Legolas and the Olóre Mallë Part One – Early Adventures #3 – by Chathol-linn© July 23, 2002
The Olóre Mallë adventure explores the Elvish phenomena of memory, prophecy and dreams, and their importance to Legolas, one of the nine people chosen to help save the world. It has 3 parts, all completed. Scenes in this first episode are “Strange Paths” and “Ale by the Fire.” The second episode has the scene “I Will Drink Your Blood from the Goblet of Your Heart.” The third episode has the scenes “The Olóre Mallë” and “Zolog the Orc.”
As always, I am borrowing the characters of JRR Tolkien whose work I love and respect, and I promise to return them unharmed. Copyright of all quoted material is retained by the author. All quotations from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien or Christopher Tolkien are copyrights of their Publishers and the Tolkien Estate. The rest is mine. Please feel free to print this story. © – Chathol-linn
“—he could sleep, if sleep it could be called by Men, resting his mind in the strange paths of elvish dreams, even as he walked open-eyed in the light of this world.” – The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien, “The Two Towers,” Book III, “The Riders of Rohan.”
Now they say that Elves live in the Seen and Unseen Worlds at once, and it is true. They visit the Unseen World during their enigmatic waking repose. Their hunches are informed by flashes of clairvoyance. In Legolas this talent was highly developed. Those who ignored his counsel did so in peril. Elves can touch the unguarded thoughts of others nearby to them. From the moment of birth and maybe before, they feel a unity with Eä that only the greatest Mortal mystics achieve. If Legolas wished he could travel to Lothlorien and look upon the face of Galadriel who had communed with the living Valar in the Blessed Realm.
Prescient, psychic, mystic, were Legolas and all his people. But he had never seen a vision with his waking eyes until the day this story takes place.
Twelve months and six passed since the Lothlorien guests departed on their return journey, Each day thereafter Legolas went to the training field or the practice floor in the armory and practiced swordplay with the Weaponsmistress Chathol-linn or her captain Tûr. He practiced with two swords: one long, one short. On his first day Blade-singer asked whether he had a preference of bladed weapon.
“Sword,” he told her.
“You can use both your left and right hand,” she noted. “With such balance you might like knives better. Watch.”
They were in the armory, standing barefoot on the springwood practice floor. In one corner several ropes hung suspended from the ceiling. Blade-singer took a longsword and a shortsword in her hands. She rose on the ball of one foot, propelled herself upward while pivoting on the ball of that foot – like a tumbler – and slashed at one of the ropes. Two pieces fell to the floor, sliced during her pirouette, once by the longsword and once by the shortsword. Then she unsheathed two of the four knives she wore at her waist – her long fighting knives. Once again she rose in the air, spinning off the ball of her foot as she rotated, and this time four pieces of rope fell to the floor. She had spun twice.
“The two knives are sharper and lighter,” Blade-singer explained, “More precise because they are in balance.”
“I will take the swords,” said Legolas. “Between a swordfight and a knife fight, the sword wins every time.”
“Very well,” said Blade-singer, smiling. To Tûr: “Start him with the longsword in his left hand.”
To Legolas: “It is a great advantage to be able to use both hands equally. We will develop that talent.”
So he practiced, sometimes with Tûr, sometimes with the Blade-singer. During the early stages he often left the practice field with red marks or blue bruises from the flat sticks of the trainers – he who had made it to the age of blade training without being beaten by his elders (unlike his father, mother, and sister). The trainers cared about perfect form. They showed him, they told, and then they used their sticks. When this happened he sighed, worked harder, and did not depart from his calm adjustment to life. Apart from his dexterity he showed neither great skill nor any lack and he was content with his progress.
One sunny autumn day with the air as crisp as apples, Legolas and the Bowmaster went hunting. Legolas loved these archery sessions the more because they had grown few and would grow fewer still. Today the practice involved a mounted archer, moving small target, bright sunlight, still air, broken cover, joined bow, single arrow. They rode Mortal-fashion.
