A Tale of Mirkwood - Chapter Seventeen - Indecision
The two weeks that followed brought happiness to Legolas, especially as Mithryn was up and about, and moved once more with a freer spirit. Indeed, she was most glad to leave the confines of her bed. At first, her legs were weak, and tired easily. With her devoted husband to support her, however, she strengthened swiftly. The fresh air, fragrant breezes, friendly faces, and bright sun all contributed to her recuperation.
Mithryn, indeed, felt like her old self again. And yet, a slight tingling in her back never seemed to leave her, and she wondered if ever it would. It did not trouble her greatly, therefore, never did she complain of it. After being stabbed in the back with an orc blade, she would expect her back to tingle.
With a strong arm, and a gentle hand, Legolas slowly led his adored wife along the elf path to the brook. Mithryn clasped tightly his hand and arm, all the while gazing about at the lush evidence of the weeks of summer she had missed. Warm sunlight flooded the trees, engulfing them with a golden luminance. Birds flitted about, chirping their many opinions. The docile wind dreamily rustled the leafy trees, and soon the merry laughter of cascading water could be heard. Oh, how she had missed the wild these last few weeks!
"Is this too much exertion for you? Indeed, you are still weak. Shall I carry you?" Legolas asked, concerned.
"Nay, dearest. I am ever gaining in strength," Mithryn replied. Fatigued, though she was, Mithryn relished being on her feet again. The freedom of mobility never felt so great.
Mithryn, at last, sat by the water's edge, allowing the sounds and earthy smells to wash over her. Legolas stood by her, eying her warily. "I do not like this," he said at last. "Perhaps I should speak to Father. I need not return to duties today . . ."
"Legolas," Mithryn said firmly, "necessity has held us both back for a time, but now life must return to the way it was. I understand you still fear for my well-being, however, fresh air and peace is all that I require. I am confidant that I shall be able to return to our chamber on my own. See?" she cried as she danced a little for him before dropping to the ground in peals of laughter.
"I know what you say is true. Life must return from where we left it. Your recovery has allowed that," he said smiling, touching her flushed cheek. "Very well. I shan't be long or far."
Mithryn nodded and watched as he walked away, until at last, she was alone. Lying on the soft moss, her eyes gazed upwards with delight at the play of light, flickering on the leaves. She lay there some time, grateful for the tranquil silence and isolation.
"Oh! I beg your pardon; I did not see you," a voice said beyond her view. Mithryn sat up directly, and saw Haldof.
"Nay, Haldof. You need make no apology, for you did not disturb me. Indeed, I am happy to see you. It has been some time, has it not? Not since the night of the attack?"
His eyes shifted clumsily, hesitant to meet her soft gaze. "Aye, I believe you are right. Pray pardon my never having visited you. I was . . . prevented." he said, awkwardly.
"Of course," Mithryn replied, examining his strange, anxious behaviour. He appeared unable to stand still, and eyes cast forever downward in a manner so guilty. "I understand, as does Legolas. He has just returned to his duties today. Have you happened to see him?"
"Nay, I fear not. Forgive me, I . . .forgive me," he said before promptly bowing and strode out of the glen and down the path.
"Of course," Mithryn replied, though none heard it but herself. She was at a loss as to what she could have done or said that would offend him so. Her mind searched, but could find nothing which suggested insult. "Perhaps it is nothing new," she said quietly to herself, heart now sorrowed. "Perhaps he still disapproves of me, and thought it better if I had died."
"Who would think such a horrid thing?" a gentle voice said. Mithryn looked up to see her dear friend Elmarin approaching her, babe Finaviel in arms.
"Hello, Elmarin! How nice to see you here," Mithryn said, as her friend sat beside her. Mithryn took the baby, holding her close.
"I am pleased to see you so much improved since my last visit," Elmarin said, her long golden locks tousling gently in the breeze. "Whom were you speaking of with such sadness? Surely not Legolas?"
"Nay!" Mithryn replied, emphatically. "Legolas has been wonderful!"
"Then. . .whom?"
Pensively, Mithryn's soft green eyes rose and met Elmarin's ageless blue pools. "Haldof," was all she could say.
Elmarin's fair face looked troubled suddenly. "Haldof? I have known him from birth, and never would he wish pain on any creature of good heart. Why would you think such?"
"Haldof has always seemed cool toward me. I had thought things were improving, but now it seems I supposed wrong. Understand, his supposition does not pain me. It is Legolas who is most likely to be pained by Haldof's feeling; not I."
