10. His Plans
Five years later…
The book lay unheeded in his lap, for though his eyes were upon the words, they did not register in his mind. His thoughts instead were on his plans for the next few days, and the more Legolas considered those plans, the more his heart raced with excitement. So absorbed was he that he failed to note the arrival of another person, soft skirts swishing softly, becoming the sound of rushing leaves in his mind.
"I have read that book, and it is not very interesting. I am surprised you are so caught up in it." Her voice, unexpected, caused him to jump, and the book started to slide from his lap. He caught it with deft fingers, grinning sheepishly at her as she sat beside him on the padded, high-backed bench, looking at him knowingly.
"In truth, I have no idea what it is about. I was lost in thought."
Cellinn laughed. "I never would have guessed," she teased, accepting his hand when he reached for her. "Where did your thoughts take you then?"
"They led me to how I shall spend the next few days, as we have been given them off to rest." He pulled her fingers to his lips, kissing them softly before lowering their entwined hands to his thigh.
Face brightening at his words, Cellinn leaned in to place a kiss upon his cheek. "Perhaps you will join me for a picnic tomorrow in the garden? The flowers are so lovely, and the roses are in full bloom. I would very much like to spend the day just talking. I have missed you."
Legolas closed his eyes, a slight grimace tightening his features a moment. When he opened them, he could see a flash of hurt in her eyes. "I would enjoy such a day very much, love, but I fear I am already committed." Her eyes dropped to her lap, and she sighed softly. "Cellinn..."
She glanced up and smiled, ignoring the plea in his voice, "It is well, Legolas," she soothed. "May I know what takes you from me? Or perhaps you grow weary of my presence?"
"Never!" He knew she teased, but he also knew his other plans caused her pain, though she would accept them with grace and understanding. He loved her for it. The last couple years they had both matured, comfortable in the unspoken courtship. With his free hand, he traced her cheek and down her jaw. "I promised Arandur I would accompany him on a trip into the wood. It is long since we have had time to spend together in such things." He grinned. "I think he fears once the child is born, he will never have time to do such again."
She laughed, the bright sound causing several in the library to glance their way with disapproval. "I still can hardly believe Minuialwen is with child. But she is not even showing signs of it yet! Surely, he is not fearful already?"
Chuckling, he nodded. "Aye, he is terrified! And to be honest, I cannot picture him as a father, though I can easily see Minuialwen with a babe in her arms." The wistful softness in Cellinn's eyes startled him. "Linnaew?"
She smiled, shaking her head a bit. "I suppose I envy her somewhat. Happily wed for many years, and finally beginning the family she has always wanted. Do you not ever wish for such things, Lass?"
Her question must have been spoken before she considered what she asked, for a deep blush darkened her cheeks, and she ducked her head away from him. But instead of embarrassment, he felt delight. With firm fingers, he turned her chin so she had to look at him. "I do consider such things. And one day..." He captured her lips in a soft kiss, then pulled her closer and rested his cheek against hers. The swell of emotions left them both breathless a short time, then faded to a warm feeling of contentment.
A cleared throat brought them back to the library where they sat observed by many. He placed a kiss on her cheek and pulled away, putting an acceptable distance between them. Meeting her eyes, which were twinkling with amusement, he asked, "Would you like me to cancel my plans so I might attend this picnic of yours?"
"No," she answered, shaking her head. "Go enjoy your brother while you may. We will have plenty of time to have picnics in the garden. Arandur is correct; his life will change dramatically before he knows it, and the two of you will find yourselves on different ground once more."
"Thank you." Squeezing her fingers, he stood, pulling her up with him. "But since we do not leave until tomorrow, I am all yours for the rest of the day."
A delicate, dark brow arched upwards, her head tilting as a suggestive smirk turned her lips, and to his horror, Legolas felt his face warm considerably.
"But why?" Cellinn asked, looking at Minuialwen, feeling exasperated with both her friend and herself for being talked into such a thing. "Why must it be me?"
"Because I need to practice my painting and you are a wonderful subject." The princess maneuvered her onto the bench before the climbing roses in the Queen's garden. "Besides," Minuialwen continued when Cellinn fidgeted. "It is not as if you have anything better to do with Legolas away with Arandur."
"True. But I do not like posing for portraits."
"I know; but you do enjoy dressing up, and this is a good opportunity for showing off your new gown. It would be sitting in your wardrobe for months otherwise."
Cellinn rolled her eyes and stuck out her tongue.
"Oh, that makes a pretty picture," Minuialwen declared. "Let me paint that!"
"Don't you dare!" she called from her place as Minuialwen returned to her easel and palette.
