13. Preparations for the Journey
At the banks of the Bruinen the valley was swirling with white mists. The Eastern sides of the mountains surrounding the ragged edges of Imladris were still dark with shadows, and I knew that even in the brightest sunlight the dark green of fir and pine looked rather forbidding. But on the gentler Western slopes oak, beech, poplar and maple trees lightened up the twilight of the firs and pines. The last few days of cold but sunny weather had turned their leaves to gold, orange, red and yellow. Fall had always been my favourite time of the year, and in this sheltered valley it was almost too beautiful to bear.
I thought about the Council the day before and cringed. "I will go wherever it is necessary to go" – I could hardly have put it in a more dramatic and idiotic way. I blushed with shame and hung my head. Yesterday should have been Frodo's hour. His was the burden, after all. I shuddered as I remembered the horrible power of the ring. Even the memory seemed to darken the sunlight.
I still did not understand why Gandalf wanted me along. And the wizard had said very plainly that he would not explain, or tell me what to do with my knowledge of things to come.
Suddenly I noticed something.
Had the bushes behind me moved by themselves? Or was it only the cool wind blowing down from the white peaks of the Misty Mountains?
It was not the wind.
Glorfindel stepped out of the thicket and walked towards me in his fluid elvish stride. He had braided his long golden hair at the nape of his neck. This style emphasized the clear cut, very masculine lines of his face. His eyes were a blue even deeper than the October sky. He wore grey leggings and a tunic of a darker grey colour.
"Have you been watching me?" I asked, trying not to feel annoyed. Did they still not trust me? Glorfindel sat down next to me; his face was calm. It was difficult to read any expression in elvish faces, but if asked to place a bet, I would have said the elf-lord looked worried.
"Yes, I have been watching you. But not because I don't trust you. I am worried for you. If you are to travel with the fellowship, you will have to learn to shield yourself from the influence of this evil… thing. You were completely open to its evil powers yesterday."
"Open? How open? And how could I ever learn to guard myself against something like that?"
"Open!" Glorfindel sighed. "How can you explain colours to the blind? I can see your mind; I could see it from the first time I met you. You are almost like a child; your mind, your soul - they are like glass to me."
"Like glass?" I gasped. Had he heard everything that I had been thinking, all of the time?
"No, normally I can't read you thoughts, and I would not, if it was not extremely urgent. It is more a way to judge the character of a person. You do the same thing with the senses you have; the first impression of a person you meet. You have an instinctive feeling if you can trust him or her, or of like or dislike. The firstborn – the elves – can see deeper, truer than this instinctive feeling, those hunches as you call them. So I knew I could trust you, and I knew, too, that you had told Aragorn the truth about where you came from."
"Oh." I said, still feeling uncomfortable.
"You have to learn to shield your mind. You can do that. Everyone can do that. And you have to do it, or you won't last long on this journey."
I recalled all too clearly, how I had been swept away by the power of the ring, how I had needed hours to return to my normal self. I nodded and swallowed dryly. "I know that. What do I have to do?"
"We will start with some visualization. Aragorn says that simple images work best for mortals. You have to imagine a safe place for your soul, your mind – the essence that makes up your sense of being you. You can imagine a wall around you, or a thorny hedge, or trees or stones or water. Use the image that comes to your mind first. Then try to make it as real in your thoughts as possible. I will be able to see if you do it correctly."
A safe place for my soul? Where should I find that? Right here, the little voice at the back of my mind answered. How did you feel this morning before you gave in to self-pity?
Safe, I thought. And happy. I looked down at the low wall of white stones and up into the bright blue sky. Then, suddenly, an image was there. I was sitting cross-legged on a round patch of grassy lawn. All around me rose a wall made of white stone. It was strong; it was indestructible, but it did not close in on me. It was higher than any horse could jump, but above the walls was the bright blue October sky, which was above me now. I felt safe. I felt sheltered. I felt like floating inside of me, sure of myself.
Suddenly I felt pressure build against my wall. Stones were crumbling! I came back to reality with a scream. I looked into Glorfindel's face, and his blue eyes were blazing with an inhuman fire. He had made my wall crumble.
