Culture and sexuality

A Man's a Man

4. Awakening

At length, amid the boiling violet-grey of the sky, a small pink dot could be made out above the eastern mountains, and it began to grow, and soon proved to shine bright, to shine red; then to shine orange; then yellow; then white. White light struck upon the white walls and white streets of the White City. There was a faint haze in the air, that blueness which heralds the approach of a blazing day.

As yet, the morning was still coming early enough that few had cause to rise before dawn as yet- no cause as such, and yet there was one…

Where the new clean light struck the parapet of the roof of the Steward’s house, from the cold tiles there arose a figure, tall and slender as a reed, which stretched and flexed itself in a long curve of pleasure as the sun ran her fingers up and down his willow-wand form. He smiled at the kisses of adoring Arien, as she tumbled in his hair, skimmed an alabaster face so fair it seemed to bring the wandering maiar herself joy that she may light it, caressed every neatly-turned bowstring muscle, light as a dancer’s, her golden beam pouring down him like honey.

Having stretched each fine-turned limb, and been well pleased, the fair figure sat, and made himself silent, so that he might hear…

…the servants beginning to stir and mumble in their beds…

…the night watching, restless and weary, shuffling and sighing…

…the slam of a bread-oven in the third circle…

…Alasse sighing in her sleep- her breath caught! And- no, not for too long. Though it would, no doubt, before the day was out. It was to be a blazing day.

“Poor creatures.” Miluineth had turned her face away, pressing her small nose into his chest, “To always be haunted, always the time slipping away, always frightened!” She had been quite distressed, Legolas remembered, at the thought of what men must feel- for she had barely been perhaps eleven; and such thoughts still distressed her. He had not broached the subject with her for some decades since, unless you counted his explaining to her the mystery of the fig tree in Doro Lothiren; something about which she had been so stoic (“But the fig wasps’ flight is so free and over fair lands, and no choice of consequence is laid before them,”) it unsettled him somewhat- much of Miluineth’s past had been shrouded from him, and there were times that he suspected there was a reason why.

But men- men had frightened her; why ever they had been so strange to her Legolas had known not, but neither her mother nor his own father had been able to soothe her into greeting them- she had been insistent on being held, as the very small can sometimes be. Her little silvery head had fitted near as perfectly into his cupped hand

Even then, he knew, before Gimli, perhaps even before meeting Aragorn, he had felt her mistake, but, alas! would not have been able to tell even a friend, let alone a small elleth. How could he explain to Miluineth what he could not describe himself; unless it was the sudden exhilaration, like a bright and freezing sunrise, of feeling time so powerfully, so fast that the ever-moving ‘now’ pushed at the very being like the wind. Senses in such sharp focus on the immediate that gravity was almost painful, taste and sound, when they were at last excited, almost hysterical with revulsion or joy; the focus in time where no sorrow nor longing was without end. Mortals did not see one another’s minds plainly, but there was something central that permeated from time to time; something warm which broke up the cold surfaces and rippled contact. That he could dimly perceive. In years past he had resented it, had a scruple picked up Illuvatar knew where, or, as he felt, sent by nature (who is inevitably wise); yet he could not resist sometimes yielding to the charm of a mortal creature confessing, as to him oftimes they did, some scrape, some folly. And whether it was pity, or their joy in living, or because they were so young, or some accident- like a faint scent, or a song from a doorway as he passed (so strange is the power of sounds at certain moments), he did undoubtedly then feel what men felt. Only for a moment, but it was enough. It was a sudden revelation, a tingle like a flush that then spread; one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores. Then, for that moment, he had seen an illumination; a match burning in a crocus; an inner meaning almost expressed.

But the close withdrew; the solid softened; outwardly he may have been a child exploring a tower, but beneath the skin he was a widow withdrawing. The Firstborn forever remained the Firstborn, however many followed after; so he made his chamber in the city above the confinement of the myriad of walls. The room was an attic; the sheets were clean, tight stretched in a broad white band from side to side. Narrower and narrower his bed would be, and he slept badly, for he could not dispel the chastity preserved through his marriage that clung to him like a sheet.

