Virtues of Spontaneity
Please read my author's note at the end of this chapter.
Chapter Thirty-five: Virtues of Spontaneity
The caravan of men and elves wound its way from the wet, clingy grass of the Nindalf toward the open plains of Gondor. They had left the village of Rilmost with the sun at its highest, and now Anor waned toward the west. So even though they had been moving for a relatively short time, the journey seemed to stretch on endlessly. The going had been slow and difficult at times. The villagers were not used to traveling at all, while the elves suffered from the malaise of having to go, for them, at a deadening, halting pace.
The prince led the front of the procession, and his captains patrolled the sides and the rear, making sure that their lines were safe.
Sulindal rode toward Miredhel. She had worn her cloak all day long with the hood pulled up, and Sulindal felt a trifle annoyed at what he considered to be very childish behavior.
"Look, Miredhel," he said as joined her side, "I know you are upset about Farothin. I am too. But Legolas is doing what he thinks is best. You cannot fault him for that. I know he blames himself, but it doesn't help matters to have you openly blaming him as well. He feels the weight of this more than any of us, I think."
She did not answer.
"Why don't you ride up front with us for a while," Sulindal asked gently. "I am sure the prince would like it."
She made no response.
"Miredhel." Still no response, and Sulindal's frustration with his friend mounted. She need not act like an elfling.
"Miredhel, did you anything I've been saying? And for pity's sake, take off that ridiculous hood!" Sulindal exploded and reaching over, pulled the hood back.
A peasant girl blinked at him, cowering from the obviously irate elf captain, and both individuals upon seeing each other turned a swift shade of white.
"Dear Valar!" The elf exclaimed, his eyes widening. Legolas was not going to like this at all. Not at all.
After a while, Sulindal rejoined the front where rode his leader.
"Prince Legolas, I think it would be well advised to stop for the night. I have ridden to the back of the lines, and many of the villagers are weary."
"Very well," said Legolas, and he signaled for the elves to come to a halt.
Sulindal looked at Eledhel and Legolas uncomfortably. He hoped that they had both heard the old adage, 'don't shoot the messenger.'
"Legolas, Eledhel?" he asked. "Can I have a word with you privately?" He summoned them away from the others--the less of a public commotion, the better. Sulindal would hate for the innocent villagers to see the leader of their expedition throttling one of his own. He knew how hot-headed Eledhel could be and well, suspected that even Legolas would not be his usual calm self.
"Legolas, Eledhel…" he repeated their names again, once he had pulled them out of shouting range from the rest of the group.
"Yes, what is it?" Eledhel asked rather impatiently.
Sulindal swallowed dryly. "I went back to talk to Miredhel. She's not there. Neither is Celeril. They're both gone."
"What do you mean, 'gone?'" whispered Legolas, the color draining from his cheeks.
"They gave their cloaks and horses to some women from Rilmost. I fear they never even left the village with us."
Legolas felt completely numb. "I can't believe she just left like that," he murmured.
"I can," Eledhel seethed, the tips of his ears glowing scarlet. "Foolish girl! There's no doubt in my mind she took off after Farothin and Adrendil."
"And my sister went with her," Legolas added, his voice gaining a frightful edge.
Sulindal at this mojment thought that it would be best if someone attempted to calm the two increasingly panicky elves down. He supposed that 'someone' would have to be him.
"You know," he said carefully "it might not be all that bad. Both your sisters are very capable, and they are bound to meet up with Captain Adrendil along the way."
Legolas gripped his arm, his eyes boring into the elf. "Sulindal," he said, "Eledhel and I think that the dragon is still out there. We think Farothin was still suffering from dragon sickness when he woke up in the tavern. What if he wakes up and tries to hurt Adrendil, or worse, attacks one of the girls?"
Eledehl sucked in his breath at the prince's question. "What—" he said with dark, anxious eyes, "What if the dragon sent Farothin back on purpose, to seek revenge on those who would have slain him—me, you, Miredhel…"
"If you are right," interrupted Sulindal who felt as though his two good friends were letting panic get the better of them, "why would the dragon not have shown himself earlier? It seems highly likely that he would wait until now to make his presence known." He put a hand on both their shoulders as they faced him. "While both your sisters have made an incredibly fool-hardy decision, I do not believe them to be in any real jeopardy."
