DISCLAIMER: I do not propose to own any of J. R. R. Tolkien’s characters, nor any places or names that before appeared in his books. Other characters and places, however, are mine, and are copyright © of Me-Elf.
“But when King Elasser gave up his life Legolas followed at last the desire of his heart and sailed over Sea…More cannot be said of this matter.”
“The Cry of the Gull”
Legolas did not know what to feel. He sat in his grey ship, fufilling his desire, but his heart he left behind him, in his home. His father had decided not to follow, Mirkwood needed him more than Valinor.
“Be strong, my son,” he had said. “I will follow when my people go. But do not despair, you belong in Valinor, with the Valar, with Galadriel and Frodo.”
“Yes Father,” was all Legolas said.
Now he was off, without anybody, without his friend Gimli, for the dwarf’s kingdom needed him, too. And he had had no desire for elves and more elves. Aragorn could not pass to the Undying Lands, and Hobbits have no wish to journey all that way. So Legolas, king of nowhere, followed his kin.
A gull cried on the shore, a high, lonesome sound. Dusty old memories worked their way to the surface of his immortal mind. He recited words, known by heart to him, and they seemed to symbolize the clanging of a gate, and the click of a lock that had no key.
“Legolas Greenleaf long under tree
In joy thou hast lived. Beware of the Sea!
If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,
Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more.”
He had heard a gull before in his long life. He had gazed up into the air, as, wheeling and soaring they climbed higher. At their cries Legolas’s spirit had stirred. The waves, the shore, the very Sea-air itself had seemed to whisper his name.
“Legolas, Legolas,” the soft voice had spoken into his ear. He sighed a great, sad sigh.
He stared at the floor of his small, grey ship. Reaching into his collar he pulled out a small pendant, in the shape of a rowan tree. The symbol of his race and his house. Wrought of gold, hanging on a chain of bronze the tree stood straight. Tears fell on it as he remembered his name. He closed his fingers around the pendant and held it against his breast, uttering breif phrases in his naitive tongue.
“I vedui lain, i vedui lok le, Ened-Arma”
Which translated into the common tongue means:
“The last thread, the last loop to thee, Middle-earth.”
He looked again at the pendant, fingering the inscription at the tree’s roots.
“Legolas, Elf-Prince of Mirkwood”
His last tie with those who had loved him, hobbits, men, a wizard, and a dwarf. He held the link to the hurts he had known there, the pain of never knowing the love of elves, but with it, he also held every joy he had ever known there. He jolted himself out of his lament. “No,” he thought. “I am leaving my land to get away from war; my people have no place there any longer, and a friend of my own race is hard to find. I go to find peace in the havens.” He gave a cry, and cast it into the Sea.
Throwing himself into the bottom of the boat he gave in to his grief. Great sobs shook his body, his tears became like rivers on his face. His last tie with Middle-Earth severed, he could let every care he had ever known there go. His body shuddered, and with a last outbreath he fell into a deep, elvish dream of a forest, and a prince with no home.
He woke to cold drops on his face. The sky had grown dark, and a swift breeze, rising to a wind, blew rain into his eyes. He jumped up and began loosing the sail. When he had finished, he sat in the bottom of the little ship to weather out the storm.
It went on for hours. The rain fell in torrents; the bottom of the ship held two inches of water. Legolas turned his keen glance out into the storm, trying to see anything. Lightning chased cloud above him. Thunder followed, roaring at the angry Sea. He grabbed his bow and his quiver of arrows, and stood up, believing he saw land not far off.
Lightning hit the mast, throwing Legolas off his feet. He sprawled into the bottom of the boat. The little ship rocked.
Suddenly, all else seemed to hush as a roar that was not thunder came into hearing. Struggling upright, Legolas looked behind him. An enormous wave welled up behind him. It lifted the little boat as if it was a feather. The elf clung to the mast searching what he knew were rocks below him, wondering if he could jump without breaking every bone in his body. Then the wave broke.
The boat splintered on the rocks below, Legolas was thrown off his hold. He was cast against a huge rock; the wave crashed over him, and lifted him up, mercilessly lifting him and driving him again and again against the jagged rocks.
He was finally lifted off of a last rock; and a more gentle wave laid his body on the shore of a great island. And there, but for a tiny whisper of breath, he lay still.
On Tol Eressëa
He awoke to the sound of a voice close to his ear.
“Come, master Elf, awaken thee from thy wounded sleep.” A tiny sliver of light entered Legolas’s pounding head as he struggled to obey, he opened his eyes more, and finally all the way. He beheld an Elf-maiden, who spoke to him.
