1. Dragons or Ribbons
At the latest interruption, Legolas heard Aragorn murmur something beneath his breath that was most unbecoming of a king and made a note to tell Arwen as much. With a look of equal parts annoyance and apology, Aragorn took his leave to quell the newest rebellion.
Legolas did not mind so much. It was good to be back with his old friend, and to know that he would be staying for awhile with the King and Queen of Gondor. Long had he been in his own woodlands, but much, much longer had he loved them both, and he acknowledged that his heart was with them here, in the city of men. Though he took every opportunity to visit Aragorn, Arwen, and their three children, Eldarion, Imeren, and Gliriel, his own duties and travels had kept him away for longer than he intended.
He suspected that Aragorn had summoned him, not as counselor, but as friend, for he sensed a loneliness and oppression about the man that suggested that Aragorn had grown restless and had need of rehashing old adventures, and perhaps of finding a few new ones.
That was fine with Legolas as well. He missed his adventures with Aragorn, the Hobbits, the wizard, and dare he say, the dwarf. Middle-Earth was not free of peril, but they who had lived through the most unimaginable dangers, however glad they were to have ended the darkness, hardly had any new quests to provide them with equivalent excitement.
Legolas gazed out the window of the palace, watching the comings and goings of lighthearted people who lived with plenty, under the rule of a man they loved, and who loved them. Pride swelled in Legolas' chest very unexpectedly, and tightened his throat, for he remembered the time when the Ranger had doubted his ability to serve Gondor well. Now, Elessar was proclaimed the most just, the most generous, the most beloved ruler of all the days of men.
And the songs they sang of their beautiful and kindly queen would ring out to the stars until the ending of them.
He had been lucky in his friends, he thought. Indeed.
Legolas found that the smile that had spread upon his face was still in place when he felt a tapping upon his knee and looked downward. He was surprised, for he had been caught off guard, but was not startled, for the walls of the city held in safety and serenity, without hope of escape for either.
He found himself looking down into the little moon face of Gliriel, Aragorn and Arwen's youngest daughter. She watched him with solemn gray eyes, unblinking. Her hand still rested carelessly on his knee.
He felt that such graveness and importance deserved his respect, so he tried very hard to flatten the widening grin crawling across his lips. He was hard pressed indeed to keep a smile from his face with this child, for he had a special fondness for her and often boasted of her in the faraway lands.
Weeks before it was her time to come into the world, as Aragorn and Arwen journeyed back from a late summer visit with Faramir and Eowyn, Gliriel had been born. A great storm had come down upon the King's escort, and the horses and carriages had been bogged in a great mire, unable to either go back to Ithilien or forward to Gondor.
The babe had been set upon coming, and coming viciously, and the timing had been danger to both Arwen and the child. The labor was both long and violent, and rain poured upon them and lightning lashed from the sky like a demon's flaming whip. Some had whispered that both Lady and her babe would not see morning.
Those had underestimated the will of their King, the strength of their Queen, and the persistence of the life borne of both of them. It had been Aragorn to deliver the child, to touch his third born with his hands before those of any other held her. And Aragorn proclaimed that when his tiny daughter issued forth an ear-splitting shriek of protest at being brought into the world after such fearful hours, the sound was as music.
And thus they had given her the Elvish name meaning singing.
"Good afternoon, Lady Gliriel," Legolas bowed his head in formal greeting, and touched his forehead and chest, as one did when one met with royalty.
Gliriel bowed as well, never taking her hand from his knee. "How do you do?" she asked in gracious tones of someone much older. No doubt she'd been watching her mother doing her governing.
"I am well, my Lady. For I have found good company. It is long since we met. Do you remember me? If you say you do not, my heart shall be broken."
Rather than answer this question directly, she reached up to grab the front of his shirt in both fists for leverage and climbed up upon his lap, elbowing and kicking until she was comfortably settled there on his knee, her legs dangling between his own.
She turned her gaze back into his eyes and said primly, "I remember you. I do not remember if I like you or not though."
Legolas pressed his lips very tightly, determined he would not laugh at the child for he would then be in her bad graces. It was very good indeed to return to Gondor. For a moment he envied Aragorn this treasure very much.