For the first time since I knew him, I felt scared. In that instance his eyes turned back to their normal bright blue, but he looked sad. "I had to test the strength of you walls. You made a good start. Now, we should practice every day until you leave. Elrond sent out messengers to search for the riders today and survey all the paths you can take on your journey as far as possible. It will take them at least a month to return. I don't think you will be able to leave here until the middle of December, or even later. You should be strong enough to ward off the presence of the ring by then. But never look at it. And never, ever touch it. That would be your undoing. No mortal man or woman is strong enough to withstand this evil."
"But Frodo is?" I asked.
"Frodo… he might be. Hobbits are curious creatures, resourceful, tough." He looked at me, and shook his head as I opened my mouth. "Don't," he said softly. "Don't tell me anything you might think you know. Foreknowledge is the most dangerous knowledge of all."
I closed my mouth, and an icy shiver ran down my spine. That was more or less what Aragorn and Gandalf had told me, too. And I remembered that Aragorn took me with him at the beginning solely because he was scared what the enemy might do with my knowledge.
My mouth went dry as I realized that this aspect of my knowledge was still true. If I was caught, we might as well present Sauron the ring on a silver platter.
Why had Gandalf insisted that I accompany the fellowship if I was that dangerous to their quest? They should lock me up in a hole in Rivendell and never let me out until the whole thing was over! And I was neither a ranger nor a sword fighter. And I was scared of heights.
My heart was thumping almost painfully in my chest. Since I had come to Middle-earth, I had turned into a real expert on how fear can feel – from clammy palms to shivering uncontrollably to feeling sick with fright.
Suddenly I felt a hand touch my shoulder. It was a warm, soft touch; it eased my fears and kept away the shadows that threatened to overcome the bright sunshine of this morning.
Elvish magic. I looked up at Glorfindel and felt embarrassed at the sympathy I could see in his face. "Why?" I whispered. "I just don't understand. I was not happy with my life. I always dreamed of this world. But what good could I do among the fellowship? I am not a ranger, I am not a warrior, I don't have the resilience of a hobbit… and what I know is so dangerous, and you keep telling me not to say anything of what I know! I just don't understand why Gandalf let me come here."
Glorfindel did not answer right away. He looked over the peaceful valley, the soft mists melting away in the sunshine, lost in thought. At last he turned back to me.
"I don't know all the reasons, why Gandalf visited your world, or why he made you a part of this story. I do know that he is very frightened of what is to come, as am I, or the Lord Elrond. You may know a tale; you may know many things which are possible for the near future that none of us do. But we have lived here for thousands of years. We have fought for this land; we have died for this land for millennia, always trying to keep the shadow at bay. And now, it seems that the final battle draws nigh… Everything may yet be saved, but just as well everything may be lost. It is a terrible risk, a terrible chance to take; but it is the only thing we can do, our only chance to end it. In this danger we need all the help we can get. If I – and others – caution you not to tell anything of what you know, that does not mean you must not use your knowledge or say something at the right time. But it is necessary that you understand how easily a misplaced word can destroy the destiny of a world in these dangerous times."
Glorfindel shook his head slightly and sighed. "I dare not tell you much. Only this: Gandalf needs you. A shadow lies on his road. He knows that. Elrond and I have seen it. – No, don't say anything. You have to realize how powerful words can be! Remember the Council!"
Glorfindel's voice was low and insistent, those blue eyes hypnotic.
"Gandalf needs you," he repeated. "He was adamant about you coming with the fellowship even though both, the Lord Elrond and I, did not want you to go. There is something only you can do for the fellowship. But what it is, I cannot say."
"And you would not even if you could," I commented lightly, although my heart was racing, and my stomach felt giddy with fear. Glorfindel smiled at me. "No, I wouldn't. Come, Lothíriel, take heart! You are neither as bad a ranger or as bad a warrior as you think. After all, you made it to Rivendell, and thanks to you, there were only eight riders at the ford, and not nine."
