Finding the Way
By Holly Nelson
**18 years after The War of the Ring**
Legolas was taking a casual stroll through his father's realm of Mirkwood Forest when he heard a strange sound. Someone was laughing! Ever since Gimli had had to go home 9 weeks ago Legolas had been feeling quite depressed. It seemed that all sounds of happiness had been unable to reach him. He was quite surprised to hear the sound. Why, after all this time, could he finally hear laughter again? He had no time to ponder this puzzling question, though, because he noticed that the sound was coming nearer. As he listened to the sound, as beautiful and pure as the clear ringing of silver bells, he noticed that a sense of great joy and happiness had come to him. For the first time, in a long time, he was experiencing joy again. All of a sudden an elf woman walked into the clearing. Legolas thought that she was as beautiful as the long awaited sun on a rainy day. He noticed that she was the one laughing. There was a squirrel on her shoulder and she was beaming. She didn't seem to notice Legolas, so he stood and just watched her for a minute. After a few minutes she seemed to sense his presence and looked up, right into his eyes.
~ ~ ~
Ril-Gania, Ril for short, was just another elf. She was 2,940 years old, which is actually quite young for an elf. On the surface she always seemed happy, but no one really knew the truth. Her home life was awful. Her mother was verbally abusive and she was always blaming Ril for everything wrong that happened.
One day, after a heated argument with her mother, Ril decided to take a walk in the woods. That always calmed her down. She was walking along a well-worn path when a squirrel ran up to her. She was quite shocked, but she was also very intrigued by this little creature. She bent down and held out her hand to the timid animal. The squirrel sniffed her hand and it must have decided that it could trust her because it climbed all the way up onto her shoulder! She suddenly laughed out loud. She realized that the squirrel was exactly what she needed right now. She needed someone, or something, to help her forget her troubles, and that was exactly what the squirrel had done. She offered it some lembas and soon they were fast friends. As she walked she continued to laugh as the squirrel did many funny tricks on her shoulder. At one point she turned off the path and started wandering in the woods. Quite soon she entered a clearing in the woods. She was so busy watching the squirrel that, at first, she didn't notice him. Pretty soon, though, her elvish instincts told her that someone was watching her. She looked up and met the gaze of the most gorgeous eyes she had ever seen. They were a deep chocolate brown with just a tint of green. She slowly stepped back and looked at the rest of the stranger. He was the most handsome young elf she had ever seen. His golden hair gleamed in the sunlight and his eyes sparkled like jewels. His face was happy, but Ril sensed that something was troubling him. On his back he carried a beautiful bow and a matching quiver of arrows. She also noticed that he carried two white-handled knives. The squirrel scampered off her shoulder and, without hesitation, climbed onto the handsome stranger's shoulder. It seemed to talk to him and he turned to Ril.
"Your friend tells me that I must not fear you, but I must know, are you a friend or a foe?"
"I know not how to answer your question, kind sir, since I myself do not know if you are my friend or foe. If you must know something about me then I can tell you that my king, King Thranduil, is ruler of this relm and to him I am ever loyal'"
"Ah then, you are a friend. May I ask you your name? For a beauty such as yours deserves a wonderful name."
Ril blushed at this statement. She had never considered herself to be very pretty, she actually thought herself to be quite plain.
"Sir, my name is Ril-Gania. My friends call me Ril. If you would like to use that name, then I would be quite honored. Now that you have my name, will you grace me with yours?" Ril was quite intrigued by this handsome stranger. She thought he looked familiar, but she couldn't think of where she might have seen him. Her mother never took her anywhere except the occasional feast, so she never got to meet anyone her own age.
"My name is...." Legolas paused. He hated it when people treated him differently when they found out that he was a prince. For once he just wanted to be treated like a normal elf.
"Why do you pause?" Ril asked.
"Before I give you my name, you have to give me your word that you will treat me like a normal elf, a friend."
"You have my word." Ril was curious about what was bothering this stranger. Why did he need her word to treat him normally?
"My name is Legolas Greenleaf."
Ril gasped. This was the king's son?! Now she remembered seeing him 18 years ago when her mother took her to the returning feast for him when he came back from his quest as a member of the Fellowship of the Ring. She stood there as if stunned for a few moments, then she came to her senses and bowed, after all, he was royalty. To her amazement Legolas came over to her and stopped her from bowing any farther.
"I told you that I wanted to be treated like a normal elf. What I need right now is a friend, not someone who bows every time they see me. Goodness knows I get enough of that at home!"
"I'm sorry sir."
"Call me Legolas, please." He said with a smile.
"I'm sorry Legolas, but I was only trying to do the right thing. If you really want me to treat you like a friend, then I will do so."
"Thank you, it is greatly appreciated. Now, tell me all about being normal. I want to know everything!"
Ril giggled at his enthusiasm. They continued to walk through the woods as she told him all about herself, leaving out her mother of course.
~ ~ ~
That night when Ril got home she sensed that something about her was different. For once, she was truly happy, she wasn't just pretending.
