A long time ago was born Lalaith, daughter of Nestadren, the healer and midwife, and Côlmírdan, a craftsman of mithril and gold. They dwelt in the House of Elrond, in that fairest place called Rivendell. Lalaith came to them in the cool, autumn night, with hair the colour of the very leaves of fall–burnished copper and red-gold, a most unusual colour for Elves. For this reason, the counselors of Elrond and the wisest of their people declared it a sign from Ilúvatar: Lalaith had come, laughter. A blessed life would she lead, spreading mirth and joy about her like a great cloak upon all whom she would meet. This was a gift to the House of Elrond, in those days of the Elves’ diminishing.
So, she spent her childhood in idyllic Rivendell and grew in stature to fulfill the proclamation declared of her: her light heart and wise ways gave joy and peace to those around her. Her talent came in verse, writing tales and poems, making music, and singing songs of light and celebration. As well, she gained her mother’s skill for healing and learned much from Nestadren and Elrond.
One day, when she was a young maiden still, as reckoned by the Elves, Elrond himself presented to her a most unique gift. “I give to you this flute of mithril, crafted by your father and enchanted by the Lady Galadriel. Elenath, she is called.” His grey eyes were shining brightly, like the first, pale stars of the twilight sky.
Lalaith solemnly took the precious flute and slowly put it to her lips. She played a sweet and haunting melody, fairer than had been heard in Rivendell for some time, and the Elves were transfixed by its poignancy. Lalaith lowered Elenath to sing of golden light and clear streams of crystal, of grey-mist mountains and vibrant trees whose branches reached the heavens. When she played Elenath again, the tune wove a spell of vision and the song she sang came alive in the mind of all who listened. They beheld the very things of which she sang.
The silence when her music was complete was deep, and Lalaith looked up at Elrond with radiant grey-green eyes and bowed low. “Fair and kind you are, Lord Elrond, and it would give me great pleasure to be a minstrel in your great house.”
He nodded and smiled. “Tonight, you shall play in the Hall of Fire.”
Much time passed, and the long ages drew on. So it was one day that a wounded hobbit was borne to their shore, having crossed the Ford on Glorfindel’s white steed. Lalaith and a few other of Elrond’s folk hastened down to the river and were met there by Glorfindel, Aragorn, and three other hobbits. The situation was dire, as Glorfindel and Aragorn soon explained. The Elves carefully and swiftly bore Frodo, fading almost beyond hope now, into Rivendell.
In the growing twilight, Elrond met them and led them to a chamber already prepared. Glorfindel spoke, “He is grievously wounded, Elrond, poisoned by the blade of a Ringwraith, a Morgul-knife.” Aragorn produced the evil hilt of the sword for Elrond to examine.
Elrond’s fair face was creased with worry and great concern. “You have done well, Glorfindel and Aragorn, in bringing Frodo here quickly. We must work feverishly now to bring him back from the threshold of the wraith-world.” His hands were busy and sure as he inspected the wound on Frodo’s shoulder, but his anxious expression grew deeper still.
He began to speak softly, chanting ancient words of healing in the elven-tongue. He glanced up at those gathered in the room. “Nestadren, I have need of the herbs pelethcaul and nesta-pâri.” Nestadren was on her way before the sound of his words had ceased their echoing in the chamber.
Lalaith moved to his side, handing him those things of which he had need: warm water, salves, and fresh cloth for tending the wound. Not many moments had passed before Nestadren returned, her eyes wide with fright. “Lord Elrond,” she held out two small bowls with but a few leaves in each, “this is all that remains of the herbs you request.” All of the Elves in the room exchanged worried glances.
Elrond spoke, “Then it seems clear to me that we need to gather more. He may survive without the nesta-pâri, but,” he sighed, “without pelethcaul I fear there is no hope. Indeed, my skill will be put to test to save Frodo’s life, either way.”
Lalaith moved forward, catching Elrond’s eye, “I will go.”
He looked at her carefully, weighing his decision. “Your journey will have to be swift, traveling through night and day, and it may prove dangerous. The lands are full of fell beasts and may bring you harm.” He noticed the glint, hard-set, in her eyes and nodded, “Yes, you shall go, for I know your skill in finding these herbs. Make haste and take care.”
“I will, Lord Elrond. Look for my return by nightfall tomorrow.” Lalaith left the room to make her preparations with great speed, and she was soon ready to depart. Her horse, Harthad, seemed eager to leave as well, and she was off in the deepening night, her cloak billowing behind her.
