Legolas stood motionless on the talan, blue eyes fixed eastward across the river and into the darkness of the neighboring forest. Try as he might, the elven prince could not see past the blackness covering his homeland. He could feel the chill exuded by the shadow of Dol Guldur even from the safety and distance of Caras Galadhon. Behind closed eyes, Legolas envisioned his formidable father, sitting proudly on his throne, dressed in silver robes. His orange throw would be covering his left arm, for autumn was upon the kingdom now.
Ah, to be so close yet so far from his home, father, and friends! Legolas was with the Fellowship in Lothlórien. They had just escaped the mines of Moria after Mithrandir fell fighting off the Balrog of Morgoth. The grave news had earned the fallen Maia an elven mourning. Even as he stood silently with his thoughts, the countless fair voices of Legolas’ Galadhrim neighbors rose in unison, their song full of sadness. Tears fell from the Prince’s sapphire eyes, tears of grief over his lost comrade, and tears of sadness in his great longing for his homeland.
“You miss him greatly…”
Legolas, lost in his reverie, was startled by the voice of Lady Galadriel within his mind, interrupting his somber thoughts. She stood beside him, her gray eyes searching him carefully.
“I never imagined myself to miss him this much,” Legolas confessed to her. “My father is not one to reveal his feelings to me, especially his feelings regarding me.”
Galadriel was silent for a moment.
“Your father is not wholly selfish,” she answered at last. “He is slightly misguided by his pride, perhaps, but he is good. He rules mercilessly, but he must, for his realm is a place of danger and shadow.”
She uttered the last word with a certain pointedness, and Legolas knew she had looked into his heart and thoughts.
“There is something he keeps to himself, some secret he guards even from me. If he were to know I was speaking about this to you, he would be quite irate,” Legolas said. “You speak of shadows…there is more than one that troubles him, I think.”
More silence from the great Noldo greeted him.
“He does not speak of it, but I sense his disdain for you…” Legolas ventured. “I have never understood why our two realms cannot share a warmer bond than the one we currently have. It is as if there is nothing more than an unspoken truce between us.”
Galadriel turned her head slowly, fixing her penetrating gaze once more upon the son of Thranduil. For all his similarities to his father, Legolas was different. Instead of the harsh countenance, there was warmth. Where his sire was quick to judge, the son was more amiable to learn. There was another aspect that separated them, and it was that Legolas was innocent, naïve of his father’s shadows.
“For one who does not know his father’s secrets, you have guessed their nature,” she replied after another long pause. “The shadow upon Eryn Galen fell even before the devastation of Dol Guldur. It fell on a day long forgotten now, save by the Wise who recall such matters.”
Galadriel motioned for the Woodland Prince to follow her. She walked silently down the winding talan steps of Caras Galadhon, the glimmer of her aura the only semblance of her passage. Legolas followed behind, equally noiseless. Not a soul stirred. Occasionally he would hear the soft hooting of owls, and at one point he heard the light fluttering of a bird in flight. There was a silence here, a stillness that was unlike that of his home. The silence here was one of peace; Mirkwood’s silence was one of danger.
"No shadow lies here as it does in Eryn Galen," he thought pensively to himself. "Why does the Shadow not pervert the Golden Wood as it does the Greenwood?"
Once they had reached the solid forest ground of Lothlórien, the Lady skimmed across the soft green grass until she reached a small dell. Legolas felt something mysterious, as if an unseen, formidable presence dwelt there.
There was a large tree with a small stream cascading between its roots. Diagonally from this unique tree stood a gleaming pedestal with a silver basin and an ornately embossed pitcher atop it. Legolas watched as the Lady of Light took up the pitcher and filled it with water from the stream. With one hand she held the pitcher, and with the other she indicated that the younger Elf sit on the pale lavender chaise behind her. From his sitting position, Legolas could see the basin clearly.
"You are right, Ernil Legolas Thranduilion, in thinking that the Shadow does not hold sway over my realm as it does over your father's land," she said, though not one word did she utter aloud, speaking, rather, directly into his mind. "There are many reasons for this..."
Legolas tensed slightly, realizing that his mind was not his own private domain in the land of the Galadhrim. The Noldo looked over her shoulder at him, a small, wanton smile on her fair face.
"Will you look into the Mirror?" she said, again wordlessly, moving forward towards the silver basin before him.
"What will I see?" he replied with his mind, knowing she would perceive his thoughts.
“Those matters about which your heart desires answers. I warn you, however, that what you see may be difficult to comprehend. In the end, though, it should bring clarity to the many shadows that haunt your sire."
While she spoke, Galadriel lifted the pitcher high above her head. Ever so slowly she tilted it, until a thin, translucent trickle of water fell into the basin beneath her raised arm. Legolas felt that it took an eternity for the pitcher to be emptied. Once it was devoid of liquid, Galadriel placed it gently next to the basin. She closed her eyes, whispering words whose importance the Prince felt despite their inanity. She waved her hands once over the Mirror before opening her eyes.
