A Tale of Mirkwood - Chapter 43 - Partings and Greetings


CHAPTER XLIII - PARTINGS AND GREETINGS

After an hour's frenzied preparation, Mithryn and her escort set off for the Grey Havens. In that group was Legolas, Gimli, Haldof, and Aragorn. Anfalas had been harnessed to a tan covered wagon, the inside of which was comfortably lined with soft pillows and warm blankets to ease Mithryn's discomfort during the bumpy journey ahead. All others rode on horseback save Gimli who eagerly volunteered to steer the wagon carrying Mithryn. Culúril, upon seeing both parents abandoning him, flew into a high state that was both obstreperous and vociferous, and would not be appeased until they relented, and decided to take him with them. He was seated merrily in front of his dear Papa, watching the land and trees flash by.

A week passed, and the outskirts of Eryn Lasgalen were finally reached. They were so close to friends and loved ones, but could not halt as they had no time to waste on lighthearted matters. Stopping for rest neath the shady trees of the Gladden Fields, Mithryn, struggling, sat up and gazed about to view her childhood homeland. It was utterly unrecognizable. All the bushes and trees in which she had explored and played during her girlhood were gone, and new plant life had sprouted up in its stead. The only recognizable feature was the Anduin River. The sun glistened like diamonds off its tumbling waves. Lying back down, she closed her eyes, and listened to the sweet songs of the thrushes and starlings who ancestors had called to her all those many years ago.

Sunlight faded as Haldof skillfully showed the curious Culúril how to fish merely by putting his hands in the clear water. After much splashing and jovial laughter on Culúril's part, dinner was caught, and soon masterfully prepared by Aragorn.

For Mithryn, dinner by the fireside became intolerable. The pain of her constant rising in and out of the wagon was extreme, and in the end, Legolas brought meals to her. She found it difficult to chew at times, but could not refuse, even though her stomach revolted in protest. She could not let Legolas down by not trying to stay alive.

After the meal, Legolas took his sleepy son and went back to Mithryn. Haldof watched their shadows move within the rig, and listened to the soft, gentle singing of Legolas as he stroked a limp child on his lap. Gimli quietly approached, examining Haldof intently.

"I had thought that you wished to remain longer in Middle Earth," said the dwarf, puffing away on his pipe.

Haldof turned, at the sound. "I had thought so, but changed my mind."

"Strange to travel such a distance to Ithilien, only to depart so quickly."

"You know not what it is like, feeling the call of the sea," Haldof replied as he contemplated the fire.

"And neither do you. Do you, elf?" said Gimli, his pipe in his mouth.

For a moment, Haldof said nothing but stared at the Dwarf. "Does Legolas know?"

"Difficult to say," Gimli replied, poking the dying fire with a long stick, making the embers erupt again in glorious flame and cascades of red sparks. "I know not if he believes thee, or merely suspects you are doing a kindness on his part. Your brother is a very wise Elf, Haldof. However, in this instance, I am wiser than he."

"Oh, how?" Haldof asked, skeptically.

"I see what he cannot, because I understand you, Haldof," Gimli said, gruffly.

"You speak in naught but riddles, Dwarf," Haldof said, getting more annoyed by the minute.

"Then allow me to speak plainly!" Gimli said, lowering his voice and casting his stick into the fire. He withdrew a fine crystal from neath his shirt, and held it up to the light. A fine gold chain was attached to it, and inside the crystal were what appeared to be several golden hairs. "A gift from a lady I love dearly, but can never have. I see plainly in you what I see in myself. "

"You have had too much ale!" Haldof said sourly, as he turned and walked away.

Gimli, determined, followed. "Mine eyes are not wrongly affected," he said quietly. "I see how you avoid gazing at her, yet you are aware of even the flicker of her eyelash. Indeed, I first noticed it upon returning from the Great War. I merely wanted to say that I think you are doing a noble thing, Haldof. Relinquishing your own desires of staying here to spare her life. If what Aragorn says is true, if Mithryn is refused on the shores of Valinor, you cannot return."

