Many wondered at the great lengths the lord of the Last Homely House went to entertain his guest.
The place was a madhouse; elves ran about calling to each other, muttering and cursing and tripping over each other's robes, as they prepared the house according to the commands of their lord – which meant reveling, dining, hunting contests, games, dance and song festivals, and Eru forbid, more reveling.
And if one knew Rivendell, speculation was bound to fly. Some claimed it was goodwill, while others said it was a strategic move to please their new, powerful ally. Others viewed it as a thinly veiled display of the realm's power and grandeur. And as all such disputes went, counsel was sought from their wise Chief Councilor, who had been found in the kitchen, one hand reaching into a cookie jar while struggling with his other hand to shake out flour from his hair.
And faced with such a question, the unfaltering councilor had looked up and said that the whole pandemonium was just Lord Elrond's excuse to indulge in some mindless fun.
Well, that was that.
And adding to the chaos was a pair of elflings running amok. Supervision was stretching thin as the guests' arrival day neared, and it became more of a regular occasion for Lord Glorfindel of the Golden Flower to return at dusk with two leafy bundles of sleeping elflings in his arms, and for Chief Councilor Erestor to stand patiently under a library bookcase, waiting for the inevitable plummet of a little lady elf who had ventured one shelf too high during a game of hide-and-seek, along with a little warrior elf who had decided to 'rescue' her.
It was after one such incident that Legolas, feeling contrite, decided to make himself useful in the healing wing. Especially now that everyone was busy, and a harried Elladan was absent, discussing something with a harried Lord Elrond. He was spreading a tablecloth onto the mixing table when he heard a loud whisper: "Legolas?"
He started. A round face was hiding behind the door, and he scuttled to where she stood. "Arwen? I thought you were baking lembas!"
"I was." Arwen peered into the main room of the healing ward, where a few healers could be seen busily milling about. "But Elrohir's still not back from speaking with Ada."
"Elladan is talking to your Ada too," Legolas said helpfully. "Everyone is so busy."
"Because your Ada is coming, right?" Arwen peered at Legolas. Legolas beamed.
"That's right! My Ada is coming. He'll be here soon!" He grabbed Arwen's hand and led her into the healing ward. "I'm going to show him all the potions I made while I was here!"
Arwen looked around, admiring Legolas' accomplishments on the top shelf. It was her father who had suggested keeping them there, until the King of Mirkwood himself came to try them first. Upon hearing those words, Erestor had given him a Look, but then Erestor was always giving people a Look.
"You are really good," Arwen concluded, awestruck.
Legolas smiled broadly. "Your lembas are really good too."
Arwen's face fell. "They're always burnt or undone." She looked morosely down at her feet. "Elrohir keeps having to put out fires I make in the kitchen."
Legolas thought for a moment. "Elladan always looks funny after he tastes my potions," he said. Arwen did not look up from her woeful stare, and Legolas peered into her face. "I think your lembas are the best," he offered.
Dark eyes peered up timidly. "Really?"
"Of course!" Legolas took her hands in his and bounced on his heels. "I'm going to ask you to bake me a gigantic load of lembas when I go on a heroic quest one day!" His face beamed with excitement. "Goblins, Trolls, Oliphaunts!"
Arwen squealed. "Oliphaunts!"
"Ada will like it too," Legolas announced. Arwen stilled, suddenly uncertain.
"Do you think your Ada will like me?" she whispered.
Legolas blinked. "Of course he will like you. You're -" he paused, for lack of better words, "- Arwen."
A tentative smile spread on Arwen's face. "Then I'll like your Ada too," she declared.
Legolas began his task of preparing the table for his experiment. Arwen propped her elbows on the table with a dreamy smile. "What is he like?"
