Eliana and Legolas walked along one of the many pathways that threaded their way through the Golden Wood. They talked; Legolas told Eliana how he came to be a part of the Fellowship of the Ring and what it was like in the realm of his father. He felt strangely at peace when he was around Eliana, not to mention that he thought she was the most beautiful person he had ever seen. How had he not recognized it before? It was unusual, he admitted to himself, yet he was certain of his decision. He knew it had to be so… there was no mistaking it as he talked with her.
Eliana listened more than she spoke; she was happy just to be out of her rooms again at last and walking about. She did talk briefly about her career in archery, and laughed when Legolas told her about how the Hobbits entered the Fellowship. She was almost sorry when Legolas said they were near to their destination; she wanted to keep talking with him. She felt herself falling for the Elf prince, he was on her mind at all times, and she was fairly thrilled that he was with her at the moment, and no one else. Yet there was the small thought nagging in the back of her mind; it seemed that they knew so much about each other, even if they had only met five days ago.
They at last arrived in a vast clearing swathed in golden light that had a fence running through it. Eliana looked around. She saw a large shed made of intricately carven grey wood somewhat hidden in the trees and noted that there were painted targets dotted here and there along the brush. A tall mallorn tree stood nearby and two Elves were conversing at its base.
“I will go ask them if we can use this field later on,” Eliana told Legolas, regretfully letting go of his arm as she walked to the other Elves, soft blue skirts swirling about her legs. She recognized one of them when she drew closer.
“ Haldir o Lórien. She said to the taller, sturdily built Elf, stopping beside him.
“ Mae govannen, Eliana Itarildrë, Legolas Thranduilion. ” Haldir said, turning to gaze at her and Legolas. His eyes flicked from Eliana to Legolas and back again. When he spoke once more, his voice had a hint of smug suspicion. “The Lady of the Wood said that you would desire to come here before long. My brother Rumil has brought word that this field and the any requests you may have in Lothlórien of the Wardens are at your service.” He said, indicating the other Elf to whom he was talking.
“Oh! Hannon le. ” Eliana said, unsure of what else to say when he had just answered her question before she had even asked. “Well, I was wondering if perhaps Legolas and I could use the field now, if it is convenient.”
“Eliana, do you truly think you should be using a bow only four days after you were hurt?” Legolas asked softly, concern in his voice and handsome face. “You nearly died!” He told her in a heated whisper, gripping her shoulders with his strong yet gentle hands. Eliana looked to him, touched by his concern. Nonetheless, she was determined in her decision.
“You intend to do so after four days?” Rumil said, eyes widening. “You should not even be walking; you should be in your rooms–“
Eliana sighed, patience wearing thin remarkably quickly. She wanted to use a bow now not when others thought it was best for her. She didn’t care if she was wearing a skirt, or that she didn’t have her hair tied back. She could ignore such trivial things.
“I do.” She said softly, yet her voice seemed to echo about the clearing. “I need to.”
“Lady Eliana,” Haldir began, but quieted when he saw her large hazel eyes give him a stern and fleeting look, sparked with resolve. He bit his lip slightly. “Very well. Though I would never suggest it under your circumstances.” He finished with just a hint of arrogance to his voice.
“Excellent.” Ellie said, eyes brightening. “I just need to ask you one more thing,”
“And what is that?” Haldir said, looking at her rather strangely.
“Can I borrow a bow? I can’t use the one that I–brought here.” Eliana blinked. The memory of her possibly career ending injury on the other world was slightly painful to recall.
“Yes I suppose you may.” Haldir replied, still having the smugly enlightened tone to his voice. “We have quite a selection.”
“Legolas,” Eliana said turning to him. “Are you going to practice too?” Eliana once again had the familiar anxious feeling of something small and feathery floating about her midriff.
Legolas laughed. He simply wanted to watch her, all by herself. “No, not today. I think that I will have to be content with watching you.” He said, eyes dancing.
Blushing once more, Eliana gave a shy smile. “Alright then.”
“Over here,” Haldir said, leading her to the long grey shed. He slid a silver key into the lock and swung the door open. “You may choose one that suits you.”
Legolas heaved a low sigh as he leaned against the railing and watched Eliana enter the housing. Did she know the power of her beautiful eyes over others? Like Galadriel, yet unlike. he thought. She was amazingly full of life and spirit as well; he knew she would never give up something that she set her mind to or that she dearly loved. A loyal friend, he added.
