Part Twenty Eight
Meranyn was bundled up in numerous white furs and relaxing luxuriously in a covered sleigh. It was quite enjoyable, and Legolas would often ride slowly next to her on his horse. They would flirt innocently, even though Meranyn knew it would have to be more than that soon. But she knew when it did happen that Legolas would do it out for spite for Analsiel, so she had to be a worthy candidate for his affections. Her plans were careful and calculating. But the fact that Analsiel would spurn Legolas was beyond question. So she had planned from there and was ready for anything.
Just then Legolas came up next her, as if thinking about him had summoned him. Meranyn quickly put on her prettiest smile, and laughed when he rode up.
“Legolas, one would judge by your behavior that you were coming on this trip not to visit the king’s newest castle but solely to break my poor, simple heart!” she said with a coy flick of her eyelashes.
Legolas smiled, as he often did at her coy little jokes. “Ah, lady, your heart is neither poor nor simple, but always as beautiful as your face.”
Meranyn made a blush rise in her cheeks. “It is the prettier for seeing you, Prince.”
Legolas bowed his head modestly. “Thank you lady. But in truth I had not come to make you prettier, but to tell you that we will be arriving at Lómaelin in minutes.”
“Thank you, Legolas,” she said sweetly. “I will ready myself.”
When Meranyn stepped out of her sleigh, her first impression was that her stay in her sister’s castle of Lómaelin would not be anything like her stay in Minas Tirith, or even in Edoras. The place was old, and primitive. But when she looked closer, she could see fires burning and tapestries hanging to keep everyone warm and cheery in the cold winter of Ithilien.
When Analsiel stepped out of the castle, her first impression was of the grandeur that was so far absent from her dear Lómaelin. Every sleigh was covered and there were several stock wagons, but mostly it was the impression that everything was well made and expensive.
Then she was fully outside and standing with all the ladies who had so far assembled in the courtyard. They were all a twitter with excitement, especially Lhunidil, who kept twitching the folds of her emerald green dress as nervously as if it were a restless puppy trying to get away from her. It had started to snow a few hours ago, so the courtyard was dusted with white powder, and it lent a look of magic to the place. Then a pair of snow-white horses pulled a white sleigh into the courtyard. An elf walked to the sleigh’s door, and opened it, holding out his hand for the being inside. That was Meranyn, of course.
She was wrapped in a white fur cloak and her pale hair was falling in graceful ringlets out from under the hood. Her blue eyes were the only spots of color on her whole body. She looked magnificent.
Analsiel was wearing her black cloak from all her journeys, as it had been washed and dried so many times as to look new. Her raven hair was tied in a veil of elegant knots on the top of her head, and a network of gold wire was twined into it. The rest of her hair flowed free. Her dress was hidden by the folds of the cloak. When she went forward to greet Meranyn, she realized how different they were. Meranyn, wrapped all in soft, plush white furs with pale face and hair, while Analsiel stood next to her in a travel-worn black cloak, black hair tumbling down around her.
All the ladies noticed as well, and out of a fierce pride for Analsiel, every one of them thought her the more beautiful of the two. Though perhaps Lhunidil’s opinion was colored by jealousy, for she alone had noticed that the Elf upon whose arm Meranyn leaned was Legolas.
Then a joyful cry erupted from Firnciliath. Firndil had dismounted from his horse, and she ran to him. Brother and sister embraced, and then all the women crowded around him. All except Lhunidil, who went straight Legolas. But when Analsiel came forward, all of them backed away, even Firnciliath.
Firndil smiled. “Hello, Lady,” he said.
All the tension in Analsiel’s face relaxed and she threw her arms around him in a display that even he was not expecting. Then she let go quickly, blushing like a rose. She smiled at Firndil, then spoke.
“I’m so glad you’re both here,” she said. “But my look-out told me that Legolas had come with you. Where is he?”
“Here, milady,” said Legolas, trying to keep the sourness out of his voice.
Analsiel blushed again at realizing that he had been right by her and she hadn’t even greeted him.
“Welcome to you all,” she said at last. “Come inside. You must be tired, and I think you’re rooms are ready. Then when you’re ready, we will all have dinner.”
