Paths Revisited - A Quest- Parts 1-2
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
Her eyes took a moment to adjust to the light in the large, common room at the Prancing Pony. It was dim, with a red and yellow flickering glow, coming chiefly from the large fireplace in the center of the room and from the lamps swinging from the low beams. Smoke was in the air. The room was filled with people, talking, laughing, and singing. Bustling of voices, shuffling of feet, the clicking and clacking of those eating -- the din was overwhelming to the senses.
She looked around, her eyes searching for her companions, but they were not there. She wove her way through the crowd, her eyes downcast and her cloak pulled low, making her way to a table hidden in the very back of the room. From there she could see the entrance, yet she would not be exposed. She seated facing the doorway. Reaching under her dark cloak she withdrew a small packet. She unwrapped the leather covering, and unrolled an old map, worn and crumbling. Her delicate fingers traced the dark lines.
Strength would be required for this quest; she determined to put on a brave front. Taking a deep breath Eriathiel placed her hand on the hilt of her sword. This would be her first chance to use it. A suspenseful excitement filled her. Her fingers gripped the handle. On the crossbar were tracings, etched in the silver. They were old Elvish runes, spells strengthening the sword. A small jewel embedded in the center glowed with a soft light. It was the sword given her by Varda, ages old, and from this she drew her courage.
"Eriathiel!" A voice called out, interrupting her thoughts. As she looked up and a smile reached the corners of her mouth, and a look of relief fell across her face. The first of her companions had arrived.
Courage and determination were written in Uleerniel's face. Eriathiel rose to greet her sister. Uleerniel spoke.
"Where are the others?"
"They have not yet arrived," came the whispered reply. No other words were spoken. The two sat silently in a daze, neither of them quite realizing the importance of the task they were about to take on.
Suddenly Uleerniel felt a violent nudge from her sister. Two Hobbits had entered the inn. Having been secretly called upon for the mission, the girls were not yet acquainted with all of their fellow travelers, but knew them only by description.
"Hobbits," whispered Uleerniel. "They match the description."
Uleerniel stood cautiously to her feet, but the hobbits had taken a seat at the bar and ordered drinks. Not wanting to draw attention, Uleerniel sat back down. The hobbits glanced around the room. All of a sudden, the smaller one cried out cheerfully,
"There they are, over there!"
The sisters cringed. The hobbits were bouncing toward them.
With cries of, "excuse me," and "sorry about that," the hobbits finally reached them, half of their drinks splashed on their mud-crusted clothing. The beer and dirt made a strange mix.
"I'm Merry, and this is my cousin, Pippin," said the slightly taller one. Actually neither of the hobbits amounted to much in size.
"My name is Eriathiel."
"I'm Uleerniel. Oh no, we're not leaving yet," she said as both turned to go, "there are some others as well. They should be here soon."
"So, who wants an Ale?" This came from the other, presumably Pippin. He spoke the word "ale" with such gusto and movement of the hands (as is customary of hobbits), that some of his beer splattered on a slovenly dressed man passing by. Instantly he turned, a suspicious look painted on his face. He spoke heatedly,
"What's the meaning of this? You're a strange group to be meeting at this hour. What's your business here?"
"That, dark fellow," started Eriathiel, "is none of your-,"
"Actually," interrupted Pippin, "we're waiting for some others. We're going on a secret quest... I think. Something about lost magic rings, right Merry? AND, we were just about to get some more of your very fine ale. But what I'd really like right now is some of that Elvish ale." He paused with a puzzled look, and added quickly to Eriathiel, "Elves have ale, don't they?"
The other three sat stunned. The young hobbit had practically thrown their element of secrecy out the inn door in a matter of seconds - definitely not enough time to stop him.
And in a brief moment two things happened. First, the gloomy stranger reached for his sword, hidden somewhere in his cloak. And second, the same man suddenly found two elvish daggers poking at his chest.
All of a sudden, a third dagger appeared from nowhere, and a voice, dripping with menace, daring him to draw his sword, hissed: "If you wish to die, by all means, draw the sword."
The gloomy stranger took his hand away from his sword and began to back slowly out of the inn. The two elves and the hobbits watched him leave, and then turned to the cloaked person. Eriathiel turned to the stranger and asked "Who be-est thou?" With a small laugh the stranger replied in a quiet voice, "Hello, Eriathiel, Uleerniel." As soon as the words left the stranger's mouth, the Elves cried out in joy. "Theogwyn!"
"It's about time you got here. Where have you been hiding yourself?" Eriathiel queried. "I've been in the wilds, helping some of the newer Rangers with their tracking skills," replied Theogwyn as she sat down. "Now, why have we all been summoned here?"
