A/N: In case you missed it!
Chapter One: A QUIET EVENING
Chapter Two: RED SUNSET
Chapter Three: THE GLITTERING CAVES OF AGLAROND
Chapter Four: THE BATTLE OF HELM’S DEEP
Chapter Five: FATE’S ARROW
Miriel’s eyes slowly opened. Her vision was blurred and she couldn’t make out anything. Miriel wondered yet again if she was dead. And then memories of swirling voices came back to her.
“Valar, but she’s just a young maiden.” “How did this happen? What was she doing out in the battle?” “She should have been in the caves.” “Discuss this later! She’s going to die here if we don’t see to her wounds. Get her to…”
“How did this happen? What was she doing out in the battle?”
“She should have been in the caves.”
“Discuss this later! She’s going to die here if we don’t see to her wounds. Get her to…”
There was a gap in Miriel’s mind. And then she recalled something else that made her blood run cold:
“Hold her down. I’m going to pull it out…” This statement was followed by firm hands restraining her and jolt of agony, as if her arm were being torn off at the shoulder and red lava being poured through her body, and a scream Miriel knew as her own, and then nothing…
This statement was followed by firm hands restraining her and jolt of agony, as if her arm were being torn off at the shoulder and red lava being poured through her body, and a scream Miriel knew as her own, and then nothing…
As the mist cleared and reality took hold, Miriel found herself staring at a dark ceiling. She blinked, but she did not have the strength to move. The excruciating pain in her arm was replaced now by a dull lingering hurt, and looking down she saw that the arrow was gone and clean bandages were bound thickly over her elbow. Memories of the battle came rushing back to her disoriented mind. She was amazed that she was still alive.
Leaning back, Miriel rolled her eyes around the twilit room and beheld a shadowy figure standing in the corner by the window. The stormclouds had evidently cleared away, for the moonlight poured into the room unhindered, and it would have been lovely at any other time and place, for Miriel’s mind was too full of the evils that had taken place of late to fully appreciate it. A full moon was rising, and the silvery light shimmered in the Elf`s long blonde hair. His face, the part of it Miriel could see, was drawn with sorrow and weariness. For a long moment he was silent, and Miriel watched him in utter fascination, and sympathy shone in her gray eyes. He was worn with cares from the battle and the loss of his kindred weighted heavily on him. He sighed softly as he stared out into the night.
Once in a while an old raindrop, weary of clinging to the windowsill, dropped to the ground below and landed with a light plink. Other than that, all was quiet.
Miriel tried to sit up, but she moaned as fresh pain shot through her elbow. Instantly Legolas was at her side, his fair face full of concern; but Miriel had not heard his light step or seen him cross the floor. She blinked and wondered if she had blacked out momentarily.
“Don’t move yet,” the Elf coaxed gently, placing a firm hand on her shoulder. Miriel struggled for a moment, and then quieted under the firm pressure and settled back wearily.
“Alastar,” Miriel muttered groggily.
“Are you in pain?” asked Legolas as if he hadn’t heard her.
Miriel sighed and closed her eyes.
“No, not really. I just like to yell.”
A relieved smile played on the Elf’s lips, and a measure of worry dropped from his creased brow. Miriel thought he looked very peaceful.
“Chew this,” he ordered, and she felt something soft and firm touch her lips. She opened her mouth obediently and discovered a mystery herb being pushed into her mouth. She ate it slowly and winced and made a face.
“It doesn’t taste very good,” she remarked.
“No, it doesn’t,” Legolas agreed regretfully. “But believe me when I say that the recedence of your pain will be worth the mildly sour flavor.”
Miriel nodded and swallowed it down, but she did not feel like speaking.
“It was a very reckless thing you did, lady, joining the battle,” Legolas remarked.
“Thanks,” replied Miriel dryly, otherwise ignoring the comment. Then she looked around the room. “Where am I?” she asked in a small, weak voice.
“You are in Helm’s Deep still,” answered Legolas. “Gandalf was here, and so was Aragorn. We tried to mend your elbow as best we could.” He grimaced as he looked upon her arm, as if the wound were his own. “Speaking of which, I have something for you.”
He took her hand and slipped her own silver ring, shiny again now that it was washed free of mud and grime, onto her finger. Miriel stared at it uncomprehendingly, but she had enough sense to look at Legolas’s hand and saw no ring there.
