Of Thranduil and Edhalda - Part 2
At length his foot pressed against a wall, a lucky instance, for his head would surely have hit the rock if he had not felt it with his toes beforehand. Knowing now that he was at the outer edge of what he supposed was a large cavern, Thranduil ran one on the wall, as he walked along it, for if there was a way in, which surely there must be, for in what way would he have got in otherwise, then it would be on the outer wall. His fingertips became raw and sensitive as sharp outcrops in the rock abused his soft skin.
Thranduil traipsed in the darkness for what seemed like hours. The darkness had by now become rather ominous and the silence rang loudly in his ears. He dared not break into song, for fear of unknown dangers in the shadow awakening. As he gazed into the black depths of the cavern, he began to imagine terrible things, brooding, hidden in the lightless distance. Figures in his mind crept nearer, their foul breath he expected to feel upon his neck at any moment. His pace quickened, as did his breaths, and within a few moments the wall beneath his hand gave way, causing Thranduil to lurch into a small passageway. Taking a few moments to catch his breath and to dispel all of the fear from his mind. Before continuing through the tunnel, Thranduil turned around to decide whether or not to top and turn back. However, upon remembering the great empty space and darkness in which all manners of wickedness could be lurking, he made up his mind and strode on in the dark passageway.
Her legs moved now without command, for Edhalda had been making her way through Greenwood, moving gradually south through the wood. Her journey had been uneventful, passing only trees and birds. Edhalda had, in her hurry, fabricated a route towards Lórien, based upon a fleeting glance at a map upon the wall of her bedroom. Thoughts of the Caverns filled Edhalda's eyes with moisture, for until now she had not allowed herself to think about Thranduil. The pain of his absence made her heart falter, and for a moment she considered returning to his warm embrace and loving gaze. But sense returned and she remembered her quest. To return would bring pleasure only for a short while, for if she could not be healed before the gestation of her child completed, Thranduil would lose his love forever, and that was a pain she could not bear to bring upon him. Lost among her thoughts, Edhalda had stopped walking and leant, fatigued, against a tree. She had not realised how tired she had become. Taking the lembas from a pouch around her shoulder, Edhalda rested and ate a small piece of the sweet cake, enough to sate her hunger and to revive her exhausted limbs.
As she leant against the tree, she looked around at her surroundings. Having stopped, she had become disorientated and was now unsure of the route to continue upon. She glanced all around her, becoming anxious. It was easy, even for an elf, to become lost among the trees of Greenwood. In her dismay Edhalda looked up to the sky once again for help and inspiration. Her answer came not from the sky on this occasion, but from the tree upon which she was resting. The trunk was silvery in colour, almost akin to the trees from Lothlórien; only this tree was a Silver Birch, brethil in her own tongue, not a mighty white tree of the like of those in Cerin Amroth in Lórien. Looking around at the trunks of nearby trees, Edhalda became aware that there was a live of silver behind her resting place. Perceiving this to be a guide, Edhalda got to her feet and followed the line of trees, a spring in her step due to her renewed hope in survival.
The line of trees led Edhalda in a straight line, and as their numbers dwindled, she felt sure that she must continue along the route. She strode gaily through the boughs of the trees, keeping her mind from Thranduil and that which she left behind by imagining Lórien, the `city of trees' - Caras Galadon, and the wonders it contained. Edhalda greatly wished to set eyes upon Galadriel's Garden, of which she had heard great tales. Stories that told of an enchanted mirror. Which, if gazed into, could tell of the past, the current hour and events soon to occur. If allowed, Edhalda desired to look into the mirror inside Galadriel's garden; the treeless hollow.
But as Edhalda thought of her destination, her attention was drawn from her journey. Without realizing, she had swayed from the path set by the brethil, and was now headed for the Enchanted River, which through the Mountains of Greenwood, Emyn - nu - Fuin in her Silvan tongue. As she drew nearer to the river, its magic caught hold of her, leaving her with no chance of escape. However, she was oblivious to her danger and continued to look to her future.
As night began to fall, Edhalda elected to continue walking, for to rest would dispose of valuable time, during which she would age considerably. Better to save my rest for when I begin to need it most, she told her weary legs. She was exhausted by now, a feeling with which she had become rather familiar during her journey. It was a novel, yet disturbing, experience, for she had never felt weary until that fateful day when Angwen had betrayed her sister. The thought of the putrid poison made Edhalda's body lurch and shudder; so vivid was her memory of its taste burning her tongue as she drank. Once again, Edhalda had to drag her thoughts from the past, for if she did not reach Lórien she would have no future.
Thranduil's feet began to scrape along the ground, so tired and hopeless he felt. He could see no way out of the darkness and would almost certainly be unable to navigate his way back to his Caverns. He suddenly remembered why he had been running from his home, the memory of Edhalda's departure stabbed into his heart. He stood still for several moments, still unable to fathom a reason for her to leave. His eyes welled up and his back rose and fell shakily as silent sobs racked his body. The King of the Silvan elves despaired at the loss of his queen, and the young elf was devastated at the departure of his love. He summoned the strength to continue his escape, but walked on as a broken man, lines of grief indelibly marked his face.