Cellinn sat for what felt like hours as Minuialwen worked on the canvas. The princess would look at her, then look back to the canvas and add some strokes of her brush, before repeating the process over and over.
When she felt she could take no more, she stood, only to receive a cry of alarm. "You mustn't move, Cellinn! It will ruin the painting!"
"But I am tired of sitting, Minuialwen. My legs are cramping and I'm bored. Can't I fetch a book to read while you work?" Her friend bit her lip, and Cellinn turned to look at the roses behind her, the fingers of one hand reaching up to caress the pendant hanging from its chain around her neck . "Please?"
There was a few moments hesitation, and then, "All right, but hurry! You wouldn't want to upset a pregnant lady, now would you?"
Cellinn laughed as she left to find a good long book.
Legolas sat back to enjoy a few minutes of relaxation. He had been busy all morning, but the progress he made was worth it. He looked fondly at the painting in front of him, then glanced back down into the garden from his hiding place on a balcony. His plan was working perfectly, and unless Cellinn looked up and in just the right spot, she would never see him here.
She had not yet returned from retrieving a book. Minuialwen waved up at him, and he stood, stretched and waved back, then stepped into the room beyond so he would not be discovered if his beloved returned. Legolas used the break from painting to pour himself a cup of juice, which his mother had brought not long ago. It was still cool and refreshed him. Grabbing a slice of bread, he drizzled honey over its soft center then sunk his teeth into it. He chewed it quickly and gulped the remainder of his juice. His mother would hate such manners, but thankfully he was alone.
Ducking back out onto the balcony, he found Cellinn seated in her spot on the bench, head bowed slightly to read the book in her lap. Could there ever be a lovelier picture? His heart filled with emotion as he pictured a little boy playing at her feet.
Dragging his thoughts back to the present, he returned to his work. If he was lucky, Cellinn would agree to sit for Minuialwen again tomorrow. Thankfully, he could come back and paint the rest of the surroundings without her. For now, he concentrated on the flow of her skirt over her hips and smiled.
Minuialwen eventually had to let Cellinn leave. Legolas set his paints aside, covering them carefully. He had made good progress, and even if Cellinn did not sit for Minuialwen again the next day, Legolas was confident he could finish the painting from memory. Slipping through a hidden opening, he walked down a secret hallway, coming out into the dusky air of the mountain. No one would see him from this little known exit as he made his way back to the campsite where Arandur waited.
"I cannot sit here another minute!"
Minuialwen sighed, her arm aching from the effort she was putting forth. Legolas owed her for this! Then she remembered that she had volunteered. "Maybe if we take a break?" she asked, hoping to keep Cellinn seated for a little longer. She had no idea how far along Legolas was with the real painting, and she thought to stall just a bit longer.
But Cellinn would have none of it. She stood to her feet. "I cannot see how painting me can take this long! Our family portrait only took two days and there were three of us!" She marched over to Minuialwen, who panicked.
"No! You cannot come over here and look until it is finished!" She held up a hand, but Cellinn was not stopping.
Ducking around Minuialwen's arm, Cellinn came to face the painting, freezing when she saw it. Her jaw dropped and her face paled. "Minuialwen! This...this is ..."
"Horrible, I know." Minuialwen sighed. "And that is why I need the practice." It was a lame excuse and she knew it, but neither she nor Legolas had considered this possibility.
"Practice?" Cellinn squeaked. "I think you need lessons! It is just a blur of colors. I sat here for two days for a blur of colors?"
Minuialwen grimaced. "Maybe it will catch on and become popular?"
Cellinn shook her head. "I doubt it," she said, turning to look at a stricken Minuialwen. "Oh! Oh, Minuialwen! I did not mean to insult your work!"
Smiling stiffly, Minuialwen pretended to show her upset was caused by Cellinn's comments. "It is alright, dear. I am sorry I made you do this. Perhaps I should give up on painting and stick to tapestries."
Pulling her into an embrace, Cellinn agreed.
Above the friends, Legolas sighed in relief. He had nearly panicked when Cellinn had marched over to see Minuialwen's work. He would have to thank his brother's wife later for her quick thinking. Looking at his own painting, he nodded. It was enough. He would complete it in the following days as time allowed. His parents would see to it that he had plenty of 'official' duties to keep him occupied while he completed his gift.
Glancing down into the garden, he noted the ladies had left. Standing, he stretched, taking one last look at his work before he moved everything into his private workroom. Once his brushes were clean and all was put away, he returned to his brother to spend a night jesting and eating whatever Arandur had hunted that day. He hoped it was venison; but as hungry as he was, he would eat pretty much anything.
