Lessons of Life

Midnight Musings

by Elwing-(V)
© Jan. 31, 2005
rev. March 29, 2008

"Braiding Session" by Elwing-(V)

"Braiding Session" by Elwing-(V) for "Midnight Musings"

Stories > Lessons of Life Series > "Midnight Musings" > Next story "The Best Medicine"
Rating: PG/Humor (pre-FotR)

Estel snorted and jerked up, shuffling his bedroll in an effort to ‘fluff’ it…he just could not get comfortable; every pebble felt like a boulder and every twig felt like a log.  He laid down for about three seconds, then grunted and flopped over to his other side, only to notice an aggravated Elf glaring down at him.

“What is wrong with you? I took the watch so you could sleep because you were soooo tired…”

“I know.” The Man grumbled, raising up and attacking his bedroll again. “I just…*pound*… can’t get…*punch*…settled to sleep.”

Legolas commiserated with his friend, dropping to sit cross-legged on the ground beside him. “Well, there is no danger about, so that should not be a worry for you, and we are suffering neither from drastic wounds nor poisoning for a change.” The Prince laughed lightly, as it was a rarity they had not encountered some great danger as usual on their forays. Running into a small pack of wolves a day earlier, a relatively slight effort on their part had convinced the beasts to seek easier prey. He and Estel had acquired only minor scratches and bruises in the skirmish. “Mayhap it is the lack of dire circumstance that makes you unable to rest, as you must wonder what may lie in wait.” His teasing tone earned a scowl from the Ranger.

“Oh, indeed, my day is not complete minus the thrill of battling an Orc army riding Wargs, with Oliphants at the rear, pinning us at the edge of the highest cliff, at which bottom rages the deepest river overflowing from the terrible storm…”

Legolas’ eyes grew larger as the scene unfolded. “Enough!” He finally broke in. “Arrogant Human! You should be careful what you wish for.” Oliphants, indeed – that would be all we need to run into. The Elf began to worry as the Man continued to fidget. Could he be sick? Mortals can react so strangely to such common things. He surprised his friend by suddenly reaching to feel the Man’s brow for fever. Finding no unnatural heat, he tried to recall what other signs of ailment to look for.

Realizing the concern, Estel assured him, “I’m fine, I just need to relax.”

Legolas had a sudden idea. “You could drink some ‘special’ tea. You have the ingredients with you.” The Man made a terrible face at the very thought of swallowing the vile stuff when not on the verge of death. “I could brew some for you right away; you will certainly sleep then.”

The Ranger shook a fist at his friend. “I will fight you if you try to make me drink it.”

The Prince appeared affronted. “Fine, no need to be belligerent. Your need to sleep is making you even more obstinate than usual. And Lord Elrond’s tea tastes not that bad.”

Estel was looking at him in mock shock. “I thought Elves had such marvelous memories! You have tasted some of that tea yourself, and yet you speak thus?” He watched as Legolas considered and then made a face of his own.

“It is rather nasty at that…still, it works.” They both silently agreed to forgo further discussion of the tea.

Estel began flicking pebbles from around his bedding, while Legolas gazed at the trees as if expecting them to present a solution to their problem. As none was forthcoming from that source, the Elf turned his gaze back on his friend. “What might I do that would help you relax? Perhaps a massage?”

Estel sat up, smiling, but shook his head. “The offer is kind, but it is not my body that is tense, rather my mind.”

“Too many thoughts crowding that small space?” Legolas dodged a swat. “Then we must concentrate on your head.” Having another idea, he moved closer to the Man. “I shall braid your hair. It is more relaxing to do it oneself, but having another braid it is well also, plus you have not much experience.” He cut off the expected protest. “I am surprised at that, for all I have heard you contrived in your innocent youth to ‘look elfish’.” The Prince was remembering a tale told him by Elladan and Elrohir, Estel’s fostering brothers, of a time the human child had gone for a whole day holding his ears to points, hoping the skin would stretch and stay that way.

