Displaced by Tanis

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Displaced

He woke disoriented and not a little dazed at the magnificence to which his eyes opened.  It took a few moments, lying in luxury between sheets that were not just clean, but smelled of lavender and thyme, before he remembered.

It had been well into the wee hours of the morning when a yawning hobbit had wandered into the store room he had caused to be turned into temporary command quarters, interrupting his futile attempts at engaging his brain over the documents spread out on the desk.

It seemed Pippin, having woken hungry and unable to go back to sleep, had passed the candlelit chamber on the way to the kitchens and decided to investigate on his way back.  He had pointed out that Aragorn’s crossing outs and blotting didn’t look particularly royal in nature, to which Aragorn, in his weariness had replied with some asperity that they were merely  rough drafts, and not of royal documents.

Then, of course, the hobbit had wanted to know what the documents were, if not royal summonses or official proclamations, and Aragorn had had to admit he had set aside the business of the realm in an attempt to work through the legalities of a marriage settlement.  Perhaps because he had been very weary and maybe a tad overwhelmed by his new responsibilities, he had confessed to the hobbit, his chagrin at having so little to offer in the way of blandishments meant to entice a bride.  How could he ask the Evenstar to commit herself to a marriage of such inequality?   On his side of the bargain, he could offer a one-room cabin in Fornost, a reforged sword, and a horse.   

To which Pippin had appended with equal tartness – he brought to the table a name and a royal heritage he proposed to share equally with his wife-to-be.  A queen she might be among her own people, but as Aragorn’s queen, she added at least two more kingdoms to her domain. 

At that, Aragorn had groaned and given up his futile attempts to make any further sense of the Quenyan documents, spattering ink over parchment and desk alike as he had dropped the pen and buried his face in his hands.

Pippin had patted his shoulder and insisted it was time he got some sleep.  However, when Aragorn had risen to collect his bedroll, surreptitiously stowed in a corner of the room, the hobbit had been aghast and informed him, posthaste, that a chamber had been prepared for him.    

Weary beyond reckoning, Aragon had stumbled after the shadow of the flitting hobbit and his single candle.  The light had provided only marginal illumination and Aragorn had paused only long enough to strip off his boots and clothes before sliding between the warm sheets.

Now, he sat up abruptly, flinging back the covers, his feet hitting the floor in an undignified rush. 

“Is something amiss, your lordship?”  The grinning elf turning from the window to witness his nakedness did not perceptibly increase the ranger’s affability. 

Grabbing a blanket from the bed, Aragorn whipped it around his lean middle, anchoring it firmly with one hand as he swept the hair from his eyes with the other, the better to see the vision his still sleep-fogged brain was trying to interpret.  “These are the king’s chambers,” he stated flatly.  “We had this discussion, Legolas.”

“It was not a discussion; you decreed.”  The elven shrug was eloquence itself.  “I paid no heed.”

“You sent Pippin,” the ranger accused, stabbing a finger at the elf lolling against the nearest window frame.  “And who appointed you chamberlain?”

Legolas ignored the accusation, since it was true, but answered the question with smiling candor.  “Farmair had his hands full with all your other visitors.  When I suggested I had centuries of experience with court protocol upon which to call, he gladly handed over some of his equerry duties.” 

That sunny smile always undermined Aragorn’s best intentions to remain angry. Worse, the elf knew it and was taking shameless advantage of it.  Backlit by the bright sunshine pouring in through the many wide windows, Legolas radiated peace and serenity like a healing balm. 

Still, he had to at least make an attempt to hang on to his righteous indignation.  Aragorn twitched his train out of the way and stomped around to the other side of the bed.  “Get this through your thick skull!  I am not king and I will not act as though that is my right until such time as there is a sceptre in my hand and crown upon my head.  Now where are my clothes?”  There was no pile of clothing where he expected to find it, nor any sign of his boots.  “Legolas, where are my clothes?”

“In the wardrobe of course.”

“I do not need or want maiding.”  Aragorn marched to the wardrobe and flung open the doors.  Then wondered why he had imagined he might find his clothing in there.  There was a closet full of clothes – kingly clothes; silks and satins, leathers and velvets, all dark, but richly hued – though nowhere among them did his keen eye espy his own well-worn leather and cotton.  “Legolas—”

Sighing, the elf pushed off the windowsill.  “Aragorn.”  He returned the challenge with a pleasant acknowledgement, crossing the long length of the room in several quick strides.  “You have Dol Amroth on your schedule today.  Your status has changed since you met upon the fields of Pelennor; you cannot greet them in battle dress, my lord.”

Aragorn’s sigh was much heavier than the elf’s lightly amused one moments ago.  “Stop my lording me or I will … decommission you.  Or something.”  He spun awkwardly and had to suffer the elf’s buttressing when his feet tangled in the train.  Kicking it back again, he yanked his arm free and returned to sink down on the island of a bed in the middle of the vast chamber. 

“I am not ready for this, Legolas.”  He dropped backwards, throwing an elbow over his eyes to block out the intrusive sight of wainscoted walls.  Of tapestries depicting scenes of Númenor, heavy, gilt-framed portraits of long-dead ancestors, a plush velvet settee in the rich color of eggplant, ornamented by flanking, delicately carved chairs with scrolled arms, cushioned in royal purple beneath those wide windows.  Only now did his mind perceive the richness of the carpets under foot as well, as one bare foot swung restlessly back and forth, toes brushing through deep pile. 

