5. The Sparring Tournament
CHAPTER 5 - THE SPARRING TOURNAMENT
Morning came like a blissful tide, casting all Mithryn's glade with a warmth and light that streamed through her window and into her bedchamber. It was a tiny room, with an aged, wooden bed sitting against the far wall. A large stone fireplace was set upon the room's northernmost wall, with kindling neatly set beside it. A much worn, quaint old chair sat in front of the fire, which Mithryn enjoyed sitting in on cold, dark nights. Shelves filled the walls on both sides of the only window. They sat sadly bare, as Mithryn had few possessions. Some ancient books, there were, of which she could not read. The writing was strange and unknown to her. She kept them all the same and glanced through them from time to time. Her most treasured possessions of all sat upon those shelves. There was a broken lantern, a tattered doll, a wooden pipe, and a magnificent sword, all of which came from her life before, and were now the only physical remnants that it had ever existed. Over her bed hung various dried flowers which added colour to the overall drab room.
Mithryn woke and, remembering her guest, dressed quickly. She was preparing breakfast when he stepped out from the forest and approached the cottage. Legolas walked in, his mind and body now cheerful and refreshed. He sat at the old, oak table and smiled at her. "Good morrow, good Mithryn!"
"Good morrow, Legolas. You are well rested?" she asked.
"Much. I love it here. It feels like the Greenwood of my youth, before the Shadow came.
She smiled and served a breakfast of fresh gathered berries, hot biscuits, and herbal tea. "I have told you much of my life here; I wish you would now tell me of yours."
His thoughts drifted for a moment before replying. "How is one to put into words all that one has seen through the passing ages?" His eyes grew distressed. "I have lived nearly three thousand years in this wood."
"And I am but a child of ninety. Do I seem like a child to you?"
Legolas smiled. "In some ways, yes. In others..." He shook his head. "No. You seem wise beyond your years. There is more to you than what the eye can see."
"Even Elven eyes?"
A smile spread onto his lips. "Yes."
When breakfast was complete, they sat neath the weeping willow beside the glistening pond. Legolas was content, yet a stone still lay buried in his heart. Mithryn sensed his sorrow. "You are troubled. Can you not cast it off and have peace? What is it that plagues your mind so?"
"The Age of my people is waning. Our time here is coming to an end. More and more sail forth, never to return. I am grieved for my heart still lies hither; I do not wish to go."
"But this departure is not for some time, is it not?"
"To Elves it is very near. How many more years shall we live under our ancient, familiar boughs? As you have said, a hundred years to an elf is but a day. The hour draws nigh. All is coming to an end."
Mithryn gently touched his hand resting on the grass. "Think of it no more, for there is naught you can do. The future is mystery that none can fully see. Heed my words; I know." Legolas's affliction, however, could not be cast down. Mithryn tried once more. "Would you care to go for a walk? I have someone for you to meet," She said, eyes twinkling.
"Someone for me to meet?"
Mithryn nodded and they strode southward into the forest. To their right the cliffs towered, and to their left flowed rolling hills of endless trees. A spirited breeze blew about them and played with their hair. Upon walking farther into the wood, Legolas could see another vale upon which the sun streamed down like a giant fountain. On this dale, soft clover grew and its purple flowers sweetened the warm air. Prancing about merrily was a strong mare. Her sienna coat shone as she neighed and trotted over to Mithryn. The horse rested her massive head on Mithryn's sloped shoulder.
"Oh, you coy thing!" Mithryn teased. "Legolas, this is Anfalas."
Legolas touched the horse gently down her neck with his fingertips while he whispered elvish words softly in her right ear. She reared her immense head and gazed at him with her large brown eyes. "She is a beauty," Legolas said. "How did you acquire her?"
"Eight years ago I was wandering through the wood when I came upon her. She was naught but skin and bones, and past weary. With loving care, she is now restored. Although free to come and go as she pleases, she has stayed with me hence. She has been a great companion for me."
"She is a horse from Rohan. There they breed the mightiest steeds in all Middle Earth."
Legolas and Mithryn rested in the sunny spot, as did Anfalas who nudged Mithryn's back lovingly with her muzzle. Birds chirped and happily joined them.
"You asked if I am a witch." Mithryn stated. Legolas gazed at her, not wishing to press for answers.
