Legolas and the Olórë Mallë Part Three – Early Adventures #5 – by Blade-singer© August 6, 2002
The Olórë Mallë adventure explores the Elvish phenomena of memory, prophecy and dreams, and their importance to Legolas, one of the nine people who will help save the world. It has 3 parts, all completed. This third episode has the scenes “The Olórë Mallë” and “Zalog 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. © – Blade-singer
CONTINUED FROM LEGOLAS AND THE OLÓRË MALLË PART TWO
*** Olórë Mallë ***
Now they say that Elves do not sleep as Mortals do and that is true. They refresh themselves another way, on the strange paths of Elvish dreams. Little is told of those strange paths, and still less of what the Elves actually do there, until now.
Legolas beheld he was not in the clearing by the stream. The sky above was not blue but the deep violet of twilight. In it burned silver stars the likes of which only Elvish eyes will ever see. The water music that he heard was not the Forest River but the soft plash of the Waters of Cuiviénen. Legolas understood he was again at the Awakening, long before the lighting of the Sun and Moon. Here was where he came in repose, blending the waking world around him with his clear imaginings, finding the paths of Elvish dreams. The waking world was still there; he could see it plainly, close by. But it was not east or west or up or down – it was “outer” – a direction that Legolas could not explain except to other Elves, who already know.
Always before Legolas took his rest by watching the play of stars as they danced or acted out the stories for which they were named. But this time he got up from the knoll. He saw he was with Elves, the Quendi, his ancient tribe and kin. He looked skyward with them and together they whispered, “Lo! The Stars!”
After a time Legolas heard the great horn of Oromë the Hunter, whom he loved. It was time to go. He followed a gleaming path that left the waters and rose to a high tor. When he reached the top his power of vision grew beyond waking ability, and he saw the Olórë Mallë.
It was a path the color of ethereal pearls and it ran to the ends of Middle-earth. Sometimes it broadened into a highway. It ran through valleys and over mountains, It ran past clusters of lights that were settlements. It twisted and looped, winding sometimes north and sometimes south, but always West, like the meanderings of a river to the sea. Legolas saw one loop touch the Golden Wood and another, Rivendell with its gorgeous waterfalls and rocky crags. He saw a palace that he knew was a scriptorium, containing all the knowledge of the Elves, and maybe attended by Fëanor himself, let loose from the halls of Mandos. Here was a battle between Orcs and Dwarves, there a castle of Mortals with its town and taverns and market fairs. If Legolas wished to see closer, the path would instantly rush him to the place of his desires, for on the Olórë Mallë, time and space obeyed the will of the dreamer. And what enchantments there were to tempt the will! Legolas felt he could walk forever and never tire of the lands and allurements touched by the Olórë Mallë.
The path did not stop at the ends of Middle-earth. Beyond the Grey Havens it bridged the wide and desolate seas. And here the Olórë Mallë was at its most beautiful and mysterious. It did not curve but went straight to the West. Its floor could have been made of dream-ithildin and its rail of imaginary moonbeams. It rested upon arches of mist and the waves broke against them endlessly.
But even the Sundering Seas did not mark the end of the Olórë Mallë. At the utmost range of his dream-sight Legolas saw a warm and steady light. It was Tol Eressëa, where the pardoned Exiles now lived in peace with the Teleri and communed with the Valar. Finally the Olórë Mallë crossed the Bay of Eldamar and came to Calacirya, the Pass of Light that opens to a lane of whispering elms, past Elvish Tirion and thence to all of Valinor.
Legolas imagined himself traveling west, taking ship from the Havens and crossing the Sundering Seas. What would his friends on the shore see through their tears? The ship would not drop slowly over the horizon as Mortal ships do on the Bent Seas. No, the ship would dwindle to a point that finally vanished. Where did it go? How did it steer? By stars? The Path of Dreams?
