Back to Middle Earth
Week 6, Meeting the Elven King
We left our heroes before the doors of the underground palace of King Thranduil, ruler of the elves of Mirkwood. We are led inside, through long, winding passages that descend slowly. Yet the air remains fresh and it never really becomes dark, thanks to a faint luminosity of the walls. We are led through several chambers and finally to a wide hall where Thranduil sits on an elevated throne.
Tom and Sophie approach, Sophie for translation. But it turns out that Thranduil speaks the Common Tongue fluently, so no interpreter is needed. We present the robes and the mirror. These get a close looking over, but they elicit no great cries of wonder or delight. Oh well.
Tom reels off our story of searching for an heirloom crown to re-establish a forgotten dynasty. Thranduil listens carefully and, we feel, skeptically. Tom anxiously recalls the skill of Truth-Seeing, a patharchic ability that doesn't even require psychic powers, much less elven magic.
When Tom is done, Thranduil asks if the crown is magic and if we intend any harm toward elvenkind. Tom assures him the crown has no magic powers he knows of [strictly true, though it happens to be a transformation and part of the most powerful artifact Tom knows of], and that we intend no harm to elves, in fact numbering elves among us and among our allies [true]. Thranduil asks us to stay "a while," while he makes up his mind.
What can we say? Sure. Thank you very much. We're shown to some rooms, there to wonder how long "a while" is for elves. We speak together in Chyoxan and Daewen says she isn't sure Thranduil believed us.
After a few hours, two elves enter. One is a courtier who introduces the other as Prince Legolas. Oh goody! Not only a plot character, but the elf with the most lines in the whole Tolkien corpus. This fantastically dangerous individual invites us to lunch. We accept. There, he asks if we've had any adventures. Tom replies with a truthful, if edited, version of our encounter with the spiders and our hunt for Nate. (Little things like time travel got left out.) If Legolas had asked for more, Tom would have started relating some of our adventures in Hreme, Chyoxus, and environs. But he leaves it at that.
After lunch, we're shown to the throne rooms, then led by Thranduil to a meeting hall where 19 sumptuous crowns lie on tables. The 20th is on Legolas' head. Chris is allowed to examine them all and they are none of them our "heirloom." Thranduil remarks that the elves took the older crowns, with most lineage. This, of course, makes it unlikely that our crown is among them. When Tom asks for more information about crown dispersal, Thranduil makes some barbed remarks about how most of the treasure of course went to the dwarves, while of the remained most went to OTHER dwarves. He also mentions the crown of King Bard of Dale, and adds that the Men of Dale haven't been defending themselves against the Grama very well, so there is a chance that crown was captured and traded by the Grama to, say, orcs. (Wee.) He also mentions that Bilbo took a crown or two with him. (Forget it! We already frisked that hobbit once and wound up wandering through three separate and unanticipated worlds as a result!)
Eventually, the audience comes to a peaceful and courteous end, and we leave. We make our way back to Celebanon and have some time to kill before we have to meet the pantope back in the marsh. Alag decides to go on a little expedition up the Wilderland River, where he hears there is a weaver hermit, an elven woman. Her work is known to be very good in Celebanon and he hopes she might trade him a Lorien cloak -- the magical kind that are camouflage under all circumstances. Daewen and Sophie go with him.
They find a modest little cottage from which faint singing and weaving noises come. The elven woman is tiny and so old she actually begins to show it. She is shy and retiring in manner, but not stand-offish. Alag explains what he is after and she admits to having learned the art of weaving the Lorien cloaks back when she lived there. He offers his Second Age walking stick in trade for one. She agrees and throws in a lovely tunic of yellow-green silk as well. They stay for supper and the weaver talks shop with Sophie.
They sleep the night in a silken tent made by the weaver. In the morning, she gives it to them. That must be QUITE a walking stick. (After all, it was made by an elven Perfect Master of woodcarving.) Or she can whip these items off very easily.
By now, the explorers are running short on time. The trip up and down the river takes a couple of days each way. They get a slightly anxious telepathy call from Tom and tell him to leave Celebanon on schedule. They'll get to the rendezvous in the marsh a few hours late, but the people who are on time can simply open the door for them then.
And that's what happens. Most of the party arrives on schedule, then Tom opens a discrete window on a point two hours later. Two big spiders are there. Ick. We move the door back and Chris sneaks out for a quick telepathy call. The three explorers are off hiding themselves. We steer the door over and pick them up.
We take four days out on the pantope, relaxing while the elves cultivate their silverwood tree and make new bows from it. We then set the pantope for a pickup on the outskirts of Dale, then disembark to realistically trudge the distance on foot, instead of just flitting their with miraculous and suspicious ease. It's a four day walk.
This time, our verisimilitude nearly gets us killed, or at least beat up. On the second day, we spot a Grama raiding party of a dozen or so. We hide successfully, but on the next day they pick up our trail. We run the last mile or so into Dale, arriving early if somewhat sweaty and breathless. The Grama give up the chase beyond the outskirts of town.
Once inside, we take rooms at the Dead Dragon Inn. (We stayed here once before, fifty years ago. The service has since improved.) In the common room, we learn that King Bard II is simply the mayor of Dale. His sovereignty does not extend to Esgaroth or any of the other town nearby, and Esgaroth rather dominates its smaller, older, neighbor.
On the four day since leaving the pantope, Tom, Chris, and Sophie seek out the king. He has a nice house, but it's hardly a mansion, much less a palace. We are admitted instantly and given an audience with hardly any delay. Bard II is a dignified, elderly man who agrees to let us LOOK at the crown his father won, but makes it clear he would not sell or trade it away. Fortunately, perhaps, it turns out not to be our crown. Bard confirms what the elf-king said of trade between the Grama and the orcs, but it seems superfluous information now, except to underscore the unsavory character of the Grama. On the way out, we pass several men at arms in the hallway, summoned in case we had decided we wanted to steal the crown.
We hang around Dale for three more days, until the pantope shows up. We then board and spend a week training. We are headed next for the Grey Mountains in the north. There lies one of the dwarf colonies that came to Thorin's aid in the Battle of Five Armies, and there, King Dain's folk told us, many of the crowns went. The remaining crowns, except for three that have gone astray, are with the dwarves of the Iron Mountains, to the east.
We select a pantope pickup in the Grey Mountains, but will, as usual, walk the distance. (We are told the Grama become scarcer as you go north. However, there are orcs in the Grey Mountains.) Our pickup point is in a stark, stony valley, the Uthrael Beoac, "Valley of the Lords," dominated by the tower Thyrn Suel, "Wind Thrones," sacred to the dwarves and deemed haunted by the orcs.
Two weeks later, we are entering the foothills of the Grey Mountains. We have one week to conduct business with the dwarves, before the pantope shows up.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.