The lace-like shadows of the leaves breathed with the breeze and shifted and sighed upon the soft green grass of the woodland meadow. The soft hum of the springtime insects and the babbling of a small stream in the distance blended melodiously with the cheerful chirps of the small birds flitting about in the sheltering canopy above them. Earth and blossoms, ferns, moss and water filled the fresh, cool spring air as one walked upon the new grass, leaving not a trace of his passing. Radiant sapphire eyes gazed upon the statue resting upon the fountain before him. The sculpture wasn't much- just a scaled down large tree, wisdom emanating from its very branches. Anchored to the base of the statue, running the vertical length of its trunk, was something that caused the young creature to gaze in wonder.
Yet as he allowed his eyes to travel its length and drink in its perfections he was unaware that he, too, had eyes doing the very same to him. He stepped forward slightly into the sun that filled the center of the glen where the sculpture and fountain were nestled in the fresh spring grass. As he moved, the sunlight caught in his fair hair and glimmered happily as if it had found a friend. His bright face was tilted slightly upward to better see the object that caught his attention and stirred such wonder within him. So this was what his parents had wanted him to come and see… He tentatively reached out a hand to touch it.
"You… you cannot be real…" a voice breathed causing the startled young prince to jump slightly and pull his hand back away from the sculpture protectively. His eyes darted to where the voice had come from and found a relatively young human woman, a hooded cloak pulled over her head. He sensed no danger from the woman and cocked his head slightly, curious. He was still not fluent in Westron, yet he believed that he had understood the woman correctly.
A moment later she stepped out of the shadows and set aside the unarmed bow that she had carried in a gesture of peace. The prince would have mimicked her action had his bow not been upon his back for the time being. She drew back her hood and the golden-haired one was surprised to see tears glimmering in her brown eyes. She took a few more tentative steps forward, cocking her own head slightly as she looked upon him, still in utter wonder. A long moment later, she blinked and her tears fell elegantly down her slightly rounded cheeks. She dropped to one knee then and placed both hands over her chest then back out to the one who stood before her, as if offering him her heart. The prince immediately recognized this to be a ceremonial greeting and returned the gesture by placing his right hand over his heart and extending it to the woman. He then reached down a hand to help her up.
Her hair was loose and would have fallen upon her shoulders if not hindered by her cloak. Intricate braids seemed to form a looping cap upon her head and a small blue tattoo ran along her left cheekbone. She stared at his hand in wonder for a moment before taking it shakily in hers and rising with the aid of he tall one before her. She continued to gaze at him in wonder. He had the look of a young man whose face was reluctant to entirely give up boyhood yet the air of an adventurer about him. He was beautiful and pure, that much she could tell with little needing to be said. How had she chanced upon such a creature? She had thought that they only lived in tall tales and once-upon-a-time.
"I am Legolas of the Woodland Realm," at least that much he could say in unfaltering Westron.
The woman's eyes widened to hear such a deeply melodious voice waft from the one who stood before her. She almost forgot her name. Suddenly humbled, she dipped he head in humility and spoke somewhat hastily. "Swanlight of the Temple of the Goddess."
When she dared look upon his face once more she was melted by the soft smile she found there. He closed his eyes and inclined his head slightly. "Glassen an ngovaded le, Swanlight."
Furrowing her brow, Swanlight fixed him with a curious stare.
The creature before her suddenly looked perplexed and she could see an inner struggle in his eyes. "It is my… joy to meet you," he offered in somewhat halting Westron.
Swanlight smiled. "Forgive me, but when first I looked upon you I believed you a god. But now I see that you are more wondrous than any god of Men. You are one of the Firstborn."
The last sentence she spoke Legolas understood well. He inclined his head, "Yes. I am Elf-kind." He paused for a moment, silently screaming at himself for his panic-induced halting Westron. "And you are a priestess of the Temple?"
She grinned once more and Legolas smiled in return, happy that they at least understood that much about the other. "Do you come to call on us?"
Upon hearing her speak fluently in Westron something began to shift in his brain and the words came more easily to him. "I was told to come here by my mother and father. I had grown restless and my mother told me that there was something I must see in this realm of Men." He let his gaze float now to the glittering sword that stood with the trunk of the tree. He recognized the sword to be one of his father's for the king of Mirkwood had a taste for swords made in similar fashion to this.