Having been walking down the one passage for over two hours, the sudden disappearance of the walls in his close proximity came as a shock to Thranduil. Unsure of which direction to take, for once more, he was unable to determine the size of his surroundings. If he was, as he guessed, in another cavern, should he walk straight across it in order to save his diminishing energy, or take the safer, longer route around the edge? Indeed, Thranduil did not know if there was even another tunnel leading from this second cavern. Taking a risk, Thranduil decided to cut straight across the cavern, prepared for attack in the darkness.
Fortunately, he reached the far wall unharmed, and to Thranduil's delight, found another passageway. The air smelled clean and fresh in this tunnel, it was less dense than that of the previous caverns. Fuelled by his desire to leave the foul, unknown darkness, Thranduil strode down the passage.
After several minutes, he reached a forked turn, finding this by colliding painfully with the divide between the two paths. Bewildered, Thranduil's hope once again began to seep from his heart. If he was to take the wrong path, he may never leave these wretched caves, however, how was he to know the right path, if indeed there was a correct path at all? Taking a deep breath, Thranduil ended his predicament and took the right hand tunnel. This revealed itself to be the correct choice, for within a few steps, the tunnel turned sharply right and a dim light shone into Thranduil's eyes. He raised a hand to his brow to protect his unaccustomed eyes from the almost forgotten sight of light. Squinting, he made his way out from the darkness.
Edhalda was softly humming to herself as she meandered through the trees, a tune pleasant to her ears, the birds among the trees took heed of her song, and began to harmonize with her, their mellifluous voices adding depth and fervour to the song. The sweet melody rang through the wood, echoing in the distance, filling Edhalda's ears and for a short while lifting the grief from her mind. Fortune, however, would not have it that way for long.
As the song reached its zenith, the sun glowed gently in the afternoon sky; Edhalda came to rest beside a steadily flowing river. Its waters seemed clear and tantalizing to her arid lips, and without considering the dangers, Edhalda drank deeply from the water. The song, it seemed, had led her to forget the dangers lurking in Greenwood. To drink from the river was a great error, for the waters were that of the Enchanted River. The instant Edhalda withdrew from the bank of the river, an overpowering drowsiness drew over her. She fell back against a tree and let herself sink into unconsciousness.
When at last she awoke, it seemed to her as if scant moments had passed. However, upon catching sight of the sun in the morning sky, Edhalda realized it was otherwise. She was uncertain of the number of nights she may have spent leaning against that tree. Her sore body told her she might well have slept for many days and nights. She cursed the water for its seduction and deceit of her trusting self. But in its evil doings, the River had taught Edhalda to consider the repercussions of any rash activity. A valuable counsel indeed upon such a dangerous journey, for to travel alone through the unknown regions of Greenwood was perilous at any time, despite the loveliness created by Thranduil in the woods surrounding his Caverns. Although, this was not to be the end of the wickedness achieved by the Enchanted River, for once again she had lost all knowledge of her direction. Upon this occasion, when she looked up, Edhalda could see no guiding trees. Desperate, she began to turn in every direction, in search of a sign to enlighten her as to whence she should head. Her frantic movements led Edhalda to fall upon the ground, her head landing in a pool of mud. Much to her dismay the mud had splashed into her hair, which was now stuck together by the rancid brown glue. The only source of water nearby to clean herself in was the River, and Edhalda certainly did not wish to immerse and part of her body in those malevolent waters.
Whilst Edhalda lay upon the ground once again, she glanced at the mud beside her face. Much to her surprise and delight, she saw, imprinted in the mud, the footprint of a large boot. It was a boot made not by Elvin hands or worn by Elvin feet, for it was cumbersome and wide and Elvin feet did not leave footprints, even in the softest of snow. Edhalda leapt to her feet, regretting her action as she did so, for she must have knocked her head during her fall, and now had a considerable pain above the nape of her neck. She raised an arm to discover if there was external damage.
`That's a nasty knock you received,' A deep, human voice told her, `you ought not to be travelling alone through this part of the woods, there are hidden dangers, and some that aren't so hidden. If I hadn't seen you before you fell into that mud, I would have had a difficult time believing you to be an elf and not a risk.'
Edhalda looked around, but could not determine a source for the voice.
`Tell me, hidden stranger, what you are doing in this part of the forest? For if it is dangerous for me, then surely it is also perilous for any other traveller. I too, am finding it hard to believe that you are not a risk, as I cannot see you. Please show yourself, you can see I am not in the best of conditions, so if you have intentions of killing me, allowing me to see the deliverer of my doom will not hinder your task.'
`There is no need for you to be afraid Edhalda, for I am not here to bring about your end. Indeed, if I weren't here, then perhaps you would already have met your doom.'
Edhalda was startled, she suspiciously asked the unknown voice, `How is it you come to speak my name before I have divulged it? Could you allow me the courtesy of making your identity known?'
`Do not be shocked. I have heard word that Thranduil, king of the Silvan elves, is despairing over the loss of his wife. His wife who departed without saying a word to him, and left him in cruel suspense, only to find out from an assistant that he was not to search for the most precious thing in all of Middle-earth. Thus, when I came across an elf of great beauty of the like told of Queen Edhalda, wandering through Greenwood alone, I concluded that you must be her. Forgive me if I have made a mistake, but I believe I am correct in my assumption. As for my name, those who know me refer to me as Fëaran, the wandering spirit.' Upon saying this, a tall man stepped forward and bowed before Edhalda. His blue eyes looked humbly upon her face, for the story of her meeting Thranduil was widely known across Middle-earth; such deep love was rare and it cheered all who heard of it. Fëaran, having heard of Edhalda's departure, had felt saddened that such a pair should be apart for any reason. And as he had now found her wandering in the wood, he took it upon himself to deliver her safely wherever she should wish, and to inform Thranduil of her location. He knew the woods well, having been born in Esgaroth, and had long learned of the dangers it harboured.
