14. The Mirror of Galadriel
The dwarves of Lonely Mountain had reached their destination soon after leaving the elves, and prowled cautiously in the mines of Moria. “Not as many orcs as we’d feared,” remarked Sothi, as the group passed back out of the walls of Moria.
“Nay,” Naldin was greatly encouraged. “Let us go with all speed then, back to Lonely Mountain, and make our report to Balin. He’ll be very pleased.”
“Aye, he’ll probably want to start out straightaway, before any of us even have a chance to take a rest,” snorted Shaín.
“Why shouldn’t he?” demanded Sothi. “It’s good news we bring.”
“I for one will want to join that mission,” one of their other companions said.
“And I,” Naldin added, and Sothi and Sháin nodded in agreement. “Be glad, friends. Even if we’ve no time for resting, the day is coming soon when dwarves will rule the realm of Moria again. Come, let us return and give our glad tidings to Dáin and Balin.”
At the same time…
Legolas pulled back his bow and let arrow after arrow fly into the seemingly endless stream of orcs that poured over the hillside. The company was nearly out of the mountains, but the orcs were determined not to let them have an easy escape, and the company was forced into battles every night at dusk, that did not seem to end until the sun’s first rays sent the orcs running for cover. The company had made good time when it returned to the mountains at first, but now the orcs so impeded their progress that they scarcely covered any ground at night. So they were forced at times to travel by day as well, which wearied them and the horses still further.
*And Langcyll had hoped to reach Lothlórien within two weeks,* Legolas thought dismally.
The young warrior tossed his bow aside when the orcs drew too near, and snatched out both of his knives. The orcs charged on, and whirling to one side, Legolas flew into action, his arms sweeping with great precision to slash aside any fell beast that menaced him or his comrades. On his right, Langcyll was driving a sword against an assault of orc shields, and to his left, Faron and Galithil continued to shoot.
Still the orcs kept coming, and the elves were growing weary. That in itself was a sign of how strong the shadow was becoming, that it could send an endless onslaught of goblins great enough to wear down a company of seasoned elven warriors. The hills swarmed with them. Legolas was scraped, cut, and bruised in many places, and he feared in his exhaustion that he might make a fatal mistake.
It seemed both years and seconds since the sunset had been met with orc shrieks of challenge, but Legolas heard the foul beasts screeching in warning as the sky to the east began to lighten. At once, the orcs broke and ran, and the company was so weary that few of its members chased them. Legolas turned to face his companions, fearful of what he might see.
Elladan had taken a sword wound to the abdomen, and Elrohir was cradling his brother anxiously as Faron bandaged him. “It was not so serious as we feared; the bleeding has stopped. He shall be walking again in a few days.”
“A few days,” sighed Langcyll, pausing beside Legolas. “We may not have a few days, at this rate.”
Alarmed by such words, Legolas turned to Langcyll. His captain was bruised, bloodied, and very haggard-looking. This mission had been brutal to Legolas, and the young elf had overheard Langcyll and Glorfindel remarking that neither of them could remember a more difficult journey in their vast years of experience. *And they were both alive and fighting during the First and Second Age!* Legolas thought with a surge of despair.
Elunen had been gravely injured by an arrow six days before, and two of the company were always stationed to protect her, for she could not fight yet. Now Elladan would probably also be out of commission for at least two days, and Fanfirith could barely walk. “What do you mean to do, Langcyll?” Legolas asked without thinking.
Langcyll passed a hand over his eyes, blinking wearily. After more than two years, Legolas was already heartily weary of battles, bloodshed, and endless struggle for survival. He could not imagine how Langcyll must feel just then. The captain of Mirkwood murmured, “I will speak with Glorfindel. Our situation grows dire.”
The captain of Imladris was in little better spirits. Glorfindel was wounded by a slash to his right arm, but had continued to fight with the left. It was fortunate for him that even handicapped so, he was still more than a match for the orcs. *And even those with one arm to fight must still join in the defense,* Legolas thought with a sigh. *Will we ever see the end of this journey, or will the orcs take us all when our weariness grows too great.*
Langcyll walked over to Glorfindel and said, “It seems impossible that the orcs could keep up such an assault this close to Lórien.”
Nodding, the captain of Imladris replied, “But they have. And we will not hold out much longer without reinforcements.”
It was a bitter truth to swallow, but it could not be avoided any longer. The company was being worn down, and if they did not find rest and recovery soon, the orcs would have them all in some night battle. Langcyll sighed, “How much further is Lórien by the most direct route?”
“Even riding, we could not reach it by dusk, but perhaps by midnight if the horses could bear us that long, which is uncertain,” Glorfindel replied. “And that is assuming we fought no more battles.”
Weariness was winning them both over. Langcyll turned to his friend and said, “I fear for the sake of us all, the company must hunt no longer. Not that we have been in the usual sense of the word, for we have gone from hunters to prey. Let us ride then, as hard as the horses are able, and reach Lórien as soon as we can. If we do not get out of this great bog of shadow, we shall be dragged down.”
Glorfindel nodded grimly, “I fear you are right. Our situation is too desperate.”
The decision made, Langcyll shouted to his exhausted warriors, “Mount up, all of you. We are riding for Lórien with all possible speed. The company shall hunt no longer.” If he had had any doubts about the seriousness of their situation, the relief on the faces of all quashed it. There were no illusions. The company had to reach safety.
“Hold on, my beauty,” Elrohir whispered to his mare, who he could feel straining as she struggled to ride on. His horse was as weary as he was, but Ethuil was courageous as any warrior, and knew her duty to her rider.
To his right, Elladan was biting his lip against the pain as his horse’s every stride jostled him, jarring his stab wound. Elrohir felt a pang of immense anxiety for his brother; when he had first seen the injury, he had nearly fallen to the ground in despair, thinking Elladan was fatally wounded. Fortunately, they had managed to get the bleeding under control, but the injury remained a serious one, if no longer life-threatening.
The company had been riding for six hours, as fast as the horses could manage over these mountains. In the first hour of the day, they had covered more ground than they had managed in the past two weeks of attempted travel by night. It was bitter to acknowledge this defeat, that they could not continue to face the orcs. But Elrohir knew Glorfindel and Langcyll were correct; if they did not reach safety soon, it was likely that the entire company would be lost.
