Do Not Go Gently
Previously: Aragorn led his men into battle to fight Anglachur, the Black Dragon. Legolas and Miredhel had a plan to shoot the Dragon with a single Mithril arrow left from a collection that Lady Galadriel had given to him (the others were stolen by Orcs…).
During the Battle, Legolas actually misses with the one arrow! But bad luck turns to worse when his good friend (and Miredhel's brother) Eledhel is felled by three of the missing mithril arrows. Legolas uses those three arrows to shoot the dragon, but meanwhile, Eledhel dies from his wounds.
Miredhel is heart broken. She once suffered from Grief, a terrible sickness for the elves who are deeply emotional creatures. And when she witnesses Eledhel's death, the Grief returns with a vengeance that could claim her life…
The previous chapter ends with the arrival of Thranduil, Legolas' father and King of Mirkwood. He had decided to join the battle and help his son, but is shocked to find Legolas carrying Miredhel's limp body across the field.
Chapter 46: Do Not Go Gently
The sun bled through the smoke, a violent red slash against the horizon. And at the newly made elven camp in the shadow of the fort at Calenfen, two kings held bitter council. The battle was a success, true. King Thranduil's reinforcements had helped win the day. Aragorn had saved his city from the black dragon's attack.
But neither felt like celebrating.
Instead they both glumly sat across a miserable smoking fire from one another in some canvas and wood folding chairs the wood elves had brought. Thranduil pressed a wet compress to his forehead as if his head ached, but his eyes never left Aragorn's.
"Tell me what you know, Aragorn. Everything," Thranduil said at last.
He did not have to go into detail about the 'everything.' Aragorn knew exactly what the king meant.
Legolas. And of course, his relationship to Miredhel.
To be honest, Aragorn was sick over what had happened on the field that day. Casualties were to be expected, but… He sighed as he thought about it. Leaning over to Thranduil, he plucked the cold compress from the king's forehead and placed it on his own.
"I do not know what to tell you, Thranduil. Legolas should tell you himself." Aragorn squeezed his eyes shut before sitting up to look his friend's father straight in the eye.
"It's obvious that he's in no state to tell me anything himself right now, son of Arathorn! And how can I help him at all, if I don't what the problem is!" Thranduil seethed and then took a moment to compose himself. "He's my son," the king added gently.
"He's your son, but he's my closest friend…" Aragorn countered and then pushed his hands through his hair. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Adrendil making his rounds. If Aragorn did not tell Thranduil, then he was sure that Adrendil would. The wood elf captain would have no scruples unloading every little detail on his former king...in the worst possible way, no doubt.
Aragorn glanced toward the healer's tents, where Legolas had borne Miredhel. He leaned in toward Legolas' father.
"This is what I know, Thranduil," he said in the lowest of whispers, "From what I understand, Legolas had been courting Miredhel since he met her in Caras Galadhon. He told me they became more seriously involved in my city scarcely a fortnight ago."
"More seriously involved?" asked Thranduil, raising an eyebrow.
"Lovers, Thranduil!" A slight veil of pink rimmed Aragorn's ears. "Do I need to spell it out for you? They became lovers!"
"My son has taken lovers in the past, without ill effect," Thranduil said with a slight twinkle in his eye. He did so enjoy making the King of Gondor squirm.
"I know he has," Aragorn agreed, not at all pleased to be discussing Legolas' conquests with his father. "But on the way here, Legolas was grievously injured by a party of orcs. They nearly took all the skin off his back, and when he was brought back to camp, his first concern was not for himself, but for her, for Miredhel."
Aragorn met Thranduil's eyes once again, this time in all seriousness. "You see, Legolas told me that night that he and Miredhel had bonded."
"Spiritually bonded, Thranduil. Their feas…"
"I know what it means!" Thranduil snapped. "Better than you, I'd wager." He squeezed the fingers on his sword arm into a tight fist and then covered it with his other hand. A visible shudder rolled down his back, and for a moment, his eyes spoke of centuries' torment and longing. Then just as quickly, the moment was gone, and Thranduil schooled his face into an expressionless mask.
Aragorn's eyes softened. He and Thranduil had butted heads many times over many different things (but mostly Legolas' best interests), but he knew how much the king loved his son.
Aragorn added, "Then you know… what Legolas risks. He did not want to upset her that night because she has suffered from Grief. She still suffers…"
But Thranduil was already on his feet. He pounced on his nearest advisor.
"Drop those charts and remove my things from my tent. Send someone to the healers' tents. I want Lady Miredhel moved to my quarters at once!" Thranduil's surrounding elves buzzed into action.
