A Tale of the Fourth Age - Chapter Seven
The days were getting warmer as the end of spring approached, but still Morgiel felt cold in spirit. It had been two days since Aragorn had cured her poisoned wound, but her heart had yet to mend. She would not speak to anyone, but would stay in her room all day and sit at the window, staring to the West as if in a dream.
On the eve of the eighth of May; the day before Aragorn was to return to Minas Tirith; Legolas went to Morgiel, for she would not see anyone except for Calendal, who would bring her food and water. She was sitting at the window, and turned quickly when she heard Legolas at the door.
"Legolas, what is it?" she asked. She did not move from her place, and Legolas remained standing in front of her.
"My lady--Morgiel, I know that you have been cured of your wound, but I would know of the shadow that wounded you deeper still: has it passed?"
Legolas took a step forward as Morgiel stood to her feet. She faced him, and the setting sun behind her lit up her hair so that she looked almost ethereal. Legolas' face brightened with hopeful expectation, but was troubled again when Morgiel pulled a curtain over the window, and he saw how pale she still was.
"Nay, Legolas," she replied quietly. "I am still cold in spirit. I do not know what it will take for this darkness to pass from me; perhaps you do?" As she said this she looked straight into his eyes, and Legolas knew that she could perceive his thoughts. But he did not say anything except; "Perhaps it would do you well to see the stars and moon, and to breathe the fresh air. We could walk among the trees tonight, if you wish."
Morgiel looked away and sighed. "I think I would stay indoors for a few more days, Legolas."
"Perhaps I could keep you company until then?" Legolas asked hopefully.
Morgiel looked up at Legolas, and he felt her soften a little.
"Yes," she replied. "You could keep me company. Though I do not know what good it would do, for I would only dampen your ever-merry spirits, I'm afraid."
Legolas stepped closer to her and took her hand. "The very sight of you makes my heart glad, Morgiel. There is nothing you could do to trouble my spirits now."
Morgiel looked down at the thin stream of sunlight that escaped through the curtain. She gently pulled her hand from Legolas' and returned to her seat by the window.
"Then we shall sit in this darkness and be silent?" she asked.
"If I am with you, then I would sit silent for an eternity," Legolas replied quietly. He pulled a chair next to Morgiel and sat down. She did not say anything, but stared listlessly at the curtain that covered the window. Legolas gazed at the woman he silently loved and felt his heart become heavy with sorrow for her plight. `I will tell her how I feel,' he thought. `My heart cannot be silenced forever, nor can this darkness plague her heart any longer.'
* * * * *
The next day Aragorn left to return to Minas Tirith. All returned to the way it had been before he arrived, and Arkáno kept a close watch on Morgiel. The silence and darkness of her state continued, for she would not be moved by anyone. Legolas would sit in her room with her and watch in anguished silence as she distanced herself from everything and refused to be healed in spirit. Sometimes she would take his hand and hold it tight, as if she was crying out for help as she fell farther away, but she never said a word.
One night Calendal came into Morgiel's room and found her standing next to the open window, gazing out at the full moon. She turned when she heard Calendal enter.
"Where is Legolas, Calendal?" Morgiel asked. "For I have not seen him at all today."
As Calendal came closer Morgiel could see that she was carrying a bundle in her hands. Morgiel walked over to her, curious to see what it was.
"My lady," Calendal said as she bowed slightly. "Lord Legolas wishes to see you on the porch outside. I brought you this gown, for I thought you would want to wear something different. Go ahead, try it on."
Morgiel picked up the gown as Calendal lit a lamp that hung from the ceiling. It was deep red with jet and mithril trimming on the bodice. It reminded Morgiel of the gown she had worn on her last day in Rivendell, and tears came to her eyes. She turned to Calendal. " Thank you; it is very beautiful," she said. "Tell Legolas that I shall meet him."
Calendal nodded and left the room.
Morgiel put the gown on, which fit her perfectly. She walked over to a small table that stood beside her bed and picked up Arien's necklace. It had been put away while she was wounded, and she had not put it back on. Now she clasped it around her neck and fingered it familiarly. She brushed through her hair and turned to a mirror that stood in the corner. Her slender figure and pallid face met her, and for a moment she looked like the regular Morgiel. Then her reflection darkened, and she felt a tear roll down her cheek. `Do I tell him how I feel?' she thought to herself. `For it does not seem as if he will open his heart to me; though I know not why.' She continued to stand there, and as she looked at her reflection she felt her heart begin to break with realisation. "It is my own doing," she said aloud. "I have let this shadow continue in my heart."
