Tomilo stood dumbfounded, and then said, 'But that was over three centuries ago.  You could not have seen Frodo or Pippin.  You are younger than I am!'
     'Not unless you are more than fourteen centuries old, Mr. Fairbairn.  I am a young elf.  But even an elf child is ancient by your reckoning.'
     'I'm sorry, Pfloriel, I just can't get used to it all,' said Tomilo, still wide-eyed and shaking his head.  'I had it to mind that you were about eighteen.  And here you are fourteen hundred!  It does take some believing.'  He paused, and then he turned to Galka as if he had just thought of something.  'Galka, I have been thinking you were younger than me, too.  Don't tell me you are hundreds of years old as well!'
     'No, Tomilo, not hundreds.  But I think I am likely older than you.  Dwarves are mortals, like men and hobbits, but we live longer than most.  Only the ancient Numenoreans were as long-lived as us.  I am seventy-one, by the Westron tale of years.'
     'Twice as old as me!  Goodness!  Who would have thought it?  You seem just a boy.'
     'Yes, I am just out of my "boyhood," by dwarvish reckoning.  But already a lieutenant, remember!  I can have you arrested and forced to study the longevity charts, if you don't pay the proper respects,' Galka finished with a nudge and a laugh.
     'You seem very merry for a dwarf, Galka,' interrupted Pfloriel.  'We are taught that all dwarves are serious and gloomy, trudging through the deep passages, pulling on their beards.  I see that it is not so.'
     'No, some of us laugh and play, especially the "boys."  But mature dwarves are expected to have a more serious mien.  I am learning this with difficulty, though, and it has gotten me into trouble many times.  King Mithi scolded me three days ago, just before we left.  He warned that a King's Guard must show the proper face.  It would not be right for a guard wearing the mask to laugh through the face of terror.  I suppose if I am ever really in battle, I will not feel like laughing.'
     'The elves laugh, even in battle,' replied Pfloriel.  'The most fearsome warriors can laugh in the face of any enemy.  The Noldor would say "laughing, I die!"  Imagine how it must be to face someone who shows so little fear.  Even the greatest servants of the Enemy must have been cowed by such confidence, and such recklessness.'
     'Yes,' agreed Tomilo.  'I am glad to be on the side of the elves, regardless.  Whether they laugh or sing at the enemies, or only shoot their arrows from behind high walls.  But I do not think I could laugh in the face of any enemy.  Even a small orc would shut my mouth immediately, I imagine.'
     'You now have an axe that would hew any orc neck, my friend,' reminded Galka.
     'I know it, and I am grateful.  But I hope to have to use it only on firewood.  And I hope the orcs keep their own necks to themselves!'
     'I hope so, too, my dear hobbit.  But a guard—or even a messenger—never knows.  It is best to steel ones nerves for any occasion.  If I were you I would swing that axe a few times in practice.  Once your arms have become used to the weight of the weapon, the foe will not seem so strange or so unwonted.'
     'Galka speaks like one who will make a fine warrior,' said Pfloriel.  'And his advice is good.  Even in times of peace, weapons should not be allowed to become rusty, or the sinews in the arms allowed to become slack.'
     Tomilo again looked at Pfloriel in surprise.  He did not expect such sentiments from an elf-maiden.  It seemed that everyone in Middle Earth was made of sterner stuff than him. 
     Then again, who knew how stern he might be in a pinch?  He had acted the fool with Captain Gnan, it is true.  But he had not been cowardly—just rash.  And, yes, he had fled in fear from the balrogs.  But perhaps even the bravest warrior would have done the same.  Not even a wizard or an elf prince would have stood confidently and waited for the balrogs to awaken.
     
Tomilo continued to walk alongside Pfloriel and Galka, but the three had fallen into silence.  It was now after sunset and they were nearing the end of their journey.  Each looked ahead to the vanguard, listening intently now for a call or the sound of a horn.  But none came.   Only the continued ringing of the saddle bells of the elf horses and the heavy fall of many dwarf boots.
     Tomilo momentarily sunk into his own thoughts once more.   Balrogs.  What of the balrogs?  Had he seen what he thought he had seen?  Was his mind clearing?  Had he come to a decision?  He had not told King Mithi anything: the preparations for the council had left him no time for consideration or for discussion.  But he must do something.  Either decide that he had not been in his right mind and forget about it.  Or tell someone. 
     Tomilo had still not arrived at an answer when the sliver moon began to rise up above the Misty Mountains that evening.   And he had still not done so when the company came into a blue-grey clearing and the elves in front espied a house at the far end, backed up against a line of shadowy trees. 
     In the distance a dog barked.  Then several geese broke into a chorus of honking.  Suddenly a snowy owl flew low over the heads of the company and then turned back to the house, moving on silent wings.  A clear note rang out through the evening air—a high horn from the house of Radagast—and it was answered by a peal from the elves, even higher and sweeter.  They had arrived at Rhosgobel.




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




Chapter   7
The Council of Rhosgobel


The sun stood just above the peak of Caradhras. Its red light reflected keenly from the snows that already covered the arms of the Redhorn and the adjacent crags of the Misty Mountains.  A few high-flying birds, like shining specks against the sky, were making their way south through the passes, honking and calling out to eachother to stay in formation.  From a distance they looked like they might be the first stars in the west, flickering into the evening sky.
     Some twenty leagues east of the mountains, in the vale of the Anduin, this red light and those starry moving shapes met the eyes of many guests gathered for a council.  Turning south, these same eyes might just discern the outlying trees of Lothlorien.  Those eyes looking east might see the eaves of a forest much larger and darker: Mirkwood, now renamed Eryn Lasgalen—the Forest of Greenleaves.  In the uttermost distance, to the southeast, the keenest elven eyes might pick out a hazy tower on a hill, raising its head above the inky trees.  This was the deserted ruin of Dol Guldur.  Reclaimed but not yet reinhabited by the wood-elves.
     A great council table of aged oak had been set out of doors, though it was already dusk of a late November day.  Candles and torches innumerable lit the dais and the surrounding area.  Indeed, the day being clear and brisk, but not yet cold, the only inconvenience concerned the moths, which, being partial to the flames, fluttered and worried the guests as they waited for Radagast to commence. 
     Radagast's house at Rhosgobel was in many respects as Beorn's has been described by Bilbo in 'There and Back Again.'  This is not to be wondered at, since the Beornings had had a hand in building it, many years hence when Radagast first settled in the valley.  It was all of hewn wood, taken from trees of great girth that had been felled by huge men in places unknown even to the wise.  There were few rooms in the dwelling, but what rooms as existed were expansive—high of ceiling and extraordinarily well-aired.  The house was completely unadorned, save for a few carven animal images on the various mantels, and a variety of devices of wood and leather hanging about on the walls—devices that might at first have been taken for decoration by the uninitiate. 
     Rhosgobel's outbuildings were also prominent and they played a primary role in the daily living there.  For Radagast had an even more extensive and exotic list of animals in residence than Beorn himself.  To house all these fine creatures there were numerous barns and dovecotes and open aviaries and the like, and also a well-stocked pond.  As for the animals themselves, there were horses, to be sure. And goats and sheep with weirdly curving horns.  And donkeys with black noses and asses with dun noses and mules with grey noses.  There were several kinds of cattle, some short and white with long coarse curly hair, some tall and black with sweptback horns and hair as soft as eiderdown.  Others had rust-red coats and white feet and faces.  And still others had horns five cubits across and shoulders strangely humped.
     The most ubiquitous of Radagast's many co-lodgers, though, were the birds.  Ravens and thrushes, pigeons and doves, falcons, osprey, kites, hawks, and eagles.  There were geese on the front lawn, fowls in the kitchen, ducks in the pond, storks on the roof, swallows in the eaves, swifts in the chimneys.  And outside, above the oblivious council, nightjars competed with the bats, both snapping up any moth foolish enough to rise more than three or four ells* above the torchlight.
     But now let us return beneath the torchlight, to the eyes no longer looking to the mountains or the forests.  No, these vistas have been lost many minutes to utter darkness—the darkness of the new moon and the deep wilderness.  The eyes now look to their coats and cloaks and gloves as the temperature begins to drop noticeably.  Then they nervously look to a last sip of ale or a final pull on the pipe (or a last swat at a moth) before rising at last to peer at the head of the table.
     There the eyes see a snowy owl perched like a statue on Radagast's shoulder, as they both pretend to preside.  But—the eyes may notice—though Radagast and the owl's body face south, the owl's head faces north; so that none at the council can see that the owl is only pretending to doze, unless he should swivel about occasionally and peek at them from beneath his feathery lashes.    
     The white plumage of the owl is reflecting a sparkle of gold from the torches upon the company there; and each set of eyes could see, if it had been in an artistic mood (which it was not), a golden flicker in the eyes of each of his neighbors.  As it was, no one at the council was in anything resembling a jovial mood, and the assembled eyes only saw the lesser sparkle of Radagast's brown stone.  And many wondered why he had called them here in such haste.  And some wondered how a wizard—a wizard sent to Middle Earth an age ago by the Valar themselves—could be such a fool. 
            
Finally Radagast began the council.  'I welcome you all to Rhosgobel,' he said, bringing his hand up to his brown stone and turning it about nervously.  'This site was chosen because it happens to be near the center of all your various realms.  Many of you have travelled great distances, I know, and I thank you for your attendance, inconvenient though it may appear.  If it seems out of the way, remember that if it had been held nearer to some, it would have thereby been farther from others—perhaps even out of the question at such short notice.  Erebor, for instance, would have been unreachable from the Blue Havens of Erestor in the time since the message was sent.  Likewise, the Grey Havens could not have waited for representatives from Gondor, nor the reverse.'
     Radagast stopped to see if this had been clear to his audience.  He felt lost in his speech already, and was wishing that someone else could have been the one to preside.  But Cirdan had remained in the west, of course, and the position of news breaker had therefore fallen to Radagast.  So the wizard stood up and prepared to make the necessary introductions.
     'At this table. . . .' he began, but stopped at once to clear his throat.  Then he resumed (a bit too hastily perhaps), 'At this table sit many of the wise remaining in Middle Earth in the Fourth Age.  Most need no introduction; indeed, it may be said that the alliances made and the friendships maintained among you have made the prosperity of the Fourth Age, even the Fourth Age itself, possible.'  Here he coughed again.  'However, there are several who are unknown or unmet among you.  For their benefit I will start at my right hand and introduce each member of the council as briefly as I may.  I hope you will forgive my brevity [cough]—I cannot possibly list all the honors due, since some of us have histories which reach back to the First Age and beyond.
     First is Celeborn, who comes to us from Imladris, although he was a Prince of Doriath and the Lord of Lothlorien.  He is the eldest of the Eldar at this council (second only to Cirdan in Middle Earth) and mighty among the wise.  To his right is Glorfindel, the Lord of Imladris, and the last Prince of the House of Finarfin.  From Lothlorien is Lord Meonas, last Prince of the House of Feanor and now leader of the host of the Golden Wood.  From the Havens we have Galdor, Viceroy of Cirdan and a descendant of Elwe Singollo.  With him is his daughter Nerien, previously an attendant to the Lady Galadriel, and now the Jewel of the West.  From Belfalas is Erestor, formerly counsellor to Elrond, and now Master of Lhunlond, the Blue Havens.   Also a representative of the elves is Lindollin, son of Lindolas, son of Thranduil, King of Eryn Lasgalen, the Greenwood.
     From Erebor is Kalin son of Kain son of Dain.  As you all know [cough], Kalin is the second son of Kain, the first son being Kurin, now King under the Mountain.  To Kalin's right is Mithi, Lord of Moria.  And the Dwerrows are also represented by a messenger from the Glittering Caves, Gnadri, kinsman of

*The manuscript says ranga.  A Numenorean man would have been approximately two rangas tall, we are told; in that case the ranga would be equivalent to an English yard.  However, the Numenoreans measured their height with arms raised, in order to ascertain a man's greatest reach (and so that men with longer limbs would measure the tallest—as should be).   I have therefore translated rangas into ells.  An ell is here understood to be 45 inches (the length from an archaic seamstress' left fingertip to her right elbow, arms outstretched).  To retain the archaic flavour, I have also used the term 'cubit'—elbow to fingertip.

Glindri, King of the Mirrors.  And by Macha, emissary of Krath-zabar.  The Steward of Minas Mallor, Ecthelion III, has come as representative of Gondor.  With him is Eosden, son of Feognost, King of the Mark.  From Fornost in Arnor comes Prince Kalamir, son of King Elemmir of Gondor.  As you all know, the rule of Arnor re-established has fallen—since the time of Elessar—to the first son of the King, if there be any such.   
     Seated beyond him is Tomillimir Fairbairn, a descendent of both Samwise Gamgee, ringbearer, and Peregrin Took, great among hobbits.  Finally [cough], at my left hand are my fellow wizards, Gervain the Green and Ivulaine the Blue.*  They have travelled far and in great haste from the East and South.  They have been in distant lands since they came to Middle Earth long ago, and may be unknown even to the wise.'
     'Nay,' interrupted Celeborn.  'Not to us all.  I have known of the Five since they arrived, although the travels of the Istari have ever been clothed in secrecy, and were never discussed even in the White Councils.  But Galadriel and I knew whence they came and whither they intended to go, and indeed gave them aid as they travelled east and south.  They were the guests of Laurelindorenan before even Mithrandir or Curunir came there.'
     'I, too, have known of their existence, though not of their colours, or their... persons,' added Glorfindel, looking to Ivulaine.  'Elrond spoke of them to me when they arrived.  He was told of them, and their purpose, by Cirdan.  But Elrond never mentioned that one of the Five was a woman, if he knew it.  And I had believed both wore the colour blue.  I believe it is written so, somewhere.  Certainly green is not far from blue, especially the sea-green that you wear, Gervain.  Perhaps Cirdan, seeing the sea and sky reflected from your mantle, was confused.  However that may be, it is certain that you two never came to Imladris, and so have remained but a rumour to the elves of the north.  May we welcome you to the lands of the West, though it be a time of little welcome, I fear.  There are new rumours among the elves of Imladris.'
     'Yes, Glorfindel, we speak to that presently,' interrupted Radagast.  'However, allow me first to inform those among the council who are not acquainted with these members of my order somewhat of their histories.  Gervain was instructed to go beyond the Sea of Rhun, to discover if there might be other enemies of the Easterners, and to draw off somewhat of their power during the War of the Ring.  There is a proud people to the east of east, living as unknown to us as we are to them, and it was these people that Gervain brought to bear on the eastern flank of the Easterners even as they fulfilled their alliance with Sauron.  But for the work of Gervain in distant lands, the Parley at the Gates of Mordor might have been engulfed by insurmountable enemies despite the fall of Sauron and the passing of the ring.  Likewise, Gervain's twin sister Ivulaine travelled beyond Far Harad and worked to undermine all the plans of the Cruel Haradrim.  Many valiant deeds have been done in regions of Middle Earth so remote that their reknown is not even an echo here for the Lords of the West.  Only the Valar know all the pieces in the great game, and perhaps even they know but a part of the mind of Iluvatar.'

