A TALE OF MIRKWOOD - Chapter Twenty-six - The Lady Galadriel
Okay, I know it's completely shameful of me, to be gone so long. However, uncontrolable circumstances prevented me. I feel terrible, so I hope you'll forgive me and read again. Just know that I've experienced the worst part of my life so far, and for awhile, I lost everything. My fiance and family have supported me through my hard times, and gotten me back on track. I would like, now, to finish this story, if you'll be so kind as to read it. This is not the final chapter. There are about fourteen more. Thanks for your interest in my little story.
Haldof's manner was much changed after the conversation with his father. Mithryn had noticed it at once, and gazed upon him with suspicion. His usual icy stare and scornful inclination was replaced with soft eyes which appeared penitent and sad. Since the beginning of her acquaintance with her brother-in-law, she understood his moods to be erratic, and was, therefore, warily expectant of a swift change as the sea changes tides.
Days passed, and no such change came. They did not speak, but occasionally their eyes met, and he actually smiled! She found his behaviour most bewildering! "Any moment he shall find fault and shout at me, and then all will resume as it was," she thought to herself. "At least then I shall know what to expect from him!"
Her happiest moments were when she held Finaviel in her arms; such an adorable baby, so cuddly and happy! She felt her own child grow within her, bonding with her already, and longed for the day when she would hold Legolas' child in her arms. Strolling under the naked, sleeping trees, she carried the babe, and smiled down upon her young face.
Haldof had been walking past with no notion of stopping or speaking to her until he beheld what she carried. Instantly he strode over and asked to hold the child. Mithryn acquiesced, for frequently people asked to hold Finaviel, lovely and sweet as she was. However, not a moment had passed that Haldof cradled the babe when he said, "You should not be carrying her, Mithryn. Frankly, I am surprised at Elmarin for burdening you with her." His voice was firm, but not harsh. Also, there was a gentleness in his tone which seemed unfamiliar to her.
"It was not Elmarin's doing," she defended. "She is busy with work at the southeast boarder in preparation for war. I relieved the maid, and took Finaviel. I see no cause for worry."
"You know as well as I do that my Father would not approve," he said as the child tugged on Haldof's long, golden hair with his tiny, chubby hand.
"You and the King are forever making my illness out to be more than what it is. I am no invalid, I assure you. I do not need your protection." That word "protection" startled her when it escaped her lips. At once she saw Haldof was her protector. How strange it seemed!
"While Legolas is away it is our duty to see you safe. Legolas would do the same for me."
"Haldof, you have no wife," she replied, dryly.
"That is neither here nor there. The King has commanded that you do not strain yourself. If I abetted you in doing this, you would put me in the outs with him and that I cannot allow."
"Oh, very well," Mithryn said, flustered. "I see I cannot win against you."
Haldof nodded in agreement, and promptly turned and strode off, his charge carried effortlessly in his strong arms. Mithryn sat on a stone bench, watching Haldof retreat. Never had she seen his manner so open, so caring. She knew this to be the true beloved brother that Legolas held so dear. Yes, she was beginning to like him!
* * *
Overall, Haldof's manner had indeed undergone a great change, but, at times, his old, fiery temper flared up. When returning Finaviel to her nurse, he gave the young maiden such a frosty scold. It had certainly not been her intention to disobey the King! None had told her of his command, but Haldof would accept none of her excuses. At length he sent her away, and Galamed swiftly approached his brother after viewing the astonishing scene.
"I hope you never have cause to speak to me as you spoke to that poor girl! Of what was the necessity, brother?"
"Ah," Haldof replied, waving his hand, "nothing of great importance. I may have spoken too strongly. Sorry, brother, I cannot speak to you now. I have been long delayed already." He started to walk away, but Galamed caught his arm, preventing his escape.
"Nay, Haldof. Pray, I must speak with you."
Sighing, "Oh, very well. Though I fail to see what can be so urgent."
Galamed took an anxious deep breath, and took a moment to choose his words carefully as Haldof impatiently tapped his foot. "Do you recall when Legolas spoke for me to Father of my marriage to Anardil?"
"Aye, but that was many months ago. I have heard naught of it since. Did he not give his consent?"