“Who art thou, and why dost thou come here?” she asked.
“I am Legolas Greenleaf, and I travel to the Undying Lands, seeking peace and friendship,” he said.
“Greenleaf Greenleaf, you are of a forest, perhaps Lothlorien?”
“Nay,” he said. “Mirkwood. I was a prince there.”
“Ah, then Prince, you may find friendship here, but not peace, not in these times.” She looked across the water to a piece of land jutting out from a great mass not far off.
“Here? Then that is where I am?”
“No, you lie now on the island of Tol Eressëa, in the Bay of Eldamar. We are not far from Avalónnë, the deserted city here.”
“Deserted? But it cannot die, can it?”
“We are finding that nothing is Undying.” the Elf explained.
“Who are you?” Legolas asked. “And of what rank are you?”
“It matters little,” she said. “But I am called Rayn, daughter of Yardan, who is king on the Lands. I am know as the pher-bereth, the half-queen. I help my father in his decisions that he must make in these times. For I am a warrior, and one day I will be called Warrior Queen of the house of Yardan, if I am not slain first.” She held her head higher at her own words.
“You are a warrior?” Legolas was surprised. He had not yet met a female warrior who goes to war simply to fight.
“Yes, I was raised on the sword and the bow, our traditional weapons.”
“I was trained in sword out of custom, but my bow was my choice,” he glanced around, realizing that he no longer had his elven longbow, given to him by his father when he first went to Rivendell, nearly a thousand years ago.
“Was that bow yours, then?” Rayn drew a bow, intricately carved with branches and vines, out of her quiver. Legolas took it from her, and indeed it was his.
“Thank you,” he whispered. He looked at it a moment, then, setting it aside, he spoke.
“What war is this that you speak of? Is there war in the Undying Lands?”
“There is,” Rayn’s face became still and cold as she spoke. “A great spirit of evil grows and festers in the lands of Aman, which, though it was said would never harbor any evil, it has succumbed, and is no longer beautiful and peaceful. We call it now, Braguruth, Sudden Death, in your language. The spirit sends his mind out into the lands and contaminates them, and those who live in them, they become hostile, and they do his will. He may continue to grow and become more powerful, and eventually control the whole earth. I have heard he is of Sauron, but I cannot say.”
“How many of you have fallen to him?” Legolas asked.
“The outer reigons of Taniquetil, and the Mansions of Manwe and Varda are completely subdued.”
“Manwë and Varda? If their mansions are overun, where are they?
“All of the Valar have left, they have not been seen here for hundreds of years. There are rumors that they went to Middle-earth, but there is no proof.” She sighed.
“I come here to get away, to think about things other than war, and that is how I found you here.”
She broke off. Legolas sat up, feeling stronger, but for his head. His eyes held worry and fear in their ageless depths. Rayn spoke again, almost to herself.
“To fight against my own people would be…more than I could stand. It is a sad thing when an Elf dies,” a look of very far away came into her eyes. “But when an Elf is killed…” She looked at her lap.
§ § §
The sun sank low in the sky. Rayn got up to gather wood for a fire. She laid a few leaf packets from a bag she carried in the flames. She let them sit for a few minutes, and when one began to crackle, she lifted it off quickly. She tossed the hot packet to Legolas.
“Here, it is called Lissilas, or Sweetleaf. Much loved among my people.”
Legolas peeled the leaf away from his share. A small, sizzling lump sat in his hand. He pulled off a little, and tasted it. It had a sweet taste, and a brownish flavor that reminded him of the forest. He ate some more.
“Dost thou like it?” Rayn said, slipping back into her formal speech.
Legolas nodded, his mouth full. Rayn laughed.
They finished their meal. Legolas lay down in the sand next to the fire, and soon he was in the trance-like state that elves call “sleep”. Rayn looked at him, and wondered what he could be dreaming about. She smiled, but her smile quickly turned to a look of fear. She looked away quickly. She laid down with her back to him, and fell into her own sleep.
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’ in the old speech, 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, swan-shaped grey 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 while wooden swans graced pillars and walls. 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 carved 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 stepped up onto a narrow path.
The path slanted upward as it climbed the side of the mountain. Higher and higher they climbed, until they finally 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, perhaps ten feet above their heads..
To his surprise Rayn jumped up and swung herself up onto the lowest platform. She called down to Legolas.
“It’s not so hard, just a matter of doing it for two and a half thousand years,” she said, grinning.
“Is there any other way up?” Legolas asked.
“Not unless you want to spend two hours skirting the mountain to the main entrance. This is my entrance, and it’s the shortest way.” Legolas smiled and sprang mightiliy into the air. He caught onto the ledge and swung himself up. It was Rayn’s turn to looke surprised.
