A Tale of Mirkwood - Chapter Seven - Blood and Blades
The morning had arrived, and Legolas prepared to set off. He was newly supplied with provisions which would last him until he reached home. Mithryn put the food into a sack which he secured across his back, and brought forth his weapon's harness. He slipped his arm through, and she fastened the silver buckle on his chest. She gazed up at him, and reaching up on her toes, kissed him.
They walked together to her easternmost boundary. As they walked, hands were held but no words were said. Grief was foremost on their minds and faces. When at last the boundary was reached, Legolas took both her hands with his. She smiled softly into his pensive face; she had surrendered to the fact that fate was not their ally, and it shattered all her hopes.
"I shall return within a month's time," he said with surety.
Mithryn merely smiled and nodded. She had no doubt of his sincerely or honest heart, but did not believe his father would allow him to return. Legolas leaned in close and kissed her gently. Sensing her breaking heart, he held her close, securely, wishing time would cease and be still so that they could have this moment forever. With desperation, she fought to control her tears, but to no avail. Her head rested on his chest; she could hear his heart beat from within.
He placed his loving hands on her head, and tilted it upwards until her eyes met his gaze. His face was serious, his eyes sharp and unyielding. "I have never known how to use eloquent words. I know not how to adequately express all that is in my heart for you." His eyes rose to the sky, searching for the right words buried deep in his heart; they then lowered to again meet her grassy, green eyes. "You are my only love. Know that, for me, there shall never be another." A tear welled in his eye.
Mithryn whole soul leaped, soared, and was crushed all in the same moment. Her only reply being: "Nor could there ever be another for me."
They held each other tightly a long while until finally, no more time could be spared. He at last pulled away and reluctantly stepped once again into the dark, murky land. He steadily moved east, glancing back now and then to see her standing in warmth and light, until at last, she could be seen no more. A mournful shadow fell over him.
* * *
It was a lonely walk back for Mithryn. Her cottage seemed now sadly desolate. Sitting by the sparkling pond, she hummed the ancient tune of Lúthien Tinúviel, but it brought her little comfort. She had become accustomed to isolation and had passed the long years merrily enough, but there was now a hole in her soul to which Legolas was the only cure. She longed for company. Anfalas, perceiving her lady's sorrowful heart, trotted to her, and affectionately nudged Mithryn's head with her muzzle.
"How did you know, dearest?" Mithryn said, as she reached back and stroked Anfalas' long face.
The great sun once again made its descent in the west. Mithryn's face, however, was irresistibly drawn eastward as if to a greater sun, as she stood on the peak of Hallathúle. She wondered if he, at times, turned and gazed west and thought of her.
A chill was in the air that night. She lit a fire in her bedchamber, and curled up in her great, cozy chair. Thinking it best to keep her hands and mind busy, she mended worn table linen. Try as she might, she could not banish Legolas from her thoughts. He was so near, yet, so distant. Thinking of what would never come to be, burned her very soul.
Without warning, a searing pain began to grow in her temple and spread quickly across her brain. Her hands abandoned the sewing and cradled her throbbing head. The seething pain ripped through her skull like a knife. She cried out, and then the vision came. Mithryn's eyes flashed open and the pain died away. The room, however, turned about her in great whirls. "Legolas," she whispered. She ran to the door and gazed out into the moonless night.
* * *
Legolas had felt them all day, the Orcs; they were close. When the sun set, he decided it best to stay on the move. He would have a head start, and if he moved all the next day, with luck, he would reach the forest edge by the morrow's nightfall.
The Orcs, however, had a plan of their own. They had set up camp near the witch's lair, and many were scattered hesitantly close to the boundary, watching, waiting for the Elf's departure. He'd have distance between them, oh yes, and they'd have a good job finding him too, sneaky Elf. But Ugnúl did not worry much. He knew the Elf and he would again meet.
"This is idiocy, Ugnúl!" said Lâsh, the eight fingered Orc.
"He cannot linger long," replied Ugnúl. "We will wait."
"No, you will wait! We have tired of this fruitless hunt. The rest of us are . . . "
But the great beast could not finish his sentence. Ugnúl was on him in a flash. His sword lay across Lâsh's throat. Ugnúl smiled and slowly pulled the stained blade across the Orc's neck; it cut slightly and black filth oozed out. Lâsh winced in pain; the two Orcs glared at each other.
"We stay," Ugnúl said at last.
* * *
Legolas' eyes were alert in the dark depths of the forest. An Orc arrow whizzed past his head, narrowly missing his ear. He returned fire with his own arrows, but, of course, could not see precisely where his enemies were. His Elven War-Masters had trained him to return blind fire at precisely the same angle; the great roar of pain told him he had hit his mark. Legolas knew that escape, in this case, would be a difficult option. They would not let him slip through their fingers a second time.
