A TALE OF MIRKWOOD - Chapter Twenty-seven - The Brothers' Enlightenment
Well, aren't you glad you didn't have to wait as long for this one? I hope you enjoy it. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. A special thanks again to everyone who did on Chapter 26!
"Run, run!" Legolas commanded, and his body, like a gazelle, bounded forward. "Quick, there is no time to be lost! Already they are leagues ahead and gaining ground fast." Miles of rock and earth passed under his feet with his swift steps along with, his two companions, steadfast beside him, all equal in heart and purpose.
Yes, two. Only two, for that is all that remained after the breaking of the Fellowship. Frodo and Sam chose a more dangerous course, alone, to destroy their precious charge, which was, perhaps, the wisest decision.
Boromir. . .alas, poor Boromir who was slain defending his friends against certain death. Alas that he perished beside the Anduin on a fair winter day. Legolas' heart wept at the loss of another friend and comrade. An Elf's fate Boromir did not have, so Legolas hoped that his friend had found his way to the heavens of his people, and discovered his place beside the fire amongst his forefathers.
And Merry and Pippin, for whom Brormir fought so valiantly, were taken, their situation appeared grave, indeed. Nonetheless, the remaining trio, Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli, followed, anxious to save their friends from the torturous rampage of the Uruk-Hai.
"Might we not pause for a moment's breath?" Gimli gasped. The land was free of trees, but abounded in boulders and sprays of stone. "Not that I require such rest. I was merely thinking of the Elf."
The company halted; a small line of dust was rising in the far distance which only Legolas' keen eyes could see. "I am rested enough since last night, thank you, Gimli," Legolas said.
"Aye, that was well nigh nine hours ago! A Dwarf's legs cannot bear such a pounding without stopping for a bite of food once and again," Gimli said, sitting on a rock, stubbornly.
"The day is short and it will be dark forthwith," Aragorn said. "We shall stop but a few minutes. I am hungry, also; loth though I am to think of food when our friends are in such peril. Our weak bodies, however, would be of little aid to them. It is wiser to eat now and gain strength."
Aragorn pulled a lembas loaf from his satchel, breaking off pieces and handing them to his companions. Gimli ate his heartily, while Legolas only nibbled on his, so attentively was he gazing at the path of their enemy; the path of the Uruk-Hai.
Aragorn stood beside him, chewing on his bit of lembas bread, eyes squinting to see what Legolas saw clearly.
"They move with swift speed and little rest," Legolas said. "Great evil is at work here."
"It is Saruman. Come, Gimli! Our time of rest has ended. Our path is clear, yet sunlight, too, escapes us. We must use each moment we can!"
"Aye, I am ready!" Gimli bellowed as he climbed onto his feet, and once again the company ran with renewed strength toward their enemy. . .and friends.
* * *
That night the three at last stopped for rest again, reluctant though they were, as fears ran high of losing their trail in the dark. Such mistakes may cost them hours to make up, hindering them greatly. They would be off at first light.
In the deep, dark hours of the night, Gimli woke Legolas for his shift, and the Dwarf, grumbling about the lumpy earth, rolled over and promptly fell asleep. His loud snoring was the surest sign of this. Legolas sat awake, eyes ever vigilant and bow ready. No sound, however, did Legolas ever hear at night in these barren fields of North Rohan. No bird, no field mouse moved. In the meadow's vastness, all that lived here were the hostile rocks and forbidding winds.
He turned his face upward, but sadly, the sky was swathed in cloud, concealing the starlights. No moon showed his face, and thus they huddled in darkness, the only light coming from Legolas' bright eyes. At length, Legolas slipped his hand into his doublet, drawing out the necklet which was given to him on the night of his wedding. Naught but the outline could barely be seen in the velvety dimness, but it caressed his hand, giving off an alluring warmth and a lonely comfort that the stars denied this night.
Galadriel had given him the chance to return home, yet he had refused. Despite knowing his choice to be the right one, his mind was forever plagued with the chill of her prescient, cryptic warnings. He feared for his home, his wife, and his people. Praying to Eärendil for their safety was all he could do, now. That, and vowing to commit everything in his being to the success of this mission. . .even his very life.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the sun breached the hillock in the distance, casting a light of yellow gold over the land. The cool air warmed a little, and Gimli and Aragorn began to stir. Legolas reverently retuned the medallion, forever keeping it beside his beating heart.
