A Tale of Mirkwood - Chapter Thirteen - I Bind Myself to Thee
While Mithryn had lived lonesome and secluded, time passed slowly, altering little with the seasons and years, much as it was with the Elves. Yet, now, each day for her was merry, for no longer was she lonely. May was coming to an end, and the birth of June was being celebrated with the much anticipated wedding of the King's eldest son. Legolas was disappointed that some of those whom he held dear in friendship could not be present, namely Mithrandir and Aragorn. However, he understood their plight, and, like his father, was concerned for their safety. On the eve of Legolas' marriage, however, they could not have been farther from his mind, for so enthralled was he with thoughts of Mithryn.
Closing her cottage door, Mithryn stepped into the cloak of darkness that was the night. The air was warm and fresh, fragrant with the drowsy scent of woodland flowers. She glanced quickly about before bounding away into the depths of the wold. It was not forbidden to wander the thicket at night, far from it, in fact. Elves venerated the stars and moon, and gloried in their abundant radiance. However, this night, Mithryn did not wish to be seen; Legolas had asked to meet her in secret.
At last, she reached her desired destination. Belegaladh slept, her leaves sparkling in the pearly moonlight. Mithryn turned and saw Legolas approach.
"Did any see you?" he inquired, hair shining in the pale light.
"I do not think so," Mithryn whispered, "but you Elves are so mischievous. Always up trees and so quiet, one never knows where you are."
He laughed jovially before pulling out a long band of cloth from his green doublet. "I have something to show you," he said, eyes full of mystery.
"That piece of cloth?" Mithryn asked, pointing to the strip of silk.
"No. Ah, I fear I must blindfold you."
"We are to be wed tomorrow. Do you not trust me?" Mithryn asked with large, blinking eyes, hoping to shame him into showing her his secret without the use of a shield.
Her plan worked for a moment, before he caught onto her weedily ways. "And you refer to my people as being mischievous!" he said, laughing.
"Oh, very well," she said, relenting.
He placed the silky band over her closed eyes, and leaned in close to her ear. "I trust you," he whispered. Then, taking her two hands in his, he slowly led her deeper into the mystical realm of his people. Her steps came slowly, but never did he allow root or stone to trip her.
"You understand, of course," she said as they slowly made their way along, "it is dark, and I have not the eyes of an elf; I could not find my way back. So really, this blindfold is most unnecessary."
He stopped leading her and simply held her hands. "That is not the reason for your eyes being concealed."
"How much farther?" she said, beginning to become impatient.
His delicate fingers untied the shield. "We have arrived."
As he pulled away the cloth, she could not help gasping upon the sight her eyes beheld. In front of her lay a beautiful pond encircled by ancient willow trees, their drooping branches dipping into the still water. Afloat on the pond were dozens of tiny, flickering candles upon large, green leaves. The little glowing fires cast a warm, mystical glow upon the circlet of trees.
"How beautiful," Mithryn whispered in awe. "Did you do this?"
Legolas nodded, as he stared adoringly at her. "It is the custom of my people. The night prior to one's wedding, the bridegroom takes his future wife here and performs an ancient, sacred ceremony."
"What kind of ceremony?"
Legolas stood behind her, drawing her close, resting his chin on her shoulder. "Each candle represents a wish, a hope for our future together."
Mithryn looked at the many floating candles. "You hope a great deal," she said, laughing. "Of what did you wish for?" she asked as she turned to face him.
"Many things. Sadly, they have all slipped my mind, now," he said teasingly.
"You jest! Will you not tell me?"
"Tomorrow," Legolas said, caressing her face. "I shall tell you tomorrow."
Mithryn turned and stared delightedly at the enchanting gift. "Do you believe any shall come true?"
"That, is my greatest wish of all. If only one does, I shall be forever grateful. However, the ritual is not yet complete. One step remains, of which only you can perform."
"What must I do?"
Legolas took her hand, leading her through the curtain of willow branches; they kneeled at the water's edge. Legolas took a candle set upon a large leaf and gently handed it to her. He was reaching out, attempting to grasp a floating, lit candle when Mithryn placed a hand on his arm.
