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

"I'm concerned about you, darling."

Senia looked up from her book at her mother, who was regarding her with worried eyes. The sunlight that streamed through the half-open crystalline windows was warm, the light, gentle wind carrying the scent of wisteria. She should have expected this; leave it to her mother to ruin a nice, peaceful moment. "What for, mother?"

Sothiel sat back in chair, her sewing in her lap. Her brow was furrowed, as if she were trying to choose her words carefully. "You seem…very tired."

Senia managed a smile. "Maybe I am, just a little…I am just trying to get used to being here is all. I'll be fine."

Sothiel's eyes narrowed slightly, and Senia got the feeling that her mother suspected something. Just as Sothiel opened her mouth to say something, the door opened. Thilat, Legolas's cousin, stepped into the room. "Lunch has been prepared," he said with a smile, "And since the day is fair, the King has planned to dine outside. Will you join us?"

"Of course," Sothiel replied with a bright smile. "What a lovely idea."

Thilat smiled and offered both Senia and Sothiel his arm. "If I may escort you, Miladys?"

"Why thank you!" Sothiel's smile brightened ever more, if possible and she layed her hand on the inside of Thilat's elbow. As much as she did not want to, Senia did so as well; she hated to be `escorted' anywhere, but to refuse would be rude.

King Thranduil had indeed arranged a lovely luncheon. The tables were set up in a kind of solarium, the gentle sound of running water emitting from a brook just outside. Senia disengaged her hand from Thilat's arm, knowing that he would probably seat her mother first anyway, and went to the chair she usually sat in.

Soup had already been set out at each setting. Senia stirred it absently, glancing beside her at the chair her brother would have occupied, had he been here. A tiny stab of loneliness and then worry as she thought about where Del would be going, eventually: to Mordor. Senia felt a shudder try and creep up her spine.

Shaking her head, she tried to push the thoughts aside. She scooped up a spoonful of soup and brought it to her lip, carefully blowing at the steam. Just as she was taking a hesitant sip, the chair beside her was pulled out, and someone sat down. Senia turned her head just enough to see whom it was, and had to gulp down the rest of her spoonful of soup to keep from burning her tongue.

Legolas sat down calmly and casually, folding his napkin into his lap and picking up his glass of water, downing about half of it in one drink. As he set the glass back down, he glanced over at her, one corner of his mouth quirking up in amusement. "Close your mouth, you'll catch a fly."

Senia blinked, looking over at the empty chair across from her, where Legolas normally sat, then back at him. Legolas shrugged. "The sun will be in my eyes if I sit there; this was the only vacant seat on this side. I'll move if you want me to-"

"No," Senia said, shaking her head. "No, you don't have to move. I was just a bit surprised, is all."

Legolas nodded, and turned back to the table, grabbing a roll from a nearby bowl and stirring his bowl of soup. "He's going to be fine, you know."


"Your brother," Legolas said, indicating the chair he was sitting it. "I've seen Delithral's archery skills. He's a skilled fighter; he'll come back to you and your mother."

Senia regarded Legolas for a moment. "Can you promise me that?"

Legolas paused for a moment, then looked over at her. "We cannot ask for guarantees. You certainly cannot ask them from me." Senia looked away, out the windows at the beautiful garden and brook. She felt Legolas's hand touch her shoulder briefly-

And then simultaneously heard the sound of someone cry out and felt a rush of cold over her shoulder, wetness seeping through her ivory colored gown. Senia leapt out of her chair, knocking it over. A bright orange stain of some sort of juice stood out vividly on her dress, streaking the bodice and the full skirt. Senia's heart sank; the simple dress was one of her favorites…Senia looked over, half- expecting the Prince to be laughing at her. For the third time since she'd met him, he surprised her. He looked positively livid, but there was something else in his statement as well…a kind of softening. Senia looked behind her, and saw a very pretty server, her bright blue eyes filled with tears. And, not surprisingly, Senia saw Eowing just behind the young servant girl, one hand pressed over her mouth, her eyes glittering with amusement.

