FOR THE LOVE OF NIGHTINGALE
a Pre-LotR story
Unbeta’d so all mistakes are my own.
Pre-Reader: Tingilye, the brilliant fanfic writer of Sarlisse ,_,. Check it out, it’s wonderful!
Note: Check out the Foreword for more on the Characters .
Chapter 1: The Art of a Master
The Year 2641 of the Third Age.
HIS hands caressed the smooth silky finish of his intricately carved bow. Whoever had made this was truly gifted with bow-making. Legolas had had many bows before but none that quite fit him like this one had. It was like this bow had been made for him by someone that knew him intimately. But who was the maker? For he swore he did not know any elf in Mirkwood that had the talent to make a bow such as this.
It was not merely a weapon; it was a creation of artistry. And he was determined to meet this bow-maker, not only to commission another bow from the master but also to beg for a custom-made bow. While it was true that he did not have a bow that could rival this, if the master would make him a bow that was specially made for him— then he would truly have a bow that would make him the greatest archer the forest had ever seen.
Morion, his tutor in arms and combat, knew who the master bow-maker was but he refused to tell him the name. Instead, he had tempted him to come early in the morning to watch him and the master bow-maker parry with swords. Given no choice, Legolas had come as requested at the break of dawn. Why his teacher had refused to tell him the name, he did not know.
Breaking through the thick foliage that shrouded the practice arena that Morion favored in training his students, Legolas lithely made his way to where he began to hear the clanging noise of swords clashing together. As he moved closer, he could hear the sweet music of swords slicing through the air. When he finally drew into the range where he could witness the swordplay, he had to marvel at the skill of the two elves.
The way they exchanged blows and blocks was poetry. When Morion would deliver a punishing blow that Legolas was sure would disarm the master bow-maker, the rival would either lightly sidestep or lift the sword in hand to block. From the speed of which the two combatants moved, Legolas was unable to get a clear image of what the master bow-maker looked like. All he could tell was that the bow-maker had to be a relative of some sort to Morion because of the dark hair, but that was impossible… Morion was the last of his line.
There were not that many dark-headed elves, and most were related some way or another to Lúthien’s family. The master bow-maker had to descend from that line. Interesting, he had never known any skilled weaponsmith to come from that line of elves. While it was not unheard of for an elf to take up a different skill than its bloodline usually suggested, it was quite rare. Most of the odd gifts that popped up in the line unexpectedly had been in the bloodline at random times, never out of nowhere.
As skilled as the bow artisan was, Morion was far superior in strength and skill. But the balance between them was maintained because his rival had a lightness of step that Legolas had never quite seen to this degree. However, it was only a matter of time before Morion would have the other at his mercy. It was nothing to be ashamed of, Legolas could barely hold his own against Morion, despite having been trained since he was strong enough to wield a weapon the art of warfare.
It was different with the way Morion had been taught the arms of war. It did not hurt that Morion had learned his skills underneath Vorondil Ostovarno, that line of elves were known for their warriors even as Morion’s line was more known for its healers. As strange as it was for Morion to be a warrior instead of a healer, he had been raised and trained for the past two thousand years by Vorondil.
Legolas was drawn from his thoughts when with a swift movement, Morion’s blade rested against the other elf’s throat. “I best you once again, cousin,” Morion declared. He normally would let their sparring continue, but he had heard the Prince’s arrival and did not wish to delay the meeting between Legolas and his cousin. “You spend far too much time at carving in your flit or casting a sword in the forge when you ought to spend some time working on your swordsmanship.”
“No matter what I do,” came the soft reply, “you know I will never best you in arms.”
Morion smirked and slide his sword back into the scabbard belted to his side and gestured for his morning partner to glance in the direction of their audience. “You never know, one day— perhaps,” he murmured. “But come now, I must introduce you to an avid admirer of the bows you make.”
“Indeed,” Legolas remarked from where he stood almost shrouded in foliage, “I am much an admirer of your bow-making skills.”
He inclined his head, his eyes meeting eyes that were as brilliantly green as his were blue. The face that held those emerald orbs was quite beautiful, nothing compared to Arwen Undómiel but still beautiful nonetheless. Strangely, despite the masculine garb and braids— he did not think the elf standing before him was male.
