Beyond the Mists - Chapter Six
The silence was broken only by the loud snoring of the sleeping hobbits, which were blissfully ignorant of the tense atmosphere around them.
"Come, take some rest." Aragorn continued just as gently, gesturing to the blankets. Nessa remained unmoving and quiet.
"My Lady, please. Understand, we do not wish to be rid of you in that sense - but our quest is very dangerous. I cannot allow you to put yourself in such peril. It is for the best." Gandalf tried to convince her.
Yet where as before she had been in a state of shock, now her heart was stirred into rebellion. Her voice was as powerful as when Tuor had spoken before Turgon all those ages ago, as if the Valar themselves placed the words on her tongue.
"No, you do not shun me for want of speed, but because I am woman. A mere woman, who should stay behind the caged walls of her fathers will and stray not into the Great Tales, of which are none of my concern. And you worry yourself with my safety? Do not trouble so - a desire for freedom and for the heat of battle is as strong in my heart as in that of any man and I know how to defend myself. A spirit of fire, trapped within the bonds of others I have been. But no longer. I will decide and choose my own life for myself. I am my own person. You shall not pick my destiny for me, nor shall any other. Not this time." The wind rose like the Lady's voice and her hair streamed out behind her like a golden banner. To the eyes of the travelers, she became like to an elf maiden of old. So amazed and breath taken they were that they each took a step back. Yet the moment passed, and the companions were left very confused, very tired and wondering what aid this Lady could bring.
As the pale morning light of the sun began to skim across the rugged landscape, Nessa found herself at complete ease under warm blankets and for a while she lay there, pondering the night events. She was now a member of the Fellowship, she smiled proudly, and so she thought it a good idea to get to know the others as soon as possible. Not seeing Boromir watching her intently from a distance, she tried to draw some sort of conclusion about each of her fellows: Gandalf - a wizard, she knew that and very powerful she sensed; Aragorn - there was definitely more to him than met the eye, he wasn't the type of man you met every day; Legolas - he was an elf and to her that just about summed it up; Gimli - Nessa knew at once that she would get on with the dwarf, they had so much in common; and Boromir. Now he was a little harder to figure out. He gave the impression of a fearless warrior, yet Nessa sensed that he had one very important weakness, though she couldn't put her finger on it. Last night he had been given her very strange looks - rather like the ones her was giving her now, she realized suddenly and turned her eyes to meet his. For a moment they locked and a funny lurch was in her stomach.
But he turned away swiftly and the feeling passed leaving Nessa frowning, confused. But she didn't have much time to dwell upon these thoughts - the others were waking now and it was time for her to meet the hobbits.
"Meriadoc Brandybuck," said the cheerful hobbit a few minutes later, "and this is my cousin Peregrin Took, but just call us Merry and Pippen. And this is Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins." he added, sticking his hand out in a friendly way.
"Nessa of Leithen." she beamed, shaking his hand as Sam eyed her suspiciously.
"Old Strider told me you were a Princess." stated the stout hobbit.
"Well...yes, " she replied uneasily," but just call me Nessa, please. And who's Strider?"
"Aragorn - he means Aragorn." cut in a dark haired hobbit.
"So you must be Frodo - I've heard lots about you. Only good things, honest!" she added laughing, quickly joined by the hobbits.
Soon the entire Fellowship were packed up and had once again begun their perilous journey, hugging the shoulders of the mountains. For it had been decided that the risk of being seen again was too great and that it would be best if they disappeared from view for a while. Therefore Gandalf had suggested they pass through the Mines of Moria, Dwarrowdelf of old. Gimli, as was to be expected, was incredibly eager to take such a road - but the others were not so sure. Aragorn in particular was uneasy with the idea and he warned Gandalf against it. Yet the hobbits seemed to think it well enough to follow him and they were undeterred by Aragorn's misgivings.
For Nessa, the idea couldn't have been more perfect. She knew that by now her father would know she was gone and he would search far and wide. She also knew the Fellowship desired to disappear from the surface quickly, so they would go with all the speed they could. She had to keep away from the knights and right now Moria sounded like the best way of doing so.
