Memory of Darkness

Chapter 12: Flirtations

by Jay of Lasgalen

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As the meal ended, Legolas moved to the side of the hall.  Tables and chairs towards the centre were moved away, clearing a large space for dancing.   He regretted not being able to take part, but knew it would be some time before he was agile enough for the complex steps and jumps, even after the heavy cast was removed.

He watched as Elladan partnered Arwen in a fast, vigorous dance, while Elrohir danced with Mireth.  He clapped the time, tapping his foot and jeering along with everyone else as one or two couples lost step and retired, defeated.   As a child he had learned this dance, along with many others; just as he had learned to read and write, and to play the flute, the harp and the tambour.

The next dance involved chains of dancers, changing partners in a never-ending procession.  At one point Elrond solemnly danced with a young ellyth who stood no taller than his chest, while Thranduil, faced with an even smaller child, swept her into his arms and laughing, spun her around and around.  Legolas, watching the unending patterns and swirls of colour, looked up in surprise as Arwen sat next to him on the bench.  “I thought you would be dancing.”

Arwen shook her head.  “It looks too exhausting. I thought I would join you, and just watch.”

The ploy was rather transparent, but touching, nonetheless – and he appreciated the company.  “Thank you.”  Legolas sighed.  “I wish I had brought my flute down – I may not be able to take part in the dancing, but I could join in with the musicians.  It feels odd to just sit here.”  At Arwen’s questioning look, he explained further.  “It is difficult to carry anything like this.”  He gestured at the crutches.  “I should have asked one of your brothers to bring it for me.”

“If you tell me where to look, I could get it for you,” Arwen suggested.

“No.  It doesn’t matter.  It is rather interesting watching everyone.  Look at Elrohir.  He is supposed to switch partners like everyone else, but has managed to hang on to Taniquel the whole time!  I thought she was still out on patrol.”

“She got back two days ago.  I know we didn’t see Elrohir at all yesterday!   They went out for the day.”  Arwen smiled.  “I think Elladan was rather put out,” she added.

Legolas laughed.  “Is that why he spent so much time with me?  He just said that Elrohir wasn’t around. Is he jealous?”

“Only because he misses Calorra.  She came to stay with us from Lórien last year.  I don’t know what he’ll do when she goes back.  What about you?”

“There are several ellyth here I am friends with, but no one special.  Ideally, I think my father would like me to bond with someone from Imladris or Lórien, to strengthen the links between the realms, but I cannot think of anyone there either.”  He shrugged.  “There is plenty of time.”

Arwen considered carefully.  “What about Agnessia?  You know her.”

Legolas shook his head.  “She has a silly, high-pitched laugh.”

“True.”  She thought again.  “Rahella?”

“She seemed nice enough when I met her, but she is blonde.  I prefer dark hair,” Legolas explained.

Arwen chuckled.  “Legolas!  You will never marry if you continue to find fault with everyone!”

“I know, but it is not my fault!  Most are more interested in who I am than anything else.  Then they are either put off, and too nervous to say anything, or pushed into something by their mothers, who would like nothing better than to see their beloved daughters the next queen of Lasgalen!  I have to …”  he broke off as Arwen put a hand over her mouth and began to giggle helplessly.  “I’m glad you think it’s funny!” he finished with a smile.

“Poor Legolas.  I know what it’s like, Elladan and I have the same problem.  Not Elrohir; it doesn’t seem to bother him – he just makes friends with everyone!  He always has.”

Legolas was about to respond when the twins appeared and sat down, one on each side of them.  They were both laughing and flushed with exertion, and Elladan was teasing his brother.  “El, you keep missing the point!  You are supposed to change partners, and dance with everyone, not keep the same one!”

“Change?  Well, why did no one explain that to me?”  Elrohir affected an air of great innocence.

“I did!  Repeatedly!  You kept pretending you couldn’t hear!”

Arwen had her own contribution to make to the argument.  “He knows the dance perfectly well from home, anyway.  And he keeps doing the same thing there!” she explained to Legolas.  “Perhaps I should tell Taniquel about Athela, or  Súriannë, or Elestirnë?”  she asked her brother daringly.

“She already knows them,”  Elrohir reminded her tranquilly.  “She met all three of them when she came to Imladris that time.  Remember?”

Legolas joined in with the banter.  “Perhaps I should tell Taniquel’s father about you,” he teased Elrohir.  “He is one of my father’s army captains.  He may not be too pleased with you pursuing his daughter!”

“Oh, he already knows about me,”  Elrohir dismissed the concern airily.  “I met him yesterday.  Her parents asked me to stay to tea with them.  He seemed very pleasant.”

Legolas nearly choked.   “Pleasant?  He is one of the novice masters, and has a reputation for being the most fearsome trainer anyone can ever remember!  I was terrified of him when I was in his classes!”

“I told you.  Elrohir makes friends with everyone!” Arwen reminded him.

Laughing, Elrohir pulled Arwen to her feet, dragging her into the next dance, while Elladan intercepted a maiden who was heading towards Legolas.  Left alone, Legolas had no time to regret his solitude before two – no, three – ellyth approached him purposefully.  As Elrohir had predicted, they poured their concern on him, offering to bring food, wine, or anything else he might require, and being suitably sympathetic about his leg.  He basked in their attention, carefully treating them all with the same casual courtesy, and aware of several envious glances being cast their way.  The three scattered however, when his father approached, stepping sideways out of the dance with Celebrían, his current partner.

