Lavender's Lessons, Chapter 2
|Rating/Warnings:||Rated R for adult sexual situations with some nudity; more spicy than graphic.|
|Disclaimer:||This is a work of amateur fan fiction written just for fun. No infringement is meant on the rights of JRR Tolkien or his estate.|
|Timeline:||Semi-bookverse, shortly before the Ring Quest.|
|Summary:||A young woman in Ninglorost wants to learn how to be more womanly and looks to the elves for instruction.|
It was a long while after Lavender's view of elf lust in the window of Ninglorost's infamous inn that she finally had another close up look at elves. In the vain hopes of seeing another silent party emerge from the forest, she had continued to visit the river path every day during the summer, long after the berries were gone and the brambles had withered, but with no success. Even Snap seemed sad not to see them again.
Her parents would never have allowed her to seek employment at the inn, so she did not mention such a wish to them. They did not even let her visit the Town unescorted, which meant that the most she could do was dream about having an encounter with an elf there. She might have been allowed to go to town to continue her music studies, but there were no teachers in the region so, besides market day, there was little reason for her to leave home. It was discouraging.
And then there was a series of harvesting feasts at local farms within a period of just a few weeks, each with bonfires, cider, and music. Her cousins insisted on attending each one as the harvesters moved from crop to crop, here an apple orchard, there a potato patch, and they dragged Lavender along, even though all the young men ignored her.
She would watch Rose and Lily attract every available bachelor to them like flowers draw bees, while she sat in the shadows and tried to guess at their ability to be womanly. But when she compared her cousins' suitors to the golden-haired black-clad elf in the window, she was not jealous.
Just when Lavender had come to the conclusion that her life was over, her cousins informed her of the marvelous outcome to all of their recent gadding about from farm to farm. The traveling feasts all culminated with a grand Harvest Festival in Ninglorost. And there were going to be elves in attendance. Finally, a reason to celebrate!
For the occasion, Lavender wore a pretty dress borrowed from Lily, and she allowed Rose to fix her hair in a fancy do. She held little hope of being noticed in the company of her fetching cousins, but she hoped to be able to study any of the elven folk who were there from a distance, and she did want to look her best.
Her hair, straight, thick, and raven-dark, was an annoyance to her usually, and she was grateful for Rose's skillful touch after it was swept up and away from her face, where it normally fell in front of her eyes and bothered her. Instead, her cousin had twisted and piled the heavy mass on top of her head, and tortured her with hair pins to keep it in place.
When her father saw her, he pretended not to recognize her.
"Has anyone seen my daughter?" He looked around as if still waiting for Lavender to appear. "Who is this lovely young woman before me?" His question brought squeals of laughter from Lavender's cousins and heat to her own cheeks. She had never felt pretty before and she could not help but think that he was being kind, more than truthful, but it was nice to hear.
The center of the town had been decorated for the party with a real wooden dancing platform hastily constructed in the center of the dusty street. There were ribbons handed out for prize winning produce and livestock, the latter of which were kept in pens at some distance from the dancing to keep the flies away. There were games and contests, like apple bobbing, pie-eating, and, at the end of the day, archery.
It was mostly for the archery competition that the elves from the woodland kingdom in the east had shown up, there was a fee to join and the grand prize was the purse containing half of the silver coins collected. There were other prizes too: a yew bow and a leather quiver with hand tooled designs on it.
It was during the archery contest that Lavender saw the loveliest elf she had seen so far. He was very much like the golden-haired elf she had seen in the window, except that his face had softer lines and a sweeter expression. He and his darker haired companions were not clad in black, but wore tunics of forest green and leggings that were dark tan. Lavender could see how they could easily hide in the trees.
"Those are the wood folk of Mirkwood," she overhead a man say to his companion. "And that tall one with the goldy locks is their king's son, I hear. Supposedly the best marksman of the lot."
"I have heard of him," replied the companion. "This should be a good show!"
At those words, Lavender was enchanted. With more courage than she had ever felt before, she slowly sidled closer to the elves and studied them surreptitiously, sneaking sideways peeks, while she marveled over their musical voices. They spoke a language she did not understand, to her dismay, but she enjoyed the way it sounded. Her thoughts turned to the inn. What would it be like to be in that special room with this handsome royal archer who stood just a few yards away from her now?
When it was his turn to step up to the line to take his turn at shooting, the crowd hushed. Lavender was close enough to notice how long his legs were, the lean musculature clearly defined through the skin-tight buckskin leggings. She thought of that elf in the window again, and the lucky maidservant, and tried to imagine being there with this archer, which made her cheeks burn and sent tingles through some embarrassing parts of her body.
At that dramatic point, the blond elf carefully nocked the butt of an arrow into his bow's string and, before he lifted it to shoot, he paused, turned his head, and looked right at Lavender. She nearly gasped as his eyes met hers with almost a physical touch, and as she stared, transfixed, the corner of his mouth curled in a rakish grin and he winked before turning back. A clap of thunder would not have startled her more.