Then Legolas suddenly grasped the true nature of the Olórë Mallë. Its physical counterpart was the blessed Straight Way in the Seen World that, for Ages, Elves had followed from Middle-earth to the Undying Lands. The Olórë Mallë was the Straight Way’s transcendent twin in the Unseen World. The two became one at the point where Elven-ships vanish from the physical world.
In wonder Legolas followed the gleaming path down from the tor. Two silent spirits joined him: Elsila his mother and Elwen his sister, carrying long naked swords. Elsila walked at Legolas’s left side and looked backward while Elwen walked on his right and looked forward. Soon he saw a flickering orange light. He followed the pearly path to the mouth of a cave. Two torches burned, one on either side of the opening. He ducked his head and went inside.
Until now this had been a quiet dream but there was a Mortal woman at a hearth who laughed and spoke. Legolas did not now if they used Elvish or a Mortal tongue but he understood her.
“Welcome, Legolas Greenleaf,” she said. “to the Path of Dreams. And as usual you come in company. It is one of your characteristics to go about with others.” The dream spirits of Elsila and Elwen entered behind him.
“What do you mean?”
“Well! Is it not so? All those times your father summoned you to his chamber – how often did you go alone? What adventures have you had with only yourself for company? No, Prince, only the most trivial of journeys have you made, shall you make, in solitary. It is your destiny to go about in company, whether you or the company will it or nil it.”
Legolas gestured to his mother and sister. “Thranduil is more skilled with the sword than Elsila, and more experience than Elwen. Why is he not here?”
“Your mother and sister have a fierce desire to protect you, of which the swords are a token. You need no defense here. Their spirits wish to be with you, that is all.”
She straightened up from the cauldron she was stirring and bowed. “I am the spirit of Saelon Andreth, the Wise-woman of the Edain,” she said. “I live not. The Lords of the West have sent me to tell you of your future, that you may better prepare for your role.”
Being possessed of an extraordinary equilibrium, Legolas did not quake at this extraordinary statement. He watched fascinated as Saelon Andreth took up a set of game cards. All the speaking peoples of Middle-earth used them for wagering and such except Orcs (no writing or picture survived long around Orcs). She had Legolas mix them and draw a card. He held it up; it showed the figure of a youth – it could have been lad or maid. The figure carried a walking staff and appeared set to step off a ledge, unwary. A small cat pawed the figure’s foot. Saelon Andreth said, “This is you, at the beginning of a journey. Draw another card.”
The next card showed a field of stars.
“This signifies many,” she said. “As I said, you will go about with others all your life. You must never refuse. But the time of the Elves will fade, has faded, and in your greatest adventure in Middle-earth you will not be leader. You will protect, counsel and fight for others. You will not be king.”
“Elwen will be king after Thranduil,” said Legolas. Saelon Andreth smiled a little, and did not answer.
Now Legolas was troubled by her words and looks, for everyone wishes to be first sometimes and for things to go as expected. But his sense of balance aided him and he listened again.
He drew another card. It showed two figures holding up two looking glasses, one to the other.
“This signifies infinity. For though you will not be chief, your fame will outlast the ages! You will be, are already known as the greatest archer of the Third Age. The world will know you also for the company you succor and for your warrior’s prowess, your struggles against the forces of the Dark Foe, and for your far-sightedness and your Elvish ability to endure great trials of hardship, and for your fair looks.
“Listen! A mighty bard will report your deeds in words, and another will show them in visions. Then in countless numbers lesser poets and minstrels will take up your tale. Finally the mightiest bard of all will recall you from Elvenhome, to the Battle at the End of Days. After that I cannot see your fate. Maybe you will be the Archer of the Skies. I see no end to your fame.” Now Legolas’s calm nature was of little avail. His heart clutched at these words.
At the next card she laughed. “Here is something! You will be wise in the ways of Dwarves! Whenever there is doubt on some Dwarvish question, the truth of the matter will be settled by `So said Legolas.'”