Estel was fairly certain of Legolas’ thoughts, and the memory still caused a faint blush on the Man’s face. He had been quite disappointed at the results those years ago, ending up that day with bruised but still very round ears. Returning his thoughts to the present, and seeing his friend patiently waiting for permission to begin braiding, the Ranger gave a sigh. “Have a go at it then, but be warned my hair will likely not be compatible with your efforts.”

The Elf sorted strands of human hair to work with, fingers gently stroking along the scalp in the process. Considering the Ranger’s comment, Legolas paused. “So you have tried this then?”

“Not I, but my brothers have, many years back.”

“Both of them?” He hoped Estel had been willing, for the twin Elves could be mercilessly persistent.

“Aye, both, at the same time, one on each side of my head.” The Man did not sound particularly traumatized over the occurrence. “They were quite earnest to ‘help’ me, and did a fine effort, but they got somewhat carried away with it.”

“And…” the listener nudged the talebearer past the pause.

“And when they were done, my entire head was in braids.” Estel was snickering softly, and Legolas joined in.

“I am sure you could have started a whole new tradition among the warriors of the realm.”

“Umm, well, except…” The Ranger’s voice trailed off as he realized he was freely telling a tale that he would usually pay his brothers dearly to keep secret. But it would be only a matter of time until they told it anyway; I am surprised they have not already.

“Except…” the Prince ‘nudged’ again, eager to hear the rest of the story.

“They had run out of the usual leather and twine ties about halfway through, and there was no way my hair was going to hold on to itself, so one of them went to Arwen’s room and raided…er, ‘borrowed’ most of her hair ribbons to use. I could not see the result as the twins were working at the back of my head by then, and so I flaunted about all the rest of the day blissfully unaware.”

Legolas could not suppress a wide grin. “I am sure you were most…colorful, Estel.” He could well imagine the soft rose, baby blue and other very feminine shades of silken décor twined in the Man’s dark locks. “And when you found out, I suppose you got appropriately even.”

“I believe I did threaten them with several types of torture, but I didn’t follow through. For once, the twins actually did not intend to embarrass me, at least not at first. And since they were careful to put Arwen’s ribbons back in place before she would miss them and promised not to tell her I’d worn them, I supposed us even.”
 
“Hmmph.” Legolas grumped. “She could hardly have faulted you when it was your brothers thieving her possessions. I believe you do owe them yet; I would help you plan a proper revenge, for I am sure if I think hard enough, I will recall some matter I also owe them for.” He finished off the first braid and leaned back to critique his work. Gaining no response from the Ranger on either the braiding or the offer of revenge-aid, he took a closer look at his silent friend.

Estel’s thoughts had remained on Arwen. In his childhood years, she had lived away from Imladris, so he had been familiar with her then only from tales told by her family and friends. Now he imagined her in that earlier scenario: berating him for staining her lovely ribbons with his messy human hair. And even in such a temper, every word from her lips would I hear like the note of a nightingale. He gradually became aware of his companion’s stare and flushed deeply.

Legolas merely moved to the Man’s other side and began plaiting again. “You are besotted.”

Though he found his friend’s ministrations relaxing, more so than expected, the topic of conversation now was making the Man tense again. “Am not! I…love her, Legolas.” Silence came and lingered a while.

Legolas noted the Man’s wistful, almost sad, countenance. Ai, he loves her! This should be a good thing…his worry over it is not! “True love is a wonderful thing, Estel,” he replied seriously, “and can overcome most if not all obstacles it encounters, if you but give it time to do so.” He finished the second braid and moved back. “There, you look almost civilized now.”

Estel scowled briefly, then tilted his head back and forth in mild surprise; the braids were holding and it felt nice, if odd, to not have hair sliding in front of his eyes. A thought came to him, and he gave a suspicious glare to the Elf. “What did you use to hold it so well?”

“Only some moss from the trees.” Legolas held out some of the stuff, much like a gray-green twine.

The Wood-Elf uses a plant…I should have known. Satisfied, his thoughts returned to Arwen.