~ ~ ~
Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, Legolas still wandered. He had just had the most fun that he could remember since the game he had played with Gimli at Helm's Deep. He was intrigued by Ril. He thought that she was even more beautiful than Galadriel. He found a pile of leaves and he laid down in them with his hands behind his head. As he stared into the inky blackness of the sky he started thinking about how Ril was different from all the other elves that he had ever met. When he was around her he felt that his whole life had changed. He even almost forgot his sadness about Gimli's departure. Legolas got up and started the long walk back home, still thinking about Ril.
~ ~ ~
Nine days later Legolas was again walking in the woods. He was thinking about Ril, as he had done many times in the last few days. They had met many times and just walked around the forest. It was good to have someone normal to talk to, but he sensed that whenever they talked about family she was holding something back. Even the day before when he mentioned how his mother ran away and he asked Ril what her mother was like, she avoided the subject. This was baffling him quite a bit. He had no time to think about it any further, though, because he heard a strange sound in the distance. It sounded like someone was crying. He strained his ears and decided that he heard a woman crying somewhere. It sounded like she was coming towards him so he stood still and waited. Quite soon the elf woman came running into the clearing. He thought that something looked familiar about her, it was Ril! She sat on a rock and buried her head in her arms, still sobbing. Legolas had the greatest urge to put his arms around her and comfort her. He went up to her and touched her shoulder. She jumped up and started to run away. Legolas caught her arm and held her back. She then realized it was Legolas who had touched her arm and not her mother, whom Ril thought had followed her into the forest. She was embarrassed that Legolas saw her so unhappy.
"What's wrong Ril?" Legolas asked.
"I am truly sorry to be in such a sad state for our next meeting," she began, "but what I really need now is to be alone."
"Ril," said Legolas softly, he was quite worried about her. When elves get this distressed something really bad has usually happened. "you can tell me anything."
Ril took a deep breath. "My mother, Caleviel," she began in a shaky voice, "came to me this morning and told me it was time to start thinking about my future. She then told me that she had set up my engagement to Prince Amend, son of King Isilmand of the Druadan Forest near Gondor. The problem is that I do not love him, I don't even know him! Love is a very important thing to me. I would refuse to marry him, but it would break my mother's heart. At the same time, though, I feel that I would rather die that marry him."
"I can see the problem." Legolas aid. "I would also be sad to see you move as far away as Druadan Forest. If you go there, I will have no one normal to talk to."
"The wedding is in ten weeks and I don't know what to do. It is being planned as we speak."
"Do you think that there is any chance of you growing to love him?"
"None, I must confess that my heart belongs to another elf."
"Who is this lucky elf? I must know who has captured your beautiful heart."
"I don't think I can tell you." said Ril blushing.
"And why not?"
"I'm not sure what you will think."
"I will respond honestly, you don't have to worry about me lying, especially to you."
Ril knew that he was telling the truth, she was just afraid of the truth. She finally decided to tell him. Whatever happened, happened she decided. She was no longer going to let her fear of the truth stand in the way of her actions. She took a deep breath and started speaking.
"The one elf that I truly love," she began, slowly looking up into Legolas's eyes, "is you."
~ ~ ~
After Ril's shocking revelation all Legolas could do was stand there. He had known from the moment that he had seen her that he had fallen in love, but he had no clue that she felt the same way. Ril mistook Legolas's silence and thought that he didn't feel the same way. She hung her head in embarrassment. She was afraid that he would react like this.
"I knew I shouldn't have told you." she whispered.
"Ril, I love you too." Legolas said, almost in a whisper.
"You do?" asked Ril. She was quite shocked. She thought that she could never capture the heart of someone so handsome. Her mother had always told her that she would never find someone to love her because she was so plain. When she had first met Legolas she knew that she had fallen in love, but she thought that she was too plain for him and he deserved someone better.
"Yes I do." said Legolas with more confidence in his voice this time. Then suddenly he remembered why he was walking alone in the woods.
"Ril," he began, "I must tell you that my father has also arranged a marriage for me. Like you, I do not know my fiancé. I also do not love her. She loves me, but only for my wealth and my fame for being a member of the Fellowship of the Ring."
Ril looked so sad and forlorn at this statement that he quickly added, "But I will talk to my father and convince him to break off the engagement. I want to be with you, only you."
"I will talk to my mother." Ril promised, although she seriously didn't think that her mother would break the engagement. "I will make her see that she can no longer run my life."
"I promise you," Legolas said, "I will love you until the end of time."
Ril smiled. Legolas stepped closer to her and took her hands into his own. As they gazed into each other's eyes the both were thinking the same thing. Slowly they moved closer and closer to each other. Their gaze met and Legolas's breath caught in his throat.
"I love you, Ril." he said, and with that they shared their first kiss. Legolas thought that Ril's lips tasted soft and sweet, like honey. They slowly parted and Ril buried her head in Legolas's chest. She felt safe and secure with his strong arms around her. She felt certain that no harm could ever come to her while Legolas was holding her.
"I love you too." Ril whispered. She was finally happy in the arms of the man she loved. They were meant to be together, they were both sure of it.
~ ~ ~
When Legolas got back home he went straight to his father.
"Father, I cannot marry Princess Eärilmadith. I do not love her."
"My son, why do you say such things? I cannot just go and tell her father that his only daughter will not be married for a small thing like love."