“I told you I was from Mirkwood, I’m used to trees and the like,” said Legolas. Rayn shrugged and led Legolas up a rope stairway. They crossed rope bridges, and climbed more stairs. 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. Hurrying 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 just come of age, and still a child at heart. He has worked as doorkeeper for some 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. Rayn got control of herself, and continued on down the passage. Legolas followed her, and at last they came to another door. She rapped on it an it opened immediately. Rayn strode in, Legolas stepped closely behind her. The throne room, too, was open, separated from the outside world by only the many carved wooden pillars and railings. The floor was made of black stone, polished until it shone in the sunlight that came through the spaces in the winows. Traces of white wove their way through the stone floor, giving it a marble look. 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, at which he had been staring.
“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 awe. The king disspelled it quickly, smiling a smile so full of warmth that it made Legolas want to smile back. The King was tall, even for an Elf, and his countenance was chisled, but warm and friendly. On his dark head a crown sat, wrought of silver and in the shape of a great swan, whose neck curved on his brow and whose wings spread out behind it. Legolas saw the resembelance between Rayn and her father, but he saw also that Rayn had a fiercer look about her, one who would not be trifled with.
“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. 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. To walk among the Valar and the Maiar, but instead he had found a land of war yet again, he could not now get away from it.
“What will we do?” he asked.
“There is a council tomorrow, 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.
He woke to a light tapping sound at his door. He stirred.
“Who is it?” he called.
The door opened and in walked Balved. He looked nervous.
“Rayn told me to get you and take you to the counsel chamber. I’m sorry to wake you.” He bowed.
Legolas smiled at the boy.
“I was just about ready to wake up anyway,” he said, trying to reassure him.
“Well, then, come now, Prince, they are waiting for you,” Balved led him out of the room. As he followed Balved Legolas turned his eyes again on the vein in the wall and it seemed again to shimmer pink, and die out.
Balved led him through the maze of Yardan, to a balcony overlooking a lake filled with swans. Yardan was seated on an elevated chair, whilst seven lower chairs surrounded it. Six elves were seated already; Legolas took the empty spot. Tension in the very air around them seemed to lift as Legolas sat down with a finality he didn’t intend. Balved bowed to the king, and left.
Legolas searched the faces of the elves around him. Seven elves of six different houses of royalty sat in the seats around the Highest Chair. From the Mansions of Manwe and Varda, he learned, were the Princes Angon and Oradan. They were big elves, muscular and seasoned fighters. From the Isle of Estë, in the Gardens of Lorien Queen Elenim, who, like Rayn, was a warrior. But he observed that she was more delicately beautiful, and one who would rather walk in the woods than fight. Erindor, King of Avathar, and master of the ocean was present. His face told plainly of a long life in salt and sand. Globril also, King of Yavanna and the pastures there. He was the most majestic of these, fairer than most, and his presence was to Legolas as though the sun sat with them. Rayn was seated across from Legolas. She smiled an excited smile. War was at hand, and she was ready. Yardan stood.
“Members of the council, Kings, Queens, Princes, the final member of those who were written in the lore is with us. We can now begin, with all brain, brawn, and logic we can muster and was mustered for us at the beginning of time, to plan a way out of this death-trap, not only for us but for all earth as well.” No one spoke.
“What can we do, King? There is no way out,” said Erindor. He was clad in grey.
“We must find a way, Erindor. We cannot sit idle while Ymir kills our people and steals our lands,” Rayn said.
“I see not what else we can do, Half-Queen,” Erindor sat forward, glaring at Rayn. “I’m a fighter, not a war-planner. Do you have an idea for us already?” he asked. His sword shifted and fell in front of his knee. Rayn said nothing.
Elenim rose and stepped to the middle of the circle.
“What we must do is evident. The lore speaks of armies who would come against Ymir, and of Seven Rulers who brought them. We are the seven, and we must gather our own armies, but I am afraid there are not enough elves to come against him,” she said.
“We are eight, Queen Elenim, you only spoke of seven, who is the odd?”
“That I cannot say, Legolas, the lore is unclear. And it is unclear about you, Son of the Sindar. Great things are mentioned surrounding your name, but we know not what they are.”
Yardan broke in.
“I believe that I am the odd. I think I am here only to watch, and to die eventually, but I am not afraid, for what was written, was written, and you were written about, not me.”
“The lore also does not say whose armies will conquer, so we simply must do what it says.” Elenim bowed and went back to her seat.
