A Tale of Mirkwood - Chapter Sixteen - The Aftermath
The wind wafted into Legolas and Mithryn's tower chamber, causing the gauzy drapes to frolic about. Weeks had passed since the attack and Gollum's escape. Losses and damage were great, and all felt the King's frustration. The disappearance of their prisoner, he found particularly embarrassing and unfortunate. Search parties laboured incessantly for the little wretch, tracking him steadily south. Tarnil and Galamed were with them, while Haldof remained behind, organizing relief and restoration; the Orcs having caused tragic damage to families and to their fair wood.
Mithryn, however, was unaware of the turmoil surrounding her, as Legolas was careful to tell her naught. Never did he leave her bedside, devotedly sitting by his weak wife day and night. Mithryn healed slowly, but she was recovering, and every day she grew a little stronger.
* * *
Legolas gazed with ageless eyes from the balcony onto the clearing below, watching Elves as they went about their many duties. Loth though he was to admit it, he wished he could be by his brothers' sides, and aid in recapturing their treacherous prisoner. He desired to be in two places at once, refusing to leave his wife.
Upon hearing Mithryn stir, Legolas swiftly went to her. Armenil, also, rarely left Mithryn, and was witness to the devout love between husband and wife. It made her secret all the more aching to bear.
"Legolas, you are forever here," Mithryn said upon seeing her husband.
"The reason being," Legolas replied, "there is nowhere else I would rather be."
"Yet, I know there is much of the battle you do not tell me. I hate to bind you here; so much work is there to be done," Mithryn said remorsefully. She knew time must be passing very monotonously for him.
"The battle is long over, my love," Legolas replied as he sat on the bed. "It is almost a month since it was fought."
"So very long?" Mithryn's brow furrowed. "How quickly the time passes. I feel much stronger, however. When may I rise, Armenil? I long to wander the forest once more."
"A few days more of bed rest I believe necessary," Armenil replied as she prepared a tea for Mithryn to consume.
"Legolas," Mithryn said, returning her attention to her husband, "I shall be safe in Armenil's care. Go and see your Father, I beg of you. You seem pale and worn." Her hand rose, still trembling slightly and caressed his soft cheek. "Will you not do as your ill wife bids and seek out some other distractions for a time? Armenil, help me to persuade him."
"I am forced to agree with her, Legolas," Armenil said. "Naught will happen to Mithryn in the few hours you are absent . . . and she has shown steady improvement."
"There!" Mithryn exclaimed.
"I do not wish to abandon you," Legolas said tenderly.
"I would be a simpleton indeed, if I believed such! Nay, it would give me some peace of mind, knowing your thoughts were engaged elsewhere and that you were getting exercise in the fresh air of your woods and valleys."
Legolas exchanged glances with the two ladies; he could not deny that his heart greatly desired to do what they bade. "You are certain all is well with you?"
"Aye!" Mithryn exclaimed, pouncing on his moment of willingness. "Pray, go and labour awhile. I am no longer in danger, am I, Armenil?"
Armenil gazed into Mithryn sweet, pale face, so full of hope and life. "Nay, you are in no danger, now."
"Very well," Legolas said, relenting. "I shan't be gone very long." Leaning down, he lovingly kissed his wife.
Armenil quickly averted her eyes from the private, romantic scene, and humbly excused herself, expressing the need of more herbs for Mithryn's tea. Legolas and Mithryn bade their farewells before he sprightly followed Armenil down the spiral steps. "Pray halt, Armenil. May I not have a word?"
She stopped, but did not meet his gaze.
"You have been infinitely kind," he continued. "Perhaps you may tell me, for my heart is reluctant to be eased. Why is Mithryn so prolonged in infirmity? I had understood her healing abilities to be quite powerful, and yet, she tarries. I am exceedingly concerned, as she remains so very weak. Can you tell me why?"
Try as she might, she could not escape Legolas' penetrating eyes, so desperate for comfort and truth. "The wound cannot be explained," she said at last. "I am confident that she shall recover with time, Legolas. You must have patience. I have never treated one of her kind before, and there are several things which are strange to me. I ask that you give her time. Rest ans tender care are great restoratives."
