King's Foil

Disclaimer: I do not own anything from LOTR. I am not making any money from this.

Chapter one

Sun & Shadow

The first meeting between Legolas and Athelas was uneventful. She was a companion to Lady Arwen. On the day of their first meeting, she had gone with Arwen to greet the guests from Mirkwood. Standing quietly and calmly behind her Lady, she had barely noticed the blond prince. Arwen had been distracted that day, waiting for the arrival of her foster brother, Estel. Once the formalities were over, Lord Elrond had motioned to her to guide their guests to the place where food was waiting. Athelas stepped forward, and led them to the place prepared for them. Arwen gave her a grateful look and returned to her chamber.

Athelas had become concerned by the young elleth's preoccupation with Estel. Arwen had become increasingly distracted regarding him, and filled Athelas' ears with tales of his gentleness, his quiet courage. Athelas regarded the human with respect, but did not for a moment think that this infatuation of Arwen's was a good thing. Eldar and mortal should not mix. She loved Arwen, and hoped that for Arwen's own sake, the Lady would find a more suitable object for her affections. But her gentle hints had fallen on deaf ears. Arwen scoffed at her fears, and told her not to worry so much.

With her thoughts on Arwen, Athelas did not hear the prince's voice at first. When she finally realized that someone was speaking to her, she understood that she had been rude.

"My apologies, my lord." She answered, with a faint blush. "I am afraid I was lost in thought. What was it you were asking?"

He looked at her with intense eyes. "No apologies needed, my lady. I was merely remarking on the view from this room. It is soothing to have nature so accessible from inside a dwelling."

"Imladris is beautiful. Lord Elrond has created a most wonderful home, with comfort and creation in harmony. Is it not so in your own country?"

"I am afraid not. Darkness has caused our land to become more and more dangerous. Our dwellings are now more refuge than solace. One day, perhaps, that may change." She noticed his eyes cloud over with some recent memory of sadness.

"I have been remiss in my duties, my lord. Will you have music? Something to refresh your soul as well as your body?"

"That would be most pleasant, my lady. Will you oblige us?" he asked, smiling at her.

"If you wish, my lord, but there are others better suited to the task. I believe Lord Elrond has musicians waiting."

"I will ask one song of welcome from you, Lady Athelas, and then I release you. We must not keep Lord Elrond's most excellent musicians waiting too long." Then to her surprise, he grinned.

She smiled at him, and went to the standing harp in the corner of the room. She choose a short song, knowing that much as she delighted in music, it was not a natural gift to her. Practice had made her performance proficient, but she did not want to embarrass either Imladris or herself with something that was beyond her skill for the welcoming of the Mirkwood party.

The prince smiled his thanks as she finished, and she was happy to note that the sadness had left his eyes. More gifted musicians than she took up the happy chore of entertaining the guests, and Athelas busied herself with making sure everyone was comfortable. She was speaking to one of the prince's escort, when Arwen appeared at the door and motioned to her.

"He's here!" Arwen whispered excitedly.

"My lord Estel? I shall be pleased to see him." Athelas responded quietly.

"I am going to see him now. Come with me, Athelas." Athelas followed behind the younger elf. They had been friends since childhood. Arwen was a passionate creature, and in Athelas she found a calming influence. Athelas was devoted to her, but could not help feeling that Estel would bring doom to Elrond's daughter. She had tried to keep this from affecting her friendship with Arwen, and felt so far that she had succeeded. Arwen might yet grow out of her infatuation with Estel.

The Ranger was tired, dirty and hungry when they met him outside. Arwen barely had time for a quick greeting before Elrond took him to clean up and rest. Arwen followed behind them. Athelas spoke quietly to her, and convinced her to rejoin the guests from Mirkwood. Estel would join them later. It would be discourteous to neglect them because Elrond's foster son had come home. Arwen agreed, and they returned to the room where the delegation was being entertained.

Legolas noticed them as they came in. Arwen was beautiful beyond words. Her black hair gleamed in the light and he could well believe she was the reincarnation of Luthien. Athelas was smaller, and where Arwen's hair shone like obsidian, Athelas' was like black smoke. He made his way to them, and greeted Arwen again, as befitted the daughter of the house. She returned his greeting, and while they exchanged small pleasantries, Athelas noticed Arwen's eyes returning to the door again and again. Finally they brightened as Elrond and Estel came into the room.

Elrond brought his foster son to greet the prince. They had met before, and Legolas noticed that the Ranger had aged. Not much, for the Men of the North age slowly, but Legolas was an elf, and even the longest lived Men had but short lives in comparison.

As Elrond circled among his guests, and the elves celebrated with music and singing, Arwen slowly drew Estel away from the others. Athelas noticed them together on a divan, and a slight frown creased her brow. She had been speaking to an older elf of the Mirkwood delegation, and did not notice the prince coming up behind her.

"If you will excuse me," he interrupted, inclining his head to the older elf, "I was wondering if the Lady Athelas would accompany me outside for a short while. I feel the need of some fresh air, and while the music is delightful, a few moments of quiet would be most comfortable."

"Of course." she replied, and with a small curtsey to the older elf, followed the prince outside.

They walked in silence for a while through the gardens. Neither seemed to feel the need to speak, and Athelas could feel the tension she had felt earlier begin to leave her. Beside a tranquil fountain, they stopped and sat on a small stone bench.

"Thank you, my lord." she told him. "I feel most refreshed. I am afraid that Lady Arwen has been rather excitable the past few days. I did not realize that she had affected me as well."

"I admit, I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed myself. But Imladris is as serene as ever." She noticed that the shadow of sadness was back in his eyes. "It is good to come to a place such as this."

"Lord Elrond is always glad to have you here, my lord. Perhaps Imladris may be a place of solace for you when your mind is troubled."

"May it be so, my lady." He replied. He smiled at her again, and then stood, and offered her his hand to help her up.

Returning to the celebration, Athelas noticed that Elrond had joined Arwen and Estel. She and Legolas joined them as well. By the brilliance of Arwen's eyes, Athelas knew that she would be hearing her confidences as soon as they retired. She was not mistaken.

"He loves me, Athelas. I know he does." Arwen told her friend.

"Did he say so?" Athelas asked, concerned.

"He didn't have to. What are words?"

By the end of his visit, Prince Legolas knew that he had a friend in Athelas. In her he had found a serenity to match what his own had once been, and would be again, he hoped. As he left Imladris, Estel, or Aragorn as he was known to Men, rode with him.

Arwen had Athelas lay aside the embroidery she had been working on, and had her help begin work on a new banner Arwen had designed.