A Tale of Mirkwood - Chapter Nineteen - Rivendell
Daylight waned, and all grew dark with the velvety night of the world. At the foot of the Misty Mountains Legolas and his two companions momentarily rested, as traveling thus far had been no strain on any. Mirkwood's northern lands were their home, and they passed it swiftly on their radiant steeds.
As he sat, raising his eyes higher and higher up the ridge, Legolas stared at the outline of the tall, jagged mountaintops. It had been long since he had last made this journey to the great Elven city of Rivendell. How long ago and distant did his memories seem to him. Though, little could he think of it, as Mithryn had been foremost on his mind. Since meeting her, never had they been apart so long.
Hesitantly, a fair haired guard clad in green approached the solemn Prince. "My Lord, I am sorry to disturb you," he said, almost in a whisper, though they were quite alone.
"Nay, you do not disturb me, Arasarn. What is it?" Legolas asked sleepily, as though waking from a dream.
"Shall we let free the ponies and begin our ascent, or, perhaps you wish to wait for the morn?"
"Nay," Legolas said, rising. "You are right. The rocks are becoming too treacherous. We should be on the move. The sooner we depart, the sooner we return," he said, approaching the horses and whispered soft, Elvish words to them. The three ponies perceived their master's instruction, trotted down the slope to graze in the valley, and wait beside the mountains. There they would stay until their masters' return.
The three companions resumed their arduous journey over the Misty Mountains. The High Pass entailed deep snow, fervid winds, sheer, narrow precipices, and vertiginous altitudes. Only Elves could survive such a journey. However, it was the quickest, though most precarious, path to Rivendell.
Onward and upward they traveled, stopping only for short rest periods. The sharp, bitter wind did not hinder them, though squalls of snow thwarted visibility. After two days of steady climbing, the crest had at last been reached. As the wind sent swirling snow dancing around them, a dying sun broke through the illuminated clouds. The three Elves, shrouded with snow, stared out from the highest peak in Middle Earth, and with every glance, saw a world full of splendorous, avid glory. They did not wait long on the summit, however, and slowly began their descent westward to the warm, verdant lands of Elrond's Kingdom.
* * *
"Ah, trees at last!" Arasarn exclaimed when a forest had been reached. Legolas and his other companion, Manlos, chuckled at their friend's utter relief upon the sight of swaying trees.
"You missed that familiar sight, did you, Arasarn?" Legolas teased.
"Aye. I never feel calm in open meadow, nor in barren valley. I crave leaf and branch!" Arasarn said while gently touching the rough bark of an elm.
Grinning, Legolas replied, "I understand you! The forest is indeed the only place for me, and it is under the treetops of Mirkwood where my heart lies. What say you, Manlos?" he inquired as they strolled.
Manlos' eyes lifted pensively to the rustling leaves, filled with sunlight and scented breeze. "Alas, I crave the wood no longer. The sea has, at last, called to me. I long to hear the call of the gull and the ever changing music of the sea."
Legolas and Arasarn stopped in their stride, staring at their companion with questioning faces. "It has summoned you?" Legolas asked when their walking resumed.
"Aye," Manlos said, quietly, "though I have been averse to leave this Earth, for I know I shall not return. How sad it is, that we are all departing, never to return . . ."
Legolas stared at the ground as he walked, immersed within himself. Indeed, it was difficult to imagine Middle Earth with his friends and loved ones all departed away. Never before did he really believe that the Age of Elves was coming to a close. But now, a creeping, ominous change was in the air, and nothing was certain for any who walked Middle Earth's lands.
* * *
"Halt!" a voice commanded through the trees. Legolas and his escort followed order, standing perfectly still, whilst their eyes roamed the trees in search of fine faces. Soon, a tall, graceful form stepped out from behind the large bole of a tree, eyeing the newcomers with curious interest. He was clad differently from those of the Mirkwood Elves. His uniform was silver-grey, and heavily embroidered. Legolas admired this cavalier Elf at a distance.
"So, our kindred to the north conveys another message from King Thranduil," the Elf said. "Good. Lord Elrond has been waiting for such a letter. I am Lómëril, Captain of the guards in the East. May I enquire your names?"