Harthad galloped quickly over the mountain paths, her feet seeming to glide over the terrain, her flaxen mane flying wildly in the cool wind. The way was treacherous and were it not that she were an Elf and in her own land, they would have stumbled blindly along one false path after another or tumbled down a deep ravine to their doom. However, the miles passed swiftly under them.
Lalaith’s course was over the Misty Mountains on the High Pass to the east. Lalaith was traveling light, Elenath and her sword, Bronwe, at her side, her bow and quiver upon her back. A small sack to carry her provisions and the herbs, when found, were all she had besides. She knew of a stretch of pine forest on the other side of the mountains where pelethcaul was sure to be growing still. Nesta-pâri would be harder to find, and she determined that if the hours drew too long she would return to Rivendell without it.
They rode on through the night, slowing but a little on the narrowest passes. By the dawning of the day, she had passed over the tops of the mountains and was starting down their steep sides, heading into the red-rising sun. They stopped but once, for Harthad to drink her fill at a cold stream. And, on they traveled, as the sun rose higher and higher in the sky.
Soon the dark pine forest to which she was headed was upon her, and she slowed Harthad to a walk. Once they entered its dim light, she slid off her horse and began to look in earnest for the pale yellow leaves of pelethcaul. Harthad was content to trail behind her, catching her breath and nosing around for food. Lalaith smiled, “Take care, my friend, that you do not eat that which I seek! When we are home again, you can eat till your belly is full.” Harthad snorted softly in reply.
Looking carefully through the soft pine needles, Lalaith had begun to gather a considerable amount of pelethcaul, filling her sack in the space of an hour. She spotted a small clump of nesta-pâri, as well, a surprise for this part of the forest. “What good fortune, Harthad!” she exclaimed. “Still, the hour is grown late, and I fear we have need to return to Rivendell without gathering more. I warrant Frodo will be in dire need by now.”
She took one last look around her, to spy out any hidden plants still remaining. Seeing none, she prepared to mount Harthad, when of a sudden she heard low voices and laughter coming from the path outside the forest. She quickly jumped on the elf-horse’s back and quietly drew her bow. Lalaith silently urged Harthad forward to see what manner of folk might be coming her way.
As she cleared the rise in the forest path, she espied a group of Wood-elves, journeying to the west toward Rivendell. Lalaith slowly lowered her bow, though kept it tightly in her grasp.
They perceived her almost at once, though she was cloaked in the shadow of the woods. Their bows were raised ere the eye could blink.
She called out, “Halt, fair Wood-elves. Would you strike down an Elf-Maiden bent on her task of gathering herbs?” At this, she and Harthad came out of the dimness into the dazzling afternoon sun. The golden rays caught in her copper tresses, and they glowed as if a fire had been kindled there.
One Elf, exceedingly fair of face and clad in green and brown, rode forward. He looked at her keenly before saying, with suspicion in his voice, “What manner of Elf has hair the colour of autumn leaves?”
She laughed then, its lively sound sparkling in the clear air. “Long ages of fighting fell creatures and forces of evil have made you wary, Elf of Mirkwood. I am Lalaith, of the House of Elrond, and I am on an urgent quest to gather healing herbs.” Her smile fled as she remembered Frodo’s small face, pale and sunken against the covers of the bed. She continued, “For, Elrond is treating one who is gravely wounded.”
The other Elves came forward now; there were four in all, including the tall one who had addressed her. He spoke again, his face relaxing slightly, “I am Legolas, son of Thranduil.”
Lalaith raised an eyebrow in surprise. “The son of the Elf-King?” she wondered aloud.
He answered, “Aye.”
“Mae govannen, Legolas,” greeted Lalaith.
“Mae govannen, Lalaith,” he smiled. “We are bent on urgent mission as well to Rivendell, seeking advice from Elrond on…a certain incident.”
He continued, “Feredir is with me.” He tilted his head in the direction of one of the Elves, also clothed in brown and green. “We ride with Theonas and Lindanan as well.” She gave greeting to the other Wood-elves now, but kept her eyes upon Feredir.
His long, golden hair glinted in the bright sunlight, and his deep green eyes, the colour of new moss, had never left her. It was his expression that troubled her, and she was unsure of what she read in his rugged face. She studied him further, till she decided that he was regarding her with great distrust. She noticed as well that his bow remained at the ready in his grasp.
She nodded to him again, a smile upon her lips, as she realized she also still held her bow tightly in her hand. She placed it upon her back without delay, and his wariness lessened then. “Feredir, hunter,” she murmured.