My heart skipped a beat. I had completely forgotten about that. Eight, not nine riders had been at the ford. My jumping the rider with the torch and setting his cloak on flame had changed the story. I had changed the story as I knew it. I felt my hands shiver and put them on my thighs. My palms felt cold and sweaty even through the thick cloth of my jeans.
The story could be changed.
I had already changed it.
The story as I knew had already ceased to exist.
Everything was uncertain.
After a time, my frantic heartbeat slowed down again, as I tried to gather all my courage. Whatever end this story would have, it was now my story, too. I was here. I was in it, whether I wanted it or not. And I had wanted it. I had gotten exactly what I had asked for. I loved being here. I loved this world, the rawness and wildness of Middle-earth. And I liked, admired or loved more people of Middle-earth than I had ever had feelings for on earth; and the feelings I had were not stupid crushes or family ties, but feelings bred by adversity, grown strong in the face of enemies, not by coping with trivial exams or silly arguments.
I breathed easier and grew once more aware of the beauty of the valley around me.
"It's very beautiful, this valley," I said softly. "I cannot imagine how you can simply leave it behind." Glorfindel looked up, startled. I was astonished to see something like pain in his eyes. "You don't want to leave?" I asked. "But I thought, Aman…" I trailed off, not knowing what to say. Glorfindel gave me a melancholy smile. "Aman calls us back, yes. But this, this –" He gestured at the valley and the beautiful buildings of Rivendell climbing up the slopes of the mountains on either side of the Bruinen. "This is the home of my heart. I have fought many centuries to protect it, and Middle-earth, and all its peoples."
"And yet you will leave."
"I will leave," Glorfindel agreed. He looked at the uppermost part of the buildings, which made up the palaces of Imladris, where Elrond lived.
"Because you love him," I blurted out. Glorfindel raised his eyebrows at me, and I blushed with shame at once again having spoken without thinking about it. But Glorfindel was not angry; he just smiled at me somewhat wryly.
"You are very perceptive for a mortal, Lothíriel. I do not love him in any romantic fashion."
"I had not wanted to imply…"
"I know you did not." Glorfindel's eyes grew dark, gazing to the windows high above us, and then he continued, "But you are right. I do love him; he is my friend, he is my leader and my lord. I will follow him wherever he goes, however dark the road he takes."
"But be that as it may," Glorfindel went on, "we should use the time we have on our hands to improve your skills."
"My skills?" I asked, confused. It was difficult to turn my attention back to the conversation.
"Yes," Glorfindel said patiently. "If you go with the nine walkers, you will have to know hilt from blade of a sword. We cannot turn you into a warrior in two months, but we can at least try and reduce the risk you pose for your companions."
I was not sure if I liked the sound of that. But he was very obviously right, so I did not offer any resistance.
In the following days I was simply too tired to think or worry about anything at all.
Glorfindel woke me at sunrise. Then he made me practice shielding my mind for an hour. After that I felt completely wrung out, mind and body exhausted. He made me build my mental wall one brick at a time, and then he took it apart. One brick at a time.
I would regret it later that I never in all that time asked if anyone bothered to help Boromir with the same thing. I was so busy I never even thought about the son of the steward of Gondor.
After a light breakfast, Glorfindel took me to the gymnasium of Rivendell. The gymnasium was a great hall with large yards around it, and it was used for exercising all kinds of weapons and keeping fit in general. Evidently even immortal elvish warriors had to practice.
I was presented with a light elvish sword. It was very beautiful and was called "Tínu", which is Sindarin for spark, small star. I was a very small star even with such an excellent elvish blade. But I improved vastly in those short weeks in Rivendell.
I had the best teachers, too.
Elendil's sword had been reforged by the elvish smiths of Rivendell, the best smiths in Middle-earth. Even Gimli admitted that; after witnessing the forging of Andúril, he spent his days with the smiths, and would have spent the nights there as well if they had let him.
The sword was very bright. When the sunlight hit the blade, it looked as if it had been dipped into red fire, but the moon made it glow with a cool white light. Its edge was razor-sharp, and the blade was covered with intricate runes and signs. There were seven stars etched between a crescent moon and a rayed sun, and at the edges of the blade flowed elvish runes imparting all the blessing on the blade the elves had left to give.
