9. An Elvish Jewel
My head hurt abominably. I was sleeping, and my head hurt. That could not be right.
A wave of nausea rose from my stomach. I opened my eyes, tried to sit up and vomited promptly, barely managing to turn my head to the side.
Minutes, hours or weeks of darkness later, a soft, damp cloth was gently placed around my head. The pungent fragrance of herbs tickled my nose. I sneezed and thought my head would explode. The cool cloth was adjusted around my forehead. Within minutes my head stopped hurting, the excruciating pain fading to a dull ache.
"Lothíriel?" a dark voice asked. A voice I knew. Aragorn. That was Aragorn's voice.
"Lothíriel? Can you hear me?"
"Hmm," I answered, and groggily opened my eyes. A figure was leaning across my field of vision, but the outlines of the figure were blurred, so that I could not recognize who it was at first. I blinked several times, trying to clear my eyes. Slowly my vision returned to normal.
Aragorn was looking down at me, a worried expression on his face. "Do you know your name?" he asked.
I blinked again. "Sure I do." I winced. Talking hurt my head. What had happened? "It's Lothíriel. Because of my mother. They would not allow it at first. But the court finally said that it was alright. So I am Lothíriel. And do you know what's funny? I don't even know why my mother insisted on me being Lothíriel." I was babbling. I knew that. But I had remembered a black figure looming above me. Black riders. I did not want to know what had happened.
Aragorn frowned at me. Then he held three fingers in front of my eyes. "How many fingers do you see?"
"Three." I don't want to know what happened. I want to forget lightless looming figures. Blacker than the darkest night, colder than death, creeping up the mountain side armed with black weapons.
"Do you remember what happened?" Aragorn asked, his features relaxing a bit.
I shuddered. "The black riders. The wraiths. Five, I think. They attacked. Merry and Pippin fell to the ground. You fought one or two. But the others kept coming." My voice trembled. I sounded like a little girl who was close to tears after a nightmare. "They wanted to get Frodo. I threw myself at one of them. Everything went black. I guess I am not a very good warrior."
I hesitated, and then forced myself to ask: "How is Frodo? Is he alive? What happened after I blacked out?"
Aragorn sighed. "Frodo is injured, just as you predicted. But he may live. You set the cloak of the rider you tackled on fire. He fled. I managed to drive off the others."
Frodo. He may live. He had lived in the stories back home. Then he had to survive here, too, hadn't he?
Soothed by the wet cloth on my forehead, the throbbing in my head diminished even as I was talking to Aragorn. "What's with my head?" I asked.
Aragorn looked at me with an expression between reproach and amusement. "Payment for your foolish attack. The black rider landed a kick at your head. You were very lucky. The kick could have killed you easily. As it is, you have suffered a concussion, but the athelas will help. I think you will be fit enough to travel tomorrow. You should sleep now." With that the ranger rose to his feet and turned away.
"Thank you," I called after him, my voice still thin and shaking to my embarrassment.
Aragorn looked back at me, and there was a spark of real warmth in his keen grey eyes. "You're welcome. You are a brave girl. Foolish, but brave."
I woke again when the sun had already fully risen. My head still ached slightly and my eyelids were swollen, but I did not feel sick. I sat up carefully and looked around. Frodo lay close to the fire wrapped in thick blankets. His eyes were closed and he was ghastly pale.
He looked as if he was only barely alive. Sam sat next to him on the ground his dark eyes huge and frightened in his round face, which held none of his usual cheerfulness.
Merry and Pippin were busy repacking the baggage. Aragorn was getting the pony ready to carry Frodo, tying the bed rolls to the front and to the back of the saddle to give Frodo additional security in his weak condition. I scrambled out of my sleeping bag. As I got up, a wave of dizziness made me swallow hard. Concussion in the wilderness. I should probably stay in bed for a couple of days. But that was obviously not an option and so I hurriedly got my stuff together.
Then I walked over to Merry and Pippin. "Hi," I said, trying to sound cheerful. "Can I help you? I can carry some additional weight, too. My backpack is pretty big."