That was what had started it with the dwarf-women, though not what had ended it. Gimli had caused quite a stir by introducing him to Linnam and Meella; though whatever he had been the two dwarf-maidens, with ribbands in their beards and semi-precious stones sewn in patterns of whorls all over their robes, being themselves the most precious jewels of the Dale and fully aware of it, were at small risk, watched over as they were by the formidable Widow Yilla. who had buried three husbands and who stood as tall Legolas’ breastbone and sat calmly polishing an axe- a ceremonial axe, it was true, but dwarves would consider it an insult to an axe to keep it blunt. At her elbow sat Gilda, with her down-covered two year old son, already as tall as her waist, and what Legolas had at first taken to be a mole, but he later decided must be another son, which kept its face buried somewhere where, under all those layers of leather and brocade, there might conceivably have been a breast. Fig wasps was one analogy with dwarves, but bumble-bees might have been a better one; it was certainly what came to mind at sight of Linnam and Meella

“But Meella is not going to marry,” Widow Yilla had said.

“Not at all?” Legolas had asked, conversationally.

“No. Sure but we all hoped she was marriageable; but Limman is, and one is better than none, you don’t think?”

“I suppose so, yes. But ‘tis not forever, is it?”

“Never knew a girl who became marriageable when she wasn’t. I mean, I can see how the whole business is just unpleasant if you’re not made that way. You wouldn’t like to have it forced upon you, after all, would you?”

“I could not speak for that. I am not female.”

“You’re not marriageable, though, are you?”

“Forgive me?”

“Elves always marry, at least almost always, we’re told. You’ve no wife. That’s not the usual way of things, is it?”

“I should have had a wife. My betrothed is dead; she was an archer, and was taken by the spiders of Mirkwood.”

“What’s betrothed, Master Elf?” Gilda put in.

“Betrothed? She was intended to be my wife.”

“Well she can’t be if she’s dead. A dead wife isn’t a wife, especially if she was never a wife to you in the first place. Can you not be betroththed to another? Or don’t you want another?”

“Whisht,” Widow Yilla grinned, showing teeth like stalactites. “Perhaps no elf-woman wants him.” She patted his hand, and said gently, “Dear funny thing as he is.”

At this, Gilda’s son couldn’t restrain his excitement any more- it did not take an elf’s hearing to catch him squeaking his mother’s ear “Cousin Gimli said he’s seen him when he were changin’ ‘iself an’ ‘e’s bald from the eyes down!” and Gilda reply “Hsht! That’s how elves are, they all are!

Legolas decided that bashfulness would only further diminish his dignity.

“’Tis true, young one,” He pushed back a sleeve. “See?”

“Why’d all your hair fall out?” the boy said, looking at him in blatant fascination, his previous shyness gone.

“It didn’t. Elves are not hairy people. We’re meant to be that way.”

“All of them?”

“All of us.”

“Is your father like that?”

“My father and my mother and all the other elves.”

“Like lizards?”

“In a way, perhaps, yes. Only not in any other way. And we are not scaly; it is only skin.”

“But why’s it on your head and eyes, then?”

For a moment, Legolas was at a loss.

“Who knows all the reasons of Illuvatar?”

The boy blinked. “Eh?”

Legolas shrugged. “Because we would not look fair without it?”

The dwarf-boy stared, and, long overdue, began to giggle.

Gilda, embarrassed, glanced up and, when Legolas smiled at her, could not stop her own mouth twitching. Then Widow Yilla slowly, like an underground volcano, started with a sound that began as a deep rumble, then emerged as the odd squawk. But that was nothing to the cavern-collapsing rumble that was the full force, sweeping away everyone else with it- the dwarf maidens could not help themselves, and no more could Legolas; once the laughter had begun the scene folded out before him- he could have told them anything- physiology, hereditary, the Oath of Feanor, protocol, breeding, the whole much-swaddled bundle, and it would have been met with that same uproarious mirth- no shock, for it was simply too bizarre.

We who are Illuvatar’s firstborn, we have always held ourselves as the measure of all things, he had later to the Sons of Elrond, who knew of such things, and not only were we wrong, but there is no measure to meet.

This revelation, though, had changed the elf’s life for perhaps all of half an hour.

Below him, Alasse was wheezing, not hard enough to wake herself, but a gentle, sustained grating that could be kept up for hours at a stretch. For heat was rising; the buildings had that strange look of being more three dimensional than usual; but the shadows were yet dark and cold, still very cold, so the servants filing out from the sencheal’s pantry at the King’s House, facing them, at the Steward’s Quarters, dodged and jostled in their attempts to stay in direct sunlight, and Master Kolloin, the King’s manservant, moved around to have his back to an east-facing wall.