"Well, I will do anything to win your heart and your approval, Princess of Gondor. I will slay a dragon, take you for a ride upon a white pony, sing you a song. I will buy you a pretty trinket. I will…"
"You have pretty hair, like Princess Eowyn," she said, silencing all further pledges of fealty, reaching up to his shoulder to stroke the golden strands laying over it, so very different from her own, for she had the look of her mother about her. As did her sister. This was much to Aragorn's dismay.
It was not quite the way he would have chosen to have her consider him, but as she seemed to like Eowyn, he guessed he could have done worse. And Eowyn was very pleasing to look upon.
"You may come with me. I want to play with your hair."
Legolas' eyebrows climbed far up his forehead, nearly into the hair she wished to braid. Not exactly what he'd been expecting, but probably less complicated than, say, slaying a dragon, as there were none to be found any more.
He made one attempt for dignity. "Well, I am waiting for your Father, little one. I am one of his trusted advisors. As well as one of his oldest friends. I help him make very important decisions."
The tilt of her head told him that she considered this highly unlikely.
"You may come," she repeated, a bit more firmly and he swore for a moment that Arwen Evenstar had leapt out of the five-year-old and faced him down. Gliriel jumped from his knee and trampled his toes with the carelessness of a child who knows she cannot do any real damage, and took his hand.
"Your skin is very nice. Not rough like Ada's. It is like Mama's, soft like flower petals."
"Ah, well…" Legolas stammered, just imagining the look of manly superiority on Aragorn's face should the child tell him this. He set out to prevent such an occurrence. "We should not say that to your father. He might be sad that you think his hands are not so nice."
She ignored him. Though her tiny hand was completely hidden within his, it was very clear who was leading whom. He was forced to stoop a bit as he followed her. It was most unelfly posture.
He glanced backwards at the room where he was supposed to be waiting for Aragorn, but then, who knew how long the flood in the kitchen would take to stop? For all he knew Elessar might have met his death in the water. The valet had seemed to think it was likely when he edged into the room, keeping the door between most of his body and the snapping eyes of the King.
Gliriel did not feel the need for conversation as she led him through the halls, pausing to talk to no one, not him, nor anyone else she passed. The servants who watched them go smiled and whispered to one another at the sweetness of the sight of warrior and child navigating the corridors. Gliriel managed the twists and turns of the palace hall with one who has long ruled it, and she looked neither to the left nor the right as she brought him to the room that was hers to play in as she wished.
The room was bright and cheerful, with many windows and paintings of elves and horses and men that Legolas had himself drawn there the winter before Arwen had given birth to Eldarion. The room had been each of their children's for a time after their birth.
Legolas' heart gave over to tenderness as he looked at his labor of love, his gift to the King and Queen alike, an acknowledgement of the love and happiness that had been so hard won for both of them.
He had painted them all, had given the children of Elessar and Evenstar their history there in bright colors and sweeping murals. Waterfalls of Rivendell cascaded behind the House of Elrond. The boughs of Lorien twisted upwards to the ceilings. The lush goodness of the Shire and the Hobbit holes endured. In the scene of the Glittering Caves, Legolas had sprinkled gold dust into the paint, so that when the early morning light hit the wall, indeed it did shine in the glory Gimli reveled in. Shadowfax raced across the plains of Rohan, unbridled and free, and behind him, the brave Riders of Rohan (one slight of form and longer of golden hair) charged below the hill of Edoras. The Rangers of the Dunedain stood proud, tall, and watchful, staring out over Gondor through the window, from the far wall. One of them bore a remarkable resemblance to Boromir. Gandalf's fireworks crept onto the high ceiling, over the silver parapets of Minas Tirith, as they had the night Aragorn and Arwen had been wed. A great ship unfurled its sail and rode the clouds to the Undying Lands.
Legolas' murals had served a tribute to the history of those King and Queen had treasured the most, and there was such love etched in the walls by his own hands that it came back to him anew. All elves were possessed of some gift of art, be it singing, the written word, sewing, sculpting, or painting. He had always had a fine hand with a brush, and never had he put it to such use before, and never would he do so again. How he missed those dear voices and faces that had inspired his art!
