12. The Mischif Maker
CHAPTER 12 - THE MISCHIF MAKER
Weeks had passed and both Mithryn and Elmarin fully regained strength and health. Mithryn's actions during Finaviel's birth had been revealed to all and she was now viewed with a newfound respect. Next to her betrothed, Mithryn's closest companion was Elmarin, and it was under her supervision that Mithryn's wardrobe be filled with richly adorned gowns, all elven in style, cloth, and grace. She and Elmarin spent many merry hours conversing while the men of the royal household busied themselves with the
responsibilities of ruling a kingdom. Legolas always made time to spend with Mithryn despite the burden of court duties. It was evident to him that his father was preparing him for the time when he would be king. Legolas could not see himself as Mirkwood's ruler, but did not complain. It was his duty and he accepted it.
Word had also spread of Legolas's betrothal, and preparations for the upcoming nuptials were already taking place with growing excitement. The festivities were expected to be of the highest order as Thranduil was sparing no expense, Legolas being the first of his sons to wed. Elmarin taught Mithryn the details and intricacies of Elvish customs, and numerous times Mithryn's emotions varied from confused to awe struck. Her Sindarin was not admirable, but she worked hard at speaking correctly and eloquently the language of her new family. Elmarin was a patient and gentle tutor.
Days grew longer and warmer with the month of May. Mithryn grew accustomed to the woods and loved exploring all of its hidden treasures and secrets. Often Legolas would go with her; they playfully chased, hid and searched for each other like children.
It suddenly struck Legolas, on one of these mischievous occasions, how much it felt as if she had always been there, by his side. He knew it was not so, and yet, her laugh, smile, and cheerful nature all seemed agelessly familiar. He dared not think of how many years this bliss would last before the inevitable. He simply refrained from putting such rueful thoughts into his mind and, instead, focused on the joy he was experiencing at that moment, consciously retaining every detail.
"Your mind is elsewhere. Where are you?" Mithryn playfully asked a withdrawn Legolas.
Upon hearing her voice, he broke free from meditation. "Merely thinking of the future, my love."
"Not too far into the future, I hope."
"Nay," he said, stroking her cheek. "Do you have any regrets, staying here, and not going to Rivendell?"
"How could I, happy here as I am? And I shall remain so long as you keep your word." An impish grin spread over her face. "And just so long as you cannot catch me!" she said, jumping up and bolting down the path. He quickly took chase and was approaching her fast when she stopped suddenly, holding out
her right hand, palm facing him. Halting in his tracks, Legolas felt a resistance in the space in front of him, preventing him from pursuing her. "Are you using your power against me?" he asked with a note of sarcasm and humour.
"You are an Elf and, therefore, have a slight advantage over me in terms of speed. I cannot let you win all the time," she said, laughingly.
"Let me win? We shall see about that!" he replied, now struggling against the invisible force. Mithryn shrieked and ran into the palace. The force collapsed and, stumbling, Legolas quickly pursued.
Thranduil stood in his immense reception hall, hastily breaking the seal on a scroll. The Elf messenger stood patiently, waiting at a distance. Thranduil read the message over; his face showing his displeasure. Its contents did not contain comforting news. "How was Lord Elrond when you saw him last?"
"Very well, your majesty. Mithrandir had just left prior to my arrival, Lord Elrond bade me tell you."
"And do you know of Mithrandir's direction?"
Their conversation was interrupted by the exuberant laughter of Mithryn as she sprinted past the hall. Both elves stood and
stared, somewhat shocked, as they did not hear her approach. They blinked at each other before the Messenger regained his lost thought. "Uh...I do. He was setting forth for Isengard to see the head of his order, so Lord Elrond told me."
A servant carrying a tray of food and wine stepped into the doorway and promptly collided with a running Legolas. The silver platter hit the floor with a resounding clang, showering the meal everywhere. Legolas stumbled awkwardly over the elf while apologizing profusely.
"Legolas," the king said in an authoritative tone, "come here, please." Turning to the messenger, he added, "Thank you. That is all."
The messenger bowed and made to exit, stepping gingerly around the spray of victuals on the floor, while a servant quickly set to work cleaning the mess. Legolas took one more glance down the corridor in Mithryn's direction before obeying his father's command and went to his side.
