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Astonishment in Mirkwood
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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4
Interlude: Ithilwen

Author’s notes:
This story took a completely different turn as originally planned. I intended it to be a light-hearted humour fic (hence the stupid title), countering all those horrible Thranduil-bashings out there. But it turned into some sort of serious Legomance, and one cannot work against one’s muse.

The short interlude below was written to lead over from the rather contemplative third chapter to the fourth one that matches more my original intention. I’m aware of the fact that the whole story is a little uneven, but I fear I will not be able to change that.

Giving someone a pet name (epessë in Quenya) is often a sign of fondness. Ithilwen means roughly Moon-maiden, which is an indication to Indreâbhan’s pale golden hair and the fact that she was originally a Moon-Elf, ere I adopted her into Legolas’ life. Also, Sindarin names are seldom longer than three syllables, so I thought her original name would be too long and complicated for the Mirkwood folks.


~~~

INTERLUDE: ITHILWEN

Returning to the moonlight dances that were still going on in his father’s place of festivals, Legolas soon found the Lady Indreâbhan among the merry crowd. Or outside of it, to be more accurate. She was sitting all by herself under a huge, ancient beech tree on the bank of the Forest River, watching the dances thoughtfully from afar.

Still clad in white, her long, shining hair, pale golden as the moonlight itself, flowed down her narrow back like starlit water. Pale was her face, too. Even her lips seemed as if all colour had been drawn from them. Only her eyes shone, deep and dark as the waters of Cuiviénen ere Ithil’s light had brightened the nights.

Legolas approached her openly, though not without a certain degree of hesitation. He was not sure how to address which needed to be discussed. She had always been so honest with him – Legolas wanted to return that courtesy, but without hurting her feelings.

“Lady Ithilwen,” he said, “may I join you for a moment?”

Indreâbhan arched a fine eyebrow at that addressing. Certainly, the name matched her appearance (and that of her whole clan, which was why the Northmen liked calling them Moon-elves). But like all Elves, she knew of the significance of name-giving between lovers, even though she and Legolas were not. So she simply nodded.

“You have been absent for a while,” she said, and Legolas felt that this was actually a question.

“I went to the Great Ash,” he answered, “to think over my choices and come to a decision.”

“You sought guidance,” stated Indreâbhan, and when Legolas nodded, she asked. “Have you found what you needed?”

“I have,” said Legolas. “My path lies now clear before me. The only remaining question is: are you willing to tread it with me, side by side, til the end of Arda?”

“Do you truly want me to walk on your side?” she answered with a question of her own.

Legolas nodded. Slowly, thoughtfully, but without hesitation.

“I have made my choice, my Lady. If you are willing to wait for me just a little longer, I can promise you that my heart shall not be divided when we bound our lives together. All I ask you is a little more time. Right now Elrond still needs me to carry his burden. And carry it he must, for he is crucial for the face of Middle-earth, or so I am told.”

“I have already told you that I am willing to wait,” said Indreâbhan. “But once the time of waiting is over, you will be mine. No regrets, no looking back, no comparing me with him, no secrets. Can you promise me that?”

“I can,” replied Legolas, “and I do. And to prove you that I honestly mean what I am saying, I ask you to go through the betrothal ceremony with me, ere this Autumn Festival ends.”

Indreâbhan remained very quiet for a while, only her beautiful face became even paler. Finally, she looked up, directly into Legolas’ eyes.

“I shall hold you to that promise,” she said in a quiet but firm voice. “I expect our bond to be one of love and fulfilment, not just some guise for an alliance between your father and mine. Thus I expect you to learn to love me, beyond the friendship that we already have, for I deserve to be loved. Just as I shall learn to love you as my husband and bond-,mate. For you, too, deserve to be loved. We can do this. Of that, I am certain – if we both are willing to try.”

“I am,” said Legolas. And he truly was, even though he knew it will not be easy.

“Then I am willing to bond with you,” replied Indreâbhan, smiling for the first time. “I shall go through the ceremony with you before the end of the Festival, and I shall wait ‘til I can have your undivided love and attention. Make me not wait too long.”

Legolas shook his head in awe. “I still fail to understand why you are willing to do this. It cannot be pleasant for you.”

“Not always,” admitted Indreâbhan. “I would prefer to simply follow the call my heart as most of our people are allowed to do. And I certainly would prefer it if I would not have to live up against the memories of all that which you had – or still have – with Elrond. Yet I am not the fragile flower you apparently believe me to be. I am able and willing to fight for you.”

Legolas could not resist to repeat the question he had already asked Egilstadir earlier. “Am I such a price then?”

And Indreâbhan gave him almost the same answer as her brother had. “You are. What we can have is worth fighting for.”

“Then all I can wish you is a victorious fight,” said Legolas, smiling. Indreâbhan returned his smile and kissed him lightly on the lips.