"The truth is," she continued, "I know not what I am. The magic, if magic it is, has been with me for as long as I can remember. I recall when I was a child my father comforting me after having nightmarish dreams. At least, they began as dreams, and came to me at night. Now these...visions...can strike at any moment."
"Of what do you see?"
"I see...distant lands. I see people in pain. I see danger. I see torment. I see death." She paused and lingered in thought. "Through the years, I have mastered my ability to discern when these events are to take place. When the vision comes upon me, the greater the pain, the nearer the event is in the future. Little pain, it shall not happen for perhaps decades."
"And you foresaw my coming?"
"Aye. A vision came to me four days past. The pain was great. I saw you attacked by a band of orcs and separated from your party. I also foresaw you sitting here, with me. But the future is alterable, and one seemingly minor event can change the course for all. I was worried as to whether you would arrive safely."
"Are you greatly tormented by the things which you have seen?" he asked, concerned.
"The greatest torment is to know, and have naught to send in aid. I have lived long in seclusion and hiding." She paused; her face grew pink. "In truth, I am ashamed. I have ignored what I have seen, pretending there was nothing I could do. That is, of course, a lie. I could have aided to their plight. I should have gone, but have not. That is something that has haunted me. Yet, I am afraid."
Legolas could feel her grief. He felt anguish himself. A tear rolled down her face. He placed a gentle finger on her soft cheek, wiping away the salty tear. He could find no words. His quiet strength eased her cares and stopped her tears. She smiled.
Two days passed, and Legolas remained. Mithryn wondered at this, but said nothing. She felt easy in his company and perceived a curious sensation when he was near. Legolas pondered at his extended stay as well. He knew his kinsfolk would worry about his welfare, but felt drawn to stay near Mithryn. He found that when he woke at dawn, his first thoughts flew towards her. "She has a smile," he thought, "that eases sorrow merely upon its arrival. I feel strong when she is near, yet my soul seems to tremble. What spell has she cast over me?"
With the passing days, they had taken to enjoying luncheon at the summit of Hallathúle. When finished his cheese and buttered rolls, Legolas said, "You never told me how you guard your realm so well."
A mischievous smile crept onto her face. "Ah. The fire."
"Yes. How do you do it?"
"At first, I was greatly troubled by the Orcs here about. They could sense my presence. It was some time before I contemplated fighting them back with the very thing they could never understand."
"Love. I cast a living, breathing...spell, I guess you could call it. I poured all the love in my heart into it. The love of my kinfolk, my mother, my father, my new home here, the trees, the birds, everything. And through my love, comes a great passion to protect it. The power is emanating through me. That is why none of evil heart may enter. They cannot bear to feel love."
Legolas understood that very well. He carried the same passion for protecting his home and his people. "Does it not fatigue you?"
"Only when I excessively use other magic."
"What other magic?"
The impish grin reappeared. "Oh, sometimes I'll meet an Orc on my way to or from the Woodland Folk. Afterward, they are very sorry they ever crossed paths with me. I know I do not look like much, but they soon discover otherwise."
"Will you show me?"
"How?" she asked, eyes dancing playfully.
"We can spar. Have you a blade?"
"My blade against yours."
A merry laugh escaped her. "Very well."
And so the sparring tournament began beside her home. They would combat to judge skill. Legolas brought forth his weapons, which for the past few days had been left neglected by the door. He withdrew his knife. The sharp edge sparkled in the sunlight.
Mithryn also fetched her blade. The sword was stout but the proper size for Mithryn's physique. Legolas immediately recognized the craftsmanship of his people. "May I see it?"
She handed it to him. Legolas held the glittering weapon, eyes sparkling. It's handle shone of mithril; its three tips of the hilt curled as a flame. "I call her Gilóre," Mithryn said.
Legolas smiled. "Starheart. It is Elven made," he said, studying it closely.
"I thought as much."
"Where did you find this?"
"My father brought it back for me from one of his adventures. He always said to keep it hidden out of sight, neath the floor. I am very thankful those horrid orcs did not find it when our village was attacked."
Delicate, flowing Elvish script was written across the hilt. Legolas ran his fingers over the cold, mithril letters. "It is old, of the second age.""Can you read the words? I have never been able to," she said.
