10. Chapter 9
She continued southward; not for any purpose other than her companions were traveling in the other direction. She plodded on for a day not eating, drinking or sleeping. There was no reason behind her abstinence; Ethuiel simply felt no need. Late in the gray morning of her second solitary day, she heard the sound of oar breaking water. She climbed into a tree high above the floor of the wood, and stared up the river's flow.
There she saw the boats of Lórien drawing near. Her first thought was that the Lord and Lady had sent a band to retrieve her and she was not at all pleased. But then it occurred to her that this could not be so, for Rúmil and the others could not yet have reached home to inform her queen of the decision she had made. She waited quietly to see who would approach.
It was not long before she realized who was coming. She sat stone still and drew up the hood of her cloak. As they passed her, Ethuiel looked solely at Legolas, exactly as she had done in her childhood. Now, however, she was wholly unmoved by his beauty and grace. She heard a faint voice telling her that she must go to him, and that it would be her final chance; she had no will to do so. Ethuiel did not care. They were not even out of sight when she, sluggishly, climbed out of the tree.
There she planted herself, uncertain of what to do next. She stared vacantly at the running water. To Ethuiel it seemed as cloudy as her slumberous mind. As she was forcing herself to rise and move on, a chill wind swept up suddenly and whipped her hood from her head. That was when she saw him. A pale, gray shape was drifting on a log toward the shore, very near where she sat. She drew the hood up again and crept behind the tree. Out of nothing more than instinct, The Archer reached into her quiver, drew out a dart and nocked it to her bow.
The creature approached the bank and slithered off of his log pulling it along with him as he came. He stood up straight to glance about and she was able to get a good look at him. To Ethuiel he looked like a very old and very hungry hobbit. She wondered how a creature so emaciated could find the strength to swim. His eyes, though, were what struck her most. The iris was so pale. It almost appeared that he had none, and the sight sent a shiver down her spine. She welcomed it; at least it was something. This was not, definitely not, a hobbit.
She saw that he had something shiny in his hand and was holding it close to his body as if someone might take it from him. His eyes darted back and forth. When he was certain of his privacy, he opened his hand to admire his treasure. It wiggled. "Oh, a fish!" she thought to herself. She was almost relieved that he would have a last meal. Patiently, she waited for him to finish. His manners were repulsive. "Oh dear," she thought, "I wonder if he has ever eaten a morsel in his wretched life!" Now she began to feel something familiar; had she the strength, it would have made her glad. It was pity.
When he was done, however, she held her bow at full draw and stepped out from her hiding place. From behind him, Gollum heard a voice that was neither commanding nor tentative. "Drago." It said to him.
"Drago." - "Halt."
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