A Tale of Mirkwood - Chapter Twenty-two - The Truth
I know, this sure has been long in the making. However, the summer is fast approaching, and I will have two months of writing time! Hurrah! Thanks again to my faithful fan club!
The mystery of Legolas' long absence was much for Haldof to bear. Thranduil had refused to betray Mithryn's confidence despite Haldof's incessant demands. He was by no means bold enough to ask Mithryn, though thoroughly confident that she also knew what drove Legolas from Mirkwood. Galamed and Tarnil proved to be equally frustrating, for, had they known any information, they would surly have shared confidences with him. His own father flatly declined comment other than replying that Legolas was called away on duty of no particular consequence. Haldof did not in the least believe this vague tale. One thing he could be certain of; he knew his own brother, and Legolas was never one to go without so much as a farewell. However, finding all his sources of information disappointing, Haldof was thus forced to sit, wonder, and wait for Legolas' return.
Many days did he spend doing just that, and yet, Haldof was far too impatient to do this for long, and once again reproached his father for being less than forthcoming.
"Am I not, too, a prince of the realm? Why do you confide in a mortal, but not to me?"
"Haldof," Thranduil said, exasperated, "some things you need not know! Legolas is safe, and therefore, you may be comforted."
Yet, Haldof was not comforted. He did not know whether it was his father's evasiveness that taunted him into solving this mystery, or the forlorn look on Mithryn's face that he viewed daily. His heart commanded him to worry, and thus he would not stop until the truth about his brother was discovered.
Upon hearing his father's dismissive non-answers, Haldof could do little but stand and stare with a look of indignation. Thranduil saw, but, if he was annoyed by it, he did not reveal it. He simply walked away and sat in his chair by the hearth, his back to his pugnacious son.
That would not halt Haldof's determination, however. He marched round and sat opposite his father, unwilling to allow any escape from his inquisition. "This will not do, and you know it, Father!" he said in a softer tone than before. "Why must you keep such secrecy from me? Do you find me untrustworthy?"
Thranduil's face remained unchanged by his son's latest tactic, guilt. "It is a matter of trust, but not on your side, Haldof. I keep information which is not mine to share. Do you understand? For the moment, it does not concern you. Be confidant in the knowledge that when we have word of your brother, you will know all."
"Have word? Is he not to return soon?"
"I do not know," the King answered, truthfully.
"Father, this is not to be borne! Can you not simply tell me even where his is?!"
"I cannot, and I will ask that you cease your futile attempts to discover what you are not meant to know at this time."
Exasperated, Haldof rose, and promptly left, leaving Thranduil quite alone in his vast hall. He could not blame Haldof. Indeed, he rather shared in his frustration. There were few others with whom he shared his most intimate confidence, but in this case, there was no other way. Daily he hoped for a letter from Legolas, but nothing came.
* * *
Golden leaves crunched under Mithryn's tiny footfalls as she walked aimlessly through Thranduil's forest realm. Having finally come to terms with her vision of Legolas fading into darkness, she spent the days of his absence quietly, and most usually, alone. Elmarin and Finaviel visited often, but her friend saw great alteration in Mithryn. Less spirit had she now, and at times, Elmarin noticed, her back caused her to wince, as if in pain. No soreness did Mithryn ever complain of, but, sadly, it was believed by her closest friend that it gave her a good deal of discomfort.
It had been Mithryn's wish to remain somewhat aloof and alone, unaware that she was once again renewing her old habits of insolation. At first, she attended the fantastic dinner feasts with willingness, but soon took notice of Haldof's repeated sneers in her direction. His darkened countenance, and at times, menacing stare proved too much to bear, and she soon began making excuses not to attend the merrymaking, preferring to dine quite alone, as she had done for many long years, in quiet seclusion.
Thranduil, however, was quick to quash any such hopes of her hermitage. Legolas had been absent nearly a fortnight, and Mithryn from his table for five consecutive dinners before he decided to summon her.
Thranduil strolled about the arbor in deep contemplation, or so it seemed to Mithryn as she walked toward him. Leaves of many hues were plucked from their lofty branches by a gusty breeze and sent fluttering to the earth in merry showers; yet, none so much as dared land upon the noble King.
"Ah Mithryn," Thranduil welcomed as she stepped near. "What a splendid day, is it not? Indeed you will find it strange, but I had not noticed it autumn until today. I have seen so many."
Mithryn had seen a great many autumns as well, for one of her kind, but had not near the knowledge nor memory to compare with that of Thranduil. Knowing not what sort of reply would be appropriate, she merely asked, "Do you remember each autumn you have seen?"
"Elven memories are long, and I do. I could tell you of these ancient trees' ancestors, of whom I saw as nut and sapling, when I, too, was young. But their stories are long and that is not the purpose of my calling you hither, my dear."
