LOTR 3: Celeb Amaurea: Silver Dawn

Óre Anír: Heart’s Desire

"Celeb Amaurea" (Silver Dawn)

Chapter Four

"Óre Anír" (Heart's Desire)

The feasting carried on long into the night. Wreaths of green winter leaves and red berries were placed upon the heads of Legolas and Mary, and they were given spiced wine in great cups of silver and gold. Wine flowed and music played, and as the fires burned high and the tables were cleared of food Merry and Pippin rose to their feet and held their silver goblets, and as they danced above all to a merry song their voices soon rose, and then Frodo's and Sam's with them as they sat below and watched:

"Sing hey! For the meal at end of day

That drives the hunger clean away

A loon is he that will not sing:

O! Food that's hot is a noble thing!

O! Sweet is the sound of blowing snow

And the river that leaps from mount to low

But better than snow or rippling streams

Is Soup that's hot and smokes and steams!

O! Water cold we may pour at need

Down a Thirsty Throat and be glad indeed

But better is Beer, if drink we lack

And Blanket warm wrapped round the back!

O! Water is fair that leaps on high

In a fountain white beneath the sky

But never did fountain sound so sweet

As Song that to dancing sets my feet!"

The elves laughed and clapped their hands, and Merry and Pippin saluted one another with gracious and extravagant bows. As they continued to dance and to sing a group of elves came in from the kitchens, and they bore on a great tray a towering dessert. It was a cake made with sweet spices and fruits and nuts, and it had winter flowers all around its base and upon its top, and it was covered all in a thick creamy coating as thick as butter and the color of pale gold, for it was made of whipped butter and honey and cream. Mary's eyes grew large, and she laughed and clapped her hands, her cheeks flushed with joy. Legolas was glad, sharing a secret smile with his father, for they had made it especially for her after carefully and subtly learning from her the secrets to making such a dessert. It was set before them on the table, and Legolas stood with Mary. Taking a knife he carefully cut a very small piece from it, and then held it up for her to take a bite. She did so, and laughed, the creamed 'frosting,' as she called it, gracing her lips with a pale golden mustache.

Then the cake was cut. The guests marveled at it, for it was a strange dessert to them, yet delicious and wonderful. Mary allowed herself to have a large portion of it, and as she ate her eyes closed in quiet enjoyment.

At last all the food and the dessert was eaten, and then the musicians and the minstrels struck up some merry melodies, and the tables were cleared away, and everyone began to dance. Then Legolas touched Mary's arm gently, and holding her hand he bowed to his father, who tipped his head and his hand with a smile, and then Legolas led her from the room and to a small back door in the Hall, where they slipped away unnoticed by their guests.

The corridors were all hung with garlands and wreaths, and torches burned brightly in their brackets. Legolas and Mary made their way deeper and deeper into the Elven Halls, and the sound of music and singing became fainter and fainter until it faded away all together. A final hallway came before them, and it was all quiet and still, and torchlight flickered red on the walls, dancing and playing hide-and-seek with the shadows. The door at the far end stood open, and garlands of red berries and winter flowers and green framed it, with red flowers petals on the floor before and within. Legolas stopped, and turned to her. Now a light entered his eyes, and Mary felt her breath catch within her. His arms encircled her and lifted her up, holding her close to his body, and as he walked she felt the warmth of him soak into her and spread through her limbs.

As he stepped through the doorway the golden light of the fire surrounded them, and he gently set her down, the white velvet of her dress sliding through his hands with a rustling sound. His blue eyes burned into her, never leaving her face as he reached back and closed the door. Mary suddenly felt her stomach tighten and a trembling took over, for suddenly– though it had been as real to her before as real could be– now it was ever more so, and as he approached her she knew that this was the final moment, the moment where everything changed.

Legolas stepped towards her, and the ember in his chest burned hot and deep. Mary stood there, watching him with dark and shining eyes, and there was a flush in her cheeks and upon her lips. As he took her face in his hands and drew close he felt her breath quaver. "Le sie vanya." You (are) so beautiful. He whispered, kissing her forehead. His voice was without breath. "Sie írima." So lovely. He kissed her cheek. "Melnin." My love. He kissed her other cheek. "Im mel-le." He breathed. I love you.