* * *
Mithryn had done as her King had bade her, and not lifted anything weighty for several days. Try as she might, she could not help resenting the restriction. She knew her duty, and had tried to do his bidding, but found the hours alone in idleness, insipid. Her back bothered her sporadically, and whenever an elf saw her wince in pain, word was sent to the King. Still she refused to heed him, preferring to aid her people than sitting alone in the archives with a deteriorating book. Thranduil was at a loss as to how to make her rest, and he was not alone in his concern. Haldof, too, eyed her carefully, thinking her reckless to be working so in her condition.
"Haldof," Mithryn said as she kneaded a ball of fragrant rosemary bread dough, "I am sorry that you disapprove of my efforts. Nevertheless, I am not the first pregnant woman who wished to be useful; many have done so before me. I fail to see what is different for I am not helpless. I merely bear a child. Your Father has asked that I carry nothing of any weight, and I have complied with his demand. However, I will remind you that he made no objection to my working."
"We shall see," Haldof replied as he watched her ruthlessly wrestle the pliable dough.
Tarnil and Galamed appeared in the doorway, waiting for their brother. They could not help but be puzzled, and whispered quietly to each other. Elf maidens and matrons walked busily around them, focussed on their preparations for tonight's feast.
"Haldof, pray go!" Mithryn said, in frustration. "You have no business in the kitchens. Unless you mean to aid me with my baking, which I most sincerely hope you do not, I suggest you go make yourself useful elsewhere."
Narrowing his eyes, Mithryn thought Haldof appeared somewhat like a hawk. "As you wish, but this discussion is far from over."
Pounding her tiny hands into the bread dough, Mithryn turned her back on Haldof, refusing to look at him anymore. The three brothers stepped outside; Tarnil and Galamed both stared perplexedly at Haldof.
"Well?" Tarnil said at last when Haldof had said nothing.
"Well. . .what?" Haldof said as he leapt over the stream and strode down the elf path which led to the boarders beyond.
Tarnil and Galamed, however, were too enticed. They followed his quick strides with suspicious faces. "What has transpired between you and Mithryn?" Tarnil said, cautiously.
"I know not what you mean," Haldof replied, elusively.
"Oh, I believe you do," Galamed said, quickly. "You no longer carry your frowns and scowls in her presence, and further, you are always near her."
"Tell me you are not trying to woo your own brother's wife, Haldof!" Tarnil said, a joker's gleam in his eye. "Legolas would never forgive you."
Haldof, however, took no delight in his brothers' witticism. "Your humour is far from amusing," he replied, his scowl returning.
Tarnil and Galamed could do little but laugh uproariously at Haldof's discomfort. "Very well then," Galamed said when he had caught up with his brother, "why can you be found in her company so much?"
"Yes, Haldof, why?" Tarnil said, a mischievous smile adorning his face. "We know she is a very clever woman, but it seems strange, does it not, Galamed?"
"Strange indeed," Galamed confirmed.
"Perhaps you are lacking in female company!" Tarnil said, pretending to dawn a new thought. "I would not have supposed that could be so, but what do I know? I would have supposed your incessant glowers and grimaces would have attracted Elven-maidens from as far away as Lothlórien, but, what do I know, pray?"
"Nothing!" Galamed replied cheerfully.
"Aye, brother, nothing," Tarnil added, "so I beg of you to enlighten us, Haldof! You have our complete attention!"
Haldof stopped walking, and Tarnil and Galamed stood beside him, waiting with expectant faces. "You wish to know why I pay the Lady Mithryn so much attention and concern?"
"Aye, we do," Galamed said.
Shaking his head, Haldof said: "Honestly, I wonder at you, my brothers! Can you be so very blind? Dense, even! Has it never occurred to you that Mithryn is, in fact, far from well?"
The smiles dripped from Tarnil and Galamed's faces, but they were as yet unsure of Haldof's sincerity. This could be a jest of his own. "How now? What is this fable you weave, brother?" Tarnil enquired, warily.
"`Tis no fable, but the truth I speak," Haldof said, seriously. "When Mithryn sustained her injury at the point of an Orc blade, it took her long to heal, yes?"
"Aye," Galamed agreed, "but she recovered."
"Nay, brother. She did not."
Tarnil and Galamed exchanged disconcerted looks. There was no laughter in Haldof's eyes, no humour in his voice. "But what's this? Why have we not heard of this?" Tarnil enquired.
