Time Out of Mind

by Orangeblossom Took

A girl-child with hair the color of dark honey danced on a deserted, rocky beach of a great lake. The summer was young but it was a cool and blustery day and the trees of the great, dark wood behind her dipped and swayed more wildly than the child under the brilliant turquoise sky.

She was in that brief, sweet time of time between the strict supervision of early childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood, though her parents would still have been less than sanguine if they knew how far she had gone from the town. Her lips and fingers were stained blue-black with the juice of berries and she moved to the music of the waves and the wind roaring in the trees as if there had never been any time but that day or any place besides that bit of earth between water and forest.

She ran with all her might into the wind for the simple joy of feeling her hair and the skirt of her dress blowing behind her. She ran up the beach toward the woods where there was a small cliff covered with soft moss and lacy white flowers and lay down to watch the birds soaring above her.

She could not have said which of her senses alerted her that there was another presence breathing the sparkling air. The truth was that a pair of eyes the color of sky had seen her pirouette onto the beach and watched her approach the woods and she would not have known of her observer if he had not desired that awareness.

When she stood up and looked toward the forest to see who or what was watching her, she saw and elegant figure dressed in a tunic and leggings the same dark green as the trees. His aquamarine eyes were fixed intently on her as if trying to decipher some puzzle and his hair gleamed gold in the bright light of day.

She stared openmouthed at this vision until he spoke and asked her, “Why do you dance, Daughter of Men, when your days will be short and full of toil?”

It was a moment more before she could compose herself and answer, “Because the berries are sweet, the sun is warm, the wind is fresh, and my mother said I may do as I wish until dinnertime and I wish to dance and eat berries.”

The Elf laughed, “A good answer. What is your name, child?”

She answered simply, “Lisle. What is your name, Master Elf?”

“Legolas,” he said and his eyes grew far away and very sad, then he asked, “How old are you, Lisle?”

“This is my twelfth summer,” she replied and, curious, asked him, “How old are you, Legolas?”

His laughter was like silver bells but his tone was serious when he answered, “It is best that Children of Men do not ask that question of an Elf, Lisle, but I am considered very young for my kind, or so my father reminds me.”

Feeling bold, she asked, “Have you ever Men before?”

She was shocked to see the sorrow return to his eyes and one silver tear trickle down his cheek. She felt tears start in her own eyes to see such a beautiful creature in distress.

“I’m sorry, sir, she said. I didn’t mean to make you sad,” she said.

“Oh, child,” he sighed and his voice was low and soft as he continued, “I once knew a Daughter of Men named Lisle.”

The girl’s eyes widened and she stammered, “The grandmother of my grandmother was named Lisle.”

His tone was wistful and he seemed almost to be talking to himself when he said, “Has it been that long, then? It seemed to me the seasons barely turned when I saw her and I see you here now but she was withered like a spent rose when I saw her breathe her last on this shore. Still, I thought you might be the child of her child.”

Lisle was silent for a long time and Legolas stood gazing quietly over the water. She had never seen an Elf and his revelations had shaken her deeply. She was an intelligent girl and could see that, for him, it was as if her great-great-grandmother had died yesterday and his grief for her was still new so, as much as she wanted to ask him questions about her, she wanted to remove the sadness from his eyes more.

She thought of something and, tilting her head slyly towards him asked, “Why do Elves dance?”

And, joy of joys, the silver bells chimed in the now deepening summer day and he replied, “You are pert to turn the question back on me so. Why, we dance to honor the stars and the trees and to create beauty, though there be none there to see it.”

Lisle smiled and said, “That is not so different, then,” before spinning dizzily around him.

He laughed again and joined her and they both swirled madly in the now golden light of afternoon until they toppled together on a cushion of moss, where they talked for a time. Of his own bidding, Legolas told her how he watched the other Lisle from afar and grew to love her and learned firsthand the brevity of mortal life through her.

This made them both grow solemn and Lisle thought that, one day, he might be sitting here with some descendant of hers for he would never die. The sun finally sunk just below the tops of the trees, crowning them with golden light and Lisle sat up quickly and said, “I really have to go home now or Mother will be worried.”
He kissed her forehead and whispered, “Namare,” before slipping back into the woods.

Lisle ran home and, looking out of her bedroom window at the stars that night; she wondered what else Legolas would see in his long life. She thought there was sadness in having such a long life when even the Dwarves of the mountain eventually yielded to the inexorable onslaught of time. He had said he was considered young for an elf and he looked young, about the age of her oldest brother. In some strange way, she felt suddenly a greater maturity than the Elf who had know her ancestor as mourned as should all who see a young and tender creature learning of the shadows of this world. Sighing she lay down on her bed and dreamed of dancing among the stars forever.