“Alda?” he called. “A quiet word, my dear.”

The tone in which he spoke of a ‘quiet word’ caught Legolas’ attention, and he jumped the roof of the small dining-hall of the King’s house, a mere three storeys up, and crouched behind the fretwork.

The Princess Elensil’s maid was of sufficient status that her stepping out of the flock did not cause undue whispers or tittering; though the elf was displeased to see a few of the shawl-clutching upstairs maids give small, proud nods of satisfaction to their friends.

“Sir?”

“How do you expect your princess’s health to be this morning?”

“If it goes on as it has before, and if she is affected by last night, which I expect she will be- not the best, I think.”

“Had matters better be arranged that she is kept secluded?”

“I do not know, sir; this envoy from Umbar must be terribly important.”

“Oh, it is, it is, but it’s so important that she’s only an accessory to impress, and there are important things to be dealt with on this one. If it was a friendly social visit she would really be more important. I don’t know if his Highness is going to benefit from her being there to distract him.”

“I really couldn’t say, sir.”

“No, Alda, I think you’d better not say too much, I don’t know if you’re in a secure position as it is. I’m afraid your future is very uncertain, my dear.”

“You- well, it is too early to tell whether my lady shall still have want of me next year.” The young woman tilted her chin up slightly, her face most utterly nonchalant.

“I should think your lady has enough on her mind, Alda, without worrying about what is to be done with you.” Kolloin leaned closer, so that only Alda and Legolas could hear- “She is not even betrothed yet, Alda. I do not know what Elessar is going to do with her- when I put him to bed last night I don’t think he had decided- but for a start there are a few possible futures where she will not be needing a maid, and some where her maid would be rather ill-kept compared to what you are used to-“

“I should mention,” Alda said, pulling her cloak in and standing up straight, “that I have grown almost as fond of my lady as I have of the position itself.”

Kolloin raised his eyebrows. “Oh, very virtuous. Are we not the little Samwise Gamgee? But the difference is, Alda, that Master Sam of song and story kept his master in check and made sure he carried on on track, whatever happened. This is your trouble, Alda. I cannot think how a chaperone could go wrong quite so badly.”

“I was not her chaperone in Dol Amroth.”

“Who said anything about Amroth?”

“And I did not even go with her to Emyn Annen.”

“No, but Lady ‘Wyn was so I would not think it was there. You were here when she returned to the city, were you not?”

“Is that of consequence? I was in my lady’s attendance since then; and besides, we barely saw Prince Elboron; he was making preparations to leave for Harandor.”

Alda, you’re an incisive young lady. You know what is all part of a soldier preparing for war, and I assure you it’s very much the same for captains.”

“But the opportunity-“

“Alda, do you always lock the servant’s door in her ladyship’s room?”

“I bolt it.”

“On the inside?”

“Of course. And the passage leads to the kitchen, and that entrance is guarded. Nobody could get in, and besides, only those who work here know that it is there.”

“And those who live here would have seen you use it, of course. And have an idea of where the corridors run. And you do not actually lock it with a key, it seems…”

“But the opportunity-”

“Is not hard to create. Within these walls when there are no visitors all the girls wander about unchecked and nobody thinks aught of it- they call one another family. Now you have a few siblings and aunts and cousins I believe- how often has one of the little ones been lost or up to mischief and everyone thought he was with somebody else? But this isn’t the worst of it. It’s one thing having a prize mare in foal out of season- it’s quite another when the stable boy has left the gate open and let some grubby mongrel draft stallion wander in unchecked.”

“I think if any grubby mongrel had wandered in then my lady would have made it very well known.”

“You think so?”

“I know it.”

“Then do you know that she got out, Alda?”

“Last night? Of course I know.”

“No, not last night. A few weeks ago my friend Brunbund saw a young lass, nice clean clothes, covering her face with a hood, tall, gentle manner, looking terribly out of place in the Steward’s Legs one evening. A swordsman’s tavern.”

“No it isn’t, they are all rangers in the Steward’s Legs. My brother’s a ranger, he drinks there.”