Thranduil chose that moment to walk into the room. His smile immediately vanished, his features hardening as he stalked in their direction. "What has happened? Lelandra!! Girl, are you completely incompetent! That stain will never come out of the Lady's dress!"

Senia glanced sharply over at Legolas, finally understand the conflicts that seemed to chase each other around his face. The girl, Lelandra, looked completely miserable. "I'm sorry my King," she said meekly. "I don't know what happened…"

"You most likely tripped over your own two feet!" Thranduil snapped. "If you were any slower, you would be walking backwards!"

Senia saw Legolas's jaw clench, and completely understood why; he had feelings for this young woman, and his father was intentionally belittling the poor girl. She could tell just by looking at the girl that she had in no way meant to spill her tray. The entire dining area had gone silent, and Senia saw her chance.

"Why, your majesty," Senia said sweetly, putting on the brightest smile she could manage with the cold liquid chilling her skin. "It was only an accident! In fact, it was probably my fault! I had pushed my chair out a bit while Lelandra was walking behind in, and I would bet that I cause the poor girl to trip. I'm so sorry. Lelandra, are you hurt?"

The servant girl's eyes went very wide, Eowing's mouth dropped, and both Legolas and his father glanced at her in surprise. Lelandra cleared her throat. "I'm…I'm alright, Milady. Did, did I hurt you?"

"Of course not!" Senia said, smiling. "And don't worry about this old thing!" She held up the sleeve of her gown. "A little soaking and it'll come out." Senia turned back to the King, again using her most charming smile. "Your majesty, really, I am fine! No harm had been done."

Thranduil peered at Senia for a moment, then looked back over at Lelandra as if trying to decide just how much of a hard time he should give the clumsy girl. "All right, Lady Senia," he said finally. "If you wish, you may go and change. And you," he said to Lelandra. "Clean up this mess!"

Lelandra curtsied, and Senia dipped her head gracefully to the King. As she gathered her up her skirt and what dignity she had left, she saw her mother regarding her curiously.

And just as she was leaving the solarium, she glanced back at Legolas, and saw that he had been watching her as she left.

And smiling.

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

For the first time since she'd found her special place, since she'd began her nightly ritual of donning what her mother called "a boy's clothes," tucking her hair up into a hat, sneaking out at a certain time of night and climbing a certain tree, Senia was completely and utterly bored.

She wasn't remotely tired. She didn't feel like writing. And she'd had just about enough of thinking.

And there were only so many times one could count the branches and leaves on a tree.

At some point during the night, she thought she'd heard voices nearby: one masculine, the other feminine. She'd briefly considered heading in that direction, just to see who they were, but more likely than not they would see her and maybe realize who she was. Neither her mother nor the King would like the idea of her skulking around in the late hours of the night til the wee hours of the morning. And so she'd decided to let the owners of the voices be.

When she'd finally had enough of staring out into the woods, she began to wander the grounds of the palace. She was as careful as possible to avoid any guards that came stalking by; it wouldn't be a good idea to startle them. Being caught wandering at night was one thing; being thought an intruder was quite another.

And she came to the stables.

With a slight smile, Senia carefully climbed up the gate and landed carefully on the other side. In front of her were several segmented stables, and many beautiful horses. She smiled again when she recognized one of them; it was the only pure white horse in these stables, one of the horses that had pulled the wagon she and her mother had arrived in. If she remembered correctly, it was a male horse by the name of Alabaster.

Senia approached the stall quietly, but even her light footsteps startled the horse, and it snorted and pawed at the ground. "It's all right," she said softly. "I will not hurt you, mellon (friend)." Upon hearing the soft, familiar language, the horse lowered it's head and seemed to calm.