*Also known as Alatar and Pallando. But these are their names from Aman, as Galdalf's was Olorin. I use their Westron or common names here. There has been a longstanding assumption that Pallando, the "friend of Alatar", must be male, due, I suppose, to the "o" ending of the name. But the language of Aman was not like modern Italian in this. The ending "o" did not in any way imply the masculine. Ulmo and Irmo were male, it is true, but remember that Irmo was also known as Lorien. Lorien sounds feminine to our ears, but we cannot trust our ears in these matters.

'But I would know what they have done since,' said Mithi.  'Gandalf returned over the seas after the destruction of the ring, it is said.  Why are others of the Istari still here?'
     'I will answer that,' returned Ivulaine.  'We remain for the same reason that Radagast remains at Rhosgobel, for the same reason that Celeborn and Glorfindel remain at Imladris, for the same reason Bombadil remains with Goldberry.  We love Middle Earth and would not leave it before our time.  We were sent as adversaries of Sauron, it is true, and our great work was, we have assumed up to now, complete with his fall.  But as Sauron was a Maia, so are we, and as Maiar we are free to return to Valinor or stay here as we will.  Just as Thranduil still loves to wander among his trees in Greenwood, as Glorfindel loves the moon over Rivendell, as the elves of Lothlorien still love the golden mallorn leaves and the flowers in the grass, so we too love our homes.  I have remained with my people under the golden sun because the earth is warm and fertile and the water calm, and the people and their children are hale and beautiful in their dark nakedness and in their bright clothing.  Your land too is lovely, and the snows gleaming there in dusk above the city of the dwarves are worthy of all the songs that are sung of them.  But I come here with sadness and longing, and only in direst need, for my years of rest have been blissful and not overlong by my count, for the years race by in the eyes of the Istari, and many lives of men are but a season for us.'
     'It is true,' said Radagast, when Ivulaine had fallen silent.  'Like the elves, our desire for the things of the earth is not quickly sated, and all the beauties of Middle Earth do not become less lovely with time.  It has been said that all things fade, and that nothing is as it once was.  However that may be, even a faded flower is beyond the ken of the wisest, and is perhaps the more beautiful in its fading.'
     'But will the wise not tell us why we are called here, before the night itself fades,' said Kalin. 
     'Assuredly,' answered Radagast, with a sharp glance at the dwarf.  Radagast reminded himself that dwarves had little use for flowers, and no use at all for politeness.  'As you know, and as has been said already, Gandalf has returned over the sea.  Saruman is one of us no longer.  And I am the least of my order.  I have therefore called upon Gervain and Ivulaine to hasten west and north to this council to give aid in the matter at hand.  What that matter is can be stated in a moment.  But I must tell you first how I became apprised of it—no matter the impatience of my good neighbour dwarf here.  About a month ago I found myself just south of Tyrn Gorthad and the Old Forest, searching for something I had been searching for for years (but which need not come into this account).  I had just given up and was returning home, riding on the banks of the Baranduin, near to Sarn Ford, when a single elf on a white horse, ringing in the wind and galloping as if all the cats of Queen Beruthiel were under his saddle, rode up and hailed me.  'Radagast!' he cried as if he knew me, although his name was unknown to me.   'I come from Cirdan with urgent news.  He requires you immediately.  Please follow me!'  And without awaiting an answer he turned his great horse and sped off.  I kept up as well as I might, although Pelling, my good steed, was no match for his.  We arrived at the Grey Havens, where the mighty Lune spills into the sea, early in the morning a few days later.  Cirdan was awaiting my arrival.  He dismissed the elf and spoke to me alone.'
     Here Radagast stopped, as if to regather his thoughts.  He coughed and fingered his brown stone for a moment before continuing.  The owl still appeared to doze. 
     'Cirdan had news so bad that I blanched and nearly collapsed.  I asked him where this news came from.  Cirdan, as some of you know, has been at times a confidant of Osse, the greatest of the denizens of the sea, excepting only Ulmo.  Therefore, I assure you, the news may not be doubted.  It is true.  Cirdan directed me to gather together the wise, since he would not leave the Havens.  I have sent messages to all of you and many others, being aided by the birds of Greenwood and Lorien.  Some of you were called upon by Laymir himself, Lord of the Eagles.*  It has taken several weeks to plan this council and await the arrival of all.  Laymir's children, Narnoval and Swainir, carried Gervain and Ivulaine from the ends of the earth that they might be here this evening.  We owe the eagles a great debt, as we ever have and always will.'
     'Radagast,' said Celeborn with some concern.  'We give thanks to all who have deserved it of us, and thank you especially for your hospitality and energy.  But I am sure I speak for all when I demand that this news be given immediately, and without further preface.  We have ridden far and with urgency and discomfort, and would be spared any more delay, no matter how bad the news.  I for one do not understand why the eagles could not have spread the news, if it is so dire and immediate.'
     'It is dire, Celeborn, but not immediate.  Not so immediate that I may not take things in their proper order.  Nothing I have said is unimportant.  You were called here not as a warning, but to aid eachother.  This is a council, not a war cry.  It must be decided what to do. . . .'  Radagast paused and coughed one last time.  'Morgoth. . . has escaped!'
   
A hush fell over the council.  For many moments no one spoke.  Then several cried out at once.
     'Impossible!' shouted Lindollin, jumping to his feet.  'Is it not written that he was cast out into the void by the Valar themselves, and that the Walls of the World are forever guarded, even by Earendil himself?'

*Grandson of Gwaihir.

     'And yet even the guard of Earendil may ultimately fail,' said Gervain, standing up and spreading his arms, as if to calm the group.  'Remember, Lindollin, that all the Valar, and not Morgoth only, were imperfect from the beginning, as we all are.  This was the wish of Iluvatar, although it cannot be understood by the imperfect mind.  Think how oft the Valar have misjudged or slept on the question of Morgoth, as was seen with the two trees, and the unchaining of Melkor.  If the Valar may err, consider that the elves, yea, Earendil himself, also are not perfect.  This is not blasphemy, it is wisdom.'
     'But surely the Wise were under the impression that Morgoth was unmade, had become of the Void himself, was no more.'
    'Not so, Lindollin, though I wish it were so,' answered Celeborn.  'I was present at the Ruin of Doriath and the ultimate defeat of Morgoth.  We did indeed hope that the Valar had utterly vanquished Morgoth and banished him forever.  But many of us believe that Morgoth was made with the earth and cannot be finally destroyed while it lasts.  His song is one of the songs of creation, and it is part of all that is and will be.'
     'It is true,' added Radagast.  'Cirdan told me somewhat of it.  Morgoth's body can be cast out into the void, but he himself cannot be unmade, unless Iluvatar should remake the world completely.  Just as Sauron did at the fall of Numenor, Morgoth has given up his body in order to escape from the void and from the chain Angainor.  I asked Cirdan why Morgoth had not done this long ago.  Osse said it was the belief of the Valar, especially Ulmo, that it was due to Morgoth's pride—not only in his importance but in his bodily existence. 
     'Few of elves or men, or even Maiar, have seen Morgoth.  Galadriel had seen him in Valinor, and in Middle Earth Beren and Luthien and Hurin, but few others.  None now living in Middle Earth can tell aught of Morgoth, unless Bombadil or Fangorn have glimpsed him in the far ages of time.  As is known to the wise, Morgoth was created by Iluvatar first among the Valar, and in the beginning his power was greater even than Manwe Sulimo.  So, we are told, was his beauty.  His physical beauty was so great it rivalled even Elbereth.  When the Valar chose the male or the female form, as Manwe chose male and Elbereth female, Morgoth was loath to choose, and desired to be both.  Iluvatar would not allow it, but Morgoth was yet the fairest of the Valar, and from the beginning took great pride in this, as with all things.  Indeed, it was this pride of form that set him against Feanor, among other things, for Feanor was the fairest elf that ever lived, it is said; though many would prefer Galadriel or Luthien or Arwen Evenstar or the Lady Nerien, I among them.'
     'I thank you for that, Radagast the Brown,' said Celeborn.
     'And I,' added Galdor.
     'And I,' smiled Nerien herself.
     'In the end the body of Morgoth was scarred by many battles, by the hard hands of Tulkas and the points of Orome and the lesser cuts of elf and mortal.  But he retained the original pride, and even the scars became precious to him, because they were his own.  Also he grew weary of existence, and it is believed among the Maiar that for a long time he did not desire to return, but revelled in the void, and the long sleep, only dreaming of his final return, and final victory.  So said Osse, and so Cirdan.'
     Mithi moved in his chair uneasily.  'If that is so, if the Valar and Maiar cannot be utterly destroyed, what of Sauron?  What of Saruman?  Need we still fear them as well?'
     'That question came also to my mind,' offered the Steward of Gondor.  Many other voices rose in agreement and the council had to be called to order.  The owl turned his head to the front and squinted mysteriously for a moment before turning back to the north. 
     Gervain was the first to speak.  'It is not known what has become of Sauron and Saruman.  Sauron's body was destroyed with Numenor, as was already said.  Saruman's was destroyed by Wormtongue.  Neither of them are allowed in Valinor, nor in Mandos.  Much of Sauron's power passed into the ring, and was destroyed with it.  Saruman was greatly diminished by the breaking of his staff and his being expelled from the order by Gandalf.  This power they can never recover.  They have not gone wherever mortal men go, for they are not mortal.  I have told you where they are not.  Where they are I cannot say.'
     'This is only a little less evil than the story of Morgoth,' cried Lindollin.  'The three of them may join forces and assail us, and all our fathers' toils are in vain.'
     Gervain laughed.  'Whatever else it is, Lindollin, it is less monumental than that.  If Sauron and Saruman remain in Middle Earth, they may be capable of some petty mischief, but I for one no longer fear them.  Morgoth is another matter.  He has also been diminished by the long defeat, but so have we.  What his intentions are we must wait to see.  He may not come here.  I have not felt his presence.  We have been told of his escape from beyond the Walls of the World.  We have not been told of his arrival here, unless I am mistaken.  It is possible that as Melkor he may go to Valinor, to plead his case again with Manwe, or to seek a place in Mandos, or in Lorien across the sea—to be tended by Este.  Or he may plead with Iluvatar, for things beyond our ken.  Or he may dwell unknown in places far from all of our knowledge and care.  We must remain vigilant, but it is too early for panic.'
     'If Lindollin is too fearful, Gervain, I misgive me that you are too confident,' Celeborn said, standing up and addressing the table solemnly.  'The Maiar were not in Middle Earth during the First Age, save Melian only.  I was.  Morgoth is not an enemy to be laughed at.  Nor is Sauron, wherever he may be and in whatever diminished form.  I would hear from Radagast the rest of Osse's news.  Is more known of Morgoth, or is Gervain correct in his guesses?'
     'Cirdan had nothing to say of Morgoth's movements after his escape from the Void.  Nothing is known.  But Cirdan clearly believes that we must expect him here sooner or later.  Morgoth has ever desired dominion, and it is a fool's hope to think that he would be satisfied with peace in Mandos or Lorien, even were he offered it, which is doubtful.  I myself look first to the north, for Morgoth has preferred the ice and the ash since the days of Utumno.  Imladris should fortify itself, for his spies may already be at work in Forodwaith, or anywhere north of the Ettenmoors.  Erebor should also look to its smithies.'
     'This seems good counsel, Radagast,' said Glorfindel, 'but for the fact that there is naught to fortify.  Imladris was never meant to be a place of defiance, or of adamant.  It is a house of secrecy and peace.  Even in the battles against Angmar, Imladris was not fortified.  It remained undiscovered by the enemy, safe behind the waters of the Bruinen and invisible amongst the lower arms of the Misty Mountains.  Still, we will double and treble our watch and look once again to our discipline of old.  This will not be hard to do.  It seems to us but yesterday that we prepared for the Nine and provided refuge for the One Ring and its bearer.'  Glorfindel looked to Tomilo and smiled.
      But Prince Kalamir rose from his chair.  'What of the Nine?  Will they too return like these wraiths of Sauron and Saruman, diminished maybe, but still capable of "mischief"?  Have all the deeds of our great grandfathers been for naught?'
     'No, Prince,' answered Ivulaine.  'The Ringwraiths are no more.  The wraiths of men have no lasting power, unless they are ensnared and set up by a greater power.  The Nine persisted unnaturally in this world only at the will of Sauron, and by the oversight of the One Ring.  Once the One Ring met its doom in the fires of Orodruin, the Nine perished completely—and forever.'
     'That is the only good news to come of this council, I fear,'  added Eosden, fingering the horn hanging at his side.  'Then it is also to be hoped that the Paths of the Dead are now open and clear?'
     'They have been clear since Aragorn passed through.  You have no need for fear in that direction.  The Rohirrim should look to their defenses to the north, especially along the Limlight.   The mountains will continue to defend them from the south.'
     'The Shire, too, should look to its defenses,' said Radagast to the hobbit.  'I know that your people are not organized for warfare, but the shield of Arnor to your north will be a narrow one, should Morgoth come down upon you.  The rangers will not be a guarantee of peace in the years to come, and you should expect the role of the Periannath to remain an active one in the defense of Eriador.  Indeed, the halflings must continue to stand with the elves and men and dwarves in all things.'
     Tomilo could not even answer, so frightened was he by this turn of events.  What terrible news to take back to the Thain.  Mustering for war!  He expected half the hobbits of the Shire to flee south at the first mention of such a thing.  Many might not stop running til they ran into an oliphaunt, or pitched into the sea.
     But Glorfindel interrupted, seeing the hobbit fidget, 'I think Mr. Fairbairn need not alarm the Shire with talk of warfare just yet.  The Thain must be told of Morgoth's escape, I suppose, but he should be assured that there is no immediate danger.  As Gervain said, we cannot predict the moves of the enemy.   It would be foolish to dismiss this news, I agree; but it would be just as foolish to begin living in fear before there is a reason.   We should all enjoy the peace as long as it lasts.  Morgoth cannot inundate the world in a day.  There will be time to resist him, once we know where he is.'
     'Glorfindel is right,' added Galdor.  'I should stress that we also do not know the minds of the Valar on this question.  They may not allow Morgoth to assail Middle Earth a third time.  Or  Iluvatar himself may intervene.  The elves are not the only hindrance to the mind of Morgoth.'
     'I do not like that "only," Galdor,' said Kalin.
     'Nor I,' agreed Ecthelion.  'Dwarves and men, and not only elves, have resisted Morgoth and all his minions from the beginning.  This is no time to be forgetting that.'
     'I have not forgotten, Steward of Minas Mallor and Prince of Erebor.  I beg your pardon for my speech.  I intended no insult.  You have been strong allies, and the houses of those here at this table were faithful always.  And yet the wrath of Morgoth has always been directed first at the Eldar—and of the Eldar, first at the Noldor.'
     'Yea,' replied Meonas.  'And of the Noldor, at my house first of all.  We have always borne the highest hatred of the First Enemy.  I have more to fear from this news than any here.  My great grandfather Feanor was Morgoth's greatest enemy, and I am the last in Feanor's line who is Noldo through and through.  Unless Morgoth again assails the Blessed Realm, he will find no other of our lineage to harry.  I would offer myself in single combat, to save Middle Earth from sharing my fate; but we know Feanor did this very thing, and was betrayed.  Nor did his death assuage the hatred of Morgoth.  Besides, I am no Feanor.  As you grasp at hope that Morgoth may fight other foes or may have forgotten old hatreds, I myself grasp at the hope he may overlook lesser Princes of a diminished line.   I hope; but I have no faith that it is so.'
     'Nonetheless, Meonas, I counsel hope,' continued Glorfindel.  'I counsel both hope and faith, for these have always been the legs on which the elves—and the elf-friends—have stood.  We were created by the One in order to live—and when threatened, to resist, that we may live more!  Even the wisest know little beyond this; and yet it has always been enough. 
     'I say that when the time comes we will resist, if need be.  Until then, we should continue to live, and not to despair.  Go, my dear hobbit. . . go back to your people in hope, and not in fear.  Retell your stories of heroism, and rejoice!  And Meonas, you do not stand alone, come what may.  My Noldorin blood may be mixed with that of my silvan brothers, but I do not expect that to spare me—or them—from our share of the future, good or bad.  That is what this council was called for.  We have had allies even at the ends of the earth, when we had forgotten them altogether.  And they are here today to remind us of it, and rejoin our counsels.  Let this be a merry meeting, despite the news.  Welcome back, Gervain and Ivulaine!  Let us pass round the mead once more!  Three wizards at one table—it is a council to remember, my friends!'
     Glorfindel raised his glass to the company.  Gervain and Ivulaine joined him; and then the rest, some but grudgingly.  Meonas only looked on without expression, seemingly dissatisfied by the speech.  In truth he found Glorfindel's words to be far from reassuring, and he resented that elf's proud demeanor and presuming ways.   The Lord of Lothlorien did not need to be exhorted by a son of a wood-elf—one who bragged at council table of his mixed lineage.  But Meonas hid his thoughts, finding it easy to conceal his disdain for Glorfindel by assuming a fear of Morgoth.  This mantle of false humility had served him well under the eyes of Celeborn, and it continued to serve him under the eyes of these other council members.  The Wise there could perceive that Meonas was troubled.  What was troubling him was not as clear.
     In fact, Meonas had little real fear of Morgoth.  He had been hardly more than a child when Morgoth was taken away in chains by the Valar.  He therefore assumed that Morgoth would remain the charge of the Valar, wherever he might be discovered.  Besides, the enemy—whether he be Morgoth or Sauron—had always taken those first who resisted him most.  Meonas had never been a warrior and never would be.  Let the Gil-galads and boastful Glorfindels go to war, waving their shiny swords and standards; and if they failed to return, so much the better!