Mary's eyes slid closed as he kissed her, the skin of her neck and shoulders hot and tingling where his hands rested. Reaching up she traced his face with her fingers, and as his eyes closed she slid her hand around through his hair to the back of his neck, to hold it as she placed a kiss upon his cheeks, and then upon his lips. As though that were the trigger, the moment her lips met his Legolas came alive. His hands found her sides and ran up her back, holding her close against him, and his mouth on hers was burning and longing. Reaching up Mary removed the garlands from their heads and let them fall to the floor. Then she tangled her fingers in his golden hair.

"Im mel-le." she whispered. I love you.

"I didn't know that elves could be quite so merry." Pippin's voice came from a hall, growing louder as they drew closer.

"You saw the elves at Rivendell, Pippin." Sam said. "They were merry enough. Remember the night Bilbo recited his song?"

"Yes, but they didn't get quite so festivious."

Merry's voice cut it with a laugh. "Did you see Gandalf and Thranduil dance?"

Frodo's hearty laugh filled the air. "I've never seen anything like it before!"

Mary and Legolas paused at the door to the Hall, turning as the hobbits rounded the corner and nearly bumped into them. "Oh! Hello!" Pippin greeted them.

"Hello, Pippin." Mary smiled. "Frodo, Sam, Merry."

"Mary. Legolas." Frodo returned her smile, his blue eyes bright. "And how are you two this day?"

Legolas glanced at his wife. "We are well." He said, a teasing light in his eye, and Mary blushed.

Frodo chuckled.

"So," Merry glanced around them at the closed door, with sounds of festivities emanating from around the dark wood. "You ready to face another night of your guests' undivided attention?"

They laughed. "I think we can manage." Mary said, nodding seriously.

The hobbits looked pleased. "Right." Sam took a deep breath. "Shall we go, then?" he looked up with bright, expectant eyes.

Legolas opened the door, and they were immediately met with a thunderous sound of applause and cheers. Holding Mary's hand upon his, they made their way into the room to be instantly surrounded by elves and friends. The day had been spent playing winter games and reciting songs and poetry and stories of old, and this was how much of the week would be spent. Now there was to be music and dance and good food, and then the beginning of the giving of presents.

There were many gifts given to them. Fine linens and jewels and gems, goblets and plates and platters and dishes of silver and gold, finely woven blankets and tapestries and wine and seed for planting in their fields in Ithilien. Thranduil gave them gold, and a banner for their house, shining with a golden sun, and within the sun there was a green tree rising from a blue and silver sea, and beneath it was a crescent moon– the symbol of Ithilien. Then for each he brought forth their own personal banners. For Legolas there was a green tree on a diamond shaped banner of white, framed by woven vines and four leaves, and flanked by two elven-knotted crescent moons. Mary's was a brilliant yellow sun on a silver background, with a single white Athelas flower blooming within, its petals reaching out to touch the sides.

Then the four hobbits approached them. Merry and Pippin kept glancing at each other and Mary and Legolas, grinning and moving restlessly. Frodo was calm and smiling, while Sam's cheeks were pink and his gaze shy and nervous.

Mary and Legolas smiled at them, and Mary came to stand before them, dressed all in her snowy white and crowned with a green wreath and red berries. "Hello, my friends." She whispered to them, and winked.

Sam blushed, and the others grinned. "We do not have gifts as grand as those you have already received," Frodo said. "But they are given from our hearts." He nodded, and Merry and Pippin excitedly handed her the box they had been carrying. It was longer than it was wide, and made of wood, and had vines and flowers carved upon its lid. Carefully Mary opened it, and drew in a breath of surprise, her eyes lighting with pleasure. From within the red velvet interior she withdrew a beautifully hand carved stringed instrument– a violin– made of dark wood, with vines and flowers inlaid with a pale golden wood. It's bow was the same, and made with pure white horse hair.

"It is beautiful!" Mary said, running her fingers across it, tracing the delicate designs and the smooth curves of its shape. "Thank you!"