“Keep this,” Legolas was saying. “And try to be more careful with it. That is no mere trinket; indeed, it has great worth, which I can only begin to guess at. But I will say that while I carried it for that brief time, it saved my life more than once.”
Miriel realized that somehow Legolas had found her ring and taken time to pick it up and put it on. This brought back a lot of bad memories for Miriel, including the image of the dying Elf’s last moments; reaching for her as she painfully crawled away from the danger zone. She shut her eyes hard and scowled to force the past away from her conscious thought. She rubbed her aching forehead; there were voices from her family members that she would never hear again echoing in her mind. She shuddered and bit her lip. She needed to focus on the future or she would find no will to go on.
“What of the battle?” Miriel finally asked as her head began to clear. She moved her elbow cautiously and found that Legolas was right about the herb; there was a mild jab of pain, but it was nothing she could not handle. Miriel looked at Legolas; her question seemed to have brought him back from his own reverie.
Legolas abruptly grinned and turned sparkling eyes on the maiden.
“Can’t you tell? Here we sit, chatting quietly in the tower while Orcs roam freely about the fortress.” He laughed merrily.
“No, truly!” snapped Miriel, in no mood for jest, especially forced jesting on her account. Mirth seemed out of place on this dark night. She sensed that Legolas was a deep well of laughter and gaiety, but in this instance, he appeared to be trying too hard to cheer her up, and it annoyed her. Legolas took one glance at Miriel`s steely gray eyes and sobered.
“The Orcs were finished the moment Gandalf arrived with the Rohirrim,” he hastily amended. “The black hosts of Isengard fled in terror at their coming. But one of their final desperate shots was at you.”
The memory came rushing back to Miriel, and she gasped as if a bucket of cold water had been thrown over her.
“What happened to my horse?” cried Miriel suddenly.
“Alas! Brave Thor fell to the evil dart,” Legolas replied. Miriel lowered her eyes, and Legolas hurriedly continued. “But a little higher and that arrow would have struck you down, and far greater would have been our loss.”
Miriel looked up. Tears glistened on her pale cheeks like tiny stars.
“Thor,” she whispered, and was silent for a while. Then she stirred again.
“Helm’s Deep is safe,” she murmured softly with a weak smile at Legolas.
Legolas looked upon her tenderly.
“Thanks in part to you, my lady,” he replied.
A spasm of pain twisted Miriel’s fair features, and her face went dark.
“How can you say that,” she whispered, choking, “when I nearly destroyed Helm’s Deep single-handedly? You and Aragorn almost died because of me, and the Orcs succeeded in blasting the wall because I delayed you from shooting the torchbearer, and many lives were lost when the enemy came through that great hole. Men… and Elves… died because of me. I caused terrible losses and great suffering and came but a hair’s breadth from causing all of Helm’s Deep to fall. Because of my actions, Mordor and Isengard almost took Rohan, just like that.” She shuddered. “Oh, would that I had never strayed from the Glittering Caves of Aglarond!” And Miriel broke off sobbing.
“Baw! Don’t say that!” cried Legolas hastily, putting his fingers over her lips. “Don’t talk that way.”
“But it’s true,” moaned Miriel miserably. “It was no place for a bungling maiden like me who has not been properly trained in the arts of war-“
“In battles such as these, every warrior makes mistakes,” interrupted Legolas vehemently, irritated in his own right. But all trace of annoyance was eclipsed by the admiration that shone through in his next words. “But if you had not fought alongside us, Helm’s Deep might have fallen but for the arrows you gathered for our archers. Aragorn and Gimli would have perished if you had not pulled me to the stair in time. And then there was your brave defense of the wall…” Legolas stopped and refocused his vision on Miriel. “No, my lady, your efforts were vital to the survival of Rohan. If anything you did came to ill, all the good paid the score far above and beyond.”
“I don’t see it that way,” Miriel retorted between violent sniffles.
“Nevertheless, it’s the truth. And here we sit in peace, and the standard of Rohan yet flies free over the Riddermark as testament,” answered Legolas, growing gentle again.
Miriel was too weak to argue with the Elf, and he seemed to sense it. Her sobs quieted under Legolas’s hand. Miriel’s gray eyes flickered with a dim silver flame of hope, but her brow furrowed as she remembered something from the night before.
“Were you very mad at me for holding you up when Aragorn shouted your name?”
Legolas winced and looked uncomfortable. He was silent for a while. When he turned at last, he spoke haltingly and avoided her glance.
