4. Chaper 3: The White Rider
Berethor travelled endlessly down the path which steered ever north he went. Since his recovery from the head injury he suffered just over a week back, he travelled hastily through the day and until the darkest hours of night, setting out again as dawn broke. As the sun began to retire beyond the western mountains and the skies grew darker, Berethor found himself following a river. Assuming this was the river Hoarwell that the ranger had promised, he decided to ride on until he came to The Last Bridge, just west of Rivendell. From there he could take the eastern road at dawn. He was weary with toil and sorrow and there was still many days ride ahead of him. His horse gradually slowed to walking pace and Berethor could see Ayreth could not go much further without food and rest. He leaned forward, "I know I've stretched your strength, my friend," he softly whispered in the horse's ear. "Just a little further, boy."
It was dark and little could be seen now as trees began to merge into shadow. The constant sounds of insects filled the air and a near distant stream could be heared trickling through the woodland on the other side of the river. It was quite soothing to Berethors ears, complete silence only encouraged his mind to dwell on dark thoughts. Berethor leaned forward, squinting into he darkness, then smiled in relief as his tired eyes spotted what looked to be The Last Bridge.
Berethor dismounted his horse and sleepily prepared for camp. Lighting a small fire, he could now confirm this was the place he was meant to be. The ranger did not lie, the just over the bridge lay a wide road running east and west. He also noticed that the area wasn't greatly secluded and to camp here would be risky indeed and so he reluctantly packed up his things. As much as he wanted to, he could not afford to take such risks. He gripped the reigns of Ayreth and looked around for cover. Suddenly, disturbing hiss flew the air, the wind blew out the fire and what could not be disguised as the night's chill filled his bones. Then, Ayreth turned to madness, crying out and rearing up. Berethor fell to the ground and the horse fled almost trampling Berethor, who had no chance of stopping him. "Ayreth! Ayreth come back!" But the horse was gone, leaving Berethor alone. Dark thoughts crossed his mind as he wondered what just happened and as he heard the gallop of his horse fade, he heard another horse approaching from the other direction, then, several horses approaching at speed. He jumped to his feet and quickly drew his sword but by the time he looked up, a magnificent white steed bearing an elf had already stopped beside him. "Quickly, you are in grave danger, come we must leave." The tired, confused Gondorian immediately believed the she-elf, as crazed shrieks sounded from behind her. He took her hand and quickly mounted the horse, taking seat behind her. "Nimonire, nimonire," as the words were spoken the horse took off at extraordinary pace. Berethor clutched the women tightly in surprise of the horse,s acceleration and speed. He could barely open his eyes in the wind. He turned his head to see four shadows slowly drawing near, he strained himself and managed to see what looked like riders in black atop black horses. All four of the black riders closed in behind them, feint, fell voices came from the rider closest behind. The air grew colder. "Nimonire," begged the she-elf and the horses pace somehow quickened. A fair distance was now between the two parties as the horses raced along the east road of Rhudaur.
Nearly an hour passed as high speed chase continued down the open road. The elf did not look back, concentrating on the road ahead. She suddenly turned off the road and into a wood, thick with trees and bushes and with great skill, the elf flew through and between the trees losing little speed on the way. Berethor turned back again to see the black riders still giving chase. The white steed galloped back out of the wood and onto the open path leading to the Loudwater Ford, the enchanted river and the border of Rivendell. The black riders, in close pursuit began to slow down as they drew nearer the river but the white horse continued at speed and faded out of their sight.
"We are safe now Gondorian." The horse was galloping at a steady pace now, dawn was near and Berethor's eyelids grew heavy. "You can rest soon."
"Those riders… I've felt that power before." Indeed he had, fighting the dark forces on the land that borders his and that of Mordor. "Were they…"
"Nazgul? Yes, four of the nine patrolling the western lands in search of The One Ring."