Movement to his left caught Elrohir’s eye. Legolas was riding on his other side, but there were no laughing taunts or talk of racing today. The prince, proving his skill and prowess as a warrior, had escaped major injuries during the past six weeks, but at a price. As most of his comrades had suffered wounds at one time or another during these recent cruel nights, Legolas had endeavored to take up the slack, and spent many days tending wounds or standing watch or scouting rather than sleeping.
Although elves could withstand a great deal of toil and injury, far more than men, the strain was telling on all of them. Now Legolas was swaying on his horse’s back, and his eyes were growing dim and glassy. “Legolas?” Elrohir hastily leaned over to touch the younger warrior’s arm, and felt his own head swim in response; he too, was beginning to falter under the stress of such prolonged fighting.
Legolas blinked, and shook his head hard to dispel the weakness. “I am well, Elrohir,” he sighed, rubbing his eyes. “But I am not so certain of Lanthir.” All the horses were beginning to slow with weariness. As the company approached a stream, Legolas took a deep breath and called, “Langcyll.” When the captain turned, the prince said candidly, “The horses must have water soon or they will not last.”
Looking at the creek, Langcyll nodded and called out, “We will stop here for ten minutes.”
*Only ten…* it was all Elrohir could do not to groan. Some of the others did.
When the warriors dismounted, many leaned against their horses as they drank, trying to find the strength to continue. Elrohir sat down next to Elladan, letting his wounded brother lean against him, and murmured, “We shall make it, brother. We shall.”
His jaw clenched with pain, Elladan replied, “Unless the orcs continue tonight as they have been. We shall not reach Lórien by dusk.”
Elrohir squeezed his eyes shut, struggling to suppress the despair that was beginning to rise within him. *I must keep strength, for his sake. For the sake of us all. We must not lose hope, or we will all be lost.*
The sun was sinking lower, even as the company rode faster through the decreasing hills, they could hear orc shrieks from the caves and shadows. *As soon as the sun is gone, they will be upon us,* Legolas thought, fighting the urge to groan.
Like a beacon for his hope and his sanity, Legolas found himself mentally reciting all the things his sister Limloeth and the rest of his family and friends had told him of Lórien. *It is autumn now. The wood shall be full of golden leaves, if what they say is true. And flowers bloom there even in the winter. We shall see the Nimrodel. Perhaps we shall see the Lady Galadriel.*
An orc screech from a pile of rocks not far away made Legolas flinch, but the sun was not yet down and the creatures could only taunt the company as they rode past. It made Legolas cringe with shame to realize he and his comrades were in fact fleeing the beasts of Mordor. *In the beginning, we had sought to drive them from these places. Now, they drive us back into our haven. Assuming we manage to reach it at all.*
Exhaustion came in terrible waves, making his body ache and his head swim. Worse still, his eyes were incredibly heavy, meaning that the strain of the past weeks had gone beyond simple irritating weariness, that he was endangering himself. Looking around with slightly bleary vision, Legolas could see that many of the other elves who had been so lucky--using the term loosely--to escape serious wounds were also swaying with exhaustion.
Darkness enveloped them once again, and Legolas sighed, reaching for his bow as a great shriek heralded the orc charge. “Ride through!” Langcyll bellowed from the back of the company. “Do not stop! Our only hope is to get within sight of Lórien!”
Legolas concentrated his efforts ahead of the company, and rode up to the front beside Glorfindel to shoot and clear a path in the masses of orcs for them to pass. Fortunately, adrenaline had kicked in again, and he managed to see well enough to aim. The horses were also finding new strength under duress, and the company raced over another hill. With a great gasp of relief, Legolas saw the tall trees of Lórien, gleaming faintly in the moonlight, rising like a great palace of gold in the distance. “We have it in our sights,” Glorfindel said, urging his mount on. “We shall reach it.”
To the astonishment of them all, the orcs still did not break off. *They must realize that we are weakened with weariness, and hope to take us down before we get there,* Legolas thought. It was true, more orcs were swarming out in front of them, trying to pull the elves from their frightened and tired horses.
Whinnying in fright, Lanthir slowed against the assault, for the orcs were as thick as bramble bushes, and Legolas felt despair sweep through him as he realized he was running out of arrows. *We are so close--* pulling out a sword he had taken from an orc several weeks before, Legolas began sweeping it furious at their heads, trying to drive them back. Lanthir pitched and neighed, kicking furiously at the creatures while trying not to unseat his rider.
Inevitably, Legolas’s diminished strength caused his balance to fail, and when Lanthir reared back to kick away two orcs before them, the young elf fell from the horse‘s back, landing hard upon the ground. “Legolas!” he heard someone cry.
Orcs screeched challenges all around, and Legolas staggered to his feet, drawing one of his knives and brandishing the sword in the other. Many of the other warriors were on the ground as well, and it was obvious that the company was making its last stand here. *By the Valar, they are all around us.*
Just as Legolas was beginning to accept the inevitability of his death, an orc screamed in pain from somewhere behind him, and arrows began zipping by that were not orcish make. He swept his knife into the skull of another creature that nearly blundered into him as it fled. Looking past the orcs, Legolas cried out with relief--more than two dozen horses were approaching, their riders armed with bows upon their backs, firing a fierce volley of arrows into the orc army. Given new strength by this rescue, Legolas fought on, cleaving the heads off two more orcs with one of their own swords. Turning, he raised a hand to the approaching warriors of Lórien, and did not see a fleeing orc fire one last arrow at him.
“Ah!” the arrow slammed into Legolas’s shoulder, throwing him several steps back. Staggering, he forced himself to stay upright and keep his sword ready, in case more orcs lingered. But exhaustion, and now this wound were getting the better of him, and the world was beginning to spin.
The riders galloped around him and the other warriors of Imladris and Mirkwood, and Legolas thought with great relief, *We are safe. They will get us within their borders now…* Sword and knife slid forgotten from his hands. There was a tremendous roaring in his ears, and the world was closing in with a blackness darker than night. Legolas felt his legs giving way, and sank toward the ground.