The sun beat down upon the weedy fields between the southeast side of Thranduil’s hall and the Forest River where trees are thin and the marshes not yet bothersome. Berendil rode Legolas’s horse Golden and Legolas rode Berendil’s war horse Alagos (Windstorm). The target was a brown hare, dashing for the thickets.
On Berendil’s instruction, Legolas rose in the stirrups, torso muscles knit against Alagos’s motion. He bent his bow, sighting through the haze of sun, pollen, dust, mites and motes that he knew from every day of his life in the Greenwood. Sunbeams caught the motes like sheets of fine flaxen weave. The air itself had a gauzy, flaxen look.
Legolas thought the sun became very bright. Or else some trick of light caused the air to fill with transparent ribbons of muted colors – gold, green, silver. The air-ribbons rippled and danced before Legolas as if in a wind but the air was still. Some were like rain-sheets of light, tall as trees and long as leagues, reaching all the way past the Lonely Mountain some fifteen leagues away. Some of the light-ribbons were small as scarves in shape and size. And some stretched like string directly from Legolas’s bow to the running brown hare. These were outlined with flashing blue-white arrowheads.
Legolas’s mind said, >That one, < and he loosed his arrow. It sped along the chosen line. A second later the hare lay dead, an arrow through its head. Huntress would have applauded.
Legolas shook his head in wonder and the sheets of light vanished. The weedy grass was ordinary. The light was ordinary sunlight. Dust was dust, and not part of any ribbon. The sun beat down on his head.
Berendil galloped up on Golden. If he had caught any of the experience from Legolas’s mind he did not tell it. But his look contained speculation.
“A good shot,” he said. “We are near the field where the juniper bushes grow. Does the cook need a crow for the stockpot?”
“Always,” said Legolas, who knew because he had once spent a week as scullery boy in the kitchens, in penalty for a certain unlucky experiment involving liquid bread, about which, more later.
Berendil said, “A hawk and a crow are almost overhead. Get the crow.” Legolas’s one glance skyward showed him the hawk and the crow as clearly as the bow in his hand. A ribbon of lighted arrows appeared before his waking eyes and stretched to the crow. Elated, Legolas realized he did not need a second look. He thought >There, < and loosed an arrow over his shoulder. The crow fell to earth several seconds later.
This time, the ripples of light did not dissolve into dusty air. The sun went dark. The ribbons changed into stars and then winked out. Legolas saw a shape, a vast magnificent face, eclipse the stars and cover the sky. Never had Legolas seen a more kindly face. It was the face of an agéd Man if Legolas was any judge, with long grey hair and a grey beard. He had eyes like blue lakes. They twinkled with merriment. The lips smiled. Legolas smiled back.
“Good hunting, Legolas,” said the vision. His words could have been thunder or mind speech or both; Legolas knew not. “You will find good counsel in a foretelling, but to glimpse the future you must first see the past. The Olóre Mallë awaits you. Farewell!” The face dimmed and vanished.
Legolas remembered to breathe. Had he been less a horseman he would have tumbled off Alagos.
“How did you hit the crow without aiming?” asked Berendil.
For a moment Legolas regarded Berendil as if he were the vision and the agéd Man, the Seen World. Then he said, “I guided the arrow with my mind’s eye.” He told of the sight-lines of fiery arrowheads leading to the target. “And then, I saw…something else. An old Man. He said I would find a foretelling on the Path of Dreams – he called it the Olóre Mallë. That is Quenya. Have you seen anything like this, Berendil?”
Berendil said, “No. You have had a vision. I know of another archer who saw such things once but it is not I.” He turned Golden around, then stopped. “When I was a lad in Hollin our Loremaster said the waking visions came to Elves selected for some – – special destiny. The first vision, he said, signifies a greater prophecy to come. It always manifests itself through – – that person’s greatest talent.”
“Do you mean all the archery lessons and practice were for nothing? I could have waited for the vision?”
“No,” said Berendil. “You were born with your talent and you developed it through hard work. The vision is an effect and not the cause of your skill. If, ah, destiny selected you and you were a harpist, your vision would have something to do with harps. Do you understand?”