“I do not see that any elves from Yavanna would be of any help,” said Globril. “My people are shepherds, not warriors, what help would we be to us?”
“This is true, and our people only warriors when need be. There has not been battle since we crossed from Middle-Earth, many of us barely remember,” said Angon.
“It is clear we must do something, or this is idle chatter,” said Yardan.
“That is true,” Rayn found her voice again. “We are going in circles.”
“Why not sail from this place, to far off lands?” asked Erindor.
“Elf of the Sea, what would that do? We can only run so far,” Rayn said.
“The Half-Queen is right, if Ymir took the whole world over, where would we go then? We should stand now,” said Globril, least of all fighters present.
“You speak tough words, weak one,” Erindor said.
Legolas wondered when they would find a solution; a strange hope for battle began to fester in his mind and will. He realized that for all his fear of pain, he lusted as well for war. With a start, he glimpsed an idea in the corner of his mind.
“Now we are back to the first question, what will we do?” said Yardan.
“I still say we sail, across Ekkaia,” said Erindor.
“And fall off the edge of the earth? For one such warrior you are showing an urgent desire to flee,” Rayn said hotly.
“Are you calling me a coward, Half-Queen? For being stuck between princess and queen as if you cannot make up your mind, you seem to know a lot about others,” Erindor shot back.
Rayn sprang to her feet.
“Can’t you see we must do something? There must be a solution somewhere,” Rayn cried.
Legolas continued to think.
“And when we find it you will see that I’m right. If we leave and grow in numbers somewhere else…” Erindor said, now he was on his feet.
Elenim broke in.
“That is where the problem lies, in numbers. If we had enough…”
“I have it!” Legolas too rose and stepped forward. “I know what we must do.” All eyes were on him.
“What?” asked Rayn.
“I will go back to Middle-Earth, and I will gather and train an army.”
For a moment no one spoke, then, realization dawned in the eyes of those around him.
“Yes!” said Rayn.
“It’s perfect!” said Globril.
“We agree as well,” said Oradan and Angon, who had been conferring in their seats. Elenim smiled.
Erindor gave Legolas a glare. Legolas could tell that Erindor wanted power, but what he saw in sailing away he did not know.
“But what if it does not work?” asked Yardan.
“Then we tried,”said Globril.
The king sighed.
“Then you may all rest here for a week, no more, before heading back to your own lands to build your armies. Once you have finished you all will return here.”
“But father, how shall Legolas get across the ocean? Our ships are small, and he needs many, and he cannot paddle them all at once,” Rayn said.
“Erindor, we ask you for ships, large ones that will hold many beings,” said Yardan.
“You have them, King,” said Erindor, he had returned to his seat and was staring at his lap.
“You will go with him, as admiral of the fleet,” Yardan said to Erindor.
“One more instruction I have for you, Legolas,” the king said. “You must not return here with men. Men must never come here to live or to die,” he sent a keen glance toward Legolas. “I understand, Yardan,” Legolas bowed, and all members of the council did likewise; except Rayn of course. She stared at Legolas through sadder eyes than usual. He smiled a small smile at her. He did not feel like rejoicing, for his fear had returned. The members of the council left, one by one, and he went to his chamber.
§ § §
He sat on his bed. For how long he did not know. He contemplated touching the wall, but decided against it. A knock on the door startled him.
“Come in,” he said, staring at the floor, which unlike the wall was jet black. Rayn entered and sat down next to him.
“What ails you, that you lapse into silence like this?”
“I don’t know what I was thinking, offering to go on like that,” he said. “My heart longed for my father, my homeland, my forest. But I do not like war. Indeed, I am so great a warrior because I fear getting hurt…or worse,” he looked at the wall. He put out his hand and brushed the white line. His fingertip turned only a hint of pink, but the strength flowed through him greatly. He looked up, feeling better. Rayn gave him a quizzical look.
“What fascinates you so about that stone?” she asked.
“I have never seen it before,” he said.
“It is common, used for walls, floors, weapons, and many other things. Some say it has great power, especially the white streaks, but I do not believe those tales,” she said.
He shrugged and said nothing, for he knew better.
“What did you come here for?” he asked.
“Just to exchange words, someone should tell you things about this place.” The sound of a trumpet made them both jump. A swan landed on the balcony, followed by its mate.
“Where is your mother?” Legolas asked.
“She died of grief over my brother, who was killed by a stray member of Ymir’s forces. I have lost nearly everyone I love, I reserve myself from many now, even my father. I fear love, for the way of love is the way of heartbreak,” she stared at the swans. Legolas saw a tear roll down her cheek. He brushed it away.