"Nay, Legolas. I do not require a light." Once again he gazed at her with fascination as she created a golden orb of flame in her hand. In the darkness, her fire illuminated their faces, lighting their eyes with fire. With masterly ability, she held the sphere, slowly turning it upside down to light her candle. When the wick was lit and glowed with radiance, another breath from her lips promptly extinguished the flame in her hand.
"I shall never tire of seeing you do that," Legolas said, impressed.
"What now?" she said, holding the leaf, beaming softly with reflected light in her hands.
"Close your eyes, and make one silent wish for our future together. Take your time; we have plenty."
She did as he bade, thinking of her deepest wishes and most heartfelt desires for the time they were to share. When her greatest hopes and aspirations had been determined, she at last opened her eyes. "It is chosen."
"You have now only to set the leaf onto the water, and let it sail."
Mithryn followed his instruction, gently placing the flickering candle in the cool water; they watched it as it floated away, joining the other wishes and dreams. Legolas pulled her into his embrace. "What did you wish for?"
"Tomorrow," she replied, caressing his face. "I shall tell you tomorrow."
* * *
After Legolas escorted Mithryn back to her cottage, he entered the Palace with spirits so high, they seemed to soar. Walking past his father's study, en route to his bedchamber, he heard a voice call him back from within the dark room. Legolas turned and peered into the open doorway; Thranduil stood in the dimmed room, alone.
"Did you wish to see me, Father?"
"Yes, could you come in a moment?" Thranduil asked, look of concern cast over his fair face.
Legolas stepped in, approaching him. "Does something ail you, Father?"
"Son, why were you not at the banquet tonight? I noticed Mithryn there, but she departed early."
"You know the reason for my absence. I am a bridegroom; tomorrow is the day of our union."
"You performed the ceremony?"
"Of course," Legolas said, now greatly confused as to his father's meaning in all these questions, for already did he know the answers. "Father, why do you question me?"
Thranduil sighed. "Son, I feel it my duty to inquire if your heart is attached absolutely to this decision to wed Mithryn."
Legolas' heart sank. His face could not hide the disappointment those words brought to his spirit. "We are to be wed tomorrow!" he exclaimed with a note of determination. "I know you have always disapproved of Mithryn . . ."
"Nay, I do not disapprove of Mithryn," the King interrupted.
"Is that a fact? Why else would you wish me not to marry her?!"
"Because it is dangerous!" Thranduil said, feelingly. "To bind yourself to a mortal is dangerous, my son; for you, as well as those around you. You place all our hearts at risk for Mithryn's sake."
Legolas shook his head, not allowing any heartfelt tears to fall. "Not for Mithryn's sake, Father. For my sake. I love her, and I had hopes that those around me would wish me to be happy no matter where my heart lies."
The King turned his face away, and Legolas slowly walked toward the door. "Legolas . . ." his father bade, unable to say more.
"You have your answer, Father," Legolas said, not turning. "I shall marry Mithryn tomorrow, and these discussions will cease. Goodnight." He stepped out of the room, pulling the great door closed behind him.
* * *
Morning sun rose; at long last, the wedding day arrived! Mithryn was happily surrounded by handmaidens, as well as great Elven Ladies including Elmarin. They all busily fussed over her hair, gown and body in preparation for this extraordinary evening. Traditional, elaborately presented bridal food was set out in her now cramped cottage, as she was not permitted to leave upon risk of seeing the bridegroom prior to the wedding.
Mithryn was kept busy from dawn with perfumed baths, hair dressing and arranging, trousseau fittings, gift openings, and all the while, anxiously waiting for the sun to set. The wedding would begin when the stars first showed their twinkling lights, and not before; for Mithryn, they could not come soon enough. Hours passed with much laughing, talking, and, at last, she stood amongst the fair crowd, dressed to be married; Mithryn's hair was delicately braided and twisted, curls cascading down her long, white gown. Tiny silver beads covered the gossamer dress, sparkling and tinkling slightly with every step. Set upon her head was a wreath of green leaves with fresh wild flowers. The ladies stepped back, gazing with pride at the lovely sight which stood before them.
"Well, what say you, Elmarin?" Mithryn asked anxiously, wanting to look especially perfect for her husband to be.
