The sound of voices, one melodious and the other slightly rough, drifted up from the garden below his window, catching Erestor’s attention as he recognised Legolas and Samwise discussing the finer points of gardening.
“Some of Arwen’s favoured elanor would do well in this particular bed,” Legolas was saying as he picked up a handful of soil and allowed it to fall through his fingers, testing the texture and quality in the manner not unlike that of a Hobbit gardener. The unexpected action both surprised and pleased his companion.
“Aye, I agree, but if you do not mind me saying so Legolas, I find it strange that a warrior who is also the Elvenking’s son would know as much about gardening as you do,” commented Sam. The silvery sound of elvish laughter echoed through the garden.
“Why Samwise, are you not also both a gardener and a warrior?” the Elf asked.
“Well, now that you mention it, I suppose I am, but to be honest, I feel far more comfortable wielding a hoe than a sword,” agreed Sam with a sad smile, recalling the simpler days of his life as Frodo’s gardener.
“No doubt you will do just that when you return to your gardens in the Shire,” Legolas said as he placed a comforting hand on his companion’s shoulder. “As for being Thranduil’s son, well that only makes my love for all that grows in Eryn Lasgalen even stronger. Adar is deeply tied to the spirits of the forest and they are also much a part of me and we live for the beauty of nature in our home just as the plants and trees thrive in the light of the Wood elves,” he explained.
“So it appears, judging by the wonders you have already wrought with the gardens in the city. Did you know that many of the people of Minas Tirith claim to be able to see the trees, flowers and even the grasses begin to flourish as you walk among them?” asked Sam sounding as if he also believed such was the case. It was obvious to Erestor’s keen eye for reading body language that the Hobbit did in fact believe it to be true.
“Perhaps it is merely that they are responding to my songs,” replied Legolas his eyes dancing with amusement at the fanciful gossip. While it was true that the gardens were beginning to thrive, it was not entirely his doing. To his mind, the defeat of Sauron and the lifting of the shadow from Middle-earth certainly had a vital role in the renewed beauty that was apparent in all that grew in the city as well as in the surrounding countryside.
“I certainly enjoy hearing you sing, and I daresay so do the trees. I hope your lovely songs enliven that wild area over yonder where many of the plants are brown and withered,” Sam commented as he and Legolas moved towards the untamed growth in question.
“It certainly presents a challenge. I think much of it is beyond saving, but I do see a glimmer of green amongst the brown, so all is not lost,” he said as he carefully pulled some of the dead weeds aside to expose the struggling plant to the sunlight. He whispered a few soft words in elvish and Sam could have sworn the leaves reached towards the Elf’s outstretched fingers, seeking a caress. He was just about to say so but held his tongue when he noticed one of Arwen’s hand maidens enter the garden. The young girl was assigned the task of providing fresh flowers for her lady’s chambers and was carefully selecting the most beautiful blooms to add to the large bunch of flowers she carried in a small hand basket. Sam smiled a greeting to the young maid who he had met many times as he strolled through the gardens in the early morning.
“Good day Merilwen,” he said pleasantly.
“Good morning, my lords,” said the girl with a respectful curtsey, keeping her eyes downcast. She had become accustomed to the ever cheerful Master Samwise, but had never been this close to one of the beautiful and elusive Elves who were in the city for the King’s wedding.
“Legolas, I do not believe you have met Merilwen,” said Sam as he gently tilted the maid’s chin so that she was now gazing directly into the Elf’s eyes.
“I… I… am p...pleased to m…meet you, my l…lord,” she stammered even as she blushed prettily at the unexpected introduction to the handsome and mysterious Elf.
“My name is simply Legolas, and it is my pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he said kindly, the softness in his voice easing the girl’s nervousness.
“I believe those are some of your lady’s favourites,” Sam said indicating the bunch of flowers she held. “Perhaps Legolas would be kind enough to help you find something the King might also enjoy.” It was a perfectly innocent suggestion, although flavoured with a hint of teasing and Erestor did not fail to see the sigh of resignation that passed Legolas’s lips.
Even though the Elves had kept much to themselves during their stay in Minas Tirith, none could fail to notice that King Elessar’s close friend was the object of many a young maiden’s fancy. “Much to Legolas’s chagrin apparently,” mused Erestor as he watched the scene unfold to reveal that the maid was far too shy to accept the offer.
“Please excuse me, but I have other tasks to attend to now,” she said, curtseying once more before turning to head back indoors.
“Another time perhaps,” replied Legolas gallantly taking her hand and kissing it lightly as if she was a lady of high station.
