Into the Light
Chapter 23: Into the Light
At first the bonfire lit the ground beneath the trees, and she could see easily enough. She started in the direction that he had left. Soon the lights of the clearing dimmed to a mere twinkle. The music faded into the chirp of crickets and the night song of birds. She moved smoothly twixt the trees, her eyes anxiously scanning her path. Occasionally she saw the glimmer of yellow eyes, in the trees, on the ground. She remembered Legolas telling her about the spiders of his forest.
Miredhel gripped her knife. He could not have gone very far, could he? The woods grew darker, only illuminated by a pale slice of moon from behind clouds. She could no longer see the bonfire behind her. She remembered very how she had foolishly not told anyone that she was leaving. What if Legolas had already returned to the feast and thought that she had left with Limaer? The best course of action would be to return to the forest circle.
Behind her, a twig snapped.
Miredhel slid behind a tree. "Legolas?" she asked hopefully, knowing that a wood elf like the prince could walk soundlessly through the forest. Whatever that was, it was not he. Miredhel studied the tree behind her, wondering if she could seek refuge in its branches. She looked down at her long white gown--beautiful, yes, but not so useful for climbing. The footfalls grew closer.
Miredhel aborted the idea of climbing a tree. She left the path and hastily moved from tree to tree, seeking protection from their broad trunks. Another pair of yellow eyes flickered in the dark. Miredhel sucked in her breath. Her idea had been so foolish. She should never have come. She pushed her way through several large ferns and underbrush, well aware of the steady tread behind her.
She would sneak back to the path, if she could find it and then speed back to the clearing. Hopefully, she could outrun this forest creature. She unsheathed her knife and waited. The forest grew silent. Her stalker had stopped. She picked up her skirts in her free hand that held the jeweled knife scabbard and very carefully began to loop her way back to the path. 'Please, do not let it be one of those spiders,' she prayed. After all, the Lady Galadriel had cleansed the forest of the creatures, had she not?
In the moonlight, she could see the forms of many velvety black moths flitting amidst the silvery moss and crackled lichens that gleamed in the tree branches. Vivid memories of an old dream returned to her, one in which she had seen Annariel in Mirkwood, fighting—the battle, the blood. She had seen these moths in her dream. Dark, silent guardians, rising in the haze of arrows and black orcs, they hid her friend from her sight. Miredhel clenched her eyes shut at the memory, as real as life it was.
When she opened her eyes, she caught a dim figure move before the trees in front of her, blocking her access to the path. An orc? She was trapped. Miredhel tightened her hold on her knife. She silently crept toward the path, her knife poised in the air before her. Three more steps. Two more steps. She took a deep breath and willed her heart to stop pounding. She squeezed the handle of her blade. One more step.
But before Miredhel could act, the orc leapt from around the tree, pinning her shoulders to the ground. Her knife clattered to the forest floor. Her arm stretched out to reach it when the creature's claws caught in her hair, pulling back her head to expose her neck. The cruelty in his eyes consumed her. She twisted beneath his weight. She would have cried out, if not for his blade pressed to her throat, sticky with dried gore.
"Go ahead and scream," he hissed. "Tastier for me…" He delighted in the fear in her eyes. She would do nicely.
Miredhel watched his eyes roam from her body to her hair, and the beast growled, a thick rumble against her chest. She held her breath.
"Urgrech," he cursed with pleasure. "Prince's love!"
"What?" Miredhel gasped.
The orc ripped some blooms from her hair and held them to the moonlight. Miredhel's arm was free again. She stole a glance to where her knife lay, and covertly reached to grab it.
The orc ran a claw down her cheek, and she shuddered despite herself. He shredded the purple blossoms in his claw. "You have the flowers in your hair," he growled. "The royal house…a sweet prize." He took his knife from her throat and dragged it across her collarbone, leaving a jagged trail of red droplets. He inhaled the scent, his eyes growing more frenzied by the second. She did not have long. He would torture her and then kill her, if she were lucky. If she were not, then she would have to kill herself on her own.
Miredhel's fingers brushed against her knife hilt. The orc glided his finger along where he had cut her and brought it ravenously to his mouth.
"My friends search for me even now," she bluffed. "If you leave now, I will spare your wretched life." Using her fingertips, she slowly rolled the knife toward her, just a little closer…
The orc spat in her face, unaware of her plan. "Your friends'll get theirs! I know Anglach—" and he stopped himself. "Lies!!" he howled instead, and the miserable creature raised his wicked blade in the air.