Senia approached him carefully, and with one hand reached out, touching his mane. "You're a beautiful creature," she said, smiling. "Have they been treating you well?" As if in reply, the horse shook its ivory mane. Senia pulled her hand back and stared at the animal. "This is a new level of desperation," she said, shaking her head. "I'm seeking companionship with a horse…I must be losing my mind." Again, Alabaster shook his head. "Oh, I'm not? Well, thank you."

Senia gazed over at the wall of the stable, where the bridles and head collar hung. Nearby, a saddle was sitting on a barrel. "I'd like to take you for a ride, mellon, but I don't know how to use any of these things…I'm afraid I'd put them on you wrong." The horse nudged its nose under Senia's arm. "What? You want to go for a ride? You must be bored…they really haven't been treating you well, have they?" Senia went over to the wooden wall and took down the leather head collar. "But…I think I might be able to figure out how to use this." She smiled, turning back to the horse. "We could go for a walk."

Alabaster's liquid brown eyes seemed regarded her for a moment. The horse then moved its head in front of her hands, as if accepting the bridle.

Senia supposed that the action was a yes.

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

"You may very well be the best companion I've ever had, mellon," Senia said with a smile. Alabaster snorted and lowered his head, as if urging her to keep walking. Senia laughed lightly and lead the horse down the moonlight path. The clear night air tasted good, the starts winked down at them, and Senia found herself becoming attached to the scent of the evergreens. "I hate to admit it, mellon, but I am beginning to like it here."

"And the heavens forbid that from happening."

Senia had already learned not to be surprised by that voice. She glanced up into the nearby trees, and as she expected, the Prince was crouched on a branch. "Hello, Legolas."

With a slight smile, Legolas jumped gracefully from the branch and landed near Senia and the horse. Alabaster nudged Senia shoulder as Legolas approached them. Legolas ran a hand through the horse's silky mane, patting its neck. "I wanted to thank you," he said to her, and Senia could see the barest hint of color tinting his cheekbones.

"Whatever for?" she replied.

"What you did for Lelandra…" Legolas cleared his throat, still averting his eyes, still focusing on the horse and not on her. "My father doesn't like that fact that…and you helped her greatly…" Legolas paused, finally turning to look at her. "She didn't mean to do that, you know. She would never-"

"I know," Senia said, reaching into the side pack she'd taken from the stable and withdrawing a carrot. She held it out to Alabaster, who munched on it contentedly. "I could tell. The stain will come out, I think."

"Good," Legolas nodded. "She was very upset…" Again, Legolas cleared his throat. She could tell he was rather uncomfortable. "If there's anything I can do to repay you…"

Senia looked up at him, surprised. She looked away for a moment, stroking Alabaster's nose. "Teach me to ride," she finally said, very quietly.

"To ride?" Legolas said incredulously. "To ride horse?"

"No," she rolled her eyes sarcastically. "To ride a halfling. Yes, to ride a horse."

Legolas laughed, surprised into it. "My apologies. I just assumed that you knew how."

Senia shook her head. "Mother would never let me learn."

Legolas regarded her with an odd smile, and then after a few moments, nodded. "All right. I'll teach you how to ride, then. A horse, not a halfling."

Senia stifled a laugh, and was about to reply, when they heard voices. "I think perhaps lessons should begin tomorrow night," Legolas said, peering off into the distance. "You should get back, before you are caught. I will take Alabaster back to the stable."

Senia handed Legolas the reins. "Thank you. You don't know how much this means to me. I've always wanted to learn."

Legolas smiled. "It's nothing, really. Meet me here, tomorrow night, at the time you usually sneak out."

Senia raised an eyebrow. "How do you know what time I `usually' sneak out?"

"Because I'm also out at that time," Legolas said with a smug smile. "And you are not the quietest person on Middle Earth."

Senia had to resist the immature urge to stick her tongue out at him. "I see. Very well then. Tomorrow night. I will see you then. Thank you again."

"It is nothing, really." Legolas smiled and lead Alabaster off, back to the stables.

Senia made her way back to the palace, to her room, and found that getting to sleep was not as hard as it usually was.

| Part V |
| Index |