With speed and might, the Orcs made a wide circle, surrounding him. He drew his knife and made the attack. Three Orcs were quickly slain, and yet, the gap filled in. Five, six, seven had he killed, but the circle drew tight until Ugnúl stepped out. His eyes glared with evil redemption as he brandished his foul sword and charged. Legolas ducked, wielded his own blade over his head and sliced Ugnúl across the arm; he did not falter, but swung hard and brutal, metal clashing against metal. A hardened elbow sent Legolas stumbling backward, narrowly missing a fatal stab of Ugnúl's sword. The other Orcs hung back, maintaining the ring; they knew better than to disturb Ugnúl's fun. Legolas darted about, but could not escape a charge and blow of Ugnúl's massive body. He was knocked to the ground hard and Ugnúl's blade met Legolas's flesh, slicing open his right side. Ugnúl stood back and let out a sinister laugh. Legolas gazed down at the bloody gash, and a strange sensation came over him; his head felt unusually light and began to spin.
"Feel a wee bit odd, do you?" Ugnúl asked, maliciously. "Yes, that would be the poison. It does sting, a bit. Doesn't it?" The surrounding Orcs joined in the evil laughter.
Legolas said naught, desperately trying to retain his strength and wits. He gripped his knife as tightly as he could in his weakening hand.
"Shall we kill the beast now, or watch it slowly die?" Ugnúl asked his rogues.
"No, killing him all the sooner would spoil our long expected sport!" an Orc replied. "I say we slice him some more." He smiled wickedly to reveal a blackened mouth with yellowed, rotting teeth.
"I loathe Elven eyes!" another called out. "They glow so brightly. Let us see if they grow brighter still when we remove them."
Their hoarse laughter was interrupted when a celestial, white light swiftly broke through the wicked darkness. They cowered back, shielding their eyes from the painful, glorious illumination. Legolas first thought death was upon him, only to realize he saw Mithryn riding Anfalas. A wreath of light danced about her, while aloft in her left hand she held Gilóre, burning with righteous fervor. The Orcs scattered and ran, shouting: "The witch! The witch has come!"
Mithryn stretched her right arm down to Legolas, and said: "You do not dream. Come!" Legolas grasped her arm, and rose climbing on Anfalas, his knife still clenched in his hand.
"Haste, Anfalas!" Mithryn called and the noble horse shot out with swift response. As a steed of Rohan, her speed would have been faster, but for the trees. Ugnúl, in furious rage, followed the light at an accelerated run. Legolas' remaining strength seemed to deteriorate and he barely clung to Mithryn; his head, unable to be held up any longer, drooped and laid rest upon Mithryn's back. He was growing weaker by the moment.
They raced through the forest, but Ugnúl remained close behind. At last, the boundary came and Anfalas leapt over it; she stopped to a halt on the other side. Mithryn turned Anfalas about, only to see Ugnúl standing there, seething in rage. Without a word, Mithryn whirled Anfalas about and headed for home.
The two miles were quickly passed and home was soon reached. Mithryn dismounted and helped the semiconscious Legolas down from Anfalas. His feet touched the ground, but his body fell lightly onto Mithryn; he could not hold himself up. His knife fell heavily to the ground. She led him into her bedchamber and laid him onto her bed. He appeared to already be in a disturbed sleep, eyes closed tightly; his blood gushed from the ugly wound in his side. Her hands shook with nervous concern.
"Think, Mithryn! Think!" she commanded herself. Then, without another moment's hesitation, using her gentle touch, she quickly removed his weapon's harness; it hit the floor with a thud. With unsure, trembling fingers, she unbuttoned his waistcoat to reveal his naked chest; it heaved up and down with great, hoarse breaths. She gingerly pulled down the sleeves while he tossed in uneasy sleep.
She stretched out her hand, and the linen, which she had been mending, shot into her hand. Pressing it on his wound, the white cloth darkened with his warm, red blood. The fire had gone out. With a wave of her hand, a log flew into the fireplace. In one fluid motion, she clenched her fist, blew upon it, opened it to reveal a golden ball of flame. With an easy throw, she tossed the fireball at the fireplace, and the log burst into flames.
She hurried outside, knelt by her herb garden, and swiftly looked over her various herbs before eying the one she wanted. "Ah, Lady's Mantle!" and picked off several kidney-shaped leaves, and yellow blooms. Returning to her kitchen, she quickly rinsed off the cuttings, and, with her wooden rolling pin, crushed them into pulp. Upon returning to Legolas she discovered the linen bandage quite soaked through with blood. She gently placed the herbal pulp on his wound. The kettle was soon boiled; she doused a fresh cloth into it, and let it cool a little before placing it firmly on his naked skin. She pulled her quilted blanked over him, and eyed him with loving concern. Several times during the night, she boiled more water, collected more Lady's Mantle, and changed his dressing, until at last, when he slept more peacefully, she submitted to weary sleep by the fire.
* * *
The morning sunlight peeked through her bedroom window and woke her. In a flash, she recalled all the night's events and rushed to Legolas' side. The night had not gone well for him. While the bleeding had ceased, his wound closed over and showed signs of festering under the flesh. Legolas' breaths now came in rasping gasps. She forcefully spoon-fed him one of her medicines that would clear his body of toxins. He did not improve.