His face relaxed as her soothing words washed over him. "You give me great comfort, Armenil; I thank you. I do not mind confiding in you, a wise elder, how truly frightened I was of losing her. She is a mortal; I understand her future, but it was too soon for me." He gently clasped her fair hand. "You are so very good. Thank you!"
He stepped off the stair; Armenil watched as he merrily conversed with passing Elves, his heart and mind much relieved. Her own mind, however, bore the full weight of such a heartbreaking secret. She knew more than any the severity of Mithryn's condition, and found being with her increasingly difficult. The King's command, however, was not to be refuted. Armenil would simply have to bear her grief in silence.
* * *
Legolas had searched the Royal Chambers for his father, only to find them empty. He called forth a servant, Noriath, and inquired as to the King's whereabouts. "I believe he has gone hunting, my lord," Noriath replied. "His return is expected tonight. Shall I fetch thee a horse?"
"Nay, Noriath," Legolas replied, disliking this news. "I shall see him upon his return, thank you."
The servant bowed and returned to his duties. Legolas gazed about the grand reception hall before taking a seat by the fire. He turned, suddenly, upon hearing someone enter briskly. "Galamed!" Legolas called out, striding toward his brother. "I had thought you with the search party. Why do you return?" he asked, embracing his youngest brother.
"I act as messenger bearing the latest report on our search. Pray, where is father?"
"Alas, he is hunting. Is it imperative? Shall I summon the guard to hasten his return?"
"Nay, do not bother. It is news that does not require urgency."
"Has Sméagol been found?" Legolas asked.
"Forever do we seem to be behind him. He is a sly creature; I tire of tracking him, he is so cunning. Nay, I fear we are at an impasse. The wretch has led us south to Dol Guildor."
"Ai!" Legolas cried. "That is ill tiding indeed."
"We have halted at a distance, reluctant to move in too closely. I know not how, but the little beast knows our fear of that land, and now has used it against us."
The brothers sat at the large table, conversing over goblets of wine. "Are you certain he moves alone and is not their prisoner?" Legolas asked.
"Nay, his tracks, and those of his other followers cannot be mistaken. He is aloof and on his own, reluctant to be captured by either of us, I feel. The orcs are not his friends, or he would be more willing to meet them."
"Then why would he travel to Dol Guildor? Surely he seeks their aid, if he moves so closely to such an evil place."
"Nay, you are mistaken," a voice said. Galamed and Legolas turned to see their other brother, Haldof. Galamed rose and greeted him, and Haldof joined them at the table. "You are too quick to judge, brother," Haldof said, knowingly. "Such an elusive creature is Sméagol, even the forces of Dol Guildor will have trouble catching him. He was caught once in Mordor, is that right? He shall not make the same blunder again."
"Then why does he travel to so perilous a place?" Galamed asked.
"Because he knows we shall not follow," Legolas replied with new insight. "Now he has only one pursuer. Alas, I should have foreseen this."
The three brothers talked animatedly into the afternoon. When the topic of conversation changed to Mithryn's health, Legolas noticed a distinct withdraw in Haldof's manner, for he turned away, avoiding any eye. Onward Legolas spoke, however, of her constant recovery, and of the happiness he felt once again of their future together. Haldof sat in silence, contributing no conversation.
Suddenly, in strode the King, clad in emerald riding gear. "Galamed! I just had word of your return. I am glad to see you thus, so comfortable after such a long journey." All his sons rose upon his entry, and greeted him. "We have some matters to discuss, I presume?" the King continued after embracing his youngest.
"Aye, Father," Galamed replied.
"And since Tarnil is not with you, I can assume it is not pleasing news." The gallant King then turned his attention to his eldest son. "Legolas! How happy I am to see you removed from your perch for awhile. How does Mithryn fare?"
Haldof winced at his father's mention of her name; it did not escape Legolas' keen eye. "She mends slowly but steadily, Father. I thank you," Legolas said cheerfully.