The four hobbits glanced at one another in pleasure and satisfaction, and then Frodo and Merry and Pippin gave Sam a little nudge forward. Clearing his throat, Sam took a step toward Legolas, holding in his hands a small carved box with three leaves upon the lid. "Um, we weren't all sure what to get for you, Mister Legolas," he said. "Seeing as how you're an elf and all."

There were some scattered chuckles. Legolas smiled.

"But then we remembered you were going to live in Ithilien," Sam continued, and his eyes brightened. "So– well, here." He handed the tall elf the box. "We thought you might like to take a little of the Shire with you."

Legolas opened the box, and a small smile touched his lips when he saw what was inside. There were very small pouches, each very carefully laid side by side and labeled, resting on a bed of dirt.

"Snapdragons, Cornflowers, Starwort, Bellflowers, Larkspur, Lilies, and Lady's Mantle." Sam said proudly. "The best flowers in all of Hobbiton, from Master Frodo's own garden. There's also seeds in there for apple and cherry trees. You won't get any better fruit than from those trees."

Legolas smiled and closed the box as murmurs of approval surrounded them, elves nodding their heads as words of "most appropriate" and "a fine gift" reached their ears. "Thank you, my friends." Legolas said. "This will be most appreciated when we make our home in Ithilien."

Sam blushed with pleasure, and ducked his head while Merry and Pippin grinned. Frodo smiled and leaned close. "Told you it was a good idea you had, Sam." He whispered.

As the hobbits sat down, a tall bearded man in a great cloak with the white horse of Rohan upon his breast stood and approached them, bowing on one knee before them, and behind him came and knelt a younger man in similar dress. "My lord and lady," he said. "I come from Edoras, and am called Ulrik, a captain of the Rohirrim, and this is my son, Vilhelm, a Rider of the Mark. Éomer, King, and the Lady Éowyn send their greetings, and bid me tell you of their desire to be here and their sadness that they cannot." Turning he indicated the table where the gifts were being laid. "They send gifts. Bridles and saddles made by our most skilled craftsman, made of the finest tooled leather and silver."

Indeed, the bridles and reins and saddles and other gear were of the finest quality, and all had trappings of green velvet.

"They send their blessings, and the prayer that your lives together may be long and filled with joy." Ulrik bowed his head, his message finished.

"Thank you, Ulrik, Captain." Legolas said. "And Vilhelm, Rider of the Mark. Please send our greetings to your king and his lady, and our thanks for their gifts and their blessing."

Then Ulrik and Vilhelm bowed once more, and rising to their feet they returned to their place in the throng of guests. Then Aragorn and Arwen approached, and the elven queen held in her hands something long and slender, and wrapped in a black cloth. Aragorn tipped his head, and then he laid a hand on Legolas' shoulder and smiled. "Never have I seen you so happy, mellon nin." He said, his voice low so that only Legolas heard. Then he looked at both his friend and Mary. "May you both be blessed." They smiled at him, and Legolas tipped his head in thanks. Then Aragorn raised his voice, so that it was no longer a whisper. "My understanding is that you have in your possession two fine stallions, worthy enough to be bred only to the finest mares."

Legolas smiled. "Indeed."

Aragorn's grey eyes twinkled. "So I have gathered together twelve of the finest mares, all prized for their quality and stock, so that you may begin a herd of your own for you and your household."

There were gasps around them, and Mary laughed and pressed a hand to her mouth, and even Legolas drew in a sharp breath, his eyes widening in surprise at the enormous show of generosity and friendship. For a moment he could find no words, and then finally a smile broke across his face and he laughed at his own inability to express himself. "I do not know what to say, Aragorn!" he said, and he clasped Aragorn's shoulder. "Thank you, mellon nin." He said, and his voice lowered, and there was deep gratitude and feeling within it.

Aragorn smiled. "You are most welcome."

Then Arwen turned to Mary, and she smiled, her grey eyes shining. "You are as a sister to me." She said. "And ever am I grateful that you soon shall come to dwell so close to Minas Tirith." She held up the item wrapped in black cloth, which she held in her hands, and gave it to Mary. "A Healer you are, Mary, and a Prophetess. But also you are a warrior, and a Shield Maiden. So I give to you Ára-oNaur, Hope from the Shadows, a Light in the Dark. Crafted by the last elven smiths that still dwell in Lórien, its jewels set by the Lady herself."

