Cellinn decided the past two weeks had been the worst of her life. If she had thought things were bad that first night, when Legolas stormed out of their rooms, she found they only got worse. The first week, he stayed with Arandur and Minuialwen, and Cellinn did not even see him. Arandur came the morning after their fight and apologetically collected some of Legolas's clothing.
"How is he?" she asked, desperate for some word of him.
But Arandur only shrugged and gave her a sad look. "He's been better. His knee is bothering him." At her gasp, he rushed on, "He'll be alright, Cellinn. Just needs some time. He walked too far on it, but Istuion said no damage was done."
That was a relief, at least.
Minuialwen came later in the day, and they talked, but for once, Cellinn found Minuialwen strangely silent, offering little advice. The princess listened, nodding as Cellinn explained everything, but it seemed as if Minuialwen did not wish to get too involved in their fight. Cellinn understood that her friend was in an awkward position; but with Legolas – her closest friend – not speaking to her, and Minuialwen – her next closest friend – not saying much, Cellinn did not really have anyone to open up her heart and discuss the situation.
Then, to her surprise, Thranduil showed up at her door late in the afternoon. At first, she felt awkward speaking to him, but strangely, she found her father by marriage to be a wonderful confidant. She had never realized before how well he knew her. He offered keen insight into not just her relationship with Legolas but her own reactions.
That first week was enlightening to Cellinn. Though she ached to have Legolas back in their rooms and talking to her, she spoke to Thranduil and Eirien, and even her father, learning much about herself. After every talk, she understood herself more, and longed to share what she had discovered with her husband. But he remained absent from their quarters.
Then one morning, a week after their fight, she heard the door to their chambers open. When she peered out of the bedchamber, she found Legolas standing in the doorway, holding his various items of clothing in one arm, his crutch braced with the other. He appeared quite sulky.
He did not answer or look at her. He limped to a chair and dropped his things onto it, then turned and left. Cellinn had immediately collected his clothing, holding it to her face and inhaling his scent. Oh, how she missed him! How she wanted to hold him in her arms rather than his clothes!
Eirien explained what had happened over tea that afternoon. "Arandur tired of his brother's sulking and having him underfoot. He kicked Legolas out of their rooms and told him to go home." The queen smiled. "It wasn't what Legolas wanted to hear. He went straight to Thranduil to request other rooms, but the king would not allow it. Thranduil told him to go home as well."
Cellinn was not quite sure what to think of this new development. Being forced back into their chambers was not going to help alleviate Legolas's ire. If only he would listen! She knew if she could just explain – share with him what she had come to understand about her reactions – her patient and understanding husband would forgive her and help her to overcome her fears.
But the long-suffering and fun-loving prince she had fallen in love with had disappeared. In his place was a sulky, angry and distant man who perpetually frowned from what she had seen and heard. He only returned to sleep in their rooms after she had fallen asleep, and even then, he slept in the sitting room on the couch. When she woke in the mornings, he was always gone, but she saw the signs that he had been there. He did not speak to her and avoided looking at her if they crossed paths. All her attempts to speak with him, to implore him to hear her out were met with a curt turn and his retreat. After the first few times, she quit trying, hoping he just needed more time to calm down.
He did not.
The gossip was nearly unbearable. Cellinn was not sure how people found out so quickly, although she suspected the servants had spread the rumor that there was trouble in the king's family, specifically between the youngest prince and his new wife. Several members of the court assumed rightly that she was to blame, and there were several pointed and condescending remarks made in her presence. She tried to avoid all but those few persons close to her, as the stares and whispers – and worse, the questions – were more than she could bear.
Most of all, she did her best to keep away from Ninglorwen and her friends. The snickers, pointing fingers and disdainful looks pierced her – as did their comments.
"Couldn't even manage to bed him, I heard," one girl said in her hearing.
"I wouldn't have any trouble bedding him!" Ninglorwen remarked, giving her a smug smile. The comments hurt almost as much as when Legolas turned his back on her.
She sought solace in the garden, losing herself among the meandering paths and trying to find enjoyment in the awakening of the plants as Spring drew nearer. As she walked, she tried to think of some way to break the silence between them. But after two weeks, she had tried everything she could think of and still he refused to look at her or speak to her.
The worst of all was when she woke one morning to the sound of the door closing. A fire had been lit in the hearth, but with the coming of Spring, wood-fires had not been needed for warmth, so she pondered it a moment, until she realized just what was burning. With a cry of dismay, she threw off the covers and darted across the room. With the poker, she removed a piece of partially-burnt, carved wood – the flute she had given Legolas for his coming of age. It was blackened and charred in places, but not completely destroyed.