"Father, love is no small thing!" said Legolas. He was getting annoyed at how his father could just wave off his feelings like that. "I am in love with another elf!"
"And who, may I ask, is the woman who has stolen your heart?"
"Her name is Ril, Ril-Gania."
"What?! A commoner? It will not be done!"
"And why not?" Legolas demanded.
"She is below you, she does not deserve you."
"If anyone is undeserving it is me! She is more beautiful than anything that I have ever seen! She loves all creatures and they love her back. She is gentle and kind, and most importantly she loves me back! She truly loves me! She doesn't love me for my wealth or my fame, she loves me!!"
The old king started to smile.
"I see, my son, that you have learned the true meaning of life."
Legolas stood shocked at his father's sudden attitude change.
"My son, you may wonder what has come over me. Listening to you describe this woman reminded me of how much I truly loved your mother. You never knew that she was once a commoner herself. We fell in love, but my father forbade me to marry her. It broke my heart. I fell into a deep depression and almost died. It was then that my father decided to let me marry her. He would have rather seen me marry a commoner than die of a broken heart. I do not want you to go through the same pain that I had to endure. I will send a message to Eärilmadith's father at once and tell him that the wedding is off. I wish happiness to you and Ril-Gania in your lives together."
~ ~ ~
Meanwhile, Ril was having a harder time convincing her mother to break her engagement.
"But mother," she exclaimed, "I don't love Amend! I've never even met him!"
"I don't care. He's royalty and I want to live in luxury for the rest of my life. This will be the only kind thing you will do for me. I want to see you wealthy, and remember your poor mother."
"What's wrong with the man that I chose?" Ril demanded. She still hadn't told her mother that Legolas was a prince. She didn't want her love to be judged by how wealthy he was or what his social status was. She also hated the fact that her mother wanted her to marry into royalty for her own benefit. All Caleviel could think about was how the wedding would benefit her and how she didn't want to be poor anymore.
"What kind of man could you possibly choose? I don't want you to marry some poor man. You have to be able to repay me for all the pains you have cost me over the years!"
"Mother, whatever you say, I will marry the man I love, not some stupid prince that I've never met!" Ril shouted. With that she ran out of the house and into the forest for the peace and solitude that she always sought there.
~ ~ ~
After Ril ran away from home her mother stood at the doorway of the house. Who was the man her daughter had fallen in love with? She was determined to find out. She set out on an elf road to the nearest elf settlement. She saw many people there, and many knew Ril. They all told her how wonderful it was to see Ril so happy. She asked many people if they had seen Ril with a young man. They all answered the same, no. At the last house, though, the answer was different. The woman told Caleviel that she had seen Ril that morning with a handsome young elf. She said that they were in a passionate embrace and they were both smiling. She also noted that the young man looked familiar, though she couldn't figure out why. They had looked like they were truly in love. Caleviel thanked the woman for the information and started the long walk home. Finally, she thought, she had something to start with.
~ ~ ~
Word of Legolas's change of heart reached Eärilmadith quickly. When she heard that the engagement was broken she was furious.
"Who brings me this news?" she demanded. She was furious and she wanted to see some punishment right then. "Whoever it was will be killed, no one brings me bad news, no one." She silently swore to get revenge. She never gave up on anything, especially when she was angry.
~ ~ ~
Legolas was so happy about his father's decision that he felt like singing. He ran to Ril's house to tell her the good news, but when he got there the house was empty. He saw some footprints leading off into the forest and he decided to follow them.
~ ~ ~
When Ril had ran from her house, she didn't really care where she went, as long as it was away from her mother and her harsh words. She found a small clearing in the trees and sat down on a rock. It took her a moment to realize that this was where she had first met Legolas. The memory brought a small smile onto her face, but it quickly disappeared. She started sobbing again. This was how Legolas later found her.
"What can be wrong on such a beautiful day?" he asked while helping Ril to her feet. He had the greatest desire to take her in his arms and make all of her problems disappear, he wanted her to always be happy.
"My mother refuses to cancel the wedding."
"Would you like me to speak to her?" Legolas offered.
"No!" Ril cried. "I want her to accept you because I love you, not because you're a prince!"
"I understand, but at the same time how will we ever convince her to break off the engagement?"
"I do not know, but I promise you one thing, I will not marry Amend, no matter what my mother says."
"I love you Ril, but I do not want to be responsible for breaking up your family.
"My mother already hates me, what's one more thing for her to resent me for?"
"Why would your mother hate you? I could never imagine anyone being able to hate someone who is so kind and beautiful."
"I hate to burden you with my troubles."
"It is no burden, I would do anything to make you happy."
Ril took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She had never told anyone the truth about how awful her life at home was. Now, she figured, was the time.
"Okay, here it goes. Here's the story of my life."
~ ~ ~
Eärilmadith called out her most skilled hunters and trackers.
"We will go into Mirkwood Forest and find the woman who has stolen my future husband!" she exclaimed. "No one just tosses me aside! I will hurt him where he will feel it the most, I will hurt his love."
