Disclaimer: LOTR belongs to the creative genius of JRR Tolkien, not me.
The splashing sounds of running water not far ahead was a sweet song to the ears of the Elf who was in desperate need of the cool liquid to slake his thirst. His water skin hung empty from his belt, its precious contents having been used to wash the poison from the long, ugly gash on his thigh.
The patrol of three had been attacked by a horde of at least ten orcs, more than a match for Legolas and his two companions, neither of whom had entered Mandos’s halls before ensuring none of the foul creatures would ever breathe again. Legolas had fought just as fiercely and bravely until momentarily distracted by the cold steel that sliced into his thigh. The poisoned blade had instantly set the wound on fire with pain and he had failed to avoid the rock that crashed on the back of his skull, rendering him unconscious. Mistakenly believing he was dead, he was left where he fell, only to awaken several hours later to find to his sorrow that his friends had not been so fortunate.
It had taken him several more hours to inter them both in a rocky cairn, and he vowed to return for their bodies as soon as possible. He had then cleaned and dressed his wound as best he could and wisely decided to make haste towards the area where another patrol was camped. It had been a long an arduous journey, the weakness and dizziness he was beginning to succumb to making frequent rest stops a necessity. To his dismay, he was barely twenty paces from the inviting stream when he felt his knees buckle and his mind slip into darkness.
In his fevered dreams, Legolas imagined he felt a cool cloth mopping his brow and another taking some of the heat from the gash on his leg. The imaginary broth that was held to his parched lips tasted so good he could almost believe it was real. However, when he felt the soft caress across his cheek, he roused from his reverie and roughly grabbed the wrist of his assailant.
“Please let me go,” a not so frightened but very feminine voice begged, speaking in the language of men. Eyes now fully focussed, Legolas did as he was asked and offered an apology to the woman. The wide-eyed surprise he saw on her face as he spoke her tongue told Legolas that this woman was not from one of the border villages.
Although Thranduil held men in little regard, he was no fool and recognised, as did the warriors who patrolled the borders of the Woodland Realm, that it was to the advantage of both races able to speak with the villagers who lived on the outskirts. The men would report any unusual happenings, and in return the Elves would offer protection should it be needed.
“I am Legolas, I mean you no harm. Thank you for taking care of me,” he said with a comforting smile, speaking slowly to make sure she understood.
“I am called Elwyn. I have some skill as a healer and I have given you a potion against the poisoning,” she replied, also speaking slowly and returning Legolas’s smile. Unlike most humans Legolas had met, this woman was not in the least fearful of, nor overwhelmed by her patient who just happened to be an Elf. It was a pleasant change, and although Elwyn did not possess a great outward beauty, her inner radiance shone brightly. “Would you like something to eat or perhaps some tea?” Elwyn asked as she helped Legolas settle comfortably near the small campfire.
“Just tea, thank you. Would you tell me why you are apparently alone in this dangerous part of Mirkwood?”
“I am… was…. on my way to visit my cousins in the village several leagues away when something startled my horse and I was thrown to the ground, fortunately along with my travel pack. My horse is nowhere to be found so I am making my way back to the village. Hopefully I will soon be missed and someone will come looking for me,” she replied with a calmness that spoke of her inner strength. “I had stopped for water when I saw you fall, so I stayed to help. That cut needs stitches… will you allow me to do so?”
“Aye, I would be most grateful. It will heal rapidly once the poison is removed and the wound closed,” he explained, needlessly it seemed as Elwyn merely nodded knowingly. “You have met Elves before,” Legolas stated as he watched his healer work He had the feeling that she was not being entirely truthful in some of her replies, but he also sensed he had nothing to fear. If she chose to keep part of her life private, it was certainly none of Legolas’s business to pry.
“ I have been to Imladris on several occasions, my… father…. is a friend of Lord Elrond,” she explained, her answer again not quite having the ring of truth about it, but no matter.
“As is my father,” Legolas offered, grimacing slightly as the last of the stitches was completed. Elwyn studied the Elf a little closer and let out a small gasp of surprise.
“You are King Thranduil’s son? Aye, I see the likeness. Lord Elrond has a painting of your parents in his private gallery and I believe I have heard your name mentioned once or twice.” Legolas nodded his reply, it was his turn to be surprised, he had never heard mention of this portrait and was suddenly very eager to see it. All thoughts of moving swiftly vanished as the sleeping potion Elywn had put in his tea began to take effect. He gave up the struggle to stay awake when soft fingers caressed his brow and a whispered ‘Sleep well’ brushed against his ear.
Legolas awoke the next morning to a slight ache in his thigh and the tortured sounds of someone, Elwyn, dry retching in the bushes behind him.
“Elwyn, you are ill, can I help?” he asked as he hurried to her side.
“It will soon pass,” she replied with a weak smile. Legolas was not so certain so he scooped her into his arms and carried her back to the fire, wrapping her in a blanket, making sure she was settled comfortably.
“Have you anything among your herbs that will ease your stomach?” he asked, allowing her to hold his hand for comfort for a few moments longer.
“I have already made some special tea, if you would be so kind as to pour me a cup,” she replied, indicating the pot sitting on the coals. Legolas was relieved to see she recovered quickly once she had swallowed a few mouthfuls of the brew.
“How long have you been suffering from this malady?’ Legolas asked as he chewed on the wafer of lembas that constituted his morning meal.
“Just a few days, but I expect it will pass soon,” Elwyn replied reaching for her travel pack.
“I believe you speak the truth,” Legolas replied, keeping his own counsel as to the cause of Elywn’s illness. He knew it for what it was. When he held her hand he had felt the flicker of new life growing in her womb. “What are you doing?” he asked warily.
“If you are well enough to carry me, you are certainly well enough to travel home, and I must continue on to the village,” she told Legolas.
“I will accompany you there. You might take ill again, or run into some other danger,” he said, unwilling to let this lovely woman whom he had already developed a lasting fondness towards, travel on her own.
“Thank you for you offer, but that will not be necessary,” said a strong masculine voice from somewhere behind Legolas. “Are you well my lovely Gilraen?”
Gilraen? Legolas knew that name. So this was the great secret, this woman was the wife of the Dúnedain chief and wisely did not give her real name knowing full well Sauron’s spies were everywhere.
“Arathorn!” Gilraen shouted with delight as she ran to her husband’s waiting arms.
For a moment Legolas watched the loving reunion with just a touch of envy and then he turned away. They were obviously happy and very much in love and their unborn son would only add to their joy.