"Ada?" Legolas heaved a stool to the wall and clambered up, tiptoeing to reach the highest shelf. "He's... tall, and his voice is really pretty when he sings, but he can yell really loud if he wanted to, and he has really strong arms, and long legs, and a really wide stride, and..." he hopped off of the stool hugging two jars of herbal ingredients. "He sings me to sleep and carries me to bed and brushes my hair."
"Oh." Arwen watched Legolas scuttle back to the table. "Is he scary? When he uses a loud voice."
Legolas considered. "No," he concluded, and went about laying out spoons and flasks. "Because he only uses it on orcs and spiders." He thought some more. "Well, he does to his soldiers too, but only when they're fighting orcs and spiders. And he runs really fast, and he's really good with his bow and sword and knives and spear and..." he glanced at Arwen and found huge eyes staring at him. "But he'll like you," he assured, "because I like you."
Arwen looked relieved. "I've never met a king before," she said, suddenly shy. "And I heard all these things from Elladan and Elrohir and Ada and Erestor and Glorfindel and you and... does he like little girls?"
Arwen's eyes widened in terror. "You wouldn't know, because you're not a girl," she whispered, stunned by the self-revelation. "But what if he likes little boys like you and not little girls like me, and you wouldn't know because you're not a girl, and you don't have a sister so you wouldn't know that way either, and...what shall I do?"
Legolas was speechless.
But seeing Arwen's obvious distress, he opened his mouth to reassure her that his Ada would never be unkind to her, when Elladan appeared at the door.
"Ah, you haven't started." Looking greatly relieved to see that Legolas' table was not yet a frothing mess, he approached in brisk strides. "And what are you two implings plotting in here?"
"Legolas' Ada doesn't like little girls," Arwen said woefully.
Elladan blinked. "He doesn't?"
Truth be told, his encounters with Thranduil had never involved little girls. He glanced questioningly at Legolas, who looked just as lost. Elladan smiled.
"King Thranduil does not dislike girls, Arwen." He bent down to scoop up the elfling into his arms. "In fact, he is every maiden's dream. A brave, charming, gallant prince – I mean, king – any lady would swoon for. He had a legendary court of admirers – practically every maiden in the whole kingdom was enamored with the prince. I mean, king." He glanced at Legolas, who was staring at him in disbelief. "Not that he ever had eyes for anyone but his queen," he added hastily. A broad smile spread on Legolas' face as he puffed up his little chest with pride.
"So he had lots of ladies swooning for him?" Dark eyes sparkled with awe. Elladan smiled.
"He was the most beloved elf in his realm. So I heard." Though Eru knew where Glorfindel had gotten that information.
"Then he must have seen so many pretty ladies." Arwen looked crestfallen. "What if he thinks I am ugly?"
Elladan rolled his eyes and pinched a plump cheek. "Arwen, you are not ugly."
"But I'm short!" wailed Arwen. "And I'm round, and have these chubby cheeks, and dark hair, and Nana's portraits all have her so tall and pretty, and yellow-haired, like Glorfindel and Legolas, and his Ada must have yellow hair too – does he?" she peered over her shoulder as Legolas nodded in confusion, "- and since he looks like Legolas and Nana and Glorfindel, he must be really pretty too, like them, and to him I must be just a chubby little thing that doesn't even come up to his knees -" she glanced at Elladan's knees, just to make sure.
"Who doesn't do what to whose niece?" Elrohir stood in the doorway, looking mildly disturbed and only partially relieved to have located Arwen. He frowned at the silence; Arwen looked tragic in Elladan's arms, Legolas stood by a surprisingly unfinished – or un-started, Eru bless him – concoction, and Elladan looked harassed out of his wits. "What is your grievance, little star?" he entered the threshold.
"Arwen thinks she's ugly." Elladan had a long-suffering look.
Elrohir stopped himself from mirroring the reaction. "Isn't this, er, rather early for you to be afflicted with such woes, Arwen?"
The meaning was lost on Arwen. "No, Legolas' Ada is coming in three or four days! Glorfindel said so!" She looked tearfully at Elrohir. "Is it too late to become pretty? Or yellow-haired?"
