Her heart lightened as Elarinya climbed the hill, and a wave of relief rippled through her body, as she laid eyes on the wonderful sight that lay at her feet. She breathed deeply, smiling and weeping at the same time.
She would have been blinded by the thousands of rays of light reverberated by the waterfall at the far end of the long, deep valley extending beneath her feet, were it not for a spell. Half way down the cliff, the waterfall was divided into several smaller waterfalls, torrents and streams, spread like a fan. Slightly to one side of the waterfall, but still with streams running through them, stood a group of beautiful, white buildings, framed by a rainbow.
The valley was carpeted by trees and plants of all sizes, with leaves of all colours, late summer flowers still lingering on as autumn began. It felt and looked so peaceful, and loving, it almost felt like home. The sound of the distant waterfall, and of birds that were still singing, although it was autumn, entranced her, making it even more difficult for her to believe that she was not only dreaming.
She paused a few minutes to breathe, to take in the whole of what she could see, and as she did, she felt her heart lightening even more, and laughed. She then noticed a path that seemed to lead to the opposite end of the valley, and gladly took it.
She bid Elarinya to slow down to a walk, and was spellbound, not only by the sights and sounds of the valley, but also by its smells. The rich, moist earth; the green grasses; but the flowers offered the most variety of smells: scents she recognised, and also others that were new to her. She smiled and closed her eyes each time the breeze played the instruments the leaves had become. She found streams trickling down the hill beside her over stones, mostly hidden by ferns and mosses, and stopped to give Elarinya a drink from time to time, which is when she found that Elarinya was very fond of ferns, and let her graze as well.
Finally, she remembered the reason of her journey, and trotted for the remainder of the way.
As she approached the waterfalls, two travellers were trotting towards her on a side road, to join the main road on which she was, and enter Rivendell. “Ladies first!” cried the foremost traveller. Aurora waved a gloved hand and smiled her thanks, and galloped ahead, slowing down to a trot as she approached a narrow, stone bridge.
Beyond the bridge, there was a small courtyard, where she stopped her mare. The two travellers stopped their horses beside her, and immediately dismounted. But as Aurora dismounted, she felt dizzy, as if she was going to black out. Once her feet on the ground, she held on to her saddle, and closed her eyes a minute, and waited for her dizziness to pass.
One of the travellers firmly held her shoulders with his strong hands. “You must be exhausted, my lady. Let me accompany you. Where are you going?”
“I have an urgent message for Lord Elrond.”
“Let me take you to him. Don’t worry, someone will take care of your mount.”
She finally let go of the saddle, and opened her eyes. She turned to face the elf who had spoken to her so kindly. He was tall, had silvery blond hair, and a hint of amazement seemed to have passed through his eyebrows, and his icy blue eyes.
“What is your name, my lady?”
“Aurora. And, I beg your pardon, but who are you?”
“I am Legolas Greenleaf, Prince of Mirkwood.”
“Well, thank you for helping me.”
“My pleasure.” And he smiled.
Of course! He was a prince! No wonder he had such caring manners. She thought to herself, as she took Legolas’ offered arm. Although, you can be a prince, but still be terribly big-headed. Legolas lead her up a flight of steps, out of the courtyard, and beyond.
* * *
As she had looked up at him, she seemed vaguely familiar, as a vision in a forgotten dream, although he couldn’t quite give her a name, place or time. It was the way the sunlight shone on her hair that seemed most familiar, although her hair colour was rather exceptional for elves. But he was sure he’d seen her before.
She had obviously been travelling as fast as she could for a few days, and as a result, was weary and exhausted. Even though she was worn out, she paid attention to her surroundings, smiling and laughing as a group of elflings danced by them. He found her very beautiful, and even more so when she was happy. But underneath this apparent gaiety, she seemed to be deeply troubled, bewildered and fragile. She appeared old enough to have travelled before, and yet she did not seem to know Rivendell, and as he guided her through courtyards, corridors and doorways, unknown questions furrowed her brows.
“I beg your pardon, but what is your business here?” enquired the sweet lady.
