Highlighting winners of The Gathering writing contest, Toronto December 2003.

Lothlórien began to fade soon after Galadriel left for the Grey Havens and Celeborn went to Rivendell.  The golden leaves of the majestic mallorn trees began to fall before their normal time in the spring.  Many of the remaining elves left with their Lady, signaling the end of time for the elves in Arda.  There were a few that decided to stay.

Haldir and his brothers were among the few.  They did not feel the calling to leave this world.  They felt another calling: to explore the world.  After much planning, they left their beloved Lórien behind them and headed south.

They traveled for many years, settling down here and there until they grew weary of their surroundings.  They came across other elves in their travels, many of which were regretting their decisions to stay in Arda.  But the last of the ships had left these shores long ago, never to return.  As time went on, they had to keep their anonymity.  The race of men looked upon the elves as evil creatures and something to fear.  Most of the elves that had stayed behind had faded.

The brothers witnessed many wonderful things in history.  They journeyed to the beautiful oasis city of Giza and witnessed the raising of the Great Pyramid by the pharaoh, Khufu, and the construction of the Step Pyramid of King Zoser at Saqqara by the famous architect, Imhotep.

The brothers headed northeast to the flourishing city of Babylon nestled on the Euphrates River.  It was under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar II, who had his people create the exotic Hanging Gardens, which were built to please Nebuchadnezzar's concubine.  The elves took pleasure in lending their skills with the planting of the gardens, earning a few coins to use in their travels.  But they would not take part in Nebuchadnezzar's building of the Tower of Babel, seeing it as something evil.  Rumor had it that Nebuchadnezzar wanted to raise a tower so high he could reach his God.  They decided it was time to move on shortly after the tower crashed to the ground and people started talking in strange tongues.

They traveled on for many centuries, even going as far as China and studying the art of T'ai Chi ch'uan.  They found the Chinese to be a disciplined people and stayed through many dynasties.  After observing the building of the Great Wall, they traveled the Silk Road back to the west.

They arrived in Rome to witness the beginning of the Roman Empire, the crucifixion of the peaceful man, Jesus, by Pontius Pilot, the popularity of Christianity, and eventually the fall of the Roman Empire.

The brothers traveled north to find their familiar stomping grounds were gone.  Haldir, Orophin and Rúmil were devastated.  The Roman influence had changed their lands and great cities such as Minas Tirith were long gone.  Nothing remained of their Golden Wood.  The senseless Inquisition held the lands in fear, which were called the Dark Ages.  Plagues broke out from the filthy conditions Man was living in, decimating great populations of people.

Then came the period known as the Renaissance.  They met the great Leonardo DaVinci.  They held enormous respect for the man, who was an animal-loving vegetarian, artist, scientist and inventor.  The elves revealed themselves to him and Leonardo took great fascination in their historical stories, like their description of Jesus Christ and his suffering.  They told him of the Ring and the Great War, and of Saruman and Sauron and their Palantírs.  Leonardo shared with them his knowledge of herbs, astronomy, biology, mechanics, engineering and his study of flight.

The brothers sailed aboard the Santa Maria as crewmates with Christopher Columbus to find a new trade route to the Indies.  They the ocean currents brought them to the New World months later.  Columbus' men took natives as prisoners after discovering the New World had many riches.  The men became obsessed over gold and raped and pillaged with the savagery of orcs.

The brothers moved north through vast forests; none compared to their beautiful Lothlórien.  They met many people throughout the lands, all living in harmony with nature not unlike the elves.  They lived amongst them for many years, feeling satisfied, until the white man came.  They brought with them disease and hatred, which wiped out many of the natives.  More men arrived, bringing with them ships filled with dark-skinned slaves to do their bidding.

The brothers were living in a city called Boston.  Outrage rose over the taxes from the Mother country, England, leaving the colonists frustrated and angry.  The colonists rose up and rebelled against England.  England sent over troops to deal with the colonists.  The brothers helped fight against the tyranny of the British.  They learned how to shoot muskets, though nothing compared or would replace their bows.

They witnessed the Civil War, finding nothing civil about it.  They saw many killed and wept over the waste of life.  They headed west and were shocked over the treatment of America's natives.

They were in California for the gold rush and made a fortune panning for gold in the wilderness.  It had a lackluster shine compared to mithril, their long forgotten precious metal.  Many people made their fortunes in California but soon the gold ran dry.

The Depression was a difficult time for many.  The brothers had been smart with their gold and made it through without much financial damage.  Right around the corner was World War II.  It amazed the brothers after living for so long, that men still battled like they did, unable to let each other live in peace.  They heard about the attack of Pearl Harbor and the great destruction caused by the atomic bombs dropped on Japan and couldn't fathom the scale of life lost.

Many more wars happened over the years.  The brothers took to living in the mountains in the eastern part of the country, away from large populations.  They found themselves growing weary of mankind and man's hatred for each other.  After many years of the mountain life, they decided to give mankind another chance and left their mountain home and headed south.