As half the table drank to the return of Gervain and Ivulaine, and Radagast emptied his glass to his fellow wizards—feeling somewhat cheered by the turn the council had taken, thanks to Glorfindel—the owl on Radagast's shoulder turned his snowy head back to the south and opened his eyes to the long oak table.  His gaze fell on the figure of Meonas, brooding in his chair.  The owl's long white lashes blinked once, twice, thrice.  His sharp beak opened narrowly for a moment or two and shut again quickly.  Then the bird turned its head back to the north.  Suddenly it rose up into the air and flew away above the canopy, heading east.  Radagast looked up in surprise.  He whistled twice, but the bird ignored him, continuing to move away.  The company watched it recede into the darkness. 
     At that moment Kalin arose.
     'I must return to Erebor,' he announced.  'This news must be taken to the King, and the road is long.   I cannot tell the others at this council what to make of the warning from Osse, but I can say that the dwarves will not take it lightly.  The Lonely Mountain is twice as strong already as it was in the time before Smaug.  It will be twice again as strong by next year's end.  Our kin in Moria and Krath-zabar and the Glittering Caves, as well as the Iron Hills, could swell our defenses ten-fold within weeks.  And yet we still would not feel secure.  We will not rest until we have done all within our power.  We, at least, will not fail our part of the alliance.  Good journeys to you all!'
     Mithi and Gnadri and Macha also bid their hasty farewells and retired to their quarters to prepare for early departure in the morning.  Soon thereafter they were followed by Ecthelion and Prince Kalamir and Eosden.  Tomilo was left with the elves and the wizards.  He had thought of taking his leave with Mithi, but he had been addressed directly (and smiled at) by Glorfindel and did not want to seem rude.  Besides, the elves seemed to have more business to discuss, and Tomilo was curious to hear it.
     After the departure of the Prince and Steward of Gondor, the conversation returned to the newly arrived wizards and their welcome.  Their stories of the War of the Ring were compared to the stories from the west, and many strange things that had seemed coincidence or fate were explained as the work of Gervain or Ivulaine.  Ivulaine surprised the council by her knowledge of the Lord Aragorn—not only his deeds but his person.  Indeed, Ivulaine had met Aragorn during his travels in the south.  Those travels had been not only as a spy for Gondor, but as an emissary between Gandalf and Ivulaine.  This had been unknown to all at the council, even to Celeborn.  In times of emergency, the eagles had been used to communicate between the north and the south; but the eagles could not easily arrive and depart unseen, nor could they act as counsellors as well as messengers
     The elves had questions for Gervain as well.  They wanted to know of Almaren and Cuivienen.  Had the wizard anything to tell of these ancient places?  Had he visited the former site of the Valar?  Was its place yet remembered, or had it been wholly desecrated by the easterners?  And what of the birthplace of the elves?—did it yet exist unspoiled and undiscovered?
     Of Cuivienen, Gervain knew nothing.  The Inland Sea of Helcar had not dried up; nor had the Mountains of the East, the Orocarni, been levelled by the winds.  They still stood, as Gervain could attest.  But as for Cuivienen, it was said to lie on the far side of the Sea—a Sea more than twice as great as the great Sea of Rhun.  Gervain had not combed its heavily wooded shores, sniffing the air for the history elves.  That was for an elvish pilgrimage to discover.
     As for Almaren, the place certainly existed, but it was no longer a place of nostalgia or fond memory.  It was now a blasted plain, much like the battle plain in front of what had been Mordor.  The marker that had been placed there many long ages ago had long since been swallowed by the earth, and all that remained was waste and desolation.   The sadness of that plain could only be matched by the sadness of Valmar after the loss of the two trees, save that Valinor was fair even after the deaths of Telperion and Laurelin.  Almaren, however, was utterly  barren: a place of loss only, with nothing fair or lovely. 
     The table fell silent as the elves thought of their birthplace in the east and of the loss of Almaren the Fair.  Tomilo watched the eyes of the elves and wizards at the table, and remembered the words of Pfloriel.  They seemed to be speaking to one another, passing their thoughts across the table like the cups of mead.
    
Finally Galdor spoke again out loud: 'I think we will lose many more to the ships with this news.'
     'You are right,' agreed Erestor.  'That thought also came to me.  I fear to lose a great part of the southern elves, even though Morgoth settle again in the far north—or come not at all.  Those in the havens will not stay to fight another protracted battle, or to live in constant terror.'
     'But not all the elves in the havens, whether north or south, are there in preparation to sail,' argued Nerien.  'Not all live with one foot in the sea.  Some, like me, were born there.  Some are there by chance.  Some love the sea, like Cirdan, but have not stopped loving Middle Earth.  I do not think this is the end of the elves, even though Morgoth arrive in full strength.'
     'It is not the end of the elves,' agreed Lindollin.  'The Wood of the Greenleaves is clean for the first time in centuries, and is now home to more elves than at any time since the Second Age.  Lorien has dwindled little, and is still strong.  There are many young elves who are far from tiring of the open woods and the wide moon-travelled skies of Middle Earth!'
     'It gladdens my heart to hear you speak so, Lindollin!' said Glorfindel.  'They say that the children of men are the rebirth of hope. But it is no different with elves.  Our children must remind us that Age follows Age, and that even for the eldest of us, the future is longer than the past.  It is good that you are here at council.  And you, Lady Nerien.  Your father Galdor is very wise, but like me his eyes have seen so many years and so many defeats that even the clearest, starriest skies begin to seem hazy.  Mayhap it is not the earth that is waning, but only our view of it.'
     'Mayhap,' said Meonas.  'Or mayhap the eldest taking counsel from the youngest is itself a sign of degeneration.  I do not deny that Lorien is still strong.  Nor do I deny that elves must surely increase by way of elf children,' he added, looking at Nerien, 'lest they finally lose all to the ships.  But I do not like to hear it implied that the wisdom of ages is only a mote in the eye, a film preventing clear thinking'
     'Nor I,' agreed Celeborn, looking at Glorfindel rather than at Meonas.  As much as Celeborn disliked the idea of agreeing with Meonas, he could not let this opportunity pass for contradicting the Lord of Imladris.  'Nerien means to reassure us that the elves will not wholly forsake Middle Earth, come what may in regard to this news.  But that is not the question, here.  The question is, how many will remain?  And what will those who remain do?   That second question begs another—who will lead them?   I think you will find that experience remains the first qualification of leadership, even in the Fourth Age. 
     'Which reminds me of something I should have said earlier.  It is just such experience that leads me to ask you, Radagast, if any message was sent to Esgaroth?  I see no representative of the Bardings at this table.  The men of the far north may prove to be indispensable allies in the years to come.  I suggest that a briefing of this council be sent to the Lake and to Dale in care of Kalin.  Or, seeing that Kalin has already excused himself, with young Lindollin.'
     'I will see that word is sent to the villages of the men,' answered Lindollin stiffly, not liking Celeborn's rebuke.            
     'You and Meonas misconstrue my words, Celeborn,' said Glorfindel.  'Though I hope not willfully.  The leadership of the elves has changed many times in the past, and will continue to change as change is necessary.   As you know better than anyone, Celeborn, the Lady Galadriel was one of the greatest of these leaders.  It may be that another elf princess will someday do great things.  Even the greatest and wisest were young once.'
     Ivulaine stood up and made a great show of moving her chair back and rearranging her blue robes.  She desired to change the subject, but also to continue to encourage Nerien.  This argument of elf against elf she deemed unproductive; but what she saw as the implied criticism of the elf maiden—because she was young, or more likely because she was a maiden—could not be allowed to rest, not even on the strong defense of Glorfindel.
     She looked hard at Meonas, and then said, 'It seems, to one has little knowledge of the subtleties of western ways, that disagreements are being invented—perhaps only to prolong a pleasant evening under the stars.  As entertaining as this is, I for one am taking a chill and wish to retire to a room and to my warm blankets.  Before I bid you all a pleasant good night, I would like to add one consideration.  Morgoth, should he return in any age in which we persist in living, has a way of being very disagreeable.  He will set old against young, elf against man, dwarf against halfling, Maia against Maia.  The disagreements we have had at this table tonight were likely sewn by him in the depths of time.  Or, perhaps they are being sewn even now, in ways too subtle even for the wisest among us.  This news should be a warning—not just to our armouries and smithies and wall builders.  It should be a warning to all of us strengthen our minds.  Morgoth will be enemy enough.  We do not need to fight eachother, or ourselves.  As for the Lady Nerien, I recommend her counsels be taken in the same scales of wisdom as the counsels of Celeborn or Meonas or Glorfindel—or of myself.  Counsel is wise based on its inherent wisdom, not on its source.  Now, good night to you all.  We may speak of all things again in the morning.  Though the council may have ended for the dwarves, I myself—and Gervain (she added, with a nod to her brother)—are in no hurry to climb back on the wings of the eagles.  There is much work left to do, and we plan to remain at Rhosgobel for many days.'
     Ivulaine retrieved her staff from the back of her chair and leant heavily on it as she walked back to the house.  Tomilo could see her long tapered fingers gripping hard the carven ashwood as she passed by him.  Her ancient veins stood out on the back of her hand, and her knuckles were creased with age. 
     The hobbit wondered why the wizards looked so old, whilst the elves looked so young.  They were all older than the rocks and hills.  The Maiar could take any shape they chose, he thought.  Within reason, of course.  He remembered in Bilbo's Translations from the Elvish how Sauron had taken the form of a werewolf, in the First Age, when he fought with Huan in the pit of Tol-in-Gaurhoth.  In the jaws of the great hound he had changed to serpent to balrog to beautiful elf.   All to no avail.  But why would Ivulaine choose to be old?  Who would want to lean on a staff and walk with a stoop?  Did the bones of the wizards ache?  Did the Istari truly suffer from age, or was it but a mantle of power?  Tomilo thought to himself that a little wisdom was a difficult thing to manage, at least for him.  The more he learned about elves and wizards, the more mysterious they became.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




