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3
And What, Brother, Do You Make of This?

A yén, as you probably all know, is the Elven equivalent of a century (=144 of our years). I was forced to add footnotes this time, to make some background stuff understandable.


~~~

Part 03 – And What, Brother Do You Make of This?

The manner in which the people of Minas Tirith greeted the return of the White Tree to their midst was nothing short euphoric… which was understandable, thought Legolas. After all, the Tree had been the very symbol of their realm since its foundation, and having seen it dead and withered in the Court of the Fountain must have been hard on them. Now they could have hope again, after the long yéni in Mordor’s shadow.

Legolas had been present when Aragorn bore the sapling back to the Citadel and his own heart soared with joy upon the beauty of it – and the hope that it represented. Then the withered tree was uprooted, but with reverence; and they did not burn it, but laid it to rest in the silence of Rath Dínen. Legolas appreciated the sentiment: the respect that it expressed, even though the method by which it was shown alienated him. A tree, even a dead tree, did not belong into a stone tomb, among other dead things. It should have been brought back to the mountains and be allowed to slowly fall apart; to return to the soil from which it sprang. It was his opinion anyway, but he understood that the Men of Gondor saw things differently; and out of respect towards their custom, he remained silent.

Aragorn planted the new Tree in the Court of the Fountain, and swiftly and gladly it began to grow; and when the month of June entered in it was laden with blossom.

“The sign has been given,” said Aragorn, “and the day is not far off.”

And he set watchmen upon the walls.

Aside from Gandalf, Legolas was the only one who knew what the return of the Tree truly meant for Aragorn, due to his long friendship with Elrond’s family. And while he was glad to see hope and happiness return to the King’s heart, who, after all, was also his friend, he could not help wondering whether the Evenstar would be truly happy, surrounded by so much stone. True, Lady Arwen was no Wood-Elf, but she was the granddaughter of Celeborn of Doriath, and had spent a considerable part of her life in the Golden Wood. Legolas feared that she would have a hard time to get used to a life in this stone city of Men.

“You must help her,” he told the sapling in his mother tongue, for that was how he always talked to trees. “You must help each other, or else you will both wither, enclosed within these stone walls.”

And the little tree swayed its blossom-laden branches in agreement.

He was a little surprised when the call to join a private council with the King came to the Citadel… to put it mildly. The only upcoming great event that he knew of was the arrival of the Lady Arwen and then the following wedding he knew that would take place. That had been agreed between Elrond and Aragorn a long time ago. But Legolas could not imagine what kind of role he might be playing in those events. Related though he might be to Elrond’s children through Celeborn(1), the relation was not close enough to put him in any position of importance.

Well, the only way to find out what Aragorn wanted from him was to follow the invitation, and thus Legolas walked up to the Citadel, wondering silently why Gimli had not been invited, nor any of the hobbits. He was welcomed by a young esquire and escorted to the private conference chamber of the King at once, which showed that whatever occasion had made Aragorn call or him, it must have been a pressing matter.

He was mildly surprised to find Gandalf and Faramir already there – and no-one else. So it could not be an affair of state Aragorn might want his advice with. In that case Lord Húrin or other important members of the court would also have been present. It had to be a private matter, then.

But if it was a private matter, why was Faramir there? He was the Steward of Gondor, true, and might one day become a friend of the King – they were on the best way to that – but not yet close enough to share deeply personal issues. Assumed that those issues concerned the King, added Legolas as an afterthought. But if not, what was he doing here? Valued as he might the Steward, they barely knew each other. He hoped that one day they would, but that was still in the future.

Legolas gave the Steward a querying look. Faramir had fascinated him from the very moment on when he had first set his eyes on the gravely wounded Man in the Houses of Healing, right after the Battle on the Pelennor. And now, fully healed, the Steward of Gondor was a truly impressive sight. Easily as tall as his valiant brother had been, yet more slenderly built, almost like an Elf, with unruly, raven locks shorn above his shoulders, and a fine, even-featured face, framed by a short-cropped beard. He had some definite likeness to his late brother, but not overly so. The most profound difference were his wide, dark eyes(2), inherited from his maternal grandmother, the Lady Olwen of the Eredrim, the old folk of Dor-en-Ernil. ‘Twas strange, truly, for he displayed definite Dúnadan, nay, almost Elvish traits otherwise, and those dark eyes added a definitely exotic touch to his appearance.

