“Good evening, my dear brother.” Elladan smiled, his grin half cocked in a satisfied expression as he drew near Elrohir and flopped down beside him. Within one hand, he held a wine glass, half full, and in the other a full glass which he pushed into his brother’s hand. “Why this gloomy expression on such a fine night?”
Elrohir’s jaw tightened and he glanced away from the dance floor where couples had been swirling in time to the light, quick pace of the musicians tucked away against the far wall. With scowling eyes he surveyed the contented expression upon his brother’s face before his eyes dropped to the dark red liquid in the glass his brother had handed him, swirled it thoughtfully and muttered, “Father dismissed the regular stable hands.”
“Ah, so you were given the task of cleaning out the stables all by yourself.” Elladan asked smoothly, taking a thoughtful sip from his own glass, before glancing up and away toward a corner where two maidens stood, watching them from a distance as if they were terribly interested in what the twins might be talking about.
“Yes.” He seethed through his teeth, following his brother’s gaze. Both girls were rather pretty, Elrohir admitted to himself, one fair haired and dressed in soft green while the other was darker haired and adorned in a wine colored gown. At his gaze, the girls twittered excitedly like a pair of little birds, and the fair haired maiden turned to the other, whispering something hurriedly into her ear which the second maiden smiled at.
Elladan lifted one eyebrow in thoughtful contemplation, then turned to his brother, leaned closer, and sniffed tentatively.
“Do not fear.” Elrohir grumbled, shoving Elladan in the shoulder. “I’ve bathed thoroughly.”
“I wonder then,” Elladan smirked, clearly enjoying himself, “why all the maidens seem to be shunning you.”
“Perhaps, brother,” Elrohir breathed as a slow sneer spread across his face, “it is my hideous, orcish looks.”
Elladan’s smile endured a moment longer before he realized what his twin had said, and quickly his smile fell from his face.
“Ah, Elladan,” Elrohir breathed in a soothing tone, “let us not quarrel on such a fine night as this. Do you not see Lalaith? She is completely recovered from the ordeal this morning that we-,”
“You-,” Elladan shot in.
“put her through.” Continued Elrohir, taking a casual sip from his glass. He nodded at the fair haired maiden, the Prince of Mirkwood beside her, as the pair danced among the other couples. A smile as bright and gentle as starlight rested upon her face, while within her eyes rested unfathomable joy as she gazed up at Legolas as he led her in gracefully around the room, swirling now, near and past the two brothers.
Much of Elladan’s ire with his twin melted away as he saw her happiness, and a smile slowly found its way back to his face. She was attired in a light gown of soft sky blue that seemed to float about her as she danced, and her long golden hair was adorned with a crown of flowers, one which Legolas had more than likely woven together for her, himself.
“She looks happy, does she not?” Elrohir urged.
“She’s happy,” Elladan murmured, his voice now low and conspiratorial, “because Legolas is here.”
“True enough.” Elrohir agreed in a soft voice that had grown suddenly serious. “And I begin to suspect what Father has believed all along.”
“Indeed.” Elladan murmured, equally as sober. “It is but a matter of time, and they will discover it for themselves.”
“I wish them well.” Elrohir said, his tone reflective.
Elladan glanced sideward at his brother. A thoughtful glint was growing within Elrohir’s eyes as he watched Lalaith, content and happy, within Legolas’ arms. A whisper of a smile crossed Elladan’s lips at this, for he saw now, that in spite of Elrohir’s pranks, and his relentless teasing, in his heart, he truly cared for the maiden who was not theirs by blood, but was as dear as Arwen was to them. Like Elladan, Elrohir wanted nothing short of her happiness.
“Come, brother.” Elladan said with a deep breath, clapping his brother upon the shoulder, and rising to his feet, drawing Elrohir up with him. “Too selfish have the sons of Elrond been, conversing with none but each other, unwilling to impart their appealing charms upon the fairer sex.”
At this, Elrohir chuckled aloud, and trading a roguish grin with Elladan, the brothers set off toward the two maidens who had been watching them, and who fairly beamed at their approach.
Legolas closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath, savoring the taste of the cool night air as he walked hand in hand with Lalaith along an earthen path through the shade of the scented gardens beneath the soft light of the stars. The silent whisper of the falls surrounded them as they walked, and even with his eyes closed, he could feel the cool light of the stars upon his face. Opening his eyes again, he studied them, and quietly marveled, certain that they seemed to shimmer even more brilliantly than usual. But then perhaps it was because of Lalaith’s closeness that so many things seemed so much more beautiful than usual, and the entire world seemed in harmony. Her fingers, woven through his, were warm, and her hair was soft and cool where her head rested against his shoulder catching the light of the stars upon it as they walked, and the scent of the spring flowers woven within the crown upon her hair was heady in his nostrils.