Legolas laughed too. It seemed impossible. “Well, Saelon Andreth, you have spoken of company and deeds and prowess and fame and Dwarves. What of love?”
“That is hidden from me. I know only that Arwen will not put the first crack in your heart, and Undómiel will one day be your friend.” Legolas was content with that.
“How do you like the Olórë Mallë, now that you have ventured from the Waters of Awakening?” asked the spirit of the Mortal.
“It is wonderful!”
“I was told to say, You may come here at will. If you are tired or hurt, there are wellsprings of healing here. There is one nearby – hear it laughing? You already know of the glade of repose by the Waters of Awakening. There are many other places to delight or instruct you. Look for Rivendell to learn of lore, and Lothlorien for insight into your struggles. On this road you may seek foretelling in caves of prophecy, if the Lords of the West will unfold it. And always you may journey in search of counsel and adventures. Who knows whom you will meet, or what you will see? The Olórë Mallë is otherworldly and holds wonders that I cannot perceive.”
“Thank you, Lady Saelon. But much of what you said I would have heard anyway from my folk. Is there more? What must I do now?”
“Two things, young Prince. First, be a Prince in all that you do. You will represent your kindred down the ages. Elrond himself will not be better known. So take care that your deeds are worthy: noble, kind, brave and true. You did not act the Prince with Arwen and Elwen.”
“Yes,” admitted Legolas. “It has worried me ever since. I placed them in danger with my mischief and then swore us all to silence when we crossed Thranduil’s borders in violation of the stated rule. I would gladly confess my transgression to Thranduil but then I would be foresworn.”
“Do not be foresworn! Hold unto your oath. Restore your balance some other way.”
“Study war, Prince. And I am bidden to give you your first lesson.”
Saelon Andreth raised her spirit hand over the fire. Flames shot up in a shower of sparks. A huge wind blew through the cave, pulling Legolas backward bodily in its powerful wake. He was falling through an unknowable blackness. The falling-fear gripped him for a moment. Then he thumped solidly into some place, a place more eerie than any he had ever known.
*** Zalog the Orc ***
Catastrophic. Hopeless. Rotten. Bad. The huge battle on the slopes of Mount Doom was lost. The Elves had joined with the Mortals and brought Lord Sauron down. One of the Mortals cut Sauron’s ring from His hand and the battle was over.
Zalog saw it all from behind his squadron where he commanded with whips. He saw the deluge of arrows from the Elven bows, carefully staged; the wild charge against Elven lines; the hand-to-hand butchery. Zalog saw the Advent of Sauron and the turn of the battle to His favor. Gil-Galad the Elf fell and Elendil King of Mortals died under the Hand of Sauron.
As Elendil lay dying, Zalog noticed a weapons station of the Alliance in a nearby trench. An Elven smith toiled there over a battlefield forge, mending swords and spears as quickly as he might. Zalog hated Elven smiths. He would kill this one. The smith popped up over the lip of the trench to grab a broken sword and Zalog got him through the throat with an arrow. There being no living soldiers around for the moment, Zalog scrambled over and found two bodies in the trench, the Elven smith and another – the apprentice. Near the bodies Zalog saw a pair of white-handled longknives. Some folk would have called them beautiful; Zalog called them stinking Elvish (Zalog never said or thought the word “Elvish” without prefixing it with “stinking”). Still Zalog wanted them. They could be valuable in hostage negotiations when shown to surviving comrades, or for sport with captives.
So Zalog grabbed the pair of knives and straight away several things happened.
They burned his palms worse than the branding he had received in the Orc-pits of Barad-Dur, but this burning didn’t stop.
Screaming, Zalog threw them with uncanny skill at two nameless Elf-soldiers. The knives buried themselves in their backs, from whence Elrond retrieved them later.
In the next second, Isildur Elendil’s son took up his father’s sword and defied Sauron as He stood over him.
“Lord Sauron!” Zalog yelled, seeing the next event as if prescient.
