A TALE OF MIRKWOOD - Chapter Thirty - Word From Afar
Hello everybody! It continued on! I hope you didn't feel like you had to wait ages for this chapter! And, there's even more good news, so I've just finished Chapter 31 as well! Ah, it feels good to be writing....Anyway, thanks again to everyone who commented on Chapter 29! I do appreciate it!
Legolas had indeed not expected to see old friends in Rohan. It was, in fact, what he least expected, but to see Elven folk in that strange country sent his heart soaring.
It was after the fierce battle at Helm's Deep, and returning from Isengard that the king, his soldiers, and the Grey Company were overtaken by a group of riders. Merry had rejoined the Grey Company, having been restored to his friends' keeping, and was heartily glad for it, but disliked being separated from the ever cheerful Pippin.
The riders rode fast; a large group counting thirty-one. Two elves were among them, whom Legolas knew well, and greeted with an embrace.
"Elladan and Elrohir! My old friends, let me welcome you!" Legolas said in their own tongue.
"We travel with Halbarad," Elladan said, his shimmering mail glinting in the moonlight. "Word came of aid needed, and so we have come. It felt wrong to stay."
"You appear familiar to me," Gimli said, staring up at the dark-haired elves warily. The Elven brothers exchanged looks and smiled. Being twins, they looked exactly the same.
"These are Lord Elrond's sons, Gimli," Legolas said in the common tongue. "You may perhaps remember seeing them at the council."
"Ah, yes," Gimli said, nodding his great head. "Well, you are very welcome here, even if you are a trifle late."
Each raising an eyebrow, Elladan and Elrohir allowed Gimli's remark to pass.
"How is everything in dear, old Rivendell?" Merry inquired eagerly.
"Rivendell changes little, Master Merry. However, when we left it, spring flowers were beginning to sprout from the earth," Elrohir said. "So different," he glanced around, "from this."
"Flowers and earth. . ." Merry sighed. "How I long to toil in the gardens as I used to. Alas that it is near in my heart yet remains so far away."
Suddenly Aragorn announced the call. They would be returning to Helm's Deep for rest and food.
While riding along, Elladan rode up beside Legolas to have a word. Their conversation far from disturbed the snoring Gimli. "Legolas, I would tell you that your father has been most anxious for news of you."
"How is he? Have you had word?" Legolas asked fervently.
"Not recently. I set out with Elrohir and the Rangers the day your letters arrived from Lothlórien. They were to be directly sent on to your home in Mirkwood."
"That is good tidings, enough," Legolas said, knowing his father would be comforted. No more did they speak on the open road. Spies and danger lurked in the darkness. All must have their wits about them, save the sleeping Gimli of course. Gimli, however, a tenacious, ferocious fighter once called upon, would gladly fight to the death for his friends.
* * *
They had halted briefly at the Hornburg, but once again Aragorn's path altered from that of his friend, king Théoden. The Rangers chose to follow their friend, as did Gimli, Legolas and Elrond's sons. Merry remained behind, though not by choice.
Onward did they travel to Edoras, intending to rest but one night. There they were greeted by the city's mistress, Lady Éowyn who immediately ordered food to be prepared and beds to be made for their honoured guests.
Later that evening, Éowyn dined with the travellers, and spoke at length with Aragorn. Their heads bent together in private whispers, caught the attention of Elladan and who Elrohir watched with vigilant eyes at Legolas' table.
"They speak of our road," Elrohir said. "Who is this maid that cares for our friend so?"
"Niece of Théoden," Gimli replied, biting on a meaty bone.
"Indeed?" Elladan replied. "They seem very intimate. Is their friendship a lengthy one?"
Legolas understood the concern of the brothers the moment they espied Aragorn and Éowyn together. Éowyn's love for Aragorn was vivid, yet Legolas had always perceived that Aragorn remained rather aloof. "It is new, but much have they in common. Worry not, my friends, for his love is as that for a sister. Your own sweet sister is forever in his heart. I know this to be true."