“I have come here, because a creature my father was supposed to keep safe has escaped, helped by orcs. The creature was very important to Lord Elrond.” That was part of the reason. He did not want to tell her that he had come to woo the Lady Arwen’s heart. For decades, they had been lovers, until Arwen first met Estel, the Ranger’s child Elrond had raised. Estel and he had become very good friends, without this matter hindering their friendship, and Arwen still remained very friendly towards Legolas. Gradually, Legolas was losing hope that Arwen would ever be his bride, and he had come to plead with her one last time.
As they entered the main courtyard, he asked one of the guards where Lord Elrond was, and, just then, he realised how shy Aurora was, as she greeted the guard, despite the fact that she tried hard to hide it. He was delighted to hear that the elven lord was in the Great Hall, which was just in front of them. Hopefully, Aurora would soon be able to refresh herself and rest. He lead her up the stone steps and into the elegant hall, at the end of which he saw Lord Elrond, his long, dark hair tumbling almost to his waist under his circlet, emphasizing his bright eyes. As they drew closer, he noticed that the lord’s expression was darker than when they’d last met.
Once they had stopped in front of Lord Elrond, he felt Aurora curtseying with the movement of her arm against his, and lightly bowed his head.
“Lord Elrond,” resounded her pleasant voice, “I have an urgent message. The two halflings, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, are in dire need of help, as they carry Isildur’s bane, pursued by the Black Riders.”
“Very well. I will send Glorfindel, a great war lord, to their aid. Legolas, my friend, what brings you here?”
“I have bad news. The creature Gollum has escaped, helped by a group of orcs.”
“That is bad news! Several other messengers are on the way to Rivendell, also carrying, I expect, bad news, as it has been these last years.” Elrond’s eyes lightened, as he remembered something, seeing Legolas flush slightly. “Ah! I see. Good luck to you, but I believe she is firm in her choice.”
“Thank you, my Lord.”
“What say you of a welcome banquet tonight, followed by stories and songs in the Hall of Fire?”
“That would be a pleasure.”
“Good. In the meanwhile, please be taken to your rooms, and restore yourselves, especially as you have both journeyed.”
At this, Legolas turned to Aurora. “May I steal your company again, my lady?” Aurora smiled at his humour, and answered in a light, charming voice “I cannot see how my company can be worthwhile, tired as I am. However, I would be grateful to let you guide me again, as I do not know Rivendell.” She smiled as she once again took his out held arm.
Legolas led her to their left, through a doorway that opened onto a terrace, and down a flight of steps into the garden below. The garden reminded her very much of the enclosed courtyards of Mexico, around which the old villas were built, mostly because the garden seemed to be walled with many large leaved plants,that could belong in the jungle, but also because of the water feature in the centre of the garden. In Mexico, it would have been surrounded by paving and brightly coloured pots, containing all sorts of tropical plants, but here, the water feature was encircled by a lawn, with small, delicate, star-shaped white flowers.
“A delicate flower, for a sweet lady.” Legolas had picked one, and now offering it to her, and, accepting it, she smiled, charmed. And a sweet gesture, she mused, although not many young men would have done it. But then, this is a completely different world. Although, as she studied the flower, it reminded her of the edelweiss, a small white flower found in the Alps, and a song that had been written about it. She’d sung it at a concert, as part of her school choir.
Ev’ry morning you greet me,
Small and white, clean and bright,
You look happy to meet me.
Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow,
Bloom and grow forever,
Bless my homeland forever
(From “The Sound of Music”, by Rogers and Hammerstein)
She could hear the choir singing it, supported by the piano, harp, flutes and violins. It made her feel homesick, and she remembered all the wonderful people she’d known and loved, despite the fact that her father gave her a hard time at home. She wept silently, hoping Legolas wouldn’t notice, but in vain. A moment later, he was presenting a handkerchief.
“Thank you.” She felt guilty as she saw worry and care in his gentle eyes.
“Have I upset you in any way?”
“No. I’m sorry, it’s just that the flower reminded me of something. What are they called?” She asked, trying to change the subject. He was relieved that he wasn’t the cause of her sudden pain, but he was still concerned about her, as his earlier feelings that she was deeply troubled were confirmed.
