Chapter 2. The Storm Before the Calm.
“Go alone, if you must, but I still say it is folly. Surely you can at least tell me where you are going?” demanded Tathar as Legolas untied the rope that held his boat to its mooring in the small haven he had built near the elvish settlement in Ithilien.
“There is no need for concern, I will only be gone a few days, so please allow me a little privacy, mellon nin,” replied Legolas as he stood up and placed a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder. He and Tathar had been friends since childhood, and he had been one of the first elves to leave Eryn Lasgalen to join Legolas in his task of rejuvenating the forest that was once known as the Garden of Gondor.
“Very well, but do not forget that King Thranduil is expected within the week. It would be prudent of you to be here to greet him, since you have contrived to have Gimli visit at the same time,” warned Tathar, clasping Legolas’s shoulder in return, and joining him in his merry laughter.
“Have no fear; I fully intend to return before they arrive. It will be a difficult task to keep them civil, and one I would not ask anyone else to undertake on my behalf,” Legolas reassured his friend. “If I did not know better, I could easily believe that Adar sent you here to watch over me, as you did when were young,” he added earning an exasperated roll of the eyes from Tathar.
“The King did no such thing, for he knows as well as I that you can take care of yourself. But may the Valar watch over you should trouble unlooked for find you, mellon nin,” said Tathar as he watched Legolas step lightly into the boat and expertly steer it towards the Anduin.
The warm, humid air smelled of rain, and as Legolas paddled the boat around the bend in the small stream that fed into the Great River, he glanced over his shoulder, a frown of annoyance creasing his brow at the sight of the dark clouds that hung ominously over Osgiliath. He knew that the waters of the river were treacherous during a storm, and briefly considered postponing his search for the ancient tree that the new captain of the Rangers had told him was rumored to live in the forest on the western side of the river, not far from Pelargir. Legolas was determined to find it to see if he could speak with it, and normally he would have asked Gimli or Tathar, to accompany him on such a trip, but of late he felt the need for solitude. The cause was no mystery to him and he was certain his friends had surmised the reason also, but they respected his feelings and his heartache was not spoken of, for the sea longing was something that could not be cured, even with well meaning words.
Besides, he had already argued the wisdom of traveling alone by river with Tathar, and he had no intention of surrendering his victory.
Closing his eyes the better to listen to his inner sense, he felt that this was merely just another of the brief rainstorms that shattered the peace of the day with an intense thunderstorm and drenching rain, spending its fury rapidly before leaving everything glistening wet in the sunshine that followed in its wake.
As he reached the middle of the river, Legolas was pleased to note that the current was very strong, and he took advantage of it by lifting his oar and allowing the fast flowing water to carry the elven boat downstream. He sat down and allowed the serenity of the silence that surrounded him to ease the trouble in his heart, the turmoil that the cry of the gulls at Pelargir had awoken. He tried to imagine what the sea looked like; he had not yet seen it in all its glory, for although he had received many invitations to visit Dol Amroth, it was his fear of succumbing to the siren song of the waves that forced him to refuse them all.
So lost was he in his musings, that Legolas failed to notice the increasing turbulence in the current, caused by the storm that had not spent itself over Osgiliath, but was now rapidly moving south, as if it was intent on attacking the lone Elf in his small boat. The first cold drops of rain brought him out of his reverie, and it took all the strength he could muster to paddle the boat towards the safety of the shore where shelter could be sought until the summer thunderstorm had passed. Blinded as he was by the now driving rain, he failed to see the rather large log that was moving swiftly towards him. It hit the side of the boat with such force that Legolas lost his balance and toppled overboard.
Fortunately the elven boat did not capsize, even as its mariner gripped the side with white knuckled fingers and attempted to haul himself back on board. He had almost succeeded when he heard an ominous crack, followed by an excruciating pain in his ankle, as it broke when it was hit hard by the log. Tears of pain filled his eyes, but with a determined effort he finally managed to clamber back into the boat, where he lay still for a few moments, helpless to do anything but catch his breath.
Realizing that his need to reach the shore was more urgent, Legolas attempted to pull himself into a sitting position so that he could use the oar, but his hands slipped on the wet wood and he fell, hitting his head on the edge of the seat with such force that he was knocked unconscious.