Tears fell unheeded as she stared at it. How could he have done this? How could he have willfully destroyed a symbol of their love for one another? She thought of the many times he had played for her – the song he had written for their wedding. He had been playing the flute the day they had admitted they loved one another!
A stranger had replaced her wonderful husband, and Cellinn could not help but wonder if she had driven him away permanently – if his love for her had died.
The door creaked open and clicked shut, but Thranduil did not look up from the parchment he was reading. He knew immediately who had trespassed on his private domain. Only two people dared to enter his study without knocking: his wife and his closest friend. As Eirien had brought him his luncheon only thirty minutes prior, and had mentioned spending some time in her garden, that meant Angalar was the one who even now crossed the room to where Thranduil sat in one of two chairs before the hearth and lowered himself into the opposite chair.
Neither of them spoke.
Thranduil finished reading, and set the parchment aside on a small table to the right of his chair. He gazed into the cold hearth, waiting for his friend to speak. He did not have to wait long.
"He cannot keep this up."
Thranduil raised a brow and glanced at his friend. "He is miserable. When he gets bad enough, he will reconcile with his wife."
"If she'll still have him."
There was something in his friend's tone that alerted him to trouble. "What do you know that I do not?"
"Ninglorwen." Just the sound of that girl's name raised Thranduil's ire. "She plots even now, and does all she can to be close to Legolas. I've watched her."
His anger became something more dangerous, and his breath left him in a harsh exhalation. "That girl…" he murmured, contemplating Lammaeg's daughter. "I know her father has planted thoughts in her head from the time she was a small child. He dotes on her, spoils her. But not even he would tolerate her forwardness if he truly knew. It's improper!"
"Are you sure, Thranduil? It seems to me that he resents our closeness. He was Oropher's chief councilor—"
"But not mine." Thranduil was adamant about that. He had great respect for his father's old friend. Lammaeg had come from Doriath of old with Oropher, and together they had established the kingdom in Greenwood, side by side. And when Oropher marched to war with his sons, it was Lammaeg who had remained behind, entrusted with the ruling of the realm in the king's absence. But while Thranduil had respected him, he had never liked the 'old goat' (as he and Angalar had come to call him in private). He kept Lammaeg on the council and despite the old one's protests, it was Angalar, Thranduil's dearest friend, who held his confidences.
Angalar sighed. "Have you not seen how he has plotted over the years? How he's worked to get back into the same position with you as he held with Oropher?"
Thranduil frowned, thinking. Indeed, there had been little things over the years that had nagged at him concerning Lammaeg, but nothing he could quite put his finger on. "I know he wanted your position when I returned home as king, and I've felt his resentment since. But beyond filling his daughter's head with silly ideas about being a princess…" He shook his head. Lammaeg had not been the only one. There were several young maids of the court who had also been pushed by their parents to pursue his youngest son's attentions.
"Think, Thranduil!" Angalar exclaimed, drawing Thranduil's attention back to his friend. "Lammaeg was a confirmed bachelor." He smirked. "The old goat never showed any interest in marrying. He only ever cared for being your father's right hand man."
"Your point is?" Thranduil asked. "Many married after the losses we sustained. Is it so surprising that he also took a bride and quickly pursued rebuilding our numbers?"
Angalar ran a hand over his hair, trailing it down one braid. "Perhaps not. But did you not note that the young lady he wed was only newly come of age? Not the normal match for one of his years."
Thranduil grinned. "Nínim was pretty. Every buck, young and old, wanted her!"
Chuckling, Angalar shook his head. "It was not like Lammaeg though, that whirlwind courtship. He didn't even pursue a betrothal period."
"Not many did," Thranduil reminded him. "Not even you and Eitheliel…" He frowned, thinking back and remembering.
"Yes, he only pursued Nínim after Eitheliel and I announced we had wed. And he wasted no time in getting her with child."
"Is it so hard to believe that he wished to see our numbers increased?"
"No," Angalar answered, but there was something in his eyes. His friend understood something Thranduil had missed. But as always, instead of just blurting it out, Angalar would make Thranduil walk through it himself and reach his own conclusions.
So he thought about Lammaeg and his councilor's eldest son, who had been born almost exactly a year from the day he had wed Nínim. It was unusual. Most newly married couples wished several years to themselves before they brought children into the world. There had been much pressure on Eirien and Thranduil to produce an heir after his return. But he and his wife, only married a couple of years before Thranduil left for Dagorlad, had put it off, wishing time to heal from the many losses they had sustained. Lammaeg had been one of the biggest proponents of the king producing an heir, had almost demanded it; but in the end, Thranduil had done as he wished.