Aragorn gave it the name I remembered from the books. He dubbed it Andúril, Flame of the West, and his eyes blazed as brightly as the blade when he announced it.
But the sword weighed differently in his hand, and so he could be found in the gymnasium on a daily basis getting used to this legendary blade. He did not mind to test his sword against a beginner. The beginner did mind. My teachers did not bother with dull blades. They were certain that all of them were skilled enough not to hurt me in my clumsy attempts to hurt them. They were, but the knowledge of the sharpness of their blades worried me. Considerably.
I knew a few things about fencing to start with. Some of my male friends on earth belonged to the kind of fraternities, which still do ritual fencing – including drawing blood in one well aimed gash at the head of the opponent. I had always liked the feel of a sword in my hand. And although I was neither strong enough nor fast enough to be dangerous to a skilled swordsman such as Aragorn, Elrohir, Elladan or Glorfindel, I was at lest not a complete failure.
They made me fight with everyone who was around including Arwen and Gily. Gily, whose real name was Gilylf, star-torch, was a great fighter, better than Arwen, although I would not ever want to come against Elrond's daughter in a real fight.
This was a bit of a surprise to me, as there had not been much about elvish women and elvish society in the books.
The stories I knew were in so far correct, where elvish women were concerned, that there were not many of them still in Rivendell, or anywhere else in Middle-earth. Glorfindel explained it to me. As the ones to bring forth life from their wombs, the women were much more susceptible to the dark, chilling power of the shadow, and many of them had been forced to return to Aman to save their lives, or the lives of the children they carried. But elvish society as such knew no traditional roles for men or women. They did not bother with such trivialities.
There was little in the way of hierarchy or rank among the elves of Rivendell. Only very few elves were treated with special respect and deference; Elrond, of course, was treated like a king. He was the master of Imladris, the wisest and most powerful of the Eldar remaining in Middle-earth, and most elves were just as in awe of him as I was. But he acted not kingly or haughty at all; instead he was friendly and polite to everyone as far as I could tell. However, I had not seen much of the Lord of Rivendell after the Council. In these dark times there were not many dinners like the feast, which had been held in Frodo's honour. Most days Elrond spent in his study, working through the news about the movements of the enemy collected by the rangers and others in his service. He had dinner with his family and closest advisors, and only very seldom did he go the Hall of Fire, where stories were told, and songs were sung on most evenings.
Arwen was treasured by everyone. She was a symbol of hope for her people, a hint of how life could be in Aman without a shadow. Glorfindel and Erestor and a few others were treated referentially, but Elrond's sons were absolutely easy-going, and I sometimes came close to forgetting that Gily was an elf.
I also fought against Gimli, and I was battered black and blue afterwards. Being taller than the dwarf did not help. Then they set me up with more than one enemy at a time. Merry and Pippin had me on the ground in five minutes. I felt humbled.
One day Gandalf joined in the fun and games. He was better even than Aragorn, and Aragorn was surpassing even Glorfindel's immortal skill.
In the afternoon, Glorfindel had me studying maps of Middle-earth and learning languages. He taught me the most commonly used elvish runes. He also insisted that I learn at least some phrases of the language of the Rohirrim and the variation of Westron used in Gondor. The last was very close to the Common tongue, but there were a few important phrases of politeness I did not know. What I loved most was that he agreed to teach me Sindarin. I knew a few words of Sindarin, of course. You cannot fall in love with the world of Middle-earth and not appreciate the beauty of this language.
I wondered why Glorfindel took so much time to help me, after all he was an important elf-lord, and I was only a mortal woman. When I asked him, he smiled and said that it was not the important elf-lord embarking on the darkest of quests but the mortal woman. And apart from that, I was a good student and he enjoyed himself. I blushed at that compliment and spent the rest of the day smiling at everyone.
In that manner the days went by. At the beginning of November the first snow came. Rivendell turned into a fortress of snow and ice, and the waterfall of the Bruinen froze into the most amazing, enormous icicles. December flew by, and I was too busy to miss the Christmas preparations to go with this season back on earth.