Thranduil cast his son another displeased look, saying naught.
"I am sorry, Father," Legolas said, bashfully.
The king sighed and handed his son the parchment. "Read this. As the heir to the throne, you should know these goings on as well as I."
Legolas unrolled the letter and gazed at the gracefully flowing script. "Dear Thranduil," he read aloud. "It is as we have feared. Pray keep whom you guard safe as these are uncertain times. I go now to confer with the wise. Yours in haste, Mithrandir." Legolas set the letter down, his brow furrowed in confusion. "He speaks in riddles. What can his meaning be?"
"I believe he feared the letter would be intercepted," he whispered. "In your absence, Legolas, we have discovered that the One Ring has been found."
Legolas gaped at his calm father. "Is it certain?" he asked, finally.
Thranduil took the document, rereading the puzzling words. "This letter confirms it. While you were away, he was here, as was Aragorn."
"So Tarnil told me. We have a prisoner, I know. I have seen him while the sentries take him into the wood at nightfall. Is he the prisoner which Mithrandir refers to?"
"Aye. He is Gollum for whom even you searched."
"So, that is the creature! What black deeds bind him to the Ring?" Legolas asked somberly upon hearing this news.
"Many, but to what degree, it is not known. We must be vigilant."
Apprehension filled their thoughts. Legolas gazed at his troubled father knowing there was nothing that he could do to help. "What do you think Mithrandir intends with the One Ring? Possession of it brings untold dangers that could effect all of Middle Earth. What shall be done?"
Thranduil sat in his great chair by the fire, staring into the dying embers. "Indeed, what can be done? I know not, my son, but I fear for us all."
Mithryn, meanwhile, had frolicked spiritedly along the myriad of corridors leading down into darkness. While hiding in a shadowed corner, her jovial eyes stared expectantly at the doorway, ready to leap out on the unsuspecting, pursuing Legolas. Suddenly, a sharp hiss was heard from behind. Her smile vanished, realizing she was not alone. Turning, she saw a large wooden door with thick, metal bars. Stepping closer, she hesitantly called, "Hello? Is someone there?" Her voice echoed in the vast, unlit abyss. Distinct shuffling behind the fortified door caused Mithryn's steps to cease, and her body to stiffen with fear. She stood in horror, wondering what sort of creature would require such confinement.
Two large, pale, green eyes glowed in the dank gloom between the bars of the cell. "What'sss this, my Precious? It is not an elf, no; it's not a nasty elf with bright eyesss. What is it?"
"I...I am called Mithryn," she said, stumbling over her words.
"Pr'aps it stays here and talks with us a bitsy," Gollum said, voice now sweet and silky.
"No, I really must be getting back," Mithryn said, trying to be polite but turning to leave.
Gollum let out a piteous wail which filled the enormous room and resonated loudly down the empty passages. "Don't leaves us alone! We's is always ssso alone! Stay. Stay and talks with us a bitsy. Pleeeassse?"
Mithryn's heart went out to the pathetic, lonesome creature, and yet, she was wary because of his being in a cell. Knowing Thranduil to be a wise and capable king, and trusting her intuition, she was skeptical of this seemingly helpless creature. "I suppose I can stay a moment. Why are you imprisoned?" she asked warily, stepping closer, straining to see the obscured figure through the dark shroud.
"Nasty Elveses! And nasty Man! He captures us! Yes, my Precious. We didn't do it...no...nothing!" Gollum cried, hands tightly gripping the bars. "Gollum!"
Legolas's voice echoed through the myriad of caverns that made up the palace. Mithryn turned at the call of her name. "I am called," she said. "I must go."
"No! No!" Gollum cried, his hand reaching out to stop her, but could not reach. "Do not leave us! They will kill us!"
Mithryn stopped, but heard her name again. "I must go. I will try to come again."
Gollum's pathetic wails of protest followed Mithryn as she hurried up the flight of steps, running straight into Legolas.
"Mithryn!" Legolas said. "I have been searching for you." Upon hearing Gollum's laments, he gazed at her skeptically. "Have you been down to the dungeons?"
