A TALE OF MIRKWOOD - Chapter Twenty-eight - Ambivalence No Longer
Hello everyone! Here is Chapter 28! I hope you like it! 29 is finished, and 30 on the way. Please, if you read, review. Thanks again to everyone who did last time! You guys are great!
February had ended, as had the appearance and feel of winter in the forest. Days were slightly warmer with the coming of March, and the fresh, earthy scent of spring was at last in the air. Elves, being what they are and love, could not help but grow excited by the burgeoning promise before them. So much was about to grow and bloom! A dark cloud, however, hovered over one in the forest whose misery began to eat at him like a festering illness.
Galamed had not taken his father's latest rebuff well. Always had he believed his father would have a change of heart and consent to his marriage to the enchanting Anardil, but with his latest refusal, Galamed's faith began to wane.
As days passed into weeks, Anardil watched him with growing distress. He spoke less to her, and seemed in constant agitation. She tried to relieve his worry with humour and playfulness, but to no avail. Her attempts only made him withdraw further within himself. After not seeing him for several days, she at last went to him.
His room was cold, for no fire burned upon the hearth, and the windows, left open, invited the crisp bite of the night breeze inside. Galamed sat in his darkened room, alone in his despair. Anardil sat by him, distressed to see her lover so tortured.
"My love, why is there no fire here? Have you forsaken all light?"
"What use is light when one has a future so bleak?" Galamed replied softly, not daring to look at her.
"Winter may appear bleak in its darkest hours, but spring is certain to follow."
"And yet, some blooms never open. Some eggs never hatch," he said sadly.
Anardil watched him in agony, until at last, she accepted what she had been fearing. Wiping away a tear, she rose and walked away from him. "I think it time for this charade to cease. We have been deceiving ourselves long enough. The King is never going to consent to our marriage. It is time we both accept this. Admit it, Galamed. Anything less is folly. There is no hope for us."
Galamed at last dared to gaze at her, shocked. Though he had despaired, he had not expected her to do so. "What does this mean, Anardil? Of what are you saying?"
"I do not like to think it was all in vain, but now there is little else to believe. I will always treasure your love, and what we shared, but we must accept reality, Galamed. It is over for us. Our marriage will never be."
He rose, walking toward her, his face contorted with pain. "You cease to love me?"
"Of course not, Galamed. But our yearning is futile, and I think we'd be fools to pretend any longer. Your father has always been quite clear. The longer we delude ourselves, the longer it will hinder our recovery. I am sorry."
"Our recovery? What recovery?! I cannot recover from you."
He turned to grasp her, hold her close, prevent her from making such a mistake, but she moved hastily away, shrinking from his touch. "Don't, please. Pray forgive me," she whispered fleeing from his chamber leaving him alone in darkness.
* * *
"And furthermore," Thranduil said, striding around his office chamber while Mithryn wrote his words, "any news you can send of my errant son would be appreciated by myself, his family, and his people. I await your reply. Sincerely, etcetera."
Mithryn finished writing the letter, and reviewed all that she had written.
"Do you think it a mite too desperate sounding?" he enquired.
"Nay, my Lord. Elrond, I am sure, is understanding of your concern for Legolas. It was evident to me through his letters that he shares our worry."
"It has just been so long. Surely Legolas could have sent word by now!"
Mithryn shared this opinion, but felt rather to defend her love. "I am certain there is a logical reason for such delay."
"No doubt, but I am loth to speak of what such reasons could prevent him," he said, settling into his chair by the burning hearth. Mithryn knew his meaning and looked, suddenly, troubled. He perceived her distress, saying, "Fear not for his life yet, Mithryn child. He is still with us. I feel confident that I would know if harm had come to him. Nay, I am sorry for my pessimism. It has no business here, at such times as this. Legolas will send word if and when he is able. We must have faith that some news will come. Until then, we must be patient. Both of us."
"Yes, my Lord," she said, smiling, now only slightly comforted. "I am sure you are right."
Without warning, the door suddenly burst open with a loud bang, startling both Mithryn and the King. Galamed stormed into the room and demanded, "Father, I cannot bear it any longer, and I demand answers! Why do you incessantly defy my right to wed Anardil?!"
Mithryn and Thranduil exchanged surprised glances. Nether of them had ever seen Galamed, usually passive and gentle, so enraged. Mithryn rose, and quietly excused herself from a situation she had rather not witness. Once the door was shut, Thranduil calmly invited his son to sit, which he declined.
"Very well," Thranduil replied. "You ask why I have not given my permission?"
"Aye. I demand to know what it is about Anardil that you so despise!"
"Why, nothing. Anardil is as fair and noble as all her kin. I think she a fine maiden."
"Is it me, then? Is she so high above me, your son?"