"Isildur's Bane", Berethor whispered in statement. He had know of Sauron's ring since he could remember. He had heard countless stoies of the great battle of Dagorlad, on the slopes of Mt. Doom, where the ring was cut from Sauron's hand. The horse came to a halt and the she-elf turned to Berethor. "I am Idrial, servant of Galadriel, Lady of Light." Now being able to see his rescuer in daylight, Berethor gazed upon the she-elf. She was fair and beautiful just as he had heard in stories as a boy. Her long golden hair seemed as silk, her piercing blue eyes glimmered even in the pale daylight of early morning. She got off the horse, Berethor following. "I am Berethor, defender of the white tree, I owe you my life."
Idrial smiled, "Well, Berethor, I am grateful for your thanks. But it is fate that smiles upon you, young warrior." She took the reigns of her horse and led Berethor up a large slope leading to an Elven outpost at the roots of the misty mountains.
The outpost was quite impressive, in size and splendour, even the weary Berethor had the energy to notice the greatness of the mere outpost. He could only imagine what the capital of Rivendell itself would look like. As they passed through the outer breaches, they entered a great yard perimetered by stone, windowed walls and further above, elves patrolled the high outer walls. They crossed the yard, approaching a door. Berethor could not tell whether it was the morning sun or the power of the elves but something warmed his bones. As they entered, Berethor gasped at the vast corridors, this place was much larger than even he first presumed. Still silent, he followed down the corridor.
"Get some rest now Gondorian, we shall talk later." Berethor did not protest, he had been deprived of rest for almost 2 days now and was glad to sleep under a roof. She left Berethor in a small room with nothing inside but a small bed and an empty chest in the corner. Berethor took off his light armour and the rest off his clothes to lie down on the bed, the mattress was very comfy and Berethor sighed with great relief. He tried to piece together the events during the night but quickly fell asleep.
Not long past midday Berethor awoke. He sat up to find new armour in place of his old suit. He sat at the edge of the bed examining his new attire. It was armour, worn by the rangers of Gondor but of distinctly Elven craft. It fit perfectly to his surprise and feeling refreshed, he left the room and made his way down the corridor that followed. Looking out of the window he noticed the outpost was heavily guarded, particularly at the rear, facing the mountain. An elven lady came from the opposite direction and greeted him with a smile. "Come, you must be hungry", she assumed. Berethor nodded eagerly.
Berethor was shown to a large table where he sat in front of a hearty meal. He scoffed down his food, putting more in his mouth before he had swallowed the last. He had not had good food since his time at the inn on Greenway and this was even better. <The Elves are a truly advanced race,> he thought chewing on the last few morsels on his plate. After finishing his food, Berethor took a large gulp of the golden brew in the deep bowl beside his plate and then sat back in his chair and sighed. Then Idrial entered the room and went over to sit with Berethor. He looked at her and then remembered why he was here. "Once again, I must thank you, I am in your debt."
"You were lucky to cross my path. What brings you to Arnor, friend?"
Berethor felt compelled to speak openly to the elf, but he did not know where the feeling came from. Perhaps her eyes, deep wells full of beauty and the wisdom of many an age.
"I am going to Rivendell in search of Boromir of Gondor, he set out to from Minis Tirith many months ago seeking council from Lord Elrond. My company and I aimed to make for the Gap of Rohan… " Berethor looked away. "But we were ambushed… by Orcs…" His face filled with anger. "Orcs! Orcs roam freely across the West Emnet of Rohan." He slammed his fist on the table.
"Strange things are at work here in Arnor, not even the Elves can stop the evil that spreads from the east." Idrial sat back. Berethor spoke of his long search for Rivendell and his meeting with the ranger.
"You have come a long way," she said smiling. Then Idrial paused for a moment. "I have been searching for many days for some of my kindred who may have been driven from our borders by the enemy. I would take you to Rivendell but I must finish my task."
"I will aid you", Berethor replied quickly. "In honour of my debt." <That was funny,> he thought, <I don't remember giving my tongue leave to speak.>
"You have your own task ahead of you, you may rest here for as long as you wish."
"Please, let me assist you, I owe you that much." He thought of his task, but the desire to repay the elf burned ever greater within him."Very well then, and then we shall go to Rivendell," she stands up. "We shall take provisions and journey up the mountain, it is possible they fled there…" Berethor nodded. "…but we shall begin tomorrow, by nightfall that mountain will be swarming with orcs and you must rest properly." With that they parted.
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