4. Chapter 3
The effect was not lost on the Company from Rivendell. Sam grappled in his mind with the notion that anyone or anything might want to cause harm to a creature that could make such music. The thought churned round in his mind and he could not make it be still. He began to conceive of his peril; and the peril of all Middle Earth.
That night, their rest was hindered by fitful, wakening dreams; none more so than Legolas who at last rose and made his way into the wood among the flets where the Galadrim dwelt. The air was crisp and all was still and quiet, save the gentle song of the Silverlode in the distance. As he wandered Legolas began humming to himself the song of Ethuiel that he had heard by the river. He breathed the air deeply and admired the Mallorns, and watched the dancing of twinkling lights among the flets.
Unexpectedly, a ladder fell before him from a nearby loft. His eyes darted upward to see who would descend. He waited, but no one appeared. After a brief time a soft and alluring voice came from above. "Minno Legolas. Ned i gwaith tirn nin." The heart of the Elf skipped its rhythm at hearing that voice speak his own name. He hesitated. Why he did so, he knew not. Finally he grasped the silver rungs and ascended lithely to the top.
He entered and looked about him. The light was dim but it was playing in Ethuiel's long hair as it hung loosely about her shoulders. She again stood with her back to him leaning her hands on a small table in a corner of the room. He gazed at her, trying to will her to turn. After quite some time he asked, "Why do you hide yourself from me lady?" He waited. She did not speak. "What is her thought?" he asked himself. "Why does she not turn or speak? It is possible that she is cross."
He had never again sought her after their separation. He understood why such a thing might vex her. They had grown close. She had come to rely upon him greatly, and when the time came for them to part at last, she had choked on her tears. He too had choked on his own at that parting. That he did not seek her out was not for lack of devotion to her, but because leaving her at the first had been anguish enough for them both. He knew that Brynowen would care for her well and could not do without her. He oft thought, however, of what his life might be like, and what she might be like, had he been allowed to keep her. As the years drew on and the Shadow grew, he began only to think of her living among the Valar in the Undying Lands; happy and safe. They would meet again in time, he was certain.
"For my part I still count you a friend," he said, "How ever much time may have past between us is of no matter to me. If it is a vexation to you, please accept my apology and let us resume where we were sundered."
He waited still, but she made no movement and no sound. Legolas was becoming irritated. He thought, "Did she merely wish to let me come to her so that I might feel a rogue and a pest?" He spoke again. "Do you then refuse my plea for forgiveness?" He saw that she was gripping hard at the edges of the table and her hands were a cold white. "Will you not even speak to me? Ethuiel!" He made a movement toward her, but she did not stir. His irritation grew to anger and he felt that he must depart lest he shake her. As he turned to go he kicked the floor of the flet and said to her, "Why you condescended to lower that ladder I know not. Be sure to draw it up again once I have gone. There are many Orcs about now and--" he stopped short, but then continued in a scathing tone. "But perhaps you would prefer to speak with them!" As soon as the words left his mouth he regretted them. He softened and spoke once more. "Draw the ladder up again once I am gone. Please Ethuiel." Then quietly he turned and walked toward the opening.
As he placed his foot on the ladder he heard a stifled sob. He glanced up to see that her head was buried in her hands; she was weeping bitterly. He felt like a blackguard and that his heart might break. He raced to her and placed his hands on her shoulders. She reached up, placing one hand upon his. "Please forgive me Ethuiel," he whispered. "I did not mean that terrible thing I said to you. Only why will you not allow me to look on you, or at the least, tell me why you will not?"
At last she spoke, though her voice was tearful. "I fear for you to see me as I am. You may find that long years spent in sorrow and the pursuit of vindication have not been kind to my face." She bowed her head low. "When I let down the ladder, I had every intention of greeting you kindly. My fear, however, of how you might receive me; how you might respond to what I have become, overpowered me at the last and I could not face you tearlessly. I then thought not to face you at all. I am sorry, Legolas; but I am afraid."
Gently he turned her to him, lifting her bowed head with his hand beneath her chin. She raised her eyes to meet his. Once again Legolas' heart skipped its rhythm when at last he beheld her. They looked long on one another.
Her face, though tear-stained and full of torment was, to his eyes, more lovely than the wood in spring. Her skin was fair and smooth and her brow, dark and shapely. She had a proud jaw that ended in a delicate chin and a full, gainly mouth. Her eyes, though far wiser for their ages, were just as he had remembered them; shaped as upturned almonds, gray with flecks of amber and gold. He thought to himself, "Nay. Even the wood cannot approach her beauty, not within a hundred leagues."
He found himself wishing to carry her off and hide her somewhere that the Shadow could never find her. He wished more than ever he had before to destroy the Dark Lord and his armies, so that he might retrieve her from this hiding place. Then he would wrap her in silver and diamonds, which had been the enchantment of her long-fallen Household. She was the only heir to the House of the Fountain where Ecthelion had been the lord, and if Legolas Greenleaf had his wish, that house would be restored and she would wear its crown.
