As the sun rose and its soft, golden light began to shine upon Greenwood, at the nearing of the end of the Third Age, Thranduil, King of the Silvan Elves, walked among the trees. He was content; for he was wandering through that which were most dear to his heart, and as he walked he sang to the trees, and the whispered gently back to him. Their leaves glowed emerald green as the sun shone through them, warming Thranduil’s face as he walked.
Thranduil spent many an hour of bliss among the trees, but he also devoted much of his time to the ruling of his subjects. He was a fair and gracious King, towards whom all who set eyes upon felt a great compassion. His songs touched the hearts of all, his tongue was skilled and his melodies sweet and memorable. Many held his poems in great reverence, and although many praised him, he kept a level head and always took time to praise others. All who lodged within the walls of his caverns were content and few left without affection for the King.
Now, there was one elf that loved Thranduil with a great passion. She was Angwen, a proud, handsome elf. Many sought her hand in marriage, but she would settle only for Thranduil. She felt certain that she would one day win him over and become queen of the Silvan Elves and all of Greenwood.
However, one day, when Thranduil was drifting through Greenwood, he saw a golden spark in a glade ahead. Curious, he went to see what it was.
When he neared the light a haunting song of great sorrow and loneliness, sung so beautifully that it made Thranduil aware of his own burning loneliness. He couldn’t ignore the song; it had opened a door within his heart. And as he peering into the clearing, he saw the most beautiful and radiant elf he had ever encountered; her face was strong, but delicate and her outstretched hands were elegant and fine. She held her head up to the treetops and her arms reached out as if to touch the sky. Thranduil was entranced; he stood and watched the mysterious elf, for he had never before seen her. And as he watched her the beauty of the trees paled into insignificance next to the beauty of she who stood before him.
Thranduil moved forwards to touch her hand. She gasped, having been unaware of his presence.
`What is your name, ye of beauty previously unimagined? Why do you sing of such sorrow? And why have I never seen you before?’ Thranduil asked the fair maiden.
`I am Edhalda, your highness. I sing that song for it speaks of the pain and sorrow of my heart, for I am not allowed to see my one love. And I cannot answer your last question, for I have already said too much. I must depart from your presence now.’ Without another word she took off into the wood.
Thranduil chased desperately after her, but without hope of finding her, for he was mesmerised by Edhalda and couldn’t bring his senses together.
`Edhalda, oh fair Edhalda!’ He called out, more from his heart than from his mouth. But it was no use; she has disappeared and had taken Thranduil’s loneliness away with her, for he felt that he had found the one who could make his world happy.
For many days Thranduil sought after Edhalda, all other thoughts left his mind. He would disappear for days on end, searching for her, without telling a soul of his purpose. As time passed he began to despair, feeling that he would never see her again. He became a shell of his former self, empty without Edhalda, sure that she was gone for all time.
But fortune would not have it that way, for one evening, when Thranduil was singing forlornly to himself he saw a familiar golden light. Edhalda was once again sitting in the glade. A weight was lifted from Thranduil’s heart and feeling returned to his numbed mind.
Thranduil did not hesitate amongst the trees, but instead walked towards Edhalda and knelt before her.
`Don’t leave, I beg of you,’ he pleaded. `Since the day we last met my mind has thought of nothing but you and my body has done only that which was in aid of finding you, for my heart has more control of my actions than my head. Where have you been hiding?’
`My thoughts have also dwelled solely on our encounter, much as it was a joyous meeting, I am troubled; for my sister has forbidden me from ever crossing paths with you. I am certain she would do something of terrible consequence if she were to find out, for she is steeped in darkness and evil, selfish thoughts.
`She has not always been this way; I used to hold her in high regard and love her deeply. However, one day she left. We didn’t see her for many weeks. Time passed and soon her presence became but a memory to me. But upon one autumn morning, when the leaves were just beginning to turn, a figure appeared out of the morning mist. It bore no resemblance to my sister; there were shadows in her eyes that had been not there in times before. I made her rest in bed until something of her old self could return.
`Within a few days she had recovered and began to smile again, for since she had returned it was as if a sneer was held firmly upon her face. And although still not filled with light, she began to speak of you; this was most encouraging, for before she left you were the subject of conversation almost every day. For you see, my sister is very much in love with you, and she is certain that you will one day love her. She forbade a meeting between us; she believed it would render her plans useless.’ Edhalda confessed to Thranduil.
