In all my long years of service to King Thranduil, I don’t recall him ever seeming so.. unsettled. These last two weeks he did so much pacing that I think I should look into replacing the marble in the floor between the doors to the family quarters and his private study. Even after it was evident that the shadow was returning to his realm and we would be forced to move north, he hadn’t been as restless as this last little while. Of course, I know exactly what his problem was. It was her. The Lady Aerlinn.

I couldn’t say exactly when it started, but clearly the King is taken by her. I suppose to those who don’t spend so much time with him, it may not be as obvious, but I can see it in his eyes when she walks into the room or even when he talks about her. It’s quite funny, actually. So here I am, lingering just inside the door of the Throne Room to hear him lambaste one of the guards sent as one of her escorts to help deliver supplies to some of the southern settlements. From what I can gather, the convoy had been attacked and even though there were no casualties, it seems the King found the guards lacking in their abilities to do their duty.

The details were not quite clear to me as I was only catching his side of the conversation, such as it was. I could not hear the guard’s words, and I hoped he had better sense than to be saying anything. I knew the tone that my king had, it was not overly loud but every word carried the weight of it. He was focused one thing. The lady had been endangered. There was no excuse. There could be no excuse.

The guard made one final bow and a hasty exit as he was summarily dismissed. I watched the king with a discerning eye. I doubt he was even aware of my still lingering presence, though he might have been and was choosing not to acknowledge it. I learned long ago not to underestimate him. He seemed cool enough, but I had no doubt his mind was reeling. I wondered how long he would try to deny what he must be feeling. How long they both would. I felt it improper to continue to linger without acknowledgement, however, so I cleared my throat.

While I waited to be acknowledged, I reflected a bit on previous conversation with the King. Surely he understood that I was more than aware of his feelings for this maiden. Perhaps that explained the expression on his face when he finally chose to beckon me forward. I approached and bowed as I always do.

“Sire,” I said, “your evening meal should be ready to be served shortly – or when you wish of course.” I could not help but smile to myself and make the offer that I knew he would never bring up himself. “Shall I summon the lady to keep you company during your meal?”

The look on Thranduil’s face was absolutely priceless. Oh yes, I had annoyed him with my presumptuousness, but clearly he was also considering agreeing to my offer. How I managed to keep my own expression passive as his expression passed from shocked irritation to contemplation, I will never know. Yet somehow I did manage it.

He looked to me to be thoroughly on the fence on the subject, though he never would have admitted it. So I gave him a moment to think things through, and then added, “After all, you will need to hear her report on the events of the last weeks.” It was a subtle gesture and I am sure that we both knew it was calculated to give him an excuse. But I also knew that I would have to give him some valid reason for inviting her here. The king seemed determined to bury his feelings as deeply as possible. And I had several reasons for not wanting him do that.

The Lady Aerlinn brought out a lighter side to him that hadn’t been seen in quite some time. She had been indispensable in the wake of the tragedy, and continued, I think, to remain so. I waited until I got the small almost imperceptible nod. It might not have even been a nod to me, but I was not willing to take that chance. “Very good sire, I will see to it at once.” I bowed. “By your leave.”

At the King’s dismissive wave at the door, I took my leave and went straight to the kitchens to see to it that they would make it a memorable meal. I told them the king would be dining with a special guest. They know better than to gossip.

The look of surprise on Lady Aerlinn’s face was brief but vivid. She masked her expression quickly, but not before I had the opportunity to see her shock. Even thinking about it now brings a smile to my face. I made it sound as though His Majesty’s request was purely for the purpose of discussing what went on during her relief work. I have to admit, she is quite stunning. Perhaps if the King fails to make his interest known, I will express my own interest.

The next few hours seemed to fly by, though the king’s impatience would indicate otherwise. There was much work to be done, and I knew even without instruction that perfection was required. I received such instruction anyway. At this point I was glad that I found the whole thing a bit amusing otherwise my annoyance might have gotten the best of me, never a good thing. Ever.

