Chapter Two: A Walk to Remember
Legolas was just ahead of her, as his strides were a tad bit longer than her own, and she was battling her dress with a vengence. No matter how hard she tried, it always seemed to find SOME way to trip her. Legolas rounded the corner and stopped short, nearly falling himself as the female skidded into him. Not bothering to be cross, he slipped around the corner and gently poked a lady that stood near the gates. “Arwen? Hi! Can you let us in?”
The lady turned, and Laureli nearly fainted. Her hair was as black as ebony, yet as shiny as silk. It fell in dark ringlets that cast off the sun in all the colors of the spectrum. And her eyes! They were like two sapphires that had been polished to perfection, leaving little to do except find a good place for them. Her face was very fair, but more beautiful than she’d thought possible. This must be Elrond’s daughter, she mused as the friendly smile was turned on her. “Of course, Prince Legolas. Did you lose track of time?”
“No. But the Lady Laureli has no room as of yet, and she was suppossed to keep to it!” His voice was a hissing whisper. The princess’ eyes darkened in alarm.
“Come along then, both of you. We must be swift,” she said, taking one of Laureli’s hands and half dragging her into the palace. Looking once each way, she darted inside and led the pair up a flight of steps, then to the left. She paused in front of one door. “Legolas, you’ll stay here”, she said, opening the door and pushing him inside, then slamming the door shut. She continued to drag Laureli behind her.
“Quickly, now. We must get you to your room.” She opened a door and led the other inside. It was enchanting, with lovely touches of soft white and a soft bed. Arwen turned to her. “You’ll sleep here. Now, we must do something about your dress, and your hair… You came with Legolas, did you not?”
Laureli flushed a deep pink. “Well… I came part of the way with him… sort of…” She trailed off, making the Evenstar laugh softly.
“You think him attractive, do you not? Come now, it’s just us here. I saw the look in your eye. You fancy him. And he fancies you. Which is why, my dear, you are going to change into something more fitting for a lady than that frock. Then we will go for a walk in the gardens, and we shall talk and learn more about each other, no?” She said it all in such a friendly fasion, making Laureli relax. Nodding, she was about to answer when Arwen went on. “Now, dear, you are very fair, with hair as gold as the sun… How about this dress?” She had gone to a large wooden wardrobe and pulled out a pale yellow dress. It had a full-length skirt, a fitted waist and a swoop to the neck. But, even at a glance, she knew it was made of a finer material than the one she wore, and she nodded gladly. Arwen steered her behind a dressing shade, then waited. And, while she waited, she listened to Laureli.
“The prince of Mirkwood seems very nice, but there is an allofness in him that I couldn’t understand. The only time it left was when I sang. Do you know why, princess?” She had finished changing and stepped out. The dress was a perfect length for her, and it looked wonderful on her. The color accentuated her features perfectly, and it was hard not to smile.
“The color is perfect on you, Lady. Now, about the prince and your singing… Well… He’s always been aloof, but there is more than meets the eye. I was once bethrothed to him, but my heart belongs to another, and nothing would come of it. Legolas has never really gotten over it I guess. What were you singing?”
“A song about a broken heart, and how far the distance is between it and others. Why?” The revelation startled her, but it all began to make sense. He had tapped the princess’ shoulder like he knew her well, and she had acted like an old friend. But that aloof streak had returned when he’d hailed her. Why? Was it possible that Laureli could help ease his pain?
Arwen seemed to notice the look in Laureli’s eyes, as she instantly smiled and walked over. To the surprise of the other, the princess gently took her hand. “For an instant, I saw true release in Legolas’ eyes, something I haven’t seen there in many years. I was sorry that he lapsed into his usual stoic self, quiet and dignified. Why, while my heart was his, he was reckoned as one of the finest in this realm, or any other! Keep him laughing, Laureli. If anyone deserves it, it’s him,” she said it in a soft, sincere voice. A voice that could not be lying, nor speaking anything but the truth. A tentive smile crossed Laurel’s face.
“I’ll try, my Lady, but I cannot promise that he will laugh. He is a prince, and I’m lower than a commoner. There is no future for him with me, but I will make him happy if you desire it,” she spoke as she brushed out her long hair. Unable to decide what to do to her hair, she was surprised when the Evenstar circled over and gently split her hair into sections.
“If you try, you will succeed. Now, my dear, let’s do something with your hair. Hmm… how about a half-bun?” She toyed with Laureli’s gilded hair gently, bringing it into a lovely bun, though some of her silky tresses still fell past her shoulders. Pushing the girl an arm’s length away, she gently surveyed her handiwork. “Perfect… just perfect. Wait until the prince sees you now, Lady Laureli! You’ll be the envy of many. Come now! My father has returned, and we shall go for a walk in his gardens,” she smiled before she started to walk, leaving Laureli no choice but to follow.