"I know not of what you are speaking," Haldof said, irritably ans with a heightened colour in his face. "I think you mad, Dwarf!"

"Aye," Gimli said, nodding his head, understanding. Haldof would never admit his true feelings for Mithryn. Could not. "Aye, perhaps I mistake, Haldof. I will say no more. . .to anyone." Gimli stomped away, leaving Haldof alone. He sat by the water bank, and soon heard soft footsteps behind him. Legolas sat down, and now, beside his brother, he could let his mask slide, and revealed a heavy despondency. He slumped and was silent for a few minutes. .

"Culúril is finally asleep," Legolas said with a sigh. "He wanted nothing but to sleep with his mother tonight. I know not how he will react when the time comes to say goodbye. I know not how I will react. . ." Legolas glanced at Haldof, who's face was strongly contorted. "What troubles thee, brother? You know, if you have changed your mind, you must speak. I'm sure we could think of something. . ."

"Nay," Haldof said, quick to reply. "It is nothing."

Knowing better than to disturb Haldof when cross, he stood up saying, "Well, I will leave you, then. Mithryn is waiting for me. Goodnight, Haldof."

"Goodnight, Legolas," Haldof said, gazing steadfastly into the dark depths of the river.

***

For twenty more days the small company travelled with speed and agility further and further north, until finally reaching the shores of the Grey Havens. At first, Aragorn worried that they had missed the ship, as they had arrived at such a late hour. They hurriedly rode past the colossal, empty towers built by Elves of old, and towards the shores of the Grey Havens. A misty haze hovered upon the water, and dimly revealed a gathering of Elves, waiting as well for the White Ship's arrival. Cheerfully, Aragorn cast his worries aside.

"THAT is the sea?" Gimli said gruffly, thoroughly unimpressed. "'Tis all grey and cloudy! You Elves are strange creatures to desire to sail across any such an uncertain, barren expanse! Why, you know not what enemy may be lurking in all that mist and haze!"

The Elves close by and far off laughed with a sound like soft bells in their voices upon hearing this outburst of Gimli's. Legolas, Haldof, and Aragorn, meanwhile, were carefully lifting Mithryn down from the wagon and onto a stretcher. The Elves watched, curious of the newcomer's plans with that ill mortal, but said nothing. Suddenly two Elves stepped forward out of the throng, while a child of several years followed close behind and ran up to Legolas and Haldof.

"Why, Elmarin! Taranin! Finaviel!" Haldof exclaimed, embracing each, as did Legolas. "What good fortune to have met you here!"

"Why, Mithryn!" Elmarin exclaimed, kneeling down and placing a cool hand on Mithryn's hot brow. "Fortunate indeed that we both arrive on the same day. Do you go to Valinor? Legolas may fancy himself a sick nurse, but we know the truth. Now I can aid you on our voyage while we let him play at sailing with the children."

Mithryn smiled, and was about to speak when Gimli's gruff voice spoke for her. "Nay, you mistake. Legolas does not go. Haldof is taking Mithryn to Valinor."

Elmarin and Taranin each shot confused glances at Legolas and Haldof. "Ah," Taranin said. "Well, you have naught to fear, Legolas. We shall see her safely set on it's shores."

Aragorn strode up, Culúril in his arms. "This little one has been exploring, chasing sea gulls, and came close to running into the waves," Aragon explained before greeting Elmarin and Taranin whom he had known from his days in Mirkwood. They conversed lightly in elvish over events in Galamed's realm, but soon an outburst of rapturous exclamations came from the other Elves. Turning, the party saw a tall, white ship slowly emerging from the silvery mist. It's large sails billowed from the salty wind that swept over each of them, pushing their long hair back off their smiling faces.

After the ship had docked, the Elves slowly began to climb aboard. Cirdan the Shipwright stepped onto the pebbly beach and approached them, his long, grey beard fluttering gently with the breeze. "Greetings, dear friends. It is my understanding that you wish to send this mortal to Valinor in hope of saving her life. Know that she is not invited."