`Your assumption is accurate Fëaran; I am indeed Edhalda. As you seem to know so much, could you aid me? I am headed for Lórien, to seek help from the Lady Galadriel herself. However, I have lost my way and my life rests upon reaching Galadriel with great speed. Do you know of the way?' Edhalda asked of Fëaran.
`I know the way well, and I myself am headed south. I would be delighted to escort you to Lórien.' Fëaran offered.
`That is most kind Fëaran; only I do not have enough lembas to last us both on the journey. If it weren't for this I would gladly accept your offer.' Edhalda replied disappointedly.
`That is not a difficulty Edhalda. I am quite capable of providing food for myself, and I am sure you could aid me with your bow. Two is a safer number on all accounts, especially on such a dangerous journey, for I have heard wolves during recent nights; they are becoming restless and hungry. Now tell me, why is it that you must travel so hastily to Lórien without even telling your husband? Surely it must be a matter of grave circumstances.' Fëaran asked curiously, a hint of concern behind his question.
`I have told no one of my reason, but as I am to be travelling beside you, I will say this: my sister, Angwen, has performed an evil deed, which I must undo before my year passes, for unless I do I will be beyond all help. I will tell you no more than this, for we have already openly spoken of things that could no doubt be used in ill doings if anything were to be listening.' Edhalda told him only this, for she could not bear to speak yet of the whole reason for her quest.
`I can see there is more to your story, but if you have no wish to divulge I shall not force you to do so. We must depart from here if we are to get past the mountains before nightfall. You are lucky to have fallen so near to the Path, for I could only just see you between the trees, I could easily have walked by without any knowledge of your presence.' Fëaran remarked.
The pair set off through Greenwood. They travelled south towards the Old Forest Road, passing the Emyn-Nu-Fuin, hoping to cover the distance within a few hours, a fast pace through the dense trees. However, Fëaran knew his way and led them along the fastest route possible.
Thranduil, finding himself at the foot of a mountain range, realised he must still be in Greenwood; he must have reached the Emyn-Nu-Fuin in his wild, despairing search for Edhalda. He could not be in his own caverns, for he knew his way amongst them, and he had not known those dark passages. Although he now knew that he had been in the only other mountains in Greenwood, he did not know where in the mountains he had been. The Emyn-Nu-Fuin stretched for over fifty miles. He looked up to the sun in an attempt to determine the hour and to restore his sense of direction. However, the sun was at its zenith, consequently he knew it was midday, but still had no idea which way to set off in order to return to his Caverns. Thranduil decided to wait for the sun to travel further across the sky. Whilst waiting he made up his mind to go home to his Caverns and to assemble a number of elves to search for Edhalda.
Thranduil glanced up at the sky; the sun had travelled rapidly, and was now beginning to set gracefully in the golden evening sky. How such time had passed was unknown to Thranduil; he had only shut his tired eyes for a moment as he leant against a considerably sharp rock. He was wearier than he could have known, for his emotional loss bore a great weight upon him, resting constantly at the back of his mind, but more often at the forefront of his thoughts. Whilst he slept, images of Edhalda swept in and out of his dreams, her face smiling, but somewhat hidden and unreachable. The sun, falling into its golden bed, glowed as Edhalda's hair between the trees.
Thranduil's heart was heavy as he began his journey North towards, he hoped, his Caverns. Using the setting sun as his compass, he took off between the trees. Unbeknown to him, whilst he had slept, Edhalda had passed by with Fëaran on their way to the Old Forest Path.
Fëaran set a fast pace for Edhalda, but her feet were quick, and though she was drained of energy, she kept up with him, stopping only when he did. Within only a couple of hours, they had reached the Emyn-Nu-Fuin, moving on their way without halting at the foot of the mountains where Thranduil lay hidden to their eyes, in a world of disturbed dreams.
Edhalda walked in silent thought for much of the initial journey, unprepared to risk telling Fëaran anything in the exposure of the woods. Occasionally she would question Fëaran about himself and his family; he had once been married, but his wife and children had died during an epidemic, leaving him to wander amongst the lands of Middle-earth alone, unwilling to endear his heart to another for fear of another loss. Upon hearing this Edhalda's heart warmed towards this almost stranger, for she could understand part of the loss he felt. Simultaneously she felt guilty for leaving her love behind, for surely he felt her absence greatly, as she felt the lack of his presence was as if she had lost an eye or a hand. It was with foul heart indeed that Angwen had poisoned Edhalda.
If Fëaran noticed the tears that occasionally welled in Edhalda's eyes, he said nothing of it. It troubled him that such a fair lady, and one who had been so happy, could be in such distress. Clear to him was that he should be considerate of her frail state and not to journey with too great a speed, however, night was closing in and it was vital for their safety to reach the Old Forest Path before the light of the sun was snatched from their eyes. As he walked Fëaran's mind continually rested on the reasons for Edhalda's journey. She had only told him of a danger to her life and a need for haste. Surely the danger her life was in couldn't be as great as the danger of travelling alone to Lórien? Had he been correct in hearing her say `before my year passes'? What could she have meant by her year? Fëaran could produce nothing to solve this riddle. He was in awe of Edhalda's courage, for the grief showed in the lines of her face and the emptiness of her eyes. It was not for a small reason she had left he husband, but the cause was a mystery to him.