“I was not angry with you, my lady. I was furious with myself.” He sighed. “I let my concentration waver, and because of that moment the wall nearly fell. Forgive me, my lady, for staring angrily at you. It wasn’t your fault. I take the blame for not reaching the torchbearer in time.”
Miriel gazed at the Elf through tear-clouded eyes, and suddenly she smiled.
“You comfort me, Legolas of the Elves,” Miriel said. “And there is nothing to forgive. But still-“
“Speak no more of it,” Legolas interrupted. “You need to rest.”
“There is one other thing I’d like to know first, Legolas,” put in Miriel hastily.
He sighed, but relented. “What is it?”
“Did you see the Elven forest when you took my hand?”
Legolas smiled, and a soft glow filled his face. “Yes, I did. I saw a great host of my fair kindred singing through the golden trees of Lothlorien under the light of Earendil, the Evening Star, most beloved of the Elves. Indeed, I saw it.”
“You seemed as a great prince then,” said Miriel softly.
“And you as a queen,” Legolas returned instantly.
Miriel’s eyebrows jumped in surprise, but she did not reply. There was nothing she could say to that. Instead she changed the subject.
“I saw that forest again, when I got this.” Miriel indicated her bandaged elbow. “I might have died from the sheer agony if it weren’t for that star, or for- for her.”
“Her? Her?” cried Legolas, leaning forward in excitement. “Did you see Elbereth?”
“Elbereth?” wondered Miriel, speaking the strange name softly. “Elbereth? That name was in the song, my song, the one I couldn’t understand!” She pondered quietly. After a moment Miriel turned back to Legolas and answered his question.
“I don’t know. I didn’t see her, I don’t think. I don’t even know who this Elbereth is. But I heard a voice. She spoke to me, in the Elven tongue. Whatever she said, her words made my wounds bearable and gave me the strength I desperately needed to finish the battle.”
“It must have been Elbereth,” declared Legolas reverently.
They did not speak for a long time. A gentle breeze blew in from the window. Pale silver moonlight lit the room with a soft shimmering glow. Not a single sound could be heard, not the restless whinny of a horse or the calling of the night owl, or the shrill squeak of a bat. All the world was quiet, as calm as the sea after a great and terrible storm. At last Legolas stirred.
“Sleep now, my lady.” He pulled a warm blanket over Miriel and stood for a time quietly looking down at her before returning to the window.
Gratefully Miriel closed her eyes. She couldn’t remember how long it had been since she had slept a full night, free of worry and shadows. The bed was the softest she had ever been in before. The thick blankets kept out the evening chill, and her pain was receding rapidly. She stirred and settled into the pillow.
“Legolas?” wondered Miriel presently.
He turned with a smile that held a hint of amusement at her continued questioning. “Yes?”
“Why do I have my own room?” She looked around at the stone chamber – not rich or luxurious by any stretch, but surely better than many alternatives. “There must have been scores of wounded Men and Elves, and I imagine they are crammed into some… I don’t know… tents, perhaps, or other lodging far less comfortable.”
Legolas laughed warmly, halting any further comments that threatened to issue forth from Miriel. She gave him a puzzled frown, wordlessly asking him to explain himself.
“That is beyond your concern, or mine,” he answered her. “I assure you that the soldiers are being well cared for and every effort is being made to see that they are comfortable.”
“Perhaps, but why should I not share their hardship?” Miriel demanded. “That isn’t very fair, especially when-“
“You are here because you are a maiden,” Legolas interrupted her yet again.
Miriel scowled. “Because I’m a maiden? Now wait just a minute-“
She pushed herself up on one arm, only to be met by Legolas` firm hand on her chest holding her down.
“That is enough,” he said to her sternly, but his eyes betrayed gentleness despite the unbending iron in his voice. “The decision has been made, and the orders came from higher up. It is not for you, or me, to argue. The least you can do now is show a little gratitude.”
Miriel was far too weak to struggle with the Elf, so she gave in and leaned back with a sigh of resignation.
“I am grateful,” she mumbled.
Legolas’s mouth twitched into a little smile. “I know you are. Now for the second time, get some rest.”
Miriel saw no alternative but to mildly accept. She did not object when Legolas arranged the blanket around her again, and she smiled appreciatively at him instead, placated by the knowledge that he was not the one responsible for her being moved into these quarters and given better treatment than the common soldiers, which Miriel felt she neither wanted nor deserved. The smile was returned, and for a brief moment, Legolas`s lingering hand rested softly against her cheek. She let her face drift sideways into his palm, and her jangled spirit was soothed and stilled. She obediently closed her eyes as Legolas left her and returned to the window. She was just about to slip into peaceful dreams when suddenly another thought came to her. Her eyes popped open, and she lay staring at the Elf.
