The early morning sun streamed through the open windows. Shafts of unbroken light glanced off a fair elvish face and golden hair. Legolas of the elves of Northern Mirkwood stirred sleepily and opened his eyes. His bedroom was in one of the highest towers in the city of Minas Tirith and by the grace of King Aragorn Legolas’ rooms were some of the largest that the city had to offer. Likewise Gimli son of Gloin was also luxuriously housed but he still trod the paths of Dwarvish dreams and had yet to awake. Elsewhere in the Citadel the King of Gondor and Arnor was lying in his bed chambers gazing lovingly at his wife, Lady Arwen Undomiel. He could not believe that this vision of beauty was his at last. After the many years of loneliness and preparation his hopes and dreams had finally come to fruition. Kissing her softly he rose, dressed and descended to the lower Citadel for breakfast.
He met Legolas who sang to himself upon the balcony and they relished the precious moments of peace before the rigours of the day began.
“How fares the Lady Undomiel?” asked the elf, “is she quite recovered?”
When relinquishing immortality for her love, Queen Arwen had become prone to the bitterness of mortal existence. Stricken by a mild sickness she had unknowingly given her adoring husband as much worry as was possible for him to bear.
“She is quite well,” Aragorn replied, “just weary, the queenship of Gondor and Arnor is proving a taxing duty.” His face was troubled.
“You worry too much,” said Legolas smiling inwardly, “years of fighting evil of the darkest realms only to collapse at the last when all hopes would appear to have been satisfied.”
“Years of fighting such evil could not have prepared me for dangers of true love. I only hope you one day feel the same strength of emotion, my friend.” said Aragorn resignedly.
“I thank you for what appears to be a wish for my future happiness,” said Legolas, “although it is somewhat veiled. Elessar your manner is certainly changed. I had no idea that such a grim ranger could be invoked thus. Ah, hail master Gimli,” The dwarf approached them , “We are at present discussing our newly crowned comrade’s recent grievances.”
“And what grievance could such a life you have offer?” asked Gimli
“Such that call me away from pleasant discourse with friends !” Aragorn smiled heartily and left to join one of his captains who was standing looking uncomfortable beside the doors.
Legolas and Gimli remained, Legolas gazing over the rooftops and Gimli embedding his teeth in a chunk of bread.
“I have a mind Gimli to visit my father, Thranduil. He will be departing into the West before many moons wane and I would like to see him before he leaves.” said Legolas.
“I shall accompany you,” replied Gimli should the King or Northern Mirkwood suffer to allow a dwarf to enter his realm.”
“He would be honoured to welcome one so valiant of the Khazad, I am glad you are coming for I would have you see the woodland that I shall never inherit.” answered Legolas.
“There will be other heritages for you to claim before the world’s end,” Gimli comforted his friend, “And this parting will not be forever, surely in the coming years you shall follow your father into the undying west?”
“I do not wish to be the last elf that Middle-earth holds. They do say that Cirdan the Shipwright will dwell here until the last ship leaves. But it may be that I hold him to those words.” said Legolas grimly.
“I shall never forsake Middle-earth unless it be in early death whilst there is an orc within reach of my axe. It is growing idle here and lusts for battle. There is a counterfeit peace at play, by no means was every orc, Southron or man of Harad destroyed. Without a master they have no purpose and they have become cruel and desperate. They have taken to raiding travelling parties on roads. It is yet another problem for Aragorn to solve.” said Gimli.
“And so he shall in time,” replied Legolas, “he is a great leader and will make a mighty king. Less fell he seems than in times gone by.”
“He has more to lose than in times gone by. Care must be exercised to vanquish the most pressing evils in Middle-earth.” said Gimli.
By the leave of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli departed within a few days and made their way to the distant realm of Legolas’ kin.
Mirkwood was dark leaved and dappled in the rays of sun that penetrated the dense forest. Shadows danced across pathways only trodden by elven feet. Gimli studied his friend’s face as they rode. Legolas seemed to perceive things far away, his eyes glazed and he murmured softly,
“Lenna mirith remmyn luel throvaninen? We are nearing the halls of my father, Gimli. They are deep in the forest. These roads used to be full of elvish folk, great losses were suffered at the jaws of wolves and the hands of orcs. Battles were fought on more than one front, the battle here was fierce.
Come let us walk now, the path is narrow and Arod may be more surefooted without his burden.
At his words after Legolas jumped down, the horse of Rohan followed his master obediently. He was without bit or rein and had been a gift to Legolas from Eomer, Third Marshall of the Riddermark.
