Chapter 2: Observations
"Where exactly are we going?" I asked Legolas as we crested a hill.
"We are on an important quest whose details will remain in confidence right now." I do not blame them. I would not tell all my secrets to someone I found unconscious in the middle of a forest either.
We walked for probably another two hours, without a word between the group. Since my arrival, they all seem at ends, not speaking unless needed. They may have been together longer, but it still seemed like the males had tension throughout the company.
I was now at the middle of the group closely watching the three males in front of me. At the front of our group, leading, stood the tall old man, they called Gandalf. He was obviously well traveled and very wise. He had the authoritative vibe to him and it was almost intimidating. He fit the stories my father told me of the great Grey Pilgrim, Mithrandir, but he was just an old man, no wizard of old.
Legolas was exactly how I pictured a Mirkwood elf: elegant, strong, and beautiful. His hair was the pale blond and his skin was paler than most elves I've seen, most likely from his days under the trees. And his eyes were a dark blue I was automatically awestruck by, like water of a undisturbed lake on a summer day. He wore a dark wood bow and quiver, and what looked like twin knives, another commonality of Mirkwood. I had read much about Greenwood and its king, Thranduil, in the books my father brought back from his visits to Lothlorien.
Just ahead of me was Gimili, the Dwarf. Elves and Dwarves have long had quarrels over numerous things and seem to never make amends for long. Sadly, Gimili seems to be holding prejudices of me not just for my race but my gender. But I will be kind and give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves otherwise.
Behind me were the four hobbits. Strange creatures they are indeed. In the short time I've been with them, they seem to want nothing but food and ale. I've read very little on the Halflings of the Shire but they are living up to what I do know. There is Merry and Pippin, the most talkative of the bunch. Merry has light blond hair and dark eyes but seems to keep his friend in line. Pippin is the most curious of the hobbits. He always is asking questions of Gandalf or Aragorn. His darker hair and eyes give a mischievous aurora to the smallest hobbit. Sam is the heaviest of the four, but his dark blond hair,soft eyes, and smiles give him a kind, caring vibe. Frodo is the one everyone seems fretful over. He has dark brown curly hair and light blue eyes. There seems to be nothing different about him from what I can tell. But he seems timid and nervous constantly.
Nest was Aragorn, who had a rough but protective persona. He was determined and could not risk whatever this mission is. He reminded me of my younger brother, Jonoe, in quite a few ways. But his dark hair, light eyes, and rare smiles showed possibly a hard past.
Bringing up the rear of our group was Boromir, the other man. He spoke very little and seemed to always have a glare or scowl about him. From the start, I could sense the negative attitude coming from him. I kept my distance from the man wary of his reactions to my presence.
Finally, we stopped atop a hill where many boulders and rocks lay scattered. Boromir was showing Pippin and Merry how to fight. Aragorn would chime in from time to time as he smoked. The others seemed to be doing other things. Gandalf and Gimili were discussing which route to take from here. Sam and Frodo were making breakfast. Legolas stood on a far rock watching the distant areas. I went up to him.
"You should be resting, a head ailment is can be weakening. I do not see us stopping again until night fall." he said looking towards me.
"My pain is gone and the small cut is no longer bleeding. I am fine." I said joining his search of the horizon. I saw a dark cluster that looked like a cloud.
"What is that?" I said tilting my head to the side but straining my eyes harder to see.
"It's nothing, a wisp of a cloud." Gimili snorted.
"It's moving fast and against the wind?" Boromir had stopped the hobbits' lesson to look.
"It looks like birds…black birds." I said.
"It's Cerbians from Dunland!" Legolas shouted in warning jumping from the rocks back towards the others.
"Hide!" Aragorn called out. I saw everyone around the camp scattering to make our presence unknown. I felt a hand grab me and pull me under a bush. I looked back to see Legolas, leaning over me. I closed my eyes and listened as the birds passed by. The caws and screeches were too much and I had to cover my ears after only a short time. As they passed, everyone left their hiding space.
"The way to the south is being watched. We must now take the Pass of Caradhras," Gandalf said looking up to the mountain range. I didn't like the thought of going over the snow-peaked mountains. They looked unfriendly even from our distance away.