Try as he might, Thranduil could find nothing significant in his thoughts. Parts were unusual, but nothing stood out to him as something he should take note of. Nothing that gave him any insight into Lammaeg and the plotting that Angalar hinted at.
"You still don't get it, do you?"
"No, so why don't you just tell me for once?"
"Lammaeg married quickly. Not as soon as you returned, and not as soon as you named me chief advisor, but as soon as I wed." Angalar folded his arms and gave him a look as if that said everything.
Thranduil threw up his hands in exasperation. "And?"
Angalar blew out a breath. "And he immediately had a child, a son."
Thranduil blinked at him. "And?"
"And he pushed you to do the same."
Thranduil shook his head. Perhaps the current stress in his family had addled his head, because he simply could not follow what Angalar meant him to see.
"Forget that for now," Angalar said. "Think instead of when you announced Eirien was carrying Arandur."
A smile tugged at his lips as Thranduil remembered that happy day. It had been at a Spring feast on a warm night when the stars had shone with a rare light upon the forest. "She was so beautiful when she was with child."
"You're not thinking."
"Well, if you would tell me what I'm supposed to be thinking about…"
"Lammaeg!" Angalar punched the arm of his chair for emphasis. "Not two days after you announced Eirien was carrying your child, Lammaeg announced to the court that Nínim was also with child. Two days… Exactly the amount of time needed for her to conceive…"
Thranduil frowned at this. "But surely they had been trying, even as we were, for both to conceive at the same time."
"You're saying he purposely got his wife with child because Eirien was with child?"
"Perhaps the answer lies in his reaction to the fact you both had sons."
Now that paused him. It was true. Lammaeg had not seemed overjoyed to be gifted with another son a mere two days after Eirien had given birth to Arandur. But why?
"And think again about when Eirien carried Legolas, Thranduil. Again Lammaeg followed your example."
"But not right away."
"His second son had not married by the time Eirien conceived Legolas."
"I don't understand where you're going with this."
"You will. Think it through."
"Very well." Thranduil drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair and thought. "Lammaeg announced Nínim was expecting another child shortly after Legolas was born." Angalar nodded. "And Ninglorwen was born a year later, and…"
"Lammaeg was beside himself with joy!"
"Because he wanted a daughter." Thranduil could see that, but did not see the significance that Angalar did. "What am I missing?"
"You'll figure it out if you think about it long enough."
Thranduil snorted, and thought. Lammaeg had wanted a daughter after Arandur had been born, but had instead been blessed with a son. But after Legolas was born, the old goat had been thrilled to receive Ninglorwen, and he had filled that girl's head with…
"That old goat has been planning to match our children all along!"
"Took you long enough."
Thranduil shot a glare at his friend. So sometimes he did not comprehend everything. It was why he had advisors. "You could have told me instead of making me work it all out."
"Not nearly as much fun." Angalar grinned at him.
He smiled reluctantly, but his humor faded after a moment as he considered everything in a new light. Lammaeg had planned his family in such a manner as to attempt to match their children in marriage, thus insinuating himself back into a certain closeness with the king, which he had lost after Oropher's death. And if he had gone to such lengths as to plan the births of his children to match those of the king, then was it much more of a stretch to think the councilor might still hope for such a match? It was obvious to all that Legolas and Cellinn had not completed their bond.
Narrowing his eyes at his oldest friend, he repeated his earlier question. "What do you know that I do not?"
Angalar swallowed and glanced away. "She has cornered him on several occasions, I believe in an attempt at impropriety. She knows the bond has not been completed. And if she can compromise him enough…"
Thranduil stood in one swift movement, his anger like fire in his veins. Such a thing would not be tolerated! Legolas needed Cellinn. The boy just did not realize how much yet.
"And there is one other thing…" Angalar said, standing up as well. When Thranduil lifted his brows, Angalar folded his arms across his chest. "He's hurting my little girl. It needs to stop before I do something we both regret."
"If anyone does anything, it will be me. Come, we will speak to him, and I will succeed in getting through to him no matter what it takes. I will not have that woman in my family!"
Legolas let out a long-suffering breath. It was not his choice to be here, walking in the garden with Ninglorwen. Istuion required him to walk for a certain amount of time each day, and he would rather do it outdoors, grateful to finally be free of the hated crutch, though he still limped. Unfortunately, he had run across the lady, and he had again been duty bound to offer his arm. His skin crawled where her fingers caressed his sleeve; and she walked too close to him. It was improper! After all he was…
He stopped that thought. He was not married. Not truly. Not that he did not want to be, it was just… Gritting his teeth, he increased his stride, trying to hurry, despite his limp, so that he could be done with the path and be free of the woman. Walking with Ninglorwen brought too much to mind that he would rather not consider, only increased his anger and ire at his…wife.
