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

Rain spattered against the crystalline window, a soothing and gentle sound. Senia stared out at the landscape, watched as it became horribly muddy and puddles pooled onto it’s surface, silently cursing at the luck; she certainly wouldn’t be able to ride any tonight. She was now starting to get the feel for it, to understand the trust that developed between the horse and the rider, and Legolas had told her that he believed her capable enough to ride Alabaster without his walking beside her, or keeping a careful eye out when Alabaster ran around a more open field. While she and her betrothed were at least able to be in each other’s presence without snapping at every comment, and without the cloud of disparagement constantly breathing down their necks, part of her could see that her’s was not the company he most desired to keep.

There was a gentle knock upon her door, and she knew at once it was neither her mother nor the ever present, ever unpleasant Eowing; they would have knocked once and then barged in. “Who is it?”

The door opened just a crack, and Senia could just see the figure of Lelandra on the other side, a gown draped over one arm. “Milady? May I come in?”

Senia smiled; out of all the servants in the palace, Lelandra was the only one Senia felt had no contempt for her, as odd as that seemed. Perhaps the girl could see that Senia had no desire to take the one she cared so deeply for from her. “Of course you may, Lelandra.”

Lelandra stepped into the room and closed the door behind her. She handed the dress she carried to Senia, a tiny smile on her face. “I managed to get that stain out…” Her smiled faltered a little. “I am so truly sorry that I was so clumsy…”

Senia smiled, taking the gown and examining it. The bright orange stain had indeed been lifted, the color a solid ivory once again. “Thank you very much Lelandra. This is one of my favorite dresses.”

Lelandra’s smile brightened a little more before fading again. “I also wanted to thank you…for what you did. For telling his Majesty that…”

Lelandra blushed, lowering her head, and Senia’s heart went out to the girl. She folded the gown and laid it on her bed before looking back at Lelandra. “You did not deserve the harsh words the King was using with you. If I am correct…it was not your fault that you tripped, was it?”

Lelandra raised her head, meeting Senia’s gaze sharply. She seemed torn; loyalties to the one that thought she was trying to help her, Senia was sure…but finally, shook her head. “No…it was not my fault.”

”I thought as much,” Senia said, smiling.

Lelandra smiled in return, and Senia thought that she seemed to have found, if not a friend, someone who held no animosity towards her. Lelandra curtsied. “I must be attending to the rest of my duties, Milady.”

”Please, call me by my name,” Senia replied, waving one hand. “That ‘Milady’ title has never sat well with me. Call me Senia.”

Lelandra’s eyes widened a bit, but she nodded, and smiled brightly. “Very well…Senia.”

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

After a boring evening and an uneventful day, when the next night rolled around, Senia finally got the chance to see if she could ride Alabaster without any help from Legolas. This night the Prince rode his own horse, a deep brown mare named Rénia, beside her and Alabaster, and Senia was managing quite well.

It occurred to her after a bit that she and Legolas only seemed to speak at this time, late at night, during Senia’s riding lessons. During the daylight hours they barely spoke, only briefly nodding to each other when they passed in the hallways, and perhaps exchanging a few words over their meals. She wondered briefly why that was, and concluded that, most likely, there was still some residual resentment for each other. And, she reminded herself, Legolas was only teaching her to ride out of a kindness she’d done for Lelandra. Why are you even thinking about this, her mind hissed.

“Senia? Are you still with us?”

Senia shook her head quickly, surprised that she’d slipped so into her own thoughts that she’d only just now heard Legolas speaking to her. “Yes, I’m here. I was just thinking.”

”I could tell,” Legolas replied, “Your eyes were practically glazed over. I though for a moment that you might have died without my realizing it.”

Senia smiled sarcastically. “Sorry to disappoint you.”

”I don’t want to marry you—that doesn’t mean I want you dead,” Legolas replied with a frown.

“I was only joking.”

Legolas studied her for a moment, and then looked away, shaking his head. “I can never tell with you.”

Senia pulled gently at Alabaster’s reins, halting the horse. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Legolas heaved a sigh and also pulled at his horse’s reins. “It means simply that. You jump from one mood to another like a bee collecting nectar. I can never tell if you are serious, or if you are jesting, if you are truly angry or if you are just trying to annoy me. It’s very tiring, frustrating. You’re very frustrating.”

Senia spurred the horse on, letting it take off into a canter. She heard the clopping of Legolas’s horse not very far behind her, and leaned forward, rising up off the saddle just a bit. Alabaster was a swift horse, but Legolas had been riding his Rénia for many years, and he was riding right beside her in no time. “What are you doing?” he shouted over to her.

