STRUGGLE TO LIVE
Last chapter’s summary: The fellowship finally set out to the journey to Lothlorien.
Chapter 11: The Broken Pieces of the Stone?
“You hadn’t guessed that we would be together on the road again this soon, had you Master Dwarf?” Legolas smiled. The two friends had already walked past Mirkwood’s border, but they hadn’t met any foul creature. The sky was bright and clear; the spring wind blew on the air, lowered the heat they had on their walk, making the journey much enjoyable so far.
Gimli replied in a grumpy voice, “Yes. Too bad we are on a quest; I would enjoy more if we are on a light-hearted trip.”
“I am afraid the nine of us won’t be together if we are only on a trip. Everyone is quite occupied. . . say, how are things going in Lonely Mountain and Glittering Caves, my Lord?” the elf was amused at the new title his dwarf friend had, “You must be quite busy building the new gates for Minas Tirith! I have to see it when it is done.”
The dwarf couldn’t stop smiling sheepishly at his new project, “Oh that you must, my good friend! The gate is going to be magnificent! We have made sure that this gate will be the strongest and unbreakable, for it is forged out of mithril and steel.”
Legolas laughed at his friend’s enthusiasm, “Yes. It will be the most glorifying symbol for Gondor. The friendship between men and dwarves will surly pass on for generations.” Suddenly, his eyes sparkled devilishly and continued, “Do you have any other merriment you wish to share with me? Like. . . has any fair maiden captured the heart of the dwarven lord yet?”
“No! There isn’t any!” Gimli denied quickly.
Legolas’ grey eyes observed the dwarf, amused at his friend’s reaction, “Why? Is it because no other fair ladies can compare with Lady Galadriel?”
“Of course! Her beauty cannot be compared with any other people’s. She is an illuminated star that shines ever so brightly on the sky that I will adore forever,” Gimli’s eyes showed great depth of admiration. “Although this star is out of my reach, I will still cherish it. I am just very glad that we are going to see her again very soon.”
Legolas nodded in agreement when he noticed the dwarf walked especially fast today; he didn’t even try to hide his anticipation. He looked back a few miles away to his homeland. The wood of Mirkwood had become safer as the time past. Although the force of Sauron had destroyed for over two years, some of the foul creatures had remained. It would take time to restore the peace. His keen eyes could see the rest of the fellowship. They caught up with them very soon.
“Have you found any trouble?” Aragorn asked.
The elf shook his head, “No. It is very quiet around. We haven’t encountered any giant spider or orc. However, we shouldn’t let our guard down. Who knows what Lotatio has planned.” He stopped when he saw the frighten looks on the hobbits. He knew he shouldn’t keep going to scare the little ones. Even though they volunteered on this journey, they were only seeking fun, not danger.
“Yes. We better hurry to Lothlorien. It will be safer there with the protection of the Lady. You have to see the sight of the fair Golden Wood in the time of spring, it is the most beautify place on the Middle Earth!” Gandalf spoke merrily to cheer the hobbits.
They continued walking, but the tension and nervousness the hobbits had overshadowed their usually joyful nature. Legolas changed the topic, “I hope you didn’t have too much troubles dealing with my oldest brother.”
“He was furious!” Pippin brightened and laughed at the mental image of the crown prince of Mirkwood.
Merry added excitedly, “He kept fussed over how you didn’t say goodbye to him.”
Pippin finished, “Not to mention he wanted to see if you bring everything on the journey!”
“Yes. We have to thank Prince Tekrir for keeping Prince Arail in check,” Frodo smiled. “I think he almost wanted to come after you.”
Legolas laughed. He had already missed his family. Even though Arail was overprotective and it could annoy him to no end, he understood his brother’s intention was good. He wondered if he would see them again.
Few days had past until the fellowship reached the Golden Wood. The members of the fellowship gasped at the sight, it was as beautiful as they last remembered during the War of Ring. Faramir’s eyes shined with astonishment, since it was the first time he came to legendary Lothlorien, the home of the Silvan elves. Even as a man of poetry and art, he still found it hard to use words to describe the fairness he saw. The trees stood tall and strong on the ground as they were youth, although the marks gave their ages away. Mysterious aura surrounded the wood, making it somehow seemed untouchable.
“We have been surrounded by the Lothlorien elves again,” Legolas commented as he looked up to one particular tree, “Come out, Haldir!” Other members of the fellowship knew what was going on; Faramir was a little clueless on the subject, for he didn’t sense any elf nearby, but he knew the earth wouldn’t reveal the traces of the Firstborn. Gandalf smiled. Although he didn’t come to Lothlorien with the fellowship last time, he himself had often visited the Lady and the Lord, so he knew the special hospitality of the elves in the Golden Wood.
