“Aurora! Come down, dear! There is a young lady who would like to befriend you,” shouted Elrohir, who had become rather fond of his charge.
After her stroll through Mirkwood, and the echoes of her distant memories, Aurora had spent days in her room when Elladan and Elrohir where not there, afraid of going out, for she had realised that Mirkwood was now only a shadow of its former self, and there hung an eerie sense of decay about it. Aurora flung the doors of her wardrobe open and grabbed one of the few gowns she had taken with, and changed into it, for although the morning was growing old, she was still in her nightgown. She quickly combed and plaited her hair, and kissed her jewel, before hiding it in her neckline. Her instincts told her that a loyal friend was waiting for her, but that, as ever, she would have to be cautious. Aurora snatched her cloak before flying down the stairs, and almost stumbled as she looked into the awaiting lady’s eyes.
“Raina!” she breathed, recognising her best friend, her long, silk, golden hair tumbling to her waist, and her dark but caring blue eyes. This same caring in the lady’s eyes reminded Aurora to pretend she had never been in Mirkwood before, for her own safety, so she steadied herself, smiled and started a polite conversation with Raina, gave an excuse for her stumble at Elrohir’s questioning gaze, all the while pretending to be meeting Raina for the firt time.
Raina seemed relieved at Aurora’s pretence, and invited her to spend the rest of the day with her. Aurora realised Raina and herself had a lot to talk about, and that Raina would know where they could have an important conversation, away from prying ears, and she accepted the invitation gladly. The two girls set out to Raina’s tree house, far from Aurora’s childhood home. The tree house was large and luxurious, as befits a noble elven family, such as Raina’s, but Raina lived on her own. There was a small, cosy little room in the heart of the house, were they would be unheard and undisturbed. Aurora settled down in the room, whilst Raina brought some refreshments.
“Raina, what happened here?” Aurora asked, straightforward, deciding there was no time to waste.
“Oh! Aurora! Those who are loyal to Mirkwood have been awaiting your return for so long, but now…” she broke off, not really sure what to say.
“What happened to me? What happened to this city? To my home? How did you know I would come back?”
“We don’t really know what happened to you, only that one day, centuries ago, you went out riding, as usual, on your favourite mount. Your horse came back, terrified, but you had disappeared, almost without a trace. Although you were too young to realise it, there was always something about you, as if you had a destiny to fulfil. You were adored by all who knew you, and whatever you tried, you always succeeded beautifully, whether it was dancing, or swordsmanship, or understanding the natural world around you. You were wiser than most at your age, but not quite mature enough. I think you underestimated the forces of evil.
“As to Mirkwood itself, it is a very sad and dark story. Only a few years ago, an unknown elven lady arrived at court, and the King fell under her spell immediately, but the ladies were not so enthralled by her. You see, there is a strange unreality about her…” Aurora nodded at this, as she remembered the lady who sat by the King when she arrived with Elladan and Elrohir. “You have seen her?” asked Raina.
“Yes, and I noticed there was something strange about her immediately,” confirmed Aurora, “But please, don’t interrupt what you were saying.”
“Well, gradually, all men fell under her spell, and today the city decays, because the men have the responsibility of this wood, but they have eyes only for her. Few men realised what was happening, and too late. My father hung himself, leaving a note to my mother, explaining that he loved her dearly, but that he was too ashamed of having betrayed her to live, and he asked her for her forgiveness…” Raina broke off, as her tears overwhelmed her. Aurora stroked her friend’s arm, but eventually took her into her arms, torn by the sight of her dear friend in such desperate tears, and the faraway memories she had of her parents.
“Raina, if only there was something I could do! I hate being helpless!”
“Aurora, you have been sent back because you have a destiny to fulfil, ad I am sure wrongs will be put right again in the end, although the dead cannot be brought back to life… I must continue my story, however hard. My mother was inconsolable, and followed the Queen when she retreated from Mirkwood.”
“How could the Queen leave her people when they need her? The ladies, at least, need someone to turn to, in these dark times.”
“You are right, but the Queen could no longer stand the King’s mistress, and her heart broke when her own son succumbed to her.”
“Yes, Legolas succumbed to her as well. Did you not meet him in Rivendell?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Did he not recognise you?”
“No I don’t think he did.” Slowly, from afar, memories of her childhood games with both Raina and Legolas, who were both older than her, but the three of them had always been together. With time, more and more fragments of her past life were coming back to her, slowly completing the puzzle of her life. As if reading her thoughts, Raina asked:
“Do you remember the games the three of us would play? And the great feats, when you used to dance alone, as everyone watched you, accompanied by musicians. Legolas used to be completely entranced by you, he could never take his eyes off you. Indeed, as you danced you made us dream. Sometimes you looked like a bird, spreading its’ wings to fly away, or at other times like a dear, jumping gracefully, or even like a butterfly, floating around the glade.
“You both seemed very fond of each other, and everyone expected a wedding between the two of you. That’s also partly why the Queen was heartbroken, because she adored you, and would have loved to have you as her daughter-in-law. Her spell must be very powerful, because he loved you very much, and he would not have forgotten you easily. He was never quite himself once you had disappeared, as if a part of his soul had disappeared with you.”
There was a long pause, before Raina said that for the moment, there was nothing else she had to tell, and Aurora was contented. She had learnt and remembered a lot, and Raina was clearly exhausted by her emotional ordeal, but Aurora wanted to know how Raina herself fared in all this.
“I used to be one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, but when she left, I asked the King’s permission to retire from Court life, and so I live here on my own, sometimes with my friends.”
The two girls decided to pass the end of the afternoon walking around Mirkwood, to avoid attracting suspicions of plotting.
We return to the forests again. Our hobbit friend has lost all faith and finds the true meaning of apathy by the end of this chapter. He is taken captive by a band of elves and one human. This chapter suggests that some of his past will be revealed soon.