"Gandalf," I gasped. A wizard! Not a tramp, but a wizard. "But what did you do in Germany?" I asked, confusion growing in my mind. What had he been doing that day on the hill? Why had he sent me here? Would he send me back now? My heart skipped a beat at the thought. Panic swept through me. Although I was nearly constantly worrying why I was here, and what I should do, especially with the things I knew about this world and its story, I realized that the thought of going back to earth filled me with terror.
Kind blue eyes studied my face. I almost felt as if the wizard reached out an invisible hand to soothe my anxious, agitated thoughts.
"Your knowledge is already a heavy burden for you, Lothíriel," the wizard told me, his voice soft and comforting. "Please, forgive me if I don't add to this burden. For now, just accept that there is a reason for you to be here."
But can I stay? May I stay? I thought wildly, sudden tears stinging in my eyes. And when had it happened that I felt so close to this place, this world? Not to a person, though I liked my companions very much and admired Aragorn, but this world: the muddy roads, the clear air, and the wide lands we had travelled through on our way to Rivendell…
Gandalf smiled at me. His gaze was full of understanding. Suddenly I felt enveloped in a quick embrace. I noticed that the wizard was half a head taller than I was and quite powerfully built. A spicy scent clung to his robes and his beard was soft as silk.
"I told you, you would find your place somewhere, didn't I?"
Then he released me, and I felt myself blushing hotly. I quickly rubbed my eyes, trying to hide the tears, which had overflowed with an unbelievable feeling of relief at Gandalf's reassurance. I felt an absolutely silly smile spread on my face.
My place. My world.
Suddenly the door slammed open and Merry and Pippin raced inside. They spotted me, and suddenly I felt myself being choked by hobbity embraces. "Hey, Lothy, we thought you'd never wake! Why did you sleep so long?" Merry asked. Pippin rudely elbowed his friend in the side. "It's because she's that big. If you belong to the big people, everything you do is big: you eat big, you sleep big, you…" He could not go on, but doubled over with laughter.
Merry shook his head in mock annoyance. "You have to excuse my cousin, my lords. He is not of age yet. Don't take any notice. He's just a foolish youngster!"
"But you're not of age either," Pippin objected. "Where's the food?" he added, looking hungrily at the table. Turning their attention to the most important matter at hand, dinner, the hobbits calmed down and chose seats next to each other, close to the door – evidently hoping to be served first in those strategically chosen places.
With the young hobbits settled down, I noticed that they were not alone, when they entered the room. A very old hobbit had accompanied them; he was now talking to Gandalf, their faces full of worry. Bilbo, I thought, this has to be Bilbo. And they are worried about Frodo. Bilbo had obviously noticed that I was watching him because he turned and walked over to me, politely extending his hand. He was small with age and his head was approximately at the level of my elbow. His hair was white and wispy, his face lined with wrinkles, but his eyes were the same bright blue I knew from Frodo.
"My name is Bilbo Baggins, formerly of Bagend, Hobbiton. Nice to meet you, at last! Aragorn and Gandalf have told me about your courage. Thank you for helping my nephew."
I swallowed nervously, unsure how to respond to such unexpected praise. "Thank you. I am honoured to meet you. I am Lothíriel." For the first time I did not feel the need to add a surname. I was Lothíriel. That was enough. The hobbit smiled up at me, the thousands of tiny lines around his eyes and mouth bunching together. I smiled back at Bilbo. He was really nice! And in his own way, he appeared to be just as ancient and full of wisdom as Gandalf.
I looked up and noticed that Glorfindel was watching us a smile on his beautiful elvish face. Then he looked straight at me, and I felt a thought touch my mind that was not my own. It is a wisdom of little things. But it is wisdom nonetheless. I stared at the elf who inclined his head towards me in a graceful bow. Speaking from mind to mind. I shivered, recalling the feeling of power, which had radiated from Glorfindel at the ford. Elves… I had never been able to imagine just how different from mortals they could be, just how different, how awesome, they would be. It was something that simply could not be explained, could not be described; you had to see them, meet them for yourself to understand that they were really an altogether different race from human beings. In fact, I felt a closer connection to the hobbits than I felt to the elves.
