his arm rested on the back of the chair. "Yes, I suppose you would," he said. "And I'm sure Elienne knew that as well when she told you of it... enhancing details to get this response from you... enticing you to be her hero and confront me. It is so typical of females to play males in such a way."
"I came of my own accord," Legolas said quickly. But then he seemed to think on it a bit as if he wasn't so sure.
"There's no shame in it," Haldir said. "You care for her and your intentions are noble. But let me also say this of Elienne, rest assured she will come out better for this. It is not her nature to be injured by so small a disgrace. Allow her some time and she will surprise you. She will put it behind her and be much wiser in her choice of pranks."
Legolas frowned as if he did not believe it, but was not ready to argue the point. "You speak as though you know her so well," he said.
"I know Elves," Haldir said. "It is my duty to see what they are made of and to train them or guide them into fulfilling their potential."
"I find it hard to believe this game was part of your duty," Legolas grumbled.
"Well, from time to time business mixes with pleasure," Haldir said with a gleam in his eye, "But this game was of her own doing, and she knows it. The worst of it is over and now all that is left is for Elienne to work out how she will respond."
Legolas stood and said, "You have given me a good bit to digest, Emissary. But I am not convinced yet."
"No, I don't suppose you are," Haldir said, standing up with a sigh.
"What is meant by that?" Legolas asked.
Haldir thought to try to explain to the young prince what it was he recognized in him, but held back knowing it would be rejected out right. He was going to have to learn the hard way. He covered by saying, "Only that it is not easy to accept that our friends may not need us as much as we hope. Especially beautiful, seemingly fragile she-elves."
Legolas nodded and said flatly, "Good evening, Emissary."
After he left, Haldir retired to his room and sat on the lounge. Tomorrow there would be a picnic and a hunt and then another banquet. So much of this stay did seem more like duty than leisure. It was a pity that the game was over. It had been a nice distraction from the mundane of social discourse.