"It reads: 'Behold the Flame of Truth.' It is exquisite!"
Legolas handed it back to Mithryn. When placed in her small, white hand, a warm glow began to protrude from the blade. It burst into a golden flame which projected outwards as if the sword itself were on fire. Legolas gazed at its magnificence.
"Behold the Flame of Truth," he said, eyes enchanted.
"Shall we begin?" Mithryn asked. Legolas nodded his reply.
Swords raised, the dual began. Mithryn swung first with a flash of fire, and a clash of metal. Legolas struck next. Mithryn thought his movements slow, calculated. She suspected that he was restraining great strength and speed. Her eyes sparkled and the dance of flame continued. Her amusement did not go unnoticed.
"Your skill is admirable," he said while wheeling his blade about. "And yet, I suspect you are holding back. Is it true?"
Mithryn's eyes danced. "Yes," she said, laughing. "And you?"
"Yes," he said, and both let their blades fall to their sides in resolution. Mithryn placed Gilóre back in her sheath, and the fire extinguished.
"And what of your magic? Will you not show me?" enquired Legolas as he returned his knife to its casing.
"It is too dangerous to use on you, but I will show you some if you wish." She placed Gilóre on the ground in front him. Mithryn walked a distance back and raised her right hand and in a flash, the sword flew from the ground and into Legolas's hand. She smiled, now feeling slightly embarrassed. "It is not much."
"Nay, that was excellent! What else?"
"Well..." She again held out her right hand and the sword was suddenly wrenched out of Legolas's grip and flew into her clutch.
Legolas approached her and smiled. "Splendid."
Mithryn smiled back. "But that which causes most fear in orcs," she said, "is this." She clenched her small, right hand into a tight fist. She then blew on it and slowly opened her hand. There sat a golden ball of flame.
"Does it not burn?"
"If I were to release it, it would." She blew on it again and the flame went out. She stretched out her hand again, and his weapon's case sailed from the earth into her tiny hand. "Now, a bow and arrow, I have never used. Is it difficult?"
Legolas took the case, withdrew his bow and stepped close beside her. "No. I will teach you. Grasp the bow handle tightly."
She did as he commanded. "Like this?"
"Yes. Now, hold the arrow securely. That is correct. Now, pull the string back as far as you can and release."
She grasped the bow, pulled back the string and let the arrow go. It flew to the ground two feet from where she stood and missed her aim (which was the door) by twenty feet.
"If I could use magic, I'm sure it would reach the door," she said lightheartedly.
"No, no," he said, amused. "There is no magic when using a bow and arrow. Only skill."
He drew up close behind her; his left hand gently atop of hers, while holding the bow in place. She could feel the heat of his arm beside hers. His strong chest pressed lightly against her back; his warm breath caressed her exposed neck. She dared not move, else he would as well. Her heart began to pound in her chest; "Can he hear it?" she wondered. With his right hand, Legolas took another arrow and laid it across the bow. With masterful skill, he pulled tight and let the arrow fly. It wedged itself deep in the wood of the door.
Mithryn smiled at his skill, and turned and looked back at him. Their eyes met. Legolas then realized his arms were around her. He felt he should move away, but could not. Mithryn's smile faded. Legolas slowly bent his head down and kissed her.
The love for which an Elf feels for the first and only time cannot be measured or expressed adequately in words. Elven hearts are never capricious or inconstant. Once their heart is given, there is no return. There is no other.
Their lips softly touched, only to evoke the want of another kiss. Legolas drew her close. His bow fell lightly to the ground. When at last their lips separated, she rested her dizzy head on his muscular chest; their arms tightly wrapped around one another. For her too, there could be no other.
They sat in silence a long time that evening. Mithryn knew he would have to leave soon. Indeed, he had lingered long already. She had no illusions; he might never be permitted to return. Legolas's thoughts were also bent upon his imminent departure. A shadow of sorrow cast itself over his heart. "I must leave tomorrow," he said finally, breaking the silence.
Mithryn looked at him with saddened eyes. She nodded. She could not deny him his duties. He reached across the table and gently held her hands. His touch was soft, warm, and electrifying. His face melancholy, yet hopeful. It brought some peace to her saddened heart.
Author's Note: Please review and let me know what you think.