Legolas heard her, “Indeed, Feredir is my Chief Huntsman and faithful friend.”
Lalaith looked up at that moment and noticed the sun starting its path down the deep blue sky. “Well, dear Wood-elves, it seems perhaps that our paths have brought us together. I dare not halt between here and Rivendell again. The very life of the hobbit depends upon it.” She paused a minute and gave a sly smile. “So, if you can ride quickly, we may make our journey together. Otherwise, I shall meet up with you again after you have reached Rivendell.”
Legolas grinned at her, his eyes flashing, “Is that a challenge, Lalaith? You would soon find that the Elves of Mirkwood ride as fast as the wind.”
“Indeed! Then, it seems we find ourselves in a contest of sorts,” said Lalaith, and they all urged their mounts back to the High Pass road. Once they reached it, they let the horses have their lead, and they flew over the land, truly as swift as the wind. In amazement would other folks have been, if they had seen the group of Elves racing across the mountainside.
They had not gone far, though, when Harthad reared in sudden fright. Lalaith did not have to wonder long at what had caused her horse to shy, as an arrow flew so close to her head, the fletchings brushed her cheek. A sinister sound rose up then, the hideous laugh and call of a group of orcs, lying in wait along the High Pass.
She exchanged looks with Legolas and Feredir and all had their bows in their hands and arrows poised to fly in an instant. Theonas and Lindanan fell back, understanding by the nod of their lord what to do.
At that point, the foul orcs came out of the shadows, their arrows drawn and pointed at the Elves. Legolas let his arrow fly and Feredir’s was behind his in the space of a breath. Two orcs fell dead among the trees. The fair Elf-Maiden was skilled, too, and her own arrow was released in the blink of an eye. It found its mark, and another orc squealed in pain before falling dead upon the ground. Another and another fell, as the Elves’ arrows flew fast and true.
By now, the orcs were close upon them, and she left Harthad’s back to join them in battle. Feredir and Legolas, too, dismounted, drawing their swords for the fray. There were at least ten more that she could see, but she quaked not at the knowledge. Courage guided her hands, as she felled another orc with her bow before reaching for her sword. Bronwe sang as Lalaith unsheathed it, swinging it round to meet the neck of the closest orc.
“O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!” she cried out and turned to meet the blade of another orc. Swiftly she blocked his attack and drove deep her blade into his side; he fell dead beside her. Legolas and Feredir, too, were striking down the dreadful creatures without pause. Theonas and Lindanan protected their flanks, sending their arrows to their marks without fail.
Of a sudden, two orcs approached her, one on each side. She turned to engage the closest one in battle, when a searing pain made her cry out.
She smelled the stench of the other orc before she turned to see his hideous face close to hers; he laughed cruelly as he withdrew his crude sword from her leg. Lalaith gasped at the agony, the burning poison like liquid fire in her pure blood. They seemed sure now of their victory and closed in to make the kill.
“Looks like we have Elf-flesh, today, Gishkna!” one cried fiendishly.
“That’s right, Ukla! And such a pretty one, too!” the other snarled.
But, Lalaith had paused only for a moment, taken aback by the pain in her leg. The two orcs shrank back in dread when she once more stood tall and raised her sword. “You shall have to find some other meat,” she said grimly, and she severed the neck of Ukla with one swing and buried her blade into the side of Gishkna while yet he stood agape.
She drew her breath and glanced around for the other Elves. They felled the three remaining orcs, then searched warily for more. There were none to be seen, so Feredir and the others sheathed their swords. Legolas’ face was stern and full of anger. “Theonas, Lindanan, is the Pass clear?” he called.
“Aye, my lord, for now. We see no more approaching.” Only then did Lalaith lean against the solid girth of a nearby tree to rest. The others paused to draw their breath as well, not yet realizing Lalaith was wounded.
But, when Legolas turned to her, his eyes flew wide when he saw her bleeding leg. “You are injured, fair Lalaith!” Feredir was at her side at once, bidding her to sit upon the ground. His sure fingers pulled back the cloth from around the wound, his face clearly showing his dread once it was exposed.
She bore the pain in silence, making light of the moment. “‘Tis nothing really. We shall bind it up and be in Rivendell before the dawn, if we ride swiftly.” She paused for breath. “Here, Feredir, in my sack you will find pelethcaul. I believe a little can be spared to treat my wound. We must make haste. If I treat it now, I have hope of recovering my strength. Otherwise…,” her voice trailed away, and she shuddered as she thought of the fate of Celebrían.
