5. At the End of the Rainbow
I woke from the sun shining on my face. That's the most wonderful way to wake. Apart from soft kisses trailing down your body, of course.
I blinked the sleep out of my eyes and slowly sat up in my sleeping bag. I groaned, stretched and looked around.
The old man was gone.
I crawled out of my sleeping bag and walked around the lake, surveying the woods, hills and meadows around the campsite.
The old man was nowhere in sight. He must have decided to go on at the break of dawn.
Finally I shrugged and turned back to my backpack, taking out bread, cheese and coffee powder for a small breakfast. When I sat on a log in the morning sunshine, looking across the green hills of Franconia with my steaming mug of coffee in my hands, I was happy with my decision to dare and approach the fire last night.
I had not been killed instantly.
I had had a lovely dinner and a really interesting evening.
Tales at the campfire… I smiled to myself.
That was much more the thing that I had envisioned for my time as a ranger.
The only thing that was missing was a bit of a real adventure.
After breakfast I cleaned up my dishes and had a look at my supplies. There was still enough food for another week, but I had not much left to drink, just a can of coke and a small package of milk. I bit my lower lip and mulled this over.
I was not far from a village. And the village had looked really nice from above: rural, ancient, idyllic. I could buy some bottles of water there and have a good meal at a pub.
After all, I had been walking straight, well, actually I had rather been skirting the ever-present tentacles of civilization in wild zigzags most of the time – but I had been walking all day for almost a week. It was time for a little break. After all, even the heroes of all those novels I loved reading took breaks now and again. And in "The Lord of the Rings" Aragorn had enjoyed smoking and an occasional mug of beer. So there was nothing wrong with that, was there?
Yes, I decided, I would go to that village and buy water, and have myself a nice meal. Perhaps I would even indulge in a mug of beer. I sighed with anticipation and carefully repacked my backpack. When I was ready to go, the morning sun had disappeared and dark clouds were low in the sky behind me. The village, however, lay still in a spot of bright sunshine.
As I walked towards the village, strong gusts of wind pushed at me from behind, and the slender trees at the edge of the small forest bent with a great rustling of their leaves to the power of the elements. I shivered in my summer clothes and increased my speed.
When I reached the winding road at the foot of the hill, which would eventually lead to the village, sheets of yellow and green light above the small plateau where I had spent the night promised a real thunderstorm in the near future. It would be better to weather the storm at the pub of the village. If I made it there in time, I thought, glancing up at the sky, which was turning darker by the minutes behind me.
The road was steep and narrow, where it led up the next hillock. I was flushed and sweaty by the time I had reached the top of the hill. But when I looked before me, I was relieved to see that it was not far to the village now, and that the road sloped down a long, soft incline towards the village. Easy walking for the last one or two kilometres.
And where the village was situated, the sun was still shining brightly.
When I turned around and looked back, the thunderstorm had already started on the summit of the hill where I had spent the night. I watched this curious display of the elements for a moment. Flashes of lightning tore through the dark clouds, and the rain swept across the hills and the fields in a thick, silvery veil.
If the wind turned only a bit, there would be the most beautiful rainbow, I thought.
I loved rainbows. Once I had even painted the sequence of a rainbow's colours, when there had been an exceptionally large and shining rainbow visible from my room's window.
I had the picture framed and hung it above my desk.
Whenever I looked at it, I remembered the rainbow, and thought about what kind of treasures might be hidden at its end; it always made me happy and hopeful to look at the clumsy picture and its bright colours.
I shook my head. The picture had ended up in the trash bin when I had moved out for university. Why had I done that? I mused. If the picture had meant so much to me once, why had I cast it away so easily?
I sighed and turned around again. Looking across to the village in its spot of sunlight, I vowed not to be that stupid again. From now on, I would do my very best to find out where I belonged, who I was, and what my place in the world would be. I would be careful with my dreams and my doubts, and never again cast them aside as easily as I had done it in the past.
