Mandy’s eyes were wide as they approached Thranduil’s fortress. It was built into the side of the mountain. They entered through a massive archway. She was a little nervous about being underground, but as they entered, she realized that the sunlight was pouring through the many windows into the fortress. She smiled amazedly as Elwen greeted the guards. Suddenly a man looking so much like Legolas approached that Mandy had to catch her breath. As he came closer, she realized that there was a slight difference in the way he walked and held his head. He looked no older than Legolas, but when he looked into her eyes, she knew instantly that he was old…as old as Elrond or Galadriel.
Elwen hugged him warmly, murmuring greetings to him. He ruffled her hair affectionately and then turned to Tethcelebel and Ohtarwen.
“Greetings, Tethcelebel,” he smiled, hugging her, “I am glad that you are here under happier times.”
He looked at Ohtarwen, taking her in. “You have grown much since I saw you last, Ohtarwen,” he said, his eyes thoughtful, “Be at rest here.”
“Thank you, Thranduil-king,” Ohtarwen said respectfully.
Thranduil turned his eyes to Mandy. She had hung back, half-wishing that she had not come. As he gazed at her, she felt as if he was looking straight into her. His piercing blue eyes–exactly like Legolas’s–seemed to bore holes into her. She felt awkward and unsure on what to do. Suddenly Thranduil smiled at her, opening his arms.
“Welcome to Mirkwood, Erusenwen!” he enveloped her in his hug, “I hope you will enjoy your stay.”
“Thank you,” Mandy said, her eyes studying his. She saw his thoughtful look in it and knew he was thinking of Legolas. She walked off with Tethcelebel, Ohtarwen, and Elwen who was eager to show her around.
Thranduil watched as the girls disappeared around the corner. He had seen Mandy’s look of shocked joy as he approached and then the slight tinge of red colouring as she lowered her eyes, her face falling. He had noticed her nervousness at meeting him. Thranduil smiled, knowing that she had no idea how much he perceived in her eyes: he knew that she was in love with his son. He had also noticed that she wore his pendent around her neck, though she had hidden it when he had come over to them.
“She loves him,” Thranduil mused to himself as he strode back to the throne-room where preparations were being made, “I wonder if my son returns her love?” He knew that many other elf maidens had fallen in love with his son, but Legolas had never shown interest in them, devoting all of his time to fighting against the servants of Saruon. “Until now,” Thranduil smiled. Suddenly he ran into someone and heard a soft gasp. He grabbed the arm of a girl as she fell forward.
“Easy,” he said, his face soft.
“I’m sorry, m’lord.” The young elf said quickly, flushing a deep red.
“Do not worry,” Thranduil smiled, trying to put her at ease, “you have done no harm. Go on with your duties.”
She murmured a thanks and hurried off. Thranduil entered the throne-room and observed it from the doorway. On the far wall sat the thrones: two of them. He sighed, glancing around: he missed his wife still, even though she had died nearly two ages ago. He knew his son had never gotten over it, especially after Celeblalaith’s death and Celebrian’s ambush several centuries afterwards. He was glad that Legolas had finally found a girl that he loved.
“But will it cost him his heart?” Thranduil wondered aloud, “She is not from Arda, and Illuvitar will be taking her back. Will she break his heart without meaning to?” Thranduil murmured up a prayer that she wouldn’t.
“Does your father like me?” Mandy asked Elwen as they got ready for the feast.
“Of course he does,” Elwen rolled her eyes, tying the sash to her gown, “What makes you ask?”
“I don’t know…” Mandy said, her face red, “I…I thought he was Legolas at first.”
Elwen laughed aloud, “Is that all?” she asked, “Well be careful…otherwise you’re going to embarrass yourself in front of all these strangers.”
“Thanks so much,” Mandy said sarcastically, turning to face her. She wore a soft blue dress with a silver sash. She had put on soft boots that tied up to mid-calf. Her hair was hanging down but parts of it were woven into the circlet of silver that Tethcelebel had given her.
“You look beautiful,” Elwen said, her head cocked to one side as if appraising her.
“You look beautiful too,” Mandy said in admiration.
Elwen had on a dark red dress with a beautiful gold belt with sapphires in it. The dress was ankle-length with the sleeves almost touching the floor. She wore no crown on her head, but her dark hair fell like a crown down to her waist. Her mouth curved amusedly.
“Beautiful?” she said laughing, “Thank you.”
“Well, let’s get going,” Tethcelebel said from the doorway, standing with Ohtarwen.
Laughing the girls walked down the hall, with Elwen leading the way.
“How many times have I been here, Elwen?” Tethcelebel asked as they walked.
“Over a thousand at least,” Elwen answered, “Why do you ask?”