Legolas, knowing the human so well, could see the change in thoughts by the slight glazing of  gray eyes as well as the subtle shifting of facial features. He groaned inwardly. He is being much too serious about this, and will never sleep tonight, which will not bode well for either of us on the morrow! How might I make him forget his lady love for now? An idea began to form. Perhaps not forget, but only lighten his mood…
 
The Prince recalled a talent discovered a long time back while teasing Arwen. After her initial shock, she had been delighted and conspired with him to prank her brothers in the same manner…several times. They even managed to prank her father Elrond once; however, although the Elf Lord seemed highly amused afterwards, Legolas always felt a tiny guilt for such boldness and had not used that particular method since. Now seems a time for hidden talent to resurface… if I master it still, as long has it been since tried, and no chance here to practice. No matter, I shall just give it my best effort. Yet first things first…

Legolas cast his senses sweeping outward and found no dangers lurking. With that and knowledge that the trees would also  warn of any approaching threat, he returned his attention fully to the Ranger. The Elf stretched himself out alongside his friend, taking no apparent notice of the Man’s new round of fidgeting.

“Of course,” he began, “even two clearly in love must go through proper procedures of declaration.” He knew without looking he had caught Estel’s attention. “I am certain the Evenstar will expect a lengthy and attentive, even ceremonious, courtship.” He then glanced at the Man, who was giving a rather pitiful ‘I know’ look back.  He continued, “And even giving allowance for your race’s…umm, hygienic deficiency…” Legolas thought he heard a snarl from the human’s direction, but ignored it. “she will expect an effort on your part to be as least scruffy as you can manage, which will involve a great deal more than braiding that mop you call hair.”

The Ranger was no longer fidgeting; rather he was putting all his effort into glaring at the Prince. “I am well aware of that, and just what ‘helpful’ hints would you give to me to accomplish such a daunting task, my ‘dear, dear’ friend?”

The Elf chose to again ignore the snarls mingled with the words. “Well, first of all, you might make the effort to bathe more often.” It was an ongoing joke between them that the Man avoided baths; truly he did not, and was quite more attentive to it than most Men would be.

Estel groaned. This again! “If I took to bathing as much as certain prissy Elves I know of, I would be so wrinkled as to be unrecognizable. How could I woo my lady like that?”

Legolas had actually overlooked that peculiar effect water had on humans in long contact with it. “Hmm…all right, I’ll concede you that point. Then another must be conceded, I suppose, due to that odd thing you Humans do.”

“Which would be?” Estel suspected his friend had a very long list of ‘odd’ things Humans did.

“When you get as wet as if you had bathed, but you do not smell bathed…and though it happens often, it does not wrinkle your skin!”

“Sweating, it’s called, and it’s natural for us Humans to do so.”

“Still seems odd,” Legolas muttered, but decided to forgo continued complaints on the matter. “You could at least camouflage that problem with scented oils. Arwen is quite fond of such blandishments…I believe her favorites are ‘Ripe Summer Strawberry’ and ‘Wild Orchid in Bloom’...” His speech was cut off by a series of snorts from the Ranger.

“Which do you think would truly personify me, the ‘rugged Ranger’…am I more fruit or flower?” Estel smirked at Legolas, quite pleased as he put the Elf at a temporary loss for words.

Legolas, with difficulty, refrained from laughing aloud at the images in his head the Ranger’s words created. He narrowed his eyes and smirked back. “Would you really want me to say?” The direction of this conversation moves well with my surprise…soon, very soon, I will spring it… He communed briefly with the trees again. All was safe still; the Prince was ready to implement his Grand Plan.  

Moving closer to the Man, Legolas stretched out on his stomach, placing elbows to the ground with hands up, palms cupping his chin, and his long legs neatly crossing at the ankles. He fixed a stare at the Ranger, who was still snorting in laughter at his own mind-images concerning various flora. “One might suppose you could manage to smell clean, if not ‘dainty’, at least for the duration of courtship. Your appearance even at best is still, well, ‘scruffy’ and not even fine clothing can disguise much of that. Not that you seem to have much inclination for acquaintance with silks and linens rather than leathers and wools…”

The Ranger’s retort died off as he noted something distractingly peculiar about the Elf’s position. Unable to decide just what was ‘wrong’ with it, Estel buried his face in his arms and mumbled imprecations at his friend, whose Elf ears heard all.