"Nay, he did not," Galamed said, sorrowfully.
"I know not. Haldof, could you please approach him for us?"
Haldof shook his head. "Father would not listen to me, I fear. He thinks me impetuous."
Galamed could not deny what he knew to be the truth. "But could you not try? Haldof, I would do the same for you."
It was Galamed's beseeching eyes that won Haldof over in the end, and his assurances were given. Still, he was unsure of any change he could make in his father's ironclad will.
* * *
It was at dinner that night when Haldof chose to approach his father. The long table was set, and Haldof and Mithryn were honored by seats each beside the King, both conversing lightly with him throughout their extensive meal. Haldof gazed down the lengthy table and, espying Galamed and his beloved side by side, was thus reminded of his promise.
"Father? See you Galamed sitting there?"
Mithryn ate her fish quietly; her eyes only participating in the discussion.
"Do you not think he and Anardil make a fine match? See how happy they appear," Haldof said.
Thranduil, however, was not fooled. "What is the purpose of this conversation, son?"
"No real purpose. It is just. . .I have noticed. . .they are so much in love. . .perhaps they should marry."
"Tell me," Thranduil said in a silkily cool voice, "did Galamed ask you to speak to me?"
"Well. . .yes."
"I see," the King replied, sitting back in his great chair made of walnut wood. Oak leaves with large acorns were carved on the arms, and Thranduil ran his smooth hands over them. Mithryn eyed his movements attentively. He did not seem pleased.
Haldof let his light air drop. "Father, why should they not marry?"
"There is a reason, Haldof."
"What is it?" Haldof enquired, boldly.
Thranduil cast him a look of reproach before turning his gaze toward Mithryn who sat quietly watching the scene unfold. She desperately wanted to escape but knew not how to extricate herself at such an awkward moment. "Shall I leave?" she asked quietly, but received not reply and, so, remained seated.
"Cannot this wait until later?" Thranduil asked his son.
"We have naught to hide from Mithryn!" Haldof said with great feeling. "She is family, now."
Thranduil and Mithryn both blinked with surprise at Haldof's sudden change of heart toward Mithryn, and Thranduil had not time to reply before Haldof entreated his father again.
"What have you against the marriage? What are you not telling me?"
"I know you will find this difficult to understand, Haldof," Thranduil said, a note of sarcasm in his voice, "but not everything has to do with you. That marriage will never take place."
"They are ill-suited."
"They do not appear. . ."
"Haldof," Thranduil swiftly interrupted. "Trust that I know what is best for my sons. Now, let that be the end of this discussion." Clapping his hands together, the rows of dinner guests at multiple tables fell quiet and the King commanded: "Music!"
Instruments struck up and Haldof fell silent once more. Nevertheless, Mithryn did notice that far from falling back into his darkened demeanor, Haldof turned and struck up a merry conversation with a pretty and charming elf to his right. No more was said of Galamed's plight, and she was left to wonder what could be so wrong with a couple so in love that the King blatantly forbade their wedlock.
That night she dreamt of Legolas. He was in the company of a great many men. The land was strange and open; the air clear and breezy. A strange sharp call came from above, and Legolas turned his head upward to see what creature would make such a cry. A gull!
Mithryn woke swiftly in a cold sweat. Immediately she reached to her right in search of Legolas and comfort, only to find the bed empty and herself alone. Legolas was many miles away, and likely never to return home. How she needed him at this moment! Rolling over to the solace of his space, she cried herself back to sleep.
* * *
It had been a long time, indeed, since Mirkwood's Elven folk had journeyed south of Dol Guldur, and west to Lothlórien. The two houses had become estranged, but not so much that one had no more respect for the other. Legolas had hoped that one day he may travel to Lórien's wondrous forest, but now that he stood under it's golden mallorn trees, his heart was saddened beyond repair. Singing voices through the branches swelled all around him, causing mournful images to float through his mind.
An elf approached him. He was tall, noble and fair with golden hair, and his clothing distinguished him as a Lórien elf, for this was his home. "You are all alone, Legolas. Ah, listen! They sing of him again."
"Forgive me, Haldir. It is simply that I cannot believe he is gone. I listen in attempt to persuade my disbelieving heart that it is true. Gandalf has perished."
