A Tale of Mirkwood - Chapter Eleven - The Fate of Many
Mithryn exited the palace, and stood on the delicately trellised bridge, hand covering her mouth. Composing herself once more, she strode off toward her cottage, trying not to lose her way, as the cabins all looked so similar.
Once inside her cozy chamber, she paced about the room in agitated spirits, thinking it best to soothe herself before seeking Legolas. Suddenly, a knock sounded at the door. Mithryn pressed her hand to her stomach, trying to calm the feeling of butterflies fluttering inside. "Enter," she said, nervously. The door opened wide, and Legolas entered. He hastily approached her and grasped her tiny hands. "What did you and my Father speak of?" he demanded, eyes bearing down on hers.
"You know what was said."
Legolas' eyes turned away from the pain he saw in her face, and released her hands.
"Why did you not tell me?" she pleaded, voice shaking.
"I knew you would not approve of it," he said, standing at a window, looking out, but seeing nothing.
"You were correct in your assumption. Legolas, is it still your intention to give up your eternal life?"
"It is. This is, after all, my decision," he said firmly, not daring to glance at her.
"Nay, Legolas. Not entirely. Without me, there is no decision to make."
Her words bewildered him, but his gaze remained fixed on the window pane; he said naught.
Mithryn nodded her head, chin trembling, viewing his silence as stubborn determination on his part. Alas, if he was firm in his decree, so must she be. "Legolas, I think it best for me to go away. I fear I can no longer stay here."
Legolas quickly turned, his face distressed. "You wish to leave? Me? Here? Why? I do not understand! We have only just arrived." Panic streaked through his veins with a swifter, stronger potency than that of the Orc poison, and had a more devastating effect. At length he asked, hardly able to breath, "Do you not want to marry me?"
"Of course I do, Legolas. There is nothing my heart desires more. But, I cannot allow you to sacrifice your life for mine." Mithryn turned, and began to collect her belongings. Her movements were reluctant, her whole body listless, but her mind would not be persuaded. Legolas watched her in horrified silence, words unable to leave his lips. Mithryn continued, "I think I shall go to Rivendell. Living alone for so long has taken its toll. Seventy-eight years in hiding has been enough. After this, I long to be with people again. Think your Father would write a letter to Lord Elrond for me? It is Lord Elrond, is it not?"
In two, great strides, Legolas swept her into his tight embrace. "Do not do this, Mithryn. I beg of you; do not go."
Mithryn raised her teary eyes to his. "I do not mean to threaten you, Legolas. Yet, while you insist on doing this, you leave me no choice. If I leave, you cannot watch me wither and die with time; you shall live your foreordained life; the life you were born to live . . . as an immortal Elf. That is more important to me than my own happiness. When you truly love someone, you are willing to relinquish your own bliss for their sake. I am prepared to do this, but I refuse to allow you to do so."
His strong arms did not relax; he still held her firmly in his grip, unwilling to let her go. "And if I agree not to relinquish it, what then? If I consent to live through eternity without you, a tortured existence, will you stay?"
Legolas closed his eyes in agony. "You know not what you ask of me, Mithryn. When you fade away, I shall live on, forever, never to see you again, never to speak with you, never to hold you. How can you wish to condemn me to such a life?"
"Because I love you, Legolas."
Pressing her close, she rested her head on his powerful chest. "You therefore, leave me no choice." Gently stroking her head, his hand caressed her soft curls. "I would rather have you for whatever time you give me, than not at all. Every moment will I cherish." He leaned down, kissing her with trembling lips, his salty tears blending with her own on her soft cheek. Holding her securely, he said: "I shall do what you ask of me, though, I am unsure of whether my heart can bear it. Above all else, I want you to be happy."
"I am happy with you," she said, hands reaching up to his silky face, wiping away the tears.
* * *
Haldof gazed upward to the overcast sky, clouds churning high above him. "Rain is nigh," he thought as he walked along the quiet forest floor. He stopped at the massive trunk of Belegaladh, leaning against it in deep contemplation.
