7. The Journey Begins
The winter passed quickly and at the first signs of thaw, the Wandering Company began preparations to leave. Rúmil had packed and repacked so many times that it had become a family joke.
"I do not know what to take or how much," Rúmil groaned.
Orophin was no help, finding more fun to mess with the young elf. Haldir, on the other hand did all he could to guide his little brother. When the day of departure finally arrived, the elder Marchwarden was confident that the younger elf had what was needed. He knew that the elves in the Wandering Company would make sure Rúmil was taken care of. The three stood together amidst the caravan of horses and wagons. Haldir was dressed for duty; he decided that an extended boarder patrol would keep him from missing Rúmil too much. Orophin was dressed for travel and would also be leaving the woods, heading to Imladris with correspondence. Orophin hugged Rúmil and bid him a safe and happy adventure before mounting his horse and racing from the city. Haldir had promised himself that he would not embarrass his brother with a long, drawn out, emotional good bye. Still, he held the young elf in a tight embrace, whispering words of love, support and advice.
Rúmil pulled away and smiled at his big brother. "I will be careful. Thank you. I have wanted this more that you know."
Haldir took his brother's hand and dropped a leather pouch that jingled when it landed. "Something to tide you over until you get settled. Things are acquired differently out there. I am proud of you." He let go and stepped back.
Rúmil thanked his brother, pocketed the pouch, mounted his horse and joined the caravan.
"Behave!" Haldir called out as the procession began to move.
Rúmil looked back, winked and waved a final time.
Haldir turned towards the barracks to gather his things. The Golden Wood would be very different now…much quieter.
Rúmil rode amid the Wandering Company, talking with friends he had made and trying not to feel as scared as he did. Now that he was actually leaving, he had doubts. The elves of the company were far more free-spirited than the Silvans of Lothlórien. They sang and danced as they went, laughed and joked. There was no apparent concern of orc attack; they certainly did not hide their presence. Rúmil was used to stealth and the group seemed extremely loud.
Gildor had decided to leave Rúmil to his own devices for a spell. He did not want the young elf to think that he was being watched or protected. Although Galadriel had asked Gildor to take the young one along, the elf-lord wanted Rúmil to know that he was a free elf, an adult who could do as he pleased so long as it did not bring harm or dishonor to those around him. Sensing the emotions in the young guardian, Gildor sent a page through the group to fetch Rúmil. The Lórien elf spurred his horse and moved to the front of the group.
You wanted to see me, milord?" Rúmil asked with a slight bow.
Gildor chuckled. "All right, penneth. First, no sir or lord or bowing. Leave that at the border. Secondly, I know that this is all new for you and a little overwhelming. Oh, do not feel embarrassed," he added as Rúmil's cheeks flushed. "As endearing as that blush is…" Rúmil turned more crimson. "There is every reason to feel excited and scared. Do you not think I felt the same way when I left my home?"
"How old were you when you left your home?" Rúmil thought it best to not ask where home was at this point.
"A bit older than you I think," Gildor answered. "I want you to understand that I am not your keeper. You have the same freedoms as any other member of this group. I have already spoken with my Captain and once you get acclimated to this way of life, you will be put on guard and scouting duty. You will receive a small stipend for your effort, though nothing you need will require payment within the Company. But there may be things - more of a 'want' - that you would like; things you can acquire from the places we go. Just remember, you are responsible for carrying all of your belongings, aside from a tent."
Rúmil listened carefully to everything the elf-lord said. These were things that had not really been discussed earlier. He noticed that Gildor looked more relaxed; his tunic was opened a little more, and his mannerisms were more casual. It made Rúmil desire the elf all the more. He continued to ride at Gildor's side, asking questions about the first leg of the journey and listening to all who offered information. Rúmil was beginning to get sore when Gildor called for a halt. They had passed out of sight of the Golden Wood a few hours earlier. The caravan began to organize the clearing, setting areas for the horses, food preparation and eating areas, sleeping sections and sentry posts. Rúmil offered to take a watch and after some pleading with Gildor's captain, was allowed to join the first watch.
