Flight to the Ford: Asfaloth's Tale
4. Home Sweet Home and a Lost Sword
As I turned towards home, we were not far from the Last Homely House, but the paths were very steep and slippery. They zigzagged back and forth, making it somewhat difficult to keep my footing. But I had lived all my life in this place, and was not greatly slowed by them, though my pace was not all what it should have been, for I was very tired. But Arwen did not press me. She seemed to sense I was doing the best I could. And I must admit, I was not finding her nearly as disagreeable as I had when we first met. She seemed to have become much more considerate of her steed and was much easier to bear.
As we neared the House, traversing the path did become somewhat easier for it straightened and grew wider. I was simply glad it had not rained of late. It would have made the slopes impossible to cross. Finally, we crested the last hill and started down the last path into the valley. And despite how tired I was, I could not help but marvel at the beauty of Imladris.
The Last Homely House was situated near the bottom of a great valley. Sharp cliffs rose on either side; lined, not only with numerous pine and spruce trees, but a good deal of other varieties of foliage that I am not even going to attempt to list. Waterfalls cascaded down the sides of the cliffs and a great one flowed directly into the center of the valley; rushing down beside the house and creating a misty spray that caught the rays of Anar. And beyond the greatest fall, in the distance, rose the snow-capped peaks of the Hithaeglir.
At the sight of the stable though, I realized just how homesick I had been. My throat tightened from pure joy as I flew down the pathway as fast as I could. As I drew near the bridge that crossed the water from the falls, the trail finally became level and more trustworthy, but I hardly noticed. I was home! I clattered across the narrow bridge and down the paved paths of Imladris. And I did not pause until I had passed under the last archway and reached the courtyard. Even then, I only stopped because Arwen was pulling very hard on my bridle. I stepped in front of the foremost doors and halted there.
Arwen slid off my back, and with Frodo securely in her arms, ran towards the entrance. But ere she reached the doors they flew open and Elrond, Glorfindel and a great many other folk (who in my somewhat bemused state of mind I hardly even noticed) rushed out. Elrond immediately took Frodo from his daughter and turning went back into the house. Arwen followed him, speaking swiftly. I caught the words “morgul” and “fading” before they passed from sound. Glorfindel gave me a look (elves excel in speaking merely with a raised eyebrow or a fearsome glare though he did not appear angry) telling me to wait there for him, and then turned and followed them, speaking rapidly with another elf. Erestor, I believe, counselor to Elrond.
I was left standing in the courtyard, surrounded by elves running hither and thither, feeling as if I had run into a tree at full gallop and wondering what was going to happen to Frodo. He might have been already dead for all I knew, but I doubted they would have been going to such trouble if he had been. My worries were laid to rest on that account though when I heard a voice beside me. An old hobbit (and an old friend) had come tottering across the courtyard while my attention had been elsewhere.
“Don’t you worry about Frodo, Asfaloth,” he said. “Lord Elrond will care for him. It takes a lot to get the better of a Baggins.”
Even in my exhausted state, I wanted to slam my head into something hard. ‘You idiot, Asfaloth!’ I thought. ‘Frodo Baggins! You have only heard the name ten times a day for the last two years!’
I turned to my newest companion. I had scraped out an acquaintance with him one day when he had accidentally dropped the book he was writing in out of a second story window. I had been underneath the window, having cleverly opened my stall door, and unfortunately the massive tome hit me squarely on my nose (My poor nose again! Some horses get their manes pulled by unmanageable youth, others stub their hoofs—not me. It is always my nose.) It was reaching up for some roses that were twined gracefully around the sill of one of the windows. By the time he arrived to retrieve the manuscript, I had sampled it to see if it was better than the roses. One thing had led to another, and he only managed to reacquire half of it. Since it was the last and unwritten half of the book which was mangled, slobbered upon, and half swallowed, he was not too terribly irate (though it was fortunate that he did not carry his sword around Imladris).
When Glorfindel (who had come looking for me) found me there, he introduced the hobbit to me as Bilbo Baggins, a guest of Elrond and one whom I should have given much greater respect to, before dragging me back to my stall and installing a new latch which kept me in for exactly twenty-three hours, give or take a few minutes. At which time, I paid another visit (somewhat apologetic this time) to Bilbo who was sitting in the garden. Once he forgave me, I found that he got along with horses admirably well, especially for one who is not an elf. And when he learned of my fondness for honey rolls and grapes we became firm friends. He seemed to appreciate someone who could devour food with the appetite of a hobbit. I, for my part, was quite taken with the idea of second breakfasts, elevensies, afternoon snacks, and dinner in addition to first breakfast, luncheon, and supper. The only thing he seemed to leave out was the midnight snack during my stroll around the grounds.
Over the course of the months, he told me all about his cousin and heir, Frodo Baggins. He would often talk to me while writing in his book. Perhaps he was only being kind, but he was no longer young and I think our little exchanges (he talked, I ate) actually helped him to remember everything that had happened during the time of which he was writing. I must confess I did enjoy his stories. I have a weakness for tales of great heroes and far off places though there were not a lot of heroes in his tales. Mostly dwarves, actually. But all of this was far from my mind, when I turned to him. All I could think of was despite my aching legs and growing exhaustion, it was good to finally be home.
The old hobbit looked much as he had when I had last seen him. His curly, white hair stuck out somewhat frizzily around his wrinkled face. In addition to the usual white shirt, he wore a tan waistcoat and pair of trousers. A light blue shawl to ward off the growing cold of the later months adorned his shoulders. I regretted to see that he leaned heavily on his wooden cane. I lowered my head and he gave my nose a pat before moving off to follow Frodo.
As he entered the house, Glorfindel returned and spoke to him. Mithrandir was accompanying him. Mithrandir is a friend of Elrond, but though he looks like an ordinary human, Glorfindel told me he is a wizard of great power who came from over the sea. Bilbo speaks well of him also, so I do not object to his presence in the Imladris.
What was said I could not follow, but their faces were grave. Bilbo then continued into the house with the wizard, but Glorfindel walked over in front of me. I leaned my head against him and sighed with relief. I had truly missed him. He raised his hand and scratched my jaw lightly. Then he lowered his head and I felt his face brush my ear as he whispered, “Asfaloth, can you by the merest of chances tell me why neither of you bears Hadhafang?” Startled, I jerked my head up. Oh, dear! In my euphoria at returning home, I had entirely forgotten the affairs at the Ford. As if at a signal, I heard a voice (it was rather hard to miss) coming through one of the upper windows of the house.
“What do you mean you do not know where it is? That sword has been in our family since the day of your great-grandmother Idril Celebrindal of Gondolin! How could you lose it?”
I suddenly realized I was very tired and hungry, the dark riders would probably haunt my dreams, and I needed to check the manger in my stall. And then I was going to pull all the hay out and hide behind it. Glorfindel simply gave me the amused and tolerant gaze of one who has weathered much greater storms than the wrath of an elf-lord in his time. He stepped beside me and together we walked on towards the stables.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.