Pippin turned to me, pushing back the stubborn cowlick, which was always falling in his eyes, and smiled at me. "How are you, Lothíriel? You had us quite worried! And we have more than enough of that at the moment." The mirth, which was usually sparkling in Pippin's green eyes, was subdued by worry. He cast an uneasy glance at the still figure of Frodo on the ground by the fire.
I swallowed nervously. "He will make it, Pippin. I am sure he will make it. Frodo's tough."
I hope. I really hope. He should be. Up until now everything has turned out just like in the book. Why should that change now?
Pippin nodded. But his eyes remained dark and his face was tense with worry.
"Now," I said briskly, hoping that something to do would keep me from worrying. "What can I put into my pack to help you carry all that stuff?"
Merry looked up, a fleeting grin lighting his pale and frightened face at my choice of words. He looked even paler than Pippin, probably because his almost black hair and very dark eyes contrasted more sharply with the pallor of his cheeks. "Strider said that you mustn't. You were injured, too, after all."
"But I am o.k.," I objected. "Right as rain!"
Aragorn walked over to us, leading the pony by its reins. He raised his eyebrows. "Right as rain?"
Obviously he was not familiar with that expression. For a moment I wondered what the others were thinking about my way of speaking – or about my backpack and my sleeping bag for that matter.
Aragorn reached for my head and lightly touched my temple. Even this soft touch felt like a knife ripping through my skull. I winced, pulling back from his touch, only to wince again, as the movement hurt my head again.
"I see," Aragorn said dryly. "I have made a tisane of athelas for Frodo. You should drink a mug, too. We have to walk far today. The riders may return here tonight. We have to be far from this place by nightfall."
The tisane did help. Although it did not really taste pleasantly, it was rather spicy and we did not have any honey or sugar to sweeten it, it relieved my headache and the dizziness passed away. Aragorn had decided to cut straight to the East, keeping off the road for safety reasons.
But we had to cross the road to get away from the Weather Hills.
Aragorn had run ahead a few yards and kept look-out for the enemy. When we approached the road, there was no sign of black riders or any other living creature. Immeasurably relieved I let go of the breath I had been involuntarily holding and hurried across the road, following Merry and Pippin. Just as I stepped off the road and hurried towards the thicket where the others were already hiding, a cold cry echoed across the plains. Seconds later an answering cry sounded from far away among the hills. It was a shrill, piercing scream, full of cruelty and hatred. I stumbled into the thicket, trembling all over the body, the cries reverberating painfully in my head.
Merry and Pippin looked at me, their eyes just as wide and frightened. I gulped and looked back at them, trying to keep my fear under control. It did not work; I guess I looked just as scared as they did. Merry gave me a wavering smile and Pippin squeezed my hand.
Then we turned and followed Aragorn and Sam, who was leading the pony with Frodo, who was perched precariously between the sleeping bags.
'Tis an ill wind indeed that blows no good at all, I quoted Shakespeare under my breath.
My head had started to throb again, and the pain increased with every step. On the one hand, my brain had been almost bashed to mush and running through the wilderness pursued by ring wraiths was probably not a good way to treat a concussion. On the other hand, Aragorn and the others seemed finally inclined to trust me.
The landscape, we were walking through, was wild and desolate, and it did not offer much shelter from unfriendly eyes. Only here and there patches of bushes and gnarled trees grew in this barren country. There was no real trail we could follow, and each step jarred my aching head abysmally.
Our progress was slow, and all of us were down-hearted and frightened. Even Aragorn looked strained and tired. Finally we made camp. We lit a large fire, because Frodo had to be kept warm and to ward off the enemy. Frodo had not spoken all day. I did not feel very well, either. To be honest, I felt sick to my stomach and my head pounded painfully in the rhythm of my heartbeat.
Aragorn brewed up another kettle of tisane of athelas. He bathed Frodo's wound and made him drink a cup of the tisane. Then he made me drink a cup of the athelas-tea, too, and afterwards he had me lie down with an athelas drenched cloth wrapped around my head. After a while the sick feeling in my stomach quieted down, and the pain in my head was again reduced to a minor ache.