She turned from the mirror and walked towards the door. `But no more,' she thought. She left the room and slowly made her way to the porch where Legolas was expectantly waiting.
When Morgiel reached the porch, she found Legolas standing silently, looking up to the stars. He heard her footsteps and turned to meet her.
She was slowly coming towards him, and the moonlight fell softly about her. She was still a little pale, but her beauty overwhelmed him and an audible gasp slipped from his lips. When she reached him he took her hand and kissed it.
"You look very beautiful tonight, my lady," he said softly.
"I was told that you wished to see me," Morgiel replied. She did not pull her hand from his.
"Yes," Legolas said. He now took Morgiel's other hand and started to lead her towards the woods. "Come, Morgiel, there is something I wish to tell you."
"You cannot tell me here?" she asked.
"The open wood is a better place for such things, I think," Legolas said with a hint of a smile.
They walked hand-in-hand into the woods of Ithilien, and as they walked the only sound to be heard was the wind gently blowing through the trees. The air was fresh and cool on Morgiel's face, and she felt her strength come back to her. As they walked Morgiel stole glances at Legolas, who was silent. He appeared to be enjoying himself, but she could tell that there was something else in his mind that kept him silent.
Soon they were in the heart of the wood. They came upon a small clearing and stopped. Legolas led Morgiel into the clearing where a large, smooth rock was buried deep into the earth. This Morgiel sat down upon, but Legolas remained standing. He pointed to the bright clusters of stars that shone down bright upon them.
"Those stars;" he said, "I have looked upon them for many ages, and never have I found a thing so beautiful in all of Middle-earth. Until now, my lady." Here Legolas took Morgiel's hands and gently pulled her up close to him.
"You, my Estelwen," he continued softly as he looked deep into her eyes, "You are more beautiful than all the stars and the Moon himself; more beautiful than these trees, and more beautiful than the Sea. You have made me feel as if I could endure all the ages of the world without a single effort, if only it were that I could spend them with you. Your spirit is a mighty flame that cannot be quenched, and your strength never falters.
"For too long now have I watched you linger in this shadow, fearing that you were beyond hope. But now I see that hope is here, and in that hope you have persevered; the hope that love would prevail."
Morgiel looked up at Legolas, her face bright. A tear glistened on her cheek as she clasped Legolas' hands tighter.
"Love?" she whispered. She did not say anything else, fearing that the moment would fade away like all the dreams she had had of late.
Legolas brushed back Morgiel's hair and caressed her cheek. "I love you, Morgiel. I have loved you all this time; even before Mordor I loved you, but my tongue was stayed by the doubt that you would not love me. But I could not bear the silence any longer; I had to tell you what my heart longed to cry out to the world. And now," he paused. Morgiel put her fingers to his lips and smiled slightly.
"Now you will hear what my heart has longed to say," she said softly. "I do love you, Legolas. But I was hindered by the shadow that I let linger in my heart. I knew that you loved me; I could see it in your eyes. But I did not know why you would not say anything, so I pushed myself away from you, instead of letting go of the darkness. Yet hope remained in the depths of my heart, and I could not allow myself to be consumed by the darkness and love you as well. You have caught me again in the midst of my fall, Legolas."
Now Morgiel stepped away from Legolas and spread her hands to the sky. She looked up to the stars and spoke. "Mornië umortulnyë, ar feänya evinyatië; alassë ná sinomë. Darkness has not overcome me, and my spirit has been renewed; joy is in this place."
Morgiel finished and turned back to Legolas. She smiled and embraced him. He pulled her close to him and they stood there under the stars. All was silent for what seemed an eternity, then Legolas looked down into Morgiel's eyes. "Alassë ná sinomë, nin Estelwen," he said softly. He bent down and brought his face close to hers, and under the bright stars and the moon they kissed.
* * * * *
The next morning Morgiel and Legolas went to Arkáno, and he released Morgiel from his care. They continued to dwell in that village, however, for it had only been seven days since they had reached Ithilien, and they wanted to finally enjoy the rest that was to be found in that place. They spent the next few days enjoying their new-found love, and Legolas took Morgiel to the deepest part of the woods of Ithilien, where they would sit in silence, feeling the earth grow all around them, and it was good.