"You are not alone in your feeling. The Lady Galadriel looks much aggrieved since you brought the news, as does your party. The little folk, Hobbits, they too appear very distraught by this loss. Indeed, it is a loss for us all."
"I cannot bear to think about it," Legolas said woefully, and turned his gaze instead to the stars peeping through the leafy rooftop. Mithryn flooded back into his consciousness. How close he was from home, yet so far away!
"Forgive me, Legolas, this is not the reason I am here. I am but a messenger. The Lady wishes to see you."
Legolas thought a moment before nodding his assent and followed Haldir. He knew not for what reason the Lady Galadriel, mother of Lord Elrond, would wish to see him.
Haldir led him upwards ever higher and higher through the forest. He had been but a few days with the Elves, and living apart from his comrades, and he had never witnessed the passages through which Haldir now escorted him.
At last the topmost talan had been reached, and the crowns of the towering trees ceased at his shoulders. Legolas turned to see Galadriel approach, graceful, beautiful and mysterious. Shimmering lace seemingly dripped from her body as she moved. Never had he seen such a magnificent gown before. He bowed low, and Haldir humbly excused himself. Legolas and Galadriel were now alone.
"Legolas, I called you forth to speak with you. Tell me what effect a sight, such as this, has upon you?" Galadriel enquired, raising her arm up to the heavens.
Legolas turned his gaze upward to the vast expanse. Above him, the night sky burst with splendid light as neither cloud nor branch shielded the stars from their glistening glory. "My heart is eased. I feel hope," he replied, unsure of her meaning.
"Said with the true spirit of an elf," she replied, smiling slightly. "Why, then, did you choose to partake in this quest? Your heart, I see, wishes to be elsewhere, and yet you disregard its call."
"My Lady, I did not choose this quest; it chose me. It is true I left my beloved behind, but I fight for a greater purpose than my heart's desire."
Galadriel appeared to shoot straight through him with her penetrating gaze, reaching into the confines of his very soul. "Nay, Legolas. There are members of this quest who did not chose of themselves to be participants. They were chosen. You are not one. It was your choice to join this quest, though you knew it may claim your life. I am giving you the chance to leave. None will bear you any ill will. I am giving you a chance to return home to your wife. It is what you wish, is it not?"
Legolas, awed in her presence, at once contemplated her offer. How it called to him! Mithryn was so close, he could probably be by her side within a fortnight. Oh, how he missed her smile, her scent, her very being! The soft touch of her hands on his face haunted his dreams, and he longed to be near her, with her, never to be separated again.
But, his moment of bliss was short lived. His reason reminded his heart of promises, obligations and duties. His own personal desire was of little matter in times such as this. So many lives were at stake and, indeed, would be sacrificed; did his own life matter so very much? He did not think so. He knew his first choice to be the right one. He had accepted this quest to protect all that he loved and held dear. He may never see his love again, but he would be proud to die for her.
All the while, Galadriel had been eyeing him intently, as if reading his mind and spirit. "So you have made your choice?" she asked.
"I have," Legolas replied. "You offer a great deal, and my heart desires it greedily, but my choice is made. My wife understands this."
"Aye, that is true, but you do not see the whole, Legolas. If your wife were ill, would you return? And if danger threatened your home and family, what, then, would your decision be?"
His eyes strained with sudden fear. What does she know? Surely, she has not received word from his father or Lord Elrond. Galadriel's power was immense. How much did she truly know, or was this simply another test of faith?
"You speak of possibilities which may occur in my absence. And yet, were I there to witness them, my presence would change little. I know not why you test my will and heart, but I do not protest. I believe the greatest test is yet to come."
"Of that you are correct, young Legolas. The greatest test shall not be made by me. However, I have no doubt of your loyalty and courage. It is my belief that you are most needed where you are. Remember to be careful, however. Our time here is coming to an end, and you fight not for us, but for those who will inherit this land. Your journey may bring more than you bargained for."
Galadriel seemingly floated away, ending their interlude. Legolas was left alone on the talan to decipher the Lady's cryptic warning. Try as he might, he did not understand, yet was left with a great sense of foreboding.
End of Chapter Twenty-five