A Tale of the Fourth Age - Chapter Eight

~Chapter Eight~

The sun was setting as the party reached the first gate of the city of Minas Tirith. Morgiel and Legolas, along with Arkáno, Calendal, Gimli, and a few other elves had set out from Ithilien one week prior. They could have reached Minas Tirith in two days if they wished, but they wanted to enjoy the last days of spring fully.

As the party of elves entered Minas Tirith they were greeted by Túromë and some of the King's men. The Captain of the Guard was there as well. The other elves were led by Túromë to the resting place that had been prepared for them, while the Captain of the Guard escorted Morgiel, Legolas, Gimli, and Calendal to the seventh tier of the city where the King and his Queen dwelt and awaited them.

Morgiel looked in wonder at the beauty of Minas Tirith. The works of the dwarves were evident, as Gimli pointed out exactly what his people had done.

"See, my lady," he said excitedly. "See the stones set about the foundation of the walls. My people worked hard for such a beautiful thing. You will never see such a beautiful sight in any city of men. The gates all have mithril inlaid in them, and precious jewels are set into the White Tower's gates as well."

Morgiel smiled at Gimli, who continued to run hurriedly about the structures and point to various works of stone and metal. Legolas came up next to her and she slipped her hand into his. He smiled down at her and they walked the rest of the way in silence, taking in the beauty and joy that filled their hearts.

* * * * *
Now Morgiel, Legolas, and Gimli were entering the King's House. As the doors closed behind them they were greeted by a familiar figure. As he came closer, Morgiel recognised him as Aragorn, but different from whom she met in Ithilien. He was the same in face, save for a kinglier look; his clothes were also that of a king's. He came over to them with his arms outstretched.

"Welcome, my friends!" he said.

Gimli was the first to embrace Aragorn, and then Morgiel stepped up to him. She started to bow, but he took her hand and bowed himself. He then straightened and smiled. "You look well, my lady."

"The Valar have indeed been gracious," Morgiel replied. "And they sent me one whose hand stayed the poison within my soul;" she paused and looked at Legolas. "Without his help I would have surely perished," she finished quietly. She embraced Aragorn and gently kissed his cheek. "Thank you, my lord," she whispered.

At that moment a dark-haired maiden appeared. "The Queen, my lord." Then she bowed and left.

As she was leaving, the Queen entered the room. Aragorn went over to her and took her hand. They came back over to the Elves and the Dwarf, and Legolas and Gimli bowed deeply. The Queen immediately embraced Morgiel. "My lady," she said. "It is an honour to have you in my home."

Morgiel was taken by no little surprise. But she composed herself and said, "Thank you. It is also an honour to meet you. I am very grateful to both you and the King, my lady."
"Please," the Queen replied. "Call me Arwen."
The two Elves walked over to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, who were sitting at a table, discussing the journey to Eryn Lasgalen. Arwen joined Aragorn at his side and Morgiel joined Legolas at his side.

"It will not take too long to reach Eryn Lasgalen," Legolas was saying. "We do not tire easily, and can cover great distances shortly, even when we do not need make haste. We can arrive at my father's Hall in a fortnight, I think."

Aragorn nodded. "I have our route mapped out right here;" he pulled out a map of Middle-earth, and a bright red line marked their travelling route. He pointed to the small dot where Minas Tirith was represented. "We should leave in two days, and set out west across Anórien. Once we reach the Entwash, we can cross that and head north through the eastern parts of Rohan."

Legolas caught on to what Aragorn was saying, and pointed to the Far Downs. "We shall journey through the Downs until we reach the Limlight and the Anduin. Once we are on the east side of the Great River we can follow it to the Forest Gate at the Northern end of Lasgalen. My people's forest path will lead us straight to my father," he ended excitedly.