He smiled as he remembered the long days he had shut himself into the room, for it was to be a surprise for the Queen. Aragorn had smuggled him food and drink for the better part of a week, for none had known Legolas had arrived in the White City. The room was in the proximity of the King and Queen's bedchambers, and Arwen had been in a bad temper the entire week. He had listened to Aragorn receive more than one thorough scolding, as he sat smirking and snickering in his own little room, covered in paint and safe from wrath.
Legolas had sent word when he was ready to show his labors to both Arwen and Aragorn, who had not been allowed within the room on his stealthy visits. The memory of their faces was one of his fondest. Arwen had burst into sobs, and at first Legolas had feared she was devastated by the ruin of her perfectly fine walls. But the wonder on her tear-soaked face as she walked to stand before each scene separately told him that she loved his gift even as much as he loved her. She'd paused for some time before the one of Rivendell in its days of high glory, as he'd taken greatest care to do it justice, and her fingertips had reached out to hover above the balcony her father had once stood upon, watching the comings and goings of the elves. New tears had welled upon her lashes as she looked at Legolas, a bittersweet smile there in her lips and in her eyes.
Aragorn had not come fully into the room at the time, but Legolas smiled now, standing in the doorway just where Aragorn had, even as the impatient child tugged at him. The King had bowed his crowned head for just a moment, and when he picked it up again, there had been tears of gratitude and amazement in his great eyes.
"You have moved me, Legolas," Aragorn said thickly, and walked to Legolas to grasp his shoulder. "I am humbled by such a gift. It is beyond kingly."
"Do you know who painted these walls for you, little one?" Legolas questioned Gliriel as she gave him an especially hard yank and he followed her the rest of the way into her nursery at last.
"Ada's dearest friend, and one who loves me very much," she answered automatically, as if she'd been well-versed in the tale. "Come and sit down."
Her casual relay of this old information cheered him beyond measure, for he imagined Aragorn or Arwen laying their children down in this nursery during the night and telling them the tales he'd painted. Telling them of the love the one who had painted them bore for each child.
"Please, sit." She told (ordered) him, and moved to the center of the room where another of the Fellowship's gifts awaited. The Hobbits had crafted and brought forth their finest furniture, the finest hobbit-sized table and chairs and bed, for it was of a size that a child could play comfortably upon it.
She was a gracious host and pulled a small chair out ceremoniously before crossing to take her own. Legolas stared at the minute furniture and looked down the length of his body doubtfully. He eyed the hobbit chair, not at all confident it would bear his weight.
But Gliriel's eyes were boring into his own expectantly, as piercing as Estel's had ever been, so he cleared his throat and nodded for her to be seated first, as a nobleman would. When she was seated, he gingerly eased himself down, folding his legs at impossible angles so that his posterior regions might meet the seat. The chair creaked ominously and Legolas did his best to keep his weight on his bunched legs, which stuck out to either side of him rather like a frog's.
"You are very big," Gliriel said at last, and looked altogether disapproving.
"Well, the table is very small," Legolas pointed out, in defense of himself, stung by her displeasure.
"Yes it is," she said, and giggled as she looked at her companion. "Mr. Frodo, Mr. Merry, Mr. Pippin, and Mr. Samwise the Brave are much smaller. And so am I."
They sat and watched each other for a few moments, and the blood stopped flowing altogether in Legolas' legs, so that he couldn't have removed himself from his twisted position had the city caught fire (which could have happened due to a problem in a tavern that had been the occasion of an earlier interruption with Aragorn).
"You are very pretty, for a boy-elf," Gliriel finally said, and though Legolas hoped she might have forgotten her designs on his hair, he was forced to remind himself this was Aragorn's blood. She would likely never forget anything in her lifetime.
Within minutes, Legolas sported several tiny braids, which he did not mind so much as the pink and lavender ribbons that she fastened them with. She was as industrious as a dwarf and in a few minutes, the whole of his head was adorned with knotted ribbons.
In addition, she perched a lovely little crown made of mithril on top of his head, and Legolas had a suspicion it was the dwarf who had given it to her, along with the tiny jeweled earbobs and necklace which she decorated him with.