But Ninglorwen did not match his pace, nor did she let go of his arm. She held him back, her grip on his arm making him nearly tremble with anger at females in general. Devious, conniving, deceitful, manipulating temptresses! All of them! Slowing his steps, he glanced back at her questioningly. After she had accosted him, and all but demanded he escort her, they had not spoken. Now, something in her expression brought his feet to a halt.
She moved closer to him; but her eyes were not on his. They were directed to the right of his shoulder, just off the path. A smug smile tugged at her lips; and he knew without turning exactly why. Cellinn stood somewhere behind him, watching him with Ninglorwen.
In that moment, his ire roused and his thoughts centered on his hurt and frustration; all Legolas wanted to do was to hurt her, to inflict pain as deep as his own. With calculated slowness, he lifted his hand to Ninglorwen's chin, tipping it upwards. Then he lowered his head and captured her lips in a kiss. The lady's response was immediate. She threw herself into his arms, entangling her hands in his hair. He responded likewise, pulling her closer with an arm around her back, making as good a show of it as he could.
But as a leech attaches to the unsuspecting wanderer, so Ninglorwen wrapped herself likewise around him. The feel of her body against him was wrong. The smell of her hair was wrong. Her eagerness in his arms was wrong. Revulsion filled him. He did not want this! He might be unsure about his relationship with Cellinn, but one thing was certain: He did not want Ninglorwen, now or ever!
He tried to pull back, but having latched herself onto him, Ninglorwen was not about to release him. It took him several minutes to extract himself. Once he did, he took several steps back, breathing hard. Then he whirled to where he had assumed Cellinn stood. But there was no one there.
In the next instant something hit him — hard. His head snapped back. The crack against his jaw sounded loud in his head, but was followed by a strange silence as his vision tunneled to black and his legs gave way beneath him.
Then sound and feeling rushed back. A woman's shriek filled the garden. His chin throbbed with pain. A body sank beside him, fingers feeling for his face. He batted them away, bringing his own hand up to rub his sore jawbone. His vision cleared enough to see Ninglorwen kneeling next to him looking and sounding hysterical.
Then he noted a pair of legs just beyond her and followed them up to find his father's stern face glaring down at him. Thranduil was rubbing his fist, but not looking the least bit sorry for hitting him.
"I'm really glad you did that," another voice said, and Legolas then noticed Cellinn's father standing just beyond Thranduil. "If you had not, I would have."
Thranduil grinned at Angalar. "Then I would have had to return it. Better I did it myself."
Thranduil's attention returned to Legolas, and as his eyes met his father's cold green gaze, the blood left Legolas's face. He forgot to breathe for a moment, his heart rate doubled and a single expletive left his lips.
"Indeed," Thranduil said.
Ninglorwen continued trying to fuss over him, but Legolas hardly noticed her. His gaze was locked with that of his father. In those few moments, all his anger drained away, and he was left with a feeling of shame so deep, he had to look away. He swallowed hard, trying to bury the guilt rising up within him, threatening to choke him. What had he done?
Thranduil strode forward and bent to drag Ninglorwen to her feet. Legolas then witnessed something he had never thought to see in his life. His father shook the woman – hard. "Have you no sense at all?" Thranduil's voice was low and icy as his gaze bore into Ninglorwen's terrified face. She was pale and looked ready to faint. "Know you this, that my son's part in this will not be overlooked, but neither shall I excuse you your share of the blame."
As he spoke, the lady turned even paler. She trembled and cried, but she did not look away. There was no hiding when the king spoke in such a manner. Legolas knew that well, just as he knew his turn would come next. He dreaded it, feared it, and yet…part of him welcomed it. He deserved it, did he not? His stomach churned, and he clenched his fists, trying to block out the last ten minutes from his mind.
"I will not have scandal touch my house, not at your conniving hands," Thranduil continued. When Ninglorwen's mouth opened to speak, he silenced her with flashing eyes. "Oh, I am well aware you are not the only one at fault here, but I am also aware my idiot son would never have done such a foolish thing if you were not availing yourself by hanging onto his tunic!
"In the future, if I see you closer than a stone's throw to my son, I shall bring you before the entire court and address your numerous infractions to propriety, beginning with your pursuing one who is already wed!" With those final words, he released her. Ninglorwen, sobbing hysterically, nearly fell as she recoiled. Then catching her balance, she fled.
And then Legolas knew his time had come; and for the first time he wished he had died when the ground had opened beneath him. For surely death would be better than what he was now certain to endure.
