Chapter 2: Introductions
Garand’s mother and father not only allowed his visit to the palace, they sent him off with joyful blessings. He and Legolas attended their studies that day, and set out for the palace immediately afterward. Because most everything would be provided for him during his stay, Garand carried only a few belongings in a bag slung over one shoulder, and in his other hand, he carried his bow. Legolas had promised ‘much archery practice’, an activity they were both very fond of. They talked and laughed as they walked, and the time passed by so quickly, that neither of them noticed how near the palace they already were.
King Thranduil sat at the top of the steps leading to the entrance of the palace. He could see Legolas and Garand approaching in the distance, and he smiled to see how happy and relaxed his son was in the company of his good friend. He’d decided to meet them upon their arrival, and to welcome Legolas’ friend in a casual manner so as not to intimidate him. Thranduil had even sent the guards inside temporarily, since he was sensitive to the fact that the palace could be overwhelming to first-time visitors. He wore no crown or other symbol of royalty, dressed only in an ivory linen tunic, chamois-colored leggings, and simple brown boots. His magnificent flaxen hair was unbound, and blew gently in the autumn breeze.
The two young elves were now only fifty feet from where the king sat waiting, and still neither took notice of their surroundings, as they continued their animated conversation. It wasn’t until they’d reached the bottom of the steps to the palace that Legolas suddenly looked up and smiled delightedly upon seeing his father waiting for them.
“Adar!” he cried happily. Garand turned to face the king, mortified. He unceremoniously dumped his bag and bow on the ground, and dropped to one knee, his right hand over his heart, in a gesture of greeting and respect. “Majesty,” he said humbly.
A soft laugh escaped the king as he gracefully descended the stairs. “Garand, please rise,” he said. “I do not hold court this day. I am merely a father welcoming his son and his friend to our home. Peace, my son, welcome home,” he said gently as he embraced Legolas.
“Peace, adar, it is good to be home,” the prince replied, kissing his father’s cheek. “And may I present my dear friend, Garand. Garand, this is my father.”
Legolas’ friend rose to his feet, as Thranduil turned to face him. They were exactly the same height, and when their eyes met, blue ice locked with green flame. Both elves stared openly at the other, agape at the beauty each beheld. After several seconds, they came to themselves with a slight start, and the king was the first to extend his hand. Garand clasped it warmly. “It is indeed a pleasure to meet you, Garand, and to welcome you to our home,” he said. “It is an honor, Sire, to be invited into your home and your presence. I thank you,” the younger elf replied. Even among the fairest of all races, Garand’s beauty was uncommon. His deep auburn hair was braided into a single, thick plait that draped over one shoulder and hung almost to his waist. His lips were full and well-shaped, with a delicate upward curve at the corners. Long, narrow golden-green eyes met Thranduil’s with an open, honest gaze. The king liked him immediately.
For Garand, the feeling was mutual. He stood in awe of the king. Thranduil was unlike anyone he’d ever seen, even Legolas. For although his friend possessed many great, princely attributes, the king possessed them to an even greater degree. He was taller, more powerfully built, more commanding, more everything. Even dressed as simply as he was, Thranduil radiated a regal presence that wasn’t lost on the younger elf, who also perceived tremendous compassion and intelligence in the depths of those turquoise-blue eyes. And as the three ascended the steps to the palace, Garand discovered that he looked forward to his stay with even greater anticipation.
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