"That is a good question, brother. Why would you not have heard of this?"
Tarnil experienced a great sinking feeling in his stomach. "Father. . ."
"Aye, Father," Haldof affirmed.
"How do you know?" Galamed asked.
"I was present when Anardil revealed Mithryn's condition to Father. Most likely, he would have wished me elsewhere at that moment."
"Does Legolas know?" Tarnil asked, suddenly wrought with fear.
"Nay, and nor does Mithryn. Father, Anardil and I are the only ones who knew of her condition."
"And what exactly is her condition?" Galamed asked, concerned.
"Fatal. A tiny piece of poisoned Orc blade yet remains and could not be removed. She has little time left, and I know the wound troubles her greatly, though she says nothing. It is a relief to be able to speak of this to someone, though I am defying Father's order."
Galamed sat down upon a fallen log. "This is wrong. Legolas should have been told."
"She may die before Legolas has returned!" Tarnil argued.
"I agree with you both," Haldof said, "and I'll have you know I said as much to our Father when he commanded my silence."
"Why tell us now?" Tarnil enquired.
"It seemed the right moment. Are you going to tell Father?" Haldof asked. "Perhaps I should."
"Nay," Galamed said, rising from his seat. "We shall do so when the time is right, as you have done. Come. Let us tarry here no longer. There is work to be done."
Both Tarnil and Haldof nodded in agreement and returned along their path, more soberly this time. No longer did they converse, for much had they each been given for thought.
* * *
Mithryn walked along the echoing corridor lit with flaming torches. Her footfalls resounded with each step that she took until at last she found herself outside the King's personal study, and she knocked softly on the door.
The King bade her enter, and she did so with a hesitant heart. Always with the King she felt as though she were a child. He was always kind to her, and his motives were noble and good, but forever did she feel unnerved in his presence.
"Mithryn, my dear," he said, rising and inviting her in, "pray sit down by the warm fire. Does the cold trouble you? I sincerely hope your fire is dutifully maintained in your bedchamber."
"Aye, sire, it is. Never has it gone out since the cold weather began," she replied, taking a seat.
"I am glad to hear it. Mithryn, it has come to my attention that you have been labouring too hard."
Mithryn swallowed, bitterly. "And who, I wonder brought this to your Majesty's ears? Haldof, I presume?"
Thranduil nodded, "He is greatly concerned for your welfare."
"He needn't be."
"He is not the only one. Others have noticed how you tire easily, and, at times, wince as if in pain. Is this not so?"
"Only occasionally," Mithryn replied.
The King sighed, "Mithryn I see no other alternative but to. . ."
"Your Majesty, please!" Mithryn interrupted. "It is true that my body aches at times, but you have no idea how much it pleases me to feel that I am contributing to our realm. To sit by idly, waited on hand and foot. . .well, I have never been used to it. I find that keeping myself busy helps me think of Legolas less," she lied. "The pain does not seem as great. Pray, your Majesty! Do not take away the one thing that sustains me!"
Thranduil sat back in his chair, eyeing her intently. The soft glow of the golden flames danced upon his face. He did not appear angered by her outburst. "My dear, I have been thinking about something for some time now. Perhaps you can help me."
"I, your Majesty?" asked Mithryn, bewildered.
"You. Lately I have been feeling the difficulty of the weight of correspondence needed with our Rivendell cousins. I have noticed, too, you bear a keen, objective mind. Withdrawing you from the kitchens will result in a decline in the variety of our sumptuous meals, however, I am ready to forgo that if you accept the role as my personal advisor."
"I, your Majesty?!" Mithryn asked, even more bewildered.
"You, Mithryn, child. Your gifts are useful, and your knowledge of current events invaluable. I also believe that this would give you a chance to learn how to rule this land you are to inherit. Do you not agree?"
Thranduil, Mithryn noticed, had a clever way of explaining himself so that one would feel foolish to refuse him. Indeed, she could benefit greatly by accepting his offer, however much she was tempted by rejecting it to make her point. But reason in the end got the better of her.
"Very well, Sire. I accept."
Smiling, the King said: "I am pleased. Now, you will wish to change your dress for dinner tonight. I must not keep you."
"Thank you, your Majesty," and she withdrew from his chamber. Upon closing the door, she thought, "Now, indeed, I shall be watched at every second. No spies, but instead, the King himself."
End of Chapter Twenty-seven