Once he was properly dressed, she saw fit to serve them both tea from her hobbit tea-set. Legolas had made the mistake of assuming that there would be actual tea when she'd suggested it, and she had sighed in frustration when he eyed his empty little cup.
"It is pretend tea!" she hissed, clearly finding him duller of wit than a cave troll.
"Oh, well then. It is very good," he said and attempted not to crush the cup as he brought it to his mouth and actually sipped from it, not feeling nearly so foolish as he probably should have. "You are a very gracious hostess, my Lady."
"Lovely," she said, approving, and Legolas thought that he had not endured such torture in vain.
Until a voice, trembling on the very edge of laughter that might never stop, wondered from the doorway, "perhaps you wish to borrow one of the Queen's dresses to wear to dinner, Legolas?"
"Ada!" Gliriel forgot Legolas straightaway and ran from the elf toward the doorway. Legolas would not suffer himself to turn around and face Elessar just yet. He felt, for the first time in perhaps a thousand years, blood rush into his face, hot and pink. Matching his ribbons.
"Hello, Guren [my heart]," Legolas heard Aragorn murmur and a shriek of delight followed from the child as he presumably swept her up into his arms and gave her several kisses. "What have you done to Prince, or, shall I say, Princess Legolas?"
"He is very pretty," he heard Gliriel tell her father, and in a moment he raised his eyes slowly to Aragorn's as the King strode around to the other side of the table with his daughter perched upon his hip, her tiny arms wrapped hard around his neck.
"Why, you are right. He is very pretty. And it is fortunate he is dressed for company, for an old friend has just arrived in the city, having answered the same call I sent out for your new friend."
Against all odds, against all that was sacred and right and good with the world, Legolas heard a rough chuckle and the rolling R in the voice that growled out behind him.
"If I had known that you were envious of the wee crown, pointy-ear, I'd have made you one of your own. And a few jewels too. No need to take the lassie's." Gimli walked around to stand by Aragorn, and together the three of them stood, all beaming down at him.
The child, because she had made him pretty. The man and the dwarf because they knew, as he knew, without a doubt, that this day would never be allowed to slip from recall.
Legolas knew in his heart, in that moment, that evil had been allowed to endure after all.
"And have you enjoyed yourself, Guren?" Aragorn asked his daughter. "Has Legolas been good company for you?"
"Oh, yes. Ada. He is so pretty, like Princess Eowyn. I shall brush his hair every day and braid it. And then we shall have our tea."
"Well, I might scold you for troubling my friend so," Aragorn told her, "but he seems to mind it not."
"Ada, I think I will marry Prince Legolas." Gliriel announced this to her father, without preamble.
Though Aragorn smiled indulgently at her, his eyes were as arrows, and his smile like a blade when they fell upon the elf. In a pleasant enough tone, for his daughter was present, Aragorn said flatly, "this shall come to pass when the blazing sun gives over to ice and you become Queen of Rohan."
"The latter part may not be as far off as you think, Aragorn. For I've heard that Eomer is looking for a bride. And Legolas would make a fair one," Gimli grinned.
Aragorn was not quite done with his warning. "Very well then. You shall marry my daughter when I become Queen of Rohan, Legolas."
Legolas tried very hard to look as if he had no such intentions, which he did not, but was not willing to take many chances in the path of the protective father. He had seen Aragorn wield a sword in protection of those he loved much less than this child, after all.
He decided a diversionary tactic was in order and tried to look as threatening as possible, calling to mind the state he'd been in when slaying orcs. He really had no concept of how ineffective it was, given that the ribbons tied above his forehead swayed down merrily before his eyes as he narrowed them into glittering slits.
Dividing a very dark look between his two friends he hissed, "there is no need to tell of this, you know. I was merely appeasing your dear daughter, after all."
"Aye. Some might have brought her a sweet instead of dressing like a lass," Gimli said, and produced a small cake which Gliriel squealed in delight to have and reached from her father's arms to hug Gimli around the neck and to take the treat.
Traitor, Legolas thought and considered revising his opinion of Aragorn's babe.