She knew not why she said it. Perhaps it was fear of a scold, or the thought that she knew she was not where she should have been, but she quickly replied, "Nay. I got lost, you see. These passageways are a maze to me."
Immediately, Legolas softened. "I understand. But you must not go that way. It is dangerous."
Together, they walked out of the palace, and into fresh air and sunlight. Gollum's cries could no longer be heard, but Mithryn felt certain that they were continuing, still. At length, she harnessed enough courage to ask, as nonchalantly as possible, "What creature was making those cries? He was not being tortured, was he? I had supposed you Elves to be such gentle folk."
Legolas smiled, and seemed not at all suspicious of her questions. "We are gentle, to be sure, to what is wise and good. But to our enemies, we are, I like to think, formidable. To our prisoners, we are always kind, but wary."
"Then I pity those who betray your trust. Did you not mention something before concerning Dwarves?"
"That story is very old, but not forgotten. A great wrong was done long ago by the Dwarves, and forgiveness has never been given. Since that time, I fear, we have become enemies."
"Then, that creature..."
"Nay," Legolas said, smiling and wrapping her hand around his arm, "that was no Dwarf. In all honesty, I know not precisely what that creature is. But let us talk no more of him. It is such a splendid day. Shall we not walk by the lake?"
Mithryn nodded merrily, and despite her curiosity, did not venture to inquire any further. It was not until dinner the next evening that the subject of the prisoner arose again. They royal family sat conversing about stories of old when a guard interrupted, informing his lordship that the prisoner wished to go out again tonight. Mithryn's ears immediately perked up.
Thranduil sighed. "Very well, but send eight guards instead of six tonight. The moon is not very full."
The guard bowed, and marched away.
"Father," Haldof said in a warning voice, "he is where he belongs. You are too generous to that villain. Only consider if he escaped!"
Thranduil raised an indignant eyebrow. "Thank you, young one, but we are not, ourselves, savages. To our prisoners we must be kind, but careful. We are not mercenary."
Enthralled over this new mystery, Mithryn watched the conversation unfold, until she felt as though someone were watching her. Intuitively turning in the correct direction, she caught the eye of Haldof who was observing her with the most curious of expressions. Feeling as though he could see through her, she turned away, and began to study her plate, instead.
Mithryn would not see the mysterious creature again for two more days. It was upon a cold, wet spring afternoon that she found herself with naught to do. Prior to leaving for his duties, Legolas suggested that Mithryn might wish to explore the library some more, and search out a book to read by the fire. Taking a liking to his suggestion, she made her way through the enterance doors, and into the cavernous palace.
She had lost her way only once, and then finally found her way to the deserted library. She opened the door, but heard an echoing cry coming from the palace depths. There was no doubt as to who was weeping, and Mithryn's curiosity overcame her wisdom. Following the whimpers, she went back down into the gloomy dungeon.
Mithryn had tried to be as quiet as a mouse, but Gollum's ears had perked up to her soft footfalls, and his moaning ceased immediately. At first he thought her a nasty elf, but no. He crept up to the door of his cage and peered through the iron bars. It was the girl! "She will set us free, Precious," he thought wickedly, "or she will be sorry, Precious." He opened his foul mouth again, and began an outcry of agony.
Halting her steps immediately, Mithryn peered into the shadowy vault, straining for her eyes to adjust. "Hello?" she whispered softly. Too softly, she thought at first, but the prisoner's laments abruptly died.
"Who is there?" Gollum said, his voice weak and pitiful. "Do not harm us!"
"It is I, Mithryn," she said as she slowly made her way down the steps. "I will not harm you."
"You did not come!" Gollum said, his lantern eyes shining out through the bars. "Promise, you did, and keep it you did not."
"I am here now. I am sorry I could not come sooner. I had no opportunity, you see."
Gollum sighed, "Too busy, she is. Yesss, Precious. Running under tree, stars, and shadow. Being free." Another great wail escaped Gollum's lungs. "Cruel, cruel Elves! They hurts us, and starves us when we is innocent!"
"Innocent of what? What have they convicted you of?"
"We does not know!" Gollum said pitiously. "Captured we were, and beaten, yesss, Precious! Imprisoned! Never say, no they don't. Never say what our crime is. PLEASE!" he exclaimed, reaching out his gangly hand toward her. "Let us free!"
