Chapter 1: Of Silvans
Mellolaes raced through the wood. Her heart pounded in her ears. Her breath could not come fast enough. In her mind she was yelling.
I’m coming! I’m coming!
The scream in Ilúvatar’s song drew nearer. She could feel the anxiousness in Nithrestil behind her. Mellolaes had not told her friend why she suddenly raced away, yet Nithrestil did not call out either. They were drawing near the area it was no longer safe to go. Nithrestil would know why soon.
Mellolaes sensed the guards and scouts scattered throughout the trees above her. They comforted her, but it would not have mattered if they had not been there. Nothing mattered but this screaming she felt in the core of her Silvan heart and bones.
Some of the trees and plants were drawing aside for her. Mellolaes was grateful, especially with her skirts hampering her. She vaulted a log and heard cloth tear. She stumbled slightly, before catching herself and going on. The elleth grit her teeth in frustration.
I knew I should have changed into my archer’s outfit.
Not that she was a true archer like those in the trees, or her brother, or her father. She kept in practice, but her passion was not in the song of hissing arrow and released bowstring. It was in healing. The scream in the song grew louder and closer. Her heart answered it.
Almost there, almost there!
She rushed into a small clearing and stopped. This would be a good place to meet her patient. She sent out her message in touch, including that of her bare feet upon the earth. Please, please, block her path, close her in, stop her flight!
The bushes and trees were more reluctant to do this than they had been to clear the elleth's own path. Getting out of the way was one thing. Getting into the way was another. A few did as she asked, but not fast enough.
Mellolaes could feel Nithrestil catching up behind. A strong elf warrior was somewhere overhead, but Mellolaes’ own eyes focused on where the bushes were being crashed through. She tensed.
The doe burst from the bushes and trees. Her sides were swelling and lathered. Her eyes were widened in terror. The plants in her way were not holding her. Mellolaes stepped in the deer’s path and held up her arms. If the deer simply continued over her . . .
An elven warrior dropped from the trees and wrapped his arms around the doe’s neck as he landed, his feet barely touching the ground. The doe reared up on her hind legs, then brought them down with a thump and froze. Mellolaes took a stride backward to avoid the front hooves. Then she rushed forward and wrapped her arms about the neck and heaving chest of the animal as well. The warrior smiled wearily at Mellolaes.
“In need of aid, milady?”
“Yes, thank you, Collas.”
Nithrestil appeared. She began to sing a healing song of Doriath. Mellolaes and Collas joined in the song.
The doe continued to shiver where she stood, but the elf and elleth could feel the terror draining out of her. Collas and Mellolaes loosened their grip, and ran their hands over her flanks. Blood. Long gashes. Warg bites!
The doe collapsed. Mellolaes and Collas knelt down at her side. Nithrestil leapt forward, sat down with crossed legs, lifted the doe’s head, and placed it in her lap. She ran her hand over its head and continued to sing softly. Collas gazed at the beast.
“She must have run for miles.”
Mellolaes nodded. Both Silvans could sense there were no wargs nearby. Nithrestil broke off from her song. Her voice trembled, though she kept it sweet.
“I do not think we can save her.”
Mellolaes pulled some of the Athelas she had been gathering from her pouch and placed it against the bite marks without replying. A short while later, the doe sighed and went still.
Mellolaes smashed her fist against the earth. Collas cursed all wargs. Nithrestil looked up and met Mellolaes’ gaze.
Mellolaes put her hands and one ear over the stilled side and listened. Yes, the fawn was still alive inside, a few days from being born. Mellolaes became still. The rest of The Song, her companions, and her surroundings faded from the elleth's mind. She concentrated on the sound of the heartbeat, the way it pulsed pushing life throughout the rest of the creature. A picture formed in her mind of where the fawn’s heart was, its chest, its head, its body, and finally all four legs and hooves. She knew where it was, and where it wasn’t.
Collas was just about to reach out to both comfort and draw Mellolaes away when she drew her knife. Before he could stop her, she stabbed the doe’s underside. The cut was far up missing both of the tiny, folded up, back legs within. She drew the blade down. Thank Ilúvatar and the king for healer’s blades from Rivendell. Warm blood gushed out over the grass. The moment after Mellolaes realized the blood might not only draw the forest’s wolves, but also entice wargs deeper into their realm.
