14. Pish On Propriety!
Cellinn sat in a chair, her head propped against Arandur's shoulder with his arm around her in a comforting gesture. If she closed her eyes, she could almost imagine it was Legolas's shoulder and arm, so alike in build were he and his brother. But whenever she tried to close her eyes and rest, as her mother had suggested, a constant tapping disturbed her. So she settled into a pattern of watching the source of the tapping — Thranduil's boots clicking on the stone floor as he paced back and forth while they waited for more news — and glancing at the door, beyond which her beloved fought for his life.
Minuialwen sat between her husband and Queen Eirien, whose eyes never left the door. Cellinn's parents stood quietly in a corner: Eitheliel held herself stiffly beside Angalar, twisting a handkerchief around her hands. What a sight we are! Cellinn thought, breaking her pattern to glance around at them all. Everyone looked so serious, so glum, as if Legolas had already died. That stirred her temper enough that she sought some distraction.
"What happened?" she blurted, having received no information on how Legolas had been injured.
Her words brought Thranduil's feet to a halt and his eyes met hers. "The troop was returning to the halls, having completed their training a couple days late due to the storms we had two weeks ago."
Cellinn nodded, remembering the unusually warm weather that had blown in with severe thunderstorms, rather than the usual snow storms. "I hadn't considered that might delay them. We should not have planned our wedding so close to the end of the exercise."
But Thranduil gave her a wry smile. "They had orders to return no later than today. They would have arrived by noon, if…"
Oh how she wished they had arrived earlier in the day with Legolas whole and laughing as he teased her. But as that had not been the case, she wanted to know why. "If?" she prodded.
Thranduil sighed. "They were only a couple of hours away, further up in the mountains. Norbor said there was no warning. The ground simply gave way beneath them. The rains must have eroded an area over some underground caverns. Most of the troop was able to scramble to safety with only minor injuries." His voice faded for a minute, and his appearance was so stricken, Cellinn had never seen him look so distressed before.
"One was not so fortunate, however. When the deep fissure opened beneath him, Rível would have probably been killed if not for Legolas. He dived and grabbed his friend, managing to haul him over the edge to safety, but…" Thranduil looked away, swallowing hard. Cellinn's heart pounded. It was just like her Legolas to risk himself for someone else, but oh, how she wished he had not been hurt doing it!
"The edge gave way beneath him, and Legolas fell into the fissure instead. He was battered by the debris in the fall. His left knee is dislocated, several ribs are broken — Norbor thought Legolas might have a punctured lung… The healers do not know yet." Thranduil paused, but Cellinn wished he would just tell her the worst. The injuries mentioned so far would not be life threatening, though they were severe. She braced herself.
Thranduil's voice was hoarse and his face pale as he continued. "He hit the side of his head hard enough that Istuion is unsure… He doesn't know if…" He released a shuddering breath. "Norbor thinks he landed on his head. I'm hoping it was a glancing blow from a rock on his descent." His eyes glassed over, and he blinked rapidly, preventing the moisture from falling. "It's a miracle he did not break his back or neck, falling that far!"
Cellinn's breath stilled. It seemed to her a miracle that Legolas had not been killed!
Eirien stood and went to her husband, wrapping her arms around him. "He's strong," she assured the king. "And he has big plans. I can't imagine he'd allow himself to die before marrying Cellinn." The queen turned to give Cellinn a watery smile, which Cellinn returned, thankful for the attempt to lighten the mood.
They stood there looking at each other for several minutes in the silence. Then the door opened, and the master healer, Istuion, stepped out. Immediately, everyone was on their feet asking questions at the same time, anxious for news.
"Is he going to be alright?"
"Is he awake yet?"
"How is he?"
"Will he live?"
Cellinn did not add her voice to the cacophony, but just waited to hear the answers the healer would have. Her heart lurched when he smiled. He would not smile if he had bad news, would he?