At last the appointed hour arrived. Everyone starched and pressed for perfection. I could not help but smile to myself. Such a bustle for a simple dinner with a common diplomat. I doubt that any involved failed to notice the amount of care required, nor failed to know its cause. For such reasons, I kept the circle of staff involved to the minimum and the most reliable. What a night was this. The word of the lady’s arrival preceded her and I went to inform the king. I was also toying with a few more things that I might say, should I feel the moment correct.

I had the privilege of being the first to welcome the lady and led her to the king’s sitting room to await His Majesty. She was radiantly beautiful in her flowing gown of dark green with silver embroidery that set off her light complexion and green eyes in such a way that made it difficult not to stare. I must admit that I did not want to leave her in the sitting room, but alas I did still need to inform the king of Lady Aerlinn’s arrival.

If Lady Aerlinn arrived looking radiantly beautiful, King Thranduil was looking stunningly powerful and quite handsome, if I may say so. Among the men who live near the Woodland Realm, there has always been talk that the shadow was kept at bay purely by the strength of our king’s will. If they had seen him this night, I am certain that such talk would no longer be considered rumour. The mid-thigh length silk surcoat of the king was perfectly tailored to his form and as he moved, the gold embroidery caught the light in just the right way to accent his muscled chest and arms. His suede trousers too were embroidered in gold down the outside of either leg and tucked neatly into dark boots that reached to his upper calf and on his head was the understated golden circlet that he favoured over more ornate crowns. I could not help but hold the vision of our monarch in awe. I smiled and nodded my approval to his majesty, not that he was looking for or wanted it, but I found that I could not help myself.

After informing the king that Lady Aerlinn had arrived, I waited for him at the door of the sitting room. Less than a minute passed when I heard him approaching. How thoughtful of him not to leave his guest waiting. I smiled and bowed to the king and then quietly spoke to him before opening the door, not giving him a chance to reply to my comment. I will admit that I was being bold and forward, but once again I was unable to keep myself from saying, “Sire, the Lady Aerlinn is a treasure to behold and if you do not kiss her, I fear that I may have to.” The look on his face said it all, but he had to mask it quickly because I knew not to give him the opportunity to reply before opening the heavy ornate door to the sitting room, bringing the lady to her feet. I found myself nearly giddy with laughter as I closed the door behind the king and went to see to it that the candles in his private dining chamber were lit.

I checked that the candles were both lit and straight, and then examined the silverware as well. I am sure the king himself could not have been more nervous about his night than I. And I know I must have made the kitchen staff crazy, but such is my right, and worse would it be if the king discovered flaws I had not. But my fears were of course unmet. Everything was perfect. I caught a glint in the kitchen steward’s eye but did not return it. Much as I might have wanted to such a thing would not be proper.

The first course was laid with zeal and then the couple arrived. The sight of the lady on the king’s arm was something to behold. When I had gone to inform our ruler of the lady’s arrival I could not help but notice his power, and that had not left him. But now, with a short time in her company there was something else there too. In him there was a rare tenderness, in her a complete happiness. If he failed to make his intentions known this night, he deserved to have someone else take her, and I had no doubt there must be many willing to try. The king caught my eye and for the briefest of moments I wondered if he had read my thoughts. But then I had already uttered the words that put him on notice, so perhaps he was simply remembering.

I bowed and then waited as they seated themselves, before topping the arrangements. I was dismissed with a thank you. And I turned to make my leave waiting until my face was hidden to smile. Funny, I could not recall the staff being dismissed from such business dinners before.

I do not know how many hours passed after the meal while the king discussed business with his guest in the sitting room. I do know that I was invited to stay absent until called for, which did not seem to happen for quite some time. In truth, I did not realize they had left the palace until he returned. He kept an impassible expression when I met up with the king in the corridor just outside of his bed chamber. Only after opening the door did he turn to me with an arched eyebrow. I do not think I will ever forget his words to me before closing the door and leaving me to ponder what the next few months would hold for the Woodland Realm and its sovereign. “I regret to inform you that you will have to save your kiss for another,” he said as he started to shut the door but then just had to add, “if you even think to try it with Lady Aerlinn, the story of your demise will be the stuff of legends.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email