`That would be the reason why we were never to have met before. Your sister is not the one to decide whom I should fall in love with and whom I should be allowed to meet. Who is you sister? Please tell me, that I may tell her that my wayward heart has strayed from her chosen path and fallen for another, one so beautiful that words cannot be used to describe her, as I fear they would subtract from her true splendour.’ Thranduil said, looking Edhalda in the eye as he spoke.
`Who is this elf, that I may find her and look upon her? For to have such an effect on one so effortlessly acquainted with the correct words she must be of spectacular grace.’ Edhalda said, awed.
`It is possible to search for her for days, but my dear, it would take you an eternity to find her, but if you were to look into the calm waters of a pool, you would find this elf staring back at you. Edhalda, you are the one of which I speak, one of untold beauty and of voice so pure as to make a white dove seem unclean.’ Thranduil whispered fervently, `Please, don’t disappear for so long before we may next meet, the time between us is like a suffocating cloak, thrown over me as I try to breathe. I don’t think I would be able to survive the loss once more.’
`It will not be simple to escape the watchful eye of my sister, but I too would find another separation hard upon my heart, for my songs of loneliness melted away when you found me that day, but between that day and this, I felt my solitude stronger than ever before. Although we have seen each other only twice, those moments have touched me deeper than an eternity spent with another. We shall meet below the moon in the eve of tomorrow. Amin mela lle, I love you.’
With those fair words the pair parted, in heavy anticipation of the evening on the following day. Thranduil did not sleep that night, but instead lay awake pondering the meeting and musing over Edhalda’s words. He spent many moments just remembering her face and hearing her sweet song flowing in his memory.
Edhalda also lay awake deep into the night, not only fondling recollecting Thranduil’s fair countenance, but also worrying over her sister and how she would ever be forgiven for falling in love with Thranduil. She was comforted, however, by her feelings for Thranduil, so sudden, but sure and clear, as if she would have support from his presence for the rest of her days, just knowing she had found love.
The tasks of the nest day seemed to pass slowly for the pair, each unable to wait for the night to fall, when they could once again see each other. If Thranduil’s mind wasn’t with his decisions then those who saw his errors corrected them without querying their King’s peculiar manner. For in his mind he sat not with councillors and advisors, but with Edhalda.
At last the day drew to a close, Thranduil eagerly set off towards the glade. His mind was racing so fast that he almost didn’t see Angwen walking alongside him. Soon he realized she was there and, startled, stuttered for several moments, trying to think of some way out of conversing with her; she had a dreadful habit of engaging one in a conversation for hours without them ever saying a word.
`Short for words?’ Angwen giggled, `These are rare moments in which you, your Highness, are unable to speak. You must be pleased to see me, just as I am always pleased to see you. I am sure one day something will come of this, there is obviously something…’
`Angwen, I am most remorseful, however I am on my way to an important meeting and although I would most enjoy spending time with you, there is something afoot which needs my immediate attendance.’ With those words Thranduil took his leave of Angwen and strode off into the wood.
Angwen was stunned and confused, Thranduil was acting mysteriously, silence was uncharacteristic of him, and she was curious, what was most important to him than speaking with her? She crept behind him, listening carefully for footsteps to lead her.
Eventually she reached the edge of the clearing, where she saw Thranduil. He was pacing around in the glade, with an anxious look upon his brow. Every so often he would look up hopefully into the trees, but no one appeared. Angwen was most intrigued; Thranduil was indeed behaving strangely. She suddenly had a thought, Thranduil was testing her; he wanted to see if she would follow him if he tried to escape. Well, she had followed and therefore must have passed the test. Feeling self-satisfied, she made her way into the clearing, beaming at Thranduil.
`I found you, you rogue!’ She cried triumphantly.
`I thought I had made it quite clear to you; I am meeting someone here. My guest wanted to ensure confidentiality and if you are here then I have betrayed their trust. Why do you call me so? For I did not ask you to find me, neither am I a rogue. Please, depart now, before my visitor arrives and insult is laid down.’ Thranduil said hurriedly.
Angwen did as Thranduil asked, unwilling to ruin her chances with him, for if she ruined her destiny, woe be on all who had a part in it, even if he was a private guest of the king. She returned home, where a distraught Edhalda had prepared her meal, as Angwen had requested, whilst she went in search of Thranduil.
Edhalda was in considerable grief, for she had not met with Thranduil. He may not ever forgive her, though he knoweth not the reason for her absence. Her hopes had been shattered. Angwen and her meddling had ruined her one prospect of happiness and true love.
