'Ranadir, check the dwarves again for weapons before you seal the cell doors.' Tauriel ordered her second in command and trusted friend as she herself was ushering one of Thorin's company into his cell.
As she moved to lock the door, the dwarf, named Kili turned to smile at her with big brown eyes.
'Aren't you going to search me? I could have anything down my trousers?'
'Or nothing' Tauriel bluntly replied.
The cheek of this dwarf! Although I have to admit, he is not so foul as one might expect.
As she turned away, a strange blue stone fell from Kili's pocket and escaped his grasping hands to roll through the bars of the door. Tauriel stopped the stone with the toe of her leather boots.
'This stone, what is it?' Turing the flat stone over she saw a rune engraved upon its surface.
'It is a talisman' replied Kili.
Curious, Tauriel re-approached his cell to hear more for she did not know many of the customs of his kind and the dwarf looked eager for the company.
Unbeknownst to the pair, they were being watched from a higher pathway in the dungeons. Legolas narrowed his eyes as he saw Tauriel laugh at something the dwarf said.
Why is she here, talking to the prisoner when she should be celebrating Mereth Nuin Giliath?
Things had been different between the pair in the past decade or so; Legolas had started to long for the times that he could spend patrolling with Tauriel for she was always able to cheer him up. Slight brushes of hands as they exchanged weapons during training now set his stomach clenching. Her spirited nature was refreshing amongst his highly reserved people. After a long day of formalities and exchanging of pleasantries in his father's councils, he knew he could count on Tauriel to treat him as his equal. Valar knew she was not afraid to challenge him!
Legolas had not realised it but he had been standing in the shadows watching the pair for quite some time before Tauriel made a move to leave. He intercepted her passage towards the higher levels by touching her shoulder.
'Why does that dwarf stare at you, Tauriel?'
'Who can say? He's quite tall for a dwarf. Do you not think?'
Legolas felt his stomach clench. 'Taller than some…but no less ugly.'
Tauriel gave her friend a strange look and continued on her way.
She smiled at herself, admittedly she like the dwarf; he had a reckless nature similar to her own and he seemed quite intrigued by her.
Perhaps, if the situation were different, we could have grown to be friends.
Her encounter with Legolas had been…odd. His words implied that he had been watching her talk with Kili but why? She snorted and thought to herself.
Did he feel protective over me? He should know that I could handle a dwarf! No there is something more, Legolas has been different towards me for a while now but I cannot exactly say how.
She had to admit that her behaviour was evolving too, she was now innately aware whenever Legolas was within her presence and her eyes always sought him out in a crowded room. He stood out to her, for some reason.
Well I am aware of him because he is the Prince and it is my sworn duty to protect him as Captain!
Deep in thought about Legolas, she continued on her journey ascending through the intricate stone passageways that were masterly crafted to resemble the outer forest. Her rank granted her the privilege of reporting to King Thranduil in his private antechamber. It was late enough now that the King would have returned from the celebrations.
'Why do you linger in the shadows?' King Thranduil was resplendent in his silver robes that were intricately embroidered with threads of purest silver in the design of stars. His silver head was adorned with a crown of white gems, entwined by elven silver that seemed to glow with its own inner light.
The King's cool voice brought her out of her thoughts and she bowed respectfully before discussing what was to be done about the dwarves.
As she turned to leave, Thranduil's quietly regal voice stopped her in her tracks.
'Legolas said you fought well today.'
Tauriel smiled and looked up at her King but his face was an expressionless mask and her smile faltered as she saw hardness in his crystal blue gaze.
'He's grown very fond of you'
Tauriel's heart fluttered nervously in her chest and she hoped that it went unnoticed.
What?! Surely he cannot be implying…
'I assure you, my Lord, Legolas thinks of me as not more than a Captain of the Guard.'
Thranduil turned from her and regarded the blue pool at the centre of his antechamber. His gaze seemed distant however.
'Perhaps he did once. Now I am not so sure.'
Tauriel wanted the ground to swallow her up. A rush of conflicting emotions welled up inside her, predominantly disbelief at the King's statement.
Where has this come from? Do I regard Legolas only as a respected friend?
Tauriel became uneasy when she realised that she could not honestly answer that question and her fists clenched at her sides. She replied coolly yet respectfully.
'I do not think that you would allow your son to pledge himself to a lowly silvan elf?'
Thranduil did turn to look at her then and it was all Tauriel could do to meet his powerful gaze without wavering.
'No, you are right, I would not. Still he cares about you. Do not give him hope where there is none.'
With that the king marginally inclined his head and Tauriel took the signal and left his beautiful chamber. It took all of her battle training to stop her from literally fleeing from her cold King.
Confused at her own feelings and somewhat hurt by Thranduil's offhand remarks she made her way to the deserted training yard to practice her shooting.
Do not give him hope where there is none. But Legolas is just my friend, is he not? Why would Thranduil feel the need to say such a thing? True, there are some whispers about the amount of time I spend with Legolas but I am Captain and he is the Prince, we are supposed to work closely together!
Tauriel knew it was more than that but she could not allow herself to feel such emotions. She distracted herself by brutally hitting each target dead in the centre over and over again until the first rays of sunlight touched the elven kingdom.