It wondered Legolas not the slightest that – after getting to know him better – the Lady Éowyn had taken to him rather quickly. He was strong and brave and noble and wise, and he had the additional gift of a compassionate heart and good looks… what was there not to like for a woman of Éowyn’s format? Besides, he had fallen in love with her at first sight – and what is more, he was free to love her, and he did so with all his heart. Legolas, who had come to admire the Lady Éowyn back in Meduseld already, hoped fervently that they would have a long and happy life together, at least as Men counted time.

For the moment, however, Faramir looked every bit as clueless as Legolas felt. Apparently, he had no more inkling about the reason for this impromptu get-together than the Elf.

“Ah, Legolas, good,” Gandalf looked up from the scroll he was holding in his hand – it seemed to be a very old one. “Do sit down, my good Elf; we have strange things to discuss.”

The word strange, coming from Gandalf’s mouth, of all people, was mildly disturbing, found Legolas. He took the proffered seat, accepted a cup of wine with a grateful nod and looked at the wizard in askance.

“What is this all about, Mithrandir?” he asked. “You seem concerned; and so does Aragorn. Is something amiss? I thought that finding the sapling of the Eldest Tree was what you have hoped for – both of you.”

“That we have,” agreed the King. “However, the circumstances under which we found it were… less than usual, to put it mildly.”

Gandalf raised a hand. “Wait, Aragorn. Ere we begin to tell our tale, let me ask Legolas something.”

Me?” said Legolas in surprise. “I assure you, Mithrandir, that I have known naught of the whereabouts of the sapling – or, indeed, of its very existence. Had I known of it, I would have pointed Aragorn into the right direction long ago.”

“I know that, Legolas,” replied the wizard placatingly. “What I wanted to ask: have your people ever had any contact to the Avari of the Ered Nimrais?”

The question surprised Legolas even more. He knew that the Moriquendi of the South still existed, of course, although not all Mirkwood Elves did. Only the Faithful among them, and those to whom they were related.

“Not much,” he replied thoughtfully, “and I have certainly never seen any of them face to face. From time to time, a friendly bird has brought a message when returning from the South, but that, too, was a rare thing. It has happened a dozen or so times in my lifetime… and never again after my mother’s death.”

“But you knew that they were still hiding in the White Mountains, did you?” asked Aragorn.

Legolas nodded. “Why, certainly. Not only am I the son of the King and privy to all his counsels as his only heir, I have also descended from Nurwê, on my mother’s side.”

“Yet you never told us about them,” said Aragorn; it sounded more sad than accusing. Legolas shrugged.

“You are my friend, Aragorn, and I love you like a brother, but you are not my kin. They are; and they wish not to reveal themselves to any strangers. I had to respect their wishes.”

“Well, it seems that they had a change of heart,” said Aragorn. “We met one where we found the sapling.”

“Truly?” asked Legolas in honest surprise. “Now, that is strange indeed. What did they want?”

“Faramir, apparently,” replied Aragorn wryly.

The Steward of Gondor raised an eyebrow. “Me? Curious. Did they tell you why, my lord?”

Aragorn shook his head. “Nay, they said ‘twas not for me to know; only for Mithrellas’ children.”

“Mithrellas?” repeated Faramir in confusion. “What does she have to do with all this… with them?”

But Legolas began to understand now. “She was a handmaiden of Nimrodel the Fair – one of the Wise Women of the Faithful,” he said. “In their eyes, she is kin… and so are you.”

“Me,” said Faramir, now completely bewildered. “Kin to the Dark Elves of the Ered Nimrais. Now I have heard it all.”

“Kinship, like so many other things, is in the eye of the beholder,” answered Legolas with a shrug. “Nonetheless, this might come handy in the future yet.”

“This still cannot explain what they might want from me,” said Faramir.

“You do have a way to find out, though,” pointed out Legolas.

“And that is exactly what concerns me,” replied Aragorn. “I am still doubtful that they could be trusted.”

“They are not evil,” said Legolas, a bit insulted on his southern cousins’ behalf. “No more than my own people are. Just secretive. ‘Tis their right. You cannot blame them for being wary.”

“Why are they willing to lift the veil from their secrets right now then?” asked Aragorn. “And what are those greater powers that dwell under them. You know who they are, do you not, Gandalf? I could see how shocked you were when that Elf spoke their names. Who are they?”