“She is beautiful, is she not?” Rumil asked Legolas, noticing the wistful look in the Elf-prince’s eyes as they watched the door for Eliana’s return.
“The word `beautiful’ undervalues her.” Legolas said, considering for a moment. “She is amazing. I have never met anyone as sweet or lively as her before, in all of Middle Earth.”
“Indeed. You have a true friend in her, that I can see.” Rumil said, nodding his head. Grinning, he added, “Uncommon, that a maiden as eye-catching as she should also have skill in weaponry.”
Legolas laughed pleasantly. “Yet it fits her, somehow. Strong willed as she is, I think that she also has an inner charm. I do fear for your poor brother, trapped in there with her.”
Rumil grinned. “I do not think she would waste her charm on my dear arrogant brother.” He said, with a smirk and a very pointed look at Legolas.
Smiling, Legolas turned back to watching the door for Eliana’s return, his eyes expectant.
Eliana couldn’t help but gasp in delight when she looked inside. All along the walls of the shed, resting on hooks and shelves was the largest selection of the most beautiful bows she had ever seen. There were hundreds of great bows that were laced with gold and were taller than she was. Stepping into the building, she took one of the large bows and lifted it off its rack, running experienced hands along it.
“These are beautiful. ” She said in awe. “In my home we don’t pay as much attention to detail. Everything was about range and power, not about the art of the bow itself.”
“Yes, those are the regular bows for the guard regiment,” said the March Warden, who had followed her in.
“Indeed?” she said, putting the bow back to its place. She walked further in. There were other bows as well, several shorter recurved ones that had dark finish that was almost black. They were smaller versions of the big recurved bows, and the leaf pattern on them was the same, only it was silver.
Eliana lifted one into her hands. The wood it was made of was unlike any she had ever seen; lighter than the other bows, yet durable and flexible. It was the exact weight that she looked for in a bow. She traced gentle fingers over a silvery leaf pattern.
“I never seen a bow like this before,” she said to Haldir. “What is the wood it is made of?”
Haldir took the bow and looked at it for a moment. “This is mallorn wood. Excellent bow wood; it is very strong and easy to work with. You might like this one.” He said with a thoughtful grin.
“Yes, this one is good.” Eliana told him as she strung it, her experience showing in the professional way she handled the bow. “Arrows?” She queried. Haldir handed her a full quiver. “Hmm.” Eliana mused for a moment, wondering if she had forgotten anything. “Arm guards. I don’t want to be caught without those, especially since my gloves aren’t with me.”
“I am not sure that we have any your size, Lady Eliana.” Haldir told her as he looked over a shelf of them. He selected the smallest size. “But these may do.”
“Good enough thank you,” Ellie said, taking them with a grateful smile. “Alright, let’s go.” She walked out into the bright sunshine once more, and saw Legolas waiting for her.
“Are you ready?” He asked, smiling at her, admiring the graceful way she handled the bow, she was truly a person who knew her craft.
“As well as I may be,” she told him, setting down the quiver and propping her bow against one of her light shoes as she slid the guards on her arms. They were made of leather, dyed or tanned to take on the hue of the trees that surrounded the clearing. The tops tapered down her hands with a gentle peak. “One moment,” she said, fumbling for a second with the ties, and wondering how Velcro had not been invented yet.
Legolas’ hands came into her view, gently doing the laces on her left guard for her. Eliana looked up into his smiling face, and timidly grinned in return, blushing at his attractive features being so near to her own.
“I’ll lace these for you, it’s easier.” He said, kind hands barely brushing her arm as she stood still, allowing him to tie the cord on her other guard.
“Thank you.” She told him, hands trembling as she picked up her bow and accepted the quiver from Rumil, who handed it to her. “Now then. What is the range on this?” she asked Haldir, indicating the bow.
He pointed to one of the targets in the wood, about 75 yards out. “That one is well within range. You would be surprised how powerful this bow is.” He said, sounding rather unconvinced, like he did not believe she would be able to accomplish what she intended to do.
“Alright. I do hope I’m not too out of practice.” She said, grinning shyly at her audience as she flicked her long brown hair over her shoulder, letting it fall in soft waves down her back as she opened the gate to the other side of the fence.
Eliana set her stance firmly; first making sure the sleeves of her gown would not hinder the bowstring or the arrows. She selected a white fletched arrow from the quiver at her side, set it onto the string, and drew it back to her ear with long practiced ease. Her side muscles gave a sharp twinge in protest to the motion, but she ignored it. Sighting the target, she aimed for the mark and released the string. The string sang as the arrow flew to the target it landed dead center, quivering.