“It’s in the Rohirric Quarter. For which I admire your lady’s cunning. You don’t get Rohirrim rangers.”

“It is not. It’s in Arganath Street.”

“Even if it is, they have a sign over the bar saying ‘A Sworded Affair’.”

“You are thinking of the Perrianath in Clover. That is in the Rohirric Quarter. The sign in the Steward’s Legs says ‘We Pull Hard, But We Use Protection.’.”

“Well, whether we are talking of Rohirric swordsmen or Amrothi archers, this does not bode well, Alda.”

“What, some impudent gossip from this man Brunbund? I should say it bodes ill for him.”

“You are concealing your fears, Alda; but you are not so afraid as I would think. I ask, truly in friendship, have you any safeguard to fall back on?”

Alda blinked slowly.

“My sister Lindë has a position in a respectable inn, and my other sister Blethen serves in a rather less respectable inn, where they are always looking for new girls.”

“It’s a bit of a climb-down, Alda.”

“Not nearly as much as a climb down as it could be.”

“No, I suppose it’s not scrubbing or whoring or shovelling shite, which is the life of plenty in this great White City of ours. But you are a bright girl, Alda, and I am sure it takes much work to raise oneself from kin of tavern girls and soldiers to maid to the Queen’s daughter.”

“It does, indeed.” (It made her mother, feeble as she was, fill almost the entire length of her short visits in rapturous babbling. But then, who would not be proud of a daughter who had sat up such long nights teaching herself to read, and had served a widow of a minor courtier every day in return to be taught how to move and speak as a lady should? And it was well rewarded, now that she was thirty-two, and her sister Himnis, four years younger than she, was long wedded with five children.)
“I always thought it was easier to serve a man, myself.”

“Well, that is your lot, and this is mine.”

“They do not get so horribly excited as their females. So utterly erratic. I do hope Prince Eldarion has inherited his Ada’s talent for staying alive in a fray. I do not fancy our chances if we were left in the hands of one of his poor queer sisters. I mean, the little one is very charming at the moment, but she is very much as Lady Míriel was at that age, and now that she’s mostly grown… then there’s your own Princess Ellë, who is a dear girl but catch her at a bad time and then what? The Queen of Gondor orders the drowning of all the breeding women of her realm? The strangling of infants under three? Orphans to be slaughtered for meat?”

“That is not fair.”

“It is what she came out with less than a year ago, at one of their vile tea parties. I heard it from Fledilas, she was serving them at the time.”

“And I heard it from Lady Estel, and Lady Halafindë goaded her into it, or close to it.”

“How, exactly?”

“They were discussing the floods in the Wetwang, I think, or some such place- and Lady Hal was flashing around her bleeding heart again. It was all graciously received until Lady Hal thought that conjuring the plight of the trapped and homeless was not enough, and called on them to imagine the suffering of those in a delicate condition or with little ones who had been cast out of their houses.”

“And your Lady Ellë told her they would be the better for being drowned.”

“I do not know, I was not there.”

“No wonder she is taking her current troubles so very badly.”

“I do not think it is as simple as that.”

“I do not think that these ladies spend enough time out of doors.”

“Perhaps not, but neither do we.”

“You are right, and as such, what we have is due to end. I must away and join the get away people. I wish you well!”

Where did he get these turns of phrase? Alda wondered as she turned towards the back stair and…

… and towards the long, thin streak of sapphire blue against a sky blue sky, towards Lady Estel with her hand outstretched towards her.

“A favour, if you please, Alda.” Even in such a decorous expression, the girl’s voice bore an almost absurd jollity, of grass stains and tree stains and games on the lawn and eating wild blackberries and the promise of custard for tea followed by a jolly parlour game.

“My lady?”

The younger woman held out a letter, the initials E.H. slightly blurred on the seal.

“A private message for your mistress.”

“Of course, my lady. I will be glad to give her such a comfort.” Alda curtsied, then noticed that Lady Estel was lingering. “My lady?”

“Just in case you know, Alda…” Lady Estel’s enormously rounded, toffee-laden tone was slightly embarrassed- “-can you remember the answer- why did the antelope?”

“Why did the antelope what, my lady?”

“No, ‘tis a jest. Why did the ant-elope?”

“I know not, my lady. Why did they ant-elope?”