As they neared the Path, Edhalda grew tired; she could barely lift her feet or keep her eyes open. Fëaran was concerned, for he had never experience or heard of an elf succumbing to exhaustion. The haunting howls of hungry wolves in the distances resounded in his ears, but Edhalda showed no signs of awareness to their danger. Fëaran, in his apprehension, lifted the nearly sleeping Edhalda to his shoulders and carried her the last stretch of forest to the Path.
Fëaran laid Edhalda's body on the ground. A small, grateful smile appeared upon her lips as she fell into the abyss of sleep. As Fëaran kept watch during the night he scoured her face, searching for an answer to her mysterious departure. The longer he looked at her face, he noticed changes, there appeared to be more lines around her eyes than there had been when he first saw her. He explained away the silver hair upon her crown by telling himself it was a reflection of the light from the moon. Before he could ponder about this any longer he became distracted by the sound of undergrowth snapping in the nearby trees. Immediately alert, he drew he sword and listened hard for any other signs of danger. Suddenly, out of the trees jumped a large, black wolf, followed shortly by two more, all growling and advancing towards Fëaran and Edhalda with malicious intent. Fëaran feigned sleep, hoping to use surprise to his advantage. As the wolves drew near, he sprang at them. Lunging rapidly at the wolves, he killed the biggest of the three with one quick stab. He wheeled around to slash the back of another, only injuring it, but leaving it unable to escape his second deadly blow. However, as he slew one wolf, the final assailant tore at his arm, sharp teeth ripping at the flesh, causing Fëaran to falter and cry out in agony. With his final ounce of energy, he pulled a short throwing knife from his boot and launched it at the wolf, just as it sprang at him. The knife struck at the wolf's chest, just too late to prevent it from clawing at his shoulder and pushing him to the ground.
Thranduil had walked all through the night, using only the light of the moon the guide him. Having walked through the darkness of the caverns in the Emyn-Nu-Fuin, he had no fear of things lurking in the darkness. His eyes were by now accustomed to the dim light and could effortlessly find his way between the trees. By morning he could smell the sweet scent of lembas from the kitchens. He knew that he had nearly arrived and began to walk with renewed vigour. A small hope lit in his mind that Edhalda had returned and would be waiting for him. Visions of her running to greet him filled his mind, but as he came into sight of the Caverns he could not see his love. She did not run towards him, neither did he hurry any further, for his disappointment proved so great that he had no wish to return to a place filled with so many memories.
Having sat amongst the trees surrounding the Caverns' forecourt until the sun rose to its fullest height, Thranduil managed to draw the will to resume his journey. As he entered the clearing, elves from all around dropped their tasks to greet him and to make sure he was well. No one dared mention Edhalda for the pain was obvious in his face and needed no words to illustrate it further. A warm cloak was wrapped around his shoulders and a piece of lembas placed into his hand. Thranduil retired to his chamber to sleep and to plan his search for his beloved.
His energy restored and his body rested, Thranduil began to send orders to his people. He wanted a search party fifty strong to set out in groups of five in all directions among the wood. Each was to search without cease until Edhalda was found. Word was sent to all nearby villages and settlings for news on a lone elf travelling in haste. Thranduil himself spent his every waking moment searching for her, he scoured Greenwood inch by inch, but could not travel far, for he returned to his Caverns each night, he did not desire to spend another night on unfamiliar terrain.
One misty morning, a horse came galloping towards Thranduil as he set off on his day's expedition to find his wife and to recover his lonely, lost soul. The rider hailed him as he leapt off his gleaming steed.
`King Thranduil! I have news of Edhalda. A traveller came to our village having seen an elf and a man walking south through Greenwood. Who the man is I do not know, but the traveller seemed certain of the elf's identity. Edhalda and the man conversed a short while with the traveller. It seems that they are heading south, but to where exactly they would not say. The traveller, whose name was Bragoliant, was concerned for the pair's health; for Edhalda's face is drawn and she seemed to tire easily, and the man, although he did not tell of it, had an injured arm and his shoulder on the same arm is marred. Edhalda, it seems, did not know of these wounds. But, they would not talk for long, as they seemed to be in a hurry.' The rider told rapt Thranduil, `is there anything I can do to aid you? I can ride much faster than even Elvin feet can run. I can see that you greatly desire to be reunited with your lost wife. If it would help, I could take you upon my horse, we could ride south to find more news of her journey. I have no need to return home for many weeks and I would like to aid you in your cause.'
Thranduil considered the rider's offer, and accepted. Any help was needed, and if Edhalda has travelled south, then he would surely have more hope of finding her if he too moved southwards. He had by now forgotten her plea for him not to follow her; his loneliness had long since overridden his mind. He mounted the enormous horse behind his new companion and set off to find Edhalda.
Bragoliant had been correct to assume that Edhalda had no knowledge of Fëaran's injuries. He had hidden them from her, in order to keep her mind upon her own difficulties and not upon his superficial grazes. His wounded arm was not under consideration on the journey and should not delay them unnecessarily. He thought not of his pain, but spent his worry upon Edhalda; her energy seemed depleted and growing smaller by the day. He now found it hard to convince himself that the grey hairs were a play of the light, for they had begun to spread throughout her golden locks.