“They are but legends,” answered the wizard slowly. “Or so I have always believed, ‘til that very day when their names were spoken again… perchance for the first time in Ages.”

“Legends from where?” insisted Aragorn.

“Form Valinor,” said Gandalf quietly. “I have not heard their names since the Spring of Arda. They were considered… lost.”

“But what are they?” pressed Aragorn. “The only one I have heard of before is Salmar. That ancient scroll in your very hands tells that he was a companion of Ulmo, Lord of Waters, also known under the names of Noldorin or Lirillo. A Maia who was very fond of Elves and left Valinor to dwell among the Elves of Tol Eressëa.”

“The scroll is mistaken,” replied Gandalf, “though it is no fault of the sage who penned it a long time ago. Not even the oldest of Elves know that Salmar is not a Maia but the youngest of the Valar(3). He came as the last of the great Valar, together with his twin brother, Ómar, who was also known as Amillo. Amillo was the minstrel of the Valar; his voice was the best of all voices, and he knew all songs in all speeches, ere they were even born, or so it is said. When he sang joyously, Salmar and their sister, Akairis, played on harps or lyres, sitting under the Golden Tree, and the hearts of the Valar trembled with joy.”

“If they were so mighty and well-loved, how could they get… lost?” asked Faramir in confusion.

Gandalf sighed. “During the Dark Years, there was a… disagreement among the Valar about what should be done with Middle-earth. Oromë and Yavanna often came over to work against Melkor’s darkness, and so did Ulmo and Melian the Maia, as you all know. I cannot tell how it has come to the break between Amillo and Akairis and the rest of the Valar, and how and why – or when – they actually left Valinor. The Aratári, the greatest of the Valar, do not always share their counsel with us, lesser ones. All I know is that one day they were gone and never spoken of again.”

“But Salmar stayed, has he not?” asked Aragorn.

Gandalf nodded. “You said yourself: he was Ulmo’s companion, which may be why the Elves thought him to be one of Ulmo’s Maiar. After all, Ulmo has always had the mightiest vassals of all – for who could measure themselves to Ossë, the angry, or to the powerful Lady Uinen?”

“Eönwë, for one,” said Legolas. “Or the fiery Arien, the Mistress of the Sun. Not to speak of the ones who turned evil.”

“You are right, of course,” admitted Gandalf. “Though I doubt that even Eönwë would risk to raise the wrath of Ossë and Uinen, at least not while wearing a corporeal form. What I wanted to say was that Ulmo’s companions are powerful enough, even if they are only Maiar, so that Salmar could have been easily mistaken for one of them.”

“Has Salmar also left?” asked Legolas.

Gandalf nodded. “He has, although much later than his siblings. He has, indeed, lived among the Teleri of Tol Eressëa for a while. But after the first Kinslaying, when Ossë, in his grief and fury, shattered the great stone ring of Alqualondë(4), Salmar, too vanished without a trace. No-one has seen him ever since.”

“No-one that we know of, apparently,” corrected Faramir, “just like the Dark Elves. Unless…” he trailed off, eyes widening in realization.

“Unless what?” prompted Gandalf.

Faramir turned to him. “You may still remember the time, Mithrandir, when Boromir and Prince Théodred of Rohan went to hunt for Wargs in the White Mountains and got attacked by cave trolls. They managed to slay the huge beasts, but Boromir was grievously injured – slashed across his belly with some sort of Troll-knife(5).”

The wizard nodded. “I do remember. Your father was stricken with grief and worry, and the healers could not explain by what miracle Boromir had survived at all.”

“He never spoke about it to any-one but me,” said Faramir, “yet in those days, separated from Théodred and the others, he was found by a strange group of wanderers, clad in shadow-grey garb, cloaked and hooded. They brought him into a dry cave and their leader, a grim-faced yet beautiful female, tended to his wounds. They spoke a language he had never heard before, my brother told me, but he recognized them as Elves. For their faces were pale and fair, and they had raven hair and leaf-shaped ears, and their voices were soft and beautiful, or so it seemed to him. Later he dismissed the whole thing as a vision, given him by the wound fever, but now I wonder…”

He trailed off again, but Legolas understood what he meant.

“I assume that is possible,” he said slowly. “Boromir, too, was a descendant of Mithrellas… if they found him in grave danger, they would have acted.”