"Think it will rain?" a voice sounded from above. Haldof hastily turned to see Legolas sitting alone, prominently in the boughs of the mighty tree.
"Why did you not tell me you were there?" Haldof scolded.
"I just did. Will you not come up?"
Haldof sighed and climbed up the gnarled tree. Though he sat beside Legolas, his mood remained irritable. Silence ensued while Legolas shrouded himself in a brooding gloom. Out of the corner of his eye, Haldof studied his brother closely, his disposition thawing at the sight of Legolas' despair. "Do you think Father is still in council with Mithryn?" Haldof said at last.
"How did you know he called her forth?"
"Galamed told me of it."
"Ah," Legolas said. "Nay, their meeting has ceased; I have seen her."
"And . . . " Legolas continued, reluctantly, "and she will have none of it."
"What?" Haldof exclaimed in confusion.
"She threatened to leave if I would not change my mind."
Haldof's face softened with newfound esteem for the mortal. He had then only to regret his own conduct toward her, which now embarrassed him greatly.
"I know not how I shall live without her, Haldof, once she is gone." Legolas said, grief for the future weighing down upon him.
Turning to him, Haldof comfortingly placed a hand on Legolas' back. Face perplexed, Haldof asked, "Mithryn has lived a rather prolonged life for a mortal; is this not so?"
"Aye, it is true. Long has she resided in seclusion, aging slowly."
"Legolas," Haldof said with new insight, "it would be idiotic for you to choose the life of a mortal."
"Why? You know not of how it shall be for me!"
"I speak not of your feelings, but of Mithryn. She ages slowly, you have said, and is a child of what, ninety years? What I am trying to say, my simple-minded brother, is if you take on a mortal life, it will be she who will outlive you."
The realization of these irrefutable words hit Legolas harder than any orc blow. His mind had been so filled with the thought of her eventual death, never did he think of the length of her life. Under these circumstances, she could, with all probability, live many centuries before leaving him. Perhaps with time, he could change her mind, and still join her in death.
Haldof continued, when Legolas said naught. "You will not have eternity together; however, even if you were to wed an elf, there is still no certainty. Marry where your heart bids you, and be grateful of the time that is given to you. That is all anyone can hope for, I believe."
"Then, you are not opposed to her?"
"Nay. I'll readily admit that the ramifications of a mortal wed to my brother did unhinge me, at first. But, if you choose to stay with us, I care not whom you marry . . . so long it is not to a Dwarf-maiden!" Haldof said blithely, as he jocosely nudged his brother's arm. Legolas laughed, shaking his head at his brother's wry sense of humour.
"That, I could never consent to," Haldof continued. Legolas replied by giving him a playful push in brotherly fashion, forcing Haldof to quickly regain his precarious balance on the branch. Warm spring rain began to fall, and within minutes, both were drenched through. The brothers, however, cared little as Wood-elves have a bond with nature and feel joy in all weathers.
Suddenly, Galamed and Tarnil, equally saturated, ran to the base of Belegaladh, eyes searching through the foliage. "Legolas! Haldof!" they cried. "You must come!"
Seeing their brothers' alarm, Legolas and Haldof leaped out of the tree with aerialist alacrity, gracefully landing on the soaked ground. "What is it?" Legolas asked promptly.
"Elmarin; her time has come," Tarnil said attempting to catch his breath.
"The childbirth labour began last night," said Galamed, continuing. "Taranin was on watch, but none did Elmarin call to aid her,"
"It was my understanding that Taranin had been relieved of his duties," Legolas said.
"Elmarin would hear none of it," Galamed said, abashed.
"Taranin just returned from his watch and discovered her," Tarnil added, "and all does not go well."
Legolas, in haste, headed for the Palace, and all followed his step. "Have the midwives been summoned?"
"Aye," said Galamed, "but Elmarin is past the age to beget children. I spoke to Armenil briefly, and she has much concern for Elmarin. And of the child . . . "
"Does Father know?" Haldof inquired.