Legolas and Eledhel did not seem the slightest bit mollified.
"How can you say that after what happened to Farothin?" Eledhel screeched. "They can't take care of themselves! And if they go down the river, they'll be open targets, totally exposed." His head snapped toward the prince beside him.
"Well, Legolas? This is Miredhel and your sister we're talking about. Are you just going to stand there?"
Legolas' eyes shifted to meet his friend's, and Eledhel opened and shut his mouth.
"If I have not spoken," Legolas said quietly, "it is because no words could justly capture my anger… or my fear." Truly, the prince felt incapable of neither language, nor action. He could scarcely breathe, let alone act rationally. Miredhel and Celeril, the both of them, unprotected and isolated in the wilderness with orcs and dragon moving toward Gondor, the thought paralyzed his entire being. Images of the two suffering as Farothin had flashed through his mind, and for a minute, he thought he was going to be sick. He gagged and swallowed, turning away from his friends and despising the fact that they should witness his weakness. He reminded himself of who he was, Legolas Thranduillion, and he would not dishonor that name—not now, not ever.
He faced his friends with a lordly countenance in check. "We will send a rider after them to make sure they reach Gondor safely," he said coolly. "That is all we really can do. We must trust that the Valar will protect them."
"I will go," Sulindal volunteered almost immediately.
"You," scoffed Eledhel. "Thank you, friend, but you are hardly the fastest rider among us. You don't even know the way to Gondor."
"Neither do you," Sulindal pointed out, his patience swiftly drawing to an end.
Both the Lorien elves glared at each other for a moment before their collective gaze turned to the prince.
"Legolas, you should go," said Eledhel.
"You should," agreed Sulindal. "You and your Rohan steed. Arod is matchless for endurance over long roads, compared to the other horses."
Eledhel snapped his fingers in agreement. "And you've covered this country before. None of us can claim that."
"These are all valid points," Legolas commented wearily, "but you forget that I am also leader to this group. I cannot go, however much my heart desires it."
"Legolas, you are loyal to your duties to a fault," Eledhel said. "The other captains and I can manage this. You should go."
The prince smiled grimly at his friends' insistence. But he could not so easily let go of what he felt was chiefly his responsibility. He countered Eledhel's statement by saying, "But if orcs attacked before you reached Calenfen… I could not forgive myself for not being there."
Eledhel's eyes flashed at the prince's stubborn devotion. "If orcs did attack, we could fend them off without your aid as equally well as if you were there, my lord," he pointed out.
Legolas appeared unmoved, although he wished that he might go. "I cannot," he said resignedly and shook his head. "Our sisters have passed beyond our reach, Eledhel. Let us prepare for the night watch."
Eledhel let out a frustrated sigh and left to take the horses to water, but Sulindal stayed with the prince to make one more plea. The sun faded on horizon in towering clouds of pink and gold as they spoke. Night would come swiftly.
Sulindal approached Legolas in his usual soft-spoken, persuasive way. His careful eyes had not missed the prince's quiet desperation. "Legolas, if this is your will, then let me ride on tonight to search for them," he said, pausing long enough to catch a glimpse of the anguish that Legolas had tried so hard to conceal.
"Legolas, if you want to go so badly, then why not leave? Ride out now, and we will manage here."
"I told you already, Sulindal," the prince snapped before easing his speech, "I would not be able to forgive myself if something happened to these people."
"But what about your sister and Miredhel? Could you forgive yourself if something happened to them? If Farothin's fate befell them?"
Legolas blanched, and Sulindal almost repented of his question's cruelty.
"I cannot, Sulindal," Legolas repeated mechanically. "Though my heart bids me go," he added softly.
"There are other reasons why you should head for Gondor, prince," his friend assured him, sensing that Legolas wavered even as he spoke. "When you reach Minas Tirith, you can tell Elessar of the dragon first hand, and then both of you can develop a better plan together. After all, you do have the most first hand knowledge of the beast."
"That's true," mused Legolas.
"My brother, Eledhel, and I can take the group on toward Calenfen."
