3. Enóreth's Story
Upon reaching the little rocky hollow to which he had first opened his eyes, Legolas found the Fellowship in the process of setting up camp and building a fire. Their movements and quiet conversation were familiar to him, and it was comforting to realise that these were indeed his friends whether they knew of the Story or not. He even fancied that a look of pained sympathy ghosted through their eyes when they saw him in Enóreth's company. If so, it was quickly hidden and replaced with one of polite curiosity.
"The Elf goes scouting for enemies and finds a woman?" said Gimli in a low voice to Samwise. "How did she get here?"
"Blessed if I know," Sam murmured back. "But goodness, that's quite a pretty dress to be wearing in the mountains."
"Legolas," said Aragorn gravely, "who is this fair creature?"
"She calls herself Enóreth," replied Legolas, then hesitated, unsure of how to continue.
He need not have worried, for the maiden saw her opportunity and seized it. Sweeping forward with singular grace, she bowed low before Aragorn and pressed his hand to her lips. "Mae govannen," she said, fumbling the pronunciation, "Heir of Isildur! Mercy, I beseech thee, to one who has travelled many leagues to serve you!"
"Granted, certainly," said Aragorn rather taken aback. "But by what motive do you seek me that mercy is needed?"
Enóreth straightened with touching dignity, took a moment to rearrange the artistic drape of her skirts, and said, "I come bearing a warning to you all. Great danger waits for you in the journey ahead."
"Well, we knew that," said Pippin with a dark look toward Caradhras. "There doesn't seem to be much avoiding it, now does there?"
"A-hem," said Gandalf sharply, and fortified the hint with a glare from beneath his bushy brows. Then, as one determined to wait out some ordeal with patience, he settled himself beside the fire and began to fill his pipe. "Perhaps, my dear child," he said by rote, "you should begin by telling us from whence you came and the circumstances that brought you to us."
A hush fell; the very birds in the thickets ceased their chirping. Enóreth stood before the Fellowship with her head tilted back, seeking strength and solace from the clear morning sky. Then, softly, she began to sing:
The stars shone high above the trees,
the world in heavy silence lay,
when from the Light beyond the seas
a child of –
"No no no, don't sing it," said Gandalf a trifle sourly. "We shall be kept here for hours if we get that started. Just tell us what happened."
"Oh. Okay," said Enóreth blankly.
Her tale must have been heart-wrenching indeed, for none among the Fellowship could restrain dreary sighs as she tearfully recounted the tragedy of her childhood. She had been but an infant when orcs had attacked her family's village (though she had quite a vivid memory of the event for all that). The slaughter of Men and their wives and children had been merciless, and it still remained a mystery as to why the orcs had spared this infant girl and no one else. Still more of a puzzle was their attempt to carry her off unharmed, an effort which could only have hindered them in their flight to Mordor. Whatever the case, when a band of Wood Elves overtook and slew this scourge of foul vermin, they were amazed to discover a tiny, dimpled dewdrop of a baby, cooing and gurgling within the folds of her pink blanket.
This foundling infant of mortal Men was brought to the land of the Elves and taken before the King. Of course there was only one logical thing for that wise and noble monarch to do: adopt her and raise her as an elven princess, more dearly beloved than his own kin. This he did, and he named her Enóreth, the Lady of the Crescent Moon.
"Why 'Crescent Moon'?" wondered Merry aloud. "Was there such a moon when they found you?"
Enóreth seemed bewildered by the notion. "There was no moon at all that night. Mine is simply a grand and noble-sounding title of which my dearest foster-father deemed me worthy."
Merry blinked. "Hold on a moment. You mean he named you that just because it sounds nice?"
"It does sound nice, doesn't it?" Enóreth replied cheerfully.
"Why, Legolas," Merry exclaimed, "do Elves do this often?"
Legolas wanted more than anything to maintain that they most certainly did not, but he knew a hopeless argument when he saw one. "It is not ... common practice," he said feebly.
"Well that makes absolutely no sense," Merry grumbled, moments before Aragorn silenced him by flipping his cloak over his head.
"Forgive the interruption," said Aragorn sweetly. "Pray do finish your tale, my lady. Quickly, if you please."
And so she continued:
Years passed in peace and harmony as Enóreth grew to the full bloom of womanhood amongst the Elves. All that knew her loved her, and she shone with warmth and beauty wherever she went. Indeed, many of the Elf lords grew quite enamoured with this enchanting creature who had become more radiant than Arwen Undómiel herself. (At this point in the narrative Aragorn sneezed violently and had to excuse himself. Fortunately, Enóreth was all patience and went merrily on as soon as he was suitably composed.) As she was also blessed with wisdom and strength beyond her mortal existence, she tried her hand in the arts of swordplay and archery. In little more than a year she became the most skilled warrior in all the land. None who stood against her could hope to match her agility and speed.