Legolas moved to speak, but Haldof forward, his voice firm and powerful. "She is no mere mortal! She is the daughter of an Istari, known to us as Mithrandir, married daughter of Elf-King, Thranduil, my father, wife of Prince Legolas, here, and is mother of Culúril, Elf-child, as well as extraordinary healer of our people. There are those who will speak for her, even in Valinor, of her accomplishments and her successes in battling Sauron, the deceiver, and of saving many elves from orc attacks in our village when the war began."

Cirdan stared at Haldof a moment, his wise, sparkling eyes studying him very closely indeed. "There is no need to continue, as I am not preventing her sailing. And am I to understand that you shall represent her?"

"I shall," Haldof said.

"Kindly bring her aboard. I can offer no promises."

At last, Legolas found his voice. "What will happen if she is rejected?"

"Then I shall return with her in a sennight's time, but I warn you. Do not dare to hope."

Aragorn placed Culúril in Mithryn's tired arms, but she still had some strength to hold him fast and close to her heart. Weeping, yet still struggling to be brave, she said, "Never forget, my son. Never forget your mother. To you it will seem but a day since we say goodbye, but you shall always be in my heart and thoughts. I love you, my little elf. Listen to your father, and remember to always be good and always do good."

Sensing his mother's distress, he, too, began to cry, though with much more vigor and spirit. When Aragorn attempted to pick him back up again, the child let out a wail so powerful, several Elves on board turned to stare at the dramatic scene.

"There is naught for it," Legolas said, kneeling down, and stroking Mithryn's head. "You must take him with you, Darling. Perhaps it will aid in your entry."

"But when you see him next, he will no longer be the child you see. He will be a fully grown elf," Mithryn whispered.

He smiled. "No matter, he should be with you, nonetheless. I shall have forever with him. Even if your time with him lasts but a week, it should not be wasted."

Lifting her up, Legolas carried Mithryn onto the ship as Elmarin, Taranin, and Finaviel lead the way. Haldof matched his stride to Culúril's little steps as they followed behind.

Anfalas reared and bucked in her harness upon seeing her matron being carried away. Neighing, and calling out in distress, Anfalas would not be coaxed into submission. Cirdan turned to Haldof, an amused smile upon his face. "You had best take that mare aboard. It seems she does not want to be left behind."

Aragorn quickly unhooked the harness and, without a lead, Anfalas strode up to the boat and stepped aboard freely. Legolas sat beside Mithryn, straightening her pillows and putting an extra blanket about her shoulders. He knew the time had finally come. He had to say goodbye.

Warm tears began to trail down his soft cheeks, and he wiped hers away. "You must stay strong, do you hear me? You must live for Culúril, and for me. The time will come, shortly, I promise, when I shall come to you. Then there shall be no more pain. No more heartache. . .and we shall never be apart again. No more wars to be fought. No more battles to be won. I will never leave you again, this I swear. But you must hold on. Just this little way longer, my love, and I will come to you. The wind will fill my sails, and it will carry me straight to you! You will know when I am coming, I know you will! Only just hang on, my dearest love, I beg you. We will meet again."

"Farewell, my only love. 'Till next we meet," she whispered, and a few Elves present shed merciful tears. "Look for me in the stars. I will meet you there."

No more words did Legolas have. They were all spent. He merely pulled her close and held her until he knew he could hold her no more. Then, one long, last kiss memorized forever. Stepping back onto the stony beach, he turned to see the ship begin to slip away, and Aragorn and Gimli approached. Haldof could clearly be seen, Culúril in his arms, on the deck of the ship. He raised a hand in farewell.

"Ai!" cried Legolas, wiping away his salty tears. "I had forgotten to say goodbye to Haldof!"

"Pay it no mind," Gimli said, as he, too, waved farewell to an elf he had once disliked, but had grown to respect. "I am certain he will not hold it against thee for this is a decision he could not resist. . .and will never regret. . ."