"Wait!" Sounded Thranduil in a booming command. "King Aragorn and I will see to moving the Lady ourselves!" He and the King of Gondor hurried to the healer's tents without delay.
Now Miredhel rested in the palatial comfort of Thranduil's own tent. The elf king himself had gently lifted her from her pallet in the healers' tents and carried her here. He had overridden Legolas' protests that the prince should carry her, and instead turned his son over to Aragorn to have the wounds on his back treated with new bandages.
Legolas probably would not have let her go to anyone less than his father, but Thranduil he trusted. She would find more peace in the lavish comfort of the king's own tent. It would be less hectic than the busy healer's quarters. Legolas' father believed in traveling in high style, but he had given that up without pause for his Miredhel.
After Thranduil had settled Miredhel amid his splendid trappings—a gloriously plush divan strewn with feather soft pillows-- he did not leave right away as he had planned. He lingered by her side and studied her with what many of his subjects would consider his typical aplomb. At first glance, his expression would seem both vague and a little serious too. But a closer consideration would reveal the softening of the fine lines around his eyes and the usual tension in his jaw dissipated.
This was his son's beloved.
And now she lay grievously ill, perhaps even dying.
Even so, she was lovely in grief, Thranduil thought, and strong too. It was true that she was no great beauty, but her hair was thick and golden, and her face was fair with a light dusting of freckles across her nose, which Thranduil found to be very fetching. He knew her eyes to be a deep forest green, and her lips were a soft pink and just a little petulant. The old king could understand why his son was so taken with her. She would have to be high-spirited to keep Legolas in check. She was everything his son needed and deserved. He leaned over and gently kissed her cheek. "Sleep well, my daughter," he whispered.
Miredhel stirred, her eyes fluttering open. "Legolas?"
Thranduil took a step back. "No, dear one. Though many have said Legolas resembles me the most of all my children.
Miredhel swallowed thickly. "Your eyes…perhaps the most, sir…um, Your Majesty."
Thranduil smiled kindly. It was a gesture not often used by him, but in this instance, it was genuine and heartfelt. He knelt by Miredhel's side and picked up her hand.
"Where am I?" she meekly asked.
"You rest in my tent. We set up a camp outside the fort." Thranduil answered softly.
"Why?" she rasped out the word; her throat was so dry. Then she remembered the fort, the dragon, and the painful memory of the battle and Eledhel's death slammed into her.
She squeezed her eyes shut, desperately trying to block the vivid images replaying in her mind of Eledhel falling on the battlefield, three arrows piercing his chest. A stray tear slid from the corner of her closed eyes, and Thranduil knew she relived every horrible moment of her brother's death.
He had seen grief before and wished that this elleth, so young, would not be tainted by it; or that his son would not have to watch her waste away. Legolas was tenderhearted to a fault, and Thranduil knew that her suffering had the power to destroy his youngest.
Still he wished to comfort her. His Legolas loved her, and that was enough for this father.
"It is my understanding, Miredhel, that you are my son's chosen one. I see you are wearing his ring," Thranduil observed, hoping to pull her from the misery of her own dark thoughts.
Miredhel's eyes fluttered open at the king's comment. She did not know what to say. Thranduil was terrifying—as a king, he had a reputation of being stern and hard, with a temper that was legend among elf kind, but here he was now—holding her hand and speaking to her in dulcet tones.
She had no strength for prevarication or cleverness now. Miredhel could only speak plainly. "I love your son," she said, her voice weak and strained. "I do not know if I ever believed that I deserved him…"
Thranduil shook his head sorrowfully. "Dear one, I did not come to chide you! I did not even mean to wake you, but I am glad for a chance to speak with you and bring you comfort. I know you may feel you are without family right now, but…" His eyes were warm and bright. "You are Legolas' intended, and I think he made a fine choice."
Thranduil touched Legolas' ring on her finger. "He chose you, Miredhel, and he loves you. Know that you are not alone, for you belong to the House of Oropher now. You have a new family, and if you ever need or want for anything, Miredhel, and it is in my power to give it to you, it shall be done."
Thranduil then kissed her hand, and with a bow, quietly left her wondering at his promise of succor. Then she slept.
The prince allowed Aragorn to tend his wounds as his father lifted Miredhel and took her away. And he knew from his father's reaction what Aragorn must have told him. Still, he had no heart for words and did not speak. Miredhel's pain was his own, and everything inside him was being rent in two, slowly and murderously.
She was dying. And he found himself wishing for the same.
Every step across the camp to join her was torture. His deep blue eyes singed any who met them. He was furious. Why should this happen to her! Miredhel, so lovely, so gentle, so his.