"And does Armenil expect her to make a full recovery ?" Thranduil asked.
Haldof's pained eyes bore into the face of his noble father; the King, however, ignored the obstinance of his son, focusing on Legolas instead.
"Yes," Legolas replied merrily, "she says as much, which relieves me to no end."
"I am happy to hear it, my son . . ." Thranduil's speech was then interrupted by Haldof, storming out of the hall in his usual abrupt manner when angry. Galamed and Legolas exchanged confused looks, and both noticed that their father did not seem the least be fazed by Haldof's strange behavior.
"He was fine not two moments ago," Galamed said, perplexed.
"Do not give his moods a second thought," the King bade. When Galamed began to relay all his news, Legolas humbly excused himself and stepped out of the Palace into fresh air and light. Gazing upward to his chamber, he saw the drapes billowing softly in the breeze. Tempted though he was to return to his wife, he wished to see Haldof first. As his eldest brother, he knew exactly where to find him.
* * *
Legolas strode lightly, silently, in the forest, gratefully stretching his legs. Slowing to a walk when he approached Belegaladh's base, he peeked through the rustling foliage high overhead. Haldof sat in the mighty tree's branches, and did not appear to notice his elder brother's approach.
"What troubles you, brother?" Legolas said loudly, causing Haldof to startle and nearly fall out of the tree.
"Must you always do that?" Haldof angrily replied once he had steadied himself.
Legolas laughed and began to climb the large, gnarled branches. When at last he reached the same height as Haldof, Legolas sat on a curved branch, which looked like a seat. It was his favourite branch. "Will you tell me now what angers you so? Is it me?"
Haldof shook his head, "Nay." Desperately, he tried to think of excuses to account for his rash behavior that Legolas would believe. None could he think of.
"My second guess would be father. Is that correct?"
Haldof thought carefully before giving his reply. "Aye, it is."
"What has father done to deserve such malice?" Legolas asked, baffled.
"Do not ask me questions," Haldof bade, only to confuse his brother all the more.
"Ai, what is this? Haldof, this will not do. Father has said something that vexes you; I can tell. Will you not trust me?"
Haldof looked into Legolas' innocent eyes; eyes ignorant of the knowledge he and Thranduil kept. "It is not a matter of trust. I am sorry, Legolas. I . . . I am sorry," he said before leaping out of the tree, making a hasty escape.
* * *
Legolas had not sat long in the tree before the quiet of the forest bade him return to his beloved wife. The setting sun, and the quiet walk back afforded him some time to quietly contemplate Haldof's perplexing words and behaviour. Alas, he could find no answers to the riddles laid before him . . . merely a vague, nagging feeling . . .
He had only just set foot upon the steps which climbed up to his chamber when he was called back. Turning, he saw Galamed hand in hand with an Elf-maiden; he knew it instantly to be Anardil. He stared at his brother's chosen love with skepticism. Indeed, she was most fair with shimmering hair of sunshine gold, eyes of dark sapphires, and unwavering grace. However, over two thousand years separated the adoring pair, and there were rules to be observed among elves.
"Brother," Galamed said in greeting, "you know Anardil, of course." Legolas and Anardil exchanged dignified greetings and bows. Galamed merrily continued, "I thought it best for you to become better acquainted with her now we are to be wed."
Legolas froze, unable to hide the look of disbelief on his face. Seeing his reaction, Anardil turned away. She had tried to warn Galamed of breaking such news to his brother in this manner. Galamed, of course, would not listen.
"Does Father know of this?" Legolas asked delicately, not wishing to say anything improper while Anardil was present.
"Nay," Galamed answered, "we have not told him as yet. Actually, we were hoping you could speak to him on our behalf."
"You wish me to do what?!" Legolas said in a slightly harsher tone.
Legolas' response startled Galamed. Turning toward his betrothed he said, "Dearest, would you pray wait for me by the arbor? I shan't be a moment." Anardil nodded in understanding and left the brothers to fight it out.
