27. Wrong Impressions
Allin- 8 year old boy befriended by the hobbits.
Atan LeRooj- Allin’s father. One of the chieftains of the highland village Pahtoh.
Erestor- Elrond’s chief advisor
~ Extra Special Thanks to the Goddess of Future Tense and All French Translations herself, Diana. You are a lifesaver! ~
The bounding trees were surprisingly agile. Had Shadowfax been any less of a horse, he would have had much difficulty keeping up. Thankfully, he was not any less of a horse. He was King of the Mearas: superbly fit in every way possible.
After all, when one is King of the Mearas, physical prowess and stamina are paramount.
Shadowfax had always taken extra care of himself. He engaged in leisurely walks at dawn, every day, to ensure he stayed in peak condition. And besides, there was nothing quite like watching the silver stallion reach a hill’s zenith the very moment the sun broke through the night behind him. He fancied it made him appear as though he brought the sun to Middle-earth each morning. True, he did look downright gorgeous in the moonlight as well. But the sun just added an extra bit of sparkle to his coat.
And then there were the mud rolls, which made his coat sleek as mink pelt, and kept circles from forming underneath his eyes. Of course, a brushing was also required. Only fine brushes made with elven hair were allowed to touch him, and the comb for his mane and tail must be of ivory oliphaunt tusk. Anything less would tug at his hair and break it.
Oats were eaten but twice a week (they tended to be fattening), and he would only consume grass from the eastern face of hilltops (the sun hit this grass first and nothing distasteful drained down upon it like the sod at the bottom of the hill). Apples were to be delicately munched once a week. He had once eaten them three times a week and noticed, to his utter horror, an unsightly bulge of flab collecting around his shoulders. And hay… Well, hay was for stable horses. He was certainly not one of THOSE.
Shadowfax was not, of course, vain. He was merely extremely conscious of his good looks.
The bounding trees grew in number, until Shadowfax found himself in a small grassy clearing. Much to the stallion’s disappointment, the golden mist slowly receded into the trees and beyond. He was not nearly as magnificent without it, but no matter. He could not control all aspects of the weather.
Flicking his tail in minor annoyance, the horse looked to the herd of bounding trees—deer—he corrected himself, as they peacefully grazed across the slope.
He proudly lifted his head and pranced towards them; pleased he stood out so well against the many drab brown coats.
The deer ignored him.
Rather insulted, the stallion snorted and began an impressive show of leaping. Let them ignore him now!
Several does lifted their heads, liquid brown eyes regarding him with dull stares. Twitching their long ears, they continued to slowly chew their food, appearing quite nonplussed by the whole affair.
Shadowfax stopped, nostrils and ears quivering with indignation. How dare they ignore him so. He was King of the Mearas. They ought to bow their mule-shaped heads before him and offer thanks he had chosen to grace them with his presence.
Apparently, the mule-faced deer not only looked like mules, but had the intelligence of the beasts as well.
A small group of bucks, their shoulders and necks enlarged by the fall rutting season, were not pleased with Shadowfax’s intrusion. His incessant prancing and overwhelming need to be admired only made matters worse.
The silver horse completed a pirouette and spun around to find five stags glaring at him. He lifted his head in disdain. It was not his fault they possessed less talent and grace than he.
The males stomped their toed forefeet and snorted, shaking antlered heads side-to-side in a most threatening manner.
Shadowfax wriggled his ears and whinnied in a pitch oddly akin to laughter. What could the measly spindle-legged, mule-faced deer, who barely reached his shoulder, do to him—King of the Mearas?
He arched his muscled neck and strutted away from the disgruntled stags. Sunlight glinted off his polished hooves, making them shine like obsidian.
By the Valar, he was gorgeous.
Théoden had installed a full-length looking glass in his stall (a large compartment he only inhabited during storms—a little rain made his coat soft and shiny, but downpours only made him miserably wet). Shadowfax wished he had the mirror in front of him now. The Rohirric stable hands would probably be reduced to tears by his glory. Then Théoden would come before him, humbled and bearing armloads of hand-picked—
Shadowfax squealed in shock as he took an unexpected blow to the haunches. He whirled around with bared teeth, knowing his display of fury would strike utter terror into his enemy.