After thinking this, Mellolaes finally felt the fear and frustration of the warrior at her side. She also noted the amazement and nervousness of her friend. The Healer paused for a moment.
I might as well finish now.
Mellolaes dropped the blade and thrust her arms inside the warm body. Her hands wrapped around the front and back leg. She pulled. The fawn emerged and began to struggle at the sudden change of environment. It was a little doe.
Mellolaes smiled. She had already known, but it was so nice to see with her eyes what she had felt in the song. The elleth wiped blood and other bodily fluids of birth off the creature. Nithrestil came over to help. Collas grimaced before turning his face away. Mellolaes glanced at the elf. Her lips curved up in a smirk.
“Why great warrior, do you not see blood all the time?”
“I do, but I do not purposely cover myself in it.”
Mellolaes and Nithrestil dried the fawn off together with Collas standing next to them, not watching. Several other warriors had surrounded them in the branches above.
Mellolaes lifted the new-born in her arms, stood, and strode toward the nearest stream of water. She, Nithrestil, and Collas left the body of the doe for the wolves. All gave backward glances of regret. Some of the warriors in the trees followed them, and others went to reinforce the border, and watch for the wargs that would be drawn to the blood.
At the stream, Nithrestil took the fawn from Mellolaes and finished cleaning it with the water. Mellolaes stepped away to clean herself. In the end she removed both her outer shirt and skirt. Collas’ eyes widened at this. He drew back and turned away again. The other warriors in the trees joined him in this, except for the few elleth among them.
Nithrestil then handed the fawn back to Mellolaes. The darker elleth also removed her light cloak and put it over her friend’s shoulders. The cloak covered Mellolaes’ back, and the Fawn covered her front. The under skirt was just barely see-through anyway. The leggings beneath were the same color.
The small creature shivered and nestled into Mellolaes’ arms, as content as a hungry fawn could be, but she was hungry. Mellolaes let her lick some water from her fingers, but water was not all the babe needed.
Shortly after arriving in The Hidden Valley, Legolas glanced from one dark haired elf to another. All three refused to meet his gaze. Finally, Lord Elrond of Imladris straightened in the chair behind his office desk.
“How old did you say this elleth is?”
“She is less than a half-century younger than I.”
Elrond glanced at his twins. They shrugged. Both had been considered adults centuries before Legolas was born. However, there were still times their father wasn’t convinced they had “grown up.” He looked back to the even younger warrior before him.
“You said her heritage is ‘common’ elf?”
Their guest from Mirkwood narrowed his eyes at him.
“I said her heritage is 'Silvan.' Her ancestors dwelt in trees, guarding themselves and their homes through their secrecy and courage, long before my father and his left Doriath.”
“She has no Noldor blood, no ancestor of Doriath?”
Legolas hesitated half a second before replying.
“No . . . but her great-grandfather is Glingol. He provides the northern wood with honey and wax. His wife, Yavistui, is wise in the ways of fruit trees. Together they provide Green Wood the Great’s warriors, my father’s household, and the men of Lake-town with dried and honey-coated fruit for the winter. Mellolaes’ is also a descendant of Maercheredir, a famous Silvan artisan of pottery and basket weaving. He provided the Silvans with the means to store their food for winter long before my ancestors were their kings. His wife, Calenthril is the cloth maker of the lake-shore. When my grandfather set up the earthen palace he wisely took them and their children into his household. There, their skill grew beneath the instruction of those who followed Oropher from Doriath. The daughter of Calnethril apprenticed with the finest weaver of my grandfather’s household, Celefnethril. Istuinethril soon surpassed her mother in the art. Istuinethril later wed one of the sons of Glingol and Yavistui. Their daughter is Mellolaes’ mother, Merilvidh. Mellolaes has inherited her ancestor’s skill and patience in working her tasks to perfection.”
Elrond leaned back in his chair and pressed his fingertips together.
“What of the other branch of her family?”
Legolas broke eye contact with the elven Lord. Then the warrior forced himself to again meet his host's gaze.
“Her father is a great warrior. All members of his family are either warriors or healers, which is likely how Mellolaes gained the gift of healing hands herself.
