Of Bows and Arrows
Chapter four: Of Bows and Arrows
The next morning came with the freshness of an early rain. Lothlorien shone in the eastern sun, and Legolas abandoned his appointed and nicely furnished quarters for a stroll along the forest floor where he could admire the fauna. He eventually approached the archery range.
"Hmm," he thought out loud, "this must be where Eledhel plans on having the archery contest." He surveyed the area. There were more than 20 targets, some set low in carts that could be moved and repositioned. Certainly a little practice never hurt, so Legolas picked up a spare bow and some arrows that a careless elf had left sitting on a stone table near the range. Any advantage in the tournament would be welcome. Legolas fitted an arrow to the bow, which was a little smaller than he preferred, and let the arrow fly. Thwack! The arrow hit the target, not as perfectly in the bulls' eye as Legolas would have liked.
He really needed to return to his talan for his own bow, the very same bow that the Lady Galadriel had given him less than a year and a half ago. Since then, Legolas' bow had become judge and executioner in battle, felling beast and orc alike. As he picked up another arrow and sent it flying through the trees to a distant target, Legolas thought how much had changed. Here he practiced his marksmanship in the Golden Wood while only months ago he had lived on an edge as sharp as the twin blades of his long white knives. Memories of the War brought him both pleasure and pain.
His eyes clouded over as he thought of the grim moments when they had stood before the Black Gate, Morannon, with Gandalf when it seemed that all hope had failed them and the little ones had been lost to Sauron's cruelty. Legolas tightened his fingers over the little bow and took a deep breath. Frodo and Sam were in the Shire now, he reminded himself, out of harm's way. Yet they would never be the hobbits that they had been before the war. None of the Fellowship could truly reclaim their old lives. They had all been changed irrevocably. He notched another arrow, focused his eyes on the farthest target, and pulled the string taut. Whoosh! The arrow found its home in the center of the target. Legolas smiled to himself. He would make a good enough showing in this tournament. Mirkwood need not be ashamed of its Prince.
He set off in the direction of the targets to collect his arrows, singing blithely of Orome, the Great Hunter. Upon his return, two more elves had arrived at the range, Eledhel and his sister. Legolas stopped singing. He could only think of the unpleasantries from the night before. He wrinkled his nose a little and then shook his head. No, he was determined to be pleasant to her for Eledhel's sake.
"Good morning to you both," he greeted them politely. "My lady, I fear we have not been properly introduced. It was much remiss of me, and I beg your pardon." He bowed before her. "I am Legolas Greenleaf of Mirkwood."
Her eyes darted over to Eledhel for an instant and then back to Legolas. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, my lord. I am Miredhel," she said primly and curtsied.
"What brings you here so early, Eledhel? Thinking of practicing? You'll need to hone those skills before you step in line with me and Haldir." Legolas teased.
"No, friend, we were here earlier this morning. My sister and I were enjoying a little sibling rivalry...but she left her bow." Eledhel frowned at her. "A good warrior never leaves his weapons laying around."
"Then it is a good thing, brother, that I am no warrior," she replied, her eyes scanning the lawn of the practice field. "I do not see it, Eledhel. Where could it have gone?" A hint of panic rose in her voice.
Eledhel smirked. "Oh, do not worry, sister. One of the wardens must have picked it up. We shall check in the field house."
"I believe this must be yours, Lady Mireldhel," Legolas brought the bow from behind his back and studied it closely. "A bow of cunning worksmanship, my Lady; yet it is not of the Lorien style."
"It has been passed down the family from mother to daughter for many years," she admitted. "Story has it that this bow was made by Gondolin elves for the Lady Idril Celebrindal herself."
Legolas laughed and handed it to her. "Then guard it well, my lady."
"I have always thought that story an old wives' tale," Eledhel commented. "What do you think, Legolas?"
"Yes," agreed Miredhel, "let us hear the prince's opinion." Both brother and sister folded their arms across their chests and looked at him expectantly. Legolas grimaced. He agreed more with Eledhel, but had no desire to slip back into Miredhel's bad graces.
"Well?" they said together.
Legolas stalled, trying to find a way to please them both. "You know, two friends of mine have Gondolin blades. They found them in an old cache of spoils plundered by trolls. One of the blades would glow blue whenever orcs were near. Deep elvish spells must have been worked upon it." He paused and looked carefully at Miredhel. "I wonder, my lady. Does your bow emit a soft blue light in the company of orcs?"
She looked astonished. "I do not know. I have never used it in battle…"
"Because she has never been in a battle!" Eledhel interrupted. "Sis has never even seen an orc."