"You must understand...I cannot. The king...Legolas...they would be so angry! Perhaps I could speak to the king on your behalf..."
Gollum let out the loudest and most pathetic of all his sobs and sank to the cell floor in seemingly dispair. Feeling for the miserable wretch, Mithryn stepped up to the cell, and gazed in through the filthy bars. "I promise to do what I..." Without warning, Gollum's hand shot up through the bars, taking strong
grasp of Mithryn's tiny wrist. His face revealed the true nature of his wicked character. Mithryn screamed in fright, and pulled away to no avail. Gollum's grip was too great. "LET US OUT!!!" he commanded.
"No!" Mithryn screamed, pulling her arm until it ached. His gruesome mouth bent down to bite her, when in a flash, her right hand flew up and the exploding force sent Gollum flying into the back wall of his cell. He dropped to the floor, whimpering wretchedly like a wounded animal. Mithryn fell also and nervously pushed herself backward until she touched the far wall. She sat there, shaking, tenderly rubbing her sore wrist
while "gollums" resounded in the vast cave.
Suddenly, Haldof was beside her, kneeling, having bolted down the steps. "Mithryn! You should not be here!" She turned to him, trembling. Glancing at the cell where Gollum's incessant moaning surged, he quickly assessed the situation. "Come, let us away," he said, helping her rise, and walked her out of the gloom and into the light.
They did not speak as they walked, and at one point Mithryn curiously looked down at her hand to see Haldof still holding it. They stopped outside the library. He let go of her and turned to face her, his eyes full of reproach. "That was very foolish of you, Mithryn," he scolded.
"I...lost my way," she fibbed. She would have told the truth to Legolas, but to his bullying brother, she would not. However, he did not seem to believe her.
"Do not spin me such tales, for I know you have more wit than deceit. Telling falsities is something you should never do, Mithryn. It is not one of your strong suits."
She was attempting to think of a witty retort when his gaze happened to glance down at her wrist, which already showed signs of yellow bruising. "He hurt you?!" he demanded, eyeing it attentively, and picking it up to examine it more closely.
"A little; it will heal," she said moving it away. "It was my own error. Never should I have approached so closely to his cell."
"In that we both agree! This is, in point of fact, all due to a grave misjudgement on your part! What can you have been thinking of? You must have thought him put there for a purpose," he said, his tone darkening.
"What do you accuse me of? Do you suspect me of trying to free him?"
"Gollum is not to be trusted. I cannot tell you how incredibly treacherous he is. But, given what I believe has just occurred between the two of you, I do not feel you need another lesson. If you promise me you will not attempt to visit him again, I am sure I need to mention this matter to Legolas...or Father."
Humbily, Mithryn nodded, and Haldof left without another word. He irritated her exceedingly, and yet she was grateful that he was not going to tell anyone how foolish she had been.
Each night when the sun set its fiery light, it seemed to Mithryn that the Elves came alive under the starlit sky. It was their time of worship, their time of praise.
Mithryn continued to view the nightly celebrations with wonder. This night, however, the king gave an inspirational speech that had great emotional effect on the elves, but, of which she understood little. Legolas remained by her side the entire evening of which she was evermore grateful; she felt he protected her from Haldof who endlessly eyed her darkly with a furrowed brow. To Mithryn, everyone present appeared happy, and yet, she could discern an underlying sorrow in the atmosphere. "Are all here melancholy, or do I mistake?" she whispered to Legolas.
"Nay, you are very intuitive. This is a sad time."
"Tomorrow many of our kin shall be departing for the Grey Havens; I have told you this."
"Nay, you did not."
Surprised, Legolas turned to her. "Aye, I did."
Mithryn smiled, knowingly, and shook her head. "Nay, you did not."
"Forgive me. I cannot think how it could have slipped my mind."
"You are frequently busy with duty; I am not angry. Indeed, now it all is clear to me. They shall never return to Middle Earth."
