Part of the Undying Friendship Series.

Rating: G

Summary: Legolas's first meeting with Ruby, the young daughter of Sam and Rosie. Written for the Tolkien Tango Prompt #43: Rebuke. A Birthday Ficlet for Rhyselle.

A Trickle of Green Ribbon

By Nieriel Raina

21 4th Age

Citadel Gardens

Minas Tirith, Gondor

Legolas paused at the corner of the garden, hearing a slight sniffing sound. When it came again, he sighed and continued forward. He had heard the tree's call of distress shortly after nearly colliding with Elanor. Sam's eldest had been nearly panicked, searching the grounds for her young sibling. Legolas had agreed to join in the search, and had in a matter of minutes located the tree calling for help.

Though short compared to many others that graced the garden, this tree was large compared to others of its kind. The trunk rose perhaps fifteen feet, but the boughs, covered in beautiful pink blossoms, swept down, nearly trailing the ground beside a small pool. He smiled at the sight the tree made, for he had planted it shortly after his return to Gondor after the War. The tree had done well here.

Thanking it for sending for him, Legolas stooped down and parted the draped boughs. It took some maneuvering until he was able to get near the gnarled trunk, but once there, he had enough room to stand to his full height. Here, he was closed off from the rest of the gardens, surrounded by a living canopy of green and pink. And there, cradled where several limbs branched from the trunk, huddled a wee hobbit lass. Her dark hair hung in ringlets about her tiny face, buried against arms which were folded against her knees. As he watched, the small shoulders shook and another sniff was heard.

Moving closer, he leaned against the trunk, his eyes on the child. He longed to comfort her, but knew not if his attention would be welcome. He had not yet met this child of the Shire, though he knew of her from letters and the description Elanor had given him.

"Do you need a handkerchief?" he finally asked, at a loss as to what else to say.

The dark head shot up and red-rimmed eyes full of shock met his. She held up a scrap of white cloth bearing a lace edging even as her mouth dropped open. "Have one," she whispered, her wide eyes not leaving his face.

He smiled at her, hoping to ease her a bit. "Every lady needs a handkerchief at such times."

She nodded, her eyes unblinking as she gazed at him in awe. "You're an elf," she said in a squeak of a voice.

Legolas smiled again, inclining his head. "Yes, I am, little one."

Her brown eyes sparkled and widened further. "Are you from 'Thil'n?"

"Yes, I hail from Ithilien."

"Did you — did you come with — with — " she gulped and blinked. "With Prince Legolas?' she finished in an awed whisper.

"I came in the Prince's Company, yes," Legolas answered, finding the child's adoration endearing, and somewhat embarrassing. Why would she be so taken with him? Surely she had seen elves before? "You were not with your parents when we arrived," he observed.

The small head bowed and her fists tightened. Only then did Legolas note her other hand tightly gripped something. He could just make out a small flash of green. "I couldn't go," she admitted in a small voice. Then she sniffed again and buried her head back in her arms.

Moved by her sorrow, Legolas reached out and stroked her hair. "Why could you not attend, little one? Did your parents forbid it?"

The curls shook in the negative. Then a bright eye peeked out at him as she tilted her head so she could see him through her hair. "They wanted me to go, but —" She bit her lip and tears welled up and spilled down her pink cheek. "I couldn't! Not without these!"

She unclenched her hand and a trickle of green ribbon fell down. "I'd forgot them! I was supposed to wear them to meet the prince, cuz he likes green. I ran back to get them, but I couldn't get them in my hair right; and I thought maybe Mama could tie them in right quick before the prince arrived; but then I got lost and — and then they was all gone!" She buried her head as another sob shook her. "I missed him!" she cried.

Touched at the gesture from one so young, Legolas reached up and pulled her from the tree and into his arms. She clutched tight to his neck, burying her face against his tunic.

"Now he won't like me!" she wailed. "And I came all this way to see him! Weeks and weeks! Papa tells us all kinds of stories about his travels and my favorite ones are about the elf — only Papa says I must call him Prince Legolas — but I've always wanted to meet him," she pulled back and blinked up at him. "My whole entire life!"

Legolas was struck by both amusement and compassion at the hysterics of the small hobbit lass. "Your whole life?" he asked, biting back a grin and forcing his brows to furrow into a frown. "Why that must be," he stopped as if to consider, "four whole years?"

She nodded vehemently. "Four whole years. That's like forever!"

Biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing, Legolas forced a serious look. "That is a long time," he agreed. Then he brightened. "But you have not missed the prince," he told her, receiving another wide-eyed look. "He is here for many days. In fact, I believe he is due at a small garden party this afternoon. Why don't I help you with your ribbons, and then you can hurry and see him there?"

He was rewarded with a bright smile, her rosy cheeks plumping up like ripe plums including two small dimples. Then a handful of crumpled green ribbons were thrust up at him. Laughing, he took them and, after setting her back in the branches of the tree, smoothed them against his leg to work out some of the wrinkles. Then with deft fingers, he worked several tiny braids into the curls, tying them off with the green ribbons. When he had finished, she reminded him of a small doll he had once seen in the marketplace.

Only this doll laughed and fingered the braids and clapped her hands with glee. "Thank you!" she cried, leaping into his arms, showing no sign of fear. Then she wriggled to get down. "Where's the party?" she asked, peering through the branches of the tree, bouncing excitedly on her toes.

"Just around that corner down there," he pointed to a bend in the garden they could just see from the tree. "But first —" He took her handkerchief and wet it in the small pool, then he wiped away the traces of her tears. She brushed at some dirt on her dress, frowning at it, but he assured her that the prince liked dirt and not to worry about it. Then she skipped happily off to meet 'her' prince.

Legolas was hard pressed to beat her there, making use of several larger trees and leaping over a wall to manage it. He landed and straightened, then turned and found eyes upon him.

"Legolas?" Arwen fussed, coming over to brush at his tunic and hair; several blossoms from the tree fell to the ground. "Where have you been? This reception is in your honor." Though she scolded, he could see the laughter in her eyes, even as her fingers deftly removed bits of flowers and branches that had lodged in his hair during his run.

"There was something I had to do," he explained, just as Rosie and Sam hurried over. Rosie was wringing her hands and looked near to tears. Sam looked greatly embarrassed.

"I hate to cause any disruptions," Sam puffed, "but —"

"It's Ruby," Rosie hurried to explain. "Elanor can't find her anywhere!"

The poor hobbits looked quite distraught, and Legolas was relieved when Ruby's small form skipped around the corner. "It's alright, Rosie," Legolas reassured, pointing to the wee lass. "She's right there."

"Oh!" Rosie and Sam rushed over to the little girl, fussing over her dress and scolding her for disappearing. Ruby's little voice piped up, explaining where she'd been and how she had met an elf.

"He fixed my ribbons, Mama," she exclaimed, running a hand down one long braid. Then the brown eyes lifted and fixed on him. With a squeal, she pushed past her parents and bounded over to Legolas who lifted her up easily.

"Where is he?" she whispered in his ear. "I wanna meet him!"

Sam hurried back over, his face red as a beet. "Ruby! You shouldn't be running around all over the Citadel and climbing all over Prince Legolas like that!"

Startled brown eyes gazed up at him in awe. Legolas winked at her, and then to his surprise, she threw her arms back round his neck and giggled.

Author's Note: In the year 21 of the 4th Age we know that Sam and Rosie visited Gondor with their eldest daughter Elanor. They stayed a year and during that time, their son Tom was born. I have tweaked the story a bit by having them bring 4 year old Ruby along. Impractical, perhaps, but she insisted on meeting 'her' elf.

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