Miredhel folded her arms and scowled at her brother.
"Then I count you among the blessed, my lady. I wish I could claim the same, but alas I cannot. Anyways, it is entirely possible that this bow could be of Gondolin make. The craftsmanship of such weapons make their years of use long, to endure many a battle." Legolas said, hoping this answer would suffice.
"Very diplomatic answer, Legolas," commented Miredhel, and she actually smiled at him. "Ithilien will need such a ruler, if there are to be subjects like my brother and his friends."
Eledhel draped his arm around his sister. "Miredhel, I tell you what," he said and winked, "Legolas and I will take you out, beyond the edge of the Golden Wood, stir up some orcs, and then you can see if you bow is charmed by Gondolin magic or not!"
Miredhel's eyes widened. She blinked. She looked at Eledhel, and then Legolas, and then back at Eledhel. Her cheeks tinged pink and then she narrowed her eyes at her brother. "This is not to be endured," she said softly and then raised her voice. "I would expect this from him," she jerked her head in Eledhel's direction, "but not from you, my lord. I suppose that whole story about your two friends and the swords was made up as well?"
"My lady, you misunderstand…" Legolas started, but Miredhel cut him off.
"Do not flatter yourself to think that you can claim familiarity with me, just because my fool of a brother so willingly bestows it. I don't even know you." She glared at them both and then turned to leave.
"Always had a nasty temper that one," chuckled Eledhel as his sister marched off.
"Shh! You know she heard you! Do not make things worse," Legolas advised. He was already feeling less than spectacular about her mistaken assumption that he had been leading her one with that story.
Halfway across the field, Miredhel whipped around to face them. "Oh, both of you can laugh now, but I'll be the one doing all the teasing when I beat you both in the tournament."
"Please, Miredhel!" Eledhel called to her. "You have already made a scene and embarrassed yourself in front of the prince. Do not add all of the elves of the Golden Wood to the score by competing in the contest!"
Both brother and sister glared at one another, each daring the other to back down. Grey eyes bored into hazel for what seemed like an eternity too long, and Legolas wished he could sink into the grass and disappear. How had he become involved in such an awkward scene? Despite his efforts, Miredhel seemed determined to despise him. So much for diplomacy!
"Oh! I cannot wait for both of you to leave already and go to Ithilien!" With that said, Miredhel turned and walked briskly down the wooded path.
"Do you think she has a chance to win?" asked Legolas.
"She has about the same chance of winning as the probability of an orc taking a bath," retorted Eledhel drily. "She just said that to make me angry, Legolas. Miredhel has been none too pleased with me since I told her that I was leaving Lothlorien." Eledhel motioned for Legolas to follow him, and they began to walk.
"She does not want to go," murmured Legolas.
"I am the last of her family in this wood. She thinks I am deserting her." Eledhel looked at the shadowy form of his sister retreating into the woods and sighed.
"Aren't you?" The prince's eyes cut to his friend's.
Eledhel stopped mid-step. "You're not taking her side, are you, Legolas?"
The prince shook his head. "I merely mean that you should not leave her here, Eledhel. Convince her to take the road with us."
"It's not for lack of trying," Eledhel said. "She is...stubborn."
Legolas could believe that easily enough; from what he had seen already, she seemed extremely strong-willed. Of course, as a brother to two sisters himself, he knew how obstinate sisters could be. "Well, we must find a way to convince her," insisted Legolas. He did not like the idea of splitting up a family.
"Oh you have done enough, my friend! She may never forgive you for making up that yarn about the glowing sword."
Legolas stopped walking and placed his hand on Eledhel's shoulder. "Eledhel, that was true what I said back there." Legolas knit his brows and quietly said, "It was Frodo, the Ringbearer, that I spoke of and his famous blade, Sting."
His friend's eyes widened. "I did not know. I am sorry, prince, to doubt your word in such a manner," he apologized. "Your story just sounded so incredible."
"I would not lie to a lady or my brother-in-arms," Legolas said seriously.
"Do not feel too badly, for she is just my sister," said Eledhel, trying to make light of the situation.
"No, Eledhel, she deserves respect all the more, because she is your sister. I must make her understand the truth of the matter." Legolas' eyes flashed, and Eledhel knew to be serious.
"I suppose you could find her in the Lady Galadriel's gardens in the center of the city."
Legolas started in that direction immediately, leaving Eledhel still standing behind him.
"But I would wait a bit," he called after the prince, "for you will fare better is she has time to cool down!"
Legolas heard him not. His mind had turned to the matter before him and what he must do to make it right.
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