For a few minutes, the ship steadily got smaller and smaller, until it began to be enveloped in the mist and soon. . .was gone.

When Legolas had washed his face with salty seawater, Gimli's grumbling stomach brought the conversation round to dinner plans. "Shall we camp here for a week, then?" Gimli said, rubbing his hungry tummy. "I must say, I don't much care for the waters edge, nor those massive empty towers, though finely built they are."

"Nay," said Aragorn, "I do not think we should remain here. Fear not, Legolas, we shall return well before a sennight expires, but this gloomy place is not fit for us. Now, I know of a place where we can find the very best of food and ale, and three very cheerful faces to warm even the most downcast of spirits. What say you? Shall we go and visit the Hobbits?"

"Aye, that is a truly noble plan!" Gimli bellowed joyfully. "And food the like of which will fill your dreams and make you mad with desire forever more. At least, that's what my father always said about Bilbo's kitchen. Shall we ride now, then? My stomach is getting anxious."

"What say you, Legolas?" Aragorn asked. "In dark times, should we not divert our minds from woeful thoughts and allow friends to raise us from despair?"

Legolas, who was silent and distracted, started at this intrusion into his thoughts. "An excellent notion," he agreed, heaving Gimli on Arod. "To the Shire, then!"

***

They rode at a slower pace for their horses sakes as now no rush was needed. Stopping for the night near the White Downs, they sat in quiet contemplation over the days events. Legolas did not sleep that night, but instead, walked the strange country alone, and, gazing up at the stars found some comfort there.

In the morning, they continued their journey, and made good time into the Shire. Wide eyed Hobbits gazed out of round windows and doorways at the very sight of so unlikely companions, and whispers began to rise speculating of their destination. "Look! Elves!" could be heard in hushed tones all around.

Upon the turn toward Hobbiton, their worst fears were confirmed, and everyone thought that these strangers were most likely friends of Frodo and Sam. Though Frodo had disappeared several years ago (and very suspiciously, too, the Hobbits say), Sam's good nature and kind disposition made him liked by everyone, despite his peculiar past concerning his travels.

Dismounting Arod, Legolas lifted Gimli off and together they, along with Aragorn, stepped up the slate steps to the round green door of Bag End. Gimli could hardly contain his laughter as he knocked loudly upon the door. It opened to reveal a very surprised Hobbit.

"Why it's Gimli, it is! And Aragorn and Legolas, too! My word, what a treat this is! I had not expected to see such friends today! Come in, come in! My word. . .Rosie! Rosie, come and see who has visited us. Why, it's the King of Gondor himself, an Elf Prince, and a Dwarf Lord, and that should please you!"

Rosie came in, bright eyed, and rosy cheeked with a baby in her arms. "My Lords," she said, flushed, and attempted a deep curtsy for the king.

"Nay," Aragorn said, kneeling before her, "you must not bow, my lady. I come here not as a King, but as a friend."

"And heartily glad we are to see you all, make no mistake. This here is our daughter, Elanor," Sam said, taking his flaxen-haired babe from Rosie.

"Ah, the sun-star flower!" Legolas said, brushing a wee golden curl off her face. "And she is very like."

"Oh, she don't take after me, that's for sure and certain!" Sam laughed. "But what a poor host I am, leaving you standing in the doorway like this. Come in! Come in! Are you hungry? Supper is not far off, is it Rosie? She's the best cook, she is! Never tasted the like before. Pardon my speaking, Legolas, for your Elvish fare is good, but naught to be compared with good Hobbit cooking, I always say."

"I am all anticipation," Legolas said, smiling as Sam led them into the living room and into comfy, warm chairs, large enough even for Legolas and Aragorn. "Indeed, I have long heard tale of Hobbit feasts, and am anxious to sample it myself."

"You won't care for it above your own, I expect. One hobbit's porridge is another hobbit's pigswill, as me old gaffer used to say," Sam said as he stoked the fire. "But what a shame you did not come two days ago! Merry and Pippin were here. Oh! How long do you mean to stay? Perhaps we can go and visit them!"

