A Tale of Mirkwood - Chapter Twenty - The Wise and the Wicked
Legolas had, indeed, known the old wizard for a long time and had learned over the passing seasons to trust his council. To gaze at Mithrandir, a fool might see only a weak, old man. The wise, however, knew far better of the power and skill he possessed. Legolas knew it, which was why seeing Mithrandir so frail and tired was such a shock to him. As Mithrandir sat in a chair, sipping a flute of berry wine, his long grey hair hung limply down in his face, and his body, hunched, appeared to ache.
Elrond drew close a chair and sat beside his friend. "Mithrandir, are you well? We were exceedingly concerned as we had no word from you for quite some time." When no response came, Elrond spoke again. "What does Saruman the Wise have to say? What does he suggest we do about the Ring?"
That word snapped the old man out of his trance, and he gazed at Elrond's handsome face with knowing eyes. "His intentions are clear, my friend. Frodo! Has Frodo come?!"
"Nay, Mithrandir," Elrond said, confused. "He has not come. I believed you to be bringing him. Gandalf, what has happened?"
Legolas stood at the far wall of the great room, silent and still as a statue. A fresh breeze entered, but went unnoticed.
"We have been betrayed," Gandalf said, his face ominous; a reflection of all that he felt in his heart. "Saruman has turned to Mordor. Greed, and a thirst for power are his masters now. We can no longer look to Isengard as friend, but as foe."
Elrond, stunned to silence, sat back in his chair, horrified. "This," he said slowly, "I did not foresee."
Gandalf looked up and saw Legolas engrossed, eyes large and full of feeling. "Oh!" the old wizard exclaimed, a smile for the first time appearing on his weathered countenance. "Your face was not one I expected to see quite so soon. How goes it, young Legolas?"
"I am very well, Mithrandir, but alarmed by what I have just heard. Have we truly been deceived by an ally we so trusted?"
"We have indeed, young Elf. And it could not come at a more unfortunate time!" he said, rising slowly as though his old bones were in great pain. Shaking his world-weary head, Gandalf said, "This is far worse than I could ever have imagined. Isengard so close to Rivendell and Rohan, there is no end to what wickedness and treachery are in his mind. Saruman . . . What a fool. I would never have guessed it."
Elrond rose. "This is grave news, Gandalf. With Saruman turned against us, and the Ring still in the wild with the Nine hunting it . . . The future has turned quite dark to me."
"I will agree, dark times are indeed in our future, my old friend," Gandalf said, putting his hand on Elrond's strong shoulder. "However, let us not be downcast. We know not what the next few days shall bring."
Exiting Mithrandir's bedchamber, Legolas stepped under an incandescent sky, mind filled with all that he had just heard. Stars glistened proudly overhead; yet, Legolas saw their sparkle only as the beauty of yesterday, and not the gloominess of the morrow.
* * *
The day that followed Mithrandir's return was unsettling for most Elves of Rivendell, as word spread of Saruman and the Ring. Frodo and his obligation was well circulated, and were foremost on peoples minds.
Still no word had come of Frodo crossing the Ford. Legolas worried, but felt relieved when he discovered that Aragorn was Frodo's guide. There was no other, save his own brethren, perhaps, whom Legolas would have felt capable of such a task.
Contemplating all these weighty matters, Legolas sat alone adjacent to a cascading waterfall, cool grass beneath him. Soft footsteps drew near, and Legolas turned to see Arwen, clothed in raspberry robes, with dripping sleeves made of delicate, amber lace. Soft was the look upon her face, and hesitant was she to disturb Legolas' air of solitude.
"Lady Arwen," Legolas said, rising and bowing, somewhat surprised at his visitor.
"Do I disturb your meditation?"Arwen asked.
"Nay, I am too much inside my head, I think. Company such as yours, I most sincerely appreciate."
A smile graced her charming face, and they sat silently in pleasant company. Arwen unintentionally cast Legolas repeated glances, which did not go unnoticed. "May I be so bold as to enquire what you are thinking?" Legolas asked.
"There are questions," she replied, simply, "of which I have been reflecting. I would never request you to allow me into your confidence. However . . ." Her voice trailed away, and Legolas was left to puzzle her meaning.
"Have no fear, Arwen. Pray ask me anything you wish."
"I am simply astonished to learn that you have wedded a mortal."
Legolas nodded in sudden understanding. "It was by no means an easy decision to make," he replied, "and yet, I feel that there was no other decision to make. Once I gave my heart, I knew there was no going back. She is to me the beating of my own heart."
"How did your family respond to such a decision?"
