10. The River of Rivendell
I was dizzy with weariness, stumbling along in a world hazy from lack of sleep.
Finally Glorfindel allowed us a short rest of about five hours.
I slumped to the ground where I stood, but I could not sleep. I was dozing; my eyes closed, my breathing slowing down, but in my mind I kept walking, walking, walking, my ears were echoing with the sounds of light, fast steps on the rocky surface of the road.
When Aragorn touched my shoulder to wake me, it was a painful effort to open my eyes.
After a short meal of stale bread, dried fruit and Glorfindel's elvish liquor, we set out again.
The feeling of strength and vigour all of us had felt at the draught of elvish liquor lasted for approximately three miles. Then it was gone and every step was agony. I trudged wearily behind Pippin and Merry and wondered where ever they got the energy to keep whispering and chuckling in spite of weariness and dread. Frodo's face was grey with pain. He was quiet and withdrawn, and only nodded or shook his head when Aragorn or Glorfindel inquired how he felt.
The rocky road was steadily sloping down to the river of Rivendell, the Bruinen. To the relief of the hobbits there were now wide stretches of soft grass and moss at the sides of the road, which was a relief for their shoeless feet. The sun was shining today, and for October it was positively hot. I was sweating and felling itchy all over before noon. I had removed three bloated ticks from my legs at our last break. Did the ticks of Middle-earth transmit meningitis like the ticks of southern Germany and Austria? I was acutely aware that my vaccination was overdue. And those bites bloody hurt!
It was already late in the afternoon, when we reached the shadows of a forest of tall pine-trees. I welcomed getting out of the sun. The air smelt spicy from the needles and the resin of the pines and the damp earth. Suddenly the road plunged into a narrow gorge of incredibly red rocks. I would have loved to stop and have a closer look at the beautiful colouring of the rock, but Aragorn and Glorfindel hurried us along, now and again throwing uneasy glances back across their shoulders. When I noticed their uneasiness, a low feeling of dread crept up from my stomach, making my heart speed up. It could not be far to the river. And at the river the enemy would meet us.
We hastened down the steep slope of the ravine, our footfalls echoing from the moist rock faces around us, creating the impression that there were noises all around us, dark and heavy feet following us, black booted feet preceding us…
I felt light-headed with the rush of adrenaline and exhaustion. Suddenly the gorge opened into the sunlight. The road ran down another slope, and on across a short stretch of level country for perhaps another mile. Beyond that I glimpsed the white crests of a river with strong and rushing currents. The Bruinen!
I wanted to exhale with relief, when Glorfindel gave an anguished scream.
"Fly!" He shouted at Frodo, who was at the head of our group. "Fly! The enemy is upon us!"
I turned around. At the highest point of the incline leading down through the ravine, a black horse had appeared, with a lightless looming figure on its back. A ring wraith! He had drawn a black sword, and was already spurring on his horse to race down towards us. Frodo had turned around, too, and sat transfixed; paralyzed with fear and fever, he only stared at the enemy rushing towards us, and made no move to flee.
I opened my mouth to scream at him to run, but a shaking terror came over me, and I could not make any sound at all. Aragorn's face was pale and strained, and although he could move his lips, he could utter only a whisper.
But Glorfindel was not as easily silenced. His voice was clear and powerful, as he shouted again: "Ride forward! RIDE!" When he realized that Frodo was not capable of any action, he turned his blazing blue eyes to his horse. "Run, run, Asfaloth! Noro lim, noro lim, Asfaloth!"
The horse turned on the spot and raced away in a streak of white lightning. The white destrier was so fast he seemed to be flying. But just as the stallion sped away, black horses thundered down the hill, in hot pursuit of the white horse, and the air was filled with mind-shattering cries of the Black Riders.
Apart from Glorfindel the passing power of the Riders had thrown us to the ground like a hurricane, or an earthquake. I had no recollection how I came to be lying on the ground, but when I propped myself up, feeling bruised all over, I saw eight Riders closing in on Glorfindel's white stallion.
Aragorn was the first to get back on his feet, I clumsily followed suit.
