Building Ithilien

Unexpected

Thank you SO MUCH for your generous comments and praise for the last chapter.  Your responses thrilled me and as always, really motivated me.

Iluvien:  Wow!  Thank you so much for taking the time to review all of those chapters.  I loved all of your comments.  Thanks for the tip on the yrrch.  You are right!  And, after I read your first two posts, I realized that my first chapter and my prologue had been flip-flopped.  So if you were thinking, 'what the heck?'  I went in and fixed it all up.  Hey, and I loved your comment (I think it was the first one you posted) about the good grammar.  Thank you!  Writing a great story with blah grammar is like dumping a delicious piece of chocolate cake in your guest's lap.  So with that thought in mind, I hope my story—erm, cake, comes with a plate!

Tinnuial:  I'm so delighted that you thought it 'wonderful!' That's definitely what I was shooting for!

QueenieB:  I know.  It seemed too brief to me.  More like a Hi and goodbye.  Legolas was super-hacked that I did that to him.  You'll like what happens in this chapter more.  Part of the reason why my romantic scenes are so brief, is that I put too much pressure on myself to make them some romantic masterpiece.  And then I get nervous and second-guess my writing.  And I think to myself:  Did I say too much, make it too mushy, not enough?  I make myself crazy that way. 

Nikki:  Oooh you did a happy dance for my little ole chapter?  Wow!  I should make those two crazy kids get together more often!  (Miredhel did a happy dance too)

Concetta:  I loved what you said about their kiss and it not being part of a bet.  Finally, Miredhel realizes what she's been missing.

Nightlight:  It has been a long time in the making.  24 chapters and they're just now hooking up?  But you know what, even when I made the decision for them to realize their feelings for each other (especially Miredhel) part of me feared that I was rushing it a bit.  I adore long drawn out romances!!

Cagedphoenix:  Thank you so much for your review. Wheee! You think it's 'awesome!'  Yay!  Yep, and finally Legolas gets the girl.  But even I'm not sure whether he'll be able to hang onto her or not.

Elerrina Rose:  Your review made me feel warm and fuzzy all over.   Just knowing that you were excited about the next chapter motivated me to keep writing until I finished it!

Kaelyn:  I didn't post any reader-response comments for the last chapter, but I did consider your remark about the damsel-in-distress in the woods part.  You're right—it's been done so many times. Overkill and cliche.  I hope that I steered clear of that.  And I wanted Miredhel to meet her first orc on her own, too.  It would have been too easy for Legolas to sweep in there and kill it for her.  So I thought it a necessary that she experience it on her own. 

            And I was tickled to death that you thought the romantic scene well-written.  I really labored over it.

Building Ithilien

Chapter 24:  Unexpected

Legolas stopped in his path and silently ran his finger along his bottom lip.  She had kissed him.  He had not expected that!  The stars hung low and bright as they had for the past millennia, and the tall beeches held their ever silent vigil, yet all seemed more vivid, brighter, bolder, darker—a world of contrasts, of opposites:  dark, light; cold, hot; strength, frailty; pain, bliss.  Miredhel.  Legolas.  Difference perfected in combination.  The elf's breath hung in the cold night air as he clasped the small violet flower that she had pressed in his hand before he left, and he gently placed it in his pocket.  Legolas leaned against the nearest tree trunk and clapped his hands to his burning cheeks to cool them and then to his chest as if to calm his heart.

            Oh, that he might return to her, to secure her feelings once more, for truly his heart lingered there in that tent with her.  She trusted him, even to returning his affection.  She had kissed him; again, he marveled at her daring and at his surprise.  Of course, he had hoped, even imagined that she would respond to him in such a way, but Legolas had not anticipated that the dreamt of event would occur this very evening.  Now he had to leave her to go to some infernal council meeting.  What if she changed her mind in his absence?  Or regretted her actions?  He should not have left her. 

            "If only I could have stayed there with her, held her, kissed her," Legolas murmured to himself.  He glanced backwards with regret and combed his fingers through his hair.  There was so much he wanted to tell her, to show her, so that she could understand the depths of his feeling. 