Bravely, Mithryn rose and fetched her small knife and a ceramic bowl. She felt the wound; it burned at the touch. Taking a deep breath, she held the bowl below the wound, and using the knife, cautiously sliced the injury back open. Legolas cried out and, Mithryn, startled, dropped the knife. She laid her hand on his forehead, and with her other, gently squeezed the lacerate. Fetid, green ooze seeped out of the sliced flesh, and slowly trickled into the cold bowl. When none remained, she set the bowl aside. Taking another deep breath, she clenched her fist tightly, blew on it, and opened it to reveal, not a golden, but, a violet fire floating in her palm. With ease and ability, she turned her small hand over and applied it directly to the wound. With closed eyes, she used every ounce of power until, at last, she felt drained and exhausted. She tried to maintain her vigilance, but, finally succumbed on the edge of the bed and did not wake until well after the sun had set.
* * *
All was dark when, at last, her eyes opened. She hurried about, setting a fire, then checking on her patient. He was sleeping well; his breathing had returned to normal, the wound closed properly, and showed no signs of sepsis. She arranged his blankets with an eye to his comfort, then cheerfully prepared a herbal broth for when we would wake.
It was not until the next morning that Legolas' eyes finally opened. Confusion clouded his mind until, at last, he saw his love's friendly, smiling face. He tried to rise, but, unable to, fell back as he was very weak.
"I do not think you ready to rise yet, Legolas," Mithryn said lovingly, as she sat next to him on the bed.
He urged her to tell him all until finally, she relented. Upon hearing the entire tale, he sat back in profound, concentrated thought.
"Legolas, what troubles you?" she asked.
Legolas sighed. "I would not wish you in harms way. It was too dangerous. You ought not have attempted it for my sake."
"I could not refuse what I saw, nor what I felt. If you knew me to be in danger, would you come to my aid?"
Legolas gazed up at her. "In a moment."
"Precisely. Therefore, you cannot reproach me for having done as much. For, what life would I have now, without you?" He smiled, and gave up his argument, for he knew, in his present state, he could not win. She cradled his weak hand tenderly in hers.
* * *
The next few days passed, and with them, Legolas grew stronger. He could walk with her aid, but then, only slowly and with great care. Of his wound, only that of a thin scar, nearly four inches long, remained; which Mithryn believed would not fade with the passing ages. The wound itself, however, had completely healed. Legolas was merely suffering now the pain of poison which permeated into his blood stream, and Mithryn was working to remove. Time, she was certain, would heal all.
In actuality, two weeks were needed until Legolas found himself fully mended. He had now been absent from his home for over a month. He was certain that he was sorely missed, and said as much one afternoon while atop Hallathúle. "They must worry greatly. It pains me to think of what they must be enduring. Yet, I am reluctant to leave you."
Mithryn bore all with a heavy heart. Every passing moment of the weeks she had been given, she had seen as a gift, and she was thankful for the time they had together, even though she believed it to be their last. She would not display how tormented she was by his imminent departure. "Do not be grieved. I have long expected your departure. I look forward to your return," she smiled, though she did not believe it.
Legolas gazed at her strong face, but saw through her as though her resolute mask was but a pane of transparent glass. "You misunderstand me. I wish you to come with me to North Mirkwood. I cannot bear the thought of you here, so alone, any longer. Will you come with me?" he asked with timorous eyes.
Mithryn sat shocked. She had not expected such a reply. What could his words mean? Surely, they could not mean what she felt in her own heart. She began to fear that time and kisses past had touched her heart, alone. Sudden panic streaked through her veins. "Do you think that logical?"
Legolas shifted, uncomfortably. A lump had suddenly appeared in his throat and refused to depart.
"I mean you no discomfort, Legolas. I merely wish to understand your intentions upon my arrival at your father's kingdom."
Legolas thought. Surely, it was a valid question, but he was embarrassed about giving the reply.
Mithryn noticed this, and spoke again. "I am not Elven and, as an outsider, I fear I would be unwelcome, even though I am your friend."
"Friend?" Legolas whispered, mind reeling. He felt clumsy with words, and feared her mockery. Yet, when his eyes met hers, he knew there was no mockery in her heart for him. "My intention toward you has been one and the same since I first realized I love you. It is not friendship alone, I offer you. My intentions are honorable, for I wish us to wed."
Mithryn's heart danced in her chest, but was quickly quelled. He was, after all, a prince, and she a mortal. "But what of your father? Would he approve such a match for his eldest son, and the heir to his kingdom?"
"He is a wise man, and I hold great faith in his knowledge and beliefs. However, whatever his stand, this is one instance in which I will not be swayed."
Mithryn sighed, smiled, and nodded. He leaned in, wrapping his strong arms about her, pulling her close, and kissed her tenderly.