"We are called together to join in the common purpose of fighting the dark shadow." Eriathiel looked around and lowered her voice. "We have been given a quest by the Ancients." She drew out her sword and laid it on the table. The jewel in the center of the handle gleamed with a flickering light. At the sight, Uleerniel and Theogwyn gasped. It was the ancient sword of Varda. Ages old, forged for the purpose of fighting against the first darkness and evil. Within this sword was contained great power and strength. The elves now felt a deeper understanding of the quest. The Hobbits though, who knew not the significance of the sword, began to question Eriathiel. She hushed them. "Rings there are, waiting to be discovered. With much speed we must find and retake these, `ere they fall into the hands of the shadow.There is yet one member left," she said as she re-sheathed her sword, "When all are gathered, we shall speak more of our journey. Till then, patience, my young friends." She looked down at the Hobbits with a smile.
" Who is this fellow who threatened you just a moment ago?" Theogwyn asked. "The name of this strange, man I know not, but alas, I feel he knows too much of our quest. He mustn't be allowed to depart, for he may bring the whole army of the dark lord down upon us. To you falls the task. Theogwyn, go with care. We wish not to cause any more of a stir," she said, looking around cautiously.
Eriathiel now turned to Uleerniel. "While the dark man is about, I feel it is not safe for the Hobbits here," she said, glancing at the Hobbits as they merrily drained their mugs of ale and talked of the shire, laughing between themselves. "Take them to my room--or yours--, but keep them safe, my heart tells me that there is more shadow in this place than just that man. I shall wait here for our last companion. When the morning dawns, we shall meet up in the rooms." Eriathiel gave final instructions to the two Elves, and bid them gone.
"Strangers on the Roof"
Theogwyn nodded and started weaving her way to the back door. Once she was out of the inn, she paused for a moment, and listened carefully. She heard the flutter of wings, and then a quiet cackle of evil laughter. By that, she knew it was the man who had threatened them inside. Drawing her long knife, she stole quietly around to where the man stood. Surprised to see that he held an empty cage, she suddenly realized that the soft flapping of wings was a messenger bird. The quest had already been compromised, but she could at least eliminate this informant. Skillfully, she swung her blade across his throat, disposing of him with shocking swiftness. The corpse fell, and she quickly began dragging it to the trash heap, hoping to hide him there until they were out of Bree. The night was warm.
Eriathiel picked up the worn map lying on the table and folded it in its wrapping and placed it back under her cloak. A tall round man walked over to her table. It was Baliman Butterbur, the innkeeper. "Miss," he said. She looked up. "this just arrived for you." He handed her a small white envelope. She gratefully accepted it. She opened it up and began to read the letter:
"My dear girl,
There is now no need for you to tarry there; your last companion has fallen into shadow. He was beyond my aid. The world is no longer safe. You must go ahead and take the company on to Rivendell, I shall try to meet you there.
Eriathiel sighed. The last companion was to be their guide, their leader. She must now shoulder that burden. She sat in silence. She looked up at Butterbur, still standing there.
"Who delivered this message?" She asked, nodding to the letter she held in her hand. He leaned in, as if he was speaking a secret. "A strange man it was, one of the Elf folk, begging your pardon, miss." He said as he noticed her pointed ears. She looked at him with a smile. "No harm done. Tell me, where is this man, I wish to see him." She stood up and dropped a few coins on the table next to the Hobbits' empty mugs. "He went straight to his room, I can show you if you like." "Yes, please." She answered. They walked silently out of the large, common room, and into the hall. "Can you arrange for three horses and two ponies to accompany us in the morning?" She asked as they walked along. "If you like, miss. That's his room," He said, pointing to the last door at the end of the hall. "Thank you." Eriathiel said, as she pressed a silver coin into his hand. "No, miss." He replied, refusing the money. "Any friend of Gandalf is a friend of this old man." She smiled. "Then, again, I thank you." He nodded as he left, heading back to the bar.
Uleerniel had decided to take the hobbits for a long walk around the inn. The halflings were soon quite sober, and for the first time, Uleerniel was able to carry on a decent conversation with them. They talked of the shire and of friends back home. Uleerniel spoke wistfully of Lothlorien.
"Those stairs over there, where do you suppose they lead to?" Pippin pointed to an old, crooked stairwell. Because the three of them were all rather curious, they decided to follow the steps to the top. Eventually they found themselves on the roof, looking out over Bree. From her spot, Uleerniel could see a large, gray bird, rising high into the sky. Something about the bird frightened her. It was a menacing, nightmarish creature.