"I am Legolas, eldest son of King Thranduil. These are my companions, Manlos and Arasarn."
"Legolas?!" Lómëril exclaimed with a bow. "It has been long since the King's sons graced our fine halls. Hail, Elves from afar! Come Cousins! Come and sup the wine and fare from our noble tables. You are most welcome here." Suddenly, more Elves come out of their hiding places, and joined the group, welcoming their guests.
* * *
It was with a warmed heart that Legolas walked with his new Rivendell companions through the forest, while voices near and far rose into the dusky sky. Often his eyes rose up before the lofty trees, and he smiled, for he felt as if he almost remembered them, as distant friends. Steadily as the elf path rose uphill, the merry group came across a sight which Legolas had not forgotten. In the distance, the illuminated city of Rivendell could be seen in all its glory.
"Now, that is a sight I never tire of," Lómëril said quietly. Legolas agreed, but expressed no words, for the views were too beautiful to be expressed. He did not feel adept enough with words to describe all that he felt in his heart.
"Come," Lómëril said after a few moments of peaceful gazing. "If we move with haste, we shall reach Rivendell by nightfall. We must not miss Lord Elrond's feast!" High in the ancient trees, Iavin sounded their clear, heraldic call, telling all those in the city who was coming.
It was with much enthusiastic joyfulness that the troupe continued on their journey, singing songs, and telling tales. Legolas enjoyed himself thoroughly, and only twice did a frown come upon his face, when he thought of Mithryn. He had already been away for what felt like an eternity to his heart. Of course he wished to see the magnificent Rivendell, but his heart resisted with Mithryn far away in Mirkwood.
"What ails you, Friend?" Lómëril said, noticing Legolas' sorrowful face. "Surely you do not resent visiting our great home?"
"Ai, I look upon Rivendell as being one of the most beautiful places in Middle Earth," Legolas said, ashamed that his new friend had seen him in low spirits.
"Then, why such sorrow? What could grieve you so, coming to a place you hold dear?" Lómëril said, as jovial Elven voices sang.
"I left behind my wife and my heart in Mirkwood. We are newly married, and I was hesitant to leave her," Legolas replied.
Lómëril responded by laughing uproariously. Legolas could do little but stare at the Elf's impudence. "In love! Of course, I should have known and recognized that look of melancholy! But fear not, Prince Legolas. Your stay with us will be brief, and once again you shall find yourself in your true love's arms."
* * *
All the world soon sank into darkness, and alike to friendly faces, the stars glistened and sparkled with everlasting charm. The Elven party walked on and soon came to the city limits where familiar elven songs of welcome could be heard.
"Prince Legolas," Lómëril said, "Lord Elrond will no doubt wish to see you. Come with me. Your kinsmen shall be shown to their quarters."
Legolas followed the Rivendell guard, while his eyes gazed wondrously at the dazzling kingdom. Richly carved buildings peaked out from under trees and sat nestled beside streaming waterfalls. Long, winding terraces stretched from tower to tower, connecting the whole city as one. In the pale light of the stars and full moon, a soft glow emanated from the city, and candles and lamps flickered in bedchambers and great halls of old. "I had forgotten," Legolas whispered, not knowing the words had escaped his lips.
"Forgotten what?" Lómëril inquired.
"How beautiful Rivendell was. It has been long. . ."
Feeling there were no more words to be said, the pair continued their journey up a winding stair to the second floor terrace, and Lord Elrond's grand hall.
"Pray wait here, Prince Legolas," Lómëril said before quickly leaving him alone on the curving promenade. Entranced by the radiant sight, Legolas did not notice the soft footfalls behind him.
"Ho, ho!" an old, cheerful voice bellowed. "And what Mirkwood Elf would be in these parts?"
Legolas turned, and saw neither elf nor man, but the sight of an elderly child. "Do I know you, Friend?"
"I should say so!" the little creature said emphatically. "Bless me, it has been seventy-seven years, in fact, but I never forget a face. I was, after all, your uninvited guest for a time, as were my Dwarven companions."
Promptly, Legolas face beamed. "Bilbo? Bilbo Baggins?" he said causing the elderly Hobbit to giggle at his joke.