Then Mary let the black wrappings fall away, and in her hands she held a sword that gleamed like white fire, with runes upon the blade and a jewel of yellow flame upon the handle. And where the blade and handle met there were flames etched, with a ring of fiery gems. Then it seemed to all there that Mary's eyes suddenly burned with fire, and she was no longer the quiet and fair lady who laughed and danced with them, but a warrior maiden, both terrible and beautiful, and her hands grasped the sword and held it as though it had become but an extension of herself. Then the fire retreated, and she was once more the Lady Mary, and she looked upon Arwen and smiled. "It is a most desirable and precious gift." She said, her eyes shining, and she hugged the fair elven queen. "Thank you, onóre nin." ...my sister.

Arwen's embrace tightened, and when she pulled back her eyes were shining, and tears glittered in Mary's. Then Arwen gave her also the scabbard, which was the color of a burnt sun, and tipped at both ends with silver, and on the side– held by straps– was a long, thin-bladed white knife that was a smaller twin of the sword.

Last of all Gimli came forward, dressed in all of his dwarven finery, his hair and beard carefully brushed and braided. He carried with him a chest, with handles on each end and a lock upon the lid. Setting the chest on the table, beside where they stood, he pulled a key from his belt and set it into the lock. There was a soft click as the key turned, and then Gimli lifted the great lid back.

"It is a great irony, my lady Queen," he said. "That you chose a yellow stone– which symbolizes the dawn– for the Lady Mary." And he turned, and held in his hand a silver chain. Upon the chain hung a large Ocean Pearl. At the bottom was a small stone of black, and up the left side there rose gems that started at the darkest of amber and lightened to the palest of yellow, until they reached the white stone that stood at the head; then down the right side of the pearl the gems faded from the palest of grey to the darkest, until at last they reached the black stone, completing the circle of the sun's rising and rest. "For you, Mary." He said, holding it out and setting it in the palm of her hand. "As a symbol of the hope you give even as the rising sun brings hope. And this," he reached into the chest, and withdrew a phial of hewn crystal, capped with mithril. "To keep your choice of scented oils in. I took the liberty of filling it with oil scented with the berries of the juniper."

Mary took it happily, and she glanced knowingly at Legolas from the corner of her eye; how else could Gimli have known she needed such a thing? Or what scent she wore? She smiled, for though Legolas's expression remained unchanged, the slightest hint of a flush had entered his cheeks. "Thank you, Gimli." She said, and hugged him tightly. "I will cherish them always."

As she set the necklace around her neck, she noticed Gimli's eyes light with pleasure, though he quickly hid it and turned back to the chest.

"For you, Legolas." He said. "You kept my nerves on edge enough with your refusal to wear any armor on the grounds that it was 'too cumbersome!'"

There were some scattered chuckles. Legolas dutifully ignored the jest, though a small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth and a devilish light entered his eyes.

"So I took the liberty of solving the problem." There was a collective gasp as Gimli removed his hands from the chest, lifting from it a mithril shirt, larger than the one Frodo wore– though just as finely made, and he held it up. "I have heard it said that once one puts it on, it can hardly be felt."

Frodo smiled as Gimli glanced at him from the corner of his eye.

Legolas reached out and accepted the shirt from Gimli, and his eyes were large and filled with wonder. "Gimli–" he breathed, fingering the mail with amazement. "I do not know what to say!"

A warm light entered Gimli's eye, and then a mischievous smile appeared, lifting his beard. "Indeed?" he said, and he began to laugh. "That is twice in one day! A record for any elf!"

If there was a moment of hesitation as others watched the prince with wide eyes, waiting to see his reaction, it did not last long, for Legolas looked up and laughed with Gimli, and soon all in the room had joined. "Indeed!" he chuckled, not seeming to mind the jest.