“Your advantage might lie in darkness, Estel, for if your fair maid see you not, nor hopefully smell you, she might thus be moved to acceptance of your offerings by sound. You do have a pleasant enough voice, both in speech and song; though, those could yet benefit from practice.”

The Man raised his head. “Thank you for such finite praise! Are you offering to let me practice my wooing skills on you? I suppose I should not find it of high difficulty…only meager imagination is needed to view you as ‘Princess’ Greenleaf.” Estel grinned madly as the Prince made a rude face.

Inwardly, the Elf was quite pleased. This is too easy; he is setting himself up! Ah, well, just a bit more, then let the main game begin! “Imagine as you will,” he huffed, “but let me hear some of your effort at winning said fair princess’ hand.”
By this time, lack of sleep and the strange conversation were making the Man positively giddy. Forcing back an urge to giggle, he leered at his reclining friend. “Oh, most lovely one, teasing me out here alone under the stars…it is a great deal more than your hand I wish to be winning!” His laughter would no longer stay contained, and the Ranger lowered his head again to smother the sounds.

Legolas narrowed his eyes and tensed slightly. Perfect! Here goes something…! “That is the manner of your entreaty to your love? Ridiculous Human! Why, I can almost hear Arwen’s response to such a serenade now…”

“Rude, uncouth being! If you were to have all eternity to try, you shall never possess even my little finger, much less any greater part of me, as such is your intent by your own ignoble words!”

ARWEN?! The Ranger’s head shot up and swiveled wildly around, at last stopping to rest his stare on the bland-faced Elf staring back at him.

“What ails you now, Estel?” The Prince sounded genuinely puzzled. “You look as though you’d seen some frightful specter.”

“No, I…not seen, but…I heard…I thought…” The Man groaned and tried to relax again. “Twas not a fright, just…unexpected.” I must need sleep even more than I realized…I am becoming delusional…mayhap I should have some tea after all. He attempted to allay his friend’s apparent worry. “I fear I must make myself immune to your charms, my ‘princess’, for now at least, but mayhap the future will provide another chance to ‘know’ you better.” He spoke while resting his head back on his arm, and had just closed his eyes, when the Voice spoke again.

“Fickle Human! So now you insinuate you would thrust yourself on whosoever ‘lucky’ lady should just happen in your vicinity whilst you are ‘in the mood’?”

Estel’s head had shot up again at the first words, and this time he was able to ascertain the direction from which came the shockingly familiar voice. His eyes nearly fell out of their sockets and he mouthed like a fish out of water before words finally sputtered out. “L…Legolas? You…! What…how…you?”

Legolas, fighting laughter, sighed deeply and rolled his eyes. “Mayhap we should forgo this aspect of your wooing as well; you are only getting more incomprehensible by the moment! Mayhap you should concentrate strictly on the written word, though I wonder if your penmanship fares any better than your speech…at least one might have a chance to proofread a note…”

Estel suddenly realized the Prince’s position mirrored Arwen’s favorite manner of reclining as she would laze on the grass during a picnic; she would also place herself similarly on the floor of Elrond’s Hall of Fire, supplied with an armload of pillows, if some interesting debate or discussion occasionally ran late into the night. The Man found Legolas’ level of mimicry both fascinating and disturbing.

 “Are you paying attention to me?”

The Ranger started. “Oh, aye, I am paying great attention to you.” He leveled another intent stare at the Elf, who in turn began to feel beginnings of an urge to fidget. “Though my mind wanders, as it wonders what sorcery has apparently allowed you, like the fabled giant serpent, to swallow whole my beloved, alive I presume, for I have just most recently heard her voice coming from your lips!”

