To Overcome the Shadow - Chapter 5 -- Do We Have an Accord?
Do We Have an Accord?
Ninque sighed in frustration as she attempted to remove the remaining ribbons that were woven and knotted into her hair. Tanie needed time to herself and Ninque did not want to bother her with the tedious task. With a cry of despair at not being able to remove anymore of the horrid pink things, she blindly flung the small knife across the room. It lodged itself in her bedroom door with a loud "Twang!" She sat down on the floor and hugged her knees, a single tear slipping down her cheek.
A soft knock sounded on the door.
"Come in," she answered dejectedly without raising her head. The door squeaked open and there were soft steps as someone walked in, then a click as the door was shut. Expecting Tanie, Ninque was quite surprised to see Elladan standing there. Quickly, she brushed away her tear and looked at him incredulously, marveling at the nerve he had to speak to her after what he had done.
Elladan, on the other hand, had momentarily forgotten why he had come when he saw the tear trickling down her cheek. Ninque never cried! She was so strong! The only time he could remember her shedding tears was when they had brought her father home, dead. "What's wrong, mellon dithen?" asked Elladan in a concerned voice as he knelt down next to her.
Ninque's angry retort died on her lips as she saw the worry in his piercing grey eyes. He was truly worried, yes. But she could not bring herself to trust him with her heart. Especially after he had so easily lied to her the night before. "I... nevermind. It is nothing." A calm, cool look returned to her eyes. The mask that she so rarely shed, even for Tanie, was back. She could no let him see her despair. He would not understand how it felt to be useless, a failure. "May I inquire as to the purpose of your visit, my lord?" she asked, rising to her feet with calm collectiveness.
Elladan looked at her, unconvinced. "Perhaps I should assist you in removing all your ribbons before I give you the reason of my visit," said Elladan with a slight smile, trying to mask his hurt at her distrust. "Its your own fault though," he thought. "After all, you were the one that lied to her last night."
Ninque nodded her assent.
"Have you a small knife, my lady?"
She glanced pointedly at her door.
Elladan laughed when he saw the knife lodged in her door. "I hope you were not pretending the door was me, Ninque!"
She gave him a small smile and sat on a nearby rug, pulling a small stool up behind her. Elladan sat down and gathered her hair into his lap. He hummed softly as he worked, cutting and untangling the mess he had made.
At first, Ninque sat very stiffly, not sure if it was safe to relax while Elladan had hold of her hair. But ever so slowly the tight muscles in her back started to relax and she leaned back against Elladan's knees with a sigh. "I doubt there is anything worse he could do to my hair at the moment," she reasoned. "Might as well be comfortable."
Elladan felt his heart leap strangely as her lithe form rested against him. A soft breeze blew through Ninque's open window, lifting strands of her hair and blowing it across her face. One bright, gold strand gently caressed his cheek, driving all intelligent thought from his mind. Elladan shook his head as if to clear his muddled thoughts. "What power does she wield over me?" Then smiling he thought, "It good for me she does not know, else she would use it as a very unfair advantage."
Tanie moved swiftly around her room, picking out various articles and stuffing them in a knapsack strung over her arm. Her tears were gone, replaced by a steely resolve. She set her pack on her bed and slowly revolved around her room, hands on her hips. "What have I forgotten?" she thought. Her glanced stayed on an object occupying the far wall. A long knife with an ivory handle ornately decorated. The curved silver blade shone in the noon-day sun, glistening to a fine point that could slice through flesh as easily as butter. Elvish runes encircled their way around the handle--her father's knife. Memories unbidden entered her mind.
He was standing in her room, holding her close in a last embrace. She did not understand. Why was he leaving her? Did he not love her? He finally drew away. His face was tired, his eyes sad. She reached up and touched his cheek.
"Why must you go, ada?" she pleaded. He did not answer. Reaching from beneath his robe, he produced his fighting knife encased in a leather sheath. Handing it to Tanie, he held her face in his hands and, leaning forward, kissed her softly on the forehead.
