1. Looking Ahead
"Look! Something approaches!"
"In those trees downhill."
"Yes, I see."
"What does it look to be?"
"I can tell little of looks on such a clouded night as this."
I frowned at my brother. He did not consider the grim possibilities and it was always I who had to point them out. "Think you, it could be those trolls?"
"It was moving too consciously for a troll." This said in his near-bored tone.
"But-" I heard my voice rise a pitch.
"Be calm, little brother." Now said in his condescending voice.
I am sure he did not realize how near I was to shaking him. Something so aggressive I have never been able to do, for I do not think he tries to be agitating. Lamion is simply himself and I cannot give blame for that. One could say I have gotten used to his dominance, having dealt with it my whole childhood. Even when we became our grown selves, Lamion liked to take charge of our missions. I let him, contented unless he decided to investigate wolves' lairs, orc meets or such. We were collectors of news. Lamion liked telling it, I liked finding and carrying it. Travel was safe if one knew the way and what to avoid. Dark creatures kept close to the dark crags in the mountains as folk filled once beast-ravished lands. However, if we were reading the signs right, the dark creatures were taking back their wilderness.
I come back again to that night. It had a kind of darkness that felt as though the clouds were trying to crush the land below and choke the stars above. I would not tell Lamion, but I did not like the dark, a haunt of Elf-devouring wolves and trolls. Less I liked us standing alone in a tempest, deep in the wild, with an unknown figure approaching. Was I to be silent – was I to be calm- while he took the matter in the same mood as a casual garden stroll? So I panicked as calmly as I could.
"It may be worse than a troll! Give you not any thought, Lamion? We shan't be able to bring our reports to Imladris while being digested in a beast's stomach or taken to the mountains tied on stakes or-"
"Shh! It approaches."
I quickly crouched down in the wet brush. Saturated, truly; it had just finished pouring rain. To my great annoyance, my brother continued to stand on the thinly-treed hilltop, waving his hand like an idiot.
"What are you-? Get down," I hissed.
"Too late," he said.
Materializing from the woods that spread downhill of us came a tall rider. The horse's white coat contrasted brilliantly to the gloomy night, gleaming from the rain and spotted with mud. The rider actually owed his tallness to a great pointed hat. I could see him clearly now. A long beard flowed from his face like a silver river and his grey robes swirled around him in the wind like a fog. As always, Lamion was quick to be the first to give it words.
"Well met, Mithrandir!" He then cocked his head towards mine and in the semi-darkness I could just distinguish a grin twisted thereon. "If you used less time worrying, you might have heard the horse's feet and Mithrandir's whistle."
I stood up with an uncomfortably damp bottom and heated face. Ignoring my brother, I gawked at the renown wanderer. He spoke as he halted his horse before us. "It has been long, my good Elves. I hope you can spare me some time for talk!"
I took fierce pride that he, the Grey Wanderer, knew me by face if not by name. There was a limitless amount of tales centered around his deeds and wit. Unmatched was his wisdom about the world and there was nowhere he had not been. I wish I could have known his purposes and even have had a small part in those great schemes! I supposed that was all for wiser ones. Then being a lowly youth, I could only savor his acknowledging nods, at best. Surely he had not the time for one as I!
"We had heard rumors that you were about with a company. Though we hadn't known you were so far into this country."
The wanderer's eyes shone in good-humor under his hairy brows. But also beneath his gaze I beheld a scrutiny I had seen matched only by my Lord Elrond. We moved out of the wind and scattered rain into the cover of a wide tree as Mithrandir answered Lamion.
"Then you have been away from Rivendell too long, this journey has not been kept secret. I have been west for the better part of the year, and am sorely in need of news of the land. Yet still more in need of provisions."
Lamion sighed while I stood dumb, not trusting myself to speak. "If we only had more to spare! We have bread, but mostly we have been foraging roots and fish. There dwells no one to help you between here and Imladris. We could send some of our folk out to meet you…"
"That is not needed, we will be there soon enough. Though if we do not appear in a week, it may prove necessary. Now, tell me what news you have gathered!" He smiled, then looked deep at my brother. "But not in too much detail, I must go before dawn."
To my eyes, my brother shrunk, humbled as his high dominance fled. If anything it made me awe Mithrandir the more. Yet Lamion could not disguise the elation on his face at the chance to impart knowledge, though I noticed his following narration was a significant reduction from his usual ones.