When the laughter had subsided, Gimli reached into the chest for a final time, and took from it three goblets. Two were of mithril, a tree rising up with its branches spreading out to hold the crystal that formed the cup, and precious stones had been carefully set so as to resemble leaves. The third was the same, only its trunk was short, and its cup wide and a little less deep. "For you both." Gimli said. "No prince and his lady should be without cups to toast in. And no home should be without a Cup of Greeting, to offer to guests when they arrive."

"Gimli–" Mary accepted one of the cups, while Legolas took the other two. She turned it over in her hands with wonder, tracing the branches and the jeweled boughs, and then looked up. "You have been too generous, dear friend." Gimli merely huffed and waved his hand.

"I have not the words, or else I would give a speech as eloquent as any elf. But alas! I am but a dwarf." He lamented, but his eyes twinkled with merriment, and there were chuckles at his jest, especially from Thranduil. Then his voice grew deep, and his eyes intense as he looked at Legolas and Mary. "But I will say this: never, in all my years, have I seen two whose love is as strong as yours." He turned and faced the crowd. "In battle they met, and in battle they bonded as no other. They have faced the forces of darkness together, and together seen men and children die, and together faced the fear of death when it loomed over their own lives. Together they brought hope and strength to all, and together they have grieved, and sung songs, and laughed. And each has given their own life to save the other."

The room was silent, all listening, and there was not a heart there that was not moved.

Gimli turned to Legolas and Mary, and his eyes shone with admiration and love. "You are a light in the world, my friends." He said, and his gruff voice was gentle. "It brings me great joy to see you joined together at last. May the Valar bless your lives together, and Eru grant you peace and joy untold." Then he bowed at his waist, lowering his bearded head.

When he rose Mary smiled at him with tear-filled eyes, and Legolas looked upon him with warmth. "Let none say that dwarves cannot weave words of beauty or speak with eloquence." He said. "Thank you, mellon nin." And he stepped forward and embraced his friend.

Then, the giving of gifts at an end, all was cleared away except for one long table against the wall, and upon this many sweet and savory treats were laid, and spiced ciders and wine. While this was being done Gandalf approached them, and his grey eyes sparkled with merriment and joy, and he smiled upon them. "My dear friends!" he said, and hugged them both. When he pulled back there was the light of a conspirator in his eyes, and he leaned close. "I too have a gift for you," he said quietly to them. "But it is a gift that must come much later."

"Indeed?" Mary said. "And since you are extending our anticipation to an unknown and tiresome length of time, can you not give us a clue that will make the time more bearable?"

Legolas glanced at her, and a smile came to his lips even as he shook his head.

Gandalf laughed. "No, my dear girl." He said.

"It could not hurt to tell us." Mary insisted, her eyes twinkling. "For otherwise there is the terrible pain of waiting."

"And yet there is the pleasure of surprise!" Gandalf countered.

Mary's eyes widened, and then they narrowed with playful frustration. "I should've known my own words would come back to haunt me!" she said, even as Legolas laughed and Gandalf smiled.

Music began to play, and games brought out, and there was laughter and competition and fun. When at last the games grew tiresome there was dancing and singing, and then, as the shadows grew long and the firelight grew red, Mary pulled out her new violin. Its dark wood gleamed in the light, and there was silence, and she alone stood, there in the midst of them. She drew the white bow across the strings, and the melody it made was more beautiful than any music she had ever played. It spread out across them like golden waves, warming their hearts and filling their minds with flowers and wind, and it flowed quietly like a peaceful river, and then it danced among them like a spry faery that laughed and twirled and grabbed their hands pulled them into dance until they were so tired they could no longer stand. Then it pulled over them a blanket of peace and calm, and quieted their thoughts, and told them of starlit nights and the moon shining down through the trees.

"I am amazed." Legolas said, shaking his head as they walked outside along the snow-covered path under the stars. "Never before had I seen so much laid out for the morning meal."

"For breakfast?" Mary smiled. "Did you never eat with the hobbits?"

"Yes," he said, looking down at her. "But those were a traveler's rations. This morning was enough to feed my father's entire kingdom."