“You fight for them, then, to take out your anger in killing those that hurt you?” Legolas asked.
“Yes, I fight because I loved,” she said. She rose and went to the window.
“And even if I were killed it might be better, for I would go to my mother,”
“Is that truly your belief?” Legolas was amazed that any elf would embrace death. She said nothing. Legolas touched the wall, allowing his fingers to turn pink, then red. He let his hand drop.
“Power,” he thought. “Power in the stone.” He looked up. Rayn had yet again left.
His week in Yardan went by slowly. Legolas realized later that it couldn’t go on long enough. But he kept that thought from everyone; except Rayn, who already knew of his fears.
He wandered through the palace, sometimes accompanied by the half-queen. She took him many places, and he found that the palace extended into the mountain; and beyond.
The book on his table intrigued him greatly. In the mornings when the sun glowed upon the wall he sat on his bed and read of kings and battles, of elves who crafted beautiful jewely, and great gardens that had taken centuries to build and to keep in the lands of Aman. He read of the powers in the black stone and how it was used to see the future. He read of great white cities, and of paths that led nowhere and never returned. The book filled him with awe that such a place existed, and sadness that it was nearly dead. When he could take no more he set the book down, and greived for a land that he most certainly would never see.
It was on one such morning that he laid that book next to him and hugged his knees to his chest. He bowed his head, crying softly. He felt a hand laid on his shoulder.
“What hurts thee so deeply?” asked the soft, clear voice of Rayn.
“That such a land should be taken control of…” he trailed off. “And this quest. What possesed me that I would offer to go and build an army of who knows what? I feel so lost, and alone.”
“You won’t be alone on your quest,” Rayn said.
“Erindor is no friend of mine,” he said. Rayn sighed. Suddenly she grabbed his hand.
“Come, you have not yet seen my realm,” she said. He got up and let her lead him out of the room.
She led him up a long stairway. They traveled up and up, through great halls off moss and lichen. Suddenly Rayn broke through the canopy and faced the sunlight. She continued along a stone ledge, her hand on the mountain face. She reached a groove in the wall, and slid her hand into it. To Legolas’s surprise, the stone moved. She led him into a narrow rock cave. She took his hand and led him to the other side. The door closed behind them and the only light came through a few chinks in the roof. She put her hand on the wall and her fingers quickly found another crack. She turned to Legolas.
“Close your eyes,” she said.
He obeyed, and stone ground against stone as the door rolled back. He could feel sunlight on his face, its warmth filled him with strength. Water fell in a great cascade somewhere, and he smiled at the sound of the happy voices of elven-children, singing and shouting in the morning light.
“You can open them now,” Rayn said. He leaned against the mountain in wonder as the world came into focus. A white light spilled over everything, trees and plants grew everywhere, and he noticed that many of them were ferns. A great building of white stone sat nestled on a ledge not far off.
“What is that?”he asked, pointing to the place.
“That is Lanthrisam, I cannot wait for you to see it.” She began to carefully traverse the legdge.
Legolas followed, one tenative step after another, trying to step where Rayn had.
By the time he reached the building the ground had leveled out some. Rayn had already disappeared inside. He noticed as he entered that there were no doors, and like most buildings in the palace it was open to the world, having only pillars, a ceiling, and a marble floor. Ferns in gold pots dotted the floor around him, and cool air caressed his face. To his left was a fountain, surrounded in green things, a likeness of the Trees of the Valar spewed water out from their branches, disturbing the pool around them. Rayn peeked out from behind a pillar.
“Come,” she said simply.
He strolled over the cool stone floor and looked around the pillar. He heard Rayn’s voice in his ear before he felt her next to him.
“Take off your weapons, Elf-Prince, this is no place for the strains of war,” she whispered.
He unbuckled the leather strap that bound his quiver to his back. He set it on the floor, along with his elven-cloak. He stood, and the silver thread woven into his otherwise blue shirt transformed him from bark and tree to cloud and sky. Again he heard Rayn’s voice. But this time he was ready. He whirled around and grabbed her by the shoulders. He looked into her eyes, and saw surprise, and a hint of fear. He smiled.
“What do you wish to show me, Half-Queen?” his tone suggested command, not inquiry.
She backed away from him slowly and walked around the pillar. He followed and what he saw took his breath away. A maze of fountains and green plants spread out over the floor before him. Rayn slipped her hand into his, and led him through the labryinth. He wandered as though in his own world, taking it all in, breathing the life in the air as he walked. Rayn led him to a little staircase outside of the building. She began to climb it, leading Legolas behind her. She reached the top, and he saw that there was a little shrine, surrounded by candles and plants. It was dark on the side that faced the mountain, and was open windows on the other side. It had a sort of half-wall, to act as a rail, allowing no one to fall below. Rayn let his hand go, and went to a window nearby.