The water's surface swirled turbulently, and Legolas felt that Time itself was suspended in that moment. His gaze was drawn to the images appearing before him in the Mirror, and he felt himself being pulled into the basin itself.
There was a great harbor burning in the darkness of the night. The city was unlike anything Legolas had seen or heard of existing in Middle-earth. The land seemed blessed, hallowed even. He saw many fair-haired Elves fleeing the ruins, only to be struck down in their tracks by stern, dark-haired Elves. Cries of horror and battle mingled together in a deafening din.
The sounds of weeping and of flesh being ripped apart by swords were offset by the waves of the sea. It seemed that the ocean itself was trying to drown out all the ongoing misery. Legolas could smell burning wood and the stench of something else, something he dared not even contemplate. Beneath his boots, the ground seemed wet, and as he looked closer, there was a dark crimson tint; he detected a faint aroma of iron. The sheer amount of blood was frightening. It wound down from the homes of the dead, through the city streets, and into the harbor. Legolas felt his stomach convulse.
"The first Kinslaying was a horrific chapter in the history of the Noldor. A chapter I wish could be erased."
It was Galadriel. She stood next to the Prince, surveying the scene before her with a sadness Legolas had never before glimpsed on her stoic face.
The flash of a familiar golden head caught Legolas' eye, and as he turned, his breath caught in his throat.
"Ai, Elbereth, it cannot be..." he whispered under his breath.
Galadriel remained silent.
"You were here?" Legolas continued. "Is this your memory?"
The Lady of Light nodded, almost apologetically.
"The Kinslaying of Alqualondë, when the Noldor slew the Teleri without just cause, robbing them of their ships, and laying waste to their beautiful city, was the last time I ever saw my beloved home of Valinor. I was present that day, yet I did not partake in any of the misdeeds that occurred here," she replied.
"Why did they do this?" Legolas asked.
"The Noldor, led by their great Prince Fëanor, sought to avenge the death of their King at the hands of Morgoth. Morgoth had stolen three precious jewels, the Silmarilli, that Fëanor had created, and fled to Middle-earth. The Noldor wished to retrieve what was stolen from them. The Teleri would not willingly give up their ships, so the Fëanorians took them by force. For their arrogance, the Valar Banned and Cursed them."
"The Silmarilli...the great light jewels of ancient times," Legolas repeated. "Adar has at times spoken of them to me."
Galadriel's eyes flashed.
"Yes, your father would remember them," she said.
She closed her eyes then, and when they reopened, Legolas found himself alongside her in a great cavern-palace. The structure was grander than the halls of his father, and a majestic power resonated here. A great king sat in the throne alongside a beautiful dark-haired lady who seemed not of elven or mankind. Her face was lit with an invisible light. The King wore a carcanet bearing a great jewel that shone brilliantly, almost as if the Sun and Moon were caught in its depths. It sparkled and glowed with the many colors of a rainbow each time the king turned his head. Before the couple, there was a gathering of many Elves.
Two figures stood out immediately. Legolas could make out his father’s proud stance in any crowd. Thranduil was speaking, advocating for the King to keep possession of the great jewel he wore, while the Queen spoke against such an action.
"The Noldor should pay for their evil doings, my liege!” Thranduil argued heatedly. “And what sweeter justice than for you to possess what they value more dearly than anything upon Arda, what they slew our innocent kin for?"
The second familiar figure was Galadriel. She stood on the opposite end of the throne room, her face half-hidden by the hood of her cloak. Next to her was Celeborn. As Thranduil spoke, pointing an accusing finger at her and those gathered around her, she remained resilient, but in her eyes Legolas saw a great sadness, shame, and guilt. He also read something else—it seemed to him that Galadriel pitied the gathered Sindar, especially the King and Thranduil.
"Menegroth! This is the great kingdom of Doriath, Adar's destroyed home!" Legolas exclaimed. "That must be the revered Elu Thingol…with a Silmaril."
"When Elu Thingol learned about the Kinslaying in Alqualondë, he banned the Noldor and the speaking of Quenya from his halls. He did allow certain factions of the Noldor refuge, even such as myself and the people of Fingolfin, who had no part in the evils Fëanor had done.
“It came to pass that one of the Silmarilli was in the possession of Elu Thingol. I counseled him against keeping it, but he did not heed my warning. He thought it just that the treasure of the Noldor should come to him. When the avenging Fëanorians learned of the Silmaril in his halls, they sacked Menegroth," she said. "Your father has not forgotten these two Kinslayings that the Noldor committed."
Legolas was quiet, allowing all this information to settle within his mind.
"There are a few other matters you should know about," Galadriel added. "Your father's realm is the only remaining one to be ruled by a Sinda. Lord Elrond, whose elven roots are Noldorin, governs Imladris. Círdan of the Grey Havens is a Teler of the Falathrim, and his realm is what remains of Lindon, an ancient Noldorin city. And of course there is my realm, Lothlórien. Thranduil feels that as the last survivor of Doriath, his realm should endure, should be a prosperous symbol of the Sindarin people."