2003 - Present Time

Carolyn sat at her desk where she had been for the past few hours.  She was typing on her laptop, trying to finish the latest chapter in her story.  Thunderstorms had ripped through the area all evening, and another one was just about on her doorstep.  "Thank goodness for batteries," she said, typing on her laptop, as another flash and loud crash knocked out the electric.  Her computer screen made an eerie glow in the room.  She looked up suddenly, sensing something was wrong.  She looked down at her dog, Milo, at her feet shaking because of the storm.

Carolyn grabbed her flashlight and went to the door.  "Come on Milo!"  He got up, his tail down against his rump, taking off to hide under her bed.  "Coward!"  She opened the door and looked across the back yard towards the barn, just in time to see the barn door slammed shut.  "Oh no you don't!" she said, reaching for her shotgun.  She checked to make sure that it was loaded, taped the flashlight to the barrel, put on her raincoat and was out the door.

She walked cautiously to the barn door.  The rain was coming down in buckets and the ground was covered in deep puddles.  Lightning flashed across the sky followed by a loud clap of thunder.  She swung the door open, the barrel of the shotgun pointing inside.  The lightning flashed again, briefly illuminating the inside of the barn.

"I know you are in here.  Show yourself."

A tall man stepped out of the shadows.  "I mean you no harm.  I am only seeking shelter from the storm."

"You should have come to my door instead of sneaking around in my barn."  She looked the stranger over with her flashlight.  He was soaking wet, water was dripping from the rim of his Stetson and his long blonde hair stuck to his back and shoulders, clinging to his white tank top.  He had on cut off denim shorts and leather sandals on his feet.  He had beautiful blue eyes that sparkled in the flashlight's beam.  She picked up a sound to her right.  "You have friends with you?"

Haldir nodded to the shadows.  Orophin and Rúmil stepped out where they could be seen.  "I travel with my brothers, Orophin and Rúmil.  My name is Haldir."

Carolyn smiled.  "You have accents.  Where are you from, Europe?"

"Yes, we came from Europe a while back.  Would you mind?" he asked, motioning towards the shotgun still aimed in their direction.  She ripped the flashlight off and tucked the gun under her arm.  "May we have your name?" Haldir asked.

"My name is Carolyn."  Haldir and his brothers bowed to her, making her giggle.  "You must be from Europe!"  The rain was coming down harder and a lake of water was forming outside, rising through the barn door.  She stared at it and frowned.  She turned to the brothers, "You seem like you are okay.  A bit strange, but okay.  Come inside until the rain stops."

They followed her across the yard to the large house.  Everything was still dark in the house except for the glow of her laptop screen.  Carolyn dashed through the doorway and held the door open for the strangers.  She took off her raincoat and hung it on the coat rack.  "I'll get you some towels."

The brothers looked around the room.  There was a window slightly open and the wind blew in, chilling their wet skin.  Carolyn returned with a stack of thick towels.  Haldir removed his hat and began drying his hair.  She handed towels to his brothers.  "So what are you doing so far out of town?  Most visitors to Florida don't come out to cattle country."

"We are not like most visitors.  We don't like crowds.  We prefer natural surroundings." Orophin said.

"Well, you should be careful.  The law around here keeps a close eye on suspicious strangers.  If there is one thing that Punta Gorda isn't short on, it's cops.  Not exactly dressed for hiking around either," she commented, looking at the leather sandals they all wore.

"It is too hot for boots," Rúmil said.

"Well you would be wishing for boots if you came across a snake or fire ants!"  She saw that they were shivering.  "Dry yourselves off and sit down.  I'll make some coffee.  Are you hungry?" she asked, heading for the kitchen.

  They walked around he study, looking at her library of books.  Many books were on history, herbs, medicine, plants and animals.  Some were very ancient, even their smell was of ages long past.  Haldir pulled out a book on art history.  He glanced through the pages, coming across a familiar face.  "Look at this!" he called to his brothers.  It was a self-portrait painting.  "It's Leonardo!"

"You like the arts?" Carolyn asked.  She set the coffee pot and a plate of sandwiches on the table and lit a candle.  She looked over her guests with her golden green eyes, noting how they stood upright and proud, their motions flawless.  These were not ordinary vagrants wandering into town.  They reminded her of... she looked into Haldir's eyes trying to figure him out.  Haldir.  She knew that name.

"You have quite the book collection, Carolyn," he said replacing the book.  He removed one of her herb books and thumbed through its pages.  He found a picture that he recognized right away.  "Kingsfoil."

"What did you say?" she asked.

"This plant," he said, holding up the book.  "Where we come from it is known as..."

"Kingsfoil," she finished.  "In today's times it is called Achillea millefolium or yarrow.  Kingsfoil is an ancient name, elf."