Then Isildur cut Sauron’s and from His body and The One Ring’s power left Sauron in an instant. The force of its passing knocked all armies to their knees and when they got up again, the Orcs were fleeing. Zalog fled among them, pain huge in his hands, already wondering how far to the north he could get. Dol Gulder? Gladden Fields, or even the mountains? Yes, Zalog thought. He would find a hiding place in the mountains and from there, gather followers and bide his time. And he would make the Elves and Mortals pay for the loss of his reason for living. Make them pay until they all lay dead of Orc arrows, or else they ended his life first.
Zalog dodged through the renewed battle – the Alliance soldiers were mopping up. He cursed the Elves and their white-handled longknives and he cursed the pain they caused him, but he embraced the anger of that pain. With Sauron gone he would need it, and he would use it well.
Legolas was astray. Wherever he was, a great press of hard and odorous bodies crowded him so closely he could hardly breathe. It was night and storming. They all seemed to be in the midst of a lot of trees. Indeed the trees were as thick as the beings around him, and much the same color – grey. When lightning flashed overhead. Legolas saw to his amazement he was in the middle of a host of Orcs, heavily armed.
Instinctively Legolas reached for his bow and arrows. They were not there. The arm that did the reaching was not his green-clad arm. It was an arm of grey and warty flesh sticking out of a raw deer hide tunic. Legolas could see little more. His keen eyesight was lessened and his body was too squat to see beyond the misshapen backs in front of him. He could feel, however, and what he felt all around was the presence of a spirit so steeped in anger and desolation and pain it was unspeakable. It was the antithesis of his own fëa.
And then Legolas realized he was not bodily in the crowd. He was a passenger in an Orc’s mind.
>O Elbereth, let this be a dream,Teach the stinking she-elves to cross my path! Let me up front and I’ll show them.<
A sheet of lightning lighted the night. Orc-Legolas glimpsed a structure up ahead with walls and torches. The Orc shouted words Legolas recognized as Westron,, “Out of my way now, rot you!” But the Orcs were packed too tightly to allow much movement.
From the front of the army a message came back, word-of-mouth: “The lights ahead are the hall of the Elf-king! His archers will be upon us!”
“Are the she-elves dead yet?” roared the Orc. But word-of-mouth does not allow for an exchange of questions. “Rot you all,” the Orc snarled and climbed on the shoulders of the Orc soldier in front of him. Legolas noted that an Orc-body was well suited to climbing and clinging. Then the Orc crouched with a foot on someone’s head and a knee on someone’s shoulder and Legolas was finally able to see more than Orc-backs.
Through the narrow alley of the Forest Path, Legolas saw the light and the fight. The light was torchlight on the walls of Thranduil’s hall, and the fight was between the Orkish army and two Elf-women, one dark-haired and one fair. He heard the fair-haired singing, “Blade is mightier than pen!” Legolas thought > Ale by the fireside! I am in that tale of Thranduil’s. <
“Huntress! Blade-singer!” he shouted in his mind, forgetting to guard his thoughts. The Orc jerked as if lashed by a whip and nearly fell off the shoulders of his soldiers. Legolas was discovered.
For a moment the Orc and Elf regarded each other, mind to mind. The Orc was Zalog and he was in charge of the army. His palms hurt from the scorching caused by two Elvish white-handled longknives. They had been hurting for almost a year. Right now he wanted two things – for the stinking Elf to come out where he could kill him, and to kill the two she-Elves at the front lines by slicing their skinny necks with his curved sword.
“I will kill you so slowly the beasts will not eat your putrid flesh when you die,” Zalog said. “Where are you?”
The Elf was Legolas. He lived, or would, in the hall ahead. His southern kin had a pair of white-handled longknives that one day would be a guest-gift stolen by a Dwarf.