"It is true that, at first, your coming here stirred many hearts," Elmarin said, her long fingers dipping into the cool water. "Your presence, and Legolas' intention was frightening to many, for he is so loved by his people. However, you have grown in your place here; this is now your home, and your people. If it is true that Haldof is still unnerved by you, you must give him time. I am certain only good shall prevail. His nature is a passionate one, for he has always felt with the whole of his heart, and was never one to conceal his emotions. Is not Legolas much the same, do you think?"
Mithryn smiled at these true words of her husband. "Aye, it is. Though, perhaps, Legolas is more apt at controlling his tongue."
The two ladies laughed, and Mithryn's worries drifted away with the blowing breeze. Elmarin's calm nature never ceased to pacify Mithryn's worries, and put peace in her anxious heart.
"How does Taranin recover?" Mithryn asked, as she cradled the sleepy Finaviel.
"All goes well now as his elven powers of recovery are strong. His injury was not as serious as yours. Though, I know to whom I have to thank for that."
Humbly, Mithryn shook her head. "Any other would have done the same in my place."
"Perhaps, but considering, as a mortal, what you sustained because of it, it was an inestimable gift. I believe many would agree with me."
Mithryn was about to refute this, when the clear sounds of iavin broke out, melodiously filling the air with excitement. "What is that?"
Elmarin's fair face betrayed no emotion when listening to every clear note of the instrument. At last, a smile filled her face. "Good tidings! The search party has returned."
"Was the mission a success?" Mithryn asked ardently.
"I cannot tell," Elmarin replied, ears listening for any news. Taking her daughter in her arms, she said, "I am going to greet them. Do you feel strong enough to join me?"
"Nay, it is a long walk, and I am already fatigued. If you see Legolas, can you tell him that I've returned home?"
"Do you need aid? Shall I call a servant?"
"Nay, Elmarin. I thank you. I must become independent again."
"Very well, Mithryn. I shall see you at the banquet tonight."
Mithryn rose and cautiously walked back to the Palace towers. It took her a long time, and she stumbled twice, but determined she was to overcome the evil that had been done to her. Ugnùl had perished, while she had not and she felt comforted that he was no longer a threat to any.
* * *
Legolas had not been far from the border when the imperious call of the iavin was heard. Immediately his actions ceased and he went to greet the travellers who had been absent, now, over a month. The search party strode with heads held high to the noisy, congregating elves, wives and loved ones waiting with expectant faces. Legolas embraced his brother, "How goes it, Tarnil?"
Sighing, Tarnil replied, "I am thankful to be in our own lands again. Though, somehow, I feel that is not what you meant."
Legolas smiled, though it expressed little joy. They brought home no prisoner. Their mission had failed.
"Nay, we did not succeed in our purpose," Tarnil said, reading Legolas' face like a book. "It disappoints me, too. Believe that it was with heavy hearts indeed, that we turned away from Dol Guildor, though, I never thought I would desire to remain near such an evil place." He seemed to shiver involuntarily at the recollection. "None wished to return home empty handed, yet, in the end, we realized it was of no use."
"None shall think any less of you for not succeeding. We have searched before and returned without that wretched, slippery, creature," Legolas said, benevolently, attempting to raise his brother's wounded ego.
"You are kind, Legolas, and. . .is all well here? Tell me, how does Mithryn fare? Galamed spoke of how bravely she was recovering the last he saw of her. Is it still so?"
"Aye, and I cannot express how relieved it makes me. For a while, I had never been so frightened, brother. . .so helpless."
Their conversation was interrupted by Galamed as he playfully attacked Legolas, so delighted was he to see him. "How wonderful a change, Legolas, not searching for you!"
Legolas could not contain his pleased laughter. Life was not the same without his brothers at his side. So long had they been together, depending on and supporting each other. Seeing Galamed quite amiable, Legolas felt a pang of guilt as he had yet to speak to his father concerning Galamed's marriage. He knew his youngest brother would enquire of this, but he was puzzled as how to reply.
"Did you miss me?" Galamed asked Legolas with an air of roguery.
"Not in the least," Legolas replied, stone-faced, which sent them all into mirthful laughter again.
"Ai, but this is no good," Tarnil exclaimed, his eyes searching the crowd. "Where is Haldof, I should like to know?"
"You know Haldof when he gets into his moods. . ." Legolas said.