That night Edhalda wept until her body could weep no more and she lay in bed shaking until she fell asleep. She slept deeply but was troubled by nightmares.
Thranduil was also in distress. Why had Edhalda not come? Did she not love him; was it all an image brewed up by his imagination? Or did her sister have something to do with this? Thranduil’s thoughts turned to Edhalda’s sister; who was she? And why would she keep Edhalda away from him? For if she was as evil as Edhalda alleged, why hadn’t he noticed an evil woman among his people?
Thranduil did not sleep that night; he tossed and turned, his thoughts circulating in his head. Uncertainty was strong in his mind, had he been over-hopeful?
The next morning Thranduil had a sudden inspiration. He would announce his love for her, and if she did not return his sentiment then no more worry would be required on his behalf. Of course he would be devastated, but at least he would know for certain. Thranduil called for a feast to be prepared.
The elves were joyous as they worked, for a feast was always looked to with great anticipation and delight, as Greenwood provided the setting for some of the most fantastic entertainment in all Middle-earth. The air was happy and rumour of Thranduil’s plan escaped, many women were excited; for tonight they would see if they were to be Queen of the Silvan Elves.
Angwen and Edhalda were both nervous; Edhalda was worried for several different causes. She was unsure whether she had destroyed whatever she may have had with Thranduil, furthermore she was worried about how Angwen would react to the announcement if Thranduil declared love for Edhalda, moreover she had to hide her emotions from Angwen, in fear of her discovering her secret meetings with Thranduil. Angwen was nervous, for she was unsure what she would say to accept Thranduil’s proposal.
Thranduil’s heart was in his mouth that evening, when he stood at the head of the enormous dining table, in front of his subjects. He swallowed and took a deep intake of breath before commencing with his speech.
`My people,’ He began, `as many of you have undoubtedly heard, I have gathered you here tonight to make an announcement of great importance. For, as you may have noticed during these past days I have been absent and barely comprehensible when I am indeed here. This is for good reason, for I have fallen in love. I have fallen so deeply in love that I have been unable to serve my daily purpose without my thoughts straying to the fairest elf in all the lands. Once my thoughts are with her I am afraid I cannot wrench them away again.
`Nonetheless, I am unsure as to whether she feels as strongly as I do for her. I thought initially that this wonderer and fair elf loved me also. However, recent occurrences have made me uncertain of this. So I conclude by saying: My love, you have heard what I have to say, I love you, and if you desire it, I would have you as my wife. I do not wish to oblige you to consent, for love cannot be forced, only nurtured.’ Thranduil paused for a moment, to look up at the stars, which were sparkling cheerfully in the sky. Angwen was almost on her feet, ready to join Thranduil’s side. `Thus I ask you,’ he continued, `Edhalda, will you take my hand forever? Do you wish to spend today and eternity in my arms?’ Thranduil looked up uncertainly.
All faces turned to Edhalda, who sat firmly on her seat, unable to move. She was overjoyed. Tears were streaming over her porcelain cheeks. The salty tears, which dripped onto her lips, roused her from her stupor. She rose from her seat and made her way to Thranduil’s embrace, her eyes never once leaving his. He gripped her passionately and lightly kissed her, his lips fluttering for an instant upon hers.
He whispered in her ear, `I thought you did not want me. I thought you would never come. But you came. You came.’
Tears of joy rolled down his cheeks, and without a word the pair left the company of the other elves. All of which began eating, discreetly turning their eyes from the blissful couple.
However, another in the gathering had left. Angwen, upon hearing her sister’s name instead of hers had risen from the table and stalked away in a rage. There was a steely glint in her eye. She stayed long enough only to wrap a cloak around her body, and then took off into Greenwood. Foul things she had seen and met with came to her as she marched deeper into the wood. For in the days of her disappearance she had ventured into the dark places, untouched by Elven hands. There evil forces had corrupted her mind. It was there that she met Shalang, a creature so twisted with evil her true form could not be determined. Her powers were strong and devious, and through Angwen she saw a way to cause chaos amongst the elves, whom she hated with a passion. Shalang taught Angwen many evil ways, she showed her how to brew potions and how to work words and meanings into dark and powerful weapons.
Upon returning to her home, Angwen had hidden these new powers deep within her, so as to work her ways without being discovered. She had intentions of marrying Thranduil, and not only loving him, but also using her position to gain more power and more recognition for herself.