“What does it matter?” she shouted back. “Why are you following me?”

”Because if you fall and crack your skull open, I’ll be the one to blame for it. Now slow down!”

”No! I don’t wish to, and you certainly are not going to make me!”

”Stop being such a spoiled brat and slow down!”

Senia pulled on the reins, which caused Alabaster to rear up. Rénia ran a few more feet ahead before stopping. Legolas glared at her from atop the horse. “What was that all about?”

Senia met his gaze defiantly, but in truth, she was unsure of what had come over her. She did not answer, and after a moment, Legolas merely shook his head, and steered his horse back towards the palace.

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

Senia decided it might be best not to take any more lessons from the Prince, at least not for a while. Their contempt for each other apparently still lingered more than either of them wished to admit. She began to vary the times she went out at night, though she wasn’t entirely sure why. Perhaps she just wanted to avoid Legolas, perhaps part of her just wanted to see if she could prove him wrong; she’d been taking care to be especially quiet, and she wondered if the Prince would still notice her when she made her way into the night.

The peace of her nights, the solitude of her tree, was broken occasionally by voices, whispering and giggling in the distance. A week after she and Legolas had their “argument,” Senia discovered who they belonged to.

She had been trying to read when the giggling and at times outright laughter made her look up, trying to find the direction of the source. They were apparently out of eyeshot, or mayhap hiding, even, but she could hear them…And it was only when, after a few minutes, the owners of the voices stepped into view. Hands intertwined, Lelandra and Legolas, both of them clutching bows as well as each other, stepped from the brush, smiling and whispering. Lelandra gave Legolas a kiss on the cheek before running quickly into the night, back towards the palace. Legolas watched her go, the smile still curled on his lips. When she was out of sight, he turned back around, apparently intent on going back into the forest, when he noticed Senia. She merely raised one white-blonde eyebrow before looking back down at her book.

Leave it to the Prince, however, not the let sleeping dogs lie. Legolas climbed the tree with deft, swift movements, seating himself carefully at the base of the branch she currently rested upon. “I’m…I apologize. I didn’t know you were there-“

”Hmm?” Senia said absently, barely glancing up at him. “Ah. I see. You were under the impression that I cared. May I borrow one of man’s expressions when I say, ‘get over yourself.’”

Legolas started to reply but closed his mouth, obviously surprised by the response. “I only meant that I meant no disrespect to you. You are, after all, my betrothed.”

”Please, remind me of that as little as possible.” Senia closed her book, finally looking up at the Prince with full attention. “Make no mistake, dear Legolas: after we’re married, I quite simply don’t care who you gallivant off with. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

Senia stood, balancing on the branch, waiting patiently for Legolas to move so she could climb down. He did not. “You have seemed very angry as of late, Senia.”

“Then you’ll merely have to forgive me.” Senia crossed her arms, holding her book against her chest.

“There is no reason we cannot be friends…is there?”

Again, one fair eyebrow quirked in question, Senia’s expression neutral and almost uncaring. “Friends?”

”Yes,” Legolas said, finally standing, but remaining still in her way. “I hate to confess this, but I have begun to miss our riding lessons. I liked having you as a...companion.” He smiled, one corner rising just a bit. “You are…fun to pick on.”

“I have no more need for riding lessons,” Senia said simply. “You said yourself that there was little more you could teach me.”

“Yes…I know, but…” Legolas shook his head. “This may sound odd to you, but do you know how to hunt? How to defend yourself? How to fight?”

Senia’s lips parted in surprise. “Of course not,” she said sharply. “Do you honestly think my mother would let me learn? I did not think I had need of it.”

Legolas nodded. “I did not think that you knew…It was Lelandra’s suggestion…” Legolas sighed, crossing his arms. “If you wish it, I will teach you how to use the bow…how to defend yourself with a sword…how to do both from horseback, if needs be.” At Senia’s half-surprised, half-appalled expression, Legolas shrugged. “You may someday have need of it. One never knows. If you do not wish to learn, then I certainly do not care.”

The sarcastic rephrasing of her own words shook Senia out of her surprise. She looked out at the landscape, considering the offer…on one hand, her mother would simply die if she found out…on the other, it would be an intriguing study, something to pass the time…and in truth, she firmly believed her father would have wanted her to learn how to defend herself. And so, a bit to her own surprise even, she found herself nodding. “Very well. Tomorrow night then?”

”Tomorrow night.” Legolas said with a nod. “I suggest you find some thin cloths to wrap around your hands as well…if you end up with bleeding sores on your palms…” Legolas smiled. “Your mother will have both of our heads.”

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