The hobbits, the little folk, were kin to the big folk, men, but the elves were… different, no matter what Glorfindel had said to overcome my initial nervousness at meeting one of the firstborn on our way to Rivendell.
The sound of the door opening again interrupted my musings. Aragorn entered the room, followed by an elvish woman. I could only stare at them in wonder and admiration.
Gone was the shabby ranger from the dangerous road to Rivendell. It was Aragorn, Isildur's heir, who entered the room, not Strider, an unknown ranger from the North, but a lord of a most proud and noble lineage. He wore tight pants of black leather, supple boots of black leather, which went up to his knees, a black silk shirt and a tunic of black and silver stripes. The sombre clothing brought out the lustre in his dark hair, which was subtly streaked with silver. The beard, which had grown during our days on the road, was neatly trimmed, and his face looked younger than it had on the road, many lines of worry and hardship smoothed away by happiness. Where this happiness came from was easy to see, too. He smiled swiftly at his companion, and his eyes simply blazed with the light of love. Arwen's eyes lit up in return.
Then she turned towards me, and I felt instantly like a small and grubby child.
Beautiful does not even begin to describe her. Her skin was pearly white, her face clear, untouched by age or sorrow. If I had ever wondered, how an angel might look like, now I knew. Her hair flowed in long, dark waves down to her hips. It was not black or brown, but shadowy like the twilight in the woods, and it gleamed like precious silver. Her eyes were silver, too. They were not grey; they were lit with the silver light of the first stars in a grey summer evening. Her gaze was more subtle than Glorfindel's but just as powerful. She was a queen of her people; her knowledge was deep, and her courage great.
Her gown was made of three layers of white, silver and grey, but she was slender as a willow wand and moving swiftly and gracefully like a young girl nevertheless.
I let go of the breath I had been holding in a soft sigh.
She extended her hand to me in the gesture of mortal greeting. I reached for her hand with my trembling right hand. Her grip was surprisingly strong and firm for such a slim hand.
"I am Arwen. I am happy to meet you. Aragorn tells me you were an invaluable help on the road." I blushed hotly and mumbled something like 'not at all'. Aragorn smiled at me and gave me a wink, a gesture, which helped me to regain at least some composure.
"Now that everyone is here, how about some dinner?" Bilbo asked.
"Dinner should be here any moment now," Glorfindel told us. Then the elf turned to me. "Would you allow me to ask you to be my dinner partner?" he asked courteously.
I felt myself blush once again, or at least my cheeks felt unaccountably hot. "Of course. Thank you, my lord, it's an honour!"
Glorfindel extended his arm and led me to the square table. Arwen and Aragorn sat down at the head of the table, Gandalf and Bilbo at the other end. This put Glorfindel and me opposite of Merry and Pippin, who were still staring at Arwen, completely enraptured.
Only when elvish servants placed bowls of steaming soup in front of them, they managed to draw their attention away from the elvish beauty.
The soup was a light green vegetable broth, broccoli, green asparagus, and something else I did not recognize.
After the soup fish was served, lightly sprinkled with fresh herbs, and a white sauce, which tasted faintly sweet, almost like chocolate.
A glass of pale golden wine went with the soup.
I concentrated on eating daintily, trying to display perfect table manners in such exalted company. The hobbits had no such compunctions; they just ate and talked, cheerfully, noisily, obviously enjoying themselves immensely.
The meat course was venison, served with potatoes.
The way the food was prepared, seasoned and presented reminded me of French cuisine. And the simple fact that elves did actually eat just the same way as humans do, and enjoy their food just the same way as humans do, including good wine, reassured me a lot.
When the dessert arrived, a sorbet of red fruits, I felt almost at ease again.
After dinner Glorfindel led our party into a comfortable living room with several easy chairs and small tables, arranged in a circle around a large fireplace, where already a fire was crackling cosily. We were served a reddish liquor, which reminded me of sherry, but tasted intensely of berries, and small cups of a hot beverage, which was not coffee and not cocoa, but something in between.