"Do not be foolish, Galamed. Of course she is not above you. You are my son, a prince of this realm, and therefore very well respected. However, you have not given me the respect I deserve as your father."
Galamed stared at him, blinking. "I have not given you respect?" he repeated. "How so?"
"You wished to marry Anardil. Did I find out from your own lips of your plans? Nay. I discovered this from Legolas. And when Haldof beseeched me for permission for your marriage, did I hear such requests from you? Nay, you did not give me such respect. Had you but come to me and asked yourself I would have given my permission months ago. But, nay. You chose to shy away, and not to approach me. Are you so ashamed of your love for Anardil?"
"Nay, I have never been ashamed of her, or of the way I feel for her."
"That is all well and good, but never will I give permission to any of my people who would not claim their own right to be happy. Frankly, Galamed, I wonder at your waiting so long to do so."
Galamed finally sat down, pondering over his father's words. It had simply never occurred to him that his father would automatically have given his consent to his request. "I am feeling very foolish. . ."
"I am heartily glad to hear it. For months, I had not known what to think of you."
"Father," Galamed said, rising, "I wish to marry Anardil. We are in love. May I have your permission to wed her?"
Thranduil placed a loving hand on his son's strong shoulder, saying, "My son, at first I believed this match ill suited. However, in recent months, I have watched you both closely, and feel that you have an excellent understanding of each other. Aye, I grant my consent, and hope you very happy."
So filled with joy, Galamed embraced his father with much enthusiasm. "Thank you, father! You will not regret it!" He sprinted from the room, now with great elation in search of his love.
Thranduil sat down in his chair once more, musing over Galamed's delight. "Oh Legolas, if you were here, how you would laugh."
* * *
Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas' plight had taken them into Rohan and Fangorn Forest. Its name legendary, and so mysterious, few dared to enter it. Yet, their need was great, so they dared. It was he whom they met in the depths of the ancient forest, that shocked them greater still. Gandalf! Gandalf was alive and unhurt! Gandalf had battled the Balrog in the bowels of Moria and departed the victor. Thus he stood before them, Gandalf, but no longer the Grey. Now he was the White, and newly ordained head of his order, becoming more powerful than ever before. Merry and Pippin, Gandalf assured them, were safe indeed, and in trustworthy hands. Thus they were to ride to Edoras, and visit Rohan's King, Théoden.
As they rode up and down the vales of the open, grassy prairie, Legolas stared long at his old friend, Mithrandir. His long white hair flowed as he rode his magnificent steed, Shadowfax, looking onward to their destination. "Gandalf has altered," Legolas pondered to himself. "He seems not the same as when last we saw him." Legolas knew little of Wizards and their ways, so was content to credit Gandalf's transformation as a probable one for all that he had experienced.
"You study me at great length," Gandalf said, turning to Legolas, an amused smile upon his face. "Do you find me so different?"
"Aye," Legolas admitted, "both in body and in sprit, but I still see sparks of the old friend I have known these three hundred years."
Gandalf's face clouded, "Is that all? Three hundred little years? My word! It seems much longer."
"Do you remember nothing of your past shared with us?" Aragorn enquired.
"All. All do I remember, but it feels an age away. And now our time is spent as the end draws ever near. Come! We must hurry, for daylight is waning, and another day is gone from us."
The three horses, sensing the need for urgency, galloped even faster toward their home of Edoras where the horse lords dwelled.
* * *
Two days of hard, headlong riding and at last their objective was reached. Edoras was entered, and the King was seen. Foul and festering was his body, putrid with evil poison until cleansed by Gandalf; the evil of Saruman expelled finally from King Théoden's body. Théoden's recovery was swift, as was his retribution to the loathsome Wormtongue whose trust in him had been betrayed. He was hence banished, and hastily did he flee back to Saruman's stronghold, Gandalf assured.
Legolas watched the events play out with an acute eye. As all plans for action took place, Legolas discerned one person's constant presence, though not a word did she say. Fair by mortal standards, and with a hawk's eye, the lady Éowyn sat near her King, listening intently to all the decisions and deliberations. Never did a smile adorn her otherwise comely face sparking fire into her cold eyes. Legolas noticed, however, that her eyes more often than not froze on his long time friend, Aragorn. Curiosity held her gaze, for long did she stare at the would-be King.
At last, Théoden had reached a decision, and battle was it. Long had his lands been abused by their enemies, but from henceforth, Théoden swore it would stop if it took every last man in his Kingdom to defend. All hearts surrounding him were gladdened by his decision, and preparations were began immediately for a swift departure.
The four companions ate in a warm room, hung with magnificent tapestries of noble, heroic horses of old. All the while the occupants of Edoras prepared their soldiers for battle.