“I just want to see how long it takes you to realize our presence,” the marchwarden jumped down. Other elves appeared out from the shadow also, among them were Haldir’s two brothers Rúmil and Orophin. “It looks like you are as sharp as usual, my dear cousin. May I ask what gives us away this time?”
“You breathe too hard that I can shoot you in the dark.”
Haldir smiled arrogantly at Legolas, “Really? Maybe you saw me because you have a stiff neck!” He gave a sign to the other elves, telling them to continue their guard, and then turned to the other members of the fellowship, “The nine walkers. . . May I have your name? You are strange yet your features are familiar,” he addressed Faramir.
Aragorn was about to respond, but the hobbits beat him to it. Pippin introduced, “This is Faramir, the Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien. He looks familiar to you because he is the younger brother of Boromir.”
“Oh! The other human who was in the fellowship,” Haldir remembered. He turned to Faramir and said, “I am sorry for his death.” The members of the fellowship grew solemn at the mention of a lost friend.
Faramir smiled, “Thanks. My brother was a strong warrior and his name shall be remembered by the people of Gondor.” Everyone could see his fondness of Boromir as he spoke.
The marchwarden nodded, “Please come this way. The Lady is expecting you.”
Legolas pretended to be shock, “No blindfold this time?” and laughed while elbowing his friend.
Haldir chuckled as he led the fellowship to Caras Galadhon, “No. Well, unless you want to, Legolas, but I doubt that very much.”
The hobbits tried to fill in some of the blanks for Faramir as they followed the guardian to the center of the tree city, which heightened the Steward’s anxiety. Light shined through the leaves; buildings extended to every braches of the trees. Haldir led them to the long stairs and stopped until they reached the very top.
The Lord and the Lady were sitting there, waiting for the arrival of the fellowship. Gimli’s mouth fell a little open at the sight of Galadriel, as if it was the first time he saw her. Sam smiled brightly; he loved everything about elves. Faramir was amazed. He had heard Gimli’s high praise for the Lady of the Wood in the past few days, yet he didn’t expect the talks were truth. The fellowship and Haldir bowed down immediately.
“Welcome to Lothlorien,” Celeborn greeted, and he motioned everyone to take a seat. Galadriel remained silent as she observed the fellowship. The Lord continued, “It’s a pleasure to see you again, King Elessar. And you too, Mithrandir, Prince Legolas Thranduillion, Gimli Son of Gloin, Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Meriadoc Brandybuck, Peregrin Took, and. . .”
Haldir introduced, “This is Faramir, Son of Denthor, the brother to Boromir who was in the fellowship.”
The Sindar Lord nodded. “We understand your intention in this visit,” he said.
“And we are glad to help in anyway we can,” Galadriel finished.
Gandalf smiled, “Thank you for the offer.”
The Lady stated, “You are looking for the Stone of Palayne. You know that this journey is going to be perilous, for the stone is made of evil, and there are other people who also seeking for the stone will do anything to get what they desire. Many had tried to retrieve the stone in the past, but they all failed miserably because there were dark forces guarding the stone.”
Aragorn stood up. His eyes were full of bravery and his voice was confident, “We understand the danger in this mission, but Legolas’ live depends on it, and so does the Middle Earth. Many lives will perish if Lotatio, the son of Melkor, has the stone in his hands. Can you tell us where the Stone of Palayne is, my Lady?”
Galadriel looked at Aragorn for a while, and said, “Where is? Maybe the question should be where are.” This statement caused many confusions stirred up among the fellowship.
The wizard asked, “I do not understand your words, my Lady. Is there more than one stone?”
“No, there is only one Stone of Palayne, however, there are five pieces of it. Because the Dark Lord was afraid we can sense the power of the stone when he was about to be exiled, thus he broke it into pieces and hid them in different places all over Middle Earth.”
Sam said grimly, “That doesn’t help our quest at all.”
Frodo agreed in sober, “No, it doesn’t. We have to search all five to put them together.”
Legolas sensed the distress among the hobbits. He felt sorry for pulling the innocent hobbits into this quest. Gimli asked Galadriel, “So how can we find them? Do you know the proper locations of those pieces?”
The Lady shook her head, “The locations can only be estimated, because there are dark auras and more dark creatures around the pieces. So the only way to find them is to look for the trace of the darkness.” She then turned her attention to Legolas, which caused the young prince to tense up, “The power of the stone is fade with it is broken apart. Only those who have Melkor’s blood have strong bond with the stone and are able to sense where exactly the pieces are.”
“But how do I sense them, my Lady? I haven’t even seen the stone,” Legolas replied uncertainly.
Galadriel smiled warmly, “You will know when the time comes.”