"Aye, it is I! Oh, time has passed, has it not? Though, one would not know it, looking at you. You elves are all alike. Old as I am for my kind, I can never compete with you."
Kneeling down, Legolas embraced his old friend. "Indeed, has it been so long?" he asked, staring at the face of one so young and nimble but a short time before, but now appeared old and withered like a leaf. A pang pierced his heart at his reminder of human frailty. Had so much time really passed?
"Aye, it would seem that time has finally caught up with me," Bilbo said. "Though, gazing at you, I feel as though it were only yesterday that I stole food from your tables, and snuck my friends out of your dungeons!" A ferocious fit of laughter came over Bilbo in recollecting his old adventures, until at last came a wave of sadness. "How I wish that I could return to your father's Kingdom once more. How does Lonely Mountain look these days?"
"Alas, I can give you no answer to your query. I have not travelled that way since the Battle of the Five Armies. I would think it looks much the same since Smaug departed," Legolas answered, feeling Bilbo's sudden heavy heart. "Perhaps you will see it again."
"Oh, I fear I have waited too long for such adventures." Bilbo stood staring into the glistening sky, and suddenly seemed to forget his old friend.
Legolas was about to extend some words of comfort when they were interrupted by the returning Lómëril. Bilbo started at the sound of Lómëril's voice. "Legolas, Lord Elrond is ready to give you audience."
"Yes, yes, Legolas," Bilbo said hastily, his dark spell now fading, "Elrond is not an elf to keep waiting."
Legolas bade his farewell to Bilbo with promises to visit and reminisce old battle stories, as Bilbo called them, proud as he was. Following Lómëril into the hall, Legolas gazed around him at the high ceilings, elaborate arches, and open turrets. Gold glistened off the walls, and finely carved chairs filled the room. Lord Elrond, grand and noble, rose from his fluted throne, welcoming his guest to his Realm.
An awed Legolas stepped before the noble lord, regal and wise. Elrond greeted, "It has been long indeed since we have had the pleasure of your company, Prince Legolas of Mirkwood. I must say that I am surprised that my friend would send his eldest son on such a paltry mission as to deliver a letter to me. Or, perhaps I am mistaken in your visit?"
"Nay," Legolas replied, "your assumptions are true. Letters to you and Mithrandir do I carry, and it is my Father's wish for me to deliver them."
"Half your mission is more easily accomplished, it seems. I am here to receive Thranduil's letter. As for Mithrandir, however, we have had no word from him for several months. You shall be forced to wait for his return, unfortunately, to fulfill that duty. If you must leave, however, I could keep the letter here for him until he arrives."
"He has still not returned?" Legolas asked, more concerned than ever for his old friend's welfare.
"Nay, and I am puzzled as to the cause. It would seem..." but Elrond's voice trailed off, and his mind also into darkened, evil thoughts. Unexpectedly, he noticed Legolas staring, a worried expression cast over his face. "Ah, but we must fear not, Legolas. Mithrandir is a powerful wizard indeed, and enjoys disappearing and reappearing when it suits him. I think we need not fear his absence, yet."
Legolas nodded, but his heart felt otherwise.
"Now," Elrond said, "pray bring me my letter."
Legolas pulled out a long curled sheet of parchment from his doublet, and stepping closer, placed it in Elrond's elegant hand. Legolas bowed slightly and retreated to Lómëril's side. Uncurling the letter, Elrond began to read, and now and then stole curious glances at Legolas. Upon it's completion, he sighed and blinked peculiarly, Legolas thought. With a furrowed brow, Lord Elrond turned and stared hard into Legolas' fair face. "How was your wife when you last saw her?" Elrond inquired. "I understand you are newly married."
"Yes," Legolas said, puzzled. "She was very well." Now, more than ever, he wondered at the contents of the letter.
"It seems you are to stay with us awhile," Elrond said. Ringing a bell, he continued. "Your room has been prepared. Are you fatigued at all? Is there anything we may offer you prior to the dining hour?"
"Your leave to walk by the waterfalls would be most welcome. I remember clearly from my previous visits as admiring them exceedingly."