Now the prince entered slowly, his eyes adjusting to the steady glow of a single burning lamp. Its light illuminated the sumptuous quarters and the divan draped with all manners of cushions and rich coverlets. Miredhel rested fitfully against the smooth fabric, as if she could not wake to save herself from a bad dream.
"Miredhel," Legolas whispered against the nearly translucent tip of her ear and squeezed her hand. He wished to wake her gently, for his father's healers wanted her to drink a potion to ease her pain.
Her eyes remained closed.
"Miredhel," Legolas tried again, and this time he brought his lips to hers in the softest of kisses. Her eyes fluttered and then opened, and she returned his kiss.
"Drink this, love," Legolas entreated, bringing the tiny cup to her mouth.
"No, Legolas." Miredhel turned her head away. "Please, no more healers' draughts."
Legolas patiently sat the cup down. He settled on the divan where he could put his arm around her and rested his cheek next to hers. "Please, Miredhel." His deep eyes met hers. "You'll need your strength to fight this." He swallowed, his words feeling thick through his throat. "Please."
"I'm tired of fighting, Legolas. Eledhel was the fighter, not me. I'm just so tired…" Her eyes began to drift shut again.
"No, Miredhel!" Legolas pulled himself so he leaned over her, gently taking one of her hands to rest with his between their chests and used his other to stroke her cheek. It was pale and already cool against his fingers. It was the Grief. She shivered against him, and he pulled her closer.
She drew her eyes open, only to drown in his. The love there, oh, the love! But skilled as he was, Legolas could not hide his own pain and unspoken fears. Their elvish hearts were bound in love, and she could sense his emotions as easily as her own. They were one and the same. And once more the tears came to her eyes, and Legolas brushed them away.
"I won't let you go so easy, Miredhel. Know that. You're a part of me now," Legolas whispered to her and kissed her softly. He took a strangled breath. "Your Grief is my own."
"Then break our bond, Legolas, and free—"
"Do not speak of it, Miredhel!" Legolas commanded and pulled her tightly against him. "I would sooner cut out my own heart." He wrapped arms around her like cords of the strongest metal, as if he dared the world to try to pull them apart.
He could feel the uneasy rise and fall of her chest against him, as if she struggled not to cry, and Legolas buried his face against her hair. "I love you," he murmured.
"We knew what we risked, Legolas. I told you in the Brown Lands… I told you what the healers said," Miredhel said brokenly. "If I had been more guarded…"
"I haven't forgotten, Miredhel," he interrupted, his normally musical voice sounding strained and harsh to his own ears. Legolas swallowed thickly and willed himself to speak with more control. She was worried about him. Miredhel had just lost her own brother, but she was worried that her Grief would hurt him through their bond. Valar, how he loved her! He would never understand how one as giving and pure of heart as Miredhel be allowed to suffer as she was. And she was suffering, terribly. Legolas could see it in her eyes and the pale sheen of her skin.
She was dying.
Legolas had seen enough death to know.
She was dying, and he who had seen perhaps thousands fall on the battlefield and brought down hundreds more with his own knives and bow was troubled more deeply by the light fading in this one maiden's eyes than any of them. And if he had reasoned with himself, he might have concluded that this time the death was someone he loved and more personal to him, but Legolas was beyond any reasonable thought. He only knew what he felt. What he felt right then was that she was his, completely and without reservation. He was not going to let her go easily. And if she claimed not to be a fighter—well, he was. He would fight for both of their sakes.
"I know what the healers told you before about your Grief, Miredhel," Legolas said softly. They had warned her that letting her emotions get out of hand made her more vulnerable to future Grief, that even falling in love was a risk, that another relapse of Grief could be fatal. "But I will not believe it."
He pushed himself up on his elbow to lean over her and traced his finger down her cheek. Miredhel slowly lifted her eyes to meet his, and Legolas forced a smile.
"Did we not try our best to hate each other when we first met, Miredhel? You tried your best to get rid of me," he teased, hoping to lighten her heart. "But we fell in love anyway…from that night you let me put those ridiculous purple flowers in your hair. There was no turning back for me then."
Miredhel swallowed thickly, and her eyes were dark and shadowed. "I loved those flowers, Legolas."
"Then I'll have some brought to Ithilien. I promised I would make you a garden there, Miredhel," he said slowly. "I will plant some in the shade of the trees where we live, and I can put some in your hair every evening if you wish it. And when we have several beautiful golden-headed daughters, I will put some in their hair as well."
