Ok, I updated! I know it takes a really long time, and I'm sorry. I have mounds of English homework, and excessive amounts of marching band rehearsal. I fully plan on finnishing this story, no matter how long it takes me, so please keep reading! By the way, please take the time to drop me a review. If you don't, I have no way of knowing if you've read or not.
I hope you like it!
Lassiel could hear them singing, even from her room. It was strange and eerie, but beautiful. The melody lilted and floated gracefully through layers of harmony. She understood enough of their words to know that they praised the trees and stars. Finally, the silvery ballad faded softly into nothing.
She could have been out there with them, but to what avail? She could sit alone, sip wine (good wine, to be certain) and feel awkward, while the Elves danced around her.
Another song began, lively and engaging. Lassiel found herself humming along with it instinctively. She realized that the formalities were over; now the Elves were truly celebrating. No one would believe it, if you told them, but they got drunk. She had seen it; fair, noble, and completely drunk. Never Legolas, or Thranduil, or Faronel – no, never them, or any of the nobility, but the plain Wood-elves did.
Lassiel's fingers itched, and she finally caved to her growing urge. She shuffled through the clothing on the top shelf of her wardrobe until her fingers closed around the object that had been hidden there from the day of her arrival.
Ah, her flute. She nearly sighed. It was simple, carved out of plain wood, but it was carefully made and played sweetly. She lifted it to her mouth, first flitting up and down a few easy scale patterns, and playing little licks from her favorite tunes. Then she began to experiment, searching out the key of what the Elves were singing.
There, that was it. She sounded out the melody, playing along for a few verses. Then she grew bolder, improvising a gently harmony line. She felt her heart begin pound; the music was in her veins. She dropped the harmony down low, relishing the hollow, breathy sound of that particular register, before soaring up into a uplifting descant that went well into the highest ranges of the little soprano pipe. She ended a single high, sweet note, made rich with vibrato, while the Elves finished the last verse beneath her.
She let her flute down slowly, sighing. She had needed that.
"I miss Manadh," she murmured to herself. It was little over a week after the incident at dinner. Manadh had been affectionately but very firmly banned from the halls. He lived outside now, as a horse really should...but she missed him terribly. They had celebrated her twentieth birthday, she thought sadly. There was no one else to be bothered with it. Manadh had found a mare who would let him nurse in addition to her own colt, so Lassiel was no longer needed. He still greeting Lassiel enthusiastically, of course...but she missed him.
She physically jumped, she was so startled.
"How long have been there?" she demanded.
"I heard you play," answered Legolas, seeming almost shy. "I had no idea... That was lovely. Will you not come play for us out at the feast?"
"No! Why were you spying on me?" she asked indignantly. She had thought she was playing in privacy.
"When I heard you playing, I did not want to interrupt," he explained. "Please, Lassiel, come play for us!" Legolas felt something strange bloom in his chest. Pride? Yes, pride. She was amazing, when she played...and she was his daughter. This talented young woman was his daughter.
"No! I am not going to play for you!" she snapped defensively. This suspicious, angry young woman was also his daughter.
"Lassiel...it must be better than sitting alone in your room. Are you happy, right now?" Legolas looked at her in a very genuine manner.
"No," she admitted softly.
"I miss Manadh." It was the easiest answer; there were a thousand reasons why she was not happy.
"You are lonely," Legolas gathered. She nodded. He laid a hand on her arm tentatively. "Come out with me, even you do not play."
"They hate me!" she burst.
"You do not make yourself any more popular by avoided every social aspect of life, Lassiel," he pointed out gently. "They think that you hate them."
"Well," she pulled away from him, "maybe I do."
"I hope not."
"Leave me alone."
He turned to leave, but then looked back over his shoulder. "Lassiel, even when I am with you, you are alone."
"Father, you must help me."
"What is it, iôn nín?"
"Is it that simple? The girl herself?"
Legolas sat outside in the courtyard with his father the day after the feast.
"Almost... I can never reach her." He pursed his lips in frustration. "When I come close, she resents the me all the more for it. And on top of that, she is unruly! I say one thing, and she does the other! I try to be firm, but she only throws it back in my face."
Thranduil frowned. "She reminds of a horse," he said slowly. Legolas looked at him doubtfully. "When Men catch wild horses, they are always fearful and untrusting. They cannot speak to their horses as we do. You have a wild filly on your hands, iôn nín." He laughed gently. "She does not like the pen you have put her in."
"If I let her roam free, she will not come back," said Legolas sadly.
"I suggest, Legolas, that instead of trying to break your filly, you gentle her."