            He felt everything as he walked: the scent of fresh fir tinged with smoke, the feel of the small pebbles and pine straw beneath his feat, the cold air burning his lungs, and he cared for none of these things as his mind's eye strained towards her—the light brown flecks in her hazel eyes, the way one look from those eyes had made him feel, the bliss from knowing the touch of her lips, and the excruciating pain of parting from them.  For a fleeting second, Legolas considered the possibility of ignoring his father's summons, and a lesser elf might have done as much; however, Legolas was an elf of duty.  He took his responsibilities seriously.  Despite his surfeited anger towards his father, he would always owe allegiance to Thranduil, the king.   The large canopy of his father loomed ahead. Legolas was not one to turn back.

            He slipped into his father's council meeting, quietly observing that Belegil and Sulindal had been asked to join as well.  Some of the captains of the forest guard, including Adrendil, numbered among the circle.  No on really talked, but whispered hushed speculations.  Legolas evaded his father's eyes and instead of taking his place in the empty seat next to the king, he slid into one of the empty chairs by Sulindal.  His friend permitted himself the smallest of smiles upon seeing the prince's bright cheeks and eyes. 

            "How fares her ladyship?" asked Sulindal.

            "Still frightened, but feeling better," Legolas replied, wondering how much Sulindal had seen.  However much, it was too much for his comfort.  His tent needed a lock on the door.

            "So I should think," Sulindal said, his eyes twinkling.

            Legolas ignored the amused tone in his friend's voice.  He asked, "Has her brother been informed of the incident?"

            "To which incident do you refer? The one with the orc or the one where you—"

            Legolas shot him a dirty look, and Sulindal smugly swallowed his words to become serious once more.  "No, he does not know, but he is on his way here now, I believe."

            Legolas nodded in approval.  "He will not be pleased."

            "To say the very least," Sulindal agreed.

            The prince looked about and then lowered his voice to say, "Something more must have happened for my father to call such a council.  He would not do this for the sighting of one measly orc."

             "And at such a late hour," Belegil said, leaning over to join their conversation. 

            "When was the last time the wood elves met for a council?" Sulindal inquired.

            Legolas did not hesitate in his answer, "Before the War.  When Gollum escaped, the council convened and decided that I should bear the tidings to Imladris…and Estel, who had charged me to keep the wretch."   He shook his head at the memory.

            Eledhel soon joined them with a puzzled look on his face.  "What has happened?" he asked the prince, but Legolas did not have time to explain.

            "Let this council begin," announced Thranduil.  "I have called you here to represent the interests of not only Eryn Lasgalen, but Ithilien as well," he said and nodded toward Legolas and his Lorien friends.  He continued in a grim voice, "We have known the threat of darkness for years uncounted.  Now I fear we must face the shadow again."

            The council stirred uneasily.  One of the king's most respected advisors, Inglor, who had entered service under Oropher, spoke up, "My king, forgive my ignorance, but I have heard only rumors of the truth, that a foolish maiden crossed paths with a lone orc."  He paused and locked eyes with the king, one of few elves bold enough to do so.  "But you would not summon the council for such an encounter.  What has happened?" he asked simply.

            And the council fell into excited debate as to the night's unfortunate events.

            "A maiden has been killed in our wood by orcs!" cried one.

            "Nonsense, Prince Legolas rescued her and killed them," suggested another.

            "It was that Lady Miredhel, the one that he had brought to the feast," Adrendil corrected.

            Eledhel, who had been quietly listening to the rumors fly, now jumped from his seat.  "WHAT?" he shouted and charged over to Adrendil.  Eledhel grabbed him up by the collar.  "What did you say?" he hissed, and his face drained from red to stark white, and his hand visibly shook as it gripped Adrendil's shirt front. 