"Aye, some things never change," Tarnil laughed. Arms around their shoulders, the three brothers made the long walk back to the Palace, stopping along the way to greet and converse with Elves welcoming the youngest princes home again. Anardil hesitantly approached, and as Galamed saw her, he ran to her, lifting her off the ground in a joyful embrace. Tarnil and Legolas watched, as did other Elves present. None would willingly bestow disapproval on the Prince, but his actions did not please. For now, they chose to ignore the lovers' behaviour, and go about their business.
Tarnil and Legolas calmly waited for Galamed. "He has spoken of no one else the entire time we were away," Tarnil exclaimed. "We all grew quite tired of it, but there is no discouraging Galamed if he has an idea in his head."
"I know that, rightly enough," Legolas said, blithely.
Turning, Tarnil's face grew serious once more. "How is Father? Have you spoken to him on Galamed's behalf?"
Instantly, Legolas became elusive in manner. "He is well. Nay, I have spoken to him of these matters as yet."
It was not with reproaching eyes Tarnil beheld his brother; he merely eyed him, blinking. "Ai, that is very ill. He believes you had."
"Why should he presume that?"
"Apparently, you said you would. Honestly, Legolas," Tarnil said with sudden exasperation, "I know not his rational. It is not with reason that he has fallen in love with a maiden less than half in age."
"Aye, but you have not been in love, brother," Legolas said kindly, but firmly. Staring with an awestruck face, Tarnil could say naught in reply. Legolas continued at length. "When love claims your heart, there is naught can be done. Your very world can soar amongst the heavens, or sink into despair. Do I wish he had made a wiser choice? Aye, I do. Yet, who am I to condemn his choice, when my own breaks every rule of our people? Nay, brother. I once was thankful it was not for me to decide, but, now, I am thankful it is I he has chosen to fight for him."
Pensively, Tarnil eyed Legolas. "That is what you must say to Father, if you wish to win him over for Galamed."
"Truly?" Legolas asked, a smile creeping onto his face.
"Aye," Tarnil said, mood lightening. "You are quite the speechmaker, brother, for one who says so little."
"Nay, Tarnil," Legolas said as they resumed their walk. "You flatter me, but I am not loquacious, nor have I ever been. I know not what kind of King I shall make. . ."
"You shall make an excellent King," Tarnil said, reverently.
Smiling, Legolas could not help but be touched by those feeling words. "Enough," he commanded, finally. "I shall never be King if Father thinks it was I who delayed you. Come! We shall seek him out at once!" Tarnil nodded, and they called Galamed away from his amorous reunion. Together, the three strode with hastened step toward the Palace and their Father.
* * *
The brothers had found their father and delivered their report. It was as King Thranduil had believed and feared, and naught was there to do but welcome the weary warriors home with open arms. A feast was ordered for the night's merriment but the elven chefs had already set a rapid pace in the kitchens at news of their kinsmen's return. Legolas had hoped to linger and beseech a private conversation with his father on Galamed's behalf after their family conference, but Thranduil wished to be alone to complete the weighty tasks of the Kingdom, and Legolas did not refute. He knew the disappointing news of Sméagol had greatly added to this burden.
It was not until he and Mithryn prepared for the evening that he spoke openly of his reluctant behaviour for the first time with complete honesty.
"So, Galamed believes you have already spoken to your Father?" Mithryn asked as Legolas laced up her silken gown.
"Aye," Legolas replied, eyes fixed on his task. "I had not the heart to tell him otherwise."
"Legolas, it has been several weeks. What prevents you from keeping your word?" Mithryn inquired gently when his task was completed.
Staring into eyes that empathized completely, Legolas whispered, "I am uncertain. She is so very young, Mithryn. . ."
"Surely she is not younger than I?"
"Nay," Legolas said, allowing a laugh to escape him, "but in Elven years, she may as well be. It simply is not done, Mithryn. There is a tremendous gulf between them. He is such a gentle creature . . . I confess, I worry for his amiable heart. I know not what her nature is. . ."
"Perhaps you should learn. She may be all that you would wish for your brother. Love has brought them together. For whatever reason or cause, love has chosen them for each other. Why do you not allow them to make their own choice, as you have done?"
Legolas began to pace in an anxious state. "It is not the same."
"I do not think it very different. If their love does not hold the test of time, then that shall be their grievance, not yours. If it be a mistake, it is not yours by supporting their choice. Allow them to make such an error if they wish it. Perhaps it shan't be so. Not all is sweet wine and honeysuckle in this life. We must learn from all the choices we make. You cannot feel their hearts. Perhaps it is real. Would you wish to keep them apart if you knew their love to be genuine?"
