The King had left Ariengil to herself so that she could get ready for the feast. Suddenly the maiden realised she had no dresses other than the tatty one she had on. She sat down on the bed and sighed. `Well,’ she thought, `if this is all I have then it will have to do,’ and she began to don the dress.
In a drawer, Ariengil found a blue, silk scarf that she considered wearing around her waist, but it would look terrible with the dress she wore, which was of a pale grey colour- it was disgusting.
`Oh,’ sighed Ariengil, `this is hopeless. If I’m going to go looking like a badly dress child then I may as well not go at all,’ and she slumped on the bed with the scarf over her eyes.
`Now that won’t do, will it?’ came Eldarion’s voice. He had just entered the room and crossed it in a couple of strides. He sat on the bed, next to Ariengil and lifted the scarf off her eyes. `I forgot to tell you not to worry, and that Leonora will be up soon with a dress, and she will help you with everything.’
Ariengil blushed for she had worried and, once again, embarrassed herself in front of the King. `Thank you Eldarion, I really appreciate this,’ she replied politely.
`Not at all Ariengil. I love to help you, my dear friend, Ariengil.’ He left quietly, leaving Ariengil smiling happily. She began to hum happily and didn’t even notice when Leonora walked in. The young girl just stood in the doorway with a dress draped over her arms until Ariengil noticed her.
`Oh, hello, Leonora,’ said Ariengil when she had snapped out of her trance. `How are you?’ she asked nicely. Leonora just smiled briefly, but did not talk. `Is that dress for me? Thank you very much.’ Leonora nodded and walked over to Ariengil and handed her the dress. It was pale blue and flowed beautifully. `Isn’t it a beautiful dress Leonora?’ asked Ariengil, trying to make conversation. The girl nodded, but again did not speak. `Do you not talk?’ joked Ariengil.
`I do ma’am,’ said Leonora as she curtsied. `I think the dress is beautiful- it looks as though someone has taken a piece of the sky and made it into your dress. Would you like help putting it on?’
`That’s better, you do talk,’ smiled Ariengil. `I’ll manage to put it on, but thank you all the same.’ She donned the garment and brushed her hands down it. They cloth was silky and smooth, and fitted Ariengil perfectly. `I think I shall have my hair up, do you agree Leonora?’ asked Ariengil.
`Oh no, my Lady. It is divine when it is down on your shoulders. Please leave it as it is, for you could have any man you wanted like that,’ joked Leonora, but Ariengil stopped to think about that.
`Any man,’ she thought and a smile appeared on her face. `Very well,’ she announced, `I will leave it down. But it is not in its best state. Is there anything you can do?’
Leonora smiled sneakily and nodded. Soon, Ariengil was sitting down while Leonora ran her hands through her hair, with a cream on her fingers. The cream, Leonora had said, would make Ariengil’s hair look perfect and it would float gently around her shoulders and would look perfect. When she had finished, it looked exactly as she had said, and Ariengil looked incredible.
Ariengil spotted the blue scarf and picked it up. She put it around her waist and tied it delicately. It finished the outfit perfectly and Leonora stared at Ariengil in envy. `You are so pretty, ma’am. I wish I was like you.’
`Thank you Leonora, but you are stunning too. Why don’t you come to the feast tonight? You are, I’d say, about eighteen years old. Am I correct?’ replied Ariengil.
`Sixteen ma’am. I cannot come to the feast though, my Lady, for I am only a servant,’ replied Leonora shyly.
`Well I’ll see whether that is true. I’m sure the King would not mind at all if you came. You never know, there might even be a young man or two there to catch your eye,’ joked Ariengil. She left the room quickly, seeking the King. On her return she was smiling, but blushing also.
`What happened, my Lady?’ asked Leonora hesitantly.
`Well, he said that you could come. Also, he’ll send for a dress and I’m in charge of dressing you and doing your hair.’ Leonora squealed in delight and flung herself on Ariengil happily, thanking her. `He said I looked very pretty Leonora. I thank you for that,’ smiled Ariengil.
`You do look pretty though, ma’am,’ replied Leonora. `And this will be a dream come true, I am going to feast with the King,’ she squealed. She skipped around the room laughing and humming until a knock was heard on the door. The young girl threw herself at the door and wrenched it open, looking up at a large woman who was holding a dress.
`This is for you, Leo. I don’t know how you got yourself into this, but you’d better not mess it up. This is important,’ began the woman, walking in and bossing Leonora about. `Right, go and have a wash quickly. Go, go, go. If you are too slow, I’ll see to it that you don’t go to this feast because we can’t have you turning up late, can we?’
Ariengil sat on the bed, embarrassed and silent as the lady ran in and out of the bathroom and bedroom, bossing Leonora about and occasionally commenting on Ariengil too. She left as soon as the young girl had put on her dress, quoting, `I can’t be made to do your hair. I don’t see all the fuss with girls and their hair. Get your lady elf friend to do it.’ Then she left, slamming the door behind her.
