Lady From Beyond the Sea - Chapter 7--Lothlorien
The night-wind blew chill up the valley to meet them. Before them a wide grey shadow loomed, and they heard an endless rustle of leaves, like poplars in the breeze.
"Lothlorien!" cried Legolas. "Lothlorien! We have come to the eaves of the Golden Wood. Alas that it is winter!"
Zandra gazed up at the trees that stood tall before them, arched over the road and stream that ran suddenly beneath their spreading boughs. I the dim light of the stars their stems were grey, and their quivering leaves a hint of gold. But though her gaze rested on this scene of beauty, over and over she replayed her vision in the Mirrormere. She turned her eyes up to the stars. What have stars to do with me? she wondered, Earth, water, fire, shadow and stars. Why does that combination seem so familiar? she could not understand it. If only Gandalf was here. she thought, he was so good at helping me plumb the depths of my memory.
Of course this thought reminded her of why he wasn't there. If I had fallen, rather than Gandalf, the Fellowship would have his aid, and I would not be suffering as I am now. Tears slipped down her cheeks unheeded. She had often pleaded for death in the darkness of Dol Guldur.
The times when she had been the only prisoner were the worst. The echoing silence had seemed to engulf her in loneliness. Several times she had felt she could bear it no more, and screamed for death. Then would come the worst part of all. Sauron's laughter would echo in her mind,
Not yet he would say, I need you still, my sweet. Don't forget the prophesy.
"What prophesy?" she would yell, "I will fulfill no prophecy for you!" but there would be no answer except that harsh, mocking laughter in her mind.
How often did we repeat that little scene Zandra wondered bitterly, How long did I suffer in the darkness?. . .How long did someone search for me, before giving me up for dead?. . .Did anyone search for me?
She tried to push away these fruitless thoughts, to push away the darkness that seemed to envelop her heart and mind, but it only seemed to grip tighter. Is this my punishment for failing Gandalf? she railed in her mind. Am I to be lost in the darkness while the stars shine overhead?
She turned her attention outward, forcing the darkness away, though it still seemed to cloud the edges of her vision. They had gone little more than a mile into the forest, and had come upon another stream flowing down swiftly from the tree-clad slopes that climbed westward towards the mountains. She heard it splashing over a fall away among the shadows on their right. It's dark hurrying waters ran across the path before them, and joined the Silverlode in a swirl of dim pools among the roots of the trees.
"Here is Nimrodel!" said Legolas. "Of this stream the Silvan Elves made many songs long ago, and still we sing them in the North. I will bathe my feet, for it is said that the water is healing to the weary." He went forward and climbed down the bank and stepped into the stream.
"Follow me!" he cried. "The water is not deep. Let us wade across! On the further bank we can rest, and the sound of the falling water may bring us sleep and forgetfulness of grief."
One by one the company climbed down and followed Legolas, but Zandra held back, transfixed by the moving water. Where it flowed across her vision the darkness seemed to pull away.
"Zandra?" she heard Legolas say, and she looked up, and saw he was holding out his hand to help her down the bank.
She smiled at him, but shook her head. Seeing the hurt in his eyes, she quickly explained, "Thank you, but I must savor this. This is some of the most pure water I have ever encountered. I . . . need to linger. You go join the others, I will come soon." He nodded in understanding, and left the stream. She could hear him telling tales of Lothlorien as the Company rested, and ate a little food.
Swiftly she bent, and removed her boots and stockings, stowing them safely in her pack, which she left on the bank, and slowly she slipped first one foot, and then the other into the cool, clear swirling water.
At the first touch of the water the darkness fled from her vision, and all about she could see the trees, bathed in the soft glow of life. She closed her eyes in pleasure. It had been so long since she had been able to See.
The darkness had receded, though it still lurked in the back of her mind. When her thoughts turned to it, it seemed to pulse and grow, so she focused instead on the water flowing about her legs, and the smooth pebbles beneath her feet. Slowly she laid down and immersed herself in the swiftly moving water.