"What did you say?" he repeated venomously, and pure terror hung on Adrendil's face.  Legolas and Sulindal were there in a second and pulled Eledhel back to his seat.  The prince very much wanted to see what Eledhel might do to the young captain, who had tried to steal Miredhel away from him, but his compassion for his friend bid him to respond quickly and allay his fears.

            Adrendil smoothed his tunic and sat down crimson-faced, but his eyes flashed contempt for the one who had just humiliated him so.  Many of the Mirkwood guards who felt loyalty toward their brother in arms had jumped from their chairs ready to defend him against the Lorien elf's murderous actions.  The wood elves and Lorien elves eyed each other suspiciously, and the council neared the edge of a brawl.

            Thranduil stood and waved his hands, "Hush! Sit down, sons of the forest!  We cannot tarry in idle speculation, nor can we allow misunderstanding to color our judgments."  He turned to face Legolas who hurriedly tried to soothe Eledhel's fears. 

            "Prince Legolas will begin by recounting his knowledge of the events."

            So Legolas told, as briefly as possible, how Miredhel had killed the orc in the woods before he had found her.

            "Did she see any others?" Thranduil asked his son.

            "I believe not," the prince answered, "but I looked at his gear—"

            "Did the orc say anything to her?" Thranduil asked sharply.

            Legolas wondered at his father's tone.  "Yes," he said and paused.  He knew what the orc had said about the flowers, calling them prince's love.

            "Well, what did he say?" prompted Oromer, who sat to the right of their father.

            Legolas eyed his brother warily, and both princes stiffened in their seats.  "The orc recognized the flowers in her hair as being from Mirkwood," he said.

            "Well, that is hardly useful information," scorned his brother.

            "Not necessarily," countered Inglor, who had always favored the younger of the princes of Mirkwood.  Much of Legolas reminded him of his old king, his old friend, Oropher.  He continued, "If the orc recognized the flowers, then he might also have known their importance.  Prince Legolas, what did the young lady in question say exactly?"

            Legolas shifted and uncomfortably glanced at Eledhel.  His friend seemed relaxed, but his hands were balled into white-knuckled fists on his lap.  Now was not the best time for this discussion.  He carefully considered his words before he spoke and then said flatly, "The orc knew that the flowers belonged to the royal house."  Hopefully, that admission would do!

            Inglor smiled.  He had watched Legolas since his birth, grow from elfling to adulthood, and it was obvious to him that the young prince attempted to conceal something. 

Legolas saw Inglor smile, and his own eyes widened.  He quickly glanced to Eledhel at his side, and then slightly shook his head at Inglor.  The whole exchange lasted for only the briefest of moments, and no one else in the council had seen, except perhaps Sulindal, who just happened to be a keen observer, and Thranduil, who made it his business as king to notice everything.

Inglor said, "If the orc had knowledge of the royal house, then we can conclude two things:  One, he obviously had spent time in our forest.  Secondly, someone has either informed him of the marks of the royal family, or he had spied it for himself."

"Could he have been a remnant of the Dol Guldur forces?" asked Belegil.  Some of the forest captains nodded in agreement.

"When we returned to search the area, the carcass had been stripped.  Armor and weapons, even the clothing, were gone," Sulindal added to his brother's statement.

"And I had left the body in tact," finished Legolas.

The council buzzed at these findings, and Thranduil raised his voice, "So something must have returned to remove these articles.  Our lonely orc was not so alone after all."  He stopped to eye the circle, and when his gaze reached the twins from Lorien, he asked, "Tell me of your findings, Belegil of the Golden Wood."

"We scoured the area and found a few tracks, but nothing absolute.  These orcs took care not to be found."

"Perhaps it would benefit the council to bring Lady Miredhel before the king so he could question her," Adrendil suggested.

Eledhel gripped the armrests of his chair, and Legolas' eyes narrowed at Adrendil.  Sulindal spoke up, "She is weary and frightened.  Let her rest."

"Who are you, her nursemaid?" Adrendil scoffed. 

Sulindal paid no attention to the captain's baiting, except to raise an eyebrow at his foolishness. 

