Lady From Beyond the Sea - Chapter 10--Farewell to Lorien
"The path that you shall tread lies before your feet, though you do not see it." Galadriel's parting words echoed in Zandra's mind as the Company gathered in their pavilion to take counsel together. She knew that Galadriel had meant them as comfort, but they filled her with a sense of foreboding. She did not like the sense of being rushed down a path not of her own choosing. She was wary of that ever since Dyryn. She had let him choose the path, and she had ended up imprisoned.
For a long time they debated what they should do, and how it would be best to attempt the fulfilling of their purpose with the Ring; but they came to no decision. It was plain that most of them desired to go first to Minas Tirith, and to escape at least for a while form the terror of the Enemy. Indeed, this plan also appealed to Zandra, she would love to stay as far from Sauron as possible, for she did not wish to be in his clutches again, but these fears were known to her from the first. It seemed to her that to go to Minas Tirith would only be delaying the inevitable, indeed it might be harmful to the Quest. They would have been willing to follow a leader over the River and into the shadow of Mordor; but Frodo spoke no word, and Aragorn was still divided in his mind.
Zandra knew Aragorn had intended, while Gandalf was with them, to go with Boromir, and with Anduril help to deliver Gondor. But in Moria the burden of Gandalf had been laid on him; and he knew that he could not now forsake the Ring, if Frodo refused in the end to go with Boromir.
And yet, what help can any of us be to Frodo? Save to walk blindly with him into the darkness? Zandra thought. Perhaps it is time for the Company to part ways. Mayhap it is best if Aragorn goes with Boromir to Gondor.
"I shall go to Minas Tirith, alone if need be, for it is my duty." Boromir had announced, and after that he was silent for a while, sitting with his eyes fixed on Frodo, as if he were trying to read the Halfling's thoughts. At length he spoke again, softly, as if debating with himself, and Zandra sat up a little, to better hear him, though she was careful not to show too much interest in his words. All too well she remembered what he had said; and his strange behavior at the Council of Elrond.
"If you wish only to destroy the Ring," he said, "Then there is little use in war and weapons; and the Men of Minas Tirith cannot help. But if you wish to destroy the armed might of the Dark Lord, then it is folly to go without force into his domain; and folly to throw away. . ." he paused suddenly, as if he had become aware he was speaking out loud. Zandra tensed, Throw away what? she thought, her expression grim as he continued. "It would be folly to throw lives away I mean," he ended. "It is a choice between defending a strong place and walking openly into the arms of death. At least, that is how I see it."
Nice recovery, Zandra thought, You were going to say, 'Folly to throw away the Ring of Power.' I will be watching you. She glanced at Aragorn, but he was deep in his own thoughts, and made no sign that he had heeded Boromir's words. Frodo looked troubled, and she knew that he at least had heard. I will protect you Frodo. She vowed again, Boromir will not harm you if I can do anything about it.
In the morning as they were beginning to pack their goods, Elves came and gave them many gifts of food and clothing. Gimli took up one of the cakes and looked at it with a doubtful eye.
"Cram," he said under his breath, as he broke off a crisp corner and nibbled at it. His expression quickly changed, and he ate all the rest of the cake with relish, much to Legolas's amusement.
"No more, no more!" cried the Elves laughing, "You have eaten enough already for a long day's march."
"I thought it was only a kind of cram, such as the Dale men make for journey's in the wild." said the Dwarf.
"So it is," they answered, "But we call it lembas or waybread, and it is more strengthening than any food made by men, and it is more pleasant than cram by all accounts."
The Elves then gave to each of the Company a hooded cloak. It was hard to say what color they were; grey with the hue of twilight under the trees, green as shadowed leaves, or brown as fallow fields by nights, dusk silver as water under the stars. Each cloak was fastened about the neck with a brooch like a green leaf veined with silver.
On the bank of the Silverlode were three small grey boats which had been made ready for the travelers, and in these the Elves stowed their goods. And they added also coils of rope, slender they looked, but strong.
"What are these?" asked Sam, handling one that lay upon the greensward.
"Ropes indeed!" laughed one of the Elves, "Never travel far without a rope!"
"You don't need to tell me that!" said Sam. "I came without any, and I've been worried ever since. But I was wondering what these were made of, knowing a bit about rope-making: its in the family as you might say."
"They are made of hithlain" said the Elf, "but there is no time now to instruct you in the art of their making. Had we known that this craft delighted you, we could have taught you much. But now alas! unless you should at some time return hither, you must be content with our gift. May it serve you well!"
Aragorn, Frodo, and Sam were in one boat; Boromir, Merry, and Pippin in another; and in the third were Legolas and Gimli, who had now become fast friends; and Zandra. They turned up a sharp bend in the river, and there, sailing proudly down the stream toward them, they saw a ship in the shape of a swan. In the midst of the vessel sat Celeborn, and behind him stood Galadriel, tall and white; a circlet of golden flowers was in her hair.
