Shadow: 7. VII

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7. VII

Glorfindel reigned in his horse sharply. The hoofs of the horse dug into the soft earth, leaving a dark trace of upturned soil. The horse snorted, but did not throw his rider off. The Elf spoke soothingly to his horse in his rhapsodic tongue. A splendid horse, one that many had failed to tame, it had only become docile under the hand of Glorfindel.

The Elf leapt off the horse lightly, stroking the horse's mane softly, speaking quietly to it, eyes on the alert. He had felt something too. Something unpleasant. Something that chilled to the very bone. His eyes swept the surroundings. All at once, the feeling dissipated before he could get a hold on it.

He frowned. Eyes still searching, he leapt back upon his horse. They moved off again. It was unlike anything he had ever felt. And so near to Eryn Galen. He had always believed Eryn Galen to be a sanctuary, like Imladris. It was inconceivable that dark creatures be found so near. Eryn Galen had to be experiencing more trouble than he had thought.

His mind drifted from the surroundings, as he continued his musings. It was not until his horse slowed his pace did he notice that they were entering the great forest.

Jerked from his thoughts, Glorfindel looked about. He had not visited the great forest despite his many years of existence, as the Silvan Elves were somewhat insular creatures. What he saw was a beautiful kingdom. A place for Silvan Elves to call home. He now understood why others spoke glowingly of the place. The trees themselves seemed alive. The boughs spread out, reaching far towards the heavens, and the lush leaves were of the deepest green. The canopy was scanty enough that rays of sun pierced through the branches, illuminating the forest floor, giving everything a golden appearance.

The grass that carpeted the ground flourished with the loving attention supplied by the sun. Thick as a luxurious carpet, Glorfindel could even imagine walking upon the tapestry that was alive, and feel the softness on bare feet.

Flowers bloomed in every corner. The faint pink flowers had overtaken the leaves, giving the appearance of snow that had settled upon the branches, gently caressing the trees. Elsewhere, tiny yellow flowers peeked from in between the blades of the grass. Here and there, splashes of pink and blue were to be seen. It was another world altogether.

The musty smell of the damp earth, coupled with the light fragrances of the flowers drifted up and greeted the visitor. It was tantalising, and Glorfindel longed to get off his steed and wonder among the flowers, source of the emanations.

Birdsong filled his ears. Squirrels scampered around, storing their acorns. The soft burrowing of rabbits, the buzzing of bees. The almost silent sound of butterflies flapping their wings.

Even the feel of the air was exhilarating, a misty coolness, but not humid at the same time. The air was light, joyful, full of life. A barely perceptible breeze made its way through the trees. Winding teasingly, it gently stroked and coddled, tugging at the flesh.

Glorfindel examined the forest with wondrous eyes. Appreciative senses took in everything, stimulated by the newness of it all. He slowed his horse to a crawl to marvel at the woods, his mission temporarily forgotten. His head tilted up, a half-smile on his face

In his wonder, he had forgotten to watch out for himself. The horse stopped suddenly, and he whipped around, to face another Elf on a horse, bow stringed.

"What is your business, cousin. Speak now, or do not blame me if I shoot!" the other Elf spoke in a different dialect from Glorfindel's native tongue.

Keeping an eye on the other's bow, he nodded respectfully, and spoke back haltingly, "I carry a message from Lord Elrond of Imladris. I seek an audience with your King."

The bow was slowly let down, as the other assessed him, taking his time to draw a conclusion.

Suddenly, the stranger smiled warmly at him. "Pardon me, cousin, for I am under strict orders to keep any strangers out. I will warrant you an exception, however, for the crest of Imladris is welcome within our borders. Allow me to take you to see the King. It is a two day journey to His Majesty's palace. Take liberties with your privilege, and it is sure you will not walk out of Eryn Galen alive." His tone was friendly and jovial.

Glorfindel relaxed visibly, and returned the smile, following the other deep into the forest. Turning his head now and then to look at something new, he once again immersed himself in the feel of his surroundings.

***

As the two horses proceeded along through the forest, Glorfindel became aware of subtle movements in the woods. Upon closer examination, he noticed that there were many wood Elves concealed within the vegetation. Imperceptible to the untrained eye, they moved with such a silence and grace that made Glorfindel wonder. While stories and songs were sung of them, he had never seen them firsthand, as the two kingdoms were cut off by the Misty Mountains. Only specially appointed messengers travelled between. Relations were neither warm nor strained, but a good deal of respect existed between the two realms.