“I am afraid I cannot remember. I was hoping that you might. I really have been racking my brain all morning.” She grinned. “I am sure that my brothers would tell me now that that could not have taken me very long.”

“Oh. Well, I hope you find it, my lady.”

“Thank you, Alda. Good morrow!”

“Good morrow, my lady.”

(Estel had woken early, the curtain having been left open and thus letting in light across the bed. There, silhouetted against the blue light, were the carvings which their middle brother, a mariner, had sent them fashioned from some dark, exotic wood, their markings dyed on in pigments unknown, bearing a sweet, musky smell that would forever to Estel be the scent of the veldt of Hârâd, where the stars were strange: a giraffe for Estel, an antelope for Alassë. And when they had arrived, all her kin had groaned at that old jest they had all heard before, but as she lay there, it pleaded for her attention, and the answer would not come, no easier to remember for knowing that it would be simple-- why, why did the antelope?)

Of course, Lady Estel managed well enough, and if she had been Lady Estel’s maid, Alda might still have thought of her work as she had done when she came to her situation two winters past. But that was how things might have been, and how things were not, and thus not worth dwelling upon. For she did dwell upon much upon these recent months; all the time she was talking to herself low in her head about something. She did not speak it, because none listened and she did not expect them to. Indeed, the spinster daughter of a common saddler would sound mad thinking to offer up so many thoughts as if she were a scholar and a sage. But there the endless talk behind her eyes was, so she had bought a quill and ink and a little paper- but the clean creamy page seemed to sneer at her: What, you? What can a glorified chambermaid have to besmirch me with?

And it was true that she could not see places as a poet should- she had been far abroad with her mistress, and Rohan was so much scruffy green, Arnor so much drab green and grey, fair Ithilien so many green-speckled hills, Amroth all blue and red-brown, Lebennin so many undistinguishable fields where inward-eyed peasants wandered bowed like so many two-legged oxen. But nevertheless came the sudden all-absorbing moments of that understanding when one of the downstairs maids, scowling after a long hot official banquet, came through the kitchen door and kicked shoes off so that they rattled along the floor to her seat ahead of her, or, as more and more often now, when Alda pushed open her lady’s chamber door in the morning, and peered into the half-light.

She had scolded Master Kolloin, as true and as good humoured a man as there was in all the White City for speaking ill of her princess; she who was fully pledged to the Campaign for the Education of Female Orphans, who had signed the petition to outlaw droit de signor, had said “What, some impudent gossip from this man Brunbund? I should say it bodes ill for him.” But then were not alliance of principle no principle at all if they crushed alliances of the heart? The figure curled up in the bed before her, her face hidden by swathes of heavy inky ripples pouring over the pillow, which had, with their usual bloody-mindedness, entirely shaken off all of yesterday’s work with the curling iron- her mistress, yes, but not only eight years her junior, but for three months her bedfellow, since recieving the oddest of requests, which should have aroused her suspicion at the time.

“I had not wished to go hunting you out, Alda, though I am much contented by your presence,” her Princess had said, by way of confession. And there was a reason not to search for any other, of course- Nanneth and Adar did not need her sorrow to add or to smother their own; her younger sisters needed their sleep. Lady ‘Wyn and her lord husband did not need reminding of their own catalogue of personal disasters, and how could she taunt Lady Estel with the spectre of loosing a twin sister? Indeed, her list of chambers to slip into in the night for a comforting presence must have been limited… and thus the message had come to Alda: “Prince Elboron of Ithilien knows it is not his place to presume to command the staff of the King’s house, but nevertheless begs of Mistress Alda that her mistress the Princess Elensil, in light of her recent loss be not left bereft of companionship in the hours of night.” (“Come now, Alda, it would really not be so bad just for a few weeks until she’s comfortable on her own at night, now would it? Go on, there’s a good lass, Mistress Alda, she lies quite still and doesn’t do anything frightful like wet the bed or sleep with her eyes wide open- so my sisters tell me, at least.”)

Alda laid a hand on what she hoped was an arm or shoulder through the sheets.

“My lady? Will you rise, my lady?”

There was a movement under her hand, but away from her, not towards her.

“My lady?”

Her lady shrank down further beneath the sheets.

“Please, my lady,” Alda said, “you may well feel better if you were to rise.”