Bilbo favoured us with a rendition of a poem about sitting by the fireside. I recalled reading that poem, but only here and now I understood its meaning, listening to the sweet, wavering old voice of the hobbit. I sat, lost in thought, gazing into the fire.
Suddenly a noise made me look up. The door opened, and another elf entered the room. He looked very much like Arwen, tall and noble, with shadowy dark hair, which was braided to the back of his neck. He had silvery-grey eyes, just like Arwen. But he looked old, even though there was not a single line of age or weariness visible in his clear face. He looked ancient, tired, and sad, I thought confused. Glorfindel's blue gaze met mine; for a moment the elf looked at me full of surprise, and then I felt again the soft touch of thoughts which did not belong to my mind. You have keen eyes, Lothíriel. Lord Elrond of Rivendell is full of sorrow, a sorrow that will never lift in this age.
So this was Elrond Half-Elven, the Lord of Rivendell and mighty among both Elves and Men.
"I have good news I wanted to bring to you personally," Elrond said, addressing Gandalf, who had risen from his chair, undisguised anxiety in his bright blue eyes. I could see how the old wizard exhaled slowly, his tense shoulders sagging with relief. "An hour ago I discovered the piece of the Morgul blade, which was left in Frodo's wound," Elrond continued. "It had almost reached the hobbit's heart. I removed it, and he is sleeping peacefully now. He will recover in a few days."
Merry and Pippin jumped up at that and shouted hooray, their bright, high voices echoing in the room. Elrond smiled at them wearily, his eyes lighting up as he watched the joy of the two young hobbits. Arwen rose from the couch, where she had been sitting with Aragorn.
She went over to her father and took his hand in hers. "You should go to bed now and rest, Ada. You have not slept at all, since the hobbit was carried here."
Elrond inclined his head and laid a tender kiss on the dark crown of his daughter's head.
His eyes were almost black with grief, but he smiled, and his voice did not betray his feelings.
"Always taking care of me, aren't you, íëll-nîn, my daughter?" Then he straightened up and gave the room a slight bow. "But I think my daughter is right. If you will excuse me; there will be other evenings we can spend together to discuss your voyage."
Arwen walked with her father back to the door and exchanged a few whispered words in Sindarin with him. Then he was gone and Arwen returned to her seat next to Aragorn. Her expression was tinged with sorrow, too, and Aragorn's face was tense, his eyes clouded with internal pain.
I felt like an intruder on this private grief and wished myself out of this room. Glorfindel smiled at me sympathetically, but I could see a reflection of this sorrow in his bright blue eyes as well. I recalled the brightness of Arwen's eyes meeting Aragorn's gaze, how both their faces lit up with love, when they had entered the dining room tonight. I swallowed hard. I experienced a sudden, sharp stab of pain at seeing a love as great as theirs inevitably connected with grief and sorrow.
A few days later a feast was held in Frodo's honour. It was the first time that I entered the great hall, and I felt at once intimidated by its splendour. The vaulted ceiling looked like the hull of an enormous ship, huge beams of wood gilded with gold swept in wide arcs across the expanse of the hall. Large golden chandeliers alight with thousands of white candles, which smelled lightly of honey, were suspended from those beams, and in the huge fireplaces at the ends of the hall great fires were roaring. The walls were covered with exquisite tapestries, which showed scenes of elvish history or mythology. They were more beautiful and extravagantly crafted than any of the precious pieces of medieval Brussels that I had ever seen in a museum back on earth.
On a dais a long white table had been set up for the guests of honour and the nobility of the elves of Rivendell. Elrond sat in a throne-like chair at the head of the table. Glorfindel sat next to Elrond to the right and Gandalf to the left.
Frodo was a few seats down the table, sitting next a venerable looking dwarf. There were so many people to observe… most were elves, but there were some men and even several dwarves. Arwen was there as well, sitting at the centre of the long table, exactly opposite of the great golden doors, which led into the hall. A kind of canopy was suspended from the walls above her, emphasizing her exalted position. But she looked worried, and Aragorn was nowhere in sight.
To my discomfiture I had been given the place of honour at one of the side tables. Merry and Pippin were seated to my right, Sam and a dwarf with an unruly red beard to my left.