Chuckling, Mary took his hand and held it tightly, then glanced back as the sound of animated chatter reached her ears, and she smiled to see the hobbits talking and bantering with Gimli and Aragorn and Arwen, making the dwarf frown with the effort to find some retort and causing Aragorn and Arwen to laugh.

When at last they reached the clearing, they found tables already laden with hot cider and other steaming drinks, and baked apples and thick stews and hot bread and sweet rolls. Also there was Gandalf, and behind him on the edge of the clearing a handcart covered with a blanket, under which there were many odd shapes and lumps. When Merry and Pippin scampered over to investigate, they suddenly found themselves caught by the back of their jackets and cloaks.

"Oh no you don't." Gandalf said above them. "You remember what happened the last time, I trust?"

Mary laughed as she watched the two hobbits get shooed away by the wizard, and as she turned back to the table, pulling her white fur cloak and hood more tightly about her, Legolas touched her arm, a plate of food in his other hand. "What did Gandalf mean?" he asked.

Mary pushed her hood down and glanced over her shoulder. Then she leaned in close, and picked up a plate. "Back in the Shire," she whispered, gathering food. "At Bilbo's party, Merry and Pippin stole a particularly large firework from Gandalf's cart…"

Gandalf looked up when Legolas's clear laugh rang through the clearing, and he smiled.

The fireworks were more magnificent that ever; it was true that Gandalf only improved with age. There were rockets that flew among them like a flock of white doves singing sweet songs. There were great trees with trunks of silver smoke, and their glowing branches reached out to cover them, and greens leaves burst forth like an entire Spring; and then they turned rich and golden, and white flowers fell around them, filling the air with a sweet scent. There was a brilliant golden thunderstorm with purple rain that fell down among them in a violet mist and filled the forest with its deafening booms, and there was a fountain of silver that rained down like a raging waterfall. There were butterflies that flew among them like brightly colored jewels, and some alighted on the outstretched fingers of the amazed onlookers, and Legolas chuckled as an entire group settled upon Mary's head and all down her arm and on her hand, causing her to laugh. There were fountains of red that spat out silver ships and fiery orange birds that rushed through the air with echoing cries. There were white and blazing arrows that shot out all at once with a piercing shriek of wind, flying straight down at the gathered company, but just before they hit the elves and guests they exploded into many-colored flowers and leaves. Then there was one that was for Legolas and Mary. A great black smoke rose, and from its point there spewed red fire, and there was a terrible thundering that filled the air. The flaming mountain dissolved into a fallen maiden and an elf, and a piercing white light filled them and burst forth to blind all who watched, and when again they could see there was now a glowing red mountain range, with sparkling green trees flowing down their sides, and brilliant blue birds flew between them and sang with clear voices. Then all disappeared in a puff and cloud of golden shower, and there were tears upon Mary's face, and Legolas was very quiet. Then there came a final rocket, and it burst into a sea of brilliant blue and green and silver, and into it dove the golden sun, only to rise again in a brilliant yellow explosion pulling up a green tree, and there was much laughter from those who watched. The light grew brighter and brighter, until it hurt their eyes, and then all exploded in a deafening and blinding burst of sound and color, washing over them with a great wind and roar.

The elves cheered, and so did the hobbits and the visiting men and Aragorn and his queen, and Gimli, and Mary and Legolas clapped their hands and laughed.

Later than night, as the firelight in their room flickered and cast them in a golden glow, Legolas raised himself onto one arm and looked down at Mary. Her eyes were closed, and a small smile played on her lips. Gently Legolas brushed her dark hair back from her forehead, and she turned her face towards him with a sigh, stretching. Legolas smiled, his fingers brushing over her shoulder and across her cheek. "Le-ú dim tó le onam cím amar nin?" he whispered, his brows pulling together slightly. You (are) not sad that you gave up your world for me?

Mary chuckled, and her dark eyes opened and looked up at him, shining with love and affection. "Im ceri-ú annohan am." she said, reaching up and pushing some golden hair behind a pointed ear. "Le nin amar." I did not give it up. You (are) my world.

Legolas smiled, his blue eyes glowing, and leaning down he held her face in his hand, and as she reached up to hold his shoulder, he kissed her.

