the heartsong - chapter 5: a token of truce
hOpE yOu LiKe It!!
Chapter Five: A Token of Truce
"Good morning, Sullendry," Haldir said as he brought a large pack into the stall. "I trust you've been treated well?" he asked, setting it down.
Haldir could tell by the look in the horse's eye that the answer was 'yes'. In fact, there looked to be a bit of mischief in there as well. He patted the horse's neck and said, "I was hoping you'd join us for a picnic today so I could share with you the burden of carrying the baskets of food and blankets." He scratched under the steed's long chin and asked, "What do you say? I'm sure there will be some delicious fern along the way for you to nibble upon... and couldn't you use the exercise in any case?"
Sullendry blinked his eyes and grunted a little in the negative. He was much too smart and knew this was obviously a better deal for Haldir than himself. Even though it was just about guaranteed that Sullendry would comply in the end, it was their relationship that Haldir would give the horse some dialogue before just telling him what he wanted. Sullendry stomped a foot and moved his head in a certain direction. Haldir looked to see that there on a shelf just within the hors's reach, was a pile of ripe carrots.
"Well whoever brought those in?" he asked. He walked over to the shelf and noted that the horse had already made good work of a large portion. "I doubt you're hungry at all now." He turned, leaning his hand on the shelf and said, "It was the she-elf, wasn't it? The one who scolded me for mistreating you." Sullendry whinnied and Haldir shook his head slightly. "It would be just like her to make friends with you behind my back," he said. "Well, perhaps I should have had her come ask?"
Haldir moved back to the pack and said, "Elienne will be going on the picnic. Does that change your mind?"
Sullendry backed up slightly and then took a step towards the pack. Haldir laughed, seeing his friend enjoy pretending his reasons were his own. "Good. Now let me find a nice comfortable way to arrange this so that I don't give you any more spurs. We wouldn't want to give your new she-elf friend reason to correct me again."
The trek to the picnic spot was not so great a feat except for his lovely Queen had insisted the elflings come along to liven the mood. And liven the mood it did; to the point of chaos. It was his natural state of being to look out for the welfare of others and setting aside that wariness was not an option.
The two oldest elflings were behaving and the tiniest ones were being carried by doting she-elves. But just ahead, with only his brothers forming a boundary were two of the most active male elflings he had ever seen. They were around the ages of five and six and found Sullendry an irresistible goal.
They would run about squealing and trying to get by his brothers who would politely catch them and prevent it. And though the parents were watching and doing plenty of correcting, they had so far played this game the entire trek.
Haldir was keenly aware of the steep downgrade to their left as well as the many loose looking rocks among the slanted hillside of trees to their right. Any time one of the young ones would stray too near the edge he could feel his blood fill with adrenaline that kept him in a constant state of readiness. It seemed any moment something could go awry.
From the sound of it Rumil and Orophin were growing very weary as well.
"This should be a relaxing morning," Rumil mumbled, "And yet I feel there would be less tension were I alone and being chased by three hundred Orc."
"Aye," Orophin said, swiping one of the elflings by his middle as he squealed. "You are not alone."
Haldir patted Sullendry who seemed rather calm considering he was the object of the boys' fascination. "We're almost there, my friend, and you may roam free to your hearts content." Sullendry responded with only a snort of air.
They were traveling down hill now and looking ahead Haldir could see the entire caravan before them. The company was led by Erestor and Silinde who were followed very closely by King Thranduil and Elrond. The Queen of Mirkwood walked arm in arm with her son, and though poor Legolas looked happy enough, it was clear to Haldir by the Prince's mannerisms he was simply appeasing his mother.
While they were preparing to leave, Haldir had casually witnessed the Queen demanded he escort her. Haldir was growing more impressed with the young Princes tolerance. He did pity him that he had not managed to keep the peace and obtain his own desire, which was no doubt to accompany a certain young Darkwood princess to the picnic. But at least he hadn't succumbed to causing a scene.
Next in line were two sets of woodland Elves who seemed quite relaxed, holding hands. They were most likely relieved to have their young being watched by others. Galadriel and Celeborn held the hands of two such children and Arwen was carrying a very beautiful she-elf child with long white wavy hair. As his eyes fell on Elienne, he took notice that she looked rather spent for such a short trip. Behind her walked Murial carrying another small child and another couple of parents; then the busy boys and his brothers.
His eyes returned to Elienne and noted that even though she was engaged in smiles and conversation with Arwen and Muriel, there was the ever so subtle look to her that she was not completely in the moment with them; as though she was thinking on other things. He smiled and thought it was certainly a pity her shining prince was too busy with his mumsy.
All along the path there had been the fern that he had promised Sullendry and from time to time he had picked it so the steed could eat as they walked. So when he reached down to fetch some more and saw a patch of large white blossoms, a thought came to his mind and he plucked the flower low on the stem.
"Rumil," he called out. "Let the older elfling pass."
Rumil glanced at him and stood back as the elfling ran through. He was so amazed at not being stopped that when he reached where Haldir and Sullendry were walking, he almost tripped and bumped into Haldir's knees. Haldir caught the small elfling and set him back on his feet. Behind him, Rumil approached.