~ ~ ~
"As soon as I was born and my father found out that I was not a boy, he left Middle Earth by ship. He said that he had failed as an elf by not having a son born first. After he left my mother fell into a deep depression and almost died. She swore that she would never love again. Slowly she began to resent me because she truly believed that it was my fault that I was female. She blamed me for the loss of her true love. She now doesn't even believe in love. For many long years I believed her. I thought that she was right and I took all of her verbal abuse. I even blamed myself. I would see other young elves with their fathers and all I could think of was that it was my fault that I didn't have a father. I wanted one so bad that at times I felt that if I ran away like him I could find him. I tried once, but my mother caught me and told me that it was useless, he hated us because of me. It was then that I gave up my hunt for a father, and any happiness that one would bring. She was slowly turned into a hateful woman, and she blamed it all on me. She tried to drag me down with her. It was only when I met you that I realized that it wasn't my fault."
"What did I say to make you believe that?"
"Remember when we first met and you wanted me to tell you about being normal?"
"Yes, but..." Legolas was confused. How could he change all those years of hurt and blame?
"I realized that I was normal. I wasn't different like my mother had told me. She told me that because I was different, everything was my fault. She told me that the reason I didn't have my father around was because I was different, I wasn't normal, or so she told me. When you said I was normal it was like a small light in my world of darkness, a small ray of hope. I was thinking to myself that maybe it wasn't my fault, maybe I had no control over what had happened to me. It's all about fate. It was then that I decided to stop blaming myself for things that were out of my control."
"Does anyone else know about any of this?" Legolas asked.
"Only my aunt, Eleclya. In fact, she is the only other person, besides you, that I have ever told my story to."
"I'm going to go talk to your mother." Legolas decided. "If telling your mother that I'm a prince and her only wanting you to be with me because of that is what it takes, then I'll do it."
"I love you Legolas." Ril said. "If you think that this is the only way for us to be together, then I will do it."
Legolas got down on one knee and looked up at Ril.
"Ril-Gania," he began, pulling something out of his pocket, "I love you more than anything else. I never imagined falling in love with someone so gentle, so kind, and so beautiful. I want to spend the rest of my life making you happy and taking away all your sorrows. Will you make me the happiest elf alive and be my wife?" He opened his hand and revealed a gorgeous silver ring with a diamond in the middle and put it on Ril's finger. She gasped at the ring. It was silver with silver like threads running around it, much like Galadriel's ring, Nenya. It had a diamond from the Glittering Caves in the center that Gimli had given to Legolas as a parting gift. On the way to Ril's house Legolas had stopped by the royal jeweler and had him make it especially for Ril. Ril beamed at Legolas and kissed him before whispering in his ear.
~ ~ ~
Legolas and Ril were waiting by the door when Caleviel got home.
"Who have you brought home? Is this your true love?" she asked mockingly. She didn't believe in love anymore, she had been too hurt.
"Yes mother," said Ril calmly, "he is."
"Ma'am" Legolas started, "I truly love your daughter and I have come to ask for her hand in marriage."
"She is already engaged." Caleviel looked down at Ril's hand, she thought she had seen a glimmer of light. She saw the ring and gasped. "What is that?" she demanded.
"It's a ring, mother." Ril said calmly.
"Did he give this to you?"
"Yes," said Legolas stepping in between Ril and Caleviel, "I gave it to her. I am Legolas Greenleaf and I love your daughter more than anything else."
"You are the king's son?" Caleviel was shocked. She knew that the man looked familiar. Now she remembered seeing him at the returning feast and wishing that her daughter could marry him. He had far more wealth than Prince Amend did, but she had heard that he was engaged and gave up any hope. Apparently he had broken the engagement though, because here he was and his ring was on her daughter's hand. The thought that she was finally going to be rich beyond her wildest dreams made Caleviel so happy that for a moment she couldn't speak. Finally she turned to Ril.
"Why didn't you tell me that you fell in love with the king's son?" she demanded.
"I didn't think that it was important." said Ril simply. "The only thing that is important to me is the fact that I love him and he truly loves me back."
"Not important?! This changes everything! I will go break your engagement immediately."
"Mother!" cried Ril. Legolas came up to her and whispered in her ear.
"Let me take care of her." He was smiling mischievously. "Caleviel, Could we talk privately for a few minutes?"
"Of course! Ril, go get something for our wonderful guest to eat."
"Yes mother." said Ril. She had no clue what Legolas was going to say, and she knew she wasn't going to miss it. She hid on the other side of the door and listened in.
"I have come to ask you for your daughter's hand in marriage."
"Now that I know you aren't some commoner, you have my full consent."
"Why do you always put down the common elves? You don't understand how much I long to be common. The only good thing about being a prince is the fact that you have given me consent to marry Ril. What makes you think that you are above everyone else?"
"I just want my daughter to marry into wealth."
"I want her to always be happy."
"How can you say that?" Legolas interrupted, "How do you think she would be happy marrying Amend? She doesn't love him."
"I'm tired," said Caleviel in a huffy tone, "I'm going to go rest. You can wait here for Ril to come back." With that Caleviel stalked off muttering to herself. As soon as Caleviel was gone Ril walked into the room laughing. Legolas turned to her. He was smiling widely.
"I think your mother needs to learn some manners."
~ ~ ~
A week later Eärilmadith and her trackers stood at the edge of Mirkwood Forest.
"Let's find them." She said evilly. Without another word they plunged into the dark forest.