Thranduil had insisted on traveling with them to Ithilien, to see where they would make their new home and help if he could. It was now Spring, and the leaves on the trees had only just arrived to grace the branches with their new green. When they arrived, Legolas had temporary homes built to house the elves in his company and Mary and himself, and then he and Mary, with the input of Thranduil, drew plans upon a sheet of parchment for a permanent house. Each elf was to build for himself his own home, and as most preferred to live simply this all happened fairly quickly. For Legolas and Mary, their home was to be beautiful but simple, yet fitting for a prince and his Lady. It was to be made of pale-colored wood and white stone, with high vaulted ceilings and great arched windows and doors that would let in the sun and the air so that it felt as though one were still outside. Within a few weeks of their arrival in Ithilien, Gimli arrived with a company of dwarves: to help with the building of the elven homes.

When the home was nearly finished, suddenly neither Legolas nor Gimli would allow Mary to visit. At first she protested, but both were so adamant that she stay away that she finally surrendered, and instead busied herself helping the other elves to cultivate the land, planting trees and flowers and arbors of grape vines. And she visited with Thranduil when he was not helping Legolas and Gimli. They talked much and laughed often, and very soon all of the elves that had journeyed with Legolas were settled in. All except for Legolas and Mary. Each night they retired to their tent, and Mary would ask if she could visit their home the next day, and Legolas would merely smile and shake his head.

Then, one morning, when Mary had been unable to see her home for a month, she and Thranduil were helping to clear some land for a field where grain might be grown. The elven king had his hair tied back, and wore but a pair of leggings, his boots, and a white undershirt whose sleeves he had rolled up. Mary wore a white cotton dress, her surcoat laying beneath a tree on the edge of the field. Her hair was tied back as well, though some of it had gone wild and managed to escape. Both she and Thranduil were dirty and covered in sweat, grunting as they attempted to remove a large rock from the ground as the sun beat down upon them.

A stick had been shoved under one side, and on this Mary leaned with all of her weight. "Come on– come on– come on–" she begged.

Thranduil gritted his teeth, pulling back on a rope tied around the rock, his feet digging into the ground. Suddenly the earth released the rock, and Thranduil gave a yell of surprise as he stumbled back, barely escaping as the large stone rolled towards him, and Mary yelped as the stick she leaned on gave way beneath her, and off balance she fell to her face and into the now empty hole.

Thranduil let go of the slack rope and began to laugh. Wiping off his hands he stepped up to the hole and crouched down, his grey eyes dancing with amusement as Mary coughed and spat, sitting up, completely covered from head to foot in red dirt. "That went well." The king said, reaching down to catch her hand. Mary shook her head and chuckled, coughing as she took his hand and was pulled up and out of the hole.

As dirt was being brushed from her in red clouds, Legolas arrived, and for a moment he stood and watched them with a bemused expression. "Nad glenna man, cen-im" he said. Things (are) going well, I see.

Thranduil and Mary laughed. "Suilad, Legolas." Mary chuckled, picking up her skirt and shaking it out as she came to him. Hello, Legolas.

"Mana tulle sí hi arinya mí aur, lond?" Thranduil asked, following Mary. What brings you here this early in the day, son?

"Mín gar-tele." Legolas answered, and his smile was satisfied and his gaze glowing as he looked at Mary. We have finished.

Mary's eyes widened, and a hint of a hopeful smile pulled at her mouth. "Ceri-hi foeg– im turcen-ha hi?" Does this mean– I can see it now?

Legolas nodded, looking at her. "É." Yes.

Happily, Mary, Legolas, and Thranduil walked back through the trees to the small hill where their home had been built. It rose tall and pale and beautiful from the green grass, some of the lower rooms having been built underground with their doors coming out of the side of the hill, and its arches and intricately carved wood and stone made it a thing of grace. Tall arched windows let the sun shine inside in pale golden beams, and the great dark wood doors were inlaid with gold and silver, and runes were carved into the stone frame above:

'Sídh A Aist nOrbo Le, Ah Lothron Le Hir Idh Ilya Ai Minn Sí.'

