6. Rest and Healing
That afternoon, the Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood broke their long tradition that required all visitors to climb to their high flet and be presented before them in the Hall of Welcome. They had been fully forewarned about the condition of each member of the Fellowship. Instead, Celeborn and Galadriel climbed down to the glade at the base of the enormous mallorn tree that housed their royal dwelling and awaited their guests upon two tall chairs set beneath an open canopy upon the lawn.
Eight chairs arrayed in a half-circle awaited the Fellowship, and a place was left in the middle for the injured man's litter. The Companions names were announced, and one by one they entered the canopy and bowed before taking their seats. Gandalf came in last and stood behind the rest, his hands resting on the back of his chair.
Aragorn barely heard the solemn words of welcome Lord Celeborn spoke to them. His eyes were on the Lady, and his memory returned to his first visit to Lothlorien, decades ago. She had been uncommonly kind to him, providing him clothing more fit for an Elvish prince than for a ragged, wandering Ranger. He smiled slowly at the outlandish idea that she had seen something in him, something of worth; enough to grant her grace upon his wooing of her precious granddaughter. Her brother had seen something of worth three ages ago in one of his distant forefathers, and Finrod had pledged his friendship to Barahir with an ancient ring—the same ring that now graced the finger of his betrothed. How the circles of time and fate entwine about us… Then Aragorn felt Galadriel's gaze upon him, and his wandering thoughts settled.
She was testing them…testing him. He felt her intensely blue eyes lock onto his grey ones. The road will be darker than the darkest night. Worse peril than you have ever known lies before you. You must pass through mile upon mile of enemies lusting for your blood, Aragorn. Your body will be tested beyond mortal limits, and your heart will be torn open with grief. Do you have the strength for it? Do you have the will? He stood, frozen in a moment of doubt. Then he drew in a breath. I do. I must. He saw the flicker of her smile as her head turned and she focused on another.
He was aware then of the silence and tension around him, as each member of the Fellowship had their turn under her piercing gaze. It seemed to him that all of his companions stiffened, doubting their own strength for a moment, or two…or three. But each seemed to find his courage again. One by one they sighed and bowed their heads. They had passed their tests. Aragorn found himself wondering what inner questions had pressed them… But no. It was not his place to know what misgivings plagued the hearts of his Companions. They had earned his trust. He was proud of them, every one of them: great and small, experienced and untried, mortal and immortal.
He watched as Galadriel rose and stood at the side of Boromir's litter and looked down intently at the Steward's Heir. With but a brief pause, she smiled upon the man of Gondor. Boromir's face flushed.
"Lady, forgive my lack of courtesy," he stammered. "I…I should be standing to honor you, and not lying here like a weakling." But she placed her hand upon his and spoke aloud for the first time.
"Son of Gondor, you have shown me greater honor by your deeds in this Company than many who would come before me bearing priceless gifts on bended knee. Soon enough we shall ask for the full tale of your perilous journey," she said, and her eyes fell upon Frodo. "We know of the weighty purpose of your travels. The extraordinary task you have taken up shall determine the fate of all who live in this Age of the world. But for now it is sufficient to know that you have all shown great strength and courage." She gently squeezed Boromir's hand and released it. "Each one of you has brought honor to your people." She sought out Pippin's eyes and searched them for the second time. The young hobbit blushed fiercely and hung his head. "You should be proud of what you have accomplished in coming this far, so relatively unscathed."
Finally, Galadriel turned to Gandalf, who stood now with his hands clasped before him. She seemed not to notice the missing staff and hat, the tattered state of his robe, or even the bruises on his face. She looked only into his steel-grey eyes.
Silence fell as these two, reckoned among those wisest and most powerful in Middle Earth, gazed at one another, their faces unreadable as they searched one another's thoughts and hearts. Yet to Aragorn, who alone among the Fellowship could claim to know both these beings as well as a mortal man could, it seemed that the longer they gazed at one another, the more burdened they both appeared. Was that grief he saw in Galadriel's eyes, and had a shadow of dread reappeared on Gandalf's face? A shudder went through him. Then at the same moment, their eyes dropped and each one sighed. Gandalf's shoulders sagged as if with sudden weariness.
"There is much to discuss, my friends," Celeborn said, and Aragorn saw that the Elf Lord glanced back and forth between Galadriel and the Grey Wizard. "But not tonight. You are weary, and several are injured, and all require healing for your troubled spirits. A pavilion has been prepared for your use, and our most skilled healers await those who have need of their services. Go now, and rest."
Days and nights came and went, and the Fellowship gladly followed Lord Celeborn's advice. They all slept more deeply and longer than any of them had in many weeks. The hobbits had as many baths as they pleased, and Pippin felt full for the first time since he had left Rivendell. Frodo's bruised ribs and Sam's scalp cut healed so completely that they hardly knew they had been hurt. They sat together in the evenings, or strolled about and listened to the sweet music that filled the air of Caras Galadhon. They spoke of the beauty of the great green City, and of the nobility and majesty of the Lord and Lady. Aragorn and Legolas told the others what they knew of their long and often sorrowful history. Of the journey ahead they said nothing, nor did they yet speak of the most terrifying events they had witnessed and endured. But the thought of what was to come began to weigh on all their minds.