            "I agree with Sulindal.  She has been through much and has told all she knows," Legolas said quickly.

            "If she could add any amount of detail that cold provide insight to this possible orc conspiracy in our borders, then it would behoove the council to hear her," Adrendil persisted, looking about for others to support his argument.  The king looked impassive, but not completely unmoved by his suggestion.

            "We already know enough to conclude that a band of orcs has traveled through this part of the forest," Belegil pointed out.             Suddenly Eledhel spoke up.  It was the first time he had spoken since he had charged Adrendil, and his voice seemed hollow.  "Where was she?"

            "Outside the bonfire…in the forest," Legolas answered him.

            Eledhel nodded thoughtfully, and his grey eyes seemed distant. "For many years, I served as a marshal of the guard in the Golden Wood, yet there is little to this problem that makes sense to me.  As base as they may seem to us, these orcs can be cunning enemies.  It will not do to underestimate them."  He paused and looked at Adrendil.  "They proved clever enough to slip between your watch, Captain."

            "What exactly are you trying to imply, Lorien elf?" Adrendil bristled.

            "My question is this," Eledhel asked coolly, "if these orcs were clever enough to elude capture, then why were they foolish enough to wander so close to an elven camp?"

            "Unless of course, they were supposed to," Inglor suggested.  "Prince Legolas' friend is quite right, King Thranduil.  These orcs are not completely foolhardy .  They entered the woods with the purpose of gaining proximity to our camp.  There can be no other way to see it.  If they were spoiling for a fight, they would have come in much greater numbers."

            Thranduil nodded and stroked his chin, though doubt hung in his eyes.  "They game to gather information?" the king asked a bit incredulously.  Many of the elves in the council nodded in agreement, but not all were persuaded.  Even Legolas was not wholly convinced.

            "If what you say is true, then what can their object be?" he asked, and his eyes met his father's in agreement.  Even though they might not have been on the best terms, they were still father and son, and their minds worked in a very similar fashion.  No one had answered his question, so he added, "What kind of information could they possibly gather?"

            "I must agree with my brother, here," Oromer straightened in his chair.  "This is a send-off for Prince Legolas, not a war party."  A buzz went around the circle once more, with many of the elves affirming the princes' insights.  Legolas pushed his hands through his hair and began to feel impatient.  This council meeting had proved futile so far.  Much had been discussed, but no conclusions gained.  He eyed his brother and knew that Oromer felt the same way.  Next to him he heard Sulindal mutter something under his breath. Legolas' ears pricked, and he glanced at his friend.

            "What if that is their aim?" Sulindal asked quietly.  "To find out about the elves bound for Ithilien?  Their numbers, their strength, their leader…"  His remark hung in the air, and the room grew silent as each member of the council contemplated the possibility. 

            Finally, Inglor spoke.  "They could have done so with much more ease before you actually reached the wood."

            "And perhaps they did, or tried to any how," guessed Legolas, wrinkling his nose at the memory.  "We came across a scorched raiding party on the road."

            "Courtesy of the dragon," added Belegil.

            Thranduil sighed and spoke, "We cannot neglect the point that Sulindal raised.  The Ithilien elves may very well be the target of these orcs, but we also must consider the other possible threat—this dragon."  Thranduil turned his gaze to Legolas, and the prince did not look away.  "My son, do you believe this dragon to be truly dead?"

            Legolas faltered. "Have you heard any report to the contrary?"

            "Not yet, but I would not jeopardize the future of many on hearsay and speculation."

            Legolas stiffened; he could feel the heavy weight of every eye in the council resting on him.  He knew now why his father had called this council:  to try and convince him to stay.  His father counted on the fact that Legolas would not openly disagree with him in public.  As king, he had instilled that value in his sons since their births.

            "I saw Anglachur the Black fall," he insisted.  "He would not have let us escape if he had possessed the power to stop us."

            "It is my recommendation that your people stay in this realm under my protection until we can guarantee their safety."  He stood up as if to signal an end to the meeting, and Legolas stood up as well.

