Lady From Beyond the Sea - Chapter 20 -- Father
Sorry for the long delay everyone, I won't promise anything, because then I won't fail to deliver . . . but I'll do my best to get further chapters out quickly. So without further ado . . .
Zandra: a.k.a.`An'ra, She has water power, which includes weather power. She is slowly regaining her memory of who and what she is.
Tinania: a.k.a. `Nania Zandra's eldest sister, she became something (we don't know what yet) and went away. She has fire power.
Jaessa: a.k.a. `Dessa Zandra's other sister, described as sweet, and calm. She has earth power, which includes plants.
Zandra's Mother: associated with stars
Zandra's Father: associated with shadows
Dyryn: Zandra once thought she loved him, but he tricked her and imprisoned her in Dol Guldur He had a ring, and became a wraith.
Gallin: Boy from Rohan, a friend of Zandra''s, died at Helm''s Deep
Zandra gazed silently up at the tower of Orthanc, recalling the day she had rescued Gandalf from it's pinnacle. The day she had learned of Saruman's treachery. Not that she had much traffic with him before that. He asked too many prying questions; some questions that even now she could not answer.
"There are too many questions," she whispered.
"But you've answered more of them," Legolas said, pulling Arod up beside Serilla, "and you are remembering more." She turned a grateful look towards him, then her gaze turned sad. She could not let herself warm towards him any more. That way lay pain, for both of them.
But he's so wonderful, her traitorous heart whispered brokenly.
"Here's another question for you," he said, "one I believe you should be abl to answer." His voice was light, though a little sadness was evident.
Oh Legolas, she thought miserably, Why did you have to fall in love with me? I could much more easily have guarded my heart if you hadn't.
"What is it?" she asked in response to his comment, arching one eyebrow in an attempt at playful query.
"When you changed into an eagle before, you were just ordinary size, yet," he paused.
"I claimed to have rescued Gandalf from Orthanc," Zandra smiled, then frowned. The question did not have a simple answer. "That is one of the things I did without truly knowing how, or where I learned it. Though I do know this, I have never changed into a Great Eagle until after meeting Gwaihir."
"So," Legolas tilted his head a little to one side, looking thoughtful in a way that truly threatened to melt her heart. "You might be able to change into other things?"
Zandra blinked, and her green eyes widened, a slow smile growing on her lips. "So I might . . ." she would have continued, but at that moment they came upon the doors of Isengard.
But the doors lay hurled and twisted on the ground. And all about, stone, cracked and splintered into countless jagged shards, was scattered far and wide, or piled in ruinous heaps. Through the cliff-like walls on either side great rents and breaches had been torn; their towers were beaten into dust.
Even if the sea had risen in wrath and fallen on the hills it could have worked no greater ruin, Zandra thought, Though maybe it did, she amended as she looked further on. The ring was filled with steaming water: a bubbling cauldron, in which there heaved and floated a wreckage of beams and spars, chests and casks and broken gear. Twisted pillars reared their splintered stems above the flood, but all the roads were drowned. Far off, it seemed, half veiled in winding cloud, there loomed the island rock. Still dark and tall, unbroken by the storm, the tower of Orthanc stood. Pale waters lapped about its feet. It seemed to Zandra a very fitting fate for the domain of Saruman.
She drew her eyes back to the archway and the ruined gates. There what she saw raised her heart, and nearly made her laugh aloud. There were two small figures lying at their ease, grey-clad, hardly to be seen among the stones. One seemed asleep; the other, with crossed legs and arms behind his head, leaned back against a broken rock and sent from his mouth long wisps and little rings of this blue smoke.
For a moment none seemed able to do anything but stare at them in wonder. To the men of Rohan they must seem the strangest thing here, Zandra thought wryly. Before anyone could speak, the small smoke breathing figure became suddenly aware of them, as they sat there silent at the edge of the mist. He sprang to his feet. It was Merry. Zandra felt tears of joy sting her eyes, and she fought to restrain herself from rushing forward. He bowed very low, putting his hand upon his breast. Then, seeming not to observe the wizard and his friends he turned to Eomer and the king.
"Welcome, my lords, to Isengard!" he said. "We are the door wardens, Meriadoc, son of Saradoc; and my companion," he gave the other a dig with his foot, "is Peregrin, son of Paladin. The Lord Saruman is within; but at the moment is closeted with Wormtongue, or doubtless he would be here to welcome such honorable guests."
"Doubtless he would!" laughed Gandalf. "And was it Saruman that ordered you to guard his damaged doors, and watch for the arrival of guests, when your attention could be spared from plate and bottle?"
"No, good sir, the matter escaped him," answered Merry gravely, which manner of response had Zandra biting her lip to keep from laughing. "He has been much occupied. Our orders came from Treebeard. He commanded me to welcome the Lord of Rohan with fitting words. I have done my best."
"And what about your companions? What about Legolas and Zandra and me?" cried Gimli, unable to contain himself longer. "You rascals! A fine hunt you have led us! Two hundred leagues, through fen and forest, battle and death, to rescue you! And here we find you feasting and idling and smoking! Smoking! Hammer and tongs! I am so torn between rage and joy, that if I do not burst, it will be a marvel!"