“How is it that I still don’t know my way around your halls?” Tethcelebel said seriously.
Elwen burst into laughter that echoed along the halls.
Elwen led them along until Mandy heard the faint sound of laughter and music coming from the end of the hall. As they entered the hall, Mandy’s eyes widened in amazement. The Hall was massive: its roof going higher and higher. There were torches going around the room. Great tables were set all along the side of the walls while there was a space in the middle of the room to dance in. Food of all sorts was piled high onto the tables. Mandy saw fruit, venison, wine, breads, and desserts. She allowed herself to be pulled along to the middle table set a little higher than the rest. There sat Thranduil with many of his counselors beside him. He was at ease, talking with a woman to his right. His head was crowned with autumn leaves, and he wore a dark red tunic that nearly matched Elwen’s. He lowered his head in greeting to them, smiling, and motioned for them to take the seats opposite him while Elwen went and sat at his left hand. Mandy saw Elwen greet the woman warmly and wondered who she was.
“Aarien?” Elwen addressed her, “Allow me to introduce my kinswoman. Narwen this is Aarien, princess of Gondor.”
“Elen sila lumenn omentielvo. (A star shines upon the hour of our meeting)” Narwen smiled warmly, “I am glad you are alright.”
“Thank you, Lady Narwen,” Mandy returned the smile and studied her. Narwen was shorter than most elf women. She possessed eyes like Legolas’s and dark hair like Elwen’s. As Mandy looked at her, she realized that Narwen looked like Elwen, almost enough to be a sister.
“I wonder if she was Elwen’s mother’s sister…” Mandy thought to herself as someone filled her plate with food.
“Oh, no thank you,” Mandy suddenly stopped the girl from putting venison on her plate. She had noticed that ever since her first stay at Lorien she had lost her appetite for meat, preferring the fruits, breads, and vegetables of the Elves.
Thranduil turned to her, “You do not like meat, Lady?” he asked softly.
“I…I do not, Elven-king,” Mandy said, lowering her eyes slightly.
“That is alright,” Thranduil smiled, “My niece does not care for meat either.”
Mandy looked over at Tethcelebel who smiled, filling her plate with fruit and breads. She breathed a sigh of relief, doing the same.
The feast, Mandy noticed, reminded her not so much of Lorien but of Gondor. It was in a massive hall, and it was indoors. She enjoyed it though. As the feast days went on, she grew more relaxed and got to wander the halls with Elwen, Tethcelebel, and Ohtarwen.
One day Ohtarwen went looking for Mandy. She found her curled up on a couch in the library.
“Aarien?” Ohtarwen said, coming up behind her as Mandy was reading.
“Hi Ohtarwen,” Mandy looked up from the book.
“I am leaving today,” Ohtarwen said.
“Why?” Mandy cried, jumping up.
“I have to get back to my men,” Ohtarwen smiled, “It is my job.”
“Your men?” Mandy laughed.
“Yes my men,” Ohtarwen said in playful offense, “they cannot get along without me that well.”
“I see,” Mandy grinned, following her out to the courtyard. There she saw Ohtarwen’s horse saddled and ready to go. Ohtarwen was wearing her pants again, her cape drawn about her. She had her quiver strapped to her back and her sword at her belt.
“I am going to miss you, mellonnin.” Mandy said sadly, hugging her.
“Do not worry,” Ohtarwen hit her arm playfully, “we’ll see each other again.”
Mandy watched as Ohtarwen jogged over to her horse. She led him out of the fortress, pausing to bid farewell to Thranduil, Elwen, and Tethcelebel. She waved goodbye to Mandy and rode swiftly out of the fortress.
“May the Valar go with you, mellon,” Mandy whispered, “We will not see each other again.”
“It is time for me to go back to Minas Tirith,” Mandy said softly to Thranduil. She was in the throne-room talking with him. He was standing at the edge of the stairs, a head or so taller than her.
“I understand,” Thranduil smiled, “and you are right.”
“I will leave tomorrow,” Mandy smiled sadly back.
“My niece will go with you as far as Lorien,” Thranduil told her.
“And Elwen?” Mandy asked.
“She will go or remain as she so chooses,” Thranduil replied.
“Hanta lle, Thranduil-king,” Mandy curtsied deeply to him.
He hugged her, brushing her cheek with his hand, “May the Valar go with you, my daughter.” And he walked away.
Mandy watched him in confused amazement. “My daughter?” she thought in wonder.
hi! i’m sorry that i didn’t describe more of her time in Mirkwood…but it would have gotten redundant and all that anywhoo…..there’ll be more about her time in Mirkwood in the next chapter. hope you enjoyed!