The brothers made no reply and, soon after, the company parted for rest. Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas were to share a large elegant room. Aragorn was late, having checked in on the horses as Gimli and Legolas settled down for the night.
"A bed!" Gimli exclaimed, examining it. "I hardly remember the last time one graced my back."
"`Twould be the last night we spent here," Legolas said, laying down on his own bed.
"Sometimes I wish you did not have such a good memory," Gimli said, laying down on the soft mattress. "What do you think of those sons of Elrond and all their questions?"
"They have a right to be concerned. Arwen is their sister."
"A fool could see that Aragorn has no love for that cool maiden!" Gimli said while rolling over, attempting to find comfort.
"True, but I do not doubt he holds her in great esteem. Mortal men are so strange to me."
"Aye, for once we are in agreement," Gimli said, rolling over again.
Suddenly the door opened; Aragorn walked in, his face contorted with distress.
"What is it, Aragorn?" Legolas asked.
"Éowyn. She wishes to travel with us. To take our road."
"That is no place for a lady!" Gimli bellowed.
"She is a shield maiden," Aragorn argued, "and is skilled in the arts of war. However, I do not wish her to join in this fight. The end draws ever near. Never would I forgive myself were she injured."
"She does not go, then?" Legolas inquired softly.
"Nay," Aragorn replied. "The Paths of the Dead is our road, not hers. We shall leave at dawn."
"Good!" Gimli said. "These beds do not agree with me!"
"You did not complain the first time," Aragorn said teasingly.
"You are worse than the elf," Gimli said before rolling over once more and quickly falling asleep.
* * *
The king's command had been swift and direct. Mithryn was to be confined to her bed forthwith and to have a handmaiden accompany her everywhere. Mithryn's arguments, however, fell onto deaf ears, for the king would hear none of her complaints. In the end, Mithryn knew she could do little but what Thranduil bid her. So, she relented, though not without irritation.
Mithryn's ankle, though rather stiff and swollen, did far from trouble her greatly as she had nowhere to walk, and all her meals were brought to her.
Often did she have visitors, for the Elves had grown quite attached to her. Tarnil, Galamed and Anardil were amongst the list, always cheerful and full of fun. Much did they do to raise her melancholy spirits, telling tales and bringing small gifts or a fresh wild flower. Haldof visited sporadically, and when he deigned, he would do naught but sit in a corner and make awkward conversation. Mithryn grew weary of this quickly, and at such times burned to flee from her captivity and Haldof's company. She consoled herself with the thought that Haldof's visits were short and sparse.
* * *
Her windows were open, inviting in the fresh spring air, and how she longed to wander abroad as she and Legolas had done when she had just arrived not but a year before. The thought of those precious days warmed her as she had little to do in the long, passing weeks but sit and think.
"One year. . ."she thought to herself. "Is that all that has passed? One little year since I arrived here?"
A knock suddenly sounded at the door snapping Mithryn from thought. Straightening her blankets and inviting the person in, the door opened to reveal none other than Haldof holding a scroll of parchment.
Mithryn groaned inwardly but showed no abhorrence to Haldof. "Haldof, what a nice surprise. Unfortunately, I am in no state to receive visitors today, so pray accept my apologies."
He stood there a moment, confused, and Mithryn failed to notice how pale his face was, or how strange his behaviour was. "Yes of course," he muttered, as if his mind were on other matters, "but. . ."
"But? But what?" Mithryn enquired hastily. She did not wish to repeat Haldof's last visit and was anxious to send him on his way. "Haldof, please. I know you are concerned for me, but I assure you I have not left this bed since my injury, and I have no intention to leave until I am well again. There! Your mind may be at rest now. Yes, well, I am sure you have plenty to do, being as busy as I know you are, so I shall not try to keep you as I know you must be wanted elsewhere."
Haldof was quick to take the hint, and a scowl grew in his eyes. "You need only have asked, Mithryn. Someone must watch over you, it seems, for you do the most feebleminded things! It is no wonder that you. . ." but his voice quickly died, and he was shocked at himself for nearly saying what he swore he would never say.