Thranduil paused for a reply from Mithryn, but none came, for she knew not what to say. He smiled gently, and explained his meaning. "I have not seen you at my table, as of late," he stated, kindly, a curious look upon his face which seemed almost amused.
Slightly abashed, Mithryn replied, "I am sorry, your Grace. Have I been away so very much?"
"Five nightfalls have you been absent from our merrymaking. Am I wrong to have supposed it was Haldof who drove you away?"
Mithryn's eyes widened and blinked with surprise at his clear understanding.
"Oh yes," he continued, gently. "His behaviour failed to escape my notice, either. He is frustrated and anxious for news of Legolas, since I have given him none. Haldof is very willful, but I would ask that you pay no regard to his stares and scowls. I am confidant that he would not dare approach you for information. He is rather frightened of you, you know."
"Frightened? Of me?" Mithryn exclaimed. "I had understood him to be a great warrior, and afraid of nothing."
"Great warrior he is, make no mistake. But you, my dear, have great power, that you must admit. Not only in your unique skills, but also, and what I believe to be where his fear lies, with Legolas. You are his wife, and whether you wish it or not, hold great command over his happiness. Haldof is aware of your human frailty and sees far into the future when Legolas may break under the great weight of woe. However, I would ask that you set aside your dislike of Haldof's manners, of which I cannot blame you. You must be mindful of propriety, my Dear."
"You are the future Queen of this realm, and while Legolas is away, you have a great responsibility to your people. You must be conscious of that. I know of your shy ways, and of how you had lived in the past, but I ask you now to turn and face your future. No longer are you alone. You should be with your people."
"Yes, of course," Mithryn replied, quite humbled by his inspiring speech, eyes now fully awake to her duty. Indeed, she could not imagine what nonsense had driven her so far from her responsibilities. "I shall be there tonight, my Lord."
"I am glad to hear it," Thranduil said, much relieved. "Heed my words, and pay no notice to Haldof's ill moods. They come and go, much as they have always done. You must not let him goad you. Legolas would not approve of it."
"No, indeed. You are quite right, I am sure. Thank you, my Lord."
* * *
Thranduil was wise, indeed, and knew his sons with a superior understanding. Unfortunately, for Mithryn's sake, he had erred in his conclusion that Haldof would shy away from her. She had kept her promise and dined alongside her people, though offering little conversation. Alone under an elm tree, blithely littering its coat around her, she sat meekly apart from the lively gathers, and favored meditating and observing.
"You come only to be alone?" a voice said behind her.
Mithryn turned quickly to see Tarnil standing near.
"Pray forgive me," he bade, stepping closer still. "I did not intend to startle you. You appeared so lonely to me."
Mithryn's face blossomed into a smile. "I suppose I did look a little forlorn. You are not mistaken, Tarnil. I am a trifle lonely."
Tarnil sat beside her on the stone bench. "Ah, it is understandable. I, too, miss Legolas. However, I am glad you are here tonight. He would not wish you to hide yourself away and despair. His leaving is none of your doing."
A wave of guilt washed over Mithryn, but went unnoticed to the eyes of Tarnil, distracted for a moment by the light-hearted dancing and fluid-like music. The conversation strayed to other topics, and Legolas, and Mithryn's woe was momentarily forgotten. Mithryn saw much of Legolas in Tarnil. They shared the same parents and were very alike in appearance. However, Tarnil seemed to lack Legolas' quiet strength and quick mind, Mithryn thought as she conversed with her brother-in-law. He did not wish to stay long, but yearned for a stroll neath the starry sky. Politely inviting her, Tarnil stood, and held out his hand.
"Nay, thank you, Tarnil," Mithryn said, though much touched by his gentle thoughtfulness in including her. "I am content here tonight. Perhaps tomorrow."
"As you wish," he said, and walked away shrouded by leafy darkness until he could no more be seen by her mortal eyes.
Yet, she was by no means alone. Haldof stepped out of the shadows, bright eyes kindled with suspicion. Instantly, Mithryn started, her stomach turning with to ice. A sharp pain stung her back, her orc-wound once again telling its evil making. It was not new to her, and at once she knew that walking would be very difficult. There was no escaping Haldof this time.
"You have been avoiding me," Haldof stated plainly, though keeping his distance.
"I have been avoiding no one," Mithryn replied, attempting to imagine her bane away.
"Then, why do you sit so alone? Come, let us join the others."
Unable to stand, and unwilling to go with Haldof, she merely sat and stared at him, determined to not let him get the better of her.
"I am comfortable here, thank you," she replied sternly. "Though you may join them, if you choose."
"Nay, I too, am comfortable talking to you here," he replied, leaning back against a tree. Mithryn breathed a heavy sigh, which seemed to amuse Haldof's darker side. "What a fine night, do you not think so? And such festivities! It is sad that Legolas could not be here to enjoy it."
"Ah," Mithryn thought. "So, this is what he is after." She rubbed her tender back, and replied, "I agree. I am certain that Legolas would wish to be nowhere but here. I am as anxious for his return as you are."