            Legolas feared his voice would shake, but spoke anyways.  "I cannot agree with this recommendation," he said boldly. 

The other elves who had been getting ready to leave stopped in their paths and stared.  Inglor and several of the older Mirkwood elves raised their eyebrows at the unusual scene before them.  As a royal family, the House of Oropher has always been as one.  Thranduil's sons acquiesced to their father's every wish, especially Legolas who was much more soft-spoken than his older brother.  Some might have expected this from Oromer, but Legolas?  Never.

Both Thranduil and son gazed coolly at one another.  Thranduil spoke first.  "Then what would the 'Lord of Ithilien' suggest?"

"We should send…" Legolas started to say, but did not get to finish his statement as a trio of scouts rushed in the tent to stand before the king.  They bowed and then hastily began to speak. 

"My king, ill tidings I must bring.  We have ridden from beyond the southern edge in great haste.  A large party of orcs skirted our borders, heading east and then turned south." 

Thranduil grimaced.  "A large party you say?"  How large?"

"The largest I have seen since the War, more than just a ragged band.  They marched with order, my king."

Another one of the scouts came forward and said, "We were more than a league away, but I could feel the heat of their malice, their hate."

"How many?  Two hundred?  Five hundred?" The king asked impatiently.

"My king, forgive me.  I started counting the rows and how many were in a row.  So many." He shook his head.  "I stopped counting at four thousand when we decided to leave and report, but the rest of the line seemed to stretch for a mighty length." He backed away, and most of the council paled at his words. 

"This is a rude awakening indeed," said the king, and he sunk into his chair on the dais. 

Legolas approached his father's chair and kneeled.  His face had drained to an unearthly ashen color, and his voice shook with urgency bought of fear.  "Father, these are dangerous days yet.  If those legions of orcs turned south, they can only be headed toward Gondor."  He thought of the many villages and towns that were unprotected now, in these times of peace.  Even Minas Tirith kept its gates open now during daylight.  "Father, please.  Let me ride and warn them."  His eyes pleaded with the king.

"Legolas, no.  It is too dangerous."

"I will not ride alone.  I can take a group of warriors with me.  We can move faster than the enemy and slip past them."

"No, my son.  I will not have you risk your life and others' in such a careless fashion."

"What of Gondor?" the prince insisted.  "Their defenses are minimal at best right now.  "Hundreds of innocent people could die."

Thranduil looked at his son, warningly.  "I said—"

Legolas interrupted, "I know what you said!  But we have a chance to warn them.  Would you have their blood on their hands?"

The council murmured.  They had never seen the prince so agitated, or defiant for that matter.  The king's patience with his son diminished, and Thranduil rose from his chair.

"I would not have your blood and that of other elves on mine, if I sent you.  Do I need to remind you, Prince Legolas where your allegiance lies?" 

Legolas rose from where he had knelt at his father's chair.  He looked in his father's eyes and swallowed.  His own eyes felt bright and wet from the confrontation, and on the inside, he was a mass of jagged, raw nerves. 

"I do know where my allegiance lies," Legolas answered sadly, "and I accept your offer of protection for my people."

Thranduil nodded at his son with a sense of immense satisfaction, pleased that his son acted sensible once more.  Legolas was not finished, however; he reached for the slight golden circlet on his head, his prince's crown and removed it.

"My allegiance lies with Gondor now, father," Legolas said and handed the crown to the king.  "Ithilien lies in its borders.  My sense of duty will not permit me to stand idly by and allow a slaughter."

Thranduil's eyes darkened as he stared down at the circlet dangling loosely in his hands, and his fingers tightened around it.  "You would choose to leave against my wishes?  To ride in the defense of men?"

"I would hope to ride with your blessing, Father, but my answer remains unchanged. I shall leave under the pain of banishment, or I shall leave with your favor.  The choice is yours, but either way I will leave."  His eyes and voice did not waver at this last declaration; his resolute exterior belied the sea of conflict within.  He felt as though his heart might break upon seeing his father's face slip for a moment, revealing the grief and pain inflicted by his youngest.