"I believe he will make a full recovery – " Istuion's voice was drowned out by exclamations of joy and sighs of relief. Arandur dropped back into his chair, his head sinking to his hands. Minuialwen sat down beside him and rubbed his back. The Queen leaned into Thranduil as he closed his eyes, his unshed tears finally spilling over and leaving wet trails on his cheeks. Her parents looked at her expectantly, as if waiting for her to react.
"Let him finish!" Her voice had a ring of authority that startled everyone in the room, including herself.
"My lady," Istuion acknowledged her with a bow, directing the rest of his report to her as if she were the highest ranking person present. "I cannot be for certain how serious the head injury is until he awakens, but his skull is not fractured and poses no immediate threat to his health that I can see. He most likely is concussed; in fact, I'd be surprised if he was not." Those words relieved most of the remaining tension in the room. The healer continued, "We've moved his knee back into place and splinted it. It isn't as severe as I feared. There are some torn tissues, but no broken bones or need to perform surgery. It will take some time to get him back on his feet and walking without a limp, but I have no doubt with his tenacity, he'll be up long before we'd like him to be."
Thranduil chuckled at hearing that and nodded. Cellinn knew they would all have their hands full in getting Legolas to rest and allow the time necessary for his body to heal. It would be a real challenge to keep him off his feet, but she welcomed it! So long as her beloved lived, she felt she could handle anything. "And his ribs?" she asked.
"His ribs were not broken badly enough to pierce his lung. We've wrapped his chest to keep them from shifting, so that they can heal. All considered…he's doing well." He had a cheerful expression on his face as he spoke, until a sudden frown caused Cellinn concern. He gave her an apologetic look. "I do not think he will be well enough to have the wedding on the Solstice, my lady."
The ridiculousness of the statement — of course they would not be able to wed with Legolas in this condition! — on top of her lack of rest, all her worry and the sudden relief caused her to feel dizzy. Her knees collapsed and she began to sink as the face of the healer blurred before her. Someone gasped and several people began to speak in alarm, although she could not understand what was said. She felt someone catch her as the noises faded to nothingness and her vision went completely black.
She had fainted.
Cellinn woke in a strange room. She blinked the sleepiness from her eyes and glanced around, discovering her mother sitting in a chair beside the bed. "Naneth?"
Eitheliel smiled, though Cellinn noted a tightness to her mother's mouth and eyes. In a rush, it all came back: Legolas not returning on time, discovering he had been badly injured, and hearing he would be recover with time and her wedding would not take place as planned.
"How do you feel, dear?" Eitheliel's voice disturbed her thoughts.
Cellinn glanced back to her and grimaced. "Did I faint?"
Some of the tension left Eitheliel's face. "Yes, you did, but understandably so. You've hardly eaten or slept for days and now this on top of everything… You needed a good rest."
"Legolas?" Cellinn's heart ached. She longed to be with him, to help ease his pain however she could. "I want to see him!" She looked again at the strange room. "Where am I?"
"One of the smaller rooms in the healing ward. We all agreed you'd wish to be close to your prince while he recovers."
Cellinn threw off the covers and glanced down. She still wore her nightgown.
Her mother rose and moved to a chest that sat against a wall. "We brought some of your things." Eitheliel pushed back the lid and began rummaging through it, pulling out undergarments, stockings and her slippers; then she opened a small wardrobe, revealing a few of Cellinn's dresses hanging within.
Bounding out of bed, Cellinn moved to a washstand and quickly moved through her morning ablutions. Dressing as fast as she could manage, she kept throwing glances at the door. When she attempted to brush the tangles from her long hair, her hands shook so much that her mother took the brush and finished the task.
"Would you like some breakfast?"
But Cellinn shook her head. "Later. I want to see him first."
"You can eat while I find a healer and…." Eitheliel's exasperated voice followed Cellinn as she left the room.
She found herself in the hall where she had waited long torturous hours for word of Legolas's condition. Recognizing the door, she did not stop to knock. She pushed inside, and then stumbled to a surprised halt. A squeak left her lips as her eyes took in the scene before her.
