To Dream - Ch28: Madness is Catching

Names/Pronunciations will come at the end of each chapter.

`*' signals a footnote

A/N: I'm taking some liberty with the timeline in this chapter. On the question of how long the Fellowship was in Lothlórien, Tolkien is rather ambiguous. It is mentioned that it *seemed* like they stayed there a long time, but when they left it also *seemed* like no time had passed at all. Therefore, I'm gonna do what I want. = )

Chapter 28.) Madness is Catching

Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye
- Emily Dickinson

Recap: Three normal days since last chapter (if you want to say that time may pass differently in Lothlórien, or may *seem* to pass differently, go right ahead). Elladan is off to find the Dúnedain. Elrohir is somewhere between Lothlórien and Imladris. Oloriel is determined to leave the Golden Wood and to take her part in the struggle for Middle Earth.

Oloriel scrunched up her nose as she fine-tuned one of the strings on her harp. A new melody had been toying with her all morning, but she couldn't quite pin it down. It had been some while since she had devoted any significant amount of time to musical pursuits and she felt rather out of touch. However, it may have been her current state of mind and not her skill that was most to blame for her unimpressive progress.

Her main reason for picking up the harp that morning was that she hoped it would help to calm her nerves somewhat. The past week had been horrendous. It was believed that Kallindo had a fair chance for recovery, but he was still unconscious. No one knew when he would wake up. It was apparent that a great deal of his life energy was being funneled into the healing process. Even his breaths were still shallow.

But this was not the only source of her irritation. Since giving her promise to Elladan, she had been trying to work up the courage to accost Nessúlë and convince her to approve of her plan. But her attempts had been, thus far, unsuccessful. Her pre-planned speech always seemed to be lacking somewhat, and she was not thoroughly convinced that she would win the elleth's confirmation. One half of her wanted to skip the ordeal altogether, but the other half chafed at the idea of breaking her word - and to her beloved no less.

Oloriel impudently plucked a discordant chord on her harp and sighed heavily. She should never have made that promise to Elladan; it was causing her more grief than it was worth. She was determined to go. She would seek Nessúlë's advice, and if worse came to worse, she would simply ignore it.

`Stop living in the shadows,' she commanded herself. `Anyone who tells me not to go will be doing so for the wrong reasons: my inexperience and physical weaknesses have nothing to do with it. There is something that I must do, though I have yet to discover what it is. It has been appointed to me, and I must do it.'

With a decisive nod of her head, she placed her harp by the foot of her bed and went out to seek Nessúlë


"You are positively insane."

Nessúlë, who had previously been pacing through the room in agitation, now stood in front of Oloriel waiting for a response to her declaration.

"Am not," Oloriel countered simply.

Nessúlë had to bite her tongue fiercely to keep from replying with "Are too" in elfling fashion. This last ditch effort at control was the last straw. Collapsing onto a nearby chair she let her incredulous laughter burst forth in unmitigated waves. The whole situation was too ridiculous - laughter was her only recourse to sanity.

Oloriel pursed her lips and waited for Nessúlë's mirth to subside.

"I know that it is not practical, but destiny is rarely practical." Oloriel lifted her chin in dignified resolution.

Nessúlë just shook her head. "What does destiny have to do with anything, Oloriel. You're angry, and you're prepared to do something amazingly rash. What did you expect me to say?"

Slumping down into her chair, Oloriel muttered, "Exactly what you did say... But your words do not convince me." She let her head fall back with a sigh. "Nessúlë, I cannot ignore this feeling. I know that I need to be ready when my time comes, and that it will not come if I wait idly in this wood and rot. Something is happening... the world is growing dark outside, I can feel. We can all feel it. Things are moving. That odd fellowship that arrived a week ago, I believe they are part of it as well. And Elladan rides to the Land of the Horse Lords. Nothing will be as it once was, I know that, but... but if only the light can prevail, perhaps the world will still be a good and a lovely place."

