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Friends in Small Places

An Ostentation of Colors

ColoursSummary: Aragorn and Legolas have a colorful discussion.

Minas Tirith, T.A. 3019:

“Black, white, grey. You Men are such a colorless lot.”

Aragorn looked up at Legolas with a smile. The two were sitting in Aragorn’s study taking their ease until it was time for court, for Aragorn would be meeting the new ambassador from Khand in a short while. Faramir was busy overseeing that all was in readiness.

The Elven prince was decked out in sartorial splendor in various shades of green. He wore a knee-length tunic of emerald green brocade shot with blue and gold. Its sleeves were open and long and lined with green silk. His linen shirt was dyed the palest green, reminiscent of Spring, and was cuffed with gold buttons. His leggings were of suede dyed a deep forest green while his ankle boots were made of the same brocade as his tunic. A belt of intricately linked gold leaves circled his slim middle while on his head was a thin gold coronet with a single pigeon-egg emerald cabochon gracing its center. His hair was flowing and unbraided, his leaf-shaped ears peeking out between his locks.

Aragorn glanced down at his own outfit, though he knew perfectly well what he was wearing. His tunic was black velvet with the White Tree and Stars of the kingdom embroidered upon the front in silver thread, the center of each star a diamond. Underneath was a fine linen shirt dyed a dark purple, costly and rare. The cuffs and high collar of the shirt were embroidered in silver filigree. His leggings were black suede and his boots were black leather, as was his finely tooled belt on which hung his sword. His hair was bound with the Star of Elendil and his only jewelry was the Ring of Barahir.

“As I recall, the Sindar of Beleriand favored shades of white and grey when only stars lit the sky,” Aragorn countered. “I remember Lord Celeborn once describing to me his impressions of the Noldor and how gaudy they looked when they first appeared in Beleriand. He said, and I quote, “Peacocks could have taken lessons from them in meretriciousness.”

Legolas laughed. “And why not? At least we Elves are not afraid of outshining peacocks. You Mortals seem to revel in being dull.”

“Tell that to the Hobbits and see where it gets you,” Aragorn retorted with a smile. “They are no less mortal than Men and Bilbo always enjoyed wearing colorful waistcoats. Frodo and his cousins, as well, even Sam. And you cannot deny that my people are colorful enough when the occasion demands it.”

“Yet I have never understood why your ancestors chose black for the Númenórean Realms in Exile. White, I can see, even blue or green, which is favored by the Rohirrim, but black? Most would associate that with the Enemy who is no more.”

Aragorn shrugged. “I cannot tell you what was in Elendil’s mind when he chose black except you have to admit it makes it easier to see the Tree and Stars.” He gave the Elf a sly grin as he pointed to his chest.

Legolas snorted in amusement. “Your own people of the North, though, favor shades of brown, dull green and grey and I understand you have given your northern steward permission to use that as his standard: a grey background with a single eight-pointed star. Not very imaginative.” He sniffed in disdain.

“We weren’t always like that,” Aragorn said softly. “Once we were a proud people, our colors as bright as the future we saw for ourselves, but that future was betrayed and we were forced into the shadows. Grey was our only hope of survival, for grey is neither black nor white but something in between, often overlooked and that has been our heritage.”

“Until now.”

“Until now,” Aragorn acknowledged with a nod. “Yet, should we deny our heritage, pretend that sacrifices were never made, that our history should be forgotten? It will take time for us to leave the shadows, my friend, but leave them we will and perhaps you will not think us so colorless then.”

“Still, every time I walk through the city I have this mad urge to find some red paint and start splashing it on all those white walls,” Legolas said with a grin.

Aragorn laughed, slapping his knee. “That sounds like something Gimli would say,” he said.

“Or do,” Legolas shot back.

“Oh, no, my friend, that’s something Merry and Pippin would do. And they wouldn’t stop at red, either. I imagine they would use yellow and orange and as many other colors as they could get their hands on, including pink.” He gave the Elf a convincing shudder.

Legolas laughed. “It would certainly be an interesting sight. Then you would have to change the name from the ‘White City’ to the ‘Rainbow City’.”

Aragorn chuckled, then gave the Elf a shrewd look. “Why this concern about the color of my garb?”

Legolas gave him an elegant shrug. “You are the King Returned. I do not think I should outshine you.”

