Matters of the Heart: Part I
by Amber Wood-Brasher (rogue)

Chapter One

The entire journey, Senia spoke very little, despite her mother's attempts to engage her in conversation. Considering what lied in front of her, Senia couldn't imagine chatting. Her mother finally gave up, instead concentrating on her sewing and embroidering. Occasionally she cast a disapproving glance over at Senia's choice of wardrobe. They'd had an argument about it before they had left Llothlorien.

"Senia, please. Could you at least dress as a proper lady?"

Senia had straightened her tunic over her plain brown tights and adjusted the sleeves of her plain peasant blouse. She had twisted her long, strait blonde hair back into a simple braid, which caused it to have a rather nice wave to it when she took it back down. "Mother, I don't believe it will be a wise idea to wear my best dress traveling. It will only become sodden with road muck and dust. These will be comfortable and if they are made dirty, it matters not."

Sothiel shook her head. "You could wear a plain dress, at least. You look like a boy."

"I do not wish to change," Senia had replied, thinking to herself that if the Prince saw her this way, that much the better. With that thought, she had then turned and walked out of the bedroom, a sure sign to her mother that her mind was made up.

A rather nasty rut in the road jolted Senia out of her reverie and caused her mother to prick her finger on her sewing needle. "Ouch!" she snapped, immediately putting her finger to her mouth. "These roads only get worse and worse..."

Senia sighed, leaning over to one side of the wagon, praying the blasted Mirkwood was not much farther...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The journey was, quite luckily, uneventful. Though she did not wish to admit it, Senia found the Mirkwood to be quite beautiful. And, much to her delight, a familiar smiling face had greeted her when she and Sothiel arrived.

"Delithral!" she cried, leaping agilely off of the wagon and into her brother's arms. "My brother!"

"Senny! I have missed you greatly!" her brother replied, laughing, swinging her around. Her released Senia and embraced his mother, though not quite as exuberantly as he had with his sister. " are you?"

"We are well," Sothiel replied, smiling. Speak for yourself, Senia thought, but wisely said nothing. "My son, I had thought you were in Rivendell."

"I was," Delithral said, releasing his mother and holding her out at arm's length. "The war against Sauraun rages still, but it is not everyday that one's sister gets the Prince of the Mirkwood, no less."

Senia smile faded, but she tried desperately to maintain at least a mirage of contentment, for Del if nothing else. Her brother had left a very important thing to be here, supporting her. The last thing she wished was to seem ungrateful. "The ceremony will not be for another month, Del," Senia said softly. "Surely Lord Elrond will need you before then..."

"Yes, unfortunately," Del said, smiling at her sadly. "But I wished to be here for the announcement and ceremony of your betrothal." He placed a hand on Senia's shoulder. "Father would have wanted at least that."

"Yes, he would have," Sothiel said, her face practically glowing with pride for her son. "It is so good to see you...Senia, get yourself on the move, girl! You must change out of that awful clothing before any of the palace residents see you! Much less King Thranduil or Prince Legolas!"

Senia bit the inside of her cheek. "Yes, Mother," she said through gritted teeth. Her mother, obviously too wrapped up in seeing her beloved son again, appeared not to notice.

The inside of the castle was almost as lovely as the lands and forests of Mirkwood. She stopped, briefly, at a window, and the lovely view of the trees and foliage caused a wave of homesickness and dread to twist in her stomach. Already, she thought. Already I miss home. Already I wish I could speak with my Lady. I will never be happy here. I hate it! I hate this place, and the King for making me come here, and that stupid Prince for even existing!

"Milady? Do you need assistance?"

Senia started and whirled around to regard the tiny elf-maiden before her, who was regarding her with curious, wide eyes. "I' apology!" Senia stammered. "I am...I am Senia Skyfire. I am here for..."

"Oh yes! The Prince's betrothed!" the elf-maiden smiled sweetly, and again Senia felt a snarl of dread in the pit of her stomach. "The King had been wondering if you hadn't changed your mind!" The woman laughed lightly. If you only knew, Senia thought. "My name is Eowing, Lady Senia. Please feel free to call on me for anything you desire." Her gaze quickly took in Senia's less than appropriate choice of clothing. Senia crossed her arms. "I suppose you would wish to wash up, before you meet King Thranduil and Prince Legolas?"

"Yes," Senia said flatly. "I suppose I would."

"Senia?" her mother called, her footsteps pattering down the hall. "Everything all right?"

"Ah, Lady Sothiel!" Eowing said with a much more genuine smile than she'd offered Senia. "I am Eowing. Your rooms are this way. The King has planned for dinner to be served in an hour. I was just asking Lady Senia if she would wish, freshen up."

"Yes, she would," Sothiel said quickly.

"Very well!" Eowing said with another cheerful smile. "Please, follow me."

"I do not belong here, Mother," Senia whispered to her mother as the made their way down the winding hallways.

"Nonsense!" her mother whispered back. "You will find your niche here! Just wait and see."

