Paths Revisited - Chapter 5: The Sword and the Elf

It was early the next morning when Theogwyn awoke, and began saddling her horse. She needed to catch up to Uleerniel and Pippin before they got too far ahead of her so she could tell them what she found out. Currying Windrunner, she set the brush aside, and gently laid the blanket on the horse's back. Singing softly in elvish, she quickly gathered her belongings and tied them behind the saddle. Climbing up, she urged Windrunner off, down the trail to the glade where she said she would meet them today at noon.
After riding hard, Theogwyn made it to the glade just as Uleerniel and Pippin were arriving. Jumping down off her horse, Theogwyn ran over and embraced Pippin, and clasped forearms with Uleerniel.
" I'm so glad to see you here, I was afraid that your errand would take you from us before the quest even began" Uleerniel started to say.
" I'm glad to find you both safe as well," Theogwyn replied. " I found out some news, but seeing Joc is no longer with you, its not as urgent as I thought. What I found out, I think can wait until we camp tonight . We have a ways to travel before reaching Rivendell. Another four days, and we'll be feasting in the Halls of High Lord Elrond amid singing and tale-telling. "
Uleerniel nodded, and Pippin ran up and gave her another hug, just for good measure before walking back over to his horse. Staring up at it, he glanced back at Theogwyn, then he looked back to his horse. The look on his face was comical and pitiful at the same time, and Theogwyn had to laugh as she moved over beside him. " Need a little help there Master Pippin? I know one day you'll get it, but for now, we need to get moving." With that, she lifted him up onto his horse.
Taking a running leap, she landed in her own saddle, and turning Windrunner, she began to lead the way towards distant Rivendell.
About twilight, they came upon three large statues, almost all features worn away by the ravages of time. The statues were in a circle, with broken stone limbs littering the ground, half-covered with growth, and almost featureless. Pippin exclaimed " I know this place. I've been here before! These are Mr. Bilbo's trolls, the ones he and Gandalf told us about! I never thought to see these again."
He pulled his horse over, and jumped down, running over to the base of one of the statues. Pippin turned to the two elves " This is where Frodo was, when we feared for his life. I remember...."
It was a chilly, stormy night, and the five of them had been running for two days, and the hobbits were exhausted. Frodo was beginning to succumb to the poison in the wound, with secondary infection setting in. Strider was telling Frodo to hold on, they would be near help soon. At that point, Pippin was so out of his mind with worry about Frodo that he couldn't even remember all the tales that Mr. Bilbo had told them, about outwitting the trolls, and the buried treasure hidden in the cave. It was then that Pippin asked " is he going to die?" Strider pulled Sam aside, and they went to go look for herbs to help Frodo. Then they came back with Arwen, the shining elfess, who carried their wounded friend away to safety.
Pippin walked around the statues, entranced in memory of what was the events surrounding their being there in the first place: a magic ring, his insatiable curiosity, and his love of vegetables stolen from Farmer Maggot.
As he rounded the last statue, he came face to fern with some large plants. These plants had grown over and covered the entrance to a cavern. He called back "Theogwyn, Uleerniel, some see what I found!" Thoughts of buried treasure danced in his head, although common sense told him that any gold left was long gone.
Theogwyn rode around the statues, and dismounted next to him. With a whisper of admonition for Windrunner to stay where he was, she stepped over to where he was pointing. Drawing her sword, she hacked at the vegetation surrounding the cave entrance. The vines and ferns fell back in clean strokes.
"What have you found here, Master Pippin?" Theogwyn inquired good-naturedly. When he told her the story of the trolls, and treasure, she became curious. She motioned for Uleerniel to stay outside, while she and Pippin investigated the interior of the cave. Uleerniel nodded, and the two of them passed the frightening ferns, and began to look about the inside of the cave. Theogwyn bent down, and picked up a largish stick, and using her flint and steel, struck a spark, and caused it to become a torch. Holding her light high, they began to make their way deeper into the interior of the cave.
The cave seemed dark. When the hobbit's foot crunched on something, both froze, unsure of what he had stepped on. Pippin carefully lifted one foot, and then the other, and they found he had stepped on a bone. Upon closer examination, the bone crumbled into dust, having been in the cave for so long. Pippin looked to her for an explanation, but Theogwyn was just as mystified as he was. Then Pip remembered that this had been a troll's lair, and they ate all manner of things. But even with this remembrance, he walked a little closer to Theogwyn.
