Beyond the dense canopy of oak and beech the summer stars were unveiling. The leafy green tops shimmered silver in the starlight, but the old twisted trunks were shrouded in shadows. Night had come to Mirkwood. In the darkness savage creatures hunted, a pack of wolves howled, their yellow eyes gleamed as they spotted the glow of a bonfire burning through the pillars of beech.
They could smell the scent of roasting venison and smoked boar, which radiated from the firelight, but they came no closer, for with the strong scent of meat was the hint of magic, Elven magic, which this pack had learn long ago to avoid.
Nimrodel sat on a sawed tree-ring with her legs tucked neatly under her long flowing skirt so that only the tips of her beaded slippers could be seen. She leaned ever so slightly over the wooden table laden with goods for the Elven Summer Feast and flashed alluring spring green eyes at her companion.
“So, you were saying your love is so strong that you would even battle dragons to protect me?” she said with a sweet soprano voice and smiled coyly.
Gil-Lömé Mirdan returned her smile, ” I would do anything for you, vanimelda,”he said very gently placing his long, slender hands over the Elven maid’s delicate ones, as if he was afraid he might break them.
“Would you slay spiders? Fight the Necromancer? Talk back to a wizard?” Nimrodel said all in one breath, her voice rising in pitch with each word.
“Anything you name, for you have set an unquenchable fire within me.” The handsome jewelwright answered. “The moment you bid me I shall act.” An idyllic grin crept across Gil-Lömé’s face.
“The moment I bade you?” Nimrodel repeated arching a slender blond eyebrow.
“The very moment,” Gil-Lömé whispered lost in her eyes.
” Will you do a jig on the table while singing The Bloom Was On The Alder?” Nimrodel asked her voice low and enticing.
The color rushed out of Gil-Lömé’s face and his dark eyes strayed from the lady to the others at the feast. Wood-elves were laughing merrily by the fireside, light-footed couples were dancing under the oaks and someone was singing a soft ballad of the Ents searching for the Entwives.
“This is the Summer Feast not a carnival,” Gil-Lömé said in harsh whisper, ” Do you know how foolish I would look, beside Noldor do not dance on tables!”
“Gil, don’t blow this all out of proportion. I just wanted to see if you would really do anything for me. And its not like I’m really going to ask you to slay a dragon or something!” Nimrodel said sliding her hands free of Gil-Lömé’s grip. “But I guess your love isn’t strong enough to overcome the embarrassment of dancing on the table. Besides, you’ve been tapping your foot under the table all evening. I thought maybe, a little light-hearted fun would calm your nerves.”
“Its not that I wouldn’t make a total fool of myself for you,” Gil-Lömé said glancing quickly to the right. He caught the eye of a young elf leaning casually against a beech, a flask of wine in his hand. The elf, who was still in his nine-hundredths, was fairly robust for a Wood-Elf, and in the dark he might be mistaken for one of the Lake-men. He returned Gil-Lömé’s glance with a faint nod. Then, Teledhel Clumsy-foot put down his flask and trotted over to the Elven couple.
“I had hoped to prove my love to you by a gesture worthy of my station,” Gil-Lömé said, ” I have wrought a gift for you.”
Teledhel, arriving at the table, placed a tiny ceramic green chest between the lovers. As he pulled his arm back his elbow hit a bowl of fruit that would have tumbled to the ground if Gil-Lömé had not caught it.
“Sorry,” Teledhel said with a sheepish grin and backed away carefully, but as he left he winked at Gil-Lömé, who sighed heavily.
Nimrodel looked up from the chest, ” You are so tense tonight, darling,” she said. “Is there something bothering you?”
“No. Please,” he said, “open the lid.”
Nimrodel’s slender fingers flipped up the delicate golden latch and gently pulled back the lid. But she never beheld what was inside, from the edge of the firelight came a loud crash and the sound of many people stomping and shouting. The elves leapt to their feet scooping up the food and drink and trying hard not to snicker at the band of dwarves that entered the clearing. Gil-Lömé caught a glimpse of Teledhel kicking out the fire, which turned into a shower of sparks and ashes that vanished instantly into the dark night. The Wood-Elves fled into the forest leaving the dwarves to fend for themselves.
Once a good distance away the party of Elves chattered with excitement.
“What were all those dwarves doing there?”
“Making trouble.” Someone answered,” you can still hear them shouting and stumbling in the dark. Whoever the are the should not have left the path.”
“Serves them right for bursting into our feast uninvited,” another said.
“But did you see that smaller fellow with them, he had no beard, and I don’t think he was a dwarf at all!” Teledhel said.
Gil-Lömé quickened his pace to catch up with his friend, but a tug from Nimrodel held him back. She smiled deviously and drug him deeper into the murk of the forest.
“Where are you going?” he said hotly.
“Oh Gil! Come on, let’s have a little fun away from everyone else. Besides I thought maybe if we were alone you would loosen up a bit,” she said pulling him in close and giving him a quick kiss. Then she vanished into the night with a girlish giggle, her green dress swishing as she went. Gil-Lömé followed her.
They met again on a quiet hillock lit by a moonbeam that had crept through the entangled branches above. Nimrodel’s golden curls gleamed in the blue light as she held up the chest, “Will you hold it?” she asked him.
With a trembling hand Gil-Lömé took the chest and held it. Nimrodel carefully lifted back the lid and her green eyes danced.
“O, Gil-Lömé,” she whispered.
From the chest she carefully lifted out a hand-sized barrette wrought from ebony, silver, and an opal shell creating the image of one of the black butterflies that live in the treetops.
As Nimrodel carefully pinned it into her hair, Gil-Lömé reached his fingers into his breast pocket. A slender silver ring appeared in his palm. It twinkled in the moonlight, like leaves touched with winter frost.