I do not wish to find my niche here! Senia's mind screamed. I wish to go home! Yet again, she wisely said nothing. She said nothing as Eowing showed them their rooms, said nothing as the palace help drew her a bath, said nothing as the elven woman bid her a fond farewell with a smirk on her face. She waited until she was alone, washing the find layer of road dust from her skin, before she let her emotions through. Tears of frustration, anger, sprung in her eyes as she scrubbed at her skin. She felt like screaming, but wisely kept that impulse in check.

As she dried off, she saw her mother had laid a dress out for her, one that had always been Sothiel's favorite; long flowing sleeves, off white in color, beaded, with an empire-waist and a sheer overlay. She'd also laid out a silver comb, with a single pearl set in it, and a necklace she remembered her father giving her when she was a child, with a single fresh water pearl set in silver that hung from a delicate silver chain.

Not wishing to be difficult, not at this point, Senia simply put the dress on. She brushed her long blonde hair out and twisted up half of it into the comb. She stared at her reflection in the mirror for what seemed like hours. She looked like a lovely, noble elf-maiden. What she felt however...

She felt like a liar. That she was pretending to be something she was not.

"I must get through this," she whispered, touching her pendant. "For father, for Del, and for mother."

As Senia stood and tried desperately to look more cheerful, she forgot for the moment about herself...

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The banquet hall looked just as she expected it to: not too lavish, but obvious that this is where royalty dined. As she entered, she saw her mother talking with King Thranduil, and Del speaking with a woman over in the corner. She saw Eowing with a group of other elven maidens, who immediately looked at her as she entered, giggling behind their hands. Senia titled her chin and ignored them, instead making her way over to her mother.

"...Most delighted when I received your letter, of course."

"Ethasean was a good friend of mine, an old friend. I vowed I would do what I could for you and Senia."

"And we are both honored."

"As are my son and I. Speaking of my son...Thilat? Thilat, where is Legolas?"

An elven male stepped forward. By his dress and mannerisms, Senia assumed him to be a member of the royal family, perhaps the King’s nephew. "I don't believe he has returned from hunting, yet, Lord."

"That boy..." Thranduil shook his head. It was then that he finally spotted Senia, and his smile grew into a wide grin. "Why, Senia, dear child...Look at you!"

Senia curtsied politely, dipping her head in respect. "Greetings, your Majesty."

Thranduil took Senia's face in his hands. "Just look at you, child! Why, you have your father's eyes, I swear it!"

Senia managed a smile. "That unusual observation, Lord, considering both my parent's eyes are the same color blue..."

"Senia!" Sothiel hissed. "Lord, my apologies, my daughter is very tired."

But the King merely chuckled. "And she has her father's wit as well, I see. And her mother's beauty." He took one of her hands in both of his and planted a kiss on the back of her hand. "Now, where is that brother of yours? Delithral?"

Senia stepped back politely as her brother strode over to the King, bowing. Thranduil began to talk avidly to Del, asking him about the war. Senia had to resist the urge to roll her eyes. Instead, she meandered over to a nearby window, knowing that, for now, the King was through with her. She breathed a sigh of relief to see that the balcony was empty; at this moment, she wished more than anything else to be alone.

The night air was cool and tinged with the scent of evergreen. Senia sighed deeply, thinking that, if she were home, the scent in the air would be that of aspen leaves...This is home now, the more mature part of her chastised, and you may as well get used to it.

True enough. And perhaps it would not be so hard; the land was lovely, the forest beautiful. It would not be such an awful thing to walk through those forests, perhaps learn to ride a horse. She had always wanted to learn, but her mother wouldn't have it...

Her keen elven eyes picked up movement in the trees. Immediately she focused in on it, her senses reacting to possible danger even thought there was no immediate sign of a threat. She watched...and saw what looked like an elven male, hopping nimbly from branch to branch. She could not see his face, for he was much too far away, but immediately she envied him. For that kind of freedom, she thought, what I would give! She watched as he drew nearer to the palace, and she could see his face. He was handsome indeed, obviously a native to the Mirkwood. Not that it would matter, she thought bitterly, for I am already spoken for. She would do well to keep reminding herself of that. Just as the thought crossed her mind, the man looked strait up at her, and their eyes locked from the distance for the briefest of moments.

With a final deep breath of clear night air, Senia broke the eye contact and turned around, making her way back into the dining area. Dinner was starting late; the Prince was holding things up, apparently. She scoffed to herself. How typical! If it had been her who had been the horribly she would be spoken of! But the Prince? Nay, simple tittering giggles and chortles about his 'spirited nature.' A disapproving look from his father would be the worst he would suffer.

No sooner had the thought crossed her mind than the dining room doors opened and a figure stepped in. Senia's eyes widened as she recognized the face; the one she had been looking into not but a few minutes ago. She realized that her original assumption had been quite wrong, for he was not handsome, but beautiful. His eyes were like two orbs of polished lapis lazuli, his features angular and delicate; even his hair seemed unusually beautiful. From his dress, and the reaction of his father, Senia knew who it was she was looking at: Prince Legolas.

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