One day, towards the end of May, Legolas came into Morgiel's room and found her standing by the window, gazing into the West. He became slightly concerned and stepped up to her so he could see her face. She turned to him, smiling, and his concern lessened; but still he wondered what was in her heart.
"My love, something else is drawing your heart; what is it?" he asked. "Would you take leave of this place, and pass into the West so soon?"
Morgiel drew close to him and touched his cheek. "Nay, Legolas, I would not take leave of this place yet, but something has been calling to me. I keep having visions and dreams of the Sea, and a longing for it as never before has been in my heart. I know this is in your heart as well, but I would not leave this place so soon, for there is too much that I have not seen or done yet. I would see your home, the Greenwood, and I would like to see Aragorn again, for I had not the chance to thank him properly for all that he did."
Legolas took Morgiel's hands and smiled. "We will go up to Lasgalen, my love, and we will go to Minas Tirith and thank Aragorn; but now, there is someone I would like you to meet, someone who is a very old friend and very dear to me. Come, let us go to the courtyard!"
Morgiel and Legolas left the Common House and made their way to the courtyard. When they arrived they were met by Arkáno and Túromë. With them was a person that Morgiel did not know. She was surprised at the appearance of this person, for she had never seen the likes of him before. He was about four and a half feet tall, and was of stocky stature. He had a great, reddish-brown beard, and he carried a magnificent axe. His countenance was bright and cheerful, and when he saw Legolas he gave a great shout, and ran toward them.
"Legolas!" he exclaimed. "Why did you not send for me sooner? I would have come a month ago if I had known you would be here. You have not changed at all."
Legolas laughed and embraced his friend. "And neither have you changed, Gimli. It does my heart good to see you. We have been apart for too long."
Gimli stepped back from Legolas and looked up at him. "Yes, we have a lot to catch up on, my friend. And now," he said as he turned to Morgiel. "Are you going to introduce me to the lady?"
Legolas put his arm around Morgiel and looked at her lovingly. She smiled, and Gimli threw up his hands in feigned frustration. "Well?" he asked.
"Gimli," Legolas said. "This is the Lady Morgiel Carnimírië, with whom I have travelled into Mordor to destroy the last servant of the Dark Lord Sauron, thus bringing peace at last to Middle-earth."
Gimli bowed low. "Songs will be made in your honour, lady, for this great thing you have done," he said solemnly. He straightened and looked on Morgiel fully.
"You are very beautiful, my lady. One of the fairest elf-maidens I have seen. But I must know; how is it that you have red hair? That I have never seen in an elf, for their hair is of gold, or either silver or jet."
Morgiel smiled. "I am descended from Orin, son of Norin, of the ancient dwarf-city of Nogrod. Orin was my grandfather."
Gimli's eyes grew wide as Morgiel spoke, and for a moment he was without words. When he was finally able to speak he gave a cry of wonder and joy. "Orin of Nogrod! He is one of my ancestors as well! I am descended from him on my cousin Balin's side, who is directly descended from him. Oh! This is indeed a wonder to me! But how are you related to him?"
"Orin traded with some elves that lived near the Blue Mountains in Osirriand, where my grandmother lived. They met and fell in love and married, and my mother was their child. She had red hair as well, but she died when I was but an infant, so I am the last elf in Middle-earth to be of dwarvish and elvish descent."
Gimli stroked his beard thoughtfully, then looked up at Morgiel. His face brightened as he realised what she was saying. "Then we are related, my lady. We are fourth cousins...once removed?...on Balin's side, I think," he finished slowly as he began to think too hard.
Legolas laughed and put his hand on Gimli's shoulder. "Actually, my friend, Morgiel is older than you, so she would be removed farther than that in relations; but it matters not, I think."
"Let us say we are cousins, my lady," Gimli answered. "And let us leave it at that."
Morgiel smiled. "Very well, cousin Gimli. I am honoured to be related to such an esteemed dwarf as yourself; for Legolas speaks very highly of you."
Now Gimli began to fidget with the shaft of his axe. "Well," he stammered, "he is not so bad himself. You will not find a more faithful Elf than Legolas."
As Gimli spoke, a lone elf dressed in muted green and brown rode up on a horse. Legolas recognised the elf and ran toward him.
"Esgallach!" Legolas exclaimed. "What brings you so far from Lasgalen? Is something amiss?"
Esgallach dismounted and bowed before Legolas. "Nay, my lord. I am come from Eryn Lasgalen with a message from your father, Thranduil."