Thranduil was not one to suffer fools gladly, a category into which he placed fawning, giggling maidens – and they knew it.  He stared after them, his frown turning to a smile as he turned to Legolas.  “Well, elfling, how are you managing?  Still glad that you defied orders to attend tonight?  I recall that Calmacil told you not to overdo it!”

“It has been a wonderful evening!” Legolas protested with a smile.  He began to struggle to his feet to greet Celebrían, but she deftly moved his crutches out of reach.   

“Stay there!  You know you do not need to stand – or sit – on ceremony with me.  I am delighted to see you finally up and about. We were all worried about you.”

Legolas smiled at her. “Thank you.  But I am sorry for taking Lord Elrond away from you while you have been here – I think I took up a lot of his time.   As far as I can remember, every time I woke up – at first, anyway – he was there, as well as Calmacil.”

“They were comparing notes, and he likes to watch other healers at work.  If you can believe it, I think he almost enjoyed it!”

He laughed.  “I am glad someone did!  I do not think ‘enjoyment’ comes anywhere in the list of words I would use to describe the experience.  But I am delighted to be up at last.  I have certainly enjoyed this evening, even though I have been unable to dance.  I hope I will be well enough to partner you before you leave.”

Celebrían smiled.  “I will count that as a promise,” she told him.

“I will be back to talk to you in a moment, elfling,” Thranduil said as he led Celebrían back into the throng of dancers.

Legolas watched them depart and stifled a yawn, frustrated at how easily he tired all the time.  He knew why it was – Elrond and Calmacil had both explained it to him, and so, rather annoyingly, had Elladan.   He supposed it was only to be expected that the twins had picked up so much of their father’s knowledge and skills already, but it was irritating when they behaved like avuncular healers instead of the light-hearted friends he knew so well.  According to all three, his energy was still being expended in healing the various cuts and injuries, and in mending his leg.  However, knowing the medical explanation for his exhaustion did not lessen his sense of frustration about it.

He shifted his position slightly, stretching his leg carefully, and thought with dismay of the stairs he would have to climb to return to his room.  Going down had been straightforward enough, but going back up was a daunting thought.  Somehow, in his determination to escape from the confines of his room, he had overlooked that small detail.   He considered his options.  Glancing around the hall, he spotted a quiet corner of the hall, from where he knew a staircase led upwards.  His slow, painstaking progress would not be noticed from there, but it meant a longer route back to his room.  

Which was it to be?  The slightly shorter route, in full view of everyone who passed by; the longer, quieter way where he could take his time in clambering the stairs, out of the sight of most observers – or should he swallow his pride, and ask for help?  As he was debating with himself, and coming to the inevitable conclusion, his father returned.

“Well, elfling, the evening is almost over.  Are you ready to leave?”  Thranduil’s sharp glance fell on him assessingly.  “Will you be able to manage the stairs?”

Legolas hesitated, then shook his head.  “Probably not,” he admitted.  “I should have thought about that before.”

His father laughed.  “Perhaps.  Never mind, I have already spoken to Elrond.  Can you make it to the door?”  With a nod of his head he indicated the quiet doorway Legolas had already considered. 

“Yes.”  Together, they walked across the hall, bidding goodnight to those who remained.   Thranduil walked slowly at his side, and Legolas moved carefully, unaided, to the foot of the stairs where Elrond waited.   Placing his arms across their shoulders he was lifted, much as he had been carried from his bed previously, and helped up the various flights of stairs to his room.  “I hate this,” he muttered, rather resentfully.

“Remember that we have already seen you at your most vulnerable and helpless,”  Elrond reminded him cheerfully.  “This is nothing.  Do not cling so much to your pride and stubbornness that you decline help when you need it.”

Legolas sighed.  “I know.  Am I really that difficult?” he asked.

Thranduil gave a bark of laughter.  “Aye.  I cannot imagine where you inherited the trait from, either,” he said with an air of innocence that did not fool his son. 

They reached the hallway that led to Legolas’s room, and halted.  “Will you be all right now?” Elrond asked him.

“Yes.  Thank you, Lord Elrond – for everything.”

Elrond waved away his thanks.  “Goodnight, elfling.”  He turned, and disappeared down the stairs again towards the guest quarters.

Thranduil still held the crutches in his free hand, and passed them to Legolas.  “Is there anything you need?” he asked.

“No.  Nothing.  I will see you in the morning.  Goodnight, father.”

Finally alone in his room, Legolas swiftly lit a candle, its soft glow providing all the light he required.  A stiff breeze had sprung up, making the light curtains billow like sails.  He retrieved a few papers that had fluttered to the floor and weighted them down with a heavy book after deciding not to close the shutters.  He recalled a little guiltily that he had done nothing on the rebuilding project that day, but found himself hoping that it would not be too long before he could travel to Esgaroth and see the work for himself.

The tiredness now was overwhelming him.  He stripped off his clothes, washed as quickly and briefly as possible, and lay down wearily, grateful to ease the weight of the cast, trying to move his leg into the most comfortable – or rather, least uncomfortable – position.  He was asleep almost immediately, his dreams filled with bizarre images of Arwen and her brothers hard at work rebuilding the docks, while the men and women of Esgaroth danced slowly past on the walkway above.

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