Elrond glanced back to his twins. They shrugged again. The Lord of Imladris re-straightened in his seat, leaned forward, and pinned Legolas with his stare.
“How Silvan is she?”
Legolas smirked nervously.
“You mean is she defiant and reckless?”
Elrond shook his head while making a dismissive gesture with his hand.
“That is not all that ‘Silvan’ means.”
Elrohir leaned forward to rest an elbow on his father's desk and smiled at his friend.
“We are also asking if she sings and laughs as often as Silvan’s are known to.”
Elladan leaned back to rest his head against his interlaced fingers.
“And does she aim her arrows better than she wields a sword when she’s not speaking with trees?”
Elrohir scowled at his twin. Elladan grinned back. Elrond lifted a brow at them both. Legolas rolled his eyes at them all, but turned a straight face back to Elrond.
“Some have called her reckless . . .” the elven lord raised an eyebrow, but remained silent as the younger elf went on, “and when she thinks differently than her superiors she may do something other than what they have asked.” Legolas turned to Elrohir, “And, yes, she does sing and laugh more often than most elves in this valley.” Legolas then glared at Elladan, “She also speaks with trees. Though she is no warrior, she can draw a bow as well as aim an arrow. Her father has carefully taught all his descendants to defend themselves, and their home with both knife and bow. This last century my father has demanded the same from our entire household. I have never heard of her learning to wield a sword though.”
Elrond continued to stare at the warrior of Mirkwood. “Then she is thoroughly Silvan.”
Legolas turned his glare upon the Lord of Imladris. “Does being ‘thoroughly Silvan’ make one untrustworthy of the care of a child in Imladris?”
Elrond sighed. “No, Thranduilion, it does not. But it is apparent that Estel needs to learn obedience and discipline. Having one aid in raising him, who holds these things lightly in esteem, could undermine his developing these qualities himself.”
Legolas’ shoulders lowered slightly. It was true. If Estel ever came fully into his own he would need to have court manners a true Silvan could not teach him.
“Adar, he has you, Erestor, Glorfindel, and us to teach him such things.”
Legolas and Elrond both turned to stare at Elladan. Elrohir nodded beside his brother. “Estel needs another who can play with him.”
After a long moment of staring at his sons from beneath furrowed brows, Elrond turned to the other young elf and nodded. “I will keep your suggestion in mind as I make this decision, Thranduilion.”
The three younger elves left the study to go to the stables, where Legolas could check on his horse. “How likely is it your adar will actually consider my suggestion?”
Elrohir sighed. “He will when he runs out of other options.”
The three elves of Mirkwood approached a thicket of brambles. Curled up within them was a tiny, female fawn three days old. Nithrestil sighed. “One of a pair of twins. The other was dead before they were born.”
A scowl furrowed the elf's face as his fists clenched near the twin knives at his hips. “Such things did not used to happen in Green Wood the Great.”
Collas and most of the other warriors were growing bitter with their inability to hold back the evil that was spreading through their Kingdom. Nithrestil reached up and touched his arm in shared sorrow. She used to live in the now darkened southern section of their wood.
The elf sighed. Then he turned and held his arms out while keeping his eyes upon the place the older fawn hid. “Give me the babe then.”
Mellolaes stepped back and clutched her burden tighter to herself. “Why? Do you even know what to do?”
Collas was startled into looking at her. He placed his hands on his hips and laughed. “I was finding new born fawns before you were born.”
The elleth smirked at him. “Not for very long before.”
He opened his own grinning mouth to say something back, but Nithrestil reached up and laid a hand on his shoulder. “Just let her do it, she knows what she wants done.”
Collas gave the briefest of doubtful glances at the hem of Mellolaes' skirt, but then he shrugged and leapt into the tree branches above. Mellolaes took a deep breath, held the fawn close, and began to struggle toward the other fawn through the brambles. Her face twisted into a slight snarl. Cursed skirt!
Then the elleth began to sing as she approached. The other fawn looked up in curiosity, unafraid. She was small, even for only being three days old, as a twin would be. She was just the same size as the fawn Mellolaes held. The elleth set her patient down beside the other fawn, carefully watching their meeting. They sniffed each other. Then the new born cuddled against the slightly older creature who let her.