After walking for a few minutes down a long passageway, the walls opened up, and gave way to a large room, filled with cobwebs, large boulders shaped like rude imitations of furniture, and ancient wooden shelves lining the stone walls. As they began to look around, Theogwyn saw little piles of rubble on top of an old chest. Unopened boxes were always curious for her, and she asked Pippin to hold the torch while she looked inside.
Kneeling down, Theogwyn took out her dagger, and began to pry the lock open. After some careful manipulations, the lock opened. Motioning Pippin to hold the torch closer, she brushed the rubble off the chest. Taking a deep breath, she pushed the lid back.
Pippin held the torch over the chest, and saw glimmers of .. Something.. In the bottom of it. " What is it?" he wondered aloud.
Theogwyn reached her hands into the trunk, and pulled out a shortsword, and a sheathed dagger, and placed them on the ground next to her. While Pippin held the torch closer, she began to inspect the weapons.
The dagger was in a deep green leather sheath that had been cracked with time; it had what appeared to be tarnished silver decorations, in the forms of leaves and vines. Very distinctive leaves in fact. With a start, she realized what the leaves were...they were the leaves of a mallorn tree, Lorien-style to be specific. She could find no logical explanation for that to be here, so far from Lothlorien proper. Unless an elf had fallen into the hands of the trolls sometime far in the past. That explanation in her mind seemed to satisfy her, for now. She placed the dagger into her pack, and then went back to the contents of the chest. Reaching into the chest again, she pulled out short sword in a blue leather sheath, although this sheath was not cracked and broken like the dagger. Theogwyn began to examine the short sword itself, and she was intrigued by what she found. It seemed strangely and hauntingly familiar... somehow, but she could not say why.
Her hand seemed to move of its own volition, and reached out to grasp the sword hilt, it seemed to fit into her hand as if the grip was fashioned for her hands specifically. The sheath style was also Lothlorien-based, silver-leaf decorated, but, unlike the dagger sheath, was not cracked with age. As she pulled out the short sword, it slid out easily, as if it had been oiled frequently. Gently she ran her fingers down the length of the blade, gazing at the runes traced along the blade. They seemed to glow with a strange inner light, flickering , but growing stronger the more she stared at them. Somehow the strange runes touched some echo deep within her. Staring down at the runes, they almost seemed to come alive, illuminated from within.
Then she had an idea. She pulled out her own short-sword and laid the two swords flat on the dank, damp rock in front of her. The two were identical in size, coloring, and design, except for the runes along the blade. The runes on her sword were strengthening ,stealth, and protection. The runes along the second blade were strange-and yet so familiar... her eyes opened wide as she read them. " Imhadrnas, blade of Theogwyn . The keeper of the medallion of time." She ran her fingers along the blade, and it seemed to whisper to her, murmuring quiet reassurances-the voices were strange, and yet they seemed to know her, and she them......
She was reluctant to set the blade aside, but she was curious as to what was the medallion of time. She found some leather in her pouch, and then tied the short sword onto her belt, opposite the one on her right, and as she did so, she felt a sense of rightness, of connection with the past, although with what she did not know yet. Reaching back into the chest, she pulled forth a sparkling medallion, of pure mithril it seemed, bearing the image of a heavenly woman holding a sun in one hand and a ring of seven stars in the other hand. And, unlike the dagger, it was bright, no sign of tarnish upon it. The medallion was not large, only about half the size of her palm, but when she picked it up, it seemed to be warm to the touch, as if heated from within. This has to be what the sword meant, the medallion of time! She thought to herself. I wonder what it does? She filed the thoughts away, then hung the pendant around her neck, and again felt the sense of correctness and a connection to the past.
She didn't remember much of her life before her mother died. Even though she was between five and seven, much of her mother's life was a mystery. What she did know was that she was born of nobility, but past that, nothing was told to her. Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn would not tell her of her mother, or her father, and neither would any other of the elves. Ever since that fateful day when her mother had disappeared during an orc raid on the northern border.
It had been merely twenty years after the Last Great War of the Ring, and there had still been a few roving bands of orcs left. It was during a freak attack that Lady Theogliligiel was on border guard. The entire outpost had been over-run and wiped out-- nine dead, and one missing, but presumed dead, since Theoliligiel's weapons and cloak were found covered in blood-elf blood, down the path leading out of Lothlorien and towards the east. There were signs of a struggle, but to no avail. Even the best elven trackers could not find the missing Lady.
