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A Light in May  by Antigone Q

"Estel? Wake up, darling." When Gilraen came to Estel that night, he could already hear the chimes of the Elves' laughter, and drums and flutes in the distance. They blended together to make a kind of exhilarating night music. He opened his eyes groggily.

Gilraen looked different than Estel remembered seeing her. She wore her hair up and crowned with a wreath of the cherry blossoms Estel liked to bring to her, and her cheeks were rosy in the lamplight. She wore a pink dress, and her eyes, which looked especially blue, were for once merry. Estel thought that she looked like a young girl, not very much like anyone's mother.

"Come and get dressed, Estel! The night is fine, and the dancing has already started." She helped Estel into clothes of silver and midnight blue, and braided his hair with the Evening Stars he had picked earlier. Then, nearly skipping, she led Estel out of the house and down the path toward the noise.

When they reached their destination, Estel stopped and stared in wonder. He knew this place, and yet he did not know it. He and Elladan came to the glade to practice tracking, but it was changed as if it had been enchanted in the night.

High above, the full moon glowed, bathing the trees in silver, and the stars that encrusted the cloudless black sky glittered like white jewels. Below, the softly glowing spheres that were Elven lanterns hung here and there from the trees, and in the center of the glade was a small fire. Some thoughtful person had spread blankets near the edge of the glade, and some of the Elves were sitting on them, pouring wine and passing food and joking with each other.

Tavor came by carrying a basket of refreshments, so Estel and Gilraen took some bread and cheese.

The Elves themselves looked foreign to Estel - as alien as if he had not seen them before, although he recognized all of them from Elrond's house. The clothes they wore were spun of soft, shiny materials in bright colors, like the petals of new flowers, and every gesture they made was like a dance in   itself. Estel saw Glorfindel a little distance away, dressed in gold and almost shining with something wonderful that Estel could not name: beautiful, yet somehow a stranger. How had the moonlight had changed Estel's friends to these ethereal, noble beings?

There were some Elves dancing around the fire, and they were elegant, full of grace and joy. Many of the dancers wore masks in the shapes of flower petals or leaves. Estel noticed that at the edge of the glade, nearly hidden in the shadows, some of the Elves were playing music. One had a flute, and two had drums, and one Elf wore shells around her ankle that made a rattling sound when she tapped her foot.

The dancers were moving in a complicated pattern, like a series of knots, in a circle around the fire. Estel saw both Elladan and Elrohir, as well as Legolas and a few others. The bright clothes shimmered with the light of the flames as they turned together, and then all at once leapt several paces forward. When they touched lightly on the ground they knelt, and the music stopped.

There were laughter and shouts of encouragement. The dancers moved outside the circle. More wine was poured, more goblets rose in various toasts, and other Elves moved to take their places in the dancing area.

"Estel, Lady Gilraen!" said a voice beside the two of them. "Well met!"

Estel turned his gaze upwards and met Elrohir's smile. "How do you like your first Nost-na-Lothion, Estel?"

"It is very strange," Estel said honestly. "But beautiful." Estel had never seen Elrohir in clothes like these. They were embroidered all over, and trimmed with bells in some places. In his dark hair Elrohir was wearing forget-me-nots.

"Of course it is," Elrohir said with a smile. "That is what the night is for! Did you see that Father is playing his flute tonight?"

Estel had not, but indeed it was Elrond at the side of the glade, his hair wreathed not in flowers, but in evergreen. For a second, Estel was alarmed when instead of the beloved father who ruffled his hair and took him herb-gathering, he saw only another bright being who had lived a long, long time. Then Elrond waved and Estel saw his father again. Estel waved back happily.

"Tell me, Estel," Elrohir said, "would you not like to see your mother dance, too?"

"Oh," breathed Gilraen, turning her head shyly. "I am sure I could not. I have been watching the Elves, Elrohir, and I know I could never keep up."

Elrohir laughed. "Lady, do I not know you well enough yet to know you are not an Elf? Come and dance with me now. It is only a chain dance such as you might do anywhere in Gondor. It is not difficult."

Gilraen hesitated.

"It would please me, my lady," Elrohir insisted. "For I see you eyeing the circle, and I know it would give you happiness."

Gilraen seemed to flush, but perhaps it was only the firelight. "It would give me much delight indeed, to dance again as I used to."

Elrohir grinned broadly, but looked down at Estel. "Then may I steal your mother away for a few moments? I promise to bring her back soon."

Estel nodded. "I have never seen you dance, Mama. I would like to."

And so they went out to the fire together, Gilraen in her dress like pink cherry blossom, and Elrohir in the shimmering color of a summer sky. Estel watched them with admiration as they bowed, walked, lifted their hands together, turned, stepped. Estel had never noticed before that his mother was pretty, but he knew now, as her eyes lit with merriment, that it was so.

At his elbow, someone said to Estel. "I see your papa allowed you to come to the festival after all. I hope you did not make yourself hoarse."

Estel glanced up and saw Legolas, and knew he was only teasing. Nevertheless he explained, "I asked nicely, and Papa said he would let me come for an hour."

Legolas, who was dressed in the color of summer leaves, sipped from a carved goblet. "Well done. Would that we had such diplomats in Mirkwood." He eyed the dancers walking and turning around the fire. "It is a great shame that we do not keep Nost-na-Lothion at home, for this is a beautiful celebration. Many of the songs and dances seem the same, though."