Feredir glanced up at her, reading her thoughts. “You will not have to sail into the West to escape your torment, Lalaith. You are not Celebrían.” He continued to skillfully treat her wound, muttering under his breath dark words against the orcs as he poured clean water from his flask over it. He placed the pelethcaul into the wound, and, as he pulled the binding cloth tight, Lalaith drew in her breath sharply. “My pardon, Lalaith,” he said gently.
“No, Feredir. You have dressed my wound well; you are no stranger to such things, I warrant.” She attempted a smile, but her face had gone pale and the pain had indeed grown much worse.
Legolas bent down to peer into her eyes. “Can you ride, Lalaith, or shall we carry you on one of our steeds?”
Her courage had not failed her in spite of her suffering, so she met his noble eyes with a fierce determination. “I will ride, Legolas. We must make our path quickly to Rivendell. This slight wound will delay us no longer.” As she tried to stand, he reached out his hand to help her. On her feet again, she whistled for Harthad who came loyally to her side at once.
But, before Legolas or Feredir could lend her aid in mounting her horse, Theonas gave out a cry of alarm. “There approaches another band of orcs, fifteen in all, from the east!”
This time, a small fear did rise up in her, knowing she was already weakened by the orc-blade’s poison. Theonas and Lindanan were even now letting loose their arrows, and Legolas and Feredir had mounted their steeds to join them. She raised her bow, yet again, lying in wait, as it were, for any who made it past the Wood-elves.
Long minutes seemed to pass, with the cry of battle ringing all around her. The Elves of Mirkwood were fierce, though, and it was clear the orcs were being defeated. When no more orc cries rang out, Lalaith kept watch, but slipped her sack from off her shoulders. The poison in her blood was causing her great thirst, and she thought to take out her flask for a drink of water.
A foul hand came round her mouth, though, knocking the flask and the sack to the ground. Her cry was stifled by the hand and ere she could take thought to fight, she was struck cruelly on her wound. This time did her cry ring out, and Legolas and Feredir turned in alarm. The last vision that met her eyes before the darkness overtook her was their princely faces shaded with fear and anger.
When at long last she regained her senses, she knew at once she was in the company of a small band of orcs. They were carrying her through the dark forest, speaking to each other in low, guttural whispers. As the fog continued to lift from her mind, she took in her situation. Her sack was gone; she saw her bow, quiver, and sword in the possession of another orc. Only Elenath was still by her side. She was alone with the three of them; her hands and feet bound tightly.
Her wound was a fierce ache, fiery and painful, but she dared not cry out. The longer the orcs thought she was senseless, the better. On and on they traveled, with Lalaith fighting the waves of pain and trying to appear as if asleep.
The night was old when at last they halted. She was roughly thrown to the ground and left there, though not unattended.
“What are we going to do with her, Mlishna?”
The largest orc snorted. “How do I know? We take her to Glack. He can decide.”
“I say we eat her now! I’m starving!” This was the smallest orc, who stood guard over her now.
Mlishna rose up in great dread. “We leave her be! She may be useful to us–beyond giving us a fine meal!” he snarled. “Besides, the decision belongs to Glack. His orders.”
The orc who had carried her had disappeared, but returned shortly with two rabbits in his hand. “We eat this tonight.” They tore into the still-warm rabbits, and Lalaith wished she could stop her ears to shut out the sound of their gnashing teeth. They were done all too soon, grumbling at the sparse meal, but their mood was improved. Mlishna set up the short orc to stand guard, while he and the other orc rested.
Long hours passed, and the first grey light of dawn came upon the sleeping earth. Though she had tried to remain alert, the poison moving through her had dulled her senses. She had slipped in and out of darkness over the hours, yet she sensed that the pelethcaul was fighting the black poison. She felt she had hope of recovery. “If only I could escape!” she thought.
As the sun had risen over the horizon, red and glowing, she thought she had heard the call of a strange bird, distinct in the quiet forest, but she was not certain.
Mlishna came over to her, kicking her side with his foot. “Get up! Get up!!
Lalaith rolled over, her face a hard mask of concealment. Her grey-green eyes snapped, though, and Mlishna regarded her with caution. “Get up, I said!!
“This is as far as I can move, unless you loose my hands and feet.” She met his gaze squarely.
He snarled in disgust and motioned for the smallest orc to pick her up. They stayed in the shadows, shunning the light of the sun, and traveled on again, heading north on the east side of the Misty Mountains.