Mellolaes grabbed handfuls of the nearby soil that smelled most of the urine and droppings of this fawn and its mother. This she rubbed over the orphan, while continuing to sing. Nithrestil went out to find and ready the doe.
The songs of both the Green Wood Silvans and those of Doriath are powerful in their effect upon animals. The doe returned to her own fawn in a motherly and loving mood. She first sniffed the new fawn in suspicion, but she only smelled the scent of her own fawn, herself, and the elves she trusted. At the new fawn’s hungry cries the doe’s instincts surged forth. She let both fawns nurse. Mellolaes, Nithrestil, and Collas sighed in relief.
Just in case, Mellolaes perched in a nearby tree and continued to watch. Nithrestil went back to the palace to get her friend a change of clothes. When she returned, the darker elleth took over the watch. Mellolaes changed behind a surrounding veil of helpful vines, trees, and brambles. When the elleth came out, fully dressed, she almost ran into a waiting Collas. His merry, green eyes were unusually solemn. “I’m going to have to inform the King about how you endangered our Kingdom, Mellolaes.”
The elleth sighed. “I know. I didn’t think, at least I was thinking, but only about saving the life before me.”
Collas smiled and softened his voice. “Which is why you are a healer and not a warrior.”
Mellolaes looked up into the elf’s face with a sly smile. “It seems I’ve heard of certain warriors saving one life, against orders, and in a reckless manner.”
Collas cleared his throat, while trying to stop a grin from spreading over his face.
“We are always punished for that.”
Mellolaes laid a hand on one of the warrior’s crossed arms. He looked down into her face. She smiled.
“Warriors are not that different from healers.”
A grin spread over the elf’s face. He slowly shook his head and chuckled. “No. No, we are not. I will say so to the King. He is more understanding of Silvan recklessness than you would suppose, unless it is one of his family members. Then he is less understanding. Yet, if your recklessness was in saving one of his family, he is more understanding.”
“You speak from experience?”
Collas chuckled again and shrugged. “Captain Legolas takes after his mother.”
“I fail to see why the idea is a bad one.”
Elrond and Erestor glared at Glorfindel. The Balrog Slayer shrugged his broad shoulders. “The Silvans long kept themselves safe through secrecy and skill rather than strong weapons and walls. Though they never directly defied the enemy they slew all his servants who came to them. The monsters never even saw who slew them, yet all who passed through heard their songs. Fair was their land in elder days. They know Arda far better than the Noldor, or even the Sindar. A Silvan could teach Estel things it would be good for a future ranger to learn about beasts, plants, and trees. If she indeed has experience with manlings, and is sensitive to the presence and health of all young things, I don’t see why this ‘Mellolaes’ would not make a fine guardian for Estel.”
Erestor huffed up at the taller elf. “You forget your own saying about Silvan warriors making bad soldiers.”
Glorfindel raised his light eyebrows at the darker elf. “We are hiring her as a soldier?”
“A household should be as disciplined as an army. Inviting a Silvan here as a servant would unleash chaos in our midst.”
“During my last visit Thranduil’s household seemed to be in order.”
Their lord cut in and both elves gave him their attention.
“Perhaps we argue for no reason, Estel was not failed by every member of the household staff. Now that our dwarf guests have left and no other guests except Legolas are present, or expected for weeks, it would be a suitable time to discreetly see if any among our own servants are a suitable caretaker for Estel.”
Glorfindel and Erestor nodded. So, the subject of Mellolaes -the Silvan expert on caring for young things- was temporarily dropped.
After five days of watching over the fawn in its new family and all going well, Mellolaes was called in to see the King. She sighed when Nithrestil gave her the news. Still, the King had been kind to give her this much time with her patient. Thankfully, the extra guards near the doe’s body seemed to have deterred wargs and other creatures of the darkness from entering the “safe” area.
Ordinary wolves and scavengers had gotten rid of the remains. Mellolaes had shivered when she had been told that. As both an elf and a healer, she was repulsed by death. She could handle anything while in the process of saving life, but death itself and the living death the enemy gave his dark creatures made her experience chills, nausea, and depression. She put such thoughts from her mind as she made her way to the palace.
Now thoroughly washed and in her best dress, Mellolaes Merilvidhian curtsied low before her King. Sitting on his throne was Thranduil, ruler of Green Wood the Great, now Mirkwood. Beldoron, the King’s second eldest son, stood left of the throne.