"My father?" Legolas replied. "Then it is important. Come, let us find a better-suited place to talk, so you may rest and recover your strength."
Legolas motioned to an elf nearby to take Esgallach's horse to the stable, then they turned and headed toward the Common House with Morgiel and Gimli following. As they walked Gimli talked with Morgiel about the ways of his people. He promised to take her to the dwarf-city of Erebor, where he lived, and show her how glorious the dwarves have made their dwelling places.
When the small party reached the Common House, they retreated to a small, secluded room, and food and drink was brought for the messenger from Lasgalen. As he ate and rested, Esgallach recounted the message from Thranduil.
"My lord," he began. "Your father has sent me here to summon you back to Eryn Lasgalen. The king is finally becoming weary of this place, and would pass over the Sea into the West. He wishes for you to come back to your home and accept the throne. The Greenwood is one of the last elven-realms, and many still dwell within. Your father does not think it should pass away altogether just yet."
"Would he have me come so soon?" Legolas asked. He was very surprised at his father's request, for he knew that Legolas was not one for kingdoms and such grandiose things. True, he was the crown prince, but he felt it was in name only. He was much more contented with living a simple life in the forest with the one he loved. He looked at Morgiel, who could sense what was running through his mind. She took his hand gently and looked into his eyes.
"You should at least accept his request to see you, Legolas," she said quietly. "Your father loves you, and would see you again before his passing."
Legolas nodded. "I know, my love. I must think this over, though, for it is a very important decision on my part and my father's." He turned to Esgallach and stood up. "I will give you an answer tomorrow," he said.
"Very well, my lord," Esgallach replied.
Now the elves and the dwarf left the room, and Esgallach retired to a room prepared for him. Morgiel, Legolas, and Gimli walked out to the Porch. Legolas was still thinking about his father's message, and Morgiel and Gimli counselled him.
"Just think, Legolas," Gimli said. "You would be king over the largest elf-realm in all of Middle-earth. And Morgiel would be your queen. Is that not a fine position to be in?"
"But it is such a significant position. I do not think I could carry such a responsibility as that. And Morgiel and I are very happy here in Ithilien."
"I would be happy anywhere with you, my love," Morgiel said softly. "Consider what your father is really telling you. You are his son and the crown prince. He knows that you would be happy without ever having that crown, but he trusts no one more than you with the crown. It would be an honour for you to continue in his place as king."
"The lady is right, Legolas," Gimli said.
Morgiel smiled. "We could be wed in Lasgalen. Then your father could be present for such a joyous occasion, and it might give you a chance to talk this over with him yourself."
Legolas smiled back at Morgiel and drew her close to him. "Then we will journey to Lasgalen. But first we will stop in Minas Tirith, for I would have Aragorn present for our wedding as well."
"Then it is settled!" Gimli interjected. "When shall we leave for Minas Tirith?"
Legolas stretched his hands to the dusk sky, then took Morgiel's hands into his own. "I think we shall leave two days from now, for I will send Túromë ahead of us so Aragorn will know of our coming. And that should give us enough time to prepare for the journey, for it is many leagues from here to Lasgalen."
"Fortunately, the weather is starting to warm up," Gimli said. "We will not have a difficult journey, I think."
"Yes," Morgiel added. "It will be a pleasant journey indeed; not like the last one." Her face darkened for a moment with remembrance, then she smiled. "I shall be glad to travel, for my heart is becoming restless in this place; it is wonderful here, but I would see the other places of Middle-earth."
"I will send for Túromë," said Legolas. "He will take a message to Aragorn, and Esgallach will take the message to my father of our coming."
"Good," Gimli said tiredly. "And I shall now go to my bed, for it is night and time for rest. Good night to both of you." He bowed and headed toward the Common House. Legolas and Morgiel stayed in the Porch and watched the Moon rise to its full. They were content to be without words; standing in each other's arms under the stars. A cool breeze gently blew through the place, and the faint smell of the new summer flowers was upon it.
Presently Morgiel felt that something was troubling the heart of Legolas, and she looked up at him. He had a faraway look in his eyes, as if seeing the future in his mind. Morgiel touched his cheek.
"My love, what is troubling you?" she asked softly. "For I see it in your eyes."
Legolas looked down at her. Her face was full of concern and care for him. He kissed her forehead and brushed her hair from her face.
"I feel as if something is about to happen that we cannot see just yet. I do not know if it will be soon, or if it will be one hundred years from now, but I can feel it.