C
hapter   8
Early Snow



After the council, Tomilo did not return immediately to his room.  He found Galka and Pfloriel in the main hall of the house with many of the rest of the company who had not been part of the council.  There they were talking and merrymaking, as they had been for much of the evening.  Few of the dwarves had gone to bed, and none of the elves.  With them were several men from the retinue of Ecthelion III.   It was immediately apparent that none of the revellers in the hall had yet been told of the news of the council.  The dwarves from Erebor had already departed for a night march, but nothing had been said to the company at large of the reason for their hurry.  The dwarves of Erebor did not know themselves, and would not find out until they had reached the Lonely Mountain and a general announcement had been made by King Kurin.
     Although Galka and Phloriel pressed him, Tomilo did not tell them the news himself.  He thought it more proper that they hear it from Mithi and Meonas, respectively.  The hobbit remembered Radagast's concern for the proper etiquette, and he just managed to hold his tongue.  There were lots of other stories to tell his friends, though, and they soon forgot to press him about the news from Cirdan.  It may be that Phloriel learned somewhat from his eyes, and so was no longer curious.  But Galka only refrained from begging because he could see that his friend was already struggling with the information himself, and he did not want to be the cause of more distress in the hobbit.  Besides, it truly was a short road back to Moria.  He would know all soon enough.  From the look in Tomilo's face, that might turn out to be all too soon.
     Galka and Phloriel led Tomilo from one table of food and drink to the next as he told them of the blue and green wizards and of the Lady Nerien and of the snowy owl and of the Steward Ecthelion.  At one of the last tables, the hobbit found warm mushrooms and melted butter, and the three friends remained within reach of that table for the rest of the evening.  Tomilo also remembered his pipe, and when the three finally sat down, he and Galka shared a cut of Farbanks' best that the hobbit had packed all the way from the Shire.  Phloriel found the smoke a little too fragrant, and retired out of doors for the time.  When she returned, the subject had changed to dragons, and Phloriel had stories (not first hand of course) that the other two could not match. She told them of Ancalagon the Black, lord of the fire-drakes, and of Earendil who had come down from the stars in his swanship to slay the horrible worm even as he flew over the host of the Valar.
      By the time Tomilo fell into bed he had eaten an armload of mushrooms and drunk a barrel of ale and smoked a full pouch of leaf.  He had almost forgotten the fears of the council, and he slept as contentedly as a fat hobbit child.  Ancalagon bothered his dreams only once, and even then the dragon was quickly dispatched by Tomilo and his shiny mithril axe, swung from the magical prow of his flying mushroom ship.  Such is the calming power of sleep and dreams (and ale).
     
The hobbit arose many hours after sunrise.  The night before, Galka and Phloriel had packed him off into a quiet corner of the house; and he might have slept 'til noon if a goose hadn't found a cache of snails under a nearby window and begun honking in excitement.  Tomilo splashed some cold water on his head and sauntered off in search of breakfast.  He found a kettle of strong tea left in the kitchen, and a plate of cold biscuits and ham.  He made quick work of that and then wandered out the back door to see if he could find Galka.  He looked all over the grounds, but there was no sign of any dwarf.  So he went back to the great hall.  He thought there might also be some food left over from the night before.  Many elves were there, resting and telling stories.  Tomilo could see the Lord Celeborn at the far end of the hall, speaking to a tall elf from Lothlorien.  But again, there were no dwarves (or men) to be seen.  Finally the hobbit espied Phloriel sitting on the floor near the fire, practicing a tune on her flute.   He sat down beside her, still munching on a biscuit.
     She paused in her playing, and Tomilo asked her if she had seen Galka this morning.
     'The dwarves of Moria departed at sunrise,' she said.  'Galka did not want to disturb your slumber, but he asked that I give you this note.'
     'He left?  Without saying good-bye?'
     'You will see him again soon enough.'
     'Yes.  I suppose.  Still, it is strange..'
     'I think it is not the custom of the dwarves to be so fastidious in farewells.  I would not let it concern you.  Galka meant no discourtesy.  He considers you a great friend, Tomilo.'
     'Thank you, Phloriel.  You are right.  I'm being silly.  I must pass through Moria on my way home.  I can say good-bye then.  But I had thought of travelling with the dwarves on the road from here, at least.'
     The elf maiden played for a few more moments and then stopped.  'You can ride with us, Tomilo.  Our road and yours is the same for two days.  And then, if you would like to, you may ride on to Lothlorien with us.  There will be much snow in a few days, and you may find the passes closed.  Unless you mean to travel down to the Gap of Rohan—being in a hurry to return to your home—it might be best to winter with us.  The woods are very beautiful in the winter, with the snow glittering from the laden trees and the golden leaves blown into great piles and the naked limbs shivering beneath the ice and the smoke rising from the elf fires.'
     'Snow this early in the season!  I hope not!  Oh dear, perhaps I should leave today.  But I had wanted to hear the rest of the council.  I had wanted to find out if the wizards meant to return east and south, or if they might stay here in the west.  I think we need them here now.  And I wanted to look upon the Lady Nerien again.  To think that she has been living so close to the Shire for so many years, and I never knew it.'
     'Do you find her so enchanting, Tomilo?'
     'Oh yes!  Indeed!'  said the hobbit at first; but then he caught himself.  He looked at Phloriel.  She was combing her hair with her right hand and looking sadly down at her flute.  'I mean, her gowns are very rich,' continued Tomilo quickly.  'Of course her hair is just black, which isn't very exciting, really.  But she wears some lovely pearls in it, which liven it up somewhat.'
     Phloriel looked up and smiled.  'Yes.  Her pearls are lovely.  I should try pearls in my hair.  We are far from the sea in Lorien, and pearls are uncommon.  Perhaps I could trade for some here, with the attendants from the Havens.'
    'Your hair would be beautiful with pearls, Phloriel.  Though it doesn't really need them.  They would almost be lost in the shine of your hair, you know.'
     Phloriel looked at Tomilo again, and this time she laughed out loud.  'I had not known that halflings were so sweet-tongued.  You must come to Lothlorien.  My sisters and I will have great fun with you.  You won't even have to sleep in the trees.  It is written that the halflings did not care for the flets.  We also have houses on the ground, you know, though none in the ground.  The flets sometimes become too cold in the winter, and even the elves prefer to sleep on the ground then.  You can remain on the ground every night, if you wish it.'
     'I will consider it, Phloriel.  It is very tempting.  But I had meant to return to Farbanks as soon as possible.  I suppose I must decide today.  Elves seem to know many things, and if you tell me snow is coming, I had better leave soon if I want to beat it to the mountains.  We will see.  I will go now to discover when the council is today.  Maybe Radagast can tell me what they are planning to discuss.'

On his way out of the hall, Tomilo stopped to read the letter from Galka.  This is what it said:

~~~~~~~~~~
My Dearest Hobbitfriend,

We received orders to march early this morning.  As you were still soundly asleep, and in need of several more hours, I did not wake you.  We are told that the council continues, and I (and King Mithi) assumed that as a representative of the Shire, you would be expected to stay.  It is a short ride back to Moria, and we have no fear for your journey.  Especially as you will no doubt ride with Phloriel and the elves as far as the crossroads.  I will see you at the West Gate within the week.  Do not eat too many mushrooms between now and then, or Drabdrab will not be able to carry you.  Until then, good-bye.  Tell Phloriel I will miss her.

Lieutenant Galka, King's Guard

~~~~~~~~~~

Tomilo smiled and put the letter in his pocket.  Then he went in search of the wizards.   He did not immediately find them. As it turned out, Radagast had holed himself up all day with Gervain and Ivulaine and Glorfindel, and the hobbit did not have a chance to talk to him until almost suppertime. In the late afternoon, however, the wizard had gone to the stables to check on his beasts, and Tomilo finally caught up to him.
     Radagast was forking hay into the horses' stalls and Tomilo was nearby, talking to Drabdrab.   He had a few oats in his hand, and he was telling the pony about Lothlorien—to see what his opinion of the matter was.  Of course Drabdrab was quick to voice his decision that a house full of elf maidens was far superior to a dwarf manger—if there was no chance of returning to the Old Forest by mid-winter—and he snorted and whinnied and stamped his feet.  Radagast looked over and shook his head. 
     'Drabdrab thinks he wants to go to see the elves, but you better tell him he'll just get his heart broken.  It is mighty hard to leave Lothlorien once you get there, whether you be beast or man or halfling.  The elves are accustomed to such a fine existence.   But a little pony from the sheds of Bombadil may not know what to do with it.  Or worse, how to forget it once it becomes custom.'
     'I don't understand you, Radagast.  Are you telling me not to go?'
     'I am saying, be careful.  Lothlorien has many dangers, and not just for the enemies of the elves.  For the undisciplined, such beauties can corrupt.'  Radagast paused for a moment, and then continued.  'Did you know that the Lord Meonas once loved the Lady Galadriel?'
     'No. It is not told in The Red Book.  Not that I remember.'
     'Well, it is no secret.  They sing songs of it in Lorien, and even in the Havens I believe.  In Imladris it is not sung of.  Not since Celeborn came there.  For two ages, Meonas loved Galadriel and then she went away.  Beauty, my dear hobbit, is like love.  It may bind or cleave.  The heart may be overwhelmed.  Think of the Lord Celeborn also.  He was wed to the Golden Lady for nearly three ages.  And now she is gone.  It may be unwise to take what you cannot give up.  It may be unwise to go where you cannot leave.'
     'But one cannot go through life fearing loss!  That is the philosophy of a coward, surely!'
     'Yes, Mr. Fairbairn.  That is the proper answer to my warning.  Still, be wary.  Even the brave must know when to stand tall and when to raise the shield.  I am not counselling avoidance.  I am counselling firmness and all possible foreknowledge.  If you go, go with a full heart and an open eye.  But be prepared for a strange parting.'
     'I will, as far as I understand you.  Which is not very far.  But the reason I came out here is to ask you about the council this evening.  Is there an agenda?  Is it necessary that I stay?  Will things be discussed that I should take back to the Shire, and to the Thain?'
     'I do not know.  It is hard to predict what may happen.  The news has all been given, and the dwarves and men have already departed, so nothing of final authority may be done.  Still, much may be said to interest you.  Much will be said, that is certain.'
      'Do you know if Gervain and Ivulaine intend to stay in the west?  And how much longer will Galdor and Nerien stay at Rhosgobel?  Maybe I could travel back with them.'
     'I believe that the party from Mithlond intends to return through the northern passes, if the weather allows it, and to stop in Rivendell.  They leave in a few days.  As for Gervain and Ivulaine—they have not made final arrangements.  I desire that they remain here, but it is not yet decided.  There was much discussion of that question this morning, but nothing came of it.  Gervain, I think, would remain here; but Ivulaine is torn.  She desires to return to the south.  It may be many days before she reaches a decision.'
     'Well, I don't want to ride all the way through Rivendell.  That is very far out of my way—though I don't suppose it is any more out of my way than it is out of the elves' way.  And it would be nice to see Rivendell.  Ever since I first read "There and Back Again" I have wanted to go to Rivendell!  Oh my.  Such decisions.  My head is spinning already.  I think I may need another nap.  What time did you say the council started?'
     'Sunset.'
     'All right.  I will be in my chair.  Maybe something will happen that will help me decide.'  Drabdrab snorted again and stamped his left front hoof.  But Tomilo was too confused to make sense of it this time.  

Tomilo sat patiently through another evening's council.  He was asked only one question the entire time, and was unable to answer it.  Nerien had asked him what the halfling population of Eriador was.  The hobbit hadn't even a guess.  Glorfindel put the number at five to ten thousand.  Galdor thought it slightly higher, if one included the new settlements west and north of the Shire and the older settlements like Bree and Archet.  And many hobbits lived outside the towns, growing leaf or other crops on small farms.  It was difficult to estimate their number.  The only thing that was agreed upon was that the hobbits had very little weaponry and therefore could not be expected to play much of a part in any resistance to Morgoth, should he come. 
     Tomilo was already feeling very insignificant—sitting at a table of Elf Chieftains and Princesses and robed Wizards.  This talk of the Shire's weakness only added to that.  But Nerien used this opportunity to remind the table that there were other parts to be played than those of battlefield valour.  Frodo the Great had destroyed the one ring—and with it Sauron—while wielding no weapons at all.*  Tomilo thanked the Lady Nerien, adding humbly that the hobbits did have their moments.  Every people, he supposed, had their heroes.  The Shire was no different.  He was only glad that there were those outside the Shire who still remembered their deeds of the past.
     'For the elves,' answered Nerien,  'The deeds you speak of were but yesterday.  And even had they occurred many ages ago, they would not be forgotten.  The bravery of Frodo Ninefingers will be sung by all peoples for ages hence.  It is sung of now in the Undying Lands across the sea, and will therefore always be sung.  It is one of the songs that is.'