“No. Many Elves shoot well with the bow. I am not selected for any special destiny. I will live here in the Greenwood, be envoy and soldier for the realm, add my share to the lore books, find a love, and someday maybe seek the havens. That is all I want. I have no wish to see waking visions.”
“If your waking eyes never see them again, your mind’s eye will. I think you will never miss. Do you recall the Lay of Leithian and the archers of Nargothrond whose arrows never fail? Your place is with them.” He added, “Thranduil said your prowess would serve a high purpose some day. Now I think he spoke with the Sight. Will you follow the prompting of the vision and seek the foretelling?”
Legolas said, “I do not want to know the future, and I never felt less like repose. Yet of course I am curious as to the meaning. Perhaps Elsila will give me her healer’s aide.” He collected the carcasses of the hare and crow and put them in the game bag. “Who is this other archer that saw visions?”
“Never mind. It is no one who will ever draw with you or against you.” Berendil added “Speaking of which, stay out of the competitions from now on. Else there will be no competition, except for second place.”
Legolas rode after Berendil. “I think you will never miss” he repeated to himself, his heart warmed by the praise. But he could not imagine the high purpose.
Returning from the hunt, Legolas delivered the hare and the crow to the cook’s apprentice. Then he went to the circular clearing by the stream. It was deserted in the late afternoon. He meant to enter repose and thus find the Path of Dreams. Instead he spent the next hour looking up at blue sky through golden beech boughs, resisting the urge to loose an arrow and look for visions.
He felt Elsila’s thought before he heard her soft footsteps. She entered the clearing.
“Berendil says you had a waking dream,” she said, aloud, sitting beside her son and pressing her bare feet into the grass. “Do you struggle to see more of it?”
“Yes. I will try to finish the vision on the Path of Dreams but I never felt less like repose. Can you aid me as a healer, Mother?”
“You do not need my herbs. So young, and yet I have never known an Elf more possessed of composure or balance than you. The beeches are more likely to topple! Use your own inner strength to seek this foretelling. Understand, Legolas, we experience the Path of Dreams as scenes of beauty and insight and these refresh our bodies and minds even while we function in the waking world. We sometimes find prophecies and other phenomena on the Path of Dreams but they are rare. Yet Berendil says your waking vision prompted you to seek such a foretelling. Our Loremaster in Hollin always said that such things indicated a special destiny. If so, then it will find you, will you or nil you. So relax.”
Legolas smiled. “Practical advice. I will do so. At first I was – unsettled – but now I long to know more.”
“Then I will leave you and return in a while to see how you fared on the Path of Dreams.”
No sooner had she departed than a memory came unbidden to his mind. It was a rich memory, a memory of a story; a story of Elves and Orc-fighting and Elsila’s healing skills. It began with a congenial company who gathered round Bessain’s fireplace, one autumn afternoon years ago.
*** Ale by the Fire ***
As youngsters Elwen and Legolas always knew it was better to ask forgiveness than permission. That and the inventiveness of their escapades provided Thranduil much exercise of his famed temper. One autumn day about the time Legolas began to learn archery from the Bowmaster, he and Elwen overheard Tûr, one of Blade-singer’s four captains, speak of ale as “liquid bread.” Interpreting the phrase literally, they designed a test of the truth of it. Sometimes the Elves left bread in the forest to keep animals away from gardens. So Legolas and Elwen left three large pails of liquid bread just outside the clearing across the stream, to see what would happen.
It was a happy hour for the three forest pigs that found the pails and drank them dry. By evening, wonderfully drunk, they found an apple tree where someone had picked and stored the fruit in a basket but neglected to bring it inside. With snorts of appreciation all around, the three pigs ate all the fruit (the last of the crop of Sweet Gold, Thranduil’s favorite) and some of the basket.
“I guess Tûr was wrong,” observed Legolas to Elwen. “Ale does not have the same effect on the stomach as bread.”
Thranduil’s wrath fell on Legolas and Elwen like a storm but did little to quell the hilarity of everyone else including Berendil and Huntress, to whom Thranduil sent the culprits at once. (Among the Sindar the aunts and uncles (or”near-kin,” i.e., godparents) are the disciplinarians, not the parents.) Berendil and Huntress saw the escapade as a healthy exercise of curiosity. They refused to set any penalty, until Thranduil, exasperated, demanded it. Berendil and Huntress stood before Thranduil, looked askance at him, said “Yours to command, Milord King,” bowed, and departed.