"Yes," Tarnil answered, "but he is resigned to whatever the fates may bring. However, you know how long it has been since a child was born into our Kingdom. If it should die . . . "
Legolas' rapid stride broke away from the path to the Palace, and veered right. All three followed him, despite confusion. "Where are you going?" Haldof asked, baffled. Not answering, Legolas halted at Mithryn's cottage, and knocked on the door. "Mithryn?!" There was no reply. He knocked loudly once more, and called her again, before opening the door. The room stood empty. The only movement came from the sapphire curtains blowing in the breeze. Legolas gazed about the lifeless room, a pool of water forming at his feet.
"Where is she?" Tarnil asked.
"I do not know." Legolas quickly exited the room, shutting the door. "We must find her!"
"Legolas, if you fear she has left you, now is not the time to search. Our kindred need our assistance!" Haldof said, indignantly.
"Mithryn is a exceptional healer," Legolas explained, allowing his brother's foolish words to pass. "You know not her power. She could be of great help. What assistance could we be, Haldof? We know nothing of bringing Elves into the world."
"And what can Mithryn know of that matter?" rebuked Haldof, aggravated.
"It is not in the delivery where her strengths lie. We must find her if we wish to be of any aid to Elmarin and Taranin." The three nodded. "Tarnil, check the stables for Anfalas, her mare. Haldof and Galamed, scour the paths. She may be eastbound."
"And what of you?" inquired Haldof.
Legolas' thoughts sailed painfully back to Mithryn's words of Rivendell and Lord Elrond. "I must see Father. Go!" All four brothers ran with haste in various directions, sprinting with agile grace through the downpour of rain.
* * *
Legolas burst into the great hall to find, not his father, but a gathering of a hundred noble Elven Lords and Ladies, patiently waiting for news. Taranin sat, obviously distressed, but rose upon Legolas' entrance. "Have you word of Elmarin?" he asked, anxiously.
"Nay, I am the bearer of no news yet, Taranin, but I have not relinquished all hope. Where is my Father?"
"He has retired to his study, I believe."
Legolas hurried off through the labyrinth of passageways to the King's private library. Without knocking, he burst into the room to see his father seated at the long, oak table, composing a letter. Legolas hastily approached him, his dripping hair accidently causing a spray of water to land upon the letter.
"Legolas! Now I must begin anew!"
"Father, to whom are you writing?"
"Elrond," the King replied, perturbed, pulling out another piece of parchment. "And truly, Legolas, please master the custom of knocking prior to entering."
"Father, do not do this!" Legolas cried in desperation.
Thranduil gazed up at his son with puzzled eyes. "You confuse me, Legolas. Why must I not write to Elrond?"
"Father, Mithryn must be confused . . . or doubtful of my veracity! I have sworn to her that I shall not choose a mortal life if she will but stay. Pray, do not write this letter for her!"
Blinking, Thranduil responded: "I assure you, she has made no such request. This letter only solicits news of Mithrandir, of whom I worry greatly."
Outwardly, Legolas merely stood gaping; inwardly, he was condemning his own blatant conjecture, insecurity and lack of trust. "I am sorry, Father. It appears it is I who am confused."
"Yes, yes, I am not surprised at all, for you never change. If you seek Mithryn, she was last entertaining herself in the Archives."
Legolas exited quickly, stepping with light feet down the winding corridors to the Archives Chamber. Enormous bookshelves rose to the high, vaulted ceiling. Crumbling rolls of parchment, and ancient, cracked books filled the shelves. When Legolas stepped into the chamber, he saw Mithryn sitting in a chair, reading a book by flickering candlelight. "Mithryn," he called.
She looked up, and smiled. "Legolas! Why, you are soaked through! Is it raining, or did Haldof throw you in the river again?" she said, leaving the book open on the table.
A laugh escaped Legolas. "Nay, it rains. Mithryn, listen. You must come with me."
She rose, instantly concerned. "You are distressed; what has happened?"
"It is Elmarin. Please, you must come!"