But I could not bring myself to eat anything. And I offered not even a token protest against my exclusion of the nightly watches. I fell asleep at once, but I slept fitfully, disturbed by evil dreams of dark, dark shapes looming above me.
In the morning my head hurt again, and if Aragorn had not saved another cup of the tisane for me, I would have been in no condition to walk. But I must have looked pretty wrung out, because Aragorn examined my head and my eyes again, making me look to the right and to the left and up and down, following the movement of my eyes with his sharp gaze. Then he had me do some strange exercises with my hands, while I had my eyes closed.
"I don't think your brain was damaged," he announced finally. "If you could stay in bed for two days, you would be… what did you say yesterday? 'Right as rain.' But I don't think it is dangerous for you to keep walking. At least not any more dangerous than the enemy we are fleeing."
"Relief, relief," I joked and was rewarded with a slight smile.
In the evening my head felt as bad as the day before.
Without athelas I would not have been able to sleep.
Without athelas I would not have been able to walk the next morning.
I wondered if athelas was a habit-forming drug.
In the evening, when my head was hurting as if it was splitting apart, I did not care if athelas was a drug or not. The fourth day was slightly better. And in the morning of the fifth day I did not need any athelas-tea anymore.
The fifth day took us from the plains of the lone-lands up into the hills above the Mitheithel.
On the sixth day we reached the ridge of those hills. For once the weather was clear, and we could see quite far. The road swept around the feet of the hills, a lonely brown ribbon in the pale green of the plains. The road was empty. No other travellers and no enemies were visible on it. To the right the grey currents of the Mitheithel gleamed in the pale sunshine, and in a valley far to the East I thought I could make out another river, but it was almost obscured by swirls of mist. Aragorn's announcement that we would have to turn back to the road to cross the Mitheithel was greeted with no enthusiasm. But as there was no way to get across the river below the Ettenmoors apart from the Last Bridge, we had no choice.
"We simply have to hope that we do not find the Last Bridge held against us," Aragorn concluded.
I had finally been allowed to keep watch like the others. Aragorn had not wanted me to. And the hobbits – even Pippin – obviously did not think it really appropriate for a woman to keep watch at all, but I had insisted. I had the first watch that night. Aragorn kept me company, smoking his pipe, his eyes dark with worry. I kept thinking about the next morning and the danger of crossing the bridge. I wanted to help the companions. And I resented to be treated like an invalid or a fragile girl.
"I could explore the bridge," I said suddenly.
Aragorn turned his head. He withdrew the pipe from his lips and I could see that he was getting ready to object. "No, don't object. If the enemy is there, they will kill me swiftly, eager as they are to get Frodo. So I'd just be dead and not a danger for anyone anymore. And you could still get the hobbits away. Hopefully."
I looked back at the ranger. My voice had trembled only slightly. If I was sure that the story would keep to the outline I knew from my world, I would never have offered to make a fool out of me again. But I just wasn't sure, and it was driving me crazy. All day I was thinking about more and more dreadful deviations from the story I had read so often. I cursed my vivid imagination.
Aragorn turned the pipe around in his long, strong fingers. The nail of the index finger of his right hand was blue and black from connecting with one of the black swords of the enemies.
He did not object but looked at me thoughtfully. "You don't keep back, do you?" He asked finally. "Are all women like that, where you come from? Outspoken and running straight into danger without looking either left or right?"
I blinked at him completely taken by surprise. "I guess women are just as different in my world as they are here. But women have the same rights as men in my world. They can say what they want and do what they want, as long as they don't violate any laws, just the same as the men." I explained. "But it's a complex phenomenon. Maybe I'll live to explain it to you in detail one day when we have a lot of time." I winked at him. "I am sure Arwen would be interested, too."