"I would not think," Aragorn said, "that a trip to the Shire would be complete without seeing Merry and Pippin."

Sam smiled, and was so overjoyed at the thought of them all being together again, like old times. Then his heart felt a familiar pang that Frodo was not there to enjoy it all with them. Sometimes it felt as though he were merely in another room of the hole, and they just kept missing each other.

Supper was bountiful and hearty, and though Legolas did prefer the delicate subtleties of high Elvish food, he kept his comments to himself. In the evening, after Elanor had been laid to sleep, they all gathered around the fire, and told Rosie many war stories that showed Sam as the hero. His ears turned pink with all the generous attention, but Rosie turned to him, surprised and awed. "Oh, this is wonderful, this is. Why have you never told me of these things, Sam? And you, the fine talker you are, and all. . ."

Shrugging his shoulders, Sam replied, "In looking back on it, it nearly seems mad that we did it all. Bad times they were, but it don't seem nearly so bad now that I'm warm and safe back in the Shire with you, Rosie. Didn't see the point of bringing it up, is all. Besides, these fellers would have you believe I'm some sort of hero, which I ain't. I was merely following Gandalf's orders is all. They exaggerate."

"We do no such thing!" Gimli said, boisterously, but with a twinkle in his eye, and his hand on his smoking pipe. "I would not have you believe him for a second, Lady Gamgee. He was as brave and as stouthearted as any dwarf, and that is saying something."

Their merry chatter drifted into the wee hours of the morning before all stumbled off to their beds, save Legolas. He, instead, chose the quiet nighttime murmur of crickets and star-filled sky so he could be alone with his thoughts. He wondered how Mithryn fared, and if she, too, was staring into the heavens above, and thinking of him. Was Culúril keeping out of mischief, and would Haldof be able to keep hold of his temper during Mithryn's hearing? These are the things that consumed his mind until, finally, with the aid of the cricket's gentle song, he fell peacefully to sleep atop of Bag End.

***

"Elf. . ." a gruff voice called through the dark nothingness. "Legolas, you have overslept and it is time to wake!"

Opening his eyes slowly, Legolas woke to see Gimli's bearded face up close to his.

"Wake up, you slumbering stone!" Gimli said with a smile.

Sitting up, Legolas rubbed his tired eyes. "What hour is it?"

"Past noon, for Sam and Rosie have already dined thrice! Some gobbledygook about breakfast, second breakfast and elevensies. I declare, these Hobbits never stop eating!"

"Why did you not wake me?" Legolas said, rising. His face was slightly scarlet. It was extremely rare for any elf to oversleep.

"Aragorn would hear none of it, and so we let you sleep. However, we are to ride to Buckland today, and Sam would be worried about making it in time for supper, so we must soon be off."

They were quick to prepare, and after giving Rosie and Elanor a quick kiss farewell, Sam was raised to Aragorn's steed, and they were off. Word had quickly spread through Hobbiton that the King of Gondor, himself, was visiting Sam, but few believed it. Upon seeing the dark figure with long hair and bearded face, none thought him a king, and said so. "If he is the King of Gondor," an old, toothless Hobbit said at the Green Dragon the night of their arrival, "than I am the Queen!"

"Aye," a younger Hobbit replied after much laughter. "Where are all his servants, I ask you? Hasn't got none, has he? And his crown! If he's the King, he'd be wearing a crown, wouldn't he?"

The other Hobbits could find no fault in this reasoning, and merely surmised that this stranger, with a dwarf and an elf for company no less, was nothing more than an acquaintance made upon Sam's mysterious journey. But certainly not the King of Gondor! Upon their departure from Hobbiton, and seeing Sam ride upon the same horse as that great man, whispers again flew, but still no more sense nor reason could they discover, and soon their conversations drifted to wild tales of Frodo and Bilbo when good topics of conversation were scarce.

The company had ridden quickly east, and up Ferry Lane to the river-bank where they stepped up to the dock where Bucklebury Ferry, the large, flat ferry-boat, was waiting.

