7. Chapter 6
"I was well aware of who was behind me vana edhel, but I did not have the heart to face them. Although I dearly wished to see you, as dearly, did I not wish for you to see me. But now it is done and I am as well as I can be, thus I will abide your wishes. I will come presently and meet you though, for ladies require time unhindered to prepare for such introductions." She smiled and stretched and got to her feet. Legolas took his leave with a long embrace and a smile that put the sun to shame in its brilliance.
When he was gone, Ethuiel hobbled into her room and collapsed on the bed. Quickly she unwrapped the dressing. The scar did truly look better, but felt worse--far worse. It felt as though the whole leg was aflame and she bit back on tears. She could not fathom how or why it caused her such pain after so much time had past. "I don't think it pained me so much on the night that I received it!" she thought to herself. She lay on the bed in agony until at last the burning subsided a bit and she was able to fetch cool water and salve to soothe it completely.
When the pain had at last subsided, she rose and made herself ready. She wore a gown of deep red that was gilded in silver stitching, the neckline revealing the silver chain which hung about her neck. Upon the chain there hung a pendant that bore the depiction of a fountain. A dusting of diamonds was emulating its shower and falling into a pool that was one large stone. It was the only thing that had been left from Ethuiel's House after the fall of Gondolin; and that only because it had been around her neck. It was the world to her and when she handled it, her father seemed nearer. She did so now and said a quiet prayer. Then she wrapped a silver shawl about her shoulders and left her flet.
As she walked she admired the wood as Legolas had done the night before. She had not done so since first she had come to dwell there in search of peace more than five hundred winters before. The sun let its praise upon her face and she felt glad. She took it in and smiled. With a gesture of recognition and thanks Ethuiel quickened her step and found her way to Legolas and new friends.
As she entered the hall, all conversation halted. She felt sixteen eyes fall upon her with a thud. None though, fell heavier than those of Legolas who was searching her face for a sign of change. After a moment she smiled warmly and a mischievous look came into her eye. "You all must stop chattering about me now, for I have arrived." she laughed. "But compliments and news of what has been said in my absence would be agreeable to me." The company laughed and all rose and bowed courteously. Ethuiel returned in kind and Legolas approached and took her hand. He brought her forth and introductions were made.
As they came around to Frodo he approached her and took her hand. "It is a great pleasure to see you well lady;" he said, "One through whom our tears have found a voice." His words were gallant and gracious, but in his eyes she saw an anxiousness and pity that made her feel selfish. Rightly so, selfish she was indeed. Of this she had been well aware for longer than the lifetime of a Rowan tree. Simply being aware of one's ailment and having the ability to cure it, however, do not always walk the same path. At times like this when she was made starkly aware of this deep fault in her character, she checked herself as best she could.
She knelt down to make their faces level. She looked deeply into his eyes and told him, "Ah Frodo, gentle hobbit and dear friend, I have no sorrows greater than your own. Do not lay mine in your pack as well, for you could not bear it--nor could I." She embraced him gently and when she did, she felt that his sorrow was truly profound. She looked on him again and felt a spark in her leg. The Archer hushed the pain with her will and smiled. She stood again and sat down at the table. There she and the Walkers ate and drank and spoke well into the afternoon.
That evening they all went into the pavilion together. Ethuiel was seated next to Legolas who was in turn talking with Gimli. They were conversing about something in which she was not particularly interested. She looked about the pavilion. She saw the hobbits playing together a game she did not know. They had deep love between them. It made her smile to see it, yet she envied them also.
She looked about again and saw Aragorn and Boromir sitting with their backs leaning against a tree, speaking quietly and smoking. She excused herself from her two companions and approached them. “Please, join us!" Boromir said, and he laid out his cloak for her to sit upon.
Ethuiel smiled and said, "I thank you kindly, but I pray that I am not disturbing you." They both shook their heads, so she sat down beside them.
Boromir looked at her intently and spoke. "Our Elf friend tells us that you were aware of our presence last eve on the bank." She nodded that she was. Boromir continued, "I hope that you did not misinterpret my misgivings at being told of your position. I did not say those things in scorn, but in dismay.
"I am a Man of Gondor, dear lady and we protect our women with our lives. It is difficult for me to think of a lady--especially one so delicate and fair, having to take up the sword herself where there ought to be a hundred surrounding her. Legolas has told us of your great skill, and I am glad that it is yours in these dark times, and yet I wish that it needn't be exploited but for sport."
Ethuiel gave a look of understanding and replied. "You are not only kind and fair of face Man of Gondor, but also your heart is noble and righteous. I dare say that had I been surrounded by a hundred swords in hands such as yours, bow and quiver would, almost certainly, never have entered mine. But I pray you to take heart and teach your daughters well, for if the last sword that guards her falls, it is she who pays most dearly and dreadfully. If she cannot fight and die with her dignity and virtue, the price is too great to speak of." Boromir felt his heart falter as she spoke those words. He lifted her hand and pressed it to his lips. He took his leave to walk and to think of Minas Tirith.
She and Aragorn smiled at one another. "You and I have a mutual friend; a most beloved friend I think." Aragorn said. "She has spoken to me of you on more than one occasion; she holds you in the highest regard as a friend, and as dearly in her heart."
Ethuiel grinned and held out her hand for a draw of his pipe. "I would wager," she sang, "a great sum that it is not I who is in her thoughts at this moment. To my friend Arwen Undómiel, you, lord, are as blood is to veins."