He started at the name. I blushed. "I am sorry; I did not want to be disrespectful." Aragorn shook his head. "No, I don't mind; you just caught me unawares. I am just not used to anyone knowing about Arwen, and talking… like that." He exhaled a cloud of grey pipe-smoke. "You said that Frodo gets to Rivendell safely from what you know. Why would you risk your life if you know it is unnecessary?"
I gulped. "I am just worried sick that something will go wrong that… real life will not keep to the story line. It's what you said in Bree. I am not in the story that I know. The story is already different. What if…"
"What if the cow jumps over the moon," Aragorn interrupted me. "We will just have to hope that everything turns out all right, no matter what you know." He sighed. "Thank you for your offer. I think it is a good idea. If this 'story' you know has not changed, then you are not in any danger. If there is danger, you may be enough of a distraction to allow the hobbits to flee."
"And you," I added, although my voice was less than firm.
"And me," Aragorn acknowledged grudgingly.
Although I might very well have sealed my fate with volunteering for scouting detail, I slept well that night. For the first time no bad dreams haunted my sleep since the incident at Weathertop.
The others took cover behind a thicket just at the side of the road, and Aragorn went off along the road to the West to check if danger was close behind us. I strained my eyes in an effort to observe his movements. Finally he stepped noiselessly out of a thicket just behind us. I had not heard him coming or seen him at all. I sighed. I was definitely not a ranger.
But he nodded to me, and so I slipped out onto the road. My heart was thundering and my knees felt wobbly. I looked up and down the road as Aragorn had told me to. Was that a moving shadow, three yards down the road? Had I mixed up the events at the bridge in my memory? No, it was only a branch of a fir tree moving in the wind. Cautiously, alert to any sound and any movement on the road and at its sides, I walked towards the bridge.
There was only the sound of the river rushing against the pillars of the bridge and the soft sigh of wind in the bushes and the trees.
I breathed easier and walked to the centre of the bridge.
As far as I could see the road was peaceful and empty on either side of the bridge.
I exhaled in a heavy sigh.
This very moment the dark grey clouds, which had kept the sun hidden all morning, parted.
A warm, golden ray of sunlight hit my face and the bridge. Close to my right foot something sparkled in the unexpected sunshine. At first I thought it was the shard of a bottle because it shimmered greenly in the pale light of the October sun. But then I noticed that the edges were too evenly cut for a piece of broken glass. I knelt down in the dust and had to bite my lips to prevent an astonished cry.
It was a pale green jewel!
And it did not look as if it had fallen down on the bridge by chance. It looked as if it had been placed here as a sign. Carefully I picked it up and ran back to the thicket, where the hobbits and Aragorn were waiting.
"There's no one in sight, neither friend nor enemy," I gasped. "Nothing moves out there but the river and the wind. But look what I found! It was placed right in the middle of the bridge almost like a sign, or a talisman."
Aragorn took the pale green jewel from my hand and held it against the light of the sun. Green light flowed across his face. "This is an elf-stone, a beryl. The enemy won't touch it. I think you are right, Lothíriel. It is a sign. We may pass the bridge. But we should hurry nevertheless, and we will leave the road again as soon as we have crossed the Mitheithel. With no clearer sign than this I do not dare to stay on the road," Aragorn told us and placed the jewel back on my outstretched palm.
"But, don't you want to keep it?" I asked, astonished. He looked at me and a fleeting smile turned his grim and weather-hardened features into the bright and clear face of a young lord. "No. You found it. You can keep it. You have a long way ahead of you if I am not very much mistaken. You will need a token of hope before the end."
A shiver ran down my spine at Aragorn's ominous words. A goose on my grave. But I took the jewel and slipped it into the small money pocket of my jeans.
We made it safely across the bridge. We stayed on the road for another mile, and then Aragorn led us up a dark ravine into steep hills covered with tall, shadowy trees on the left of the road. Although we were happy to leave the exposed stretch of the road, this gloomy and desolate country did not exactly lighten our moods.
Frodo sat hunched and shivering on the pony, his eyes slightly glazed. I walked up to him and took his hand, much as he had taken my hand that first evening in Bree. "You will make it, Frodo," I whispered encouragingly. "Don't worry, once we are in Rivendell, Elrond will heal you in the blink of an eye."