They stole out of the room like shadows, making no sound. Past Legolas’ door they moved with grace, but he obviously had expected them. He strode out of the shadows, gently taking Laureli’s hand and kissing it. “You look delightful. As always, I am charmed, Lady.”
She felt the blush rising into her cheeks, and she looked at her hand where he’d kissed it. He was so handsome, yet charming. For an instant she wanted to throw caution to the wind and lean against him, but the next instant reason had returned. She stood back and dropped into a curtsy. “Thank you, my lord. It is a pleasure to be so well met.” Her smile lit up her features, making her nearly irristable.
“Yes, indeed it is, Lady. But I must go in search of Elladan and Elrohir, if they are here. Excuse me, ladies,” he said, stepping past. But as he did, however, his arm brushed against Laureli’s, heating her blood almost instantly. Arwen had started to call after him, but then stopped, seeing the other’s expression of wonder and delight.
“That’s not the first time he’s bumped into people, Lady,” there was a teasing lilt to the princess’ voice, and Laureli flushed crimson at her words. She knew it was true, but she couldn’t help but be aware that he had stood so close to her. Her eyes were betraying her, and Arwen quickly took her hand and tugged her into a small clearing.
“Come now, Laureli. You have feelings for him, don’t you? You long for him, and would give anything for him. I know, yes… for I’m in the same predicament.”
“YOU? But… You’re a princess! How is it possible that you cannot have what your heart desires?” Laureli’s eyes had gone fairly wide with shock. What did a princess know of true love? If Laureli could think straight, most princess’ were married off to rich suitors, or to keep the peace in a kingdom. That Arwen could fathom her feelings was commendable, and she sat in silence, waiting.
“My father loves me, perhaps more than my two brothers. For many long years, I’ve obeyed his every whim… but I fell in love with someone who I perhaps shouldn’t have. My father took in a small child years ago, and that child was raised by us, as close as a brother to me. When he took to wandering, I hadn’t seen him in many a year. However, when he returned, my heart leapt within my chest and I knew that I loved him. But, sadly, he is a mortal. To be with him, I must in truth give up my immortality, something my father does not wish me to do. You are the lucky one, Laureli. You and your love can live together until the sun refuses to rise again. As for me, I cannot. But it is not a difficult decision, in the name of love.”
Until now, Laureli had thought perhaps that Arwen didn’t wish to wed anyone, but now she could understand. It was a tremendous decision to give up her immortality, and her pain was near to Laureli’s heart. She saw the sudden keen look upon the princess’ face, and she spun to look. A tall man paced upon Lord Elrond’s heels, and the shining joy upon the Evenstar’s face told Laureli that this was the man who held the lady’s heart. A slow smile broke out across the golden-haired elf’s face. “Who is he?”
“Estel,” Arwen replied in a near-whisper. She didn’t seem to notice Laureli now, and she turned her strides towards the palace, leaving Laureli alone. Not that she minded, for she watched Legolas gently mount his horse and put the lovely creature through his paces. His gentle, but firm commands stirred no ill-temper in the horse, and when he’d given the horse a good trot he dismounted and led it to the stable, smiling in contentment. He looked so careless for a moment that Laureli almost hailed him. Before she could, however, he called her by name.
“Laureli, my lady!” He called it to her as he came closer at a trotting gait, his shining locks flowing behind him with grace. He arrived at her side within seconds, his whole countenence seeming to shine. He too notice that she was alone, and then realised he’d been caught from the look in Laureli’s eye. “They aren’t here… I checked. So, instead, I took my mount out for a good swing. He’s a good horse, Dae is! I never wish to mount a pleasanter creature in all my days.”
This brought a vague smile to her lips. “Well… he IS a lovely horse, with such a fine spirit that I’m shocked you could name him shadow. I suppose I could forgive you,” there was a hint of laughter about her, and wicked amusement grew in her partner’s eyes.
“Is that so? For what fee, may I ask?”
“Oh, no fee, my dear prince. Just, perhaps, you could spare a moment to tell me more about that “Gollum” creature you spoke of.”
A shadow passed over his face, but he quickly gained control of it, with obvious effort. His jaw had suddenly become very tense, making all the muscles stand out, and his eyes had darkened in the tiniest bit of alarm. Suddenly he looked very weary and tired, worn out by something. But his voice was as clear as ever. “Yes, my lady. I’ll tell you anything, but, I beg of you, don’t take any of this to heart. What do you wish to know about him?”
“Everything,” she whispered in finality, sitting down and tucking her knees to her chin. He slipped down beside her and made himself comfortable before he plunged into his store of knowledge.