Now the flames, they followed Joan of Arc
As she came riding through the dark
No moon to keep her armor bright
No man to get her through this dark and stormy night
She said, "I'm tired of the war
I want the kind of work I had before
A wedding dress or something white
To wear upon my swollen appetite"
"Well, I'm glad to hear you talk this way
I've watched you riding every day
And something in me yearns to win
Such a cold, such a lonesome heroine"
"And who are you," she sternly spoke
To the one beneath the smoke
"Why, I am fire," he replied
"And I love your solitude, and I love your pride"
"Then fire, make your body cold
I'm going to give you mine to hold"
And saying this, she climbed inside
To be his one, to be his only bride
So deep into his fiery heart
He took the dust of Joan of Arc
And high above all these wedding guests
He hung the ashes of her lovely wedding dress
It was deep into his fiery heart
He took the dust of Joan of Arc
And there she clearly understood
If he was fire, oh, she must be wood
I saw her wince, I saw her cry
I saw the glory in her eyes
Myself I long for love and light
But must it come so cruel, must it come so bright?
Joan of Arc, Jennifer Warnes & Leonard Cohen
Chapter One: The Matchmaker's Apprentice
Word spread like wildfire all over the training compound, in both shouts and whispers-- They're at it again!... Oho! A rematch!... How long has it been since the last one?... Think he can beat her twice in a row? She got him the time before that, though...
The recent arrival of Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas the Elf at the castle had meant only one thing: another infamous arm-wrestling match between Gimli and Dolenheruiel, the head of the prestigious school that trained the Knights of Gondor.
Within minutes, almost all the pages and squires on free time had gathered in the courtyard and even some of the other instructors could be seen floating in the crowd. The half-elf, strong though she was in her sword arm, could not match the sheer brawn of the dwarf... but she had an advantage over him with the leverage that her longer arm gave her. It always turned out to be quite a contest, and being very aware of their audience they kept growling ridiculous insults at each other to enforce the show.
"Your mother was a hamster!"
"Oh yes? Well, your ears are lopsided! Although I am not surprised, what else could a half-breed expect to have?"
"Lopsided?!? Who did your beard braids, Nine-Fingered Frodo?"
"Ho! You want to talk braids? Legolas makes a better showing of his locks than you!"
"Only when standing next to you, fur face!"
Legolas allowed himself a chuckle and shook his head. His friends had an unspoken rule never to repeat themselves during these "performances", and it got more absurd every time he and Gimli came to visit.
"Look at you! You could not pull a hobbit out of bed!"
"Ha! My full strength is only diminished because I spent this morning showing your axe class the REAL way wield a weapon. Their basic skills were not worthy of a dwarven babe!"
"So! You come here just get your thrills by scaring my poor students! Should you not be off disposing of evil, or was that whole Fellowship thing just a cover for all of you boys to play?"
Gimli narrowed his eyes, making a dangerous rumbling sound in the back of his throat, and Dolenheruiel replied with voracious grunting as neither arm gained any obvious ground. Legolas felt a tickle of anxiousness as he always did when it got this point... but he knew it was without foundation. The increase in intensity simply meant the end was near, and soon Gimli would either maintain his title or Dolenheruiel would reclaim it. At least as far as the audience knew. He smiled, knowing that the loser would be symbolically laying down coin for dinner that night in the best tavern in the city, and that he would eat very well either way.
Suddenly there was an arm over his shoulder and a broad grin at his side.
"They are mad. Surely they must run out of horrid things to say to each other eventually?"
Legolas widened his own smile, and said, "We have been doing these contests since before you were born, Ringrûnion. Besides, your mother adores having someone to interact with in this way. Women like her are few and far between, and the men fall into two categories, both of whom refuse to go up against her even in fun: those who use the fact that she's female as if it's reason enough, and those who do not want to risk 'the shame' of being beaten by her."
He was interrupted by the explosion of the crowd as Dolenheruiel's arm fell to the table and Gimli arose from the bench triumphant, crowing in a most satisfied manner. As the two of them were accosted by their admirers, Legolas turned his attention back to his friend.
"Besides, the point is moot, for it has stopped being what it was."
"I am only one-quarter elf. I do not speak Vague."
Legolas turned to glare mockingly at the young man, and was struck by how much he still looked like his great-aunt, Queen Arwen. In truth, he was the spitting image of her. Give him a set of leaf-shaped ears and Legolas could easily have been looking at another child of Elrond, not his great-grandson. The smirk currently sitting upon Ringrûnion's face, complete with one raised eyebrow, did nothing to dispell the illusion; it was classic Elrond. Surprising, given that he had not even been born yet when the ancient elf had crossed over the sea with Galadriel and the Ring-Bearers.
"Allow me to translate into Common for you," he said, lowering his voice conspiratorially.
"What I meant is that once your mother and my dwarven friend over there discovered how much fanfare their little games gathered, they decided they would have much more fun playing with that than with each other. So they now spend great amounts of time lauding up each match, when in truth the end is already decided. All the effort goes into putting on the show; and as you can see, it is very well received."
"Are you telling me that they take turns winning, and that they sit there and insult each other for fun?"
"Yes. For their own entertainment and to relieve some of the boredom of your schoolmates. Surely you must have noticed how morale rose when word of the impending contest spread? But it would only continue to be fun for others to watch if the competition of it retained its believability. But do not be too disappointed, for I can assure you that the other games we play to test our skills against each other are very real. Your mother still cannot best me with her bow, and she has yet to repeat that one victory with her sword against my knives."
"And I am sure that is not for lack of trying. Once she gets her mind on something, she will not let it go. She must have gotten it from Grandfather."