>My kin made and keep the longknives that burned you,The next time you see them they will slay you.<
Then Legolas got about the business of stopping Zalog from reaching the Elf-women. Or else, putting him in front of Berendil’s sword. Even now Berendil might be racing to the parapets to see what was happening.
And indeed they heard a noise that was not rain or thunder but the thwppp of thirty-six Elf-arrows as Thranduil’s archers located their marks and loosed. Zalog threw himself to the ground.
>Next time I will make this Orc hold stillIf I die with the Orc, may my time in the Halls of Mandos be short.<
Enraged to see almost half his force dead from the arrows, Zalog roared, “Shields! Shields, blast you all! Or the next lightning will do us!” The lightning flashed again and Zalog raised his shield. Legolas struggled in to move the Orc’s shield and was partially successful. Still when thirty-six more arrows struck, not one of them struck Zalog. Zalog again clambered up to the shoulders of the soldiers in front of him, brushing away branches, and scrambled through the thinning ranks to the Elf-women, who, unbelievably, still stood and fought two of his soldiers. Legolas knew from Thranduil’s story that Zalog would use the Dark-hair’s wound to bring her down. Zalog had no time to spare. The Elves were lowering a large wicker box over their wall. Zalog doubted he would like the contents.
Legolas gathered his willpower as Berendil (welcome sight!) emerged from the basket, shield and sword in hand. He raced across the bridge toward the Elf-women, their Orc opponents (who now had seconds to live), and Zalog. Except that now, it was Zalog-Legolas.
Zalog reached between his battling soldiers and twisted the arrow lodged in Dark-hair’s thigh. As she went down on one knee, Zalog drew back his scimitar to strike off her head (decapitation being his favorite technique) while the others concentrated on Yellow-hair. Legolas reached out with all his mental strength and made Zalog’s sword arm slice through the necks of the two soldiers.
Zalog had not expected that. But he recovered quickly. He tried for a backhand swing at Yellow-hair. Too late. Berendil took the stroke on his sword and pressed his attack. Zalog found himself facing two Elves alone, for his soldiers (recent pickups, they were) were yelling with outrage or else laughing. And Yellow-hair was better with the sword than anyone he had ever encountered. The other Elf was deadly also, and fresh. The wounded Elf-women fell back behind the warrior Elf. He kept Zalog busy as they retreated across the bridge and got Huntress into the Elves’ basket. As Blade-singer climbed in, Berendil slashed at Zalog, wounded him, and ran for the basket himself.
Zalog screeched in anger. He darted across the bridge despite his wound and Legolas’s attempts to stop him. Overtaking Berendil, he climbed him like a ladder and sprang to the rim of the wicker basket. It rocked. Yellow-hair dropped her sword. Zalog was elated. He grabbed her by the hank of her long yellow hair and pulled backward until he she faced him upside-down. For a moment Legolas looked with horrified Orc-eyes into Blade-singer’s and she gasped with – recognition?
Then Zalog raised his curved sword. “I will drink your blood from the goblet of your heart” he whispered.
But Berendil leaped into the basket and grabbed for Blade-singer’s fallen sword. With all the power he had, Legolas forced the Orc to turn his head and look into Berendil’s eyes. Legolas reached out to Berendil with thought speech. >I’m glad to see you Berendil! Kill this Orc. Now!< Berendil seemed to catch part of this for his eyes widened in surprise.
Then Huntress grabbed his hand that held the sword and swept it through the hank of yellow hair. Blade-singer fell into the basket, the Orc tumbled backward, and Berendil cut off part of its left ear. Up went the Elvish wicker cage, and Zalog-Legolas fell to the ground.
Lying there on the ground inside the Orc’s mind, Legolas let himself share its pain for a moment. Thus he learned that, for Orcs, the only good feelings were absences: of pain, of hunger, of fear. He pitied them.