`Don’t worry about her,’ whispered Leonora in case the woman was still behind the door. `She is nice really, just very cross.’ The two girls laughed together, then Ariengil looked Leonora up and down. She looked really beautiful, in a turquoise dress with a thin belt of a silky cloth around her waist, in a pale blue colour. Her brown hair was shoulder length and rested on her shoulders gently. `I think I’ll have my hair up,’ began Leonora, but Ariengil objected.
`No you won’t,’ she giggled. `Not with gorgeous hair like that. Your hair is lovely- we’ll both have our hair down, agreed?’
`Very well,’ laughed Leonora, `agreed.’ Another knock on the door surprised the girls, and they turned to see Dînhith enter, wearing a pink dress. She had her dark hair prettily placed on her head, and she smiled as she saw Ariengil looking well and healthy.
`Hello,’ said Dînhith to Leonora. Ariengil introduced them, and then they left to go downstairs to the feast. The three beautiful girls stopped at the top of the fine stairway and looked down at a grand hall. There were tables around the edge with some people sitting down; others were dancing in the centre of the hall, and at the side there was a band of musicians playing merrily. The King sat at the centre of the middle table, observing the hall and looking for something or someone. He looked up at the stairs and saw the girls. A smile came to the King and he nodded at them as they began to descend the stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs Eldarion met them and Leonora curtsied very low, without looking up until the King spoke. `Leonora, you do not need to bow to me so often. I respect you and you are Ariengil’s friend, so you are mine also. You need not be a servant any longer. Bring your family here and live in Minas Tirth with them- you are to young to be alone and working.’
Leonora blushed deeply. `Thank you, your Highness, but I have no family. I was found on my own as a baby on the edge of Osgiliath, and someone took me in. She told me to work as soon as I was old enough, which was four years ago, and I have been here since. If I left or did not work, I would have nothing else to do. So I will stay, if you accept my work, your Majesty.’ She curtsied again, blushing and trying to back away slightly from the King in her embarrassment.
`I am so sorry,’ replied Eldarion in mortification at upsetting the girl so much. `You may do whatever you wish. You could stay here with us, or travel, or work. Whatever you wish, I will let you do. Think about it, for at the moment we shall dance. Ariengil, would you dance with me?’ Ariengil accepted and the two went to the dance floor, smiling at one another.
Dînhith watched for a moment then sighed. `Shall we take a seat Leonora?’ asked Dînhith. Leonora nodded and followed obediently. They sat down at one of the tables and Leonora watched Ariengil and Eldarion in fascination. She had never danced before, so she noted every move they made, hoping that one day she would have a chance to dance. That chance came quickly, as a young man with blonde hair and lovely blue eyes came up to the pair.
`May I have this dance, miss?’ he asked Leonora politely. She stuttered and looked helplessly at Dînhith, who nudged Leonora and nodded.
`Well, yes,’ began Leonora, meaning to carry on and tell him she couldn’t dance, but she decided to give it a go and hope for the best. She stood on the dance floor nervously and took the young man’s hand. He put his other hand on her waist and she looked around at everyone else- the women had their spare hand on the men’s shoulder, so she put her hand on his shoulder and smiled timidly.
They started dancing and Leonora found that it came naturally to her and she soon found herself enjoying everything. As she danced, the man chatted with her and she discovered that he lived in Minas Tirith, was called Larat, he was eighteen years old and had been in the battle.
Dînhith soon became bored of watching all of the happy couples and her thoughts began to wander to sadder things. She thought of Beleg time and time again, and she began again now. As a young lady holding a jug of wine walked past, Dînhith called out to her and asked for a cup of wine. She was given it, and she began to drown her sorrows in the men’s drink. It was not to her taste, but the wine made her feel less sorry for herself, but soon she found the drink to strong for her and she just stared into the blood-coloured drink.
`Ahem,’ someone beside Dînhith coughed to catch her attention. She hadn’t even realised that anyone was sitting beside her, and she looked up into a pair of dark eyes. The man next to her had long, dark hair and a lovely smile. `Sorry to tear you away from your thoughts, but I was wondering if you would like to dance?’ he asked.
`Oh, thank you for the offer but I couldn’t possibly,’ replied Dînhith. The man’s smile faltered, but he shrugged and turned to go.
`She would love to dance,’ said Ariengil as she came up behind her friend. `Wouldn’t you Dînhith?’ she asked meaningfully. Ariengil poked Dînhith in the back and made her stand. `She’s just a little boring,’ joked Ariengil.
