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Story of Legolas and Enóreth, The: 6. An Experiment
Early the next morning Legolas awoke to sunlight gleaming silver-gold and green through the leaves overhead. He rose with a new resolve, for the crisp air and a good night's rest had done much to revive his spirits. While preparing for the day's journey he gave much thought to the racoon's advice, and a measure of his confidence returned. After all, if cunning and intelligence were useful in such Stories, surely elvish wisdom and three thousand years of experience were in his favour. By the time he set out in search of Enóreth, he had decided to try a small experiment.
He found her curled up in the shelter of a birch grove some fifty yards from the stream. Her face was flushed with sleep and she held a rabbit in her arms. The tableau would have almost been cute if the poor rabbit had not been close to suffocating. Legolas knelt beside Enóreth and prised her arms loose. The rabbit bounded off, doubtless to tell the chilling tale of its captivity to whomever would listen.
"Huh? Wha?" yawned Enóreth, sitting up and rubbing her eyes. "Is it morning already?"
"It is," said Legolas. "We should be leaving soon."
Enóreth sighed, got to her feet, and stretched lazily. Then she glanced down at herself and gasped in dismay. "Oh, look at me!" she cried. "I'm such a mess! Legolas, do wait for a moment, won't you? I simply must go down to the stream and bathe. Do you want to come? No? Ah well, I can go alone. Such is my lot in life, after all: to be alone. So ... very ... alone...." She became distracted and started murmuring to herself. "You know, this dress could do with a good airing. All my dresses could, actually. And when was the last time I gave my hair its daily one hundred brush strokes? Sloppy, Enóreth, very sloppy...."
It was enough to strike dismay into the stoutest heart, but Legolas held firm. He took a deep breath, held it, and let it out slowly. Then he gave her the warmest smile he could muster. "Please do not be long," he said. "I worry when you are away."
The reaction to this tiny show of affection was immediate. Enóreth's face all but lit up in her delight. "Oh, you dear thing!" she cried, and prancing forward she kissed him on the cheek. "It's just like you to be so concerned about me! You wait here – I won't be half a minute." And off she went.
On the whole, the experiment worked like a charm. Enóreth got herself ready with remarkable speed and they were on the trail within a quarter hour. As Legolas had suspected, the landscape responded to her cheerful mood with warm breezes and sunlit glades, and for a long stretch the going was quite smooth. Encouraged, he made it a point to walk with her and engage her in conversation. Their pace could not have been less efficient and her incessant prattling nearly bored him senseless, but as the day progressed he noted that the cliffs were drawing much nearer. By noon the meandering walk had covered a greater distance than all of the previous day's marching, and by sunset the craggy ridge loomed so close that Legolas could make out the contours of its face in the red light.
Several days passed in this fashion. (Legolas had a hard time keeping track of them and eventually stopped counting.) He was careful to keep Enóreth happy with smiles and sweet words, and in return the journey – and the Story – moved forward at an acceptable speed. Things became easier still when Legolas discovered and perfected the skill of tuning out much of her chatter, tossing out the occasional "I see" or "Really!" at appropriate intervals. There were still a few rough spots to manage (he was trapped into giving her a back rub at one point) but he took them in stride and completed his tasks with grim determination. Thus the daylight hours slipped away, and when the nights fell and Enóreth was lulled to sleep Legolas had a precious while of peace and silence.
One afternoon as Legolas scouted ahead, he startled up a young buck that was grazing in a clearing. For a moment he stayed his hand, wondering if the creature was a Guide. But when the deer sprang away with no intention of stopping to chat, Legolas set an arrow to the string and aimed a shot that would drop the animal quickly.
And so it would have, if Enóreth had not leapt into the way.
It was well for her that Legolas possessed elvish reflexes; any lesser being would not have been able to divert the shot in time. At the last possible moment he cursed and jerked his bow to one side. The arrow went spiralling off into the depths of a thicket and vanished.
"Ai Valar, woman!" he cried, waving his arms in the air. "What are you doing?!"
Enóreth stood before him with tears in her eyes. "Oh, Legolas! How could you be so heartless! Shooting at a poor defenceless deer like that!"
At first Legolas could not find the right words. "Surely you are joking!" he sputtered at last. "I was hunting! You tell me we are forbidden to hunt now?!"
"And why do we need to kill things for food, I'd like to know!" she retorted. "We have plenty of bread and dried fruit with us!"
"This is absurd!" said Legolas. "We have been living on that stuff for days!" Then Enóreth's lip began to tremble, and he hastily added, "Not that it isn't good, hearty fare. I spoke too quickly. Forgive me, I did not know how you felt. I promise you I will ... oh, don't cry...."
But nothing he could say would appease her. Enóreth turned away and wandered off, sobbing loudly and leaving a very frustrated Elf behind her. For a time he stood there, gazing with sullen envy to where the buck had bounded away on light feet, far away into the forest where it could roam safe and free. Then he shouldered his bow, bent his head against the chilling wind and rain that had blown in out of nowhere, and trudged after her.
For the rest of the evening theirs was a long and mournful journey. Enóreth was silent and moody, and Legolas was in low spirits himself and of no inclination to cheer her up. Thus the sky became glum and overcast and the wind howled through the trees. Things were not much better when it came time to camp. The only spot that offered itself was a drab little clearing ringed all about with brambles. Even if it had not been too damp to kindle a flame, the warmth and pleasant glow of a fire would have ruined the mood and so Enóreth would not hear of it. Nonetheless, the clearing was better than nothing. They stopped there to wait out the night. Then for several hours Legolas lurked in the shadows and kept his distance while Enóreth stood in the centre of the clearing, moaning and sighing and striking melodramatic poses with her hair streaming in the wind. Finally, with her usual fussing and a sad song or two, she wrapped herself in her cloak and lay down to sleep.
It was some time further before Legolas was certain she would not wake until morning. He rose from the brambles and silently crossed to the edge of the clearing where an oak tree spread its great branches tall and wide. In one leap he caught the lowest bough and swung himself up. He climbed as high as the tree would bear him with an ease that only the Silvan Elves could master, and from his perch he gazed out over the tangled canopy of the forest.
The world still looked dark and brooding, but now that Enóreth slept a strong gale was tattering the clouds and blowing them away. Up here the air was not so heavy and the wind was soothing against his brow. As the sky cleared he could see the stars burning brightly, and they comforted him, for these the Story had no power to change or control. He traced their constellations to the Southeast where the distant shadow lurked, then further South toward the plains where Aragorn and Gimli – and he himself, in a sense – waited for the coming of dawn. Legolas' heart burned, for though time in Middle-earth stood still his own resolve and concerns did not. He had pledged his life to the Quest, and a very grim vow it was; but now he wished (not for the first time!) that the Story would end and release him to fulfil that vow.
Still, there was little he could do about it. Settling himself against the gnarled branches, he fastened his gaze on Eärendil's shining light and let his mind drift away to the brief respite of elvish dreams.
Coming Up: Enóreth gets mushy. Legolas gets a serious headache.
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