23. In Reverence of the Mountain Elves
There is a very, very minor reference to Oropher and the Last Alliance towards the end of this chapter. I’m sure most of you know who he is and what happened to him, so I’ll leave it at that.
Thanks to all the people who are helping me brush up on my French (it’s such a fun language).
Allin- the 8 year old boy the hobbits meet on the highlands
Nwahr- Allin’s dog
Atan the Red- Allin’s father. One of three chieftains in the village of Pahtoh.
Vanrie- Allin’s mother.
Laure- Allin’s younger sister.
Frodo, Sam, and Pippin
Erestor- chief counselor in Elrond’s household
Atan the Red slowly straightened and sat with his knees folded underneath him. He stared unseeing at his reflection in the blade of his sword for several moments, then lowered back down to the floor. A hushed silence fell over the tiny house, save for the pop and crackle emanating from the fireplace.
“Atan,” Vanrie called from the doorway, her voice sounding unnaturally sharp in the stillness. “What is it? What sort of animal has he brought home this time?” Laure gripped the woman’s skirts and giggled nervously while whispering about hairy mountain creatures. Vanrie promptly hushed the child.
The large man sat up once again and slowly rotated his head to face Allin. The ginger-haired boy flushed darker than his hair and sheepishly closed the front door. He attempted to offer his father a grin, but failed miserably as an extremely lopsided grimace was all his mouth would allow.
Atan took a deep breath and pointed his sword at the bed. Pippin squeaked fearfully at the sight of the shining broadsword.
“What are those?” Atan demanded. Though spoken softly, the words carried a menacing sting. Allin’s face drained of all color as he stammered a response.
“You found them on the mountainside, and you let them into this house.” Atan’s reply was not a question, and Allin nodded miserably. The barrel-chested man found it necessary to repeat the statement, albeit with more force. The iron cookware above the fireplace clinked nervously. “You found them on the mountainside, and you let them into this house!”
Frodo, Pippin, and Sam could not understand a word of the conversation, which perhaps made it all the more terrifying. The tattooed man’s voice was akin to shoving thunder in a small room and watching as it rattled the walls.
Atan the Red rose to his feet as Allin began stammering several long and excited sentences. Sam stared at the man’s legs and feet, which were now the only visible parts from the hobbits’ viewpoint. The gigantic man’s legs were the size of oaken tree trunks; his foot could easily crush a hobbit’s skull. Sam squinted and began to examine the tattoos wound around Atan’s legs. ‘I dearly hope there are no pictures of him stepping on hobbit heads.’ It was a disturbing thought, and Sam could not help but wonder what the Gaffer would think of such a demise—or Rosie, for that matter.
‘I wonder if she would even miss me,’ he thought with a heavy sigh. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if she up and married Gruno Chubb when news of our deaths reached the Shire.’ The stouthearted gardener scowled at the image of beautiful Rosie hanging off of the arm of Gruno Chubb—a rather paunchy hobbit with an overtly lumpy head.
He soothed himself by imagining Gruno’s head underneath Atan the Red’s mammoth foot; Chubb’s lumpy face puffing out in indignation while the tattooed giant’s boot slowly pressed downward...
Sam wiped the foolish grin off his face and blinked sheepishly, hoping he had not accidentally laughed out loud, or said anything out loud for that matter. Frodo and Pippin were both looking at him in minor annoyance, having called his name more than once. “Yes Frodo?”
“They want us to come out now.”
Atan the Red’s giant boot tapped impatiently. Sam noticed the man’s legs were nearly as hairy as his own hobbit feet. “Well then,” he said, “I guess we ought to, shouldn’t we?”
The three dusty and disheveled hobbits crawled out from underneath Allin and Laure’s bed. Pippin sneezed as he brushed the dirt from his arms and then wiped his hands on his trousers. Sam tried unsuccessfully to flatten a clump of hair, which insisted on standing on end, and Frodo gave the front of his soiled tunic a forceful tug before offering Atan and Vanrie a polite bow.
“Greetings, good sir and lady,” he began, “I am Frodo. These are my companions Pippin and Sam.” Pippin smiled and Sam waved shyly at mention of their names. “We didn’t mean to startle you, and—“
Atan the Red raised a hand and Frodo stopped speaking immediately. “There is no need to apologize, Frodohobbit,” the man spoke in Westron. “It is I who must apologize.”
“Oh no, don’t worry sir,” exclaimed Pippin with a shake of his head. “You scared us at first because you were so big, but we don’t hold it against you. Besides,” he added ruefully, “most folk are bigger than us. There’s no need for an apology on your part either.”
Atan the Red dipped his head in thanks. “My son tells me you came across him on the mountainside, and that you brought him much luck on his watch this day.”
The three hobbits nodded vigorously, still somewhat intimidated by the large tattooed man with the broadsword.