"Still, there is no need to speak on it anymore," Legolas said and reached to remove the crown, but when the child issued a sharp gasp of protest, he was forced to leave it.
"What do you suppose the odds are of us never speaking of it again, Princess?" Aragorn asked, and though his daughter looked up in response, it was not to her he spoke.
They spent time with Gliriel, and Legolas had his revenge when he suggested that she invite Aragorn and Gimli to have tea with them. Legolas knew great satisfaction as he watched Aragorn bend his even longer, and less lithe, shape into the hobbit furniture. Gimli crushed his chair straight away, and Gliriel burst into sobs until Aragorn promised her that he would fix the chair before the coming of the night.
Finally, they went back to Aragorn's chambers to discuss kingly matters while Gliriel took some rest, and Legolas was finally able to remove his bows and braids. After some time, Gimli and Aragorn stopped grinning and they actually tended to the pressing business of planning a hunting trip.
By dinner, no one had made mention of Legolas in crown and ribbons for several hours and he dared to hope their mirth was spent. Guests milled about the room and none had so much as given him a strange look, which was more than he would have hoped for.
He forgot his embarrassment as Lady Arwen came into the great hall upon Aragorn's arm, glowing in a deep green dress that was such a contrast to her pale, flawless skin as to be breathtaking.
She hurried to him, embracing him tightly, for she loved him more dearly than any other in Middle-Earth save her husband and children.
"Lady Evenstar, you grow more beautiful each time I see you. Love suits you very well, indeed. It does me good to see you again."
"You are too gracious, old friend. Long have I hoped to see your face back in Gondor." She kissed him again and then turned away to greet Gimli warmly.
Aragorn was smiling too, gently, content to have old friends near. "Let us sit down and eat together for we have been too long apart."
Arwen led them to a table loaded with a feast that not even a Hobbit could have done justice to. The men waited for her to be seated at one end of the table, and then moved to their respective positions around her, as the rest of the guests sat themselves and silently waited for the Queen to invite them to eat.
Just as Legolas was pulling out his chair at the King's elbow, Arwen's clear voice floated to him, silkily sweet, guileless though he knew better.
"Legolas, I would prefer it if you did not sit by my husband. Just a while ago he made a comment of how pretty you were today. I must admit to being threatened."
They all roared with laughter, and he had little doubt that everyone in the city had by now long been aware of the events of the afternoon, and that the King had no small part in that. At his expense, they were having themselves a very good laugh.
At his side, Gimli suddenly reached up and tugged at a lock of his hair. When he drew his hand back, he held a pink ribbon, which he lay beside Legolas' plate.
"I suppose you could not have brought yourself to inform me I had left one in during all the hours we have spent together?" Legolas asked the dwarf.
"It is not in my nature." Gimli agreed.
They were all still laughing, and self-consciously, Legolas ran a hand through his hair, and thankfully encountered no more ribbons. As he did so, as they all laughed at him, he caught Aragorn's eye, then Arwen's, and thought that if he were not so smitten with this entire, royal family, he just might have minded.
He considered, several times, trying to bring up the fact that both Aragorn and Gimli had committed several omissions or slights of conduct in the drinking of the imaginary tea (not the least of which had been Gimli's completely flattening the chair), and that he had pleased his hostess more than the others. Unfortunately, he thought such a story couldn't really help his plight much at the moment.
It wasn't until the end of the meal, after dessert had been served that Arwen wondered breezily. "Would anyone like some tea? Oh, but I forget. The King and his companions have already had theirs today."
Gimli reddened and Aragorn nearly choked on the last bite of his cake, looking at Legolas in accusation. Legolas shrugged and shook his head to let them know that he had not been the one to tell the Queen.
Legolas took great pleasure in seeing the look of shock come over Elessar's face. Could see him wonder just how far Arwen's reach was in her palace and who belonged to the network of spies she had placed throughout. Aragorn swallowed hard and looked guiltily at the Lady, as if wondering what other things she had heard about his behavior this day.
In the end, Legolas decided that he would rather wear the ribbons in the city streets than be on the receiving end of the slow, knowing smile Queen gave King.
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.