The Prince said nothing, looking at the memory-image of his father, who argued still about the dangers of the Noldor within the halls of Menegroth.
"Your father also disapproves of my method of rule, which is to assimilate the lesser Silvan ways into those of my higher, nobler Noldorin culture," Galadriel added, her tone taking on a hint of pride.
She looked at Legolas, assessing his reaction carefully, but he did not respond outwardly or inwardly.
"There is one last thing," she continued, and the image of Menegroth vanished. Legolas found that he was back in the Golden Wood, seated upon the chaise.
"Of the four remaining realms of the edhil, Imladris and my own realm—Noldorin—are protected by the power of the Elven Rings. The Grey Havens were protected as well, but that Ring has a new bearer," Galadriel said. "Thranduil does not understand how the Noldor, Cursed and Banned by the Valar themselves, can be given such authority. In his mind, it is the Sindarin people—himself—that should be entrusted with this force. For as I told you before, not a day goes by that he does not recall the grand splendor of his birthplace, the beauty of Menegroth—its destruction at the hands of the Noldor, my people."
"But you do not desire to bend your will over Eryn Galen, to take my father's kingdom from him, dissolve his people's customs into yours?" Legolas queried.
Galadriel did not move then, and it seemed to the Prince that he had touched upon something she had contemplated before. Her head turned slightly in the direction of his home, her sea-gray eyes growing dark in her silence. Her quiescence made Legolas uneasy. Could his father have been correct all along? Did Lady Galadriel desire to overthrow him?
“No…” answered Galadriel after some time, her voice returning to its usual stern manner. “I do not desire to usurp your father’s kingdom.
“Thranduil is a mighty ruler, but he harkens too much to the shadows of his mind and heart. He fears my influence will spread to his borders, and so he turns away my emissaries of good faith. He worries that I will betray myself and fall into the evil ways of my ancient kindred. Your father, Legolas, is ruled by self-inflicted shadows. I fear that the growing darkness of his forest will further poison his fëa.”
Legolas said nothing, knowing deep within his heart that the Lady’s words were true. How many times had he seen his father refuse the hand of friendship that the Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn had extended? When questioned, the Elvenking would reply that they could never be trusted, that the fair faces they showed publicly were not the same in private. Legolas had sensed a great wound in his father’s psyche, a wound that prevented more cordial relations with the Golden Wood, sensed it but never understood the reason for it. This wound could blind him, leading to devastating results for the kingdom and its people….
“You must aid him,” Legolas pleaded. “I fear that my father’s personal darkness will cloud his better judgment, and that my people will suffer the consequences. The people must be aided; they bear no sin in this ancient rift.”
Galadriel said nothing.
“If he feels that you owe him a debt, why not pay it?” Legolas said, a sudden idea springing into his mind.
It was something he had mulled over for centuries after learning of his father’s hatred of Galadriel: how could he, Legolas Thranduilion, end the cold war between Lothlórien and Eryn Galen? Legolas always desired for better relations between the two woodland realms, but never understood the silence. Now he knew why.
An idea of resolving the long-standing enmity was forming in Legolas’ mind. How could he convince the Lady of Light to end the problem, since his father stubbornly refused to do so? How could the Quest to destroy the One Ring unite nine companions of different races, yet not resolve the differences of two elven realms? The Prince realized there needed to be someone willing to humble their pride for the greater good, someone willing to admit defeat so that harmony could be achieved.
“Sometimes to solve an issue, one must take the higher road, the more challenging yet noble road,“ Legolas slowly continued. “Your peace-offering will prove to him that you see the error of your Noldorin ways, that you concede to and acknowledge the pain the Sindar suffered. This will finally calm him; I know it will.”
The Noldo turned her head back towards the Prince.
“I had no part in this ancient feud; I did not participate in the evils of Fëanor. I attempted to counsel Elu Thingol—“ she said.
“But not in my father’s mind. He sees you as his old nemesis. He holds you accountable for the misdeeds that were done and disregards your innocence. The two Kinslayings weigh down his mind heavily. If you want to truly extend a hand of friendship, then you must meet him on his terms, since he refuses a warmer bond with you. Cleanse his shadow with yours—the guilt and shame that you have carried all these eons—banish this elven darkness of both our realms,” Legolas stated. “It is the only way.”
A warm smile spread rapidly across the Lady’s fair face.
“Fight a shadow with a shadow…Verily, young Thranduilion, you have the wisdom of your sire without the obscurity of his heart. I promise to extend my hand of cooperation as you suggested,” she said.
With that, the Noldo inclined her head to the Prince before departing, leaving Legolas alone in the dell. He stood up, turning his gaze once more in the direction of Eryn Galen. The Prince thought he could see a break in the darkness covering his forest, and his heart soared to think that he had accomplished a great task here tonight. If only his father would open his mind and see past the animosity he had harbored over the millennia. If only the Elves of both realms would unite to spread peace and love.
“Adar, there is enough Darkness already in this world. Do not add to it with the blackness of your mind. Now is a time of fellowship, of dismissing shadows.”