"Help the hobbits," Aragorn called out to me. He picked up Sam with one hand and secured the reins of the rearing pony with the other.
I did as I was told, trying to get Merry up to his feet with my left, dragging at Pippin's arm with my right. Aragorn was already running after Glorfindel, who was racing down the slope to the Bruinen. The elf carried a great sword in his right, which blazed in a deadly silver light. The three of us slipped and stumbled down the hill, dragging each other on in our effort to reach the ford and help to fight the enemy.
When we reached the ford, Frodo was already on the other side, slumped across the back of the horse. Asfaloth was obviously spent and could not run any farther. His sides were flecked wetly with foam, but he neighed a feral challenge at the eight black horses making their way across the river.
Aragorn had a fire going within seconds and handed each of us a flaming branch.
"We must not let them out of the river!" He drew the shining length of his sword and took up a flaming pine-branch with the other. Glorfindel helped himself to another branch.
Keeping the hobbits and me between them, Aragorn and Glorfindel spread out along the edge of the river. Both Aragorn and Glorfindel were shouting elvish words at the top of their lungs, and the black horses suddenly tossed their heads nervously.
I could see how Frodo managed to sit up and draw his small sword. His hand was shaking with the effort, and the foremost Black Rider gave an ugly laugh at this feeble attempt of resistance.
The sky had suddenly darkened, and an icy wind was blowing Frodo's voice across the ford. "By Elbereth and Lúthien the Fair, you shall have neither the ring nor me!"
The Rider, which was almost across the ford lifted his arm at that and spoke a single, evil word. Frodo's sword burst into pieces, and he slumped across Asfaloth's neck in a faint.
At that moment a roaring and rushing sound rose all around us from the rocks and the river.
Suddenly the low icy waters of the river rose in huge and deadly white waves, rolling towards the Black Riders from up and down the river. Between the foamy white crests of the breakers flames of white fire burned and I thought I could see great white riders with grim faces and drawn swords in the water, racing for the enemies.
The black horses screamed with terror and bolted, rearing. They threw off their black riders.
Within moments the great white flood had swallowed black horses and black riders.
The flight to the ford was over.
Only moments after Frodo had collapsed a group of elvish warrior had appeared on the other side of the river and carried Frodo away on a stretcher.
But we had to wait two hours for the river to calm down enough to cross it without danger; the water was icy and chilled me to the bones. We hurried across the river, which looked to be calm mountain stream again. But I was more than happy to get away from it, having witnessed its awesome and destructive powers.
On the other side of the river five elvish guards had waited for us. They wore grey and green uniforms, swords, daggers and long, slender bows. Their captain, Glorfindel and Aragorn took the lead, talking quietly in Sindarin. Now and again I actually understood a word, but not enough to make any sense. However I caught my name, the word "thurin", which means mystery, or secret, and ù-choth, which means "no enemy".
It was a walk of another two or three hours to get down into the valley. By the time we finally reached the bright elvish palaces of Imladris I was asleep on my feet. We were taken directly to some guest rooms at ground level to the south-east of the main buildings. I barely registered that while the three hobbits had to share a room, I had the room to myself.
I only had eyes for the bed. A real bed. A mattress, cushions, thick covers!
I stripped naked and climbed into the bed.
I fell asleep instantly, and it was a miraculous deep and peaceful slumber.
I cannot say when I started dreaming. But I must have slept several hours before the dreams began. I dreamed of home. I was back in my home, reading. At first I was looking at myself from above, seeing me as if I was a figure in a movie, a girl lost in the adventure of some fairy tale or other, sitting cross-legged on the floor, completely oblivious to the world around her.
Then I was suddenly inside of my younger self, and reading. It was, not very surprising, "The Lord of the Rings", the first chapter of the second book. Curiously another voice than my own seemed to read the lines to me aloud, the rough, deep voice of an old man.
"…there was some fragment of the blade still in the closed wound. But it could not be found…it was moving inwards..."
I came awake instantly, panting with shock as if I had had a horrible nightmare.
Looking around the room I experienced a moment of complete, dizzying disorientation. Then I remembered where I was. Middle Earth. Rivendell.