“Legolas!” someone dismounted near him. It was a feminine voice, and familiar, as Legolas felt someone catch him in their arms, easing him down. Forcing his last strength into focusing his eyes, the face of an elf warrioress swam into view over him, with the characteristic Mirkwood dark hair and unusual brown eyes wide with dismay. “Oh my brother!”
“Limloeth!” Legolas gasped with joy despite the pain, weariness, and worry for his comrades. He struggled with all his might to remain conscious. “It is you. Many of the others are also wounded, they need help--”
“Peace, lie still. I am here, my little brother. I am here. We saw your danger. All your company are being seen to.” The rest of Legolas’s senses were failing him, but he felt his sister’s arms tightly around him, comforting him as she had when he was a child, despite the arrow in his shoulder. “Let go, Legolas. You and your party are safe. Rest now. I am with you.”
But Legolas knew, even in his muzzy state, that it had been a close call, and his mind did not wish to let him sleep until he knew the fate of his comrades. *There were so many orcs. There will have been more injuries, perhaps worse. I must know…* He could not sleep when they were not yet under the protection of Lórien.
Legolas gasped, hearing another familiar voice. But it was not spoken from anyone around him. Was it possible?! That the stories he had heard from friends who had traveled to Lórien were true?! Surely not. It must be his imagination, or his weary mind playing tricks on him. He struggled weakly against Limloeth‘s efforts to make him remain still, “Legolas? What is it? It is all right, just rest.”
Legolas tried to ask his sister again about the rest of his company, but his voice was failing him. Then in his mind came the other voice again, *Legolas. Your company is safe, and you are among friends. You shall be with us soon.*
Trembling with exhaustion, pain, and now joy, Legolas knew in his heart who was speaking to him. He could not have refused her if he had desired too, but the gentle, beautiful voice gave all the reassurance he needed. With a sigh of intense relief, Legolas sank back in his sister’s warm arms, closed his eyes, and let his body go limp. As consciousness and pain flowed out of him, like water from a broken vessel, he heard in his mind, *Rest, prince of Mirkwood. You are under our protection now.*
Haldir of Lórien was greatly troubled. They had seen the peril of the war party riding towards the borders of Lórien, but had not mustered to ride to their aid until it dawned on the warriors that the company was in serious trouble. Haldir’s warriors had managed to chase the orcs off, with more effort than they would have expected, and the warriors of Imladris and Mirkwood had practically dropped on the spot once they were in the clear.
*We arrived only in the nick of time,* the Lórien elf thought grimly, as the wounded warriors were born away and the rest rode into Lórien with Haldir’s people.
He took the company well within Lórien’s borders, not that such a thing was very necessary, since orcs had yet to challenge Galadriel’s realm, but the strength of Lórien would serve the exhausted elves better the further inside they were. Once the outside plains were out of sight, Haldir called a halt for the night. Many of the northern warriors were too exhausted or wounded to climb into the trees (*even the Mirkwood elves. That is unthinkable!*) so the group made camp upon the ground.
Haldir took a mental count of the newcomers. The captains, Langcyll of Mirkwood and Glorfindel of Imladris, had managed to keep their feet and ride into Lórien, but once there, both had collapsed. Glorfindel had suffered a deep knife wound to the arm, and was under the care of a healer. Mirkwood’s Elunen, Fanfirith, and Glanaur were also badly hurt, along with both of the sons of Elrond of Imladris. Elladan had a day-old stab wound to the side, and Elrohir had been badly cut while defending him. Prince Legolas of Mirkwood had taken an arrow just below the collarbone. Most of the new arrivals now lay asleep--with their eyes closed.
One of Haldir’s warriors was the prince’s sister, Limloeth. Haldir walked up to where she was watching her brother being treated, “How is he?”
Rising, her eyes troubled, the Sindarin princess replied, “I hardly recognized him. He is terribly exhausted, and there are many recent minor wounds upon him, and the healing marks of old ones.” Looking grimly at Haldir, she said, “We nearly did not reach them in time.”
There was a slight rebuke in her voice that Haldir accepted; Limloeth had wanted to ride out at once to meet the company, but it was Haldir who had tarried. Nodding to her, he said quietly, “Stay here with Legolas. We shall keep the watch.”
Gratefully nodding, Limloeth knelt down beside her sleeping brother and gently took his hand. His wounded shoulder had been bandaged, and she drew a blanket over him. “So much has happened,” she murmured. “It seems far longer than just two years.” She was not speaking to Haldir, so the warrior of Lórien left her to sit with Legolas, whose eyes were also closed.
Haldir’s brother Rúmil joined him after assessing all the injuries. “It was very bad, Haldir. Six of the eleven from Imladris and Mirkwood sustained serious injuries, and those who did not have dropped from exhaustion. Three of our number were also wounded. The party we sent to pursue the orcs are returning.”
“No doubt they shall have more news of the orcs,” Haldir replied, as more horses rode up to them.
The captain of this group was Orthelian, one of the most renowned archers of Lórien. “Haldir,” Orthelian said with a worried frown. “The orcs attacked us almost as soon as we came beyond Lórien’s borders. We drove them back swiftly, but their boldness was unexpected.”
Haldir felt a great desire to curse. “Why is this happening?” he muttered, tense and worried. “How can this shadow be so strong that orcs would wear down an elven war party? How long before they try to enter the borders of Lórien?”
“Surely that would be impossible,” Orthelian murmured, the horror of such a thought coloring his voice.
With a sweeping gesture, Haldir indicated the wounded, exhausted warriors on the ground. “Until today, I would have thought this was. Now I fear that naught is impossible.”
Haldir ordered his company and the party of Orthelian to remain where they were until Langcyll and Glorfindel’s warriors were sufficiently recovered. It took until the morning--two days later--for the eyes of all the elves to open again. Legolas was the last to open his eyes, and probably would have slept longer had he not been roused by Limloeth’s cry of excited relief.
“Where am I?”
Limloeth’s relief was so intense, her throat tightened. “You are in Lórien, my brother. Do you remember?”
Blinking, Legolas felt the bandages on his shoulder and looked up at the golden canopy above him, “Lórien.” He sighed and smiled at her. “How long have I slept?”
Dashing tears from her eyes, Limloeth grinned, “Nearly two full days. Ah-ah,” she caught him when he would have sat bolt upright, “easy, Legolas. Most of the others have only just awakened as well. And your eyes were closed until just a few minutes ago.”