Late one afternoon, six members of the Fellowship were gathered near the large tented pavilion the Elves had erected for their use. Boromir lodged in a separate tent so that the healers of Lothlorien could tend to him day and night. Pippin, who visited him several times each day, reported that the warrior was improving, slowly but steadily. Legolas had gone into the City to explore. No one knew Gandalf's whereabouts. Indeed, although the wizard returned to the Company each evening, during the daylight hours he was often away on some errand of his own.
"How many days have we been here? Can anyone tell?" Merry yawned from where he lounged in a swinging hammock.
"Five days—no, six, I think," said Frodo from his low chair. "Or maybe more. It is hard to tell, isn't it? Everything is so peaceful, and feels so apart from the rest of the world. Time doesn't seem to count here."
"Yet it does," Aragorn said between puffs on his pipe. The Ranger sat stretched out upon the grass, his back leaning against the trunk of a mallorn. "Though to us it may seem that time has ceased, the days flow by in Lothlorien as swiftly as elsewhere, to the grief of the Galadhrim, for they see their land fading and their time passing away. But we arrived in the City seven days ago, and crossed the northern boundary of this land at near to midnight—two of our Company after midnight--four days before that. We left Moria a few hours past noon on January 15, and today is the 27th."
"It seems impossible to think that less than three weeks ago we were trudging through a blizzard on the Redhorn Pass," Frodo said with a shiver. "That feels as though it happened an age ago...or to someone else entirely."
Sam sighed. "I wonder how my Bill is faring, with all those wolves..."
"Don't worry, Sam! I'll bet he's back in Rivendell by now," Frodo said. "What I wonder is how dear Bilbo is doing, especially if Rivendell's winter was as fierce as what we encountered on our way up toward Caradhras."
"And I wonder where Strider got hold of some pipeweed," Pippin grumbled.
Aragorn drew in softly and blew out a ring of smoke. "From my pack, Master Took. Some of us know how to ration our supplies for future times of need."
Pippin sniffed. "And some of us know how to share their rations with friends."
The Ranger chuckled. "Alas, my friend, this bowlful was the very last of my supply of Southfarthing leaf. And in the days ahead, who can tell when, or if, any of us will again enjoy a peaceful smoke?"
Aragorn's comment came as close to facing their uncertain future as any of them wanted to hear. Suddenly, it seemed that each member of the Company desired to be somewhere else.
"Well, Merry, what do you say to a visit to old Boromir?" Pippin said with forced cheerfulness.
"Excellent idea, Pip," Merry agreed, as he swung his short legs off the hammock and jumped to the ground.
"I'll join you," Aragorn said as he stood. "If you'll have me, that is, after my shameless act of selfishness."
Pippin rolled his eyes. "Oh, I suppose you can come. As long as you behave yourself."
"Aragorn, do you know where Gandalf's got to?" Frodo asked. He, too, was rising from his chair.
"I do not, but he might be found in the healer's tents," Aragorn said. "Why not join us?"
"We'll do that." Frodo and Sam stood by the tall Ranger.
Gimli stretched as he stood. "Do you suppose these Elves might be civilized enough to have a public house, where a thirsty traveler might purchase a mug of ale?"
Aragorn laughed. "Elves tend not to indulge much in ale. But there is a sort of public house, you might call it, known as the Golden Leaf, where wines, brandies and other cordials are served to those who gather to hear music and tales in the evenings." He instructed Gimli as to the location, noting with amusement that Merry and Pippin were paying close attention.
In the end, all six decided to pay a visit to Boromir.
"What a pleasure, friends!" Boromir cried when they appeared at his doorway. "My gentle captors tell me that soon I can rejoin my companions and abandon this agreeable imprisonment!" He was dressed in a loose-fitting white bed shirt. Although it was clear the Gondorian was still quite weak, and had lost a great deal of weight, his color was improved. He sat up in bed against several pillows. With Aragorn and Gimli's assistance he dangled his feet over the side and took a short walk about his tent.
Merry, Pippin and the Ranger settled in to spend a few hours at the recovering warrior's bedside. Gimli strode off in search of the Golden Leaf. Frodo inquired of Gandalf's whereabouts to the healer, and learned that the wizard had not been seen by them in several days.
"When you see him, Master Hobbit, if you would be so kind to remind him that in our opinion we are not quite finished with his treatments, though he may feel otherwise."
As they walked away, Sam muttered, "Mr. Frodo, if I were you, I'd let that healer deliver his own message to Mr. Gandalf."
"Agreed," Frodo smirked. "I'm not about to scold a wizard for playing truant!"
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.