Before she could even fully register the gesture, and its meaning, in one fluid motion the elf lifted his bow and let fly the arrow, hitting the target dead center with a twanging sound that seemed to penetrate her heart. The gathered crowd applauded and Lavender clapped the longest and the hardest. She wanted him, even though she had no idea what she would do with him, or how to get him, and she would die if she could not have him.
Again she moved stealthily to close the remaining gap between her and the group of elves. But, before she could get as close as she had aimed, her cousins found her and dragged her away to meet some of their friends. With a sorrowful backward glance over her shoulder, Lavender was able to catch a last glimpse of the lovely elf, son of a king, and was rewarded with a flashing grin from the expert archer. Her feet barely touched the ground after that.
From a distance then she watched the handsome Mirkwood elves, with the son of the Elvenking leading the way, outshoot everyone else in the region. The human menfolk in the contest did not seem distressed by their losses; they were in too much awe over the display of elven bowmanship to dwell for long on their own lack of skill in comparison. Lavender learned that the winner's name was Legolas and she wondered if he knew the other fair-haired elf she had seen in the inn's window, and if they were related.
There was never an opportunity to ask, however, as her family left the archery field for the banquet tables, set up in a nearby pasture. Lavender was happy to see that the elves joined in the feasting, although they did not sit very near her, instead of melting back into the forest after winning all of the prizes in the contest. Every once in a while she was sure the blond one, Legolas, was looking her way, but he did not approach her where she sat, and the crowds of people constantly moving in front of her view did not allow much more than quick peeks at him.
But after the dinner was through, and the feasters moved away from the tables, the elves had disappeared, and when the dancing started Lavender wished that she could go home. No one was going to ask her to dance, she was sure of it. And any who did could not possibly match the graceful beauty of the elves that were gone.
Forgetting that to find a husband and avoid spinsterhood meant being courted by humans, Lavender ignored any likely candidates for dancing partners and mourned never having a chance to speak to the elves before they left the feasting tables. For a while she stood at the sidelines and watched the merry crowd without really seeing anything. She wondered about the elves, and if they had gone back to their woodland home, deep in the forest, or if they were still in Ninglorost... at a certain inn, perhaps?
Whether it was the hard cider she drank with her meal or a surge of bravery brought on by blossoming womanhood Lavender would never know, but she decided to take the opportunity to sneak away and take a close look at the inn, which was not a great distance from the festivities. She had not gotten very far when her cousins caught up with her. It surprised her that they had even noticed she was gone from the dance.
"Where are you going?" Rose asked, and Lily said, "She is headed for the inn, I would wager, aren't you?" Lavender nodded, not really upset she had been found out; it felt good to have company once she had left the safety of the friendly crowd behind her.
"We're coming with you," they announced and she was happy to have them along, for strength. As the three of them got closer, they could hear music and laughter coming from the open windows of the inn's common room. The doors were standing open, too, and lamplight from within spilled out like a splash of gold on the wooden steps that led up to them. Lavender and her cousins stood out of the light, in the shadows, and were content to look through the windows for a while. Within, they could see that the elves were indeed there with some of the town's local folk. They had not gone home, after all.
Lavender recognized some of the men of the area who had competed in the archery contest. They were lifting mugs of ale as they sat at tables, or stood beside them, with the elven competitors. The serving wenches, each bearing a tray perched on their shoulders, wound their way through the throng with happy expressions on their pretty faces. Oh how she wished that she was one of them!
But she could not see the tall golden-haired elf anywhere within the common room, and her heart sank when she realized that he must have already been chosen for a visit upstairs by one of the beautiful maidservants. Instantly, she looked up at the second story windows, but they were dark. If he was up there, he was not showing off with whatever lucky wench he was with.
"Why do you hesitate to enter?" The voice behind her was unexpected and Lavender gasped and then whirled to confront the tall elf, the king's son, Legolas, standing right before her.
"I am... we are... not supposed... not allowed...," she babbled out breathlessly, not wanting to admit they were misbehaving, before being saved by Lily, who interrupted her to explain.
"We were just passing by and stopped to peek in the windows," she said, "and we really can't stay very much longer." As she spoke, Lily turned and then pointed down the street where the dancing was taking place. "We have to get back there before we are missed."
"So soon?" The elf spoke directly to Lavender, ignoring her cousin. "Why not stay a while? At first I thought that you three must work here, you are all quite fair, and this inn only employs the comeliest maids along the Anduin."
"No, we do not work here," Lavender answered, somewhat amazed that he could speak another tongue besides his own magical-sounding language. Even though he had not taken his eyes from her, she could not believe he meant to include her when he spoke of how fair they were.
"And we can not just go in there," spoke the knowledgeable Rose, although she simpered at his flattering words. "The only women who are allowed to go in there are the ones who work there." The princely elf laughed at her words, but did not sound scornful when he answered her, finally turning his gaze away from Lavender long enough for her to breathe normally again.
"That is not true," he said, still amused, "but perhaps you mean that only a certain kind of woman would be tempted to enter this inn?" Both Lily and Rose nodded in agreement, giggling nervously. He turned to Lavender again and continued, gently, "A woman who is brave, perhaps? And not afraid to explore the unknown?" Her cousins grew quiet.