She was lost in the swirling patterns of light and color. Water was so simple, flowing on and on, in a continuous cycle. No worries, no pain, merely being. She felt her pains and sorrows being slowly washed away as she became united with the water. Her body had not felt so refreshed since she had stood under Aequo Falls, Tinania and Jaessa calling to her to be careful. They had never understood water. The thought floated lazily across her mind, and she stood abruptly, her heart pounding. Desperately she tried to grasp at the memory.
But with the stillness, so had gone the memory. She passed her hand over her eyes in momentary despair. Would she ever remember her life before Dol Guldur?
Sadly she picked up her pack and walked barefoot to where the company was sitting.
"What were you doing?" Pippin asked, but was swiftly hushed by Frodo.
"Just enjoying the water," she replied quietly.
"But you're not even wet!" Pippin exclaimed, "How can you enjoy water without getting wet?"
Zandra just laughed at him.
"Do you hear the voice of the Nimrodel?" asked Legolas, "I will sing a song of the Maiden Nimrodel, who bore the same name as the stream beside which she lived long ago." In a soft voice, hardly to be heard amid the rustle of the leaves above them he began:
An Elven-maid there was of old,
A shining star by day:
Her mantle white was hemmed with gold,
Her shoes of silver-grey.
A star was bound upon her brows,
A light was on her hair
As sun upon the golden boughs
In Lorien the fair.
Her hair was long, her limbs were white,
And fair she was and free;
And in the wind she went as light
As leaf of linden-tree.
Beside the falls of Nimrodel,
By water clear and cool,
Her voice as falling silver fell
Into the shining pool.
Where now she wanders none can tell,
In sunlight or in shade;
For lost of yore was Nimrodel
And in the mountains strayed.
The elven-ship in haven grey
Beneath the mountain-lee
Awaited her for many a day
Beside the roaring sea.
A wind by night in Northern lands
Arose, and loud it cried,
And drove the ship from elven-strands
Across the streaming tide.
When dawn came dim the land was lost,
The mountains sinking grey
Beyond the heaving waves that tossed
Their plumes of blinding spray.
Amroth beheld the fading shore
Now low beyond the swell,
And cursed the faithless ship that bore
Him far from Nimrodel.
Of old he was an Elven-king
A lord of tree and glen,
When golden were the boughs in spring
I fair Lothlorien.
From helm to sea they saw him leap,
As arrow from the string,
And dive into the water deep,
As mew upon the wing.
The wind was in his flowing hair,
The foam about him shone;
Afar they saw him strong and fair
Go riding like a swan.
But from the West has come no word,
And on the Hither Shore
No tidings Elven-folk have heard
Of Amroth evermore.
The voice of Legolas faltered, and the song ceased. "I cannot sing anymore," he said. "That is but a part, for I have forgotten much."
He sounds as shaken as I feel. Zandra thought. The song had filled her with a sense of foreboding. Though she could not see how that could be, for it was a song of the past, not a prophesy of the future. Or is it? she wondered. There are those that say that the past will always repeat itself.
The Fellowship now turned aside from the path, and went into the shadow of the deeper woods. As they walked, Legolas pondered what had just happened. As he was singing he had felt a profound grief, painful in its intensity. Though the song was sad, never before had it evoked that emotion in him.
His thoughts had been focused on Zandra, though he sang of Nimrodel. She had looked very sad when she had rejoined the company. He had expected from her earlier words that the water would cheer her, but instead he thought that she was on the verge of tears. What can it mean? he wondered.
They came upon a cluster of trees, whose grey trunks were of mighty girth, but their height could not be guessed. Aragorn had said they would seek refuge in the tree-tops, so he decided to climb up to see if they could rest in any of these. He sprang lightly up from the ground and caught a branch high above his head. But even as he swung there for a moment, a voice spoke suddenly from the tree-shadows above him.
"Daro!" it said in a commanding tone, and Legolas dropped back to earth in surprise.
