That night they traveled only a few miles, resting near Archet in a deep wood. They had left the storm behind them almost as soon as they had left the village, seen only by the frosty stars. When they awoke the next morning, hungry and cold, Gwynna gave them each a small sword with a sheath and belt and explained to them that they would approach Gondor by way of the sea, following the Greenway until they met the Old South Road, then turning south and west through Minhiriath until they met the bay north of the mouth of the river Greyflood.
Gwynna pressed them hard, speaking seldom and traveling nearly fifty miles each day, often outpacing the hobbits’ ponies on foot, having no steed. As they sun set each night and they set up a camp, the hobbits barely had the strength to nibble on some lean rabbit caught during the days travels and gulp water from a standing pool or babbling brook before falling into a dreamless slumber. Slowly, as they grew used to the strenuous pace, Faramir and Elanor did not find their labor so hard, and felt healthier, livelier, and younger. The change of lifestyle suited them well, and they adapted quickly.
So it was that on the seventh day out from Bree the hobbits rose happy and refreshed, traveling farther then they had on any day yet. They laughed and spoke together, of their childhoods and times of joy, and the day passed swiftly away. In the late afternoon, Gwynna paused, and listened, and after a few moments gave a cry of joy.
Leaping on a large rock, she scanned the horizon and whistled, a long, loud call that reverberated across the waving grass. In the distance another cry was heard, not an echo but an answer. They waited.
Galloping across the open plain was a creature, large in stature, but lithe. A young doe, wild and sleek, it ran to Gwynna and nuzzled her affectionately.
“Falas, mellon,” Gwynna cooed softly. She turned to the politely confused hobbits. “This is Falas. Her name means ‘Shore.’ I found her at the havens of Umbar, her mother dead by a ravening wolf and herself not three months old. I killed the beast, and saved her from death. She has been my companion through many journeys.”
Falas cantered to Elanor and sniffed her outstretched hand delicately. Elanor was enthralled. “She’s extraordinary!” she cried, slowly reaching a hand up to stroke the beautiful doe’s nose and ears. Falas shut her deep brown eyes that glinted like starlight and leaned towards the hobbit’s touch. When Faramir patted her, however, she butted aside his hand and nudged his breeches pocket. Elanor laughed.
“I think you have something she wants.”
Faramir drew out a few remaining blackberries that he had found that morning, and before he could offer her one, the deer plucked each one from his hand with delicate lips and munched them delightedly, returning to Gwynna’s side. Faramir looked forlornly at his empty palm while Elanor chuckled.
“This is lovely,” said Gwynna, “but I want to be moving on. I wish to reach the coast before you, see to a few things, but it will not be hard for you to find your way. Travel directly west, following the setting sun, and you should reach the shore by nightfall tonight. Farewell, for a little while!” She mounted the wild doe, murmured quietly into the velvety ear, and Falas sprang away with a speed that would put the fabled Shadowfax to shame.
She outstripped the Hobbits quickly, and as they galloped westward, they spoke together.
Elanor continued to chortle at Faramir’s loss of blackberries for some time, until he ‘accidentally’ guided Ronan into Elanor’s path, making Bill start and whinny. Bill then saw fit to chase Ronan about for a time, nipping at his heels while Elanor laughed hysterically. After a short while the two settled back into a steady pace and a comfortable silence.
Finally, Faramir spoke. “This is amazing,” he commented breathlessly. ” I can’t believe that not three weeks ago I was sitting at home having second breakfast, minding my own business, and now I’m in the middle of nowhere following you and a rampaging female wizard all across the countryside. I’ve been chased by a dog, had something thrown at me by an angry Bree-lander, and had my lunch eaten by a wild doe. But the odd thing is, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Neither would I,” replied Elanor in the same tone of voice. “But boats! Gwynna talked about sailing! I’ve wanted to sail ever since my father…” her voice faded. “What’s the matter with you?” she asked suddenly. Faramir looked very pale.
“Boats…” he muttered quietly, his pallor increasing. “Nothing,” he said more loudly, clearly changing the subject. “So… your father. When he sailed across the sea. That must have been horrible.”
“Yes,” she replied softly. “Yes it was. I still miss him. And he was the best cook in Hobbiton. Stewed conies like you wouldn’t believe,” she said, grinning. “Sometimes I… sometimes I wonder why he had to sail across the sea. I know he helped save our world, and how he’ll be remembered for ages and ages by people I’ll never even know. But I wish he hadn’t had to leave me. Sometimes I feel like he left because he didn’t love me.” Elanor’s voice broke as she choked back a sob. Faramir steered his pony closer and grasped her hand.