“I shall not,” what had been visible of the princess’ head disappeared. “I should not wish to insult anyone with my presence.”

Oh ye graces and maiar, Alda murmured in her mind, send me some diversion so I might not spend all day pleading and wheedling with one old enough to know better! Why, when she needs most my fealty, does she now command it not at all?

But what had ambitious, double-thinking Alda done to deserve a boon for no nobler purpose than to make the duties of her morning less tedious? So she expected nothing, and continued coaxing and soothing, kneeling upon the bed, bent low over her mistress. But perhaps for that reason, all at once, there came a noise from the level below- a crash, a shout, a high-pitched shriek. How could Alda not go to open the door to hear the voices outside?

“Notwithstanding, Míra,” spoke the Queen, “This house is no place for a hawk.”

“Of course it is not,” her daughter was heard to reply, “’Tis not my bird’s fault if Adar hates her.”

Indeed not, my lady Alda thought, the fault is yours. However, she did nevertheless chose not to hear the King’s call to any passing to stop the infernal creature- not only because she knew nothing of hunting birds, but because pampered Habaew’s belligerence was well known. The little speckled peregrine had been a gift for Princess Andumíriel’s fourteenth birthday from the elves of south Ithilien- a gift for which the King had become less grateful every time it managed to get into his house, probably with help from its mistress, but possibly by its own unfathomable will. It had about as much affection for most men as falcons usually do, for which reason Alda retreated back into her mistress’ chamber as it sailed past, only having time to note that it carried something white in its claws.

The little hawk loved its young mistress very dearly, but did not love her dark and noisy nest, nor the other men who ran after it; and so as soon as it could it slipped away, up, up, hopefully heading towards each patch of light wherever it saw one. and, After a few disappointments, at which it persevered, for there must be a gap somewhere, from which her mistress had called her and through which she had got in, at long last she found the sky, and, true to her nature, made for height, far away from confusing men, until she found a thermal to raise her comfortably.

Below, young Caranthir nudged old Tuor out of dozing against his spear outside the door of the White Tower, and pointed upwards.

“Handsome little wennet, isn’t she?”

“She is that. And her mistress ain’t so ill-favoured, either, is she?”

“Eh, Tuor, you know I wouldn’t take any notice of that whether she was or she wasn’t.”

“’Course not, lad. ‘Course not.”

“Pack it in, Tuor, I’m norrint mood.”

“Sorry, lad. Leave you watchin’ the pretty birdy, shall I?”

“You could.”

“Other pretty birdy can wait.”

“I said leave it!”

In a shady spot in the garden, Princess Elenwë said to Lady Ilsa:

“You’ll go blind if you keep staring up into the sun like that.”

“I’m trying to see what she’s got in her feet.”

You can’t see that. Only I can see that. And anyway she’s far too high to see now. She’ll come down. See, upon the roof- Legolas calls her, can you not see?”

From her vantage, the speckled peregrine looked down upon a white dot, fast receding, on a green ground, framed with the purple of the hills, and, further, beyond the winding silver band: more, richer green, brown, grey, towards the hills and woods of her hatching. And perhaps from there she did see a dove or a pigeon, but also, back in the white patch, she saw the signal from he who she had known since then, the old, fair one, and the instinct learned from him triumphed over the instinct learned from Tulkas. Down, down she came, tumbling as only a peregrine can. Below her, the two small ladies squeaked delightedly.

“Nothing travels faster than a peregrine descending,” said Elenwë.

Ilsa thought about this. “Surely if a Mûmak fell from that high he would go faster,” she said.

Elenwë tutted. “Falcons do not fall,” she said. “They fly downwards.”

“But a falling Mûmak would go very fast.”

“But how would a Mûmak get five hundred feet into the air in the first place?”

Ilsa shrugged. “Magic?”

“Look, you can’t say something that could only happen with magic, not real staffs-and-sparks magic. If it’s by magic then anything can happen and so you can’t prove anything. And anyway, be quiet, I’m watching Legolas.”

For the falcon had come to Legolas’ hand- however much Habaew loathed mortal men, she was never above being bidden by the Greenwood elves. and It brought him joy to see her, his gift to young Mira, for he knew that the hawk, though wearing Aragorn’s patience, had brought his ‘niece’ joy, and if he delighted in his gawdor’s daughters at the man’s own expense, then he was sure he would not be the first or last to know such sport.