By midday, they halted at the foot of a small mountain. Peering around to see that they were not being followed, they turned their trail up its steep side and headed for a dark cave. When they entered its black shadow, they threw Lalaith to the ground again. She stifled a cry of pain as a sharp rock jabbed into her leg.
“Glack, we bring a present!” Mlishna bellowed out.
Out of the darkness came a lumbering orc-fellow, larger even than Mlishna. He looked at Lalaith, his lips curling in disgust. He spat upon the ground. “You bring me a She-Elf?! You fool! I said bring me their spoils. I have no use for an Elf!”
“Yes, Glack. Pardon me, Glack,” Mlishna groveled. “If nothing else, she can be our meat tonight!” he explained, trying to soothe the anger of his leader.
Glack seemed to think about this before nodding in agreement. “Yes, then, we shall eat well tonight.”
Lalaith’s spirit fell, at this, yet it was true enough that being killed outright would be less cruel than being tortured by these loathsome creatures. “Far fouler things could be done,” she thought. “But, they shall find this Elf has fight left in her yet!” And, she turned her thoughts anew to escaping her captors.
The orcs were moving around her, ignoring her for the moment. Lalaith heard the call of the same bird again, nearly lost in the wind, but answered by another. She hearkened her sharp ears to the sounds and pondered them deeply, and a new hope had arisen within her. The orcs paid the calls no heed, though.
In a short span of time, her hope was full-born as she heard the cry of one of the orcs and saw him plunge over the side of the cave ledge. The other orcs yelled in dismay and scrambled for their weapons. Two more orcs lay dead before they had time to let loose their battle-cry. Mlishna was one of them. In all, nearly twenty orcs had crawled out from the shade of the cave and were now in battle with unseen forces.
Lalaith made her way till she was hidden behind a jumble of rocks, and she began to work to free her hands. She watched with grim delight as one by one the orcs fell, pierced by the arrows which by now she recognized. Glack was the last and great was his fall, but, in the end, there was silence. The bird called out again, and this time Lalaith answered with the soft call of an owl.
She watched the cave ledge, and Feredir’s welcome face soon appeared–a glad and joyous sight indeed! Lalaith cried out in relief, and Feredir was by her side in a flash, untying her bonds. Theonas was with him, as well as several other Wood-elves.
“Mae govannen, Feredir, Theonas!” She looked at the strange Elves. “How glad am I to see you all!” she cried.
“And glad we are to see you as well,” grinned Feredir. “You have proven a difficult quarry, Lalaith.”
Theonas spoke up, “Our apologies, Lalaith. We could not retake you right away; another band of orcs came upon Legolas, Feredir, Lindanan, and myself from the south just as you were stolen away, and we were hard-pressed to fend them off. Only when they were slain, could we begin to track you, and so we have been following you this long night and day.”
Feredir handed her a flask of water and continued the tale. “I sent Theonas for aid, and we came upon you when the orcs stopped to rest. We held off our attack, though, when we heard they were taking you to other orcs. We wished to discover their stronghold and destroy them from within our borders.”
She interrupted him, “What of the herbs, Feredir?” Her face was covered with grave concern, fearing she had failed Elrond and Frodo.
Feredir smiled slightly, “Fear not, brave Lalaith. We found your sack upon the ground and realized at once what must be done. Legolas and Lindanan rode on to Rivendell after the second band of orcs was killed. They carried your herbs, as well as their message, to Elrond and would have reached him before dawn this morning. Harthad went with them.”
She sighed and relaxed against the cool cave wall.
He regarded her in the dim light and surveyed the damp, dank cave. “We must carry you to better conditions. Your wound needs tending, and I cannot do it here.”
She arched an eyebrow at him in question. “I can make it back to Rivendell, if that is what you mean.”
“Nay, Lalaith. You are closer now to my kin, and I would have you borne to the Elvenking’s Halls.” The other Elves voiced their agreement, and they began to help her out of the cave. As the Elves began their descent from the lip of the cave, Lalaith stumbled on a pile of loose rocks. Feredir reached out to steady her, for Theonas was below her now. Theonas turned, though, hearing her slip, and his quiver, of an accident, struck her wound. A great wave of pain washed over her, and she was reluctantly taken into the darkness once again.
She awoke to soft light, not knowing how long she had lain unseeing. She was in a soft bed, in a room of pale green. Leaves were carved here and there, twining their way around the walls and ceiling. Torches and lanterns, fashioned in the shape of trees, lit the small room and cast long shadows over the oaken bed. Dark curtains, the color of evergreens, partially enclosed the bed, and these moved slightly as if a gentle breeze blew through the room. A fire crackled warmly on the hearth.
