Disclaimer: characters and situations belong to J. R. R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien.
The Valley of Ungolianth
On the fifth day of their journey, they came at last to the end of the forest and the foot of the mountains. Their travel thus far was unhindered, through trees and shrub. At one point, a low-lying, minuscule Bush attempted to drop a bomb on them, under the delusion that they were dictators of third-world countries who possessed dangerous nuclear weapon. The only weapons that they were carrying were the bow of Lórien, arrows, and long-knives--one of which he gave to Emmelyn, for protection, though she insisted that she did not need it. Thankfully, they managed to evade the Bush's attack, though Legolas vowed vengeance.
They stopped as the mountains loomed before them, uncertain of the road. Legolas again cursed himself for not thinking to put in preparation.
'Whence do we go from here?' asked Emmelyn.
Legolas frowned. 'The Valley of Ungolianth lies yonder, beyond the Mountains of Caladhon, where the Valar first came to Arda. We shall climb the mountains.' But his face was troubled.
They stopped there to rest for the road ahead. A stream flowed before them, its song soft and soothing. Beside it grew a willow tree; its branches waved enticingly in the late-afternoon breeze. Emmelyn sat beneath it, leaning back to think upon the quest.
Legolas gazed unknowing at the maiden beneath the willow tree and sighed, his heart heavy with longing. He shook his head--it did not do for him to pine away like this. He will win her. Legolas turned on his heels and re-entered the forest, bow in hand. First, he would find food.
Emmelyn sat, pondering. She did not regret following Legolas to the Aerysil--after all, she was merely following her heart. But she was tired. She had half a mind to live out in the woods forever, hiding from the Valar cutting herself off from the rest of civilisation. Let the Ilúvatar come! Nothing would stop her.
But she found, as she sat there beneath the willow, that she had begun to grow very drowsy. The song of the river had grown smoother, heavier, more entrancing; it felt like a leaf's touch upon her ears. An illness, she thought, some new trick of the Valar, but she had not the heart to fight it now. Mortal sleep would cure her, and she gave into it, closed her eyes, and slept.
Presently, Legolas came out of the wood, carrying, slung on his back, two freshly slew hares. With a shout, he darted forward, seeing now only a corner of Emmelyn's grey, grey robe hanging from a tiny crack in the tree. 'Emmelyn!' he called, but received no answer, for she was swallowed by that tree. He dropped the coneys, and frantically tried to pry open the willow with his bare hands. But elf though he was, and a great one, he could not overcome the power of that cursèd tree.
At last he sat back, defeated. The sun had set by now, and once again the waning moon peered over the horizon. Legolas knelt before the grave of Emmelyn, and cried, his tears soaking the tree bark.
Within, Emmelyn felt the tears that fell from the tiny sliver above her, tasted their saltiness upon her lips, and woke. She saw the pitch-darkness of her surroundings, felt the rough, unyielding wood, and screamed. Legolas started, hearing her, and attacked the tree with fresh vigour. But a second time he failed, and now the sliver had thinned to almost nothing. He cried out in despair. 'Ai! Tua!' The shout echoed through the forest. Help us!
From deep within the forest, a far away voice answered him.Hey, dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!
Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow!
Bom Tom, jolly Bom, Bom Tombadillo!
Legolas' head snapped up. He squinted into the darkness of the forest; there was nothing.
The voice, meanwhile, had grown louder, decidedly closer. Its speaker was nearing.Old Bom Tombadil is a merry fellow;
Bright pink his jacket is, and his hair is yellow.
None has ever caught him yet, for Bom, he is the master:
His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster.
A shape emerged from the trees, a short, squat man with reddened cheeks and an air that could only be described as jolly. As his song had suggested, he did indeed wear a pink jacket, and his hair was not light as Laurelin or pure as Moonbeam, or even the shadowed electrum of Emmelyn's, but bright yellow. Yellower than gold, yellower than the petals of elanor in Lórien long forgotten.
'Well, what have we here, my boy?' he asked, his voice booming that thick with laughter. 'What seems to be the problem?'
Legolas shook his head dully. 'You're not supposed to be here, Tom Bombadil... er, Bom Tombadil. You stayed in the Old Forest; you never came to Valinor!' Then he started, realisation dawning. 'Neither did Old Man Willow! He never came to Valinor! He doesn't exist here!'
With this unexpected twist of logic, Tom Bombadil--or Bom Tombadil, as he had taken to calling himself--disappeared in a puff of purple smoke. For, you see, nothing defies logic, even in Arda, land of the Ilúvatar's children, land of magic and heroic deeds galore.
Legolas turned back to the willow. It groaned, unable to stand against the powers greater than itself, and spat its hostage out. Then, in the space of three heartbeats, it shrank into a stump, and disappeared, never to be seen again in Valinor, leaving behind Emmelyn, confused and blinking in the Moonlight.
Legolas fell to his knees beside her. 'Emmelyn! Are you alright?'
She stood weakly, and fell into his arms, sobbing. 'Yes... yes... thank you, Legolas.'
He held her, rocking back and forth and comforting her. Beside them, the stream sang its unending song, and words came, unbidden, to his mind:An Elven maid there was of old
A shining star by day
Her mantle white was hemmed with gold
Her shoes of silver grey
He became aware that he was humming to her, and gradually, Emmelyn's sobs quietened. She sniffed and looked up at him.
In the dark of the night, Legolas thought that she was even more beautiful than before. Her hair spilled to her waist in a pool of shining silk, and her eyes were as blue as the Sea. Her skin was pale in the Moonlight and kissed by rose.
And Emmelyn, in turn, saw Legolas' dark, dark eyes, and found herself lost in their depths. His black hair lay, dishevelled.