She drew another arrow, set it to the string and released it, grinning as it split her first arrow down the middle. I still have my aim, she thought happily. Ignoring the throbbing ache from her left side that was slowly spreading across her waist; she pounded four more arrows in the target, hands moving faster than eyes could watch, each arrow splitting another in the center of the board. Ellie paused for a moment, surveying her work, and with a pleased smile turned to Legolas, Rumil and Haldir, who had been watching her.
“Well?” she asked, slightly breathless as she looked expectantly to Legolas, innocent eyes waiting for his comment. “You said you wanted to see my skill. This is a bit of it.”
Legolas remained silent, his face expressionless. He walked through the gate in the fence and over to the target. Eliana followed with Haldir and Rumil, who too remained speechless. Legolas stopped in front of her mark, and looked at the arrows. Most were embedded so deep Eliana was afraid that they would have to be cut loose.
“Oh,” she said, now rather worried. “I seem to have ruined a few of your arrows, Haldir.”
“It is no matter.” He replied, gazing at her with astonished respect on his face.
“How did I do?” She asked Legolas, grinning timidly.
Legolas drew back, and gazed at her, eyes showing a mix of respect, awe, and another deep emotion that Eliana couldn’t place.
“Well, Eliana.” He told her, smiling broadly. He was awed at her work of seconds. “I myself could not have done better, even if I was `out of practice’ as you claim to be.” He narrowed his brilliantly blue eyes in playful jest. “If you have more skill than this, I shall have to watch myself.” They began to walk back to the main clearing, sun filtering through the golden leaves of the trees.
Eliana smiled in delight at the compliment, but her side and waist were suddenly aching painfully, and she stumbled a bit on the brush as she closed her eyes to try and forget about the pain for a moment.
“Although a bit of well-meant competition would not do any harm,” Legolas added, putting a friendly arm about her shoulders to catch her as she laughed pleasantly.
“I shall have to see your skill someday, you know.” Ellie said, silently asking herself if she had overworked after all. She was not, however, prepared to stop just yet. She had the feel of a bow again, and wanted to shoot some more. “Might I be permitted to try one of the other bows now?” she asked Haldir, who had been exchanging a wide-eyed smirk with Rumil.
“Of course my lady,” he told her, lightly stepping to the bow-housing to go and retrieve her request.
Eliana stopped and waited for his return. Why was her side hurting so much? She wondered. Such a normal exercise for her should not have caused any pain. She noticed that Legolas was watching her, seeming worried, and she looked to him, managing a smile.
“Are you all right?” he asked gently.
“Yes, my side muscles are just tight, that is all.” She murmured, avoiding his eyes as she massaged her side, feeling the bandages underneath the cloth of her gown. For a moment she thought that the wrapping was damp, as with blood, but she dismissed the thought; after all, was not the wound nearly fully healed?
Haldir had returned, and handed her the great bow he carried. All thought of injury was driven from Eliana’s mind as she accepted the weapon with reverent hands. Carefully stepping away from the others, she walked though the small gate in the fence and set herself to put yet another arrow to the string.
Legolas admired Eliana’s technique and respect for her craft, not to mention simply her as well. He watched her as she aimed at the target with her star bright eyes, and sweetly smile as the string of the great bow sang when she released it, and the arrow landed in the center of her target once again. She seemed to take delight in the simple pleasure of being out of her room at last, and being able to enjoy herself in the sunshine. Legolas discovered that he enjoyed just watching her by herself, and he appreciated the person that she was.
Eliana had put nearly a dozen arrows into the target when the ache on her side became too painful for her to ignore any longer. Turning back to the others who had been watching her, she walked back towards them, the bow she held sagging in her grasp.
“Eliana? Eliana? What happened?” Legolas saw her wavering in her steps, as she swung the gateway forward. For a moment her eyes seemed bereft of the light that usually lit them. Her bow slipped from her numb hands and fell with a dull thud to the green grass in the clearing. She murmured something about poison, and dropped to the ground.
Eliana could feel the dark hold of something foul and agonizing, spreading from the nearly healed wound on her side. A small part of her awareness told her that she was poisoned. She could feel herself faltering as she came to the others, but it was not long before she felt the cruel blackness fill her eyes and mind.
* I’ll try to put links to my other chapters in the next one…