A Tree for Yule
Discovered by Dwarves
White Mountains near Helm's Deep
Year 11, 4th Age
He could not look at them as he told them the next part. "And so, I paraded naked before the ladies during their summer picnic."
"Excuse me?" Glorfindel questioned, echoed by Aragorn moments later.
Legolas looked up to see both his friends staring at him with stunned expressions. It would be humorous if he were not the butt of the joke.
Glorfindel let out an unintelligible, "Ergh..." blinking and looking rather confused.
Aragorn just gaped at him for a moment, opening and closing his mouth like a fish before blurting out, "You mean she said no? She turned you down?"
Legolas winced, tilted his head and inclined it once. "Aye."
His friends turned and looked at one another in disbelief.
Aragorn was shaking his head. "I do not see how that is possible! Legolas... Well, there are few so sought after by the ladies."
It figured they would talk about him like he was not sitting right here, but, he had to admit, it had stunned him, as well. Legolas had never been turned down to an invitation to a festival. He turned his attention back to his friends' conversation, choosing to find amusement in it, rather than ire.
Aragorn was saying, "I would say he is the most sought after bachelor among your kind, after you, of course, Glorfindel."
Legolas smiled when Glorfindel snorted and grinned. "I would have said the same thing, only not after myself, but after your brothers. Since your father sailed and they became the Lords of Imladris, the
females have chased them ruthlessly. Years ago, they would have enjoyed the attention, reveled in it, in fact! But now, there are times I think they will simply run screaming."
Glorfindel leaned in conspiratorially towards Aragorn. "I have found Elladan cornered in the library with two or three ladies asking him question after question with huge adoring eyes. And poor Elrohir," his brows raised as he smirked, "I had to save from the gardens once by a young dúnedain maid who followed him around sighing deeply. I do not think she had even reached her majority yet. He looked ready to scale the wall to escape when I arrived and distracted her."
Legolas joined in Aragorn's laughter. He had not seen this side of the twin sons of Elrond, who were usually so stoic and calm and took life as it came with grace and dignity and not a little humor. Panic
was not the norm for them at all.
Glorfindel continued, "Both the twins admit the ladies are charming, but I think now that they realize more than ever that they are sought as actual mates..." Glorfindel shook his head, chuckling. "Having
feminine attention is one thing, marriage quite the other."
Legolas rolled his eyes and did not bother to listen to Aragorn's reply. He knew exactly how the twins felt. It was why he had not pursued the lady who spiked his interest. He had thought she would respond as so many others in his life. How wrong he had been!
The question brought his attention back to the other two, and he looked at them, blinking. "What?"
Glorfindel smirked. "I believe you are not done with your confession. Go on, tell us what happened."
Aragorn huddled deeper into his cloak, but his curious eyes peered out at him from under the hood. "Yes, did she tell you why she would not attend the festival with you?"
And this was the part that stung. He nodded, hating having to admit this. Perhaps he could skirt the issue? "Yes, she did. And so, I lost the bet, and Tathar..."
"Oh no! You are not getting out of telling us this!" The king stated, laughing at him. "Why did she turn you down?"
"Look! Tthe snow has stopped falling! And it will be getting dark soon. Should we not move on?"
"NO!" Two voices boomed in answer, the sound echoing in the still wood.
Legolas closed his eyes. Might as well get this over with. He opened his mouth and tried to speak but it took him several attempts.
"I-I...er...S-she...uh..." he gulped. "She is be-betrothed to Gurveleg. They had not yet made the announcement." He shook his head and looked away, a light chuckle escaping him despite his embarrassment. "No one even knew they were courting. At least, I did not know, nor Tathar. They are both quiet of spirit and do not desire great attention. I think they will be very happy together."
He realized it as he spoke and his embarrassment faded. Legolas gazed back at them with a soft smile, feeling lighter of heart for having confessed this. "I liked her," he explained, "but I was not in love with her. It will give me great joy to preside over their vows next summer," he told them both with great sincerity.
Aragorn and Glorfindel exchanged a look.
"You are truly all right with this, Legolas?" Aragorn asked, reaching out to place a hand on his arm.