“Is this to your mother?” Legolas asked.
“Yes, and only I and those I bring here are allowed to enter. Come look, this is what I wanted to show you.”
He walked to the window where Rayn stood. Outside he could see the whole valley, and he could hear water, thundering above somewhere. Rayn reached for a cord, and pulled it.
Water crashed down over the roof, pouring over the edge and spraying Legolas. He jumped back, astonished. Rayn stood next to the cord, her hand over her mouth, vainly trying to hold back the laugh that threatened to bubble over.
“The water adds a nice touch,” Legolas said, laughing and wiping spray off of his face.
“It is more beautiful here at night, when the candles are lit, and when there are elves singing so that you can barely hear, and the waterfall sounds only as a fountain, not a torrent,” she sighed, and went to the window, peering out through the fall.
“You leave soon,” she said.
“Yes, and I don’t wish to leave. My heart cries out for my father, for my friend, Gimli, who was going to come here with me, but then went off to take his rightful place as King in the Glittering Caves. I am anxious to see them again, but I wish that I could stay here…with you,” he said. Rayn was startled; she continued to stare out the window, but with surprise on her face.
“I’ll go with you,” she said softly.
“I can’t let you do that, Rayn.”
“Why? I have nothing to do here but wait. Like Angon and Oradan, who have no free kin left. I would wander around here, doing nothing,” she turned to face him.
“It’s a simple matter, we sail there, gather an army, and sail back,” he explained.
“Then why do you want to stay?” Rayn asked. Legolas said nothing.
“I am going,” Rayn said determinedly, and turned back to the waterfall.
§ § §
Yardan was displeased.
“No, daughter, you cannot go with him!” He said from his throne in the middle of the room.
“Why not, Father? I go nowhere; I am made to sit here, while the world falls in around my ears,” Rayn paced around the room.
“It is dangerous,” Yardan said.
“We go across the water, we gather an army, and we come back; it is simple!” Rayn stopped pacing. “Why don’t you let me go anywhere?” she asked.
“I do not wish to lose you, Rayn, it is a bad world out there,”
“What could happen?” Rayn asked more gently, striding to him and taking his hands.
“I could name many things,” he looked despairingly at the floor, knowing he was beaten.
“We will be careful, Father,” Rayn assured him. “I will protect him,” she laughed. Yardan smiled a sad smile at her.
“I’m sure you will,” he said.
§ § §
Not long after his talk with Rayn, Yardan visited Legolas. He took him down the mountain to the armory on the day before they set sail, intending to kill two birds with one stone.
“I want you to look out for her,” the king said. “She has hardly been away from home, and I want nothing to happen to her.”
“I will do my best, Sire,” Legolas said obediently. They stopped in front of a shirt of chainmail. It was polished silver with a black leather collar and vambraces. He stared at it, captivated by the beauty that such a hard piece of art could convey.
“It was my son’s,” Yardan lifted it off of the hanger and held it against Legolas. “It should fit. Come, I will have Balved put it on you,” he said. He led Legolas outside, and called for Balved.
“When you are done I shall return,” Yardan said. Balved nodded, and picked up the mail.
Balved was as talkative as usual during the arrayment.
“Going on a quest, eh? Leaving us a week after you get here, and not even talking to hardly anyone but the half-queen, I say, you are a quiet one, aren’t you? For leaving tomorrow you sure don’t talk much. And another thing, do you have room for one more on your boat?”
Legolas was surprised by this last statement.
“What?” he asked.
“I would like to go,” Balved stopped tying the vambrace he was working on and looked up at the elf-prince. The young elf had great green eyes that sparkled like sunlight on the trees.
“I would serve you, Prince, not to war would I go,” Balved said solemnly. Legolas’s tender heart was pierced by the sincerity and the plea in his voice.
“If you can leave your door, I will take you with me, Balved,” he said. The elf’s face lit up at those words.
“Thank you, sir,” Balved went back to his vambrace, but he didn’t say another word.
When he was finished Yardan returned.
“You remind me of my son,” he said, admiring the armor. “Just make certain you are not as weak as he,” the king lapsed into silence.
“Do you need a weapon?” he asked suddenly.
“I have a bow and a quiver of arrows, and I am good with knives, but they were lost in the storm,” Legolas said.
“Knives,” the king murmured. “Balved, come with me. We will bring him his knives,”
They left, and Legolas turned to his own thoughts. He wondered again about his decision. And if he had done the right thing.