Beldoron’s face was straight, almost grim. He wore a breastplate and sword belt that had been made for a member of Doriath’s royal guard. On the King’s right stood his wife, Queen Lathwinn. She was dressed in the garb of a Silvan archer, green and easy to move in, a warrior of speed and secrecy rather than strength. She gazed upon Mellolaes with a gentle smile. Mellolaes had a hard time not smiling back.
The King’s own appearance was a mixture of Green Wood the Great and Doriath. His robe was dark green, but he wore a bright breastplate and a sword belt, both like Beldoron’s, but more ornate. His crown of living branches though, was extremely Silvan. Flowers were growing from it now since it was early spring.
Mellolaes rose from her curtsy. “You wished to see me, my king?”
Thranduil nodded. “I do. I have received troubling news about actions you took five nights ago. Do you know what these actions were?”
“I believe so, my King. I spilled a great deal of a dead beast’s blood near the rim of the safe area, which could have drawn our enemies into it.”
“By doing such you could have put the lives of our warriors and perhaps others at risk. Why did you do this?”
Mellolaes grimaced. “I wanted to save the life of a single fawn. I did not think of other possible consequences until I had acted.”
Thranduil sighed. He raised his eyes toward the ceiling. Ruling Silvans was not an easy task.
Some might disagree. Rulers such as Elrond, Celeborn, and leaders of men might think it the work of a lazy king to rule a people used to taking care of themselves. The Silvans did not think to send for aid or take disagreements and problems to their king except in last resort. They even seemed to forget most of the time that they had a king.
The Southern Wood was filling with giant spiders and wargs with a taste for elf flesh. Yet, his own royal guard had been necessary to extract the few non-warriors of his people from their homes as evil advanced upon them. His best diplomats had even had to convince the warrior family members of these stubborn citizens to be of aid in getting them to safety. Otherwise the warriors might have fought the royal guard taking their non-warrior family members away.
Thranduil had also found that if you gave a Silvan an order in a relaxed situation, you could be almost certain it would be followed. Give them an order in a perilous situation, and they frequently did something else. Afterwards, if they lived through their disobedience, they simply said they had thought their idea was better than yours.
The oddest discovery he had made ruling over Silvans, though, was how honest and forthright they were. A people famous for their slyness, their secrecy, and their mysteriousness towards outsiders, they did not bother to hide their thoughts from those they trusted even if these thoughts were rather offensive.
Then there were times like these. A Silvan’s full defense for ignoring a command, might be having simply forgotten it, and usually it was the truth. How did you punish forgetfulness?
Thranduil felt a hand upon his shoulder. He looked up. His wife was smiling down in sympathy and, from the light in her eyes, amusement.
He gave a quirk of a corner of his mouth back up at her. Yes, all this and he had married one of them. If he had been given the choice of wedding any other elleth, he would have still chosen her. If he was given the choice of ruling any other people, he would have still chosen this one.
At times like these though, Thranduil would again wish he was still supporting Oropher’s rule rather than performing his own. He had especially begun to feel so during this dark time. In fact, he simply missed his father altogether.
Thranduil shook himself from his musings and turned back to the elleth still awaiting his judgment. The King of Mirkwood rose from his throne and looked down into the elleth’s face. His deep, orator’s voice filled the entire hall of judgment.
“Since none of the great consequences that could have come from your actions occurred, and because you merely forgot you could endanger many lives in your zeal to save one, I order you, as your king, to stay within the palace for three days and nights.” Thranduil watched the elleth’s face fall at her punishment. In a quieter voice, and with another quirk in the corner of his mouth her king added, “Try not to forget.”
Mellolaes sighed. This was not the worst possible consequence of her actions. However, not being able to go outside for extended periods of time was a punishment indeed in a Silvan’s opinion and being gently teased by her king, while far better than being an object of his wrath, was still humiliating.
“Thank you for your mercy, majesty.”
Thranduil nodded and replied in his gentler tone.
“You are both welcome and dismissed, Merilvidhian.”
Mellolaes gave another deep curtsy, mumbled a farewell she didn’t remember afterwards, and retreated out of the room in a somewhat dignified fashion.