The feeling was not mutual. >I am wounded but I will recover, Elf, in the caves of the southern mountains,The Mortal villages in the foothills will supply my troops. And then I swear I will come for you and yours. Longknives or no. <
Legolas responded >I You are right to fear the longknives, Orc. Because the next time you see them you will die.<
His fear thus exposed, Zalog conceived a hatred of Legolas so bitter as to make any previous grudge a mere shadow. “You and yours,” he hissed. “Remember!”
Then Legolas felt an irresistible backward pull. He popped out of the Orc’s mind and went – outer. To the Seen World. And just like that he was back in the clearing. Seated nearby were Berendil, Blade-singer, Elsila, Elwen, and Thranduil, concern on their faces.
Their concern was not misplaced, for Legolas was not the same Elf-lad he had been when he first lay down. Contact with Orc-minds will have an effect. When Legolas looked into Blade-singer’s eyes they widened in surprise. She lay back on the grass, as if astounded, or unnerved.
Legolas said, “I found the foretelling on the Path of Dreams, just as the vision said. Orcs are in the southern mountains, Father, below the Dwarf-road. They have been there almost two long-years [288 sun-years]. Their leader is Zalog. He led the Orcs that fought Chathol-linn and Huntress that night. He raids the Mortal villages for supplies. If we do not act soon he will be at our walls. And, he hates and fears the white-handled longknives. They hurt him dreadfully during the Battle of the Last Alliance. Do you remember, Elwen, the guest-gift Arwen spoke of?”
“I do,” she answered.
“I need those longknives,” said Legolas (and the dream words of Saelon Andreth came back to him, whispering). “I shall find them and claim them.”
1. Lorien the Vala devised the Olórë Mallë in the First Age. What is the Olórë Mallë (Path of Dreams)? See The Book of Lost Tales Part One (LT1), JRR Tolkien, Chapter 9, “The Hiding of Valinor.” LT1 tells us that Lorien devised it at the bidding of Manwë after the Hiding of Valinor, so that Valinor would not be completely closed. This occurred after the Noldor’s rebellion and departure to fight Morgoth. Mortal children could visit Valinor via the Olórë Mallë, but only in their childhood sleep. Elves and Valar apparently could travel it at will. LT2 says in “The Tale of Eärendel” that when the fairies left Valinor to fight Morgoth, the Valar blocked the path forever with impassable rocks, Maybe this seeming conflict is why The Hobbit, LotR and The Silmarillion do not mention the Olórë Mallë.
2. The Straight Way must have appeared in the Second Age after the Valar Changed the World and bent the seas. See The Atlas of Middle Earth, Revised Edition, Karen Wynn Fonstad, “The Road Home,” pages 174-175 for a physical representation of the Straight Way. See pages 52-53 for an illustration of the world after the Change of the World.. Was the Olórë Mallë the metaphysical component of the physical Straight Way? Only Elves know.
3. Morgoth’s Ring, JRR Tolkien, “Finrod Ah Andreth” “Andreth was a woman of the house of Bëor, the sister of Bregor, father of Barahir [whose son was Beren One-hand the renowned]. She was wise in thought and learned in the lore of Men and their histories; for which reason the Eldar called her `Saelind,’ `Wise-heart.'” – page 305. Earlier form of name “Saelon” – pages 351-352.
4. The Peoples of Middle Earth, JRR Tolkien, “Last Writings” Note 21 regarding Legolas as an authority on the ways of Dwarves.
5. Two pieces of fanfic inspired the idea of the psychic link between Legolas and Zalog. See “Toby and the Orc” by Jerry Belcher at https://fan.theonering.net/writing/stories/files/toby_belcher.html. See “Beauty” by Victoria Sweet at https://hosted.insanity-inc.org/vb/beauty.html. These two excellent pieces are extreme opposites in tone and are similar in theme. – the author.
6. See “Legolas and the Olórë Mallë, Part 1, “Ale by the Fireside” and Part 2, “I Will Drink Your Blood from the Goblet of Your Heart” for Thranduil’s story about the coming of Huntress and Blaade-singer. – the author.