Summary: Upon reaching Hollin, Sam's curiosity leads to a demonstration of elven magic.
Disclaimer: The characters and places of the Lord of the Rings are the creation of J.R.R. Tolkien, and currently licensed to New Line Cinema. All original characters and situations belong to the author. No slash expressed or implied at any time in any of my stories.
Sam looked up as Aragorn abruptly rose and wandered away from the Company and onto the ridge that sheltered their small camp. He sighed, glad for a respite from the ranger's nervous energy; Aragorn had shifted about restlessly all throughout their meagre supper-breakfast.
A yawn followed the sigh, and Sam stretched his weary muscles. He had been ready enough to sleep by the time a halt was called to their day's march, but now he found himself reluctant to close his eyes. This was the first bit of merry sunshine they'd had since leaving Rivendell. Sam wanted to enjoy it awhile. Besides, he had all night to sleep; they weren't moving on till the morrow's eve.
That pleasant thought brought a smile to the hobbit's lips as his gaze roamed about in search of Frodo. Sam found his master sitting with Gandalf on the edge of their camp. The two appeared deep in conversation, so Sam shifted his gaze to the fire and stretched his legs out before him. Warming his chilled toes by the fire, he let the hypnotic dance of the flames hold him in thrall, until a peripheral flash of movement broke the spell. Turning toward it, he found Legolas sitting not far away.
Sam watched the elf warily, yet an enchanted smile crept into his lips. Whilst they were in Rivendell, he had decided he'd seen fair enough elves, but Legolas was a leaf of different colour. Sam had not yet decided if he were wondrous, perilous, or both. Presently the elf seemed innocuous enough, but a disapproving crease puckered Sam's brow as Legolas lifted from the fire a pot of water intended for the dishwashing. Sam opened his mouth to shout at him to fetch his own water, but the words came out, ''Ere! Don't be doing that!" as the elf removed his bracers and reached for a dirty plate. It didn't seem right at all for such a being to be doing the cleaning up.
Hand stilling with the plate mid-way submerged, Legolas glanced up quizzically.
"It ain't proper," Sam muttered more to himself than the elf, feeling suddenly foolish for his outburst. Rising sheepishly, he nudged the elf aside and gestured for him to relinquish the plate. As he complied, Sam noticed a braided bracelet dangling upon Legolas's wrist. The fine golden thread reminded him of the elf's radiant locks.
"That's a handsome bracelet, Mr. Legolas," Sam said as his hands set to work. "If you don't mind my asking, what sort of thread it that?"
Legolas looked at the bracelet wistfully and then up at Sam. "It is not thread, Sam," he said, fingering it tenderly. "It is woven from elven hair."
Sam's eyebrows rose at this revelation. "Is it your hair?" he found himself asking without thinking and promptly blushed at his forwardness. Legolas laughed, a merry sound that sent a delightful thrill shivering through Sam.
"Nay," said the elf. "The hair is not from my head, but my father's, twined by his own hands upon receiving the news of our Fellowship."
"A keepsake, is it?" said Sam thoughtfully.
Legolas paused at this and peered at the hobbit pensively. "Nay, it is a charm for protection," he finally said.
Sam's brow furrowed. "A charm, Mr. Legolas? But it is only hair braided into rope."
"Indeed, Sam," said the elf, with a patient smile. "It is only hair braided into a rope, but there is a tradition amongst my kin that such a thing carries with it a charm."
"What thing it that, Legolas?" came a voice from Sam's other side. Sam started and the glared sideways at Pippin, who took no notice. Legolas lifted the bracelet into the young hobbit's view.
"You see, it is made of elven hair, that makes it a charm of protection," Sam said knowingly.
"Nay," Legolas countered gently. "It is not the elven hair that determines the charm, but the weave of the braid, the caring of the hands that plait it, and the words spoken while they work."
"Oh?" prodded Pippin, politely ignoring Sam's chagrined blush.
"Yes," the elf said. "This braid has three strands. Were it to have a different number of strands, it would carry a different charm."
"What sort of charms?" asked Merry as he drifted over to better hear the discussion. Legolas glanced at the new arrival, then shifted his gaze to his bracelet and studied it thoughtfully for so long that the hobbits wondered if they had discomfited the elf.
"Shall I show you?" he said abruptly, just as the hobbits had decided he would not answer. Three heads bobbed in approval.
Legolas smiled good-naturedly and reached for a small dagger that lay amongst the dirtied plates. With it, he cut a long lock from the underside of his hair. Swiftly knotting one end, he carefully divided it into four strands and began to braid and chant, while the hobbits watched silently, mesmerised by the swiftness of his nimble fingers and beauty of his voice.
"A four-strand braid, such as this, is a charm for wisdom," Legolas said, stopping his chant as he finished off the braid with a knot. Lifting his eyes, he looked squarely at the youngest of his hobbit audience.
"For me?" Pippin squeaked in astonishment.
"Indeed, my young friend. It is for you and none other," said Legolas.
Shyly stepping forward, Pippin tentatively offered an arm to the elf. Eyes wide with wonder, he blushed as Legolas fitted the braid to his wrist and then, with a dazed smile upon his face, shuffled aside to better study his prize.
Legolas looked up to find two woeful faces peering longingly at Pippin and laughed merrily. Reaching up, he quickly cut another lock of hair and knotted one end. Dividing it into five strands this time, he swiftly set his skilled fingers to work. Sam and Merry watched with bated breath, neither noticing that the words he chanted were different than afore.
"A five-strand braid," Legolas said, lifting the finished rope for the pair to examine, "is a charm for valour. Merry?"
His face alight, Merry stepped forward eagerly and presented an arm. Legolas smiled indulgently as he tied the braided rope around the hobbit's wrist. Sam, meanwhile, glowered enviously.
Peering at the gardener as Merry moved aside, Legolas smiled sagely and reached for another lock, which he swiftly cut and knotted. Sam's mouth fell open and marveling eyes watched with rapt attention as Legolas divided the lock into eight strands and deftly wove them together while singing yet a different chant. Tying off the end, the elf looked into Sam's eyes and wordlessly beckoned him forward.
Moving without thought, Sam approached and gave forth his arm. Legolas fitted the bracelet swiftly, despite the hobbit's excited fidgeting. Sam stilled though as Legolas finished and looked up into his face with solemn eyes.
"An eight-strand braid is a charm for strength," Legolas soberly informed him. "May the Valar grant you all that you require to see your task through to its end."
Sam peered at the elf quizzically. It was not he, but Frodo who had a great undertaking to fulfill. He opened his mouth to query the elf, but a sudden tension in the air stilled his words.
"What is the matter, Strider?" Merry shouted up at Aragorn, who peered down gravely from atop the ridge. All eyes swiftly turned toward the ranger, and the elf's words slipped from the forefront of Sam's thought, soon to be forgotten.
A/N: Much has been borrowed from The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter 3 – the Ring Goes South.
Many thanks to Nilmandra for beta-ing this story.
Many thanks also to those who took the time to review Unearthed, Startled Ears,andThrough Shadows Falling.Your support is greatly appreciated. :-)