Of Replies and Suggestions
Queen Galadriel, Lady of the Golden Wood, to Elrond Half-Elven, Rightful Lord of the Blessed Realm of the Hidden Valley, Our Warmest Greetings
I fear I am unable to fulfill your request. My own heart feels your burden, and I dearly wish to lighten it, but my duties prevent me from doing so myself. Neither can I simply command one of my subjects to do this task.
Many among my people would fill this role if I asked it of them. However, they love our kingdom with all their beings. Even in your own fair realm, they would yearn for ours. The one I sent would undertake this responsibility with firm resolve rather than joy. This would destroy their ability to do the task well. In spite of my inability to do as you ask myself, I pray you will take my counsel instead.
There is a certain elleth in the Kingdom that neighbors ours, which has both recently and unhappily been renamed “Mirkwood.” This Silvan elleth’s name is Mellolaes. Many and wondrous are the things I have heard of her skills with the young.
I only met her once. My husband and I were visiting the halls of Thranduil's palace. Mellolaes was barely an elleth rather than an elfling at the time, but I recall her well. She was watching after her twin cousins who were younger than her. They were both lively elflings with signs of being great warriors even then. In spite of their boundless energy and the mischief glinting in their eyes, she kept them courteous in my husband’s and my presence. From raising elfings myself, I know this was no small feat.
There was a younger elleth than she, whom we brought with us from Lothlórien. This little one become quite nervous and shy away from home. Mellolaes took the youngling under her care. The elleth blossomed into friendly confidence beneath her fellow elfling's welcome. I understand they still write each another.
Since our visit, Mellolaes has been the nurse of four elflings, including the daughter of King Thranduil himself. I am also given to understand she has a peculiar interest and love of manlings, often visiting cottages of the woodmen, the city of Dale before its fall, and now Lake-town. She aided the humans during the past four plagues, has helped heal numerous manlings of different ills between times, and plays with them in their health. It is even rumored that the elleth once played with a group of dwarflings she met in Dale.
Mellolaes is known for gaining both the obedience and love of her charges. I have also heard she is faithful in the completion of her tasks, courteous to all, and steadfast in the face of trials. She even has great powers of healing praised by Mirkwood’s queen herself.
My opinion is that Mellolaes would perform well in the role you desire filled in your household. I advise you to write King Thranduil and request her services.
Sincerely and with much fondness and respect, your unwavering friend,
Galadriel, Lady of the Golden Wood
Elrond’s eyes closed after he finished reading. Then he lowered his forehead to the cool wood of his desk. The elven lord didn’t know which would be more humiliating, if Galadriel knew of him already refusing to seek Mellolaes services or if she did not. Either way, he would never be allowed to forget it if he didn’t heed her advice.
“Our answer is no, your highness. You, Collas, and Rhovamil may not practice your archery here. Not unless the king himself commands us to let you. If you try it, one of us will stand in the way of your shots while the other goes and complains to his majesty against your actions.”
Nithrestil nodded support behind her companion. Legolas looked back to meet the other healer's gaze. The green eyes staring into his were as hard as oak wood. All around deer, rabbits, birds, and other creatures frolicked, sang, ate, and basked in sunlight. The elves were the only point of contention in the meadow.
Legolas could feel his friend's disappointment behind him. It was just as deep, but not as keen as his own. The other elf had not gotten his hopes as high. The elleth behind him though, was chuckling at his back. “I told you 'nurse' would not let us practice here, toron nin.”
Legolas clenched his jaw. He would not turn and glare at his cheeky sister. That would mean breaking eye-contact with the elleth before him.
Instead, he continued to stare into the healer’s unblinking eyes. The breeze played in his hair, but he forced the rest of himself to remain still. His arms were crossed, his back straight, his chin lifted, and his voice lowered to the tone his father used while holding court. “Would you at least tell me why we cannot train here instead of on the crowded practice range and shore?”
Mellolaes uncrossed her own arms to sweep them outwards. “You can hear, see, and feel for yourself the thousands of reasons surrounding us. This meadow is just as crowded as the practice range, only with birds and beasts who have fled the darkness.”
She then pointed over his shoulder at the two fellow archers behind him. “One of your arrows could injure or kill something, likely a youngling, if you practice here.”
Legolas fists snapped to his sides where they clenched. His shoulders bunched. He stamped his right foot into the ground.