"I pass into the West." He said, a peaceful look filling his eyes as he gazed out the westward window. He lowered his eyes to meet his daughter's again. "Your time will come. You have your whole life ahead of you. Do not waste it grieving for me?" Tanie nodded in assent, clutching the knife. "This knife, has been passed down through our family for many generations. It has saved many a life, including mine. May it bring you comfort when you feel alone.." Then he had left, closing the door behind him, leaving his daughter standing in the middle of the room.
She sank to the floor, still desperately clutching the knife, as if it were a lifeline in a foundering sea. The sound of a single horse galloping across the bridge and into the setting Sun broke into her mind. She started up and flew to the window. If only she could see his face! One last time! The light of Anar blinded her eyes, veiling her vision. She threw her hand up before her eyes, shielding them. But it was too late. The last muffled beats of horse's hooves faded into the trees and silence invaded Tanie's bedchamber.
Tanie's reveries were broken by a soft knock on her door. She looked down and found herself holding the knife, clutching it like that mournful day so many years ago. A light rain had begun to fall. Hastily, she added it to her pack, then pushed it all under her bed out of sight.
"Enter." She spoke calmly, seating herself on her bed, her legs in front of her pack's hiding place. Elrohir entered, softly closing the door behind him. Tanie's face remained passive as she studied the twin's expression. He seemed cautious, yet excited about some unknown news.
"How are you, m'lady?" he asked.
"I am sure you did not come here, m'lord, to inquire after my health." Tanie answered patronizingly.
Tanie's eyes flickered briefly in surprise at the brief look of pain she saw in his eyes, quickly masked. She had not meant to hurt him, only to tell him in a covert way that she wanted to be alone.
"Well...actually," Elrohir stumbled over his words.
"Elrohir never stutters," Tanie thought in amazement. He was always the calm, collected one, the convincing voice of reason. Lord Elrond had even begun to let Elrohir preside over some of his diplomatic meetings with his advisors because of his superb apologetic skills.
He continued. "I was wondering if you would be willing to accompany me to my chambers for a meeting between you, Ninque, my brother, Prince Legolas, and I. At the name of Legolas, Tanie's eyes flashed and her brow darkened in obvious anger.
"Please!" Elrohir pleaded, afraid she would refuse. "Legolas is truly repentant of the comprising situation he was found in with Ninque. In fact, that is part of the purpose of this meeting that he has requested."
"Oh. And did he not have the nerve to come and ask me myself?" Tanie asked indignantly. "Is he afraid I will give him a matching black-eye?"
"Well, I will not deny that he is afraid of you, Tanie." Elrohir said with a smile, desperate to lift she she-elf's cynical spirit. Tanie weighed her options silently. She really did not want any company, she would rather be left alone. She had much to do in two days' time.
"I know that you will not leave me be until I comply," she finally said, standing up with a sigh. "So, lead the way." Elrohir's attention was drawn to some movement by Tanie's feet. As she had stood up, a section of fabric held back by her legs had fallen out from underneath the bed. It was the flap of a knapsack. Elrohir stared at the flap, uncertain if his eyes were deceiving him. Tanie noticed his look and followed his gaze to the flap. She quickly kicked it out of sight and smiling, walked towards the door. Elrohir, realizing he had been caught, cleared his throat and turned away. As he did, his eyes ran across the far wall. He froze again as he encountered a vacant weapon's rack, where Tanie's father's knife usually hung. He glanced at Tanie, who was waiting expectantly in the doorway. Elrohir quickly shifted his gaze as if he had noticed nothing and walked out of Tanie's room ahead of her.
As she walked out behind him, he suddenly turned and grasped her wrist as she was pulling the door closed.