“So is there any place that you will suggest us to look for?” Gandalf asked, hoping there might be some places they could try. They could cancel out the possibility of the pieces be in Lothlorien first, for it was virtually impossible for evil to be in the Golden Wood. Maybe they should look into the kingdoms of men . . .
“Your suggestion is very reasonable, Mithrandir. One of the possible places I can think of is the places of men, for it was an easier place for darkness to claim the areas of men than elves,” Galadriel read the mind of the wizard. Gandalf chuckled as he was once again amazed by the Lady of the Wood.
The fellowship was invited to have a meal afterward, much to the delight of the hobbits. After they spent few days in Mirkwood and tasted all the Mirkwood dishes, they were ready to try some more Lothlorien dishes that they weren’t able to try during their last visit few years ago. Almost everybody was having a good time, almost. . . everybody except the prince of Mirkwood.
Legolas smiled as he declined the invitation, saying he was still full from today’s lunch they had on the road. Aragorn and Gimli looked at the elf with concern, but he brushed them off and tried to reassure them he was alright. They understood their friend needed some space, so they finally left him alone.
Haldir saw the prince sitting on side of the river, arms holding his knees protectively and eyes staring on a great distant. He sat down besides him, “What troubles you, Legolas?”
The prince looked at him for a moment, but turned back to look at the river as he remained silent.
“Don’t you trust me?” The marchwarden tried again.
“Of course I trust you, Haldir. It is just. . .” Legolas shook his head and sighed deeply, and sorrow appeared on the fair face, “The word the Lady spoke was not optimistic. It has proven that this journey will be perilous. I do not wish to endanger any other. If I am the only one who can tell the exact location of the pieces, then I should leave the group and travel alone, because then they won’t be in danger. However, I don’t want to hurt our friendship, because they won’t like it if I leave without a word, yet they won’t let me if I leave openly. What shall I do?”
Haldir gave his advice to his friend, “I don’t think you should leave them. You know that they will not hesitate to support you until the world comes to the end. They won’t stop helping just because you leave the group. Don’t push them away. Maybe you think it will do them good if they are to be left out from this mission, but you may harm their heart.”
The rest of the fellowship watched Legolas talking with Haldir for some times, but they didn’t dare to join their conversation, for they were afraid Legolas would prefer one of his kin to talk with his problems.
Although Faramir didn’t usually like to bother others’ business, he couldn’t help but asked curiously out of his concern for his friend, “What do you think they are talking about?”
“I wish I have the ears of the elves. I bet elves can hear their conversation even in this great distance,” Gimli said, while he took another sip at his drink.
Frodo said, “They are leaving,” as Legolas stood up and walked away with Haldir.
“Should we follow them?” Merry asked.
Gandalf blew out circles of smoke, “Why? Let Legolas chooses who he feels more comfortable with, so let him be with Haldir for a while.”
Others agreed with Gandalf’s suggestion reluctantly. It made sense that they should let Legolas to be whoever he wished. They continued their meal until they were very full. Soon after, Legolas returned. They could see his distress was gone.
Legolas smiled as he gathered his bags, “There rain is approaching. Haldir said they have tree houses prepared next to his. Come. Let’s get our bags inside before it rains.”
Aragorn wanted to talk to the elf alone, but he didn’t find the chance to when Legolas led them to the tree houses. He lost his chance when the hobbits wanted Legolas to be in their room to listen to his tales. He sighed heavily; he would have to wait until the next day.
The night rained heavily. The fellowship had to stay inside the tree house for the night. The rain finally stopped when morning approached. Aragorn woke up as soon as the sun rose, then he went to find Legolas. It wasn’t the sight he expected: the hobbits were sleeping deeply, while the elf and his bags were all gone. Despair started to fill his heart completely. He quickly shook Frodo, trying to wake the hobbit. Frodo nuzzled under the blanket a little before he opened his huge bright eyes. He sat up and said, “Good morning, Strider.” He then noticed the worry look the human had, and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Where is Legolas?”
The former ring bearer looked at the spot Legolas slept last night. The blanket was nicely folded, but the elf was no where in sight, “I don’t know.”
Aragorn stood up and yelled, “He and his bags are all gone! Where can he gone to?” Frodo flinched at the loudness. The other hobbits woke up quickly when they heard the yelling, wondering what was going on. Other members of the fellowship were awake also.
The matchwarden suddenly appeared on the door. He said before anyone asked him the question, “He left.”
“Legolas left?” Aragorn asked to confirm what he heard. He knew he was right when Haldir repeated, “Legolas left soon after the rain stopped, but you may be able to catch him.”