"Boats!" Gimli grumbled, staring at it with disfavour. "Is there no other way round this river?"

"Aye," Sam said as Aragorn gently lifted him down, "twenty miles from here if I remember Merry correctly. The Brandywine Bridge. We could go that way, if you'd really prefer it. It'd mean we'd be late for supper, o' course. . ."

"We have time," Aragorn said, "but forty miles is long indeed. Are you so fearful of boats, Master Dwarf, that you cannot make this an exception?"

Aragorn had said the magic words, for immediately, Gimli puffed himself up, exclaiming, "Fearful?! I?! I assure you that this Dwarf fears nothing, least of all a tiny boat!" And with that he stepped indignantly onto the ferry, his arms folded stubbornly across his chest.

Legolas could think of several things that had caused fear in Gimli during their many adventures, but was wiser than to point them out at such a sensitive moment. Following Gimli's move, the rest drew their horses aboard, and Aragorn, using the long pole, gently pushed off from the shore.

Gimli appeared a bit green, but said nothing. Their ride did not feel long, however, and they soon, much to Gimli's relief, were back upon dry land again. They rode over hills and passed more Hobbit holes, meeting curious stares once again, but never heeding them. Sam skillfully directed them to Crickhollow, home to Merry and Pippin, and soon they were on their very doorstep. Warm light filled the windows, and the house seemed alive with cheeriness.

A loud crash was heard within, and Pippin's hysterical shrieks. "Merry! What happened to these mushrooms?!"

"I don't know!" Merry's voice said, as the visitors tried with desperation to stifle their laughter.

"You burnt them!"

"No! No! They're just a little. . .uh. . ."

"Burnt!" Pippin exclaimed indignantly.

Gimli could stand it no longer. He knocked on the door, and Pippin's voice, though attempting a whisper, could clearly be heard through the open window. "Merry, who do you think that could be?"

"I don't know," Merry replied, in an obvious attempt to be quiet but failed miserably.

"Shall we pretend we're not at home?" Pippin suggested. "It is supper time, after all, and now we don't even have mushrooms!"

"It is too late for that, young Hobbit," Gimli said boisterously, "for I believe all of Buckland knows you two are at home!"

The door immediately flew open, and Merry and Pippin stood in the doorway, pleased as pleased could be! "Well, throw me in a pot and serve me for supper!" Merry exclaimed, and all exchanged happy hugs. "What adventure brings you all to the Shire?"

"That," Aragorn said as they stepped neath the low threshold, "is a conversation better said over a plate of supper. Now, I understand we were not expected. Is there enough for all?"

Pippin smiled brightly. "There shall be in but a few minutes, I promise you! But how fine this is! When we had visited Sam the other day, we said how we missed you all, and wondered how you were."

Merry made their guests comfortable beside the hearth, and soon the ale was being passed around while Pippin worked feverishly at the stove. Proudly he served warm loaves of sourdough bread just out of the oven and lathed with sweet butter; a huge sugar cured ham with rich marmalade sauce; three crisp, roasted chickens with herb stuffing and hot giblet gravy; seven broiled rainbow trout from the morning's catch at the Brandywine River; plump carrots, green beans and baked potatoes: all from the garden patch; and tangy pink rhubarb pies, cherry custards, and tart lemon tarts with real meringue on top for dessert. . .but no mushrooms.

When the wine had been drunk, and the plates cleaned, the subject of their visit arose again. Legolas was grateful that Aragorn had not given him opportunity to answer. The words would simply be too painful to speak. Upon hearing that his wife was deathly ill, and had gone to Valinor, they stared at him with faces full of sympathy and awe.

"But," Pippin said naively, "she will be alright, won't she? I mean, they'll be able to heal her there. Won't they?"

Legolas merely shrugged his shoulders, "I do not know."

"Don't worry," Merry said, tenderly. "She will. Perhaps Frodo will see her. Dear Frodo! I wonder what he fills his days with in that far off land?"