“It’s to late to back out of it now,” he thought. He sighed a weary sigh.
“You ail again, Legolas,” Rayn stepped out of the surrounding woods. Looking up, the Prince was filled with awe at her appearance.
She wore boots and leggings, much like his, but green rather than brown. Above these she wore a chan-mail shirt of metal which shone gold, and a collar and wrist guards of deep green leather. She wore a sword, and she, too, had a bow. Her long, golden-brown hair she had twisted elaborately on the back of her head. She sat next to him and gently ran her fingers over the mail on his shoulder.
“He gave you my brother’s armor?” she asked, whispering the question. He nodded, and they sat in silence. The king and the doorkeeper returned with the knives, and Balved kneeled and placed them on Legolas’s lap.
“Their hilts are made of the stone that is found in the mountains, but only of the white, not the black; long ago a great load of it was brought in, and many beautiful things were made of the ore, including these.” He drew one, and the blade gleamed in the sunlight.
“It is almost like bone.” The hilt indeed was white, but Yardan’s hand showed nothing of the power or the color that Legolas had come to expect. The king sheathed the blade, and placed it with the other. Legolas gingerly reached out to tuch the hilt.His fingertip tingled and glimmered pink at the brush. He quickly drew his hand away, lest his secret be discovered.
“Take these things and return to your room, Legolas, you leave in the morning,”
“We leave in the morning,” said Balved, standing tall. Rayn gave Legolas a surprised look.
“I take Balved as my squire,” Legolas said.
“My most trusted doorkeeper, my daughter, everyone is leaving me,” Yardan said.
“We will be back, Father,” Rayn said.
“I know, and good luck to you all. But remember, it is a sad thing when a elf dies, but when an elf is killed…” he turned and walked up the path.
The next morning Balved found himself summoned by Legolas. He went to the prince’s chamber and knocked on the door. Legolas opened it and let the boy in. Balved bowed.
“You called for me, Your Highness?” his usual curiosity getting the best of him.
“Legolas is fine, Balved. If you are to be my squire I want you also to be my friend,”
“Yes, Prin-, Legolas,” Balved said.
“Now, as your first act as squire, help me get this blasted armor on!”
Balved smiled and lifted the chainmail shirt off of the bed. He helped Legolas get it on, and began fastening the clasps.
“Do you have armor?” Legolas asked.
“I have leather armor that belonged to my father, see?” He parted the front of his cloak, revealing a close-fitting leather vest underneath. He let the cloth fall and began tying the black collar around Legolas’s throat. He worked in silence for awhile, and then spoke again.
“I pledge my life to you, Legolas. My father and mother came from Mirkwood, and though I have never seen it, I would fight for it’s prince.” Legolas smiled.
“It has grown less beautiful than the Greenwood it once was, but I hope for your chance to see it,” Legolas said.
Balved smiled, finishing the second wrist-guard. Legolas reached for his knives and quiver which were laid on the table. But Balved got to them first.
“Let me,” he begged. Legolas held out his arms and the young doorkeeper crisscrossed the sheaths across Legolas’s back, buckling and straightening them with deft fingers. He then took the quiver, and brought the leathers back around, fastening the buckle tight against Legolas’s chest. He stood back while Legolas fastened a black belt around his waist and put on his cloak.
“You are a warrior,” he whispered in awe as he surveyed his work. Legolas picked up his bow.
“Come, we must go down to the docks,” he said.
Rayn joined them on their climb down the mountain. King Yardan and the other members of the council met them at the stair-like foot. A crowd of elves had also gathered. Legolas in his silver and Rayn in her gold shone like the Lamps themselves. A murmur went up from the crowd.
Yardan stepped forward and placed a circlet of gold, set with emeralds around Rayn’s head, he turned to Legolas and placed one of silver, set with black stones, on his head. He backed away and bowed.
“I give you my utmost blessing, Elf-Prince of Mirkwood. May you return hastily, and may you bring back many!” The murmur turned to a cheer as Legolas, Balved and Rayn walked across the dock and stepped into the boat. Erindor dropped next to them from an above rope and proceeded to pull in the gangplank. Rayn waved at the elves on the shore, and the cheer turned into a roar. The anchor was lifted, and the ship took off, heading south to join up with a great fleet from Avathar. Legolas turned and walked across the narrow deck, followed closely by Balved.
“Ahh, a pleasure it is to be on the great water again,” Legolas said, smelling the salt and letting the surf spray his face.
“I have only been fishing here in small boats, never on a voyage,” Balved replied. “It amazes me that you crossed the Sea in a boat little more than a canoe,” he continued.