Legolas noticed the man's hand was shaking as he nodded. Peering more closely at his friend, he finally took in his friend's blue tinge. "Aragorn, you are shivering."
"Well, it is cold," Glorfindel said, frowning, as if he also just realized how cold, and moved closer to the Man, sitting right up against him. Legolas mirrored his move so the wind, which had picked back up and gusted over them, would not chill his friend further.
"Thank you," Aragorn grinned at them, then sneezed. He pulled the handkerchief Glorfindel had given him earlier out from under his cloak and blew.
The sound caused both he and Glorfindel to cringe. "Oh, that is disgusting!" Legolas nudged Aragorn with his elbow. "So crude!"
"I cannot help the fact my nose runs when it gets this cold. And who is crude? I was not the one to parade naked in front of the ladies! How did you get away with that? I have heard nothing about one of my lords being so brazen."
Legolas felt his face heat, but shrugged. "You forget it was almost solstice when we made the bet, and Tathar had said he would allow me my dignity. So I donned the mask of Mallos and walked with a basket of flowers. "
"They still practice that tradition?" Aragorn asked with wide eyes. "In Ithilien?"
Legolas blinked, and gave Aragorn a dry look. "We are woodelves. Of course we do."
"I admit to not being familiar with this tradition," Glorfindel added, an eyebrow raised in question. "Mask of Mallos?"
Legolas winced. "Perhaps it is silly, but it is long been held by my people that a maiden who is given a flower by Mallos will find their true love."
"And who is Mallos?"
"No one knows," Legolas admitted. "There are several versions of the story, but the simple explanation is he is one of the Balain who walks naked among the trees at Solstice."
Glorfindel's face went void of expression. "The Belain have been known to walk naked in Ennor, Legolas, but to them, that simply means unseen, without physical form."
"I really do not know where the tradition comes from or how it started, Glorfindel," Legolas told him with a hint of exasperation. "That is not the point."
"What is the point?" Glorfindel asked.
"At Solstice, one of the men of the settlement is chosen to play the part of Mallos. His identity is always kept secret from the women, and he wears a mask to cover his face."
"And he walks naked among the ladies?" Glorfindel's eyes were wide. "This tradition would not go over well in Imladris or Lothlórien!"
"You know our people are less concerned with nudity than yours," Legolas reminded him. "However, I have never been chosen to play the part of Mallos before, nor wished to do so. I am…not as comfortable with such displays myself."
Aragorn snorted. "That must be your Sindarin side."
"Actually, I had no issue running naked through the woods as a youth. But… Well, that story will have to wait for another game." He smirked.
"No fair!" Aragorn cried, then sneezed into his handkerchief.
"Anyway," Legolas continued. "Mallos walks naked among the trees at midsummer, carrying a covered basket of golden blooms and a single white rose. Any lady who encounters him is allowed to reach into the basket and choose a flower. If she receives the rose, it is said she will find her true love before summer's end."
"And she is crowned as Meril, correct?" Aragorn asked.
Legolas nodded. "Yes, and she holds a place of honor during the festival."
"Ah," Glorfindel nodded. "So Tathar had you play the part of Mallos, and in doing so, you paraded before the ladies' picnic.
Legolas sighed. "I did. And I thought it would be an easy task, if a bit embarrassing. I did not expect—" He cut off his words, realizing he did not really have to confess what had happened.
"Expect what?" Glorfindel and Aragorn asked.
"You cannot just stop there!" Aragorn told him.
Closing his eyes, Legolas shook his head. "I have not watched Mallos play the part before, not really. I did not expect the…comments."
"Comments?" Glorfindel asked, his lips starting to twitch.
Legolas felt his face grow warm, but then decided to just shock his friends. He grinned and pitched his voice high, mimicking the ladies. "Oooo, look at his flanks! Forget his flanks, look at that! Who did the picking this year? He needs to be Mallos every year! I rather like his chest. "
Aragorn began to cough and splutter, while Glorfindel howled with laughter.
Legolas just kept grinning. "Then they started trying to figure out who I was. I did not realize women could be so frightening. I fear I left the basket with them and took to the treetops." He gave each of his friends pointed looks. "I will not be Mallos again."
Through his laughter, Glorfindel asked, "And did you crown a Meril this year?"