"Not well," Legolas admitted, "but they too, in the end, realized that nothing would change our hearts, and so there was no more argument."
Arwen stared, transfixed, and built up courage from within. "And of the future?" she asked, hinting towards his wife's doomed fate and his own.
Legolas bowed his head; the same, old weight bearing down upon his shoulders once more. "It grieves me too much to think of it any longer. Perhaps that is unwise, but you know not of the pain that I speak."
Arwen's fair mouth curled tenderly. "Of that you are mistaken, Legolas. We are not so different, you and I. I, too, have given my heart to a mortal."
There is little else Arwen could have said that shocked him as much as she did. He sat and stared into her handsome eyes, unable to believe that the Evenstar of her people was bound to repeat the past.
"Then I am mistaken. You understand, as I do, the risks of such a choice, but cannot bear to live without your true love. And yet," Legolas' mind wandered once more to Mithrandir's news, "I know not what future we have left."
Arwen and Legolas said no more, for there was no more to be said. Both knew and comprehended how times had altered so much in recent months. They were content to sit, hope, and dream alongside the surging falls, thankful for the silent comfort of a sympathetic and understanding friend.
* * *
Two days later, a fleet-footed messenger arrived with news which heightened the spirits of many. Frodo arrived at last, though extremely ill, and feared soon dead. He came aided greatly by the Rivendell Elven Lord, Glorfindel, and Aragorn, son of Arathorn. Three Hobbits, alike in dignity, rambled closely behind, and worried considerably for their dear friend.
The city was quite thrown into a tumult in knowledge that the One Ring had indeed emerged, and that its Bearer was in grave peril. Mithrandir and Elrond had attended him immediately, and soon spoke of his recovery which was by no means certain at present.
Legolas had not been in attendance to see the new visitors' arrival as he chose to remain active as in days past to keep his mind from over thought. Earlier, he beseeched Elrond for transient duty, and was, therefore, placed in Lómeril's authority. Legolas' hours were thus spent in pragmatic efforts and with lively company, defending the boarders against intruders, and seeing much of the magnificent land which the Rivendell elves called their home.
Dusk soon settled upon the forest bringing starlight once again to the world. Lómeril, Legolas and the sentinel were returning from duty to Rivendell. They laughed as they walked along, merrily enjoying stories of old, as well as personal achievement made in their long lifetimes.
"I hear tale of your Mirkwood archers, Legolas. Are they as skilled as one hears?" Lómeril inquired.
"Indeed they are, Lómeril. They are not to be undone," Legolas said, proudly boasting of his people.
"Ah, but I ask you a biased question, do I not? I might well say the same of my own archers, whom I believe to be proficient beyond reputation."
"Are they indeed? Shall we then, perhaps, settle this query with skill, rather than words?"
"A competition?" Lómeril said, intrigued. "But, who shall act for your people? You shall require an elf with a great amount of skill and accuracy. Perhaps you feel the need to send for one from Mirkwood?" Lómeril inquired, teasingly.
"I shall represent my people," Legolas replied, dryly.
Lómeril's quick laugh told true of his joke, and Legolas was swift to join in. The band of merry soldiers had just entered the gate when they were hailed from above. The soldiers raised their heads to see none other than Aragorn standing tall and proud upon an ivory terrace.
"Ho, Legolas!" Aragorn called, as he stepped lightly down the twining stairway.
Legolas smiled and strode quickly toward his friend, and embraced him when at last they met. "Aragorn! How good it is to see you! I had heard that you were sighted and shortly would be here. You look like you have had some trouble, friend."
"Aye, the Nazgûl were out in full fury, and determined to waylay us. Luckily, we encountered Glorfindel when we did. `'Tis good to be here at last."
"Have you seen Mithrandir?" Legolas asked. "I know he desired to speak with you."
"Fear not, I saw both he and Elrond upon my arrival. Come! Let us sit and drink a cup of wine to my arrival! You have much to tell me, do you not?"
"Aye, how did you know?" Legolas asked, slightly bewildered as to Aragorn's meaning. His own thoughts flew to that of Mirkwood's failure at keeping Gollum prisoner. But, how could he know such, when in the wild for so long?
"Ah, that is my secret for the present, my friend. Come! Are you hungry? Let us dine and share stories!" Aragorn clasped a rough hand around Legolas' shoulder, and together the old friends strode off to Legolas' chamber. They sat at a small table by the open window, which provided an awe-inspiring view over the citadel, and listened to the melodic singing of the elves.