Frodo tried to smile at me, but it was more a painful grimace than a smile. Oh, God, I thought. Please. You can't let him die. It's not in the book. You can't let him die!
As we were walking on into the hills, Aragorn told us about the country around us. How its people fell under the sway of the witch-king of Angmar, long ago, and how the country was laid waste in the war which finally brought the end of the North kingdom.
"Where did you learn such tales?" Pippin marvelled. "Birds and beasts don't tell such tales!"
"The heirs of Elendil still remember the past," Aragorn replied, "and in Rivendell the memory of ages long gone is still alive."
"Do you know Rivendell well?" Frodo asked, his voice weak and tired.
"I have," Aragorn answered, but he did not look at us; his gaze was set on distant memories, and his eyes were dark. "I grew up in Rivendell. I still return there when I may. There my heart is when dark days take me far away."
The look on his face touched something deep inside of me. Arwen, I thought. She is at Rivendell. I sighed. I had never known even a pale shadow of a love such as this.
The path we were following took us into a narrow valley. It felt like a trap to me, the shadows of the rocky hills all around us. And the gnarled pines searching, clinging to precarious toe-holds among the cracks and crevices of the cliffs reminded me of the twisted and misshapen shapes of trolls I had once seen in a children's book. As the country grew even steeper, the path finally vanished, and we had to search for a passage among the rocks and the trees on our own. Although I could see that the hobbits were weary to their bones, they plodded along wordlessly. And with their small size and their nimble feet they had definitely an advantage against me in this wilderness of thorns and rocks. Even with my good trekking shoes I was constantly slipping and stumbling, and lower branches hit my face whenever I forgot to duck or bend them out of the way. Aragorn, as a ranger, took this dismal country in his stride, sometimes walking at the front, sometimes at the rear of our group, constantly alert for any sound, any sign of danger. He seemed to need no sleep at all.
My admiration for him grew by the minute.
In the middle of the afternoon it began to rain. We were soaked to the skin by nightfall. I discovered that the good thing about being tired beyond bounds is that you don't care if you are wet or the enemy is just behind you. If you are exhausted enough, you are simply beyond caring. Unfortunately, this condition was gone by the morning. We were still weary, but we had slept a few hours. We were still wet. And we had almost nothing left to eat.
A cheerful start into a cheerful day.
Frodo was worse than ever. The cold and the damp made his wound hurt more intensely than ever before, and he was so pale as to be almost translucent. He seemed to be truly slipping away from this reality. I still hoped that I was right and that we would reach Rivendell in time, that Frodo would be alright, but when he looked at me and did not see me but stared right through me with this strange, glassy look, a shiver ran down my back, and I was frightened.
When Merry woke me before sunrise the next morning, I experienced the sudden urge to scream at him that I wasn't going to take another damn step. That was, of course, not an option. For one thing, we were in the middle of nowhere. There was no shelter and there was no food. An even more convincing argument was the possible proximity of black riders.
Merry gave me a lopsided grin. "I feel just the same, Lothy. I know I should be scared stiff, and I am most of the time, but tonight, when Strider woke me to take over the watch, I wanted to throw some of this sludge into his face."
"Gods, yes…" I agreed. We had slept on a moss-grown ledge. We had missed that the moss had soaked up the rain from above and the sludge from below. It had been soft to lie on. But what a mess!
The beginning of a wonderful day… just kidding. It was even worse than the day before.
There was nothing even vaguely resembling a trail all around. Frodo had to dismount. I tried to carry him for a while, but he was too big and heavy for that. Hobbits are not as small as you might think, and they are a good deal heavier. Merry and Pippin had to support Frodo on our climb down to the Southeast between two steep hills because Sam had to take care of Bill, the pony. The slope was almost too steep to be managed on four hooves, and Bill was frightened. I did not blame him. I had been walking in front of Sam when I had lost my footing and slid down the slimy, rocky passage on my bottom. I was down before the rest of the company, but my jeans was torn and completely soaked with brown mud, and I was hurting all over. At least my stunt was good for a laugh.