Reluctantly I turned my eyes from the grandeur of the long table back to my companions.
The dwarf, who had obviously waited to catch my attention, promptly rose from his seat and bowed very low.
"Gimli, son of Glóin, at you service," he said in a deep, grumbling voice, and bowed again.
My heart skipped a beat, as I quickly shoved back my chair and rose, extending my hand politely. Gimli! "My name is Lothíriel. I am honoured to meet you."
He looked a bit confused at the proffered hand but shook it vigorously all the same.
Gimli was as tall as the hobbits, perhaps half a hand taller, but he was much more powerfully built, he was positively burly. A force of nature. "It is an honour to meet you, my lady. I heard tell that you accompanied Aragorn and the hobbits from Bree to Rivendell. A dangerous road for a lady. You are truly valiant," he said respectfully.
I smiled at him, feeling heat creep into my cheeks. I had done nothing but trudging along wearily, and everyone was so full of praise. This was getting really embarrassing. "I don't really know," I said. "But tell me, if you may, why you are here, and where do you come from."
Gimli answered that they had come for the council, bringing messages of their king, and that he was not at liberty to discuss any details. But he was liberal with stories about his home, the city of Dale and Under-the-Mountain.
As the feast drew to its end the hobbits and I knew intricate details about the architecture of Dale, about what kinds of metals and jewels could be found in which mountains of Middle Earth and about the complicated hierarchy of dwarfish society.
I was almost relieved, when Elrond finally rose and walked over to his daughter to signal the end of the feast. He extended his arm to his daughter and led the company through the wide golden doors of the Great Hall down a wide passage and into another hall. We followed behind, keeping to the order arranged by the position of the tables of the Great Hall.
This second hall had a comparatively low, cross-vaulted ceiling supported by Romanesque columns. Walls and ceiling were made of finely grained sandstone, which shimmered with a subtle golden hue in the light of the fire that was burning in a great hearth, which was set between two intricately carved pillars. The design showed spiralling flowering vines bearing leaves, blooms and fruit, which looked absolutely life-like. There were no tables in this hall but long, comfortable benches at the walls and around the columns, and many easy chairs arranged in small groups around the fireside. Next to the hearth an area had been cleared for a group of elvish musicians. They had just finished preparing their instruments and now they launched into a hauntingly beautiful melody.
Sitting on a stool with his back to one of the columns in the shadow, I spotted Bilbo. He seemed to have dozed off, and only then I realized that he had not been at the feast. Elrond, with Frodo at his side, walked over to the old hobbit and talked to him. Bilbo slowly raised his head, and then was almost thrown off his seat by Frodo's enthusiastic embrace. Even from my position at the back of the hall I could see the tears of joy in Frodo's eyes. Frodo still looked incredibly fragile and pale, but his eyes were bright again and free of that horrible pained expression.
Elrond left Frodo with Bilbo and walked back to the two chairs, which had been obviously prepared for the lord of Rivendell and his daughter in the best position in front of the fire and the musicians. I found a place in the company of Merry and Pippin on a bench at the wall opposite of the elvish musicians.
Within minutes I was lost in the magic of elvish music.
Later in the evening Bilbo recited a long, beautiful ballad about Eärendil, the mariner. Although it had not quite the musical quality of the elvish poems, which had been presented in the course of the evening, it touched something deep in my heart.
But what really moved me to tears was the hymn to Elbereth Gilthoniel, in which all the elves joined in. It was the hymn, which had first made me try to learn Sindarin years ago, the first Sindarin words I had learned by heart.
A Elbereth Gilthoniel, sillivren penna míriel…
When I finally retired to my room, the beauty of the elvish voices raised in song to praise Elbereth the Fair still echoed in my heart. Listening to this song of prayer I felt as if my soul had been touched by a blessing from way above.
As I curled up in the soft white covers of my bed, I recalled a quotation of a poem by Wordsworth that I had read a long time ago:
And as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
And all at once I had the feeling that I would bear this hymn of elvish prayer and blessing forever in my heart – wherever I might go from here.
I fell asleep within seconds, feeling perfectly at peace with the world.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.