As the days passed, so did thousands of trees, and so did Edhalda's youth. Her bones began to ache and she could not see through the trees as she had before. Nausea took hold of her body in the early hours of the morning, and the swelling of her abdomen became clearly visible to Fëaran, who was only now becoming aware of the depth of Edhalda's troubles, although he still did not know of the poison, or why Edhalda was travelling to see Galadriel. He was concerned for her health, for an elf does not age, and not even a human aged so rapidly. But he kept his thoughts hidden, and concentrated only on reaching Lórien in as little time as he could.
Above the trees ahead loomed the peak of Dol Guldur, informing Fëaran that they must now head in a new direction, for they were now level with Lórien, but almost one hundred miles to its east. Although he and Edhalda had journeyed over the longest distance of their route, Edhalda now found it increasingly difficult to walk, and Fëaran's arm meant he found it challenging to kill enough food for him to eat. Edhalda had eaten almost all of the lembas that she had in her possession, and along with her painful legs, the sheer weight of her growing waist put considerable strain upon her back.
The pair found themselves resting frequently against trees, but Fëaran knew that soon they would leave the woods. In the open there were no trees to lean upon and there were dangers with no escape, however, there were also dangers in Greenwood, which they had endured, so all was not without hope.
As they journeyed slowly ahead, the trees began to become scarce, thinning to reveal a vast open plain. Such exposure was daunting to Edhalda, having spent her days living amongst the trees. Great was her love for the woods; she yearned to sing amongst them once more with Thranduil, for it was only in him did she place more love than in the trees. Edhalda drew her thoughts painfully away from Greenwood and from Thranduil, for it took all of her might just to walk forward, without spending her energy lost in emotional knots. The sun beat down upon her neck, the warmth providing her with more energy to continue staggering onwards. Fëaran appeared to her as a tireless guide, aiding her when she stumbled, and bearing her upon his back when she could walk no longer. His winces of pain as he lifted her, she decided, were because of her growing burden, for she did not know of the wolves' attack. The pain, however, caused by the gash in Fëaran's arm, was almost unbearable at times for him. He thought nothing of it, believing the throbbing to be exaggerated by his tired muscles.
There was little to hunt upon the open land, and Fëaran's face became gaunt. Edhalda, seeing the hunger in his now skeletal face, gave him a loaf of lembas, even though her resource was dwindling. He was grateful to her and within eating a small bite of the lembas his energy grew and he became strong once again.
With his new vitality Fëaran set the pace for the remaining distance to Lórien. He held Edhalda in one arm as they walked, for she found it increasingly difficult to keep up with him. In this unbalanced fashion the pair succeeded in reaching Anduin, the Great River. Their journey without the shelter of Greenwood had been uneventful, save for Edhalda's escalating fatigue and antiquity. Fëaran had begun to realise that foul magic was afoot, for Edhalda had aged so dramatically and cruelly, he thought, for one so young. Edhalda still would not speak of her predicament.
Edhalda, even with her diminishing eyesight, saw Anduin before Fëaran could. She cried out with joy, but also with despair, for she had not prepared for such an obstacle. They did not have any rope in their possession, neither were there the materials to build raft upon the riverbank. She sat her wretched body down as they reached the river. Tears of hopeless despair rolled down her cheeks. Fëaran had aided her so greatly, and now, when they were so near to their goal, there was nothing either of them could do to advance any further. Fëaran sat beside her with his head hung, but not in desperation. He was in deep thought, his mind pondering over every alternative way of crossing the river. As Edhalda sobbed beside him, draining herself of every last morsel of energy within herself, he opened his eyes and looked around. Ideas sprang into his imagination, but all appeared useless. Far to the left on the opposing bank he could see the trees begin, determination gripped his heart, seeing their purpose so near, and he became undaunted of the waters flowing between.
`We must cross the river!' Fëaran announced.
`I am aware of that, dear, hopeful Fëaran,' Edhalda replied smiling kindly at him, for she had long since given up all hope and was now calm and illogical, for all that mattered to her had been taken out of her reach, this tragic thought made her depression so great as to numb her from all emotions, `but since it is virtually impossible for me to walk, let alone swim across a giant, surging mass of water, I do not believe it possible for me to cross Anduin, the greatest of rivers.'
`If that is the way you choose to view the situation, then I greatly misjudged you. I thought you to be bold hearted and optimistic. For if you stop to consider your position you will see that your only chance of surviving whatever foul deed has been done to you is across this river. If you remain upon this bank then our journey will surely have been for no purpose. You only stand to age further unless you risk your dissipating life by crossing the river.'
Seeing the truth in Fëaran's words, Edhalda tore off her bow and quiver and heavy cloak, then she edged her way towards the water, only now realising that if she did not reach the far side, she would have perish when the baby arrived unless she could reach Galadriel. Fëaran followed her into the water, and was now up to his waist in the flowing river. He called for her to push across as far as possible; to cross as much of the water as possible before the river could wash her back onto the shore.
Edhalda, with one final exertion, made her way towards Fëaran, who had by now swum far out into the river. Before she could reach him, however, an undercurrent swept her beneath the surface of the water. It tugged her down, allowing her to rise for one final breath, before carrying her under again, Edhalda was powerless to resist and let the water drag her motionless body into its depths.