Nessúlë was struck by the intense sincerity in Oloriel's eyes: like a precocious child who, not yet clouded by the complexities of life, can see the world with a startling clarity. And yet, she herself was embroiled in the complexities of life, and she couldn't look at things so simply.

"But, Oloriel," she began, "This is not truly our world. Despite the length of our stay, we have always been journeying to Valinor. That is our destination - it will be our true home for eternity."

Oloriel looked straight into Nessúlë's eyes and said a few words that would change her life forever: "Then why did you stay?"

Nessúlë rocked back in her chair with a dazed look, but did not reply.

"Why didn't you follow your parents to Valinor? Why did you risk your life to travel all the way to Lothlórien, so that you could meet an aunt that you barely knew? Why? It could not simply have been for adventure or experience. Certainly the lands of Valinor could provide enough open spaces and new sights to delight your fancy for millennia. And you are not even an explorer. You are a fighter, yes, and you are curious enough, but I think I know you well enough to say that the wander-lust is not in your blood."

Nessúlë remained silent, looking out a window into the distance.

"This is your home," Oloriel continued, "Your heart still resides in Middle Earth. And though the sea will no doubt call you one day, until it does you cannot forsake this place... so do not ask me to forsake it either."

Without waiting for a reply, Oloriel stood up and walked slowly out of the room. She needed some fresh air, and some time to think. Grabbing her cloak at the doorway, she wandered outside into the sunshine.


Aragorn let a gentle smile flit across his face as he folded up the parchment. He had read the letter from Arwen countless times, and he knew that he would read it several times more. It was something to hold on to. He had been thrilled to receive it, and could only regret that he had missed Elrohir, the messenger.

As he began to tuck the letter back inside his borrowed tunic, a soft humming reached his ears. Looking up, he saw an elleth walk into view with her eyes half closed. She seemed to be fairly concentrate on her little tune, for she would often repeat the same strain, perhaps changing it here and there, whilst the almost imperceptible tapping of her fingers against her dress seemed to be keeping time.

The only reason that Aragorn had time to analyze her behavior was because she had stopped, perhaps unconsciously, in the middle of the path as she puzzled out the melody. After observing her for a few moments longer, he was somewhat surprised when she suddenly let out a rather unladylike growl and cried, "Oh, if only I could find the wretched thing!"

Aragorn couldn't help but smile and let out a cheeky reply. "Have you lost something, m'lady? It seems odd to go about looking for it with your eyes half closed."

Oloriel's eyes flew open at the unexpected interruption. She was about to snap back at whoever was the source of such a mocking tone, but when she met the good-hearted and merry eyes of Aragorn, she couldn't find it in herself to chide. Of course, right after she had read this tale in his eyes, she was struck forcefully by the thought that the person in front of her was no Elf of Lórien. Indeed, he was not an Elf at all!"

"A man?" she blurted out rather discourteously?

Aragorn spread his arms out as if to say `I stand convicted.'

"You... you are one of the wanderers, aren't you?" The wheels in Oloriel's brain finally began to function. "I did not think that I should ever meet one."

Aragorn's eyebrows lifted in surprise. "You have never met a man before?"

Oloriel shrugged helplessly. "I have seen them from afar on several occasions, but never have I spoken with one."

"Well then," Aragorn smiled warmly, "I hope I have not let down your expectations. Do you approve?"

Cocking her head to the side as if to get a better view of him, Oloriel examined him from head to two. "Well, you are certainly different. But you have a good and clever air about you... and a certain dignity as well. Yes, I think you have met my expectations admirably. Indeed, sir, I believe you have out-shined them, for I cannot say that I was expecting much grace or manners. But you know how rumors gets started, I dare say that all of us Elves have been stuck up in our trees far to long to have a proper understanding of those outside our borders."