After this the council passed into other matters that little concerned the hobbit.  These matters consisted primarily of the fortification of the north and the strengthening of the northern alliances—especially between Erebor, Dale, and Thranduil's realm. 
     At last Tomilo stopped listening.   He began thinking of his own problems.  How was he to get home?  If he left tomorrow, he thought he might beat the snows.  Of course, he could always go under the mountains (through the caves) but that would entail leaving Drabdrab behind.  Drabbie would never willingly pass through Moria, even were he allowed in.  Maybe he could send the pony to Lorien.  But then what would he tell Tom Bombadil?  And how would he get from Moria to Farbanks on foot?  And possibly in the snow on foot?  No, that didn't sound like a good plan at all. 
      What about travelling with the elves of the Havens, through Rivendell and on down the Great East Road?  But that would take a long time.  Perhaps a month.  Still, it would be faster than travelling alone through the Gap of Rohan, or staying all winter in Lorien.
    All of those alternatives appeared unpleasant to Tomilo.  Lorien or Rivendell would be beautiful, but the hobbit really wanted to just return to Farbanks.  He missed his hole.  He missed his pillows and his sheets and his fireplace and his garden.  And he had told Prim that he would be back soon.  There was no real reason why he shouldn't stay away longer, simply on account of Prim; but he didn't like to break his word, not for any reason.  He hadn't really promised, he had just said it, like.  But still.
 
He had just made up his mind to leave in the morning and try to get over the Redhorn Gate while it was still passable, when someone touched his shoulder.  It was the Lady Nerien.  The council had ended for the evening and she wanted to speak to Tomilo in private.
      The hobbit was taken rather by surprise.  Not only had he not noticed that the council was over—having been long lost in his thoughts; but he had no idea what the Lady Nerien could have to say to him.  He had been in awe of her from a distance, and now here she was at his side!
     'Mr. Fairbairn,' she began, 'Radagast has informed me that you are in some doubt how to best return to your home.  Also, I have seen for myself tonight that you were troubled, and should have guessed the cause, even had he said nothing.  Your thoughts have not been with the council for many minutes.'
     'It is true, Lady.  I was thinking just that.  But I believe I know what I should do, now.'
     'That is well, then.  But I came to tell you that you are welcome to travel with us.  We will go through Imladris and then pass through your lands on the way to our own.  Your home is somewhat south of the Great East Road, I am told.  But that is a short trip, compared to the journey as a whole.   I did not want you to avoid us, simply because you were not invited.  Consider this our formal invitation to you.  We would enjoy your company on the road.'
     'It is very tempting, Lady.  Travelling with elves is always a wonder, so to speak.  But I am in some hurry to return to my home—for reasons of my own—and I had just decided to try the most direct route.  That is, over the Redhorn Gate.  Phloriel—an elf maiden from Lorien—tells me that snow is expected soon.  So I think I may leave in the morning.  That reminds me. . . I wonder how your party plans to negotiate the snows?  Won't there be more snow in the northern passes?'
     'It is still early in the season.  By the time we get to the New Forest Road and go west, the high passes may be closed.  But I think not.  We cannot see that far into the future.  The birds tell us the passes are clear now, but in eight days they may not be.  If we cannot hazard the pass there, we will go farther north to the lower passes—where the three rivers rise.  The lower elevations will not likely inconvenience us, even with snow.  As for the Redhorn, it is a very high pass.  And, as it happens, Mr. Fairbairn, the passes of the north are often open when the highest passes in the south are closed.  It depends on the local weather.  Snow is like to rain, as the elves say.  It may be raining on one side of the river and sunny on the other.  Regardless, I would not risk the Redhorn alone, if I were you, even though it looks clear when you are at the base.  Always travel the passes in company!  But I think your friend Phloriel is right: the first snows of the season are likely to come in two or three days, in the mountains west of here.  We can see that far ahead—in the place where we are—with a fair amount of certainty.  

*Tomilo thought to himself that Nerien was forgetting Sting.  But Sting had been used only against Shelob, and then only by Sam.  Frodo never used Sting against any orc or other servant of the enemy after the single stab at the troll's foot at the door of Balin's tomb.

     'I must consider it,' answered Tomilo, finally.  'I don't know what to do, really.  I want to get back to the Shire as soon as possible.  I never meant to be away this long.  My garden, and my woodpile, and the pillowcases, and. . . Oh well, anyway, thank you for your offer.  I will let you know what I decide as soon as possible.  You are not leaving for several days yet, I think you said?'
     'Yes.  The council will continue for two more days—possibly three.  It is uncertain.  We will take the time we need, within reason.  We cannot linger too long, though, or we shall have to travel through the Gap of Rohan to return to our home.  Like you, we have little desire to do this.  It will take long enough by the northern route.  The southern route might take two months—and in the middle of winter.  So we are in some hurry ourselves.  We have no fear of the snows, but bad weather is bad weather, for elves as well as men and hobbits.  We also prefer to be indoors near a blazing fire, with a cup of hot drink.  In fact, let us go into the hall now with the others and find just that.  The air is cold outside, and I can hear the fire crackling.  See how the smoke rolls from the chimney, Mr. Fairbairn, and hugs itself in the cold air?  Even the vapours keep close to themselves on a night like this!'
     'Please, call me Tomilo.  In the Shire we are unused to these formalities.  I am afraid I have trouble thinking of myself as "stately."  I hold no rank at home, you know, and no one but hobbit children would think of calling me "Mister Fairbairn."  Come to think of it, even they don't do it.  The lads and young misses in Farbanks address me as Master Tomilo, you see, which has a fair ring to it.  Fair enough for a hobbit who is not so fair to look upon, I mean, Lady Nerien.'
     'All right.  Tomilo it is.  Though I must say that hobbit faces are quite pleasant to all, elves included.  You needn't feel uncomfortable on that—or any other—account.'
     Nerien and Tomilo joined the company indoors.  The other council members were already by one of the three oak fires.  The hobbit left the Lady at the second fire, where Galdor and Erestor were talking to Glorfindel, and continued on to his room.   He had much to think of, and wanted to reach some decision before he went to sleep.  If he was going to try to make it over Redhorn Gate, he must leave first thing in the morning.  But the invitations from Phloriel and Nerien must be considered as well.
    
It was far past midnight.  The elves and wizards were still in the great hall, talking and singing and telling stories.  Tomilo could hear the tintinnabulation of muffled song and laughter and serious conversation from behind the walls and doors.  At times a voice would rise above the rest in some high melody from far-off lands, chanting in words strange to the hobbit's ear.   But still he would stare at the dark ceiling, forcing himself not to be lost in dreams, or in the dreamlands called up by the elven voices.  He must decide.  He must keep his head clear until a proper decision was reached.  He must do the right thing, he must. . . . 
     But Tomilo's eyelids were heavy and his mind would not stay on the matter at hand.  He could hear himself breathing and he could hear the voices beyond the walls and he could see pictures dancing before his face.  Subtle pictures, taking shape from nothingness.  He saw an owl flying at night over a vast expanse of woods.  The woods were inky black; but the owl was white.  Yes, it was Radagast's owl—the owl that had sat on his shoulder during the council.  It was flying away north to the mountains.  Tomilo could see a lofty peak in the distance, coming nearer.  The dream shifted slightly and he was the owl now.  He could see the peak from the owl's shining eyes.  It was a peak of ash and ruin, rising up beyond the mountains, a single sharp peak surrounded by a vast plain.  The plain was empty of all life.  As he flew nearer he could see fires belching forth from the peak's crest.  Fell creatures, lit by the fires, encircled the peak, screeching to eachother in terrible voices.  But he was the owl now: he felt no fear—these creatures were his brothers.  He could hear himself speak.  'I come, Master.  I have news for you, Master.'
        
At that moment there was a knock at the door.  Tomilo awoke in a daze, forgetting where he was.
     'Tomilo?  Are you still awake?  It is I, Glorfindel.'  The elf uncovered a silver lantern and held it before his face.
     'Glorfindel?  Oh, yes, I'm sorry.  I'm afraid I was having a bad dream.  I couldn't remember where I was for a moment.  I thought you were an owl.  No, I thought I was an owl.'
     'An owl?'
     'Yes.  Like Radagast's owl.  I dreamt I was flying over the forest, looking for someone.  It was very strange.'
     'Well, I am sorry to awaken you, but I have something rather important to tell you, and I feared you might leave in the morning before I could find you.  Nerien says that you are in a great hurry to get over the mountains.  She has invited you to travel with us, but she says that you seem more likely to travel back to Moria by yourself.  I have come to tell you not to sneak off in the morning, if that is what you have decided.  The snows have already begun.  See, pull back the curtain and open the shutters.  There will be a frosting in a few hours.  The first snow of the season has come very early this year.  Here at Rhosgobel it will be no more than a nuisance to chill a hobbit's toes, I think.  But in the high passes it will be treacherous.  Do not go by yourself, Master Tomilo!  You would make it to Moria with little difficulty, I am sure, but it would be to no avail.  Unless you leave your pony at the East Gate and travel on foot from there, you will have to look for another road.'
     'Oh dear!  Snowing already!  My luck has gone from bad to worse to worser on this trip.'
     Glorfindel laughed.  'That only leaves the double superlative, "worst."  Unless the hobbits include the triple superlative "worstest."  Let us hope we can keep those very correct adjectives in the distant future, at least.  No, Tomilo, you are unlikely to encounter anything of that sort travelling with us.  We don't go by the shortest road, but it will be a good road and a safe road.  You have my word on it.'
     'Hm.  I am a bit groggy right now, as I'm sure you'll understand, Lord Glorfindel.  But I suppose I haven't really any choice.  It appears I must winter with elves one way or the other.  I can't make a final decision in the middle of the night, though—especially when I think I am an owl.  I'll give you an answer tomorrow.  And I promise I won't "sneak" off toward Moria by myself.  I'll either come with you and the Lady Nerien or I'll go to Lothlorien.'
     'Fine.  I know that you have been invited to stay there as well.  I will not worry about you more tonight, then, Tomilo.  Sleep well.  And may you find whatever wisdom you seek in your dreams!'

Tomilo lay staring at the ceiling once more.  The whole conversation with Glorfindel seemed odd to him.  He was still confused by his dream, he thought.  But there had been also something strangely unguarded about the Elf Prince.  Probably Nerien had told Glorfindel that he had asked to be treated with less formality.  Certainly it had been very easy to talk to him.  But it was not how Glorfindel had laughed, or how open and confiding he had been.  No, it was something else.  What was it?
     It was his promise that the trip would be safe.  Yes, that was it.  Glorfindel was no doubt trying to mollify the hobbit's fears, but the promise was odd nonetheless.  It was not something an elf would say.  Elves did not make promises about the future.  At least in the books Tomilo had read, they did not.  
     Tomilo wondered if he was still dreaming.  He pinched himself hard.  Then he sat up and shook his head.  He walked over to the window and opened the shutters again.  Cold air rushed into the room, clearing his head.  Yes, he was awake.  He thought that Glorfindel had spoken as he had only because he was talking to a sleepy hobbit.  A hobbit talking nonsense.  Even an Elf Prince might have a slip of the tongue, speaking colloquially in order to be better understood.  That might be it.  Or perhaps Glorfindel had become less grave—and less worried by the fate in accidental speech—since the fall of Sauron, thought the hobbit.  In the councils he had seemed the least worried of all.  He had recommended enjoying the peace, and other such things.  Maybe Glorfindel knew something the others did not. 
     Tomilo thought of what Phloriel had said about the elf warriors, laughing in the face of the enemy.  'Laughing, I die.'  That is how Glorfindel seemed to him.  Not fey, but so lofty that it appeared he had climbed right out above the world, even above fear.  Perhaps Glorfindel had become so powerful he really could make promises about the future.  At least small promises.
     One thing the hobbit knew for certain: he would never fathom the actions or words of elves or wizards.  So he had best not try.
     Finally the hobbit climbed back into bed and fell asleep.  Surrounded by all these wise (if unfathomable) beings, he feared nothing.  And the owl no longer bothered his dreams.   

Several more days passed.  The snow continued to fall at night, but the days were warm and the snow would not stick.  It melted off before it could accumulate.  Nevertheless the council was moved indoors.  Since more than half had already departed, there was room and to spare in the Great Hall.
     Tomilo began to be weary of the endless talks.  Several times he dozed off during the council, only to awaken to what seemed to be the same discussion.  He completely lost track of time.  He couldn't tell if he had napped for one minute or several hours.  It was all the same.
     But on the third day after his talks with Nerien and Glorfindel, Tomilo finally learned the answer to one of his questions.  It was decided in council that Gervain and Ivulaine would remain in the west for a time.  Radagast had convinced them to stay at Rhosgobel until they found other lodgings.  There was even some talk of re-entering Orthanc, by one or the other (or both).  But that would have to be settled with the King in Minas Mallor.  There would be plenty of time for that (it was hoped).  In fact, the two wizards planned to travel to Osgiliath and Minas Mallor soon after the council, in order to meet King Elemmir and to learn more about the present situation of Gondor.
     Other than that, nothing seemed to be settled.  It appeared to the hobbit that much of the final days was passed in dissention and thinly-veiled rancour.  Meonas and Celeborn continued to find fault with Glorfindel and Nerien (and to a lesser extent, Erestor).  And Ivulaine continued to play the role of pacifier, trying to conciliate the opposing parties.  Galdor and Gervain said little, preferring to listen.  And Lindollin also sat quietly, but with a look of brooding.   He appeared to be in some hurry to return to his woods and to communicate with his father and grandfather, but he stayed on until the end.
    

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




C
hapter  9
Narbeleth in Wilderland



At last the council ended and the elves prepared to depart.  Tomilo had decided to travel with the elves from Rivendell and the Havens, and he found it necessary to say his good-byes to Phloriel.  He and the elf maiden had had many fireside chats in the past week, especially after Galka had returned to Moria.  Tomilo had felt that she was the only one he could talk to without being made to feel very small.  Even now he could not really accept in his mind that she was so much older than him: he would always think of her like a fairy child—beautiful beyond words, yes, but still fresh and unthreatening.  Even her words about war and weapons had not changed this view.  The Lady Nerien he could see riding a white charger into battle, waving a bright sword; Phloriel never.  He was wrong, in the event, but it was his impression nonetheless.
     Tomilo also found it necessary to send word to Moria—and Galka—that he would not be travelling back through the caves, due to the early snow.  The elves of Lothlorien promised to relay the message as they returned south to their homes.  The hobbit was now doubly sad that Galka had not said a proper good-bye the morning he had left.  They might not see eachother for years, if ever again.  He tried not to think about it, but it made the day rather gloomy.