Ninglorwen ran through the garden, her heart pounding from her exertion and her fear. Never had she been so afraid; and it was not even her fault! She had only tried to please her father, to do as he wished. Of course, the thought of marrying Legolas had not been an unpleasant one, and she had been more than willing to comply. Marrying him had been her goal – her father's goal for her – for as long as she could remember.
She had thought she had lost him when he married Cellinn. Indeed, she had given up and nearly accepted that she would never be the princess of the realm, and had turned her sights on others. But then her father had pointed out to her that the bond between the new couple had not been completed, and so it technically could be undone. And she had taken up the challenge of trying to lure Legolas away. Not that her efforts did much good. The prince had simply never shown any interest in anyone except Cellinn! But when she had heard of the rift between the couple, she had plotted and hoped that her chance had come. She was sure, in his anger, Legolas just might seek comfort with her.
She could see now that she was a fool. Neither she nor her father had considered the king in their planning. Thranduil would not tolerate her attempts to lure Legolas from his love. Besides, she knew he did not love her, had never even glanced her way. Even in his anger, he only had eyes for Cellinn.
A sob caught in her throat, and she stumbled and nearly fell; but she managed to right herself and kept running. But she was not watching where she was going. Tears blinded her: tears of anger – anger at herself and her father – and tears of despair ran down her cheeks. Again she stumbled and unable to stop, this time felt herself falling.
Strong arms caught her, pulling her up against a hard, warm chest. She gasped and glanced up – into ice blue eyes. "Easy," the stranger said, his eyes taking in her hysterical state.
She immediately felt self-conscious, but at the same time found some odd sense of comfort at being held, even by a stranger.
"Are you alright, my lady? Are you hurt?" His gaze traveled over her.
She blinked, recognizing him after a moment. It was Prince Arandur's friend. Dúrion, she thought his name was. But Ninglorwen found her tongue would not cooperate. "I – I –" Words failed her. She was still so shaken by what had happened, that she could only stand there, trembling.
"Lady Ninglorwen, isn't it?" he asked. She could see his concern in those beautiful blue eyes that held her gaze. She could not seem to look away.
She nodded numbly, still unable to speak. It was not like her at all, really. Part of her was horrified, and the other part reminded her she had been lucky to flee with her life. She had never seen the king so angry! And to have that anger directed at her…
She began to shake uncontrollably. Dúrion's brows drew together in a slight frown, his concern becoming more apparent. Then he seemed to make a sudden decision. Taking her firmly by one elbow, he led her off the path a few feet to a bench, and gently pushed her down onto it. She sank, grateful to no longer be standing when her limbs shook. He sat beside her, continuing to observe her with those curious but concerned blue eyes. She had never seen eyes so blue, blue as the sky on a bright summer day.
"There, now," he said, reaching out and patting her hand reassuringly. "You'll be alright."
This compassion, in the wake of her chastisement and fear, overwhelmed her. The tears began again; she could not stop them in the face of such kindness. She surely did not deserve it. Not after the fool she had made of herself. She turned her face and covered her mouth with one hand, unable to meet that beautiful gaze. Her shoulders shook with her sobs.
He moved closer, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her against him again. Firmly but gently, he directed her head to his shoulder. Then he simply held her and let her cry. He did not ask her what was wrong, did not say a word.
As her tears ran their course, she became more and more aware of the body pressed against her own. Thoughts of Legolas, the king, even her father all faded as she sat with her cheek pressed to his shoulder, her nose nearly touching his neck. He smelled nice.
He pressed something into her hand, and she glanced down, realizing it was a handkerchief. She used it to wipe away the traces of her tears and when she felt she could, she pulled back enough to look up at him. She gave him a wobbly smile.
"Feel better?" he asked.
She nodded, unsure what to say to him. Why had he been so kind? Did he not know who she was? Warmth rushed to her cheeks as she thought of all the things she had done and said, the way she had conducted herself in pursuit of the only man she had ever considered worthy of her. What must Dúrion think of her? What did the court think of her? Her friends?
She did not realize another tear had trickled over her lashes until his fingertips moved to brush it away. "Do you wish to talk about it?" His lips curved into a compelling smile. "I've been told I'm a good listener."
She dropped her eyes, her blush deepening, and shook her head. "Not now," she whispered.
"Well then, perhaps you would allow me to sit here and enjoy this lovely day with you? Or is there somewhere you were going? Can I escort you there?" His voice had deepened, and when she looked up, something in his gaze caused a strange tingling in her belly.
She dropped her eyes, feeling the blush creep all the way to the tips of her ears. "I would be delighted…Dúrion," she murmured, peeking back up at him from under her lashes.
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.