`Of course I’ll dance,’ said Dînhith. She then whispered to Ariengil, `I’ll get you later.’ Ariengil smiled and nodded as she sat in her friend’s place. She looked at the wine in disgust as Dînhith left with the man. Eldarion was more or less obliged to dance with most of the women in the hall, but he had promised to return to her as soon as possible.
Ariengil saw Leonora dancing with Larat, and she smiled. It was good to see that she was enjoying herself finally. After Dînhith’s original reluctance, she seemed to be having fun too. Ariengil spotted Nieninque and Mereth dancing near Thaliondil and Nárfin, and she was happy to see that all of her friends were in high spirits again.
Ariengil did not have a chance to dance again before the guests all ate, but she was asked to sit next to Eldarion, which she did happily. Leonora sat next to Ariengil, with Larat on her other side.
The food was wonderful and Ariengil felt as though she could eat forever, but then she realised she was eating quickly and not particularly ladylike, so she slowed down and relaxed. The food was actually fairly filling, so Ariengil did not eat as much as she had anticipated. There was sweet food for their last course, and as Ariengil reached to pick up the spoon, Eldarion did too and their hands rested at the same time.
Eldarion’s hand lingered for a couple of seconds, but Ariengil quickly withdrew hers in embarrassment and looked at Eldarion awkwardly. He just laughed and smiled at her, to her relief.
The evening was splendid, with a jester entertaining them at one point, and dancers, musicians and more entertainers. Minas Tirith seemed to be filled with numerous different delights and delicacies, which all seemed to appear within the course of the evening. Ariengil did not really concentrate on the performances or the delicious food, for she kept taking side ways glances at the King.
As the evening drew to an end, Ariengil became quieter and quieter. She knew that soon she would have to leave with all of the other elves and return to the Undying Lands, but she now wished to stay here. She was torn in two- she wished to be with her friends, but they, with the exception of Dînhith, were all couples and she would be alone. Dînhith was not even sitting near Ariengil, but with her new admirer. Although Ariengil wished to live in the gorgeous lands of the Grey Havens, she had fallen in love with Minas Tirith. Well, that was what she told herself, but she had fallen in love with something or someone inside Minas Tirith. She looked to her left and smiled at the King again, knowing that she would find it impossible to leave here and leave Eldarion behind.
The guests gradually left, but Ariengil stayed where she was until there were but a few people left. The King was at the hall’s grand doors, seeing that everyone left safely and departed happily. Dînhith retired to bed soon, as did Leonora, but Ariengil remained in her seat until she was the last left.
Eldarion didn’t notice her as he turned around and he began to climb the stairs. She quickly, and silently, stood up and followed him. As he reached the top of the stairs, he turned to look at her for he had heard her step onto the wooden stairway. `Oh, Ariengil,’ he said, surprised. `I thought you had gone to bed.’
`No, I wanted to wait for you,’ she replied quietly.
`You didn’t have to,’ said the King as he waited for her to reach the top. He offered his arm and she took it, as he led her back towards her bedroom. They were both silent, and when they stopped outside Ariengil’s room they looked at each other. Ariengil looked at Eldarion and she wanted to reach up and touch his perfect features: his dark eyes, his soft lips, his wonderful nose, his smooth cheeks and his dark hair. She did not know of his feelings for her, but she hoped he felt the same about her as she did about him.
Eldarion took Ariengil’s hand in his own, and it seemed so small and delicate in his dark and strong hand. He lifted it gently to his mouth and delicately kissed her pale fingers. Ariengil trembled with his touch, and looked into his deep, meaningful eyes; yet those eyes revealed nothing of his thoughts or feelings.
`Goodnight,’ whispered Eldarion and he turned to go. Ariengil grabbed his arm and he turned back to face her.
`Don’t leave me, please,’ whispered Ariengil as she stepped closer to the King. She could feel his warmth and she could see everything about him, except for his feelings. She realised how close they were, and she could feel his breath brushing the top of her hair. As Ariengil looked up, Eldarion looked down at her and they looked at each other carefully.
After what seemed like an age to Ariengil, their lips touched and Ariengil found herself eagerly caressing his lips with her own. They drew back slightly, but their lips rested still on each other’s mouth. `Eldarion,’ sighed Ariengil. `Long now have I waited for this moment. This is as though it is a dream.’ She again kissed his lips, but he did not return the caress this time. Ariengil withdraw quickly, in shock and embarrassment. `What-?’ she began to ask, but Eldarion put his finger to her lips gently.
`I am sorry,’ he murmured, though he still held her close, with his arms encircling her as though he did not want to let her go. `It is not right; it is not possible.’
`But it is,’ cried Ariengil. `Why not? Why is it not possible?’
We return to the forests again. Our hobbit friend has lost all faith and finds the true meaning of apathy by the end of this chapter. He is taken captive by a band of elves and one human. This chapter suggests that some of his past will be revealed soon.