Legolas had been glad of the change in subject. It still hurt too much to even think about Mithryn's absence. He could not decide what was worse: that he would be apart from her for so long, and perhaps even forever if they could not cure her, or that she would be rejected merely to come back and die. Instead, he banished all thoughts of her to a quiet corner of his soul, to be visited later, and concentrated on the conversation at hand.

***

They stayed four days with Merry and Pippin before goodbyes had to be said. Much to Gimli's dislike, they again crossed the Brandywine River using the ferry-boat, and dropped Sam off at Bag End, reluctantly declining the offer of Rosie's "magnificent" supper.

"That is kind of you, Sam," Aragorn replied, setting Sam back upon the earth, "but I fear we must be on our way. We must rendezvous with the White Ship that waits for no one."

Sam accepted that, and once again, farewells were given along with promises to see each other again soon. The three did not stop that night for rest, but rode onwards to the Grey Havens, and reached it before dawn. No ship sat at the dock, and the wagon, which had carried Mithryn, lay untouched. None had been there since their absence. They set up a watch for the night in case the ship arrived early. Legolas took the first shift. Now that they were here, he could not rest without first knowing Mithryn's fate. He stared incessantly at the sea, eyes keen for any sighting of a ship. Gulls flew and cried overhead, yet he paid them no heed, lest he miss something on the endless blue gulf.

The sun rose, and Aragorn awoke. "Come, Legolas. You should sleep. I will take the next watch."

Yet, Legolas could not avert his eyes for even a moment. "Nay, I cannot rest. Not until I know. 'Tis mad, really. I long to see her again, yet I also wish her to be saved. There is no logic in my desire."

"There is logic enough," Aragorn said as he sat beside Legolas. "It is natural that you wish to be near the one you love, and natural, also, that you will miss her. But, if she is not returned, think of your future, Legolas! How I envy you! You will have a long hereafter together which other lovers can only crave, but never have."

"If she is not rejected," Legolas pointed out.

"Aye, if," Aragorn conceded. "For now, we shall simply wait. . .and see."

The sun sluggishly moved across the sky, and Gimli finally awoke, and began to prepare a belated breakfast from the provisions given to them by Merry and Pippin. Still no sign had been seen, and it was only after Aragorn's profuse prodding and nudging that Legolas consented to eat. He had not the appetite, but could stand Aragorn's goading no longer.

Daylight died, and still no ship had come. "Legolas," Gimli said, as gently as his gruff voice would allow, "she is not coming. All is well with her, for she would have bene brought back. Shall we return home?"

"Nay," Legolas said, "not yet. The ship may have been delayed. Only think if she were to arrive after our departure and there be none here to help her! Can we not but wait another day? She still may come. . ."

"Aye," Gimli said kindly, pitying his friend and his heart that was breaking. "Of course. We shall stay as long as need be."

The second day passed like the first. Legolas could not tear his tired eyes from the constant waves, and the far horizon, yet still no ship came. Upon the third morning, Legolas resigned himself to the fact that Mithryn had been admitted into Valinor. She would never return to Middle Earth.

"Alright, my friends," Legolas said, feeling defeated, though he did not understand why. "Let us return to Ithilien. There is nothing for us here, now."

"Do not be downcast, Legolas," Gimli said. "She is safe now, and in very capable hands! Think of all who are there who love her and will protect her so that you will one day be reunited. As you once said, 'A year to an Elf is but a day'. The years will pass quickly, and before you know it, it will be time for you to fulfill your promise to her. Fear not! She will be waiting for you."

Placing a grateful hand on Gimli's short shoulder, Legolas smiled, and said, "You are right, Gimli."

"Right?" Gimli said. "Of course! I am always right!"

Smiling, Legolas said, "She would not wish me to be melancholy."

"Certainly not! Now, come, Legolas! It is a long road back to Ithilien. Shall we not have one of your songs along the way? But, I would not recommend a sad one. Let us have a merry tune. Shall we?"

End of Chapter 43

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