Thranduil recovered, and in an instant, manufactured a grim and kingly countenance.  "So be it, Lord of Ithilien," he said.

Legolas' eyes flickered at the coldness in his father's voice.  He looked around the circle before him as he spoke.  "Ithilien will be naught but a dream, if Gondor falls to some dark purpose."  He raised his fair voice, thick with emotion.  "So we face the twilight of our years in Middle Earth.  I would not spend that time isolated, shrinking from change." 

Legolas thought of the Battle for Helm's Deep, when they had pulled back to the keep, and all seemed lost to hope.  Yet the sun still rose, and victory had been their banner as they rode out to face their enemies.  He wanted to feel that way again, to ride out and face whatever might come.  He gave his father a long look, and said, "I will not stay and fall victim to cowardice and doubt. Whatever may come, I shall ride out and meet it; for me, for Ithilien, there is no other way.  We will keep faith with Gondor.  I will go alone if necessary."  He glanced at his friends, and they rose to his side, as did Adrendil and some of his father's forest guards.

"Nay, lord, we stand with you," Eledhel said and clasped his hand.

            "Then there can be nothing more to speak of," Thranduil said.  He motioned for the council to rise, and he left the dais, his chair, and Legolas' crown on the seat behind him.  He took one last glance at his youngest son before he turned away, and his face seemed strange to some.  For a king who had just lost a prince, Thranduil's eyes seemed sorrowful, but triumphant and …proud?

            Legolas departed from the canopy in the silent company of his friends.  By nature, he desired to please others over himself.  Countless times had he placed other's needs over his own, and now, he had acted for himself, made a decision that he wanted to make.  He should feel elated, but all he really felt was guilty for displeasing his father so. 

            Even Belegil sensed his friend's distress.  Nobody talked, and the warrior elf loathed awkward silences.  "Legolas, if you would like we could go over some maps and charts and plan a route for Minas Tirith," he offered.

            "You go ahead," Legolas replied dejectedly.  "I need some time alone, I think…to reflect on the council's findings."  'Or how my father will probably never want to speak to me again,' he thought.

            "Legolas—" began Eledhel.

            "Then we will see you later then," Sulindal interrupted and prodded Eledhel on the back to join him. 

            The morning was stark in its brightness, and it seemed odd to Legolas that his own mood should be so dismal.  He walked back to his tent.  He still could not believe that he had possessed the boldness to support his actions—to go against his father's wishes, to speak his mind to the stuffy council, to renounce his title.  The freedom of it all, and yet Legolas felt absolutely miserable.  He had wounded his father, he was sure of it, not to mention disgusting his brother.  He had acted for himself, for Ithilien.  He wondered what his mother would say if she knew what he had done.

            Legolas yanked open the fabric door, wishing for nothing more than to fling himself on his bed and replay every word of the council meeting until he was sure he had done the right thing.

            Fate intended differently.  Legolas' eyes rested upon the rosy-cheeked Miredhel sleeping on his bed.  From slightly parted lips, her breath was light, and her slender hands clasped the coverlet at her chest.  She had changed into a creamy nightdress, he presumed that the servants must have brought, and he could see for the first time, all of her soft white neck, bare shoulders and arms.

            "Miredhel," whispered Legolas, and he thought her ephemeral.  A vision.  A dream.   He stared at her as if she might disappear the first time he blinked, and an odd thing happened, his own cares, his self-doubt over his actions or words to his father, vanished in his discovery of her as mist does in the morning sun. 

            She did not stir, and he knelt at her side.  As Legolas watched the slow rise and fall of the cool grey blankets as she breathed, he knew he had made the right decision.  He would defend the dream of Ithilien for her, build it for her and others like her, like himself.  He hesitated and then leaned over to place the lightest of kisses on her lips. 

            Her lashes fluttered and recognition filled her eyes as she saw him near, his proud face, now tender, and the steel in his eyes melted into wells of blue.  She lifted a sleep-heavy hand to rest against his cheek, and then her fingers glided to rest in his hair.