"But of course," Elrond replied, graciously. "Our home is yours. Come and go where you will. I am sure it will please you to hear that my daughter is newly returned this night from Lórien. It has been long since you have seen her, is it not?"
"Arwen? Ai, yes. Long indeed," Legolas said, remembering her extraordinary beauty like no other elf he had ever before seen. "I would greatly wish to see her again."
"That is a wish I can grant, as she shall be joining us for dinner this night. I greatly look forward to conversing with you more. There are things," Elrond said, clutching his letter, "which concerns me greatly. Perhaps you may shed some light on my . . . interests."
"But of course, Lord Elrond. It would be my pleasure." Legolas and Lómëril bowed, and swiftly exited the hall.
"Come," Lómëril bade Legolas. "I shall show you to your room."
Legolas' room was a fine one indeed. Leaded windows filtered in soft moonlight, revealing colourful mosaics which decorated the curved walls. Legolas stared at the soft face of an Elven-matron holding her young child in her arms, weeping. "What would give such a fair lady such cause to weep?" he wondered.
Soon, Lómëril had returned to bring Legolas to the much anticipated dinner. Much was to be celebrated that night. The long awaited return of Arwen to her home, as well as Legolas' arrival had inspired gay music, happy song, and cheerful introductions. Legolas and Lómëril entered the atrium where long tables were filled with fine food and delicate crystal goblets.
Elrond, dressed in formal burgundy intricately threaded with gold, and a mithril circlet upon his head, approached his new guest. "Welcome, Prince Legolas, son of Thranduil, to my home, my hall, and my table. We have long missed your honored company, and are thankful to once again have you among us, and call you friend. Welcome, Legolas."
Happy attendants applauded their Lord and extended warm welcome to their distant cousins. A soft touch on his shoulder sent Legolas turning to see one certainly not forgot. A pale and creamy face decorated with sapphire eyes and ruby lips, peaked out from a bounty of raven-colored hair, elegantly twisted and tied displaying her perfectly pointed ears.
"Lady Arwen!" Legolas said, beaming. "Your Father spoke to me of your return. How are you, my old friend?"
Arwen smiled and replied, "Yes, I have only just returned this morn from my Mother's homeland of Lórien. How strange and good it feels to be here again after being so long away."
Without realizing it, Legolas' thoughts unintentionally drifted to Mirkwood, and to Mithryn. He continued to wonder, however, how long they would be apart.
His transparent gaze did not escape Arwen's sagacious eyes. A laugh escaped her, which promptly pulled Legolas from daydream. "Your mind wanders, Legolas. What do you dream of, this fine evening? The stars? The lonely moon?"
"My wife," Legolas replied, mind and heart filled with the thought of her.
"Ah, yes, of course. I heard of your union. May I offer you my felicitations?"
"You may. I thank you," Legolas replied, bowing courtly.
"Do I know her? I have traveled to Mirkwood but a few times. Perhaps I have met her?"
"Nay, my Lady. I think not. She does not come from Mirkwood, for she is no elf, but born of man."
Arwen stared gently into Legolas' face. "I had not known," she replied, quietly.
"Nay, I would not think it. I am by no means ashamed, but, at a time such as this . . .well, it is not well looked upon. Our hearts choose for us, with no thought of tradition, or parental blessing."
"You speak the truth, I know," Arwen said, tenderly. Inside, her own thoughts raced, and questions filled her mind. Plucking up enough courage, she said, "Tell me . . ." but their conversation was suddenly interrupted by a guard's swift entrance into the assembly.
Stepping close to Lord Elrond, the guard whispered, "My Lord. I am sorry to interrupt, but Mithrandir has just returned. I thought you would wish to see him."
"Where is he now?" Elrond enquired, hastily.
"In his room, my Lord," the guard said.
"I shall be there momentarily."
"Aye, my Lord," the guard replied. He strode off in haste, as did Lord Elrond before suddenly stopping, turning and staring at Legolas. "Will you join me, Legolas? I believe Mithrandir would wish you present in our conversations."
"I would be honoured," was all Legolas could reply before bidding Arwen farewell, and striding off at Elrond's side to see Mithrandir at last.
End of Chapter Nineteen