"We have been traveling south and west, but have gathered most our news as we journeyed northwards. None of it is good. There have been sightings of large wolf packs close to the mountains, hence little of any other creature is to be found there. The sparrows speak of being restless and they dare not nest too close to the mountains' shadow. That bodes ill for you, Mithrandir, if you intend to pass over."
"Which I must, unfortunately."
Under Mithrandir's gaze of stone, Lamion could not give a string of comments and could only continue. "A Ranger told us of disappearances from nearby villages. Most troublesome is that trolls from the mountains have become bold enough to settle nigh the road. We are certain these two things are connected. Alone we do not wish to meet them. That is why we are hastening from this land, even through this night. You and your company should keep wary." He finished by folding his hands, satisfied and without a need to talk, for the moment. I had my chance to say something non-foolish to Mithrandir and I took it.
"Yes, there is word of terrible things from these trolls. Many a traveler has journeyed on the road and not returned." Here I shook my head clear of vivid imaginings. "That is why you will find no more settlements here. There is said to be three trolls, fully grown and cunning. We hope to bring back hunters and destroy them."
I shuddered. I felt bolder… like a star that had suddenly grown seven times as bright. Mithrandir looked thoughtful and distant for a moment, but a moment, before his eyes penetrated us again.
"Where dwell these trolls?"
"Whence you came, near the river. This we know, for the night before we saw their campfire." Lamion was quick to respond while I swallowed threatening bile, remembering too well the smells of roasted meats. Meat of whose origin I did not care to know. Mithrandir's voice brought me back and I smelled again damp earth.
"Thank-you. Might I ask you two to carry a message to Rivendell? Have your folk prepare fifteen stalls and room and food for fifteen weary travelers – myself, thirteen Dwarves and a Hobbit to be exact."
"Hobbit?" I said, "You speak of the little folk in the green hilled country? I never heard of one venturing so far!"
"This one, a Mr. Baggins, is special. Now, as I was saying, with the wet roads and considering I do not lose the way, we can be expected in…" He counted his fingers. "Four days. I shan't bother burdening you with the names of all my companions. If I know anything of your folk, our whole business has already spread to your valley."
"I shall give the message to Lord Elrond himself," said Lamion with a flourish of his hand. I resisted rolling my eyes.
"I hear you are a most diligent messenger." It took a moment to realize he was not looking at Lamion. He was looking at me. "I have something that needs to reach Curunír soon. Or should have already."
From his voluminous grey cloak he extracted a thin brown parcel. I took it from his creased hand, unable to avert my eyes from it, not even to look at his face. How could it be, that Mithrandir would entrust anything to me? My hands had a sudden limp feeling and I feared dropping it in the mud. The cover was a smooth leather, rather modest. Could it contain a message of great urgency, one that could halt disaster only by my swift delivery? I tried to say something formal and impressive, but I think all I managed was something between a squeak and a "yeth."
"Good, good. I am grateful." The whiskery chin nodded. I dared then to look into his eyes. What was there was not a so distant enigmatic look, but that of a soft kindness. I never before thought of Mithrandir as… as a friend. Always he had been an unreachable and ancient spirit to be awed and admired. Maybe I was wrong. Lamion surely had long recognized it as did all the others who spoke and laughed freely with Mithrandir. Maybe one thing Lamion was so fond of telling me was true, I did not let myself see what was straight ahead. How much there was I wished to ask then, without timidity to hinder me! So many things that I could not bring even one to mind.
"I am sorry I am doing all the asking, but I feel I am needed back. We shall speak more another time," Mithrandir said with smile that seemed less aloft than before. Raw still from my new understanding, I was unable to hide my regret at his quick departure.
My expression may have gone unnoticed by him, for he was then whistling for his great white horse, who had been standing patiently by. With surprising little tangle of robes, he slid into the saddle and reined the white around. Over his shoulder he said, "Remember, you may come for us if a week overdue. Farewell!"
We tried to give our farewells, but it was lost in a loud whinny. The horse gave a great thrust out into the wind and the rain, while atop Mithrandir clutched his lofty hat. I gripped tighter Mithrandir's leather bundle as I realized I had finally gotten a small part in his unfathomable designs. Exhaling, I watched the grey cloak and white steed become one with the wet forest, and still after, though there was naught to be seen. Then my brother looked at me, his face twisted in bare bemusement of the Wanderer. It was a reflection of my own thoughts.
"Never meddle in the affairs of Wizards," said he.
Tucking the parcel into my pack, I surprised myself. I laughed. "I know, Lamion. I know!"
Disclaimer: Quotes in summary from The Hobbit, chapter 2. I do not own or profit from Tolkien's Middle-earth or its peoples.
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.