A Tale of Mirkwood - Chapter Eighteen - The King's Edict
The weeks following the vision at the dinner table was a worrisome one for Legolas, especially. Mithryn now seemed bereft of all life. Rarely now did she eat or sleep, so consumed was she within herself. It was not without effort that Legolas begged, pleaded, and reproached her into maintaining daily activities. He grew quite distressed, and beseeched his father for help.
"She is so altered since the vision, Father," Legolas said in the vast hall, as the fire cast ghostly, dancing shadows along the barren back wall. "I know not what to do."
Thranduil leaned on the fireplace mantle and studied his son. "Are you certain she had a vision and it is not her injury causing her repeated grief?"
"Nay, at first I thought as much, but after some coaxing on my part, the truth was revealed. It was a vision, but that is all she would share. I know not what she saw, or what doom is in our future. Whatever it is, I am fearful for her. It devours her. Cannot you command her to tell you? I believe if she were to only tell someone, the pain would be eased."
"Legolas, I know your heart is in the right place, but never would I command any to do such. I may be King, but I am not a tyrant."
Legolas sank into a chair, and stroked his smooth brow. "I know what you say, and as King, I would never do what I just asked of you. But, I am at a loss. She is withering so. . ."
The King gazed at his son, and thought of the pain that was in his future. Never should he have allowed this marriage to take place, and his son is, even now, showing the anguish of its effect. . . "And so will we all," he thought.
"Father. . ." Legolas hesitated, as if unsure of how to proceed, "may I ask you a question?"
Having chosen a chair in close proximity, the King sat and took a sip of wine. "Of course, my son."
Breathing softly, Legolas plucked up the courage within. "Galamed has asked me to speak to you on his behalf. He wishes to marry Anardil."
"Aye, I was wondering when you were going to come to me with this. You have taken your time, have you not?"
"I could not endorse what I did not believe. They should be allowed to marry. I realize now that it was never my decision to make for them," Legolas said, steadfastly.
"Rightly spoken, my son. That decision unfortunately falls to me. Your feelings do you credit," the King said while rising, "but, I shall never allow that marriage to take place." Thranduil strode out of the hall, ending the discussion. A few moments passed as Legolas pondered his father's words before following sprightly.
"Why?" Legolas asked, when his father had been met.
"Need I remind you of our rules, Legolas?"
"But how can you say such? You agreed to cast them aside for my marriage. Cannot you do the same for Galamed?"
"Nay, I have my reasons," Thranduil said sternly as he stood in the doorway to his private study. "You will understand one day, Legolas, when you are King." With that, Thranduil shut the door, and Legolas was left alone in the empty corridor.
* * *
That night, gloom and a cool dampness filled the Palace, and all were forced to sup indoors due to a torrential rainstorm. A roaring fire was lit, but did little to lighten the mood at the royal table. All ate heartily, with the exception of Mithryn who merely picked at the food on her silver plate. Once again, she seemed lost in thought and worries. Legolas looked imploringly at his father, hoping desperately that the King would see what was plain to all. Mithryn was in inward torment and urgently required aid.
Thranduil gazed at his daughter-in-law now as if for the first time in many months. What he saw alarmed him greatly. Sitting at the table, she appeared no more than a thin, frail creature, barely touching her food. Dark hollows hung beneath her eyes; it was evident that sleep had been neglected also. Her once bright and sparkling eyes now seemed clouded and grim. She moved with extreme effort, the King noticed, and those actions came slow and forced. "A! Elbereth!" Thranduil said in his mind. "Could it be that this vision she has seen is of her own demise? Surely that would be enough to greatly distress any."
With tired, sad eyes, Mithryn gazed up at her husband's ever youthful, ever beautiful face. Legolas saw her anguish, as did Thranduil. It was evident to the King that she stared at her husband with eyes which knew much of the future. Indeed, he would have to talk with her now, and ease her pained heart.
* * *
The following evening, Mithryn was summoned to the King, much to Legolas' relief. Mithryn made the journey to King Thranduil's private study with reluctance, though she was puzzled as to why he required audience with her. However, she dared not ignore the summons.
Her soft footfalls echoed in the chilly corridors of the Palace as she slowly made her way to the King's study. Knocking faintly, she heard the clear voice of Thranduil call out, "Enter." Pushing open the great, wooden door, she stepped into the darkened room.