"How he warmed my heart," Aragorn said. "I see my blood in these people. Perhaps it is not too late for them."
"Certainly not, Aragorn," Gandalf said, pacing. "However, his numbers are few. These are not the soldiers of Gondor, or even Rivendell."
"They will all be slaughtered," Aragorn agreed. "Perhaps if we reach Helm's Deep, they will have a chance to band together. I fear, however, they will not be able to withstand all that Saruman shall no doubt throw at it."
"These people are so ill equipped," Legolas said, gazing about the room. "Saruman's treachery must have been long, indeed."
"Aye, long and vile," Gandalf said, disgusted. "However, Saruman's time is running short."
Gandalf began to walk out of the room. Gimli, his mouth full of stew and bread called out, "Where do you go, Gandalf?" but he did not heed the dwarf. The door was shut, and the three were left alone.
"Did you see that maiden sitting by Théoden all the while?" Aragorn enquired.
"The one with the steel grey eyes, you mean?" Gimli garbled through his food. "Aye, and a colder beauty I've never before seen. Someone should spin that fair maid a rollicking joke! What, I ask you, is the reason for such gloom?"
"Perhaps watching her uncle decay into darkness, and Wormtongue seizing the Kingdom for his own would be some just reasons," Aragorn said, tartly.
Gimli and Legolas were speechless for a moment before Gimli replied, "Well, when you put it like that, Aragorn. . ."
Legolas, however, was curious. Aragorn had been swift to exonerate this unknown beauty. After a few moments, Aragorn rose quickly and headed for the door.
"Now where are you going?" Gimli asked, but Aragorn, too, would not heed him and promptly left. Gimli and Legolas exchanged glances. "Now I suppose you'll be next!" the dwarf said, sharply.
"Not I, Gimli," Legolas assured, as he buttered another slice.
"Uh, this stew!" Gimli said, burping shamelessly. "Not that it isn't a satisfying meal to a hungry traveller, but it does make one miss good home cooking! You would not understand that, being an elf, but one day, if you have very good luck, perhaps you'll be able to taste the fine cooking of the Dwarves!"
"Only if I am very lucky, surely, Gimli," Legolas said, amused.
"Aye, for there aren't many of other creeds invited to Dwarves' tables; and never elves. You would be lucky, indeed, if once in your long lifetime you chanced to savour our hearty dishes!"
"I can hardly wait," Legolas said, dryly.
"Aye, nor can I," Gimli said with much woe in his voice as he shoved another overflowing spoonful down his gullet.
Legolas thought a moment before getting up and striding toward the door.
"Hey!" Gimli called out to him. "You said you would not do that!"
Legolas, like all before him did not reply, but quickly stepped outside the room. Aragorn was standing there, leaning on a crude wooden balcony overlooking the town. People noisily bustled about, packing horses, and preparing their young and their elderly for war.
Aragorn glanced back at Legolas, "It is nearly time."
"We are all ready," Legolas said.
"Good. I wonder. While the women and children stay here, who will protect them if Helm's Deep is destroyed? Will Edoras, this fair city, also be put to the torch?"
"There are no answers to your concerns, friend," Legolas said, wisely. "There are few who can see the future, and we have none of them here. We must therefore hope that we are saved, and that good prevails."
Suddenly, Éowyn appeared below, helping some elderly soldiers into their armour. Aragorn's eyes were caught, watching her as she aided her people. Legolas watched also, but his eyes were not Éowyn. He observed, surreptitiously, Aragorn as he followed this mortal maiden's every move. Éowyn, as if sensing someone watching her, lifted her eyes toward the balcony locked in visual embrace for a moment. Then, turning shyly away, she strode back inside.
"She is very beautiful," Legolas said. Aragorn was wrenched from thought, not knowing whom Legolas was speaking of. "The Lady Éowyn,"he continued.
"Ah, aye, she is. But tell me that your heart moved not toward her."
"Nay, for I am married. The moment my eyes clapped upon Mithryn, my heart was forever lost to her."
Aragorn smiled. "Aye, that is how I feel for Arwen. Alas, that I did not meet Éowyn first, but it is no use. My heart is taken, though bittersweet it is."
Gandalf suddenly appeared at the foot of the stair case. "Preparations are made, and the people are nearly ready. Make haste! We must arm ourselves for the battle before us. Théoden has graciously made his armoury available to us."
"Gimli, come!" Legolas said, opening the door.
"Aye," Gimli said, rising swiftly from the table, "I am ready! Oh, my axe has been yeaning for some Orc necks to hew!
"Fear not, Gimli," Gandalf said sadly. "If what I fear is true, there will be plenty, indeed, for us all."
End of Chapter Twenty-eight