"Really!" said Boromir in a strange voice, and took to fidgeting restlessly with his sword hilt. "Imagine that!"
For a time all was bright and lovely in Enóreth's world. But then (oh horrors never-ending!) darkness pressed its foul cup to the maiden's lips and she could do naught but drink deep of its bitterness. For as Sauron's might grew in the East another powerful being, one who desired the Ring for his own devices, was building his strength near the enchanted forest where the Elves made their home. One dreadful day they found themselves betrayed by one whom they had trusted most among Mortal and Immortal alike – the great and powerful wizard, Finrond the Purple.
"Finrond the Purple?!" sputtered Gandalf. "What in the name of – !" Then he remembered himself and lowered his voice with an effort. "Oh. Yes. Finrond the Purple. Of course." He fell silent and said nothing more, but sat glowering and muttering under his breath for the rest of Enóreth's tale.
Again Enóreth's home and family were laid under siege by a foul army, now under the dread Finrond's command. Enóreth fought valiantly alongside her fellow warriors (proving herself the most valiant by far, of course) but in the end the Elves were banished and their King slain. Such a devastating blow was quite enough to break her tender heart in two, but her trial had only begun. As Finrond strode into the ruins of the palace he came upon the fiery-haired woman of exquisite fairness mourning over the body of the fallen King. At the sight of her the wizard's heart was seized with a fiendish lust. Such a maiden would make a fine prize, and once subdued to his will she would surely be of use to him. Enóreth was taken prisoner and borne away to torment and despair, and Finrond did his best to break her pure spirit. Though he was unable to defeat her utterly, a horrible curse was laid upon her, fashioned to advance his pursuit of the One Ring.
"Only by great effort and bravery was I able to escape his dungeons – and still his curse lingers in me," she said woefully. "An evil identity has been placed within my mind, one which only requires a final stroke of Finrond's magic to be brought forth. Under his spell I am the Dark Warrior, the Lady of Darkness, Queen of All Things Dark and Unpleasant. Such is your peril as well as mine! For now as Finrond's will is bent upon the Ring he will withhold no evil in pursuing you. And I – alas, I am she who has been chosen as the weapon with which he seeks to strike you down!" So saying, Enóreth bowed her head and waited for the full horror of the revelation to grip them.
Boromir gazed at her with a bemused look on his face. "This is Finrond's greatest villainy?" he said. "Setting one mortal woman against the nine of us?" Then by some afterthought he added, "How awful!"
"That's a rather roundabout way of doing things," said Frodo in a sceptical (and innocently mournful) tone. "Why not attack us himself, if his power is as great as you say?"
"But do you not see, this is the extent of his ruthlessness!" Enóreth exclaimed. "To corrupt purity, to breed darkness in those most beautiful and turn it against the forces of good! And if the Fellowship faces destruction by one so seemingly innocent and fair – surely this is the greatest threat of all!" She paused, looked around at their expressions, and insisted, "I mean it! Do not underestimate his power or my skill! I am a great danger to you!"
"Oh, that's dreadful!" cried Pippin. "And still more dreadful that you had to come all the way out here to find us, rather than put us as far out of your reach as possible while you still had the chance!"
Enóreth eyed Pippin suspiciously. Then she seemed to decide that the hobbit was far too cute to be making fun of her and broke into a benevolent smile. "You are so kind, little one!" she said, and much to Merry's amusement she patted him on the head.
By this time Legolas was feeling rather despondent. For all its lack of common sense Enóreth's tale had begun to sound hauntingly familiar to him, as if he had heard it told many times before. Within this half-remembered dismay was a foreboding that at some point, regardless of his inclination on the matter, he would have a great part to play in the maiden's tale. The intuition was a sound one. As if summoned by his thoughts, the Guide suddenly flitted from her hiding place and perched nearby, unseen by any of the others.
"Slip away for a moment and I'll have a word with you," said she. "Quietly, now."
So with increasing apprehension Legolas quitted the Fellowship's company and moved off into the trees. There the sparrow made herself comfortable on his shoulder and twittered into his ear, in the most encouraging manner possible, the fate to which the Story had bound him.
Coming Up: Legolas receives his assignment. Frodo does the pouty-face thing.
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