“You awaken,” a voice spoke gently.
Lalaith turned quickly in the direction of the voice and met the eyes of the Feredir, his golden hair glinting in the torchlight, and the sparkle of the fire shining in his deep green eyes. For once, her voice failed her.
He smiled slightly, as if amused, then continued, “Welcome to the Elvenking’s Home, Elf-Maiden.”
“How long have we traveled, Feredir? How long have I been in darkness?”
“It matters naught; you are safe now within these halls.” As if guessing her next question, he went on, “I have already dispatched a messenger to Rivendell to tell of your rescue. I will be glad to send another to tell of your recovery.”
“Any word of the hobbit?” she asked hopefully.
“Nay, none yet, but we shall hear when our messengers return. You should rest now, Lalaith.”
She smiled at him, “What else have I been doing these endless days but resting?”
He threw back his head and laughed. “Indeed! Though, not in chambers as pleasant as these.” When his laughter died, he said, “Still, rest you should, and I shall return to you later.”
True to his word, Feredir returned as dusk approached, accompanied by one who could be no other than King Thranduil. A garland of autumn berries and leaves crowned his head and leaned lightly upon a staff of oak. Regal he was, an Elf of old. Lalaith tried to rise to greet him, but Feredir reached her side before she could do so. “You cannot stand, Lalaith,” he spoke earnestly.
“Do not attempt to rise, Lalaith,” spoke the king. His expression was kind, and his eyes were gentle upon her. His face brought to mind fair Legolas, and she was honoured to be in his presence. She bowed her head in respect.
“Speak, Elf-Maid, Lalaith of the House of Elrond. How is your strength?”
“It returns to me, King, if only too slowly. Ukla’s sword struck deeply.” She winced at the remembrance and at the dull pain in her leg, now covered with fresh bandages and salve.
“Sorry I am that you were wounded, but I give our thanks to you for the orc-slaying. Feredir has told me of your brave deeds on the High Pass road. Legolas and his companions were fortunate to come upon so mighty an Elf-Maiden, else things may have gone worse,” said Thranduil.
“Nay, my king. Your brave son and his mighty companions would surely have defeated the foul creatures without my aid. It is I who should give thanks to them, for it seems likely I would have met my doom if I had been alone on the High Pass. And, in truth, I would have perished if not for brave Feredir and his men. As well, I fear I placed Legolas in great danger as he was divided from two of his companions in their quest to rescue me.”
“It is not so, Lalaith. No Elf, friend or foe, would we abandon to the orcs, and no doubt my son found safe passage over the mountains into your fair Rivendell. His journey was not hindered on account of your wounding.”
He smiled broadly before continuing, “Now, you shall stay here to recover your strength and know that you are most welcome in my home. You shall be honoured with a feast and welcomed properly when your health has returned to you.” He bowed his head slightly before leaving.
Alone in the room, Feredir turned to Lalaith, “Glad I am that you are here, Lalaith. I will leave you to your rest now.”
“Wait.” He paused on the threshold of the doorway. “Hannad, Feredir, my thanks to you for saving my life. I failed to thank you or Theonas or the others when you rescued me from the orcs.”
He bowed slightly. “You are most welcome, Lalaith. We could do no less for a fair maid of Rivendell,” and he was gone.
Knowing that word had been sent to her kin in Rivendell, Lalaith began to enjoy her stay in the hidden halls of Thranduil’s home. The messenger soon returned with news of Rivendell, which brought her joy and sorrow. Frodo had recovered, but a great and terrible fate had befallen a group that had gathered at Elrond’s home. Legolas had chosen to accompany Frodo, Aragorn, and six others on a dangerous quest to destroy the Ring of Power, which Frodo bore. From then on, a shadow was ever-present in her heart as she feared for the fate of her friends and for the fate of all of Middle-earth.
Yet, her strength returned to her steadily, for the healing skills of the Wood-elves, coupled with the wisdom of Lalaith, drew forth the poison from the wound and gave life back to her flesh. Feredir was her companion and happy she was to have him by her side. He came to her room every day and every night to share her meals and to bring her cheer. Over the many days, a great friendship grew between them, as they learned much of each other’s lives.
One day, Feredir was gone on a hunt, and she felt very restless. Her confinement chafed hard against her that day, and she deemed her leg was sound enough to carry her forth. So, she cautiously ventured out of her chamber and found her way down a long tunnel lined with red torches. Her tentative footsteps echoed against the cold stone, but the smell of freedom was in the air.
