Chapter 29: Best Morning Ever

Narylfiel panicked. The last time she had seen her sister had been at the feast, but that had been hours ago. She had briefly entertained the glad thought that Legolas and her sister were together, but that notion had been upended the moment the guards had shown up at her door on the prince's behalf, searching for Thaliniel. Now Narylfiel could only guess that something had gone horribly wrong, for Thaliniel was no where to be found—if the palace guards could not even locate her, then who could?

Now the sun shone brightly through the skylights along the corridor that Narylfiel raced down, eager to find the king, hoping that he could help her.

She skidded to a halt in front of Thranduil's council chamber. The young elleth did not wait to be admitted, but rather charged ahead of the sentinels posted outside, ignoring their surprised protests and shot into the room. The aged council members blinked at her owlishly, and then looked expectantly toward their stern king to put this young interloper in her place or at least to have her escorted promptly from the room!

Thranduil did neither but rather rose slowly from his seat at the end of the long table. To his credit, he looked completely unfazed by the intrusion as he waved off the guards with a dismissive gesture.

"Council members, pray continue. There seems to be a matter of some urgency requiring my immediate attention," Thranduil announced softly and excused himself from the chambers, steering his young guest from the room with a gentle hand to her shoulder.

He led her to the nearest sitting room and advised Galion to bring a tray from the kitchen.

"I don't want any treats!" Narylfiel huffed indignantly. "I want to find my sister! She's been missing since last night!"

Thranduil, who had been smoothing out the creases from his robes, looked up sharply. "What did you say?"

Narylfiel narrowed her eyes at the king, hardly appreciating what she perceived to be a fairly cavalier attitude toward her sisters' disappearance. Tray from the kitchen, indeed!

"Your majesty, Thaliniel is missing. None of the guards can find her, and I have not seen her since the banquet last night when she was in the company of Prince Legolas."

"Narylfiel," Thranduil countered kindly, 'of course, your sister shall be found. I sure the Royal Guard will be able to locate her whereabouts with relative ease."

"They won't," she insisted with a sob. "Prince Legolas sent them looking for her last night—and they never found her."

"You say the prince sent the guards? You are sure of this?" the king asked incredulously.

At Narylfiel's brief nod in affirmation, Thranduil pushed his hair back over his shoulder and stood, abruptly leaving his chair for the hall where he summoned his nearest guard to inquire about what his young guest had just told him.

Narylfiel sighed and looked up at the ceiling. Of course, she was telling the truth! She watched as Thranduil stood in quiet conversation with the guard, and the king folded his arms with a most displeased expression upon his face. She could only make out snatches of the king's words—"…oath…safety of our kingdom…due diligence…"—with Thranduil apparently giving the guard quite the set-down, judging by the stricken expression on the warrior's face. As soon as Thranduil finished his last word to the guard, the king turned on his heel and strode the opposite direction down the hall.

Narylfiel was up out of her seat in the next second, hurrying to catch up to him. "Your majesty," she cried persistently. "King Thranduil, please wait! My sister!"

Thranduil slowed only enough that she might catch him, but he did not stop, and Narylfiel had to jog to keep in time with his long gait. "Narylfiel, you should go back to your room. I will send your sister to you."

Narylfiel reached out and boldly grabbed a handful of his robe to stop him. "Sir! Your highness, please."

Stop, Thranduil did, eyes flashing, and perhaps for the first time, Narylfiel saw him for all he was—beyond the kind king who told her stories and shared her love of turnovers—he was a powerful elf lord, albeit a generous one, but also mighty and ancient, and Narylfiel felt thoroughly cowed and rightfully so.

When she shrank back from him, Thranduil's eyes warmed; he genuinely did enjoy her spunk and would not have her fear him, not for all the white gems in his halls. He stooped so that he might be eye level with her. "Narylfiel, all will be well. Do not worry."

She nodded, eyebrows still furrowed. "It's just that—nothing has happened according to plan," she moaned. "You said in Dale that you thought my idea to bring my sister and the Prince together would work, but if it had, then Thaliniel would not be missing right now!"