Chuckles escaped both his sister and friend. The warrior closed his eyes and drew in a long breath. He had just lost any awe gained from resembling his royal father. All around him now saw only his very Silvan mother. An impressive figure was Lathwinn the Great, but she had not the mysterious grandeur of her husband. Most thought of her as one of their own and a prime example of a Silvan temper.
Legolas took in a deep breath. His hands relaxed at his sides. His eyes opened and looked straight into those of the elleth. He re-straightened his back, re-raised his chin, and recrossed his arms. Surely he must again look like a son of King Thranduil again.
He took in a breath, opened his mouth, and all was lost. Words poured forth. The more that came out, the more they became a stream of Silvan temper. “You speak as if we are younglings ourselves at our first practice. We have all been archers for centuries! We are Silvan. We feel Ilúvatar’s song. We are not cruel. Hundreds of times, all of us have shot our arrows so they flew by a friend’s face and killed the foe behind him. Why do you so fear our arrows?”
Mellolaes, arms crossed, drew herself up to her full height while continuing to meet his gaze. “I can feel the song as well as you, Thranduilion. I cannot always know where an animal will be in one eye-blink. Anything could make a bird fly or deer run into your shot. Once an arrow is loosed it cannot be called back.”
Legolas glared. Frustration burned in his veins. He wanted to argue. The movements of animals could be predicted. An arrow’s flight was faster than the flight of a bird or a running deer. What she feared was not at all likely to occur. Yet . . .
He could not swear it would not. The meadow was more filled with animals than he had ever seen it before. The chances of hitting one were higher than he had known they would be when the idea to practice here had occurred to him. His form slumped and head bowed. At the healer's next words, the first stiffened and latter jerked up. “The three of you could continue north and east until you come to the edge of the wood. You can practice there.”
Legolas stared into the twinkling, green eyes of the Silvan healer. She was smirking at him. He blinked back. “We would not return before dark.”
The elleth folded her arms and shrugged. “You can choose for yourselves, to return, to go, or to send word to the king and have him give you his leave to practice here. Even I am not so bold as to go against the command of the king,” she looked up to the sky with eyes squinted in thought, “that I know of. I have never been quite desperate enough. I have thought about it before not more than a month ago in fact.”
Legolas closed his eyes. He forced his form to stiffen rather than squirm. Rhovamil chuckled behind him again. He could also sense that Collas was now amused.
The fact Tirven had not come with them was an obvious sign they did not have the King’s blessing. Not that Thranduil had forbidden it, or had reason to do so. He had simply not been asked. And why should they have bothered the king when he was always busy these years? Why should they bother him now? The northern edge of their kingdom was a far walk . . . but . . . Legolas turned to his best friend and sister. “What say you both?”
Rhovamil’s head snapped up to meet his gaze. She lifted her chin. “I can walk as far as you and farther.”
Collas shrugged. “The work would seem much for little if I were any less weary of the crowds of the practice fields. Weariness from long travel may prove a welcome change.”
Legolas turned back to the healer. His shoulders slumped and frame went lax with dejection. He seemed to simply hang in the air before the Silvan elleth. “We will journey on as you suggest and return late in the night drinking and eating whatever we can find on our way back.”
Mellolaes smirked, raised her right hand, and waggled its fingers at him. “Nithrestil and I will look forward to your company's return, highness.”
Glorfindel and Erestor both stood still as a painting while Elrond lowered the letter from the Lady of the Golden Wood. Its words were still echoing through their minds. The Balrog Slayer spoke first. “It is decided then, we send for this Silvan elleth at last?”
Erestor's eyes snapped. “We can try the Grey Havens.”
Elrond’s eyes rose. “Truly my friend, you wish us to send word to those gathered by the western sea contemplating taking the final voyage to the land of bliss, that the position of a manling’s nurse is available in Rivendell?”
Erestor spread his hands. “Would it harm any if we tried?”
Elrond and Glorfindel exchanged a glance. Then the Lord addressed his Steward. “Galadriel will at the worst be offended we did not immediately take her advice and at best laugh at us for making this attempt instead.”
“Not if the attempt succeeds. This time, we will send with our missive a respected high elf, or a Sindar who behaves himself like a high elf. He will speak with all graciousness to his own people and make our request in the most convincing of words.”
The steward turned to the Lord of the Golden Flower. Glorfindel’s brows shot upwards. “I?”
Erestor held his head still higher to meet the taller elf's gaze. “You are likely the most respected elf in Arda and the only one to pass through the Grey Havens from the other direction since Eärendil’s sailors returned.”