Transfixed, Legolas stared across the balcony, but thought only of his wife's words. He could not deny that all she said was true.
"Legolas?" she called him, softly. He did not move, and she went to him, gently placing her hand on his firm back.
He turned, eyes meeting hers. "It should be you who speaks to Father, not I. You would do Galamed justice."
"Perhaps. However, he has appointed you with this task." She ran her hand along his firm chest, the soft, delicate velvet caressing her palm. "Say all that is in your heart. The rest is out of your hands." He nodded, fingering her fiery curls. "Now come!" she bade, pulling him toward the door. "We shall be late, and not at all well looked upon. This is to be a night of our returning warriors adventure stories, and happy comradery; not lamenting of what the future may hold. Let us be merry, and think no more of it. Speak to your father tomorrow, when he is in lighter spirits."
"Aye," Legolas replied, taking her tiny hands, and following her out the door.
* * *
Music and song filled the night air as Elves conversed over their plates of mutton and sweetmeats. Laughter and merriment were plentiful, the King himself being quite contented, once again having his four sons and Mithryn at his table. The thought of Gollum's escape still pained him, but he cast it aside that night, for the stars were in their glory, and all seemed not so ill as he had first feared. "Perhaps his escape shall account for naught," Thranduil thought to himself as he saw his fair sons chatter, and make merry. "Perhaps Sméagol's troublesome days are done. Perhaps the enemy has caught him and put his wretched life to a close. That at least would be an end. I pity that miserable creature, but I do not love him. His death would cause me no heartache. Perhaps, then. . ."
The King was forced from his deep thought when the music and gaiety abruptly ceased. His eyes surveyed over the sea of faces, all focused toward the same object. Following their gaze, he saw Mithryn, bent over, and in visible distress. Legolas sat at her side, hand on her arm, and whispered soft, words of concern which she did not appear to hear. Several short, gut-wrenching cries escaped her, and all fell silent, waiting helplessly. Soon, the torture seemed to pass within her, and once again, Thranduil saw her leafy green eyes open, though now red with pain and tears.
Mithryn gazed at all the concerned and frightened faces about her. Suddenly, she felt so small, and her heart ached within her chest. "I am sorry, your Majesty. I hadn't meant to disturb this merry night. Pray forgive me."
"Not at all, you have not, yet, fully recovered. No apologies shall I hear or accept, for there is no cause for any. Indeed," the King said, now addressing the assemblage, "allow the music and merriment to continue once more. How kind for all to be concerned for her welfare. She is much recovered. Play!" Thranduil commanded, and the musicians struck up their chord and music again resounded merrily through the wood. Elves followed order, resuming conversations, but found it difficult to recommence old subjects.
"Mithryn," Legolas whispered, "you are ill. Do you wish to return to our chamber?"
"Nay," Mithryn said, mind reeling. "However, a walk, I believe, would help greatly. Pray, cannot we go and find some peace? My head pounds so. . ."
"As you wish," Legolas said, helping her rise. Many eyes watched curiously as the pair made their way along the path, deep into the woods, the King included.
It had not taken them long to escape the boisterous melodies, and curious eyes. Mithryn was thankful to be away from both. She had not been gazed at with such speculation since her arrival, and it did not comfort her. However, her humiliation at the scene she had caused was nothing compared to the horrendous vision in her mind. They sat at the base of Bellegaladh in silence.
At length, Legolas could stand neither her afflicted expression nor the stillness any longer. "Mithryn, will you not tell me what happened? Is your wound troubling you again?"
"Nay," she said, replaying the images in her mind's eye repeatedly. It was all too dreadful to be true. Nevertheless, to her knowledge, her visions had never been wrong. It was this new revelation that caused her the most grief. She knew what the future held, and felt utterly helpless against it. Tears welled and spilled over her cheeks.
Unable to see his beloved wife so grieved, Legolas clasped his arms around her, wishing he could bear her pain. "Mithryn, I do not mean to distress you, but pray tell me!" he beseeched, heart desperate to give her some relief.
Mithryn merely shook her head; her body now trembling with her rasping breath. "I cannot. I am sorry, my love. I simply cannot."
Legolas gazed at her, helplessly, frustrated at his inept ability to restore her. "If I could, I would say and do all that is required to put your fears at ease. Tell me what to say, Mithryn. I beg of you. What should I do?"
"Just hold me," she asked. Again, he drew her close, though he knew it was not enough.