Legolas let a smile sneak onto his face. "What, exactly, do you propose?"
"You say she is lonely? Perhaps you might find her a more suitable pet than a horse. The little fawn bitch in the kennels whelped a few weeks ago. I see nothing wrong with a well-trained hound in my halls."
"She will suspect some ulterior motive on my part, I assure you," said Legolas, sounding very tired.
"No wild horse takes sugar without suspicion."
Legolas nodded thoughtfully.
"Look at him! He is wild today!" Manadh shot straight up into air, his estranged twin sister close at his heels.
"Oh...orn." She sighed. "Faronel, this is dull."
"My apologies. Say: Greetings, my lord."
"Suilaid, hír nín. I think I have learned enough for today."
Faronel shook his head at her. "It had only been an hour." Lassiel saw him try to hide his smile. "You are so impatient!"
"It is easy to preach patience when you are immortal," she observed mildly.
He pressed his lips in a thin line. "I suppose."
Lassiel smiled. "I win."
"It is not a matter of winning or losing-
"Yes, it is. And I won."
Faronel looked at her sternly. "You are a difficult pupil."
"I am sorry," she conceded, afraid for a moment that he was truly angry with her.
"You are difficult all around, in fact," he said, and she remembered what Legolas had said the night before. It is not true, she thought irately. I simply do not want his company. She tried to deny that something about it held an echo of truth.
"Well, I apologize that you must teach me," she said stiffly. "Being so difficult."
"Would it be possible for you to simply cooperate?"
Lassiel turned away from him. "I am in place I do not like, where no one understands me. Forgive me if I am not perfectly trainable at the moment." Her voice was sharp with hurt.
"Have you tried to like this place? Have you made yourself clear to anyone?" Faronel seemed upset. "Never, not once! Let speak for every Elf in this wood: We know only that you do not like us, and much prefer our horses."
The comment stung. Lassiel closed her eyes, feeling tears rush forward. She thought sadly of the night she had informed Manadh she was now twenty years old. He had butted her leg with his small head in response.
"Lassiel...that was cruel of me. I am sorry." Faronel reached out toward her awkwardly.
"No," she pulled out his reach. "It is fine, because it is true. I do prefer your horses." She blinked the tears out of her eyes and crossed her arms in front of her. "I have always preferred horses. They do not care whether or not you know your father. They are always better than people." She pressed a hand to her mouth, wishing she had not just confessed that.
"They are blessed with simplicity," came a low, rich voice. "Which is wonderful trait."
Lassiel's stomach dropped, and she began to struggle to her feet to greet the king properly. She had the worst of the luck, did she not? What an inopportune moment for the king to appear.
"Sit down, child." Lassiel did so quickly. "Would you mind if I spoke with Lassiel alone, Faronel?"
"Of course not, my lord." Lassiel watched his retreating form with dismay. Now she was alone with Thranduil, and properly awed and terrified.
He lowered himself down beside her gracefully.
"May ask as to your purpose, my lord?" she murmured without looking at him.
"I wish to speak with you as your kin and not your king," he said simply. "You may call me anything but 'lord' and 'sire'."
"All right," said Lassiel shyly.
"How are you?"
"Fine," she said awkwardly.
"I know that is not true, but perhaps later you will be able to tell that yourself." She only nodded mutely. "Can I do anything to help you feel well?"
Let me go home. "No..." She caught herself before saying 'sire'.Thranduil searched her face intently, and she resisted the urge to look away from his sharp gray eyes. She saw thousands of years with in them, and it frightened her. Now she see clearly that he was older than Legolas, though he was every bit as fair, if a bit more fierce looking.
"Let me know if I can help you in any way," he insisted gently.
"You did me a great favor when you let me keep Manadh with me. I would not ask for anything more."
"May I ask you for something, then?"
Lassiel looked at him in surprise. "Of course," she said slowly.
"Make an effort to be kind to my son." She swallowed, feeling a wave of guilt wash over her. "He need not loose his wife and his daughter."
His wife? "They were not married, my lord," she pointed out quietly.
"I asked you for none of the that," said Thranduil sternly. "But yes, they were married. Not as Men might see it, but in our way they were wed."
"I never knew that," murmured Lassiel.
"Does it make so great a difference? Love is love, Lassiel, with or without Blessings and Vows. And Elves do not love halfway, and we do not act on love without binding ourselves first."
"Oh." She was dumbstruck. They were married. It did matter, despite what Thranduil had said. It mattered. She was not a bastard, and her parents had been in love, despite what any of the stupid girls said. It still bothers me, she realized. I was twelve years old; why does it still bother me? Because she had thought it was true, that was why.
