46. Eryn Lasgalen
Chapter 46 Eryn Lasgalen
The three travelers approached the great gates of the Woodland King's palace. They were expected as stated in a message sent before their journey. The guards on the wall looked down at the visitors and smiled. Caladwen was their kin, maybe even more so now that she chose elven life. She was the daughter of their Prince. Even though Legolas moved on and started his own colony in Ithilien, he would never loose his title as Prince of Eryn Lasgalen. He would always be seen as such.
The guards jumped down from their posts as the gates swung open. "Welcome Caladwen. We have been anxiously awaiting your arrival. King Thranduil asks that we will show each of you to your rooms first so you may clean up and rest from your long journey. You may visit with the King at dinner tonight." said one of the guards.
Caladwen bowed her head slightly. "Thank you for your hospitality. I would ask to be taken to my grandfather first though. I have not seen him in a very long time. If it is not too much trouble I would greatly appreciate it."
"Of course, Lady Caladwen. I do not think the King will mind one bit." he said and then turned his attention to Haldir. "Welcome again Haldir, Marchwarden of Lothlorien. It has been a while since we were visited by one of the Galadhrim."
"It is always a pleasure to be a guest of your King." Haldir said and bowed.
The guard then motioned to the other to head off to the palace and inform Thranduil of the change. "Please, follow me."
Caladwen could not help but notice how they only spoke to her and Haldir. Gimli remained in the back and said nothing. He was obviously waiting to be addressed first. She reached out and took the arm of the guard, stopping him. "There is still one we want to introduce before we go any further." She and Haldir stepped aside to allow Gimli to come forward. "This is our very good friend, Gimli. He is here on behalf of his kin who were…" Here she paused. "...visitors of the Kings' long ago."
The guard looked down at Gimli. "You must excuse me. We have not dealt with your kind in a very long time. I apologize if I have offended you in any way, Master Dwarf."
"I understand your hesitancy. This is perhaps the reasons I come to Eryn Lasgalen. However, I will not discuss this now. What I have to say is meant for your King. It will be up to him whether or not he wishes to heal old wounds made by my kin."
The guard's eyes widened as he looked down at the Dwarf, suddenly realizing his importance. "You are Gimli, son of Gloin. Your father and his kin are well known to us. I will say no more. The King should very much like to talk with you."
Caladwen felt the mood switch from somber to nervousness. It seemed her job would start sooner than she thought. If Gimli were to meet with Thranduil right now, they would need a mediator. "Perhaps it would be better for me to see my grandfather first." she whispered in Gimli's ear.
"My dear Caladwen, I have waited a long time for this invitation. I plan on meeting with the King as soon as possible and that seems to be now. I can take care of myself. Besides, I am not alone. I have you and Haldir by my side in case our discussion becomes heated."
Caladwen smiled. "You are right again Gimli. I don't know why I am worried."
"Maybe it is not what I have to say but your own bit of news that concerns you about this meeting." Gimli said.
"That thought has crossed my mind. I always imagined telling Mother and Adar of my bonding before anyone else, let alone my grandfather who I haven't seen in many years." Her voice was full of apprehension.
"If anyone else was to bring this information to him I might be doubtful about his response. But your grandfather has always had a soft spot for you. Somehow, I think you could tear down his palace and he would somehow find it within his heart to forgive you. In his eyes you can do no wrong."
"You are very good at your craft, Gimli."
"And what it that my dear."
"Calming an unsettled mind." She smiled and kissed the top of his hairy head.
Gimli growled with embarrassment and chuckled at the same time. "Come on now. We have business to attend to and you must see that it goes smoothly. I would very much like to lay my head down on a soft pillow and not the cold stone of a prison cell."
They continued until they got to the steps of the palace. Two more guards were waiting for them there and opened the large wooden doors. A long hall awaited them and at the end was a throne of pure regal design. It was made of twisted wood, as if very large vines were twisted to form it. Jewels were carefully set along the top and the sides of the arms. Caladwen noticed a chair next to the King's throne. It was similar in design, decorated with jewels of the same colors. 'This must belong to Ada.' she thought to herself. In her mind, she imagined him sitting next to Thranduil, wearing his royal garb and looking very princely. She had to laugh to herself because she could not imagine him having to follow palace protocol.
As they approached the throne, a very tall figure emerged from a side door. King Thranduil walked out and turned to them, standing in front of his throne. His hair was as gold as ripe wheat. It hung loosely around his shoulders and the points of his ears poked out from beneath. He wore a silver tunic with mithril clasps. About his shoulders was draped an emerald green robe. On his head, he wore a mithril circlet with a single diamond in the front. Caladwen had never seen him in his full kingly outfit. He looked wise beyond his years and very stoic, though his calm demeanor could change in a heartbeat. There was such power that emanated from him. It could be felt throughout the hall.
Caladwen, Haldir and Gimli approached the Woodland King. She looked up and studied his face. He was emotionless standing there gazing down upon the three travelers. One might have been terrified of him but Caladwen looked beyond that. She looked into his eyes and there she found the loving kindness that her father spoke of. Thranduil felt this also and a smile slowly appeared on his face.