"Oh yes. In my haste to depart, I left the basket behind. The ladies got their flowers and Tiriel was chosen as Meril."
He rubbed his hands together. It really was cold, and getting colder. "We should move on before the sun sets."
"Wait," Glorfindel said, standing to his feet. He looked to the northwest, then grinned. "Do you hear that?"
Legolas also stood, turning an ear towards their trail before they had stopped to take refuge in the stand of trees. Then he heard it — a comforting sound that caused him to smile.
Aragorn also stood. "What? What do you hear?"
Turning his grin on the man, he laughed. "Dwarves singing, and harness bells. They come to collect a Yule log."
The look both Aragorn and Glorfindel gave him caused him to laugh. "Yes, singing! Dwarves can sing very well, such rich, deep voices, like the mountains. And if you thought about it Estel, you would recall Gimli sang for us in Moria! It was one of the first things about him to truly move me, when I began to realize he was of a race as steeped in culture and love of home and kin as my own. We were not so different."
He smiled as the sound grew louder. "Listen!"
And as if in cooperation, the wind died and the deep baritone and bass voices filled the air as they came closer, mixed with the jingle of bells.
"Hi-ho, onward go, through the wind and wintry snow." (1)
Laughing again, Legolas called out. "Gimli? Gimli, where are you?"
The singing stopped abruptly, and silence filled the mountain wood.
The answer came from a distance, but they could all hear it. "Legolas? Where are you?"
"Over here! The southern slope! We have a great log for your celebrations!"
Legolas grinned when the singing resumed and the bells jangled in their direction. He turned to his friends. "We will be greatly honored for finding such a bole to offer them. The festivities will be grand."
The expressions on Aragorn and Glorfindel's faces as they looked down at the fallen tree where they had taken refuge caused him to laugh more. Spirits soaring, he could stay still no longer. Casting aside his cloak, he darted to the nearest tree, and scaled it to the top with ease, looking for his friend and the party of Dwarves come to find the perfect log for Giuli. (2)
Spotting his friend at the head of the dwarven party, Legolas smiled and called back down to his companions. "And wait until you see them dance!"
— o —
Gimli eyed the half-frozen threesome grinning at him and pointing at a huge fallen tree. A glance around revealed three horses standing nearby, two in a thicket nose to tail, while one snorted and stood to the side. The white coat of Asfaloth blended in with the snow around him. If the horse had not snorted, or been saddled, Gimli doubted he would have seen him.
Looking back at three travelers, he smiled and stomped up to greet them with a deep bow, sweeping the white hood from his head outwards and feeling relieved to find them here. "I welcome you, our guests! We are at your service! What a find you have made! This tree will burn for many days, prolonging our festivities! My people will hold you in highest honor!"
He straightened as he spoke in time to notice Legolas elbowing Aragorn and smiling knowingly at Lord Glorfindel. "And no doubt, Legolas, you convinced your friends to take shelter here for this very reason."
Legolas's answering grin and shining eyes were his answer. Aragorn and Glorfindel were looking a bit confused, but all that would change soon enough. First things first!
"We had begun to wonder if you had taken refuge in Edoras. This storm has been rather nasty. We almost forwent gathering a log for the feast!"
Legolas stepped forward then and grasped his arm. With his back to his friends, the elf's eyes glittered with secret knowledge that Gimli did not miss. Legolas knew Gimli had feared them lost in the storm. "We came from the south over the mountains. Aragorn had need to visit Calembel. Glorfindel traveled with him, and I met them on the road back. We decided it would be faster and easier to travel directly just the three of us. It took some convincing to get his guard to release him, but..."
Aragorn stepped forward and pushed the elf out of the way. "And no easy task getting your guard to release you."
The man turned to Gimli with a warm smile from under the hood of his cloak. "Gimli," he said, completely ignoring the disgruntled elf-prince. "It is an honor to spend Giuli with you and your people. I hope you do not mind if we brought along an additional mouth to feed, but I promise he will not eat much."
"But he will drink you out of house and home," Legolas muttered under his breath, causing Gimli's companions, who had gathered near to assess the tree, to guffaw and slap one another on the back.