~ ~ ~
For a few days after they visited Caleviel and convinced her to let Ril and Legolas get married they were always busy with wedding preparations. Finally, about a week later, they got some time together. They decided to go for a walk in the forest. They hadn't been walking long when they came to a clearing in the forest. It was one place that they both knew well.
"Do you know where we are?" Legolas asked, whispering in Ril's ear.
"Yes," she answered, "this is where we first kissed." With that they embraced each other and kissed again.
"And this will be where you will kiss for the last time." said a voice in the trees. Legolas and Ril quickly looked around.
"Get behind me" Legolas whispered to Ril. He wanted to protect her from any harm. He took out his bow and fitted an arrow into it in the blink of an eye. At that moment about 50 trained huntsmen and trackers stepped into the clearing, all with their arrows poised to shoot at Legolas and Ril. Legolas slowly lowered his bow. He knew that he couldn't take on 50 trained elves on his own.
"Do you know who I am?" asked the strange voice. "I am the woman you turned down. I am the one you threw aside!"
"Eärilmadith?" Legolas said surprised.
"Yes," she said stepping out of the shadows, "it is me. Do you have any idea how much you hurt me? For that, I will hurt you back, in the exact same way."
"What are you going to do?" asked Legolas, although the sinking feeling in his stomach told him that he already knew the answer.
"Let me see who has taken you away from me! Now!" Eärilmadith demanded. Ril slowly stepped out from behind Legolas. He put a protective arm around her. Eärilmadith laughed. "Ha! A commoner! Well, no matter. You should forget about her, you will never see her again. You two,' she said turning to two of her huntsmen, "go get her."
"No!" cried Legolas. "Take me instead! I'll do anything, just don't take her away from me!"
"No," Eärilmadith said softly, "I want you to know how much pain I went through. Do you have any idea how much I loved you? Do you?!" she cried when Legolas didn't answer. "No, of course you didn't, you were to busy with her." she spat.
"I love her, I do not love you!"
"She comes with me and you will know the pain of losing the one you love. You will suffer the heartache."
"No!" cried Legolas, "I will not let you take her away!" He lifted his bow up quickly and he was ready to fire at the first person that made even one move to take Ril away from him. Eärilmadith motioned for her men to prepare to shoot.
"Legolas," Ril whispered, " I think that I should go with her."
"I don't know if it is the right thing to do, but I do know that if I don't go with her, she will surely kill you. Besides," she whispered so only he could hear, "I love you, and true love will always find a way." Slowly Legolas lowered his bow. He realized that Ril was right. Ril walked over to Eärilmadith with tears streaming down her face. She looked back at Legolas one last time as they grabbed her and carried her off into the forest. "I love you Legolas!" she cried as they carried her away from him.
"I love you Ril!" Legolas shouted at their retreating backs. "I love you!" He fell to his knees sobbing.
~ ~ ~
When the company of elves could no longer be seen, Legolas slowly got up. He looked off into the distance. There were tears streaming down his cheeks. He swore that he would rescue her, even if it cost him everything he had.
~ ~ ~
"Set her down here." Eärilmadith commanded. "We will rest for the night." They had traveled to the very edge of Mirkwood Forest. They made their camp under the protection of the tall trees. The sky was dark and menacing. It looked like it was going to start raining any minute. Ever since they had left Legolas Ril had been carried by one of the hunters. She was scared and worried. Where was Eärilmadith taking her? She was afraid to ask, she didn't want to risk Eärilmadith getting mad at her. Eärilmadith turned to Ril and began speaking.
"Why, or I should say how, how did you get him? You, a commoner! How did you steal his heart?!" Eärilmadith was getting angry. Ril was afraid that she was a little crazy. "Do you love him as much as I did? I loved him more than anything else. Marrying him would have brought me the fame and recognition that I deserve!" she screamed. Ril thought that Eärilmadith was definitely crazy.
"I don't know how, or even why, Legolas loves me." Ril said slowly. "I do know one thing though. He knows how much you loved him. He hates the fact that you were in love with his fame more than you were in love with him. He loves me because I love the true him. I love the man who takes numerous walks in the woods and appreciates nature and all living things. I love the man who cares about what his people are thinking. He always wants their opinion on things. I love the man who truly loves me back, even if I am a commoner!" Ril was getting angry by now. For once in her life she was finally happy and this woman was trying to take it all away. Suddenly she realized that she sounded like Eärilmadith! She understood how this woman felt. She was no longer afraid, in fact, she pitied Eärilmadith. Ril had the knowledge that her true love would come and save her. Eärilmadith had no hopes.
"Where are you taking me?"
"Someplace where your true love will never find you, where he will never go."
~ ~ ~
Legolas hurried back to his home and called his fastest messenger to him.
"Take word to Gimli, son of Glóin, of Erebor Mountain that Legolas Greenleaf needs his help, and ask him to come as quickly as possible."
"Yes, sir. Is there anything else you wish for me to tell him?"
"No, just tell him it's urgent." After the messenger left Legolas went to his father.
"My son! It is great to see you. The wedding plans are coming along nicely. Where is Ril? I thought that she would be coming back with you to help oversee the picking of the flowers. What's wrong? You look so distressed. Did you and Ril get into an argument?"