"Hush," he warned her, glancing about to make sure no one overheard. "Not quite so loud, Narylfiel. Yes, your little scheme intrigued me from the start, even more so after I saw them together with my own eyes. Prince Legolas had never shown much interest toward…courtship. Yet despite your assurances, I still had doubts for reasons of my own, so… I tested your sister, issued her a challenge."

Narylfiel eyed him skeptically, but did not comment. Her heart worried for what the king might have done. All she wanted was her sister's happiness.

Thranduil pursed his lips at her dubious tone. "It may have…gone awry."

Narylfiel gazed at him imploringly, all big brown eyes that could have melted the heart of a troll. "Please, your majesty. Please help me find her…and fix this. I just want her to have her own happy ending." And she truly did for all the times that her big sister had told her stories, played endless make-believe games with her—practically raised her from birth with the help of their aunt—it had always been Thaliniel who had been the center of her world, her mainstay, her love and comfort.

The king's heart softened in that moment, just enough for him to nod in agreement, without even meaning to, and he heard himself say, "I will go see Prince Legolas, and he will want to help us find her."

The young elleth's eyes brightened and she launched herself at the king, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist. "Oh, thank you, Your Majesty!" she cried happily and jumped up and down, still holding onto Thranduil tightly. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Had any of his courtiers passed by in that exact moment, they would have been shocked to see their stern king not only hugging a bouncy child, but also smiling broadly as he did so.

Far on the other side of the palace, the missing elleth in quesiton did not feel the least bit lost or in danger, for early that morning with her head resting against the smooth planes of his chest, Thaliniel woke to the steady thrum of Legolas' heart. His arm still curled around her waist, and she secretly thrilled to the feeling of his skin, so warm against hers.

Even though she should have felt exhausted, for Legolas had loved her long into the night, Thaliniel never felt more alive. Her eyes slid up to study the strong line of his jaw, his full lips, that mouth which had done so much more than merely kiss her—as if the prince had tried to memorize all the lines of her body. She loved him. Oh, how she loved him.

She had dreamed and dreamed of one day finding him, the one who would love her without terms, without limit. Never could she have predicted that she would have found him in Legolas. He had taken her to his bed and loved her so generously, so unreservedly. Thaliniel had been completely innocent in matters of the heart and physical passion, but Legolas had proved a most patient teacher, one that was content to repeat certain lessons again and again.

That night their hearts and souls had bonded before the Valar. Thaliniel smothered her smile against the pillow and stretched. Legolas stirred beside her, and she planted a kiss against his warm silken hair.

She never dreamed it could be like this, that love could be so tangible a thing, that she could feel it well up inside her, but love was there in the feel of his skin against hers, in the way their feet tangled together in the sheets as he had covered her so completely with his own body, and in the warmth of his breath as he had whispered against her ear that he loved her, wanted her as he had never wanted another.

"Good morning," she whispered shyly against his ear before kissing him again.

Legolas' eyes blinked and then a smile stretched slowly across his face as he turned toward her. "Good morning is an understatement," he said, a yawn punctuating his words as he pulled her closer into him. "I would say 'best morning ever,' Thaliniel."

Her cheeks colored slightly, much to Legolas' delight, and she wrapped her arms around his neck. "I agree- 'best morning ever' is pretty fitting, considering the circumstances and the company."

Of course, then he could do nothing else except kiss her soundly, which of course brought to mind all sorts of other pleasurable activities, many of which they had both enjoyed last night. Legolas propped himself up on one elbow and gazed down on her contentedly, her thick brown hair spread across his pillows. "Thaliniel," he asked, sounding much more unsure of himself than that previous kiss had indicated, "how are you this morning? Are you…well?"

Thaliniel smiled a little at the awkwardness of the question. "What do you mean, Legolas?" she teased him, her eyes sparkling.

He caught both the smile and the sparkle in her eyes before he trapped her beneath him. "I just wanted to make sure you…" but then the prince suddenly cut off his words and stilled, as if listening.

"What is it?" Thaliniel whispered, and Legolas did not answer but rolled quickly to the side of the bed and stood. He hastily pulled the sheets and coverlet over his beloved and sprang toward his armoire, swiftly pulling out a tunic and some leggings.