Legolas massaged his temple, and squinting into the brilliance of the sun's last light, he asked, "Sulindal, why are you--"
"Because I feel it as you do. It's the right thing to do. Go to them. Go to her," he urged him. "Because I know what it is like to live with regret—and I would not wish that upon anyone."
Legolas' eyes darted to where the villagers and elves had set up camp, their small fires breathing smoky spirals into the deepening sky. He then eyed the west where the horizon seemed aflame in the last minutes of the sun's descent. His sister was out there, somewhere, and Miredhel too. Perhaps they had met up with Adrendil, but he knew that he could not cling to that hope.
The sun disappeared, and Legolas had made up his mind. He shouted to Eledhel to bring Arod back around. If Eledhel's face was any indication of his shock and heartfelt approval of the prince's actions, then certainly the elf was both surprised and pleased. Legolas was sure that his own face must have looked very much the same. The prince hardly ever acted spontaneously. His upbringing had systematically emphasized careful planning and decision making over impulsiveness; he had endured many a lecture on putting the needs of his people before his own wishes. As he mounted his horse and relayed last minute charges to his captains, Legolas thought there might be something in spontaneity after all.
He shouted farewells and a promise that he would join them at Calenfen, bringing Gondorian aid as soon as possible, and he shot away into the night, his retreating silhouette blurring like a hot, white star.
When Legolas reached the Great River, his hopes soared that he might come upon Miredhel and Celeril, supposing they had chosen to follow Adrendil down the Aunduin. The prince's keen elven eyes searched for any clue, any trace, that they had traveled so far. The Anduin told no tales, and Legolas rode on through the long, dark night, wishing vainly that he might stumble upon them as they camped. The more he thought about it, the more he could see them, as if their shadows by campfire might appear at any moment through the bracken and twisting wood of the river shore trees. In his own lonely dreams, he saw their sweet faces, Celeril's soft blue eyes and Miredhel's roguish hazel ones. His sister would be poking their small fire with a stick to make sparks jump in the air as she always did, and Miredhel would lie on the other side, propping herself up on her elbows and staring at the tumult of stars in the night sky. How he missed them, and his dreams achieved little but make him long for them more.
Yet as the sun pulled through the hazy sky the following morning, Legolas had uncovered no sign of his friends or evidence that they had stopped along the shores at all. In truth, Legolas' expectations that he might meet up with them plummeted the farther he traveled into Gondor. As expert of a woodsman and hunter as he was, he could not find any sign of his sister or Miredhel. Despair teased his heart that the elleth had never even made it out of the wetlands. As he was wont to do, Legolas blamed himself for the misfortune of their leaving, becoming convinced that had he been more forceful in his command, Celeril and Miredhel would not have run away to an unknown fate.
The sun set and rose four more times over the broadening plains of Gondor, and neither dark nor the light of day brought further counsel to Legolas as to the whereabouts of his loved ones. He clung to his elven dreams of that scene by the fire, sometimes including himself in the picture with his arm around Miredhel's slender waist. He would lean over and whisper in her ear, kissing her cheek and winding his hand through her hair. He would tease his sister as he had before the War of the Ring, before everything had grown more complicated. This scene and others like it brought him through that first lonely night, and he gladly returned to them when the shadows pressed inward, when the light of day failed, and clouds robbed the stars of light. Legolas was used to solitude. He had traveled alone before, on many occasions, but this time was wholly different. The fear for his loved ones hung with him always, like a lump in the back of the throat that cannot be swallowed.
Legolas cursed to himself, urging his horse onward, and Arod whinnied his admonish in return. The last days had been torturous, and Legolas' fear for the maidens' safety strove against his undeniable anger at their leaving. Their disobedience nettled him more than anything. He was their leader, after all, and certainly they had taken advantage of his good will. Legolas, for the life of him, could not figure out why they had left in the first place. Well, they could explain it to him when he found them…if he found them.
The only comfort was that he had not encountered any orcs or enemy tracks.