Elrond frowned. “But he is needed here.”
Glorfindel nodded. “Indeed, if the valley were to be attacked or come to any harm in my absence, I would take the next ship back to the Blessed Land myself in sorrow and shame.”
The steward nodded. His face hardened. “Then I will go.”
Elrond laid his forehead down into the palms of his hands. “Erestor, if any of us go we will soon be in the same straights as convinced us of our need in the first place. None should go who are trustworthy of caring for Estel.”
The other two elves fell silent. Their gazes pierced the floor. Elrond' pierced his desk.
A knock sounded through the room. Glorfindel and Erestor turned questioning glances toward their lord. He nodded. The steward opened the door. Lindir appeared in the entryway.
“I am sorry to disturb all of you, my Lord Elrond, Head Steward Erestor, Captain Glorfindel the Balrog Slayer, but your presence is requested by an embassy of our esteemed kin. They have just arrived from the Grey Havens and wish to speak to you of trading goods from the sea for goods from our beloved valley. I told them I would bring you shortly. Would it please you if I play them the piece I wrote of Elwing’s flight when your business with them is concluded?”
The other three elves exchanged grins. Lindir stiffened. His stomach twisted. The minstrel felt he had walked in at the wrong time for his own good.
The abnormal sight of trudging elves caught more than a few night creatures' attention. The warriors' journey to the northern edge of the wood had been fine. The view of the Grey Mountains in the distance was wondrous. The quiet had been a welcome change to the barrage of twangs from one hundred bowstrings followed by the thunks of their striking arrows that continued every moment of every day and night on the practice field and shore.
The three archers had practiced between the forest and feet of the mountains as the sun sank behind the woods at their backs. Then they had continued beneath the stars. They had practiced until even their elven muscles began to feel the strain. Their journey back now, though, was dark, long, and uninteresting.
Legolas was feeling resentful of it. Rhovamil and Collas thought him irked, because training in the meadow had been his suggestion. Collas had embraced it. Rhovamil had been the first to mention her old nurse would not allow it. She had come anyway, partly in case she was wrong, but mostly to see the altercation she was sure of.
Only Legolas knew Mellolaes had also proven why Lord Elrond had scorned his “other” suggestion. Few elves in the Hidden Valley, other than Erestor and Glorfindel, would deny their lord's sons to their faces. Elladan and Elrohir did not often take advantage of this. Them doing so had only to be mentioned to their father, the Steward of their household, or the Balrog Slayer and the brothers would not find their fun worth it. How the twins would have laughed though, to see the healer without a drop of royal blood stand before King Thranduil's son and tell him “no.”
Collas and Rhovamil thought little of Mellolaes denying his request. Such a thing was not surprising in Mirkwood. Their visits to other elven kingdoms had been few. Collas enjoyed the company of Elrond’s sons, but found the cultured serenity of Rivendell dull. Rhovamil found it even more so.
They had only hoped Mellolaes might not deny their request. Neither had bitterness in their hearts because she had. Legolas had hoped more than they if only because it would prove the elves of Rivendell wrong, that a Silvan healer could fit in with them just fine. He had been proven wrong instead.
Legolas was also irked, because clear water and wild growing things were good, but more prepared and pampered foods were being enjoyed at that moment by those who had earlier endured the crowded practice ranges. Collas had grown up outside the palace. Eating what grew along his way was natural to him. Rhovamil’s pride would not let her admit, even to herself, she felt differently. Legolas fully admitted to himself that he did mind.
The warriors, finally, came within sight of the meadow. The stars and moon illuminated the clearing. Most of the birds were asleep. The choruses of nightingales and hooting of owls were the only bird songs now. Yet the field was even more crowded with deer and nocturnal animals than it had been in the day. After taking this in the archers' gazes fixed upon something near the field's center.
On a wide sheet of cloth sat two bottles of wine and two of Miruvor with empty glasses sparkling beside them. A basket of the choicest of strawberries rested upon the sheet as well. There was also a salad of greens babied by the palace gardeners, sprinkled with wine vinegar, and topped with shavings of wild carrot, broken bits of last year’s walnuts, and crumbled bits of cheeses purchased in Dale before its fiery destruction. Nithrestil and Mellolaes sat on either side of the feast. The healers were beaming up at the archers.
“Welcome back weary travelers. Will you join us?”