He had barely focused on the first deer when a second blow from the rear sent him staggering.
WHUMP! THUD! Two more antlered blows slammed into his body. This was not fair; they had ganged up on him! There was no honor to be found in such methods.
Shadowfax lashed out with his hind legs, but his hooves met only air. The stags encircled him and continued their brutal assault. The mighty horse was pummeled and beaten into submission.
The silver King of the Mearas laid back his ears and retreated as slowly as he dared. Emitting airy snorts of challenge, the bucks charged.
Shadowfax dropped all pretense of dignity and fled.
The seething stallion halted a short while later when he came to a second clearing. He flattened his ears as he caught the lingering scent of the deer herd. So they liked to graze on this slope too, did they?
Narrowing his eyes, he gave his tail a smug flick of satisfaction. The sweetest revenge would yet be his.
And with that, the great Shadowfax set about eating as much of the grass in the clearing as he possibly could. Within three hours’ time, not a blade of grass remained, for Shadowfax had cropped the hill barren.
Ten minutes later, an extremely bloated King of the Mearas was beset by an excruciating case of colic.
The gluttonous stallion moaned as he stumbled blindly down the mountainside. He was going to die, that much was certain. And he was going to die a horrible death: sweating profusely while numerous antler-inflicted welts spread across his silver coat.
At least none would witness his humiliating demise.
* * *
Wind blustered over the rolling highlands as autumn sun shone brightly upon the dull, close-cropped hills. Clouds stretched across the pale blue sky in feathered streaks, high above the earth. Sheep bleated and frolicked on the slopes under the watchful eye of sheepdog and shepherd.
Nestled at the hill foot below, the village of Pahtoh burst with excitement. It was a celebration the hobbits would not soon forget. They were presented fine tunics of blue wool and adorned with crowns of dried thistle. A coal-colored plowhorse drew them down Pahtoh’s main path in a sturdy wagon. Bells sewn on the animal’s halter and reins jingled merrily with each step he took. Sensing his passengers were of great importance, the horse proudly lifted his feathered hooves (“They are hairy, as Mountain Elf feet!” Allin had gleefully pointed out) as he plodded along.
Children screamed in delight and scrambled underfoot. A rustic group of musicians sent frenzied reels tumbling through the air. Whistles and flutes trilled, tambourines clashed, and the reverberation of pipes was felt to the very bones. Fair maidens laced ribbons through their unbound hair, laughing sweet as birdsong. Young village warriors jostled with each other and put on many a display of bravado, each with the hopes he might catch the eye of a desirable maiden. Young and old alike sang, danced, and cheered.
Sam threw up his hands in embarrassment as a wrinkled old woman, her woad tattoos faded and hair a snowy white, cried out in rapture and pawed at his tunic. Eager hands reached for the hobbits from all directions, wishing to merely touch the revered Mountain Elves.
Pippin steadied himself in the lurching wagon before leaning down to kiss an infant on the forehead. The child’s mother gushed proudly. Discovering he had kissed all the babies in Pahtoh, Pippin took to shaking the villagers’ hands with the utmost dignity. The townsfolk were enamored with him.
The three hobbits were drawn to the village center, where they were ceremoniously ushered to a large dais set before many other wooden tables and benches. A great feast commenced; and though the people of Pahtoh were not wealthy, they certainly were not lacking in the arts of feast and merrymaking. There was mutton and barley stew, potatoes, cheeses, breads, tarts, mead… anything and everything the hobbits could ever wish for in an excellent meal.
Many a speech was given and many a toast called forth in their name—or rather, in the name of the mythical “Lez Elves day Mohntahnyeh.” Though they had no idea what was being said of them, the hobbits nonetheless found the praise quite enjoyable.
Pippin made move to join the dancers when the trio had finished their meal, but was stopped as Atan Le Rooj beckoned for them to remain seated.
“I wonder what happens now,” the young hobbit said to his companions. Sam shrugged good-naturedly and turned to Frodo, who knew no more than he.
Frodo seemed, in Sam’s opinion, rather miserable. The gardener could not help but notice how his friend’s eyes often grew distant and glazed, as though seeing something only he was able to view. Sam found himself becoming somewhat concerned, and made a mental note to interrogate Frodo as to what ailed him so during a more appropriate moment.
