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41. Legolas tells of the Fellowship
“... and then I took the other eye out, blinding it entirely. By this time Galion had joined me and he dealt the death stroke, piercing it straight through its foul maw.” Legolas made a thrusting motion.
“Good thing you had fought one before,” said Galion. “I would not have known where to find the mouth.”
“In Moria.” Wynne looked thoughtful.
She was taking the whole thing surprisingly well, Legolas figured. Earlier she had described how she kicked herself free of the monster and hid in a cave until it was dead, and then dived out through a narrow hole. All this from the woman who claimed not to be brave!
He had expected her to at least have troubled sleep afterwards, bad dreams and such, but no. Perhaps that would come later.
He , for his part, had not slept well at all. Time and again he had seen her disappear under the surface, and although it had not happened, he kept picture her being swallowed by the monster, mashed to pulp by its many teeth.
They had left shortly after sunrise, everybody eager to get away from that godforsaken lake. Legolas’ fitful slumber was beginning to take its toll now, however, he felt bleary eyed and tired. As if that was not enough, his waist was sore again after yesterday’s exertions, and riding did not help at all.
“You promised to tell me about Moria and your adventures with the Fellowship,” said Wynne. “Can’t you do it now? I need something else to think about.”
“Oh please do, I’d love to hear it too,” said Sidra.
A tingle ran down Legolas’ spine, like always when that subject was broached. So Wynne would not let him off the hook, then. He had purposely forestalled this, but after her frightening experience yesterday he probably ought to oblige her with the tale.
It was just that he really did not want to.
In the other’s expectant silence, he pondered how to begin, and then finally decided to adopt a storyteller style, brushing over the events lightly as if they had not much affected the participants.
He harkled, and begun:
”After the Council of Elrond the Fellowship was formed, a brotherhood among the free peoples, with a single task: to undo the One Ring. A somber midwinter night it was, when the Nine Walkers departed Rivendell...”
Had he and Wynne been alone, Legolas might have told more than just the basic facts, such as his apprehension to join the Fellowship without his father’s leave. He had been so nervous when they left Rivendell – about the same time as a messenger brought his letter to Mirkwood. Even now, he dared not look at Thranduil, who was sure to listen with everybody else.
Maybe to Wynne, he would have described the dreadful chill he had felt at Caradhras. Not from the snowstorm, but from Saruman’s ghastly voice, commanding the very winds and clouds, bending them to his will. Not until then had Legolas fully comprehended the immense power of those who were against them on the mission. What dangers they would encounter. He had been so very young and naive!
He might also have described Moria more in detail, that waking nightmare. Pitch-black darkness had surrounded them, too thick to penetrate even for his keen eyes – he had not been used to that, outside he could always see at least a little – and the overwhelming pressure of stone, cutting him off from everything alive. Boromir had been correct to call the mines a tomb. Despite the proximity of the other eight of the fellowship, Legolas had never in his life felt lonelier than in Moria.
And it had become worse. That sickening anticipation he felt after Pippin accidentally awakened something in the abyss, and how he had expected unknown fiends to come crawling through the well at any moment. And then the drums, the drums in the deep. They had been trapped in a tomb with orcs and a cave-troll coming at them and he would never forget the first sight of that troll, its huge, stony body which even Boromir’s brute strength and sharp sword could not damage.
Legolas had feared trolls ever since, and his most recent encounter had certainly not remedied this.
He did admit to the audience that the balrog had frightened them, but even to Wynne alone, he doubted he could have brought himself to elaborate on the extent. The demon’s ancient evil had seeped through his being, into his very soul, paralyzing him with boundless terror.
He still had nightmares about the balrog.
And then Gandalf had fallen and Legolas felt his heart shatter. They were the Nine, they were not supposed to lose anybody. But they had, first Gandalf and then Boromir, and the grief had sat heavy on his shoulders in the many days before he encountered Gandalf again.
He missed that meddling old wizard dearly, even now, after he sailed west with Frodo eight years ago.
The passing of Gandalf affected part of the audience too.
“What? Noo!” exclaimed Sidra, who apparently had not heard the story before.
“Aye. He sacrificed himself to save us.”
“He survived,” spoiled Wynne.
The rest was easier to tell, their respite in Lórien, chasing the uruk-hai and reuniting with Gandalf. He spoke at length of his horse Arod and all that befell in Edoras, knowing it would interest Wynne.
The Battle of Helm’s Deep he would normally have recounted with detail, this part of the story was one that other warriors often asked him about and he had told it frequently. Now, with Nugu listening, he skimmed over it rather quickly, knowing he had been on the losing side. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, however, interested both the uruk and his wife. Her countrymen had fought there with their oliphaunts, and of course everybody wanted to hear how Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn overcame the Corsairs with an army of ghosts.
Sidra was thrilled to learn that the one who finally turned the tide of the battle by slaying the Witch-king of Angmar, Lord of the mighty nazgûl, had been Éowyn – a woman.
“I wish I could meet her sometime, she must be awesome!”
“You might,” said Thranduil. “Her husband is overseeing the restoration of the former Dead Marshes together with Éomer and his wife, and we are passing through there soon.”
”Really? Wonderful news!”
Wynne too seemed excited about the prospect. “Ever since I first heard the Ballad of the Ring, she has been my hero.”