There was a distinct feminine quality. Maybe it was in the soft lines of the pretty face, which was no where near as beautiful as the Evenstar or his teacher, Lórawen. Yes, Lórawen, that was who this elf reminded him of. That was why he did not think the elf could be male— not when there was quite a bit of similarity between the elf and his teacher. The facial structure were similar, though the elf before him was paler and less vibrantly confident as Lórawen was. Lórawen was the only elf that held a shadow of his mother’s beauty in Mirkwood.
“I am Legolas,” he introduced himself, “and I’m pleased to meet the acquaintance of such a talented master.”
There was silence and confusion that marred the exquisite beauty of the bright green eyes. Had he said something amiss? He did not think so, but there was a chance he could have. There was still so much that he did not know, still so much that he had to learn. At least that was what his old mentor, Lórawen kept reminding. Lórawen was not the only one, Legolas thought with an inner grimace, his father was quite adamant as well.
“I apologize,” Morion spoke slowly and clearly as his cousin’s eyes fixated on his lips. “I forgot to inform you that my cousin cannot hear the spoken words. Allow me to introduce you to Eleniel Lómelindë, the daughter of Lórawen Morelen. You must speak slowly and be sure to not move your lips too rapidly as she reads lips. However, there is no need to exaggerate your lip movement. Talk normally, but with less speed.”
“Whom is this?” Eleniel inquired, her voice soft and a bit strange but pleasing in sound. The nuances were that of a voice that was unused to be spoken often and a bit too formal in pronunciation, but sweet nevertheless. “Morion?”
“Would you like to introduce yourself again?” Morion asked. “Or would you rather me…?”
“I will do it,” Legolas answered abruptly. Morion smiled, not the least bit upset that the Prince had interrupted him. Instead, his hand gently touched Eleniel’s cheek and moved her face to where she could see Legolas’s lips easily. “I am Legolas,” he enunciated clearly, “and I thank you for making this bow for me.” His fingers lightly traced the detailed carvings. “You are very gifted and I am pleased to make the acquaintance of a master.”
She nodded serenely. “It was an honor to make your bow for you, Prince Legolas.”
“It was an honor for me to receive such a bow,” he insisted. “I came here, not only to meet a master but also to…” her eyes shifted for a moment to his eyes before sliding back down to his lips, “ask if you might custom make me another bow when you have the time?”
“When would you like it?”
“When do you have time?”
A small smile graced her lips, making her not seem quite as pale and sallow as she had been but a moment before. “I always have time, Prince Legolas. The question is when do you have time?”
He nodded, thinking about when he had a free moment in his hectic royal schedule. Tomorrow morning, he did not really have anything that was going on. He did not know how long it would take her to make his bow, but he knew it was going to take a goodly amount of time. He would like to have the bow ready before he went to Imladris to continue to further his mastery of archery from the brilliant Glorfindel. “Tomorrow morning, then?”
“Tomorrow morning,” she agreed. “At dawn?”
“At dawn,” he echoed.
She tilted her head respectfully and with a swift silence left him and his mentor there alone. It was not until she was out of sight that Legolas realized that he had been staring after where she had disappeared to until Morion remarked, “Was it a surprise?”
Legolas knew what he was asking— was it a shock to realize that she was deaf. “Unusual,” he commented, “more than surprising. I have never met an elf with a physical impairment.”
“She was not born that way,” Morion stated. “There was an accident when she was very young. She does not even recall a time when she could hear sounds. In a way it is good,” he murmured, “because she has no sense of loss.”
That made sense. “I did not know she was Lórawen’s daughter.”
“Lórawen has hardly been a mother to her,” he responded flatly.
“She is a good teacher,” Legolas protested, “and a great healer.”
“She did not heal her daughter. She could not.” Morion sighed with weariness. “I think that is why she left Elen here. She could not bear to be reminded of her failure. Even when Elen was sent back to the Citadel—“
“She was sent back?”
Morion nodded his head and confirmed, “Yes, about three hundred years ago she lived in the Citadel with Lórawen.”
“Then… why is it that I never saw her?”
“She never went to the Halls, instead she lived in seclusion on Lórawen’s private grounds,” he answered. “I think her mother is ashamed of her daughter because Elen lacks the gift of healing. You know the bloodline gifts pass more strongly mother to daughter and father to son than from either father to daughter or mother to son. You have your father’s gift of leadership and courage. In Elen’s case, it was different. She inherited almost everything of who she is from Vorondil.”
“She is a skilled with the sword.”
