1. Beech Trees and Dancing Ents
Legolas Thranduilion was tired. The Crown Prince of Greenwood had spent a tiring day playing ambassador for his father and he was exhausted. As he walked through the forest to the place where he had decided to make camp, the trees around him reached down and gently caressed his face with their limbs. He could have stayed in the city for the night, but the stone walls made him want to run and scream. He was much more comfortable amongst the trees. The trees gave him comfort, many of them had become his friends. His horse, Faenaur, nuzzled his arm.
"Yes, Faenaur. I know. I'm tired too!"
Faenaur tossed his mane. Legolas stopped walking and turned to look at him.
"What is it, my fire?" he asked.
Faenaur whickered softly and stomped his foot.
Legolas froze, someone was nearby! Slowly, he turned in a circle, listening carefully. A shadow was weaving in and out of the trees, away on his left. He moved silently towards the figure. It was an elleth. Legolas watched as she danced among the trees. Her hair was dark in the shadow of the trees, but somehow he knew that in sunlight it would be the soft brown of a rain-kissed maple tree. Her dark eyes flashed in the starlight and her pale skin shone with the fire of an Elven spirit.
As Legolas watched her, suddenly he could bear no more.
"Kementári!" he cried, leaping from his hiding place.
The figure froze and turned slowly towards him.
Slowly, she smiled. Legolas watched her garnet-red lips curve upwards and in his chest his heart began to pound out a fantastic beat.
"What did you say," she asked quietly.
Legolas swallowed hard and forced his mouth to respond.
"Kementári," he managed.
The dark beauty's smile grew.
"I have been called many things, but never one of the Valar," she murmured. "And especially never Kementári*, the most beautiful of all the Valar!"
"Any who do not proclaim your beauty in the highest terms should be counted fools," Legolas cried.
The elleth blushed slightly. "You do me great honor, Prince Legolas," she said.
Legolas's jaw dropped open. "My, my lady," he stammered. "You know my name?"
"I know many names," she replied mysteriously. "But yes, I know yours. I know who you are and why you are in Eregion; and I understand why you must flee the stone walls of the city. We both seek solitude among the trees, away from confining walls and entangling layers of Noldorin protocol."
Legolas stepped unconsciously towards her.
"Ah, Prince Legolas, forgive me. You do not yet know my name, do you?"
Legolas bowed his head, blushing.
"No, my lady, I confess I do not," he said.
"I am Tauriel Melianiel," the lady said.
"Tauriel, daughter of Melian and Thingol Greycloak," Legolas exclaimed, dropping to his knees. "My lady, forgive me! I, I did not know!"
Tauriel sighed and walked over to where Legolas knelt.
"Prince Legolas, please!" she said, pulling him to his feet.
Legolas tensed as she placed her hands on his arms. Her touch was like that of a spring breeze, it teased his skin through the thin silk of his tunic. As he rose to his feet, their eyes met and neither looked away. Her hands remained on his upper arms where she had grasped him to raise him up. Slowly, Legolas placed his hands on her shoulders. The Prince felt as if he was falling into the deep pools of dancing light that were Tauriel's eyes.
"Kementári I called you, and Kementári you are," he murmured. "You are more beautiful than any creature in all of Arda!"
"Funny," Tauriel whispered. "I was just thinking the same thing about you!"
Suddenly, Legolas pulled her into a tight embrace, winding his arms about her slender waist and capturing her mouth in a tender kiss; the elleth responded delightedly.
Legolas released her after a moment and knelt once more on the ground in front of her.
"Tauriel, Princess of Doriath, daughter of Melian and Thingol Greycloak, will you bind yourself to me and become my wife?" he asked, gazing up into her eyes.
"Legolas, Crown Prince of Greenwood, son of Thranduil and Alphiriel, I will bind myself to thee, with all my heart will I do so!"
Legolas rose to his feet and gathered her into his arms.
"Meleth," they both murmured at the same time.
"So, how do you like it? Is it going fast enough? Too fast? I know, it's not much of a courtship. I mean, Legolas is going to bed, he sees a girl dancing in the forest, and 10 minutes later he asks her to marry him! Don't worry, he's gonna have to fight for her! (But not in this chapter!) OK, back to the story!"
They stood locked together for some time, then, still holding each other, sat down on the forest floor. As they leaned together, their hair ran together and flowed down their backs in a mingled stream of gold and bronze. Around them, the beech trees rustled their leaves in pleasure. Suddenly, to the delight of the Elven couple, three couples of a different sort walked into the clearing. They were Ents!
The tall, stately, Ents and their slender, elegant, Entwives bowed in silent acknowledgment of the Elvish royalty seated in the shadows, then turned back to their partners. With the Song twisting and turning about them and with the soft rustling of the beech trees as an accompaniment, the Ents began to dance.
It was a strange dance, like nothing the Prince or Princess had ever seen before in their lives. The Ents were weaving in and out, in and out, so as to make one quite dizzy if you tried to follow them too closely. The pace of the dance would change in a heartbeat, slipping bewilderingly between a slow and stately tread and a frenzied whirl of limbs and leaves.
Then, it was over.
The Ents bowed to their partners, turned and bowed to the Elves who sat watching in delight, then vanished into the forest.
"We are indeed blessed," Tauriel whispered into the stillness following their departure.
"I know that we are, but why do you say that at this moment, meleth?" Legolas asked.
Tauriel turned to him.
"Do you know what we just saw?"
Legolas shook his head.
"That, my dear Prince, was a betrothal dance. Those Ents have just been troth-plighted and they were dancing to celebrate!"
Suddenly, Legolas turned to Tauriel.
"If the Ents dance when they are betrothed, why should we not do so?" he said.
Tauriel stared up at him, widemouthed. Then, slowly, she began to smile. Legolas grinned broadly at her and, without another word, he rose and offered her his hand. The elleth grasped her dress in her left hand and placed her right hand in Legolas's proffered one.
They began, even as the Ents had, with a slow, stately tread. Then, in a flash of whirling silk, the pace changed. Instead of a sedate tread, it became a vigorous dance. Around and around, they whirled. Now bending low, now leaping high; now crashing together, now spinning apart.
Suddenly, Tauriel paused. Legolas halted immediately, looking at her questioningly. She raised her eyebrows and, in a flash too quick to see, drew out two long knives. Legolas grinned and drew his own, almost identical, knives.
They began again, slowly at first, then quickly gaining speed. The steel blades flashed in the starlight as their wielders danced.
Legolas watched Tauriel as she danced with him, her lustrous hair flying about her. He smiled inwardly. Summoning the smallest spark of Power, he reached out with his mind to the beech trees around them.
The Prince began to slowly close the distance between himself and Tauriel. Soon, they were close enough that they could have touched each other if they had wished.
Suddenly, with a lightning fast movement, Legolas knocked Tauriel's knives out of her hands with the hilts of his own knives. He caught them in mid-air and threw both pairs of knives up, up, high above the treetops.
Tauriel gasped in surprise.
As the knives began to plumet back toward earth, a long silver tree branch suddenly snaked out and caught them. The beech tree's boughs curled around the hilts and threw the knives down into the soft earth below.
The knives landed in the earth, blades completely buried, handles swaying gently to and fro.
Legolas stepped away from Tauriel's side for a moment and inclined his head to the beech. The tree bent towards Legolas in a sort of bow. For an instant, it gently caressed his face with one long branch; the Prince closed his eyes and smiled.
Then, the tree straightened. It was, once again, simply a tree.
* Kementári is the Sindarin name for Yavanna who is called the fairest of all the Valar.