Back, and Not There Again: An elf's story
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Note from the author: This is the second part of Back, and Not There Again. It tells the story of Valadron’s journey to Lothlorien. The Quenya writing is actual real; I have not made it up. Nor have I made up what it means. Enjoy!
Valadron knew that her choice was unbalanced. She fingered the tiny bottle that hung on the silver chain upon her neck. The felt its edges that were carved with a great care and she could feel the smoothness of the clear glass cool between her fingers. When the radiant beams of light touched it the water inside glittered like a faint crystal gleaming in her palm. She felt the deep guilt of taking the precious gift with no word. Such a gift could not be passed by with simple words of thanks. Although the Lady of the Wood had given it to Gandalf, Valadron felt it was meant to be in her possession.
Her other choice was to stay in Rivendell where Elrond raised her from a child. He had taught her many things about the past, present, and future that she could never forget. Her eyes were always open to the sparkling waterfalls that streamed into the valleys and the blue mountains of that rose in a great majesty. But as much as she loved them they also seemed faded from time to time. She desired to hear the sound of rivers flowing with a great purity around bends and banks, and she wanted to hear the wind rustling in the giant trees. She wanted to see different elves than the ones at Rivendell; elves like her with golden hair and bright faces.
Then she reminded herself about her past. If she journeyed to Lothlorien and spoke with the Lord and Lady she may find hidden clues about herself and her parents. But if she did find out the information that she sought then she may never return to Rivendell.
Valadron closed her eyes. She could feel the soothing air of Lothlorien. She could see the glazed golden leaves on the malorn trees swaying. They shined like jewels when the sun’s beams touched them. The woods were peaceful and fair and inside she could hear the Lady, Galadriel, whispering soft words of welcome. It was a music that rested gently in her mind. They were waiting for her arrival.
She opened her eyes and decided that it was her final decision. She could not change it again.
Valadron slowly turned to Elrond who had been waiting patiently to hear her decision.
“I wish to journey to Lothlorien,” she said softly, letting the words roll off her tongue quickly. But as she spoke a deep sadness shown in her eyes and they seemed to cast a pale glow.
“Then your decision stays,” said Elrond slowly, with an encouraging smile. He paced back and forth with his eyes low and his mind dark.
“You will be equipped with light and scarce items for the trip,” he said after hesitation. “Gandalf shall be your guide. But let us leave our grief behind, now, for there is much to be done.”
The sun rose high over the mountains and the House and was gradually sailing westward. The afternoon was growing old. The time was ten after four and Valadron was called to Elrond’s chamber.
She stood in the serene doorway, with a small knapsack on her back that was packed tightly with small and light items such as a light blanket, her old blade, and a spare hood. The food was a light bundle to carry and was wrapped in a cloth. The dress that she wore was a carefully chosen velvet dress and was hand-sown by elves so it made running swift and easy. She had a pale green cloak made of a thick fabric to keep out heavy rain and other poor weather.
Elrond approached, holding in his hand a beautiful quiver full of arrows, and a slender bow. The quiver was wooden, was from Mirkwood, and was crafted by hand with a knife. Engraved in its sides were many symbols of elvish script. On the end of the arrows were tied white ribbons, symbolizing the Elves of Rivendell and the bow was aged but was polished so it only appeared a day old. Elrond handed it to Valadron.
“It belonged to me when I used it on a journey to Lorien long ago,” he said. “I hope it serves you as well as it did me. The arrows are carved from strong reeds and I have sharpened the tips. I promise you that they will not break easily.”
Valadron took the gift and looked upon it with wonder and awe. She attached the quiver to its strap and fit comfortably on her back. She shifted the bow in her hands, raised it, aimed it, and found that it was made in just the right size.
“Your bow and arrow,” said Gandalf entering the room. “It is a wonder that such an ancient artifact exists, and in such good condition. I am sure that it is placed in the best of hands now.”
“I cannot thank you enough,” said Valadron for those were the only words she could find to say.