Our laughter did not last long, however, because once we were down the hill, another, even steeper slope rose in front of us. This time we had to go up. Mud and bruises notwithstanding, going down the hill had been more fun. We reached the ridge by nightfall.
Aragorn managed to light a fire in the shelter of a huge old pine tree, which almost bent double from the harsh winds sweeping over the hill. We huddled around the fire as close together as possible. There was no way to dry our things. It was a miracle that we had not already succumbed to pneumonia, one and all. Well, perhaps not so very miraculous; any self-respecting virus or bacteria would have run for cover at the first scent it got off us.
Yep. We stank. The pony smelled like a wet and dirty pony. The hobbits smelled, well, like wet and dirty hobbits. I positively stank of mud and sweat. I did not sit close enough to Aragorn to discern how a wet and dirty ranger smelled.
The wind was moaning around the hill-tops in keening, fell voices, a sound which raised all the tiny hairs at the back of my neck and prevented any thought of sleep, no matter how exhausted I was. Wind or wolves, wind or wolves… I shivered uncontrollably. Both and even more evil alternatives were possible explanations of the nightly sounds we heard.
The morning, however, dawned in clear bright colours. The storm winds of the night had blown away the menacing rain clouds, and the morning sky was a limpid, soft blue.
I watched the sun rise in a red and golden glory, greeted by the cheerful warble of some small birds in the thickets around us. I felt dazed from the cold and the lack of sleep, but the beauty of this morning touched my heart like a blessing of God above… if He could still see me here in Middle Earth.
This day we had to finally turn back to the road because there was only the one ford to cross the Bruinen on the way to Rivendell. Although all of us were afraid of whatever waited for us at the ford, our spirits rose considerably as the day remained fairly sunny and warm. Bill, the scrawny pony, had by now developed an uncanny sense for safe passages through rocks and sludge. I was walking close behind the pony this day, and had much less difficulties on the trail than during the last days. I sighed. A ranger out of Erlangen… I was more of a garden gnome than a ranger. I knew that now.
"A troll hole!" Pippin shouted and disappeared promptly into a cave. "Pippin, wait!" Aragorn shouted after the hobbit, but the youngster was already gone. I thought that my heart would stop this very second. I was not only a disaster as a ranger; I was also not up to the resilience of the hobbits.
It turned out to be a troll hole although it had obviously been deserted long ago. I tried to remember if I had ever read anything about trolls in "The Lord of the Rings", but nothing came to mind. Perhaps in "The Hobbit"? But I had read that book only once, years ago, and the only thing I recalled was something about dwarves and spiders in a dark wood.
A frightened exclamation interrupted my musings. "Trolls, trolls!" Pippin was panting. "There are three trolls just down there!" His face was white as a sheet with a greenish tinge to his pointy ears. Aragorn, however, remained as calm as you please. He just walked forward, straight into the direction of the trolls.
"But there are trolls!" Pippin shouted after the ranger, his voice anguished. And there were three huge gnarled bodies looming in the clearing, they looked almost like granite boulders, tumbled down from the mountainsides. Aragorn, I thought. Don't. Don't go there! I opened my mouth to shout a warning, but no sound came out.
Aragorn entered the clearing unconcernedly. He picked up a branch and broke the stick across the back of one of the trolls. Then he turned to us, laughing merrily. "Get up old stone!" he cried, and threw the piece of wood which remained in his hand at the head of the troll statue. "You won't trip me up that easily, Master Peregrin Took."
Pippin looked absolutely flabbergasted. It was not so much that he would not try to play a prank on Aragorn if the time was right, but the young hobbit had been well and truly frightened by the sight of the trolls.
Frodo's bright laughter made all our heads turn. He had roused himself out of his feverish stupor. He explained quickly, why he had laughed. Those were the trolls Bilbo and the dwarves had met, years ago. He was delighted that I was unfamiliar with the story and told it with gusto. In the end, all of us were laughing, and even Aragorn was chuckling.