On the morning of 10 Firith the entire remaining host prepared to depart from Rhosgobel.  The elves from Lorien and the Blue Havens would ride with the rest until they reached the main road.  Then they would turn south while the elves from Rivendell and the Grey Havens and the Kingdom of the Wood-elves turned to the north and made for the Forest Road. 
      The three wizards were outside, standing side by side: Brown then Blue then Green.  They wished the company fair travels and good weather and all speed.  From the back of Drabdrab, Tomilo could see the brown stone of Radagast glinting in the sun, and the weathered hands of Ivulaine gripping her staff, and the long straight nose of Gervain—red on the end from the cold.  The hobbit waved to Radagast as they turned, but the old wizard only reached for his stone, rubbed it, and nodded silently.
     At the main road the company divided into two parts, and Tomilo and Phloriel stopped for a last farewell.  The hobbit didn't know what to say: he was a little choked up, but he didn't want Phloriel to see it.  He just looked at the ground and mumbled that he was sorry he couldn't see Lorien.  Maybe another time, now that he knew the road.  Phloriel came over and stroked Drabdrab's nose, and told Tomilo he was welcome whenever he would like to return.  Since the council he was now known to the elves of the Golden Wood, even to King Meonas, and he would no doubt be allowed to pass the borders unchallenged. 
     'But you will enjoy Imladris, too, Tomilo,' she continued.  'I find myself wishing I could come there with you, and then to the Havens.  I have never travelled so far.  Especially to the sea!  I have been to the Forest of Greenleaves, but that is the extent of my travels.'
     'Then you should come with us!  Why not?  Why should an elf of Lorien not visit Imladris?'
     'I cannot.  My family awaits me in the woods.  Besides, I would have no one to travel back with, and the roads may be dangerous by spring.  It is difficult to know what may come in the near future.'
     'Oh, I suppose you are right.  But it would have been fun to have you along.  I feel terribly out of place with all these great Elf Princes and Princesses.'
     'I understand.  But you will be back with your own people very soon.  Good-bye, Tomilo.  May the Valar be with you!'
     'And you, Phloriel.  Elen sila lumenn omentielvo—I learned that from The Red Book, you know.  I will never forget you!'
     Phloriel reached up and kissed the hobbit on his cheek.  He blushed.  'I won't forget that, neither.  C'mon Drabbie!'  He pulled the pony round and galloped off to catch up Glorfindel and the rest.

When he joined them, the elves were trotting along at a fairly brisk pace.  Even making good time, it was still at least a week to the pass.  With winter arriving early—or at least this storm—the company felt it was best not to linger.  The air now was crisp and lovely, without a breath of wind.  If not for the recent snows, the elves would have wandered at will along the length of the Anduin, enjoying the final days of autumn.  The leaves were even now just letting go the trees, blowing along the road in gentle rufflings under the hooves of the horses.  Even after the storm, some leaves yet decorated the shivering limbs with their gold and red and brown colours.  Patches of shallow snow dotted the valley, and further up above them in the west the travellers could see ridges and crags already completely enveloped in white.  And if they happened to be passing over a low hill, they might catch a glimpse to their right of a sparkle far off in the distance.  This was the Great River flashing at them from afar.
     A few late ducks and geese passed over, struggling to get south before the next wave of storms.  Tomilo could hear them calling to eachother in the grey sky, urging eachother to fly faster, or to stay in proper formation.
 
With nothing to do but look about him, Tomilo finally tired of cataloguing the landscape and turned his eye to the elves.  He noticed the raiment of his fellow travellers and spent hours turning each article of clothing over in his mind, memorizing each cloak and scarf and shoe and beautiful glove.  Nerien, the fairest of the host, he thought he could look at forever.  He wished he were an artist, that he might paint a picture of the Lady.  But he knew that no artist could capture such loveliness.  How could paint possibly match the fluidity of her features, the subtlety of her eyes, the richness of her hair, the extension of her arm?  It was impossible.  No stonecarver or draughtsman could hope to find the perfection of her line, much less the ambiguous combination of youth and wisdom in her every movement and look.  Even her dress, her mantle, her horse, seemed to be something from a dream. 
     Her dress was of palest blue shot through with true green, but it sparkled as if dusted with gold, and shimmered as if rubbed with yellow pollen.  The bodice was laced up to the throat with slender ties, and about her waist was a girdle of silk fabric, sewn with images of sporting fishes.  The gown fell to her ankles, but beneath were slender heelless boots of finest leather, with a pointed toe and fantastic inlay—again of fishes.  Over the dress she wore a mantle with hood, all of a blue so deep it was almost black.  When she stood, it clasped only at the throat with a single loop about a white jewel.  But when she rode, it also clasped at waist—with a matching jewel—to prevent the cold air from finding her body.  Her mantle also had a fur lining, for the same purpose.  In very cold weather she might also wear leather leggings, but she had not donned these as of yet.
     The hobbit next noticed her hair.  When loose it fell to the length of her fingertips, but when braided—as now—it only reached her hips.  She wore it in four braids, the front two pulled back to expose her brow. The two braids behind she tucked into her mantle, even when her hood was down; but the front two she tied into a sort of corolla.  This corolla of black hair she entwined with vines of tiny yellow and blue flowers.  Although the hobbit never saw her replace the vines, they were always fresh and new, as if just picked. 
     In poor weather, or on horseback, Nerien also wore a long scarf of sleekest wool about her neck.  It was dyed a rich green, to match the counter-tone of her dress.  Her only other article of clothing consisted of white kid gloves ending at the elbow, with narrow palm and long fingers.  A single fish, spouting a spray of water, was embossed on the back of each glove.
     The Lady Nerien's horse was a tall white stallion*, with forelegs black below the knee and a single black spot on his croup.  She called the horse Lisson—which denoted 'one who glides.'  He carried no saddle, but the Lady placed an embroidered fabric over his back for riding.  Under this was a thicker padded fabric, which acted as a numnah.  The horse also had ornamental breastplate and breeching, made only of cut cloth.  On this she hung various ornaments of gold and silver.   A sheathed sword, the handle encrusted with jewels, also hung from just behind the horse's withers.  This was Glamdring, of course, the Foe Hammer. A line of subtle bells fell from around Lisson's neck, though these were often suppressed by hiding them under the fabric.  His mane and tail were uncut but marvellously groomed: sometimes braided with shining ornaments to match his fabric drape, sometimes brushed out into flowing tresses.   Tomilo thought that Lisson had been chosen by Nerien because his hair was the same rich raven black as hers, though not as fine.  But his hair waved somewhat, whereas hers was completely straight (except when crimped by the braids).

Tomilo also noted the dress and equipage of the other riders.  Glorfindel was the most decorated of the elf princes.  Being of the house of Finarfin, he was the only one of the company with golden hair.  All of his affects seemed to have the common property of increasing the beauty of his hair.  His clothes were of yellow or white or gold.  Only his mantle was black; but it too had a white collar that stood up above his ears.  He wore no hat or hood.  His horse was all of white; the horse's fabric of palest yellow and sky-blue trimming.  This horse, which Glorfindel named Malfei ("tempestuous one"), carried only a sword and a light bow besides.  The quiver of silver arrows the elf wore on his own back.  All other provision of the various elves was carried on unmanned horses.
     Glorfindel's gloves and scarf were black, and his boots also.  Like Nerien, his boots had no heel and were pointed at toe.  But they rose almost to his knee.  His breeches laced below the knee and tucked into the boots.  He wore a golden belt with a hasp in the shape of a leaf.  His shirt—worn tight in the chest and waist and bloused at the sleeves—laced from the breastbone to the throat.  A large blue jewel on a gold chain hung about his neck.  The collar of his shirt was high, and carried an intricate pattern: not laced or ruffled but quilted or mullioned in fabulous curling patterns, like vines or tracery.  His hair mirrored this tracery.  It was cut somewhat below shoulder length, but the forelocks were tied behind—much like Nerien's corolla, but not so extravagant.  The hair behind was thick and wavy, separating naturally into heavy locks.  A golden riband encircled the forelocks (where they were tied behind) and fell down the middle of his back.  In cold weather, as now, Glorfindel added over his shirt a kirtle of sable fur. 

*the elves never gelded their horses
    
Celeborn wore mostly black and grey.  His horse was black, with silver markings on barrel and cheek.  It's mane and tail were chestnut brown.  As has been told elsewhere, Celeborn's hair was silver, long and straight.  Not grey, as with age, brittle and unruly; but sleek and robust, like gleaming mithril.  A mithril chain he wore,* low on his breast, hung with a red jewel.  His gloves were black with silver gauntlets.  His boots black with silver rings on the ankles.  The horse, called by Celeborn Feofan, wore silver cuffs on his cannons and a silver riband in a spiral around his tail.  Celeborn's sword, which was especially long, hung in a jeweled scabbard from the withers.  This sword, named Celebast, had come from the hoard of Nargothrond, and was said to have been brought over the sea by Finrod Felagund.  Galadriel had claimed it, as sister of Finrod, after the fall of Nargothrond, and had presented it as a gift to Celeborn before their marriage.  Finrod had called the sword Telepoest [in Quenya, "silver-bar"] but Celeborn had translated it into Sindarin, to match his name.

Lindollin, as befit a wood-elf, wore many shades of green.  But his cloak and hood were black, and his gloves and boots wine-red.  His horse was decorated in dark reds and greens as well.  A tall exquisite mare, she was named Belvist.  She wore red cuffs on her cannons and a green drape over her back.  Green and red ribands wound through her mane and tail.  Golden bells hung about her slender neck.  She bore no sword—only a long bow and a quiver of green and brown arrows.  Lindollin wore his black hair in one long plait down his back.  On his brow he wore a golden band of tiny birch leaves, disappearing behind his ears.  On his breast he wore a brooch of golden leaves, set with a yellow jewel.  Under this was a quilted and beaded vest, laced at top and cut to a point below.  His belt was also of golden leaves, linked tip to tip.  His gloves were gauntleted with gold lace, and his boots folded over at top, also showing a lining of gold. 

Galdor dressed himself and his mount in tones of sea and sky.  His mantle was blue-green and his collar foam-white.  His boots, turned at top like Lindollin's, were deep blue without and cream-white within.  His great gauntlets, stopping only at the elbow, were also cream-white.  He wore two yellow-white jewels on his breast, one pinned and one hung by a necklace.  He also wore three pearls on a silver band above his brow.  His belt buckle was in the form of a sea-horse, and a string of sea-shells decorated his horse's neck.  Brengallie, the brindled stallion, wore black cuffs and a double drape—black beneath and true-blue above.  A silver scabbard with sword was his only armament.  Neither were there any bells.  Cream-white filament decorated the mane and tail.            

*This chain was new to Celeborn.  He had acquired it only since the re-opening of Moria.  He disapproved of the dwarves and their settlement at Khazad-dum, but the new availability of mithril was a worldwide blessing nonetheless.  And it was easier to forget the noise and disruption of its mining at the distance of Rivendell, where Celeborn now dwelt.

These were the invited councillors to Rhosgobel.  But the small returning company also included about three dozen guards and attendants, and a troop of horses to carry provisions.
     After three days this company arrived at the River Gladden.  Here there was an elf-bridge, built and maintained for the convenience of the elves of the three realms.  The Gladden Fields had just been passed to the travellers' right, but the elves neither stopped nor spoke of it.  Had Tomilo been travelling with men, he might have been taken to see the monument of Isildur—memorializing his ambush by orcs and the loss of the One Ring.  It was a place much like the Hill of Awe, Amon Anwar, on the borders of Rohan, where the tomb of Elendil had lain.  On a low hill in a wood near the Anduin, within sight of the Gladden Fields, was built a circle of stones surrounding an empty tomb.  This was Amon Ohn, the empty hill, symbolizing the King who never arrived in Arnor, and never returned to Gondor.
     But Tomilo knew nothing of this hallowed site of the Numenoreans, and the elves did not tell of it.  They sang songs of their own on the road, and had little to say about the other peoples of Middle Earth.
     Nerien spoke to Tomilo occasionally, being friendly but not overly talkative.  She wanted him to continue to feel welcome.  And Lindollin told him somewhat of his home in the Great Forest.  The hobbit was interested to know if the wood-elves still traded with the men of the Lake, and especially if they still sent their barrels back down the Forest River.  Lindollin laughed and affirmed that indeed they still did, although they were more careful with outgoing barrels—especially the ones that did not feel empty.  And they had also refashioned the portcullis, where the stream issued from the caves—to make getting out (or in) more difficult.
      It was five days later when they reached the Forest Road.  Lindollin and his retinue turned east, to cross the Anduin and enter the Great Forest.  The rest turned toward the high passes of the Misty Mountains.  There had been no snow in the vale of the Anduin since they had departed Rhosgobel nigh on nine days ago.  But it had been very cold and the clouds had remained heavy in the west.  There was already much white ahead of them and above.  How deep the snow was, however, was yet to be seen.
     Celeborn told Tomilo, in answer to his question, that it commonly took two or three days to get over the mountains, and another day or two to reach Imladris.  Glorfindel added, 'That was, if all went as hoped.  Deep snow might slow the horses greatly.  We ourselves might walk over without concern—at least the elves.  But the horses, and our dear hobbit friend, could not do so.  The horses carry all our burdens.  And the hobbit carries the burden of a good deal of mushrooms and ale above his belt.  A burden that has not lessened greatly this week on a diet of lembas.'  He stopped and smiled at the hobbit, and Tomilo burst into laughter, looking down at his rather tight waistcoat.  He had more than made up for his losses in Khazad-dum by his eight meals a day at Rhosgobel.

