Ballada of the Fallen Angels - Chapter 3: Of Elves + Dwarves..
The Lorien elves had spread a pavilion among the trees that night for the remaining members of the Fellowship and Legolas had returned to the company only a short while ago to rest after spending some quality time with his kindred. Now he was somewhat loathe in his decision to do so. For what had begun as a friendly game between an elf and a dwarf was quickly growing sour. The dwarf was winning to his own delight and he seemed even more thrilled by his companions frowning face as the Prince of Mirkwood sat puzzling over the game board between them. He rested his chin lightly on his fist, his dark brows knitting together as he concentrated. He had thought he understood the rules to this game of Gimli's, but somehow he kept losing. Now how could that possibly be?
He let out a small sigh of frustration as he moved one of his game pieces across the board. Once he was satisfied with the move he leaned back and waited for Gimli to make his move.
"It's a good move." Gimli grumbled as he scratched his bearded chin. Squinting an eye a little he finally smiled and raised the index finger of one of his gloved hands. "The Dethek rune game is a game of lines. I... first learned it as a small child, my father taught me." Gimli said, stalling as his other hand moved to a small block with a dwarven glyph for the number 8 drawn on it. "When I was six." He said as he slid the block into place. It was another win for the dwarf. "Well, Master Elf! Another one for me!" He cheerily announced.
Legolas was clearly irritated although he was trying desperately to hide it with a look of indifference. He was sure Gimli wasn't playing fair, as his latest victory seemed to suggest. He was new to this game of course, but he was very careful to pay close attention and remember small details for he did not yet completely trust the dwarf and Gimli's behavior alone told him something wasn't right. Legolas frowned again at the game board. "Tell me Gimli, how did you win just now?" He asked his voice soft and a little too even.
"Well, it's a simple matter of placing. There are numerous strategies..." He said, looking up at the elf, his voice a little flustered as he knew what his opponent was getting at. "It's a dwarven game... No elf could ever beat a dwarf at it, the thinking... constructive, lines and hard patterns... that sort of thing. Surly you understand master elf, come now, another game?" The dwarf said, his hand landing on Legolas's arm. He was enjoying this far too much.
"Maybe you'll have better luck this time through!"
The elven archer's frown deepened. "I believe that I could be part in this game all night and well into the morning and it would not matter what I did or how careful I was. I believe you would keep winning and I think it is because you are cheating me." He excused shrugging off the dwarf's hand. "It would be a great story to take home with you. 'Listen! Listen as I tell you all how I outwitted the elf!'" He said grumpily, his placid mood falling like so much rainwater.
"Cheating! Me! I don't have to cheat at Dethek! It's a children's game and it's not that hard, you've only got to think like a dwarf. Put yourself into the mind frame of it." He said, stretching both of his short arms out to Legolas, his hands only a foot away from the elf's head as he expressed himself. "Think about red meat, or better yet, boar. Roasted boar and ale, dwarven brewed. Imagine liking it, imagine the forge, where you make dwarven weapons. Not these curved, thin elf blades. Ha!" He shook his head at the elf's weaponry propped against the ever-reaching roots of a mallorn tree. The elf arched a brow in silent response. Gimli continued. "But a nice strong axe. Lines. Straight, strong, unbreaking lines lacing over one another. There are the patterns. Do you see? There is the trick." He said, emphasizing his words by clapping his hands together in front of the elf's face.
It was far too silent when the chip hit the table, bouncing only twice before landing with a soft clatter. It was an 8, fallen right out of the dwarf's sleeve.
"Well..." He said, suddenly going straight. "That too..."
The elf's eyes landed on the fallen piece. Oh! If looks could kill! There would be a dead dwarf before him now. Legolas's eyes blazed with an icy color. "I was right! You are a cheat! A plague upon Dwarves and their stiff necks! So full of themselves they must cheat so they won't have to witness an elf outwit them at their own game! If we weren't guests of the Lady I would show you what we do to cheaters!" He said passionately. He knew there was no way he could've lost the game that many times.