Legolas lay unconscious on a large bed, naked except where bandages swathed his head, ribs and the splint on his left knee. Her cheeks flamed, even as her eyes traced over his handsome face, his broad chest, narrow waist and then settled there.
"My lady! You should not be here!"
Only then did Cellinn realize she was not alone in the room with Legolas. One of the healer's assistants approached with a basin of steaming water and a cloth. Apparently, Cellinn had intruded on Legolas's bath! She looked at the pretty, young apprentice, then back at her prince and indignation rose in her chest, all embarrassment leaving her. If this girl could be present — alone with him — washing his body, then so could Cellinn. No, only she had that right! To see him like this, to tend his needs. Before the other girl could protest, she reached for the cloth and basin and moved to the bedside. "I will tend him. You may leave."
"But my lady! You cannot be here; it is not proper!"
Cellinn threw her a disgusted glance. "Proper? We're supposed to be wed in two days. Nothing here I wouldn't see in time. Now go. Inform the master healer that I will be caring for the prince, and I need instructions." With a horrified and slightly disgruntled expression, the apprentice left, the door closing just short of a slam.
Alone, Cellinn looked down at Legolas, this time her eyes drinking in the sight of him. Some part of her warned she should wait until they were wed to view him like this. That he should be awake to see her reaction. But a larger part screamed that it was her place and her right. He belonged to her, every inch of him. She grinned. So much for never having seen a male unclothed. And what a sight that was!
She sat on the bed beside him and wet the cloth. With determination, trying to avoid staring at parts that made her flush, she began to wash the traces of dirt and sweat that remained from his fall and the trip back to the halls. Tenderly, she drew the wet cloth across his cheeks, over his nose, bending to place a soft kiss on his lips. She chastised him for his carelessness in teasing tones as she rinsed the cloth and lightly drew it over the places his chest was not obscured by the tight bindings that secured his broken ribs. Careful not to place any undue pressure on him, she moved to his abdomen, secretly admiring the tight muscled plane, dipping the cloth into his navel.
So far, she had had no problems, but then Cellinn glanced at the next part of him, biting her lip as she stared. She had cared for enough of Legolas's creatures over the years to know how to do much, but this? She stared at the place that most fascinated and somewhat frightened her. How was she to wash that? Should she? She glanced at his face. What if he woke while she touched him? What if someone walked in?
She realized her breathing had increased to a frantic pace, and she chided herself for her silly girlishness. She was soon to be a wife! Legolas's wife. She could wash him…everywhere! Couldn't she?
Cellinn took a couple deep breaths, calming herself. She did want to care for him, help him recover, but perhaps some things… She reached out, not quite brave enough to touch him everywhere just yet, and washed around the part that impeded her, blushing furiously whenever her gaze landed there. And then she moved on to his long legs and feet, not looking back.
By the stars, she loved him! Every inch, every muscle, even his feet were handsome! She grinned to herself and washed between his toes, noting they twitched, and remembering just how ticklish he had always been.
Then the door opened.
Thranduil paused in the doorway as he caught sight of Cellinn bathing his son. The wet cloth slipped from her fingers to the floor when she looked up with a gasp, her expression that of shock and embarrassment. Glancing at Legolas, Thranduil found his son still unconscious. Still, it disturbed him see his son lying naked with Cellinn in the room, unconscious or not! At a nudge from his wife, Thranduil stepped into the room, meeting Cellinn's startled gaze. To his surprise, her horror vanished swiftly, replaced by a tilt of her chin and eyes that dared him to say anything. Determination and boldness, something he rarely saw from Cellinn with anyone but Legolas. Interesting.
"I want to care for him."
Oddly, her words were not a request. His brows twitched upwards. "Impossible," he retorted, only to receive a smack on his backside from his wife. He jumped and glared at her.
"Of course you do," Eirien said, coming around him and stilling any further comments with a single look. "And there is no reason you should not."