“Yes, she is. She is far better forging weaponry than wielding them,” Morion admitted. “I do not know what I would do on the frontlines without her gift. You have felt the balance and perfection of what she makes. To have a weapon that is more than a thing to defeat the enemy, that is an extension of your own body gives hope and assurance… a confidence.”
Yes, Legolas certainly understood the added confidence. There was something that felt right when holding a weapon that did not seem like a burden to have in hand but instead like an extension of being. “It is like she understands what is needed. Something that is light yet strong, sleek yet sharp.”
“She should. She is not only a talented weaponsmith, but also an adequate warrior despite her deafness. Unlike most weaponsmith, she intimately understands the usage of each weapon she makes. She will not forge a weapon she has no experience with.”
“I did not know that.”
“There is much you do not know of her,” Morion declared with a smile. “But you will learn more of her the more time you spend at the outer defenses. You are setting some time aside to ride with the Guardians, are you not?”
“Indeed, I am before I leave for Imladris,” Legolas responded, grinning. “The more time I spend, the more likely I can get that bow from her.”
“You will not have a problem getting your bow, Legolas. All you have to do is ask.” At Legolas’s inquiring look, Morion went ahead and explained, “Elen will make a weapon for anyone that she deems worthy, and she has already deemed you worthy.”
“How?” Legolas queried.
Morion chuckled lightly. “You did best both Elladan and Elrohir Peredhil of Imladris in a very public archery contest. Like most Mirkwood elves, she was in attendance that afternoon. You duly impressed her.”
Carefully considering his mentor’s words, Legolas had to ask, “Your cousin, Eleniel, must be a good archer, then?”
“She is decent.”
“I know what decent means to you,” he commented with dryness. “You do have the propensity for understating talent.”
“The bow is not her best weapon,” Morion clarified. “She wields the twin elven knifes with the most skill. I believe it is because they are lighter and if you did not notice from our session this morn, her greatest advantage as a fighter is her remarkable speed.”
“She moves like the wind.”
“She falters though in attacking,” he whispered. “She is very good at defense, but the offense is her weakness. She does not like to hurt others. It is the healer blood in her that is mixed with the warrior in her. She has always wanted to fight, but she cannot hurt. It is that with her physical handicap that makes it impossible for her to take up her birthright.”
“As Lórawen’s daughter?”
“And as Vorondil’s daughter.”
IT was only midday when Legolas arrived back at the Halls of the Citadel where he found his teacher, Lórawen, waiting for him. She, as always, was a vision of beauty clothed in a pale cream gown that highlighted her dark looks. It was hard to understand Morion’s bitter words about his Aunt, for Lórawen had been like a second mother to him after his own mother had taken a ship to Valinor.
“Good morning,” she greeted him. “I trust your request with my nephew, Morion went well?”
He nodded. “It went well. But I… did not know that you had a daughter that was such a talented bow-maker.”
“She stays mostly with her father and now with Morion.”
“I heard that she lived with you for a time around three hundred years ago.”
“She preferred to stay in my private gardens,” Lórawen responded. “She kept herself busy. I believe she got Vanwemírë to teach her how to set jewels into her weapons. Vanwemírë has told me that Elen even started to learn the jewel-smith craft. I do not know if she pursued it.”
“Vanwemírë is quite the jewel-smith.”
“She did reside with Celebrimbor’s people in the Second Age to learn the craft.”
“And she does not teach anyone,” he pointed out. “Your daughter must be gifted.”
Lórawen inclined her head. “Perhaps,” she murmured, her hand motioning to the desk that she had set up for him in the center of the room with several thick tomes on it. “There is much to do in preparations if you wish to depart for a few months to Imladris. I will not allow you to get behind, Legolas.”
“I understand, Lórawen.”
“Those are the new texts that you should endeavor to read before hurrying off to Glorfindel.” Legolas’s eyes strayed to the quite tall stack. A few thousand pages he surmised. It was a blessing elves did not require much sleep. His nights would certainly be busy. “Now how are the readings on the history of Doriath coming along?”
“I am nearly done.”
“Hopefully you will finish soon,” she stated, “but until then, close your eyes Legolas and breath deeply.” He did what she said, knowing that meditation was a good release from tension and stress. “Have you had any dreams lately?”
“No, I have not been sleeping much.”
“Been busy with your readings?”
“Slow steady breaths,” she reminded him. “Reading what?”
“Of Doriath and the Rings of Power.”
“The Elven Rings of Power?”
“Yes,” he answered. “Narya, Nenya, and Vilya.”