Morgiel smiled at Legolas' gladness. Although he had not really shown it, he was still weighed down by the doom he knew would come all too soon. He was trying to keep high spirits, but it was hard. This worried Morgiel constantly, for she knew Legolas to always be merry. Now she hoped the journey to Lasgalen would ease his mind. She slipped her hand into his and he looked at her lovingly.

Gimli set down the mug of beer he was drinking and took a loud, deep breath. "Well," he said. "If we are to be in Lasgalen, then I shall have to look at your father's caverns, Legolas. Have they been restored in a while? I do not think any of my people have been there in a while; and certainly not to help with the Caverns."
Aragorn looked at the Elf and the Dwarf nervously, for Gimli was hinting at the hospitality of Thranduil to his father and kin some eighty-five years before.

But then Gimli laughed, and Aragorn let out a sigh of relief. He smiled at their jesting. "I can see that the two of you will never part on any terms. There has never been a friendship like yours, and you are blessed because of it." He rolled up the map and stood up. "But now we should all get some rest, for tomorrow will be spent preparing for the journey."

Now Morgiel, Legolas, and Gimli parted with the King and Queen and headed for their rooms. Legolas and Gimli would share a room, and Morgiel would sleep across the corridor. As they walked Gimli and Legolas talked cheerfully of Thranduil's abode and what Gimli would have done to the Caverns. Morgiel walked close to Legolas and watched him as he talked. He was fine in appearance, but as she perceived his thoughts they were far from his father's caverns and far from Minas Tirith.

`He is so strong,' she thought. `It will take much more to cause weariness of heart in him, but how much more? Oh how I wish we were already in Lasgalen.'

Gimli now retired to his room, but, as before, neither Elf was tired. Morgiel and Legolas walked about the seventh tier of Minas Tirith and watched as the Moon rose with the stars in all his splendour.

"It will be a lovely journey, Legolas," Morgiel said after a long silence. She knew that he was thinking always of seeing his father, whom he had been apart from for so long.

"I know, my love. I just want everything to be perfect, yet I know that it will not be so. My father will not understand my haste to pass over the Sea. He is long-lived upon this world, and I am not; in his terms. Even you have lived here longer than I have, yet you seem so much younger in spirit. I want to do the right thing, Estelwen."

Morgiel caressed Legolas' cheek. "I know, melinya, I know. You will do the right thing. You will be a strong king to your people. They love you so much already. They will accept you with joy."

Legolas nodded, and then looked toward Lasgalen. His far-seeing eyes could espy the dark cover of forest that was his home, and he suddenly missed its trees and quiet stillness. He longed for everything to be as it was before he became enmeshed in the Ringbearer's fate and the War of the Ring, except that he would have Morgiel with him still. He looked at her pale face shining softly in the moonlight; her fiery hair and green eyes catching the starlight perfectly.`She would endure anything now,' he thought. `She will be a lovely queen at my side, and she will be strong as well. I do not think I could do this without her.'

Morgiel smiled as if she knew what Legolas was thinking, but she did not say anything. She stood silently next to her love and they watched the stars wheel overhead, with the Sickle of Varda in the Northern sky, protecting that land until the world is changed for the last time, and Ilúvatar calls his children back to the Undying Lands to sing the greatest Music ever made.

* * * * *

The day to leave Minas Tirith came, and everyone was ready to leave. Everyone was to ride horses and pack lightly, for they did not want to be hindered in any way.

A stable-hand led out seven horses for the company. Aragorn's horse, Roheryn, was there, as well as Legolas' friend, Arod. Morgiel's horse was a gift from Aragorn and Arwen. Her name was Sindamírë, which is `silver jewel'. She was sired by Shadowfax, lord of the Mearas and friend to Gandalf the White.

When they were all saddled up they set out from the City. Lord Faramir was to be active Steward in the King's absence, and he bade them farewell as they departed from the first gate of Minas Tirith. The company was now headed west into Anórien by way of the Great West Road toward the River Glanhír, which they would cross near the Mouths of the Entwash.