"Cheat! I do not cheat at Dethek!" Gimli shouted back. "That's inventive winning elf! And I still outsmarted you!" The dwarf shot back angrily at the far too true accusations. "For your information, it only made the games quicker, you'd of still lost!"
Outwitted? By a dwarf? Legolas eyes grew dark now. "Inventive winning indeed!" He spat as he crossed his long arms over his chest. "If you were really so superior you would've played a fair game. You wouldn't need help to beat me, an elf, at a child's game!" He picked up the fallen piece and tossed it carelessly at the dwarf. Legolas rose from his seat tall and proud and began to walk away. He had enough of this dwarf and his inventive ways of getting around things.
The dwarf grumbled and sputtered in protest as his opponent stalked off. "I was only trying to spare you...you pointy eared--AHHH!" He growled not knowing how to finish his statement as he stewed in his emotions.
The elven member of the Fellowship stormed away with all the arrogant flourish of a young princling. A hearty chuckle broke his silent anger as he passed another of the long reaching roots of the ancient mallorn trees. He spied a dark shape, enfolded by the thick sturdy roots and he knew instantly it was Aragorn. Not from his look but by the rich sound of his laughter. For it was rare indeed when the lonely ranger found a reason to give mirth a voice.
"Aragorn my temper is already hot. Pray, tell me you do not laugh at my expense?" The slender elven archer inquired as he stopped and took a few light steps towards his human friend.
Aragorn only laughed again and this time harder. His gray eyes were glittering in amusement. "Come Legolas! Do you not see how childish you are being?"
"Childish!" Legolas blinked, his mouth was an angry, thin line. "Childish? I'm being called childish by a child! Oh what friends I have!" He exclaimed dramatically.
Aragorn smiled. "He was only trying to befriend you, share something of his own culture with you."
"You can not 'befriend' an elf through lies and deceit." Legolas hissed, folding his strong arms.
"He only cheated to impress you. He thought if he taught you his game and showed you how clever he was that you would be impressed. Instead you are hot tempered and your pride is bruised." Aragorn pointed out.
The elf still frowned. "Well... if you speak truthfully then perhaps I overreacted, but it was still a foul way to try and impress another."
The ranger smiled thoughtfully as Legolas seated himself quietly nearby. "It might do you well to be the one to go and apologize."
"It might do you well to wipe that smile from your face Estel!" He responded with a tiny smirk on his fair face.
Aragorn continued laughing.
Not far from where the elf and the man sat hidden, did the hobbits mingle, partaking in the rich nourishment the Lorien elves had provided for them. Frodo was far too quiet for Sam's liking, but every now and again he tried to smile for the benefit of his friends. Occasionally he picked at a piece of fruit, or a bit of fine bread.
"You know Pip, if I had me a nice hobbit hole I might stay right here for a long while. These elves know how to eat." Merry said through a full mouth.
Pippin's cheeks were as full as a rodents. "Yeah but they don't have any mushrooms. I don't think I could live without a good mushroom every now and again."
Merry chewed thoughtfully. "Too right." He said.
Sam took a nice sip of the elvish wine they were given and kept his soft eyes on Frodo. Frodo was staring off into the distance, listening to the gentle melodic voices of elves singing from the tops of trees. He looked terrible sad, he did.
"Frodo?" Sam asked.
Frodo didn't look at him. "Yes Sam?"
"Are you okay? You've barely touched your dinner." He said looking at the other hobbits plate.
"I'm fine Sam." Frodo answered.
"Beggin' your pardon, but it doesn't much look that way from where I'm sittin'." Sam replied. Frodo turned to regard him. "Is it because of Moria? Is that why you're so quiet?"
Frodo glanced slowly down at the mounds of food infront of them. "Yes.. and no." He said. "I guess I've just lost my appetite."
"Well if Gandalf were here he'd be tellin' you to eat up. Just because some bad has happened doesn't mean you should be deprivin' yourself of one of the few good meals we've had. You need to keep up your strength." Sam said.