When at last Legolas beheld the White City on the horizon mirrored in the silver crests of the Great River, ever piece of him thrilled in the fact that he had not found any signs that his friends had been captured. He sped on across the open plains until he stood before the Main gate, which stood open with a series of guards and couriers to query outsiders. He smiled grimly at their amazement in seeing an elf. He gave them his name, telling of his urgent desire to see their king, and the young men eagerly offered to help him with his horse and gear; but when Legolas asked if any other elves had recently entered the city, the guards fell silent and would not say anymore. Despite their reticence, relief flooded his muscles, and for the first time in five days, he relaxed. As he rode upward through the many city levels, the people of Minas Tirith gazed at him with awe, for surely this traveler was one of the Nine Companions and friend to their king.
When their staring became too much, the prince pulled up the hood of his Lothlorien cloak. The elf was escorted to the main Hall of Kings where Aragorn presided and held court. Legolas' hands almost felt clammy from anticipation; all of his toil in the last few days became as nothing to him. All that mattered was that first glance at Aragorn, to see his eyes true and grey, and Legolas would know his friends' fate, whether they had found succor in the White City or had perished in the wilds. Success and failure spiraled down to this moment, and Legolas could hardly feel the stony walk beneath his feet as he followed the courtiers up the wide steps to the great doors, where the Kings' Guard waited in their dark garb bearing the single white tree. The doors swung open, and the prince's eyes darted to the end of the hall, to the high throne where upon presided the king. Now, he would know.
Only the king was not there. The seat was vacant, and Aragorn was no where in sight.
Legolas brushed past the guards and hurried into the hall. "Aragorn?" he called wistfully, as though his friend might suddenly appear from behind one of the statues that lined the room. He swallowed dryly, feeling that lump return to his throat once more. Hearing steps behind him, Legolas slowly turned to see a narrow-faced man wearing a feathered cap in green and black approach him.
"Young master," the man said haughtily, "you cannot see the king this way. I suggest you return tomorrow."
Legolas stared at him for a moment and realized that this man, most likely an advisor, was being serious. "It's urgent," he told him. "Please notify him of my presence."
"Notify him of your presence?" the advisor scoffed. "King Aragorn is at a very important council meeting. Come back on the morrow." He pursed his lips with an air of finality, and his face seemed even longer and thinner, if such a feat were indeed possible.
The prince pushed his hood back, and his blue eyes darkened as he gazed with full force at the king's advisor. "I will not be denied," he said. "I have journeyed many miles to bear this news."
The man sniffed, his bravado quelling a little under that intense elven stare. "If that is the case, then you can afford to wait a bit longer, can't you? His highness has a schedule to keep."
Legolas nearly rolled his eyes at this pretension. Obviously this advisor did not know whom or what he dealt with, but the prince did not care about that. All he wanted to know was if his loved ones were safe. He lowered his eyes and taking a deep breath, asked, "Can you tell me at least if three other elves arrived in the city in the last day or so?"
"Other elves?" repeated the man and curiously studied this visitor in his grey cloak, who looked no more important than an errand boy, elven or not. "Hmmph." the advisor snorted. "It is not my place to reveal information to strangers. Now if you'll kindly wait until the king's next audience, I have other more important matters to attend." He adjusted his feathered hat and made to walk past the annoyance before him.
Legolas had caught a gleam in the human's eye when he had mentioned the other elves. This advisor knew more than he let on. The elf stepped into his path, blocking the advisor's route. "Tell me what you know," he growled and caught a firm grip on the man's shoulder. "My wishes will NOT be ignored."
"That will not be necessary, Prince of Mirkwood," rang another voice, melodious, light and deep all at once. Such a voice could only belong to the Evenstar.
Legolas stepped aside, the impudent advisor forgotten, and he met the queen in the middle of the chamber, fearful and glad of the news she was sure to possess.
"Queen Arwen," he said breathlessly. "The sight of you eases my heart. Please, if you have any news of my friends…please tell me." Feeling as though every possible emotion pulsed through his body, Legolas waited in the deadly quiet hall to hear her much awaited reply.
"Oh, Legolas," she said and took his arm. "They are safe, and Aragorn has seen to Farothin. They arrived early last evening with a group of rangers patrolling the western borders past the river."
Legolas let out a breath that he did not know he had even been holding.
The queen turned her head and addressed the advisor, "Renmot, summon King Aragorn from his meeting. Tell him a much awaited friend has finally returned."