"I understand that it not this way with Men, is it?" Thranduil's carried the tiniest touch of humor.
"Oh, no. Not at all." She thought sourly of a particular man.
"I see." Clearly, he understood more than she had ever said.
Silence settled on them clumsily. Lassiel stared down at her hands, noting the blue bruise on her thumb were Manadh had bitten her.
"May I ask you something?" she said suddenly.
"How old are you?" The question burst out before she could curb it. She had wondered this for quite awhile now. I hope that is not considered rude.
Thranduil laughed genuinely. "How shall I frame my life so that you can understand it?" He paused. "I was born in the First Age, in Doriath while Dior ruled. Does that give you some perspective?"
"Yes... That was so long ago! I never truly thought of such places and times as real." She tried to wrap her mind around this.
"It was," Thranduil agreed. "Mirkwood is very different from Doriath..." His eyes grew clouded with memory and a strange expression appeared on his face. Then it seemed to pass. "Look, Lassiel, your father approaches. Please think on what I have said."
As if I would dare try anything in front you, she thought. Despite Thranduil's "kin and not king" speech, she would hardly disobey him.
Legolas was carrying a small black wad in the crook of his arms, and had a strange expression on his face.
"Father, Lassiel," he greeted them. "I..." He looked almost a bit sheepish. "I have brought you something, Lassiel."
Lassiel was too taken by the hopeful expression on his face to even notice what he was handing her. 'Make an effort to be kind to my son...' I shall.
The small black wad opened its startling blue eyes and whimpered. A tiny pink tongue lapped at her fingers.
"I thought she might help keep you company," Legolas explained. "A hound is much more suitable indoors than a horse."
He watched her with nervous expectance, and Lassiel was struck with just how great an effect she could have on him.
"Thank you," she said sincerely. Cradling the pup in one arm, she spontaneously embraced him lightly around the shoulders with the other. After a moment's shock, he patted her ackwardly on the back
For the first time, Lassiel felt that perhaps her relations with her father were not doomed.
The next day, everything fell to pieces again.
"You cannot make me come!" Lassiel raged through her shut door.
"Lassiel, please! We are all expected to be there."
"Is this why you give me gifts? You expect to bribe me?"
"No, that was completely unrelated. Please, open your door. I do not like shouting." Legolas sighed heavily.
"I am not coming."
"Why? You need only stand at my side and dine with us. You do not even have to dance! This is not such a terrible thing, Lassiel."
"No one stares at you! No one whispers in a language you can not understand about how you do not belong!"
"Lassiel, you are my daughter; you belong," Legolas said firmly.
"I do not, and I never will!" she shouted. "And I am not coming!"
"You will attend. How well you enjoy yourself is up to you. If you would like, you may pick out a fabric and have a dress made."
"You are bribing me," she said accusingly.
"No, Lassiel," he sighed. "I do not bother bribing you, because it does not work. If it pleases you to know, you are thoroughly impossible."
It was not the prospect of having to attend the feast that had her worried so. It was whom she had to play while there. She did not want to sit at the head of the table, with the entire populous of Mirkwood there to look on her and know that she did not belong. It would be ridiculous; a mortal girl from a middle-class family dressed as an Elven lady.
The long hours of introversion were beginning to take their toll on her as well. She scarcely left her room, except for meals and lessons. The occasional visit to Elwing also provided some relief; Lassiel noted just the slightest thickening of the mare's sides, and knew instinctively that she was carrying a foal. The thought put a small, warm glow in her chest, but it was small comfort.
Lassiel slowly unbolted the door and pushed it open with a sight. Legolas was still there.
"Do you enjoy this?" he asked quietly. "I know you are still angry with me. Do you enjoy these terrible struggles?"
"No," she mumbled. "No, of course I do not."
"Then why must you rebel against even my tiniest wish? Why?"
"Why did you bring me here?" she burst. "I want to go home."
"I had hoped that this might become your home."
"I am beginning to see that. If you would like to have a gown made, you need to select a cloth today, or it will not be finished in time."
She the door. Luin toddled up to her and wagged her tail hesitantly. Lassiel scooped her up and kissed the top of her velvety head. The puppy wriggled and licked her chin.
"I am happy for Branneth, but I do not want come to this feast thing," she explained. Branneth was carrying her second child, and a feast was being held in celebration. She stroked the pup's soft ears. "I am going to return home with many more creatures than I set out with," she laughed. Manadh, Luin, and Elwing's foal – she frowned in worry. Elwing would be due to foal almost precisely when Lassiel intended to leave. And she intended to leave on the very day her year was completed.
