“All right then,” said Legolas, “tomorrow at sunrise. I’ll be there. Thank you for inviting me into your home, Lady Elarinya and Sir Rinion.” He gestured to the messenger that it was time to leave. He bowed before Elarinya, then left the house. Elarinya watched him mount his horse and ride away through the window. `Maybe this could work out after all,’ she thought.
Valadhiel entered the kitchen. She heard the hoof beats getting farther and farther away.
“Was that who I think I was?” she asked Aranethon, who was eating an apple that Elarinya brought home.
“Who do you think it was?” asked Aranethon. He smile was erased from his face as Valadhiel glared at him with the possibility of death in her eyes. “Yes, it was Legolas. He’s getting married soon. I talked to him as he was leaving and he says that his future wife is like the Goddess of the Moon. In fact, she’s traveling with him to Elven Halls tomorrow at sunrise.”
“Who is this maiden that he loves so much?” asked Valadhiel. `Because it must be me, me, ME!’ she thought.
“Oh, she’s a girl from the village.” Valadhiel pinched his ear and pulled it. “Ow!” shouted Aranethon. “That hurt!”
“And I’ll do it again if you don’t tell me who this maiden is,” threatened Valadhiel. Arathenon held up a half-eaten apple in mock-defense.
“Don’t kill me, Valadhiel!” he said while trying to hold back a smile. “If you want to know, just ask Ada or Elarinya.” Valadhiel ruffled his hair.
“That’s the brother I know and love,” she said as she shoved the apple in his mouth. She hurried up the stairs to her room. Elarinya was sitting on her bed reading the note that fell from her dress. Valadhiel snatched the note from her sister’s hands.
“Ooh, a love note. From Maldor, I presume?” Elarinya stood up and struggled to get it from her sister’s grasp, for Valadhiel was taller than she was.
“Give it back, Valadhiel! That’s none of your business!” Valadhiel stretched one arm out to keep her from getting the note back. Her eyes widened as she read it.
“You?!” she exclaimed. “You are his future wife?!” She shoved the note back into her hands. “Why, you pointy-eared, little…” she said as raised her fist to beat her sister. Elarinya drew her katana and held it up in defense.
“Back, Valadhiel! This sword is so sharp that it can split its own sheath! I’m sure that it can easily cut your long locks as well.” Valadhiel lowered her fist and placed her hands on her head to protect her hair.
“I didn’t know that Elves drew weapons so willingly as you,” remarked Valadhiel. Elarinya slipped the sword back into its sheath.
“Because I am Elven is not why I draw weapons, Valadhiel,” she said. “Naneth and Ada are not Elven, and neither are you and Aranethon. But that does not matter. I care not if I am. And you don’t actually believe that I would cut your hair, do you?” She pulled her dresses down from the rod on which they hung and shoved them into a wooden chest. “I’m leaving for Elven Halls tomorrow on business for Ada. It’s all for the safety and well-being of our village, honest.” She folded her hunting garbs carefully and placed them on top of her dresses. “I can come back whenever I want and need to, so I’ll visit you and Aranethon and Ada and Naneth as much as possible.” She took down her wedding dress and carefully wrapped it in her dark green cloak from Rivendell. She placed it beside her hunting clothes and placed her bow and arrows on top of it. By that time, she had already packed everything of hers except for the dress she was wearing and her books, yet it was only half-full. She gathered her books on history and Elvish and put them in the chest. The last books on the shelf were her storybooks filled with elvish tales and songs, such as the tale of Beren and Luthien. Valadhiel crossed her arms across her chest and pouted.
`It’s not fair,’ she thought. `I should be packing my things and moving out, not her. I’m the oldest, I have the most seniority here!’ It was as if Elarinya read her thoughts.
“Valadhiel,” she began, “I am not going because I want to. Legolas chose me, thanks to Maldor’s portrait.” She reached up and fingered the rose on her necklace that Maldor gave her. Valadhiel gathered Elarinya’s storybooks and shoved them into her chest. She closed it and locked it. She shoved the key into Elarinya’s free hand.
“Here you go. Enjoy your new life as a princess, because once you dive in, there’s no way to get out.”
Elarinya woke up from an uneasy sleep long before the sun rose. She rubbed her eyes and glanced around the room. Her once-full bookshelf was now bare and her dress rod was free of her clothes. `That’s right,’ she thought. `I’m leaving today.’ She crawled out of bed and stumbled over her sister’s slippers. Her body hit the floor with a dull thud as she tried to catch herself.