'Ram An E Gwai

A Tob-An E Rost

A Sút Ar-E Naur

Lalaith Na Ortan-Le

A Tuin Le Mel Nev Le

A Ilya Tó Cín Óre Anír Lothron!'

Peace And Blessings Be Upon You, And May You Find Rest All Who Enter Here.

Walls for the Wind

And a Roof for the Rain

And Drinks beside the Fire

Laughter to Cheer (Lift) you

And Those you Love near you

And All that your Heart may Desire!

Mary smiled, looking up as they passed under the great doors. "Gimli eriol cer-e gond a lairesse e ennyn?" she said. Gimli alone carved out the stone and inlaid the doors?

Legolas nodded. "É" Yes.

Thranduil nodded in approval. "Ho gardaer curu." He has great skill.

Through the halls and rooms Legolas led them, to the wing where the Legolas and Mary's bedchamber and changing and washing rooms were. The elves and dwarves who were still around, cleaning up the tools and materials and washing away the dirt and dust from construction, bowed or nodded as they passed. To the end of the hall Legolas led them, and into a peaked door and a small alcove, from which a series of broad, wide steps descended, circling down to a large room with a high ceiling and a door across the distance that led out from the hillside. Before a wall there was a very large stone recess in the floor, the stones carefully cut and placed like a mosaic. Above it, set eight feet high up the wall, was a great carved bird's head, much like an eagle's– only larger– with a crest of feathers. It's beak was open, and from it gushed and poured a great fall of water, landing and splashing into the stone recess and draining away through a drain at its deepest point.

Gimli stood beside the pool, and his face was fairly glowing with pride, his dark eyes snapping with excitement. "Welcome, my lady!" he rumbled, bowing.

"Gimli!" Mary came to stand beside him, looking with wonder at the falling water and stone pool. "What is this?"

"Ah!" the dwarf rubbed his hands together, looking pleased as he gazed upon his creation. "This is a thing that is completely unique; there is no other like it in all of Middle Earth!" He spread his hand. "This… is where you might bathe, my lady. No longer must a great tub be filled, or you journey down to the River. See here;" he went to the wall, just to the side of the falling, crystalline water. "We dwarves dug down deep, and found a spring of water fed by the river Anduin itself, so that it never runs dry; and there, in the bowels of the earth, it churns and boils and so becomes heated. We built great pipes to draw it up, and here it pours out, and there–" he pointed to the deepest point of the pool, where the water poured down a hole several inches wide. "There it drains back into the spring, and so the water is always replenished and never wasted. And here." He lifted a great carven rock in the shape of a cork, hung on a great chain, from a hook on the wall. "If you wish to soak, you may plug the drain, and so allow the water to rise."

Mary's eyes had grown wide, and there was amazement and excitement and pleasure in them as she stared at the bath, and stepping to the wall she reached out and let the water run over her hand, and it was indeed warm– though not hot. "Gimli!" she exclaimed. "I know not what to say!"

Gimli tried to appear unaffected, but the pleasure in her delight shone in his eyes. "It was Legolas's idea, and my construction– with input from Legolas on the appearance of it all, of course." He said.

Thranduil stared at the cascading water and the pool in amazement. "Ah Gimli," he said. "I shall have to have you and your kin to the Greenwood, if this be a true testimony of your talent and skill!"

"I thank you, Thranduil, Elven King." Gimli said, bowing.

Then Mary turned, and her shining eyes fell on Legolas, and running to him she put her arms around his neck and embraced him tightly. And laying a kiss upon him she said, "Thank you, Legolas! Thank you so much! It is wonderful!"

Legolas returned her embrace, turning his face into her hair to breathe in her scent, and his eyes closed. "You are most welcome, meld er." He whispered into her ear.

Thranduil and Gimli shared a smile, and then the dwarf cleared his throat. "It would seem, My Lord Thranduil, by our lady's appearance, that we finished the bath just in time!"

Thranduil laughed, and Mary turned to glance at the dwarf, and then looking down at her dress stained with red dirt, and feeling her smeared face, she laughed as well. "I would be most honored to test the bath, Master Gimli."

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