She wandered, lost, for quite some time before meeting an elf-maiden making her way toward another tunnel. “Wait, please,” Lalaith called out.
The maiden halted.
“What is the way to the forest, Elf-Maid?”
“You must be our guest,” she responded. “If you shall follow me, I can take you to the gate. I shall have to open it for you, for it is kept by a secret spell.”
So, Lalaith fell in behind her escort, trying her best to keep pace with her through the long, twisting tunnels. Her wound began to trouble her a little, though the fresh, clean air drove her forward. After some time, they reached the opening of a cavern, and Lalaith could see the enchanted gate for herself.
“Here you are, Lady,” said the Wood-elf, and she led Lalaith beyond the gates which opened as the maiden approached. She turned to leave, though, once Lalaith was outside.
“Wait, how shall I return?” Lalaith questioned.
“If none of our kin comes along in time, simply ask at the gate for admittance. It shall be granted for you.” She was gone, and the gates swung shut scarcely after her gown crossed their threshold.
Lalaith then fixed her gaze upon Mirkwood, seeing it truly for the first time, for though she had ridden round its borders and viewed its dark shadows from afar, she had never been invited into its realm. The beech trees which towered over her now reached far into the sky–what little sliver of it could be seen beyond their close branches. She stood upon a bridge over a dark and deep river, which flowed fierce and strong beneath her. The leaves were falling lazily around her, landing at her feet or in the swift water to be borne to distant lands.
She thought to herself, “What a strange beauty lies here, so different than fair Rivendell, and, yet, I am enchanted by this place.” She had crossed the river now and began to feel quite weary from much walking, and she leaned heavily against a wide beech to regain her strength.
So it was that Feredir came upon her, lost deep in thought and exceedingly fair, a pale willow amongst the dark trees. Lalaith noticed him coming down the path and smiled. He brought with him the bounty of his hunt, and his attire was streaked with dirt and grime.
His face grew anxious, and he said, “Lalaith, why do you venture forth alone? Your full strength has not returned to you, and I can see that you are weary even now.”
She knew he was concerned for her, but Lalaith grew a trifle angry. “I am not a mere child who requires constant guarding. Instead, I do believe I am free to come and go as I please.”
Feredir was secretly amused at the fire in her eyes and delighted to see the blush come into her cheeks, but sought to soothe her ire, “Indeed, you are free, Lalaith, and none here wish to keep you in a cage. If you had asked, I would have been most glad to assist you in your walk. I only spoke to you now out of concern.”
She knew that his words were true, and she sighed, her anger spent. “My pardon, Feredir. You have spoken the truth, and I am only angry at myself for being too weary to continue.”
He was at her side. “Come with me now, and I will lend you aid to your chamber. Tomorrow, I shall accompany you on a walk, so that when the chains of weakness overtake you, I can bring you home safely.” She welcomed his arm, dirty as it was, and leaned against his frame back over the bridge, through the gate, and down the long tunnels back to her room.
From then on, Lalaith and Feredir spent a part of each day walking through the king’s halls, or, as her strength was regained, riding out into the forest. He taught her the secret paths and ways of Mirkwood; she taught him of many healing herbs and ancient stories. Their friendship blossomed and grew as the days passed into early winter.
A great feast was soon prepared and all of the Wood-elves were glad to welcome Lalaith and very pleased to make merry with song and food and wine on her behalf. Lalaith had grown very fond of the Elvenking’s home and of his people, and her heart was now full of love for them.
Feredir kept silent when Lalaith entered the Hall, but his eyes were bound by her beauty. A new gown she wore, a present of the king, deep violet as of the evening sky. A silver girdle encircled her waist and a jeweled circlet crowned her brow, woven round with a garland of autumn flowers saved from the frost. The firelight was soft upon her face and shone upon her auburn hair, and he rose to meet her.
“Come, Lalaith, let us dance, that is, if your leg will bear you up,” said Feredir with twinkling eyes as he held out his hand to her.
“Well, we shall find out, Feredir,” she chuckled and gladly took his proffered hand. They were soon dancing with the other Elves, the lively music filling the Hall with delight.
After the great feast was drawn to a close, a company of the Elves set off into the woods to continue their merry-making under the stars and the trees, for the night was not altogether cold. And, so it was that Lalaith and Feredir found themselves standing together that night, under the great trees of Mirkwood–the trees that did not seem menacing here as in the past, but seemed instead to give them shelter and hope. A few stars could be seen through their thick branches and the merry laughter of the Elves afar off was a low, musical sound that danced upon the wind around them.