Bragoliant and Thranduil rode as fast as the wind, whistling between the trees. They headed south through Greenwood. Thranduil sang a melancholy song as they went, for their chances of finding Edhalda seemed slight. He yearned for her embrace; he could smell her sweet perfume and feel her silken hair upon his fingertips, but only for a brief moment before the reality of his loneliness seeped into his dream world.
They rode for several days through seemingly endless trees, watching the sun rise and fall throughout the day. The golden light at sunrise and sunset bought only one thing to Thranduil's mind. Edhalda's fair face was all he wished to see; he would forsake his life among the trees if only to look upon her again. He craved a reason for her flight, for the grief it caused and was causing was immense and surely Edhalda would not wish to instigate such pain to either herself or to him. He knew she would be feeling the agonizing loneliness, for the love they shared was so deep as to rival the deepest mines of Moria, and the happiness between the two had been so great as to outshine even the finest mithril. But until he could find her, Thranduil had to remain without answer.
Bragoliant was a wise man; he suggested to Thranduil that they ride alongside a river, for surely Edhalda would need water to drink on her journey. Therefore, when they reached the Narrows of the Forest, he headed for Anduin, the only river nearby. Thranduil looked far across the plains, in hope of catching sight of Edhalda upon the horizon. But the horizon remained featureless and bleak in the distance.
As night fell upon the day, Bragoliant and Thranduil reached the shore of Anduin. Both men dismounted and stood in awe of the huge body of flowing water, gushing past in front of their feet. The beauty of Middle-earth rested not only in trees and Edhalda, concluded Thranduil, for the hypnotic ebbing and flowing of the water touched his heart, but Edhalda remained his one true love.
Bragoliant and Thranduil lay under the stars to sleep, their twinkling light kept them company as they took turns to keep watch. The gentle lapping of the water upon the shore touched Thranduil's ears as he sat awake. The rhythmic sound calmed him and, on several occasions, almost caused him to fall asleep.
Thranduil managed to remain awake until morning came, when he mounted Bragoliant's steed and once more they set off in search of Edhalda. They rode alongside the river, which provided a sense of security, for they could only be attacked upon one side, for the river was too wide for all save the most skilled archers to aim across accurately.
It was not long before they reached the very place, which Edhalda had last stepped on dry land. They nearly passed her possessions, however, Thranduil's keen eyes caught sight of the light glinting off an arrowhead. He cried out for Bragoliant to stop, and hastily leapt from the horse's back, falling upon Edhalda's provisions with frenzied movements. He raised her cloak and inhaled deeply, smelling her scent and, holding it close to his breast, imagined she was once again in his arms. Bragoliant shook him out of his thrall; concerned for his companion, for his knuckles were white, so tight was his grip upon the cloak. Thranduil apologised and relinquished his grip on the familiar material. His mind turned to the possible actions of his wife. He realised that she must have crossed the river, a dangerous feat without the aid of a boat or raft. With this in mind Thranduil turned to Bragoliant.
`How far to the nearest crossing?' He asked.
`Almost two days ride to the north of here, at the Old Ford. That is our only hope of crossing the river, for not even my horse could swim across such waters without great difficulty. If we are to cross the river, we must depart now, in order to reach the Old Ford before the sun sets tomorrow.' Bragoliant said, mounting the horse before he finished speaking.
Fëaran had watched helplessly as Edhalda dipped beneath the water, disappearing from his sight. He swam with all his might to reach the other bank. Small currents tugged at him, but so determined was he to reach the shore that he evaded their pull. As he felt land beneath his feet Fëaran began to run, with great difficulty at first, but as the water became shallower so .the freedom of his legs increased. Fëaran ran without cease towards Lórien, calling for help as he did. He received no reply until he was within the forest itself, whereupon he was stopped by a group of elves. They were taller than the elves Greenwood and were more elegant in their stature. One of the elves stepped forward to Fëaran.
`No human may enter these woods, it is forbidden. For what reason do you come here shouting for help?' The elf asked scornfully.
`It is Queen Edhalda! She has fallen into grave illness and seeks the help of Lady Galadriel.' Fëaran said breathlessly.
`I cannot see her, if she seeks the Lady Galadriel's help she must first come to see her.' The elf retorted.
`She has been swept away by the gushing waters of Anduin. I could not save her before the current drew her under the surface. She had journeyed from Greenwood, seeking escape from a magic curse, of which I know little, for she did not desire to speak of it openly. I know only that she left behind her Thranduil, whom she loves more than the trees that surrounded her since birth. Each day we travelled she seemed to age with unnatural speed, towards the end of our journey she had almost lost the ability to walk. She is with child and, I fear, is soon to give birth,'
Upon hearing this, the scornful elf altered his manner; he turned to another of his companions, who took off into the forest.
`Forgive my harsh words, for if I had known you were accompanying such an elf I would have listened to your tale. If you have spoken words of truth we will do all that is within our power to find Edhalda. It is likely that the river picked her up and moved her along its course for a while before dropping her upon the shore somewhere.' The elf said reassuringly, for the concern was clear in Fëaran's expression. `I am Haldir, guardian of the boundary of Lórien. However, although you bring a distinguished guest among us, we cannot allow you to venture into the forest. You must remain among these outer trees for shelter whilst you wait, if that is what you desire, for Edhalda to be found and her request of help has been put forward to Galadriel.'