Nodding his head, Haldof appeared sympathetic. "Pray tell, sister, where is he?" he inquired casually, but with a glimmer of steel in his eyes.
"I do not know," she replied. It was true, for she had no notion of his current whereabouts. She by no means wished to relate the whole of her knowledge to Haldof, but she refused to lie to him. To do so would sink herself below reproach. Dislike him she did, but he was still her husband's brother, and Haldof, too, loved Legolas.
"Oh, come now, Mithryn," Haldof bade, his voice suddenly oily, and full of determination. "You know more than you are saying, that you cannot deny!" He took two steps forward. "I shall ask again, where is my brother?"
"I do not know, Haldof. I cannot tell you what I do not know!" she said, now much unnerved by his intimidating stance.
"Truly?" he asked, stepping closer still. "Now, I find that difficult to believe. I cannot imagine how he could leave Mirkwood, and say naught to you of his destination. He must have said something."
He stepped closer, and was now only a few feet away. Mithryn's instinct commanded her to flee, but her body stayed rooted to the bench. Not knowing what else to do, she flew up her hand, casting an invisible force, holding him to the spot from whence he stood. Leaning against it forcefully, Haldof stared at her in sudden reproach. "Why do you use your magic against me?!"
"I know not why, but you put great fear in me, Haldof. I cannot answer the questions you ask me."
"Cannot or will not?!" he snarled as he fought futilely against the air.
"Does it matter?" she enquired gently.
The sharp, clear call of an iavin cut his response as well as the music of all the minstrels. The woods fell into silence, as the horn sounded its airy call once more. Haldof ceased his efforts and stared, bewildered, up into the night sky, listening intently to the distant herald's announcement. Mithryn sat in awe as Elves near and far cried out with joy, followed by melodious song, full of mirth, as they all drifted away, disappearing into the depths of the woodland.
"What is it?" Mithryn asked Haldof, her hand still holding him at a distance.
"It is Legolas!" he replied, obviously surprised. "He has returned!" Seeing the clear opportunity to finally have his questions answers, he sprinted away from Mithryn into the thicket, toward the border where the call still rang true.
Mithryn's hand slowly fell to her lap, and with great pain, she rose. "Legolas!" she whispered with anxious hope.
* * *
When Haldof arrived at the border, he was slightly ahead of the slow moving assembly. He attacked the unsuspecting Legolas by jumping upon him, and they fell to the earth in a heap. The bell-like notes of laughter pealed from all those present, and they gave the two siblings some space, and carried on lively conversations.
"I understand you were glad you see me, Haldof," Legolas said, rising and dusting himself off, "but, you need not have attacked me!"
"When did you become such a serious elf?" Haldof inquired, mood now considerably lightened.
"Never mind," Legolas said, clapping his hand on his brother's strong shoulder. "It is good to see you, all and good to be home!" His eyes lifted to the familiar trees, and he breathed the air, inhaling all the well-known scents of Mirkwood. The crowd gathered round welcoming their prince and gave a cheerful escort back through the woods.
"Where were you?" Haldof demanded.
Legolas came back to reality. He stared into his brother's steely eyes, and suddenly felt himself concerned. "Does it matter, brother? I am home! Come! Let us see Father. I am anxious to speak with him. How does Mithryn fare? Have you spoken with her as of late?"
Haldof stared with bewilderment into Legolas' face, and exclaimed, "Nay, Legolas! This is too much! You left with not a word to me or Galamed, and for weeks I got no answer from any concerning your whereabouts or what cause would take you away with no message to your own brethren!"
Legolas sighed. "I can see your frustration, Haldof. I would ask that you wait for a family meeting when. . ."
"Nay!" Haldof interrupted, firmly.
"Oh, very well," Legolas said, relenting. "I have been to Rivendell."
"I have been to a great council, and a decision has at last been made concerning the One Ring which we possess."
"What is to be done?" Haldof asked, much awed by his brother's tale.
"That, forgive me, brother, I cannot tell." Haldof was about to protest, but for once, Legolas' raised hand, and steadfast face, made him abruptly cease his prying. "It would not do that I would tell you before Father, and well you know it."
Indeed, Haldof did, and made no more argument. "Now, brother," Legolas continued, "you will forgive me, I must find my wife. Have you seen her? How is she?"
For once, Haldof was at a loss for words. "Well. . .I believe. . ." was all he could utter.
"You believe, you do not know? Have you not seen her?" Legolas asked, a trifle concerned.
Haldof could find no words, so he simply shook his head, nay. Legolas bade him a hasty farewell, and strode off with a quickened step in search of his wife. Haldof had been so concerned for his brother's welfare, that he had not given any thought to what Legolas would think of his behaviour toward Mithryn. It was a new thought, and one that suddenly disturbed him greatly. He knew not what Mithryn would tell.
End of Chapter Twenty-two