Trewsday, 3rd of Solmath, Year 1418 Shire-reckoning
The Last Homely House, Rivendell
|The pine-woods of Imladris|
But I feel as if I'm doing you a disservice, Dear Reader, in gushing so about Rivendell when you yourself (so far as I know) have not been there. Allow me instead to inform you about a few other things of note which transpired during our stay.
It was the afternoon on the day following our arrival. I had wandered up into the hills north of the Last Homely House in search of nothing in particular save a good walk. There is a pine-wood up that way, and the scent of sap was heavy in the air despite the time of year, for of course those are evergreens. I was ambling about, wistfully going nowhere and happy to take my time getting there, when I came upon a she-Elf seated on the ground. My first instinct was to take my wanderings elsewhere for fear of disturbing whoever it was I had inadvertently discovered, but then I recognized the figure was none other than Gaelira. For no reason I can recall, I decided to make myself known. I walked up behind her and sat down on her left. The Elf made no sign she was aware of my presence, but by now I knew Gaelira too well to think I had taken her unawares. I let time pass unconcernedly, for she seemed to be meditating or deep in thought. The roar of the falls was distant and soothing while birds chirped merrily in the trees all around us.
"I'm not sure I'll find enough adjectives that'll do justice to this place when I set down to write about it in my journal," I said after several moments. I wasn't really trying to start conversation, for I was mostly speaking to myself. Gaelira stirred at the sound of my voice and smiled, though she continued to look straight ahead.
"Yes, it is a very special place," she said with an odd mixture of cheerfulness and melancholy. "I have always found here a feeling of safety which allows me to truly relax and be myself without worry. Its beauty permeates me with every moment and reminds me of the wonder of all that is Middle-earth. I find here rest with an infusion of hope -- and that hope emboldens me to action in its defence."
I did not speak. Instinctively, I knew Gaelira was unburdening onto me some issue or thought which was on her mind, and so I felt no speech from me was needed. I waited patiently. As the seconds ticked by, I remembered her seeming reluctance to come to Rivendell then tried to square that with what she had just told me.
"I held council with Elrond this morning. It was... rather a long session," she said, as though in answer to my thoughts. "Well, I call it a council, but in fact it was more like a child being scolded by her father. Lord Elrond is... special. On many levels." Here, she looked overhead and paused for a few moments. I followed her gaze and saw birds fluttering in the branches above us while the Sun sent her rays slicing through the pine-boughs in a stunning display. It was an almost otherworldly picture of radiant, breathtaking beauty, yet such visions were common in that valley. I waited.
"I didn't know what to expect as we sat in his private chambers," Gaelira went on, lowering her eyes. "He demanded to know by what authority I went about putting others in danger under false premises. For longer than I wished I was reminded of the reputation of my people and the importance of not interfering unduly in the lives of others. It was like being turned into a little girl that has been caught in a lie; all in all quite possibly the most humbling experience of my life." Still I sat and said nothing. A squirrel scampered across the ground in front of us, only pausing briefly to consider what an Elf and a hobbit might be doing alone in the woods together before hurriedly getting back to his own business.
"Do you think he is angry with you -- with all of us, then?" I asked after several more moments.
"After a long period of keeping me squirming in my seat, he actually thanked me for the outcome of our adventures and the good we have accomplished," she said. "He even went so far as to say he may have been wrong to deny my first offer, but he still thinks me foolish to attempt to use the palantir, assuming we ever manage to recover it. But he admits the value of what we are doing and has given his blessing for us to continue, if that be our will." Another pause. Somehow I sensed there was more she wished to say. Gaelira shifted her weight and I could see something was still troubling her.
"I did not mention the Seekers of the Seven Stars and neither did he," she said at last, "But I know he is aware of us. I also know he disapproves of what we do: it is the age-old question of whether the Eldar kindred should battle the growing Shadow or flee before it into the West." Here, she paused again and looked heavenward at the brilliant shafts of sunlight piercing the trees. "Yet in this, I still believe Lord Elrond has the wrong of it, for fight we must if we are to save that which is worth saving. The Seekers may cling to ancient traditions about the Seven Stars and their supposed awesome power, but it is not these things which I seek, for I do not even believe they still exist, if they ever did. I joined them long ago because they fight back -- because they resist those forces which would destroy what we value. All of this..." She paused again and looked about her. "I will not yield to those forces, Padryc. I have seen what the agents of the Enemy would do to all I hold dear if allowed the chance; I have seen it with my own eyes." Her voice trembled slightly and I looked at her. I could not be sure, but I thought there was the faintest tremor in that stern mouth. I looked away out of respect and waited patiently once more. Gaelira sighed.
"No, I do not think he is angry with us -- or me," she said. "Besides, with the first smile I saw in our meeting, he told me that the swelling of Elladan's head over pride at being our unwitting namesake has caused him great pains and great consternation with his brother. He was joking, of course, but to see those twins unbalanced would be amusing. I imagine Elrohir is now trying to find some way to outshine his brother." She laughed and I looked at her. Her face was flushed with colour and her eyes sparkled with life. Whatever chastisement she had endured and whatever grief she had seen across the ages of her long life, I saw in her no fatigue, no acquiescence. I marvelled again at the (what I found to be) strange dichotomy in Elvish personalities, for they so often seem at once both deeply sorrowful and immeasurably merry that it can be difficult to understand them without great patience and empathy. Just like before, many weeks ago at the Pony in Bree, I had a fleeting glimpse of the complex lives of the immortal folk. The idea of trying to comprehend the knowledge gained over the course of many, many of my lifetimes compounded with the need to remain in the present while simultaneously weighing the future must be an enormous burden -- one far too complicated for my simple mind to process.
"And so what is next for us, then?" I asked finally, unable to put any of these thoughts into words. "The Misty Mountains?"
"Yes, and it will be the hardest road we have taken so far, in more ways than one," she said, but her voice was tinged with defiance. "Nephyn faced her own evils in the swamps of Agamaur and proved her worth, but I fear what I will find in the High Passes. Yet I will not turn aside from this path."
"What is it you fear to find?" I asked. Mallacai's prophecy concerning Gaelira had been cryptic indeed, other than it clearly referenced some unpleasant event from her past.
"I am forced to confront my own failure," she said heavily. "But I do not yet know how deep those scars may run, so I will say nothing more about it at present. More importantly, this adventure has already taught me several valuable lessons -- some the hard way -- and I found a little of the human side of Elrond Halfelven in the process. His reputation for wisdom is well-earned."
I sat a bit longer in silence. After a while I felt it was high time for lunch and asked Gaelira if she would accompany me back to Elrond's house. She preferred to meditate a while longer, and so I left her in the peace and quiet of the woods she loved. As I walked back down into the valley I thought about the next stage of our journey and felt a thrill of fear. Yet it was not fear for myself that I felt, but rather for her.