“Come,” Gandalf called. “Our departure is nearing and we need to set off soon. I suspect that we will reach Lorien in three or four days. Our path is a long one so your strength must last.” He turned to Elrond. “We will travel eastward over the Misty Mountains near the High Pass. Next will be the march south along the western side of the mountains. We will cross the Gladden River, pass Drimrill Dale, and come to the point where the river Celebrant meets Nimrodel. We will travel along Silverlode into Lorien. There are wolves roaming around these parts and the occasional sighting of Goblins has spread so it would be a danger to leave unarmed. But I am positive that no great harm will come to us.”
Before her departure Valadron said goodbye to her relatives before she set off. As she was on her way down one of the elegant hallways, she stopped and took one last look out at the mountains above and the valleys below. The waterfalls were still and passive and the mist around the gullies was refreshing. The trees waved and rustled below the mountains that cast shadows upon the gorge. All would be gone eventually. Finally.
Valadron met Gandalf by the entry door. In his hand was his staff and on his belt shined the legendary sword, Glamdring.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
Valadron sighed and nodded, taking a few steps.
“I hope you find what you seek,” said a voice from behind. Elrond was seen standing in the entrance.
Valadron half smiled. “I will,” she promised and bid her uncle farewell.
“I wish you well, Elrond, King of Elves,” said Gandalf and both turned. So finally the serene atmosphere of Rivendell was left behind, deep in the depths of Valadron’s mind.
Their hike began at a steady pace. They met and crossed many small streams that had broken off of the Ford and for the first few miles flat lands followed with a few giant oaks and bushes dotting the ditches of the path. The grass was a yellow and green and it touched their knees as they walked. Hilly pastures came into view where various animals were grazing. The sun’s beams were welcoming with the fresh bursts of the fragrant fields. The land was no longer flat and their path rose and fell many times. The puffy white clouds had melted into streamers in the dim blue sky. The land that they walked in was also covered in lakes, beautiful shimmering lakes. They stopped at times to put their hands in its cool water and drink but their stay did not last long. By the time the rolling hills ended the sun slowly rested itself on the orange and red horizon and the wind was gentle in the south. Shadows crept across the sky and shadows grew at their feet. The evening was over and the blue night was turning young. Before long they approached a murky wood. Its flourishing grass was soft and springy at their feet and the trees reached high and abundant with yellow and white flowers and their leaves were a gleaming ripe green. After three more miles of hiking the path disappeared and the night air was warm on their faces. Several miles ahead of them black mountains shown and white clouds were at its tips. Gandalf stopped finally.
“The Misty Mountains,” he sighed, his eyes gazing far. “It is what I have feared. A blizzard is raging at its point. We will climb within its cracks instead of ascending it. That is our path for tomorrow.”
He turned around to Valadron who’s limbs were aching and mind was throbbing. She was worn and tired after the miles and miles with little rest breaks.
“I’m good enough for twenty more miles,” she said standing tall and straight.
“And I am sure you are,” laughed Gandalf as he spread out his blanket. “But there is much rest needed for the day ahead. My sight is getting old and I am weary. Your sight is open so I will send you ahead see how long the forest lasts.”
Valadron immediately obeyed and bounded through the thick underbrush. After a few minutes of leaping over branches and jumping down steep banks she found a wide creek of clean and pure water so she took off her light shoes and stepped into it. She water was cool and refreshing to her blistered feet. It flowed in tiny ripples and made its way from the mountain.
‘There is certainly a river that flows nearby,’ thought Valadron.
She jumped onto a mossy log that had created a bridge over the creek and she gazed far and deep. She discovered that the mountains that loomed were much closer than they seemed. The forest was short and would go on for four miles at least before it ended. Valadron ran back to their site to report.
“The forest continues until late morning if we start after dawn,” she explained. “The mountains are more difficult and we will be clear of them much later after sunset. By the end of the third day we will have reached the Gladden River and at least the Gladden Fields if our pace is quicker.”
“Good,” said Gandalf. “I am glad to have the keen eyes of an elf to guide me. But I do not wish to stay in Lothlorien long. My mission is to travel to the Brown Lands to speak counsel. My path just happened to cross into Lorien by chance.”
“Then I will be left in Lothlorien,” said Valadron sadly. She looked at the ground. “Then I cannot return to Rivendell.”