"Did you have to say such in front of her?!" Galamed reprimanded when Anardil was out of hearing.
"Did you have to inform me of such in front of her?!" Legolas rebuked.
"I had thought you would be happy for us, Legolas!"
"I . . ." Legolas hesitated. He sighed, allowing his blood to cool. "I am happy for you, Galamed. How could I be anything but happy for you. But . . ."
"But . . . but what?"
"But there are things to be thought of. Rules to be obeyed. You cannot forsake them. Father shall never allow it."
"You are one to speak, Legolas. You, who follow no rules," Galamed said, hastily.
"Now, that is unkind. I know the rules I must follow with Mithryn's fate; do not imagine it otherwise. Indeed, I am reminded everyday. Galamed, of your heart, it is not up to me to decide. I know not what you think my speaking to Father shall accomplish."
"His permission. His blessing. Pray, will you speak to him for us?"
Legolas reluctantly nodded. Galamed smiled, embracing his brother before joining his betrothed by the leafy arbor. Watching the adoring pair, so much in love, he gazed upward thinking of where his own heart lies. A golden, warm glow projected from the room, which called to his very soul. Unwillingly, however, he turned away from its magnetic force, and strode with heavy feet back towards the Palace.
* * *
Legolas stood in silence outside his father's private study and cautiously gazed inside. Thranduil sat at his table, laden with dozens of dispatches and letters. Shaking his head, the King read the same letters over and over, desperately searching for insight.
"Father?" Legolas said quietly.
Thranduil turned to see his first born. "Ah, Legolas. Do come in. Perhaps you can offer some counsel."
Legolas walked in, taking a seat beside the mound of parchment. "What troubles you, Father?"
"As Galamed has told you, Sméagol is not to be found, and I fear, will not be recovered. I have told Elrond of our attack, but sent no word of our missing prisoner. I had hoped that we could recover him, and that our blunder would not be known. As it is, this error cannot be concealed."
"It is not your fault, Father. None knew of how those Orcs got word to him."
"I should have locked him in his cell and thrown away the key," Thranduil said as he rose and began pacing about the room. "We should have taken better care. We knew what treachery he was capable of, son."
"True," Legolas replied, watching his father battle inner turmoil, "however, we have not the nature to be cruel, even to our enemies. We cannot blame ourselves for the evil of others. Their actions we are not responsible for, nor the outcome which arises from them. It is grievous, to be sure, and I am loth to see Elrond's or Mithrandir's face when they hear. I do not wish to be the one to tell them such unfortunate news. And yet, I feel they will understand. We should not fear their censure."
Thranduil stared long at his son, so ardent in opinions, and smiled. "You are cool and rational, like your mother. How I see so much of her in you." The King sat again, and pushed the messages aside. "We shall wait a few weeks, and see what the future holds. Galamed is resuming the search in the morn; perhaps there is hope yet that all this will matter not. You do ease my heart, though, my son. I forget, did you come for something? Was there some interest you wished to discuss?"
Legolas thought of Galamed, and the reason to which he sought his father out, but could not bring himself to speak of it. He felt in his heart he was merely searching for an excuse, but he did not care. Now did not seem an appropriate time to weigh the King down with such paltry matters.
* * *
"Dearest!" Mithryn exclaimed when her husband had at last returned. Legolas gazed upon the massive bed and joyed in seeing his wife sitting up in bed. She was alone, so Legolas could not help but crawl in beside his weak wife, laying her head upon his breast. Mithryn smiled and gently stroked his hair. "Were you able to occupy your mind with other matters, dearest?" she said lovingly as he clung to her.
"For a period, as you bade," he replied. "All the while, I wished to be here, however. I should not have ventured out of doors today."
"Relieve your mind, and tell me of your day."
"Nay, Mithryn," Legolas said, blue eyes gazing on her from his pillows. "The day is done. Tonight, Middle Earth matters not to me."
"Then rest, dearest, and care not of this life for a time," she replied, softly. His eyes closed and she hummed the tune to Lúthien Tinúviel until sleep had last come to him.