"Tanie. Promise me something...as a friend." Tanie turned and stared questioningly into his eyes. For a moment Elrohir was speechless as her beauty struck him, sending the surrounding world into a murky haze. The grey-green orbs of her eyes glittered in the lantern light, reminding him of the sea after a storm. Calm and peaceful, yet underneath filled with a deadly peril if any dare trespass into their depths. He longed to lose himself in her eyes, to plunge beneath the surface and delve its secrets. Her soft skin shone, making him long to reach out and touch it, to feel her silky smoothness yield to his embrace. He shut his eyes.
"Promise me," he continued with a choked voice, "that you will not do anything rash in defiance of my father's wishes. He sees you as his own daughter, and it would grieve him to know you would willingly deceive him."
Tanie laughed stiffly. "Whatever are you talking about, Elrohir?"
"Just promise me!" he answered fiercely, lifting his eyes to return Tanie's gaze. A strong sense of protectiveness filled his heart as he regarded the she-elf. A strange thought entered unbidden into his mind. "I would give my life for her." He was startled at his own thoughts. Tanie removed her hand from Elrohir's grip and placed her hand on his shoulder.
"I promise I will not do anything rash, Elrohir." She said with a smile, as if talking to an unduly worried elf-child. Elrohir's heart fluttered at the nearness of her touch.
He reached up and took her hand in his, giving it a little squeeze. "My heart is lightened to hear you say it."
Elladan ran his fingers through Ninque's now wavy hair one last time before quickly gathering it up and weaving it into one long braid. He stood and stretched his long legs. Ninque glanced upwards from her place on the floor. "You have yet to inform me of the reason for your visit, my lord."
"Ah yes," said Elladan offering her a hand. She grasped it and gracefully pulled herself upwards. "Prince Legolas requests a meeting with Elrohir, myself, you, and Tanie in my brother's apartments."
Ninque's smile disappeared quickly, giving way to anger and distaste. "I have no desire to speak to Legolas."
"But he is truly sorry! He has a proposition for you."
Ninque only glared at him and crossed her arms over her chest with a small pout. Her blue eyes glittered angrily, daring him to continue this argument. She blinked in surprise as Elladan started to... laugh? "What, pray, do you find so amusing, my lord?"
"You... he he he... are so... ha ha ha... adorable when you're angry!" Suddenly, Elladan sobered and took Ninque's arm firmly. "You have an appointment, m'lady. We should not keep them waiting any longer."
Ninque started to protest, then stopped we she realized that no matter how much she fought or argued, Elladan would find a way to get her to Elrohir's room, even if he had to carry her over his shoulder.
As he manouvered her down the halls to his brother's room. Elladan marveled at how well Ninque fit by his side. Her skirts swished softly against his robes with each step. She held her head high with a rather diplomatic smile pasted onto her face, though he could see her eyes smoldering.
Ninque was not at all pleased about being "escorted" through the halls, especially by a very eligible bachelor. Elladan was a dear friend, yes, and had been so since she was very young. But, he was 2,841 years old and she almost 2,500. Marrying age. She sighed inwardly. Elladan was by nature somewhat of a ladies' man, always "flirting". But he joked about everything and was almost never serious. Lord Elrond's son was well loved by all Imladris and was in a way immune to some of the taunts and teasing she had received from several maidens who were rather jealous of her familiarity with the twins. Ninque was not at all oblivious to the stares and whispers of several elves they passed and almost groaned thinking of the rumours she would have to deal with later.
Legolas had drapped himself in a large chair and propped his boots up on a small table. The meat he had been holding to his eye had long since ceased to be useful, and the Prince was presently throwing chunks of it to Elrohir's very appreciative hound. Tanie was glaring at Legolas in disgust, while Elrohir paced around the room, growing nervous at his brother's delay. "Do calm down, Elrohir," said Legolas, throwing the last piece of meat to Hala. The hound then promptly padded over to Tanie and placed his large head in her lap. "Your brother can be quite the charmer when he wants to be. I'm sure he will have no problems convincing Ninque."