“That has not been said,” said Gandalf. “After I leave you will be left there, that is true. But you can return to Rivendell. You will just have to find the way on your own. After I leave the Brown Lands I am going west to the Shire and I will not return to any of these lands, I should think. You are in charge of yourself after I am gone. But do not fear for the road is not long.”
Valadron sighed and lay defeated on her cloak. She stared at the light sky for the moon glowed in a broad circle of light and the stars were twinkling. No blackness was to be seen. The crackling fire that Gandalf kindled was alive but was fading slightly as the night grew cooler. She wrapped herself in her thin blanket and curled up near its warmth and after a few moments she dozed off.
Many hours passed and a wispy veil slipped over the moon and a chill wind blew. Valadron was in a steady dream. A sudden glow had appeared before her eyes. It had a mysterious atmosphere but a strange power pulled her toward it. Unexpectedly a celestial figure was visible in the blinding radiance. The still voice of a woman came from it. She spoke words of beauty and vigilance and Valadron was caught in her spell. She deciphered the words as a mixture of elvish and something else. But only one sentence was as clear as music to her ears.
“Manan elye etevanne,” it spoke. But then the light went out and darkness returned. Suddenly she was aware that another voice had arisen.
“Valadron!” it called. She didn’t know whether to wake or to sleep, for it could have surely been a dream. But it was not. She felt her shoulder was being shaken so she opened her eyes and the cold blast of reality hit her.
“Valadron!” called Gandalf. Glamdring was gripped in one hand and his staff was set aglow in the other. “Wolves!”
Valadron leapt from the ground and instinctively grabbed an arrow and put it in firing position.
Eerie howls rose and fell with the air and sinister growls and snarls were heard surrounding them. The wolves must have followed them or seen their fire in the night. But Valadron was not afraid to attack. Elrond had allowed her to shoot wolves that wandered dangerously near Rivendell in their fierce packs long ago when she was young. Now her bow was restlessly moving in one direction or the other and her arrow was seconds from springing. Suddenly white gleams of sharp teeth were seen in the light of the sickle moon. Yellow and red eyes glimmered and blinked and their foul breath was carried in the wind.
Gandalf stood erect, ready to attack at any moment. The wolves gathered all around them and in one single moment they finally sprang. The arrows of Valadron whizzed by and her movements were swift. A wolf jumped at her but fell instantly as it was shot in the side. Gandalf’s sword raged, slewing as many as five wolves in five seconds. Glamdring swished and swung and proved as good as it had in the past years. After a short time Valadron’s arrows soon began to lessen and the score of her slain enemies had reached thirty-three with the help of her sharp blade. Gandalf stood amid many foul bodies and he still fought on. Almost twenty-five wolves remained.
“Valadron!” cried Gandalf. “Hurry over here!”
Valadron ran forward behind him and still continued to back off the threatening enemies. Gandalf suddenly lit his staff, after chanting a few words a flame came from his staff, and he threw it amongst the beasts. Many ran in horror, howling and yelping with fur ablaze. The fire glowed purple and blue, yellow and red, as the inferno grew. The ones that didn’t run away in sheer terror were taken down by the last of Valadron’s arrows and the strokes of Gandalf’s sword. Soon the battle had ended and all that was left of their site were their few belongings and the stench of the dead wolves.
Gandalf sighed and began picking up his bags.
“It is nearing dawn,” he said. “We must leave now before more come if any are still alive.”
Valadron gathered her things. She walked over to her dead foes and pulled the unbroken arrows from them. When everything was gathered they gladly left the reek and walked east, toward the mountains.
For the next several miles the path was worn and began to narrow and the land turned rocky. The forest ended and flat lands spread wide and far. Split edges and worn stones from old ruins emerged from the ground and over them grew thick moss. The white-tipped mountains rose gigantic and tall. The wind was in the northeast and the frosty mountain wind had reached them. The sun had risen and the horizon was lit a pale yellow. Grey clouds were stretched across the sky and rain was shadowing over their heads, waiting for an opportunity to fall.
Gandalf stopped abruptly and turned around. He shaded his eyes and looked far into the distance.