Frodo made the effort to smile and take a big bite out of his dinner for Sam.
"There you go Sir." Sam said smiling.
The night passed slowly and somewhat peacefully after that. But when dawn first peaked Boromir had been the first to rouse his sleep still somewhat plagued since having walked in the realm of the Lord and Lady. He could still feel her penetrating eyes upon him even when he knew he shouldn't have. His minds eye filled with pale blue, sprinkled with the twinkling light of the stars. He had all but thought his visions were becoming reality when he saw a glimmer among the large trunks of the surrounding trees. In the distance it looked like a tiny shimmering star, speeding forth, in and out of view. What could this be? He wondered.
The smooth, strong sound of a horn rang true through the glimmering forest, as the shimmer seemed to grow larger. What was coming for them?
As he sat there debating this a pair of thin legs went racing by him, silent as snowfall. Legolas went bounding forth through the mossy grass, leaping gracefully over each root in his path, next came the audible footfalls of the Ranger, following the elf, neither were yet dressed for the day, yet they were taking off as if they had seen heaven come down to earth.
Boromir rose slowly, watching curiously as a few fair haired elves appeared from the folds of trees and the glimmering light shined brighter with the soft plodding of hooves. In the distance the light seemed to fade as a snow white horse paused and allowed its rider to dismount and then he understood the shining light he had seen was that of an elf. His mouth parted in surprised when he realized he remembered this elf maiden.
Her long flaxen hair was now braided back off her fair face and trailed down her back like a river of gold. He noticed she did not wear beautiful royal robes, but traveling clothes, not much different from that of the archer, but for the silver and violet color of the garments. He noticed her face looked stricken and she seemed to be injured. Lady Androthiel had ridden to Lothlorien, but from where and why for?
Fear gripped the heart of Aragorn as he raced after Legolas, his feet pounding their way to Androthiel and her mount. Something grave must've happened for her to have ridden all this way alone. Her mount stamped its feet anxiously, stepping this way and that as she dropped to her feet. It looked shaken even under the protection of the Galadriheim, as did the Lady. It was only now as he neared her that he saw the sheen of sweat and the dirt staining her face and clothing. She swayed on her nimble feet, her fingers entangled in her mounts snowy mane for some support.
"Androthiel!" Legolas cried. "What is this madness? You are hurt." He spat out in a string of elvish. "Pray, tell me who has harmed you?"
The lady raised wary jade eyes to the young elf as she tried to gain her barings back.
"Away... Away young Prince. Away with you..." She replied in their own tongue.
"Lady do not be foolish." Aragorn said in the elf's tongue, his voice soothing but it carried easily to her fine ears. As her friends closed around her she leapt back, ignoring the dizziness it caused.
"DO NOT TOUCH ME!" She cried. "You can not. You can not..." She shook her head, her hand closed over her heart where there was a red stain and a black ickor that seeped out between her long pale fingers.
The eyes of Legolas were filled with a great pain when he saw this and against the whim of his heart he took a step back, his hand falling on the Ranger's shoulder. "Aragorn." He whispered. Aragorn stood frozen, for the first time not knowing what this vile deed was.
To their surprise their guide Haldir and his two brothers were the first to come for Androthiel. Rumil and Orophin took the frightened beast's lead as Androthiel swayed and fell, the arms of Haldir catching her before she hit the ground. Aragorn noticed he wore a long pair of gloves. What had afflicted the Lady so that none would touch her with their bare hands? Why had she ridden into the woods as if a Balrog were chasing her? Had some evil penetrated Rivendell?
There was no word on the Lady until the next day when a healer came, bowing his head to the company. "I bring thee word from our Lady Galadriel. We have tended ceaslessly to your fair Androthiel and she is still much ailled and sleeps fitfully. But we feel the worst has now passed. She is no longer a danger-"
"A Danger?" Aragorn asked.