Now, however, her plans had been destroyed and her darkness was beginning to show through. As she travelled, Angwen collected an assortment of plants and flowers. When she eventually stopped walking, she set to work. Mixing the flora together and muttering dark words, she produced a brown slime. To finish this concoction, she had to collect the sap from a tree. She did this maliciously, finding the oldest and most beautiful tree and, instead of making a small incision in the bark, she chopped the entire tree down. There was an insane look on her face as she did this. She added the sap from the tree into the paste and uttered a spell over it. Content with her handiwork, she returned to Thranduil’s Kingdom, to stay in the Caverns.
Meanwhile, Thranduil and Edhalda had become even more besotted with each other, and all who saw them couldn’t help but be happy, for they radiated joy. Edhalda helped Thranduil with the running of the Kingdom. Every day her love for Thranduil grew, but she also worried about Angwen, for she had not been seen for many weeks.
Angwen finally returned, seemingly happy and ready to congratulate the couple. She apologised for her rude departure, but said that she had recovered and no longer had feelings for the King. Edhalda, seeing that her sister had returned to her former self, embraced her and invited her to stay in the palace caverns.
Thranduil was still stunned that Angwen was Edhalda’s sister. For Edhalda hadn’t divulged her identity with him until the day she disappeared. A great puzzle had been solved for him, for he understood now why he had found Angwen in the wood and not Edhalda. Edhalda had explained to him that Angwen had planned a romantic meal for herself and Thranduil, and had told Edhalda to prepare it for her. Only Angwen had returned alone that night.
Edhalda welcomed Angwen back into her life. Of course, when Angwen invited her into her room one morning, she accepted. Angwen spoke light heartedly and poured wine for the two. Edhalda drank deeply from the cup, for she was parched, having missed dinner due to her busy day. However, she was repulsed by the vile liquid, which she consumed. She looked up at her sister and was dismayed, for Angwen was grinning.
`Foolish girl,’ She cackled, `did you believe that I would ever forgive you for destroying my future? If I can’t have Thranduil then neither can you, for as that baby inside you grows and gains life, so you shall age and begin to die. And it will not be a painless demise for that potion is strong and potent and ensures a tortuous end. Farewell, sister, for you shan’t see me again.’ With these heinous words and deeds done, Angwen turned and disappeared one final time.
Edhalda fell to the floor. She sat and wept, for she not known of the child and now was at a loss for all but sobs, no words could come near to the despair she was encountering with herself. In what way could she tell Thranduil of her doom? For he would become enraged with Angwen and would surely embark on an endless attempt to find and wreak vengeance upon her. He would also become burdened with terror for her life. She was distraught at her sister’s betrayal, and felt foolish for believing in her deceit. Tears were also rolling down her cheeks for she knew not how she would save her own life, and if indeed Angwen was correct about her being with child, if she would be able to preserve its life also.
When, once again she was dry of tears, Edhalda began to ponder a way in which she could undo the cruel injustice, which had been laid upon her. She knew of no plants to cure the condition described to her by Angwen; it surely was a spell of deep unpleasantness.
Edhalda spent the concluding hours of the morning deep in thought and worry. She hatched many plans, but abandoned all for none would succeed. Eventually she felt a burning hunger in the midst of her body, a rare feeling for her and surely induced by the strong emotions coursing through her mind. Consequently, she went to find some lembas to sate her appetite.
Whilst on her way to the Kitchens, she caught her husband’s eye searching within hers. There was worry in his face.
`You look unwell, my lovely, is there something the matter?’ He said anxiously.
`All is well with me; I am only weary and feel an incessant desire for food and rest. I did feel nauseous this morn, however I feel perfectly well currently and will feel many times the better for having a full stomach.’ She could not bring herself to divulge the morning’s occurrences with him, for it would pain him far too greatly. She also felt a need to delay the news of pregnancy until she was quite sure of its truth. Guilt-ridden, she continued in her search for lembas.
Eventually she obtained some lembas from the Kitchens, and whilst she sat in the clearing of the forecourt of the caverns to consume it, she remembered that she had indeed felt unwell that morning and had been hungry before Angwen had assaulted her. She felt her heart fall, for this surely meant that her sister was correct and she was indeed with child, as she would feel hunger if her body needed to provide for two beings in the stead of just her own. Edhalda looked to the skies in search of a way to make right the wrongs performed by Angwen. As she gazed at the changing contours of the pearly clouds above, she caught sight of a lone bird, flying south. Edhalda let her mind go, imagining herself to be flying with the bird, gliding above her worries, heading towards the beautiful trees of Lothlórien.