Estel pointed. "That is my mother, in the pink. She has never been to an Elf dance."

"I do not believe I have seen your mother before. She dances well."

Estel nodded happily.

When Elrohir brought Gilraen back to Estel, he greeted Legolas. "Well met, Legolas! I see you have recovered well enough to be able to jump about with the rest of us."

Legolas inclined his head in acknowledgement. "I am entirely healed, thanks to your father. Truly, Imladris has a wonderful air that has strengthened my heart, as well."

Elrohir turned and took some Lembas from an Elf with a basket and broke it. "It is traditional to share Yavanna's bread with friends at the Birth of Flowers," he said, offering some to Gilraen, Estel and Legolas.

Legolas chuckled. "I must have made more friends in Imladris than I had realized. If I am asked to take one more piece of Lembas from my courteous hosts, I shall burst."

In the shadows, the drums began to beat, this time in a fast rhythm. A broad smile broke across Elrohir's face. "Do you do the Dance of Arda in Mirkwood?" he asked.

"Aye," Legolas confirmed, and with a teasing air added, "And I'll wager we know it so well that you Imladris folk will not be able to keep up with us. In the Greenwood we touch the treetops for that one!"

Elrohir laughed. "Indeed, we have not yet reached the treetops in our dances here. But we will do our poor best." Elrohir turned to Estel and Gilraen. "And now you will see something worth waiting for," Elrohir promised. And he donned a mask.

Estel saw the mask was made of wood, but it was very thin, and carved and painted to look like the petals of a columbine. It made him look very strange. Estel reached out to touch the mask lightly, a little frightened.

Elrohir, sensing Estel's discomfort, lifted the mask for a moment to wink, and then went back to the dancing circle. In fact, every Elf who was not playing music was moving towards the circle, as well. With a grin, Legolas unhooked a mask made of new leaves from his belt, and tied it in place. Then Legolas, too, made his way towards the center of the glade.

Estel could not pick out all the Elves because they were masked, but as they took their positions, he knew both his brothers, and fair-haired Legolas, and tall Glorfindel. Estel was fairly certain of Ilothuir and Nestwen, the healers, and even thought he recognized grumpy Medlin taking his place in the circle.

Gilraen settled on a blanket and pulled Estel onto her lap. Estel, more content than he had been in a long while, leaned back against his mother's shoulder to watch the scene in front of him.

If the first dance he had seen was intricate, this one was even more complex. Each Elf moved in perfect time with all the others, leaping in a great knot around the fire. If any of the Elves had been one step out of place, the dance would have failed. Although no one truly reached to the treetops, as Legolas had said, Estel knew that no mortal could have jumped to the heights the Elves achieved.

From the edge of the circle, the Elf with the shells on her ankle began to sing in a language Estel did not know. With a start, Estel realized the singer was the courier, Nordheth of Mirkwood. Her song lifted Estel's heart, and made him want to leap for joy along with the Elves.

Soon the Elves around the fire were moving so quickly that he could not pick out any of them clearly, not even Elrohir and Elladan. At any given time, some of the Elves would be high in the air, and others somersaulting on the ground, while yet others were turning on one foot.

Unexpectedly, one of the leaping Elves faltered, but recovered. The dancer behind him narrowly missed being kicked in the head, but the dance went on.

A few minutes later, horribly, the same Elf stumbled and fell. Abruptly, everyone behind him stopped, and the three Elves in the air barely avoided crashing into those who were standing. They all waited, since there was no choice if each person was not in their proper place.

Yet the fallen dancer did not rise. The drums and the flutes stopped too, as the fallen one gripped his throat and pulled off his mask. With horror Estel realized the fallen dancer was his friend Legolas, and the Elf was breathing with great difficulty.

For a moment no one moved, then from the side of the glade Elrond dropped his flute, moving forward to Legolas. Other dancers, too, were removing their masks and hurrying forward to help. Elrond reached Legolas first and knelt by him.

"What is the matter?" the healer asked, looking for some sign of injury.

"Breathe…" was all Legolas could manage.

Gilraen tried to prevent Estel from running forward but she was not quick enough. As he reached the Elves, he saw that Legolas' lips were beginning to tinge with blue, and although he was not panting, his eyes were bulging with the effort of drawing in each breath. Legolas slipped from his kneeling posture as if he could no longer hold himself up.

Elrond gently moved Legolas' hand from his throat and placed his own there, closing his eyes. Elrond's eyes flew open again and he at once helped Legolas to lie down on the grassy floor. Then Elrond took his hand from Legolas throat and placed it lower, under Legolas' ribcage; with the other hand he covered Legolas heart. Legolas' eyes were still open and although he could not speak he was looking panicked.

"You must relax, young one," Elrond said softly, meeting Legolas' frightened gaze. “I know it is difficult, but you must calm yourself. I will keep your heart beating steadily, and I will breathe for you, but you must allow me to help … Glorfindel?" Elrond looked around for a moment, and then turned his attention back to Legolas. "Let go…I will do all the work. There…. Good. You see? You do well…."

Estel was glad Legolas did not know Elrond very well yet. If he had, he would surely have seen that under his calm exterior, the healer was exceedingly worried.

Glorfindel stepped forward and dropped to one knee by Elrond. "My Lord?"

Elrond tried to say it as quietly as possible, but there was no way to keep everyone from hearing, including Legolas. "He has been poisoned."


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