"Stand still!" he whispered to the others. "Do not move or speak!"
There was a sound of soft laughter over their heads, and then a clear voice spoke in Sindarin. Legolas swiftly translated for the others.
"They say that we need have no fear. They have been aware of us for a long while. They heard my voice across the Nimrodel, and knew I was one of their Northern kindred." He paused and the next, and looked at Zandra before continuing, confusion in his voice, "They also say they saw Zandra emerge from the water wholly dry. . . They bid me climb up with Zandra and Frodo; for they seem to have had some tidings of him and of our journey, . . . and they are curious about Zandra. The others they ask to wait a little, and to keep watch at the foot of the tree, until they have decided what is to be done."
Zandra was very surprised that they had asked her to come up as well, curiosity did not seem adequate explanation, but she followed as Legolas ran lightly up, and Frodo and Sam followed her. They discovered that near the top of the tree was built a wooden platform that was reached by a round hole in the center, through which the ladder passed.
There were three other elves on the platform, and one of them motioned for them to sit. The elves stood, and one of them uncovered a lamp that gave out a slender silver beam. He held it up, looking at each of their faces. It seemed to her that the light lingered on her face, but discounted it as imagination.
"Welcome!" he said. "I am Haldir. My brothers, Rumil and Orophin, speak little of your tongue," he indicated the other two.
"We have heard rumors of your coming, and since you come with an Elf of our kindred, we are willing to befriend you, though it is not our custom to lead strangers through our land." He turned his gaze toward Zandra, "You do not look evil, but you must stay here tonight. How many are you?"
"Nine," said Legolas, "Myself, four hobbits, the lady, and two men, one of whom, Aragorn, is an Elf-friend."
"The name of Aragorn sone of Arathorn is known in Lorien," said Haldir, "and he has the favor of the Lady. But you have yet spoken only of eight."
"The ninth is a dwarf," said Legolas.
"A dwarf!" Haldir exclaimed, "That is not well. They are not permitted in our land. I cannot allow him to pass."
Zandra spoke up, "Elrond himself chose him as one of the Companions, he is brave and faithful."
To her shock, this seemed to make him even more set against Gimli. It took a great deal of persuading from Legolas and Frodo for him to relent. He looked intently at Zandra for a moment, then said at last, "Very well, we will do this, if Aragorn and Legolas will guard him, and answer for him; but he must go blindfolded through Lothlorien.
"But we must waste no more time. If you have indeed come from Moria, the peril cannot be far behind, and your folk must not remain on the ground. The four hobbits," he glanced again at Zandra, "and the lady will climb up here and stay with us. There is another talon in the next tree. There the others must take refuge. You, Legolas, must answer to us for them."
Legolas glanced at Zandra, a queer expression in his eyes. Then went down the ladder to take Haldir's message. Haldir watched him leave, and then turned to Zandra.
"Who are you?" he asked bluntly in Sindarin, and she blinked in surprise, then answered in the same language.
"My name is Zandra."
"Yes, but who are you?"
"I had not heard that the Lorien elves were rude to strangers," she said, her face expressionless.
"I apologize if it seemed like rudeness my lady," he said bowing, "but it is my job to question strangers if I see fit. There is a darkness around you, and I must know more about it."
She stiffened even more, "Why do you voice these doubts now, when my friend is gone, and in a language that Frodo does not understand? If there is a shadow over me, it is due to grief and pain. Any further questions I will answer to Lady Galadriel, unless you desire to express your doubts to my friends, and tell them I must stay here." he made no sign of doing this so she continued, "I think I had better go to the other talan four hobbits and three elves does not leave much room for one troubled lady. I might stab someone in the dark." she snapped, and swiftly descended the ladder.
When she climbed up to the other platform, everyone looked up at her in surprise. She saw a flash of teeth as Legolas grinned.
"There is more room here," she explained, and then wondered why she did not tell them the truth. She clamped down on whatever else she was going to say, and glared at the four men, then proceeded to prepare her bed, as far away from them as possible.