(He had dreamed of Nínuilos last night. He had heard again the cry in the trees, run to her and into darkness so complete he had been lost in the Mirk of old, blundering at last to fathomable lands so far from where he had last known the trees around him he knew naught of how he had arrived there. Only last night, instead of his friends who had discovered him, a dark figure had raised a vile yellow lantern over him, laughing aloud, and he had looked down at the slack body he bore in his arms… and seen a face he was, at that time, not to see for over two thousand years.)

“What is this you bear, little hawk?” he said, thinking with mirth that this must have been the cause of the shouting below. He could hardly have spoken it to any other save maybe Gimli, but there was a certain joy in the noise and chaos in the White City. He could never, he knew, live such a life- poise and grace was his lot- the bustle and vitality was bewildering, and yet it warmed his breast even if he did glide though it like a ghost. That did not stop him knowing all that happened. And soon there would be more joy to share in- he had been there, in fact, at dinner when he had felt the new note in the sinfona around him- as tiny as the hatching of a wasp grub inside a fig-flower bud, little more than the opening up of an as yet empty potentiality...

Later he had noted Elensil’s face grow pale, and, as she was amongst only friends, her head drooping on the wing of her chair- and had looked from her to see Aragorn with his now-grey head resting in a similar gesture upon his elbow, and known that his own years in Middle Earth would be far from without end, but none the worse for that. He would be sorrowful no more.

Now, from his vantage point, he smiled, and waved to Elenwë, who flapped her white pocket-kerchief in answer.

“Come, Habaew,” he said, turning to his charge, “Let me see what you have picked up in there. What care you for letters? I trained you well, but I did not teach you to read.”

He was not too conscious of reading letters out of the King’s house- it was not hard to know most of their business. However, he did not read it as such, but a word or two caught his eye, and thus his interest, and he opened it, hopeful.

It was not what he had hoped, nor anything he had expected. It was, in fact, not the way an elf would have ever have thought of doing things.

At a loss, he turned and stared at the hawk, which leered back at him with mad little black eyes, then left his wrist in the direction of the falconry. He looked upon the two innocent little maids in the garden, and wondered if they would ever be safe from an act of which they could as yet understand nothing, any more than all the other offences against the heavens that men might perform. He looked upon the guardsmen at the Tower door, and wondered if those two amicable dolts had ever vilely misused their women. How had he not seen? When had he forgotten the wisdom of his father and his people, and thought so well of mortal men?

Suddenly repulsed by the sight of their City, he closed his eyes, but seared upon them was the laughing lantern-bearer, howling so loud that the light swayed and shook.

What now? Where was the dwarf? Where was the dwarf? Not due to arrive for another three days, that was where. Irrationally, Legolas was for a moment frightened. He, Legolas, was quite capable at this moment of spending that intervening time in a most regrettable manner of which he yet knew not what- it seemed as if had the dwarf been present he might have been better able to account for himself.

He looked again at the scene, the ignorant guards, one too old for the real army, one a new recruit of fourteen; at the little girls, one golden-haired, one dark and solemn, playing below. At the whirl of city streets, the chessboard of late summer fields beyond. And he knew that whilst he might be forced to spoil the men’s game, he couldn’t smash their board.

Yes, games. That was all it was, just games. What was that that Gimli had said? “You want to play silly beggars, that’s fine. Just don’t quibble about the rules later.”

He looked down at the letter again, rather as Gimli was always inclined to prod at any wound that he might have had, as if he wanted to impress the hurt upon himself properly.

The invitation would be re-written, he supposed. Pelias son of Thuros would break his fast with the Princess Elesnsil on the morrow; while Adrahil son of Echerian would ride with the Princess and her father in the afternoon. And what was the elf to do?

Oh, come now.

Slipping into the garret of the Steward’s house, the elf began to sing softly as the song slipped in from whencesoever such inspirations are inclined to come:

So, little master, you’re dressed to go dancing,
Dressed in your best to go strutting and prancing,
I’ll put an end to your fun pretty soon,
You may go dancing, but
I’ll name the tune, yes, I’ll name the tune.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

In Challenges

Story Information

Author: Soubrettina

Status: Beta

Completion: Work in Progress

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/03/07

Original Post: 04/17/05

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