She grimaced at her brother’s expression of alarm and doubt. He looked about him, seeing that she had spoken the truth; only a few of his company were actually on their feet. Legolas was definitely still weary, for after establishing that fact, he made no further effort to rise. With a sigh, he murmured, “How I have missed you, Lim.”
Limloeth smiled, stroking back his hair as she had when he was little. “So much has happened. I was frightened when I saw you.” And he still looked ill; shadows still remained beneath his eyes, and his skin was so pale that many bruises stood out in bold relief. She cupped her hand on his cheek, “I knew you would get into trouble.”
Legolas laughed weakly, “May I remind you, Sister, that it was you who urged me so to join a war party?”
“I did not mean this one!” she exclaimed, and he chuckled again.
Many of the other warriors were moving now as well, and Legolas looked around. “May I get up now?” he asked, a pleading note in his voice.
Limloeth sighed, knowing her brother well despite the changes of two years. “I suppose if I said no you would simply try it when my back was turned. Very well. Slowly,” she cautioned him. “You are still weak from your wound, and even two days’ sleep cannot make up for the strain you were under. Take care.”
With a nod, Legolas slowly sat up and got carefully to his feet, accepting her hand to rise but able to stand on his own moments later. Haldir came over then, bowing. “Well met, Legolas of Mirkwood. You seem to be improving.”
Bowing in return, Legolas replied, “You have my thanks, Haldir of Lórien. I suspect our captains have already told you that we all owe you our lives.”
“Indeed they have,” Haldir said with a knowing smile. “And I have already reminded them and several others that there are no life debts among warriors--as you are well aware.” Legolas smiled back. Haldir went on, “In answer to the question you are about to ask, there were no life-threatening injuries among your company, though you would all do well to remain in Lórien until your strength and spirit are revived.”
Legolas glanced in the direction of Langcyll, who was also standing but moving as though his ribs pained him. Glorfindel’s bandaged arm was in a sling. “I know not what my captains intended, but I do not doubt they will heed your advice.”
Another company of elves rode up just then, bearing the flag of Galadriel. Their leader conferred briefly with Haldir, who then spoke to Langcyll and Glorfindel. After several moments of discussion between them and several of the other members of Legolas’s company, Langcyll announced, “Those of us who can ride shall return to Caras Galadhon with the guard of Lady Galadriel. The rest of the company shall join them when you are able.”
The honor guard of Lórien elves moved aside to make room for those elves of the company who would be riding with them. Legolas felt a thrill of excitement at the prospect of seeing the city of Galadriel and Celeborn. He noticed Limloeth grinning at him and knew that it must be showing on his face. He was grateful to be able to ride.
However, as he found Lanthir, who to his relief had not been wounded, Legolas realized with dismay that few of his comrades were well enough yet. Faron was fortunately recovered enough from a knife wound to ride, as well as Nathron, Galithil, Langcyll, and Glorfindel, but Elladan, Elrohir, Elunen, Fanfirith, and Glanaur were still in serious condition. He and the others were preparing their horses when Glorfindel said to Langcyll, “Perhaps we should remain behind while the others recover. It is fitting for us as their captains to stay with our wounded.”
Legolas was not the only one dismayed by this; Faron and the others also protested. Langcyll and Glorfindel considered their wounded warriors and the healthy (or reasonably healthy) ones, then Langcyll decided, “Glorfindel is right. We shall remain behind,” he informed the honor guard.
Feeling a deep desire to see more of the Golden Wood, Legolas felt torn, for he also disliked the idea of riding away without more than half of the company. “Perhaps…” he said slowly, reluctantly, “we should all wait until we are all well enough to travel.”
Glorfindel grinned at Legolas, “Come, Legolas, surely you want to see Caras Galadhon now that the more pressing concerns are passed. We are all well.”
“But should we be separated thus?” Legolas asked doubtfully.
The two captains exchanged looks, then Glorfindel said something to Langcyll in a low voice, and Langcyll laughed in return. “Nay, go, Legolas,” he chuckled, waving his arm at the young warrior. “You have not seen Lórien before, and even the weeks that we shall be here will not grant time enough to satisfy any, so take advantage of your fitness. The rest of the company shall join the four of you in the city in a few days. Go, be off with you.”
*They know me far too well,* Legolas thought with more amusement than resentment, and mounted Lanthir. With a parting nod to the captains and the remaining warriors, he rode off with the guard.
The captains of the company watched their only four fit warriors ride away with the guard and warriors of Lórien. Langcyll chuckled, “You are right, Glorfindel, we could not deprive the young ones by delaying their first view of Caras Galadhon.”
The wood around them was more peaceful, if that were possible, now that many of the warriors had gone save those who were remaining with the wounded. Glorfindel smiled as he gazed about him, “Still, there is no reason why we cannot see a little of our nearer surroundings. If memory serves, the Nimrodel passes less than two miles south of where we are.”
“Your memory does serve,” Orophin, Haldir’s brother, told them. “Walk directly south and slightly inwards to the woods, and you shall find her.”
“Ah, my heart would be glad to hear Nimrodel again,” Langcyll sighed, feeling better already under Lórien’s canopy.
“Shall we take a short walk?” Glorfindel asked, gesturing in the direction Orophin had pointed them.
“I think our company will spare us. You will look after them, Orophin?” Langcyll asked.
“Rest assured. Go, let the voice of Nimrodel clear all worries from you,” the Lórien warrior said.
Glancing down at his still-wounded warriors, Langcyll sighed, frowning, “I fear until we are all recovered, such a thing would be beyond even Nimrodel’s power. But I shall try.” He followed Glorfindel into the wood.
Before long, they heard the musical flowing of the legendary river. Both captains had been about Middle Earth many thousands of years, and had seen and heard many wonders. But the sound of Nimrodel would never fail to strike awe into all who heard it, no matter how many times any elf passed through Lórien.
When Langcyll and Glorfindel reached the banks of Nimrodel, they walked along it for a ways, at times stooping to let the clear water flow over their hands or to bathe their faces. It seemed to Langcyll that if Nimrodel did not have the power to wash all troubles away, she at least made them easier to bear, for he felt stronger. He looked over at Glorfindel and saw the captain of Imladris staring at him with a very grave expression. “I hope that Nimrodel’s power does ease worries, for now a difficult conversation must be had, Langcyll.”