When Merry demanded a song, it was – to my surprise – Sam who obliged with a witty, funny pub song about a troll and his collection of bones. I was even more surprised when Sam admitted that he had made up the song himself. That goes to show, I thought. You just never know what's inside of people.
We reached the road in the evening. To our immense relief, there was no sign of any other travellers or the enemy. A cold wind was blowing down from the mist-covered mountains before us, tasting of wilderness and snow. We had more stumbled than walked for another mile on the road when the sound of approaching hooves made us jump. We raced off the road and scrambled behind a thicket of bilberry and hazel-bushes.
My heart was in my mouth, and I felt sick with dread. We were so close to our destination, so close! And now this!
But the shadows did not grow darker around us; if anything, I thought that the failing light of the pale sun lit up again. Was that the sound of tiny bells in the air?
"That doesn't sound like a Black Rider," Frodo wheezed next to me. "But who could it be?" I whispered.
Aragorn did not answer but seemed to listen intently. Then he suddenly ran forward to the road. At the same moment I saw a white horse drawing near. It was running swiftly, and indeed, to its reins tiny silver bells were attached to ward off evil. The rider was tall and slender; his long golden hair was flowing in the wind along with a silvery cloak, which billowed behind him like a sail. When he beheld Aragorn, he stopped and dismounted in one fluid movement. He embraced the ranger and cried: "Ai na vedui Dúnadan! Mae govannen!"
I recognized the words although they were spoken even faster than I had heard them in my own world, and the pronunciation was even more liquid. But even though, there was no doubt in my mind at all.
An elf had come.
An elf of Rivendell had found us!
Frodo would be safe after all!
Aragorn took the elf to our hide-away. "This is Glorfindel, a lord of the Eldar, who dwells in the house of Elrond." Glorfindel greeted us courteously. The touch of his slender, cool fingers left a strange tingling sensation on my hand.
After Glorfindel had explained quickly how Elrond had sent him to look for us, he turned to Frodo, who had slowly slid down to the ground while we others had been talking and greeting the Elf-lord. Glorfindel examined his wound, and some of the joyous beauty of his face faded when he finally turned to us, his expression grave. "This is an evil wound, and little can I do here in the wilderness… but I will do what I may to help Frodo."
In our world, what Glorfindel did would have been called quackery and rubbish. He touched the wound with his long white hands, closed his eyes and sang a soft song. Afterwards, the eyes of the elf were full of pain, but Frodo felt better and could ride again even on the high back of Glorfindel's horse. It almost looked as if Glorfindel had taken some of the pain into himself to ease Frodo's suffering.
With Frodo on Glorfindel's horse, we could load the pony with our baggage and unerringly led by Glorfindel, we made off into the night. But it was difficult to keep a sense of the passing time, walking through the mists of night, especially as we were already half-dazed by exhaustion. Sometime I noticed that I was walking next to Glorfindel and that the elf was watching me.
"Aragorn did not tell me your name," the elf said softly.
"I'm Lothíriel," I answered simply. And for the first time in my life my name did not feel strange and awkward to me.
"Your eyes are full of strange tales," Glorfindel commented. "You come from far away, from beyond the circles of this world."
I was too tired to get excited about this casual observation. I answered the first thing that came to my mind. "Germany. I come from a country called Germany."
"But it's not your home," Glorfindel added casually.
Now I did turn my head to the gleaming face of the elf. If I had not been so damn tired, I think I would have dissolved into a puddle just from glimpsing this profile of serenity and beauty.
"No," I said. "I don't think it ever was. But I have no idea where else I could belong."
The elf smiled at me, a bittersweet smile of memories I could not even begin to fathom.
"You will find your home. I cannot tell you where, but that much I can see easily. There's a saying among the elves who have been to Aman, the Blessed, our home: 'The most magical journey is the one that takes you home'."
He fell silent, and I was too tired and far too intimidated to reply anything.
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.