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Chapter 4: Reunited
The moment Riley exited Lord Elrond's study, she exhaled lengthily for the second time. The first being when she wasn't about to be prosecuted. This still however did not bring her too much closer to Lana, in fact, she did not recognize the halls from the movies. She was led several minutes away into a different part of the keep.
She reflected back to the moments she spent in the elf lord's presence. He was as old as he seemed, but it was all in his eyes. Otherwise his outward appearance made him no older or younger than Aragorn himself. His face was severe, yet calm, and she briefly thought back to her own elders. Speaking of Aragorn, he looked everything like the scruffy man in the films. But again, she wondered how close this would be to the movies if Lana were to get close enough to the journey as to be involved.
"What is your name again?" The guard finally asked professionally. To not appear too interested, the elf was still looking ahead to their destination.
"Riley." She replied quaintly. It was not magnificent like the Elvish folk surrounding her, and he must have found it odd. He seemed to expect more, and Riley picked up. Here they introduced the whole title and heritage shebang, she thought.
"I shall inform Lord Elrond."
There was an awkward pause, well, awkward in Riley's opinion. She was about to return the question when they arrived in front of a less impressive door, but still had the Elvish flair.
He knocked, and she decided now would be a better time to listen.
Another beautiful elf opened it them, and revealing a room full of other female elves, stitching, sitting and talking away behind her. Her eyes flitted to the girl beside the guard for a moment before addressing him.
"Good Evening, Valandil." Gentle giggles rang throughout the room behind her. Riley blinked as they switched to their Elvish language.
"I have orders to place Riley here under you and your ladies' supervision. Keep an eye on her, Lord Elrond will need to have council with her in not two days. Do make sure she's well cared for." He said the last part sarcastically.
"You know I will." She said in a playful haughty manner.
Riley, being under no ones notice at the moment was free to smugly grin. So this was how elves flirted. It was sort of easy to recognize, even with the language barrier.
"Is she the Easterling I've been hearing about all day?" The elves eyes finally pierced their way into Riley's, startling her.
"Word travels fast with you ladies. No, apparently not East or South. That is what their council discussion will entail."
"Then perhaps I shall dig out her secrets for you. Go on now, Valandil, back to your duties." She said teasingly.
The male elf left quickly with a small smile, leaving Riley standing in the doorway.
"Good evening, Riley, I am Gilraen, and you will be staying with me."
Riley nodded. She noticed that as she was ushered inside, the ladies rose in respect but had gone silent. They speculative gazes made Riley cringe. This change of scenery was more difficult than she thought. She left one judgemental world to enter another, that was complete with their own racial struggles. And here they had dwarves and orcs. Riley at least could remember what an Easterling was.
"Hello." She began. It was a bit squeakier than she had hoped, but it broke some tension.
"Welcome to our work room, please sit down." Gilraen said.
She sat down in one of the only available seats, on a bench between to other startlingly beautiful elven maidens.
"Hi." She said to them nervously. This is like high school all over again.
"May I just say you look nothing like any Easterling I've ever seen." A slightly younger looking elf spoke up. Instantly all eyes turned to her. Riley thought about it, and what she said sounded like a compliment.
"Nor any Haradrim woman for sure." Another agreed.
"You two are far too young to have seen them." A lady sewing said. Riley glanced at her, they hadn't once made eye contact because that elf was so preoccupied.
"Well I have, and I do have an eye for features, and none from those areas she possesses."
"Well she is rather tall for a mortal woman." The woman speaking rose to stand near her and look upon her. Riley wanted to look down, she was not really used to being so speculated. "Stand, girl and show them." Riley stood again, anxious to not be seated next to such beautiful women. But she was excited to be proven different now that it was a bad thing to be Haradrim in these parts. She noticed that even though she may have been considered tall, everyone around her was close to her height.
"See? And her brows are not so heavy and thick. Her skin does not have the deep red or sallow undertones the two cultures are known for. Her height is not trademark for them." She was encircled by the woman. "She does not have their body type either."
Riley was going to say that people come in many shapes and sizes but was worried that would harm her case.
"Well then where is she from?" Someone asked.
"Yes, she has such… different clothing style."
A woman came and felt her sleeve. "Indeed, I've never seen such fabric."
Gilraen sensed an encroachment and decided it was best to pull Riley from the discussion. "It is not for us to decide I am afraid. We will find out soon enough how she came to be here, but you're scaring the poor girl."
Riley sensed her tone was a tad condescending, but was grateful she was being taken away. So she could plot.
"I will take you to a room. It is quaint for now, but I am sure that once this ordeal is settled, you will be welcomed into the houses of Imladris as a true guest." Gilraen beamed.
"Will I be allowed to walk around?" Riley asked. She self suspected she was being a little too hasty.
Gilraen paused to quickly purse her lips. "I suppose I can take you some places you'll need your fresh air, but things are going on that even I am not allowed to know of."