With a sigh, Langcyll nodded, turning to face his friend. “I fear you are right. We have taken some careless risks over this journey, and made assumptions that put the company in danger--”
Glorfindel interrupted him with a shake of his head, “That is not what I was referring to. Though truly, we did underestimate the degree to which the creatures of Mordor have multiplied, and the drought, but such things are inevitable hazards of war expeditions.”
“But we should have prepared better,” Langcyll said, grimacing at the memory of all the company had been through. “More caution might have avoided many of our number being wounded.”
The musical sound of Nimrodel beside them did little to ease the memories of those last brutal weeks of the journey for either captain. But Glorfindel went on, “You are one of the finest captains in Middle Earth, Langcyll. You would take too much upon yourself to anticipate every complication that might arise in a long journey such as this, in such uncertain times. Even Gil-Galad was not so perfect.”
Langcyll laughed. “Your faith in me is touching, warrior of Imladris. If not the mission, then, what troubles you?”
Glorfindel fixed him with a penetrating gaze. “I speak of Legolas.”
Stiffening, Langcyll felt himself harden inside, “We have had this conversation before, Glorfindel. I see no need to have it again.” Using all the authority and strength of his experience to harden his voice, he turned and began walking back along the riverbank, hoping to close the matter.
The reaction of Glorfindel caught him completely off-guard. “Langcyll, you are being a fool!” Langcyll turned in astonishment, and Glorfindel advanced, his blue-gray eyes flashing with frustration. “There was not time to say this when I first wished to back on the plains, so I will say it now. You have been a strong and wise captain for many years, warrior of Mirkwood, and I have never known you to lose your good sense until now.”
Shocked and defensively, Langcyll exclaimed, “Nay, it is you who have lost your good sense! You are exaggerating the situation to ridiculous proportions--”
“Exaggerating?! Affection for the youngest of your warriors is one thing, Langcyll, I have known it myself. But when you instigate a feud between a prince and a king, you have crossed the line.”
“What are you talking of?” Langcyll demanded furiously. “I instigated nothing; the ill-feelings between Legolas and his father existed long before he departed Mirkwood.”
“Indeed?” Glorfindel said with mock-incredulity. “From what I saw, Prince Legolas was closer to King Thranduil than any of his elder siblings.”
“You saw very little, Glorfindel, and even now, you do not know him.”
“And you do?”
“I was his novice master from the time he was fifty years old, so I think I may claim to know him well.”
“Better than his father, even?” Langcyll was about to snap that it was so, but saw Glorfindel’s aim, and instead pursed his lips. The Imladris Lord sighed, closing his eyes, “Perhaps you do know Legolas better than his father, my friend. But that does not give you the right to interfere with their affairs.”
“I was not interfering!” Langcyll snapped, angry now. “Legolas did not wish to speak to Thranduil.”
“And looking for an excuse to avoid the king. An excuse you were all too willing to supply him.”
“I did no--” Langcyll faltered. Glaring at Glorfindel, he said, “I would not permit anyone, even Thranduil, to trouble one of my warriors.”
“Do not take me for a fool, Langcyll,” Glorfindel retorted. “You are either lying to me or deceiving yourself. It has been a long time since you thought of Legolas only as one of your warriors.” His eyes and tone softening, he said urgently, “You have gone from merely protective to possessive of him, kinsman, and you risk a feud with the king.”
In disbelief, Langcyll protested, “Thranduil would not dispute me for giving legitimate orders.”
“Nay, but he could see well enough that Legolas was avoiding him. I doubt even that he realized there was an ulterior motive to your actions, but that will only lead to his wrath descending upon Legolas when at last they meet again. See now what your ill-considered actions may lead to?”
The solemn, quiet words struck the captain of Mirkwood with the force of an arrow hit. Glorfindel’s eyes were sad. “At first, I could not understand why a warrior so brave as Legolas could still harbor such fear of his father.”
Langcyll sighed, dropping his gaze. “In spite of all I know of them both, I know not the answer.” Looking up, he added, “But that is all the more reason to--”
“--All the more reason to stand aside and force Legolas to confront the king, just as a warrior must confront and overcome all his other fears! Had you been thinking rationally on the subject, you would have seen that. But you were not.” Shaking his head in despair, Glorfindel looked his fellow captain in the eye, “Interfering with the relations between father and son is foolish and out of place in any case, Langcyll. But when the father and son are the King and Prince of Mirkwood…it is a dangerous game you play. He is not your son, Langcyll. And even if he were, you cannot fight his battles for him. Remember how he came to be among your company in the first place?”
Langcyll turned away, feeling despair sweep over him, a black mockery of the sweet flow of Nimrodel. He wished he did not place such a value in rational thought, for then he might be able to evade the bitter truth of Glorfindel’s words. He looked at the clear, bubbling water. “Legolas confronted the king once. He shall find the strength to do it again.”
“Nay, Langcyll. You know as well as I that what passed between them was no confrontation. Legolas ran away.”
“I have done him more harm than good by allowing him to avoid the king. Now it has only worsened what must eventually pass between them.”
“Do not try to make up for it,” Glorfindel put a hand on Langcyll’s shoulder, “You cannot protect him any longer. You are only his captain. It is neither your place nor your right.” He paused, then sensed Langcyll’s acceptance. With a wry smile, he remarked, “The past nearly repeated itself. I wonder what it is that inspires such protectiveness toward Legolas among his elders.”
Without looking away from the water, Langcyll replied, “It was not always so. Early on, it was as you said, only an affection for my youngest warrior. But then Tathar perished so suddenly, and Legolas mourned so that I was afraid…”
“As well you should have been; I have seen the power of grief. And you served him well then. But now that danger is over, and you must return to being only his captain and friend.”
Langcyll sighed, “He was born into a time filled with shadow. When he was a child, his mother. Then his dearest friend only a few months ago. Fate has been cruel to him.”
“Fate is cruel to all born into such times, my friend, but we both know they’ve no choice in the matter. Legolas must face darkness on his own just as surely as we did when shadows last threatened our world. And we will again. All of us. I believe, and I think you’ll agree, that Legolas was born for a great destiny, for fate does not grant so many gifts by accident. We shall not serve him well by holding him back.”