By the end of the next march, the company had made it to the base of the mountains and were climbing steadily up.  The road zigged and zagged, meandering slowly from one shoulder of the mountains to the next.  It drizzled occasionally, making the ride rather uncomfortable; but still no sign of snow.  Sometime after dark the elves and Tomilo stopped under a great outstretched tongue of rock that sheltered the road for perhaps 20 yards.  Here they made camp and lit their fires.  But even the elves could not make this spot hospitable.  Certainly, without them it might have been much worse.  They provided food and warm drink and song.  And the drizzle—which was turning to sleet—kept to itself: there was little wind, and the company kept dry, at any rate.   The hobbit finally fell asleep feeling almost cozy.
     But when he was awoken by Nerien some time later, his cozy feeling immediately evaporated.  A brutal wind had arisen and the sleet had long since changed to snow.  It was already a foot deep all around and falling fast.  The elves had decided to go back.  The horses were already re-laden.  Tomilo quickly found Drabdrab and loaded his blankets back into the packs.
     'Well, Drabbie, it looks like we're never getting back to the Shire, or to the Old Forest.  I wonder what we're going to do now?'
      Celeborn overheard him talking to the pony.  'We are moving down out of the mountains, for now,' he answered.  'Tomorrow we will go north, to find a lower pass with less snow.  I am afraid the horses will not be able to manage this pass.  Up above us, the snows are already many feet deep.  It is a strange occurrence.  It has been many years since I have seen so much snow so early.  The heaviest snows usually do not arrive until after yestare, and that is still almost six weeks away.'
     'How long will it take to get to Rivendell now?' asked Tomilo grumpily.
     'This detour will add at least eight days to the trip.  We were still three days from Rivendell.  With luck, we should be home in less than a fortnight.'
      'A fortnight!  Great lands!  And what if the pass to the north is closed as well?  I suppose we will have to winter with the wood-elves—that is, if the Anduin is not flooded or the forest not closed due to lightning fire!'
     'Calm yourself, my dear Mr. Fairbairn.   You should not take the weather personally.  This snow is not falling to spite you.  It is a momentary inconvenience.  But it will allow us all to see the upper reaches of the Hithaeglin, which are very beautiful in narbeleth*.   Take it as a gift of the seasons, and rejoice that your time with us is extended.  You have much to learn, and hurrying back to your hole—pleasant though it is—will teach you little.  I would recommend that you attach yourself even more closely to the Lady Nerien.  She knows much of your country and your history, as well as the history of this place.  I may have spoken against her in council, but she has befriended you—odd though it may seem to you, and to me.  Do not waste this opportunity.  Few in the Shire have had such an opportunity!'
       
*Late autumn.  Literally, "sun-waning" {Sind.}

The company left the mountains and returned to the North Road.  From the crossroads it was four days journey to the sources of the three rivers.  Two of these rivers arose within a hundred yards of eachother: one, the Hoarwell—named by the elves Mitheithel—going west; the other, the Rushdown—or Undulag—going east.  The third river, the Osip, had its springs less than half a mile to the north.  It joined the Rushdown a few leagues to the east before emptying its muddy waters into the Anduin above Tol Echor. 
     Where the Hoarwell and the Rushdown had cut their narrow banks, the Misty Mountains divided somewhat; and through this gap was an ancient trail, little used but never wholly lost.  Even when long forgotten by the elves and men, it remained open due to the traffic of the deer and mountain sheep who frequented it as the easiest path through the mountains.  On the western side, this path led to the rich valleys just south of the Ettenmoors. These valleys were so situated that they were protected from the icy northern blasts.  Bears and other beasts therefore made frequent trips through this gap to forage in the bounties of both reaches of the Misty Mountains.
      The company reached this grass-grown path with little difficulty.  The North Road was well maintained all the way to the Grey Mountains by Men of the Northern Vale as well as by the Beornings and the Wood-elves.  In fact, on the second march from the crossroads, Nerien had pointed out to Tomilo a strange tongue of rock far to the east.  This was the Carrock, standing out between the arms of the Anduin. 
     'Is that where Bilbo was taken by the eagles?' exclaimed Tomilo in wonder.
     'The very place,' answered Nerien.
     'I wish we had eagles to take us over the mountains.  And one to take me back to my hole!' said the hobbit.
     'You might wish it until you saw one of the great eagles, my friend.  I do not think you could be convinced to ride an eagle willingly, even in direst emergency.  Remember that Bilbo was snatched from the treetops before he even knew what was happening.  And he did not like the ride at all.'
     'I suppose you are right.  But it would be nice to be over these here mountains without so much trouble.  Once I get home, I don't think I'll ever budge from my hole again—not even to get the mail.'


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




Chapter  10
The Mitheithel



Sometime before noon of the fourth day the elves and Tomilo trotted down a long slope and saw the Rushdown before them.  The North Road crossed it by a stone bridge and continued on.  But the travellers left the road and followed a narrow path northwest along the near side of the stream.  Great trees of many kinds shadowed the stream along both banks, and small birds twittered in their branches and dove into the icy water.  The sun was out, and although it was cold the atmosphere was merry.  Winter had not yet arrived in earnest—at least here in the lower foothills: the rabbits still ran in the midday light and the squirrels still gathered their nuts hurriedly for the coming shortage.   The holly was a rich green and the mistletoe with its berries hung down above the heads of the passing company.  The fading branches of the oak and the birch were here mixed with the fragrant pines and firs.  Tomilo breathed deeply the rich aroma.  Drabdrab frisked and snorted beneath him.  The pony wanted to chase the rabbits in the grass and eat the tall reeds along the riverbed. 
     'You just wait, Drabbie.  We'll be stopping along this river in a few hours to have our supper.  You can eat all the reeds you want then.'
     The pony couldn't tell him that it wouldn't be as fun to run in the grass once the sun was down, so he just sniffed the air and eyed the reeds impatiently.  Occasionally he would scamper ahead, to tell the lead horses to hurry up.  But Tomilo would rein him in and warn him to behave.
     'That is a high-spirited mount you have,' observed Galdor.  'One would think he was the "sun spirit".'
     'Oh, yes.  The saddle, you mean,' replied the hobbit with wide eyes.  'Do you know anything of this saddle, Galdor?  Radagast could tell me little, except what it said.  The name "Galabor"—of him who made the saddle—is much like yours.  Was he a relative?'
     'No, Tomilo.  Galabor is Quenya.  Galdor is Sindarin.  My name just means "tree-elf".*    It is very common among our people.  Galabor, however, means "softly-running warrior".   Both Galabor and Arethule were elves of Hollin, as I understand from this inscription.  But neither are known to me.  They no doubt were lost in the destruction of Eregion by Sauron.  The child Arethule must have been one of the children of the Noldor, perhaps even of Celebrimbor himself, or of Meonas.  Did Meonas see this saddle while you were in Rhosgobel?'
     'I don't know.  I should think so.  I rode with his company to Rhosgobel from near Moria.  I never spoke to him, but Phloriel and I were often close by.'
     'That is strange.  I would have thought this saddle would have been of interest to him.  Perhaps he did not see it, surrounded by so many riders; and then all the dwarves on foot.  I have spoken already to Glorfindel.  He knew nothing of it.  Like me, he was never in Hollin.  We will ask Bombadil about it next time we see him.  No doubt there is some interesting story behind it.'
     'I wanted to ask you one more thing, Mr. Galdor.  I have noticed that the elves don't seem to use saddles when they ride.  Leastways, the elves now, that I have seen.  Well, but here is an elf saddle, right before our eyes.  How do you explain that?'
     'Arethule would have been a very young elf-child.  Perhaps only five or six, by your reckoning of age.  That is why the saddle is so small.  Elf children are sometimes provided with saddles, to teach them how to sit a pony.  How to grip with the legs whilst talking to the beast.  Where to carry the arms.  That kind of thing.   Later on the saddle usually becomes unnecessary, by age seven or eight.  Older elves sometimes use saddles strictly for decoration.  Perhaps you have seen these saddles?  Elf saddles, without girth or stirrup?'
     'No.  I can't say so.  But that doesn't mean anything.  Everything I know about ponies could be writ on a fly's wing.  And my knowledge of elves on a midge's leg.   But it's good to know about this saddle here.  I had wanted to ask Radagast about that, but we left Rhosgobel before I could think of it again.'  

*A contraction, over many centuries, of the name Galadhor; not to be confused with Galador, which means 'shining lord.'

The next day the company arose early and prepared to journey through the gap.  They continued to follow the Rushdown up and up.  This was a break in the mountains, but the pass was still far above the vales below.  Soon the trees about them were all evergreen, and they trod on a path of soft needles and scattered cones.  The Rushdown now earned its name, splashing noisily among the rocks to their right.  They began to encounter patches of shallow snow, and by noon the snow filled all the valley to a depth of a cubit—perhaps an ell in some places.  The horses were working hard, but there was no longer any fear of having to turn back or give up.  The sky was still clear, and no more snow would fall before they reached the top.
     The company was within sight of the crest of the pass by nightfall, and Glorfindel convinced the rest to press on.  It was a full moon and the clouds were thin and scattered.  He thought it best to travel while they could.  It made no sense to pause near the top, not while the weather was so fickle.  Celeborn counselled against travelling at night.  The Bridge of the Hoarwell would have to be crossed on the way down, soon after they reached the crest of the pass.  The footing for the horses was treacherous there, even when the bridge was dry.  With an icy bridge and an inexperienced hobbit in the train, it would be best to wait until midday tomorrow, when the ice might be warmed somewhat by the sun.  And besides, there was no hurry: the weather showed no sign of changing. 
     Glorfindel argued that Tomilo's reins might be held by the nearest elf.  Besides, his pony was light and sure-footed, and the beasts could see at night almost as well as the elves.  And as for the weather, one never knew.  A storm might even then be brewing on the west side of the mountains, and remain unknown to elves on the east side.   Also, it was difficult to smell rain in the air when water, and the scent of pines, was all around them.  The Rushdown was throwing up a constant spray, the wind in the snow blew moisture into the air; even the rocks seemed to breathe out a mist.  He did not trust his own senses in such a place and wished to be on the way down as soon as possible.
     Celeborn finally relented.  He was the only one who feared the bridge more than the weather, it seemed.  The bridge had an ill history, and Celeborn remained wary of it.  It had played a bloody part in the wars of men and elves against the Witchking—being so near to Angmar.  Many travellers had been attacked by orcs, or worse, on this pass; most of them at the Great Bridge.  Celeborn pulled Celebast from its sheath and studied the blade.  No sign of blue was upon it.   There were no orcs on this side of the mountains.  But who knew about the western side?  And the bridge was on the western side.
     Soon after midnight the company passed the spring of the Rushdown and reached the top of the pass.  Glorfindel had been right about the weather.  Dark clouds, until just then hidden by the hill, could now be seen gathering in the west.  A cold and bitter wind smote them as they came out upon the high shoulder of rock separating east from west.  A short distance below them they could see the spring of the Hoarwell leap from the same extension of rock and run flashing down in the moonlight.  The sight of it was soon lost among the pine trees.  Tomilo could not hear the bubbling of the stream for the wind in his ears.  He pulled his hood closer and leaned behind the head of the pony.
     About an hour later they reached the bridge.  The path over the top had been forced to continue down the mountain on the north side of the Hoarwell, due to a cliff that rose on the south side of the spring.  The land on that side ascended sharply and steadily until it met the sheer face of Mt. Massive, frowning down on all below.  On the north face of Mt. Massive, no tree grew.  Not even moss or lichen clung to the blue rock there, as the mountain resisted all hold for foot or root. 
     But on the other side of the little stream the land was less foreboding.  The company had quickly passed through sheltered woods where the going was easy amongst shallow snow and rockless upland.  When they emerged from the wood, though, Tomilo could see that the Hoarwell—to their left—had already cut its way into a deep ravine.  The cliff on the south side had dwindled in the past mile or two, but on the north side the way had descended less steeply, so that the hobbit was now almost at eye-level with the land across the gorge.  As they continued on, the river cut deeper and deeper into the gorge; and by the time they reached the bridge, the Hoarwell was racing far, far below them.   In the dark, the depth could not even be guessed.  The moonlight did not penetrate to the water down there, unless the moon herself happened to be riding directly over the ravine.
     Out of the wood, the path became rocky.  And while the ice had only created a crust on the ground in the shadowy woods, here in the open the wind made the going treacherous.  Large almost flat expanses of rock led down to the bridge.  And the bridge itself was paved of flagstones, worn by the melting snows of countless years into a smooth, mirror-like surface.  It spanned the gorge in a single curving arc, with no rail or kerb.  It was supported beneath by huge iron beams that thrust out from the rock at an angle from either side.  But the midpoint of the bridge hung in the air: it was kept from crashing into the ravine only by the shape of its keystone.
       Tomilo measured the bridge with his eyes.  It looked to be about 50 or 60 feet across and maybe eight or ten feet wide.  On any other bridge this width would have been reassuring, and would have been an excuse for the lack of kerb.  But here it was anything but reassuring.  He grimaced: only an elf would build a bridge without railing or kerb.  Especially a bridge over a chasm.  Why oh why had he not gone to Lorien?  Or stayed in Farbanks?  Why had he been out in his yard looking for his pipe when Radagast came to call?  Why could he have not been in the bath, or under the bed?
     The elves did not seem to be intimidated by the bridge, however.  One of the attendants signalled the hobbit to dismount and took Drabdrab's reins.  Another took Tomilo's hand and they immediately prepared to cross.
      