Gimli was less comfortable on his borrowed, stubborn pony, Spadix and was only too pleased to dismount.
Legolas led on through the woodland, his lead lengthening. Gimli lagged behind practically dragging Spadix who walked slowly and placidly behind.
Gimli leant against a tree for breath and an arrow whined past his ear. Another followed it yet the dwarf was unhurt. He tried to rouse himself and reach for his axe yet found that he was firmly pinned to the tree.
“Legolas!” he cried
Two elves dropped down out of nowhere and Gimli started. It appeared as though Legolas himself had been doubled and now stood before him. Yet these elves were younger and unfamiliar.
“By what name did you call us, dwarf?” asked the first. Their raiment blended subtly into the trees and they could move without being noticed, Gimli was reminded of the huorns of Fangorn.
“I called the name of Legolas son of Thranduil for he is my comrade and just now gone ahead.” Gimli replied hotly. As if in answer Legolas came bounding through the trees, knife drawn hearkening to Gimli’s voice.
“Legolas!” cried the elves as one.
“Lethryn, Armuil!” Legolas clasped the strangers’ hands and they embraced.
“Ahem,” a cough from Gimli reminded his friend that the dwarf was still pinned fast by his cloak to a tree.
“My friends this is Gimli son of Gloin, a valiant member of my company.” he explained
“Hail Gimli son of Gloin, my apologies for discomforting you. I had no idea you journeyed with our noble prince. Yet I fear that without his majesty Thranduil’s leave you may not pass any further into his realm.” said the elf whom Legolas had name Armuil.
“My leave shall suffice Armuil.” said Legolas sternly, “and I give it now. Come Gimli.” he retracted the arrows and handed them to Lethryn who looked slightly ashamed.
“Your pardon my lord, I mean no disrespect. Lethryn and myself shall run ahead and warn his majesty of your arrival.”
“No Armuil” said Legolas, “Either remain at your posts or accompany us to my father’s halls. I shall appear unheralded to my father. Come what news have you to tell?”
The growing company now moved on. Legolas told Armuil all that had come to pass since he departed. Armuil looked at his prince with fresh wonder as he recounted the tales of the battle of Helm’s Deep and the fight of the dead at Umbar.
“Great tales have you my lord.” he said, ” I envy you your adventures but we have had many ourselves. A battle was fought nearby upon the east side and many elves were slain. Orcs penetrated far and there was great burning of tree and bush. Alas for the beauty of those flowering glades that nevermore shall be seen.”
Gimli was delighting in describing Lorien and the Golden Lady to Lethryn. Lethryn had commented upon the cloak Gimli wore which revealed no evidence of any arrow piercing. Only the mention of the Lady Galadriel could have spurred Gimli to speak as graciously as he did. The only other subject on which he spoke thus were the Glittering Caves of Helm’s Deep.
“For the present ,” he said, “I have kept her fair gift in a box inlaid with gold.”
“And what do you plan to do with it in the future?” asked Lethryn amazed that the Sorceress of the Golden Wood had given her favour to Gimli and Legolas.
“I plan to forge a casket of mountain crystal bound with mithril and house her gift in something as fair as my hands can contrive.”
Thus they passed into the Woodland Realm in pleasant conversation. Lethryn and Armuil were wary of Gimli as they got closer to the halls of Thranduil. A dwarf had not entered Mirkwood for many an age.
Suddenly to path widened and was lined either side with dense foliage of a thousand shade of green rippling in the breeze. A great building loomed ahead. Intricate carvings of the craft of elves combined with the impregnability of dwarvish engineering created a magnificent building. Leaves were emblazoned across the doors and writhed likes snakes up pillars.
Legolas ran up the steps eagerly, passed the stunned guardsmen who knelt in welcome and thrust the doors aside. King Thranduil stood with his captains in deep discourse. He looked up, gasped and ran towards his son. Legolas embraced his father who looked very like him yet Thranduil’s eyes held a well of knowledge deeper than the Western sea.
“My son your presence has been sorely missed. Your coming is unexpected, surely a tale worthy of hearing lies upon your brow and I shall rejoice to hear it. Wynith! Send word to the rest of Mirkwood that your prince has returned!”
A waiting lady ran off at his bidding.
“Who is thine companion? A dwarf? In Mirkwood?” Thranduil looked aghast.
“He is Gimli son of Gloin my lord, and for him I vouch. He is brave and fearless as you will hear if you welcome him.” said Legolas quickly.
Thranduil pondered and said, “So shall it be yet against , my liking. G son of Gloin you are welcomed to Mirkwood. I hope you find your board comfortable. Here you may stay until all paths are sundered when we depart West.”