The wiry, doubled form of an elderly man slowly came to stand before the dais. The crowd hushed in respect as he raised a shaking hand to silence them. “Who is he?” Pippin whispered.
Sam furrowed his brow and scrutinized the old man. He leaned heavily upon a wooden staff, from which there hung a variety of small animal skulls and beads. The ancient one’s long hooded robes fairly swallowed him, so loosely did they hang from his gaunt form. As best Sam could guess, the man was some sort of village priest.
The man opened his small, bird-like mouth and began speaking in an eerie singsong voice. “Vooz ehtay vehnoo kwand nooz avonz-oh behswahn deh votreh ahd.”*
The crowd let out a raucous cheer. The ancient priest again signaled for silence. Frodo, Pippin, and Sam exchanged mystified glances. What was going on?
“Voo teray le mayshant bet.”* The robed man pointed an arm that shook with age in the direction of the hilltops. “Allay voo, Lay Sacreh. Valoo protejay voo.”*
He offered them a profound and wobbly bow before hobbling off into the crowd.
The three hobbits suddenly found keen-bladed spears being pressed into their hands.
Frodo shook his head and tried to signal to the woman offering him the weapon that he needed no such thing. “Sir Atan?”
The bulky man beamed down at the hobbit. “Yes Frodohobbit?”
“What is the meaning of this? I’m sorry, but we don’t quite understand.”
“The Wise One has spoken,” said the village chieftain.
“Yes,” interrupted Pippin, “but what did he say?”
Atan bowed slightly. “He said you have been sent to us when we are most in need of your aid.” He lifted his head and smiled, pale blue eyes twinkling with excitement. “For it is you, Master L’Elf day Mohntahnyeh, that will rid our lands of the great Winged Beast.”
“W-w-winged beast?” stammered Sam, his face draining of all color. “What Winged Beast?”
Atan pointed to the hilltops as the priest had done. “The one that appeared on the day of your arrival.”
A ragged gasp of terror escaped from Pippin’s lips. “Not the giant bird…You don’t mean the giant bird, do you?”
Much to their dismay, Atan nodded. “Yes, the ‘giant bird,’ as you say.” He gave Pippin a hearty clap on the back. “Now! You go to slay the beast and bring great honor to Pahtoh in the name of your ancestors. Much luck do I wish you, Lay Sacreh.”
The villagers parted before them and called many words of encouragement as the three hobbits slowly plodded from Pahtoh. There was simply no way to avoid it: Frodo, Sam, and Pippin were deities. And gods did not run from their sacred duties. Heads hung and feet dragging, the miserable trio headed off towards the hills to meet certain catastrophe.
A chilly wind, cold as death itself, bit at them as they trudged up the hills. At least, Sam imagined death must feel this cold. He would soon find out for himself.
Pippin sniffled. “I’m sorry.” His voice wavered. “This is all my fault! If I hadn’t made them think we were Mountain Elves this never would have happened. We’re going to die because of me! I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry…”
Frodo turned to the young Took with a sigh. Pippin’s face twisted as though on the verge of tears. “Pippin, if anyone is to blame, I think it would be me. None of us would be here if it weren’t for me. This is all my fault. I’m the one who is sorry.”
Frodo reached for the Ring and allowed his fist to wrap around it. Oh how he hated it! He hated it for the nightmares it brought, for the pain in his shoulder. He hated it for the Nazgûl. He hated it for causing the death of Merry, and for the deaths of those he knew would follow. Frodo clenched it tighter, his eyes filling with angry tears of frustration. If only his hatred and loathing could crush the Ring to dust. ‘I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!’ He vehemently repeated the phrase to himself.
Most of all, though, he hated it because there was a tiny part of him that didn’t. And it was a tiny part that kept growing bigger.
Sam felt as though he should be crying. Pippin was crying. Frodo was crying—though he didn’t appear to realize he was. Therefore, it only made sense that he ought to cry too. Still, try as he might, Sam couldn’t shed a tear. There was something about it all that struck him as impractical.