Elmarin smiled, and, with eyes shining, replied, "You appear to me a very noble bride; most beautiful, wise, and equal to the task of wife to our good prince."
Mithryn sighed with relief, when suddenly a knock sounded at the door. A handmaiden answered the caller, and promptly curtsied upon seeing who stood in the doorway. She opened the door wide, and King Thranduil strode in. He was most elegantly clad as well, and Mithryn did not believe she had ever seen him dressed so magnificently. His dark, emerald robes were trimmed with a silver, elven, scrolled design, and upon his head he wore a delicately braided, mithril crown. All the Ladies instantly curtsied, including Mithryn.
"Mithryn, my child!" the King exclaimed upon the sight of her. "What a vision you are!" Turning to the company he added, "Ladies, I thank you and compliment your work. Now, if you will but give us a moment." The Noblewomen, delighted that they had pleased their Elven-lord, paid homage once more before filing out, leaving the pair alone. Mithryn was not nervous, for she had no knowledge of Thranduil and Legolas' previous conversation. She simply gazed at him, hoping for a kind, fatherly word.
"Are you happy, my dear?" he said after a few moments of silence.
"Exceedingly, your Majesty. This is what we both have wished for. There is little more I could desire."
Thranduil stared at her, and nodded. "You make him happier than I have ever seen, and there is nothing more a father wishes for his son. Ah, but I forget my mission!" he said as he pulled a long, flat box from under his robes. "Your wedding gift for Legolas arrived from Rivendell. I believe the Elven Smiths surpassed themselves. Elrond was kind enough to oversee it being crafted, the nature of the gift, being what it is." Thranduil handed Mithryn the box. Her trembling fingers opened it, revealing a mithril medallion attached to a long chain. An elegant engraving of a tree was etched on one side, while on the other, read: `The love which I hold for thee, never shall fade,' inscribed in flowing Sindarin script.
"Are you pleased? Did they follow your instruction sufficiently?" Thranduil asked.
"I am extremely pleased; it is exactly as I had envisioned it! Think you he will admire it?"
"I do," the King replied, smiling. "I believe he shall treasure it very much indeed."
* * *
Legolas, meanwhile, had been pacing about his windowless chamber in an anxious state. His three brothers were his only companions, and they did little to ease his discomposure. Haldof lay on the bed, bored, staring at the vaulted ceiling, while Tarnil and Galamed occupied themselves with Legolas' collection of books.
"Tarnil, pray go and examine the sky for me." Legolas said nervously. "I long to know if the sun has yet set."
Tarnil sighed ans stared at his brother, reproachfully. "Legolas, I have only just returned from your mission to do thus, and you shall have to wait longer until I go again. I assure you, it has not set, but you shall be the first to know when it occurs."
The groom let out an exasperated huff, and resumed his pacing motions. He was elegantly clothed in long, luxurious robes adorned with sparkling silver; a wreath matching that of Mithryn's sat upon his head.
"Brother," Haldof said to Legolas, jesting, "If it distresses you so, you need not wed Mithryn. There is time yet; the union may still be cast aside."
Legolas stopped his activity and glared at his brother with bright eyes from under his leafy crown. "On my wedding day, Haldof, I do not find such levity amusing."
Haldof laughed silently, enjoying his brother's discomfort and ill humour. Galamed merely rolled his eyes, and returned to his book. The heavy, wooden door abruptly opened, and their father and King entered, standing in the doorway. "My sons, I am pleased to find you all together. You are, I hope, giving Legolas the support he requires before making so great a commitment."
"For the most part," Legolas replied, sending an annoyed glance in Haldof's direction.
"I am heartily glad to hear it," Thranduil said. "Now, I would ask the three of you to leave me with the groom."
Haldof, Tarnil and Galamed all rose, and exited the chamber without another word. Once the door was shut, Thranduil turned to his son. "Matrimonial attire suits you, my son."
"I mean only to wear it once, Father," Legolas said, unemotionally. His father's painful words, said the night before, were foremost on his mind; he did not wish for a repeated confrontation that would satisfy neither.