"Ninque is not some giggling maiden that is easily charmed," muttered Tanie, absentmindedly stroking Hala's head.
"You can tell me that after Elladan appears with Ninque in tow." Legolas answered with a smile.
"She probably will not even open her door to him," returned Tanie with conviction.
"That's what I'm afraid of," retorted Elrohir. "Though I don't see why you aren't more concerned, Legolas. After all, it is your skin that is on the line."
Legolas grimaced slightly at this, but did not seem too worried. Elrohir continued his pacing.
"If Ninque does agree to attend this meeting, it will not be through the charms of Elladan. She will probably never listen to him again after his lie to her last night!"
Elrohir paused in his pacing. He was not aware of any deception on his brother's part! He turned and headed for the door. "I'm going to find them," he announced. Just as he was a few feet from the door, the handle turned and in walked Ninque as Elladan held the door open for her. Elrohir gave his brother an annoyed look.
Elladan smiled sheepishly, "I got... sidetracked." He nodded at Ninque's hair, which Elrohir noticed was free of pink ribbons.
"Well!" said Legolas pleasantly. "Now that we are all here, shall we begin?"
Ninque and Tanie nodded, trying their best to look disinterested.
"We have decided," continued Legolas, "to make a deal with you. In exchange for my safety, we will..." he paused grandly.
"What? Be our eternal servants?" asked Tanie sarcastically.
"Teach you how to wield weapons."
Both girls' jaws dropped in disbelief. They looked at each other, then Legolas, then the twins, who were grinning excitedly. With a loud "Whoop!" Tanie and Ninque jumped up and ran over to Legolas, smothering him with hugs. They then turned and threw their arms around each of the twins' necks, smiles of joy on their faces. As Tanie hugged Elrohir, she leaned close to his ear and whispered, "Now who is deceiving his father, my friend?" Elrohir only swallowed hard and avoided her gaze.
"You ladies go change your clothes," instructed Legolas.
"Then," continued Elladan, "Legolas will instruct Tanie with knives, while my brother shows Ninque the fine points of swordsmanship. I will keep watch on the training area, making sure no one disturbs us, and later I will show you both some fighting skills on horseback. Do we have an accord?"
"Agreed!" the girls yelled in unison, then both burst into laughter.
"And do you swear not to retaliate for the prank I was tricked into participating in?" Legolas questioned solemnly.
"Why, Legolas!" Tanie replied in surprise. "We would not even dream of taking revenge on you! We understand that it is not your fault that your will is too weak and your wit too dull to stand against these two masterminds!" She leaned over and playfully slugged Elrohir's shoulder.
Legolas' mouth dropped.
"But poor Estel." Ninque said sorrowfully, with a twinkle in her eye. "I am afraid his participation in this prank is unexcusable."
The twins and Legolas all glanced at each other. "Did you tell her?" Elrohir mouthed to his brother. Elladan shrugged and shook his head. Legolas held up his hands and shook his head as well.
Ninque smiled at the elves' confusion. "My dear friends! I used my own wits and common sense. Someone had to stay below and vault you three up and then stand watch! Am I right?"
"But any of us three could have done that and Estel might not be involved at all." Elrohir answered.
"Yes." Ninque said with a cunning smile. "But which one of you would have passed up the opportunity to...accessorize an innocent she-elf's hair? Hm?"
"So you would not have retaliated against me regardless?" Legolas asked incredulously, changing the somewhat embarrassing subject.
The she-elves both rolled their eyes. Tanie leaned over and whispered in Ninque's ear, "I see his wit has not improved much." Ninque giggled.
"Legolas, think of it this way. Because of this deal you and the twins have struck with us, the next prank will be just far enough in the future to not be considered retaliation."
"I am relieved." Legolas answered sarcastically.
The girls turned and headed for their rooms to change, leaving the trio wondering what they had gotten themselves in to.