Sensing the rising of the sun, Legolas came out of his sleep-like trance. He looked out at the ocean. The sun shone across the water, glinting off the surf.
Taking some of the wood he built up the fire again, then, standing up straight he stretched himself out, still feeling a bit sore. Rayn rolled over, “Good morning,” she said.
She sat up, and, digging into her pack she pulled out a wafer.
She held it out to Legolas. He took it. It reminded him of lembas, travel food of the elves of Lothlorien. He sat down next to the little fire, chewing thoughtfully.
“We can travel across the water to Alqualondë today,” said Rayn.
“When?” Legolas asked.
“Now, if you want to. It is not far to my boat,” she stood and stamped out the fire. She slung her pack on her back. Legolas picked up his bow and stood up. They began to walk down the beach.
“What is Alqualondë?” Legolas asked.
“It means ‘Haven of the Swans’, and indeed there are many. If you go further inland you will find the palace of Yardan, which is where we are going, so my father can decide what to do with you.”
“You make it sound as though he may execute me.”
“Nay, my father would not do such a thing. He is kind to all creatures, even those from afar,”
Rayn led the way on down the beach. She came to a small cove and slipped behind a rock. She dragged a small boat out from behind it and pushed it in the water. She and Legolas jumped in, and, taking a paddle, Rayn skimmed the boat almost effortlessly across the water.
§ § §
The distant shore drew closer; soon, Legolas’s far-seeing eyes could pick out the swans. Great white shapes moved along the beach. Behind that, buildings and houses dotted the shore. Trees grew everywhere. A pang of love for what he had left behind him tore at his heart.
“Is that Alqualondë? ” he asked.
“Yes, and on the mountain behind that, you can begin to see the palace of Yardan.”
Legolas could see it. A great throng of buildings, all connected, were built into the side of a mountain. Open stairways wound their way up to higher levels and rope bridges crossed from one open-faced platform to another. Supports, shaped and carved like trees graced the front of each platform, wooden vines worked their way over railings and spilled down onto floors. It was not unlike Rivendell, Legolas thought.
Presently they came to the shore. Jumping out, they pulled the boat onto the beach to rest among swans. Rayn turned to him.
“Come, let me show you my world,” she said. He followed her, wondering at the swans and masterful artwork of Alqualondë. She walked down the paths between buildings, around trees, and over a stream. She led the way until they came to the side of the mountain. Legolas looked up. Above him rose the first level of Yardan, and, spiraling higher there were more levels, rising into the sky above him. Rayn went to a small ridge and stepped up onto it. Legolas followed her as she slipped into a tunnel.
The tunnel slanted upward as it climbed the side of the mountain. The only light came from cracks in the walls and from the sun shining through the end. They reached the top; Legolas stood upright and looked far out over Alqualondë. He could see the city, and the swans, and far away he could see the Sea. He glanced upward; the lowest level was closer now.
“How do you get there?” he asked.
“Like this,” Rayn began to climb the rock face. She reached a small hole in the bottom of the rise, and pushed up on the floor. It gave, and she slid up through. She went over to the railing and called to Legolas.
“It isn’t hard, just a matter of going up those rocks for two and a half thousand years,” she grinned.
He began to climb, not as fast as Rayn had, but he made fair time, and pushed himself up through the hole. He stood up, and found he could see even farther.
“Come,” Rayn replaced the trapdoor, and led Legolas up a rope stairway. They crossed rope bridges, and climbed more stairs.
Rayn adopted a regal stance, climbing stairs and walking across bridges in the manner of a queen. Legolas soon found that they were making their way up to the highest point, and had almost reached the main building of the palace.
Rayn went to a door and knocked. A voice shouted from inside.
“Who art thou and what dost thou want?”
“The Half-Queen, Balved, and if you were any more rude I would-”
The door flew open.
“I beg thy leave, Your Highness.” An elf, clad in a cloak of deep green swept a bow to Rayn. He was small, for an elf, but seemed to be old enough. He stood up, and looked at Legolas.
“Ah, another, I see, what’s his name?”
“Treat him like he’s there, Balved, and ask him yourself. You might want to use some of your meager supply of manners, he’s a prince,” Rayn said sternly.
“Hm, he looketh not like one,” said Balved, surveying Legolas’s torn and dirty clothes. “What’s your name, tall one?” he stared up into Legolas’s eyes, then whistled.
“Ooo, Your Majesty, ” he said to Rayn. “I can see he’s a royal elf now, he’s got such bright, glimmering eyes, come ye now then, Master Elf-Prince, I’ll ask you again. What’s your name?”
“Legolas,” he said, letting an annoyed growl come through his voice.
“Well met, sir, well met!” Balved offered his hand to Legolas, but it went ignored. Dropping his hand to his side he seemed to melt a little, like a child who wishes sympathy.
“Well, then, if that’s all,” he stepped back, allowing Rayn and Legolas to go through.
