13. Anticipation and Apprehension
Two months later…
Minuialwen hummed and swayed to the tune. It truly was a lovely song, so full of promise and love. She closed her eyes and ran one hand over her blossoming belly, smiling when she felt the life flutter within her. Two arms snaked around her, and she jumped, her eyes popping open in surprise. "Arandur!" she complained, laughing as he pulled her back against his chest. She had been so absorbed in communing with their child that she had not heard the door open and close with his arrival.
"I couldn't help myself." His voice was a low growl in her ear. "I come home to find you standing here, in naught but your nightclothes, looking so beautiful…" his voice trailed away even as his hands reached to caress her belly. She felt him reach for her through their bond and envelop both her and the unborn babe.
She sighed, closed her eyes again and fell into the loving comfort, going limp in his arms, letting him support and give her strength. When she opened her eyes some time later, she found herself snuggled safe in their bed, wrapped in his arms. A happy smile tugged her lips upwards as she glanced up to see him sound asleep.
Wriggling a bit, she was able to lightly kiss him on the lips. His eyes fluttered open, and he grinned sheepishly back at her. "Fell asleep," he mumbled.
"So did I." She snuggled back against him. "I did not realize how draining it would be to nourish a child, but I'm so happy, Arandur!"
His arms tightened against her. "As am I." He yawned. "Though I do wish it didn't tire us so much. I wanted to speak to Legolas before he leaves." He yawned again. "Save him from Adar's meddling."
Laughter bubbled up in her breast. "Your father is a dear, but sometimes…"
"Mmmm…" he agreed, stirring. He sat up, stretching. "I really do need to speak to him, as much as I would rather lie in bed with you all day. He's in for much teasing, and I don't want his head filled with a bunch of nonsense."
Minuialwen smiled warmly up at him. "You're a good brother," she told him. He grinned back at her and bent to kiss her soundly.
Legolas sat on his bed, his eyes following Thranduil back and forth as his father paced the room. He felt both amused and horrified at his father's ramblings, until, unable to take any more, he asked, "Must you tell me all this now?" When Thranduil spun around to look at him, Legolas lifted a brow. "I'm not to wed for another month!"
Thranduil's eyes narrowed at him. "Yes. You will be gone until the week before the wedding, and you should have time to think about what I tell you." He turned to resume his pacing.
Legolas grinned, then forced a neutral expression. He cleared his throat. "But Naneth gave me a book. I know this already."
Thranduil spun around again, his expression one of shock. "A book?"
Legolas fought to keep a straight face and nodded. "With illustrations." He lifted a knowing brow.
Thranduil gaped at him. "Illustrations!" Red seeped up from his collar into his face. "What kind of illustrations?"
The laughter spilled forth as Legolas fell back on the bed, pointing at his father's discomfiture and holding his stomach. "I'm jesting," he managed to get out through his mirth, though he was rewarded for his amusement with a glare. He sat up, still grinning. "Arandur talked to me already, and I know how it all works. You explained that long ago." He paused, trying to put what he needed to ask into words. "What I'd like to know is…how to put her at ease? She's afraid."
Thranduil's expression softened, and he sighed and came to sit beside him on the bed. "Just go slow, Legolas. Talk to her. Reassure her. Touch all of her, not just the parts you like best." He winked.
Legolas flushed. "Adar!" Sometimes he would really rather speak to his mother. She never made him feel so self conscious about his desires and feelings.
Thranduil grinned. "Don't think I don't know where your eyes have strayed, son. But better to hold the lady, stroke her arms, her sides…"
Yes, he would much rather speak to his mother. She had much better tact when it came to this topic. "I get it! Please don't be more specific." He knew his face burned red, and he shifted away to hide his reaction.
But Thranduil just laughed. "It will be like that until you wed; everyone will tease you, offer advice." His voice turned serious. "Ignore them. Most will just be trying to make you nervous. Just love her, Legolas."
And that required no effort whatsoever. "I do." He rose, grabbing a few more things to stick in his pack for his last training mission in the wilds until spring. His father's voice halted him.