"Can you do a little chore for me?" he asked. The elfling had long straight blonde hair and crystal blue eyes. He didn't answer, just stared at the gray horse. "If you agree I may give you a bit of a ride."
Sullendry protested slightly and Haldir 'shushed' him. Haldir squatted down and asked, "Would you like that?" The boy nodded fervently and Haldir handed him the flower. "Then take this and deliver it ahead to the She-Elf in the lavender dress."
"Elienne?" the elfling asked looking at the flower.
"Yes, that's the one," Haldir said, pleased that the elfling knew her by name already.
"She's not going to like it," he warned.
"Of course she will," Haldir said, teaseling the blond tresses.
The elfling looked at the flower and then at the horse, raised his brows and ran away quickly. Haldir stood up, ignoring Rumils glare and said to Sullendry, "Now it's time for you to watch the way a charming Elf wins over the affections of a She-Elf. It's much more complicated than waiting until the proper season and galloping around proudly."
"Though it's not any less self-demeaning," Rumil snarled. "Do you honestly think she is going to be won over by a simple flower."
Haldir raised his brows and led Sullendry on as he said, "Under normal circumstances, no. But she has been thwarted by her prince and is suddenly no longer the youngest and center of attention. It is not just the gift, by brother, it is when you give it that can make or break a deal."
"You know your work," Rumil admitted. "But I wonder why you waste your energies and time on this endeavor."
"Because, Rumil..." Haldir sighed, "it amuses me."
Looking down the hill he saw that the first several in their group had moved out of view around a bit of rock standing out. Arwen and Muriel were already around the bend, but thankfully he could still make out Elienne and the elfling who was just now handing her the flower. She did not smile at all, but instead was wearing quite a frown. He couldn't make out her words, but he could hear that she did not speak kindly to the child. It made him feel a bit ill in the gut, which was not aided at all when Rumil harrumphed in satisfaction. The elfling had somehow been right.
Sadly he guessed that maybe the young one had over heard her speaking ill of him to Arwen and Muriel as they walked along the trail. It was not at all unlikely that what he had done to her was being told to not only Legolas, but rumored to all who would listen and offer her their validation. He wondered how Murial would take the entire situation.
"Still amused?" Rumil said.
Haldir tried not to be disgruntled over it. He just continued to watch the poor elfling taking her message, whatever it was.
"She is quite rude indeed to poor out her distaste for me on a small child," he said, a bit disappointed.
Orophin approached them. He must have grown tired of the game for he was now carrying the other elfling.
"I hope it does not wound you that she has rejected your token," he said, watching the scene.
"No," Haldir started. "But my opinion of her is beginning to drop. Perhaps she is every bit as nasty as most..."
Just as he was saying it, the elfling pointed back towards him and then lifted his hands, most likely declaring his innocence. Then something most unexpected happened. She stood up and looked back towards him. As if it were an involuntary response he lifted a hand and acknowledged her attention with a small wave. Even from here he could see the teeth in her bright smile and she lifted the flower to her nose.
"Oh my," Orophin said. "Would you look at that."
"At least he was wrong about one thing. She does seem to be quite easy prey," Rumil quipped.
But Haldir held his breath, watching. He did not think so and did not dare to think his offering would be all that was needed. Elienne turned from them and embraced the child, kissing him on the forehead. She looked up at Haldir and spoke to the elfling and then turned back to the path and walked slowly out of his view.
"Any guess what her message will be?" Orophin asked. "Since you have now impressed us both with your prowess."
"The possibilities are endless," Haldir said. "And I must admit am quite anxious to find out myself."
The small messenger ran up to them quickly and said to Haldir, "Can I ride the horse now?"
"What did she say?" Haldir laughed. "Your duty is not done until you relay the message!"
"She had no message," the elfling said eagerly looking at the horse.
"I saw her speaking to you," Haldir said, grabbing the child up in his arms and tickling him. "Tell me or I shall have to use my specially designed interrogation technique used on young elves who do not mind!"
The small elf laughed and wriggled about, crying, "I swear, she had no message."
"Then what did she say to you, surely she was not just moving her lips!" he said, ceasing the tickle torture for a moment.
"Just like I said, she didn't like it," he said as Haldir set him down. He looked up at Haldir and explained, "She told me before not to pick flowers until we get to the field because if everyone did the path would be glum. And when she saw the flower she was most annoyed I had ignored her. So I told her I didn't do it. I told her you did it and if she was going to get angry she might as well be angry with the right Elf."
Haldir thought about how right she was about the path. "She makes good sense... but what did she say then, after she knew it was I who had done the foul deed?"
"She said that you were a very naughty Elf and she was already quite cross with you," he said.
Haldir hummed a bit in satisfaction. She had smiled, so she must not be too cross with him. He looked at the elfling and smirked, grateful for the little imp. It was quite known that children had a good effect on she-elves temperament. He may have to employ the elfling again.
"That is all she said," he insisted, "Now, may I ride him?"
Haldir nodded and said, "When we unload his pack, you may have a short ride. Now let us catch up with the others, they have probably already arrived and are looking to set up lunch."
