9. Chapter 8
At last she readied herself for duty. The Lord and Lady had charged her and a band of the guard to go out into the forest and travel south, clearing the land of danger so that the Company might go, at least for a short time, unopposed. They had been bidden to follow the river Anduin and scour the wood; to go as far as they could in two days and return thereafter to Lórien.
And so a band of eight Elves, one to represent each of the remaining Walkers, went out of Caras Galadon to play their part in the last stand against the Shadow. Galadriel had chosen the best of Lothlórien's archers and swordsmen in a gesture of hope beyond hope.
For those two days they scouted ardently, but found naught. All was alarmingly still. The nights were cold and starless and through the trees, clouds took haunting shapes before a pale, waning moon. Ethuiel struggled with listlessness. Her feet grew heavy and her sight, dim. Her companions recognized it but knew not how to address the matter. Rúmil summoned his courage and resolved to try. When they had camped on the second night he approached her as she sat alone with her back against a tree.
"Ethuiel," he said softly, "How is it with you? I know you well, so I cannot say that you seem troubled, however, I see also that you are not yourself." Slowly as if it was a great effort, she turned to face him.
"You see clearly in darkness or day, Rúmil. Nay, I am not myself, for I am now--no one." Rúmil sat down beside her.
"I do not take your meaning. You are Ethuiel, Ecthelion's Daughter, now of Lothlórien and the Lady of Light. How do you say that you are 'no one'?"
Ethuiel answered in a whispering monotone, “I am one without feeling in heart or hand. Neither love, nor joy, nor pain nor sorrow; neither do I hate any longer. Galadriel insists that it is a glorious, miraculous event, but I lived nearly two ages with it Rúmil, and I cannot continue this way another two days let alone two ages awaiting the next chapter of renewal. What good am I to her or anyone if I have neither love nor hate?"
Rúmil drew near her and placed his arm about her shoulders. "It shall not be so long I think that you will wait for the next phase, dearest sister-elf. You stand now upon a high precipice. Your laborious climb is done. It is but for you to take one last step and plunge back to us here on the ground below who elatedly await you; back to whole life. I hope that for all our sakes, especially that of the poor prince of Mirkwood, that you will do my bidding. I am certain that if he returns and you take that final step, he will be standing beneath that rock, arms open, waiting to catch you; no matter how far the fall."
Ethuiel rested her head upon his shoulder. She had no strength or will to cry. There Rúmil sat with her until the sun rose. She fell into a dreamless sleep and he closed his eyes and prayed.
The day finally arrived when the Walkers set out from Lórien. As the Lady bestowed upon Legolas the gifts that had been made for him, she lifted the hem of the cloak that had been wrapped round his shoulders. There he saw an embroidered message: "O henath um dartha dolen. --Ethuiel" and Legolas felt her near. She then pointed with her thumb at the tip of the bow’s limb. There he saw an inscription in silver:"Ethuiel sen peng enchant an Legolas". He held it to his heart, but Galadriel was not yet finished. Before she handed him the quiver, the Lady drew out one arrow for him to view. Upon the shaft, also drawn in sliver, the inscription read: "Mirkwood an Gondolin". "Indeed." he sighed, and looked into her deep gray eyes.
At last the Lady handed him the quiver. Upon it was bonded the pendant, bearing the sign of the House of the Fountain, which his love had worn around her neck. Legolas was stunned and he turned his eyes downward. Galadriel approached him and raised his chin with her fair hand. "Nûr na sen aníra." she said and kissed his forehead.
And so they went out of Lothlórien; southward down the River Anduin, toward the Falls of Rauros. Upon what paths The Quest would take them thereafter, none knew. But as the Elf and the Dwarf sat together, navigating stoically toward that fate, their mutual despondency forged their bond all the more securely, for each had left the thing he loved most to pursue it.
English translations from Sindarian:
"O henath um dartha dolen. --Ethuiel" - "Remain hidden from evil eyes. --Ethuiel"
"Ethuiel sen peng enchant an Legolas" - "Ethuiel made this bow for Legolas"
"Mirkwood an Gondolin" - "Mirkwood for Gondolin"
"Nûr na sen aníra." - "Deep is this desire."
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