“It’s not your fault Pippin,” he finally spoke. “We were saved from the crebain because of your lucky Elven coin.” He furrowed his brow in thought. “And Frodo, this isn’t your fault either. Bilbo gave you the Ring—you never asked for it. And I don’t rightly think Bilbo is to blame either. He happened to find it because Gollum dropped it. In fact, if old Isildur had destroyed the Ring when he was supposed to, Gollum would have never found it.”
The stouthearted gardener pursed his lips. “I guess, what it all comes down to, is that Sauron is the one to blame. If he hadn’t made the Ring in the first place, none of this would have happened.” He paused to heft the spear over his shoulder, unfamiliar with holding such a weapon. “So you see, it’s Sauron’s fault we’re marching off to face this giant bird. Yes sir, Sauron is the one who ought to be sorry.”
Pippin tried to laugh at the gardener’s straightforward reasoning, though it came out as more of a choked sob. “When we get to Mordor, we’ll have to be sure and demand an apology from him.”
Frodo hastily dashed tears from his eyes and gave his companions what he hoped to be a brave smile. He wondered for perhaps the thousandth time where he would be without them. He may be on his way to die, but he could think of no others he would rather die alongside.
A shrill call, so sweetly powerful it chilled the soul, echoed over the land. An ominous black shadow fell across the hobbits as they reached the hill’s crest. They gripped their spears and grimly awaited the arrival of the massive bird. It cried again from the icy heights and circled above, its shadow growing ever larger as it slowly descended to earth.
“Mister Frodo?” Sam pushed back his thistle crown and took a deep breath. “I think you should run.”
Much to the gardener’s dismay, Frodo gave his head a resolute shake. “No Sam,” the hobbit replied, his face contracting in the tired fear of one who has finally accepted his fate. “I will not leave you.”
The shadow loomed directly above them, blocking out the sun with its massive wingspan. The air grew even colder, if indeed such a thing were possible. Sam shuddered as the sound of wind over swiftly beating wings filled his ears.
Pippin, his eyes wide with terror, could not tear his gaze from the approaching monstrosity. “Frodo,” he sounded almost pleading in nature. “Run.”
“Two against one, Mister Frodo.” Sam’s face grew grim as he squinted into the sky. “And this isn’t about just us hobbits anymore. It’s a lot bigger than that. We’ve got everyone in Middle-earth to look out for, too.”
“No, Sam. I refuse to leave you.”
Sam whirled around to face Frodo, brandishing the spear at his surprised companion. “You’ll run right now, Mister Frodo!” he cried, eyes brimming with tears. “Or I’ll push you right down this mountain—so help me I will!”
Frodo regarded the normally mild-tempered gardener with a mixture of shock and pride. Was this his Sam?
“And I’ll help!” Pippin scowled in fierce determination.
Their massive foe again cried out, provoking all three hobbits to action. Pippin and Sam held their spears aloft and answered the bird’s cry with defiant shouts of their own.
Frodo’s body acted of its own accord. It turned and ran, carrying his passionately objecting mind with it. His feet stumbled several times, and more than once he cracked his knees or bruised his palms on the unyielding earth beneath him.
The hobbit’s breath came in ragged gasps; a painful stitch stabbed at his side. Some morbid sense of curiosity forced Frodo to cast a glance over his shoulder. He wished he hadn’t.
Sam and Pippin screamed as the giant beast captured them within its golden talons.
For a brief moment, Frodo considered running back to his companions. He would be no better off than they, but at least they would all be together. The great bird, however, wasted no time in retreating back to the pale sky. The cries of Pippin and Sam grew ever distant as the winged monster swiftly bore them away.
And then, all was silent.
The sun dared to shine a little brighter and the wind remembered its drafty purpose.
Frodo sat on the stubby grass in stunned horror. He was alone, save the company of two new and wholly unwelcome companions: Isolation and Despair.
* * *
Merry furrowed his brow and stuck out his tongue to the side of his mouth, so intent was he upon his drawings. Elrond had finally acquiesced and permitted him to leave the healer’s room. He was still unable to move about freely, as the cast on his leg tended to inhibit mobility. Still, it felt marvelous to be out of his confining room. Even if it only meant sitting on a well-cushioned sofa with his bad leg propped up in front of him.
