Storm led Legolas steadily through the ancient woodlands, her senses at alert. She wanted to put as many miles between them and the dead Orcs as possible. It would be impossible to reach the heart of Lothlorien before nightfall but if they kept up the pace, they could spend the night on one of the scouting platforms about a day’s walk from the city. Storm knew it would be in her best interest not to accompany the Prince of Mirkwood into Lothlorien proper—there would be hell to pay with her cousins for meeting him first and more torment if they figured out that she had touched his bare flesh to heal him. However, Storm now felt responsible for him and wanted to ensure that he arrived safely.
Storm quickly realized that Legolas would not complain or ask to pause and rest no matter he much needed to. If she left him on his own, he might push his body beyond its limits. As it was, she had to keep a small tendril of her awareness on him at all times to monitor how well his injured body was holding up. He had lost a great deal of blood and no Elven elixir could take the place of much needed rest. She halted their progress several times, insisting that she needed rest as to not offend him. She had to insist almost forcefully that he sit down and have some more water and lembas. She found to her surprise that he was not at all the spoiled, arrogant Prince she had assumed he would be.
When her Aunt Galadriel had informed Storm of the upcoming arrival of the Prince of Mirkwood and his intended purpose, Storm had merely laughed. Her aunt had raised an elegant eyebrow and looked at Storm seriously. “The Prince of Mirkwood wishes to meet all the ladies of this house of Lorien, Nevlotwen. This does include you my dear.”
Storm snorted, “I have no desire to become the brood mare of a spoiled, vain Prince from Mirkwood. Let Alkorewen, Bule and Brago fight over him. I am sure they will happily monopolize the Prince’s time and attention.”
Galadriel looked deeply into her niece’s eyes. “You judge a man you have never met very harshly. That is not becoming or fair Nevlotwen. I expect better from you.”
Storm lowered her eyes, ashamed. “You are of course right, aunt. I do not know his heart and I should not judge him. But why must I parade myself like a tournament prize in front of a stranger? Can I not save myself this humiliation? What Prince of any elven land would choose a half-blood who does not know her place and hates court life as a mate? He will never miss me if I stay in the woods during his visit— I am sure I would only be invisible with my lovely cousins in the room.”
This time it was Galadriel who laughed. “Nevlotwen, the one thing you never are is invisible. We both know your coloring alone attracts attention wherever you go. And your inability to contain your rather decided opinions. . .”
“My coloring marks me as a half-breed,” Storm interrupted bitterly. “As my perfect cousins so delight in pointing out, I am a treasure to no one and a burden to you and Uncle Celeborn. When you parade me like a prize pig in front of this Prince, they will merely say that you are hoping to get rid of me—marry me off and make me the burden of the people of Mirkwood.” Tears of anger and deeper sorrow stung Storm’s eyes. She walked to the nearest window and stared out, unseeing.
Galadriel glided to her niece’s side and turned her around. When Storm would not raise her eyes, Galadriel firmly lifted Storm’s chin until eye contact was unavoidable. “My dear, I would never lie to you and tell you that you have been the easiest child to raise. However, you know that your uncle and I value you dearly and wish only for your happiness. You have changed so since Ainaloss died. It is a tremendous sorrow to lose a childhood sweetheart Storm, but I believe you are meant to love again. But you will never find love or friendship secluding yourself in the forest. Humor me, my dear. Come to the banquet in the Prince’s honor and for one night be the sparkling jewel of this court I know you can be.”
“You wish me to simper and preen like my cousins?!” Storm asked incredulously.
“No, I wish you to be yourself. I wish you to speak your mind, and laugh your lovely laugh, and eat and drink your fill, and dance with whom you desire.” Galadriel put a finger on Storm’s lip before she could protest. “Please do this for me, Storm. And do this for yourself.”
Storm thought of this conversation often as she and Legolas hiked through the forest. The Prince of Mirkwood continued to prove himself to be nothing as she had imagined he would be. She had quizzed him in great detail about his encounter with the Orcs as they traveled and his reputation as a master archer seemed well deserved, as was his reputation for modesty. He was well versed in the lore of Lothlorien and seemed in awe of every inch of it. He was drinking everything in with his eyes, touching the ancient trees reverently, and bending to smell the yellow blooms. He was quite physically beautiful, even by Elven standards, but seemed quite unaware of it. Storm was sure that her cousins would argue for hours about his best feature—they would dissect his long, shapely fingers, his flawless skin, his high cheekbones. She liked how easily he smiled and his deep blue eyes that reminded her of starlit skies. He had an appreciation for silence and followed her lead without question. Her deeper senses told her that it was his nature to be kind and optimistic and loyal. She was sure he was fierce in battle and very protective of those he cared about, but he clearly had not lost his love of the beauty of this world. She found him rather hard not to like.
Occasionally Storm would sense inner conflict in Legolas. This conflict seemed very much at the surface during one of their stops for water. “Storm,” he asked her. “I realize they are your cousins and my question impertinent, but what can you tell me about the maidens of the House of Lorien?”
Storm was quiet for a moment, contemplating how to give a fair answer. “Among the people of Lothlorien, Alkorewen is considered the greatest beauty of Galadriel’s nieces. Her hair is so pale, it is almost colorless. Her skin is flawless, her eyes of the deepest blue. She is always surrounded by admirers but shows no favoritism. I have heard her described as serene.
Bulefaniel, or Bule, is the most merry. She is a great favorite at social gatherings. She always has a witty story to tell or a new song to sing. Her laughter is like the peel of a bell.
Then there is Bragolampaiel– called Brago by our family. She is the most knowledgeable in the ways of the court and is considered the most accomplished. She always knows what’s appropriate and proper for every occasion. Nothing ever takes Brago by surprise.”
Legolas took another deep draught of water. “Isn’t there a fourth niece who dwells in Lothlorien? The daughter of Imbeywathiel and Morore?”
“Nevlotwen?” asked Storm carefully. She suddenly felt uneasy that she had not introduced herself with her given name, but hated the formality and stiffness that presenting herself as the Lady Nevlotwen always brought. She chose to delay the inevitable awkwardness of such a revelation for the moment. “Nevlotwen is the youngest of Galadriel’s nieces and considered the most headstrong and independent. There are some who consider her a worthy consort for a prince but there are many others who would not.”
“And why is that?” Legolas asked thoughtfully.
“There are some who look down on her bloodline. Her father was half-mortal.” Storm looked at Legolas steadily.
“I have always heard that her father was a brave and valiant warrior. Fair, good hearted and very devoted to Imbeywathiel and their daughter. What shame is there in that?” Legolas asked indignantly.
Storm was surprised to feel the sting of tears in her eyes. She busied herself with putting away the water bag and remaining lembas so he wouldn’t notice. “I do not believe there is any shame in Nevlotwen’s blood,” Storm replied when she was sure her voice would be steady. “She would be honored at your defense of her father, Legolas of Mirkwood.”
Read Chapter Five
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