The twins exchanged glances. With a sigh, Elrohir reached out to take Arwen from Elladan's arms. "You are not ugly, Arwen," he said firmly, "and you cannot change the way you look in a matter of days. Nor can you change your hair color."
"Not permanently, anyway," murmured Elladan. Elrohir shot him a don't-give-her-ideas look.
"But what you can do," continued Elrohir, lowering the elfling onto the floor, "is bake a wonderful lemba bread as a gift for King Thranduil. He has good taste, and is a very courteous elf; he will thank you sincerely and think very highly of you." He took her hand into his and led her out of the room. "Well, shall we go see what you can do in the kitchen?"
With a sniffle, Arwen nodded, and the two left the healing wing hand in hand. Legolas watched in silent bewilderment. "Why does she think she is ugly, Elladan?"
"Who knows." Elladan sighed. "Females. Even at that age they're unfathomable."
Legolas tucked away this new information for future reference.
It was later that night that Legolas found that Arwen's fears could not be so easily quelled. Opening his doors to soft knocking, he found Arwen standing in her pajamas, clutching a pillow and a number of toys.
"I found a way," she whispered excitedly as the two hustled their way to the bed and clambered up. "I know a way to become pretty."
Legolas' eyes widened. "What is it?"
"Your potions!" Arwen spread out her toys on the bed, and offered a large plush imp to Legolas, who accepted it readily. "You can make me a beauty potion. Like love potions."
"Love potions?" Legolas had never heard of either of those.
"It's in storybooks," Arwen explained patiently. "It makes you fall in love."
"So a beauty potion should make you become beautiful!" Arwen bounced on the bed. "Like Nana!"
Legolas frankly did not see why Arwen was ugly while Lady Celebrian's portrait wasn't. He told her so, and she frowned, clearly exasperated with his ignorance.
"My Nana was the prettiest lady in Rivendell, Ada told me so," she said with further patience. "And my Marileth dolls looks like that too, and she's supposed to be the prettiest girl doll ever." She held out an elf maiden doll, a lone cool ceramic among plush toys.
Legolas stared down at the doll. "But ... she's shaped funny."
"Legolas!" Arwen shot a disapproving look. "Ladies are supposed to look like that!"
Legolas hesitated. "But...you don't," he protested weakly, wondering how discourteous he was being.
Arwen looked uncertain. "Well, the most beautiful ladies are shaped like that," she corrected.
Legolas looked down at the doll. Frighteningly huge eyes looked back at him, a brilliant blue. Dark black lashes curled lavishly upward, looking out of place among pale eyebrows and waves of yellow hair. Under a narrow, pointed nose, a red mouth full of white teeth beamed up at him, and he did not quite know how to respond. He gingerly handed the doll back to Arwen.
"So? Can you do it?" Arwen peered at him eagerly.
Legolas did not understand, but he decided that he did not necessarily have to understand in order to help. Besides, if her own brother could not understand her, there was no way he could. "I'll try," he said.
Arwen's face lit up. "Promise?"
Legolas brought a hand solemnly to his heart. "Greenwood Honor."
Arwen squealed and threw plump arms around his neck. Legolas hugged back, and then frowned. "Arwen? How do I make a beauty potion?"
Arwen stiffened. "I don't know," she said, uncertain. "I thought you would."
Legolas blinked. A moment passed, and he still sat in silence. Arwen began to panic.
"But you make up new potions all the time!" she said, almost indignant. "Ada said you were really good at making up new things. Can't you make up a beauty potion?"
Legolas hesitated. Nowhere in the healing ward or books had he seen anything related to love or beauty. But he resolved himself to find out.
"All right," he said. "I'll make you one."
Arwen's eyes shone like stars in the lamplight. Legolas decided that, though he had no idea why she would want such a useless potion, she deserved it because she was Arwen. And if it made her happy, he could make her one.