“What is it?” asked Valadron. “Do you see something?”
“No,” replied Gandalf, “but I feel that we will not make it past the mountains at the rate we are going.”
“Then what do you suggest we do?”
Gandalf didn’t answer and instead inhaled a deep breath, put his fingers to his mouth, and let out a piercing whistle. The note rattled and echoed across the plains and thundered into far away valleys.
“Help is on the way,” he said. “I suppose we shall stay here for the time being. There are few trees for protection but I sense no danger.” He gathered some dry branches and started a small fire. For a while both sat thinking about their own matters and eating silently until Valadron spoke.
“I had a strange dream last night,” she said.
“Oh?” Gandalf looked up, surprised.
“I felt a warm light and I heard a wonderful voice speaking to me. The last words she said were “Manan elye etevanne”. It means, “What drove you to leave?” in Quenya. Then the light went out and I was alone in blackness. Do you think it means something?”
“Truly it must,” answered Gandalf. “I think this is no coincidence that you were asked a question that referred to your journey. “What drove you to leave?” It is almost like a riddle.”
Valadron nodded and stared into the tiny flames of the fire. Suddenly she heard hooves droning far away. They were swift and they were moving with the wind. At the peak of a distant hill she saw a white figure. It moved in great leaps and it was quickly coming towards them. It jetted across the open land and ran like a lightening bolt. It was a glistening horse. When it was in a few meters range of them she expected it to run past them, or lunge forward. But it didn’t. Instead it stopped and approached Gandalf calmly, nuzzling its snout against his face.
“Shadowfax,” said Valadron in awe. “I had heard the legend but I did not believe it. But now I see it before my eyes.” She moved toward him and stroked his glossy white coat. It truly was a wonder to see. He was white as new snow and his appearance was gentle but his strength was great. He allowed no one to tame him or ride him, save his master. He could bolt like the raging currents of a river or trot mildly or steadily when he was commanded to.
“But that is not all,” said Gandalf for another horse came into view on the hill. Its pace was a bit slower but it was not less majestic or beautiful. It was a chestnut brown color, its legs were white, and it had a strip white strip down its face. Its mane and tail were dark and soft. It stepped slowly towards them.
“This is Namidir. He comes from Rohan, just as Shadowfax did. I have loaned him and now it is your task to take care of him. I summoned both from the meadows far away. I told them they were free to run and grazed as they pleased until I needed them again. Namidir was for carrying luggage in case I ever had any for the only thing I allow Shadowfax to bear is his rider, nothing else.”
Valadron brushed her hand against her horse’s nose. Its dark eyes showed ease and comfort and it nestled its face against hers.
“We must be going,” said Gandalf, mounting his horse. “If we start now at a quick pace we will be rid of the mountains. By tonight we will rest by the Gladden River. Tomorrow we will enter Lorien. Come!” He then started off, once again in the appearance of the White Rider.
It took Valadron longer to sit comfortably on her horse. When she was ready she saw Gandalf further ahead. She leaned down to the horse’s ear. “Quickly! Quickly!” she yelled in the elvish tongue then she kicked her heels and Namidir ran towards Shadowfax, and towards the mountains.
The grey clouds had covered the remainder of the sky and it began to lightly drizzle. The wind died down and a cold fog swept in from the west. It was one hour after noon when they started into the Misty Mountains. Snow piled high on shelves and ridges, and jagged icicles hung from above. Their path led up a steep ledge and around the giant peak. Far up towards the high summit a blizzard raged. When they had made it into the fourth hour after noon snow began to fall on their path and Shadowfax slowed. The sides were slippery and Gandalf was cautious. Valadron shivered and pulled her cloak tighter around herself. She rubbed Namidir’s neck to encourage him to keep moving. Then the climbing trail dropped and they reached the bottom of the mountain. It was wet and moist below and all of the melted snow flowed down and made a river. Its waters were impure and dirty where dark creatures often lurked. Namidir backed away from its cold ripples that lapped at his feet. Shadowfax continued, head down, while Gandalf gazed far ahead. Valadron realized that she had not slept very well the night before and she was slowly nodding off when Namidir was brought to a sudden halt. She immediately opened her eyes when she felt the jerk and saw Gandalf leaning forward, as if listening. He looked back at her with a glint of fear in his eyes.