“Ow,” she said quietly. She stood up and brushed herself off. Elarinya made her way to the chest without nearly killing herself on Valadhiel’s many pairs of slippers in her path. The key managed to stay in her hand despite her fall, and she slipped the head into the lock. To her surprise, it was unlocked. Elarinya lifted the lid to find her hunting clothes missing as well as her bow and arrows. Her wedding dress was shoved at the very bottom as if it were a filthy rag beneath her other dresses. Elarinya was filled with frustration when she couldn’t find her hunting gear anywhere in her chest. She searched the room careful as to not wake up Valadhiel, but still didn’t find it. She silently walked with bare feet to Aranethon’s room down the hall. He was still asleep in his bed, mouth open and one foot hanging over the edge. She glanced around his room. She only saw her brother’s unstrung bow and resting arrows leaning against the wall, but hers were no where in sight. As she turned to leave, she tripped on the hem of her nightgown and fell to the floor again.
Aranethon did not awaken, only stir a little. Elarinya quickly got up and walked back to her room. The sun had nearly risen, yet it was cloaked by the clouds. She decided that she could always borrow some of Legolas’s old clothes when she got there. `I’m sure that Legolas still has some old clothes that I could use,’ she thought. His name no longer tasted bitter on her tongue when she spoke it aloud or in her thoughts.
Elarinya swapped her nightgown for a white dress similar to her wedding dress and placed a silver circlet on her head. Silver ribbon laced the bodice and cascaded down her arms when she wore it. It had a tear-shaped sapphire dangling in place of a beaded moon and was surrounded by light blue beads. Elarinya treasured this dress because her true mother, her Elven mother, had worn this in Rivendell on her own wedding day.
The memory of her Elven mother brought Elarinya great sorrow, for she had seen her mother perish as a young child. All she could remember of her mother now was her laugh and her loving face. Elarinya shook her head to rid her mind of the vision of her mother’s stone-cold body lying on her bed, no breath passing her lips. Elarinya fingered the sapphire as if she were a small child fascinated with such a treasure. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of pounding hooves coming closer to her house. Elarinya slipped on her sky-blue slippers and hurried down the stairs with her chest in hand and her katana at her waist. She rested by the table opened the door to a smiling Prince Legolas and his weary messenger, Habriston. Habriston came inside and carried out her chest. Legolas bowed and kissed her hand.
“Lady Elarinya,” he said as he gazed in awe at the beauty before him, “you look absolutely beautiful this morning.” Elarinya blushed. A small lock of hair strayed from behind her ear. Legolas pushed it back behind her ear and placed a pale blue cloak on her shoulders. “Come,” he said. “The road to Elven Halls is long and I have an errand in Rivendell. If we leave as soon as possible, we will reach Elven Halls by early evening.” Elarinya quickly wrote two letters-one for her family, the other for Maldor-and left them on the table. She drew her hood and mounted Legolas’s horse.
“Lady,” he said, “it would be more suitable that I control the horse,” he began. Elarinya did not move, but got into one of her stubborn moods.
“Excuse me, Master Legolas,” she said, “but do you believe that I can’t ride properly?! If so, then I will prove you wrong. I am not like most women whom you have met. I have better abilities than most men do,” she boasted, patting her katana. “And if you don’t believe me, I will once again prove to you what I can do.” Legolas could tell that there would be no end to this if they kept going. He sighed and mounted behind her.
“You are a stubborn one,” he said, “just as Morwen had said.” The mention of her mother’s name pierced her heart. She held a hand to her chest. At the mention of her mother’s name, it seemed as though the sky grieved for her, for it began to rain. Legolas drew his hood over his head. Elarinya whispered a command softly into the horse’s ear. The great horse snorted and began to trot with a small touch of her legs on his sides. Legolas was impressed by her abilities on horseback, for many of the maidens he had met were not as skilled as she was. Elarinya nudged the horse a little more and they were going at a jog down the road. The village was still busy although it was raining. A pair of dwarves selling fine jewelry and small weapons raised their fists in victory as they rode by.
“Finally,” one said to the other, but loud enough for Elarinya to hear, “the last of the Elves are leaving this poor village. We could do without those pesky beasts in these parts.” They both laughed heartily at his acrimonious remark. Elarinya knew better to ignore them than to listen to their snide comments, but Legolas thought otherwise.