“Nay father,” replied Legolas. “I shall not leave when the rest of my people do for I have been dwelling in Gondor with the King and I wish to return there before the year much ages. I came solely to look upon the land of my home one last time and to visit the family I have so often longed for.”
“Then my son let us make use of the time we have. Come and tell me all that you have done. Master Gimli will you join us?” Said Thranduil.The King invited Gimli and Legolas to an ante room where they sat around a fire and told Thranduil of everything that had come to pass by their hands in the War of the Ring. The King was amazed, no less than Armuil the watch elf had been.
” You have certainly had your fill of excitement .” he said at last. He then asked whether they would go to bed for the sun had set and twilight enveloped the forest. Gimli agreed but Legolas decided to take a walk around his homeland.
The houses hidden amongst the trees were as beautiful as he remembered and he was welcomed by many of his elven kin as they strolled beneath the starlight. Legolas rested in a clearing surrounded by flowering trees. Springtime brought blossom to boughs and gladness to hearts. Snatches of a haunting melody reached him and a voice fairer than he could ever imagine drew him towards a lake. Mirrored in the still water, crowned by the reflection of the star of Earendil a maiden sat, trailing her fingers in the clear water, singing to herself.
As Legolas approached she glanced up and her tune faltered, she saw him staring at her. She arose and flitted away theough the trees. He followed helplessly until as a glimmer in the night she was gone.
Dazed and confused, Legolas returned to his chambers and slept fitfully.
“Father,” he spoke upon descending for breakfast, “father, who is the maiden who delights in singing beside the pool of Gil-Marath?”
” I know not of whom you speak.” he replied, “She may be one of the Aralian, who dwell beside that grove.”
At his words Legolas left and seeking the pool of Gil-Marath he made his way through the forest. Gimli had found scores of elves eager to hear his tales and was kept amused all day.
Legolas sought the Aralian people all morning and as the noon sun grew hot he came upon some fine houses wrapped as the Galadhremmon would fashion, around the trunks of trees. Legolas had not visited this place often. The Aralian folk dwelt deep in the forest and were Sindar elves though they appeared less frequently to the rest of Mirkwood.
Beside the pool where the fair maiden was wont to come Legolas heard again the harmony that enchanted his soul. He saw her and she did not flee. Her beauty was without rival in the prince’s opinion, her hair was golden in the sunlight, deep as the shadows beneath the boughs, infinitely changeable. Clad in midnight blue, her eyes held a light wondrous to behold. Breathless Legolas stared and she held his gaze long.
“Hail lady of the Aralia,” he said as soon as he regained speech,
“Hail my lord Greenleaf,” she replied. They walked awhile around the hallowed pool wherein Legolas learned of her name, she was called Elinia. Long into the evening they remained together until Legolas felt obliged to return to his chambers.
“Master Legolas, you have been away all day. Such desertion is enough to drive a faithful companion quite to distraction.” Gimli said when he rose and found Legolas in the dining room.
“I am sorry Gimli, truly,” Legolas reproached, “I was walking with the fairest lady of Mirkwood, Lady Elinia. Such beauty cannot be described in words, she is as the stars and the moon blended. A silmaril would pale in her wake.”
“I have never heard you speak so,” said Gimli astonished, “Will you see her tomorrow? Your people are leaving by road to the havens soon, will you ask her to stay?”
“I cannot,” said Legolas, “she may not consent and I have not the right to ask.”
Gimli looked at him thoughtfully and said, “I do not judge the right, only the desire.”
Each day of Legolas was spent in the company of Elinia the fair. For the first time he felt the love and emotion that Aragorn spoke of, piercing his heart. Each night Gimli counselled him to ask her hand, each night Legolas was restrained by doubt of her response. Each day drew their parting nearer.
Legolas and Gimli came to the end of their stay in Mirkwood. Many gifts were pressed to them but Legolas was completely distracted. Elinia came to him to say farewell and her face was so full of a shining hope that it was all Legolas could do to prevent himself taking her in his arms and kissing all her troubles away. He was discontented all the ride back and spoke little. Legolas’ kin would not depart for two months and he judged that he had time in plenty to consider the affairs of his heart. When they reached Minas Tirith they were welcomed warmly. More welcome was the news that the lady Arwen was with child and Gondor was to have a new heir.
Aragorn’s face was alight with happiness as was his wife’s.
“Congratulations my lord,” said Gimli, “It is a blessing for mankind that so fair a lady should people the earth,” Arwen beamed at these words and Aragorn seemed incontainable in his delight with his new expectation of even more happiness, should it be possible.