Fëaran understood the reasons for his exclusion from Lórien; however, he wanted to help find Edhalda, to ensure she was safe and free from harm. However, exhaustion began to creep through his body, and the pain in his shoulder and arm had returned. This time, however he could not ignore it, and he bent over in reaction to the stabs of pain that were now shooting through his arm. Haldir looked upon him in concern.
`What brings you such pain? Are you wounded?' He inquired.
`It is a mere cut,' Fëaran replied bravely, hardly believing his own words, `I received a blow whilst fighting a pack of wolves in Greenwood.'
`Remove your clothing!' Haldir ordered.
Fëaran did as Haldir asked, and for the first time he caught sight of the extent of his injuries. The cut upon his arm had swollen considerably, and there was a green colour to the skin around it. A quick glance at his shoulder told him that the bones had been pushed out of place and were jutting through the skin in an unnatural manner. Upon seeing this Fëaran collapsed and fell to the ground.
An immense pain woke Edhalda, ripples were moving across her abdomen. She found herself upon the riverbank, still wet from her journey downriver. As the pain faded, aches from muscles she had never felt before sent messages of complaint to her head. Anduin had pulled at her feeble body as she was dragged through the water. She found it hard to believe that she had survived the swells of the river. One look towards land told her, to her relief that she had landed upon the side of the bank that she had been heading for. She let out an involuntary shout as another contraction shook through her body. How much time remained she did not know, for Angwen had said that the baby's first breath would be her last. Tears began to fall down her wrinkled cheeks, for she felt certain that she would not see Thranduil before she passed away. She felt guilty for leaving him so abruptly, he would surely have despaired in her absence and now she would never be able to tell him of the reason for her cruel disappearance from his life. As she wallowed in her grief, a face appeared by her side. She had not heard it coming; however, she remembered that her hearing had faded almost completely, so she could not have expected to hear an army approaching. The face was that of an unfamiliar elf, but it was smiling and friendly. It was trying to calm her with soothing words, but this only further distressed her, for she could not hear a word. Once again, Edhalda fell unconscious from exhaustion; her sadness proved too excessive for her frail shell of a body.
Thranduil and Bragoliant rode throughout the day and night, they reached the Old Ford within two days. They did not rest on the far shore, instead they rode on towards Lórien, where they hoped there would be some news of Edhalda. Beads of perspiration dripped from the horse's back, for such speed and a double load was hard for it to maintain upon such a long journey.
They passed opposite the place by which they had happened upon Edhalda's cloak, bow and arrow, once again giving hope to Thranduil that they were soon to find her. His determination had not worn off; in fact the passing of time had only caused it to grow stronger.
Bragoliant stopped his horse once the trees of Lórien began to appear. Thranduil dismounted and called into the forest:
`I am Thranduil! King of the Silvan Elves, please hear my call!'
An elf walked from between the trees towards him.
`There is no need for such commotion. I know who you are, for there has been much talk of you in recent days.' Haldir said calmly.
`Edhalda! Have you news of my darling? Is she safe?' Thranduil urged Haldir for an answer.
`It is not for me to say. However, if you are to venture further into Lórien, you must leave your companion. It is forbidden for human eyes to see past this point.'
Thranduil turned apologetically towards Bragoliant, who smiled.
`King Thranduil, I have played a bigger part in this than I had anticipated, I must return to my duty now. Find your wife, I wish you the best of luck. Farewell, for I must reach to the Ford before nightfall.' And without so much as a glance over his shoulder, Bragoliant rode away.
Thranduil turned to follow Haldir, who had started to move away through the trees. Thranduil had to run to catch up, but kept an equal pace once he drew level with his guide. He was desperate for news of Edhalda, but Haldir would reveal nothing. He soon fell into silent anticipation, for although he did not know if he were being led to Edhalda, he knew that his search had nearly drawn to a close.
Haldir took him deeper into the forest and into Lothlórien. Far ahead, between the green of the trees, Thranduil could see the gold leaves of the Mallorn, the most beautiful of all trees. Their light grew in intensity as he came nearer, and a glow relit in his heart, the glow had been extinguished the day Edhalda had left. Caras Galadon came ever nearer, and as he advanced, Thranduil's pulse began to race, at last he would find out the truth about Edhalda's disappearance.
Haldir stopped in Egladil, just before the Great Gates. He exchanged brief words with an elf behind the gates, who nodded approval, then opened the gates to Thranduil, who paused before entering the raised city.
He was brought before Celeborn and Galadriel, whose gaze, it seemed, saw into the depths of his entity. He felt exposed before such powerful elves, although he himself was as powerful, but in different aspects. Without a word, Galadriel took Thranduil's hand and led him to her garden, where an elderly elf lay. The unusual sight of a withered elf struck Thranduil. It took him only a moment to realise that the elf was his beloved Edhalda. He ran to her side, and could see her swollen abdomen, which was now convulsing rapidly. Edhalda reached out feebly for his hand, the only sign of recognition she gave him, for she was in great pain from the contractions.