Thranduil sighed. "Legolas, I wish to apologize for my rashness last night. It was most obdurate of me. I do hope that on this wonderful day, you can forgive me."
Legolas' heart softened immediately. "Of course I forgive you, Father. I understand your fears, and would share in them if it were one of my brothers in my place. But, I have made my choice."
The King nodded, and approached his son, placing a loving hand on his shoulder. "And I respect your choice, Legolas. Mithryn is an exceptional Lady. She will make an excellent Queen to these woods. Now," he said, as they sat in two mammoth chairs by the weak fire, "you have maintained your secret long enough. What is it you mean to give her as your marital token?"
Legolas extended his hand, and opened it to reveal a small ring, bearing a green stone. Thranduil's eyes opened brightly at the sight of the band. "Your mother's ring," he said, picking it up and holding it adoringly. "She would be pleased to know it was given with such love."
"I wish she could be here tonight, of all nights."
"No more than she wishes it, I am sure. I do not miss her any less with the passing centuries. Alas, it is, in fact, the reverse. It was a mistake to allow her to leave me."
Legolas furrowed his brow. "You would have commanded her to stay?"
"Nay, you misunderstand; I should have joined her on her voyage. These woods, my home, my heart have never recovered from her absence."
Legolas stared at his father, and wondered of his own heart. Twelve hundred years have passed since his eyes beheld his mother, his Father grieving every day. How would his own heart fare twelve hundred years after the passing of Mithryn?
"Ah, but we must have no more woe, my son, for this is a time to be most joyful!" Thranduil said, returning his son's ring. "I know you shall be very happy with the time you share with Mithryn, regardless of the length."
Legolas smiled as he clasped the ring, thinking of the years to come.
* * *
At last word came that the sun had set, and that the remaining golden hue had drained from the darkening sky. Stars began to peak out of their shelter and glittered divinely overhead. The King and Legolas were informed by an exuberant Tarnil that all was now prepared for the wedding to commence.
Legolas strode out with his brothers and father at his side. Indeed, the courtyard glowed with mystical grandeur. Tall candlesticks were set out along the trellised isle down which Mithryn would walk. A grand arbor was erected with leafy vines and flowers entwining along its woven web. All the Elves in the Kingdom were present, with the exception of those from the garrison who were patrolling the boarders.
Thranduil strode down the isle, nodding to his people as he passed, his sons following closely behind. As the King took position in the center of the circular arbor, minstrels let flow their enchanting song. Legolas took his place to the left of his father, his brothers standing statuesquely at his side; they did not have long to wait.
Elmarin appeared at the isle entrance, gracefully making her way down the flowered path. Legolas gasped when she had passed. Mithryn stood at the bowered passage, glowing with her own mystical light. Legolas gazed in complete awe at his wife to be; never to his eyes had she appeared more radiant, or shone with such beauty. He was simply overwhelmed; his heart ached with love.
Mithryn walked slowly down the leafy path, eyes fixed unshakably on her true love. She still harboured a shred of fear that her glorious dream would burst, and all would come crashing down in ruin. Yet, there she was, about to commit to her heart's only desire.
Stepping up, she joined them on the latticed bower, clasping hands with Legolas. Thranduil began to speak, his words handsome and poetic in his native tongue; Legolas and Mithryn heard naught. They gazed into each other's beaming faces, reading each other's soul. Legolas' thoughts absorbed the delicate beading on her dress, and how her flaming hair was complimented by the leafy crown. Mithryn's mind warmed toward the impish grin Legolas bore on his face, and noted that his eyes were filled with such tender love.
The adoring couple were both snatched out of worshiping thought when the King was made to repeat his last question. Legolas looked bashfully at his father. "Uh, yes father," he said as he turned back to Haldof, who stood amused, and handed Legolas the ring. Legolas slipped the ring on Mithryn's tiny finger, saying, "I offer to you this token with all my love and affection through all eternity."
Mithryn turned to Elmarin who handed her the medallion. Gently holding the necklet, she repeated his same words. Reaching up, she slipped the chain over his wreath, letting it lay on his broad chest. He gazed at the shiny token, reading its tender message.
