The Nights are Brighter
Chapter Two: The Nights are Brighter
The banquet hall of Caras Galadhon was high above the city overlooking the palace grounds. Dozens of hanging lanterns glimmered in the silver-tinged branches of the great mallorns. Legolas felt like he had ascended into the heavens. He had seen the great banquet hall before, of course, but that was during the War of the Ring. The city had been shadowed by sorrow and grief. Now, the Lorien elves were pushing themselves to soak up these final moments in Middle Earth, their hands ready to seize what joy was left. The talans in the trees lit up the night sky. All through the trees, clear-chorused songs of elven voices lilted, caught on wings of the evening breeze and made the stars shine even closer. They were singing of Earandil sailing, of the sweet west calling, and for some, of their new kingdom-come, Ithilien.
As Legolas entered the great banquet hall, a more spindly elf, whose lines on his face and the occasional glimmer of silver in his hair gave him away as being very aged, commented, "I know that I shall remember this place, for surely even Valinor itself could not prove quite so gracious." Legolas could not have agreed more. The banquet table was a feast for the eyes, long enough to accommodate a hundred elves. The top was strewn with fern fronds, silver bowls of blushing fruit, bottles of wine, steaming platters of venison, milky lit candles, and slender goblets. The table filled quickly with members of the highest orders of elven folk.
Legolas found himself seated near a myriad, well, of quite boring individuals. Most of them were Celeborn's advisors and council members, who surely had a long list of dull questions to ask. He looked far down to the left of the table where he saw many of the younger elves, toasting and laughing about the day's joke, or bragging to one another about various contests of skill and daring. On the other side of the long table, he could see the captains of the guard, discussing battles and defense systems. Haldir and Farothin were there, and apparently Farothin was receiving some sort of a tongue-lashing, for he stared down at his plate and pushed his meat around with his knife. I would still trade places with him, thought Legolas, and he braced himself for a new onslaught of very tedious questions from Gilgafier, an elf who always looked like his robes were too tight.
"And how is your family in Eryn Lasgalen, Legolas, my boy? It's been a very long time since we have had the pleasure of your father or elder brother's company," he asked.
"They are well enough. My father, King Thranduil, has been spending most of his time helping my older brother prepare for the throne. After Oromer's marriage, father has been more anxious to retire from duty. And, of course, my two sisters are as lovely and charming as ever."
"I must admit, Legolas," added Gilfier, Gilgafier's son, "I was a bit surprised that you did not bring your sisters with you to Lothlorien. The royal court would have been overjoyed with their presence. I have heard that they are everything gorgeous and good."
"They are lovely," Legolas agreed, "but I could not rob my kingdom of their laughter and the joy they bring to my people." 'Or the headaches they bring to my father,' Legolas added silently. They had begged him to tag along, but he had been like the walls of Moria in this matter. Then they had tried wheedling with his father, but strangely he had taken Legolas' side and had been a rock as well. Legolas could not imagine what it would have been like to bring the twins here. 'I would have spent all my time making sure they behaved themselves, and Ithilien would become a side issue,' he thought to himself and remembered the time they had taken all of his best arrows and used them to make a wall hanging; not to mention the fact that they had chased away Lierwen, the first elf maiden he had shown any interest in since he returned home from the war. "She just was not right for you, brother," the twins had insisted, "and she was too short, and she snorted when she laughed, and her hair…" Legolas groaned to himself. He would never have a chance to find a suitable love interest with those two around. His train of thought was interrupted by Gilgafier.
"My prince, are you all right?" he asked.
"Oh, me? I am fine. I assure you." Legolas replied, trying to look interested in their conversation about rune engravings…on second thought, maybe not. "You know what, I think the air might be a little close, please excuse me." Legolas pulled away from the table and walked down toward the lower talans.
This was much better. Legolas planned on staying away from the table just long enough for everyone to finish dinner, and then he would return. He leaned up against the balcony rail and looked down into the forest. It was amazing how different forests could be. Mirkwood was beautiful too, but in a different sort of way. Ithilien would be beautiful; he and his people would make it an elven paradise in the world of men. He sighed and said "Will you not join me?" For he had no idea who behind him, knowing only that someone had just approached.
"I beg your pardon, my lord. I only assumed that you wished for solitude." It was the voice of a maiden. Legolas turned around to find that standing before him was the hazel-eyed maiden who had given him such a rude look during his welcoming.
"No, please join me. It's a soft night that begs for companionship." Legolas said sweetly, hoping that she would warm up to him. He was not really sure why he cared, but it was a pretty night, and any company would be an improvement over Gilgafier's rambling. Besides, he had felt sorely disenfranchised since Lierwen had ended their courtship, and with the night like it was, it seemed the perfect moment to work some Greenleaf magic.
"It seems to me, my lord, "she said crisply, as she walked to the balcony rail, "that you had an abundance of companions at the banquet hall. Were they not to your liking?"
"Of course they were, but I noticed that you were not there." Legolas pointedly looked at her. "You left the assembly early as well."
"I have no taste for gatherings such as those-all of the royal court, showing off for each other. The Lord and Lady mean well, and it is my utmost respect for them that I attended tonight. I was at the dinner, by the way. I saw you. You looked completely engrossed by the conversation. Rune engravings, was it?"
"I swear I would have noticed if you had been there," Legolas insisted and added, "I purposefully looked around for you."
"I?" she looked surprised. "What could I have done to gain the prince's attention?" She spit out the word, prince, as if it were distasteful.
"It was because you looked at me so sweetly during the assembly. I wanted to thank you for making me feel so welcome, by just looking at me the way you did." She did seem like one of the Valar in the moonlight. Her green eyes were like the forest, emerald with flecks of brown, with dark curly lashes. Her skin was luminous and fair. Her hair was not pale blonde like many of the Lorien elves, but a deep, rich gold color, with soft curls tumbling all the way down her back. Legolas placed his hand on top of hers, resting on the rail, and smiled at her.
She snatched her hand away, and her eyes darkened. "You are the most presumptious elf, I have ever met!" She lowered her voice to a whisper. "You think you can show up to Caras Galadhon and make claim for whatever you would have? You plan on tearing part of the city away, on some Valar-forsaken trek to a forest that nobody cares about on the borders of Mordor? Mordor! Well, let me tell you-I am not impressed, and I certainly will not be one of them."
Legolas' temper flared-he was, after all, his father's son. Taking a step forward, he brought his face even with hers. "Do not speak of that which you do not know, and if I am presumptious, then let it be known that the Lord and Lady summoned me here. I am only here at their invitation." He narrowed his eyes, folded his arms. "You make a most ungracious showing of your people, for they are not all of your opinion."
"But many of them are, Prince Legolas." She evened out her voice and straightened up, smoothing the lines of fabric in her gown. "Do not be so blind to think that none will oppose you. Come, the dinner is finished. Lord Celeborn will be looking for you. Pray, do not keep the Galadrim waiting." With that said, she turned and began the stairs back up to the banquet talan, leaving Legolas to his thoughts.
"One of the Valarl! Ha! More like an orc," he muttered and tucked an errant strand of hair behind his ear. "So much for the Greenleaf magic. I didn't even get her name!" Legolas lamented and followed the stairs back to the banquet hall. Surely there would be dancing and singing tonight. It would be just the thing to take his mind off what was to come...and the fact that he was horrible in the romance department.