Langcyll shook his head and laughed ruefully. “You have the advantage of me, Glorfindel of Imladris.”
“Then we are agreed?”
“We are. I will not step outside the bounds of my duty as captain again. You have my word,” Langcyll grinned. “And the victory of the argument.”
Glorfindel laughed in turn, clapping his friend on the shoulder, “Of course, my friend, what would you expect the outcome of an argument between Imladris and Mirkwood to be?”
“Hah. Words are right and good, Imladris, but must I remind you that we are warriors? And that a certain young warrior of whom we were just speaking is unequaled by any warrior that your forces have managed to put up?”
“That was two years ago.”
“Shall we bid him and Faron have a contest now? Whom do you suppose would be the winner?”
“Faron, of course.”
“Now who is deceiving himself?”
“I cannot decide if you have changed completely or not at all,” Limloeth remarked, pulling her mount up beside Legolas.
The son of Thranduil regarded his sister thoughtfully. “I know not for myself, but I think you have changed very little. So,” Legolas smiled slyly. “Why now do you wear Lórien colors?”
Limloeth blushed and grinned, looking at the warrior escorts ahead of them. As if sensing her gaze, one of them turned his head and guided his horse back to them. “I have not yet made a proper greeting to you, Legolas of Mirkwood.”
With a broader smile, Legolas replied, “I do not think you need be formal with me…Brother.”
Orthelian of Lórien grinned first at Legolas, then at his wife, Limloeth. “My lady and I were very sorry that you had not yet reached Lórien when we were ready to wed. We both desired your presence.”
“Ah, I am sorry I was not there,” Legolas answered sadly. “But all the same, you know my heart was with you both. And now you have my felicitations in person at last, though we nearly did not live to see Lórien.”
As the horses continued beneath the golden trees, Limloeth shuddered. “There have been times, brother, when the world seemed so dark and dismal that I have been certain you were lost. With every message from the war parties, I felt my heart shake with terror.”
Legolas reached out and gripped his sister’s hand, “Be not distressed, Lim. I am here now, and alive, more or less,” he grinned. “And now is a time for happy news. Tell me, there must be some from Mirkwood.”
The company rode deeper into Lórien as Limloeth regaled Legolas with all that she could think of since his departure. “I do not know what tidings you have had of Father since you left.”
“Well, then I shall spare you the ill news of the past three years,” Limloeth grimaced, and Legolas had no doubt as to her reason for choosing to reside in Lórien with her new husband rather than in Mirkwood. But surely there had to be some good news. In her typical mischievous fashion, Limloeth drawled, “I’m sure you shall be devastated to hear that Eregolf elected to leave Lórien and become Crown Prince of Lindon. You shall not have the joy of his and Princess Lalven’s company during your stay here.”
“Ai! My heart bleeds at the deprivation!”
They both laughed, and Limloeth went on. “Belhador has started his last century of healer training, and Eirien has attained her mastery. Oh, and…the last message from Mirkwood came only yesterday…announcing that the Crown Princess is with child.”
The other warriors listening around them gasped and exclaimed at this happy news, and Legolas shouted in delight. “Eirien?! And Berensul?! When?”
“The baby is expected in the spring.”
“Aah!” Legolas laughed aloud, gazing up at the birds flitting among the branches. “I suppose if we started now, we might reach home by then.” He sighed, shaking his head. “Berensul and Eirien. It does not seem possible.”
“Whyever not?” Galithil laughed from behind him. “They have been married for over a thousand years!”
“I suppose,” Legolas answered, still amazed. “It seems simply shocking to think of my brother as a father.”
“Compared to our parents, they waited for quite a long time,” Limloeth reminded him. Legolas winced involuntarily at the reference to Thranduil. He wondered if Limloeth knew what had happened on the plains, and forced himself to look at her face. She did not know, but her perceptive eyes saw at once that all was not well with him.
Legolas had always considered his father’s palace (the outer part, anyway) to be a grand and beautiful creation, but its beauty paled to him now that he beheld Caras Galadhon, the City of Trees. Great tree-stairs wound high into golden branches, and as the sun had set once again, silver lamps adorned all the trees and flets with clear, bluish-white light. The pavilions and stairs were more open than those in Mirkwood, and Legolas could clearly see the elves who lived in the dwellings in this city, many gazing down at the newcomers with curious but friendly eyes.
The riders and guard dismounted, and Legolas heard the sweet winding of a horn announcing their arrival. Before them was the greatest tree Legolas had seen yet. It was not the largest tree the prince of Mirkwood had ever beheld, but its smooth gray bole was perfect and flawless, its graceful higher branches feathered with golden leaves, and for this, Legolas mentally pronounced it the most beautiful tree in Middle Earth.
Haldir turned to the warriors of Mirkwood and Imladris, “Here dwell Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel. You are to follow me, for they wish to see you all.”
The remaining warriors of Lórien, including Limloeth and Orthelian, took their leave of Legolas, Galithil, Faron, and Nathron, with the promise of seeing them later. Many years in his father’s court had taught Legolas the courtesies of meeting any elven noble, but on this occasion, he found he was as tense as a callow youth at his first coming of age. Nonetheless, he was also filled with curiosity and eagerness to behold Lady Galadriel again, so he followed Haldir up the stairs.
It was not a hard climb for wood elves, though Legolas and the others did find they were still weary from the struggle of the past weeks. But before long, Haldir led them onto the great talan on which stood the dwelling of Celeborn and Galadriel. It seemed a great, open pavilion, with pale curtains pulled back that might be drawn down to enclose it at will. The four were brought into the pavilion, and found Celeborn and Galadriel, standing with all the power and splendor that Legolas remembered, awaiting them.
“Welcome, warriors of Mirkwood and Imladris,” said Lord Celeborn.
Nathron, the ranking warrior in the group, stepped forward and bowed to them both, then the other three bowed. Haldir spoke, “Seven of their company remained too wounded to travel, my lord. They shall join these as soon as they are able.”
The dazzling, penetrating eyes of Galadriel gazed upon each of the four in turn, and Legolas felt his heart skip just as it had when she looked at him during the Trial three years before. Lowering her eyes, she said, “It grieves me to know how the danger to our kindred has grown without their borders in such short time. The shadow under threat grows and menaces free people still more.”