"Ril is gone!"
"Eärilmadith has taken Ril. We were walking in the forest and she ambushed us with no less than 50 trained huntsmen and trackers. She took Ril!" Legolas had tears streaming down his face. His once rosy and bright face was now ashen gray. His eyes were dull and clouded. He looked like he had lost all reasons to live any longer. The old king was worried about his son.
"I feel that this whole thing is my fault." King Thranduil said sadly. "If I hadn't made that deal with Eärilmadith's father, then you would never be in this mess."
"Father, it is not your fault. Eärilmadith said she has loved me since I came back from my quest 18 years ago. She would have acted the same way even if I hadn't been engaged to her before. I have already sent word to Gimli that I would like his help. I expect him to be here in four days time."
"You have my best hunters, trackers, and armies at your disposal son."
"I think that this time I would like it to be just Gimli and me."
"I understand son."
"Thank you." Legolas turned and went to his chambers.
~ ~ ~
While Ril was being led away to Eärilmadith's secret hiding place and Legolas was talking to his father; Gimli had the great urge to go visit his old friend. Earlier that day he had felt a great pain in his heart and he feared that it had something to do with Legolas. Every time that one of the two companions felt pain, emotionally or physically, the other one felt it just as much. Gimli packed his bags and set out for Mirkwood at once.
~ ~ ~
One morning after they had been traveling for about 9 days Ril was shaken awake by one of Eärilmadith's huntsmen. He looked nervous. He looked around before speaking to her.
"We are moving along. Soon we shall reach the Iron Hills. There she has more than 500 of her trained elves, but most of those elves hate her and her cruelty. I would guess that she has about 100 elves loyal to her."
"Why are you telling me this? And who are you?" Ril had heard Eärilmadith order all her men to not tell her where they were going. She didn't want to risk any chance of Legolas somehow finding out where she was taking Ril. Ril was curious about this stranger. She didn't feel a need to fear him He seemed almost friendly. Before speaking, the elf again looked around.
"My name is Anarandil." he whispered. "To tell you the truth, I hate Eärilmadith. She is a slave driver and she is never satisfied with our work. Most of us want to see your true love come and rescue you."
"Why don't you leave her? I'm sure you would be welcome in Mirkwood."
"Have you learned nothing from all of this? When Eärilmadith gets angry she does everything possible for revenge."
"Well, I would like to thank you for your help. Please know that if we get out of this you will always be welcome in Mirkwood."
"You're welcome." With that Anarandil was gone. Ril searched her pockets and found a piece of parchment. She tore it into little pieces and dropped one on the ground. She hoped that Legolas would find it and hopefully know that she had been there. She thought that she would do this every once in a while, thus leaving a trail for Legolas.
~ ~ ~
Gimli met Legolas's messenger halfway in between Erebor Mountain and Mirkwood. The messenger walked up to Gimli.
"Do you know Gimli, son of Glóin, of Erebor Mountain?"
"I am him." Gimli answered. "What do you want?"
"The Prince of Mirkwood requests you assistance. He said that it was urgent. He also urges you to hurry."
"I thank you for this news. I was just on my way to visit Legolas." Gimli was very worried. What could Legolas possibly need? Gimli and the elf hurried back to Mirkwood.
~ ~ ~
Legolas paced around the room. He was worried about Ril. Who knew what Eärilmadith was doing to her or taking her? He was anxious to get started, but he had to wait for Gimli. It had only been two days, so he didn't expect Gimli's help to come for at least two more. He heard a knock on the door to his chambers. He answered and an elf stood there.
"Your majesty, you have a visitor."
"Who is it?" Legolas asked. He wasn't expecting anyone.
"It is a dwarf, sir."
"Gimli!" Legolas interrupted. "Send him in!" A few minutes later Gimli was led to Legolas's chambers. "My old friend!" Legolas cried. He was so happy to see his companion.
"I must say, you have given me quite a scare. What is so urgent that it couldn't wait?" Gimli could see that something was troubling his old friend. His eyes were dull and gray and he was so pale. It also looked as if he hadn't eaten or slept in days.
"Oh Gimli, I don't know where to begin. I have fallen in love with a truly wonderful elf. Her name is Ril and she is the light of my life. I was engaged to another elf, Eärilmadith, but I convinced my father to break the engagement. What I didn't know was that Eärilmadith thought that I was hers and she got very angry at Ril and me. She seems to think Ril has stolen me away from her. She ambushed us when we were taking a walk two days ago and she took Ril! She had 50 skilled huntsmen at her side and I was powerless. I would like you to help me reclaim my love."
"Of course my friend. You can always count on me. When can we leave?"
"I am ready to leave now, but you need some rest."
"No I don't! Let's go! There is one condition." said Gimli with a smile.
"You must invite me to the wedding."
"My friend, you will be the guest of honor." With that they both laughed and set out to find Ril.
~ ~ ~
It was approaching sundown when Ril saw the Iron Hills in the distance. They looked dark and menacing. Even from the distance they filled Ril with fear.
"Finally." Eärilmadith said. "Hurry up! I want to be there by nightfall!" They quickened their pace.
"Why are you taking me there?"
