14. Choices Mean?
Upon their departure from the high meadows campsite the next morning, Gandalf set a blistering pace on the trail that belied his age. He had watched with quiet interest as they prepared to leave. With surprising efficiency, thanks to their practice runs on Earth and their sorting of the gear after their arrival, their packs were soon ready. The only addition was those herbs and plants that Eli had collected and dried earlier.
The remainder of their gear they stowed behind the rock fall and covered with brush and tree limbs. Gandalf followed their efforts as they cleared all traces of their occupancy from the site and added a new supply of firewood to the small pile remaining just inside the cave.
He finally commented. “I had not expected to find such caring among the race of men for the face of the land.”
Ted looked up from where he was burying the last of their small amount of refuse. “Not all do, but my family has always respected and protected the land. We may not tread over it as lightly as the Eldar, but we certainly do our best to leave as small a footprint as possible. We will do no different in this place.”
Gandalf nodded. “We have two days travel before we are sufficiently within the borders of Imladris to be considered safe and another week’s travel to the village beyond that. The first part of the trail is fairly easy, but after that it will become difficult when we reach the lower reaches of the mountains. The path is narrow and steep in places and often disappears completely. You must stay together and follow my instructions. If we become separated, you may never be found.”
“We will follow your guidance to the letter Master Gandalf. There is just one concern we must address before we leave. The gwanur told us to remain here and we agreed to do so. Our disobedience may be judged badly and cause Lord Elrond to look upon our arrival with distrust.” Ted faced the wizard with a worried face.
Gandalf waved his concerns away with a careless gesture. “I have left a sign for them that you now travel with me. Once we have passed deeper into the mountains I will inform Lord Elrond that I have found you and out of concern for your safety have undertaken the task of escorting you directly to the human village. Since I had been expecting you to be traveling this way your early arrival was not a total surprise. That should satisfy all initial questions and give us time to determine the best course of action for us to take.”
Eli touched his arm tentatively. “You will aid us even though our purpose is hidden?”
“For the time being. There is much you all must learn in a short time if you are to survive and accomplish whatever task you have been set. I am one of the few who can teach you, but my time is also limited and I must soon return to tend to my own responsibilities.”
They nodded and shouldered their packs. With a final look about they fell in behind Gandalf and began the trek towards Imladris and their unknown future.
The first day passed uneventfully and Eli found herself moving easily after the tall figure of the maia. She studied the landscape with fascinated eyes noting the many similarities between the plant life here and on their home world. Owen followed behind her with Ted bringing up in the rear keeping their bows handy. Both men were happy to note their guide’s approval of their caution and began to feel more at ease in their new surroundings. The many practice trips they had made earlier before departing Earth were now proving their worth, as they were able to manage the load in their packs and still maintain the pace Gandalf set before their steps began to flag. Gandalf allowed few rest breaks determined to reach his chosen campsite before moonrise.
Turning back to the trio, he nodded towards a low mound of rock and soil. “We will camp there on the other side. I fear it must be a cold camp tonight for we are not as well protected here as you were at the high meadows location. Even though we are within the boundaries of Imladris, we must still take care. It is not unusual for Sauron’s scouts to occasionally travel this way. I have not sensed the presence of any Imladris patrols nearby, so we cannot count on them for aid if we run in to trouble. I hope your skills with the bow will prove adequate if necessary.”
Ted shrugged. “We can hold our own, but our supply of arrows will not be enough if we meet up with a large number of the enemy.”
Gandalf nodded and led them from the trail and around the mound to where a small spring dripped into a low bowl carved from the rock. A few large rocks along one side formed a screen providing some shelter from the rising wind. It did not take them long to settle in for the night since all they needed to do was remove food from their packs and wrap themselves in their cloaks to sleep. Gandalf took the first watch and watched with some amusement as his three companions sought to find a comfortable position for sleeping. Still he was impressed. He had feared that whatever physical preparations they had made before their arrival would prove inadequate to the demands of a hard paced hike. They had kept up with him without complaint and accepted the necessity of the cold camp without comment.
For most of the night the three slept without moving, their bodies exhausted by their hike. At first Gandalf considered letting them sleep undisturbed until morning, and was surprised when Eli stirred halfway through the night. With a quiet yawn and stretch she nodded to him, collected her weapons and crossed to the spring where she washed her face in its cold water. Re-wrapping her cloak about her body and adjusting the hood more tightly about her head she joined him on the small ledge where he had been keeping watch.
“I will take the next watch, Master Gandalf. My senses are growing stronger and Uncle Ted and Owen will need another couple of days to adjust to your pace.”
“I am surprised Eleiann. It does indeed appear that you are under the care of the Valar. I see much of both your father and your brothers reflected in you.”
“If that is true, then it will be doubly important that they do not see me and arrive at the same conclusion.”
“Why are you so sure your joining the ranks of your family here would be such a disservice? Do you not think all of this has been considered by the great ones who watch over us all?”
“Forgive me Master Gandalf. I truly mean no disrespect to your Valar, but it does not seem to me they have always made the right choices. In fact they seem downright foolish in many instances.”
“Ah you do not accept their wisdom.”
“If they truly are the servants of your lord of creation, Eru, then they seem more selfish then supportive. Their actions have led the Eldar to rebellion and kin strife. Their refusal to deal with one of their own left the Eldar pretty much unprotected to the ravages of his evil, and the lose of many of their lives. The second born will be left to struggle greatly with the rebirth of that same evil with even more distance from them. And it will be reborn Master Gandalf of that there is no doubt. Their selfishness in calling the Eldar home will leave Middle Earth without the beauty and creativity and wisdom they bring.”
“And free choice?”
“I believe in free choice Master Gandalf, but it appears the Valar have done a great deal to remove that possibility from many inhabitants of your world.”
He frowned. “Yet you crossed the bridge from your world to ours.”
She nodded. “I don’t believe that it was free choice for me though. The odds were stacked in such a way that I was more or less forced to make it. The evil here is no less than that which existed on Earth. The difference is there we never had the grace and beauty of the elves to help us rise above ourselves. We have many different religions and most all believe in a supreme being such as Eru and some even believe in beings such as your self who seek to help and guide mankind.”
“Such as I?” He asked through suddenly iced grey eyes.
She continued without noticing his comment. “The terrible thing is it has been so long since there has been any evidence of their presence that few accept such as truth. We have degenerated into a splintered and fractured civilization with radical elements that have twisted and turned the wisdom of our great teachers to suit their own agendas. I fear I see the beginnings stirring here.”
She paused then looked boldly at him. “Yes, such as you. You are one of the maia who serve the Valar. Right now your presence here is as one of five wizards sent to help. Unfortunately only you will accomplish much. The rest will fail.”
“What do you know? Tell me.” He demanded.
Her shoulders slumped in regret. “I have already said too much. We should not have come.”
He swore softly. “Eleiann, I understand your skepticism. There are many differences between us. Perhaps that is to be your gift to us. I too shall be sad to leave this world for I have come to love many of its inhabitants as if they were my own family, but I do know that there is a plan and for good or evil, it will occur in its own way and time. I can only continue to do my best until I complete my task and return to Valinor.”
Eli sighed. “I know. It is all we can do now. We have made our choices and must live with them.” She stood up and straightened her shoulders, “I will take the next watch, Master Gandalf. Please get some rest. There will be plenty of opportunities to talk later.”
He pursed his lips, “By the Valar, Elrond. She is you dressed in a female’s body. What ever her purpose, opponents had best not underestimate her!”
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.