Haldir and his brothers turned their heads towards Carolyn with cautious looks on their faces.  "Elf?" Rúmil said gloweringly.  "What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about these," she said, pulling her dark hair back, revealing tiny pointed ears.  "I should have known when I first saw the three of you.  And your name, Haldir.  I have heard that name before, Guardian of Lothlórien.  And of course, your brothers, Rúmil and Orophin.  It has been a while since I have heard your names."

The brothers were shocked.  It had been millenniums since they had seen another elf, let alone a female.  "How is it that you know us?" Haldir asked.  Carolyn went to the bookshelf and removed a large book with an ornate red leather cover.  She handed it to him.  Haldir looked at the cover and read it aloud, "'The Lord of the Rings', by J.R.R. Tolkien.  What is this?" he asked.

"It is the story of Middle-earth.  About Sauron and the Ring.  About Men, Hobbits, Dwarves and Elves.  It is about you, too, Haldir."

"How is this possible?" Haldir asked, turning the book over in his hands.  Who is J.R.R. Tolkien?"

"He is my kin," she said.  "His mother was my sister.  We are the daughters of King Aragorn and Queen Arwen."

The brothers were stunned.  "Aragorn and Arwen, your parents?  You were just a babe when we left Lothlórien.  But your name, Carolyn?  That is not an elvish name."

"I changed my name and have changed it many times.  There are not too many Isilwen Arcamenel's around now days!  My sister changed her name several times as well.  The last name she went by was Mabel Suffield.  I was going by Beatrice Suffield.  We were living in South Africa at the time, in the late 1890's.  My sister fell in love with a man.  I tried to stop her, tried to keep her away from him.  She married Arthur Reuel Tolkien in the spring of 1891 and she had John the following January.  Two years later she had another son, Hilary."

"We all lived in South Africa until John turned four, when Arthur and my sister decided to go to Birmingham, England so the boys would get a proper education.  Mabel and I sailed with the boys while Arthur stayed behind and promised to be on the next ship.  He never came.  He died from complications of rheumatic fever.  My sister was never the same after that.  She died eight years later, unable to live without Arthur anymore.  When she died, I raised the boys and told them of their ancestors."

She pointed to the red book in Haldir's hand.  "He was fascinated with the War of the Ring and the people of Middle-earth.  It took him eleven years to write it, and another six to get it published."

"Where is he now?" Haldir asked.

Carolyn took a deep breath and sighed.  "He is gone.  He did not choose immortality like his mother and I did.  His wife, Edith, had passed two years before him and he seemed to fall apart after she died."  She handed Haldir another book, `The Silmarillion.'  "He worked on this for over fifty years, never seeing it published," she said, a sad smile on her face.  "His son, Christopher, finished it."

"Are there others around?" Rúmil blurted out.  Suddenly the lights came on.

"There are others."  Carolyn got up and opened the door.  It had stopped raining and the moon was bright.  She stepped outside the door and rang a large bell that hung on the side of the door.  She motioned for them to come outside.  "Wait," she said.

The rain had cooled the night air considerably.  The rainwater had run off and the brothers stepped out into the yard and looked around.  They could see tiny spots of light coming from houses far off.  They heard the sound of hooves coming from all directions.  Haldir reached for a dagger from his belt.  Carolyn touched his hand.  "You don't need that.  Wait."

The riders closed in.  The first to arrive was a blonde-haired woman with blue eyes.  She took off her hat and the brothers got a glimpse of her ears.  "Linwe!" Rúmil said running up to the woman.

"Rúmil!  Orophin!  Haldir!!!  By the Valar!  You live!" Linwe shouted, embracing each of the brothers.  Another rider approached.  "Lothriel!  Come look!"

Linwe took Lothriel's hand and dragged her to the three brothers.  Lothriel's mouth dropped open.  She ran to Orophin, giving him a hug.  "It is wonderful to see you again, Orophin.  Rúmil, Haldir, it is wonderful to see you all."

More horses were approaching.  Haldir took hold of Carolyn's hand.  "Where do they all come from?" he asked.

"We purchased this land many years ago.  I'd say we have over five hundred acres.  We lease the lands to local cattle ranchers for grazing.  They leave us alone.  It's quiet and peaceful here." Carolyn said smiling.

Several more riders arrived, Haldir recognizing more faces.  He turned to Carolyn and smiled.  "How many of you are there living here?"

"There are about forty of us here."  More hooves could be heard in the distance.  The brothers all looked at each other and smiled.  After all their adventures together through time, they realized how lonely they all were for more of their kind.  "Perhaps three more will be added to our little colony?" Carolyn said.

"Perhaps," Haldir said, grinning from ear to ear.

The elves lit a bonfire in the yard and lay blankets on the ground.  They sat around the fire and sang and danced and played harps like they did ages ago.  The brothers finally felt at peace.  They had come home.

The festivities continued throughout the night.  Haldir went into Carolyn's study, picking up the red leather book and opened the cover.  Inside was a hand-written inscription.  To my loving Aunt Isilwen, who taught me everything I know about Middle-earth.  Much love, John.  Haldir sat down on the couch and turned the page and began to read.  "When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday..."

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