They were light and dark, together. A perfect complement, and unable to exist alone.Legolas, hesitant, kissed her.
A bird twittered in the branches above them, its song mixing with the sounds of the river. The Sun hung low, newly risen; it was only a little after dawn. The pale Moon had not yet sunk below the horizon.
Beneath the bough of the mallorn tree, Emmelyn opened her eyes to gaze at the sky above. She turned, saw Legolas beside her, his lips curved into a half-smile of content, and felt an answering smile spread tenderly across her own face.
She lay back then, and closed her eyes. The quest ahead seemed small of a sudden, its dangers trivial. Even Manwë's disapproval seemed inconsequential.
Manwë. Ilúvatar. Her eyes flew open. For a moment she shook, fearful, scanning the sky warily lest any lightning dart down to lay her low.
Beside her, Legolas stirred, sighing. Emmelyn relaxed and stood, disentangling herself from him. She saw the two coneys that Legolas had cast down the night before, and shook her head--they were long past appetising now, crawling with insects.
She entered the forest to gather food, carrying with her only her kirtle, which she used to collect fruit.
Presently, Legolas woke, and, feeling the space beside him empty, started. He looked to her belongings scattered on the ground and saw that she had taken her hempcloth kirtle, and relaxed.
The mountains stood only a little way beyond the sparkling stream. Legolas narrowed his eyes. If they were lucky, they would reach it by nightfall--and what then? The mountains would not be easy to cross; the steeps are treacherous, the rocks loose and crumbling. They would take at least two days to cross.
And once they reached the other side.… Legolas shuddered and turned his thoughts away--he would leave that 'til later to worry about.
Once they have crossed, they would descend into darkness.
They had been travelling with little pause for two days. Tired, they were, and annoyed at the constant walking.
Food was scarce upon the steeps: there were few fruited trees. Occasionally, there would be berry shrubs, and there, they would eat and gather what they could. Their tempers quickly fouled.
'This is witless,' said Emmelyn. 'Why are we wasting time climbing the mountain?'
'We are not wasting time. It would take longer to skirt it.'
'But is there no other pass?'
'I don't know, and I don't care to find out.'
They crested a rise and began the slow, hazardous climb down, slipping on pebbles. There was the occasional exposed root to grab onto, but, for the most part, they relied on a sure sense of balance, and fate.
But, at length, they began to tire. The sun had half-sunk away. Legolas led the way over the final rise, beyond which they would rest.
He jumped over the rock, and came down on the other side, turning to reach out a hand to help Emmelyn. She nodded stiffly and stepped gingerly over.
With a crunch, the piece of loose rock beneath her heel gave way. She cried out, tumbling to the ground, and slid down the steep slope, disappearing over the rim of a chasm.
Legolas darted forward, not heeding his own safety. Fate was with him that day, for ne'er had a creature dared that speed upon those slopes, yet he did not fall.
'Emmelyn!' he cried, halting before the crevasse. It ran across the path, a scar in the face of the mountain. The ground below seemed far, indeed, and riddled with sharp rocks.
He despaired then; it was his fault. Surely she would not survive such a fall? And even if she were not dashed to pieces upon those rocks, how would he lift her? They had nay a rope, nay a hope.
He knelt beside the edge, weeping for the loss of his beloved. Before that cursèd chasm, Legolas lamented.Wishing you were somehow here again
Knowing we must say goodbye
Try to forgive, teach me to live
Give me the strength to try!
Amazingly, as he sang, he heard a reply from below:No more talk of darkness! Forget these wide-eyed fears
It was Emmelyn. Exuberant, Legolas sang back,I am here! Nothing can harm you
My words will warm and calm you
He cast himself down, leaning over the edge, and lo! there Emmelyn was, as beautiful and vibrantly alive as ever a maiden was--frightened perhaps, but nevertheless breathing. She was standing upon a small rock shelf jutted out from the side of the cliff. Legolas marvelled at this.
'Emmelyn!' he shouted, 'are you alright?'
'Wait.' He leaned over the side, bracing himself against a nearby rock, and reached out an arm. 'Can you reach?'
She stood on her toes, and made a half-hearted swing at the proffered hand, just managing to brush it with her fingertips.
'Try,' urged Legolas, but she could not.
Below her, the edges of the shelf had begun to crumble. The fallen rocks struck the sides of the mountain, sending echoes magnified up to them.
'Quickly!' he said. 'Jump! It's falling!'
'I can't!' Emmelyn said, weeping. She was tired; this had been a long day. She had little energy left.
Legolas fixed her with his gaze, and she looked back unwillingly. 'Vanimelda,' he murmured. 'Do not give up. Just try, for me.'
Despite the obvious cheesiness of this statement, Emmelyn gave an attempt at a smile. She straightened again, determined. The rock beneath her was loosening now; it would not hold her much longer. She jumped. Their hands caught firmly.
They strained against the rock, clawing onto each other as if it were their only lifeline, which, indeed, it was--for Emmelyn, at the least. At last, she found a foothold on the jagged rock, and pulled herself over the edge of the chasm. There, she fell to the ground, shivering. Below, the rock shelf crumbled into dust.
Legolas lay beside her. They would go no further that night…. Especially as they both had each other to keep occupied.
The next day, at sunset, they ended their climb over the mountain. The ground beneath their feet had gradually softened, until they found themselves standing on the grassy strip before the forest.
'What is this place?' asked Emmelyn.
Legolas frowned into the shadow of the trees. This was a fell place, he sensed. Not a wind stirred the dark, dark leaves upon the branches; not bird sang in the boughs. A dark cloud seemed to hang in the sky above, muffling all traces of life.
He shook his head gravely, and opened his mouth to speak; the words felt heavy on his tongue.
'It is the Valley of Ungolianth.'