“Worry not. I never pick a fight I have no chance to win.”

They laughed quietly and sat for a while in companionable silence. After a while, though, Legolas picked up the conversation again, for he still had one more thing to tell his lady.

“Do we want to tell our fathers what we have decided or should we wait ‘til my return?” he asked. Indreâbhan frowned.

“You are leaving? Where for?”

“I shall lead a hunting party south from the Old Forest Road,” explained Legolas. “As our need is great, Father decided to allow the hunters to enter Southern Mirkwood again. I thought Egilstadir told you.”

“I have not spoken with my brother in any length since our arrival,” said Indreâbhan. “Nor have I thought that things in the forest have become this desperate since Queen Lálisin left us. That is a dangerous thing you are planning to do.”

“It certainly is,” Legolas agreed, “But we have no choice. The earth barely brings out anything edible, aside of a few berries and mushrooms, and the game has become sparse. We are starving, Ithilwen, even though it is not obvious. Not yet, that is. The food your people brought will help us through the Festival, but unless the game returns to our woods or the soil can be healed, so that we can cultivate our gardens again, we may not last much longer.”

“The soil can be healed,” said Indreâbhan seriously, “and the growth can be strengthened. I would gladly offer my help in this matter. I may not be strong enough to perform an earth-healing ritual alone, but there are Wise Women of the Faithful in your father’s court, and Mother can assist us, too. I shall call for the ritual soon, and while it cannot work wonders, it still will bring the poisoning of the soil to a halt.”

“You can do that?” asked Legolas in amazement. Indreâbhan shrugged.

“’Tis no wonder, nor does it need any greater powers than most women of the Faithful possess. It comes from our strong bond with Arda, not from any kind of wizardry. Mother and I are somewhat stronger than most, but not greatly so. Still, if we unite our strength with the elders of the Faithful, it should be enough… for a while.”

“And afterwards?” asked Legolas. Indreâbhan sighed.

“That I cannot tell. As long as the Necromancer sits in Dol Dúgol, all paths are clouded with uncertainty. But we shall do what we can, for the forest is in dire need of healing. When I touch the bark of the trees, I can hear their laments as the poison creeps up from the earth through their roots.”

“Are they in danger?” Legolas was alarmed. “Are we in danger to lose our forests? How come that the trees never talked to me about this?”

“They surely did,” said Indreâbhan,” but you are not an earth-healer, and thus could not understand. ‘Tis not your fault. Worry not, though. The trees of the Greenwood are old and strong. They can endure much ere they fall. And we shall see that they receive the help they need to heal.”

Their conversation was interrupted by young Rhimlath, who had been sent by Galion to call them back to the King’s table.

“The guests want our Princess to sing,” said Legolas’ childhood friend apologetically. “It has been a long time since we heard your lovely voice, my Lady.”

Indreâbhan was clearly not happy about this – she was a rather shy person who did not like to perform in front of a great audience – but her strong sense of duty won over her slight unwillingness, as always. They returned to the feasting place, and a great, silver-stringed harp was brought forth and offered to Indreâbhan to play it.

Legolas sucked in his breath in surprise. That beautiful harp had once belonged to his grandfather, and since Oropher’s death rarely had anyone played it, as Thranduil preferred his flute and Legolas had little interest in playing any instrument. He remembered Lindir, the uniquely gifted young minstrel of Imladris bringing the harp to life once during a visit, but that was all. What might have moved the King to ask his future daughter-in-law to play exactly this harp?

Indreâbhan seemed aware of the honour given to her. She positioned the wondrous instrument with great care, and slid her strong, slender fingers across the strings, listening if they were tuned properly. Finding everything in order, she gave a small nod, thought for a moment, then began to play.

Thranduil and all those members of his court who had follower Oropher from Doriath to the East, raised their heads surprised, ere Indreâbhan even began to sing. The melody alone was enough to make them recognize the lay of Lúthien Tinúviel’s lengthening spell. This was a lay rarely sung, as it had the memories of a glory long gone and of bitter loss. And yet, as Indreâbhan raised her clear, ringing voice, it was the feeling of triumph that filled all their hearts. Triumph and hope that – just as Lúthien had done it in times even darker than the current ones – they, too, will overcome the darkness one day.

And Lúthien now was left alone.
A magic song of Men unknown
she sang, and singing then the wine
with water mingled three times nine;
and as in golden jar they lay
she sang a song of growth and day;
and as they lay in silver white
another say she sang, of night…(1)


And listening to the sweet voice of his bride-to-be, as she sang of growth and strength and other wonders, Legolas felt hope returning in his own heart, too.

Mayhap the blessings of the Lord Aldaron and the Lady Palúrien would follow them on their hunting trip in Southern Mirkwood.

Mayhap their fate will take a change to the better, just this one time.

~~~

(1) See: The Lays of Beleriand, pp. 246-247


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