Merry lifted his head and paused to study shadows cast by the vase he was sketching.
It was a newly discovered talent—one Merry found he enjoyed immensely. He had never imagined himself as possessing any artistic ability, and when Elrond had first presented him with the finely grained paper and slender pen, he did not know what to expect. The young hobbit wondered why the Elf lord hadn’t given him a simple puzzle or book to read instead. However, Elrond did seem to have a knack for revealing hidden talents in others. In the end, the Elf lord proved he had chosen appropriately yet again.
“—And he had magic doors!” Bilbo’s excited voice echoed from the hallway. Merry craned his neck and leaned back on the sofa, wondering whom the old hobbit was speaking with. If Merry hadn’t been previously acquainted with the silence of Elven footfalls, he would have thought the elder hobbit was talking to himself. “—And they would close on you, if a body wasn’t careful,” Bilbo continued.
“We had hoped you might provide us with some insights as to Mirkwood’s fighting techniques, Master Baggins,” came a slightly annoyed voice. “Enchanted rivers and magic doors are of no use to us.”
Bilbo, followed by Lord Elrond and a slightly sour-looking Erestor, entered the room just as Merry recognized Erestor’s voice.
“Merry, my boy!” Bilbo offered the younger hobbit a wide smile, effectively ignoring Erestor’s complaint. “And how fares the mending Brandybuck this day?”
Merry smiled in return. “Well enough, Bilbo. Though I am rather hungry.”
“What is this?” Completely forgetting Bilbo’s shun, Erestor bent down to examine Merry’s work. His eyes gleamed with a dangerous curiosity.
“It’s just that vase,” Merry responded, gesturing to the vase and evasively attempting to cover the drawing with his good arm. Erestor promptly snatched the paper before the hobbit could hide it.
“Nay,” said the Elf. “I speak of these sketches around the vase.” His lips twitched as though threatening to break into a smile. “Correct me if my eyes do deceive me, young Meriadoc, but I should say these sketches bear marvelous likeness to—“
“They are not,” Merry hastily interrupted. A telltale blush rose to his cheeks.
Erestor discreetly coughed back a laugh.
Elrond and Bilbo regarded the two expectantly. “Come now,” Bilbo protested as Erestor made move to return the parchment to Merry, “we wish to see as well.”
Merry stifled a groan as Erestor passed his work to Elrond. The lord of Imladris studied the sketches a few moments before lifting his head and raising an eyebrow at the young hobbit. Merry began chewing at his fingernails.
“Let me see!” Bilbo huffed with impatience and clambered atop a chair next to the two Elves. “You lot are far too tall for your own—MERRY!”
Several doodles surrounded the sketch of the vase. They all seemed to revolve around the same theme: A dark-haired Elf meeting his demise by various means of torment. Here was one of the Elf being trapped underneath a fallen tree; there he was being chased by a giant troll. Perhaps most revealing was the sketch of the dark-haired Elf being forced to drink a bottle labeled “Poison,” while a suspiciously hobbit-like being poured it down his throat.
“Perhaps, Master Brandybuck, you ought to concentrate on sketching vases.”
Merry cringed under Elrond’s accusing stare. The Elf lord gave the drawing one last glance before handing the parchment back to him. “And now that I am reminded of it, I do believe it is time for your medicine.”
* * *
Arwen, balancing a tray of thin wafers and honeyed water, placed an affectionate kiss upon her father’s forehead. Elrond smiled and then waived his daughter off as she lightly set the tray upon the table between he and Erestor. “Be gone, child,” he said, pushing the silver tray aside. “We are far too pressed to bother with such indulgences. And have you not been taught to avoid disturbing me when the door of my study is closed?”
“I bear tidings from your captains. And,” she looked poignantly to the two weary Elf lords, “I begin to grow concerned for your well-being. When was it you last dined?”
Elrond absentmindedly reached for a wafer. “I believe I am the Healer, Daughter.”
Arwen snorted, an unladylike sound usually attributed to her brothers. “Indeed. I happened to have the most interesting conversation with Fimbrethil in the healers’ quarters this morning. She was of the opinion the injured Pheriannath ought to have had his cast removed yesterday. Yet you insisted it remain.”
