The dwarf has seen much of the world, and she thinks she might envy him that.
She is young, for her people. Tauriel knows every inch of the Woodland Realm like it is a part of her skin and bones. Her feet know it's earth and it's twisted paths, and each shadowed corner is like another secret in her mind. Long has her forest been clogged and choked by evil thoughts and sticky webs, but still she would claim it as a part of her gnarled, strong heart.
Still, she is young. Born in the woods, Tauriel has only heard the sorrowed songs of Oropher's fall and the long and lonely journey back from the fields of war. The Silvan elves have known much sorrow, and ever Thranduil has guided them true. Her king sings their laments rarely, cold eyes glittering at the memory of so much death.
Her father's name is not in those songs. Long and slow was his death, but a war death still all the same. A death of honour enough to win her the regard of a king, by all accounts her life has been sweet.
Still, she is old enough to have seen many lives of lesser folk bloom and fade. It is a sad thing, Tauriel thinks, that the lives of men burn in bright bursts only to soon fade. She remembers the splendour of Lake Town and Dale, though she'd never set foot in the Lonely Mountain. There was such colour and vibrancy to those mannish cities. Even the blunt elegance of dwarven finery had seemed so loud compared to the fluid grace of her own kin. A lowly guard back then with little more to do then trail after their ambassadors and merchants, but Tauriel had watched the world around her. The small chaos of petty conflict and spontaneous joy had amused her, alarming as it was.
It is right here in the bearing of this young dwarf. She remembers it well, though it has been many long years since Tauriel has seen the mirth of the dwarrow folk. There, in the lightness of his manner, it shows itself in the corners of his smile even as he tells her she'll be cursed to look upon his talisman. He jests, eyes wide and clear, and his abruptness coaxes her own lips to curl.
It is something to remember that even dwarves are bound by the tight bonds of kinship. She had forgotten, or else not considered. A failing on her behalf, to forget that love is not the sole domain of the Eldar. Too long has it been since she last conversed with those outside her own people. It is hard to look past the thick canopy of the forest to see beyond; Thranduil has long since drawn the veil between what is in here and what is out there. Tauriel wonders if she has spent too long hunting monsters.
Such a little thing, his talisman, but so full of love. She almost feels sorrow for that unknown dwarrow-dam. Does she wait by the fireside, or by the iron forge for a cheeky son that will not return home? These dungeons are too long and deep for any hope of escape.
She had never thought that a dwarf would stare at the stars in any kind of contemplation.
Rough fingers brush her palm as she returns his small token of promise. Tauriel is not cruel, and no liar. What could be purer than a mother's love and a son's promise?
Joy fills her throat to speak of their beauty; her heart thrums at the memory of endlessness. Tauriel has walked the long line of the mountain and travelled far past the river's end to see the land bathed in that quiet starlight. There is something of eternity in the night sky; the promise of hope in the light of the Star Queen that sings to all her people.
When Tauriel turns back to look at the dwarf, it's as if some of that star light has entered his eyes. She hopes it has, and that he will not think the night sky cold or the eternity unfeeling.
He speaks of his own kin then, of the red moon and the trials of exile. Of a world little glimpsed, in all its hardships . But of mirth too, of family and mishaps and the long quest for home. Tauriel listens, feels the warmth of his voice and notes the gentleness in his blunt hands. This, she thinks, is where she is lacking. What a cloistered life she has lived, hidden and sheltered from Middle Earth, where exile and hardship is not met with understanding or compassion. Her people rarely venture beyond the safety of their realm anymore.
Tauriel loves her home, fiercely and without hesitation, but she is not blind. She would break free from it's shadows, break it free from all shadow, and she cannot do that in the stalwart haven that Thranduil has bound them to.
Softly, they trade stories into the night. Thin threads of regard for the dwarf weave themselves through Tauriel's heart. He is not so ugly, she thinks, and his coarseness is not crass or cruel.
She gazes overlong at his face, at the care and weariness hidden beneath his good humour. He blushes but he does not look away.
Tauriel does not linger long after that. There are celebrations to be had even after she finishes her rounds. He has strengthened the disquiet in her mind and Tauriel know in her heart that change is coming.
She wonders if the dwarf will be there with her to see it.