A Tale of Mirkwood - Chapter 38 - Changes Near and Far
© of Leaflocks (excluding all material written and/or created by J.R.R. Tolkien Estate Ltd.) This story is now complete. It's been a LONG time since I've posted on this site, but I thought I should take it up again, now that the story is done. This is Chapter 38 of 46. It is a romantic Legolas story that begins prior to the final War of the Ring, and ends upon his and Gimli's sailing into the west. At all times I have tried to stay as close as possible to the book, while creating a romantic story around Legolas. I hope you enjoy.
CHAPTER XXXVIII - CHANGES NEAR AND FAR
The night's festivities passed with a lighthearted merriment that had never before been known in Eryn Lasgalen. Not one Orc track had been seen since the destruction of Dol Guldur, and the unexpected feeling of freedom was only now dawning on the new world. Dressed in their elven finest, lords and ladies brought forth Legolas's favourite foods, songs of his deeds rang through the night, plans buzzed throughout the dining hall for a magnificent new tapestry depicting his adventures with the members of the fellowship to be hung in the great hall, and, all around, dancing and levity ruled the night.
Far away, on the other side of the forest, Tarnil and Galamed had made camp beside Othinwel, one of the grandest waterfalls in Middle Earth. The faint call of the iavin was drowned out by the rushing torrent, however, and both brothers were oblivious to the excitement happening at home.
Upon returning from their hunting expedition the next morning, Tarnil and Galamed thought themselves the object of some practical joke as friends greeted them enthusiastically with tales of Legolas's return. But then, there he was. Tears were shed and embraces given, but for the two itinerant brothers, it still appeared too good to be true. He who was believed lost, was now restored. The day was spent in laughter and sadness as stories were recounted of happenings at home and in the far reaches where Legolas's journeys had taken him.
Legolas awoke with a start, and, for a moment, believed himself to be not in his bedchamber with Mithryn, but in Minas Tirith, far away. Sounds of battle filled his ears and, heart beating fast, he quickly turned to see the sleeping enchantress beside him, so peaceful in the moonlit chamber. He sighed, relieved, and contentedly watched her as his head filled with wistful dreams of the future.
Culúril stirred in his delicately carved crib; a crib lovingly and patiently crafted by his uncle, Haldof. Legolas rose, and the cool night air brushed lightly over his naked skin. He peered down into the tiny bed where his son lay. Culúril lay silently sleeping, and a pale moonbeam streamed in softly through the open window and onto the babe's face. Caressing his son's little head, Legolas watched in awe that which Mithryn and he had created. "This joyous gift seems truly a miracle," thought he. "Something so precious, so sacred, so innocent and rare I had not thought possible. Like me...yet...also like your mother. What manner of prince will you become, my son? What wisdom, what strength of character will be yours? Sleep well, Culúril, and dream of all that is good."
Slipping silently back into bed, he curled close to Mithryn, her warm body folding into his. "This is where I belong," he thought as his strong arms wrapped gently around his wife. "This place and nowhere else."
* * *
Mithryn's condition had neither restored nor worsened by the next day. She was extremely fatigued, however, by the late night celebration. She had wanted to rise, yet Legolas would have none of it. "You look tired, my dear," he said, coaxing her to remain in bed and rest. "Pray stay. I shall take Culúril for a walk and return in a few hours when he is hungry again. Until then, sleep!"
At last, Mithryn agreed, and Legolas lifted his son up into his arms, and quietly stepped out of the bedchamber and onto the open landing. The air was warm and fresh, and Legolas reveled in it, so happy to be home and with his wife and child.
Gimli appeared along the path, humming to himself, and Legolas flagged him down.
"Ho, little Culúril!" Gimli said, looking up into the young babe's face. "I must say, Legolas, that he has the look of thee."
"Do you think so? I see more of Mithryn, myself."
"The hair perhaps, but the ears are pure elf!"