"One last thing, son, and listen well, for I don't mean to embarrass you."
Legolas turned in surprise at the change in his father's tone of voice, curiosity cooling his cheeks. "What?"
Thranduil cleared his throat, looking away himself for a moment. "Afterwards…" He paused – a very long pause, and Legolas thought he could see red creeping up his father's neck.
"Afterwards? After what?" He grinned at the color that now infused Thranduil's cheeks.
"After you've made her your wife in truth, do not — listen well! — do not fall asleep."
Legolas blinked. "Huh?"
Thranduil chuckled and met his confused gaze. "You will want to, more than anything. Sleep will feel like the most natural thing, dragging you down into its embrace…" Legolas jumped when Thranduil punched the bed beside him for emphasis. "Fight it! Do not fall asleep first. Hold her, then tend to her…" Thranduil gave him a significant look, and Legolas nodded, understanding his meaning. "Let her fall asleep in your arms, then you can follow."
"But why does it matter who falls asleep first?"
Thranduil just lifted a brow. "It matters. Trust me, it matters. Show her that night that you love her, even above your own needs, and she'll never forget it."
Confused but not about to question someone happily married for many centuries, Legolas nodded. He hoped he would remember that bit of advice.
One week before Winter Solstice
Cellinn smiled wistfully and ran a finger over the pages of parchment set on a small table. The pages had been Legolas's betrothal gift — a song composed just for her that would be played by Legolas during the binding ceremony while Minuialwen sang the words. One week! One short week and she would wed her prince! Her heart fluttered — both with anticipation and apprehension.
She knew she should not be afraid, but knowing and convincing herself were two different things. She had not so much as seen a male fully unclad before, let alone bared herself to male eyes! Oh, why did it all confuse and frighten her so much? She was being silly. There was nothing to fear.
She worried at a rough spot on a fingernail with her teeth, until her mother smacked her hand from her mouth and smoothed the edge with a piece of sandstone.
"None of that," Eitheliel fussed. "You want your hands to look pretty and be smooth." She winked conspiratorially.
Cellinn flushed. "Naneth!" she complained at her mother's teasing. The teasing only made her feelings of unease worse!
Eitheliel sighed. "Please tell me you are not still afraid. You should be excited — hardly waitto join your husband in his bed."
The horror of her mother's statement only made her flush more, and she turned away with another pleading, "Naneth!" She would not discuss this right now. She felt nervous enough.
Her mother snorted. "Any other lady would be happy to have that handsome prince taking them to bed."
"NANETH!" Her face burned, and she turned away. Cellinn was quite aware that many others were more than eager to fall into her prince's arms and bed. The whispered comments she had chanced to overhear were enough to make her want to rip some of their hair out! But she did not feel that way. She found the thought of Legolas disrobing and then removing her own clothing to be rather… Her face heated further and her thoughts spun out of control. And then after that, they…they would… She gulped, feeling herself begin to tremble, not in anticipation but fear of the unknown. Then what?
"All right, all right," Eitheliel was saying. "I'll let you deal with it your own way. I just hope that boy has some patience in him."
So do I, Cellinn thought. She bit her lip while her mother finished smoothing her nails, rubbed some nice smelling cream into her hands and feet, and then began to brush her hair until it shone. The ritual had been done every night for a month in preparation for the wedding. It was enough to annoy someone who did not fret much over physical appearances, such as herself. It seemed to her it would be enough to do it the day of the wedding, not every night for a month!
The smoothing, brushing and creaming rituals were bad enough, but the 'talks' her mother had with her, explaining what she could expect during the ceremony — and worse, after the ceremony — nearly had her screaming in frustration and embarrassment. Of the latter, Eitheliel never told her in enough detail to banish her fears. Why is it parents are loath to discuss such issues plainly anyway? Though, if she were honest with herself, she really did not think she could sit and listen to her motherexplain the functioning of a male's body. She ended up only half hearing the information Eitheliel gave because she was too embarrassed to truly listen. Perhaps it was not just parents who were mortified at such information.