Berendil, bluff soldier but also skilled diplomat, said to Huntress, “What would entertain Elwen most?”
Huntress replied, “She would love to be in the stables when then grey mare foals. If not for her other duties I believe she would be there day and night.”
“You know he has never attended Captains’ Mess. The work is hard but he will not lack for entertainment.”
Shortly afterwards Berendil and Huntress announced the culprits’ sentences. They set Elwen to be a stable hand for a week and sent Legolas to the kitchens as scullery boy. At first Legolas and Elwen thought themselves unjustly penalized – parents are not supposed to overrule the discipline of the aunts and uncles. But life is not always fair, and anyway they soon found the penalties more fun than a party. Thus the aunts and uncles kept peace between the master of the house and the young adventurers.
But when Thranduil recovered his temper he suffered pangs of conscience at such harsh sentences. On the third day he gave in and went to see how Elwen fared at the stables. He found her happy. The Horsemaster thought the stars rose and set on Princess Elwen. She was in love with the new silver-grey colt Hithui (Misty), the horse of her dreams whom she had helped foal.
Cheered, Thranduil went next to see Legolas in the kitchens. They lay in the older part of his hall, set into the west side of the hill and fronted with two arched windows and an arched doorway. On either side Elsila and the cook maintained garden plots of herbs and flowers. The windows provided a breathtaking autumn view of yellow beeches and red maples against the wild green of the dark firs.
To this pleasant place came Thranduil and he got as far as the threshold before the cook barred his way. She stood in the doorway. She held her hand against his chest. She explained that one did not come directly from the stables to the kitchens of Bessain. She pointed to the green marble fountain amid the gardens, where the grape-carved basin caught the splashing waters. Ingenious hidden pipes carried the water from the stream to the basin and thence away to the gardens.
Thranduil drew himself up to his full height and informed the cook that, as king, he went where he pleased, and should she doubt it she could ask anyone at his court.
The cook drew herself up to her full height, which equaled Thranduil’s. She wore her yellow hair in two thick braids, one coiled neatly inside the other on the back of her head. This made her head appear smaller and her eyes larger. In fact she did not just look at you but rather transfixed you. She crossed her arms under her breasts now and transfixed Thranduil with her gaze.
She informed Thranduil that she set the state of kings of Elves at nothing compared to the state of her kitchens. Should he doubt it, she invited him to inquire of anyone at court regarding the truth of the matter, and meanwhile get him to the fountain if he wished to enter.
Thranduil, an accomplished strategist, knew how to pick his battles. He bowed, withdrew to the fountain and washed his hands. He went to the stream and laved his boots. He dusted himself from head to toe. This time Bessain admitted him.
Legolas, up to his elbows in scouring a greasy crock-pot, was impressed. He did not mind the kitchen work. Not only did he have all the bread and honey he wished; he had already learned an amazing amount of information from the cook and her large and motley band of admirers (of whom Legolas was now one). Among other revelations, he had not known that the Weaponsmistress and her captains used the kitchens as an informal officers’ club. Or that the Dwarf-king under the Misty Mountains was beholden to Bessain, through one Dwarf named Theall, for a remarkable favor. Or that the cook made Thranduil’s favorite dish, venison stew, with broth made from crows who had stuffed themselves with juniper berries.
Bessain said, “Legolas, Thranduil is here. You may stop and visit with your father.” She went to a tall stone jug in the corner farthest from the fireplace and drew a dipper of cool brown ale into a pottery mug. She gave it to Thranduil, got one for herself, and sat down beside him.
Legolas removed his white smock and dried his hands and arms on it. Then he went to his father who gave him a welcome squeeze of the shoulders and sat him down nearby.
“Why did you have the aunts and uncles punish us?” inquired Legolas. “We were not disobedient.”
“You are right and I was wrong, my son,” said Thranduil, “If you will forgive me this time I will not interfere with the aunts and uncles again. Bessain! Can you spare Legolas from his duties for a while?”