Mithryn's curiosity, however, had been awakened. "No wonder that I what? Honestly, Haldof, my actions are no concern of yours. I am quite capable of taking care of myself and my child, and I have no need of you!"
"My father would disagree."
"Yes, well, your father is thinking about his grandchild, isn't he? Pray, whom are you thinking of?"
Glowering, Haldof strode to the door, only to remember what he carried in his hand. He quickly turned around again, walked back to Mithryn's bedside and held the scroll out toward her. "Here, take it! This just arrived for you."
"What is it?" Mithryn asked, bewildered as she took the parchment.
"It is from Legolas," Haldof snarled before stomping out of her chamber.
Mithryn could not move at first. She held the crisp parchment in her hand and turned it over, examining it carefully. It bore Legolas' seal, that of the tree on his medallion which she had given him on the night of their wedding. His words, his thoughts were so near to her now, she knew not quite what to do. Gingerly she broke the seal and spread the scroll revealing Legolas' flowing penmanship.
3019, February 10
My Dearest Wife,
I sit here among the soaring mallorns, high above the earth's floor, and am swept into another world. If you could but look at the map of Middle Earth in my father's study, you will see how close Mirkwood is to Lothlórien, for that is where I am. So close to you, my love, and yet so far.
You are the first thought in my heart upon waking and the last before sleep overtakes me. Two months have passed and I am no closer to fulfilling my duty. We have already lost one of our companions, and it pains my heart more than I can say. How I need you at this time, my Dearest. What comfort your gentle touch and soft kisses would be to me now, you cannot imagine. One night, one hour, or even one cherished minute would suffice.
And yet, you are far away, and so it is my choosing. I pray that you do not think ill of me for leaving, and I, too, am sorry that this is the first message I could send. I hope this letter finds you well and happy.
Mithryn glanced at the date. "February. . .but. . .that is one month ago."
How I crave word from you; to hear of your life at this moment. Oft do I picture you walking through the woods as we have done before my departure. When my heart becomes too heavy in these bitter lands, I imagine you in our home, and I feel joy again. Have you kept your promise to me? Do you still gaze at the stars and think of me?
"Every night," Mithryn answered, smiling, a tear trailing down her cheek.
Not a night passes when I do not search for the stars. Much do I despise the cloudy skies, robbing me of my only enjoyment while I am away from you, my love. However, your gift I hold dear, and wear forever next to my heart.
I miss you immensely, my love. Pray never lose heart. I swore to you that I would return, and I shall do all in my power to keep my word. Hopefully this will not be the last letter I send to you of my progress. If long months pass and still no word comes, do not be downcast. Not all the evil in this world could prevent me from returning to you.
With all my love,
Mithryn set down the parchment, wiping her streaming tears with her hand. "He has only been gone two months," she thought, "and already my heart is impatient and aches for him! How will it be when a year has passed? Or two? When will he return?" She searched her soul trying desperately to find answers that perhaps her own powers could give.
Straining, she attempted to bring forth a vision, concentrating on Legolas and his return, but nothing came. No cracking pain; no half-seen image. "He may never return," she wept woefully, and clutched his letter close to her heart.
* * *
A month's days passed with Mithryn's confinement, when at last, Ardenil, the most knowledgeable healer, declared her well enough to leave her bedchamber. Thranduil was not so easily convinced, for Mithryn still walked with a limp.
"Her ankle is just tight, my lord," Ardenil the healer said. "With exercise, her walk will improve. I see no lasting repercussions from this fall."
"Very well," the King said, "but on one condition, Mithryn. Your handmaiden must accompany you everywhere you venture forth."
"My lord, I am not a child," Mithryn argued sweetly. "I admit my last mistake as being rather foolhardy. . ."
"Foolhardy indeed!" Thranduil interrupted. "However, while you are with child, I feel it only too important that someone accompany you on your outings. You seemed to have dismissed my sons attempts to do so, however, I believe this will answer much better. I'll have no more arguments! If Legolas were here, he would agree with me, and you know it to be true. Now, tomorrow will be your first venture out. Pray take care, and visit me in the afternoon. There are letters which need to be written."