“What about you, Legolas?” she asked at length.
Legolas turned and regarded her, puzzled. “What do you mean, my-um, my lady? Forgive me, I do not know your name.”
“I’m Miriel,” she replied quickly as if it were of no importance, impatient to get the answers to her own questions.
Legolas was apparently in no such hurry. His inherent grace as he glided across the room took the edge off Miriel’s own haste as if casting a spell over her. She studied him in puzzlement and mused to herself. How could one so powerful and deadly in battle possess such fluidity in his agile movements?
“Miriel,” Legolas repeated slowly, returning to the bedside and kneeling beside her. “Mae govannen. Gil sila erin lu govaded min, Miriel.”
Miriel blinked, her thoughts returning fully to the present. “What?”
“It means, `Well met indeed. A star shines on the hour of our meeting, Sparkling Like Jewels,'” replied the Elf with a smile.
“Sparkling Like Jewels? Is that what my name means?”
Legolas nodded and took her hand. The intensity of his gaze was almost too much for Miriel’s heart.
“Now, Lady Miriel, you were asking me a question.”
“Oh yes,” she said, remembering. “What about you? Where will you sleep?”
“Elves do not sleep,” answered Legolas with a grin. “We can rest our minds even while we remain in the waking world. Therefore I will keep watch.”
“I see,” Miriel murmured in awe, her gaze drifting toward the window. Then she looked up sharply. “What about food? Have you eaten anything?”
Legolas cast his eyes to the floor sheepishly and shook his head.
“Then what in Middle-earth have you been doing the whole time this battle has been over?” cried Miriel, astonished. “Surely even you perfect Elves have to eat once in a while!”
Legolas chuckled softly and nodded affirmatively.
“Then I’ll ask you again what has kept you from the table,” said Miriel with a sharp edge in her voice. She felt strangely angry with him for not taking care of himself.
“I have been- er- busy, my lady,” replied Legolas, avoiding her gaze.
“What do you mean, you’ve been b-” Suddenly light dawned on Miriel, and she stared at Legolas in wonder. “You haven’t left me since we arrived, have you.” It was a statement of mild reproach rather than a question.
Legolas looked straight at her. Miriel caught her breath, but she steeled herself and struggled to sit up, biting her lower lip against the pain. Legolas instantly protested, but Miriel stopped him short with a sharp glance and determinedly pushed herself up until she was sitting, supported by her one good hand rigidly planted on the bedsheets behind her. She sat eye to eye with the fair blonde Elf.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done for me, and for your constant vigilance, Legolas,” she told him gently. “But I’m fine now, and Helm’s Deep is quite safe by your own account. Leave and get something to eat. You need to keep up your strength.”
Legolas shook his head. “I’m not going anywhere. I’ll stay here while you sleep and make sure you’re all right.”
Suddenly Miriel lurched forward and seized the collar of Legolas’s tunic and gripped it with surprising strength.
“Leave me,” she ordered fiercely. “My part in this war is over, but you will be needed again ere the end. More dark battles lie ahead, and your path will take you deep into danger and shadow.” She gentled just as quickly and continued with a more even temper: “But for tonight, Legolas, eat a good supper and celebrate this victory with the King of Rohan and your friends.”
Legolas smiled. “You are very poetic, Lady Miriel.”
“Elves aren’t the only ones capable of fair speech,” retorted Miriel, staring at him seriously. She raised her dark eyebrows threateningly. “And don’t you try to change the subject, Legolas. Supper. Now.”
Legolas was obstinate. Miriel gazed at Legolas and drew him closer. She softened and quietly stopped the protest she instinctively felt was coming.
“I won’t rest until you do,” she whispered, smoothing back a stray lock of his gold Elven hair. She looked deep into his blue eyes. “I’m quite beyond death, I assure you. I’ll be fine, Legolas. Now go.”
Legolas stared at her for a long moment, studying her. Miriel was enchanting. She had the innocence of a child, the fire of a storm and the beauty of a queen. She could be both merry and deadly serious, fragile as a new butterfly and brave as a roaring lion, terrible as thunder and gentle as a spring rain. Fear had no conquering hold over her, and although Legolas sensed that she was still in great pain and suffering from some deep sorrow, Miriel concerned herself with the welfare of others before herself. Miriel was like no one Legolas had ever met, Elf or mortal, in all the long years he had walked in Middle-earth.