Why had I woken?
We were safe. I could sleep myself out.
Suddenly my mind started working again. The dream! The blade! What if they did not know about the blade?
I drew a shaky breath. It's in the stories. Everything turned out the way you remembered it up until now. Everything will be alright. You can't just run up to a Lord of the Elves and ask him, if he had considered that a bit of the blade might be left in the wound.
You can't. It's not your place.
But what about the dream? What if…
I was out of the bed and searching for my not quite as dirty pair of jeans before the obnoxious little voice at the back of my mind could come up with another "what if".
I ran out of my room and smack into an elvish guard.
I was greeted with a flurry of Sindarin, which I did not understand at all.
"I need to talk to someone about Frodo!" I told the elf. "There might be a piece of the blade left in the wound."
The elf replied something unintelligible in Sindarin.
I stared at him, and shook my head. "Eh, man (what)? Ù-bedin Sindarin (I don't speak Sindarin)." But I own – owned – a very good dictionary and grammar of Sindarin and Quenya; I added in my mind. Unfortunately the book is on my desk in Erlangen and not in my backpack…
"Look, take me to someone who speaks my language, it's urgent! I need to make a fool of myself!" The elf did not react. "Look, you dolt, just take me to someone who can understand me!" An undertone of desperation was slipping into my voice.
Looking slightly aggravated, the elf nodded and motioned to me to follow him.
I was led through a maze of corridors of pale white stones, which looked like marble and were lit by many white candles. The walls were hung with ornate tapestries, and there was a scent like incense floating in the air. Finally we stopped at a door made of beautifully grained pale wood. The guard knocked. An Elvish voice answered. The guard opened the door and gave me a slight shove into the room.
It was a large room with a vaulted ceiling and large glass windows. There was an arrangement of a couch and two easy chairs in front of a fire place and a huge desk in front of one of the windows. The inner walls of the room were lined from bottom to ceiling with bookshelves.
A private study. An elf was sitting at the desk. Long golden curls drifted down the back of the chair. Before I had a chance to decide if I ought to try and curtsy, the elf had already turned around and was walking towards me, his right hand extended in the way of a human greeting.
It was Glorfindel. I sighed with relief. "Lalorn did not understand what you wanted. He says you are agitated about something. Can I help you?"
"Yes, you can. Look, I know this sounds silly, but, I had this strange dream, and I remembered something… Frodo, how is he, and the wound?" I did not sound very coherent.
And Glorfindel's grave expression mad my heart skip a beat. "He is not well. Not well at all. But what is it you want to tell me?"
I exhaled, and then rushed on. "The blade. I think – I KNOW – a piece of the blade is still in the wound. And it's, it's…"
"It's working inwards, to the heart," Glorfindel concluded for me, a look of alarm spreading over his face. "I don't think they considered this possibility yet. Sit down, I will be back shortly."
Glorfindel left the room in three liquid paces. The door closed behind him with a soft thud.
I sighed. That had been lucky. He had believed me.
I looked around me with curiosity. The room was exquisitely furnished, the wood of the couch table displaying a graining, which looked almost like a map or a beautiful abstract water-colour. The style of the woodwork and the masonry, as well as the pattern of the drapes and the upholstery reminded me of the style called Art Nouveau. The lines of the designs were graceful and flowing, calling to mind growing plants, wind and water.
A short time later the door opened again and Glorfindel returned. He sat down in the armchair opposite of me. "You were right. When I came to Frodo's room the Lord Elrond had just ascertained that there really is a piece of that foul weapon left in the wound. It will be difficult to reach it and take it out. This night will be critical. And Frodo is very weak. They have been fighting for his life ever since he was brought in two days ago."
"Two days ago!" I exclaimed. "I have been asleep for two days!"
A small smile lit the elf's face. "You were understandably exhausted. Your companions were up and about a good deal earlier than you. They are almost a day ahead of you with pranks and getting into difficulties. Merry and Pippin, that is. Sam is hovering around Frodo's room, trying to help."
"Oh," I said. Not good enough to be a ranger, not up to the energy level of a hobbit. Right.