“Elanor,” he said, “I know your father loved you. How could he not? You are the most beautiful person I have ever known. You are amazing. When I see you, it’s as if all the flowers I’ve ever seen and all the songs I’ve ever heard made you. And you’re brilliant! No hobbit was ever like you. No being was ever like you. And Elanor, it doesn’t matter if your father loved you, though if he didn’t he was a fool.” Faramir swallowed audibly and took a deep breath. “Because, Elanor, I love you. More than the flowers or the trees or the sky or the moon or the stars or the sun. Or even second breakfast!”
Elanor looked up, staring into his face, filled with sincerity. Faramir looked back, a softness in his eyes that she had never seen before. Elanor felt the truth in his words and was comforted.
Suddenly, they heard a sound behind them. Before Elanor could turn, she felt a sharp, searing pain spread up her shoulder. She felt very weak, fell from Bill’s back, and knew no more.
* * *
Faramir twisted faster than Elanor had, and saw what was attacking them. A huge Orc, one of the offspring of the last renegades of the War of the Ring. He watched in shocked stillness as the Orc stabbed Elanor with a black-tipped knife and saw it come away red. His heart was filled with rage, all his conscious thought deserted him but one: kill the Orc.
He drew his blade, leapt from his pony and ran to the beast, and before it could turn began stabbing anywhere he could reach. It howled in pain throwing Faramir off and loping away to the north. Faramir began to chase him on foot, both ponies having galloped away in fright, and then remembered the fallen Elanor.
“Elanor!” He rushed to where she lay on the hard ground. The knife had had a poisoned tip, as he could see from the green edge of he wound, which spread from her left arm to her neck. Faramir gasped; even he knew that a wound like this could be fatal. He felt her neck for a heartbeat and found a looping, wild fluttering. She felt so delicate. I never should have let her come on this journey, he thought despairingly. Oh, great Eru, help me!
As he leant over her, her eyelids fluttered. Faramir gasped her name, not daring to hope…
“Why does my shoulder hurt?” she wondered aloud. “What happened?” Her voice was weak. She sounded so fragile. Faramir knew then, as all hope faded, that she would probably die. He just smiled at her, refusing to let her see his silent weeping.
“Nothing at all, Elanor. We were riding long, and you fell. Never you mind,” he said, knowing just how false his words sounded.
“I… Faramir,” she said, her voice fading.
Faramir kissed her forehead. She lay still, and did not breathe.
Faramir, not hiding his tears, began to search through her pack for something to cover her with. Instead he found a mysterious brooch. He knew it would look lovely on her. Gently, he snapped it onto her dress. He stood back and looked at how beautiful it was. It seemed to take the pallor from her cheeks, and even seemed to make her skin radiant.
Faramir reached down to smooth a wisp of hair from her eyes. As he brushed it away, he felt her skin. He frowned, and touched her forehead. It was warm, too warm for death. He again felt her neck for a heartbeat, held his breath, and found an ever-strengthening, steady beat.
“Gods above,” he whispered in shock and amazement. Slowly, Elanor’s eyes crept open.
Yawning, she said, “Why do I feel so tired? What happened? Why do I have this ache in my shoulder? Why am I so confused? Oh, your poor eye! You have a scratch all the way from your ear to your nose!”
Nearly weeping with happiness, Faramir said, “You will be amazed when I tell you. But now is not the time. The sun is sinking quickly. Can you walk?”
Elanor tried; she really did, but the second she stood up, a dreadful dizziness came over her and she sat down again quickly, rubbing her head.
“Well,” said Faramir, seeing that she couldn’t, “Then I’ll just have to carry you!”
Before she could object, he had put his arms under her and struggled to his feet. She was surprisingly light.
The moment Elanor was in his arms, she relaxed and lay back, exhaustion taking over her body.
Faramir walked westward for several hours. Suddenly, as night deepened, he heard galloping in the distance. Gwynna on her wild doe rode straight towards them.
“What happened?” she exclaimed. “I waited for you for hours before your ponies ran in riderless!”
“Don’t wake her!” Faramir scolded, quite as angrily. “We were attacked.”
“Attacked?” she replied, more quietly than before. “By what?”
“An Orc. It stabbed her with a poisoned knife. I don’t know how, but I think that this brooch saved her life,” he replied, handing her the brooch. Gwynna smiled.
“Ah. This is the Brooch of Truth. Very handy. A spell of healing, of purity, and of truth is cast on the back. I suppose you can’t see it? Few can. I haven’t seen this for thousands of years! Where did she get it?”
Stunned, Faramir replied, “I really don’t know. It may have been a gift from her father.”
Gwynna said nothing in reply. Finally, she pocketed the brooch and said, “Give her to me. We must ride, and you will have enough on your hands when focusing on not falling off a wild doe. ”
* * *
Elanor awoke in what felt as the most comfortable bed that she had ever slept in. As she looked at the ceiling, she found that it was thatched with straw. Suddenly, she noticed a sound that she had never heard before in her life, but seemed very familiar. She walked out of the small hut and gasped. Before her was the great glittering sea, and the sound she had heard was the crashing of the waves.