Monday, September 11, 2017

The Adventures of Elladan's Outriders -- Episode 32

Return to Rivendell

Monday, 9th of Solmath, Year 1418 Shire-reckoning
The Last Homely House, Rivendell
The Falls of Imladris
No matter how many times I wake up in this valley I can never quite believe all of the things I see when I am here. Each passing day seems to bring more wonder than the one before it rather than the familiarity you would expect. Interestingly, the same might be said of relationships, whether among Elf or Dwarf, Man or Hobbit. Curious things happen to people in Rivendell.

Today had been uneventful and I very nearly did not make an entry into this journal. Well, "uneventful" is a relative term, especially in this place. I only mean there were none of the travels, trials, battles, quarrels, or other tiresome things which might make an otherwise "uneventful" day "eventful," but that doesn't mean significant things did not occur. Allow me to record one such here for you.

I rose very late in the morning. Perhaps I was still recovering from our time in (and under) the mountains. Or perhaps it was the sumptuous feast to which we were treated last night. Or perhaps it was the excellent feather-bed in which I was laid. Most likely it was all of these. In any case, the daylight was already broad when I finally stepped out of my chambers. First I went on the hunt for food and then, quite contented, I went on the hunt for my friends. I did not find any of them about the Last Homely House itself and it was far too fine a day to be caught indoors, so I wandered outside to continue my search. I padded aimlessly around, going nowhere in particular, but I found my feet were steadily taking me across one of the rivers which rushed out from the Misty Mountains and down a gentle slope. That way, I knew, lay the Spire of Meeting, and for whatever reason I thought I might head that direction.

What I found there was Gaelira. She was seated near the base of the Spire, as if deep in thought. I waved to her and she waved back (the roar of the Falls of Imladris, while not overpowering, was still loud enough in this place to where one cannot be heard at more than a dozen paces or so), so I trotted over to join her. We exchanged pleasantries and she seemed to be in good spirits, although there was a tinge of sadness about her as well. I didn't voice my observation, for Elves usually prefer to reveal what is on their mind in their own good time and it is no use trying to pry things out of them (for they are, as a rule, a very patient people). I bided my time, and it turned out I did not have to wait very long at all.

Within a few minutes, the rest of the Company had begun to assemble. At first I took no notice of this, but then it struck me that this was a pre-arranged meeting of some sort and I began to be curious. When we were all present and everyone had said their hellos, I noticed that Gaelira had walked up a step or two onto the stairs of the Spire. It became clear an address was forthcoming, so we all gave her our attention. It was at this point I noticed that she wore an elegant sword at her belt. I thought it curious I had never seen her bearing any weapon before save her staff.

"My friends," she began as she looked us over, "Thank you for meeting me here as I asked. And I must apologize for not extending the invitation to our good halfling, whose esteemed repose I deemed it unnecessary to disturb after his harsh trials in the mountains." I smiled, for I recognized this as polite-talk meant to imply I had slept later than perhaps I ought to have done. 

"I have something to say and I hope you will bear with me," Gaelira continued. "That I have harbored a dark secret has been obvious to you for some time. Well, our recent excursion into Goblin-town brings it to light. You have already heard me call it not one of my best moments. You will see just what an understatement that is, for here is my story.

"Some years ago, Lord Elrond had charged me with escorting a group of Elves to Lothlorien for a council with the Lord and Lady of that land. With my knowledge of the terrain and my bear companion, we were to scout ahead and protect the travellers on their journey. The goblins of the Misty Mountains have a healthy respect for bears (for reasons I need not explain just now), and so I was confident the trip would be easy. Moreover, I was enjoying the company for many of the sojourners were friends whom I had known for generations.

"Our travels were unimpeded until we came down into the Vale of Nanduhirion, where there is a sunken path, heavily forested on either side. It looked to be the perfect spot for an ambush, and so I took my companion on and scouted a short distance ahead. I was very confident and maybe a little proud to be entrusted as the only protection for our small party, not that the others weren't able fighters in their own right. Still, goblins are known to be cunning and creative devils at times. So it proved on this occasion.

"As I searched the ground ahead of us, my bear-friend suddenly reared up, roaring. I ordered him to attack whatever enemy he had sniffed out, and so he ran at a full gait into a mass of goblins which were awaiting us on the far side of a small ridge. These goblins did not run as I expected them to, but stood their ground. I ran to help with sword and with flame. It was an intense fight with roars, the cries of goblins, and my own curses mixed in. The Foul Folk fought as if possessed, but we bettered them in the end.

"And yet the battle was not over. Once it was quiet I could hear the sounds of fighting a short distance behind me. The company was in trouble! I ran as fast as the forest allowed and, jumping from the edge of the trees onto the sunken path, I found myself surrounded by a hideous wreck of bodies. My friends and charges lay there among dozens of goblin corpses. I perceived then that I had been lured into the most simple of traps designed to split our company and slay us all once our strength was divided. I had failed in the worst way.