The King sat at his elegantly carved table, reading over his mounds of parchment. The fire was dying on the hearth, and his glass showed but a hint of the wine it had not that long ago contained. Thranduil's brow furrowed at his activity, and he did not take notice of her.
Mithryn stood there a few moments, waiting to be addressed, not wishing to impose. Fatigue came upon her quickly, however, and she was forced to speak. "My Lord, you sent for me?"
At last, the King raised his head, and smiled upon sight of her. "Ah, Mithryn," he said, rising and taking her thin hands. "Do sit down, my dear. The air has turned cold. Ah, and my fire is dying," he said as he tossed two logs on the hearth. "Some wine? Would you care for some?"
"No thank you," Mithryn replied, shyly.
"Pray forgive this heap, my dear. I have been very busy, as of late, deciding the best coarse of action." Thranduil sat in his ancient chair, eyes cast upon the rolls of correspondence.
"What is your trouble, your majesty?" Mithryn said, concerned.
"I am greatly concerned for a friend of mine. It has been sometime since I have had word from or of him; I fear the worst. Of course, I know not for certain, but in these dark and treacherous times, one cannot be too careful. This, I have learned the hard way, you understand."
Mithryn blinked at the great King, so noble as he sat on his engraved, Elvish chair. Indeed, she did not know his meaning, but could not pluck up the courage to say such.
A laugh escaped him. "But I did not call you forth to hear my grumbles, my dear. These woes are not your trouble. Nay, I have another concern that you can aid me in."
"I, my Lordship?" Mithryn asked, surprised.
"Aye, you. You, and you alone. I have noticed you greatly altered as of late."
Mithryn froze upon hearing his words. She knew what he would ask, but felt she could not bring herself to tell him. However, he was the King. She could not go against his command.
"It is true that I have been slightly under the weather in weeks past, my Lord. I hope that I am improving."
"You did not appear to be improving last night at dinner."
Mithryn's eyes were cast down, reluctant to meet the King's gaze. Guiltily, she stared at her lap.
"My dear," he implored, "will you not tell me your burden? I am the King. Can I not somehow ease your sorrow? Will you not give me that opportunity?"
Her mouth, however, was closed tight, and would not answer, not even the King.
"Of course, I can command you tell me. . ." he said, with a coldness in his voice. Immediately her eyes shot up, staring now with fear and trepidation into the King's icy blue eyes. "Of course," he added, "I could never do such a thing," and the ice melted in his look.
Mithryn opened her mouth to speak, but alas, the words would not come. Thranduil waited with anticipation, but regretfully, once again her mouth closed. She would not be influenced.
Thranduil sighed, "So be it, my dear. I shall not force you. Know that if ever you wish to talk, forever will I be available to hear you without judgement. You need have no fear; your secrets are safe with me." He spoke with such softness, and gentle kindness, that Mithryn wished the words would leap out, but still they refused. "Thank you, my Lord," she merely replied with heartfelt thanks as she turned to leave.
The King once again turned back to his documents. "Alas, this Gollum mishap cannot be concealed any longer. Elrond must be told. How reluctant am I to tell him, however. I suppose it is our destiny that he escaped."
Mithryn stopped in mid-step, and turned around. "Do you believe in destiny, my Lord?"
"Indeed, I do. I have witnessed much in my long life, my dear, and believe there to be a cycle surrounding all life. So it is with destiny. We each have our place in this universe, for good or evil. I only hope that righteousness is in our destiny, and that we shall prevail. Now, if you'll forgive me my dear, Haldof will be wanting this letter to Lord Elrond."
"Haldof. . .Is he to deliver it?"
"Aye, he is," Thranduil said as he started composing his letter.
Mithryn stood by the door, unable to move. The soft scratching of the King's quill, and the faint crackle of the fire were all that her ears heard. Twirling, tumbling, cascading were the thoughts in her mind, battling against what she knew in her heart. She knew what was right, and now was the time to face it.
Thranduil turned when he realized Mithryn had never left the room. She remained strangely statuesque, as if caught in some meditating snare. "Mithryn, what is it?"
Ever so slowly, she turned her head and faced the noble King; a tear crawling down her calm face. "My Lord, you send the wrong messenger for this errand."
The King was slightly taken back, and failed to hide his surprise. "Oh? Then, pray tell whom you deem to be the right messenger."
Taking a deep breath, she whispered, "Legolas."