Aragorn hurried back to his room and packed, without saying one word to the others. The rest of the fellowship got the hint and gathered all the bags they carried and hurried off. They met Galadriel and Celeborn outside.
Although Aragorn held great respect to the Lord and the Lady, he unconsciously raised his voice, “Legolas left during the night without a word!”
Celeborn nodded calmly and said, “Then you should quickly find him. Do not let his action angers you, for he did this out of the love he holds for you.”
Galadriel gave her blessing, “We hope you find him soon. May Valar watch over you.”
The fellowship gave their farewell to the Lord and the Lady, then quickly ran toward the direction Haldir gave them. For the speed, Aragorn and Faramir each carried two hobbits with them.
After some distance, Aragorn put down Frodo and Sam and then looked carefully on the ground to see the marks of the elf. Elves usually didn’t leave any trace, but because of the rain the soil was more wet and soft than usual, which made it easier for Aragorn to see the steps, “He is moving toward Fangorn. I think he is going to go past the forest to Rohan.” Then he picked up the hobbits and continued to run as fast as his legs could bring him.
“Why did Legolas left us? Doesn’t he consider us as his friends? We are supposed to stay together as a fellowship.” Frodo asked to no one particular, but he wanted to bring this comment out of his heart when he learned his friend left.
The wizard said in between his breath, “I suppose Legolas doesn’t want us to be in danger.”
Mary cried, “But we don’t mind to be in danger!” then corrected himself, “Well, we don’t mind to be danger if it doesn’t occur all the time.”
Suddenly, Aragorn stopped. Faramir looked at his king, and noticed the footsteps. He listened closely and said, “Orcs.”
The rest were alarmed as they prepared to battle. It was a band of few orcs.
The hobbits fought as best they could and attacked with their short swords. Faramir stayed close to the hobbits to protect them. Gimli struck down some orcs with his axe, and mumbled something about how glad he could hunt orcs to lower his anger.
Gandalf used his long sword and spell combined to fight. He heard Fordo asked, “Do you think Legolas encountered these orcs as well? Is he in danger?”
“Probably not. Because if he did, these orcs would be all dead. And I don’t think he is in danger,” he answered shortly after he cast his spell.
It didn’t take them long to kill all the orcs. Aragorn struck his sword against the last one and said, “Let’s not waste any more time.”
They left the bodies of the orcs lying and kept running through the wood, didn’t notice the talking and movement of the Ents. They eventually ran out of breath, and Aragorn and Faramir were too tired to move, so they put down the hobbits. They thought they would never catch up with the elf, but suddenly Sam cried, “Look! Isn’t that Legolas?”
All people looked toward the direction Sam was pointing. They saw a slender figure kneeling next to a pond, filling up water for the water bag. The Mirkwood color outfit, the Lothlorien bow, the two pointy ears, and the long blond hair confirmed their suspicion.
“Hah! That’s our elf! Get him!” Gimli cried aloud, which caused Legolas to turn around. His eyes widened at the sight of his friends. He thought of running, and he knew he could outrun them if he wanted, but somehow he couldn’t bring his legs to move. Soon he found himself got pushed onto the ground by Aragorn.
The human asked as he sat on Legolas’ back, pinning his elven friend down, “Where do you think you are going?”
“Why did you leave us? Aren’t we your friends?” Legolas heard one of the hobbits said, but he was not able to see who it was because he was facing the ground.
Aragorn said, applying more weight on his friend, “Now, Legolas, promise me that you won’t run away when I release you.”
“Alright, I won’t. Just let me go!” Legolas said on top of his lung. The human waited a while until he released the elf. Legolas sat up and faced his friends. He met the stern glare from Aragorn, hurt expressions from the hobbits and the others. He knew he owed them an apology, “I am sorry my friends. I thought it would be better if I go alone on this journey, but now I suppose I can do nothing to stop you and I will only cause your pain if I leave you all.”
Pippin smiled, “We will forgive you.” The other hobbits agreed eagerly.
“I am glad to have you back,” Faramir offered a hand to pull Legolas up.
“It was not the brightest thing to do, Legolas. How can we explain ourselves to your father, brothers, and all Mirkwood elves if you get hurt when you are alone? It is well known to all that Mirkwood elves are not easy to deal with when they are angry, you know.” Gandalf ran his hand in his long beard and amused at his own statement.
Gimli held his friend tightly, “Stupid elf! Don’t you try that again! Or else I will have your arms and legs all tie up and pull you on the ground for the rest of this journey!”
Legolas looked at Aragorn, who still didn’t look very pleased. He was about to apologize again, but Aragorn said, “No further apology is needed, my friend.”
They smiled at each other. Deep in Legolas’ heart, he knew everything was fine now.
End of Chapter 11
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