Gimli chuckled and nodded in Glorfindel's direction. "Lord Glorfindel, it is an honor. We have not met in many a year. You are most welcome to celebrate with us. Your steed will also be treated with high honor." He glanced at the white stallion, which bobbed his head and whickered.
"I swear elven beasts understand everything," he muttered. "Worse than Celedae." He glared at Legolas's dappled-grey stallion standing nose to tail with Aragorn's grulla mare, Aduial. At least Moroch would be happy. His pony loved company.
Gimli felt surprise when the elf-lord stepped forward and grasped his arm. The light within him shone brightly, and Gimli was tempted to take a step back. "Just Glorfindel will do. It is an honor to be here. I am afraid the King's Guard would only allow him to come provided I accompany him and this insolent princeling." Glorfindel gave him a wicked grin. "But Legolas is correct. I will drink you under the table, Master Dwarf."
Gimli chuckled, hiding his surprise, and returned the smile given. It would definitely prove to be an interesting Giuli. "We shall see, lad. We shall see."
Noticing Legolas had already drawn the small axe he had gifted the elf the first time Legolas celelbrated Giuli in Aglarond, he drew one from the back of his belt and handed it to Glorfindel. "Make yourself useful then!"
The sound of axes at work filled the air as the party of Dwarves, two Elves and one Man quickly cleared the tree trunk of small branches. Dín and Blákári were tackling the larger limbs with a saw and soon it was ready to haul. With swift fingers, the Dwarves hitched the large trunk to the team of six large, stout ponies and began snaking their way through the forest, down the slope back towards Helm's Deep.
Behind them, Legolas, Aragorn and Glorfindel led their own horses.
— o —
The large trunk was put in the huge hearth of the main hall. It had to be cut down just a bit, but they made it work. Garlands of evergreen boughs decorated the walls and tables along with pinecones and bowls of nuts. To one side of the room, large barrels of ale were waiting to be opened, and even now, platters of sliced cheeses, sugared fruits and cold, sliced meats were being set to one side. The main part of the meal – three large stags – would be roasted over the Giuli log.
Gimli's guests had been sent to bathe in the steaming pools deep in the caverns. All three had looked blue to Gimli's eyes, even the elves, no matter what Legolas said about elves not feeling the cold. Gimli knew better! They might not feel it as quickly or as deeply as those of Mortal race, but they felt it. He grunted to himself and glanced around the room one final time, making sure all was in readiness. His friends would be warm in no time, however, and joining him for the opening celebrations.
Not long, Gimli thought as he walked at the back of his group. Not long at all, and the Giuli log would be lit in honor of Mahal. The large trunk of a tree would burn long, and the feasting would go on for many days, perhaps as many as twelve. He loved Giuli. It was a sacred, yet delightful time of feasting, gift giving, and song and dance.
A hand rested on his shoulder, but he had no need to look up to know it was Legolas. He patted the squeezing fingers with a calloused hand and smiled. It would be a good celebration of the solstice. His family had come.
Author's Notes: The tradition of Mallos and Meril is very loosely based on some Summer Solstice traditions. And it is merely my own interpretation that woodelves are more comfortable with nudity than the Noldor. This does not mean I think they would be promiscuous (though neither do I think they would be asexual). I hold to Tolkien's canon that elves were chaste until they married.
"Hi-ho, onward go, through the wind and wintry snow." - A Dwarven song I made up because, well, I just could NOT resist! *g*
Giuli – Old Norse, original Viking name for Yule.
Celedae – Sindarin 'Silver Shadow', Legolas's dappled-grey stallion first introduced in Never Again.
Moroch – Sindarin 'dark horse', Gimli's brown pony.
Aduial – Sindarin 'the evening, the time of star opening', Aragorn's mare. Don't know why he has a mare now, but he does, and Celedae is quite fond of her. Named because she looks like the stars are shining on her back lightening an otherwise black horse.
Mahal – the dwarven name for the Vala, Aulë, who made the Dwarves.
grulla – I chose to just use the Spanish term for the horse's coat color. Aragorn's mare is a slate grey with black head, legs and primitive markings.
Gimli wears a white hood, just like his father did in the Hobbit. I thought it fitting.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the story enough to leave a review. :)