"Tell us about Rivendell." Merry's comment startled Uleerniel, but she regained her composure and began to speak.
"Oh, Rivendell!" she sighed happily.
Just then, Uleerniel heard the steps in the old stairwell begin to creak. She fixed her eyes on the opening, but the noise ceased. She returned to her thought.
"When I was a young girl..." but her voice trailed off again. The wooden steps swelled and groaned. Under her breath, Uleerniel whispered,
"Get behind me young hobbits."
She drew her sword.
Eriathiel stood facing the door, but just as she lifted her hand to knock, the door opened abruptly. A tall blond Elf walked out, nearly knocking her over. He had been looking down and did not see her. He reached out his arms to steady her. She looked up into his eyes, and cried out in joy. "Dunethien!!!" She wrapped her arms around him in a hug. "How I hoped it would be you!" she exclaimed. He looked down at her. "Then the message was to you." He said "Ahh, Gandalf is a sly old fellow." He hugged her. They had been friends and theirs was a meeting of long parted companions. They went back into his room. "Tell me," she said, "can you not join us on this quest? For our leader has fallen into darkness and--"
"I know," he spoke in a quiet voice, "I was there." His face was grave. He put his hand to his forehead, then his chest, and looked silently to the floor. "Nay," he said after a moment, "I have my own task. Alas, that we may one day be companions again. But this, I can give you." He drew out of his belt a flask. It was a vile of miravor. He continued "You know not what will befall you." She gratefully accepted the small bottle, placing it in a pocket beneath her cloak. "What evil came upon our guide and your companions?" She queried. "Of that I cannot yet speak, but--" , Eriathiel and Dunethien heard a clamoring of steel. The two Elves rushed out of the room, sword and knives drawn, ready to fight.
Uleerniel scanned the dark figures pouring from the stairway. Seven, and more on their way... how are two hobbits and I supposed to fight off all of them? "Here they come! Be rea--" With fear gripping her heart, the elf-maiden realized there was no one behind her. The hobbits had left her to fend for herself. All alone. She turned to face the throng.
"For the Shire! Get them Merry!"
The two halflings made a good team. And Uleerniel, despite her previous anger, was forced to smile. They whirled in and out, stabbing and swinging their daggers whenever possible. How could she have possibly doubted these small warriors who had fought at the very Gates of Mordor? Uleerniel dived in with them.
Pippin and Merry fought expertly. They had kept in shape, constantly practicing with each other back home. And, in their spare time, they had developed a system which would use their weight and height for an advantage. In their earlier journeys they had realized that when one is smaller, naturally he is able to move and dodge faster than one who is larger. Therefore, Merry would confuse the enemy by playing tricks and performing stunts, while Pippin would stab at him. And so far, it seemed to work.
"There are so many," Pippin yelled. And it was true. Just as one fell dead, two more stepped in to take his place, and soon the halflings were greatly outnumbered. The enemy was everywhere.
"Pip, I'll take them, you go for help."
"You'll be killed."
"We'll all be if this lasts much longer. Give me your sword."
"I'll be back."
Merry stared as two tall, menacing men tromped arrogantly toward him. He held out both swords and screamed - not out of fear but rage - and charged them. The wind hit his face. Through sweat and blood, he saw with dread the blurred image of two knives thrusted towards him. The swords met. Instantly, Merry's daggers were twisted out of his grip and lay scattered on the ground. This is the end - my end. The icy swords found their mark. His mouth fell open as he plunged forward, moaning when his head met the stone roof. Goodbye Pip.
Pippin dashed around the men pouring out of the stairwell, and down to the front of the inn. As he rounded the corner, he ran straight into Theogwyn. He hurriedly told her what was transpiring on the roof, and in a fluid motion, Theogwyn drew both her sword and a dagger. With a quick jerk of her head, she indicated that he was to stay behind her. As they dashed up the stairs, they could hear the sounds of battle drifting downward. By the time they reached the top, Theogwyn had already sliced two cloaked men in half. When they got to the roof, she threw her dagger into the throat of one of the men who was standing over the body of a hobbit. Seeing one of the men beginning to retreat down the stairwell, she followed him and deftly pulling her knife out of its sheath, plunged it into his chest. Once she was sure he was dead, she raced back up the stairs.