“He has worked hard and not complained. I will gladly give him a holiday. Legolas – fetch us another mug of ale and one for yourself and your chores are finished.” No sooner had Legolas complied than Huntress and Berendil came through the door.
“Ah, Thranduil! Came to see about Legolas, did you?” they said. “We had a wager with Bessain. And here you are, bested by your conscience and your cook.”
“By my captains also, it seems. And you are here because…?”
“Captain’s mess,” they explained and sat down at the table. It was a large trestle table common to many kitchens, but unlike other such tables in ordinary kitchens, it had separate wooden chairs and green linen cushions stuffed with duck down. A tall vase of queens-lace and goldenrod stood in the center, arranged by Elsila. In proof of the officers’ claim, the Weaponsmistress showed up next with her other two captains the brothers Tûr and Telien. Legolas fetched them mugs of ale and as he did so, Galadel the Minstrel arrived with his harp. No sooner had Legolas found him a mug than did Elsila the Queen appear at the door.
“Here is good company,” she said. “Legolas, a mug for me, please.” Then they all found seats and propped their feet comfortably on benches and trestles. Legolas’s guarded thought to Berendil was, if this were punishment, he would seek trouble at every chance.
The Weaponsmistress lifted her mug. “Let us salute bread-givers and bread,” she said, “and what kind of bread shall it be?”
“Liquid bread!” shouted everyone except Thranduil.
“Very well, Blade-singer,” he said with a laugh. “I accept defeat from one who never did. – I shall tell Legolas how you first came to our hall.”
Legolas filled a crockery pitcher with ale for the table, noticing the odd looks of his future war chief. She was the smallest of the adult Elves, maybe five feet eight inches at most. She cropped her hair short – no one else did. It hung around her head like a golden bowl, with her ear tips always poking through. She never wore house robes and rarely the hunting attire favored by most. She liked her practice clothes – a kind of wrapped and divided skirt of fawn skin that covered her from waist to thigh, and a cropped shirt. She often went barefoot, and Bessain permitted this in her kitchens. Her age and air of authority almost rivaled Elrond’s himself. She wore four blades even in Thranduil’s presence and it was no whim that he put his army in her keeping. She called the blue of her eyes “turquoise.” She said it was the color of the southern sea. Legolas had never seen the sea or anything like the liquid color of her eyes.
As the autumn wind shouted for admittance at the kitchen windows, Legolas forgot Blade-singer’s looks and gave his attention to Thranduil and his story.
CONTINUED IN “LEGOLAS AND THE OLÓRE MALLË PART TWO – EARLY ADVENTURES #4”
1. The Fellowship of the Ring, JRR Tolkien, Book Two, “Many Meetings” regarding Elves and the Seen and the Unseen worlds.
2. The Sindarin Dictionary, © The Sindarin dictionary project, 1999-2001, French law applies regarding intellectual property. https://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/gobeth.htm. Source of the words “Alagos” meaning “Windstorm,” “Hithui” meaning “Misty,” and “Bessain” meaning “Bread-giver.”
3. OLÓRIN AS VISIONARY GANDALF – “It is said that Olórin dwelt in Lórien in Valinor, and that, though he loved the Elves, he walked among them unseen … and they did not know whence came the fair visions or the promptings of wisdom that he put into their hearts. – Unfinished Tales, JRR Tolkien, “The Istari.”
4. The Lays of Beleriand, JRR Tolkien, The Lay of Leithian, Canto VI, Lines 1749 – 1752, re Nargothrond archers whose arrows never fail.
5. Elflocks – How Legolas Cured His Sister of Teasing, Chathol-linn, re Sindarin customs on the roles and authority of the aunts and uncles/godparents. https://www.theonering.com/docs/6599.html
6. Re Chathol-linn and her turquoise eyes – This is respectfully submitted to the fans of Mary Sue fanficts – a great genre. Thanks to KBrandybuck for helping me discover it. See discussions at the following URL. – the author. https://www.theonering.com/thewhitecouncil/messageview.cfm?catid=35&threadid=48114