“Come.” He took no heed of her question, thinking it more important that she have some peace, and rest. He glanced up at the raised, sheltered passageway that bordered the opposite end of the garden, and sensed someone coming. He took her arm, and directed her up the flight of steps that led to the passageway.
Aurora almost gasped as a beautiful elven maiden met them. She had raven black hair that reflected the sunlight in a rainbow, flawless alabaster skin, and blue eyes that shone like saphires. Why! It must be the Lady Arwen, she realised.
“Arwen, Lady Aurora and I have just arrived. Could you find rooms for us, please?”
“Of course! Follow me.” Answered the Evenstar, as she smiled at Aurora.
They seem to know each other well, and the Evenstar seems a very amiable person.
Legolas and Aurora followed Arwen up the passageway, and into an entrance hall. She guided them up the winding staircase, and into a corridor. To their right, she opened a door and indicated that Legolas go through. She then took Aurora’s hand, and led her to the bottom of the short corridor, and opened the door.
The two ladies stepped into a large, relaxing, but cosy bedroom. The walls and ceiling were of a pale, peachy orange, and the soft furnishings were in colours that ranged from rich burgundies and dark pinks to mauves and purples, with occasional blues. The bedroom had tall windows that opened onto a balcony, and had lightweight silk curtains. The bed itself was in the centre of the room, with weightless, almost transparent, light blue curtains all around it, and light blue silk coverings. On one side of the room was a large bay window, hugging a sofa, and next to it, a desk with a small library. On the other side of the room, there was a dressing table and stool, and a dressing shade. As they advanced into the room, Aurora looked behind her, and saw that tapestries covered the wall. Arwen went towards that wall, and when she lifted the tapestries, Aurora found that ,hidden there, were a wardrobe, a chair, a washstand and a chest. Arwen went to the wardrobe and pulled out long, white night gown and dressing gown.
“Change into these for the moment. You’ll be more comfortable.” Aurora took the gowns and went behind the dressing shade. She realised that there was a shirt under her coat, but when she took it off, she noticed an oval pendant hanging on a fine, silver chain. It had a bird-like shape, and many colours. She decided to forget about it for the moment, and left it on the desk once she’d changed. Just then, servants arrived at the door.
“I would like to present Gwirithiel to you. She is your maid, and is here to serve you and help you. I hope her company will be agreeable to you. And this is Silivrenniel, our dressmaker. She has come to take your measurements,” said Arwen to present the two servants. Silivrenniel was a red-haired elf, with wise, gentle, blue eyes. Gwirithiel reminded Aurora of spring, with her blond hair, slightly rosy cheeks, and caring face. Her eyes were also blue.
“I’m glad to meet you.” Aurora answered, gracefully.
“Is there anything you would like? Food? Drink?” asked Gwirithiel.
“Yes! Could I have a peppermint juice and biscuits, please?” replied Aurora, glad of the offer.
“Certainly!” enquired Gwirithiel, “anything else?”
“That will do for the moment, thank you,” answered Aurora. As Gwirithiel walked out of the room, she took Aurora’s clothes to have them washed, and Silivrenniel took out what looked like a tape measurer, with strange markings on it, and took the measurements she required.
“What colour gown would you like to wear to the banquet tonight?” asked Arwen, “I believe a pale green would suit you perfectly.”
“Why not! I quite like green.” Answered Aurora.
“Silivrenniel, I’m counting on you to make her look sublime,” said Arwen, winking at Aurora, “I know you always make beautiful gowns.”
“Of course, my lady. Your trust is not wrongly given.” And with that, Silivrenniel retired.
“Oh! Come now! Don’t look so innocent! You like Legolas very much, don’t you? I saw it in your eyes, and I’m glad of it. And he cares for you, you must have noticed it!”
“Yes, I did. I thought he was always like that. He’s kind, and gentle…Yes, I do like him,” dreamed Aurora. She remembered the slight tug at her heart as Elrond had alluded to the lady Legolas had come to see. She also sensed that Arwen was exited at what she had perceived.
“I’m glad he cares about you, he hasn’t been very happy since…But I’ll talk to you about it later. Let me take you to the bath houses,” invited Arwen. Aurora lifted her eyebrows at the mention of “bath houses”. What could she mean?