She brushed the thought aside, not wanting to be bothered by it right then. She tucked Luin into her arm and set out to meet Faronel at the stables for another delightful language lesson. They had not spoken after Thranduil interrupted them, and she was not sure how things rested between them.
Faronel was his usual aloof self, and Lassiel was not put off by him. She distracted herself with Luin, who insisted in having her stomach rubbed almost constantly.
"I think that is enough for today," said Faronel, but made no move to rise. Lassiel watched him in distaste. He always spoke as if he were miles above her, or watching everything detachedly.
He was beautiful, though. She smiled slightly. She could at least amuse herself by admiring him.
"I hear you are being made to come to the feast," he said lightly.
Lassiel blinked at him. It was highly unlike him to offer small talk. "How did you hear?"
"Lassiel, everyone in the wood could hear you shouting," he said, sounding exasperated.
She looked away, feeling herself color. "I hate those kinds of things."
"How do you know that? You have never attended anything." His voice was not unkind.
"True enough," she murmured, weary of arguing.
"Perhaps you shall enjoy yourself." His voice sounded odd and guarded. "Perhaps you shall even try some dancing." He looked at her with carefully measured hope.
Lassiel's heart gave a little flutter at his unspoken question. "Perhaps..." She smiled despite herself. Emboldened, she said, "I am supposed to have a dress made for the feast. Will you come with me to find a cloth?" He only nodded, returning to his usual distant self.
Why had she asked him to come? It was not as if he would be much help. He could help translate for her, she supposed. Well, she was glad for the company, in any case.
They rode out of the king's halls a few minutes later. Lassiel deposited Luin in the kennels, where she could play with her littermates, and where Lassiel did not have to worry about her making a mess.
Elwing felt light and eager beneath her. Lassiel rode without tack, relishing the play of her mare's muscles under her legs. It was a beautiful day in late summer, the bright sunlight filtering green through the trees.
Lassiel had never seen any of the towns of Mirkwood, and she watched in fascination and the Elves going about their daily business. They all wore greens and browns, embellished with the shapes of leaves and flowers. Laughing children ran around merrily, and Lassiel thought to herself that there was no sound so joyful as the laughter of Elf children. Faronel and herself received respectful nods (and doubtful stares) from many.
Faronel brought her to a bright little stall with a fair-haired woman behind it. Lassiel stood by awkwardly while he explained their purpose. Immediately she proffered three different cloths: blue, green, and a reddish-gold, and spoke brightly to Faronel.
"She says that the blue befits your eyes. The green is simply a pretty color, and the gold will make your hair look even lovelier." He smiled, and she found it impossible not return the gesture. "You will look wonderful in whatever you should choose, I am sure."
The blue caught her eye. It was silvery and light. She gestured toward it, and woman beamed at her.
"She says you have made a very good choice," Faronel informed her. As the woman disappeared around back into the stall, he murmured, "It was probably the most costly." He smirked.
Lassiel felt the blood drain from her face. "How shall I pay for this?" she asked frantically. Faronel widened his eyes at her dismay.
"The costs will be dealt with by the king. He will see that she is paid."
"Ah," Lassiel nodded in relief.
The shopkeeper returned and asked her something, carrying a length of the blue cloth.
"Do you want to be fitted now?" Faronel asked. "She will be glad to fit and customize something now."
So Lassiel stood and let her drape fabric around her, and push and pull. Faronel was not talkative, so she stood quietly while she was fitted. When the woman seemed satisfied with her measurements, she began to gesture towards Lassiel's neck, chest, and hips.
"She says that the neckline would come down here..." He traced a path with the tip of one finger across her chest. His touch was electric, and her lungs constricted suddenly "And then the waist would dip down..." His voice was low and soft. He placed his hands on her hips, and drew along her stomach with his fingertips until his hands met in the middle of her abdomen.
A curious warmth rushed through her. She searched his clear, gray eyes, wanting to know if he understood just what he was doing.
She looked away suddenly, and the moment was over. He dropped his hands and turned away from her to examine some fabric.
I have never been so confused, she thought. Never. His mood changed in an instant; he could be shy and affectionate, or cold and unapproachable. She watched him frustration, admiring his dark, plaited locks as they shone in the son. I do not understand you at all.
A/N: Sigh That whole chapter feels kind of awkward and incoherent? Did you think so? Let me know; I'm probably going to go back and re-write it eventually.
Still looking for a beta! Any takers?