“Why were his memories so blurred, then?” asked Faramir. “Could those Elves have confused his mind with magic?”

Legolas laughed. “No more than I could confuse yours, my lord Steward. They are Elves – no more and no less.”

“That may be so, yet I have heard that Elves could be quite dangerous,” replied Faramir mildly. “Especially the Wood-Elves are said to be a strange lot.”

“Only if we choose to,” riposted Legolas with a wicked smile. “But you need not to worry, my lord Steward. After all, you are under the protection of the greatest wizard of Middle-earth.”

“I might be now,” said Faramir solemnly, but Legolas could see that he was more amused than truly concerned. “But what will happen to me when I accept the invitation and go to these Dark Elves on my own?”

“You will not be on your own,” said Gandalf. “I have an invitation, too… and so does Legolas.”

“I do?” asked Legolas, pleasantly surprised. He could not deny that he was curious about his elusive southern cousins.

“If you are willing to go,” said Aragorn.

“Why, certainly,” declared Legolas in delight. “As you do not seem to be invited, Aragorn, my friend, someone has to protect your Steward from the fearsome Dark Elves.”

Faramir shot him a baleful look. “’Tis very generous of you, Prince Legolas.”

Legolas grinned unrepentantly. “It will be my pleasure, my lord Steward.”

“Slow down, you two,” said Gandalf sternly. “We still have not decided whether we should accept the invitation or not.”

“I shall go,” said Legolas without hesitation. “This might be my only chance to meet my southern kin; and I must admit that I am very curious.”

“I shall go as well,” said Faramir after a moment, “if for no other reason than to thank them for having saved my brother’s life all those years ago. I owe them for that… Gondor owes them for that. For without Boromir defending Osgiliath, Minas Tirith might have fallen years ago.”

“That is well possible, though by no means certain,” said Gandalf. “Still, I understand your reasoning, Faramir. And I shall accompany the two of you. Amillo sent word that he would talk to me, and that is not a chance I would willingly miss, either.”

“And where, exactly, are we supposed to go?” asked Faramir.

“To the Stone of Erech,” answered the wizard. “Apparently, someone will be waiting for us there.”

Legolas burst out in laughter. “The Stone of Erech indeed! Somehow, it surprises me not that my secretive cousins had taken up residence in the neighbourhood of the Dead. That would most certainly prevent people from finding their dwellings by accident.”

“I know not whether they truly dwell there or not,” said Gandalf. “If they do, then their messenger had made a very long journey among the Mountains, just to meet us outside the City. It may well be that the Stone of Erech is merely the place where they want to meet us.”

“Whatever the case is, I shall go,” said Faramir. “When are we expected?”

“They said ‘tis up to you,” replied Aragorn. “They will keep watch for you indefinitely.”

“In that case,” said Faramir thoughtfully, “I would suggest a short sojourn while the body of Théoden-King will be brought home. The caravan will have to progress very slowly. That will give us the time to visit the Dark Elves – and catch up with you on shorter, faster ways in time.”

“That could be done,” agreed Aragorn, after a moment of consideration. “But are you sure that you wish to wait ‘til then? I would gladly give you leave, should you want to go right away.”

But Faramir shook his head determinedly.

“I have duties to attend to in the City,” he said. “The Dark Elves have waited all this time – they can wait a little longer.”

~TBC~

~~~

(1) In my little corner of the Ardaverse, Thranduil and Celeborn are first-grade cousins, with Oropher being the son of Elmö, the youngest brother of Elu Thingol, and the brother of Celeborn’s father, Galathil.
(2) Yes, I know that I am slightly violating canon here. But I have established in my earlier stories that Imrahil’s mother came from the Eredrim and that Finduilas inherited her dark eyes. And since I have come to see Faramir more or less as Orlando Bloom looked in the movie “Kingdom of Heaven”, I took some poetic licence and gave him dark eyes. Feel free to shoot me, but I am very happy to finally have proper visuals for Faramir, after the movies ruining him for me completely.
(3) In the “Book of Lost Tales” this – and Gandalf’s following explanation – was supposed to be canon. Unfortunately, Ómar/Amillo and Akairis/Erinti were later dropped completely, and Salmar/Noldorin/Lirillo was reduced to a Maia.
(4) A hypothetical event described in my vignette “The Dying Stone”.
(5) Another hypothetical event, established years ago in my Boromir-series.


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