Swanlight followed his gaze. "Do you know what this means?" she pointed to the statue and Legolas gazed at her a moment, making sure he understood her words before shaking his head no. Swanlight raised her eyebrows momentarily as she gazed up at the sculpture, taking in the sights and sounds of the glade before she began her tale. "Long ago, it is said, a terrible king ruled the land. Herod was his name, and in his corrupt madness he ordered all children slain. Some said that he feared the prophecy that one day a child would cause his people to rise up against him and his cruelty.
"The land suffered greatly. Many women came here to the Temple to live out their days in grief and sorrow at losing their children. It was then that a group of priestesses found this glen, and in it was a small fair-haired child bathed in sunlight at the foot of a tree such as this," she moved her hand to gesture to the statue. "The women took the child to the Temple with them and intended to raise him as their own. He brought them great joy and spirit once more. Those who thought that they would never embrace life again found new meaning.
"Then one night a radiant queen and her beautiful husband came to claim the child as their own. They took him with them to their distant land, but left behind this as a gift to the Temple," she gently touched the sheathed sword. "We celebrate the finding of the child on that cold winter day every year in song."
She watched Legolas' face, hoping that he understood all that she had said. He gazed at the tree and sword in wonder, looking younger than his height suggested. She smiled. "And do you know what?"
His intent face turned to her once more, his full attention given to her. "The child was no human. He was an Elven child."
As she waited for his response, Legolas furrowed his brow slightly and looked up at the statue before him. "That is one of my father's blades," he reluctantly spoke quietly.
Swanlight's mouth fell slightly agape and her eyes darted from the sword to the Elf before her. "If that is so then you are the child… you were the baby…" her eyes were wide in shock and wonder.
Legolas moved slowly, as if afraid to look upon her as he turned his gaze to Swanlight once more. "What happened to the children?"
Swanlight couldn't yet shake off her shock but found within her the resolve to answer his quietly voiced question. "They… she… a priestess named Svanhild took up arms. She and many other priestesses began a revolt against Herod. The people were furious- they won against their king. The prophecy came true, for you see, the child had inspired the priestesses to stage the revolt in the first place. In attempting to avoid his fate Herod stepped right into it." She paused, searching the Elf's face. She smiled. "It was you- it is you we have to thank for the freedom of our ancestors… for our births."
Legolas looked bashful and he desperately searched for the words in Westron to explain his Elvish thoughts that he deserved no thanks and that this Svanhild did.
Swanlight placed her hand upon his arm and smiled adoringly and wondrously at him. He knew that he didn't have to say anything. She was living history. She was seeing one from the legends of her people. His awkwardness melted away and he was calm. He now knew why his parents had sent him here. He knew now why there was and always would be hope in the world of Men, for they contained that hope within themselves.
"Swanlight" is just a name that I made up. After going through so many Viking names I decided that I had the 'authority' to make up one of my own. ;o)
A/N: So, what did you all think? Worthless? Too AU? I'd love to hear your thoughts. There are so few WOMEN in LOTR that I just had to write a Middle-earth tale full of them. ;o) Plus, as I'm sure you could tell, I was searching for an outlet to showcase the lovely "Coventry Carol." ;o)
While this story certainly has elements that are similar to the tale of the first Christmas, please understand that I am in no way attempting to push that story upon anyone! In fact, there are MANY tales of abandoned children being taken in by others from all over the world- look at the tale of Prince Paris of Troy! ;o) Yet it being the holiday season and all, I decided to stick a Christmas carol in there. I hope you all enjoyed and would love to hear from you! :oD!
Wilwarin: Awww, thanks so much for your review. I'm SO glad that you're enjoying this story and hope that you find this last chapter satisfying! 'Coventry Carol' is lovely, isn't it? :o) I'd love to hear you sing it sometime! The only version I've ever heard is Loreena McKennitt's and I'm sure yours is lovely! :o).
I-Like-Chickens: Here's your new chapter sweetie! Now you have to update your fic again! LOL! I'm so glad that you like this. Thanks a million! :oD!