As he led her through the maze of passages, he told her of Elmarin's difficulty. Her face contorted with trepidation and fright. "But Legolas, I am not a physician! I know nothing of delivering infants! What aid can you suppose I would be?"
"In truth, I know not," he said as they stepped outside and into the rain. They swiftly ran to the Elven tower where Elmarin resided, and climbed the exterior, spiraling stairs until at last reaching the landing and her door.
"Legolas, this is not my expertise. I do not wish to disappoint you, but I know not what to do."
"You could never disappoint me, Mithryn," he said, grasping her soaked arms. The rain began to lessen, now, merely trickling down their faces. "Fewer Elves are brought now into the world than in the past. For Elmarin, there is a danger." He looked away, slightly embarrassed; it was not polite to speak of such things. "She has passed her time of childbearing, you understand. I know you may not be able to help, but please try. This is important to all of my people."
Mithryn gazed into his strong face. "I will do all within my power."
Embracing her, he kissed her lips, wet with rainwater. He knocked on the door, and shortly an Elf-matron answered, curtsying upon sight of the Prince. "There is nothing new to report, Legolas."
"How does she fare?" he asked.
The Lady glanced back into the room. "I fear her strength is waning," she whispered.
"Armenil, as you know, this is the Lady Mithryn. She may be of assistance as she is gifted in the art of healing."
Armenil opened wide the door. "Pray, enter and aid as you can."
Mithryn stepped in, and Armenil gently closed the door, leaving Legolas standing on the landing. The room was vast, with an open balcony; Elmarin lay, restlessly, in the massive bed. Three other midwives were present, all of whom wore crisp, white aprons. Armenil handed one to Mithryn, as well as a towel to dry herself. "Thank you," she said, gratefully accepting. Approaching the bed, she sat upon a stool next to the weak Elf. Elmarin was much altered. Her face was white as snow; all energy and willpower seemed drained from her body. Her blue eyes opened at last when Mithryn held her warm hand.
"Mithryn, you are here? How wonderfully . . . cool . . . your touch is."
"Legolas felt I might be able to assist you in your time."
Elmarin breathed short breaths, face drawn and strained. "It has been many hours. I have no strength left," she whispered. She turned to Mithryn, blue eyes turning red with despondent tears. She struggled to find the energy to say the words in her heart. "I do not wish to lose my child."
Mithryn's soul was deeply touched by the sight of her beauty, her pain and her hopelessness. Suddenly, all became clear to Mithryn. "Then I shall lend you my strength." While the wise healers gazed in curious wonder, Mithryn clenched her small fist, blew a breath of warm air upon it, and opened to reveal an orb of green flame. Slowly, she moved her hand until she was palm to palm with Elmarin's, clamped tightly together.
Elmarin's eyes opened wide with new vitality. She looked over at Mithryn to see her eyes closed, mind and body focused in purpose. Armenil sat upon the bed, feeling the child within. "It moves," she said excitedly. The child is much stronger, now." A sharp pain shot through Elmarin's body; the contractions had begun again, but she was ever careful not to break this strange electrical connection between her and Mithryn.
"The child is ready," one of the midwives said, preparing the cloth and bringing forward a large basin of warm water and fresh towels, which she placed on the table nearby.
"I have strength now," Elmarin said, gratefully gazing upon Mithryn, who was sitting as motionless as a statue.
* * *
Legolas had not returned to the Elves waiting fretfully in the grand hall. Sitting on the step outside Elmarin's door, he lingered uneasily, hardly hearing the beautiful, quiet song filling the air which many Elven ladies sang in support of their struggling sister. The rain had stopped, and the sky opened to reveal the husky glow of sunset. Abruptly, Haldof, Tarnil and Galamed ran to the stairwell. "Legolas!" they cried. He rushed down to them.
"We are sorry, Legolas, but we could find no evidence of Mithryn's trail, and Anfalas is still in her stall," Tarnil explained.
"Nay, it is I who am sorry, brothers. I found her in the Archives. She is now with Elmarin."