By the time the sun was fully risen, the had already traveled beyond the sight of their camp. They proceeded in this manner: Gandalf leading, Gimli at his side; Frodo with Sam, who led Bill; Merry, Pippen and Boromir followed in suit; Aragorn and Nessa together; and Legolas at the rear, his sharp eyes and keen ears on the look out for danger.
As they walked, Aragorn explained to the Lady many things that had been left unanswered the night before. Although Nessa now knew the reason for the Fellowship's existence, form where they came and where they went, she did not now the story of the Ring itself.
"It began thousands of years ago, in the Second Age of the world. There were in that time forged 19 rings of power - 3 for the Elves, 7 for the Dwarves and 9 for Mortal Men. Each ring had the strength and will to govern each race - yet Sauron the Deceiver in secret forged another ring, to control all others. The One Ring. One by one, the other rings succumbed to its power, so that now all the 7 and the 9 he knows of. But the three he has never touched, for they remain hidden and are unsullied by him.
So a great battle was fought upon the very slopes of Mount Doom and Sauron was over thrown by Isildur, son of the King, my forefather. All you need to know is that Isildur did not destroy the Ring as was urged by Elrond Half-elven, but kept it. For the Ring can only be unmade in the place it was forged - in the flames of the Mountain of Fire. But the Ring was lost and for the last 3000 years, the Ring of Power lay beyond the grasp of Sauron.
Yet now evil is stirring and the Dark Lord grows strong, calling all evil to him - especially the Ring. For above all else he yearns for it, as the Rings yearns for him. So we Nine were chosen to represent the races of Middle Earth. We go without hope or a prayer to destroy the Ring."
Whoa, thought Nessa, and I didn't know this? I really needed to get out more! For a while they walked in silence, though Gandalf an Gimli were in an almost constant discussion over something or other - Nessa couldn't hear what. Still, it was early afternoon before they paused and they had been traveling for hours. Nessa was completely out of her reckoning, but she had been prepared for the worst - after all, you can't expect to go trekking through the Wilderness without getting sore feet and blisters. Surprisingly though, she felt fine but the short stop refreshed her. The other members of the Fellowship were faring well too and Nessa supposed they must be used to this sort of thing by now. However the hobbits did become weary sooner than the others. Therefore it was decided that to speed up, the hobbits should ride two at a time Elformen while Nessa led them. In this way they moved a lot faster and before night could fully set in they had come to a great rock face in the mountains.
Staring up at it, Nessa knew that it couldn't be what it seemed - the cliff was to smooth and sheer a drop. The faces of the others showed dread and foreboding and Nessa felt uneasy. This place, there was something not right about it. The hairs stood up on the back of her neck and she went ice-cold. Some-one was watching them! But glancing around, there was nothing to be seen in the gathering gloom save barren land, mountains and a great black lake behind them.
"What is this place?" she whispered to Boromir, who was standing beside her.
"The Mines of Moria," he muttered,"A vast net of underground tunnels and halls beneath the mountain."
Nessa was confused. Doesn't look much like a mountain, she thought, more like a cliff.
"The Mines of Moria are hidden from those who know not what they look for, "said Gandalf, scanning the rock, "Aha, here we are..."and he traced his hand across it. Suddenly as the clouds above parted and the suns last ray finally fell beyond the West, the moons light streamed down on them, illuminating a silvery outline of a door. Nessa gasped - the door was huge and beautifully decorated with a tree, stars and what looked like a hammer or something similar.
At once Gimli's eyes as bright as the moon and he hurried forward to read the elvish script at the top.
"Speak friend and enter." mumbled Gandalf half an hour later. They had successfully translated the writing but it seemed that to open the doors a password was needed - which of course, they didn't have. As the minutes ticked by, Nessa became more and more uneasy.
She sat down on a large boulder and was soon joined by Boromir; Legolas stood unmoving in the shade of a large holly tree by the door; the hobbits were either resting or skimming stones across the lake; and Aragorn was peering out into the gloom, sharing Nessa's uneasiness.
The Lady was completely unprepared for what happened next.