Legolas laughed, and began to recall duties one owes to a guest. "Have you breakfasted? I am sorry that I have not. . ."
"Think naught of it! Your kith and kin have been very attentive and are most generous and obliging. My father will never believe it! I have only just finished a fine meal, but will sit with you if you have yet to do so."
"Nay, thank you. I ate at dawn."
"Ah, yes," Gimli replied. "I had forgotten. Stay up late, and early risers. You Elves are strange creatures! And, has Mithryn risen, also?"
"She is still much fatigued today, unfortunately. I insisted she sleep away the morn."
"Oh, that is disappointing. I had wished very much the honour of speaking with her before my departure."
Legolas stood downcast, a babbling baby in his arms. "You surely shall not leave today?"
"I am sorry, my friend, but like you, my home has been calling to me. I know they will wonder why and where I have tarried, and when they discover it was with you and your kinsman, I cannot say they will be altogether pleased with me, despite our success at dethroning the Dark Lord."
"I understand, Gimli, and wish you gladness upon your return. Shall you stay for dinner?"
"I think not," Gimli said. "Once you elves begin eating, the singing soon commences, and then there is no stopping you until daybreak. Nay, I shall leave at dusk. I know my way well enough in the dark, and even prefer it for travelling alone."
"I shall be sorry to see you go, my friend. Never would I have thought that you and I could see beyond the differences of our bitter past and become friends, yet we have done it. Come! I wish to show you something before you leave."
"Then, I follow with pleasure" Gimli replied, and they strode off together into the woods. They had not gone far until Legolas's intended destination was reached. It was, however, not how he had left it, and the full damage of the wrathful orcs became all too clear. Legolas stood overwhelmed at the base of Belegaladh, Culúril asleep in his arms. The tree, or what remained of it, was charred black from the fire, and the trunk lay sadly fallen on the earth. Upon the return of spring, no leaves grew on its once mighty boughs. The tree was dead.
"What is this?" Legolas whispered, sinking to his knees.
"This tree," Gimli began, seeing his dear friend's distress, "was not as you left it?"
"Nay," Legolas whispered, placing his hand on the scorched bark of the tree. No life did he feel beneath it. "I heard of a battle, but not of this." Legolas wiped away a tear, leaving a black smudge on his cheek. Culúril moaned in his sleep, and Legolas began to rock the babe, trying desperately to hold back his tears. "This was our favourite place to play, you see, when my brothers and I were children. Whenever we were distressed, even in our adulthood, to this place we would go, climb its sturdy branches, and gain seclusion and insight. I can still envision my mother calling us down from its branches. I cannot believe no one told me."
* * *
Distraught, Legolas left the remains of Belegaladh, but knew he would have to make peace with the great tree's spirit later when he was alone. He returned to his bedchamber and, finding Mithryn in a deep sleep, placed Culúril back into his crib, and Legolas slipped back outside. His heart throbbed painfully in his chest, and there was no comfort to be had. It was at this moment that a pebble struck him painfully in the back of the head. Shocked, he turned around and saw a roguish-looking Haldof standing on the ground, tossing another pebble into the air, catching it playfully. "Do not look so downcast, brother!" Haldof called out. "Surely I did not harm you."
Legolas smiled weakly, and jumped off the perch, landing sturdily on the mossy earth. "I have seen Belegaladh."
"Ah," Haldof said, throwing the pebble back onto the ground. "I told Galamed to tell you last night. `Nay, Legolas is back!'" Haldof said, mimicking his brother to the best of his ability. "`We should not give bad news on the night of his homecoming!'" He sighed and shook his head. "I am sorry."
"Why did you not tell me? You need not have waited for Galamed."
"In all honesty, Legolas, I knew not how to tell you. I was devastated, myself, when Belegaladh was destroyed. Ask Mithryn. We all grieved at the loss."
"I shouldn't have gone," Legolas said, walking away. "You were right. I should never have left. Too many things happened. Things that I can never take back."