Several weeks later…
"And then Minuialwen told him to get out, that she had had enough! And so he spent the night in my rooms, fretting over whether she would be all right or not. I keep telling him she will be fine, but he continues to worry! I fear it is making her a little…irritated."
Cellinn laughed, imagining well what her friend would have told Arandur at his insistence that she stay in bed and let him wait on her. "Perhaps in time he will not worry so much. After all, babies have been coming into the world long before the moon rose."
"I have tried to tell him that," Legolas said with a chuckle, "but he insists those were not hischildren, and he is taking no chances. However," his expression sobered, "it is the last time he stays with me! He paced and grumbled all night, and I hardly got any rest. I needed it too, with having to speak to…." He broke off, looking a little startled, as if he just realized what he was saying.
"Speak to whom?" she asked him curiously.
"Er…it's nothing. Just an errand I have to do, and speaking of, I need to get to it. Perhaps I'll see you at dinner?"
She watched him for a moment, trying to discern why he seemed so nervous, but decided to let it go. More than likely it had to do with his duties as prince, which were increasing during a break in his training. "Yes, I'll be there. You could always stop by my rooms and walk with me, you know." She smiled when he leaned down to place a kiss on her cheek.
"I will," he promised, and then he was gone, walking out of the library with determined steps. Her eyes stayed on the empty doorway a moment longer, then she shrugged and went back to reading the book in her lap that she had been enjoying before her beloved slipped into the library to spend a few minutes with her. But his interruption had unsettled her, and she could not renew her interest in the tale, so placing it back on the shelf, she decided a walk through the garden would be nice before she returned to her family's rooms to put the finishing touches on a surprise for Legolas - a tapestry she had designed herself.
As soon as she entered her family's rooms, she knew something was up. Her mother, looking startled, glanced up from where she was seated in the front hall, and then she spoke a little tooloudly. "Cellinn! You are home early."
She frowned, wondering why her mother would be sitting here, rather than in the more comfortable sitting room. This room was formal and rarely used. "I decided to finish working on the tapestry today. It is almost complete, and I would have it ready." She paused, noting as her mother darted looks toward the closed door of the sitting room, the room she needed to walk through to get to the chamber she and her mother used for sewing. "Naneth? Is something wrong?"
"No! No, child. You go ahead. Just…your father has company."
"Oh." Not unusual for the king's chief advisor, but something about the situation made her hesitate. "I'll just slip quietly through then." And so she would have done, had she not glanced up to see just who her father's 'visitor' was. The guest's shocked grey eyes caused her to halt. "Legolas?"
Both men stood when they realized she was there. "Cellinn, I was just…um.. speaking to your father about….um…"
"He is here on the king's business about a petition, daughter. Nothing to concern your pretty head over." Her father gave her a wink, and she immediately felt at ease, though Legolas's stuttering response caused her to wonder.
"Well," she said with a smile, "I won't disrupt you. I'll just pass through, and you can continue your discussion."
"Oh, we are finished," her father said, causing Legolas's head to jerk as his eyes sought Angalar's gaze.
"You have decided then?"
Cellinn watched the two with veiled amusement, for she had never really seen Legolas in an official capacity before with her father. He looked very nervous.
"And what is your answer, Lord Angalar?"
"You may tell the king I concur with the petition and will be there to show my support when it is brought before the court."
Cellinn was taken aback when Legolas bowed humbly, surprise and relief in his face. "Thank you!" Then, he walked over to her and placed a kiss on her lips right in front of her father!
She blinked a few times then turned to look at her father who was grinning like an idiot. "Cellinn," he waved to the door, "see the prince out." And he sat back in his chair, looking a bit too much like the fox that has caught the squirrel.
She glanced at Legolas as she walked toward the door, but he seemed to be almost unaware of her, lost in his thoughts. As they reached the door, she opened it. "Legolas?"
"What petition? And why are you acting in the role of an advisor?"
That got his attention. He looked at her a moment, and then sighed. "Part of my duties from time to time is to act as an advisor, but in this case… there is a matter to be brought up in court on the morrow, and let's just say, I need your father's approval in the matter, otherwise…well, I have it, and that is all that matters."
This was all new to her, though she supposed it should not be. Her entire life had been lived on the edge of the court. Her father's position as Thranduil's chief advisor had made her friendship with the youngest prince natural – a friendship that had them completely at ease in each other's home or formal settings. But Cellinn, although being exposed to it all around her, had never paid it much mind in her youth. Legolas had been her playmate, then her friend, and was now her beloved…but her prince? She knew he was, and yet, did not. He was just her Legolas.
