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9
To Weep, in a Mannish Tongue

Gimli continued, “Legolas’s vision was true. A band of Orcs had infested the southern mountains, and their leader knew Thranduil by name, and hated him. Thranduil had fought this Orc, named Zalog, in the Battle of the Last Alliance and maimed him so that the left arm, leg, and cheek were paralyzed. Someone told Zalog that the scars spelled out the emblem of the House of Thranduil; and ever after Zalog suffered the abuse of his fellow Orcs who called him Branded and Elf-friend. After that Zalog lived to find and kill Thranduil and his kin as well.

“All towns have a market fair today, including Wild Water. Back then, it was the only one. Folks came from all over to attend it. Zalog gathered a small band and ordered them to keep watch on the traffic that was headed into Wild Water – especially traffic from the north, and most especially, Elven traffic. One day a young Mortal woman decided run away to the market fair and see if she could find work, or somehow escape the village life. I am sure she had nothing but the rags on her back and some courage and the ability to imagine a better life. Trekking through the forest, living on air and creek water, she collapsed one day, only to be roused by voices. Beautiful voices. She crept through the brush and found Thranduil’s Elves making their evening camp.

“Well, Elwen was there, and the warriors, and Thranduil’s cook Bessain who was actually going to do marketing for the winter’s provisions at the fair. Legolas was practicing his knife work with one of the warriors. The Mortal girl had never seen Elves and could not take her eyes off them. When Legolas finished his exercise he went bathing in the stream and the little fool fell –”

“Foolish indeed to fall for an Elf after just one look,” I said. “No Dwarf would do that.”

Gimli reached inside his tunic and pulled out a mithril chain hanging around his neck. On it was a clear crystal stone, and in the crystal, three strands of golden hair.

“That was different. That was true love, and, by the way, I can still send for my axe. Anyway, yes, the girl fell in love with Legolas. At the same time, the Elves frightened her and she withdrew well back and hid. But when they moved on towards Wild Water, she rejoiced and followed them. I am sure she spent her waking moments thinking of Legolas and hoping to meet him when they got to the market fair. It was the unluckiest decision she could have made, for when she started after the Elves, Zalog’s scouts picked up her scent and started after her.

“Legolas met the girl afterwards and that is another story. But he told me her name. It was a strange one. It meant ‘To Weep’ in a Mannish tongue.”

The feeling of dread, the premonition, was back with the force of a rogue wave. It took up residence in the hollow of my belly.

“Ah, I have it,” said Gimli.

I had it too. I knew that name as well as I knew my own, and I whispered it as Gimli spoke it aloud.

“Her name was Willofain.”

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