Erestor looked up from the scroll in front of him, a slightly bemused expression playing across his face.
Elrond reached for a second wafer. “As I said: I believe I am the Healer. And I will not have young Meriadoc wandering about my grounds unsupervised. I fear he would attempt to locate his lost companions. Nay, I know he would.”
A momentary flash of brilliance led Erestor to suggest Elrond try a more standard method of imprisonment: perhaps ball and chain? He immediately quelled any further propositions under the Elf lord’s dark gaze.
Arwen allowed herself a gentle chuckle. Very few could claim the honor of running her father ragged, and usually the offenders came in pairs. Elladan and Elrohir were masters of this feat, though Aragorn and Legolas formed an impressive duo as well. Recalling there was a second young hobbit whom had journeyed to Rivendell—Pellegrin, or Peregrin, was it?—Arwen could not help but wonder what sort of mischief a pairing of that nature might incur. Gandalf would certainly have his work cut out for him, that much was certain.
Erestor cried out in frustrated disgust and rolled his eyes towards the ceiling. “This is folly! No civilized Eldar use Mirkwood’s ridiculous defence tactics. Enchanted rivers, magic doors, disappearing fires…” The dark-haired advisor delicately curled his lip in disdain. “Such primitive magicks are but relics of early days when Elf-kind knew only of tree or star and little else.”
The fact that Thranduil’s realm remained potent despite constant assault from the Enemy, or that Galadriel’s fair Lothlórien was literally a fused entity of Ring and ancient spell, was utterly beside the point.
“Mayhap we might offer a plea of mercy to the rushing waters of the Bruinen? Or shall we place gentle kisses upon each tree of the Misty Mountains, that they might severe themselves and smite our enemies with their heavy trunks?”
Elrond finished his fifth wafer, knowing well it was pointless to argue over the matter. “Are you quite done yet, Erestor?”
Arwen twisted the satiny folds of her dress in embarrassment. Erestor’s Wood-Elf rants always left her feeling uncomfortable. From what Elladan had confided to her, Erestor’s anger stemmed from the loss of his brother, whom had fought under Oropher during the Last Alliance. It was out of devotion to some Elf-maiden that he had joined the Greenwood forces. Erestor was convinced his brother would have been spared had he not done so.
Erestor folded his arms over his chest and sighed deeply. “Quite.”
Elrond bobbed his head in acknowledgement before turning to Arwen. “Then let us move on. You spoke of bearing news from the captains, Daughter?”
“Yes, my Lord.” Arwen brushed an errant strand of dark hair from her face. “Our border guards have been doubled, as you requested, though our enemy has not shown himself as of yet. Oh, and,” her smooth brow furrowed in slight puzzlement, “Captain Amacil reports one of your horses missing.”
Elrond blinked. “One of my horses,” he repeated. “Which?”
“The copper mare you are so fond of.”
“Valaithe?” Elrond frowned, taking mental note of all those whom might be in need of a mount. He was positive none of the departed scouts had taken her.
“Horses!” Erestor’s cry of triumph startled both Elves. “Of course! We have horses!” His dark eyes shone as he laughed in delight.
Elrond regarded his advisor with raised eyebrows, deciding the Elf’s fevered excitement far too reminiscent of an over-taxed mind that had finally snapped. “Calm yourself, Erestor.” He reached for another wafer and could not help but feel a stab of disappointment upon discovering he had eaten them all.
Erestor pushed back his chair and rose to his feet in one fluid motion. “Summon Meneldor the Eagle. Greater plans have come before this, but so have worse…”
FUN WITH FRENCH:
“Vooz ehtay vehnoo kwand nooz avonz-oh behswahn deh votreh ahd.” -- Vous êtes venus quand nous avons eu besoin de votre aide.’ [You came when we needed your help.]
“Lez Elves day Mohntahnyeh.” --‘Les elves des montagne.’ i.e. ‘Mountain Elves’
“Voo tooray le Mayshant Bet.” --‘Vous tuerez le méchant bête.’ [You will kill the Evil Beast.]
“Allay voo, Lay Sacreh. Valoo protejay voo.” --‘Allez vous, Les Sacré. Valar protégez vous.’ [Go, Sacred Ones. Valar protect you.]
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.