Celeborn nodded gravely. “Much blood has been spilt, and the lives of many of our kindred lost.”
Legolas felt a stab of inner pain, as he always did on hearing the mention of death. But then Galadriel’s words troubled him still more. “Many more shall be lost, before this shadow is dispelled. A great many changes shall soon come upon the world, and the lives of countless thousands will soon rest upon the courage of a few. A time of great sorrow, fear, and doubt dawns soon, when the future of us all shall hang in the balance.” Her gaze briefly touched Legolas again.
His attention was restored to their words when Celeborn said, “But now time must be taken for all your company to be restored. When all have arrived here, we shall speak again. Then when all are ready, the warriors of Lórien shall join the warriors of Imladris and Mirkwood, and you shall ride against the shadow once again. For hope remains, that our realms and the surrounding lands may be protected from the plague of shadow.”
Galadriel nodded. “You shall remain here in Caras Galadhon, and rest until all your company have recovered their health and strength. Go now, and sleep in peace tonight.”
Even as she spoke, Legolas saw her eyes move to rest upon him, and in his mind, he heard, *Welcome, son of Thranduil. Much darkness you have seen since your coming of age, but your battle has not yet begun…*
Limloeth and Orthelian were waiting for Legolas when he and the others returned to the ground. Orthelian said, “If it please you, brother Legolas, come and sleep in our dwelling. We‘ve much to talk about.”
“I…” Legolas paused, glancing at his comrades, but it was Galithil who waved at him dismissively.
“Oh, don’t be silly, Legolas, go. You’ve not seen your sister in three years; none of us would begrudge you this time,” she told him with a snort at his hesitation.
It took little convincing. Legolas grinned at them, “Very well. Will I see all of you tomorrow?”
Haldir stepped forward, “We’ve rooms and beds for all your company, there above the brook.”
“Beds? I seem to recall sleeping in one of those once, a VERY long time ago,” Faron remarked, and the friends laughed.
Smiling slightly, Haldir went on, “Lady Limloeth’s dwelling is only a few trees apart. Go with your kin, and the rest, let us away.”
Waving merrily at each other, Legolas and his company separated, and he walked with Limloeth and Orthelian up to where they had made their home. Midway up the trunk of the silver tree was a handsome dwelling fitting for an elven princess or a warrior captain. Legolas followed Limloeth inside, and Orthelian drew closed the white curtains and thin panels of silver wood to make the open-walled structure more like a human house.
“Are you happy here, Lim?” he asked his sister without thinking.
The light in Limloeth’s eyes was all the answer he needed. She smiled broadly and grasped both of his hands. “I am, Brother. Look around, would you not be?”
Legolas pulled back the panel and curtain from one wall and gazed out at the shimmering beauty of Lothlórien. He sighed. *Of course, she is happy. Who would not be happy to live in this place all their life, especially after Mirkwood. How is it that the spiders and foul creatures of Mordor have penetrated so deeply into our realm, but the realm of Galadriel remains stainless and secure? Is she so much more powerful than my father. Ah, that is a ridiculous question, for I know the answer.* He felt a pang of some unpleasant emotions as these thoughts inevitably brought King Thranduil into his mind again.
Walking up to look out into the woods next to him, Limloeth asked softly, “What troubles you, Legolas?”
There was a long silence, broken only by the whisper of the wind in the leaves. Legolas both desired and feared telling her of his encounter with their father on the plains, but found neither possible because his ability to speak seemed to have vanished. But Limloeth did not desist, so he forced his voice to say, “I have seen our father.”
The lady of Mirkwood and Lórien turned away from the woods and stared at him, her brown eyes wide. “When?” she whispered.
“Six weeks ago,” Legolas murmured.
He still could not meet her eyes, but heard her intake of breath. “What happened?”
Taking a deep breath, Legolas faced her and said tonelessly, “We saw his company attacked on the plains below the mountains and rode against the orcs. I…there were injuries to both companies and there was little time to speak.” Seeing her expression, he admitted, “I did not want to speak to him.”
Limloeth nodded, and there was no accusation in her, for him or for their father. “You heard of the events in Mirkwood and Lonely Mountain the year after you left?”
The hesitant way Limloeth eyed him told Legolas that she knew more of those events, but was reluctant to tell him. He raised his eyebrows at her, and she said quietly, “I think it would have been better for us all if he had erupted after you left. But he did not. Angry though I am, I pity our father as well, Legolas.” She looked at his face and sighed, “You were the last, and he knew you would have to go, but still he refused to see it. After Mother died, with the rest of us grown, you were all he had left of her, at least in his mind.”
Silence grew heavy between them. At last, Legolas told her, “When I came of age…and wanted to join the war parties, he said he would not lose me as well.”
He had to look away then, and felt her hand on his shoulder. “Naught of what happened in Mirkwood is your fault, Legolas. Naught that happened to him and naught that he did. You had a right to determine your own destiny, as much as anyone can, in any case.”
“Lim…what did he say? When he learned I had gone?”
It was Limloeth’s turn to look away, and she stared out into the forest again. “Nothing. It was not spite, Brother. He could not speak of you at all for months, and then only in passing. His heart was broken as though you had died.”
Legolas flinched involuntarily, and Limloeth looked at him. In a voice barely above a whisper, she said, “I had just returned to Lórien with Orthelian after we wed when word came of Tathar.” Legolas cringed harder, still feeling physical pain at the mention of it. But his sister could speak to him of things that others could not. Gripping his shoulders tightly, Limloeth said, “How I wept, Legolas, as much for you as for him. And I was afraid for you.”
Swallowing hard--several times--Legolas got enough of his voice back to say, “I survived. I owed it to him to carry on.”
“And Father will survive. For you are not dead, and whatever passed between you--or did not pass--he will realize that in time. And he will be grateful. I know that much.”
Legolas, as astonished as Faron at the shock of having a bed again, fell asleep almost as soon as he lay down, and slept deeply, leaving the wall across from him open so he might see the forest when he awoke. It was very late, and the moon directly overhead, when something woke him prematurely. Legolas raised his head from the pillow and looked out into the dark woods in confusion. As he saw a light approaching from the nearby trees, his heart all but stopped.