He hurried toward the door, but was not quite quick enough. Legolas heard the lock click, and he knew exactly who had come, who was in possession of the other set of keys.

The door swung open, and King Thranduil stepped inside, his eyes surveying the scattered articles of clothing strewn across the floor and the mottled red-pink complexion of his son, his heir.

"Legolas," he addressed his son.

His eyes landed on Thaliniel, now sitting up in the bed, the blanket pulled all the way up under her chin.

"Thaliniel," he said nonchalantly, as if finding her unclothed in his son's room did not surprise him in the least.

Legolas' eyes shifted nervously to his father, half-expecting him to yell or snarl or send for his guards, but Thranduil did none of those things.

He simply looked amusedly at them both before turning back to the door. "Thaliniel, you seem to have won our challenge. Oh, and your sister is looking for you." He gave his son a knowing glance and shut the door behind him.

Legolas could only stand there dumb-founded as he mentally replayed his father's entrance and exit. Then his eyes met Thaliniel's, and they both burst into laughter at once over the sheer ludicrousness of the entire situation.

"Did—that—really—just—happen?" inquired Thaliniel between fits of laughter.

Legolas flung himself backward onto the bed next to her and covered his burning face with his arm. "So embarrassing—never going to live this down!" he muttered.

"On the bright side, he didn't seem especially angry," Thaliniel pointed out, and Legolas had to agree.

"I'm sure we will hear all about our indiscretions at a later time," the prince declared and then added, "I think you may have witnessed one of the few times that the King of the Woodland Realm was caught completely off-guard."

"Then let's celebrate," Thaliniel suggested with a twinkle in her eye. "Here's to the King of the Woodland Realm being caught off-guard." Then she pulled her prince in for a long kiss.

A kiss, which was summarily interrupted by a persistent knocking on the door.

"Mmm…leave it. They'll go away," Legolas in between trailing kisses down her neck and working the blanket loose that she had wrapped around her.

Someone smartly rapped on the door again.

"They are not going away, Legolas," Thaliniel protested half-heartedly. "What if it's your father again?"

"He would have just barged in again probably," he guessed, but despite his words the prince sat up, and repositioned the blanket back over Thaliniel. "Just in case," he whispered to her before pecking her cheek.

He cracked open the door to see Galadhor, his father's chief-of-staff, waiting patiently. "Good morning, Prince Legolas. I hope I did not wake you," he said kindly as his eyes drifted past the young prince to the low-lit chamber behind him."

"No, Galadhor. We—I mean I—I was already up," Legolas corrected himself and once again felt his ears grow hot at his slip, but Galadhor politely ignored his blunder, at least outwardly at any rate.

"Your father wishes to see you in the throne room in an hour. He requests that Thaliniel also be present, if you would be so kind to relay this information to her?"

Legolas inwardly groaned. So Galadhor already knew as well? His father had not wasted any time spreading the news, had he? Perhaps it was best this way, for Legolas knew that if Thaliniel were to make herself presentable for a visit to the throne room, she would need a change of clothes…and perhaps a warm bath drawn, and Legolas trusted Galadhor immensely. He had always been there for the young prince when he was growing up.

Legolas took a deep breath. "Galadhor, Thaliniel is actually with me. I am sure that is why the king requests an audience."

At first, Galadhor was a little stunned by the revelation; oh, he knew it to be true, but to hear it from the prince! He drew his hand to his heart. "I hope I did not interrupt anything, Legolas!" he exclaimed and then pulled the prince in for a strong-armed hug.

"Oh, trust me," Legolas assured him. "It's been quite our morning for interruptions."

"Then let me help you make it right," Galadhor said with a chuckle, beaming at his young prince. "I am very happy for you both."

"Thank you," said Legolas, practically glowing, he was so pleased with himself. "Please send for a fresh change of clothes for Thaliniel and have my valet draw warm water for the bath."

"And perhaps have the kitchen staff whip up a celebratory breakfast?" Galadhor suggested.

Legolas grinned as his mind played out the possibilities. "Oh, and tell the king that we will be there in two hours."

Author's note: I am already planning out what the king will have to say to the young couple, once he can collect his wits, of course! We are nearing the end of our story-probably only one or two more chapters left!

Thank you once more for reading and please review!