Miredhel flinched, as he plunged his dagger back toward her throat. She jerked to the side and caught his wrist in mid-air with her left hand. His sinewy black arm bore down, the blade licking her neck, as she tried to push him back. Her right hand shot out. She triumphantly grabbed her knife.
"Sana sina, mereth en draugrim," she whispered and drove her blade home into his neck.
He howled, and then gurgled. His hot, black blood spurted across her skin, her body, and she pushed him off of her. She lay there, bloodied and frightened, more frightened now than before. Miredhel looked at the creature beside her, his throat hung open and steaming, and promptly threw up. She decided that she hated orcs.
She might have lain there all night long, feeling incredibly sorry for herself, if she had not seen another figure creep down the path. An orc, she guessed. Her luck could not get any better.
She picked up her knife and forlornly crawled between a bush and tree trunk, crouching in silence until the figure rounded the tree. With a shout, she jumped up, but the orc turned and turned too quickly and caught her arm, pulling a knife to her throat.
"Not again," she mumbled.
She relaxed. "Legolas?" she asked, and he released her. He dragged her into the moonlight.
"You are positively black with…orc blood! What happened to you?" he asked angrily, surveying the twigs in her hair, the blood down her neck and dress.
"I.." she started to say.
"What were you doing out here, alone?
"Well, it is a…" She stopped and looked back at the dead orc. Her lips quivered.
"Are you hurt?" he asked softly and brought his hand to her cheek and brushed her hair away from her face and neck. "You have been wounded," he observed and traced the line with his finger.
She looked back at the orc. "I killed him," she said plainly, pointing at the dead body.
Legolas' eyes widened, and he moved to kneel beside it. "'Tis a good thing we gave you the knife tonight, and not the bracelet." He looked at the garb and weapon as if he were trying to place it, and then picked up the knife.
"Not poisoned," he said with a relieved sigh, "but he may not have been alone." He pulled Miredhel to him, and together they hurried down the path.
Their appearance at the bonfire created a stir, and Belegil and Sulindal rushed toward them. "Miredhel, are you well?" they asked, almost simultaneously.
She nodded miserably and then asked, "Where is my brother?"
The twins exchanged glances, "He, err, left to walk a young lady home." Sulindal told her.
Legolas frowned and then said, "Miredhel killed an orc in the woods."
"There could be more," Belegil pointed out.
"I know. Both of you assemble search groups, and I'll join you with my some of my king's guard."
Belegil saluted and left, but Sulindal remained. He took a long look at Miredhel and then pulled Legolas to the side.
"What about Miredhel?" he whispered.
"I will send someone to take her back to the camp."
"You will send someone? What was she doing out there anyways?" Sulindal asked and raised an eyebrow.
"I am not exactly certain, you know," he admitted.
"She looks frightened," Sulindal observed. "She would probably feel better if someone she knew stayed with her," he said and looked at the prince. "We can track orcs easily enough without much assistance, my lord."
Legolas hesitated and then walked back to Miredhel.
"Report back when you have finished and send runners to alert the King," he told Sulindal. He put his arm around her shoulders. "Shall we?"
They walked most of the way back in silence. Legolas was mostly angry, and Miredhel felt mostly frightened. He did not ask anymore questions, and she did not freely supply any information. When they reached her tent, both elves were amused and surprised to see the silhouette of two figures in her tent.
Legolas and Miredhel exchanged glances.
"This night keeps getting better and better," she moaned, and Legolas simply led her away.
"Come on," he said. As they walked further into the encampment, he spied one of his father's footmen and stopped him. "The Lady had had an accident. Please find her a suitable garment and bring it to my quarters."
Miredhel stayed silent and merely followed him to his tent. He ushered her inside, sat her down on his bed, and brought some linen and a shallow basin of water. She smiled a small grateful smile and wordlessly began to wipe the blood away from her face, neck, and body. He handed her a clean strip and she pressed it to her wound.
"I have decided that I never want to see another orc again," she said at last. "I am not sorry I killed him."
"He would have abused and killed you," Legolas said quietly.
"I know," she answered in a small voice. She brought her hand to her hair and began pulling out loose twigs and pine needs, all the while avoiding his eyes.
"Why were you out there?" he asked, his voice deliberate.
"To search for you," she said. "I waited for you at the clearing, but…"
"I am sorry." His voice was soft, and he reached toward her hair to remove one of the remaining flowers and offer it to her. "Please forgive me."