Haldof quickly caught up with Legolas, his eyes searching his brother's distraught face. "You are not speaking of Belegaladh. It is a loss, indeed, for us all, as well as the damage to this forest, but something else troubles you. What is it, Legolas?"
Legolas stopped walking. "You must promise not to tell Mithryn."
Haldof's heart began to beat fast. Did Legolas know? How could he know? Haldof searched his brain quickly for some clue that he might have given. Now that the time had actually come, Haldof wished to be anywhere but here. "You have my word," Haldof said, nervously.
Taking a deep breath, Legolas said, "We were in Pelargir upon the enemy's ship. The sun was rising, and I heard a strange call overhead. I felt an uncontrollable force beckon me to gaze upwards at the sound. Haldof, they were gulls from the sea! I felt a wave wash over me as they called overhead. The sea was so near. I could not see it, but nevertheless, the harm was done. The sea has called me."
Haldof walked around a moment, in deep thought. "What do you mean to do?" he asked at last.
"I do not know," Legolas replied. "Alas that Galadriel's warning proved true."
"Can you not simply ignore it?" Haldof inquired, ignorant of the call's lure.
Smiling at Haldof's innocence, Legolas said, "You cannot understand, brother, until it is felt. It is the feeling of never being satisfied. Forever are you searching for the gull's cries and a foreign breeze, smelling of the sea. However," Legolas said, stiffening, " I am master of my actions. I refuse to allow it to affect me."
"That is where we differ, brother," Haldof said. "You wish one day to journey over those seas, and explore the Grey Havens. I do not. Middle Earth is my home, and I do not believe any gull's cry would alter my heart. I feel for you, but I cannot understand you. And worry not! I shall not tell Mithryn."
* * *
When Legolas walked into the bedchamber some hours later, Mithryn was sitting on the window seat, gazing out at the sun-drenched sky. Puffy, white clouds were driven by a high wind, though the forest below sat virtually motionless.
"Legolas!" she called, smiling at his entrance. "You have been gone long."
"I am sorry. It was my hope that you were luxuriating in rest this morning," he said, kissing her temple, and taking a seat beside her.
"Were you out with your brothers?"
"Aye, there was much to see. The battle was vicious, it seemed. I wish I could have been here."
Mithryn knew immediately where he had been. The pain in his face, in his voice could not lie. "Nay, you were needed elsewhere."
"I was also needed here," he replied, gazing at her. "Tarnil said Culúril's birth was difficult. By the by, where is he?"
"Celebwen has taken him for his bath."
"Ah," Legolas said, taking her tiny, warm hand. "Love, why did you not tell me the complexities of Culúril's birth?"
"You have only just returned yesterday, and have much to catch up on. I did not want to bombard you with information that bears no relevance now."
"It still bears some relevance."
"Nay, Legolas. Aye, the birth was difficult, but he was born healthy, and I recovered."
"A month's recovery seems unusual. I am concerned."
"There is no need. Truly, my dear," she said, raising her free hand and stroking his worried face, "I am well again, and our son is here and thriving."
It was at that moment that Legolas rose, his face alight with mischief, and said, "I had almost forgotten!"
"Forgotten?" Mithryn repeated. "Forgotten what?"
Legolas strode over to a massive wardrobe, and picking up the doublet worn nearly everyday on his long quest, extracted a slightly limp, half crushed flower, its petals crumpled and bruised. The flower, however, had lost none of its fragrance.
Handing it to his wife, the scent of almonds washed over her, and a smile of amazement spread across her pale face. "Meadowsweet! Where did you find this, for it does not grow in your father's realm."
"At the base of a small cottage in southern Eryn Lasgalan. Your former home, and the dear place where I first saw you."