His pining was clear as she said this to him, but she continued all the same. "She speaks to me of it often, for I am one of her sole confidants who will not scorn her on the matter. It is in my mind thus, if one possesses a love that is so boundless, as is hers, it is not a thing to discard; regardless of the cost. Such a price should be paid not as penalty, but as privilege. And now that I have looked on you, I see her thrust plainly." She laughed and swept his hair from his eyes. Then she looked at him keenly and said, "I believe now that you shall have all that is your due, and if this does not come to be, then we all shall have naught, Estel." She grasped his hand and he squeezed tightly around hers. She kissed his cheeks and embraced him telling him, "I believe. I truly do, Estel."
Ethuiel and Aragorn sat for a time in silence and smoked. No more needed to be said, for a great friendship had been forged between them before ever they had met. It was only that night, though, that Aragorn realized that Ethuiel was not only a champion to the Lady of Light, but in a way, to him as well. "Although she is harmed and feels no love, a friend to love she is," he thought to himself, "And for this I shall love her always."
The evening grew to night and at last, she took her leave of her new found friends. She and Legolas made ready to walk back to her loft when Gimli came to her and begged a word. Legolas acquiesced to his friend with a teasingly suspicious smirk. With that she took Gimli’s arm. They strolled lightly through the wood and spoke of small things for a time. At length they came to small clearing and sat upon the gold carpeted floor of the wood. There Gimli spoke to her of what was in his mind.
"Dear Ethuiel," he began, "Legolas is less closed with me than he is with the rest. Not that he could hide his heart from any who love him, but to me he speaks of it, and of you, openly. He has told me of your sad history together and of the plight you now share. I wish to speak to you of the hatred and sorrow you save in your heart so that no love or joy may enter."
Ethuiel made a motion to speak, but Gimli raised his hand and prevented her. "Please sweet lady, hear me first, for how long I can endure the sorrow that escapes you, I know not. But these few words I must say for the sake of my friend, and his beloved.
"You grieve in good cause and your wrath is more than justified, for we all who are here share in that with you. I sympathize with you greatly; more now than ever I could have since I have seen the splendor of Moria sacked and the bones of my mutilated kin strewn about as carrion. I hate them also my dear. My hatred, however, I do not allow to poison my whole heart as you have."
Ethuiel felt her foot and leg begin to throb at his words, but she did not stop his tongue. "If our loathing is to consume us, what is the purpose of beating back the Shadow? With what then are we left when sweet victory is ours?
"My friendship with our Elf is a bright, new one about which I am most surprised and pleased. If I had allowed the ruin of Khazâd dûm to defeat me, it never could have become. Now it stands that if we are able to defy the Shadow and let Light reign once more in Middle Earth, I will have a friend, like no other, with whom to share in it. It is difficult to explain how I know what I am about to say to you, but nevertheless; I am better for his friendship and he also is better for mine. These are things that make our world worth fighting and dying for, Ethuiel. I beg you to heed me and share in them with us, for also I know that if he cannot heal and take you to wife, my friend will never again live truly in the light, and all that has been so keenly forged between us will not be as vivid and fair as it might yet be.
"I tell you lady, Legolas Greenleaf, Prince of Mirkwood, loves you. I wish that I could tell you that his love is dear. He does not, however, love you dearly. He loves you dreadfully. His heart sings and cries, as do you. If you cannot yet be made whole and must, therefore, tread upon his heart, I plead with you to do so lightly, as only one of Elven kindred can, for in that way he may be, at some moments, able to let the light and joy upon him. Even for that I will be grateful."
As he finished and gazed into her eyes with entreaty, Ethuiel cried out in hideous pain. She clutched her leg. Tears and sweat poured down her fair face. Gimli sprang up with a start and pried her fingers away to examine the scar. It was not bleeding, but it pulsed and pounded. Swift as an adder's strike, Gimli swept her up and sprinted in the direction of the pavilion. As he ran he heard others approaching. She cried out again and Gimli gripped her tightly and bore down with his feet. He then heard Legolas calling out to them.
In a moment he saw them. Aragorn, Legolas and the hobbits came dashing through the trees from the pavilion brandishing their weapons and calling out. From the other direction Ethuiel saw Boromir also sprinting toward them, sword drawn.
As they reached Gimli, Legolas cried out in despair. "What has happened? I beg you to tell me that she is not shot!" Gimli passed her gently into the elf's open arms.
"Nay , Legolas. The hurt that stings her is older than my sires. Her pain is dire though and how to relieve it, I know not."
Legolas carried her quickly back to the pavilion and lay her down upon the grass. He too was forced to pry away her fingers in order to view the leg. To his eyes, the mark looked far better than it had the last time she had allowed him to dress it. He blotted her brow with his cloak and lifted the leg to see it more closely. Gently he touched the scar and ran his fingers along it in search of a tender or open spot. When he did this Ethuiel let out a scream of agony and recoiled from him.
Frodo's own wound bit down hard on him. He fought back a start and sat down on the grass. He gazed at her and, to his horror, he knew that even if he managed to survive The Quest, this was to be his own grievous fate. At length Aragorn said, "Take her to Galadriel, Legolas." With that Legolas lifted her and was about to go in search of Galadriel when the Lady entered the pavilion on her own.
Galadriel directed Legolas to place her once more upon the grass. She knelt down beside her and clasped her hand. She then leaned and whispered something quietly into Ethuiel's ear. The tortured maid clutched tightly at the wound but held fast also to the hand of her queen. After a time Galadriel called upon her lord who lifted Ethuiel himself and carried her to their own apartments in the palace. Legolas begged to be allowed to follow but the Lady declined him.
"Give her to me now, Legolas. And do not despair. Such pain is always a path in healing; pain and time. Time is yet too short. She can endure no more than that which is upon her. Also, do not believe that her torment will end here, for this is but a beginning which I have witnessed once before. She will emerge with this curse loosened, yet intact. Still you all should be heartened for such noble intentions." She turned to Gimli. "I pray that they shall not go without reward." Galadriel then rose and followed Celeborn.
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.