“Indeed,” continued Atan, “long has it been since the Eldar graced our barren lands.”
“Eld—” began Sam.
To their complete surprise, Atan the Red bowed down onto one knee and placed the great sword flat across his palms. “Our village is a thousand times blessed by the presence of Mountain Elves.” He held out his arms and offered his sword to the hobbits in a gesture of subservience. “I offer my service unto you, Firstborn children, and the service of my people.”
“Mountain Elves?” hissed Sam. “He thinks we’re Mountain Elves?”
Frodo laughed and pressed a hand to his forehead. “I’m afraid you are mistaken, sir. Did Allin tell you this?” Allin conveniently averted his eyes and shuffled his feet. “We’re not—OOF!” Pippin silenced Frodo with an elbow to the gut.
“We have traveled far and wide to reach your lands,” the young Took proclaimed with a wide sweep of his arm. “It is we who are honored to reside within your presence.”
Atan lifted his head and smiled warmly. “Then come, master Elves.” His hearty voice filled the small room as he beckoned the three hobbits to the dinner table. “In two morrows' time we shall hold a grand feast in your honor, for truly, the Valar must smile upon Pahtoh this day!”
Sam grabbed Pippin by the arm and Frodo resisted the urge to box the young hobbit’s ears. “Pippin,” Frodo hissed, “what have you done?”
Pippin yanked his arm away from Sam’s grasp and squared his shoulders. “The way I see it,” he stated matter-of-factly, “we are deserving of a bit of warmth and comfort.”
“But they think we’re Elves,” protested Sam.
Pippin shrugged and crossly folded his arms over his chest. “Need I remind you where we are headed?” he snapped. “And just name one good thing that has come out of this Ring business so far! One good thing!”
Frodo sighed wearily and Sam uncomfortably chewed on his bottom lip.
“See,” hissed Pippin. “No good has come out of this whole mess so far! Frodo was stabbed, Lord Elrond is after us, crebain made off with us, Merry is dead,” his voice took on a hysterical note, causing the red-haired chieftain and his family to eye the hobbits curiously. “An even bigger bird is out to get us, and we aren’t even halfway to Mordor yet!”
“Pippin, calm down,” Frodo murmured, trying to soothe the irate youngster. Pippin’s mention of the incident at Weathertop caused several unpleasant memories to surface.
“Calm down? CALM DOWN? I’m trying to calm down, but you obviously would have us tramping through every known danger as well as the ones we don’t! We deserve a good rest, and we deserve to have a peaceful night’s sleep just once. Who cares if they think we’re Elves? Good, I say! GOOD. I seriously doubt the Valar will mind if we impersonate Elves, because after everything else we’ve gone through—“ the young hobbit bristled as he balled his fists and gnashed his teeth. “And all for the sake of a stupid little ring!”
By this time, Atan the Red, Vanrie, Allin, and Laure were blatantly staring.
“Shhh,” hushed Sam, frantically trying to quiet his comrade. “It’s okay Pip. Mister Frodo is going to let us stay, aren’t you, Frodo?” The gardener turned a severe eye upon his friend and gave Frodo a look that suggested he had better agree.
Frodo smiled crookedly and gave Pippin an amiable punch in the shoulder. “Of course we’ll stay.” To the great relief of Sam and Frodo, Pippin ceased shouting and allowed himself to be led to the dinner table.
Thankfully, Atan the Red and his wife Vanrie did not press the hobbits over the nature of their argument. The people of Pahtoh were firm believers in minding one’s own business, and reasoned that if an issue were of any great importance to them, they would be informed of it. It was reasoning as stark and bare as the lands they inhabited, and suited the people well.
Frodo watched in contentment as Sam and Pippin filled themselves to their hearts’ desire. ‘It is the first time I have seen Pippin smile in days,’ he noted as he quietly sipped his mead. The meal was a lively one, as the family of Atan the Red proved to be most entertaining and gracious hosts. The smells of roasted meat, onions, and potatoes hung thick in the air, while a crackling fire cast flickering yellow and orange flames about the cozy room.
Atan had a booming laughter that seemed to well up and overflow from deep within his chest. It was oddly comforting and inviting to hear. Vanrie was never at a loss for a witty comment or two, and felt it her duty to make sure each was given more than his fair share of food. Allin, who had the tendency to become overexcited, gave an animated and greatly exaggerated narrative of his meeting with the hobbits, while Pippin interrupted with minor details here and there. Laure, as she had not yet mastered the Common Tongue, pulled off her stockings and placed a foot next to Sam’s. She giggled nonstop as she compared the two, and even more so when Sam began wiggling his toes.