This comment was too much for Zandra's control and laughter pealed forth. Pippin finally opened an eye and said, "One thing you have not found in your hunting, and that's brighter wits! Here you find us sitting on a field of victory, amid the plunder of armies, and you wonder how we came by a few well-earned comforts!"
"Well-earned?" said Gimli, "I cannot believe that!"
The Riders joined in Zandra's laugher, "It cannot be doubted that we witness the meeting of dear friends," said Theoden. "So these are the lost ones of your company, Gandalf? The days are fated to be filled with marvels. Already I have seen many since I left my house; and now here before my eyes stand yet another of the folk of legend. Are not these the Halflings, that some among us call the Holbytlan?"
"Indeed they are," began Gandalf, but Pippin interrupted.
"Hobbits, if you please, lord."
"Yes." the wizard said, then continued, "but some other time would be more fitting to discuss their people. Where is Treebeard Merry?"
"Away on the north side. He left a message that, if the Lord of the Mark and Gandalf will ride to the northern wall they will find Treebeard there, and eh will welcome them. I may add that they will find food of the best there, it was discovered and selected by your humble servants." He bowed.
Gandalf laughed. "That is better!" he said. "Well, Theoden, will you ride with me to find Treebeard? We must go round about, but it is not far. When you see Treebeard, you will learn much. For Treebeard is Fangorn, and the eldest and chief of the Ents, and when you speak with him you will hear the speech of the oldest of all living things."
These words struck a chord is Zandra's heart, surely the eldest of all living things could tell her of her people. "Gandalf . . ." she began anxiously.
"No my friend," he said kindly, "now is not the time to discuss that with Treebeard. Time is short. But you will ask him before too long." She nodded, her mien subdued.
"I will come with you," said Theoden. "Farewell, my hobbits! May we meet again in my house! There you shall sit beside me and tell me all that your hearts desire. Farewell!"
The hobbits bowed low. "So that is the King of Rohan!" said Pippin in an undertone, "A fine old fellow. Very polite."
Gandalf and the King's company rode away, turning eastward to make the circuit of the ruined walls of Isengard. But Zandra, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas remained behind. Leaving the horses to stray in search of grass, they came beside the hobbits. Zandra could no longer restrain herself, she flung her arms around first Merry and then Pippin.
"Oh, I'm so glad we've finally found you! I was so worried that you were lost to us forever!" she cried, then stood back, "but here you are, safe and whole, and all my worry for naught!" she laughed.
"Yes, the hunt is over, and we meet again at last, where none of us ever thought to come," said Aragorn.
"And now the great ones have gone to discuss high matters," said Legolas. "The hunters can perhaps learn the answers to their own small riddles. We tracked you as far as the forest, but there are still many things that I should like to know the truth of."
"But," said Gimli, "It would go better after a meal. I have a sore head; and it is past mid-day. You truants might make amends by finding us some of the plunder that you spoke of. Food and drink would pay off some of my score against you."
"Then you shall have it," said Pippin, and the two hobbits led the way into what was left of the guard-house. On the hearth wood was burning.
"A fire is handy," said Pippin, "It cheered us up in the fogs. I will make you some toast. The bread is three or four days old, I am afraid."
With that the two hobbits set to gathering together dishes, bowls, cups, knives and food of various sorts. The four hunters were soon busy with their meal; and the two hobbits, unabashed, set to a second time, saying, "We must keep our guests company!"
"You are full of courtesy this morning," laughed Legolas, "But maybe, if we had not arrived, you would already have been keeping one another company again."
"Maybe; and why not?" said Pippin. "We had foul fare with the orcs, and little enough for days before that. It seems a long while since we could eat to hears content."
How true Zandra thought, And how sad. It is not fair that such innocent people should have to suffer so. a sudden flare of anger came over her, Why must it always be so? Why must war always hurt most those who least deserve it?
"It does not seem to have done you any harm," said Aragorn. "Indeed you look in the bloom of health."
"You do indeed," said Gimli, looking them up and down over the top of his cup. "Why, your hair is twice as thick and curly as when we parted; and I would swear that you have both grown somewhat, if that is possible for hobbits of your age."
Zandra examined both hobbits closely. This did seem to be true, they both looked excellent . . . though there was in their eyes that disturbed her, a new maturity that seemed to her not to belong in those boyishly cheerful faces. They had seen such as to alter them forever. What do people see in my eyes? she wondered, What would my sisters, my mother think were they to see me now?
"This Treebeard at any rate has not starved you," Gimli was continuing.
"He has not," said Merry, "But Ents only drink, and drink is not enough for content. Treebeard's draughts may be nourishing, but one feels the need of something solid. And even lembas is none the worse for a change."
"You have drunk the waters of the Ents, have you?" said Legolas. "Ah, then I think it is likely that Gimli's eyes do not deceive him. Strange songs have been sung of the draughts of Fangorn." Zandra was about to ask him to tell more, for she remembered the strange resonance to life that the Entwash had; but Aragorn spoke first.