Aragorn sighed again.  “I’m not ready,” he repeated.

“It is not as though you are totally unaccustomed to this, mellon nîn.”  Legolas drew forth clothes from the clothespress and laid them over the back of a chair fronting a vanity of the same carvings and wood of the settee and chairs under the windows, before gliding back over to the bed.  Pulling up a foot, he sat on it, careful to keep the sole of his boot off the covers.  “You have memories, at least, of what it is too live in affluence.  Your home in Rivendell is not so very different from a palace.”

It was true.  The Last Homely House was neither homely in terms of lacking beauty, nor least among the royal eleven residences, though Elrond refused all but the egalitarian title of Master. 

“I will wager that within six months this will all be common place to you again,” Legolas added, a slight hint of challenge underlying his poorly hidden mirth. 

The ranger snorted.  “Not in six years will I be used to this kind of opulence.”  Aragorn shoved his elbow back over his head the better to observe the slight smile twitching the corners of the elf’s mobile mouth.  “Do you know you are often a menace?  I do not wish to be installed in the king’s chambers, Legolas.”

“I do not lack understanding, Aragorn.  But stubbornly resisting these changes will only make them more irritating and difficult to integrate into your new life.  Yes, Arwen’s presence will help to alleviate some of the strangeness of all of this, and likely she will make many changes, but would you not prefer to be comfortable in your own environment so that you may reap the benefits at your ease when she does come?”

The logic in the wisdom was irrefutable, though it did nothing to dispel the feelings of disassociation and displacement bombarding both his head and his heart with the same intensity as Sauron’s armies against the walls of Minas Tirith not so long ago. 

Aragorn rolled to his side and sat up.  “Legolas…” he began again, this time with entreaty, though he could frame no words to convey his utter lack of conviction that he belonged in this place.

As often happened, the elf replied to his unspoken thoughts.  “You are the heir of Isildur.  Your part in conquering the evil invading our lands was neither insignificant nor inconsequential.  Do you not yet understand you were our rallying point?  The one to whom we all looked when our own strength or courage flagged?  The one for whom we would willingly have given our lives to advance your cause?  We are your people, Aragorn.  We love you.”  Legolas let his gaze drift beyond the man before adding, quietly.  “If I have not expressed it before, let me say to you now, you have my fealty and love for as long as we both shall live.” 

They were silent for several long moments as one absorbed and the other allowed his words to sink in. 

Then casually, Legolas stretched and rose from the bed to head for the door.  “Oh, and you may wish to scout the king’s bathing chamber before you dismiss the royal accouterments out of hand.”

“Legolas—”

The elf paused on the threshold, one hand on the door latch, and glanced over his shoulder.

“I have not the words to express my thoughts in this moment.”

Legolas smiled again, this time backed by the full weight of sincerity, negating the need for further words between them.

“There are many other battles to be fought as Elessar.”  The elf again broke the emotionally charged silence.  “Let this be your retreat, your sanctuary, make it a hallowed place before Arwen arrives and her coming will enhance its restorative powers.  You have long practiced keeping an open heart, let it be it so in this as well.  Open your heart to the gifts your people desire to give you, accept them with that humility we would all emulate if only we had your gift for it, and you will continue to give as much as you receive.”

Legolas bowed his head, touching his closed fist to his heart, and then he was gone.

Sunshine crept further into the room through the wall of many-paned windows.  An unnoticed fire crackled merrily beneath a black marble mantel.  A clock on a bedside table delicately chimed the hour of seven and through the closed doors came the sound of a light tenor voice upraised in song.

To the Sea, to the Sea!  The white gulls are crying,

The wind is blowing and the white foam is flying.

West, west away, the round sun is falling…

Distance blurred the words and eventually the sound of singing faded as well, though Aragorn knew the song by heart now.  

He rose, shedding more than just the impromptu kirtle as he looked for the door to the bathing chamber. 

He could set his will against Legolas’ wisdom, or he could heed it.  Either way it would require an effort of will on his part.   But he had learned from experience it was best to heed the elf’s pragmatic advice.

Ah, behind the wardrobe, set off in a little alcove, an open door beckoned.  He stepped through and was instantly transported to another place and time, decades past, in a dry and arid land where he had stumbled, quite by accident, upon several pools of hot water, bubbling up from the heated depths of the earth. 

Curls of steam wisped over the still surface of water the green of those mineral springs.  A stack of towels had been piled in a basket beside the deep, sunken tub, and a pot of soap had been tantalizingly opened so the steam had distilled its fragrance into the air.  On a dresser beside a basin filled with water as well, were set out his personal grooming items, culled obviously from his pack, though he had thought it zealously guarded in a corner of the little office he had been using.  Along with his bedroll. 

He wondered briefly if he would ever see any of those things again, or if his self-appointed major-domo had whisked them all away, along with his clothing.  It was the last thought before he slid into the water and then there were no thoughts, just decadent bliss, for a very a long time.   

~*~




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