At last Legolas slowly nodded, and Miriel released him. He arose and bowed swiftly, and then he was gone.
Miriel lay back wearily and collapsed on her pillows. She was exhausted, but sleep eluded her. Thoughts of Legolas filled her mind instead. His mere presence was a healing balm to her wounded soul. She drew much-needed strength from him, and for his care, she appreciated him to no end. But there was something mesmorizing about him. His piercing blue eyes could flash like lightning in terrible anger or overflow in shining rivers of happiness, or be as calm and peaceful as the deep sea under the moonlight. His smooth brow was young and yet old at once, full of wisdom and years but undimmed by the gray lines of time. His fair locks trailed down and cascaded about his shoulders like silken waterfalls. Expressions passed over his face like wind on the mountainside, ever changing, and each mood seemed to hold greater intensity than the last. Miriel turned toward the window and watched the bright stars glittering like diamonds in the night skies.
It was thus in deep contemplation that Legolas found her when he returned to the tower. Miriel glanced up at him and smiled.
“That was quick,” Miriel lightly remarked. “Are you certain you got enough food?”
“Of course!” Legolas replied, grinning merrily. “I eat swifter than ordinary mortals. I’m an Elf, you know.”
Miriel’s eyes sparkled as she smiled back.
“Elves,” she muttered, shaking her head. And then she sighed contentedly and fell fast asleep even as Legolas sat down near the window.
******************************** There are some cliffhanger chapters coming up, and if you don’t want to wait for me to get around to posting it all, then go to www.talesofmiddleearth.com and download the free ebook: Miriel: Princess of Rohan. ******************************** ANSWERS TO REVIEWERS:
There are some cliffhanger chapters coming up, and if you don’t want to wait for me to get around to posting it all, then go to www.talesofmiddleearth.com and download the free ebook: Miriel: Princess of Rohan.
ANSWERS TO REVIEWERS:
Yes, I have been very lazy reviewing. I’m swamped; I feel like a Jazzcat with nine lives. I just finished a book that will be published first as an ebook, then later as a paperback. It’s called For The Love of Galadar, and it’s coming to Tales of Middle Earth very soon.
That’s my excuse for playing hooky! I do think the next update will come along MUCH sooner than this one. Thanks again to you all for the reviews. I have a question for the next round of reviews: What do you NOT like about this story? Anything at all – little nitpicks and massive grievances are both welcome.
GeekChick: I dearly hope that your opinion of the tale hasn’t changed after THIS chapter. But this is the calm before the storm. Chapter seven opens a whole new can of worms and keeps Miriel from becoming a dreaded Sue.
Nawyn: LOL! Your review made me laugh, it was so funny. Thank you! “Can’t-win-without-her”… LOL! Actually, I think they would have had an easier time if she had stayed in the caves like she was supposed to. Privately, I agree with Miriel in this chapter’s argument. But Legolas is an Elf, and they have the gift of fair speech. Of course he would say nice things like that.
Original? Thanks. Maybe that’s only because I was not influenced by reading other fanfiction, which I didn’t know existed before I finished this tale. And if you like long chapters, you’re going to love number 14… It puts this one to shame.
LadyLongCleeve: It’s funny that everybody mentioned the battle scene. I wrote it without a second thought and saved the worries over whether or not I got it right and real for later. There is only a little more battle coming up in the future of this tale… we got most of it taken care of in the earlier chapters.
Tuima: Thank you. I hope the rest of it is as fast-paced and vivid for you, even without a battle to speed the words.
GoldRider: Oh gosh. You thought it took YOU a long time to review. So sorry to post so late! Hey, I’ll have to read some of your stories sometime. Maybe, on your next review, could you post some web addresses for them? I do way too much writing and too little reading, admittedly!
Thank you for your descriptive comments. It’s often hard to see one’s own story unless someone else takes a moment to define what it is that they like and dislike about the rambling yarn.
A/N: In case you missed it!
Chapter One: A QUIET EVENING
Chapter Two: RED SUNSET
Chapter Three: THE GLITTERING CAVES OF AGLAROND
Chapter Four: THE BATTLE OF HELM’S DEEP
Chapter Five: FATE’S ARROW