And now he was taking his place in the court, going about his father's business, and for the most part, she had paid it no heed. How thoughtless of her! "Tomorrow?" she asked. When Legolas nodded, she continued. "Then I shall be there to support you as well."
His response took her completely off guard. No? "But…Legolas, I know I have not shown much interest before, but I do wish to support you in your duties as prince." It sounded like the right thing to say…however—
"No. Do not come tomorrow, Cellinn. Please!"
Now she was beginning to get concerned. Was he in some sort of dilemma? Was that what the petition was about? But the king usually handled such matters privately unless… "Are you in involved in some trouble?"
He gave her an odd look, but shook his head. He even managed a small smile. "No, I'm not in trouble. I just really do not need a distraction tomorrow, and you would distract me, love."
She was not sure why, but she did not believe him. It all seemed too suspicious - his stammering replies, anxious looks, and the way he was fidgeting nervously. She lifted her chin, her resolve firm. "I am going."
He blew out a heavy sigh and shook his head, settling his hands gently on her arms and pulling her closer to him. Now she could see distress in his eyes and it unsettled her. "Please, Cellinn, if you love me, do not come tomorrow. I will explain all, after—"
"I cannot! Please, this is very important to me." He took a shaky breath. "Please…"
"If it is important, I should be there!"
"Not this time."
"Are you ordering me as my prince to stay away from the court tomorrow?" She was not prepared for the gasp of disbelief and hurt look he gave her.
"I would never issue such an order to you unless the need was dire."
"Then I will come."
His hands dropped from her arms, and he took a step back. For several moments he held her with his gaze before he answered, "Then you will wound me deeply," he whispered, and spinning on his heel, he walked away.
Legolas made it back to his rooms, though how he did so, he could not recall. Entering his bedroom, he sank to the floor at the foot of the bed and leaned against it. What else could he do? He would not order her to stay away. That would only intensify the matter, create problems in their relationship and damage the trust between them. But other than pleading with her to stay away….
The door creaked open followed by a soft rustling. He looked up to see his mother regarding him with concern. "Did it not go well?" she asked, coming to sit on the floor beside him.
He sighed and leaned his head against her, relaxing as her fingers began smoothing his hair. "Lord Angalar gave his support wholeheartedly," he said, slumping further against her.
"And this does not make you glad, my son?"
He glanced up, his lips quirking upwards a bit. "Oh, that news makes me very glad, Naneth. But Cellinn came home as we were finishing up our discussion and before he had given me his answer. I thought we managed to conclude it well, making it appear as a matter of the court…."
"It is a matter of the court," she reminded him.
He nodded, but continued. "For some reason, she got it in her head to come tomorrow. For so long she has taken little to no interest in court matters — or my role in them! And while I would welcome it after tomorrow, couldn't she have waited to become supportive in this manner? Oh Naneth, what will I do? I cannot order her not to come, and I have already asked her several times to stay away!" An exasperated chuckle from her caused him to sit up and look at his mother with some annoyance of his own. "What?"
"You did not think that such a request would fuel her curiosity? Make her more determined?"
"What else was I to do?"
"When it comes to Cellinn, anything but that!"
He could not stop the snort of laughter. It was true and one of the reasons he loved her so much. His beloved was bright, curious and downright stubborn! Ai, he loved her! So much his chest ached.
The sound of the door creaking open again caused him to look up into his father's face. "Is everything all right in here?" Thranduil asked, stepping into the room. He glanced at Eirien, then back at Legolas.
Legolas swallowed. "No! Cellinn has it in her head to attend the proceedings tomorrow." And he explained what had happened with the lady and her father earlier.
Thranduil listened, a thoughtful look on his face, but then he grinned. "This is easily solved, my son. Have no fear; I will see the lady is not present when you make your petition."
Legolas exhaled in relief. "Thank you, Ada."
Cellinn managed to prepare herself for dinner, apprehension wrapping her like a damp blanket, making her shiver. When she had approached her father about her wish to attend court tomorrow, he sternly told her that she should not attend. He did not forbid her from going; as an adult, she could make her own decisions, but he did tell her going would be a very poor choice, considering her beloved had strongly requested she not attend. When she asked him why, Angalar brushed her off saying she should stay home and finish her tapestry.
The knock on the door caused her to jump, but she moved forward, trying not to shake as she opened the door. Legolas stood there, looking as uneasy as she felt. But then he offered her his arm with a slight smile. She took it and let him lead her to the dining hall, where they had a nice dinner, despite the tension between them. He even walked her back to her rooms and kissed her goodnight.
Not once all evening did they speak of the matter lying between them.
To Be Continued…