“I hope you will wear it on your wedding day,” he said as the glow in his eyes spread over Nimrodel’s face.
“My father?” she asked.
“He gave his consent this morning.”
A burst of gleeful laughter came over Nimrodel and she flung herself into Gil- Lömé’s arms. He lifted her into the air and spun her around with delight. They stood silent in each other’s arms, and they might have stood there for all time had not the little patch of moonlight vanished. The moon had gone on wandering and it was now sometime between midnight and the dawn, the time of Star-dusk. At the sudden blackness the wood-elves broke their embrace.
“Come, vanimelda,” said Gil-Lömé, ” We have lingered in the dark woods for too long. We ought to return to the feast.”
Although the night falls blackest in Mirkwood, the elves were little hindered by the dark. They saw the ancient oak root blocking their path. The woody barricade stood three feet height and four feet thick. Gil-Lömé instantly sprang to the top of it and offered his hand to his bride to be. He was about to leap down when she pointed. From their perch they could see the twinkling of fires.
“What of the feast, Nimrodel?” Gil- Lömé said.
“They go on with their merrymaking as if we weren’t even missing,” answered Nimrodel, “But I’m in no hurry to get back. I don’t see why you’re so worried. Everyone says these woods are dangerous, but I have met nothing but the moon and he charmed me rather than frightened me. If I wait a bit longer maybe I will even get a kiss.”
She began to dance along the edge of the root, “Come now, will you not dance with me?” she begged
Gil- Lömé fell into step taking her hand and they preformed a slow Elven dance up and down the root.
“Gil-Lömé you are a splendid dancer, why could you not dance for me at the feast.”
“I was not going to make a fool of myself by doing a jig on the table,” he replied.
“Are you afraid you would lose your footing?” Nimrodel said mockingly.
“I am as graceful as the Elven-King,” Gil- Lömé said softly, but his pride was burning inside him and suddenly he released his lady’s hand and ran down the root, and did a flip.
In the darkness he could see the massive root and he performed his feat with effortless grace, but he did not see the thick cobweb that had been spun in the sagging branches. As his feet came over his head they were entangled in the thick gossamer fibers and he dropped to his back like an acrobat falling into a net and there he lay almost horizontal staring up at the quivering black oak leaves, which were still shaking from the impact of his body hitting the web.
His pride melted into embarrassment and his shame silenced him. He dared not call out for Nimrodel, but stared into the shifting shadows of the leaves. He knew that his pride had entangled him in this humbling position, as surely as the hidden stars were shining brightly overhead. He suddenly thought of Teledhel, his dear friend, who was notoriously clumsy. Gil- Lömé laughed, knowing his friend no matter how clumsy would never have managed to get so cleverly caught in a spider’s web.
Swallowing his pride he called out for Nimrodel, but she had already come and was standing at the edge the web. The bright star of Eärendil sailed overhead and pierced the forest with a strange white glow. The light fell over Gil-Lömé and Nimrodel, but everything else remained in gloomy shadow. Gil-Lömé tilted his head up to look at Nimrodel. She was frightened.
“Its just web, Nimrodel. I know I was stupid and danced right into it. I guess I was just too full of myself and needed a little reminder. But I repent. And now if you still love me, get a stick and get me out of this thing.”
The elf maid smiled, ” Ah! Gil, of course I love you, and more now than ever. For who can not love a man who would make a fool out of himself for the sake of the one he loves.”
She jumped to the ground and began to look about for a strong stolid branch. She started to hum, but then she heard a twig snap. She froze gazing into the blackness, her heart pounding. A shape moved in the half-light and she raised the branch with trembling hands.
The intruder stepped into the starlight, a great white stag his silver-grey antlers held high, and his eyes coal black. Nimrodel met his gaze. She lowered her arm and she reached a slender hand to touch him.
“Nimrodel!” Gil- Lömé shouted.
The stag leapt back into the shadows of the forest and was gone. With a wishful sigh Nimrodel scaled the root and looked down at her fiance.
“Really,” She said, “I thought it was you that was suppose do the rescuing .” She began to cleave the webs with the stick.
“Well,” Gil- Lömé said, ” you have my permission to alter the story and tell everyone I did.”
She had cleared a path so she that could stand safely next to his shoulder. Gil-Lömé pulled his left arm free of the weakening threads. Still pondering a clever response for him, Nimrodel began to hack the web away from his feet. So her back was turned to the shadow that suddenly descended from the branches of the oak, a black spider no bigger than a hunting dog, but vicious and hungry for it’s next meal.
“Nuo!” Gil- Lömé screamed while he unsheathed his belt knife with his free hand. Nimrodel dropped to a crouch and he threw the knife threw over her head. The blade cut off a leg, and the creature hissed fiercely, but came on even faster. Nimrodel gave it a good solid kick and the spider never got any farther. Its body rolled off into the briar and did not stir again.
“Oh!” Nimrodel said wiping a gold strand from her eyes, “Now I’m going to have to tell Teledhel at least, that you got tangled in a web and I had to save you from a tiny little spider.” She pulled the last thread away and handed him back his knife.
Gil-Lömé now freed was picking the sticky strings out of his hair, “As you wish,” he said.
They walked on towards the fire’s glow with little incident. But Nimrodel halted just shy of the fire light, “You don’t have to dance a jig on the table and sing The Bloom Was on the Alder, “she said, “I will still love you.”
“And what shame is there in dancing on the table” Gil- Lömé said, “I may be a Noldo, but I’m only half Noldo, beside what different does it make at a Wood-Elf feast. And what’s more, I should not go back on my word and I said your wish is my command.”
So it is believed that Gil- Lömé danced upon the table that night, however, no one saw him for the moment he bounded on the tabletop poor little Bilbo was thrust into the firelight and all the lights went out.