“You seem subdued,” said Aragorn, “Are you alright? I fear your visit to Lord Thranduil was unsatisfactory, is something amiss?”
“No indeed, Elessar. I apologise for my diversion, I am so happy for you both. Such parents can only beget a child truly blessed amongst the reckoning of both elves and men.”
Legolas was indeed thrilled for his friends but Elinia lay ever at the fore of his mind.
Never before had Gondor seen such jubilation that reigned over the next weeks. The first king for many lives of men ordered feasts and gatherings of great magnitude to mark the occasion. Each former member of the fellowship was present and their kin. The beauty of the ladies Galadriel and Arwen combined outshone the light of anything entwined in the memories of men.
When the feasting was ended the company sat in a hall to sing songs and tell tales. Aragorn sat with his friends and the citizens of Gondor regaled to see so many fair folk gathered together. Legolas sat pondering his dilemma throughout the merrymaking. He resolved to ask the advice of a man who would seem to have accomplished everything a mortal could desire. The revelry continued long but when it was over Legolas approached Aragorn tentatively.
“Elessar,” he said, “I need your counsel in matters in which you appear wise.”
“What may they be?” asked Aragorn intrigued.
Legolas recalled the meeting with Elinia and the strength of emotion he expressed surpassed any passion perceived by Aragorn in battle.
“My good Legolas what doubt could you have? If you feel as you say for this fair lady then to allow her to leave would hold a vice over both hearts. There is but one love of the life that can never be overcome. You may love again but never shall it be to the same degree.”
“I agree,” said a voice from the shadows, “I beg forgiveness for listening to your plight yet a woman’s advice in these matters goes rarely astray.”
The beautiful Queen of Gondor appeared behind Legolas and kissed her husband.
“My lady what advice have you upon your husband’s? I would be glad to hear it.” Legolas said.
“I believe that this lady loves thee deeply. You must learn to take risks for love. I forsook Tol Eressea for Aragorn and never shall I regret it. If this love be true then neither shall thou. Come Aragorn, the night is no longer young. Legolas the boats of Mirkwood leave within the month, consider quickly.”
With those words they smiled and left, walking hand in hand along a rose lined path back towards the halls. Legolas watched them go, his heart lighter. He knew he wanted the love shared between Aragorn and Arwen and he knew he must act.
Legolas prepared Arod the next day and, resolved to go alone, came to bid farewell to Aragorn and Gimli. On arrival in the Citadel he was surprised to behold Aragorn and Gimli attired as for travel striding towards him leading Roheryn and Spadix.
“We knew of your plan Legolas,” said Aragorn wryly, “We could not allow you to go it alone.”
Speechless Legolas smiled wanly with a mixture of gratitude, relief and apprehension.
The ride to the Havens was relatively uneventful. A minor delay involved several orcs and some eager hewing by Gimli and his axe.
The Havens came into view as did the wide sea. It stirred a longing in Legolas’ heart for the land beyond its waters, the elvenhome. He gazed awestruck until Aragorn jabbed him and pointed to the company of Mirkwood elves boarding a grey ship with an arched prow. Elinia the fair stepped foot over deck, her light diminished, her face downcast as she drew her eyes towards Gondor and the love that had not returned.
“Ai Elinia!” Legolas cried, heeding not the stares of strangers. “Elinia mae arian!” Running light as a deer he sprang aboard ship and embraced the maiden. She was radiant as a jewel and held captivated those who stood nearby,
“Elinia if it be thy will I beg thy hand in marriage. Stay awhile in Middle-earth and depart at the last with me.”
Elinia seemed overcome with emotion and said weakly,
“Since you first appeared to me beside the pool of Gil-Marath I have loved you, as Beren loved Luthien until death so shall I love you. I thought that you would not ask and we would part forever, I will marry you.”
At these words Legolas took her in his arms and kissed her long. Many watched smiling and Aragorn and Gimli were almost as happy as their friend.
Elinia was befriended by the lady Arwen and the wedding was to take place in Gondor very soon. Thranduil came and many of the remaining elves of Mirkwood. Legolas and Elinia spent all their time in each other’s company enjoying their happiness brought about by pure love.
The wedding was splendid in its guests, décor and fulfilment and the night of passion that followed was equal in Legolas’ mind to no other time.
The year ended with even more feasting and enjoyment at the birth of the heir of Gondor, Aragorn and Arwen achieved all their desires and Legolas found joy in his marriage. Gimli took no wife yet found contentment in the Glittering Caves, which he paid many visits to, often with Legolas.