Mithryn looked at the group of fair, pale faces all bearing smiles. Tears on these occasions were considered poor form by tradition, Legolas noted to her. All evening, small groups of people embraced, whispering together, only to break apart and form other groups. Messages in rolled parchment were passed to
those departing. They gazed about themselves capturing the last few moments of the only home they had ever known before embarking on the greatest journey of their long lifetimes. She knew that, after the morning dawn, she would never see some of them again; it pained her as well. "Legolas had spoken sincerely," she thought. "It truly is all coming to an end."
Suddenly, Mithryn noticed a lone elf standing away from the festivities, listening with a forlorn face to the melodious tunes. "Legolas," she said, placing her soft hand on his. "Is that not Tarnil, standing alone?"
Seeing his brother leaning against a tree, Legolas nodded. "Aye, that is he."
"Do you not think you should join him? He looks greatly affected by these events. Go to him."
"You do not mind my leaving for a short time?"
"Fear not, Legolas," Haldof said, joining the pair. I shall watch over Mithryn in your absence.
Legolas smiled a greatful grin, and walked off to join his other brother. Mithryn, however, was in inner turmoil. What could Haldof have to say to her? What was his intention now? Blackmail?
"So," Haldof began. "Have you told Legolas of your little adventure?"
"Nay," Mithryn said defensively. "And you promised you would not speak either. It is of no consequence, anyway. I have nothing to hide from him. I meant no wrong."
"Then why have you not told him? Has he not seen your bruised wrist?" Haldof gazed down at her bare wrist to see no evidence at all of any assault. "What is this? More of your magical trickery?"
"It is no trickery. I heal quickly, that is all. And if you mean to tell Legolas, tell him. You cannot hold it over my head in this way. For if you do, I shall tell Legolas the truth, and how you knew about it."
"Have it your way, then. Tell him." Haldof then smiled a devilish grin, and strode on his way. Mithryn knew not what to make of him. Was he friend or foe? What were his intentions? Did he mean to banish her, or simply make her suffer? She knew one thing for certain: he would never love her as a sister.
Meanwhiile, Legolas's thoughts had been on his cheerless brother. "How do you fare tonight, Tarnil?"
"Was Mithryn concerned for me?" Tarnil asked, ignoring Legolas's question.
After a quick glance back at his betrothed, Legolas replied, "You always did have keener ears than the rest of us. Aye, she felt that you seemed slightly downcast tonight. Is it so?"
"Perhaps a little."
"I feel it as well," Legolas said as he leaned against the tall trunk beside Tarnil. "In truth, I cannot imagine ever wanting to leave here."
"And that, Brother," Tarnil said gently, "is where we differ. And perhaps where I differ from Haldof and Galamed as well."
"Of what can you mean?" Legolas said, staring into his brother's saddened eyes.
"Please understand that I tell this to you and no other, that I feel, and have for some time, the urge to depart. These woods shall forever be my home, and my heart cries at the thought of leaving them, yet, I long to see the broad vastness of the sea."
Legolas's face bore that of heartache upon hearing his brother's words. Here it was that he, who had plans never to part Middle Earth, faced Tarnil, his beloved brother, who wished to vacate it forever. "Do you intend to leave with them at dawn?"
"Nay. My heart wishes to part with them, to set sail. Yet, one thing prevents me. It, alone, is the only reason I have not yet embarked."
"What is the reason?"
"Galamed. I know that family comes before personal want, and Galamed is not ready to leave. A long time ago, when we were but children, we made an oath not to leave without the other; that is a pledge I feel honour bound to keep. When he is willing, we shall depart together. You and Haldof were always so close; thick as dwarves, Mother used to say."
Legolas laughed, in memory. "Mother; how I miss her. It would have been admirable if it had been you who delivered our messages to her. How delighted she would be to behold you and Galamed again." Legolas said, dreaming aloud. "How long have you desired this?"
Tarnil sighed, face turned downward. "It has been many years, now."
"Does Galamed know of your desire?"
"Nay, I could not tell him. He would surely consent to my desires, and refuse his own. That is Galamed; never does he wish to be a burden to any. But, nay, Legolas. Though the want is great, I will wait for him to be ready." Tarnil took one last long glance at the sad partings of the Elves before strolling away into the enveloping darkness of the forest.
Author's Note: Please review and let me know what you think!!! I don't need much, but every word of encouragement helps!