Just then the storm hit.  The wind reached them first, an icy wind with drops of sleet.  Then rain mixed with sleet, falling faster and faster.
     'Follow me!' cried Glorfindel over the wind.  'Let us cross while we still may!  The rain will soften the ice somewhat.  We will be over in a moment.'
     The great elf led the way.  His head was still uncovered and he seemed wholly unaffected by the wet.  He pulled his horse Malfei along and the others came up behind him, first Celeborn and Galdor, then Nerien and the rest.  Leaves swirled about them, and their cloaks flapped and ruffled in the tossing air.  Tomilo was in the rear with the attendants.  He and Drabdrab advanced with heads bowed.  The pony's ears were laid flat and his tail shook in the wind.
     As the hobbit was climbing onto the bridge, stepping carefully over the uneven threshold and grasping tightly the hand of the attendant, he happened to glance up at the front.  Glorfindel was at the top of the bridge, in the very middle, alone with Malfei.  The elf's golden hair danced about his head like the locks of a merman.  His mantle was pulled violently northward by the wind rushing up the canyon, and Malfei's adornments were likewise ripping about him. Celeborn was a few yards behind, looking down as his feet.  Feofan had just slipped and Celeborn was steadying him.
     Suddenly a red light surrounded the head of Glorfindel and Tomilo heard a roar.  Then the entire bridge was engulfed in shadow.  Tomilo dropped to the ground in fear.  A wave of terror engulfed them all, and then just as soon was gone.  As he grovelled over the ice, he thought he could hear the ringing of swords and a single long cry. 
     The attendant pulled him to his feet and they ran to the top of the bridge.  On the far side they could see Celeborn and the Lady Nerien already lowering themselves on ropes down into the chasm.  The hobbit had never seen anyone descend so fast who was not falling.  Against his better judgment he crawled to the edge of the bridge and peered down into the depths.  The icy rain was still coming down and the wind was racing across the ramparts of the bridge.  Tomilo feared to slip off the edge, but felt he must see what had happened.
     Down below, the ravine was now lit by a dull red light.  In this light he could see a great dark shape.  Even at this distance Tomilo could feel its menace.  It was some terrible creature, a creature of dread standing or hovering over the little cold stream.  Beneath the creature a dim blue-white light ebbed, seeming to rise feebly from the middle of the water.  The light moved suddenly and the creature shrieked. 
     At that moment Nerien and Celeborn reached the floor of the ravine.  Tomilo could see the creature turn to face them.  It shrieked again, and the hobbit saw it open its wings and back away.  He now knew what the creature was.  He recognized it.  It was a balrog. 
    Tomilo looked around him in panic.  Where was Glorfindel?  There was Galdor on the far side of the gorge, shooting arrow after arrow at the dark shape.  And the others were shooting at it now as well, and dropping great boulders upon it—now that it had moved away from the stream.
     But Glorfindel was not to be seen.  Malfei was also missing.

Tomilo peered back over the edge, afraid of what he might see, but not able to look away.  The balrog was now on the opposite side of the ravine from Nerien and Celeborn.  The blue-white light still flickered dimly between them.  All at once Tomilo was aware of a another light:  Nerien had drawn her sword and she was now bathed in white light as well.  But it shone out in strength; nor did it fade.  The hobbit heard shouts from the Lady, but could not tell what she said.  Momentarily the creature quailed, seeming to draw back in uncertainty.  But then he swelled at the center of his shadow, and his shape seemed to fill the entire ravine.  Red flame shot from his mouth.  Tomilo saw a great curved scimitar rise in smoke and then fall upon the figure of Nerien.  But it was met by the blade of Celebast, wielded by the arm of Celeborn, and turned away.  Nerien herself stabbed at the unshielded left side of the balrog.
     The terrible creature shrieked again, but rose up and fell down upon the elves once more, with claw and wing and fang.  Both Nerien and Celeborn grappled with it.  In the midst of the confrontation, Galdor suddenly dropped upon the balrog from above.  He had climbed unnoticed down the nearer of the ropes.  As he wrestled with the creature, Nerien and Celeborn continued to stab at it.  But all at once the great black shape threw them off, all three, and fled.  He flapped his awful wings and rushed in his red light up the ravine, toward Mt. Massive.  The three elves pursued him.  
     As soon as they were gone, others of the company disappeared down the ropes.  Moments later they returned with a terrible sight.  Tomilo cried out as soon as he realized what they brought.  Two attendants carried a white bier. Under a thin coverlet lay Glorfindel.  Other attendants rushed to bind his wounds, but it appeared to be too late.  His face was pale with the cold and the wet, and his clothing was torn all over by the pawings of the enemy.  His right arm, especially, was awful to behold. 
     The elves quickly carried Glorfindel on the bier back into the little wood.  There they erected a shelter of boughs and built a fire.  Just then Galdor returned.  He looked at the face of Glorfindel and then looked away.
     'Malfei is dead,' he said, finally.  The other elves looked to him, and in answer to their questions, he continued.  'He and Glorfindel fell at the first onslaught, so unexpected was it.  Celeborn and Nerien are pursuing the balrog, but the beast disappeared into a cave, and there is little hope.  We believe he took great harm from us—from Glorfindel first, and then from Nerien—or we would not dare to pursue him.  Glorfindel wounded the creature's eyes as it groped at his right hand. . . the balrog apparently believing him to have been killed by the fall.  And Nerien gave the creature hurts that may prove fatal, it is to be hoped.  Partially blinded, he gave inadequate defense to the swords of my daughter and Celeborn.  Even less with my hands at his throat.  Still, I have suffered greatly.  I have been scorched all over by the beast's skin and his hot breath.  Allow me to rest here.  I feel I may faint, from grief if from nothing else.'

All the remaining company had now retired to the woods.  The canopy of the shelter was extended and all the blankets and furs were unpacked from the horses.  It continued to sleet and snow outside, and the winds buffeted the make-shift walls.  Food was warmed over the fires and the company ate.  But it was little comfort.  All were overcome by grief and worry.  Nerien and Celeborn had not yet returned.  Glorfindel lived, but was in a fever.  Galdor tended him, but was too weak himself to nurse the sick man properly.
     As the sun began to rise over the mountaintops, Nerien returned.  Celeborn had been lost in the caves.  They had separated to search a divided passageway, and he had not returned to the place of meeting.  Nerien had heard no signs of trouble; and she now assumed, she said, that Celeborn was only temporarily lost.  But the hearts of the company sank even lower. 
     Nerien herself was mostly unscathed.  She was very cold, but her wounds were minor.  She lay her wet hands on the brow of Glorfindel and stared at him for many minutes.  Finally she looked into the fire.  There were tears in her eyes.
     She took his right hand and brought it to her breast.  'At least the balrog did not achieve his desire,' she said as to herself.  'He has fled without getting what he most wanted.  It is a bitter victory, however.  I for one would give him this weregild in return for the Lord of Imladris, as he was but yesterday.'
     Tomilo was unsure what she was speaking of, and Galdor alone of the elves knew that the blue elven ring Vilya, first of the three, was yet on the pale hand of Glorfindel.  The balrog had clearly desired this ring above all else.  Had the fall killed Glorfindel immediately, as the balrog intended (and wrongly supposed), his plan would have been a complete success.  He knew that his wings would allow him to swoop upon the fallen elf before his companions could come to his aid.  But Glorfindel survived the fall and smote the eyes of his unheeding enemy, even as he himself fell senseless.
     Nerien put the hand of Glorfindel back under the coverlet and went to her father.  Galdor sat wearily by the fire.  His hands pained him, and Nerien put food and drink to his lips.  When he had eaten, she applied a salve of herbs and rare oils to his hands, and to his face and neck.   Then she spoke to him.
     'We must return to Imladris as soon as possible.  There is no hope for Glorfindel here.  I fear we must all risk the bridge again, despite the weather.'
     'The bridge took no damage from the attack?' asked Galdor.
     'No, father.  The balrog came up from underneath.  Glorfindel and Malfei were pushed off the span before a sword could be drawn or an arrow loosed.  The creature then flew down upon them as they lay broken in the streambed.  He stooped to take the prize he sought, but the valiant elf struck at his eyes with his left hand.  And then Celeborn and I were upon him.  The foul beast was nearly or wholly blinded, and so we survived its onslaught.  Your timely arrival allowed me to smite it again.  Who knows what harm it took from my elven blade?  Possibly it is destroyed, even now.  Or it may have taken little hurt at all.  None of us can know these things, I think, for we have never before encountered such a foe.  Not even Celeborn.'
     'What did you say to the creature,' interrupted Tomilo, 'that made it quail so?'
     'I swore at it an oath of the Valar, warning it of its final destruction, come what may on this present night.  And I told it who I was, Tomilo. . .  what power of adamant I wielded.  Whether it was the name of Elbereth that temporarily froze the beast, or the unexpected shine of my sword, I know not.'
     'We cannot leave Celeborn in the caves, daughter,' said Galdor.  'To lose both Celeborn and Glorfindel in a single night is a thing not to be considered.'
     'We have lost neither of them yet, father.  But if Glorfindel is not taken to Imladris immediately, he will surely die.  And we cannot search the caves for Celeborn.  If the balrog still lives, that would be throwing away more lives for naught.  For if Celeborn has been overcome in those caves, then so would we all, one by one.  We must trust that Celeborn will return to us by the power that is in him.'
     'If you could not find him, daughter, with the power and light that is in you, I surely could not.  Especially as I am now.  I will follow you in whatever you decide.'
     'I would stay to wait for Celeborn, as the rest of you hurried to Imladris, if the company was larger, or stronger.  But if we are attacked again on the way, I should be needed.  You are a hale warrior, father, but even the bravest swordsman has need of his hands.  You also we should be carrying to Imladris in haste, where your burns may be properly wrapped and tended.  Until then you must continue to use this salve.  And lest the pain become too great, I recommend packing your burns in snow once or twice an hour.  Except your neck, father.  That we will wrap in a cold cloth.  But it would be dangerous to get the neck too cold.  It would sap your vital strength even further.'

Once Nerien had tended the wounded, she gave orders to the rest to begin preparation for a quick journey down the mountain.  The two largest horses were to carry the bier of Glorfindel, resting on a platform between them.  The canopy of the shelter was quickly cut down to act as a roof for the bier, as protection against the wet and cold.  All provision, save three days supply of food, was to be left in the woods.  This would allow all to ride with great speed to Imladris.  Nerien now sent one rider ahead to prepare Imladris for their arrival.  And they would leave another horse on the far side of the bridge for Celeborn.
     It was five days, at a horse's trot, to Imladris.  But the company hoped to make it in three.  Nerien's only concern was the pace of Drabdrab.  She was uncertain that the pony could keep up.  She instructed one of the elves to stay close to Tomilo at all times.  The vanguard, with the bier, could not wait for stragglers, but the Lady did not want the hobbit to become separated from the group and find himself alone.
     
Before noon the company had recrossed the bridge and was rushing down the mountain with all speed.  Nerien rode beside the bier of Glorfindel.  Galdor followed, hiding the pain of his hands within his gauntlets.  Tomilo and his attendant brought up the rear.
     After several miles they had outrun the storm.  The snow and ice was moving north, or was content to stay in the higher elevations.  The company came out below it, and the sky began to clear.  By late afternoon the wind had switched round to the south and the cold also began to relent.  Everyone's spirits lightened just a bit. 
     They arrived at the first oakwoods on the western slopes.  The land became less rocky and the horses found better footing in the soft soil.  The pace increased and the company began to think that Imladris might be made in two days.  As evening began to fall, they stopped momentarily at a stream, to let the horses drink and to refill their bottles.  Tomilo lay down in the dry grass for a moment.  His whole frame ached already from the ride and he wanted to curl up under a tree and sleep.  None of them had had any sleep the night before, and his head was spinning.  But then he looked over at the bier of Glorfindel, knowing that there was no plan to rest.  The elves would now ride day and night until they were home.
     The sun sank below the distant horizon, and the hobbit remounted Drabdrab.  The company returned to the road and galloped off, bells ringing dimly through the dense trees.  The pony struggled to keep up, but he was no match for the great steeds of the elves.  Before long Tomilo and his elf companion were hundreds of yards behind.  The bells were now out of ear shot.  Tomilo could only occasionally see the white bier of Glorfindel reflecting the waxing moon whenever the company rushed through a clearing.
      
It was sometime after midnight.  The moon was now riding behind them, almost reaching the dark line of peaks they had just quitted.  They were entering the lower arms of the Misty Mountains, as these reached out into the plains of Rhudaur.  The woods of oak and fir had been left behind.  Here the land became rocky once more, rising and falling in craggy prominences and deep cuttings.  Tomilo and the elf were passing down a narrow corridor of rock, dotted with bushes that hung down like tufts of matted hair.  Swifts jumped from crevice to crevice above them, sometimes letting out a mournful twittering in the gloom as they snatched insects from the air.   The hobbit thought the main company must be leagues ahead.   He had neither seen nor heard anything for what seemed like hours.
     At that very moment he saw a group of riders in the distance, waiting in the shadows at the end of the rock corridor.  At first he cried out in alarm: it was a trap.  But the elf informed him that the riders were of their own company.  All had stopped there for some reason.
     As Tomilo and the elf rode up, they could see that the group was gathered around something just to the right of the path.  It was a slain rider and his horse.  The hobbit was informed that it was the rider Nerien had sent ahead to tell Imladris of their coming.  The Lady stood by the body in confusion and wrath.
     'I do not understand it,' she said.  'It has been centuries since an elf has had to fear attack from orcs in these mountains. We are more than ten leagues south of the Mitheithel; not 30 leagues from Imladris.  I had thought the balrog was alone—a terrible aberration.  But now I see that it is not so.   Evil has returned sooner than any thought.  We were ill-advised to travel this late in the year at all, much less in the north.  See, Eldaga's body has been hewn by many knives and pierced by many arrows.  And the ground is much trampled.  We must ride on, but there is a contingent of orcs abroad, and I should not be surprised if we met them on the road ahead.  Have your weapons at hand!  We can only hope they will not attack a company of elves on horseback.'  She returned to her horse and pulled her blade from its sheath.  The sword shone out blue in the pale moonlight.  'It is as I said.  They are near.  Father, stay close to me!'
     The company returned to the road, riding at full tilt, but looking to both the right and left, scanning the trees and rocks for a glint of red armour or the point of a spear.  Drabdrab began to lag again almost immediately, but the host did not notice.  They had forgotten him in their new concern.  The attendant still rode with the hobbit, but that was little comfort, especially as the ground began to lengthen between them and the main riders. 
     Forty minutes later the company was again out of sight of the hobbit and his single escort.  Drabdrab was breathing hard and Tomilo was looking uneasily ahead, hoping beyond hope that they could make it until morning without encountering the orcs.  It must be only an hour or so until sunrise, he thought.

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