Thranduil sat in subdued silence by his wife's side, numbed by disbelief. He heard the words of Galadriel in his mind:
`Do not fear for her now, your panic cannot aid her plight. A dark force has taken her; her sister, who steeped herself in darkness, gave to her a deadly poison. It has been spoken that upon the child's first breath, Edhalda will take her last.' Galadriel paused whilst Thranduil fell back into his state of distress, for he was watching his wife die before his eyes, unable to help. `I have undone much of the dark knot within her, only I cannot fully undo such evil, for that damage is irreversible.' Thranduil, however, had stopped listening, for all of his attention was upon Edhalda's writhing body. He was watching her every movement, for he didn't want to miss a moment more of her precious life. He leant forward to kiss her forehead, this light touch eased her shaking and she remained tranquil for the duration of the delivery, save for the tensing of her abdomen.
Following several hours in labour, with one final effort, Edhalda delivered her child. It took in a deep breath to give way to a wail. To Thranduil's disbelief, Edhalda continued to live, smiling up at him with tired eyes. Her gaze left his only to watch her son carried away to be washed.
`I am so sorry to have done this to you, my love.' She whispered, `I did not wish you to follow me on such a dangerous journey.'
`Hush, my darling, do not explain to me what I already know. What matters it that you are safe, and that our child is alive. I am unprepared for such a new addition, but I can see now that a child is all that our lives have lacked.'
`Please do not speak so of our lives. It will hurt less when I have gone.' Edhalda pleaded
`Why do you speak in such negative tones? You are alive! We will be together again forever, with our child. Once we return to Greenwood all will return to as it was.' Thranduil said, trying not to believe what Edhalda was saying.
`No, that cannot be, for I am dying, the last of my life is slipping away as we speak. Oh! I am forgetting Fëaran. Surely you allowed him into the forest Galadriel?' She asked, turning now to Galadriel.
`He was allowed to venture into Lothlórien, but he did not see it long before he had to depart.' Galadriel whispered cryptically
`He had to depart? But I didn't thank him for everything he did for me. Whither did he go?'
Galadriel did not reply, for she could not bring herself to tell bad news to a dying elf. Edhalda, however, knew that her dear companion was now among the dead in the Halls of Mandos. She did not understand why he had perished.
`Why did he pass to the House of the Dead?' She asked of Galadriel, `For he was healthy and youthful.'
`It seems he was not truthful with you on your travels, for during you passage through Greenwood a pack of wolves attacked. He fought them off, but received severe damage to his arm and shoulder; he did not tend to the wounds, for he did not wish to trouble you with his injuries. Therefore he was beyond our healing and he slipped into the world of the dead.'
Edhalda sobbed irrepressibly, pressing her tear streaked face into Thranduil's breast. She lay in his arms, guilt and grief flooding her heart. Fëaran had not needed to venture so far with her. He had given his live to save hers, and now she too would pass away. She felt angry with him for keeping the attack secret, she could have healed his wounds. Considering the possibilities brought more tears to her eyes. Despair racked through her soul, her friend had died for her, and her husband was to be alone for eternity, for she could feel the cover of death slipping gradually over her body. For a moment she regretted ever falling in love with Thranduil, for without Angwen's jealousy she would be healthy and Thranduil would not have known such deep sadness. But memories of the joy he had bought her prevented her regret from remaining long within herself.
The baby sneezed gently, alerting his parents to his return. Both turned lovingly to embrace him. Edhalda could not lift herself from the ground, so the child was placed into her outstretched arms. A smile formed on his lips as she held him close. Edhalda presented Thranduil's son to his besotted father. Reassured by the happiness in her love's face, she laid her head upon the soft ground and departed to the Halls of Mandos, alongside Fëaran.
Thranduil dropped to his knees by her side, gripping her hand in disbelief. Until this moment he had believed she would survive somehow. He bit his lip, trying to contain his tears, for he did not want his son to ever encounter sadness. But the grief was too potent, his eyes were full of tears, blood flowed from his lip and his back shook with the force of his weeping. He rocked back and forth on his knees, finding no other way to dispel his relentless anguish. The baby was unaware of the emotions surrounding him, and relaxed by his father's movement he fell asleep in Thranduil's arms.
His tears subsided, Thranduil looked upon his dead wife in silence. Only when he saw his sleeping baby did his grief begin to subside. He knew that he would never return to his former joy, but he refused to bring up his son in a mourning household, so from that moment on he spoke only of happiness. The name Edhalda was remembered with reverence, but Thranduil never mentioned it again, lest he revive his sorrow.
Thranduil remained in Lothlórien until the child could survive the journey to Greenwood. Galadriel took the baby in her arms before they departed. She walked gracefully into her garden, to the very place in which he had been born. And, filling a silver pitcher with water from the sacred basin, she took a drop on her finger and placed it onto the child's lips. As she raised him aloft for Thranduil to look upon him, she declared that he be called Legolas. She proceeded to empty the contents of the beautiful pitcher into a bowl. Galadriel looked into this bowl, for it was the Mirror of Galadriel. Thranduil looked on nervously, anxious to hear of the future destined for his son.
`He shall return,'
Before Thranduil could ask the meaning of Galadriel's statement, she set Legolas in his father's arms. Thranduil disregarded his questions, for his attention focused now on his son, who lay smiling up at him.
Galadriel and Celeborn provided a horse and supplies for Thranduil before he returned to Greenwood. A clever device was looped around his neck inside which Legolas was sat. Thranduil thanked them profusely for their hospitality. Galadriel placed her hands upon Thranduils', an unspoken gesture much appreciated, for it was in consolation for his great loss. And with that, he mounted the horse and began the journey back to face his Caverns, full of memories of Edhalda, but also full of hope for the future and opportunities for Legolas.