Chapter 77

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November 19th 3018 TA

The ride to Mirkwood was rather uneventful, though it kept the six warriors of the Galadhrim on edge. Haldir did as Galadriel said, leading them north along the banks of Anduin instead of entering into the forest. As they rode, he contemplated his coming meeting with the Elvenking. Just when I thought life could not get…

"Haldir?"

"Yes?"

"How close are we?"

"Not far, but we should spend the night outside of the woods instead of entering the woods this late. We shall stop once we near the Elf path."

"But is even that area safe anymore?"

"Safer than it was. The Beornings still keep it clear, else the Wood-elves would be surrounded on three sides." Haldir said sighing. Once they camped Haldir glanced into the forest. He knew that at one time these woods had been bright. Vivid even. It was once known as Greenwood the Great. Now, in the setting dusk, they looked menacing. Haunted.

He knew some of this was Thranduil's way of keeping innocents out. If the woods looked haunted enough, those who might have entered would not have. So in some ways, the forest looked unapproachable because the Wood-elves wanted it too. However, there was more than that. There was a great darkness also, spreading South all the way until Thranduil's realm was reached. The borders of Mirkwood and the Elven realm were becoming clearer. He had passed the southern reaches on the way up, and he had realized he would not have entered the woods there even if Galadriel had said nothing. The very feel of Southern Mirkwood was evil.

He did not know how Thranduil managed, but he figured that was why Thranduil was created stronger than most. He was to keep a light in close proximity to the darkness that had already come close to conquering the world once. Twice if the time he served Morgoth counted. Haldir sighed again. Almiel lived here among that. A bright star against a black pit. Haldir had considered many a time pronouncing his love and hoping Thranduil would allow her leave to go to Lórien if only to take her away from such darkness. But something yet warned him that it was not time. Now…

"The forest, even here, gives me chills. Its grown darker now that night has come."

Haldir heard the words and then glanced up, realizing they were right. As the night had descended, the forest had turned even darker and sounds in the distance did not sound normal. The forest was sicker than before. His thoughts immediately turned more worried. I only hope I do not find her too far gone alreadyWith this much darkness, I do not know if she is yet sane.

*

They arrived at the Palace the next day closing in on night again, but here, to Haldir's relief, it was still lighter than before. "Stay here, let them take you to rooms if they ask. I will speak to the King." Haldir said to his company as they came to the entrance hall. The doors to the throne room opened as Haldir entered, and there was Thranduil sitting rather comfortably on his throne. Upon seeing Haldir enter alone, Thranduil signaled that everyone in the room be dismissed save for the three Guard members that never left the throne room.

As it was, they were sworn to secrecy about anything that went on in the room if everyone else was dismissed.

Haldir walked into the middle of the room and bowed. "Your Majesty," he said.

"What has brought you before me?" Thranduil asked.

"My Lady sent me, she told me to give you this." Haldir said and brought a letter from out of his clothes.

"Is that all?" Thranduil asked after receiving the letter and after Haldir returned to his place.

"No, Your Majesty," Haldir said. Thranduil looked at him closer, one eyebrow now raised. Haldir paused, gathering what courage he had, before he took a few more steps forward. "I also came to ask you," he kneeled down onto one knee, "For your daughter's heart."

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