The company set out in high spirits, for the spring was gloriously translating into summer; and it was a mild summer. A cool, gentle breeze blew around them and brought the scent of many fair flowers with it.

As the company rode together Morgiel and Arwen were talking about Rivendell, and Arwen began to describe Lothlórien. She was sad because they were not passing through Lórien, but she promised to take Morgiel there someday.

The sun was now peeking over the land, and she stretched her warm rays towards the travellers. All the land of Anórien as far as Legolas could see was golden green in the sun, and he could catch a glimpse of the River Glanhír. He looked back at Morgiel with her sunlit hair streaming in the wind as they rode across the land, and it warmed his heart.

`She is so beautiful,' he thought.

Aragorn noticed Legolas gazing at Morgiel and smiled. He rode up close to Legolas.

"I do believe that there be the two most beautiful maidens in all of Elvendom and Middle-earth," he said. "Do you not think so, Legolas?"

Legolas smiled. "Yes, I do."

Morgiel and Arwen overheard what the two were saying and laughed. They urged their horses into a steady gallop and soon were riding fast over the land. The rest of the company hurried to join the Lady and the Queen, and no one was worried or afraid of anything.

* * * * *
The sun was now setting on the first day of the travellers' journey, so they stopped to make camp for the night. The land about them was grassy with small clusters of trees here and there not far from the Road. It was near one of these clusters of trees that the camp was made. Tents were set up and a fire was lit quickly, and soon everyone was settling down to eat and rest for the night.

Gimli, Arkáno, and Calendal soon retired for the night, and Arwen and Morgiel quickly followed, for Morgiel was suddenly not feeling well. Aragorn was sitting by the fire smoking his pipe and Legolas was standing with his face to the western sky and his back to the camp.

Aragorn noticed Legolas' stance and looked up from his pipe. "Legolas, what is it?" he asked. "Do you see something?"

Legolas did not turn around. "No," he answered. "But my heart is restless as it has never been before;" he now turned to his friend. "I want to be a good king to my people, Aragorn. But I hinder myself, I think. The Sea will not wait forever. I must answer soon, but when?"

Aragorn stood up and put his hand on Legolas' shoulder. "You will know," he said. "You and Morgiel will know. And you shall be a great king to your people. I know that which you are unsure of, my friend. Yet you have a strength which I do not possess. You are come from the Children of the Stars, Legolas; that of itself is a great thing."

Legolas looked back at the tent where Morgiel and Calendal were sleeping.

"My people never saw the Light of Aman, Aragorn. We are of the Avari, the Dark Elves. That strength may not be in our blood."

"Come now, Legolas," Aragorn replied. "It is not like you to be so dismayed. Is there nothing more I can do?"

Legolas turned back to face the Western sky. "Keep hope, my friend," he said quietly. "That is all you may do for me now."

Aragorn nodded to Legolas' back, and then retired to his tent and Queen.

Legolas, however, remained where he was all night; sometimes standing, and sometimes pacing silently back and forth singing softly to himself.

When Morgiel awoke the next morning she saw the Elven Prince standing towards the West still, and she knew of his struggle the night before. She went to him and put her arms around him. He smiled as if nothing had happened, and shortly the company was on their way to the River Glanhír.

The next four days that the company spent travelling were rather uneventful. The weather pleasant, and everyone, including Legolas, was rather cheerful. When they reached the Glanhír on the fourth day they had no troubles in crossing. The company now turned north to the Entwade. This part of the journey did not take very long, and they reached the Entwade just before sunset. They crossed the Entwade into Rohan just past the southeastern border of that land. They set up camp on the northern side of the Entwade and settled down for the night.

That night was the same as the past four had been. Everyone slept in the tents but Legolas. He would stand or sit quietly by the fire and watch the Western sky. The Moon and Sun rose and set seven days before Legolas would actually lie down and sleep, and this was only after Aragorn pleaded with him to do so.