`Lórien!’ Edhalda gasped suddenly, she had found her solution, she would make her way along the path taken by the bird, and journey to fair Lothlórien to seek the aid of Galadriel, for if any one being could aid her in her calamitous situation, Galadriel would be that being. Edhalda had at no time ventured into Lórien, and had only heard tell of Galadriel, but deep within her being she perceived that her only hope was to reach the silver woods before the fatal potion could achieve its dark purpose.
Without finishing her lembas, Edhalda got to her feet, hurried from the forecourt and headed to her rooms. Barely able to control her breath, she compiled a small collection of vital supplies for a voyage to Lothlórien. She took a cloak, light enough to wear without feeling burdened, but strong enough to protect against even the harshest of weather, a small sword, in which she was skilfully trained and a highly capable combatant. Upon her back she placed a quiver and under her arm she carried a bow. She was fully able to hit a target unerringly from great distances, and with her acute hearing and vision, she would be able to eliminate any danger posed to her upon her journey. Around her neck she tied a chain, threaded onto which was a pendant given to her by Thranduil upon their wedding day, it was of simple design, and intertwined coil of silver containing a single emerald, forged by dwarves in return for their allowance to pass through Greenwood upon one occasion. The emerald signified the leaves upon the trees and the silver was in an endless loop expressing Thranduil’s eternal love for Edhalda.
She called one of her assistants from Thranduil’s council into her room. Once inside, Edhalda asked the elf, whose name was Quentel, to fetch enough lembas to provide two elves for a year, and to tell Thranduil, when he saw she had gone, that she had gone on a journey, from which she may not return, but it was of dire emergency and her life depended on it. Furthermore, under no circumstances was he to pursue her.
Before Quentel could question her, Edhalda sent him from the room.
Within minutes he had returned with enough lembas. Edhalda thanked him profusely and without another word took her leave of the Caverns, beginning her journey towards Lothlorien.
Thranduil meanwhile began to search for his wife, for he was worried about her health, it was unusual for an elf to fall ill and rare also for an elf to feel hunger. He combed the Caverns, but was unable to find her. Consequently he went to the glade in which he had first seen her. When he found not a soul in the clearing, he began to panic. He returned to the Caverns, where he met Quentel, whose face was troubled.
`My Lord! A terrible happening has come to pass; the fair Edhalda has taken leave of Greenwood, whence she is headed I do not know, but this she told me: `Do not attempt to reach her, for she is on a quest of dire circumstance upon which her life depends,’ I am without consolation, for I could not stop her. She was in frenzy, your majesty, asking for a supply of lembas suffice to feed two for a year, and carrying weapons.’ Quentel remorsefully told his King, who was beside himself. His one love had disappeared once again.
Without a further thought, Thranduil wheeled upon the spot and ran into the woods, calling desperately for Edhalda.
`Edhalda!’ He wailed, `Fair Edhalda, to where are you going in such a hurry? Don’t leave me, for without you even the light of Galathilion and Nimloth, the fair trees of Vanyar, could lighten my heart.’ His words were becoming stifled by his sobs, for deep within himself he knew the Edhalda had gone from his reach. Thranduil felt his purpose in Middle-earth had ended. Unless he could find his love, he would spent the rest of his days wondering empty among the woods, for only there would he find solace enough to crawl onwards in the world of the living. `My Edhalda. Edhalda.’ He moaned desperately as he ran tirelessly through the woods. His eyes searched among endless tree trunks, with each turn his heart prayed for a glint of her golden hair, but his mind knew it was no to be. Tears rolled down his cheeks as memories of his love ran through his mind, he could still see her face as she had stood up at the feast all those months ago. Each day he had spent with her shrank to a mere moment as he considered a lifetime without her.
As he ran one tree merged into the next, until Thranduil eventually collapsed in exhaustion into a deep sleep, far from the Caverns and without any indication of how to return to their safety. He slept deeply whilst his body was racked with sorrow, unaware of the dangers surrounding him.
Meanwhile, Edhalda made her way further from her husband and her home. Her journey was to be a long and dangerous one and as each day wore by, she would begin to age considerably as the baby inside her grew older. And as each hour passed and the distance between herself and Thranduil grew, so her heart yearned for the warmth of his embrace, which she knew she might never feel again. She continued walking into nightfall, still far from Lórien, where an uncertain future lay for her.