"My beautiful Caladwen. Long have I wished for you to visit the home of your kin. Welcome to Eryn Lasgalen." His voice was booming as it ricocheted throughout the hall. His eyes looked to her right and fell upon Haldir. "Mae govannen Marchwarden, Captain of the Galadhrim of Lothlorien. It is good to have you back. We are very grateful to you and your warriors for all you have done."
Haldir bowed respectfully. "Thank you my lord. It is always a pleasure to visit your woodland home." When his eyes met Thranduil's, there was an exchange of sorts. The King read something deep within his silver irises and the corner of his mouth upturned in a slight smile. Then he looked back to Caladwen and saw the same fire within her eyes. To everyone's surprise, King Thranduil came down the steps to join the others where they stood. He looked back and forth between Haldir and Caladwen. "Something is astray." he said in a soft voice.
Caladwen felt her heart leap to her throat. Fear washed over her at that moment. Would he chastise her, lecture her for her most recent decision? She waited and watched with confusion as her grandfather reached for her hand and then Haldir's. He spoke in a whisper. "I will only say that I wish you had waited." He paused as he glanced to each of them in turn. However, he could not keep a straight face for long. "At least until you reached the palace. Now," he said putting their hands together and watching as they intertwined their fingers. "That is better. Never let it be said that I came between a newly joined couple. I know how it feels to be separated even by an inch within the first week of bonding. The pain can be excruciating if you cannot be together."
Caladwen's mouth hung open. She looked at Haldir who was wearing a sly smile. He seemed to know this was how Thranduil would react to the news of their binding. But one thing confused her. "How did you know Grandfather? It has only been two days and no one knows, except Gimli."
"My dear, do you know nothing of Woodelves? The trees are our biggest source for information. They spoke of a recent union not far from here. They described the couple as best they could in their language. Besides, I knew this day would come. It was inevitable." He looked Caladwen in her eyes and held his arms out to her, welcoming her into his embrace. A tear came to her eye as she hugged her grandfather. "I am so happy for you. Haldir has always been your other half. It was only a matter of time before you both realized it."
"Thank you Grandfather." Caladwen said as she was about to be choked up by her tears. At that very moment, she knew she would never again fear him. Then a thought came to her. "If you know then that means Adar knows also."
Thranduil heard the unease in her voice. "Do not say that Legolas is still unsure of this love. He most of all should see what a special bond there is between the two of you."
Haldir stepped forward. "I am afraid it is because of me that he feels this way. The Prince's main concern is for his daughter. He does not yet see the changes we have made in our lives which has allowed us to come together."
Thranduil put a hand on Haldir's shoulder. "I for one am proud to have you in my granddaughter's life. I have seen you fight, seen you rule. You would have made a very strong Lord. No one is more fit to protect my Caladwen. I know you will treat her with the love and respect that she deserves."
Haldir looked at Caladwen and squeezed her hand. "I would go beyond my duties to make sure she is happy. I love her with my whole being."
Thranduil could sense their need for privacy. "Then I shall not keep you any longer. A room has been set up for you. You should be very comfortable there. It has been stocked with everything you could possibly need for the next few days so you will not need to leave. Go and enjoy your wedded bliss in peace, comfort and with no interruptions."
Caladwen looked at Haldir and he gave her a nod. "We cannot leave just yet. There is another reason we are here."
Thranduil held up his hand. "Ah yes. Gimli son of Gloin, step forward." His voice was once again very kingly. Gimli took a few steps towards where the King stood. He bowed as was custom of the Dwarves, slowly bending at the waist and coming up straight again. He may have been short and stout, but his eyes spoke volumes. They came to rest upon Thranduil, never wavering, never looking away.
"It has been many years since a Dwarf has passed the threshold of my home. Tell me, Gloin's son, what reason do you have for being here?"
"I come to clear the air and set things right between our races. I have a bit of information to share with you. Perhaps it will solve the old mysteries of days long gone."
"And why you, Gimli? Why not one of those who lived the story?"
"Alas, they have all met their end. Some you already know of." Gimli paused and bowed his head in honor of the Dwarven King Thorin. "The other's having passed on to join their kind in the heavens."
Thranduil showed no sign of remorse. "And so you have waited until now to come forward?"
"I have heard the stories of the trials and tribulations of that time. Though I was alive then, I was not yet mature enough to fight in the Battle of the Five Armies and I know little of what happened to Smaug's stolen treasure. This part you already know. I am here to settle the mystery of their escape from your own dungeon." Gimli stopped and watched as Thranduil's eyes turned to slits. It was obviously a very sore subject.
"You were not there son of Gloin. How can you give a true account?" Thranduil tried to seem uncaring but there was a hint of curiosity in his tone.
"It is true. I was not there but I knew all who were, including one you may not know of; the one my father called the burglar." Gimli paused.