"Yes, milady," he said, rather disbelievingly. After all, what sort of princes went around clad in green and brown? And with no crown or entourage?
Arwen turned her attention back to the elf beside her. "Come, my friend. The Hall of Kings is no place for a reunion of friends. Walk with me to the gardens."
Legolas had been there before. The wedding supper of the king and queen had been held in the very courtyard to which they were headed, and Legolas had to admit upon entrance that he found the place very much improved since he had been there last. Gentle buds had began to bloom amid waving ornamental grasses, and a few creeping vines softened the edge of the stone walls. He could only guess this improvement had been Arwen's doing, and he said as much. The two elves both laughed, and Legolas reckoned it was the first time he had done so in a week.
He asked for details concerning the girls' conditions, and Arwen reassured him, "They are safe and well." Wishing to put him at ease, she teased, "Your sister is still quite the charmer. She reminds me of you more than ever."
Although the prince listened politely, he did not really hear her words. He still clung to her claim that they were "safe and well." Relief numbed his body, and the whole of the garden reduced to a mere buzzing to his senses. They are safe. As much as Legolas' heart relaxed at Arwen's confidence, part of him still held back, refusing to believe it. Until he held Miredhel in his arms, he would not know peace.
Almost as if the Valar wished him consolation, a breeze stirred from atop the bleached walls of the city. Legolas turned his head to the stone gate of the courtyard, and there she stood, Miredhel. Arwen glanced from the prince at her side to the maiden across the way and with a knowing smile, quitted the garden quite unnoticed.Okay, obviously you all would probably like to know what happens between Legolas and Miredhel. I decided to go ahead and post this first part and then update later.
The long chapters (10-12 pages) have been killing my frequency for updates, so I'm going to try doing more like 7 pages (length of this chapter) and updating more regularly.
Now I haven't done this lately (mostly because I figured that my readers would rather read the actual chapter than listen to my blathering comments) but here it is—
I had SIX people review my last chapter. Thank you for doing so. Believe it or not, I have 63 people who either have "Building Ithilien" on their "Favorites" or "Author Alert" List.
6 out of 63??
It's a little disheartening to have such a small percentage actually leave a review.
Please let me know that this story is being read. Even if it weren't, I'd still keep writing anyway…but it's nice to know people like your work.
To those six reviewers for chapter 35:
Faerlain: Yeah, that pesky dragon was bound to return. Ultimately I decided that he was just too much fun to lose. Sooner or later, he'll put in an encore performance of more nastiness and wickedry.
Iluvien: You sweetheart! Thank you for your very kind and long review! I agree with you about Adrendil. I've been trying to make him slimy without appearing to be too outwardly slimy, which of course makes him all the more slimier!! Okay, that doesn't even make sense! But you know what I mean. Thanks for your tip on the word usage (implicit/explicit). Of course, you were completely right. I'll go back and change it. I really appreciate it when people give constructive criticism, even on minor things!
Hobbit Ivy: Welcome!! Hey, I have really enjoyed reading your reviews. Thank you. I really appreciate all your kind words (and funny comments!) I loved this quote from you: "Deep shit about that Dragon Dude!" You know what, I bet Legolas was thinking the same exact thing, deep down inside!!!!
Lil Lego: I cracked up about your suggestion concerning Legolas kicking the crap out Adrendil. Surprisingly enough, you are not the only one to feel that way. Poor Adrendil. All he was doing was trying to help Miredhel. (yeah right!)
Shilly: Welcome!! I'm glad you like my dragon, especially since he may be putting in a repeat performance later down the road… You're completely right, of course, about Miredhel needing to learn to talk things out with people. She gets all huffy when Legolas won't tell her things, but then she cuts and runs the first chance she gets! She'll have to learn how to do better, and I know just the elf to teach her. Hee hee! About my updates, I've been trying to post about once per month. And thanks for the comment about the spelling, I DO appreciate that you noticed! (it is a rarity, isn't it?)
Verpoort: Welcome!! Thank you so much for your review. I really appreciated the part where you wrote, "thank you for writing this." You just don't know how much that touched me! It was really encouraging. I'm glad you finally discovered my story, and even more glad that you plan to keep reading.
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