Two days later, we were at the base of said mountains. Gandalf ordered we rest here for the night, so we could start up the path in the morning. The others built a fire and spoke among themselves. Despite the time together, the environment didn't seem to have lightened at all. But I had spoken to almost everyone in the group at various times, even if only very briefly. Aragorn and Legolas were the most accepting of my presence. The hobbits didn't seem to mind me but kept to their own group when they had the opportunity.
"Mae, why don't you sit?" Aragorn offered moving over to make space for me by the fire. I contemplated it for a moment before locking eyes with Boromir who shot me a glare of warning.
"I'm fine. I'm going to take a look around." I said heading away from the fire.
To the west, a forest was standing in the shadows of the mountain. I felt slightly at ease after days in the open hills. I rested a hand on a tree's base and sighed. I never realized how much I missed the trees. The wind blew through the trees bringing the area to life. I heard something shift nearby and looked to see Legolas up in a nearby tree. He was sitting cross-legged and seemed unmoving. His eyes were closed and breathing was very even, almost as if he was sleeping. I smiled. He always seemed so tranquil even when the others couldn't be.
"Legolas, what are you doing?" I asked climbing to the branch below him. He opened his eyes briefly looking down at me.
"Listening to the world; it's calming." he said smiling before closing his eyes again.
"You are a gentle spirit." I said jumping up to his branch, sitting opposite him..
"I am no gentle spirit my lady. I am a woodland elf. I am best among the branches and foliage of a forest. I am enjoying what I can, while I can." He said taking another deep breath.
"Do you mind if I sit with you? I don't think the others like me." I said crossing my legs to match his stance but straightened my skirt appropriately.
"We elves feel safest among our own kind; you will naturally feel safer around me. The others are still adjusting to their own problems. Aragorn and I have known each other for many years and the hobbits are good friends as well but put together... not so. A woman makes things more difficult for most of them. Do not take it personally; they will all come around in time." He said with a smile.
"This quest, what is so important about it?" His face-hardened slightly and he opened his eyes.
"As much as I'd like to tell you, it is not time. You must earn the trust of the others before I can do so." he said sighing before returning to his mediation..
"I understand." I wouldn't trust someone after just a few days.
I leaned back against the trunk and just listened to the sounds around me. Legolas was right it is peaceful. I heard his soft heartbeat and even breathing. I listened further and heard the soft crackles of the fire and the conversations around it. I paid no attention to them. I listened to the breeze move throughout the forest: the soft sway of branches, the chirps and songs of birds readying for the night.
"Amazing isn't it?" he asked softly. I broke out of my trance.
"Yes. I never sat down and just listened before."
"Lorien is more of a light based realm. Mirkwood is based completely off our forest. We are taught to appreciate it from the time we are elflings."
"What is it like? You know being in an elvish city. My village was so small and secluded. I feel as though I know nothing of the world, despite my time in books. My mother often said I was safest away from people. I don't know why though." I said almost jumping at the opportunity to learn about elvish culture outside of a book.
"As Gandalf said, you were brought to us for a reason. And we will find out what." I smiled.
"Thank you Legolas."
"You're welcome Maethriel"
"Just Mae, I consider you a friend Legolas. Even though I just met you days ago, I know I can trust you." he tilted his head in confusion but then smiled and nodded.
Hours passed and we just talked. He told me of Mirkwood and other elvish customs that my village didn't practice. He didn't ask much about my village. I was very grateful because I don't know if I could handle that right now. We returned to camp and most were sleeping but Aragorn stood over the fire looking around the camp.
"Do you know how to fight?" Aragorn asked randomly. It must have been brought up around the fire. I was honestly taken off guard by the question but answered as truthfully as I could.
"I am trained with a bow, but as you see, I do not have mine with me. I am sorry." I said lowering my head. My father had gotten me my bow for my 225th birthday and it was most likely burned with my village. He turned around before looking into his pack and pulled out a bundle.
"Here, it isn't much but it is better than you being defenseless." Aragorn said handing me a small black bow and a sheath of arrows.
"Thank you, I appreciate this." I said running my hand over the bow.
"Our path is not always going to be safe. You will need to protect yourself in case we cannot." I looked up at him briefly in confusion. But, I nodded in thanks and laid down on the two cloaks I had been given by Legolas and Aragorn. I watched the fire dim as sleep took me some hours later.