The Elves looked at him as he passed, showing no more interest than to a deer. More concerned with their tasks, they went about doing them with a spring in their step. Some were out gathering food, while others were checking on their favourite trees. Some were simply enjoying the woods, loving the very feel of the forest. They were dressed in earthen colours, unlike the Elves of Imladris, who preferred silver and richer colours. Their dialect sounded strange to the messenger's ears, and was whimsical, reminiscent of leaves rustling in the mind.

It never ceased to amaze Glorfindel that Elves, after their many years in the world, still found themselves being fascinated with Middle-Earth. Millennia spent walking the Earth was not enough to see everything still. New things were to be explored and experience with the dawn of each new day.

The two Elves moved through the forest swiftly, not pausing when dusk fell. They continued on as night enveloped the sleeping forest, the moon casting a silver glow. They spoke sparingly, but in good will, and it did not seem long ere the first signs of dawn broke through the trees again.

Evidence appeared of dwellings as the first rays of the sun hit the canopy. Barely perceptible, the Silvan Elves had changed little of the live wood. Glorfindel marvelled at how well the Wood Elves seemed to have integrated their civilisation with the woods.

Upon closer examination, it was revealed that the vegetation that grew from the ground were the dwellings of the Silvan Elves. They had deftly combined organic matter, weaving a magic, showing that the woodland Elves shared a symbiotic relationship with the trees. The great Elms providing them with shelter, and the Elves giving them nourishment, care, tender love.

The effect was breathtaking. Large trees formed canopies and enclosed spaces not unlike rooms of houses. Vines ran along the doorways, beautiful flowers attached to them. An explosion of life, and a celebration of nature. The stranger could feel that the houses were alive. Still growing, breathing.

The dwellings grew more splendid and ornate. What were previously just simple cottages gave way to beautiful mansions, with intricate patterns that grew from the plants themselves lining the pathways. The perimeter between the dwellings grew more spacious. Colours were wilder, more abundant. The aroma from flower petals varied with the houses. One moment it was a beautiful sweet drifting up from the gate of a house. The next, a refreshing, tantalizing fragrance rushing out from a column of violet florets.

Finally, the palace grounds burst into view. It greatly outstripped the extravagance of the other mansions. A formidable looking fence made of pure gold ran around it. The architecture of the palace incorporated precious metals into its design. Sapphires, emeralds, diamonds, opals and many other precious stones glittered from beneath the vines that twisted around the barrier. Glorfindel felt surprised. It was so unlike the other dwellings. While still beautiful, he felt that precious metals made it lose some of the charm that the other houses had.

They reached the gates of the palace. Ornate carvings of brass leapt up from the ground. The amount of work put into it was astounding. More gems were embedded within the twists and turns of the metal that served to keep the unwanted out.

The sentry at the gates let them through without question and a warm smile of welcome.

Once within the palace gates, the opulence and splendour increased. Glorfindel felt overwhelmed by the richness and the exotic air that the grounds conveyed. He had heard that King Thranduil coveted material wealth. It was clear from the palace grounds what he had done with his treasures.

Fountains of great magnificence appeared. Some of them made of marble, while others were trees themselves. The gardeners had weaved their magic on the plants, causing them to project jets of water, forming beautiful arcs into the air.

The sun seemed to have an added sense of cheerfulness. It beat down upon the palace grounds with an exuberance that made Glorfindel's heart soar. The rays bounced off the arcs of water, and the little streams that ran through, causing the water to look like pure silver. Even having seen the golden woods of Lórien, Glorfindel could not help but admire at the beauty of it.

Life was exuded from the very ground itself. Animals walked along the paths of the Elves, undaunted by their presence, deer and fawns grazed brazenly in the open, not bolting when the riders drew near. Birds flew right up to them, so near that he could catch them if he wanted.

The Elf riding in front turned back and smiled at his ward. "The work of the prince." He did not elaborate, and received a polite nod in return.

After a long walk, they came into view of the palace proper, and the visitor found more to wonder at. The palace itself was carved out of pure ivory. Glimmering dazzlingly in the late morning sun, it had carvings finer than hair. The whiteness of the palace was tantalizingly pure on the eyes. The patterns were decorated with fine mithril dust, which gave it a lifelike appearance, glittering and shimmering in the lazy sunlight.