"Yes, my lord," Mithryn said without further complaint.
* * *
The following morning seemed ordered for Mithryn. The sun beamed down brightly filling the morning with warm spring air. She gazed out her window and saw Haldof approach below. The merest sight of him caused her to recoil, and she quickly turned away from the window lest he should see her and come visit.
"Milady, the King bids thee to wear a cape," her handmaiden declared humbly; Celebwen held out the long panels of green cambric.
Mithryn knew better than to argue, so allowed the elf-maiden to drape the cape across her shoulders and tie it securely lest it should fall off. It appeared light and thin but was warm to the touch, and already, as it wrapped over her dainty shoulders, it locked the warmth in. "This is very fine," Mithryn said, admiring the delicate gold threads woven into the trim lining the edge.
"The King commissioned it himself. He is very fond of you, Milady."
"He is very generous," Mithryn said, rising, and holding onto Celebwen for support.
A knock sounded at the door. Mithryn sat herself back down into her chair. A visitor would only postpone her walk, and standing for too long tired her. Celebwen opened the door and in strode Haldof carrying a long stick.
"Haldof," Mithryn said, attempting a smile, "I am going for a walk today. You need not be concerned. Celebwen will be with me wherever I go to."
"I know," he said smugly. "It was I who suggested the idea to Father."
Mithryn tried with all her might not to allow her distaste to show, but sadly failed.
"I'll not wait for your assurances of your health," he continued, "as no doubt you wish to hurry along on your walk. I merely came to give you this." He held out the stick, handing it to Mithryn.
It was long and sleek, highly polished allowing the dark wood grain to show. The peak curled into pointed flames and Mithryn's name in Elvish encircled it.
"Another gift from the King?" Mithryn inquired, examining the staff. "Pray thank him for me will you? Nay, you needn't bother. I forgot. He wishes me to write some letters with him today. Well, thank you kindly for delivering it to me, Haldof."
Haldof stood a moment before turning on his heel and stepping out of her chamber.
Celebwen and Mithryn exchanged bewildered looks. "Well, I thought I was quite friendly considering his last visit."
"Haldof is a complex book to read," Celebwen said, knowingly.
"Aye," Mithryn agreed, rising now with the aid of her new staff. The tall staff stood a full foot above her head, but it made moving about much easier. She no longer required Celebwen for support, and was thus much happier.
"Come, Celebwen! The day is calling to me. Long have I been indoors and it is not for me."
* * *
Just as Mithryn had received a letter from Legolas, so had the King. He was ravenous for news from his son, but the letter brought little peace.
Mithrandir is gone. The abyss swallowed him as well as the great evil that he fought. I know what heartache this must cause you, but I felt you would wish to know. I am sorry, father. To watch him fall into darkness. . .I have never felt so helpless.
Thranduil read that passage from Legolas' letter repeatedly, anxious for the terrible words to make sense. "Gandalf gone?" he thought, mind forlorn with woe. "It cannot be. . ."
A soft tap on the door interrupted the King's contemplation. "Enter," he bade, stuffing the parchment away from prying eyes.
Mithryn slowly entered with the aid of her stick, and sat down at the great table.
"Ah, my dear," the King said, welcoming her, "I trust your walk went well? No adventures, I hope."
"Nay, my lord," she replied, smiling. "It was exhilarating to move about after being immobile for so many weeks."
"It was but three. Three is not very long, from my point of view. Or even yours, I would think, you having lived so long in the lives of men."
"Yet three weeks can seem an eternity when one is shut up in one's bedchamber. However, I have learnt my lesson and will take better care. That reminds me, my lord. Thank you so much for the generous gifts you bestowed upon me today."
"Gifts? Oh, you mean the cape. Twas nothing, I assure you. Mortals chill so easily; I did not want you to catch cold in the spring air and have to shut you up for another three weeks."
"I am glad for that. But, my staff," she said, placing a tender hand on its smooth grain. "I thank you for it as well. It has made my independence so much easier!"