"I think so," whispered Lavender. She wished that she were that kind of woman, at this very moment.
"Then come along," he said, his hand out to her. "I will treat you to some of the area's finest ale." Rose and Lily both drew in their breath in unison, but Lavender spoke before they could say anything. As much as she wished she could take his hand, she could not let him take her inside.
"Regretfully, I must decline your invitation. My father will be angry if he learns that I went into the inn with you, sir elf," she said, not sure of how to address an elf, much less the alleged son of a king. "And there are too many local townsfolk inside for the three of us not to be noticed." Although, if she was completely truthful, she did not think any inside would recognize her, but she was sure that all of the men within would know her more attractive cousins.
"Very well," replied the elf, with a calculating air, "I know of a secret way in, just for the privileged to know, and no one would see you enter. I have a room where we could be alone and enjoy our ale." He lifted his eyebrows at his last words, and Lavender wanted to say that she would go anywhere if she could be alone with him, but not to drink something.
For some reason, Lavender did not want to admit that she hated the taste of ale, but she could not accept his invitation for herself, even if he had offered her raspberry mint tea. At least she could not say what she truly desired with her cousins standing right there on either side of her, staring at them. In shock, it seemed they were, from the turn of the conversation.
"I noticed you were very interested in the archery contest today," Legolas said pleasantly, surprising them all with the abrupt change of subject. "Do you know how to use a bow?" This question caused gales of laughter from her cousins, who both claimed, loudly, that only boys would care about having such skills.
"No, kind sir, I have never used a bow, or even touched one," answered Lavender when they had quieted down.
"Then how do you defend yourselves if your menfolk are not around to protect you?" The elf seemed genuinely curious, no longer flirtatious with his questions. "Surely none of you have the strength to wield a sword or spear?" More laughter from her cousins as neither could imagine having to wield anything much more dangerous than a hair pin.
But he grew even more sober and serious, lifting his chin as if speaking with great authority, while adding, "A bow is a most worthy weapon for a fair lady, and one that can be used at a distance by those who are too weak to fight hand-to-hand with their foes." The cousins stopped laughing, and looked a bit fearful at the thought of 'foes' that might need to be fought off, with bare hands.
"I would like to learn how to use one," Lavender admitted, although she had only at that moment decided it would be a good idea. As soon as she was done speaking, the conversation was interrupted by a group of men leaving the inn, boisterous and loud, as they tromped down the wooden steps. Quickly, she and her cousins moved back deeper into the shadows, fearful of being seen so far from the safety of the festival crowd.
"We have to get back to the dance, Lavender," hissed Rose, sternly, as if her cousin was the only reason they were still lingering by the forbidden inn.
Lily echoed the sentiment of needing to return immediately to the dancing, after the loud men had moved past them, obviously headed in that very same direction. "Before papa comes looking for us," she said.
"What will he do?" asked the handsome elf, bemused. "What would happen if he found out that you were here? Will you be punished?"
"He will scold us severely for peeking in that inn," Rose replied. "And mama will probably cry."
"He will not let us out of the house for months, probably," said Lily, dourly. "We would probably not be allowed to come to town for the Winter Festival, either, or in the spring, for the flower dances." She frowned to think of it.
"And you?" Legolas turned to Lavender. "What will happen to you that would make you want to go back? Not many are offered a lesson in bowmanship from... the winner of an archery contest." He drew closer to her, speaking to her only and no longer concerned with her cousins, and added, "I could not teach you everything, of course, but at least you should know how it feels to hold a bow, and pull its string, and nock an arrow, should the need ever arise for you to defend yourself." He smiled, and his eyes seemed to glow as he described each action.
As na´ve as Lavender was, and as unlearned in the arts of seduction, she was nevertheless very sure that he meant more than archery lessons when he said that he could not teach her everything. Just by the way he talked, and the look in his shining eyes, she understood that he wanted to be alone with her, no matter what the excuse used to achieve his goal. Her heart began to beat fast and her mouth felt dry, because she thought that, as impossible as it was to believe, they shared the same goal. She very much wanted to say yes. To shout it.
However, she hesitated, and for several minutes she considered her answer. If she was found standing and talking to this elf, she would probably not be punished, actually. If she entered the inn and drank ale with him, then her father would scold, perhaps severely, and her mother would not speak to her for a few days, possibly.
But if she went somewhere private with him, and was found out, then she assumed that she would be forbidden to come to any more of the Town's festivities, or even allowed to come with her parents on market day, or ever allowed to step foot from the house again, although it was hard to care about anything they might do to her. She turned to her cousins.
"Tell mama and papa that I went home by myself, that I did not feel well, and don't tell them where I am," Lavender said calmly, not exactly knowing how she managed to do so, to their open-jawed shock. "I think that I want to learn how to use a bow and arrow tonight. Will you help me keep it a secret?"
To be continued in Chapter 3
Posted: July 24, 2005
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"Long live Thranduil, great Elf-king of Greenwood!"