"Now," Glorfindel continued. "You will want to take a bath and some new clothes. I have already asked my niece, Gily, to come over and take care of you."
"Thank you," I replied, looking at the frayed and muddy edges of my jeans, my cheeks hot with embarrassment.
"Don't let the differences between men and elves intimidate you, Lothíriel. We are only different, and not a better or more noble race than the mortal children of Ilúvatar." Glorfindel said kindly.
I nodded wordlessly. Looking into the clear face of the elf-lord, who was sitting across the room, it was, however, very hard not to be intimidated. His features were not only of an otherworldly beauty, but the depth of experience and wisdom beyond the measure of men was apparent in his face, and I had seen how he had remained standing, where even Aragorn had had to bow to the evil power of the eight riders.
Moments later the door opened after a soft knock and a slender, golden haired elvish maiden entered. Her movements were as liquid as Glorfindel's, it looked as if she had no bones at all, so flowing and graceful she walked. Her hair was golden like her uncle's, and intricately braided down to the back of her neck. It was impossible to see how long her hair was, but because of the elaborate knots of her hair-do, I suspected that it would reach down to her thighs. Although you could probably not call her thighs, thighs; her figure was just too lithe and birdlike to be described with words usually attributed to mortal curves.
Her smile was young and looked real, when she turned to me. "I am Gily. My uncle has asked me to take care of you. We have a wonderful bathing house down by the river. I will show you, just come with me."
I nodded, bowed clumsily to Glorfindel and followed her out of the room. Again I walked through many corridors, down several flights of steps, across sunlit terraces and through cloisters with graceful archways and singing fountains at their centre.
Finally we stood in front of a low, long building at the banks of the river. Gily opened one of the great wooden doors and beckoned me inside.
Pure bliss! There were hot and warm baths, there were cold pools and at the back of the building was a room built into the river, where you could actually swim in the icy floods of the Bruinen. There were showers, and whirlpools, and steam baths and saunas.
I went for a hot bath with lots of foam. Afterwards Gily made me lie down on a warm bench and insisted on massaging my back despite of my protests that I could not possibly allow her to do that. She simply ignored me. I fell asleep before she was finished smoothing away my bruises and lacerations.
When I woke a giggling Gily handed me a pale blue silken robe. It was an ingenious piece of clothing, there were no buttons, instead it was fastened with lengths of a darker blue silk, which were slung cross wise across the breasts, going around the back and slung into a difficult knot at the hip. The style emphasized the curve of my breasts and my hips. In contrast to the delicate figure of the elf I felt like galumphing Amazon.
What can't be cured, must be endured, I told myself. There was no way out of my skin. And it could be worse. I had lost weight during the travelling, and I had not been fat to begin with; and when I was slim enough to compare to Gily I would probably be starved to death.
I sighed. I knew I should enjoy my curves. I knew I was not ugly, even if I was not a beauty – either by mortal or elvish standards. But I could not suppress an envious glance at Gily, who seemed to be floating ahead of me to take me to have dinner with my companions.
I sighed again. Why was it so difficult to accept me the way God had made me?
Gily opened a door at the end of an entrance hall with a floor of grey and white checked marble. Behind the door I could see a long table laid eight persons. Next to the table Glorfindel and an old man were standing, deep in talk.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
I knew the old man.
I had seen him before!
I stared at him wordlessly. I opened my mouth to say something, but felt myself completely at loss for anything intelligent to say.
The old man had noticed Gily and me. He turned towards with a broad grin. Bushy grey eyebrows, a long white beard, silver hair, this time neatly brushed, came down to slightly stooped shoulders. His blue eyes twinkled merrily.
The old tramp from the hill some miles to the South-West of Erlangen.
He was here.
He extended his hand towards me.
"And so we meet again, Lothíriel. You have come far since we met on that hill."
I swallowed hard, but took his hand. His grip was firm and comforting, his hand warm and I could feel distinct calluses at the base of his fingers and his thumb.
"Who are you?" I asked dumbfounded.
The old man winked at me. "Most people call me Gandalf, this day and age. But you may call me Georg, if you prefer."
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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.