When I started down the slope towards the village, the wind changed and blew a thin shower of cool summer rain across my skin, and the road. Within seconds the asphalt was gleaming wetly. A cloud passed in front of the sun, and the world turned dark. But the twilight lasted only for a few moments, and then the cloud was blown away, and the sun shone directly into my face.
I squeezed my eyes shut against the sudden brightness. When I opened my eyes again, I looked directly into the swirling colours of a rainbow.
Suddenly I recalled the conversation from the night before.
"You know what they say about the rainbows, do you… At the end of the rainbow you will find your greatest treasure."
"I thought you were supposed to find a pot of gold there."
"If that is your greatest treasure…"
The greatest treasure… what was the greatest treasure for me this very minute? I mused. What did I desire above everything else?
The answer was deceptively simple.
I wanted to know about Lothíriel.
I wanted to know where I belonged.
I wanted to know who I was.
I wanted to know what the purpose of my existence was.
But as much as I had tried, I had not found any clues to answer those questions up until now. If I was honest with myself, the older I grew the more they seemed to elude my grasp, the lonelier I felt, out of place and homeless in Germany at the brink of the twenty-first century.
If only it was true that there were other worlds, lost in time and space, which could be reached by stepping on to magical herbs or walking through circles of standing stones…
I looked up, my cheeks wet with soft drops of rain and unexpected tears.
It really looked as if the rainbow ended just on the road in front of me.
Enthralled I gazed at the swirling colours in front of me.
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue-violet, exquisitely clear colours seemed to dance around me in the gently humid air.
The colours seemed to call me, to beckon me to walk right into their magical beauty.
I sighed and bowed my head.
I started walking again; perhaps I would reach the village before I was wet through.
When I looked up again, the rainbow was gone and the thunderstorm seemed to have blown off to the West behind me.
The air smelled much fresher and cleaner than it had before. A thunderstorm to clear the air, I mused, inhaling deeply. My stomach rumbled suddenly. I raised my eyebrows at myself.
Well, then, off to the village and the pub!
But when I made the next step, I hesitated, staring at the road nonplussed.
Hadn't the road been a comparatively new asphalt covered street?
Now it looked more like a country lane than a road. Now it was nothing but a stretch of bare, brown earth leading up to the village in front of me.
I looked at the village and rubbed my eyes. I blinked.
The village had not sported any fortifications or town walls a moment ago. Now I was looking at a deep dike, which encircled the village from hillside to hillside, and behind the dike was a thick thorny hedge, which would dissuade any but the most determined intruders. I blinked again. And what had happened to the church and its steeple, with the bell I had listened to yesterday?
Now, there was no church in sight. And the village, formerly situated in a valley between several soft hills, was built upon the slopes of the only hill in sight; all around the country was more or less level, a country of fields and small woods.
I turned around.
Behind me was neither a rainbow nor the dark clouds of a passing thunderstorm.
Behind me, the brown ribbon of the road disappeared in a soft haze of mists and low green hills. The sun, an evening sun, turning into a reddish-golden glow was shining on the road behind me.
I turned around again.
A dike, a hedge, a hill, no church.
I was not where I had been a moment ago.
My heart started to race, and my stomach did a somersault.
I was not where I was before I had walked into the rainbow.
I was not in Franconia anymore.
I was somewhere else!
I turned around once more, taking in all the differences of the surrounding landscape.
It did not look very much different from Europe.
But it felt different to me.
Apart from the fact that I knew that I was not where I had been a moment ago, it did not look very much different from Franconia or other European landscapes. Why did it feel different nevertheless?
For a long moment I could not come up with an answer. Then I remembered an idiotic pun… as you can see, you can see nothing, and why you can't see, you'll see in a blink…
That was what was different!
It was so very, very quiet. There was no noise of distant cars or machines. And the air was so very cool and clear. And the country, too, it was really empty. Although I could see quite far from where I was standing, the village and the road were the only sign of civilization. The landscape was positively empty! There were no other roads, no tractors, no houses, no pylons, no planes in the air.
Where had I come to?
I looked back at the village.
There was only one way to find out.
And I was still hungry.
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.