Aragorn sighed upon finishing his glass, and suddenly appeared tired, yet relieved. Legolas gazed at him to see an older Aragorn, yet, not one who is touched by as many years as he has lived. The elves knew of his heritage, as that of descendant of the Kings of the past; the heir to the throne of Gondor.
"You seem tired, my friend. What relief it must be to once again be in this last safe house of the west," Legolas said gently.
"Ah, yes. This is the home of my childhood, and the resting place of my mother. I am greatly relieved that we arrived here in time, I hope. Frodo's injury is formidable."
"Ai, what is this? What accident has Frodo taken upon his journey? I have been on duty throughout the day and had no word."
"By fate or evil mastery, our band met with five Ringwraiths at Amon Sûl. Frodo was pierced with a Morgul blade."
Legolas' eyes widened while Aragorn recounted the tale.
"I worried greatly for him and still worry," Aragorn continued. "Hobbits are small in stature, but not less in spirit than Men; perhaps even more so . . . and equally mortal."
"How does he fare now?" Legolas asked, concerned. Though he had never met Frodo, he had heard much of him from Bilbo, who enjoyed very much in relating all that there was to know about the young Hobbit. Legolas felt, himself, that he quite knew him.
"I have seen Elrond, and he spoke only hopefully of Frodo recovering; sadly, it is at these times that uncertainly reigns and weighs heavily. More shall be known tomorrow, I am told, and I hope the news fairs well for I have grown quite a liking to him," Aragorn said, frowning into his goblet of crimson wine. "But, enough of this, still you have not told me of your news!"
Legolas turned his head, loath to speak of his ill tidings which he knew would disappoint his friend. Aragorn had laboured so painstakingly long to capture the creature Gollum. "Ah . . ." he began.
"Why did you not tell me of your marriage?" Aragorn said with a sparkle in his eyes, and a smile upon his face.
Legolas stared at the innocence in his friend's expression, and decided to let the disappointing news rest for a time until it was called upon. "We had word that you were in the wild. I would have liked you there."
"As I would have liked to have been there for you, my friend. And how does married life suit you?" he asked, as Legolas blushed at the question. "Is she elven-fair with music in her voice, and a head of sunshine gold?"
Legolas laughed at the imagined description of his wife. "Nay, for she is no Elf, Aragorn. She has eyes the colour of springtime leaves, and hair of red flame. Though not tall and graceful as Elven-maidens are, she is wise, and full of commanding strength. She has rare mystic talents, and is a gifted healer. I owe my life to her, and she has my heart."
Aragorn stared, eyes expressing all the wonder and surprise he felt. "You wedded a mortal?" he inquired, unsure if he heard correctly.
"Aye," Legolas replied. "Your ears do not deceive you."
"But, surely . . ." Aragorn began, but was interrupted by a sudden knock upon the door. Legolas bade them enter, and Elrond promptly did so. Aragorn and Legolas swiftly rose from their seats upon sight of the exalted Lord of the house.
"I hope I am not disturbing you," Elrond said, coming closer.
"You do no such thing," Aragorn assured him. "Legolas and I were merely catching up with our stories since our last meeting."
"Of course," the noble Lord replied. "Would you mind, Aragorn, if I were to speak to Legolas alone for a moment?"
"Not at all," Aragorn replied before quietly slipping out of the room. Legolas wondered what conversation Elrond would require that not even Aragorn be present.
"Legolas," Elrond began, somewhat cautiously, "do you know the contents of your Father's letter to me?"
"I do not."
"As well as other information, it contained a report concerning the escape of Gollum."
"Ah," Legolas responded. "We followed his trail, but, alas . . ."
Elrond raised his fair hand in motion to silence his companion. "There is no need, as yet, for you to tell your tale, Legolas. The time will come soon enough. I am calling a Council together, and there you may relate all that you know on this subject. You need not feel any shame, for I understand you were not among his guardians," Elrond said, kindly.
"All my people were bestowed that responsibility, my Lord. Nay, I now greatly regret having to tell Aragorn that all his searching, and final reward in Gollum's capture was in vain."
"We shall see. For the time, I shall ask that you say naught to him of this. The whole shall be laid bare at the Council, and until then, there need be no more thought in this regard."
Elrond turned to leave but halted when Legolas spoke once more.
"When, my Lord, shall the Council take place?"
"As soon as I have word that Frodo, son of Drogo, is recovered." Legolas was left alone to contemplate his instruction. Aragorn returned soon after, but did not intrude upon Legolas with questions regarding Elrond's visit. They spent the remainder of the evening sharing tales of their journey, and listening to the enchanting melodies of the elven-folk below.
End of Chapter Twenty