An Ostentation of Colors|
Summary: 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,” 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
“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
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.