"Legolas? Why is he to go in Haldof's stead?" Suddenly, the King's eyes narrowed in perception. "What exactly did you see in your vision, Mithryn?"
"All the horrors of this world. I saw chaos, and agony, brutality, and senseless violence. I saw...I saw...Legolas."
"Legolas?" Thranduil said harshly as he rose abruptly out of his seat. "What of Legolas?"
"There were a myriad of flashes, my Lord; too numerous to mention. Fast and furious like a gale. Ever did he seem surrounded by peril, in dark caverns, as well as in endless fields. . .great fortresses and mighty cities."
Thranduil stood in thought, attempting to make sense of her ominous tellings.
"But, I feel it incumbent upon me to tell you what else I saw." Mithryn's whole body seemed to shake, feeling the most powerful fear and torment she had ever known. "The eye of Sauron," she whispered in her trembling voice.
"You have seen it?!"
Nodding, Mithryn replied, "I saw a host of soldiers making a final stand against the forces of Mordor. Legolas was amongst them."
Thranduil sat, dazed. "You are mistaken," he said at last, voice firm and resolute.
"Nay, there is no mistaking what I saw," she said, quietly.
"You are mistaken!" Thranduil thundered, causing Mithryn to jump. "I know not what nightmare you had, but I fear your mind has been deceived."
Swallowing, Mithryn shook her head. "Respectfully, your Majesty, never have I found error in my visions. It is true. The battle is coming, and Legolas is going to aid in the fight."
Burying his face in his hands, Thranduil could not escape the truths he knew were in his heart. The One Ring has been found. Warriors from Mordor were indeed rising up for a stronger battle than ever before in Middle Earth. Reports of aggressive orc activity were before him. Warfare was brewing and can no longer be ignored. "The end is neigh," he thought to himself.
"I am sorry, your Majesty. I have been battling this long. I know how you must feel, for I share in your concern. I do not want to lose my husband to such a death, as death it must be against such a foe. However, it is not my right to protect him. He must go to Rivendell. It was clearly shown that of all the elves, he is the one who is most capable of steering the forces of good. Destiny shows he will go. His is needed, and it breaks my heart."
Thranduil raised his crimson eyes to gaze at his son's wife. It was evident how pained she was to bear such foreboding and ominous tidings. Inwardly, the great King battled fiercely. Should he allow his eldest and heir to his throne to walk blindly into such doom? "I am torn. You give me much to think of. It is my decision to make, you realize. If I let him go, as you request, I shall be sending my son to his death. Yet, and I hope you shall forgive me my dear, I cannot be certain that all that you say is true."
"I bear you no ill will, my Lord, upon being sceptical. I, too, felt as you do now." Mithryn sighed, and for the first time in weeks, felt relieved. "What do you propose, my Lord?"
Sighing, the King replied, "I must think this through. Errors are made in haste. Yet, whatever my decision be, to send him or keep him, you must vow never to speak of this with him. Understand that my decision is final, and you must from here on, remain silent in all that you know."
"As you command, your Majesty."
Thranduil nodded. "Now, you may leave me." Mithryn moved to the door, but was at once called back. "Mithryn," he said, "thank you for speaking plainly with me. How you must have suffered."
Unable to find the words to express her own gratitude, she merely bowed her head, and left the King to ponder the fate of his eldest son.
* * *
A spent rainfall let its last droplets descend to the earth. Legolas stood at his promenade, gazing outward, anxiously searching for any sign of Mithryn. He did not have long to wait. Stepping out of the Palace Gate, her eyes rose upward, meeting those of her fretting husband. Wasting no time, he sprung down the twined steps, and darted to her side. "Did you see my Father?" he asked, eagerly.
"And are you eased?"
"I am," Mithryn replied, heart breaking inwardly.
"Then, that is all you need tell me," Legolas said before wrapping his powerful arms around her weakened body. "Are you hungry? Shall I send for victuals?"
"Aye," Mithryn replied, noticing for the first time how ravenous she felt. "Food would be splendid."
Smiling, Legolas led her back into the Palace. A wave of relief washed over him, cleansing out his worries and anxiety. Once again, he had his beloved wife returned to him.
The remainder of the night had been spent with the lovers wrapped in each other's arms. Both had longingly desired the warmth and security that was to be felt only in marital bliss. As hours passed into the night, Elves sang in glorious harmony, worshipping the stars, and Legolas and Mithryn reaffirmed their undying devotion to one another. It was with tender rapture that they rested naked and entangled upon the bed.