Mithryn stared down at the withered flower whose scent caused a flood of memories to sweep over her. She thought of the little realm which she had loved and protected all those long years, alone. Never did she tell Legolas, but her heart had broken upon leaving a place which she had called home. "How I missed this scent!" she said, wiping away a small tear. "What a wonderful gift!" she said, pulling him close and kissing him on his soft lips.
"Tis a damaged gift," Legolas said, staring at the wilted flower.
"Nay, it is precious to me. Far more precious than any flower in nearby fields or groves. Look! It still bears a few roots. I will plant it today. Hand me, please, that glass of water. Thank you, my Darling," she said, drawing him close again for another kiss. "Now, tell me everything. Everything you saw there - the flowers, trees, herbs, and every bird and animal."
* * *
The summer sun had slowly begun to sink in the sky, and with it, Gimli gathered his belongings, and came forth to bid his fare-thee-well. A small crowd had gathered of those who also wished to see their guest off, and amongst them were Legolas, Mithryn, Culúril, Haldof, and Thranduil. Each took their turn in giving Gimli a warm farewell. When Thranduil's turn came, the noble king smiled and said, "Never would I have thought to invite a Dwarf back to my kingdom, but if what Legolas says is true, then you are, indeed, welcome back, Gimli son of Glóin," he said presenting him with rich robes especially tailored for the short Dwarf.
Gimli bowed deeply and said, "You are most kind, and I do assure you, your Lordship, Legolas has spoken the truth about me, as I shall of him to my own kith and kin. Too long have our families quarreled over mistakes long passed. I thank you for your generosity in these wonderful gifts, and especially for your warm hospitality and ale."
"Perhaps then," Thranduil responded, "this shall be a new beginning to both our races."
Gimli bowed again, and then turned his attention toward Mithryn who seemed more refreshed. She took his hand and addressed him kindly. "I must thank you most heartily, Master Gimli, for watching over our Legolas when none of us could do so. I am sure you have spared his life many times."
"Milady," Gimli began, "many times has Legolas returned the favour. No thanks are needed."
A servant stepped forward, handing Legolas a satchel full of fragrant breads, dried meats and other elvish delicacies. "Some nourishment for your journey homeward," Legolas explained. "Come, Gimli. I shall walk with you as far as the river."
Walking toward a darkened eastern sky, neither Legolas nor Gimli spoke a word until the stars began to reveal themselves in the velvety heavens. "Shall we ever meet again, do you think?" Legolas said at last, breaking the silence.
"I should sincerely hope so!" Gimli bellowed, his voice echoing along the open, rolling hillside. "A promise made is a promise kept by a Dwarf."
"As is a promise made by an Elf."
"Then there you have it! Speak not to me of never seeing one another again! We must return to Fangorn, remember? Our adventures together have not ended yet, I think."
"No, I am sure you are right," Legolas replied, the sound of rushing water coming nearer. A bridge drew closer, and across it, far into the distance, appeared the lights of the busy town of Esgaroth, ruled and dwelled by Men. This bridge is where the two friends stopped to say their final goodbye.
"Take care of yourself, Elf," Gimli said.
"And you, yourself, Dwarf."
"I do hope that I can repay your graciousness with your visit to my own home. What say you? You still have not experienced the hospitality of the Dwarves! You cannot know culinary perfection until you have dined at our tables."
Legolas smiled. "It is another promise gladly given. Shall I be the first to write?"
"Aye," Gimli said. "Write to me how Mithryn fares, and how tall that little lad of yours grows. I am not a very faithful correspondent, but with you I shall try to make an exception. Farewell, my friend," he said, lovingly grasping Legolas' outstretched forearm.
"Farewell," Legolas said, and watched the Dwarf turn and walk across the bridge. A bright moon shone down on the water and shimmered as the river lapped against the stone bridge. "`Tis a fine night for travel," he thought. "May Elbereth go with thee, my friend." When Gimli could be seen no more, Legolas turned and made his way back towards his home where Mithryn kept a silent vigil for his return.
End of Chapter 38