“Go! Quick!” he yelled and Shadowfax shot forward.
Valadron dug her heels into Namidir’s side and he sped off. The wind blew hard on them and Valadron was forced to hold on as tight as she could to keep from being swept off. She then noticed dark figures crawling from eerie nooks and crannies on the other side of the river. She caught sight of their grim faces and gasped.
“Goblins!” she cried aloud.
She realized that Namidir was slowing down. Shadowfax had sprinted far ahead and now was almost a white speck. Valadron’s heart raced. She saw thirty goblins or more emerge from the shadows. They unleashed black arrows that whizzed by their heads. Loudly Valadron chanted to Namidir:
“Faster than wind, faster than night
Suddenly Namidir amazingly quickened his pace. He dodged the hurtling stones and springing arrows and reached Gandalf’s tail in short time. Both horses fled with amazing speed and their hooves beat heavily against the ground. The Goblins shrieked and screeched. Valadron had shot two directly in the chest. Suddenly a light shown ahead of them and it was clear that after the toilsome hours the mountains’ end was nearing. The pursuing Goblins began to slow and after a few minutes they soon disappeared altogether. But the horses did not slow yet.
When they had reached a distant hill they stopped to rest. The sun shown faintly through the clouds and green fields extended for miles. Valadron stood beside Namidir and looked back. The mountains were blue and purple in the light and their tips gleamed. They had ended.
The time left over of the evening was spent traveling south by the mountains. The hours that followed were slow but peaceful. Valadron slept for the majority of it and woke when she heard the sound of flowing water.
“We have reached the Gladden River,” said Gandalf. “Tomorrow we will be in Lorien. The quest is drawing to an end.” He dismounted Shadowfax and sent both horses to graze. There were many trees by the side of the river. It had steep banks and it went deep and far into western lands. Valadron lay her cloak under a shady tree, pulled her blanket close and went to sleep. It was night and the pale colors of the sunset were fading into a deep blue and the stars began to twinkle. After staying awake long into the night to guard Gandalf finally dozed and the hours were passing by.
By bright dawn Valadron woke to find Gandalf with his bags and the horses completely ready to leave. They had a brief breakfast by the fire and their talk was limited. After the fire was put out and the horses were fed they began again.
The currents of the river were gentle when they crossed. It was a very light blue now, with the reflection of the morning sky and the glow of the bright sun. The horses trotted lightly across the Gladden Fields. All was green as far as the eye could see save the elanor and mellyrn that dotted the meadows and covered the hills in golden dots. Soon they sided with the river Silverlode and they continued. Valadron inhaled the atmosphere of simplicity and stillness. The breeze was warm and the clouds were white and fluffy and showed no sign of rain or bad weather. They realized they were swallowed by the forests of Lorien when thick trees began to return. They were scattered among the hollow hills. Gandalf ascended a large hill and stopped. A group of tall trees shown less than a mile ahead and the whole scene was bathed in a pool of golden light. Valadron felt a sense of magic suddenly.
“We have made it,” said Gandalf. “You are looking upon Lothlorien.”
Valadron’s eyes glowed with wonder as they started towards it.
When they entered the barrier of trees they found a hidden forest. There was a gentle wind that met them there. The sun’s beam shown through pockets among the many giant trees and their bark was smooth and white. Winter was drifting in the air and the leaves on the trees were golden. Valadron looked in one direction and then turned her head to the other. The ground was not hard and frozen as she had remembered, but it was instead a soft soil that they walked upon. Gandalf and Valadron got off their horses and continued on foot.
The deeper forest was an even more beautiful sight. Elves were seen ascending the stairs that were lit by a pale radiance that twisted around and up the giant trees. A pale radiance surrounded them and it seemed like a deep magic had been woken. Lights rose from many house-like talans high above.
Valadron suddenly stood saw a familiar glow in their presence. Before them on white steps, alone in an impression of serenity, was the Lady of the Golden Wood, Galadriel. And from her mouth came the silent melody of words:
“Manan elye etevanne.”