"What bliss it is to have you in my arms again," Legolas said softly.
"I know I have held you at a distance these past weeks," Mithryn admitted. "It was wrong of me; forgive me."
"Never do you need ask forgiveness from me. Indeed, you have done nothing that requires pardon."
Consoled and relieved, Mithryn reached for and kissed her beloved husband, trying with desperate might to forget her conversation with the King and the possibility of Legolas leaving her side. A sudden knock upon the door brought her mind back to reality.
"My Lord," a voice called from behind the closed door, "I do not wish to disturb thee, but His Highness has called and requests conference with thee."
"Tell my Father that I am coming," Legolas bade loudly, and the servant could be heard departing. Turning back to Mithryn, he said, "Of all nights for my Father to summon me! And at such an hour! However, do not move. I wish for you to remain in bed until I return to you." Mithryn nodded her reply, and watched her husband dress. "I shan't be long," he said, exiting the room, and blowing her a goodbye kiss.
* * *
"Ah, Legolas, there you are," the King said, welcoming his son into his study. "Come, and take a seat."
Legolas gazed at his Father with a somewhat perplexed expression on his face. "Not that I do not mind conversing with you, Father, but what is the urgency that requires this late night discussion?"
"I am sending you to Rivendell," the King replied, matter-of-factly.
"Rivendell?! For what purpose?" Legolas asked, astonished.
"I have an urgent letter for Elrond which you must deliver."
"Why must I deliver it? Things have only just improved with Mithryn and I. Cannot Taranin deliver it? Or perhaps Haldof?"
"Nay, I wish you to be the bearer. That is my final word."
Legolas was wise enough to refrain from badgering his father on the subject further. He simply sat confused and annoyed. "If it is what you command, Father."
"It is," Thranduil replied, "And you need be in no rush to return. No doubt you will have much to see and do in Rivendell. How long has it been since you were there?"
"Nearly three hundred years, I'd wager."
"Then you will certainly be requiring an extended visit with the House of Elrond. I am certain he will expect it of you."
"May I bring Mithryn? She has never seen Rivendell."
"Nay, I think it best that Mithryn remain here. She is still recovering. Also, the roads are dangerous now, and no place for a lady. You will travel with two guards." Thranduil clasped his eldest in a tight embrace. "Take care, my son, and return to us safely."
Legolas was puzzled to find such utter concern and worry in his Father's eyes. It was evident that he knew more than he was revealing. Thranduil handed him the scroll he was to deliver to Lord Elrond.
"When am I to go?" Legolas asked, baffled.
"Within the hour," Thranduil replied.
"Within the hour?! But it is the middle of the night! Might I not set off in the morning?"
"You will not reach the Old Forest Road until morning when it is safe, so have no fears. Now, you had best prepare and say your farewells. I shall meet you again before you set out."
Legolas left his Father's company dazed and bewildered. His demeanor did not alter when he returned to his chamber to find Mithryn packing his weapons and clothes. Gazing at her, he declared with certainty, "You know what is going on."
Guiltily, Mithryn nodded. "Do not ask me questions I cannot answer, Legolas. Know that I know where you go and why. Let us leave it at that."
"That is not good enough!" Legolas bellowed, detesting being left in the dark.
"But it will have to do," Mithryn replied, obstinately.
Legolas knew he would budge neither his Father's nor Mithryn's steel dispositions, and ceased his begging. "Very well. If you think it best I do not know, then I know I cannot make you tell me."
"Thank you, my Love. It eases my heart to know that you do not fight me on this measure."
It was nearly an hour after the two guards had been sent for that Legolas stood again by the stairs. A groom held his horse, stocked with weapons and provisions. Few Elves were awake in the early morning hours, and joined the King and Mithryn in saying parting words to their Prince and kindred.
"Fare thee well, my son. May you return safely to us soon," Thranduil said, embracing his son one last time.
Legolas jumped on his pony, and after steadying his mount, gazed down at the loving face of his wife. Without words, for there were no more words to say, he simply bent down and kissed her with all of his heart. Precious seconds slipped by, until at last, no more time could be spared. Without looking back, the trio reared and charged forward. Thus, began Legolas' long journey to Rivendell.
End of Chapter Eighteen