She stole a glance at Feredir in the starlight. Broad of shoulder and rugged and fair of face, she felt of a sudden shy, for, indeed, a hope of love had stolen into Lalaith’s heart for the brave hunter, Feredir. In truth, Feredir’s own heart was bound in love for Lalaith, though knowledge of it had yet to reach his mind.
Elenath had been, for the most part, silent as Lalaith had abided in Mirkwood, but she took the flute out now and settled against a tall beech. “Shall I play for you, Feredir? Or will I scare away your deer and leave you to hunt mice instead?” They both laughed at her jest, but he bade her play as he leaned back against another tree, his cloak of deepest green draped around him.
At first she sang, sweet words of Ilúvatar and the song of the Valar; she sang of their works, their love for Eä and for the Firstborn. Of their shaping of the land by their songs, she sang, and many other visions did she describe. She ended her singing with these words:
In their great story,
A single note we are.
Ordained by Him to be as one,
We play our melody.
Let us stay our course,
And dance to the rhythm,
Set ere the first note was heard,
Sung by the breath of Him.
She played Elenath then, her melody twining in and out of the mists, gliding over the moonlight. It sought a heart upon which to rest, with which to share the visions of her song. The dark forest grew quiet, save for Elenath’s stirring tune which pierced the souls of all around.
In his mind’s eye, Feredir indeed saw the formation of the world; he felt the music of the Valar and the rising of the land and the sea and the wind. The mountains rose forth from the depths of the earth, and the land blossomed before him. He watched as he took Lalaith in his arms and began to dance together with her in the mists, together for all time. Feredir held his breath till the last note faded and the vision in his mind grew dim.
At last he spoke, “What wizardry is this, fair Elf; I fear you have beguiled my heart!”
At this, Lalaith laughed softly. “I do no beguiling myself, Feredir.” She held out her flute, “Elenath does the weaving of spells–though a spell of vision only.”
He stood still, transfixed by this creature before him, ethereal in the light of the now gleaming moon. Hidden in part in shadow, and gilded in part by silver beams of moonlight, he beheld her there as if for the first time. Indeed, he gazed upon her beauty, her silver girdle and jeweled brow, glinting in the bright night; her gown of shimmering violet was as the deep, twilight sky.
It came to him, then, that which was spoken to him so long ago. It was forgotten, for the most part by his choosing, but the sight of Lalaith standing there brought it into his remembrance again. It made him sink deeply into thought, and he slowly, almost warily took her hand before leading the way over the bridge through the Elvenking’s Gate.
She wondered at his silence, at his change in manner, but she held her tongue. “Better to let the warmth of a fire dispel this sudden chill than to speak things which can never be recalled,” she thought as they passed through the tunnels toward the King’s Hall, its light gleaming dimly at the end of their way.
Feredir finally spoke as they neared the entrance to the Hall. “I fear that I have taken leave of my sound mind and lapsed into a feverish state of false visions.”
She gave him a look of concern, then said, “Feredir, come. I am sorry that I have troubled your heart. Let us go in now to the King’s Hall where a warm fire will cheer your soul and dispel your dark thoughts.”
They were soon standing before the hearth, though its fire was nearly spent. Lalaith reached forward and stirred the glowing embers and soon the fire blazed strong again. They were silent in their musings.
After a time, Feredir began to speak. He kept his gaze to the flames and said, “Long have I chosen to forget that which was spoken to me long ages ago.” He paused, to collect his thoughts, to control his emotions. “Tonight, you have awoken the words and broken free my heart.”
He turned to her and clasped her hands. The light of the fire danced upon her copper hair and blazed it into tongues of flame. His green eyes were dark, serious and deep, as he gazed upon her face.
In endless search of quarry wander
Seeking that which will not be found.
For in you lies the lonely life of a hunter,
No peace! Till with Elf of auburn tresses you’re bound.
With dawning realization of the meaning of his words, Lalaith’s eyes grew wide, but Feredir’s hands upon hers kept her from fleeing. He drew her to himself and softly kissed her pale lips as the firelight leapt for joy upon them. She stepped back, after a space of time, a smile lighting up her face. Slowly she said, “So, Feredir, your quarry has at long last been found–and captured!” They laughed, quietly at first, then louder and quicker as the light of their love grew and burst forth, shining bright for all to see.
And, so, began the story of Lalaith and Feredir–a tale of much happiness and but little woe. Of their many adventures, many books could be written, but it is enough to say that they sang their song together, playing as one, even beyond unto the bliss of the Undying Lands.