Cellinn hoped Legolas knew what to do. She had determined after that night of their betrothal that she would speak to him in depth about it, no matter how embarrassing, but somehow, in the flurry of preparations, wedding details, and his being away on a training detail, she had not had a chance to broach the subject with him!
She could not be expected to do anything with the bits and pieces of info her mother gave her that skirted what she felt she needed to know. Most of her questions were answered with a lifted brow and a "You'll find out soon enough." Cellinn sighed again. Oh yes, Legolas had betterhave some clue as to what to do — or she would strangle him!
He should have returned yesterday, giving her some time to speak to him and find out how much he could explain; but there was no sign of the trainees or their instructors. It rankled to know he had not returned when he had said he would, though she knew he had no control over such things. But with all the confusion, 'talks' that circled the issue, hair pulling, fittings, and so on, she needed him; and so she fumed that he was not there to hold and reassure her and remind her with his kisses that all would be well.
Darkness. Pain. The ground shifted, opening up to swallow him alive! He cried out, but no sound came from his lips. Then the darkness consumed him…
Slowly awareness returned to him. Legolas did not know where he was or what had happened. He dimly remembered the vivid nightmare. Then the pain shot through his body, making coherent thought nearly impossible. He could not open his eyes, though he tried. Oh, how he struggled to lift the heavy lids! He felt dizzy, disoriented, and his head, chest and leg felt as if on fire.
He held onto the image of her face, floating before him, smiling that special smile of hers just for him. He longed for her, wished to touch her beautiful face as she laughed. But then the vision faded as she turned and ran from him.
Something jostled him, and he cried out. His voice sounded muffled to his ears. He had the sensation of floating, a slight rocking back and forth. Had he died? Cellinn would be very angry with him if he died and missed their wedding. Another bump sent bolts of pain searing through him. But if he were dead, he would no longer hurt so much…would he?
Though his eyes never opened, it was as if the darkness descended on him again, slowly devouring his scattered thoughts. There were voices, some sounding harried, but he no longer cared, could no longer think.
He welcomed the dark, and drifted back into blissful unconsciousness.
Another two days passed, and still Legolas did not return. With only three days to go until their wedding, Cellinn felt anxious, angry, concerned… Her emotions were a jumble that left her feeling exhausted. She hardly slept, could not eat, and her mother's fussing only irritated her further, so that she forced herself to block out the sound of Eitheliel's voice. The stone rubbing across her nail grated on her nerves as her mother smoothed another imagined rough spot away.
At the soft call, she looked up to see Minuialwen standing in the doorway of her room. Her friend's appearance caused her heart to lurch with hope. Perhaps Legolas had returned! She smiled up at her friend, but then noticed the tightness around Minuialwen's eyes and mouth. Her smile faded. "What's wrong?"
The princess inhaled a deep breath, looking away. Her refusal to look at Cellinn caused her heart to slam hard against her ribs. "The trainees have returned, but they have injured."
Though many trained in the arts of war, there was little need for it any longer. Sauron had been defeated many years before her birth when the ring was cut from his hand. They never heard of orcs in the wood; those foul beasts had been driven into hiding long ago. A border patrol was maintained, but Cellinn could not remember the last time someone was injured in a skirmish. In fact, the only ones routinely injured were the trainees in the odd accident…
Her breath caught in her throat for a long moment before she squeezed out, "Where's Legolas?"
"He's in the healing ward," Minuialwen murmured, her head lowered, her face hidden by her long silvery-gold hair. "The master healer was not very…encouraging."
Cellinn heard no more. Mindless of her attire or her mother's calls to wait, she sped on bare feet through the halls clad only in her nightgown. Darting round a corner, she hit something solid and nearly fell. Strong hands caught her, helping her keep her feet. She glanced up and gasped. Thranduil held her, and there were tears in his eyes. She shook her head, refusing to acknowledge what she feared more than anything. "No," she whispered.
Thranduil pulled her into his arms, holding her tightly. "He's alive," his voice hitched, "but barely."
To Be Continued…
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.