Down in Dunethien's room, Eriathiel and Dunethien had heard the sounds of battle. They followed the noise up to the roof. When they arrived, they saw Uleerniel and Theogwyn fighting off a band of cloaked creatures. There was no time to speak. Dunethien and Eriathiel leaped into action. As Dunethien pierced the shoulder of one, Eriathiel plunged her sword into the back of another. She turned around just in time to see her sister fall wounded to the ground. Uleerniel was lying defenseless near the opening of the stairwell, and Eriathiel was not close enough to deflect the imminent blow about to fall on her sister. The enemy's sword came down with great force, and Eriathiel screamed in terror. But it was not Uleerniel's body that was struck. It was the elvish steel of Theogwyn's sword. Swiftly she knocked the enemy's weapon out of his hand and with a swift jab and thrust, he fell slain over the trembling body of Uleerniel.
The companions stood in a daze, staring at the bodies that they had slain. Eriathiel looked down at her sword, which was dripping with blood. Slowly she un-curled her stiff fingers, and the sword fell to the ground with a clatter. She stepped back in shock. The noise slowly brought the others to their senses. Dunethien was the first to recover. He ran over to Uleerniel. Her face was covered in blood, and she was panting. "What has happened?" Dunethien cried, as he lifted the cloaked body off of the delirious Elf. "I'm not sure. Oh, it all happened so quickly." Without looking up, Eriathiel, still in a stupor, handed Uleerniel Gandalf's note. Uleerniel and Theogwyn both read it, paused, then looked up. Theogwyn spoke,
"Then you are to be our leader, Eriathiel. "
"How is it that our mission is already in danger?" Uleerniel wondered out loud. After inspecting a corpse of one of the dark men, Dunethien spoke. "These men seem to be the same that waylaid my company--and your last companion-- may the halls of Mandos be kind to his soul...." A troubled look returned to his eyes. No one said a word.
The sound of gentle sobbing caused the companions to look up. After the battle, Pippin had searched for his lost companion and at finding the motionless body of his dear friend, he had assumed the worst. His little form was bent over the ground, his shoulders heaving as he fought off violent sobs. Eriathiel woke from her trance, and seeing Merry on the ground, rushed over. Laying her head upon his chest, she listened for a heartbeat. "Is he--dead?" Whispered Pippin, barely able to choke out the words. Eriathiel sat up with a relieved look on her face. "No, Thank Eru (Iluvatar)! There is still breath in him!" Seeing the blood pooled on the ground by Merry's side, she began removing his outer clothing, taking off his jacket and vest. When she got down to his shirt, she gasped. Two big red holes looked back at her. Uleerniel shuddered at the sight as she stood behind her sister. Eriathiel sat in silent thoughtfulness.
Finally Uleerniel said, "We must leave right away." Theogwyn, however, was insistent that they not depart without tending fully the wounds of the party. Uleerniel had a sword-wound on her arm, Dunethien, a small slash on his cheek, Eriathiel, a stab in the leg, and Theogwyn, a prick on her shoulder. Eriathiel sat on the ground and after a few moments of silence spoke with a commanding tone that quieted the group.
"It is no longer safe to remain here, yet to completely ignore our injuries would be foolishness. We must bind our own wounds till we reach some safe destination, then we may care for them more fully. I do not know how deep the Hobbit's wounds go, for that would take careful examination and we haven't the time. What strength he posses has lasted him this far, let us pray that it will linger still." Here, her voice softened, and returned to its normal tone. "Pippin," she said, calling over the somber Hobbit, "go with Dunethien to get my pack. In it is a cloth we may use for bandages; bring it to me, quickly!" He dashed off before she had barely finished speaking, eager to be of help. Dunethien followed closely at his heals. Eriathiel gently felt the skin around Merry's wound. It seemed to her that it was very hot, too hot!
The Hobbit returned and thrust out a large bundle of cloth. Eriathiel took it and smiled. Theogwyn set to work bandaging Uleerniel's arm. Dunethien aided their efforts by tearing off strips to use as dressing for their wounds. While the Elves took turns bandaging each other, Eriathiel worked on the Hobbit. Pippin, refusing to leave the side of his friend, inched closer and closer to Eriathiel, watching over her shoulder as she placed the dried aethelas on Merry's wounds. Finally, he could stand it no longer. "Please, let me help!" he begged her. Eriathiel nodded. He helped her wrap round and round strips of cloth, securing the dressing on Merry's wound. Gingerly, they put back on his shirt and jacket.
Eriathiel recovered her sword and re-sheathed it. Theogwyn offered a suggestion, "If you wish, I know of some caverns about a day's ride from here where we can take shelter until you decide where we go next. They are kept well stocked with supplies, and there's water near by." Dunethien said that he too knew of the caves. In less than an hour, all six of the weary travelers were traversing the lonely paths toward the caverns.
(Please Review! Thanks!)
NOTE: This was written by Gloria Falton(Eriathiel), Jaimie T., Uleerniel(Melody F.) and Theogwyn (April F.)