"It seemed clear to me that I must have help, for if the goblins were allowed to reach their lairs in the deep places under the mountains, and I had no hope of pursuing them and exacting my vengeance. I brought word of the disaster to Haldir, a captain and march-warden of the Golden Wood, but I did not tarry long in that fair land, for my duty was to return to Rivendell and face whatever fate awaited me there. The journey back over the mountain-pass was a wretched and miserable one for I was haunted the whole of the way by every small breath of wind and crack of broken stone. 

When I finally reached Imladris, I was immediately directed to Lord Elrond's study. There, the Master of Rivendell stood straight and grim, but spoke no word to me for an agonizingly long spell. The protocol has always been that the lord will begin any conversation, and so I waited. I do not recommend to any of you being under Elrond's gaze for any length of time. I don't remember what I was going to say to him, for my mind was still hot with the desire for revenge, and yet my legs trembled beneath me as that awful silence drew on.

"'Tell me what happened,' Elrond said suddenly, and I jumped at his words. I explained everything in detail, and readily admitted my failure. 

"'Gaelira, why did you not help the two taken by the goblins?' he asked. My stomach tied itself in knots and I was stunned into silence. Elrond raised his eyebrows at me.

"'You say that you saw all of your company cut down and destroyed. Did you not make a count of the bodies?' I admitted I had not. Elrond proceeded to tell me that Haldir had sent word of his exploits regarding the goblins and that his message had reached Rivendell ahead of me. The Elf-captain's hunting-party had espied the goblins from a far distance and gave them chase. They discerned two captive Elves among their number, but the Foul Folk were moving too swiftly even for the soldiers of Lorien to overtake them. The horror of what I had done smote me: they were prisoners. They would be killed while in agony, for such is the goblins' hatred of my people.

"'You held my charge for the well-being of that company,' Elrond said gravely. I felt I was shrinking by the minute. 

"'Things will happen that cannot be controlled; it is unfortunate the company was attacked. But you were drawn off by a simple ruse, such as only an elfling would fall for. Worst of all, you allowed your emotions to defeat you, for your hatred clouded your mind and prevented you from counting the bodies of the slain. Had you done so, your duty to the remaining two would have been clear. Now, they will surely suffer a terrible fate -- a fate which you might have prevented had you not been so bent on vengeance.'

"'You bear the sword of your family and I know its history as well as you. You wear it to all of our councils, gatherings, and festivals to represent your lineage. I will not see that long and honorable lineage dishonoured. In the name of those who lost their lives from your carelessness, I say that you will surrender that sword to me, and I shall withhold it for so long as I deem it good to maintain this doom over you. Now remove yourself from my sight.'

"So, my friends, you see how I have lived in dishonour since that day, knowing that I failed my friends and companions. It was partly to right this great wrong of mine that I joined the Seekers of the Seven Stars, for they are often abroad in action against the enemies of the Free Peoples. Seeing Aeglas and Glorwen alive very nearly broke my soul for joy, and yet the terrible scars of their years as slaves and captives grieves me deeply, I who knew them in the strength of their bodies before it were cruelly taken from them by my own shortcomings. I thank the Valar they are alive, though it was through no deed of mine."

"No deed of yours?" I echoed. "How can you say that when it was we five who freed them from prison? And how would any of us have met were it not for you bringing us together?" The rest of Elladan's Outriders heartily agreed with me. Gaelira smiled slightly and nodded.

"I suppose that much is true," she said. "I don't feel deserving of it, but Aeglas and Glorwen have said they hold no ill will toward me. And perhaps I have regained some measure of my honour, for Lord Elrond has returned to me my family sword. I wear it now at my belt and will continue to do so as long as I fight on behalf of free folk anywhere." She breathed deeply and smiled at us.

"And so that is my dark secret. For an Elf with many companions of nature, I fear I’m not always the best companion to you all. And I thank Drodie for his knowledge on the matters of honour, for he helped me to understand and to be able to tell you this sordid tale -- he said you would all understand. I can only guess what you must think of me now, but I pray that you might forgive a flawed Elf."

Of course Gaelira was talking nonsense and we all told her so. There was much shoulder-slapping and think-nothing-of-its thrown around, but eventually I wisely pointed out that it was about time for lunch and we had best make a move toward Elrond's house if we wished to partake of his table. As we walked back up the hill I asked Gaelira what she planned to do with her quarterstaff now that she had her sword once again. She thought for a moment, then said:

"I am not sure. I think I will keep the staff a while yet -- I have grown rather attached to it after everything we have been through together."

Lunch and, later, dinner were both outstanding and were followed by long spells in the Hall of Fire. I sit here now in my rooms with a rather tight waistline and drowse in my eyes as an owl keeps trying to hoot me to sleep. I do not think the Company means to spend much time here before we set off to complete Mallacai's two remaining tasks, but I intend to enjoy myself as much as I can in the meantime.

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