The King bade the couple to cross their wrists, and hold hands. They followed his direction, and he brought forth a long, silver scarf. As Thranduil wove it around their wrists, Mithryn noted how ancient, and delicate it felt on her skin. When at last they were bound together, Legolas said, "With all my heart and will, I bind myself to thee, Mithryn."
She smiled, her hands tightened their grip to his. "With all my heart and will, I bind myself to thee, Legolas." Thranduil raised his hands and gloriously proclaimed them wed; intense cheers resounded far into the kingdom followed by the sound of iavin trumpets, so that even the guards on duty could rejoice as well.
* * *
The King sat at the head of the long table during the feast, Legolas and Mithryn at his sides. They gazed at each other incessantly during the entire meal, delighted smiles on their faces. Music played gaily, dancing commenced, and tales of old were recounted by the most gifted of storytellers. Mithryn stood conversing with a group of Elven Ladies when Legolas approached them. "I pray you will excuse us, Ladies; I must have a word with my wife." The gathering laughed as Legolas led Mithryn away into the weald.
Haldof was watching the pair with amusement. Galamed quickly strode up to him. "Haldof, have you seen Legolas? I much desire to speak with him."
"Aye," replied Haldof, pointing into the woods. "He and Mithryn have just entered the wold."
"Ah, I thank you," Galamed said, making to follow, but Haldof quickly pulled him back.
"Nay, Galamed. Legolas has waited long for this. He shall have to remember this night for a long time alone. Let them be."
Galamed nodded in understanding, and they both turned and rejoined the boisterous festivities.
"My wife . . . how I have longed to call you that," Legolas said when they were at last in the quiet of the forest.
"How I have longed to hear it, husband." Mithryn said. Legolas smiled, leaned down, and kissed his wife for the first time. They resumed their stroll, hands clasped together. "Will you tell me now, what it is you wished for last night?"
"I have already said, I cannot remember," he said, impish grin reappearing.
"Come now, Legolas. You must not tease your wife on our wedding day."
"I wished for many things," he replied, yielding. ""Happiness, children, a peaceful life, but, most of all, I wished for time. I know I must be satisfied with the time you give me, but to me, it seems an unfair amount."
"As it does to me. My wish, as well, was to that very purpose; time. But we do not know what the future shall bring; let us think of it no longer. We are now together; nothing can break the bond to which we have just committed. Not even death."
He drew her close, affectionately holding his dear wife in loving embrace.
* * *
Neither of them spoke as he slowly led her discreetly around the festivities, avoiding any encounter, and back toward the Palace to a tall Elven tower, much like Elmarin's home. Gently holding her hand, they ascended up the spiraling steps to the highest door. Taking a spray of mixed flowers from the doorknob, he handed them to Mithryn as a symbol of good luck before entering the wedding abode. He opened the door for her, welcoming her in. "What do you think of it?" he asked.
Mithryn gazed around the stately room. Indeed, it was much larger and more richly decorated than hers, or Elmarin's bedchambers. Crawling Ivy covered the walls, and penitent statues stood about the room. Shelves were filled with books, and ornate carvings. An open, curved balcony filled one wall, view overlooking the forest, and blooming morning-glories dripping from the banister. The bed's four posts rose high up to the ceiling, gauzy fabric gently draping from its dark, wooden beams. "It is very fine!" she said at last, taking it all in.
"If you wish, this can be our chamber. Or if you would prefer staying in your cabin, I would not mind. There is also my room in the Palace, if you would prefer that."
"Which would you prefer?" she asked, turning to face him. "Do you wish to remain within the Palace walls?"
"I have lived long in that room. These quarters are reserved for the Royal family, and it offers slightly more privacy and light than our other chambers. However, I care not where we stay."
Mithryn gazed once more over the splendid room before replying, "I think we should stay here. A fresh start for us both, together. Do you not think?"
Legolas nodded in agreement, closing the door. "I shall have our belonging's brought up here tomorrow." He joined her, his gentle hand caressing her cheek. Mithryn shyly met his gaze, her heart pounding in her chest. Reaching up, she removed their floral crowns, letting them fall to the ground, carelessly. His lips met her cool forehead, and trailed softly down to her trembling mouth.
End of Chapter Thirteen