Riley was relieved that she had confessed that or she might've gone off blabbing about the ring that really no one should know about.
"And I expect you will be hungry soon." Riley nodded furiously, suddenly very aware of that.
They came upon a room. It was at the end of the hall from the maid's main chamber.
Whereas these elves considered it quaint, small and shabby, Riley was oddly accustomed to it, the room couldn't be a foot in any direction larger than her room at home. It was beginning to get dark, and Gilraen rushed inside to light key candles around the room.
Oddly, upon her bed the bag was set. She wondered if anyone had gone through it. Most likely, but she knew there wasn't much other than necessities. Well modern necessities.
"Right. Well, in celebration of the many Lords that are finally all gathered tonight, there is a feast, otherwise we would be simply going to the kitchens. That much I am allowed to tell you. And I shall return with more clothing."
Riley knew her best bet to be allowed any liberties, even though this elf was lenient, was to stay in line. She did not like the idea of being untrustworthy, but she needed to see Lana.
She had to ask though, "What is wrong with my clothes?" Riley knew there was a great deal wrong technically, but still pressed.
"My dear Riley, we are attending a formal engagement, I will return with the proper attire. If you must know, even those amongst my rank are going in our best clothes. And please do not leave. You've proven yourself thus far, but it will be my reputation if you run off." She then left swiftly.
Riley quickly followed her, intent on poking her head out the doorway, but the door was locked. As it should, I suppose, Riley thought. "Nothing too tight," she yelled.
Riley returned to her bed and placed her clothing in the small drawers, having no intention in going anywhere. Though she anxiously hid her defective electronics under the mattress. Can't have that.
Gilraen came in a short half hour, and she was already prepared, which took Riley by surprise, and wondered how any other elf could "top that". Her dark chocolate locks were somehow sleeker and the her skin was glowing. And the figure displayed by the soft green dress she wore was breathtaking and Riley was sure her girl crush had just changed from a mortal celebrity to this elf.
The elf set two dresses wrapped in cloth upon the bed. Riley opened the folded cloth coverings and stood back to observe. She immediately lunged for the one to the right a dark hunter's green that would blend her in with the night and she could slip away more easily.
"You must humour me by trying both. Besides, you could be with an old stern elf who would rather you wear dress up to your neck in wool." Riley shrugged, it did not sound like a horrible idea.
"Please try the blue one on first, I chose it." Riley had no doubt this elf had chosen it. Judging from what Gilraen was wearing, this dress would be an ordeal.
She turned her back on the elf. Lest she fail at explaining the zipper, she took it off like a pullover, then the her sweater and the loose t-shirt. She kicked off her fading leather boots and stood in just her black leggings and sports bra. She was lucky she was not afraid of undressing in front of people, since the dressing rooms of sports were no place to be embarrassed.
"What is that?" Gilraen asked.
Riley turned with a questioning look. Which of her clothes would be subject to explanation?
Gilraen was staring at the spandex material covering the girl's breasts.
"Um, we call it a sport's bra. It holds the girls down so you can do sports things." Riley internally rolled her eyes at her poor explanation.
"Like a binding cloth?" Gilraen asked.
"Sure." Riley afforded.
"Well, these dresses have the bodice sewn in, so you may remove it and I can help tie the back." Riley groaned since this was like prom all over again.
The blue one was tight. "I'm flattered you thought I'd fit this, but I'll be lucky if I can walk into the feast, let alone be the perfect display for your styling techniques."
Gilraen analyzed. "Well, it does wonders for the chest area. And its not that terrible."
"See, that would not be bad if you hadn't said terrible." Gilraen relented on the choice, and began to undo the back lacing.
She at last put on the hunter's green dress on. "I cannot wear this and stand next to you." She said honestly. She wasn't posing a compliment, Riley genuinely felt out of her element.
"Thank you, Riley, but if you're going to arrive with me and my friends, you will not look like a beggar." Riley looked down at the pile of clothes she had worn. She could not argue much.
"I'm doing my own hair, though." She said.
Gilraen reached up and tugged it away from the high bun and with expertise styled it to her liking.
This elf seemed to have no inhibitions, and did simply what she wished, which included coming within Riley's personal space. Riley kept telling herself it would be worth it. Lana would definitely be at the dinner.
"You don't have to style it yourself, you have me. But if you care, the looking glass is in the corner. I will be a few short minutes I am simply going to put the other dress back in its proper place."
The elf left quickly, and Riley bolted to the mirror. She noted with disdain the middle part, and quickly arranged it to a side part and tucked it her own way. If she had one objection it was that no one interfere with her hair. Of what she had, it was something she took the most pride in, and people could tell. The black hair was almost never not presentable in an unkempt way.
But when she looked in the mirror again, it was looking for something more. Even in her reality, she constantly compared herself to others. She would never let anyone know that fact, but it was a destructive habit she possessed. Since she was not the classical or conventional beauty she often overlooked many other things.
Riley pulled herself away from the mirror and sat on the bed fretfully awaiting Gilraen's arrival.