The party was now in the heart of the Downs of eastern Rohan. They had already travelled 156 leagues in one week and were almost one-third of the way complete in their journey. They were headed for the River Limlight, which was now about one day away. They would cross it and turn east to ford the Anduin.

As they travelled everyone was rather silent, for a cloud seemed to hang over them, thought no one knew why. The sun was high overhead and pleasantly warm, and birds were singing. But seagulls flew in and drove away the other birds with their harsh cries. The sight of the gulls brought damp spirits to the Elves; and Legolas most of all.

The day wore on, and soon it was night. But now everyone was eager to cross the Anduin, for a shadow suddenly seemed to be over the company. As they rode on, Morgiel felt the old darkness that had come over her all around them, and she did not know why. She urged Sindamírë up to where Aragorn was riding in front and reined in close to him.

"Aragorn, something is wrong," she said quietly, for she did not want to cause any unnecessary alarm.

Aragorn nodded, but did not turn to look at Morgiel.

"I know," he said grimly. "It is something oppressive, yet I cannot tell what. Could it be that evil still lingers on in these regions, my lady?"

"No!" Morgiel exclaimed, then caught herself and leaned in close to the Dúnedain. "It cannot be, Aragorn. I saw him fall; I destroyed him myself."

"What if his shadow still remains in the hearts of those he corrupted? For you were long in shadow, if you remember rightly, my lady."

"Yes, I remember," Morgiel replied tersely. "But who could it be? There is no one around for miles. I would be able to feel them, if they were near."

Now Aragorn looked at her. "They may not be here in this land, but perhaps there is something still in the southernmost parts of Lasgalen?"

Morgiel almost fell off Sindamírë. "But Thranduil rid Mirkwood of all evil at the end of the War of the Ring. How could something like that continue unnoticed by him and his people?"

"His Caverns are situated in the very northern reaches of the Wood. He is also preoccupied with preparing his kingdom for a new king, and he is weary of this place. All he wants now is to pass over the Sea."

Morgiel understood what Aragorn was saying, but it did not ease her uneasiness. She looked back at Legolas, who was caught up in a waking-dream. Tears began to burn behind her eyes as she thought of their love being deferred by the Shadow again. Calendal, who had been nodding on and off in her saddle, came up next to Morgiel.

"My lady," she said softly. "Do not worry about the Prince. He will make it yet."

Morgiel turned to her friend, tears bright in her eyes. "But I do worry about him; and us. I do not want to lose him to the Shadow like I almost did before. I do not know what to do now."

Calendal put her hand on Morgiel's. "Keep hope, my lady. It is still here with us."

Morgiel nodded and bit her lip so she would not cry. She looked again at Legolas, and he smiled faintly at her. She dropped back to where he was riding behind everyone else.

"Do you feel it, too?" he whispered.

"Yes, I do," she whispered back. "But it will not conquer us. It did not conquer us before, and there is no reason why it should now. We will reach your father unscathed."

Legolas' eyes were suddenly bright with tears. "I should wither away to nothing more but a shadow if it were not for you, Estelwen."

"No, Legolas," Morgiel said softly. "You are strong. I can see it in your eyes and I feel it in your spirit. Eru has given you a great gift. You have endured long upon this world, and only now are you tried by weariness. Yet it will not come so soon for you, melinya. We will go to Lasgalen, and you will be the greatest king of that realm. The Shadow will not prevail here or there. Remember, Legolas: "Alassë ná sinomë."

"Joy is in this place," Legolas said, half to himself. He looked ahead and could see the River Limlight twinkling in the light of the Moon. The sight of the reflected light suddenly warmed his heart and he sat lighter in his saddle.

Aragorn and Arwen saw the two Elves conversing and knew that sorrow would not come easily to them. The King took his Queen by the hand as they rode through the coolness of the night with their next destination in sight, and the shadow that had come over the company seemed lifted, and all was right again.

* * * * *

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