“Legolas, you’re an Elf. You could appear in beggar’s rags and still outshine even the most colorfully dressed Mortal. Do not concern yourself on my behalf.”

The prince raised an eyebrow and started to make a comment but was interrupted by a knock on the door. “Enter,” Aragorn called out and Faramir walked in. The Steward Prince of Gondor was dressed in a brocaded tunic in shades of white and cream with subtle hints of rose and blue. The front of the tunic had the ubiquitous Tree and Stars picked out in dark pewter-grey metallic thread that had almost a blue sheen to it. His hair was bound with a simple circlet of silver naked of any gem but around his neck was a star-shaped pendant inset with a star sapphire. He carried in one arm his rod of office.

He gave the two a warm smile. “All is in readiness, my king.”

“Thank you,” the King said and rose, straightening his tunic. Legolas stood as well, grabbing a white samite cloak and helping Aragorn into it, pinning it with the Elessar that had been sitting on the desk, the green elfstone flashing in the sunlight. Aragorn gave his friend a smile of thanks and the three exited the study and made their way to the main throne room where Faramir announced them. When all were in place Aragorn indicated that he was ready to receive the new ambassador from Khand. There was a stir of excitement among those attending this presentation as one of the heralds announced the name of the new ambassador and his entourage, then the doors were flung open and everyone gazed in awestruck wonder at the sight.

The first to enter were two women dressed in gaudy silks in a mixture of colors — rose, gold and indigo — their faces veiled so only their eyes were visible. Each of them carried a silver bowl full of red rose petals which they strewed behind them, making a carpet on which the rest of the procession trod. Behind them came a group of six warriors, tall and dark skinned, wearing short tunics in shades of ochre and red with leopard-skin capes, the heads of the leopards forming a hood over their heads. Each warrior carried a spear taller than himself. Next came a group of what most assumed were nobles of the Khandian court, their robes of ruby and emerald, citrine and sapphire, reminding Aragorn of a moving flower garden.

He stole a glance at Legolas standing on his left but the Elf’s expression was unreadable. Others of the court were more open in their astonishment. He could see the Hobbits two steps down on his right staring open-mouthed, their eyes getting larger and larger. Gimli, who had stayed with the Hobbits, giving Aragorn and Legolas some time to themselves, was still as stone and it was impossible to tell what his expression was behind his beard. A glance to his right where Gandalf stood showed the Wizard watching the entire procession with amusement, his eyes twinkling with delight. The Wizard looked his way and winked, which surprised Aragorn, for he had no idea what that wink meant, but he smiled anyway and then returned his attention to the procession, wondering when the ambassador would actually show up.

He didn’t have to wonder long, for there was a brief pause as the Khandian nobles reached the throne dais and moved to either side, giving everyone a clear view of the aisle down which the ambassador would make his entrance. There was a gasp from those of Aragorn’s court who were closer to the doors and then the ambassador was there.

Aragorn blinked, unsure of what he was seeing. The ambassador rode in on a magnificent pure black charger dressed in white samite, its caparisons of silver covered with every conceivable gemstone so that the horse appeared to be walking within a scintillating rainbow. The ambassador himself was bedecked in a full-length brocaded tunic with flowing sleeves that seemed to be a mix of different colors, though red predominated. It was trimmed with golden-red fur. Under this he wore an undertunic of the whitest lawn. His head was covered with a tall cap of the same brocade trimmed with the golden-red fur. His dark hair and beard were braided with colorful ribbons and jewels and there were rings on every finger. He wore a necklace of gold with emeralds, sapphires and rubies. His bearing was straight and proud and Aragorn suspected the man was arrogant to a fault.

Legolas leaned slightly toward him and in a low voice said, “I take back everything I said about Men being dull and colorless. I think these Khandians could give even the Noldor lessons in meretriciousness.”

Aragorn only nodded, keeping his expression neutral as he watched the ambassador stay his steed when he was still ten feet from the throne dais and dismount, making his way forward to present himself to the King. He suddenly felt underdressed and as dull as Legolas had accused him of being and stifled a sigh. Then, Legolas leaned down and whispered into his ear, “I also think you outshine them all.”

Aragorn glanced up into his friend’s face and, seeing the absolute sincerity in his eyes, smiled, mouthing a silent thank-you before returning his attention to the ambassador who had just reached the bottom of the dais and was presenting his letters patent to Faramir.

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