She sat at a table of very considerable less importance, though everyone else had grace almost equal to the king. She and the other maids were one of the last groups to arrive and were unnoticed for this fault because of the general splendour of the event and people were still walking around before the food was to be served.
The occasional glance at her from her table occurred, but she was soon ignored.
She was quite a ways away from the head table, slightly obscured by a pillar, but not totally hidden from view. Perfect for people watching. The head table included Lord Elrond, a female elf, and two identical male elves. She instantly knew the female was Arwen. Her breath hitched as she gazed upon her, and her chest pained from looking upon her. She glanced over at the two twins, and anger registered within her as she realized it was Elrohir. Though she was impressed that royalty was not subject to special treatment and were expected to serve their people, she was still annoyed.
Their table was not imposing physically, but you knew that they were the royalty by the dynamics of the room. The tables situated around them Riley could recognize as the parties of the people that were to attend the council tomorrow.
Glad her back was also more angled to them she could observe everything more and be ignored to her choosing.
The people started to settle down, and it was easier to observe her surroundings. Where the pillars created the illusion of a hall, just passed them, the room was open to the night air. So it wouldn't be so hard to slip away for a second.
When all was quiet and the air was pregnant with excitement, Lord Elrond stood. "Greetings. Tonight we honour our dignified guests once more by offering our hospitalities through our wealth of food. Let us feast together in these times of peril and pray that our unity will bring us closer to our goal. Enjoy tonight, for we may come by uneasy times still." He sat, and servers emerged from the outskirts, presenting platters to the main tables first, then to the tables on the outskirts eventually.
It was for Riley hard not to stick her head out from her table and just observe the crowd, but she did it while people were preoccupied serving themselves. She thought she spotted Lana finally, but it was another elf. Upon closer inspection she realized it was Legolas and a few of his company.
"Already got your eye on a certain elven prince?" Gilraen whispered to her.
"What? No." She muttered back, though was still searching.
"Good luck, it's you and every other maiden in this room."
And Riley really couldn't argue with that. She had been wrong to think she was incomparable to Gilraen, because there were at most a hundred other elf maidens more or less as attractive as her. You'd have to be a total babe to get with anyone on the fellowship, she mused. "I'm not—"
"It's alright, Riley, I'm only teasing."
"Yes, of course." She mumbled, embarrassed. She finally spotted Boromir. His unmistakeable height set him apart. And behold to his left hidden by his bulky shoulders was Lana, bouncing animatedly as she spoke to him.
There was little Riley could do to catch her friend's attention without drawing every eye in the room. She decided to just calm down for now. Rushing everything could ruin this. She ate in silence, since the maids at her table found it more comfortable for them to speak in Elvish. Not that she minded at all, she was content to plan ahead a little. She had not noticed she was finished her food already in her determination. She tried to remember what she had eaten. There was some deer, root vegetables with herbs, a lot of healthy grains prepared nicely. Riley appreciated the look of them, but stuck with what she could recognize, which was the meat and some vegetables. And mashed potatoes. That she could spot a mile away. But all she could think of the food was that she wished there were more salt. Nobody else seemed to notice.
The plates were beginning to clear away after an hour and a half of feasting. Riley looked down at her stomach and cringed, she was lucky she was laced in, but she felt like she would burst. She had eaten more than she cared for without even noticing!
People were rising to stretch, it seemed, but Riley was content to sit and digest for a little while longer.
"Come, we shall break I need to relieve myself. Then we shall return for a while longer.
"Please let me stay, your friends can watch me." Riley pleaded. She raised her glass for one last sip of the amazing concoction.
"No, for Valar's sake, you're under my care."
Maybe Gilraen pulled harder than she should have, or Riley had a poor grip on her glass, either way the goblet was dropped, clanging all over the plates and utensils. The room was quiet enough to allow that to be amplified. Gilraen paused and dropped her grip. Riley pulled her chair away from the table and stood, and avoided the dark red liquid that was now dripping onto the stone.
Riley also paused to look around and many eyes were upon her. She sat back down, blushing furiously.
"You wanted to go, you say?" She asked finally, when everyone's conversations resumed. She glanced over her shoulder to see Elrond staring at her. He's probably not had anyone so clumsy in his home in the entire history of Middle Earth.
"You know what? It is fine, you'll be alright here without me." She said apologetically, taking her leave.
Well if that hadn't drawn anything to her, she wouldn't know what to think. This definitely cut things to the chase. She would soon be reunited with Lana if her friend had noticed that.
Riley looked back again at Elrond, who had finally turned his attentions elsewhere.
She scanned again, and two blue eyes locked with hers. Riley didn't know whether to be relieved or not that Lana had finally seen her. Lana's eyes were widely surprised, and that girl could not bring herself to move.
Riley mouthed the word "hi." And before anything could be done, she left the table quickly to catch up with Gilraen up ahead to accompany her to the washrooms. She would need to find them later.