He pulled back gently on the horse’s mane and stopped right in front of the dwarves. “Is this how you treat the leader’s daughter, Master Dwarves?” he asked. “Laughing and poking your fingers at her? I don’t think you would have been doing so when she saved your lives last year when the orcs attacked.” His remarks left both dwarves silent and with bowed heads. Legolas urged the horse forward and they started up again on their journey. Elarinya spoke not a single word to him until they had left the village.
“Legolas,” she said as they crossed the village borders, “there are times when you need to let things like that go. I’ve heard some pretty rude comments from them in past years and I don’t need you to barge in like that when I have chosen to ignore them.” So far, Elarinya had challenged Legolas several times and they hadn’t even gone far from the village. Legolas cursed himself in his head, wondering what he got himself into. Elarinya disliked his silence and began asking him questions.
“How did you know about the attack last year?” Legolas emerged from his thoughts.
“Sir Rinion told me about you when I visited yesterday,” he answered. “How did you, an Elf from Rivendell, end up in a small village with a family of mortals?” Elarinya paused for a minute, like she was trying to remember something.
“My father perished in battle when I was a small child. My mother was a maidservant who also had to help the Lady Celebrian tend to her young as well as my own needs. That’s all I know. The rest was never told to me.” She stopped the horse so that they could rest a little. Elarinya jumped down from the horse before Legolas could help her.
“Who told you all this?” he asked her.
“Simple; the twins told me,” replied Elarinya as she pulled back her hood. The last gentle drops of rain kissed her face. She removed her slippers and ran barefoot through the grass with her arms outstretched, her cloak flowing behind her. “Come on, Legolas!” she shouted, her voice filled with laughter. Her clasp came loose and her cloak slipped off her shoulders to a heap on the ground. Legolas walked over and picked it up. She ran past him and he grabbed her hand. Elarinya felt him pulling her closer. Legolas placed the cloak back on her shoulders and kissed her forehead.
“Come,” he said. “It’s not much farther to Rivendell, but there is a great deal of travel between there and my home.” He took her hand again and they walked side by side back to the horses. Habriston had fallen asleep beside his horse and was snoring loudly. Legolas tapped him lightly with the tip of his boot. Habriston awoke with a start, scrambling to stand at attention.
“Sorry, Sir,” he said. “You and the Lady seemed to be doing fine, so I thought I would catch some shut-eye.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry for, Habriston.” Legolas picked up Elarinya’s slippers and handed them to her. “You may want these, malady,” he said. Elarinya slipped them back on.
“Legolas before we go, I want to race you.”
“I said I want to race you. I told you that I would prove what I can do and I will.” Elarinya mounted Habriston’s horse. Legolas laughed.
“You should have been more wise in your choice, Elarinya. My horse is the fastest in all of Mirkwood.”
“We’ll just have to see about that. First one to that large tree over there wins.” The two lined up their horses. Habriston raised his arms and they were off. Legolas’ horse was indeed fast and Elarinya had a hard time keeping up with him. The beating of the horse’s hooves merged with the beating of her heart. She and the horse seemed to become one with each other as they gained on Legolas. Elarinya passed Legolas and left him behind coughing on the dust that her horse kicked up. She reached the tree first and cried out in victory,
“I told you I could do it! I told you!” Legolas came riding up, his horse’s sides heaving from the effort.
“You were just lucky this time,” he teased. He slid off his horse and took Elarinya down from hers. He picked a white rose from nearby and gave it to her. Elarinya blushed at his gesture.
“Hannon le,” she said, cupping the blossom in her hands. The sweet scent of the rose filled her nostrils. The scent was entrancing. Elarinya felt Legolas’s lips brush her cheek. Elarinya turned away from him.
“We should be going. It’s getting late,” she said. Legolas grasped her hand.
“Look at me. Elarinya,” he said. Elarinya obediently followed his command and turned around to face him. “Don’t be afraid to fall in love, Elarinya. It’s all right. Love’s not a crime to be committed, but a privilege to be given.” Legolas hugged her tightly. Elarinya pushed him away.
“I understand what love is, Master Legolas, and I’m not afraid of it,” she protested. She hurriedly walked to her horse.
“Then what do you fear?” His question stopped her in her tracks.
“Nothing,” she lied. Elarinya hoisted herself onto the horse’s back. “If you’re as clever as they say,” she challenged, “why don’t you figure it out?” She rode back to where Habriston stood, the white blossom at Legolas’s feet. Legolas stooped to retrieve it. It lay limp in his hands with a petal falling off.