"It is not my place to comment on that. Elves are wise and judicious in most ways, and it is fitting that you should be so. Anything less would not suit the First-born... But speaking of manners, pardon me for being so remiss in them. I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, called Estel by some in this wood."

Oloriel made a small curtsy. "Ah, now that is a name I have heard before. And now that I think of it, you may just be one of those humans that I had the chance of `spying from afar.' I am glad to finally make your acquaintance. I am Oloriel, daughter of Alkarin and Maldalossë."

Aragorn rose from his seat on a log bench and swept up her hand in a formal greeting. "The pleasure is all mine, lady. And now that we are friends, may I inquire as to just what it is you were looking for?"

A puzzled expression settled on Oloriel's face for a moment before she realized what he was referring to. "Oh! That... yes, well, I have been hearing half a tune in my head all morning, and I was trying to finish it, but it simply won't come out right."

"Alas, for I cannot help you with such a venture. I'm afraid you will have to search on your own."

"That is well, for it keeps my mind occupied from more distressing matters."

Aragorn's mind wondered at the meaning of those words, but the look on her face held him back from inquiring.

"But my lady, why didn't you say so? If it is diversion you are looking for, then I am at your service. You have met a man today, but have you ever met a Hobbit?"

Oloriel smiled cheerfully. "No, indeed. Although I have heard mention of them in a few books. I thought they must have disappeared by now."

"Nay, lady, they just prefer to keep to themselves. As long as they have food enough, they are generally content to stay at home. And speaking of food, I believe that we shall find them devouring luncheon as we speak. Shall we join them?"

Aragorn held out his arm to her and she took it willing. "Lead on."


That evening found Oloriel curled up in a comfortable chair with a good book and a cup of hot tea. She had spent a lovely afternoon with the four Hobbits at the base of the Great Mallorn, but had not felt as if she should over-stay her welcome. She also did not want to intrude upon Nessúlë this evening, for she felt that the other elleth would come to her if she had anything to say. And so, with these two options nixed, she had settled on a quiet evening between herself and One Day in the Woods, a favorite childhood fairy story.

She was just at the part when Camgwenn and the Prince realize that they have been trapped inside the enchanted grotto, when a nock came at the door of her flet. Setting the old book aside with loving care, Oloriel wrapped her shawl more tightly about her figure, and made her way over to the doorway. Nessúlë was waiting on the other side. As soon as the wood panel swung away, she spoke.

"Fine then, I'm coming with you."

Oloriel stood dumbfounded for a moment, and so Nessúlë took the opportunity to slip inside and poor herself some tea from the pot in the hearth. After a few moments, Oloriel finally gained enough composure to close the door and move a few random items from a chair, so that Nessúlë could sit down.

"You're... coming with me?"

Nessúlë smiled cheerfully. "Well of course I am! You don't think I would let you do something as idiotic as this without taking my own part in the fun, do you? Besides, I'd never forgive myself if I let you go all alone."

Oloriel shook her head fiercely. "I don't want you to feel responsible for me, or to come because you feel duty-bound."

"Why ever not?" Nessúlë replied. "You're going because you feel it's your duty, why shouldn't I? Besides, if I only felt responsible for you I should simply tell of your plans to someone with a little more sense who could put a stop to this madness. But, I shan't do that, because I think you would hate me forever. No, you shall go, and I shall go with you. And if we end up getting ourselves killed, then at least we will enjoy the comfort of making our merry way to the Halls of Mandos together."

Oloriel shivered involuntarily. "Let us not speak so morbidly just yet, shall we?"

Nessúlë cocked her head to the side. "Was I being morbid?"

A smile flitted across Oloriel's face before taking up permanent residence. "You are the maddest elleth I have ever met... and I thank you for it, from the very bottom of my heart. I have to confess that I did feel a bit daunted at undertaking the whole wide world by myself." Sticking out her hand, she continued, "We'll be lunatic together then?"

Nessúlë nodded resolutely and clasped Oloriel's hand firmly. "Aye," she said, giving a few shakes for the bargain, "Lunatic to the very end."