Theogwyn remembered with a shudder that fateful day they had found the ransacked and bloody watch post. Suddenly, she heard a sharp crack from behind her !
Jerking back to the present, she whipped her head around to see what had made the noise. Looking towards Pippin, she saw a sheepish look on his face, and realized it was he that made the noise. He had broken a piece of old, rotten shelving in his poking around.
" Sorry about that Theogwyn. I was curious as to what was on the top shelves, and I tried to climb up, but the bottom shelf cracked under me.." Pippin said, with an embarrassed tone to his voice.
" That's all right Pip. You just startled me, that's all. I was just thinking about the past. I think that we need to get back to the camp, as there is nothing else here to explore.
As the light was began to wax and wane, they both started walking back to the entrance, thinking about ancient treasures lost, and what they had found within the cavern
Emerging from the tunnel, it was clear that the sun had set, and it was after nightfall. Theogwyn looked around for Uleerniel, and found her in the middle of the ring of statues, in front of a small fire. " I'm sorry we were in there so long. I guess I lost track of time. Thank you for setting up camp. As payment" Theogwyn grinned sheepishly" I'll take the first watch, and Pippin the second, letting you get some sleep." Pippin looked startled by this, but then he grinned at both of them, and walked over to his bag to get the rations for that night.
After they ate, Pippin and Uleerniel settled down in their blankets to rest, while Theogwyn patrolled the area. While she was walking, she took out her whetstone, and a soft cloth, and began to sharpen the found sword. Working carefully, she delicately brought back the blade to a keen razor sharpness. She was strangely drawn to the blade; the urge to caress it was almost palpable, as if it held deeper secrets that longed to be discovered. Another time she promised herself. Another time I'll find out the secrets of the sword.
As the night passed, the stars above shone down, giving their faint light to the sleeping world below. Ever so slowly, they wheeled overhead, ever dancing to the ancient song that first set them in motion.
As Theogwyn stared up at them, she was caught up in the pale beauty of the starlight, as she was an elf, she softly sang of Elbereth Starkindler, of lost love, of sadness forgotten.
Then, as she glanced at the fire, she realized that it was time for Pippin's watch. As she went to wake the young hobbit, she heard a faint voice far away, softly singing-it could have been her imagination, or the echoes of memory, but either way, she closed her eyes, and became lost in the song.
It only lasted a few moments, but it brought tears to her cheeks. For the song told a story that she had long forgotten , and had not wanted to remember. The song told of a lover's betrayal of one beloved, and the heartbreak that the betrayed felt. Shaking off the sadness and memory, she bent down to waken the hobbit for his watch.
After making sure he was awake and patrolling, she curled herself up in her blanket, and sought out a peaceful dream, of a time past, when two lovers walked beneath stars such as the ones above, ignorant of everyone and everything else but themselves. With that thought on her mind, Theogwyn drifted off to sleep the sleep of peaceful memory.
Early the next morning, Uleerniel woke them at sunrise. " Since we only have three more days of hard riding, we had better get going. The sooner we start, the sooner we'll arrive in Rivendell."
The other two nodded, and they set about breaking camp, grooming and saddling the horses, and dousing their campfire.
As they set out, a sparrow broke into song above their camp. As they rode along, all around them they could hear the sounds of the forest.
The rest of the day was uneventful and restful. The lands around Rivendell's borders were full of animals, birds chirping, squirrels chattering, the soft sound of deer running between the trees. As noon came, Theogwyn was beginning to think that they would reach Rivendell without any more adventures.
As they rounded a large boulder half buried in the ferns, Uleerniel gave a small startled cry of surprise and alarm, and leaped off her horse, bending over something lying in the dirt.
" What is it Uleerniel? What did you find?" Theogwyn reigned in Windrunner and jumped down, and squatted on the ground next to her. Looking down, she tried to make out what had caused her friend such fear.
To Theogwyn's horror, there was Eriathiel's medicine bag, covered in dried elven blood, and bits of dirt-colored fur. There was also a second type of fluid staining the bag, a dark black ichors, which stank.
"What happened here? Where are Eriathiel and Merry?" Uleerniel cried... turning to Theogwyn, as if she had answers.