It was Galadriel, walking across the branches with all the ease of a human strolling along a path. She needed no reaching or jumping to reach the next ones, for they bent and moved to allow her an easy path to walk. Legolas stared, amazed. It was not entirely unheard of, all living things were friends of the elves, and trees always favored the passage of the wood-elves especially. Legolas himself was often aware of branches moving slightly beneath him to ease his passage. But for them to move thus…Galadriel’s power was astonishing.
At first, the Lady seemed to simply be walking among the trees, gazing into the forest. Her flowing golden hair and shimmering white gown caught on none of the branches or leaves as she walked effortlessly from limb to limb, seemingly deep in thought.
All at once--just as Legolas felt his heart returning to its normal rate--she raised her eyes to meet his. Legolas blinked, and Galadriel beckoned to him. He rose swiftly, and though the trees did not reach out for him as they did for her, he had little trouble meeting her on the tree between them, and followed her to the ground. She led him down the hill of Caras Galadhon, down a long flight of stone steps to an enclosed garden, in a gap in the trees that opened to the stars and sky above. Legolas beheld a rippling stream that flowed down into a green hollow at the base of a tree, and a low pedestal, which held a shallow, wide silver basin with a silver ewer beside it. His breath caught.
Galadriel stopped beside the pedestal, and turned to face him. “You know what this is?” she asked him softly.
“I have heard tales of the Mirror of Galadriel,” Legolas murmured, awestruck. “But I know not why I would be deserving to see this place.”
“And will you look into the Mirror?” she asked. Legolas hesitated, his mind racing with all the rumors he had heard: some intriguing, some frightening. “Are you afraid?”
Forcing himself to look at her face, Legolas said, “I know not what it shows.”
Lifting the ewer and carrying it to the base of the stream, Galadriel smiled. “The Mirror shows many things, my kinsman. Things that were, things that are, and things that yet may be. Many things I can command the Mirror to reveal, but tonight I shall leave it free to work. What you will see, I cannot tell.” Filling the ewer and carrying it back to the Mirror, she poured the water into the basin until it was full to the brim. “Do you wish to look?”
Swallowing hard, Legolas nodded, and Galadriel stepped back, beckoning him forward. The young elf walked up to the pedestal and stared at the moon and stars reflected in the water. Suddenly, the Mirror grew gray, then clear, and Legolas saw a face reflected in it, that for a moment, seemed to be his own. But it was not; it was a fair-haired elf lady, wearing the crown of Mirkwood. “Mother!” Legolas whispered.
Queen Minuial looked just as Legolas remembered her. His mother seemed to be looking at something beyond Legolas’s sight, and as he watched, her face was suddenly illuminated by threatening red light, like the light of a blazing fire, and horror filled her beautiful features. Legolas gasped aloud as she raised her hands to ward off the heat, then the light faded, and he was watching a great landslide of rocks sweeping down a mountain onto a group of elven warriors on horseback. Galadriel closed her eyes as Legolas choked back a sob of anguish.
The light faded again, and in the Mirror appeared dark woods that Legolas immediately recognized as Mirkwood, fraught with darkness and lurking with evil beasts. Many swift scenes followed, none so horrifying as the first two, but confusing. Legolas saw his father, in one of the outer halls of his palace, wearing some unreadable and rather foreboding expression, advancing forward in a menacing manner. Then nine riders, cloaked in black upon black mounts, sweeping along a dark road with an air of menace and dread about them. A green, hilled landscape covered with grass that rippled peacefully in the breeze. Small figures, dwarves or perhaps hobbits, moving with the frightened stealth of ones hunted. A towering white fortress. Men at arms riding into battle with orcs. A great mountain spewing fire, and armies of foul creatures pouring across free lands, chasing fleeing people. Fleeting images of faces, of folk many races, but none that he recognized. A horse, riding fast with two riders, one tall and another short behind, silhouetted against the sun. Darkness, smoke, fire, blood, death. And then a great structure, half-built, that was not yet complete but did not resemble any building Legolas had ever seen. It appeared to be a ship.
Then at last the Mirror went dark again, and the moon and stars returned. With a great gasp, Legolas realized that he had been holding his breath. Stepping back from the Mirror, feeling distinctly weak, he asked, “Why did you show me this? I understood none of it.”
“Nay, and you shall not, for a time,” the Lady Galadriel told him. “Many things must first come to pass, before the things you saw. And you yourself must find a way to bring it about.”
In disbelief, Legolas whispered, “But what the Mirror showed…destruction. Why must it be brought about?”
“The darkness comes, Legolas of Mirkwood, whether we fight it or no,” said Galadriel. “But of all of us, you alone may be able to defeat it.”
The idea seemed unthinkable, and Legolas could only stare at the Lady. *I am not the best of the elven warriors, and certainly I am no great captain or leader. I am but the youngest son of a flawed king. How could I…*
In his mind, Galadriel answered him. *The fate of all of Middle Earth shall be bound to the strength of a few. And the failure of the few will lead to the destruction of all.*
“You speak in riddles, Lady,” Legolas said aloud, feeling more lost than ever.
The faint curve of a smile came to Galadriel’s lips. “Before it has come to pass, Legolas, the future in itself is a riddle. But you must serve your part in it, or all will fail, just as a chain fails when but one link is broken. You must find your way, for many quests that lie ahead of you…but you must first face your deepest, and closest fear.”
Legolas stared at her. The Lady’s eyes pierced his heart, and she said, “You know of what I speak, son of Thranduil.” He flinched at the reference, and she nodded. “There must be a peace between you, or all will be lost. For you…and everyone.”
“I do not understand.”
Galadriel walked closer to him and gazed into his eyes. “You bear the burden of a great destiny, Legolas. Your fate is bound to the fate of Middle Earth, and if you do not endure, all will be destroyed.” She smiled then, “Courage comes in many forms, elf warrior. As long as your hope survives, you shall find the strength. For all of your battles.”
NEW (AND OLD) CHARACTERS
Limloeth: Legolas’s older sister, second child of King Thranduil
Orthelian: a warrior captain from Lórien, Limloeth’s husband
Haldir, Rúmil, and Orophin: Duuuhh! ;-)
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.