*~*~*~ Next Day ~*~*~*

Oloriel pushed a branch aside to get better view of the company at the water's edge. The Fellowship was departing that morning, and she had wanted to see them off. However, she was now unsure of how to approach them. She had only met Aragorn and the Hobbits the day before, and had only exchanged a few brief words of greeting with the others. In all truthfulness, she didn't even know why she had come. Certainly, there was something about Aragorn that captured her attention, but it was a very indefinite feeling, and not one that she could pin down.

Finally, with a resigned shrug she stepped out into the clearing and approached the boats in the water. She walked slowly so as not to draw much attention to herself. There were other Elves around, helping to load supplies into the boats, and so her appearance was not exceptional. After a few moments of skirting the general area of activity, Aragorn happened to turn around and catch her gaze. Recognizing her immediately, he smiled and called a "Good morning, lady" to her. His salutations caught the attention of two of the Hobbits, and they greeted her as well. With this encouragement, she strolled closer and offered her own salutations.

"So you are off then?" Oloriel felt silly asking such an obvious question, but she shrugged off the feeling.

"Aye, that we are," Aragorn nodded as he bent down to stow another bag into the boat.

"I hope that you fare well, Estel o Edain{Hope of Men}. And, may I be so bold as to make my own contribution to this end?"

Oloriel held out a small package to Aragorn, who eyed it curiously.

"'Tis a few herbs and ointments which may prove useful to you. Doubtless you have already been provided for in the way of such things, but I think you will find a few pleasant surprises in there: things which are not often needed, but are of infinite help when they are."

Aragorn bowed his head politely and accepted the small, brown parcel. "Thank you, lady. A very thoughtful gesture, though I hope we never have need of it."

Oloriel smiled her agreement. "As do I. Farewell, then. I must be on my way. Good day to you, Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brandybuck. Try not to stuff yourself with Lembas too quickly."

The two Hobbits in question smiled somewhat bashfully and murmured their assurances for future conduct, meanwhile eyeing the scattered leaf wrappings in the bottom of the boat.

With her mission accomplished, Oloriel turned swiftly to leave, only to have her progress halted by collision with a short, armored personage. `The Dwarf!' Oloriel thought frantically, `I had hoped to avoid him.'

However, avoidance was now out of the question. The Dwarf had tottered about for a moment, and though rescued from a tumble into the river by the quick reflexes of Legolas, he had lost his load, and was now muttering profusely about the inconvenience of overly hasty Elves.

Oloriel reddened slightly, but bit her tongue. This Dwarf was a guest in Lothlórien, and should be treated as such.

"Forgive me, sir Dwarf," she finally managed to say, stooping down quickly to pick up the last of his fallen gear, "I seem to be at fault." She wouldn't go so far as to say she was at fault. After all, he had been walking right behind her, and, well... he was a Dwarf after all!

Legolas smiled knowingly over Gimli's head at her, and she realized that he probably had a good idea of what was going on inside her mind. His demeanor was not quite censuring, but neither could she say that he entirely approved. Feeling slightly disconcerted by this she made her apology once more and departed. The Elf couldn't really have a liking for that Dwarf, could he?

*~*~*~Seven Days Later~*~*~*

Elladan watched lazily as his breath clouded in the frigid air before him. He turned his head slightly downward and let his gaze wander over the lightly frost-covered ground. It was ironic, really, this deadly beauty. Small glints and shimmers caught his eye as the moonlight glanced off the crystalline winter robe that nature drew on at night. He knew that the men around him were feeling the sharp tang of the air, despite their thick woolen cloaks and the Númenorean blood that ran through their veins.

It felt like such a long time since he had been there last, just a day after he had met Oloriel. It was an odd feeling. For Elves, time usually seemed to flow rather quickly: days, turning into years, turning into centuries without pause, without thought. But Elladan still felt rather dazed from all that had happened in this short time. In many ways it was as if he had been transformed into an entirely new person. His morose views and solitary ways seemed to have been washed away, leaving him with an overwhelming sense of being newly awaked.