Thranduil frowned at her. There were very good reasons why Cellinn should not be caring for Legolas in this fashion. Entertaining him when he woke by reading or talking would be acceptable, but taking care basic physical needs while Legolas lay oblivious? He could already hear the disparaging remarks made against Cellinn by certain members of his court. There were those who could cause her no end of trouble; many of whom had been in his father's court and held strictly to old customs.
"My love?" He forced himself to make some semblance of a protest, though he feared she would not listen. "It is not proper. They are not wed." He gave voice to the complaints he would soon be barraged with from both lords and ladies. Probably even his butler.
"Pish on propriety!"
He sighed. So it would be like that then. But gazing into her smiling face, he read her unspoken plea to trust her. She knew what people would say and do in response to this situation. He gestured for her to continue, curious how she could let this happen without censure. It was one thing to marry without the traditions — that caused stir enough! Quite another for an unwed maid to bathe and attend the physical needs of an equally unwed prince. Perfectly fine for healers and apprentices, but not for ladies. Hypocritical, he knew, but true nonetheless, and one reason he had turned his nose up at propriety by marrying his wife without ceremony or a betrothal.
"They were to marry soon enough. I fail to see why she cannot care for him if someone is here with her. It's not as if she would spend the night with him."
But Cellinn's sudden flush revealed she had planned to do just that, and that could not happen. He ran a hand along his jaw as he contemplated his wife's solution. "I think the court could find little to gossip about if she were chaperoned, but certain things," he gestured to Legolas's nude body, "should be left for the healers to do."
"No!" Cellinn's outburst surprised him. He glanced at her and found her shaking in anger. "I will not sit by and let another woman touch him when I am perfectly capable of doing it myself, and with more care! He is my betrothed. I will care for him!"
"Of course you will, dear," Eirien stated so matter-of-factly, Thranduil turned to her in exasperation. But before he could comment, she continued. "And I will help you."
He could not really argue with that, now, could he? He chuckled inwardly. No, he could not. And neither could certain nosy members of his court. "Very well." Still he could not help but hope the full situation did not become well known to certain people. Cellinn did not need enemies in the court.
Cellinn promptly found herself very thankful for the Queen's help and presence. Legolas's mother took over with confidence and easily rebuffed the head healer and his complaints. Rolling up her sleeves, she demanded he let them care for Legolas's needs, pointing out that Istuion's apprentice could be put to better use and learn more at his side than caring for an unconscious patient. Masterfully, she obtained all they needed to know to care for Legolas's injuries. By the time Istuion left, little remained for the healer to do but check on the prince's progress.
For the rest of the day, Cellinn stayed in Legolas's room, even taking her meals there. Eirien left her alone after a time, saying as long as Cellinn just sat with him, no one would have reason to speak badly of her, though she knew it would not matter. The fact that she was helping to care for Legolas's physical needs, even with a chaperone, would cause whispers and censoring looks, but she did not care. The situation irritated her; she needed to call for someone to help her, unless she was just cooling his face with a wet cloth or holding his hand! She would never look down her nose at another lady in the same situation. Why, she and Legolas could have married months, even years ago!
Except you have been too afraid.
The thought startled her, despite the truth in it. And as she considered the past few years, Cellinn began to understand how she had not been ready to wed, not mature enough. Legolas had realized that, however, and not pushed her. Even now, she was not completely comfortable with all the aspects of marriage, although she loved him with her whole being.
Glancing at Legolas's peaceful face, relaxed in unconsciousness, she knew she wanted to give him everything, no matter her hesitance. Not all would be pleasant, she knew. Parts would be awkward, painful, even humiliating – and not just the act of joining. Giving herself completely meant Legolas would see her as she truly was, deep inside herself. Her only reassurance was that he would be doing the same. She did not realize she had smiled until a faint voice spoke in the stillness.
"You're beautiful…when...you smile."
The whispered words startled her. She looked up and found silvery-grey eyes focused on her. Her breath caught in her throat. He was awake!
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.