Moonlight filtered in steadily through the open window, softly illuminating the youthful face of four-year-old Estel who lay sleeping soundly amidst the silk coverlets, his tiny chest rising and falling with deep, even breaths. The fever had broken sometime during the night as Elrond had said, leaving the child weak and exhausted.
An owl hooted dolefully in the distance as a light rain fell from the sky, splashing noisily onto the marble-paved courtyard, echoing solemnly through the silent valley. A solitary figure stood on the balcony adjacent to the room, leaning heavily upon the cool balustrade. He threw back his head, drinking in the fresh morning air as if he had long been starved of oxygen, the drops of rain tumbling down his cheeks like unchecked tears.
Legolas withdrew from the spot, returning to the candlelit interior of the room, turning his attention to the maiden who lay sleeping on the chair next to the huge bed, her open, glazed eyes fixed intently upon the face of her brother, Estel, protective of him even in slumber. Smiling, the Prince stooped and lifted Lithôniel easily into his arms, as though she weighed no more than a child. The slight movement was enough to rouse her, however, and she blinked her eyes, at last focusing her attention upon her betrothed.
“Legolas!” she whispered so as not to wake the Human, who sighed and shifted in his sleep but did not open his eyes. She slipped her arms around his neck nonetheless, and continued: “what in the name of Elbereth do you think you are doing?”
“‘T’is nearly morning,” he returned quietly, making his way to the door and opening it with his foot soundlessly, as his arms were full. “You should be in your bed.”
“As should you,” she laughed, catching him off-hand. Lithôniel paused, and looked over Legolas’ shoulder to the room they had just left. “But what about Estel? Who will watch over him?”
“He will be fine,” the Prince assured. “You have watched over him all night – you need your rest.”
Lithôniel held back her protest, and allowed herself to be carried to her chamber. Legolas set her down gently upon her bed, and pulled the sheets up to just below her chin. Lithôniel giggled suddenly.
“What?” said Legolas
“I feel foolish. ‘T’is like I am Estel’s age and you are my father, tucking me in.”
He shook his head, a smile plastered onto his own face, as he stooped and kissed Lithôniel unhesitantly. “Maer tinnu,” he whispered eventually, disengaging himself from her lips and straightening. He paused at the door, and as an afterthought he added: “sweet dreams.”
Lithôniel sighed contentedly, knowing that she must awake, yet unwilling to leave her dream. Smiling, she buried her face into the cool, smooth material that was near to her in reality. ‘Strange,’ she mused, stroking the fabric whilst still captured by slumber. ‘I do not recall any such silk being left on my bed.’ She opened her eyes and sat bolt upright, hastily pulling on her velvet dressing gown that she had discarded last night just before falling asleep.
“Legolas!” she moaned, swatting him away irritably. “Since when did I give you permission to come waltzing into my room? If my ada found out…”
Legolas grinned childishly, and placed a finger to her lips to stop her ranting. “Lord Elrond instructed me to awaken you,” he retaliated triumphantly. “He knows that I am here. And besides, are we not betrothed?”
“Brat,” muttered Lithôniel, ushering the Prince from her chambers, not caring how much he saw. “You always have an answer for everything. Now leave me, oh arrogant one, so I can dress in peace.”
Closing the door firmly behind her and locking it, she retreated to the solid, wooden clothes chest in the corner of the room, and glanced at the intricate carvings. The picture showed her of her ancestor Lúthien Tinúviel, in the moment that she had turned to Beren Encharmion, and forsook her immortality. ‘One day,’ thought Lithôniel, ‘Estel too will know of them, for Beren and Lúthien are also his kin.’ Paying no more attention to the young lovers, she opened the chest and extracted a pale blue dress, unadorned, but rather pretty with the sash of pink ribbon tied around the waist. She donned it quickly and combed her hair before hurrying outside to where Legolas was waiting for her, leaning against the wall looking bored, but very handsomely so.
“Lithôniel,” he breathed, swallowing nervously as she attracted his attention by clearing her throat. “You look – beautiful.”
The maiden blushed. With her eyes cast downwards, she held out her hand to Legolas and with his eyes fixed intently on the top of her head, she allowed him to lead her down the marble staircase.
“Eww,” moaned Estel as Legolas and Lithôniel entered the dining room holding hands. “That’s horrible! Ada, can you tell them not to be so icky?”
“What’s wrong with holding hands, my son?” questioned Elrond, a gleam in his eyes as he smiled over at the pair, and then at his youngest son.
Legolas laughed, and stooping low as he passed the little boy, he said: “You’re just jealous because I’m courting your sister.”
Estel pouted in a way that Legolas was reminded of Lithôniel. “Am not!” he protested. “I don’t like girls. They want to hold your hand, and kiss you, and everything, and that’s just gross!”
“Well, I seen Elladan holding a maiden’s hand yesterday, Estel, does that make him gross?” teased Elrohir unexpectedly.
Halfway through poking his tongue out at Legolas, Estel stopped and looked intently over at his oldest brother, a grin breaking out on his face. “Eww! Dan was out with a girl? How could you?!”
Elladan slid down his seat, his face glowing like the setting sun as everyone laughed. “Shouldn’t we make a start on breakfast?” he muttered in an attempt to change the subject.
Halfway through the meal, Glorfindel burst into the room panting, the front of his tunic ripped with three, long, deep scratches that had cut into his torso. “My lord!” he shouted urgently. “Orcs have invaded Imladris.”
Lithôniel gasped and dropped the pitcher of water she was holding, where it shattered on the marble floor into hundreds of tiny pieces.
Maer tinnu Good night