“Legolas has certainly inherited his sire’s charm, has he not?” asked Glorfindel who, with the familiarity allowed only to him as a close friend, had entered the chamber unannounced and joined the dark haired Advisor at the window, curious to see what had captured his friend’s interest.
“He has, but he is not the only charming Elf who attracts the maid’s attention,” commented Erestor with a pointed look at the fair Balrog slayer who accepted the compliment with a smile.
“Well, it is not the fluttering eyelashes of the maidens that interest me this lovely day. I came to invite you to accompany Elladan, Elrohir and me on a ride into the countryside. We tire of seeing naught but the stone walls of this city,” said Glorfindel with an exaggerated sigh of boredom
“I believe it is more likely all three of you wish to avoid Galadriel setting you some menial task in the preparations for Arwen’s wedding,” replied Erestor with a tinge of hurt in his voice that did not go unnoticed by his friend.
“Ai, you are certainly the astute one, my dear Erestor. Yet if I am not mistaken, you are also offended that it is the lovely Lady of the Golden Wood and the new King’s staff who are organising the happy event whilst you are not.” Erestor merely nodded in agreement at Glorfindel’s eyebrow raised in query.
“You know me too well, Glorfindel, but I think that I feel sorrow and a sense of loss more than offence.” Erestor’s slumped shoulders were testament to his grey mood.
“Why?” asked the voice of a concerned friend as the seneschal gently led Erestor to one of the two armchairs, and then poured them both a glass of wine from the carafe that stood on the table between them.
“Do you realise that up until now I have organised every major event in the lives of Elrond’s children? I prepared the feasts, sent the invitations and saw to the decorations for every begetting day, and their majority celebrations. Now, as one of the most important days in Arwen’s life approaches, it saddens me that my participation is required only as a guest. I would have taken great delight is arranging the wedding feast for our sweet Undomiel.”
“I know, but my dear Erestor, you ARE a guest in Minas Tirith. Had the wedding been held at Imladris, you would have been busy making plans, ordering everyone around and generally being unpleasant to any who did not perform their tasks to your exacting standards,” teased Glorfindel lightly, eliciting a half smile from the Advisor that disappeared quickly as his sadness returned.
“Exactly! The very notion that my services are not required here, or for much longer in Imladris has made me realise how little time we have left in Middle-earth. Never before has the fading of the Elves been more apparent to me.”
“You sound as gloomy and depressed as Elrond, albeit he certainly has cause, I will admit. But you are wrong to think that your services to his children are no longer required. Have you forgotten that Elladan and Elrohir have yet to make their choice? Would you deny them the wisdom of your counsel should they desire it?” asked Glorfindel, leaning forward to grasp Erestor’s hands as he spoke.
“Nay. I have not forgotten, nor would I deny them anything in my power to give,” replied the Advisor. “It is just that with every passing day it becomes more apparent that our time here is fading. Soon we will sail for Valinor and on that day my heart will be filled with immense sadness that we leave Arwen and Aragorn behind.”
“As will mine, for both of us love them as if they were our own children. There is no denying that it will be a difficult time for us all, especially Elrond, but trust me mellon nin, there is so much beauty, joy and fulfilment awaiting in the Blessed Realm that our heartbreak will not linger forever.” Glorfindel’s eyes were alight with his enthusiasm and the high spirited mood of the charming Elf was contagious. Erestor found himself smiling with great affection at his friend.
“Thank you, mellon nin. You are such a comfort and your words have helped ease my anguish. However, I still find myself with nothing to do to pass the time, except read,” he said as he finished his wine.
“You can read anytime. Stop sitting in here feeling sorry for yourself! Don your riding clothes and come with me to the stables,” entreated Glorfindel, pulling Erestor to his feet and playfully pushing him towards his wardrobe.
“Perhaps I should spend some more time with Elladan and Elrohir,” Erestor replied thoughtfully as he reconsidered his decision and studied his clothes for a moment before selecting a tunic suitable for wearing on a day’s ride. “As you say, no doubt the brethren are in need of our sage advice and our friendly company.”
“Or at the very least, a chance to subject us to their wicked sense of humour,” suggested Glorfindel with no little mirth, causing Erestor to frown with concern as he wondered whether Glorfindel had done something to Elladan and Elrohir that required an act of revenge on their part. Knowing his friend as he did, Erestor decided that it was highly likely, and was not certain he wished to become involved in a feud, however friendly it may be. Sensing his friend’s wariness, the Balrog slayer grabbed by Erestor by the hand and dragged him from the chamber before the Advisor had a chance to regret his decision.