            "Even now I dreamt of this," she whispered, closing her eyes and then reopening them.  "Pray, do not wake me now!"

Legolas stared at her and softly swallowed before he leaned over and brought his lips gently to brush against hers.  He pulled himself up to sit beside her on the bed, and she wrapped the silken coverlet around her thin gown and sat up next to him.  He placed his hands on her warm shoulders to look at her and then ran them down the length of her bare arms before pulling her to him. 

He did not want to speak, was not even sure if he possessed the power to do so, but his heart thrummed in chest, and he wildly desired to know her feelings, beyond the way she looked at him, beyond the way she made him feel with the briefest touch of her lips.  He must, he could never, but he simply had to ask her.  His voice was shaky and unsure, not at all like that of a statesman or a warrior, or even a well-versed courtier.  He paled as he spoke and dropped his gaze, fearing and longing for her reply to his question.   "Miredhel, what made you change your mind about me?"

"You," she answered simply, "With your courage and ideals and strength… You saw the best in me, even when I could not." 

He lifted his eyes to see her, and they brightened as he leaned in so that their foreheads nearly touched.  The elf wrapped his arms around her waist and tangled his hands in her hair. 

"You have given me a new dream, Legolas," she said softly.

"I have not given you anything, Miredhel, that you did not give me first," he murmured in her ear, and she laughed, not because she thought his words silly or humorous in the slightest, but because she was rather ticklish, and the joy she felt now overrode any sensibility in her possession, bubbling up from the well-spring of her heart and trickling through her laughter in his arms and the wide smile on her face.  If Legolas thought her pretty by normal standards, then she was an enchantress in the repose of mirth.  Legolas had never heard her laugh so freely and without restraint, and the few elves who happened to hear her as they strolled by the prince's tent felt a lightness in their step that was not there before and generally felt all the better for hearing her.

With dancing eyes and curving lips, she reached up and kissed him, throwing her arms around his neck.  The dark cover of uncertainty that had shadowed their emotions shriveled and was no more in the light of that morning's sun.  It was a kiss both reckless and tender, and he seemed like everything at once to her, the passion of youth, coupled with the wisdom and patience bought of great age.  This time there were no interruptions, no untimely visitors, and Miredhel and Legolas entered their own, a moment like a dream so completely theirs and theirs alone.  Together they tumbled back breathlessly into myriad cushions, and he, leaning on his elbow and not being able to help himself, stared at her beneath him, knowing she wholly belonged there, in his bed, with her hair down and soft around her face, next to him; time irregardless, for that moment they could only belong to each other.  She did not blush or look away or give any sort of indication that she felt uncomfortable, but basked in the worship of his eyes, and the cool morning light, and birdsong of the forest eaves.  Miredhel reached out with a slender arm, still lined with faint pink scars from the dragon, to touch the ends of his hair, to feel the warmth and strength of his neck, and oh, his lips, his cheeks, and she smiled again.

Touching her was a strange and wonderful thing.  For so long he had shown restraint, denying himself ever since that moment of ill luck in the garden.  He adored that garden now.  It was as dear to him as any place, and as he looked in her sweet hazel eyes, he vowed that he would commission a garden like it just for her in Ithilien.  He drew a lazy line down her cheek with his thumb, to her neck, across her collarbone, and down her arm, relishing how absurd it was that he should derive so much pleasure from such a little gesture. 

And they stayed exactly thus for the remainder of the morning-- touching, kissing, talking.  No great professions of love were made, for neither really knew exactly how he or she felt.  Legolas omitted any details of the council meeting, and Miredhel cheerfully avoided discussing her encounter with the orc.  Instead, they laughed about friendship and pondered their feelings, all the while dreaming of Ithilien and their journey there together.

*          *            *

Thank you for reading! Critiques and comments are always welcome!    I'd really like to know what you think about the pacing and movement of the last scene as well.  Did it work? 

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