Theogwyn noticed behind the bag, there was a small wooden pipe with a long stem, half-hidden in the grass, also covered in dried blood and ichors. Pippin jumped down and grabbed it out of her hands.
" Its Merry's pipe! I know, because I gave it to him! What do you think happened? Where are they??" His voice began tremble, and to approach panic levels.
Uleerniel looked grave. " I don't know, Master Perigrin. I think something went terribly wrong here."
Theogwyn nodded, and suggested that they camp here for the night, the better to examine the land around, and look for traces of the their friends.
Uleerniel nodded, although she didn't agree. " I think we need to press to reach Rivendell. I feel ill about spending the night here."
Pippin looked up at the elven women and said in a broken voice that was almost a shout " I want to camp here, and look for Merry! I want to know what happened to him!!!!"
Uleerniel replied in her soft voice " Very well, I am overridden. We camp here, and search until dark."
With that, Pippin began to gather firewood, and Uleerniel and Theogwyn began to examine the woods surrounding the clearing. As the two women spread out, they noticed deep claw marks on the fallen branches, as if large wolves or bears had passed in a fury, clawing anything in their path. On a few sticks there were flecks of deep green-black ichor, their stench making them obvious. Theogwyn broke off a twig smeared with the stuff, and brought it back to the fire, along with a stick that bore the deep claw marks. As she showed Uleerniel and Pippin what she had found, Uleerniel brought forth similar sticks, bearing both the claw marks and ichors.
Stepping closer to Uleerniel, Theogwyn switched to elvish. " There appears to have been a battle here, and I fear our friends may have had the worst of it. There is much dried blood around here, plus the strange ichor. The blood trail leads off towards Rivendell. I hope they made it." Gesturing to the sticks in her hands, she said " Let's take these to Lord Elrond, mayhap he can divine what happened, past what we have seen here." Uleerniel nodded, and wrapped the twigs in leaves, and placed them in her pack.
Switching back to Common, she said " Lets break our rations. In a few days hence, we'll eat well in the Halls of Rivendell-for now, we must make do with dried rations." a smile was in her voice, as if she was trying to give the hobbit a small measure of comfort in being so close to Rivendell, and feasting.
Pippin broke out in a grin, and with a contented sigh, munched through his rations in half the time it took for the two elves to eat theirs. Then he got up and led his pony over to a stump, and began to groom it, with slow, soothing motions. Next, he unpacked his bedroll, and, looking from one woman to the other, asked
" How are the watches going to be set?"
Theogwyn smiled, and then said they would draw grass. Short one gets the last watch, longest gets the first watch. She gathered up some grasses, and they all drew. Pippin drew the first watch, Uleerniel third, and Theogwyn second.
Theogwyn, having formed a habit with the hobbit, stayed up with Pippin part of the first watch, and talked with him, this time about his home in the Shire; what it was like, the colors, were there any trees around, did he really live in a hole in the ground, asking all manner of questions. Uleerniel had settled down nestled in the roots of a large oak tree, and was contently dreaming. After talking, she settled down in her blankets, nestled in the hollow between the roots of an old oak, covered in soft moss. As she laid down, her mind went away to the place where everything is pleasant, and dreams are fulfilled. Slowly she began to relax, and drowse, in that curious state of asleep-awake that elves use.
Then, a sound that turned that blood to ice ripped though the clearing, shattering the stillness of the night into a thousand jagged pieces. A hideous sound tore through the air, of no animal she had ever heard. It was like a cross between an attacking warg and the blood-chilling call of the nazgul. Theogwyn sat up with a start, then tried to throw off her blanket, but found herself almost paralyzed with fear at the sound. It had haunted her nightmares for centuries, and now it was realized!. She turned over, trying to master her fear as she disentangled herself from her blanket, and stood up. Both her hands went automatically to her swords, the newfound one and her other. As she drew them, both blades seemed to balance out, become extensions of her hands. Running around the fire, she knelt next to Uleerniel, who seemed to be disoriented and confused about what the sound was that had split the night and shattered their restful repose. Turning her head towards Pippin she cried out-
" Pippin, quickly! Get your sword out.... I think we may be in trouble...."
They could hear the bone- chilling cry being taken up and uttered a dozen more times. The sound was enough to turn their blood to ice within their veins, almost freezing them in place, almost unable to do anything. That was when she could sense the first shadow begin to circle the camp.
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