At the gates of the palace, two Elves stood, arguing vehemently. Their exchange was heated but hushed, and Glorfindel could not make out the words that passed between them. As they drew near, however, the taller Elf looked up, taking in the sight of the visitor.

Glorfindel noticed an odd expression on the face of his companion. Exuberance, and love, appeared on his face, as well as something bordering on reverence.

The two Elves were clad in simple shades of brown and green, colours that blended in perfectly with the surroundings. The taller, blonde Elf wore the garb of an ordinary hunter, a long knife strapped to his side. A little braid ran down each side of his head, while the rest of his long hair was held back from his face neatly. Slender and lean, his long fingers were still tightly clasped around the other's wrist, restraining him. Intense blue eyes searched Glorfindel's face, a strong streak of independence etched in them. He had a youthful face. There were faint, barely perceptible laugh lines around his mouth that looked like they had not been used recently. Determination was in his very poise. He had the look of one used to a unrestrained life.

"Your - " Glorfindel's guide started to speak to the taller Elf, and was quickly silenced with a furrow of brows by the latter. He looked around, a little awkwardly at Glorfindel, and to the shorter Elf, as if seeking aid.

"What is your business here?" the small Elf said. His voice was flighty, with a jaunty edge to it. He was dressed in a light overcoat. His auburn hair was held back loosely, and Glorfindel noted the absence of braids. Grey eyes that danced in the sunlight looked Glorfindel up and down. He did not challenge the newcomer as the other did. The stranger was just another new item of interest. Both seemed very much at home at the doorstep of the Palace. It surprised the visitor, for he had heard that Thranduil greatly valued protocol and ceremony.

"He bears a message from the Lord Elrond of Imladris."

"Imladris? What business does Imladris have with us mere wood-Elves? The lower of their kindred, who spend their days whispering to trees, eating, drinking, and making merry?" The Elf retorted, undaunted by the powerful appearance of the other.

His companion tightened the pressure over the other's wrists, causing him to wince, before letting go all of a sudden. Nodding at the stranger in recognition, a faint ironic smile flickered across his face. He pushed open the doors of the palace and strode inside. The shorter Elf followed suit, rushing to keep pace with him, questions already being asked.

Glorfindel turned and looked at his guide, mind abuzz with questions. He received an amused smile in return. "Do not bother about them. They are both barely grown, and we are accustomed to their antics. Do not mind their abruptness. They do not mean to be impolite." He did not explain any further, and Glorfindel dismounted, following him into the palace, leaving his horse waiting outside.

He was led to a waiting room deep within the bowels of the palace and told to wait for an audience with the King. Alone, he sat on the luxurious chair, eyes sweeping the lavish interior of the palace.

He turned about instinctively at a slight rustling. It was the smaller Elf that he had seen earlier on at the palace gates. He carried a tray with a goblet of wine. Placing the tray down on the side-table, he smiled cheerfully at Glorfindel.

"A drink, my lord? You came all the way from Imladris? I wish I could set my eyes on that place, for I am told that the house of the Half-Elven is more beautiful than anything. That, coupled with the woods of Lórien, are true wonders of Middle-Earth."

"There is much left for you to see in this world, my young friend. Do not be in such a hurry to see it all. There are many things that would chill your heart. I think then you would wish you were safe at home within the confines of Eryn Galen!"

The Elf smiled mischievously. He fell silent, however, and sat down in one of the chairs, deep in thought. It struck Glorfindel as curious. Servants usually did not treat palaces with such flippancy.

The doors to the throne room opened. A member of the Royal Guard stepped out. He walked up to Glorfindel, and bowed low.

"His Majesty is ready to see the messenger of Lord Elrond."

Glorfindel got up, and nodded to the other. He looked back at the servant, who gave him a wink.

"Do mind your words, my lord, for His Majesty would surely not be in the best of moods!"

The Elflord frowned at the odd comment. He had little time to think about it though, and walked through the doors, into the room where Thranduil, the great king of the Woods sat.

*****

A/N: I have taken some artistic license with what Thranduil's palace was actually like. While in The Hobbit, Thranduil's halls are said to be underground, there is no record as to when the Silvan folk started living in the caves. How they came to live in the caverns are chronicled later in this story.


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.

Story Information

Author: fael bain

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Kings

Genre: Action

Rating: General

Last Updated: 08/10/05

Original Post: 09/21/03

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