The group went inside, a mass of dark cloaks and colorful hair. But Analsiel was the last one, and she slipped on a patch of ice. She wasn’t wearing the special winter boots her aunt had sent her for a Midwinter gift, so she had no traction to help her keep her balance. She went down with a crash and just managed to save her dress by slipping her coat under it. But all the same, she landed painfully on her knees.
Kneeling there, she sank down and put her head in her hands. Her joy at seeing Firndil was truly real, but all her calm and composure had been faked when she greeted Meranyn and Legolas. She had had no idea that those two were interested in each other. And they had been here for only a few minutes and she had already upset Legolas. Nothing had even happened, and this visit was already slipping down smooth ice.
Analsiel was outside a few hours later, standing on the ramparts. She still had on Lhunidil’s gown, but her hair was flowing freely now, and it reached a good six inches past her waist. She stood facing the wind, so all winter breezes of Ithilien blew in her face. She thought perhaps she’d get sick later, but at that moment it didn’t matter.
What she was thinking about was how only a few months before she had stood on a balcony in Mirkwood and Firndil had come up to her, and he had had kissed her. She closed her eyes to remember the sweetness of that moment.
But Firndil was thinking of it too. She felt him come up behind her even before he spoke.
“Analsiel?” he said softly.
She turned around and smiled. “Yes?”
He came closer to her, and finally took her in his arms. Analsiel sighed softly and leaned against him. They stood for a while, keeping each other warm, and watching the snow fall.
“Legolas, this letter from Aragorn says you will stay until you deem that it is alright to leave. That is all well and good, but why are you here in the first place? And why were you inspecting my storerooms, and bedrooms, and armory without permission to even be there?”
Legolas sighed. Analsiel had stormed into his room as he was contemplating the situation bearing the letter her had from Aragorn for her and a grim expression. She had been asking about what the letter meant for several minutes now.
“Milady, I assure I don’t know all the king’s thoughts. If I did, I would happily explain-“
“Don’t lie to me!” hissed Analsiel. “You begged to come here! You wanted to `inspect’ my work here! Look at you, you didn’t even bring extra soldiers and your supplies are useless. I may talk to Aragorn about this, but I’m sure he would not have sent you here if you hadn’t asked!” Analsiel voice escalated to a shout that could be heard all down the corridor. When Meranyn heard it, she slipped out of her room to hear the rest of the conversation.
“Analsiel, be quiet,” growled Legolas angrily. “The whole castle can hear you!”
“I DON’T CARE IF THEY HEAR ME!” she screamed, her voice getting louder and shriller with every word. Then she quieted abruptly, but her soft tone was worse than any of her screaming had been. “Now, you can either pack yourselves up and leave, or you can stay as my guests. Either way, I never want to hear about you inspecting my castle again.”
And with a last defiant glance, she whirled out of the room.
Meranyn skipped away just in time to look as if she had been heading towards the stairs. But Analsiel was not fooled, and just grimaced in disgust. “You can have him now, if you want him,” she said, jerking her head back towards Legolas’s room. “You and Lhunidil can fight over him till one of you dies.”
Then she ran down the stone steps and out into the courtyard. Meranyn realized her chance and took it.
She stepped into Legolas room without knocking. “Legolas?” she said softly.
“Come in, Meranyn,” he said.
“Are you alright?” She was pretending, but what he needed to hear from her was sympathy, so she would give it.
“Yes, but I’m having some problems with the lady here. Your sister is very stubborn.”
“Oh, let’s not talk about her,” said Meranyn, pouting a little. “I have come to ask you about something else. I thought, since winter here is so picturesque, I might talk to Analsiel about a sort of winter picnic. I brought some lovely things with me, and she might do it to celebrate midwinter. It’s worth a try and I was just wondering if you thought she would accept it?”
“Well, it’s always worth a try. It can’t hurt and it might help. So why don’t you ask her.”
“Oh, I’m glad you approve,” said Meranyn. “I think I’ll ask her now.”
“You’re so different from her, Meranyn. Your foster-mother made an excellent choice adopting you.”
Meranyn blushed prettily. “Thank you, Legolas. That means so much to me coming from you.”
Then she left, feeling as if she had won a greater battle than Analsiel ever had.