Legolas felt as if he was floating through layers of murky water that were gradually becoming clearer as he reached the surface, and on the edge of his awareness, he could hear what seemed to be the whisper of fine steel being drawn from its sheath. Feeling a little more alert at the possible danger, and with considerable effort, he forced himself to ignore the dull ache in his head, and the intensely throbbing agony of his left ankle, and to focus instead on the source of the sounds. A wave of dizziness engulfed him as he tried to sit up, and he moaned loudly as the ache in his head increased.
“I think it would be wise if you lay back down,” said a kindly voice that startled the Elf into becoming fully alert as he found himself looking into the strangely compelling black eyes of a white haired old man.
“Who are you?” Legolas asked the man as he placed a supportive hand behind the Elf’s head, gently lowering him back onto the folded blanket that had been placed there as a pillow.
“I am a friend and a healer. I think you have broken your ankle, would you like me to give you something for the pain before I set it for you?” he asked as reached for a small pouch, that looked much like the medicine pouch Aragorn always carried when on a journey, and selected a few leaves which he added to a small pot of water that was boiling on the campfire.
“I think that would be much appreciated,” agreed Legolas accepting the medicine without question, his elvish insight telling him that the wizened old man could be trusted not to harm him. The herbs worked rapidly, and he felt barely a twinge as his ankle was attended to, and then bandaged by wrinkled hands that were deceptively strong.
“You are of the Firstborn,” stated the healer as he examined the quickly receding lump on the Elf’s temple. Legolas’s eyes widened in surprise and he nodded affirmation. The use of the rarely spoken name for his race only added to the mystery surrounding his rescuer. “Then I expect it will only be a few days before your bruises fade and your bone mends enough so that you will able to walk again.”
“Thank you, for your help,” said Legolas gratefully as he felt the pain already diminishing, allowing his clarity of mind to be restored. He relaxed even more when he realized that the air around him felt slightly damp, and the sound that he could still hear, was not of swords being drawn, but the hissing sound of constant movement of water over stones, reminding him of the waterfalls in Rivendell, and at Rauros.
“I can hear a waterfall, but can not see it,” he said, now able to prop himself up on one elbow without feeling nauseous. There was indeed no waterfall to be seen, and it appeared as if he was also some distance from the river. “Where am I, and how did I get here?” he asked his companion.
“It is not a waterfall you can hear, but the soothing song of the sea,” answered the man, closely watching the Elf’s response, and so catching the hint of longing mixed with despair that flashed through his eyes. “I believe the Bay of Belfalas lies yonder, on the other side of these hills,” he said pointing to the row of sand hills that were covered with hardy green vegetation and could be seen a short distance away. “As to how you come to be here, I was hoping you could tell me.”
Legolas’s closed his eyes in frustration as his memory of recent events temporarily eluded him. He knew that he had left Ithilien intending to visit… somewhere, but could not recall anything further, and said as much to the old man.
“I am certain it will all come back to you in time, but do you at least know your name?” he asked the Elf.
“Legolas, of Ithilien,” he replied without hesitation. “And do you also have a name?”
“I am called Gwael.”
“How long have I been unconscious, Gwael?” asked Legolas. The name meant ‘gull’ in the language of men and he smiled at the irony of meeting a stranger named after the very sea birds that were continually distracting him ever since the war.
“I am sorry, but I do not know the answer, Legolas. All I can tell you is that Anor has not yet completed one crossing of the sky since I found you,” Gwael answered.
“It must have been days if I am so close to the Bay of Belfalas,” Legolas mused trying to estimate how long it would take to travel that distance by river.
“Perhaps you will remember more after you have eaten and taken some rest?” suggested Gwael. “I will return shortly with some fresh fish, try and get some rest while you wait, a few hours of healing sleep will do you no harm. We can talk some more later.”
Despite his curiosity regarding the old man, whose appearance and enigmatic answers reminded him of Gandalf, Legolas found he could not keep awake, and allowed himself to drift into the misty world of elven dreams. Gwael returned to find the Elf’s eyes glazed in slumber, and as he knelt down to pull the blanket more tightly around his patient he whispered softly,
“Sleep well, Legolas Thranduilion.”