1. Taking Stock
Pot, plate, spoon. Eating is a habit that comes with the body. No more than a habit: I can still go without food when I need to and I do not kill to eat. It is a good habit, though, one that I picked up when I saw the bonds it can forge among people. In halls and palaces, in houses and hovels, in cottages and smials, in tents and under open skies shared meals are an expression of generosity, caring and love. A good habit then, but a habit also that ties me to this soil and this body. I do not know if I could still free my spirit from this earthly shape if I tried. I do not wish to try. I like to eat, to breathe, to feel. It's a habit that comes with the body.
Bedroll. How many nights have I rested under the open skies? As many as there are stars in the sky, it seems. Stars that shone overhead in all those countless nights, reminding me that however sundered, the world is one. Even after the changing of the world, the same stars shine over Valinor. The same sky rises above us all. It was One who called everything into being and the world is His with everything in it, be it good or evil. Why did he allow evil to arise? Would the world not be complete without it? Would we not know the light if there was no darkness? The stars only shine in the night sky. I have looked up at them from my bedroll more times than I can count.
Robe. Grey, colour of twilight. Colour of rainclouds that hide the sun yet quench the thirst of the soil. Colour of the sea on a dull day, an ocean of grey that stretches all the way from here to Valinor. Colour of stones, of ashes, of spider webs. Colour of yearning and of sorrow. How came it to be my colour? Why not green, the colour of hope and of life renewed? Why not red, colour of fire, my friend and ally? Maybe grey is to hide my brightness from the enemy, or else it is my lot because I am so closely bound to the Elves with their grey ships, grey eyes, grey cloaks. Still, I feel this grey robe is but a chrysalis, from which I will emerge one day in my true colour, I know not which. Until then grey will serve me well enough.
Hat. The hat now, that's a bit of a bonus. Saruman does without one, but Radagast is fond of his, too. I confess I am rather attached to mine, and not just because it makes a nice change from all that grey. Nothing like a hat to let people know who I am. I believe the hat has saved me a lot of arguments over the years. And it makes me comfortable, so it does. A handy sunshade and a good shelter for hiding a chuckle now and then. Yes, I am attached to my hats. If only they didn't wear out so quickly. Three score years, four at the most, and they're faded and frayed. A hole in the hat makes for a soggy scalp! It is as well that I know an Elven hatter who makes them just the way I like. Tall, pointy, with a wide brim. Just a whim of mine. Indulge an old man!
Boots. They don't last even as long as the hats. Hundreds of pairs I must have worn out over the years. I need no map of Middle-earth, the map is inscribed in the soles of my feet. Grey Wanderer they call me and a wanderer I am. From the Grey Havens to the Sea of Rhûn, from the Iron Mountains to the shores of Tolfalas I have walked, collecting names as I went along. The peoples of Eriador know the sight of the blue hat as well as those of Gondor or Rohan or Rhovanion. They know me, and yet they know me not. They see what I choose to let them see: the old man, robed in grey, leaning on a staff. An old man with boots that have walked all the long miles of Middle-earth.
Pipe. Many will find it hard to imagine me without my pipe, but it is only a short while by the measure of my life that I have known the delights of smoking. Hobbits taught me, though I pride myself in surpassing even Bilbo in the art of blowing smoke rings. Ah, hobbits. Quite a mystery they are. Ilúvatar woke his Children, both the First and the Secondborn. Aule wrought the dwarves and Yavanna set her tree herds to guard her own. But whence the hobbits? They seem an afterthought, a whimsical addition to a world already filled with people. Whose afterthought, though? And who would know? I seem to be the only one among the wise to have paid much attention to them. Hobbit-lore, a field of study seemingly tame and dull. Hobbits, however, are never quite what they seem and they have surprised me more than once. Something tells me that others will be surprised by them, too, before this Age comes to a close. Well, I have learned my lesson and I won't be surprised if hobbits should prove to be the undoing of Sauron. I can just imagine them smoking a pipe after their quest is fulfilled.
Sword. Glamdring. Oh yes. No warrior am I and yet this sword has slain more orcs than many a blade in a soldierly hand. And always, always there's more of them. I've never found out if those first orcs, those that were wrought by the torture of Morgoth, maintained the life of the Eldar. Sometimes, when my sword found its mark, I have imagined that I saw in the eyes of the foul creature a faint hint of a lost soul, the last spark of one of the Children. I could never be sure, though. And even if I was, what could I do? They cannot be redeemed. There is nothing but death for them, and time and time again I have been the one to deal it, much as it went against all I believe. They cannot be healed. I have tried. Way back in the Ages of Stars, when their twisted forms first spoiled the face of Arda, long before I took on this bodily form, I sought to lead them back to the light. I failed. There was nothing left in them but hatred and despair. I returned to Valinor and lamented my failure to Nienna. She wept to hear that Children of Ilúvatar had been broken beyond the reach of compassion. Not even Varda could rekindle their souls. The sword, then.
Staff. They think it is magic. Well, perhaps it is, if you want to give that name to the power that resides within the members of my order. The staff is just an extension of ourselves, a symbol more than a tool. The members of my order, hmmm. Saruman's treachery was a heavy blow indeed. He should have led us, and now we must fight him or outwit him. There is nothing much to expect from Radagast, for faithful though he may remain, his mind is filled with little beyond his concern for the birds and beasts. Alatar, Pallando – no word has come from them in nigh a thousand years. They are lost, if not to all of Arda, then at least to the fight at hand. I am the only one left and it is up to me. If nothing else, I have a staff to lean on.
Ring. Narya. My finger is worn thin underneath it. It sits on my hand as if it has been there since its making, yet it is not so. Why did it come to me, an Elven ring, meant for an Elven keeper? Círdan may yet find that he has need for it. To protect the Havens, to keep open the route of escape, remains of utmost importance. But Círdan of the wood and the water he is; fire was never his element. Fire! It comes to me like a friend, it yields to me willingly and I shape it, mold it, colour it. It is a thing of great beauty and fierce power. With the last of the dragons gone, there is none in Middle-earth now who can wield fire as I do, not even the Dark Lord himself. I do not believe, though, that fire will win us victory over Sauron, unless it is the fire in our hearts. Here it sits, the Ring of Fire, only a arm's length from my heart. Does it have fire enough for us all?
Elrond calls, the fellowship is ready to leave. I am well equipped for my greatest challenge. Well enough? That remains to be seen.
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.