16. Discussions, Hopes, Plans
The next few days’ travel was as rugged and difficult as Gandalf had predicted. Ted found himself tiring more then he had expected but he hid it well having no desire to slow them down. At the noon break for food and short rest Owen quietly alerted Eli to Ted’s growing fatigue. Worried, she asked Gandalf to stop for a day or two before they reached the human village using as an excuse her need to deal with her growing elvish traits. While she was worried about her uncle, she was just as concerned about being able to shield her thoughts and test her abilities to use her emerging skills as effectively as possible.
Gandalf had also noted Ted’s growing fatigue. He agreed somewhat reluctantly to stop when they reached that night’s campsite for a few days acknowledging that it was necessary on both counts.
“We have made better time than I had expected and it would be indeed wise for us to consider our future actions.” He allowed and then added as a caution. “What you have told me of the story you will use to aid you in mixing with the local people is a good one. I would advise you to stick to it and not elaborate on it.”
The three nodded in agreement as he continued. “You, Eli, will need to learn to shield your thoughts more thoroughly. I must admit you seemed to have already developed this untutored to a point where most elves would not be able to pierce them, but neither I, nor your father would have trouble doing so at the present time”
Eli frowned. “I wondered about that when the gwanur met us. Of course they would not have been expecting to ‘hear’ my thoughts since they took us for men.” She turned worried eyes to Gandalf. “Would I ever be able to cloak them from Lord Elrond, or the Lady Galadriel? Or you? Will I be safe from Sauron’s seeking once we reach the village?”
Gandalf nodded. “I will show you how to do so over the next few days and you can practice as we go. It would also be good for Owen and Theodore to practice their woodcraft. If you would allow me I can impart some basic knowledge directly to your memories but you will have to practice it to retain it beyond a week or two.”
Startled, Ted looked at the Maia, “You can do that?”
Gandalf chuckled, “There are a few skills I am allowed to use with discretion. I can also help some with your accents. Although given the circumstances of your acquiring our languages, you do speak both fairly well, but your pronunciation leaves much to be desired.”
Ted chuckled. “I did the best I could but I admit we had only the scholar’s writings. We had no one who knew where the proper emphasis on a syllable or letter should occur or the natural rhythm and pattern it followed when spoken. He was well known for his study of our earth languages and created several of his own with which to tell his stories. It is somewhat humbling to know what he wrote of really exist on another plane.”
“Mother was puzzled by the ability of Lord Elrond and her to understand one another when he visited Earth.” Eli added thoughtfully. “She could never explain it.”
“It does seem strange. Perhaps in time all will be revealed.” Gandalf looked at her with a questioning expression. “Why do you always refer to Elrond as Lord Elrond? Why not as ada or simply Elrond.”
Eli bit her lip as she considered the question. “I suppose because this all still seems unreal. We have yet to find some answers to several key questions and find our place here. I cannot afford to allow myself to accept him in any role but that of the Lord of Imladris just yet until we do. It may be that he will never know of me or be willing to acknowledge me if he does.”
She shrugged and continued. “I guess it is my way of being practical or protecting myself from disappointment. I have never had a father in my life up until now and I have never regretted it. Uncle Ted is the closest thing to one for me. Since I do not know how much of me will be elf kind, there is much I will need to know to make my way. Is it possible for someone from another world who is only a half elf to be accepted as one and would I be offered the choice that his other children have been given? And if I do choose to be elf kind, would I be accepted in Valinor when it is time for the rest the elves to sail?”
“What will you do if you are not accepted or offered the choice?”
“There is a reason for our coming here and I will do what I can to accomplish it. Once that has been dealt with I will seek a healing hall or village and settle down and work as a healer. There is much good I can do by applying the knowledge I bring from the healers on Earth. Many of those skills will remain beyond my ability to pursue here, and there is much I must learn about the plants and healing skills of Middle Earth, but in time I hope to be able to meld both together to provide the best healing for those in need of it.”
Gandalf nodded, “I do not know what will occur, but you have laid out a good road map to be followed for your future.”