Winter solstice was a feast day for the elves, however. A sumptuous dinner was held in the Great Hall. Afterwards the tables were cleared away and there was dancing and music and songs until midnight. On midnight everyone went outside and on the square in front of the Great Hall a bonfire was lit, a symbol for the return of the sun. The elves and their guests took each other's hands and danced in a great circle around the fire.
When the fire burnt down, the wee hours of the night were almost gone, and I was very weary when I finally slipped into my bed. But judging from the laughter and the shouts in the room next to me, the hobbits were still in the mood for more celebrations.
The day after solstice, Elrond's sons returned from a secret quest. I don't know where they had been, or what kind of news they brought, but that very day preparations for our journey started in earnest. Food for travelling, warm sleeping bags and additional blankets, warm cloaks, warm clothes, shoes, knives, maps, and all kinds of other gear which is necessary for travelling on foot for long distances in all the worlds.
Gily helped me getting ready. I needed warmer clothes, since my gear had been selected for a few weeks of hiking and camping in the summer, and not a dangerous trek through high mountains in the winter. But even the elves could not improve on my sleeping bag and my shoes.
One thing, I did not ask for, bothered Gily immensely, however. And blushing and stuttering, she finally brought it up to me. Of course, elvish women did not have periods. They reabsorbed whatever they had done to get ready once a month to conceive a child. No monthlies, another difference between elves and humans. No acne, then, either, I thought, thinking back to the agonies of puberty full of envy.
"But I know that human women need special clothes for their special time every month. Why did you not ask for any? Are you pregnant? If you are, you have to tell me! You could not possibly go with them then; it would be much too dangerous for the child!"
I stared at Gily's worried face, for a moment completely bewildered. Then I burst out laughing. The elf looked completely flustered. When I had regained my composure, I answered her still grinning. "No, don't worry, I'm not pregnant. I have a hormone-implant in my arm which prevents me from getting pregnant and incidentally keeps away my periods."
The look of confusion on the elf's face deepened. Right. How do you explain something like 'Implanon' to an elf? I tried again. "It's like a charm. It's put under the skin, and it prevents pregnancy and periods for a time. If you are not yet ready to have children."
I pulled up my sleeve and showed her my upper left arm. "Here, you can feel it."
Gingerly the elf touched the thin strip of plastic, which was palpable through the skin of my arm. She snatched her hand back and looked at me, her expression full of wonder. "How strange! Why would you do that?"
I inhaled deeply and pursed my lips. No casual sex among the elves, apparently. Well, I wasn't one for casual sex, either, but if I met an interesting man whom I trusted, and who like me… I was not averse to some carnal pleasures without the strings of marriage attached.
"Well," I said, hoping my elvish friend would not get the wrong impression of me. "You see, the society where I come from, we don't wait with the sex for marriage. We are more casual. With sex, not with love. If you fall in love, you may have sex without marriage. Some people have relationships for a long time and never marry at all. And most people want to control when they have children and with whom. So they have invented many ways to prevent getting pregnant by chance."
"Oh," Gily replied, understanding in her eyes. "I can understand that. We do that, too. Our children are only conceived when the time is right, according to the wishes of both parents. But we only have… how do you call it? 'Sex', with our spouses, or if there is no spouse, with the chosen partner. You have to understand, love and the act of love can bind us to each other. It is the gift of Varda, but it can also be a curse. If elves bind themselves in true love, they are bound for ever, body, heart, mind and soul. They literally share one life. If one dies, the other dies, too. Thus there can never be anything casual about love or 'sex' for us, even if we never find this one true love."
I listened intently. This was the explanation for the sadness in some of the love songs I had heard in the Hall of Fire and never really understood. I had understood that they were about lost love, and they had brought tears to my eyes even with my limited understanding of elvish culture. But only now I realized just how tragic those legendary romances were… Lúthien, Nimrodel, Elwing and Eärendil…
"Does not everyone find his or her true love?" I asked, curious.