Thranduil stared at her a moment before saying, "I deserve no thanks in that gift, my dear. One must give credit where credit is due. That gift is from Haldof."
"Haldof?" Mithryn said, surprised.
"He commissioned it, I assume, from the woodworking Elves?"
"Nay, for he began work on it himself the day you fell. He is very skilled with tools, as I'm sure you can see. I am confused, my dear, did Haldof not tell you this gift was his making?"
Mithryn shook her head, guiltily remembering her conversation with him.
"Strange. Although, some would find it difficult to believe such, Haldof is very modest. Perhaps it would be best not to mention the staff to him. He might become embarrassed."
"Oh, I would not wish to cause him discomfort, my lord," Mithryn said, half speaking for Haldof, and half for herself.
* * *
Another week passed, and Mithryn saw very little of Haldof. Never did he come to visit, and she was thankful for that. She had no idea what their next conversation would entail and so avoided him whenever possible. Twice was she seated beside him at dinner, but the King maintained constant discourse throughout the meals, and she was thus saved.
Thranduil's kingdom had been thrown into cheerful activity upon the declaration of a happy event. The date had been established for Galamed's wedding, and preparations were being hastily set forth. The question had arose of Legolas not being in attendance at his own brother's wedding, but Galamed insisted that his brother would understand.
When the wedding day arrived, Mithryn sat idly by and gazed at the busy elves, hurriedly making final arrangements. She vividly recollected what her own wedding day had been like, and how it felt like yesterday. How the elf-maidens had fawned over her, and how anxious she had been for the stubborn summer sun to set.
Celebwen now dressed Mithryn with care as faraway thoughts flitted about Mithryn's mind. She tenderly touched the ring Legolas had given her on that special day.
"You seem melancholy tonight, Milady," Celebwen said gently.
"I suppose I am a little."
"It is a fine night for a wedding. Much like your own wedding night, I recall. Not a cloud in the sky. The stars will bless the couple with their radiance."
"What a beautiful thought," Mithryn said as Celebwen twisted her hair up, pinning it in place.
When the sun had finally set, all Elves not on duty congregated by the bower, waiting patiently for the bride and groom to appear. Mithryn was seated near the front, and without warning, Haldof walked past, and promptly sat down beside her. Mithryn stiffened in her seat, but said nothing.
Nearly ten minutes passed and still neither one said anything to the other. Not being able to stand the awkward silence anymore, Mithryn said, "Haldof, thank you for the beautiful walking stick. I am sorry I had not thanked you sooner, or even when you gave it to me, but thank you. It was a wonderful gift and much needed."
"Think naught of it," Haldof said quickly.
"Nay, it was a generous gift for you to make with your own hands."
"Not at all," he said, not looking at her.
"Haldof, I never understand you! Can I not even thank you for giving me a gift?"
"Mithryn. . ." he said, rising for his Father had begun the ceremony.
"Yes?" she asked, awaiting his reply.
Haldof stared at her a moment before saying, "The ceremony has begun."
Exasperated, Mithryn turned toward the aisle to see Anardil stroll blissfully down in a filmy white gown. The ceremony proceeded in Elvish, of which Mithryn understood most that was said. Vows were taken, offerings were exchanged, and they were at last pronounced married!
"Legolas should have been here," Haldof whispered to himself.
"I'm sure he would have wished for nothing more," Mithryn said gently, her mood now more softened. "However, Galamed and Anardil are much in love. It is understandable that they be impatient. Legolas would understand, you know."
Suddenly, horns sounded throughout the realm. At first Mithryn thought they were declaring the Royal marriage, but the announcement started a panic. Elves scattered quickly. Haldof suddenly grabbed Mithryn, and picked her up. She held onto her stick fast and was tempted to beat him with it.
"Haldof, put me down this instant! What is going on?!" she demanded.
Charging toward the palace, Haldof said, "It has happened, just as you said it would."
"What has happened? Haldof, tell me!" she urged.
"Orcs have invaded."
End of Chapter Thirty