"I am going to hold you in the Iron Caves. They are like a giant maze. Anyone who doesn't know their way around will get lost. Besides, I know how much you Mirkwood elves hate caves. That way I know you will be miserable and there is no way Legolas will go into the caves to save you."
"Our bonds of love are stronger than you think. Legolas will come wherever he has to to save me." Said Ril defiantly.
"You have too much faith in him." Eärilmadith didn't understand true love. She thought that there was no such thing as love, there couldn't be, she knew it.
~ ~ ~
"Hurry Gimli!" Legolas cried. "We will reach the edge of the forest soon!" Legolas was following a very faint trail. Elves leave little or no mark at their passing, but when 50 elves all travel at once they tend to leave some sort of trail. They reached the edge of Mirkwood Forest. Legolas spotted something white on the ground. He bent down and picked it up. It was a piece of parchment! He knew in his heart it was a sign from Ril.
"Gimli! They have been here!" Gimli sat down on the ground. He was breathing We should rest." said Legolas sensing Gimli's weariness. Legolas also wanted to search for more signs of Ril. He found the spot where she had slept in the leaves. He lightly touched the spot. A single tear slid down his cheek.
"Legolas..." started Gimli, but Legolas interrupted him.
"Let's go, we will find her."
~ ~ ~
As night fell Eärilmadith, Ril, and the other elves reached the entrance to the Iron Caves. Ril saw a faint light flicker in the far reaches of the caves. She was suddenly filled with fear about this place. She didn't know why, but she thought something wasn't right. She took a deep breath and discretely dropped her last piece of parchment.
"Finally!" exclaimed Eärilmadith. "With the pace that you all travel at I thought we would never make it here." Eärilmadith now thought that they were finally safe from prying eyes. She also felt safer with more of her warriors around her. "You two," she ordered, pointing to two guards, "Take the prisoner to her cell. There she will rot, away from her love, forever." Luckily one of the elves was Anarandil. He and the other guard took her deep into the caves. They put her into a room sealed by a heavy wooden door with a small barred window at the top.
"Don't worry," said Anarandil in a whisper, "we won't hurt you. If your true love comes, we will even lead him to you." The guards were just as anxious as Ril to see Legolas come. They left Ril alone in her cell, her prison, to think about her love.
~ ~ ~
Legolas and Gimli had been following the trail of parchment for about 8 or 9 days when a great feeling of dread suddenly came over him. He looked up and saw the Iron Hills looming in the distance. He knew in his heart that was where they had taken Ril.
"Gimli," he said, "I think they took her to the Iron Hills. I have never been there, have you?"
"Yes, my friend, I have." Gimli replied. He was slightly confused as to how Legolas knew that that was where Ril had been taken. "The caves there are not very pretty, nowhere near as gorgeous as the Glittering Caves near Helm's Deep. There are many tunnels. It's like a giant maze. One could very easily get lost and never find the way out." Legolas looked glum at this news. He now knew for sure that Ril had been taken into those caves.
"If she is there, then that is were we will also be." Legolas said. He would even brave those caves for Ril. All he could think about was getting his true love back safe.
~ ~ ~
Ril walked around in her dark cell. She had been there for quite a while, although she had lost count of the days. Anarandil had come by a few hours ago with some lembas bread and some water for Ril. Now she was holding a candle and eating her meager supper when she heard shouting from the entrance of the caves. She heard someone running towards her and ran over to the door. Anarandil was running up the tunnel and stopped in front of Ril's door.
"Your true love has come!" he exclaimed.
~ ~ ~
Legolas and Gimli met no resistance as they came up to the entrance of the caves. They didn't know that the guards who had seen them coming hated Eärilmadith and they had either hidden or run away. When the two companions entered the caves some elves still loyal to Eärilmadith saw them and the fight began!
"Legolas!" Gimli cried, "Go find Ril! She needs you!"
"I will not leave you here alone!" They killed all the enemies quickly. Just as Legolas had finished picking up fallen arrows and Gimli had finished cleaning his axe, he heard footsteps running towards them. A guard ran out of one of the tunnels. Legolas drew his bow, but he didn't prepare to shoot. He didn't feel that this elf was a threat. The elf walked towards them with his hands up so they could see he wasn't armed.
"My name is Anarandil. I know where your love is. She is waiting for you." Something about the guard made Legolas trust him.
"Show me to her!" he cried.
"Follow me!" Legolas and Gimli ran after him, hoping to find Ril.
~ ~ ~
Eärilmadith heard the fighting and knew instantly what was wrong.
"Legolas has come!" she exclaimed. She was devastated. She made up her mind to kill Ril for her final revenge. If she couldn't have Legolas, no one could.
~ ~ ~
"This way!" said Anarandil as he ran through the maze-like tunnels. They turned a corner and came to a heavy wooden door. "She is in here."
"Ril!" cried Legolas.
"Legolas! I'm in here!" Anarandil gave Legolas the keys to the door. Legolas unlocked the door and Ril rushed out. They kissed and Gimli laughed.
"I see what you meant when you told me how you fell in love with her, Legolas!" They all laughed. No one noticed a dark figure coming down the hall, and another one quietly creeping away.