Standing up from his crouching position, Elladan shook these thoughts out of his mind and glanced back at the small cottage, nestled in the trees behind him. It belonged to an old, grizzled man named Gathrim, who had tended to an arrow wound in Elladan's arm the last time he had been there.

Elladan had met the man several times before that, but had never gotten to know him much. The man was, for lack of a better word, an irritable curmudgeon in most respects. It was said that, when young, he had been husband to a hale and beautiful lady, but that their history proved to be a tragic one; one which sent him into the wilderness to lick his wounds. However, despite his dubious past and temperament, he had always proved to be a stalwart ally to the Dúnedain, helping when he could and stubbornly resisting all things evil and of dark purpose.

Elladan smiled slightly as he saw Gathrim make a dramatic entry onto the scene, throwing the door of his cottage wide open and gazing sternly across the group of sleeping men at his doorstep. His hawk eyes seemed to be sizing them up, bushy eyebrows settled into a calculating "V". With an ambiguous sniff, he turned back in and disappeared into the doorway. Of the few times that Elladan had sojourned in this small, two room house, he could not remember having ever seen Gathrim sleep.

Sleep. Elladan would have been sleeping himself at that moment if it were not for the ever-present shadow of danger that surrounded them. One could never be overly watchful in these parts of the wilderness. Foul things lurked near the foot of the mountains. In fact, foul things lurked almost everywhere in those days, making a constant guard necessary. Elladan knew that he was more capable of functioning without sleep than were the Second-born, and so he stood watch while the men slept. He did not look forward to the next few weeks, for this would certainly become the general pattern. No doubt he would often go for several days at a time without even being able to spend a few hours with Oloriel. Of course, they were still able to speak in spurts, and hear each other's thoughts, but it was not enough. Elladan's eyes narrowed slightly as he realized where his thoughts had turned yet again. `I'm hopeless, utterly hopeless.'

As Elladan was mentally chiding himself for his lovesick meanderings a noise from out on the plain caught his attention. Hoof beats: the faint sound of hoof beats was floating through the air. Of course, considering his acute hearing, this meant that the horse, and presumably a rider with him, was some ways off yet. However, preparations should still be made. Elladan was expecting a few more Rangers to arrive at the muster, so it was likely that this rider was a friend, but they should be ready to meet anything. He made his way over to Corin, the other watcher on duty, and whispered his findings. Ten minutes later the two of them stood at the ready, bows poised to fire into the shadows as soon as a threat should become apparent.

After a minute or two of tense watching, Elladan caught a faint glimpse of their quarry: a man, shrouded in a gray cloak, riding toward the circle of firelight on a proud steed. The man did not have his weapon drawn.

Before Elladan could hail him the man lifted up his hand, palm outward, in a sign of peace. He then threw back his hood, revealing his welcomed identity.

"Halbarad, greetings! I began to despair of you," Elladan whispered loudly.

Halbarad grinned and answered him in an equally moderate tone, so as not to disturb the sleepers. "I would not neglect the summons of Aragorn. When do we ride out?"

"At first light," Corin spoke up for the first time.

Halbarad acknowledged Corin's presence with a cordial nod.

"I suppose then that I shall try to rest until that time. Do you need another set of eyes for the watch?"

"Nay, Halbarad," Elladan assured him, "Sleep while you can."

*~*~*~The Next Day~*~*~*

Oloriel sat pensively by the bed and watched Kallindo's chest rise and fall in gentle rhythm. She had heard that at some point during the afternoon he had regained consciousness, but she had not be there to witness it. Now he slept peacefully, his breathing regular.

They were leaving tonight. Nessúlë was gathering the horses as Oloriel sat beside Kallindo's bed. She had come to say good-bye.