“It was supposed to take two, but my friend Gimli, Dwarf-King of the Glittering Caves stayed behind. I hope, when I finally get back to Helm’s Deep, that I see him again,”
“He is a dwarf?” Balved looked skeptical. “I have heard and read of them, and do not like what I have heard.”
“He is different. I spent a year traveling with him, and he beat me in battle, he was the best friend I had,” he sighed. “But the call of the Sea was stronger than any tie I had with anyone there, and so here I am,”
“Maybe that was for the good of all,” Balved said.
“Maybe,” said Legolas.
§ § §
The swift elven ships made short work of the leagues to Avathar. By the end of the second day they had reached the southeastern ranges of the Plenori Mountains. Erindor came to Legolas, wanting to speak with him. He found Balved at the door to the Prince’s cabin.
“Let me through,” he said.
Balved, though intimidated by the weather-beaten elf, stood planted in front of the door.
“I will announce you,” he said.
“I can announce myself,” Erindor tried to push past the boy. When Balved still didn’t move, Erindor lost his temper. He grabbed Balved by the shoulders an shook him.
“You little…” he didn’t get far. Legolas, hearing the commotion burst through the door. He gripped Erindor’s neck in his strong hands and shoved him against the wall. He growled menacingly in the Sea-Elf’s face.
“Touch my friend again…” he didn’t finish his sentence.
Releasing his grip, Legolas walked back through the open door. Erindor followed him, scowling.
“I wished to speak with you, Legolas,” he said, trying to keep the edge out of his voice. “To remind you that when we get to Middle-Earth, then, and only then are you in charge. In Avathar and on the ocean I am Admiral, and everyone takes orders from me,” he finished, his voice dripping with an unsaid “challenge that”. Legolas sat calmly down on his bunk.
“That seems fair, dividing up the authority,” Legolas smiled mischievously. Erindor looked threateningly at Legolas. Turning around, he stormed out the door.
“What did you do to him?” he asked.
“I gave him not resistance, but a sarcastic joke, and he went away; mad, but he went away,” Legolas replied. Balved laughed.
“You are a wise one,” he said. Legolas placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“You will learn, and one day you will be as wise as I,” he said. A noise outside startled them.
“What could that be?” Legolas said to himself. He went to a small window in the little cabin.
Gulls wheeled around everywhere, crying and calling, their music pulled at Legolas’s heart, singing to him, whispering again their subtle, “Legolas, Greenleaf…”
He leaned against the wall, letting the cries of the gulls take over his heart and mind. A peaceful sound, but full of life.
“Master?” Balved said, puzzled.
“I am glad I came,” Legolas said, unhearing.
“Rayn said you were afraid,”
“What else did Rayn tell you?” Legolas said, still barely conscious of those things around him.
“I cannot, and would not say,” said Balved.
“As you wish,” Legolas said, still dream-like.
Balved sighed. His master was not listening to him, he could plainly see. He got up and went to the door.
“Let me know when you are next awake, Master,” he said. Legolas nodded. Balved smiled and shook his head, and let the door fall shut.
§ § §
The sun was almost below the horizon when they docked at Avathar. In the dim light Legolas could make out many piers and docks. Boats laid in the water or on the beach, along with fishing nets and poles. Erindor appeared as Legolas, Rayn, and Balved exited the ship.
“I will have a fleet ready by the day after tomorrow, be here that morning,” he said, and walked off into the darkness. Rayn began to walk toward the mountains.
“Come,” she called back to her comrades. “Erindor is clearly not going to help us find a place to rest, so we must find one ourselves.” Legolas and Balved followed her.
Rayn went on for awhile, through the peaceful lanes and streets in Avathar. No elf was about, save for the members of the crew on their ship, who hastened to their homes. Rayn stopped at the trunk of a large tree.
“What a treasure!” she exclaimed to herself, looking up. “Any one of those branches would make a fine bed!” She jumped up, and caught onto a branch. Pulling herself up easily, she swung higher, searching. When she found a suitable place, she lay draped amid the branches, as at home as she could be.
Legolas, knowing much in the way of trees, followed. He, too, found a thick branch, and arranged himself expertly between it and the trunk. Balved climbed up as well, less gracefully than the others, and soon, though he squirmed some, he was settled.
The moon shone on them as though the Valar themselves watched. The elves lost themselves in their own dreams, eyes wide open, but minds elsewhere. The night was bathed in silver light and black shadow, most beautiful to behold. Somewhere a gull called the last, mournful cry of the night. Though he did not realize it, Legolas’s heart beat a little faster at the sound.