Each of his brothers let out an annoyed huff. "We have been running all over the Kingdom for you, and you did not have the mind to send a messenger to us?!" Haldof blasted.
Legolas was about to reply that his mind had been full of other thoughts, when his answer was interrupted with the distinct, shrill cry from a newborn babe. All heated temperaments melted away in relief, and they embraced each other for the blessed event which had just occurred. "Tarnil, go and inform Father. Galamed, you must do the same to Taranin and the others," Legolas said, and they both dashed off, on merry missions. Legolas and Haldof stood, arms about each other's shoulders, gazing up at the terrace, delightfully anticipating another sign. Soon, iavin could be heard from every quarter sounding the joyful news.
Elves rushed from the halls, Taranin in front. He bolted up the winding stair, and was welcomed by Armenil who swung open the door for him. The exhilarated crowd waited in breathless anticipation, staring ever upward to the balcony which showed no movement. Suddenly, Taranin stepped into view, but his face bore definite signs of concern. "Legolas," he called down to him. "You should come," he said before once again disappearing from view. A prescient silence fell over the gathering.
Legolas' heart beat wildly as he bounded up the steps and into the room. At first, there was nothing alarming to be seen; Elmarin was resting peacefully in the bed, two midwives were happily bathing the newborn, and, it then struck him, that Mithryn was nowhere to be seen. Taranin suddenly rose from the floor, and beckoned Legolas to his side. As he did so, he found Mithryn sprawled unconscious with Armenil beside her, bathing Mithryn's face with a cool, damp cloth.
"What happened to her?!" Legolas demanded, kneeling.
"She is drained of energy, but should recover soon," Armenil replied kindly, handing him the cloth and leaving him to tend Mithryn. Taranin comforted his weary wife with soft words, stroking her cheek and then poured her a glass of elven tonic to aid in her recovery.
Legolas cradled Mithryn's head on his lap; her lethargic eyes slowly opened. "I fainted," she said in a soft whisper.
He sighed a breath of relief. "You did. Think you can rise?" Legolas asked, apprehensively.
"I believe so," Mithryn said, sitting up. Fatigued and debilitated, she started to fall once more, but his strong arms were already there to catch her. "I feel a trifle lightheaded," she said while attempting to make the room stop spinning.
"I think you had better return to your cabin for rest," he said, helping her to her feet, holding tight so she would not fall. Nodding her reply, he began to walk her slowly out and carefully guided her down the steps.
Curious onlookers gazed at the pair, but little was said. Their attention was quickly diverted when Taranin arrived, proudly carrying his small daughter, Finaviel. The gathering broke out into melodious song, welcoming the new member of their kindred. All wished to gaze upon the young life that was most felicitously brought to them. It had been many hundreds of years since a child was born into the Kingdom, and when one arrived, it was always a sacred, mystical event, resulting in convivial celebration and ancient ritual ceremony to welcome their new relation into their fold.
Legolas had borne Mithryn away, steadying her steps with his arm clasped firmly around her waist. Opening her cottage door, he led her inside, and carefully sat her upon the bed, ever mindful of propriety.
"Are you certain you are well? Shall I send for the healers? Perhaps some tonic? I do not believe you recovered yet."
"Nay," Mithryn pleaded, arms holding herself up. "Rest is all I require. I simply feel . . .a little . . . frail."
Legolas guiltily looked at her. "I am sorry. It was wrong of me to goad you into such a situation; I am responsible."
"Legolas," she said, fatigued, "I am pleased to have helped Elmarin. This languor occurs when I over strenuously use my abilities. Do not reproach yourself, I beg of you. I have a will of my own, you know."
Legolas smiled, but could see her weaken. "You comfort me, Mithryn, and I shall leave you now. Thank you again, for what you did; it was most noble."
Mithryn, however, did not hear, as she fell into a restful slumber on the bed. Legolas lovingly gazed at her momentarily and carefully placed a coverlet over her before quietly exiting and returned to the celebrations.
End of Chapter Eleven