"Don't do this, please. Legolas," Miredhel protested softly. "Don't speak of a future I may not be able to have, when I want it more than anything."
"Then fight for it, Miredhel. If you want it, don't give in. If you want that future…" He reached for her hand again and gripped it in his, as if just holding on to her tight enough would make it so.
She shook her head ever so slightly. "I can't stop it, Legolas. I can't. I feel like I am falling and there is nothing I can grab onto for help. Even if I wanted to, even if it were possible…" Miredhel's voice trailed off and she squeezed her eyes shut. She remembered her brother catching her when she fell from a mallorn tree. Eledhel. He always seemed to be at the right place at the right time to help her. He had gotten her out of so many scrapes in the past, almost as many as he had dragged her into in the first place!
Miredhel could not make the sweetness of the memory last, though; she could not remember her brother without tasting the bitterness of her loss. Again, her grief blasted through her entire body until she could feel the chill of it all the way down to her bones.
"No, I am sorry. I'm sorry, Miredhel. Forgive me," Legolas pressed a kiss to her cool check.
Legolas covered her with a blanket and stole out of the tent. The evening had darkened, and he could see faint stars amid the curls of smoke from the men's campfires. Somewhere across the camp, elven voices rose in a lament for their fallen comrades, for their captain Eledhel. Tonight the music did not comfort him.
He strode back across the camp to the healers' tents. All the commotion inside the tent died as he entered, and any of the elves who could, stood up at once.
"How long does she have?" Legolas heard himself abruptly ask and he felt a firm hand on his shoulder. It was his father.
One of the older healers came forward, one of his father's. "We cannot say for sure. She is strong, certainly, but the shock of her brother's death… Her Grief has advanced beyond our care, I'm afraid."
"Is there any way to save her? Any hope at all?" Thranduil asked the question quietly, his hand still resting on his son's shoulder.
"She could leave these shores for the Grey Havens. There she could find peace and healing," the healer offered and sighed as Legolas and Thranduil exchanged a long painful glance; both remembered Legolas' mother leaving for the havens long ago. It was not an option that either wanted to consider.
Another healer stepped toward the father and son; it was Colmaethor. He had traveled from Lorien with Legolas and Miredhel. "I believe she can fight it."
The healer that had originally spoken turned sharply and frowned. "I thought we had all agreed not to give the prince false hope."
"False hope or not—I would like to hear what he has to say," Legolas said, stepping between them.
Colmaethor steepled his fingers and spoke frankly, "Lady Miredhel is strong and has already shown herself to be resilient. I remember the first time she had Grief, after her closest friend had died. Eledhel had asked me to look in on her from time to time; he was always so over protective and was crazy with worry. We had tried everything. Nothing worked."
"Like I said," the older healer snidely pointed out.
"But something did," Legolas said, anticipation catching in his voice.
"I believe it was a combination of two things, really," Colmaethor began. "First, Miredhel had a very close relationship with Eledhel. She clung to that, and he was there for her every step of the way. Even more importantly, he brought Lady Galadriel to visit his sister. By that time, Miredhel had mostly slipped away. Lady Galadriel used her powers to visit Miredhel in her dreams, to speak to her there; she convinced her that she still had unfinished business here in Middle Earth."
"And Miredhel woke up," Legolas looked to his father. "She mentioned this once. I believe it is worth trying."
"Lady Galadriel has undoubtedly left for the Havens by now, son," Thranduil kindly pointed out and instantly regretted it the moment Legolas' face fell.
"I told you not to say anything," the older healer snapped at Colmaethor. "You can not tell somebody about a possible cure when there is absolutely no way of actually getting it! All you've done is made things worse!" They both stole a glance at the prince whose face had drained white.
"I refuse to stand by and let her fade away," Legolas sharply informed his father, the healers, and anyone else who would listen.
He stalked out of the tent and crossed the camp perhaps even more angrily than he did only an hour ago. Aragorn who had been waiting to talk to his friend, rose to greet him as he passed and immediately caught himself at the clearly visible sheen of tears in Legolas' eyes.
The prince cautiously slid back into his father's tent where Miredhel rested. His heart clenched at the sight of her closed eyes, her long lashes fanning across the top of her cheeks. He breathed her name. She did not wake, and Legolas was not sure if that was a good or bad sign.
His memory flashed to that night in Minas Tirith after he had first made love to her. Legolas watched her fall asleep in his arms, and he had known that he could never love another as he loved her.
Now in his father's tent, Legolas silently watched her rest again, and his love for her twisted painfully in his heart. He sank to the floor in utter despair beside her, catching his head in hands as much hated tears forced their way out…
There, he wept.