"Elladan?" Legolas instantly realized the stupidity of his question; of course it had to be Elladan, the boy barely knew his father's name, much less ever having met his paternal grandparents.
"Yes. I've hardly ever even seen him, you know. He's always off hunting orcs with Uncle Elrohir."
"Still, after all these years?"
"Oh yes. Together they are the paradigm for vengeance unchecked."
"An astute observation for one so young, Ringrûnion, and easy to say. But would you be so quick to free yourself of your desire for retribution if your own mother were taken and tortured by orcs?"
"What did I say now that you object to?"
"The phrases 'your mother' and 'taken and tortured by orcs' being in context to each other. She would have died in battle long before she would have given them a chance to bind her alive for capture."
"Yes, all right, bad example."
"But to answer your question... I honestly do not know what the movement of my heart should be in such a situation. I think I might in fact be worse than my grandfather and his brother, for while tales tell me only of my great-grandmother's delicacy, my mother is of such tenderness and strength that to see her broken may call in me a rage unstoppable even by myself. I hope I never have to find out."
They were both quiet for a moment, the turn of the conservation sobering them. Watching the crowd, Gimli could be seen demonstrating his tactics in the recent match while Dolenheruiel laughed heartily at his antics. Her eyes briefly scanned the crowd, and caught Legolas watching them. Her smile brightened and she waved at them, then turned back away.
"I wish my mother to be in love."
Legolas came the closest to falling over he had ever been in his many years.
"What?" He was no longer watching Gimli and Dolenheruiel; Ringrûnion had his full attention.
"How do I explain myself... she has so much love, Legolas. She loves me, she loves my friends, her students, her friends. She loves the world around her, her job, her King and Queen, even just waking up in the morning practically makes her smile. But I wish her to be in love."
"I do not think there is a man in middle-earth worthy of your mother. Or a woman, for that matter, even though that is not to her taste."
Ringrûnion suddenly got another one of those expressions on his face which only a young man up to no good can achieve.
"Gimli is not a man."
Legolas laughed out loud at the audacity of such an idea, and then gave his opinion on this particular attempt at matchmaking.
"No, they are too much alike. Gimli and Dolenheruiel together would be like a one-sided coin... impossible and utterly useless."
Ringrûnion chewed on that for a bit, and then came even closer to the impossible task of making the elf lose his composure.
"You are not a man either, Legolas."
"No, I am not a man, and I do love your mother... in my own way."
"But you do not think you could ever be in love with her."
Before he could answer, Dolenheruiel's voice appeared directly behind them.
"Ringrûnion, you had better not be doing what I think you are doing."
Legolas was obviously having a bad day, for it was rare that even she could sneak up on him like that. Turning around, he almost started, for now on her face was another classic Elrond expression, this one also with the single raised eyebrow, that demanded a very fast explanation. Luckily for Legolas, it was directed at Ringrûnion.
"I'm merely exploring some options for you, Mother," came the coy reply.
"By attempting to set me up with Legolas?"
"And Gimli," the elf chimed in.
Ringrûnion snapped his head around to shoot Legolas an evil eye that screamed betrayal.
"I have chosen my life already, and marriage did not play a part. As a warrior, it has not even been a viable option."
"Lady Eowyn fought bravely in the War of the Ring, and she has chosen marriage."
"Fought, yes. Past tense. But she is not one of the King's Guards, is she?"
"Neither are you," he said tartly.
"Anymore. But she was, and still is, in love with Lord Faramir. I do not have the benefit of such an enticing offer being made to me."
"What, loving someone to that degree, or having such a love reciprocated?
The air was suddenly thick with tension. Legolas got the impression he was missing something, and from the look that he exchanged with Gimli, he was not the only one. Dolenheruiel locked her hands on her hips and closed in on her son; they stared each other down for a few moments, and when she did speak, her voice was soft and deadly.
"We are not having this discussion again. Especially not here."
Ringrûnion just crossed his arms and looked at her stonily. He had obviously not meant to get caught talking about his mother's love life with anyone else, much less Legolas. Just when Gimli began to shift uncomfortably at the silence, she suddenly embraced her son.
"I know you mean well. But I have you. I wish you could understand... perhaps when you have a child of your own."
"But what I really want to know," she continued, breaking the hug, "is why is it always me who must be in want of a husband? Why do you not pester our friends here about their lack of romantic relationships?"
"Don't give him any ideas, woman!" exclaimed Gimli.
"Unless there's something you two travelling companions have never told me?" she said, turning mischievous eyes to the elf and the dwarf.
Ringrûnion sniggered as Legolas and Gimli's heads snapped in unison to look at her, both mouths falling open wide enough to catch flies. She leaned forward and, with a chuckle of her own, shut them each with a light touch from her fingers.
"Don't gawk at me like that. I may have been teasing, but it's a valid question. I shall assume your reaction means you are not, in fact, lovers? Either that or you are shocked because the grand effort you have put into hiding the truth is now wasted."
It was their turn to cross their arms and glare daggers at her. The sight of the elegant elf and the diminutive dwarf standing next to each other, identical in pose and expression, threw Dolenheruiel into a fit of giggles, and her son's sniggering soon flourished into raucous laughter. Once they had recovered, Ringrûnion explained his persistence.
"I do worry about their lack of love, mother, but they are not my responsibility. You are. Besides, in case you hadn't noticed, I was trying to kill two birds with stone. What is the easiest way to find two people a mate? Give them to each other. Saves the effort of finding new people who are candidates."
He dodged a lighthearted punch aimed at his arm and was saved from future attempts by the fresh news being announced in the courtyard.
"Sir Pippin has come for a visit!"
| Part II |
| Index |