She absentmindedly traced the cut across the top of her chest. "I do not blame you, Legolas. It was all my fault, to be so foolish." She took the small violet flower in her fingertips. "He recognized these," she said and looked up at him expectantly.
"Did he?" Legolas asked with a certain amount of surprise. "Try not to think about it anymore, Miredhel. You should rest."
"No, Legolas. The orc. He…he did not call it purple crown. He called it something else."
"Something else?" Legolas asked reluctantly, and his eyes were full of concern and worry.
"Yes, the orc called it," Miredhel looked down and whispered, "prince's love?"
Legolas blinked. He had hoped she would not have heard that. "Well, Miredhel," he said carefully, "you really cannot expect an orc to know the proper name for a flower."
"No, I suppose not," she said and stood up, placing her bandage in the basin beside her. "But he knew," she said shakily, "he knew it was yours, Legolas-- 'the royal house,' he said."
The prince picked up the basin and turned away from her. He sat it on a small table and wiped away at some spilt water. His heart had betrayed him in this. He should have known better, than to give her those, no matter how he felt! He could not be false with her now, not when she had stumbled upon the truth. He could not lie and say it meant nothing, nor could he break his former word to her.
"Miredhel," he said softly and turned to face her. "the flowers are prince's love. I knew it when I chose them for you…I wanted you to have them. I hoped that I could give them to you without you finding out their popular name. I am sorry," he said, his eyes pained.
"Legolas, no," she said gently.
"No, Miredhel. I cannot be sorry. My feelings toward you remain unchanged. I made a promise to you in haste, one that I have completely regretted since, but I will stand by my word," he said with a determined look. "I hope this will not spoil our friendship."
"Legolas, how can you say that? To have feelings for me?" Miredhel asked brokenly. "I know of your affair with Lierwen."
Legolas' eyes widened. "How did you hear about that?"
"I have my ways," Miredhel insisted. "Do not try and deny your love for her. I can only be happy for you."
"But Miredhel, we broke off our courtship even before I went to Lorien."
"But you still love her," she argued. "I heard you singing in the night, Legolas. You know that song, about hearing her call you in your dreams, and the gold and the blue. I heard it all!"
Legolas sat down on the bed. His face turned red, and Miredhel could not tell if he were angry or embarrassed. When he began to laugh heartily, she frowned.
"Miredhel, sweet Miredhel!" he said happily. "The song you heard, I sang of the sea!"
"The sea?" she asked dumbly.
"Yes," Legolas said and reached for her hand to pull her near. "I have the sea-longing as due my Sindarin heritage; ever since the war I have had it. Some nights are worse than others. The night you heard me singing was the worst I had felt since I heard the gulls' cry at Pelargir."
Miredhel suddenly felt incredibly foolish. She looked toward the door and wished she could leave, but Legolas still firmly held her hand. A single tear ran down from her eye.
He looked up at her where she stood next to him near the bed. He rose and smoothed his hand across her cheek. "One word from you will silence me on this matter forever…" he began, but did not finish his statement as Miredhel leaned in and claimed his lips for her own.
She held tight to his hand in her own and wrapped her other arm around his shoulders, and Legolas, overcoming his initial shock, kissed her back. She pulled away first, and they leaned toward one another breathlessly. His eyes nervously searched hers.
"If I kissed you again, you would not slap me like you tried to in the garden, would you?" he asked.
"I might hit you if you did not," she told him. So he pulled her in even closer to his body, wrapping both of his arms tightly around her waist, and kissed her again, this time memorizing her taste and the feel of her body next to his. They probably would have kissed for much longer than they actually did, for someone entered the tent.
"Ahem," he said, and both Miredhel and Legolas jumped in unison. It was Sulindal, and he had a very amused and pleased, and even smug, look on his face. "We searched the perimeters of the area and posted new guards. We found the carcass of the one, but did not find any others. The king wishes to speak with you, now, Legolas."
"Tell him I will be there directly," he said, and Sulindal saluted (and winked) and left.
The prince pulled away from her and held her at an arm's length. "The servants should bring you something to wear shortly, melamin," Legolas said and looked at her longingly. "Sleep here tonight. I do not feel like I shall have a chance to return until dawn." He kissed her one more time and then once more, before he made way to his father's summons.
THAnKs for reading!!!
I hope it delivered. Let me know how you liked it…
Miredhel's elvish to the orc: *Take this, feast of wolves!