Frodo was roused from his musings by an unexpected weight upon his leg. The sheepdog Nwahr had silently padded over to the quiet hobbit and rested a comforting head upon Frodo’s thigh. Frodo smiled and reached down to pet the dog, taking comfort in the feel of the warm velvety ears between his fingers. “Good dog,” he murmured, wishing Pippin’s earlier words would cease running through his head:
‘No good has come out of this mess so far! … And all for the sake of a stupid little ring!’
* * *
He was Shadowfax, King of the Mearas. He was a silver god wrapped in a cape of misty golden cloud. His hooves pounded the earth like thunder, his neigh split through the air like lightening. He was strong, witty, capable…
And utterly lost.
Shadowfax squealed in anger and lashed out his hind legs, feeling no pity for the poor juniper bush that took the brunt of his fury. He kicked harder until it was no more than a mass of splinters and bruised leaves. The great stallion snorted in disdain as the scent of bittersweet juniper leaves invaded his nostrils and caused his mouth to water. He turned and narrowed his eyes at the remaining bushes. That would show them.
It was the third time he had passed the juniper grove, or at least, he was fairly certain it was the same grove. Perhaps he should have asked the goldfinch which way he was headed… The proud stallion shook his elegant head viciously to dispel the thought. He was Shadowfax, King of the Mearas. The day he would ask for directions was the day he would turn into a mare. An Elvish mare, to be exact.
He flared his nostrils and flicked his ears. Aside from the permeating smell of damaged juniper, the air was chill and musky. The scents of decaying leaves, water, and wet earth hung in the misty atmosphere, and low clouds muted almost all sounds. The horse let out a slow breath, watching as it steamed and evaporated. The mist tended to distort things, causing odd shapes to appear, disappear, and then reappear in the swirling vapors. Usually they proved to be gnarled trees and gouged boulders, but sometimes the stallion swore the trees would actually pick themselves up and bound off into the mist.
Shadowfax flicked his tail in annoyance. Bounding trees, indeed.
He nearly jumped out of his beautiful silver coat as one such “tree” bolted across his line of vision.
The horse blinked. Since when were the trees gifted with four legs? Quickly equating four legs and bounding with an animal that could not be of predatory nature, the stallion picked up his hooves and sped after the leaping “tree.”
* * *
“A hobbit lad, there was of old…”
The mournful wail of Merry’s tune echoed pleasantly in the high-ceilinged room.
“A brave and perilous soul.
Locked up by an Elven lord,
‘Til he began to mould….”
Merry paused and cocked his head. Aside from the extremely annoying lark outside his window, which seemed to be fixated on the same chirrup, only silence greeted his ears. He cleared his throat and struck up the song again at a much louder volume level, closing his eyes and swinging his head to and fro in time with the beat.
“A HOBBIT LAD, THERE WAS OF OLD,
A BRAVE AND PERILOUS SOUL.
LOCKED UP BY AN ELVEN LOR—“ A light touch on the shoulder caused his eyes to snap open.
Elrond’s voice rang clear and strong, as Merry seemed to have forgotten the last line. “’Til he began to mould…’”
The young hobbit flushed crimson and avoided the Elf lord’s eyes. “Bilbo taught it to me,” he blurted.
Elrond chuckled and bent down to examine Merry’s wounds. “Quickly do the Pheriannath heal,” the Elf mused, his skillful hands running over the hobbit’s newly-fused collarbone. He emitted a small murmur of satisfaction at the sight of Merry’s fading bruises and scrapes. “You shall be fit for travel ere the Fellowship depart, Master Brandybuck.”
A small sigh of relief escaped Merry’s lips. “I bet you will be happy to see me go.” He looked cheekily to the Lord of Imladris and grinned.
Elrond’s bright eyes twinkled. “Nay, Meriadoc, I shall be most saddened when you take leave of my halls. I have not had the pleasure of one so antagonistic since Elladan and Elrohir were children.” The Elf turned and began rummaging through the medicinal cupboards lining the wall of Merry’s room.
“I am not antagonistic!” protested Merry.
The Elf lord raised an eyebrow and turned to stare intently at the hobbit. “Indeed, Master Brandybuck. Yet you still found it necessary to loudly repeat your song when you thought none had overheard.”
Merry blushed again. “I was trying to drown out the bird at my window,” he mumbled.
“Ah, of course you were.” Elrond emptied a final vial of liquid into the cup of medicine he was concocting and turned back to Merry. He held the cup out to the hobbit and motioned for him to drink. Merry’s previous plans to refuse the Elf lord’s poison quickly vanished when he caught the challenging gleam in Elrond’s eyes.
* * *
Elrond stood by the hobbit’s bedside until he was positive Merry had fallen asleep. The young hobbit could be most devious when he wanted to—the previous day he had feigned sleep and actually hobbled all the way down the corridor. There was no telling how far he would have gone had Elenthil not chanced to walk by.