"No," Gily answered. "It is a special blessing Varda bestows on Her most beloved children. But we all pray for it, even though this blessing has become the curse of some of the best of us."
She would not say more about this, but she was relieved to know that I was all right and not pregnant.
It was a cold grey day at the end of December when we finally set out.
A piercingly cold wind was blowing into the valley from the East. The dark firs and pines were bending to its force, and the leafless oaks, beeches and maple trees groaned under the gusts. Night was falling, the shadows of the early winter twilight lengthening. It was a gloomy atmosphere to start on such a dark and dangerous journey, but Elrond and Gandalf had decided that the cover of darkness was necessary for our safety.
The snow which had been piled high all through November and the first part of December had melted in a few warmer days following mid-winter's day. Only in the shadows of boulders and firs small heaps of gritty snow remained now. But the path above the Last Homely House, which would lead us into the wilderness of the Misty Mountains, was muddy, and there was little hope to hide the traces of two men, one woman, one elf, one dwarf, four hobbits, one wizard and one pony in this soft, sludgy ground.
We had been excellently outfitted for the journey, warm clothes, extra blankets, cleverly devised travelling gear and supplies of food and medicine. But we did not carry many weapons or armour.
Aragorn had Andúril and a dagger, and he was back in his shabby ranger clothes, wearing mostly green and brown to blend into the colours of the landscape. Boromir carried a long sword, too. It was even bigger than Andúril and had to be used with both hands, which suited the powerful frame of the Gondorian warrior. On his back he wore a round shield, and around his neck hung the silver horn he had held on his knees the day of the council. I had not seen much of him during the last few weeks. He was of solitary nature, or perhaps he simply did not feel at ease among the elves. I had not missed him, as I had not liked the way he had looked at me at the Council.
Gimli was the only one, who wore armour. He was clad in a mail shirt made of thousands of polished steel-rings. In his belt were a knife and a small axe, and on his back was a huge, double-edged war axe, whose name he would not tell.
Legolas had a bow and a quiver, and a long white knife; it was longer than a dagger but not really a sword.
The hobbits had the blades given to them by Tom Bombadil, but Frodo wore Sting, Bilbo's old sword, which would glow blue when orcs were near. I hoped he also wore the mail shirt of Mithril I had read about, but I was too anxious to ask.
Gandalf, who was cloaked in grey, wore a long, splendid sword and a sharp elvish dagger. The sword was of dwarfish origin; it was called Glamdring and had been the bane of evil for millennia already. He also carried a long wooden staff. It appeared to be nothing but plain, grey wood, but it glowed slightly in the shadows, and Gandalf allowed no one else to touch it.
I had Tínu, my one-handed elvish sword, and a new elvish dagger fashioned after the form of my sword.
Perhaps not enough weaponry to take on a host of enemies openly, I thought, as I surveyed the company waiting at the back gate of Imladris. But dangerous enough to make the casual raider think twice. And hopefully also the casual orc or two.
Sam was again in charge of the pony, which had improved wondrously during the short time in Rivendell. Its fur was glossy and it was well-fleshed and vigorous. Although Aragorn had not been happy about it, it had been decided to take it along as far as possible to carry additional blankets and food. We hoped that taking along a beast of burden would increase our speed because the scouting, although necessary, had already delayed our departure far too long.
I shivered and hopped from one foot to the other to get warm. We were waiting for Gandalf, who was still talking to Elrond in his study. What farewells we had to make, we had said in the Hall of Fire. Gily had given me a green silken scarf.
She told me that it did not weigh anything at all, and every woman needed to have at least a little piece of finery along the way. Glorfindel gave me the dagger, which looked exactly like my sword and was razor-sharp, and etched with elvish blessings. I felt sudden tears in my eyes and would have embraced the elf, but he was distant and his blue eyes were dark as he offered me his hand. Now he was standing at the back of the yard in front of the back gates of Rivendell along with Gily, Erestor, Elrond's sons and two rangers who had stopped by Rivendell only two days ago. Arwen was nowhere in sight, and Aragorn kept away from the rest of the company, his head bent and his eyes sad. I wished I could say something comforting to him, but by now it had been well drilled into me, not to carelessly or needlessly use my knowledge. And comforting a friend probably did not qualify as a good cause.