Legolas then came to the end of his story, the Battle of the Black Gate and the destruction of the One Ring.
Some fighters Legolas had met, claimed they were afraid of nothing. Most of them probably lied, but a few had been truthful. They were gone now. Fearless warriors were careless, and carelessness in combat was deadly. Some apprehension before an encounter was normal and necessary.
The fear of the Host of the West before this battle had been something else.
They had been outnumbered tenfold – a suicide mission. Filled with the despair which only comes from knowing this is your last day to live, they had stood their ground.
Legolas told this truthfully, even admitting how scared he himself had been at death’s door. He did not mention, however, that his last thought before the enemy hoard came upon them had been of his father. When he died, Thranduil surely would too, for how could his father survive losing two loved ones? Most elves would not even have prevailed the first time, but the Elvenking had managed it, for the sake of his young son.
“So what happened? How was it even possible to come out of it alive? You obviously did.” Sidra’s eyes were glued to Legolas.
“Frodo and Sam managed to climb Mount Doom when Sauron’s attention was captured by us, just as Gandalf had predicted. The Ring fell into the molten lava and dissolved.” Legolas again omitted certain parts, such as Frodo’s hesitation and Gollum’s role. “The undoing if the One Ring caused an earth-shattering eruption, which destroyed both Sauron and his stronghold. Rendered without their leader, his forces became confused and scattered. We beat them easily.”
“Hooray!” cheered Sidra, even clapping her hands.
“The Eagles then went for Frodo and Sam, carrying them to safety,” Legolas continued. “Victorious at last, everybody returned to Minas Tirith. And there was much rejoicing. Thus ends the Tale of the Fellowship of the Ring.”
After finishing the story, Legolas felt dead tired. The disturbing memories threatened to overpower him. In particular, he lingered over his choice to join the Fellowship and how it had influenced his relation with his father.
Legolas would never forget his return home afterwards. That cold, formal welcome he had received, not by his father but by the King of the Woodland Realm. Thranduil had been frosty and emotionless like only he could.
They had never talked of the quest again, not once.
He had lost his father's trust, this was the consequence of his thoughtless action. And that had been especially evident recently, although it concerned matters of the heart instead of his seeking adventure.
And was Ada not right to distrust him? Even now, was he not deceiving him, lying straight to his face?
Suddenly Legolas felt deeply ashamed. This was not right. He could not wait until Minas Tirith, he must speak with his adar directly.
He motioned Stelpa to move up to Thranduil’s stallion.
“Can I speak with you privately?”
They rode ahead, leaving the others out of hearing’s range.
“Ada… I love her,” he blurted out, too weary to wrap it up. “You must not keep us apart.”
“Go on.” The king’s face betrayed no emotion.
“Well, I know this is not what you had wanted… you worry about our people, and her mortality, but I think it will work out. A child… a child can be a reason to live on, after one loses one's wife… is this not so?” He looked his father boldly in the eye.
Thranduil’s calm mask wavered, the gaze becoming soft.
“Aye. It is so.”
“As for our people, I think they will accept her. She is a Lady, she is not entirely unused to court life. And she mentioned she is Dúnedain of heritage, and that her mother came from Minas Tirith. She is no commoner.”
Thranduil was silent for a while, looking thoughtful. Then came his reply:
”I hear what you say. And I will think about it, I can promise you as much. It is correct, that Wynne is a Lady, but she has grown up in the country. She is a woman of the lands. Out here, she has been in her true element, with the horses, the nature. What will she be like in a palace’s halls? Among other ladies of the court? What will she occupy herself with, when she cannot be wild and free, like now? Neither of us know this, even she can have no idea.”
Legolas nodded, he had not thought that far.
“We shall soon be in Minas Tirith, in King Elessar’s Citadel. This will be an introduction for her, a debut into finer society. I shall observe how she fares. She is adaptive, maybe she will manage it charmingly. Or maybe it will be a disaster? Time shall tell.” Again his countenance softened and he touched Legolas’ shoulder. ”Regarding love, you are well aware of my sentiments on that matter. You have known her for – how many weeks? Even in your short life it is hardly any time at all. Love does not just magically come, whatever you young people believe. Love is something you build, work to establish. It is a joint creation.”
Legolas did not reply to this, hoping to avoid another quarrel now that his father finally seemed to at least consider the idea.
“Son, I need you to be patient. If your feelings really are true and deep, they will endure delaying a little further. You must cease courting her now.” He emphasized the last part and his penetrating gaze was stern. Legolas looked down on his hands, feeling like a naughty elfling caught in the act. His father was a master in the art of inducing that kind of emotion.
“You are a loyal son, Legolas. Even… Even that quest with the Fellowship, it was an act of loyalty – to the good cause, to Elrond’s wisdom. I do not think I ever told you this, but I am proud of your achievements then. Even though… I could not really see it at the time.”
Their eyes met, and a flood of warmth surged through Legolas. His father was not one to apologize for past actions, and he knew this was Thranduil’s way of saying sorry. Bending over the gap between their horses they hugged, a short, half hug, both trying to hide their emotion and regain composure.
It's not easy for poor Legolas to balance his feelings for Wynne with his loyalty to his father.
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