He pondered his first meeting with the Lady. She had checked him meticulously in regard to his dedication to The Quest. In his mind he heard her offer him whatever he might desire in exchange for the One Ring if he would but take it from its bearer and give it to her. His reply had been that his One Desire was to obliterate the Dark One and his vile masses. Thus, the destruction of the Ring was the only ambition or want that could, for him, be satisfied. At that time his answer had been the truth. If it had been otherwise Galadriel would surely have been acutely aware. He had passed her trial with ease. Now he wondered: If the same test were put to him yet again, would he fare as well?
He began to wipe her tears away with his fingertips. When he caught a drop that had fallen upon her lower lip she clasped his hand and kissed it tenderly. Legolas was overwrought with the desire to kiss her. As he approached, her tears continued to fall as if ice were melting behind her brilliant eyes. At the last his sympathy overbore his passion and, instead of her lovely mouth, he found her eyes and her brow with his lips and kissed them softly until the tears ceased to flow. He then took her in his arms in a gentle embrace. She raised her cheek and rested it upon his breast as he smoothed her silken hair in his hands.
At length he took her by the hand and led her to an area where soft mats and pillows were laid out as a couch. There they sat and spoke lightly of ages past and quietly sang songs that were remembered to them. Legolas recollected an odd little verse that had once brought giggles to the children of Gondolin.
A clever little maid of Gondolin
strayed from her house in the night.
Though she'd been told to do not so,
the air was so fragrant
and the Stars were so bright!
Along the white paths she wandered,
at last she chanced upon a silvery stream.
and there in the clover spied a beryl;
Oh! How it did glitter and gleam!
There did she reach with her clever little palm,
and scooped the gem up in her hand,
"My!" she thought, "Why I must be
The luckiest little maid in the land!"
But as she stood and admired her find,
someone drew near in the dark--from behind.
"Boo!" the voice boomed in her clever little ear,
she started and jumped with a scream;
and out of her hand popped the bauble,
which was carried away by the stream.
As she wheeled round to see who was near
tears sprang from her bright Elven eyes.
To her dismay she looked but saw naught
But a tiny white mouse that stood by.
"I am sorry my dear." the mouse said at last
"I did not wish to cause you to fret.
Please accept my apologies,
my condolences and heartfelt regret."
Upon those words her tears were dried,
and across her face grew a sly little smile.
For as the story goes 'tis said,
she was a very clever little child.
"Forgiveness is yours dear friend." she said.
Now you shall have me and I shall have you.
For a talking mouse is worth more that a beryl;
more, I should think, than two!"
Ethuiel laughed aloud at hearing that poem from her few happy days and turned her smiling face to his. Legolas' heart sang.
He scooped her up and swung her about as he had done when she was a child. Her giggle was nearly the same. As he set her gently back in her place, her gown drifted up along her calf. He noticed, as Galadriel had said, that the scar had indeed fallen to just below her ankle. He returned to his seat feeling rather pleased with himself. "What of Brynowen?" he asked. "Surely she is still with you."
Ethuiel’s eyes grew a little sadder. "She was with me long. Brynowen cared for me well and loved me as I was her own. She consented to my wishes and allowed me to study my art and keep my Oath, though it pained her greatly. She wed Galadil of the House of the Harp when I was grown and alas, they went together over the Sea. That I would not go with her nearly broke her into pieces. But I will not leave Middle Earth until vengeance is mine."
Both were silent for a moment. Legolas finally asked, "When will that be? The Evil One is thrown to the Abyss and it was he who dealt the miserable blow."
"Aye Legolas. And for that I praise the Valar every day that I live. His servant, however, lingers. And while he does, I shall have no peace. But if I have no peace, neither shall the abominable creatures that he looses upon us all. I seek them relentlessly, as you well know. It is the one true Joy that I can feel within." Her eyes flashed with delight, but the scar throbbed.
Legolas attempted to allay her temper. "So then tell me lissier, what count can you boast?" He asked with a suppressed grin.
"Why Legolas Greenleaf!" she cried with a feigned look of indignation, "A lady never kills and tells!" She tossed her head haughtily and turned away, trying not to laugh at her own joke.
He threw his head back and laughed. "Very amusing, my dearest. How many?"
She peered back into his eyes, but the smile had left her face. "Many." she said. "A great--great many."
She stopped for a moment but then added, "They must breed as do hares." She looked away and it seemed to Legolas that she might be purring.
The truth was that she had not kept count. She thought such things tedious. The Orcs, however, knew that it was many thousands. They knew who was behind the deed when they pulled from one of their fallen brothers an arrow that read "For Gondolin". Not that they could read it but they had been told by Others the meaning of the script. When they did make such finds it filled them with doubt and dread.
Only Shelob was a greater fear among them than The Archer of Gondolin. Greater not because Shelob killed more, but because she was cruel and devoured her prey with slow delight. If The Archer found you, at least it was quickly over. The name was a curse among them, used often in their quarreling. "To you too! And may you wake with The Archer's dart in your throat," one might say to another or, "Yes, that's right! And we’ll all be lucky if The Archer is perched above your ditch as you slink into it!" A great many it was indeed.
Here are the translations of the dialogue spoken in Sindarian:
"Minno Legolas. Ned i gwaith trin nin." - "Enter Legolas. My guardian in the wilderness."
lissier - Sweet one
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