Chuckling quietly to himself, the dark-haired Elven lord strode down the autumn-painted walkways of Rivendell.
He reached his study in a few minutes’ time. Pushing open the light wooden door, Elrond was unsurprised to find his chief of counsel, Erestor scrutinizing several large and painstakingly-drawn maps of Rhudaur, Rhovanion,* and the whole of Middle-earth.
“I conversed with Rithol but an hour ago,” said Erestor as he lifted his head to greet Elrond. “Her news does not bode well for Imladris.”
“Nor does it offer comfort to Mirkwood or Lórien,” Elrond replied. He walked over to the map-covered desk and idly seated himself. “Speak, my friend. I know you are troubled, as am I.”
* * *
Erestor folded his arms across his chest and frowned. “I worry naught for Imladris, for our borders are well-protected.” He glanced at the ring on Elrond’s finger. “Foolish indeed is the foe who would dare challenge our fair realm.”
“Perhaps,” murmured Elrond. “But perhaps not. Sauron is aware the Ring rests within our borders, though he does not know of our intentions. An assault on Imladris would not only serve to cripple us, but he might obtain the Ring through such action as well…”
Erestor shook his head. “Nay, nay,” he argued. “It would be far simpler for him to seize the Ring as the Fellowship traveled to Mordor.” Elrond’s head counselor traced his finger along a map from Rivendell to Mordor. “Besides, he has not amassed numbers to launch a full-scale attack against Imladris as of yet. Roving orc bands are but tiny stones sent to dam a surging river. I suspect they intend to waylay those traveling to and from Imladris.”
Elrond laced his fingers together and sighed. “I think you underestimate the numbers of Sauron’s force, Erestor.” He quickly pressed on as Erestor opened his mouth to object. “Nonetheless, I go with your counsel on the unlikeness of an attack. The ultimate fate of the Ring is not to be decided within our borders.”
Erestor gave a curt nod. “Very well, my Lord. Then let us move on.”
Elrond narrowed his eyes and stared at the maps’ outline of the Misty Mountains. “We know the eastern scouting party interrupted the orcs’ slumber, which explains why they were attacked while the sun’s light was still strong. We also know that the party had been split into two groups due to certain… disagreements among members.” Elrond sighed deeply and put a hand to his temple.
“Perhaps you ought to consider replacing the young Prince of Mirkwood with a more mature warrior,” suggested Erestor. “I do not doubt Legolas’ abilities, but it is the fate of Middle-earth of which we speak. He is Sindar and but a child—“
Elrond held up a hand. “Nay Erestor. We cannot risk a known Elf lord traveling with the Fellowship. It would draw far too much attention to the company. Legolas’ presence will go unnoticed by the Enemy, for he will be viewed as but an insignificant Wood-Elf. Do not worry, my friend. He will prove himself worthy when the time comes.”
“With all my heart do I hope you are right,” Erestor murmured. “After Mithrandir and Estel, I find my faith slowly wanes.” An unexpected smile danced across the slender Elf’s lips. “I do, however, admit to taking quite a fancy to the merry Pheriannath.” He slyly looked to Elrond. “And I suppose if Meriadoc Brandybuck is no exception, the Dark Lord shall find he has taken on more than he bargained for in those stouthearted folk.”
Elrond smiled in spite of himself.
“How did the tune go?” Despite the light innocence of Erestor’s tone, a wicked grin slowly spreading across his fair face. “’A hobbit lad, there was of old—‘“
“Save your enchanting voice for the evening festivities,” Elrond growled in mock warning, “lest you suddenly discover yourself lacking a tongue.”
* * *
Time slowly slipped by and day gradually waned to dusk. Soft shadows spread along the floors of Elrond’s study and listened silently as the two Elves continued to debate. Erestor lit several candelabras while Elrond poured two cups of warm cider.
“Then we are both in agreement that the Orkish bands must somehow be pushed from our borders?”
Erestor nodded and shook out the match he had used to light the candles. He graciously accepted a goblet of cider from the Elf lord.
“I dare not use Vilya,” Elrond continued, shuddering at the very thought. “I suppose we may try tactics employed by Thranduil’s folk to rid ourselves of the enemy. Long have they succeeded in staving off the darkness, without aid of ring or staff.” He pursed his lips and frowned. “I wish I knew of their exact methods.”
Erestor’s dark eyes flashed. “I believe they tend to favor charging heedlessly into battle, regardless of whether or not they have been ordered to.”
“Peace, Erestor.” Elrond took a sip of cider and mildly eyed his chief counselor. “We have awoken far too much of the Past these last weeks; let us allow some of it to remain undisturbed.”
Rhudaur- The area consisting of Rivendell, the Trollshaws, The Last Bridge, etc.
Rhovanion- Mirkwood, a bit of the Misty Mountains, Lórien, and surrounding areas.
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.