“Lord Caranthir, you are back!” noted Laeglass with little pleasure.
“I am indeed,” replied Caranthir smugly, “I have decided that I really, can’t stay away from your… apples.”
“I… see,” said Laeglass as he tried to fully understand what Caranthir meant by those innocent seeming words.
“Where is my lady Ninglorrîn?” asked Caranthir.
Laeglass visibly started and several of the Laiquendi near enough to hear looked towards him in wonder, “Lord Caranthir, I know not the custom of the Noldor but among our people, we only refer to our queens and wives as my lady. As Ninglorrîn is neither to you, you should not refer to her as your lady.” Laeglass corrected the Noldo Lord.
Caranthir smiled an extremely arrogant smile, “I stand corrected. Where is the lady Ninglorrîn?” he asked.
“By the river, gathering herbs of healing,” answered a Laiquendi warrior when Laeglass hesitated.
“My thanks, Cellsûl,” with that he turned towards the river, humming a joyous tune from Valinor.
“I have never seen him so happy,” commented Cellsûl off hand.
“I never wanted to see him this happy,” replied Laeglass in the tone of a man defeated.
Ninglorrîn was humming a soft tune, gentle and flowing as the wind, as she gathered herbs of all kinds in a basket woven out of thin green vines. She knew he was near, for she could always sense him. She knew he was standing behind, impatiently waiting for her to acknowledge him, but she had no intention of doing that. Caranthir released a frustrated sigh, and reaching down, he clasped her hands from behind, “I need to speak to you,” he whispered into her ear. “The herbs can wait.”
Ninglorrîn was more than a little surprised by his boldness: it was usually she who hinted at what could be between them. He, despite his courage, had never dared such bold moves before. “Very well, Lord Caranthir,” she replied as she pulled out of his arms and turned to face him. “What do you wish to speak about?”
He moved away from her, then came closer. “I wish you to be my wife.”
Ninglorrîn’s started, rendered speechless by his sudden declaration.
“Are you surprised?” asked Caranthir, “You know I love you. You knew I loved you from the first time I saw you. Perhaps you are surprised that I, a prince of the noble house of Finwë, would ever condescend to wed a simple Laiquendi, a maiden who has never seen the light of two trees, who was not weaned on the knowledge of the Valar, a maiden whose people are like dull onyx to the sparkling diamond that is the Noldor. Yet,” he continued, “yet I realise now that in Arda marred, one must not think of such difference when it comes to the matters of the heart. Thus I am willing to overlook all that is unequal between us and take you as my wife. We will be wed.” he declared joyfully.
“No.” replied Ninglorrîn firmly.
For a moment Caranthir stood, completely shocked, so ill-prepared was he for a refusal, “Why not?” he demanded in a low dangerous voice.
“Do you know of any self-respecting maiden who would accept you after that pride-filled rhetoric that is choking in its own arrogance and vanity?” she demanded, her voice, though calm, betrayed her smouldering anger.
“Arrogant! Vain!” cried Caranthir, his temper quickly spiralling out of control. “Ai, I feel pride at all that my race is and perhaps that may seem arrogant to you, but vain it is not. For vanity has no substance; yet the Noldor are all substance, that is what sets us apart from you, and that is why you should be grateful for my offer of marriage, not scorn it,” he declared.
Ninglorrîn released a shuddering breath, “Caranthir, I love you,” she declared, her face tender and beautiful, “I have loved you since the first time I saw you standing over the prone body of your esquire, determine to defend him and your men with your last breath. I loved you even more when you lay in my care stricken with paralysis. Your eyes,” she raised her hand and gently brushed her fingertips just below his eyes, “held such pain, such sorrow, yet such hope and so much goodness. I saw hints of guilt with which your conscience plagues you, but you refused to acknowledge. I saw the wisdom and I saw the folly. I saw your bravery, and I saw your weakness, and I loved everything that I saw. But then,” she took several steps away from him, “the paralysis ended and you regained the use of your mouth.”
Her face was set hard, resolve kindled her eyes, so much so that Caranthir thought her eyes shone as brightly as one who had seen the light of the trees. “As soon as you opened you mouth I learnt fully the depth of your pride and prejudice. I knew than that we would never be able to wed till your pride was stripped away and your prejudice dissipated. I invited you and your men to dwell with us as much out of kindness as a desire for you to see us in a different light. The light of the stars, under which all Quendi awoke, not the light of the trees, which seemed to have blinded you as much as it has helped you see.
“I teased you, I toyed with you, I tried to show you that your pride had distorted your view of yourself and of others. The branches of the house of Finwë are being hacked away, day by day. The Noldor, weaned as you say you were on the knowledge of the Valar, nourished as you were upon the light of the Trees, have slain your own kin, have acted without wisdom. If you are a diamond, then you are a dull, uncut one.
“Perhaps there were other ways I could have shown you the folly of your pride but I suppose deep down I thought that if I did not succeed, then I would at least drive you away, but it seems I have failed miserably,” she concluded. “You love me still, love me enough to want to troth plight, but I cannot accept you. Not like this.” She took some more steps away from him. “Good bye Caranthir. May we never meet again, for to see you again,” unshed tears glistered in her eyes, “would tear my heart to pieces,” with that she turned and fled.
Caranthir was not sure how long he stood there stock-still, eyes fixed on the place where she had last stood. It must have been long, for his horse came to search for him, or maybe she had sent his faithful mount to him. It did not matter; nothing mattered anymore. He had lost; once again, he had lost. There was no point in remaining here any longer. Slowly he mounted, but just as he was about to leave he noticed the forgotten basket of herbs. A single tear rolled down his cheek, one more than he had shed through all the days of his life.
[i] Laeglass = greenleaf, Laeg = green, lass = leaf (I am aware that Legolas is supposed to be Greenleaf but Legolas’ name had a special spelling, probably had something to do with him being Sinda as opposed to a full blooded Nando, if indeed he had Nandorian blood at all)
[ii] Laiquendi = green elves
[iii] Cellsûl = Running Wind, Cell = running, Sûl = wind