He looked over at Owen who was adjusting his backpack straps before repositioning it over his shoulders. “What of you, Owen? Have you given any thought as to what you will do?”
Owen looked up startled. “Me?”
Ted grinned at his surprise. “That is something I would be interested in knowing as well son. You were sort of swept along with me in this. I really doubt you gave much thought to what lay beyond the crossing itself and the trip to Imladris.”
With all eyes on him Owen turned fire red then finally blurted out. “I want to join the rangers. I figure if I can learn the necessary skills they may be willing to accept my service. At home I would have joined the military for a tour or two anyway. I wanted to become a Special Forces type and the rangers here seem to be the closest thing to them I will find. The main difference is here the rangers’ families are on the front line and the rangers are protecting them on every day. Maybe I can do some good protecting the royal line of heirs until it is time for them to reclaim their throne.”
Ted and Eli both looked at Owen in startled amazement.
“Ah, the impetuousness of youth.” Gandalf chuckled. “If that is what you desire I believe I can put in a good word for you.” He grew serious. “It is a dangerous life, penneth. Their numbers grow ever fewer, and they can ill afford to turn aside one who is truly desirous of such service. They will however insist on testing your resolve and expect a period of evaluating your worth before you are fully accepted.”
Owen nodded. “I would expect nothing less.”
Gandalf turned next to Ted, “What would your desire be, Theodore?”
Ted laughed, “Without a doubt, access to the library at Imladris. I would like to learn as much as I can about the history of the Eldar. In all honesty I am quite selfish in my hunger for this knowledge. There were huge gapes in the stories available on Earth that I would like to fill in. I will never be able to tell my fellow scholars of my discoveries, but perhaps I will be able to provide the future people of Middle Earth with an insight that will be helpful to them after the elves have sailed.”
“And if it is denied?”
Ted shrugged, “I will teach where I can as long as I can. I have enough knowledge the history of Middle Earth that I can do simple instruction for children. I also have some knowledge of simple math and science that would be helpful for farming or trading. Then I will record and write the history of whatever people we settle with.”
Gandalf considered their comments before rising to resume their travel towards the human village. “I hope it soon becomes clear what lay before you. I will help where I can, but most efforts will be in your hands.”
The next three days were to prove even more draining for the intrepid travelers than had the intense travel they had previously accomplished. Gandalf was as good as his word passing on the knowledge he had promised often as they slept. Ted and Owen’s understanding of what they observed in the woods about them grew exponentially over each day and they were able to translate it to the satisfaction of their demanding teacher.
Eli found herself also tested as she practised the difficult techniques Gandalf instructed her in. His efforts to pierce the shields she created became less and less successful as she grew in skill. Their efforts to improve their speech patterns also showed progress although Gandalf found himself shaking his head at their lesser success.
Finally with a sigh he gave up. “You will have to do, I suppose. You will never sound like either the elves or the local humans, but your cover story should let you get by. We will resume our travel tomorrow and arrive at our destination the following day. I will introduce you to the head man and help you get settled but I will not be able to stay beyond a few days.”
Ted nodded his understanding. “You have already aided us more than we expected Master Gandalf. I hope we will be able to follow through and accomplish whatever task has been appointed to us. What you have done should help in that respect.”
Owen stood off to one side and beamed when Gandalf approached him. “With some additional weapons training, you should be accepted easily by the Dunedine Rangers, penneth. Just continue as you have begun.”
Gandalf placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it gently in approval before turning to Eli. “It will be a great pleasure to see you take your place at Elrond’s side Eleiann. I do not doubt it will happen and what knowledge of healing you bring will be most welcome.”
“I hope so, Master Gandalf. I have had no formal training, as do the real healers of Earth. What I learned was from working along side my mother. I do not know if any of the traits of the elven healers were passed from Lord Elrond to me, but I should be able to use some pretty basic understanding of proper techniques to everyone’s benefit.”
“Everyone get some rest, we must get an early start tomorrow.”