"I continue to see Lasgalen, and my father's face. It is full of sadness and weariness like I have never seen before. He will go to the Grey Havens, but Lasgalen will never be the same; not even if I am there in his stead."
Morgiel was surprised. "Then you will accept the crown and become king?"
Legolas nodded. "Yes, my Estelwen; it is the best choice. It will be good for my father to know that his son has chosen to follow in his path."
"But what of the Sea?" Morgiel asked. "I know it draws your heart daily, as it does mine, but how long can you stave off the desire?"
Legolas did not answer Morgiel right away. He wanted to please his father, but he could not shake the call of the Sea. His thoughts were interrupted when Morgiel spoke. "You cannot escape your calling, my love. It would wear away at your spirit until you were nothing more than a shadow."
"I know," Legolas replied. "But I do not wish to be king forever. When the time comes, we shall know."
Morgiel took Legolas' hand and drew him close to her. She kissed his hand and looked up at him.
"I only hope you shall be able to withstand the time while we remain here," she said quietly.
Legolas caressed her cheek. "As long as you are with me, I could withstand the weight of all Middle-earth."
Morgiel smiled and laid her head on his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, and they stood there in silence as the sun set in red flame around them.
* * * * *
The next morning, Túromë and Esgallach set off, one to Minas Tirith and the other to Eryn Lasgalen. The whole village was busy with the preparations for the journey to Eryn Lasgalen; and Morgiel and Legolas were not the least of these.
Morgiel and Calendal were in Morgiel's room packing their things, for Calendal would be travelling as Morgiel's lady-in-waiting for the wedding and coronation. Calendal was very excited, for she had come from Lasgalen to Ithilien when Legolas brought some of his people with him to live there.
"I'm finally going home, my lady," Calendal said excitedly. "I love Ithilien, but my heart has longed for the forests of the Greenwood. They are so very beautiful, next to the mallorn trees of Lothlórien. I think you will like living in Lasgalen."
Morgiel smiled and hugged Calendal, who in truth was now one of her closest friends.
"I am sure that I will love living there," she said. `But I hope that we will be happy there as well,' she added to herself. Her face darkened for a moment, but she brushed off the thought of times to come and continued with her task.
As Morgiel and Calendal finished their preparations, Legolas and Arkáno met them in the main hall of the Common House. They were talking over the best and quickest routes to Minas Tirith and Lasgalen, but they could not decide which route to take. All the maps that Arkáno kept of Middle-earth were spread out upon a great table, and Morgiel now looked over them to see if they could come to a proper decision. She pointed to the Anduin River and looked back at Legolas and Arkáno.
"Perhaps we could just follow the Anduin?" she suggested. "We could travel south-west toward Minas Tirith and cross the River when we reach the eastern borders of Gondor. Then from Minas Tirith we would have to travel west through Anorien and cross the River Greywash to the northern side. We could even pass through Lothlórien if we wished."
At that Legolas' face grew grave. He looked out of the ever-westward windows and sighed. "None live there now save for the trees that will stand until the World has ended. It would be a sad and solemn place to see now. I do not know if I have the heart to stand in that place again, under the silent trees from so long ago."
Morgiel stood silent for a moment. She knew that the memory of the Golden Wood in its waning glory was still close in Legolas' mind and heart.
"We could go round," she said quietly as she slipped her hand into Legolas'. He turned to her and smiled.
"I would that you saw the Golden Wood before time has withered it completely, my Estelwen. Do not worry about what has already come to pass. To see you full of sorrow makes my heart heavy. Be merry, my love! Soon we shall be wed, and I should think that would be a joyous occasion for the lady I am honoured to call my own."
Arkáno smiled and embraced his friends. "Then our route has been chosen?" he asked, laughing.
"Yes," said Legolas. "We shall leave tomorrow at sunrise."
With that, Arkáno excused himself to take care of last-minute preparations for the journey. Morgiel and Legolas were alone in the hall, and they stood hand in hand, looking West. They were silent; both thinking of the days ahead. Morgiel was still concerned for Legolas, for she knew how strongly his heart was being pulled to the West. Legolas was thinking of his father and the task that was to be set upon him in Lasgalen. He looked at Morgiel, with her whole being lit up like Arien, the Maia of the Sun, and his spirit was made glad. He drew her close and she looked up at him and smiled.
"Alassë ná sinomë, melnya," she whispered. "Joy is in this place, my love."
* * * * *