"Many strange tales have been told about that land," said Aragorn. "I have never entered it. Come, tell me more about it, and about the Ents!"
"Ents," said Pippin, "Ents are - well Ents are all different for one thing. But their eyes now, their eyes are very odd." He tried a few fumbling words that trailed into silence. "Oh, well," he went on, "you have seen some at a distance, already - they saw you at any rate, and reported you were on the way - and you will see many others, I expect, before you leave here. You must form your own ideas."
Zandra was very amused by this speech, and had to feign a cough to hide her laughter at Gimli's statement, "Now, now!" he said, "We are beginning the story in the middle. I should like a tale in the right order, starting with that strange day when our fellowship was broken."
"You shall have it, if there is time," said Merry. "But first - if you have finished eating - you shall fill your pipes and light up. And then for a little while we can pretend that we are all back safe at Bree again, or in Rivendell."
Bree, Zandra thought, closing her eyes against the memory the name conjured up, it wasn't a pleasant one, not for her. All she could think of about Bree was how close Dyryn had been. If he had been looking for her rather than Frodo, she might have bene caught then. In truth, if it hadn't been for Merry's drawing their attention . . . rather than startling them and chasing them away for a time she would have stumbled right into the wraiths' midst.
"Settle it!" cried Gimli, drawing her attention back to the present, "Most noble hobbit, it leaves me considerably in your debt."
Then, almost as if he knew her dark thoughts Legolas suggested they all go out into the open air, and the light.
They went out and seated themselves upon the piled stones before the gateway. They could see far down into the valley now; the mists were lifting and floating away upon the breeze.
"Now let us take our ease here for a little!" said Aragorn. "We will sit on the edge of ruin and talk, as Gandalf says, while he is busy elsewhere. I feel a weariness such as I have seldom felt before." He wrapped his grey cloak about him, hiding his mail-shirt, and stretched out his long legs. Then he lay back and sent from his lips a thin stream of smoke.
"Look!" said Pippin. "Strider the Ranger has come back!"
But it wasn't Strider the Ranger that Zandra saw. . .
The sweet smell of her father's pipe tickled Zandra's nose. Her green eyes scanned the area for her father, for any sign of where he had gone. Of course there was none. Only Jaessa could track their father, though she had what Zandra considered unfair advantage. Still, he wasn't trying not to be found, or he wouldn't be smoking his pipe.
She walked slowly against the breeze, alert for the familiar scent of pipe smoke. After a bit she spotted a large elm, very familiar to her younger self. It's long branches arched down to kiss the ground, creating a hollow space within the shelter of a cloud of green leaves. You wouldn't know it was there unless you entered the circle. Her eyes misted at the memory of the many years spent playing here with her sisters.
She slowly brushed aside a trailing branch and entered the hollow, a soft green glow illuminated a familiar quarter staff and long sword that rested against the trunk of the tree. Glancing up she found her father resting on a branch half-way up. One slender leg dangled carelessly off, while his keen grey eyes gazed into the dappled sunlight. He seemed not to notice her presence, but she wasn't fooled.
She placed one booted foot on the branch beside her, and walked the narrow path it made to sit just below him, her eyes intent on his profile. He took the pipe form his mouth, blowing a thing grey ring that rose through a gap in the leafy canopy above. Her gaze turned to follow his, and found that he was looking at a small robin's nest.
"I am constantly amazed," that gruff but beloved voice began, "at the beauty there is in such simple things. And yet how seldom do we sit and ponder them." He shifted position to look down on his youngest child. "Your mother taught me that. Not in words but . . ." he smiled in his endearingly crooked way, "Before I met her the world was a dull place . . . a grim place. I lived to fight. That was my world, then she showed me there was more."
A moment of silence passed as father and daughter each gazed into the other's eyes.
"So, Nymph," he said finally, tapping out his pipe and leaping with cat-like grace to the ground, "you stood before the counsel today."
Zandra also stood and, taking his outstretched hand, walked back down the branch and hopped to the ground.
"Yes," was all she said, as he scooped up the sword and staff that he always carried, even so near to home.
"So you are now Dae Kular," He put one arm around her shoulders. She merely nodded. "It is a great thing we do. The war is long, and the battles hard. But, Nymph," he stopped and, putting a hand on each of her shoulders turned her so green eyes met grey, "Never forget that there is more."
Legolas watched covertly as Zandra blinked and again became aware of her surroundings. She looks so forlorn. he thought, and noticed the glistening of tears in her eyes. Where, or when did you go this time? he wondered.
"Ah well," Aragorn was saying, "whatever evil was afoot is over now, I hope; or else it is beyond our reach at present." What were we talking about? Legolas wondered quickly, having lost track of the conversation through watching Zandra, Oh yes, Saruman's evident dealings with the Shire. "Yet I think I shall mention it to Gandalf," Aragorn continued, "small matter though it may seem among his great affairs."
"I wonder what he is doing,"said Merry. "The afternoon is getting on. Let us go and look around! You can enter Isengard now at any rate, Strider, if you want to. But it is not a very cheerful sight!"