Pushing the sheet back, she lifted up his tunic to see how his wound had been tended. The bandages were well wrapped and everything seemed in order. She sighed softly. This was the turning point. Should she be satisfied with the fact that Kallindo had lived and just give up on her daft scheme? It seemed very tempting at the moment. The room was warm, and she could hear gentle music wafting in through the window. Outside of the wood she knew that the weather was cold and rather unforgiving. She knew that she would have to fight to survive, that she might never find Elladan, that if she did, he might simply send her home, that Nessúlë could get seriously injured helping her, and that, in the end, perhaps none of what she did would even matter. Shouldn't she be satisfied with Kallindo's recovery and leave well enough alone?

She bent her head and let her hand rest on top of Kallindo's. And then, without thought she began to sing quietly.

May it be an evening star shines down upon you
May it be when darkness falls your heart will be true

Oloriel's voice faltered before continuing, even more faintly.

You walk a lonely road
Oh how far you are from home...

May it be the shadows call will fly away
May it be your journey on to light the day
When the night is overcome
You may rise to find the sun

Mornië utúlië (Darkness has come)
Believe and you will find your way
Mornië alantië
(Darkness has fallen)
A promise lives within you now...

Oloriel brushed a stray lock of hair from Kallindo's face. As she did so, she thought of all the other wives and daughters, husbands and sons, parents and children, and friends that were perhaps at that same moment leaning anxiously over the ashen face of a loved one, begging them to awaken, to return to them. Kallindo was not the only casualty of war, nor the only dear one to have been struck down by the enemy. Yes, her world had survived this last attack, but how much longer would it hold? And even if it did hold, how many other worlds, how many other hopes and dreams would fall apart? This wasn't simply about her.

Leaning forward, she placed a light kiss on Kallindo's forehead and whispered a prayer over him. Then, getting up and turning toward the doorway, she said a prayer for herself.

"A Ilúvatar, togo anim bo senlond. Im boë lín maerist. {Oh All-father(God), lead me on this path. I need your wisdom}"


"I wish that we needn't have passed through the gates. We may have satisfied the guard's inquiries, but they will still know that we left, and when, and in which direction we turned."

Nessúlë worried at her lip restlessly as she considered all the pitfalls of their plan. Oloriel just tilted her head up the stars and took in a deep breath.

"It could not be helped - not if we wanted the horses. I suppose that we could have gone the opposite way and tried to throw them off a bit, but the wardens could easily track us either way. We will simply have to ride hard once we reach the plain... and not look back."

"Aye," Nessúlë agreed soberly.


"I can't believe we're doing this," Nessúlë's voice was slightly strained. "I can't believe I'm doing this to my brother. He's going to be lost for a while, and then we he finds me, he's going to half-kill me for running off like this... that is, if I'm not already dead. I must be insane."

Oloriel let her gaze come down to rest upon the elleth riding next to her. "Aye, mellon nín {my friend}, you are. But we live in a mad world, so it is not such a very bad thing in the end."

Nessúlë chuckled softly. "No... no, perhaps it is not."

It was at this moment that both maidens felt a tugging in their minds. The wood around them seemed to brighten for a moment before snapping back to reality, and then a voice flowed softly into their minds.

//Naband, nethmaethyr, galu garanle// {Be safe, young warriors, blessings go with you}

Oloriel and Nessúlë both jumped slightly and then met each other's gazes.

"She knows," Oloriel whispered softly, "The Lady knows."


Things to Know:

A Ilúvatar, togo anim bo sen-lond. Im boë lín maer-ist = literally, "Oh all-father, lead me on this-path. I need your good-knowledge" --- couldn't find Sindarin word for wisdom.

Na-band, neth-maethyr, galu gar-an-le = literally, "Be safe, young-warriors, blessings hold-to-you" --- na = "be" is a bit iffy, but I went with it. --- maethryn -> pl. of meathor = "warrior".

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