"Jumping in to your duties already?" Gildor commented as they eat supper.
"I may not know the surrounding area, but I can keep watch. I do not see a reason to wait," Rúmil replied.
Elrilon, Gildor's captain joined them. "I wish others had your attitude, penneth," he said. Turning to Gildor, he remarked, "I guess it will take this pup a while to loosen up." The older elves laughed. "Forgive me Rúmil," the captain added. "I mean no disrespect. There is a place for discipline, but you will find the overall atmosphere of this group…very relaxed."
"You all do seem…more at ease than even the Imladrean elves," Rúmil said. "I hope I do not embarrass myself, but it will take some time to let go of the attitude and cautiousness of a Golden Wood guardian."
Gildor looked at the young elf next to him. So young, yet so mature, the ancient elf's heart stirred and this time not in lust. He would love to find someone like Rúmil to share his life with. Not just someone…his heart wanted Rúmil.
"I should go figure out where to put my bed roll before I get set for look-out." Rúmil stood to leave.
Gildor stopped him. "You will see my things just under that oak tree. He pointed across camp. "You are free to join the captain and me, if you wish. Or," he added, "you may wish to join some of the younger elves over there."
"I think I will join you this evening. I promise I will make some friends my own age. Thank you for putting up with me for the time being." Rúmil gave a little bow and went to set out his things.
Gildor's captain watched the young elf go. "He is as beautiful on the inside as he is on the outside, sire."
"How often do I have to tell you…" Gildor was glaring.
The captain held up his hand. "You are who you are and I serve you as I did your father! And I would not waste too much time, or you will find someone else vying for Rúmil's attention. I have already seen many appreciative glances thrown his way." The brown haired elf gathered his dinner dishes and took them to the cleaning area before joining a group of elves playing cards. He hoped Gildor would heed his advice.
Gildor, for his part, sat alone to finish his dinner. A wave of sadness swept over him. His second had served under his father and was one of the few elves to survive. When they had met, there was no denying him as he insisted on staying and serving his liege's heir. Gildor allowed an elleth to take his plate. After sitting for another moment, he got up and wandered off into the dusk.
Rúmil watched him go, wondering about the shadow that hung about the noble face.
When Rúmil returned from guard duty, he was surprised to see the captain sitting by the fire alone. "Lord Gildor has not returned?" the young elf asked.
The captain looked up. "No. But do not worry, he will return before we break camp."
"Have you been with the company long?" Rúmil asked, from his bedroll.
"From the beginning," came the soft answer.
"May I ask you something then?"
The older elf eyed Rúmil. He knew where this was leading and regretted not being able to tell the young elf everything. "You may ask, but I cannot promise to answer."
Rúmil nodded and rethought his question. "What can you tell ne about Lord Gildor? I am afraid I now very little about him, and despite his casual manner, he does not seem to be very open about himself."
"You are right, he is not. There is much I cannot tell you, as it is for Gildor to decide what you know. What I will say is this. First…do not call him lord, he does not like titles. Next, I can tell you that he has lived a long time, seen more than most, is more than he will give himself credit for, and very lonely. He needs a companion or I fear he will sail." The captain stopped as a shadow immerged from the darkness.
"Still awake Rúmil? I thought you would be in reverie by now." Gildor flashed a mischievous smile that did not quite reach his eyes. "Perhaps he should take two watches, Captain." He winked at the young elf as the captain chuckled.
At that moment, Rúmil have an exaggerated yawn and stretch. The three elves laughed. "Good night, sir," Rúmil said with a smile to the captain. As he lay back on his bed roll, he said in the sweetest voice he could, "Good night *lord* Gildor." He and the captain laughed as Gildor settled in for the night mumbling something about cheeky younglings.
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.