Thranduil's mind was instantly brought back to those days. An awful lot of trouble was stirred up because of those sneaky Dwarves. Now, here was Gimli with the final piece of the puzzle. He was anxious to hear the rest of the tale but also suspicious. "I know Dwarves. They do not do things freely. There is always something wanted in return. So tell me, Gimli, what is it you want in exchange for this information? Is there some sort of treasure taken that day that you think I have in my cache? I assure you, I only took what was rightfully mine."
Thranduil was on the defense and Gimli sensed it. It was good to know he could ruffle the Kings' feathers. However, this was not the outcome he wanted and he spoke again. "There are no gems or gold I wish in exchange, my lord, but rather a request to open up the lines of communication between our kind and yours."
Thranduil looked questioningly at Gimli. Caladwen saw it was time for her to speak up. "Yes, Grandfather. We have come to ask for permission to allow some from the outside to walk freely amongst your people. The world around you is changing rapidly. We ask that you and all those who live here, to open their minds and eventually their hearts to other races. There is no need for gates and walls anymore."
"We have lived in this manner for many millennia. I do not think change will come easily to any of us." Thranduil argued.
"Let me bring my teaching abilities here. I will set up classes and work with those willing to learn before you open your borders. It is important that everyone knows about the other races in the world. For those who are not ready to sail, it will help them learn how to live amongst Men and Dwarves. As the human race expands, our numbers shrink. There can be no animosity between us. We must understand each other and open our borders to each other. To walk freely through anyone's realm is my goal. There is a whole other world out there Grandfather. Let me show you. Let me teach you. Open your borders for trade. It is the best way to get things started. I promise we will start slow. I understand the life you have led here. Evil and darkness have embedded themselves in your land. But those days are behind us now. There will always be those who want to do harm." Here, she took Haldir's hand as she thought about her ordeal in Minas Tirith with Bandorion. "But they cannot rule us. They can no longer take over our lands. They are few but we are many. Step into the future with me Grandfather. Let us make a path for those who will stay long after we are gone. Let us set an example and embed our culture in their lives."
Thranduil stood silent for a moment, considering her words. Then he looked down at his feet. He seemed to shrink in size, as if he had been defeated by her speech. He breathed deep and continued looking at the ground. "I knew this day would come. It is something I have dreaded. I know I cannot keep the outside world away forever. One day I will sail and they will come on their own. I thought by then it would not matter anymore."
"But if you wait for them to discover your kingdom when you are gone, all they will see is what is left. There will be no one to give explanations or to tell them of our culture. This is how we will understand each other. It must be done now, before the Elves leave these shores or they will not experience our goodness. It must be introduced to them so that they may embrace it in their hearts also. I know what I was put on this earth to do, but I cannot do it alone. I need help from every race but none more than my own kin."
Thranduil slowly lifted his eyes to meet Caladwen's. His face softened quite a bit as he looked at her. A smile spread across his face as he took her hand. "I see so much of your grandmother in you. She often said the same thing. Before she died, she taught Legolas as much as she could of this way of thinking. He was always much more accepting of others than I. Now here you are, leading the same example. I am proud of you Caladwen and I love you very much." The King regained his composure and stood straight and tall once again. He called for the others of his court to come to this gathering. When the other Elves were situated, he addressed them. "Set up a classroom for my granddaughter. Send out word of her teachings. It is time to go forward. This is no longer the woodland realm of Mirkwood. We have earned our rightful name back and we shall once again live openly and welcome the other races of Middle Earth. Caladwen will teach us about the world outside and when it is time, we will invite it here, to the Great Greenwood."
Caladwen noticed the joy on the faces of the other Elves. She could see that they longed for such change but had to abide by the choices of their King. She turned to Haldir. "I think were going to need quite a large teaching space."
Haldir smiled and kissed her cheek. "Do not worry, hervess nin, I will help you. Together we will show them their bright future."
Caladwen smiled at him and captured his lips. Their arms wrapped around each other and they seemed to melt into one. They forgot about those around them. It had been too long since they felt each other's touch.
Thranduil noticed this and smiled. He looked to the Elf standing next to him. "Is their room ready?"
"Yes my lord. Everything has been stocked up and is ready for them."
Thranduil had one last thing to say. "I think it is safe to say that these teachings will begin in one week. We shall let the newly bonded couple have their privacy until then. First, let us celebrate this union with a feast. Tonight, we honor the joining of Caladwen, Light of Lorien and Haldir, Marchwarden and Guardian of the Light."
"Yes my lord." said a group of Elves awaiting instructions.
Caladwen broke away from Haldir. "Thank you Grandfather."
"No… thank you Caladwen." he whispered and kissed her forehead. Then he turned to Gimli. "Well now Master Dwarf. Would you care to sample some of the finest wine in Middle Earth? I keep it in barrels in my cellar and only bring it out for such joyous occasions. Then if you think it is time, you may begin your story and ease my troubled mind."
Gimli laughed. "Yes, I think the cellar would be a good place to start. Now about those barrels…" he started as they headed off in that direction.
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.