The Company stayed their boats as the swan-ship drew alongside. The Lady greeted them. "We have come to bid our last farewell," she said, "and to speed you with blessings from our land. But before you go, I have brought in my ship gifts which the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim now offer you in memory of Lothlorien." They left their boats, and gathered on the grass, and Galadriel called to each in turn.
"Here is the gift of Celeborn and Galadriel to the leader of your Company," she said to Aragorn, and she gave him a sheath that had been made to fit his sword. It was overlaid with a tracery of flowers and leaves wrought with silver and gold, and on it were set in elven-runes formed of many gems, the name Anduril and the lineage of the sword.
To Boromir she gave a belt of gold; and to Merry and Pippin she gave small silver belts, each with a clasp wrought like a golden flower. To Legolas she gave a bow such as the Galadhrim used, longer and stouter than the bows of Mirkwood, and strung with elf-hair. With it went a quiver of arrows.
To Zandra she gave a small wooden box, polished till it shone like silver. Slowly Zandra opened it, and her eyes grew wide, and her face pale.
"Where did you get this?" she whispered, her voice hoarse with emotion. The box was lined with white velvet, and nestled there, was a necklace. A single perfect white pearl hung on a golden chain, set with tiny fire opals and diamonds.
"It was found when the White Council drove the Dark Lord from Dol Guldur." Galadriel replied, her eyes grave. "When I met you I knew that it was yours." Zandra nodded, then looked up at the Lady of Lorien, tears sparkling in her eyes.
"I was wrong," she said smiling, "You did have the power to grant my wish."
"And, knowing that, would you have asked it? At my price?" Zandra shook her head.
"I would give up all of my memories, and all hope of regaining them, if it would ensure the success of the quest."
The Lady bowed her head, and she turned to Sam. "For you little gardener and lover of trees," she said to him, "I have only a small gift." She put into his hand a little box of plain grey wood, unadorned save for a single silver rune upon the lid. "Here is set G for Galadriel," she said; "but also it may stand for garden in your tongue. In this box there is earth from my orchard. It will not keep you on your road, nor defend you against any peril; but if you keep it and see your home again at last, then perhaps it may reward you. Though you should find all barren and laid waste, there will be few gardens in Middle-earth that will bloom like your gardens, if you sprinkle this earth there. Then you may remember Galadriel, and catch a glimpse of far off Lorien, that you have seen only in our winter. For our spring and our summer are gone by, and they will never be seen on earth again save in memory."
Sam went red to the ears and muttered something inaudible, as he clutched the box and bowed as well as he could.
"And what gift would a Dwarf ask of the Elves?" said Galadriel, turning to Gimli.
"None, Lady," answered Gimli. "It is enough for me to have seen the Lady of the Galadhrim, and to have heard her gentle words."
"Hear all ye Elves!" she cried to those about her. "Let none say again that dwarves are grasping and ungracious! Yet surely, Gimli son of Gloin, you desire something that I could give? Name it, I bid you! You shall not be the only guest without a gift!"
"There is nothing, Lady Galadriel," said Gimli bowing low and stammering. "Nothing, unless it might be - unless it is permitted to ask, nay, to name a single strand of your hair, which surpasses the gold of the earth as the stars surpass the gems of the mine. I do not ask for such a gift, but you commanded me to name my desire."
The Elves stirred and murmured with astonishment, and Celeborn gazed at the Dwarf in wonder, but the Lady smiled. "It is said that the skill of the Dwarves is in their hands rather than their tongues," she said, "yet that is not true of Gimli. For none have ever made to me a request so bold and yet so courteous. And how shall I refuse, since I commanded him to speak? But tell me, what would you do with such a gift?"
"Treasure it, Lady," he answered, "it shall be set in imperishable crystal to be an heirloom of my house, and a pledge of good will between the Mountain and the Wood, until the end of days."
Then the Lady unbraided one of her long tresses, and cut off three golden hairs, and laid them in Gimli's hand.
"And you, Ring-bearer," she said, turning to Frodo. "I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts. For you I have prepared this." She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her hand. "In this phial," she said, "is caught the light of Earendil's star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is around you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out."
Now the Lady arose, and Celeborn led them back to the river. A yellow noon lay on the green land, and the water glittered with silver. All at last was made ready. The Company took their places in the boats as before. Crying farewell, the Elves of Lorien with long grey poles thrust them out into the flowing stream, and the rippling waters bore them slowly away. The travelers sat still without moving or speaking. On the bank the Lady Galadriel stood alone and silent.
Even as they gazed, the Silverlode passed out into the currents of the Great River, and their boats turned and began to speed southward. Soon the white form of the Lady was small and distant. Suddenly the River swept around a bend, and the banks rose upon either side, and the light of Lorien was hidden.