The Elf gave a laugh, followed by a grimace. “Ugh, Estel, that’s disgusting! I have only ever touched the Evenstar in a brotherly manner…I certainly have never attempted to eat her! I am going to tell her, when next we meet, of what you have accused me and we shall see which of us two she thinks is ensorcelled.” Pretending to pout, he turned his face away from the gawking Man.

The Ranger relaxed and stretched back out on his bedroll, watching his ‘possessed’ friend carefully. I wonder how long he has had that jest in waiting to spring on me…and an excellent trick it was, though I can never let on to him I think so. He began considering how he could get back at the Elf, although the Man supposed it might take Elladan’s and Elrohir’s help to construe a prank of equal magnitude to the one Legolas had pulled. Or mayhap not… A rather wicked idea was forming in his head. Two can play this ‘teasing’ game! The Ranger took a deep breath and released it slowly to prepare himself, then spoke in a low, husky tone. “As it seems I am doomed in my endeavors to have the love of my life, I shall just have to make do…with what I can get.”

What is this, now? The question Legolas was about to ask Estel became a surprised yelp as a human arm snaked around the Elf’s waist. The Prince abruptly found himself snared, as the arm drew him close and a human leg slung over to pin his own. Oh, my…I may have overachieved in my goal to distract him. “Ahhh, Estel? What do you think you are doing?”

The Ranger leaned close to whisper in the Elf’s finely pointed ear. “Well, my lovely, you have accused me of several things this night, of which I would defend most as not true; yet you have bewitched me it seems, and so some accusations well might be founded…”

“W…which would those be?” A fine thing for my own prank to be turned against me! How did I let this happen? The Elf turned his head away to rescue his ear from the Man’s bristly beard stubble.

“I do have some small measure of sorcery skill…at least I have been told I have ‘magic fingers’. I believe I should like to give a demonstration…”

Legolas' suspicions were tempered by his great trust of Estel; therefore, the Elf responded with only a minimal effort to escape. Failing in that, he made a final bid for freedom using what he hoped still had enough element of surprise to gain it. “Keep your ‘magic fingers’ to yourself, beastly Human! Unhand me at once, knave, or I…AAAIIII!”

Estel had had enough, and was steadily applying pressure up and down the Prince’s side, poking tickles just between various ribs, which was resulting in the amazing transformation of a strong Elf warrior to a quivering, squeaking lump. Steadfastly ignoring what curses and pleas Legolas managed to utter between gasping laughter, the Ranger at last had pity and released the tortured Elf. After a second to gain his breath back, Legolas scooted quickly out of grabbing range and rubbed furiously at the lingering itch in his side while glaring darkly at his friend.  

Estel, meanwhile, had suddenly found himself enormously relaxed and his bedroll quite comfortable. “Thank you, my friend,” he murmured as he closed his eyes, drifting almost immediately into sleep. A few more soft words were barely heard as he retreated into dreams. “Wonderful cure-all…give Ada…bottled Elf giggles…”

Legolas also relaxed at hearing the Man’s deep breaths and occasional light snore. “You are most welcome, mellon-nin,” he murmured back. My plan worked, if not quite in the manner intended. He amused himself then by trying to decide if the Ranger was in fact more the ‘Ripe Strawberry’ type or the ‘Blooming Orchid’ type. His soft snickering gradually faded, and the remainder of the night passed blissfully quiet and uneventful.

The End

Author’s Notes:
1.    Legolas’ impersonation comes from an idea of how kids tease each other like so: (A) Quit it. (B) Quit it. (A) I’m telling! (B) I’m telling! (A) Stop saying what I say!! (B) Stop saying what I say!! and etc. Only Legolas could mimic Arwen’s voice as well as her words, which led to later collaborative pranks against the Twins (“Arwen’s Secret Evil/Insane Twin” – may write a story on that later *grin*).
2.    The gray-green twine-like plant is Middle-earth’s equivalent of our time’s Spanish moss.
[Editor's Note:  
Estel, meaning Hope, is the Elvish name for Aragorn from his time living in Rivendell.
Ada = dad
mellon-nin = friend (of) mine]

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