The elf nodded. "A rare poison, not oft seen. Not for an Age. There are few who could have made such a vile thing, but we have done all we can. If it was not caught quickly enough she could have brought death upon you by a touch. Her mount did not last the night... but we are out of that danger now. You may see her if you wish." He explained to them plainly.
Aragorn was the first to rise in order to follow the healer to where the Lady rested. With a sudden haste Legolas stopped him with a deep look of concern on his face. "Aragorn... be careful. Her light was fading. I have heard of few who can survive such illness. Those that do... are much altered."
It was strange that Boromir had seemed most eager to visit the Lady and that Legolas was easily the most apprehensive. Never the less the men and the elf came upon Androthiel's resting-place with ill ease. Gimli remained behind to keep the hobbits company, being not so close to the elf maiden, he thought it best to wait until she was better healed to visit. Although he did want to, as did the hobbits, if for no better reason than to pay her respect.
They had hung a veil around the bed she laid in and although she was sick that seemed quite strange to Aragorn. The closer he got to her side the less he liked this. The trio was silent as could be for she seemed to be sleeping still and they did not wish to wake her.
"She looks like death." Whispered Boromir gravely, a strange emotion coloring his voice. "I remember her at Council and in the grand hall and this.. It can not be."
"It can... and it is. This is the ill Mordor spawn visits upon the elves if they do not do worse." Legolas explained in his soft voice. "I have seen it before, but never in any that have lived. It is a vile act to have done this to one so counted as she. Something I would not see go unpunished." He said passionately.
Aragorn did not speak, merely teased the veil back from surrounding her and with sorrow he had to agree with the opinion of his fellow man because she did look like death. Her skin was not like the pale porcelain it would've been under normal circumstances. It was almost gray, the hollows of her cheeks and the pale around her eyes and lips almost seemed bruised and her green eyes stared open, vacant, as often is the way of elves in slumber. But he remembered the way she slept from long years past. Her eyes were always moist and warm and full of life. As a child he had believed she held magic within them, but now they were dull, muted, and glazed over. If he hadn't known better he would've claimed her dead.
Taking her hand he almost recoiled at the touch of her skin. It was ice cold! Legolas's warm hand fell on the Ranger's shoulder and he looked up at the Mirkwood Prince in horror.
"She is so cold." He whispered.
Legolas said not. He only furrowed his brow as his eyes filled with tears. In a soft voice he whispered something in his own tongue. Some sort of prayer.
Boromir looked between them and then down at the she-elf. "Surely it is only the sickness. It has been but a day and if it is truly as bad as it sounds even the strength of elves might wane to this darkness. She will be well Aragorn. You shall see. She just needs time." He said reassuringly.
Just then their collective attention was brought down to the elf maiden. A barely audible whisper escaped her blue lips then for a breathless moment nothing happened. Finally the elf swallowed lethargically and Aragorn felt her fingers weakly tighten around his.
"My Lady." He said gently as her eyes sought to focus themselves. She blinked and frowned but finally his face came into view. Her eyes grew wet and she reached for him.
"Estel." She whispered hoarsely.
"Shall I fetch the healer?" He asked gently, rubbing her hand between his, trying desperately to warm it.
She simply shook her head negatively before she seemed to really look passed him. "Look here... Gondor's son has paid me a visit." She said weakly, but smiled at Boromir.
Boromir smiled back. "The very least I could do I'm afraid."
"Well I have no use of your fear... so do not fear at all."
Legolas tried to smile but found he could not as she spoke so kindly to the man. She found his face next and her smile grew.
"And our sweet prince too... Ah.. I am much blessed to be in the company of you three. I thought my last memory would be a void but here I am corrected. Praise be to the Vala." She said taking a deep breath. "Still I feel much pain at this for though I live... I am denied."
"What are you denied my Lady?" Aragorn asked carefully.
"A ship." She whispered. "A ship to bear me home. None are left that can... for that gift is taken from me." A tear slipped down her cheek.