The night was late, far into the early morning hours. The singing and music coming from the Hall of Fire somewhere above them was fading, for the merry-makers were at last growing weary and the dancing and music were slowing and fading. Lalaith herself was exhausted, Legolas could tell. And he knew well why. All night, they had danced together, and Lalaith had refused to rest even when he had cajoled her, and even now, she had been convinced reluctantly to leave the Hall and walk among the gardens only because Legolas had set aside his manly pride, and had insisted that it was he who could not dance another step.
He smiled to himself, remembering their day together before the feast. How he had rested in utter contentment upon her lap, listening as she read aloud, not so much to the words she read as much as to the softened notes of her voice, musical even in the somber tones of plain speech. And when her reading was done, they had simply sat in silence together, hand in hand upon the balcony that Elrond had once shared with his own lady, gazing out upon the fair beauty of the valley. There they had remained all day together in companionable silence, content to drink in the gaze of both the valley and each other as they sat. The balustrade, Legolas remembered, had been entwined through with a flowering vine of small white blooms, and from this he had plucked enough of the tender blossoms to weave into a crown for her fair head. Lalaith had smiled watching but saying nothing as he worked, and when at last he was done, she had accepted it with graceful gratitude. It was with reluctance that they parted at last as evening approached.
And then the time of the feast had arrived. It had been truly magnificent, with the best wines, the choicest meats, and the sweetest fruits. Yet it all paled in comparison to Lalaith’s beauty, seated beside him, whose eyes were ever fixed adoringly upon his own, and whose golden head was adorned with the crown of flowers he had woven for her.
She wore a gown of soft sky blue, the color bewitchingly matching her eyes, to which Legolas found his gaze ever drawn. That she would choose him, and no other to dance with, was a fortune Legolas had never imagined he could obtain beyond the secret wishes of his dreams. Yet he it was from whom Lalaith refused to be separated. And now, they walked together, weary but happy, beneath the light of the diamond stars.
A soft sound broke from Lalaith’s lips, bringing him from his thoughts, and he turned his face to see a soft yawn breaking from her mouth, which she tried in vain to hide.
“Lalaith, you are beyond fatigued.” Legolas murmured.
“No, no.” Lalaith insisted as she shook her head, pressing a hand to her mouth. “Not at all.” Her head slumped heavily against his shoulder.
“Come Lalaith,” he implored at last, drawing her toward a stone bench set beside the path. “Come and sit. Rest a moment.”
Thankfully, she did not argued to this as he drew her down beside him, and gently eased her head against his shoulder, marveling at how contented her presence made him feel. Her soft, sky blue gown whispered quietly as she settled beside him, and her long unbound hair, garlanded with the cheerful crown of new spring flowers he had made for her brushed cool against his cheek.
“Oh, Legolas,” she sighed, her voice heavy with sleep “I will never fully understand why you are so kind to me. But I suppose I need not understand. I am simply glad you are my friend.” Her golden head shifted, and Legolas turned his head, glancing downward as she smiled a weary, sleepy smile up at him.
“I love you.” She whispered, before settling again against his shoulder, and fading quietly into her dreams.
Legolas’ heart felt as if it had almost stopped in his chest. He stared down at her, perplexed as to why her words had caused such a wonderfully confusing sensation within him. For this was not the first time she had so openly declared such a strong emotion in his favor. Many times before, from the time she had been a child, rosy cheeked, no higher than the length of an arrow, she had confessed affection for him, using the very word love as she used it now. How many times before in her life had she told him those very words in friendship and sweet childish gratitude? He could not count them all. But never until now, had the utterance of such words caused such a joyful disturbance to his mind and heart.
And as he gazed at her beneath the light of the stars, the every whispering falls serenading them softly in the distance, a realization settled quietly upon him.
His arm about her slim shoulders moved softly with her every breath, and tightened gently as he gazed down into her star speckled eyes that were focused contentedly off at nothing. The realization came as gently and as expectedly as the gradual sunrise that he knew would come in only a few short hours, it had been but a matter of time, for the seed had been within his heart all along, and only now, did it finally burst gloriously into flower.
“Lalaith,” he murmured softly, but she did not stir.
Brushing her smooth brow with his lips, he circled his free arm about her, drew her warm, unresisting form closer until his brow rested softly against her own, and whispered, “I love you, too.”
And as he spoke these words to the slumbering maiden, he knew in that moment that all that he was, indeed all his life and world, was changed forever. For his heart was his own, no longer.