"I suppose you think this flower is a sufficient reparation?"
Haldir recognized the voice and continued with his chore of unpacking Sullendry as he said, "I hoped it would be a start." He turned with a small pack and was quite pleased to see her expression was as light as the tone of her voice had been. His brothers and Legolas had taken the larger packages and were setting up a small shade tent and some of the she-elves were setting out the food. He handed Elienne the tiny pack and said, "Now run along and make yourself useful. We have a picnic to set up."
"Perhaps it has slipped your mind, but I am NOT a maidservant," she said with a laugh.
He smiled broadly as behind her came Galadriel and having overheard the comment from the young princess, took it upon herself to relieve the young she-elf of her tiny burden.
"This is the blanket for the children, is it not?" the queen asked him.
"Yes, you are quite right," he said with a bow.
She then turned to the humbled Elienne and looked at the flower she held. Sweetly she said, "Oh, it is so lovely, you should don it... perhaps in your hair, or on your dress?"
"Yes, M'lady," Elienne said. She watched the queen go and then looked sideways at Haldir.
He tried very hard not to look too smug and patted the horse while waiting for how she would respond. She looked at the flower as if contemplating what Galadriel had said, but before he could see what she would do with it, the elflings came about and begged him for their prize.
"Perhaps you can wait until after we eat," he said as they ran around the horse in circles. "We will be here all afternoon..."
"Lemor and Feldor have taken quite fond to you," she said.
"They have taken quite fond to Sullendry," he corrected as he watched the boys carefully and tried to steady an increasingly nervous Sullendry.
"Perhaps you two should do as the Emissary has suggested and give the poor dear horse some rest?" Elienne said.
He looked up at her and saw she was breaking the stem of the flower closer to it's bloom. He had his hand on one of the heads of the elflings as he watched her take his gift and place it in the dipping collar of her dress's neckline, nestled tightly in the space between her bosoms. He closed his eyes and sighed at her impish behavior. When he opened his eyes again she looked most triumphant.
"Does it look lovely on me or not?" she asked, tossing her hair behind her. "What do you think?"
He picked up one of the boys and set him on the horses bare back. "What do I think?" he asked in exaggerated thoughtfulness, leaning down for the other boy who was hopping up and down in excitement. He placed the other boy behind the first and then turned to her, his hand steadying the squirmy elflings. "I think you should reserve your pixilated wiles for use on Legolas."
"My pixilated wiles?" she laughed out. "I suppose I should have guessed you would be too wise to know that I am merely toying with you."
He chose not to answer, but instead clicked for Sullendry to move. He held the boys in place as the horse slowly walked through the tall grass.
"And besides," she said following them, "Legolas and I are merely good friends... there is nothing at all like you are suggesting between us."
He glanced at her in disbelief and kept walking. He was right about her not being through with him and as much as she said she was only toying with him, it did seem as though she had much to say yet. He guessed if he kept himself quiet she would continue talking and not grow tired of it.
"You don't believe me?" she asked. Then she hurried a bit, getting in front of him and walking backwards. Her red hair blew in gentle breeze. Most elves knew enough of his reputation to keep their distance, and Haldir smiled at the youthfulness of her and the way, like an elfling, she was so unafraid to approach him. "Besides, if there was anything between myself and Legolas it has been quite well extinguished, and I think it is thanks to you... You spoke to him last night did you not?"
He nodded but offered no other elaboration.
"Well, whatever it is you said has made him keep his distance from me today," she said. "I think you have conspired to turn him against me..."
"Oh, no, dear princess," he said looking over her shoulder. He brought Sullendry to a stop and said, "Just the opposite... for look... It is no doubt because of your proximity to me that the Prince of Mirkwood approaches now. In all probability to do some good rescuing of you." He then added in a lower voice, "Though I doubt he realizes it is I who needs the rescuing."
She laughed and turned to see Legolas slowly walking from circle of picnickers. Her face lit up and she waved, saying, "So I have not lost his favor after all. I thought the damage you did might be irreparable."
"Nay," Haldir said. "But if what you say is true about your regard for him, I fear your damage to him may well indeed be."
"Damage?" she said with a look of confusion towards Haldir. "It would be the farthest thing from my mind to bring Legolas anything but joy..."
"The joy of the moment, perhaps... unless there is expectation in it that will not come to fruition," he explained.
Elienne looked as if something came to her memory and her expression turned to one of concern. She turned towards Legolas and said, "Oh dear Emissary...I fear I know your meaning."
She ran away from him to Legolas and he could not help but smile sadly as Legolas greeted her and looked over at him with a bit of a warning.
"Alright, elflings," Haldir said, "It is time to return to Sullendry his freedom."
The boys slightly protested, but when he set them down they ran off briskly towards where the food had been laid out. He took the blanket off of the horse and said, "I trust you will return to me when the outing comes to a close?"
The horse whinnied and galloped off into the grassy field. Haldir folded the blanket in his arm and walked over to the place where his brothers sat speaking with Murial and Arwen. As he sat, he looked over at Legolas and Elienne and wondered what the conversation would come to... that is until he heard Legolas mother call out for them to come sit for the meal. Dutifully they both complied.