The meditation was a method for her to quiz him in a relaxed state all the knowledge that he needed to know as a royal elf about Arda. Sometimes, they delved into personal aspects of life at the Mirkwood Halls, but more often than naught the questions moved onward to theories about historical events of the past— and how they might have been done differently for a better result. It stimulated his mind and hers.
“Why did you leave your daughter?” Legolas asked. While it was not unusual for him to ask her a question, it was strange of him to inquire something directly aimed at her. “Why did you not take her with you to the Halls when you came?”
“Because,” Lórawen responded softly, “she is her father’s daughter.”
THE fire was roaring in the hearth as Eleniel removed a small bejeweled dagger that she was working on for one of the Guardians. It was a beautiful piece, not terribly ornate but more decorated than her weapons had been before she had come under the instruction of Vanwemírë. Morion carefully rested his hand on her shoulder and tightened his grip as she jerked in surprise. It was hard to get her attention without startling as her eyes were focused intently on her work.
When she relaxed, realizing who it was, Morion shifted her around until they were standing face to face and she could see his lips clearly. He also took her free hand and rested it against his throat in case the dim light made it hard for her to see his lip movement. Feeling how long the syllables of his words were gave her a better clue on what he was saying to her. He waited until she pinched him to say that she was ready to listen to him.
“You did well this morning.”
She smiled. “You are still the best swords-elf.”
“You are a fine warrior for an elf maiden, when maidens are suppose to sit in their flits and be pretty ladies,” Morion teased. “Then again, you never quite do what is expected for a proper elf maiden, do you, Elen? At least jewel-making is not something you are making the standard for.”
“Keep protesting,” she murmured, “and you will not get your new sword anytime soon.”
“That is cruel, Elen.”
“Well, I do have a request to make a custom bow from the Prince of Mirkwood.”
His hands went down and rested on her stomach. Her eyes left his lips down to where his hands were so she missed when he said, “But my request was first, you impetuous elf!”
She knew what was coming and she was trying to wiggle out of his grasp, but she had no success and soon her laughter was ringing through the air as he tickled her without mercy. Even though he knew she could not hear him, it felt right to exclaim, “I will have my sword before that Prince of Mirkwood!”
It was not long before they were rolling around on the ground gasping for air. When Eleniel was too tired to try to struggle anymore, Morion hugged her tightly and pressed a kiss on her forehead. He pulled back and waited until her eyes were staring at his lips before he said, “Will you join me this afternoon to train the novice Guardians?”
“In what?” she questioned.
“In the art of the elven twin knives, of course.”
“You have been known to manipulate me into teaching archery.”
He shrugged. “You have more patience than I do.”
She pinched his arm. “You have patience when you care to have it.”
“Only with you.”
“Not only with me,” she protested, pushing him off of her, “you have it with others too. It is just the bow is not your weapon of choice. You are much fonder of the sword, are you not? That is mostly why.”
“True,” he granted, chuckling. “You know me too well.”
“As you know me.”
“I will see you at noon break.”
“I will be waiting, cousin,” she promised, leaning up to kiss his cheek. “Good-bye.”
Author’s Note: If you like this, you’ll probably like my other major LotR work… “In Times Like These” which is about a mute elf called Anaire. The pairing is somewhat different, Haldir x OC rather than the typical Legolas x OC. While this story is a romance, it’s not the typical oh Legolas is so bloody gorgeous, elf maiden falling head over heels OR Legolas go ga-ga over a spectacularly beautiful maiden either. Obviously, Eleniel’s pretty (all elves seem to be pretty darn attractive) but she’s not that unusual except for her dark looks and her vivid green eyes. If she stood in the presence of her mother, she’d maybe merit a glance. If she stood in the presence of Arwen Undómiel, she’d be an unnoticed shadow. Pretty is as pretty does.
Thanks to Cr@z3yM0nk3y, Jen Littlebottom (thanks for the corrections), sweetazzhoney, AzureDragoness, Iluvien (faithful reader, I <3 you), Marpessa (realized, corrected).
Contact me: (AIM) sevviepooh or (MSN) wan_mei_zhu_yi @ hotmail.com
Review it if you like it and you might see more of it. (Basically, I’ll be writing on demand. If people like it, I’ll write more if not I won’t. Ain’t that clear? And I heavily appreciate reviews that tell me what they like and what they don’t like so I can try to be a better writer, not only for you but for myself too.)