The Light of Elbereth - Chapter 7- The Homeward Path
"Ai!" wailed Legolas, taken aback at sight. The evil had already come! What hope did they have now? Despair began to grow in his heart. He ran as swiftly as he could back to where he had left his companions, yet the distance was great, and the day waned and night fall drew near. The dusk that was once peaceful was now foreboding. Each shadow seemed to be an evil foe.
When he reached his company, they were sitting on the ground, chanting and eating their supper. To the inexperienced Elves, it was just like any other woodland feast, and they were having a merry time. But Thanduin knew the danger and kept them from lighting a fire or singing to loudly. He sat bent over on a large boulder, keeping a watchful eye over the group, thinking to himself. His face was solemn.
Thanduin stood up when he saw Legolas approach. He drew him over. As the others noticed Legolas, Dunethien and Berinous got up wordlessly and followed him. They all stood round, awaiting news of the strange sound. In a low voice Legolas told them of the dark land and the awakening of Dol Guldur. "It was as I feared" said Dunethien. They stood in silence, each in his own thoughts. Thanduin broke the silence, addressing Legolas, "Go eat and drink, we will decide which road we must follow."
Legolas nodded and left the group, going over to where he laid his pack. He took out a piece of lembas, still in its leaf wrapping. He seated himself among the other Elves, nibbling on the corner of the Elvish waybread, savoring its sweet taste. He was lost in his own thoughts and dreams...
He paced along side the river, unable to sit down. Darkness began to shadow his thoughts. He could see no hope left. All of Middle-earth, bit by bit would be devoured by the oncoming evil. It had already begun, working in unnoticed corners of the land. Soon it would spread, and cover all the land. He felt empty and void. The futility of peace began to grow on him. Never would they be rid of darkness. He stood looking at the water, his face somber and grave. He felt a touch on his shoulder. He whirled around in anger, and not realizing what he was doing, grabbed the hand that was resting on him.
She stood looking at him, her face filled with love and caring, yet pain flashed across it as he grasped and twisted her wrist. She let out a small cry. Conflicting emotions surged through him. He looked down at his hands, shocked at what he had done. He released his grip and took a step back dejectedly. Her eyes were sad. Eriathiel looked out over the water. "Forgive me, I should never have come, you did not bid me, I," pain filled her voice as she spoke, " I was wrong." she ended lamely. A single tear trickled down her cheek. He looked at her, and bitter sorrow flashed in his eyes, he shook his head. "It was I, forgive my anger." He spoke to her tenderly, as one to a small child. She fell forward and collapsed into his arms, weeping bitterly.
He set her down gently, crooning softy. He was confused, he could not have hurt her this much. He looked down at the woman in his arms; he stroked her hair tenderly, trying to calm her down. He did not know what to do, so he merely held her as she sobbed. He closed his eyes, murmuring to her softly an old Elvish song of love, for its melody was soothing. Her tears began to slow. She sat there clinging to him, listening to his soft breathing, her head upon his chest. She wished to spend all of her eternity right there, never moving. Yet it could not be.
She took at deep breath and summoning her will, sat up, and moved away from him. He looked down at her, puzzled. She refused to look his in the eyes, ashamed of her tears and childish sorrow. She spoke in a low voice. "I never should have come, I was asking something of you that you cannot give." He began to understand. He put his hand under her soft chin, it was now his turn to make her look into his eyes. "You did not err," He said, searching his heart. "I, I lov-"
"No!" She cried out, "You mustn't say it, for it cannot be. It is not yet time! You still have much to do here." It pained her to speak the words. She stood up. "I must leave." He got up with her. "You said you would ever be with me, you are my light." He took her hands in his, and drew them to his chest. "Thus, I shall never leave you. I will sing with the river and you will hear my voice and be refreshed, but I cannot bear to appear to you again." Her soft voice trailed off. He did not wish her to go. He spoke again, "But you are to be my guide." "O Son of Thranduil, the choices are yet before you, and only you may decide. You need not me.
"Do not let the shadows overcome your soul, be strong in the evil day, for it is always darkest before the bright rays of dawn." She paused, gazing up at him. "I must depart." When she finished speaking, he drew her to himself, and kissed her soft lips. He started to speak, but, he saw, words would be in vain. She was already leaving, and he had no more hope of holding a cloud in his hand than of her staying. He sighed as he watched her go. Sorrow filled his soul. As he turned to leave, he heard her musical laughter. He smiled. Whatever lay on the path before him, he would look on with hope....
For an hour, the Elves sat there, awaiting Thanduin's decision. As he approached the group, they gathered around him, all except Dunethien who was on watch, and listened as he spoke. "With this new darkness, I fear the safety of those on the Old Path. To travel it on foot may be to go into great peril. We will go a different way, one that none save a few knows about. The Elvenking Path we will take."
Long ago, in the early ages of the Middle-earth, when Mirkwood was still Greenwood the Great, and woodsmen lived with Elves in the forest, the Great Elvenking had built a path high in the trees, a secret road for his personal use. For you see, the Elvenking had a desire unlike that of all other Elves, he greatly desired gold and jewels, and wealth of the earth. He used this hidden road to transport great riches to his palace, unseen to the eyes of evil men, who would lay and wait to steal his treasures. Yet when the dark lord came, all men left the forest, and the road fell into disuse.
The younger Elves questioned Thanduin, for they had never heard of this path, but Legolas knew it well. He used to go out at night and sit in the middle of the great flet at the end of the path, nearest to their realm, and look up at the stars, beautiful and bright, shining in the still, cool dark. For you see, the road was built in the tops of the trees and the great talan was open to the sky. Yes, it would be the safest way to go. Thanduin led the party into the middle of southern Mirkwood, and up into the trees, searching for the path. Yet it was in the end, Berinous, who found the road. For in younger years, he had often traveled that course as the steward of Thranduil, tending to the Elvenking's business.
Once the companions ascended into the trees and onto the path, the journey home was unhindered, though it took them many days to travel the great distance. When they reached the Mountains of Mirkwood, they abandoned the path, and took up on a well-used trail that followed the Enchanted River till it met the path to their home. They had returned safely to their realm....
This is the last chapter in part I, Keep your eyes open for part II.
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