Bilbo stood in the corner with the hobbits, shrunken with age and almost completely obscured by a thick cloak and a woollen balaclava. Sam was murmuring to the pony and going over the supplies for the hundredth time. Legolas and Gimli were trying to outdo each other in stoically waiting: standing straight and unblinking.
Finally Elrond and Gandalf appeared.
The Lord of Rivendell raised his arms. All of the company turned to him, listening to his last blessing and advice. "You set out for the darkest of countries, and many dangers may befall you. Your quest is to destroy the ring in the fiery chasm, where it was made. But this is an obligation laid only on the ring-bearer by his free choice. The others go with him as free companions to help him on his way. But no oath can bind you, save your heart. You should, however, not go further than the strength of your hearts reach, lest you betray yourself, the company and all of us. For in these dark times I cannot foresee what each of you may meet on the road."
"Faithless, who says farewell when the road is dark," Gimli muttered.
Elrond looked at him, his eyes stern. I winced. But Gimli was unconcerned about the foot in his mouth. "Maybe," Elrond agreed. "But to make those who have not yet seen the dark into oath breakers, would not serve our cause."
"Yet sworn word might strengthen quaking hearts," Gimli objected.
Elrond smiled sadly. "Strengthen it or break! Who can tell that now? However, I can tell you that every step of the way you go, you are accompanied by the blessing of Elves and Men and all the Free Folk of Middle-earth. Farewell and may the stars shine upon your faces!"
"Good luck," Bilbo called out in his high, old voice, his teeth chattering with cold. "And, Frodo, I expect a full account when you get back. I don't suppose you could manage to keep a diary?" He answered his question himself, "Probably not. Oh, well, just come back and don't take too long. Goodbye!"
Taking this as the signal to leave, Gandalf took the lead and, walking next to Frodo, passed through the back-gates of Rivendell into the twilight of a cold December evening.
Boromir hesitated for a moment and then announced in his clipped, clear Gondorian accent.
"Loud and clear this horn shall cry as it always did when I set forth, no matter how dark the road. Let it be the clearer and brighter now that the road is even darker! And let all foes of Gondor flee!" With that he put his horn to his lips and blew. A clear, bright brassy clarion sound emerged and echoed through the valley of Rivendell.
Elrond seemed to sigh at the sound, but he did not say anything. Boromir turned and followed Gandalf out of the gates. After him followed the hobbits and after them, Legolas and Gimli.
Aragorn and I took up the rear.
From the shadows behind us I heard the whispered blessings and farewells of many others of Elrond's household who had come to see us go. As I turned to look back at them, I thought for a moment that I had caught a glimpse of Arwen, back in a corner of the courtyard, but when I looked again, only shadows remained.
But Glorfindel was easy to see. He stood on the threshold of the Last Homely House, and the lights of the many candles burning inside made his hair glow like a golden star.
And as Aragorn and I passed through the gates of Rivendell, taking the path to the bridge across the Bruinen above Rivendell, I felt again the silky touch of the elf's thoughts.
May the road rise to meet you,
may the wind be always at your back,
may the sun shine warm upon your face,
may the rain fall soft upon your fields…
Then we passed across the bridge and onto a long steep path to the high moors of the foothills of the Misty Mountains, and I could not hear, feel or see anyone or anything of Imladris anymore.
Back at Rivendell, Glorfindel remained standing in the doorway and looking out into the gathering darkness, long after the footfalls of the company had been lost in the winds sweeping down from the mountains.
Only when he felt the presence of his friend and lord next to him, he turned around.
Elrond looked at his friend, perceptive as always in spite of his own concerns and sorrows connected with these farewells. "Her fate lies elsewhere, my friend," he said in a low voice.
Glorfindel sighed, "I know."
But his blue eyes were dark when he returned to his rooms.
…and until we meet again, may the One hold you in the hollow of His hand.
But Glorfindel never met Lothíriel again.
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.