"Don't move." said a cold menacing voice. There was a long pause as the companions realized who had spoken. "There is no escape. I will kill the girl, no matter what, and I will kill anyone who tries to stop me." Eärilmadith swore. The others could see her eyes flicker with anger and they knew not to mess with her. "She deserves it for taking you away from me!" she shouted at Legolas. All of a sudden she gave a strangled cry and fell to the floor. When she fell the others noticed Anarandil behind her. He still held his long hunting knife in his hands. He had snuck away and went around the tunnels and killed Eärilmadith. He was one of the few elves she had foolishly trusted with all of her secrets, even the secrets of getting around in the Iron Caves. He stood still. He was shocked at what he had just done. He thought that he wouldn't be able to do it until he heard Eärilmadith say that she would kill Ril. That had filled him with so much anger, he liked Ril and he wanted her to live. He also vividly remembered how Eärilmadith had ordered Gythien, his sister, to be killed because she had brought Eärilmadith the news that Legolas had broken the engagement. Anarandil was tired of Eärilmadith controlling everyone else's lives. Before he had known what was he was doing, he had rushed forward and killed Eärilmadith. Ril ran up to him and gave him a massive hug.
"You saved me!" she cried kissing him on the cheek. He blushed slightly. Legolas went up to him and smiled with appreciation.
"You shall come like with us in Mirkwood." he declared. "There you shall be held in the highest of honor. You shall be the captain of our finest army."
"I would like that very much." said Anarandil with a huge smile.
"Let's get back to Mirkwood!" Gimli cried. "I want some hot food!" They all laughed and walked out of those dark caves forever. Legolas and Ril walked out hand in hand, reunited at last.
~ ~ ~
Legolas and Ril were married 9 weeks later. The wedding was absolutely beautiful. King Thranduil had made a deal with the evil Mirkwood spiders. They would weave a web above the place where the ceremony was to be held like a giant canopy and the king promised to leave them alone for two years and let them do whatever they wanted, as long as they didn't endanger any elves. The spiders kept their end of the deal and when the web was done the king had some elves spread glittering jewels, a gift from Gimli, over the web. The effect was that the jewels reflected light all over the ceremony and they all were cloaked in shimmering brightness. The ceremony was held at dawn on the first day of the new year. As Legolas and Ril stood in front of all their friends and family and promised their love, they gazed into each other's eyes and they knew that they would always be together. True love would never fail.
At the wedding reception King Thranduil stood up and made a speech.
"I am glad that you could all make it to this festive occasion." said the old king. He looked around at everyone in the hall. They were all close and personal friends. The remaining members of the Fellowship of the Ring were there, and Anarandil was there. He was with Eowudya, Legolas's older sister, and they had fallen in love over the short time that Anarandil was at Mirkwood. They had their wedding planned for the next month. Éomer and some of his people from Rohan were there, and even Faramir and Éowyn made it! Ril was also glad that her aunt, Eleclya, and her husband, Nónd, made it. Her aunt was a very important person in Ril's life; she was the only one, until Legolas, that told Ril it wasn't her fault that her father left. She was Ril's best friend and mentor. Perhaps the most important guest was Gimli. The king smiled at the dwarf. "I would like to ask Gimli, son of Glóin, of Erebor Mountain to come up here." Gimli looked startled, but he went. "I would like to personally thank you for saving Ril's life. I'm going to show my appreciation by granting you the honor of an elvish name." Everyone was surprised. Very few non-elves were graced with elvish names; in fact Aragorn and only five others had ever been given this privilege. Now they were going to add Gimli's name to the short list. "I give you the name Elrebrinduil. That means Elf-friend. May the grace of elves go with you all your life." Everyone started clapping for Gimli. He smiled at Legolas and Ril and they beamed back. He had made them truly happy.
~ ~ ~
One year later Gimli got an urgent message from Mirkwood. He packed his bags and left at once. When he got to the forest he was greeted by Anarandil, who had been sent to fetch him.
"Has it happened yet?" Gimli asked excitedly.
"Yesterday morning." answered Anarandil smiling.
"Show me to them!" Anarandil showed Gimli to the house that Legolas and Ril lived in. He went in and saw Legolas standing by Ril. She had two little bundles in her arms.
"Twins!" Legolas cried. "A boy and a girl!" Gimli looked at the two perfect little faces. They were so tiny.
"What are their names?" he asked in a whisper.
"The girl is Eleclya, after my aunt, and the boy is Elrebrinduil." answered Ril, smiling at the look of shock on the dwarf's face.
"But my elvish name is Elrebrinduil! You don't mean that you named your first son after me?!" Gimli was astonished. He was filled with so much awe and wonder at the two perfect little elf babies in Ril's arms.
"That's right." Legolas said laughing. He turned to Anarandil. "Could you please show Gimli to his room?" After Gimli and Anarandil left the room Legolas turned to Ril and his two beautiful babies. He couldn't believe that he was a father! The two tiny beings filled him with so much joy he thought that he would burst with happiness. He went over to Ril and kissed her. "I love you, I love all of you, and I don't even care that Eleclya was born 9 minutes before Elrebrinduil." They both laughed and gazed at their two beautiful babies. At last, he thought, I have found the way.
~ ~ ~