“Well met, Half-Queen, it is good to see you again,” Balved called as they walked away. “You, too, Legolon or whatever they call you…” he continued to chatter as they got further and further away from the door. Going over a bridge and around a bend, Rayn began to laugh.
“Of all the elves in Alqualondë!” she cried. “He is the least elvish! He is only two hundred, still learning our ways, and very nearly failing. He has worked as doorkeeper for many years now, and his curious nature has caused him to speak and ask questions of everyone who passes his door. But if you are stern with him, he is even more curious, and becomes more clumsy than he already is!” she stopped walking, shaking with mirth. Legolas began to see what laughter was; he himself had very nearly never laughed in his life. First he smiled, then he felt a curious shaking feeling begin in his middle and rise up until it bubbled over and spilled out as laughter. Rayn got control of herself, and continued on down the passage. Legolas followed her, and at last they came to another door. She assumed her royal stance, and, rapping on the door, she whispered to Legolas.
“Look as much like a prince as you can,” she held her head high, her face stern. Legolas adopted his own lordly pose.
The door opened. Rayn strode in, Legolas stepped closely behind her. The throne room, too, was open to the world outside. Separated by only the many wooden structures and carvings. The floor was made of black stone, polished until it shone in the sunlight that came through the spaces in the winows. Traces of lighter stone wove their way through the stone floor, adding color to the scene. It was a small room, decorated with the banners of Yardan and other kings that Legolas could not read the names of. The King looked up from his lap, which he had been staring at.
“Daughter, you have returned!” the King smiled and stepped down from his throne to greet his daughter. She stopped directly in front of the throne and bowed slightly.
“My father, it is good to see you. This is Legolas, he is from Mirkwood, on Middle-earth. He was a prince there, and desired to come here. I have brought him from Tol Eressëa, I found him on the beach near Avellóne. He carries only his bow,” she said.
The king nodded. Rayn stepped behind Legolas. Staring up at the king, Legolas felt a little twinge of fear. The king disspelled it quickly, smiling a smile so full of warmth that it made Legolas want to smile back.
“Welcome, my son. These are not glad times for welcomes, but we will do what we can to make you comfortable.”
“I thank you for your hospitality, but, I would like to know more of these ‘dark times’,” Legolas said.
“Then Rayn has told you of Ymir,” the King said.
“Yes, and…” he took a deep breath. “I offer you my services.”
The King smiled, and his face wrinkled with lines of laughter. Legolas smiled back while inside his heart burned with fear, screaming at him no, that he should not have given in to a life of war yet again. He had come to get away, to find friendship, to love. Now he was caught in war again; he could not seem to get away from it.
“What will we do?” he asked.
“There is a council tonight, but first you must have some rest. Rayn, take him to one of the upper rooms, he should sleep.”
Rayn bowed and backed away. Legolas repeated the gesture and followed Rayn. She led him again through rooms, libraries, lounges, where stairways and walks branched off in every direction. She led him up a last stair, and went to a door in the side of the cliff. She opened it and went inside.
Legolas found himself in a small cave, filled with light from ornately carved windows in the walls. A balcony opened out from the cave, it was small, but it, too was decorated lavishly. The room was not cave-like, though being part of the mountain it’s walls were carved and decorated smoothly, being of the same stone as the floor in the throne room. It was simply furnished, containing a carved bed, chair, and small table on which sat a candle and two books. He picked one up and looked at the binding. The gold print was worn and stained, but legible.
“Aman Undying,” he read to himself.
He set the book down and walked to one of the walls. He put out a long hand and ran it over the stone. It was cool, the white streaks glimmered in the dying sunlight. He touched one, and power seemed to course through him. He drew his hand back in surprise.
“What stone is this?” he asked, amazed. But Rayn had gone.
He sat on the bed and ventured to touch the white again. The same power wove its way through his body, and he found that he could see it, winding up his arm and into his body, enveloping his heart, causing it to glow. He watched as it beat faster, faster, filling him with strength as red light shot up as vines through his face, turning his veins into glowing red branches of life. His whole body glowed red, and he shimmered against the black of the walls. His heart beat faster still. He began to see everything red, he looked and found that the world was turning, waving, as though he was seeing it from far away. A vision of a body, lying abandoned, face down on the ground opened before him. He looked closer, and his heart beat so fast one beat was indistinguishable from another as he realized that there was a pool of blood around the lifeless form. It’s golden hair stirred in the wind, and he saw a small braid slip behind a pointed ear and he drew his hand back in fear as he realized the dead elf was him.
Immediately the vision stopped. Gasping for breath, he found himself in the room, the stripe on the wall glowed pink, and then faded. He looked at his body; his heart gave one final shimmer, and then diminished into itself, and he was green and brown again.
He collapsed on the bed, exhausted. The immense strength had gone, and left him feeling as though he had no strength left. He heaved a great sigh and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
© All material included in “The Cry of the Gull” is copyright of Me-elf.