Eodred froze, hand still raised to the white horse’s proud neck. All the men of Rohan had at least some learning in the Elven tongues, though Eodred had only a little. He had not been easily able to form the words of the Elves and speak them properly, and his teacher could not be of much help. Still he knew enough to recognize the command: “Halt!”
For an instant he was still with fear, like a deer caught before wolves. I am a Rider of Rohan, a warrior of the Mark, he told himself sternly, and he was frozen no longer. Swiftly he spun, and his hand dropped to the hilt of his sword, flashing it forth like lightning.
The figure stood some distance away, on the edge fringe of the clearing, and was hidden in the play between shadow and sun. Eodred’s heart sank as he saw the raised bow, an arrow already to the string. He followed its long shaft to the face of the figure; and Elf no doubt, as much for the clean lines and practiced ease with which he held the bow as with the elvish command. That it was a he, Eodred did not doubt; that silvery voice, rippling with hidden power and sorrow, had a definite masculine tinge.
“Man nalye?” the Elf asked. “únoruvalye rokko. Man Nalye?”
Eodred hesitated, unsure of what to do. His meager Elvish was no help to him here. “I cannot speak your tongue,” he began, and halted. Did the Elf know the Common Speech? What a situation, he thought. I meet with an Elf–an Elf!–and I cannot understand it.
The Elf gazed steadily at him over the bow. He showed no signs of lowering it. Eodred looked into those dark eyes and began to wonder how he was going to get out of this alive. The Elf spoke again. “Lasto! Man nalye? Quenlye eldaquettar?” He spoke slowly and clearly, and looked questioningly at Eodred, looking for a response. Eodred could only shake his head helplessly. ‘Lasto’ meant ‘listen’, but he couldn’t follow the other words.
The Elf’s face turned grim, and sighted along the shaft of the arrow at Eodred. The Rider was at an impasse; he could not advance or move away, but neither could he come to an understanding with the Elf, and it was clear that he didn’t trust Eodred enough to let him free. Who knows what thoughts or orders the Elf had? Eodred racked his brains for thoughts from his old Quenyan lessons, but could remember nothing.
He tightened his hand around his sword, and prepared to leap sideways. Perhaps he could seize his shield in time. Not likely, with what he knew of Elven archery. But he never got the chance to find out. A clear silver voice came ringing through the woods. “Linnathon laiti le, Illuvitar Eru!” Eodred caught a few of the words, moments before the shadows under the trees to his left were broken by two more dark figures. One halted upon seeing Eodred and the Elf beneath the shadows, but the other continued on into the light.
She was an Elf as well, Eodred saw, and one of the most beautiful creatures–man or immortal–he had ever beheld. Her hair saw spun silver, and the green light of spring danced in her eyes. She was tall, as tall as he, as Elves are wont to be; but in that moment she seemed taller than any gift to the Children of Illuvitar, Elf or Man. She was clad in some raiment of forest green, and her bow was slung across her back. She stared at him a moment, and said, “Man nalye?”
The Elf from the shadows answered her: “Edain ú-quenya eldaquettar, Eädil.”
She turned to Eodred. “Well-met, Rider of Rohan!” she said, in the Common Speech. Eodred let out a sigh of relief. “You must forgive my brother. He does not speak the tongues of mortals, and it would have been unwise to let you approach when he did not know who you were. So perhaps you will tell us: who are you? And why do you seek to take the horse?”
Eodred answered frankly. “I am Eodred, Rider of Rohan in the Eastfold. My company had made camp upon the plain, and I was sent to gather fallen wood. But Aful my horse had strayed, and I was searching from him, when I came upon yonder steed,” and he gestured to the white horse.
“And my brother came upon you thus,” she finished for him. She smiled. “Unfortunate that you do not speak one another’s tongues! But come. I have been in the forest for many days, it is true, but I chanced to pass through its edge not long ago, and there was no camp upon the plain. What do you know of this?” and suddenly her eyes were hard.
“I cannot say,” he answered truthfully. “I had not left but little under an hour ago. For all my knowledge they should be there.” Suddenly he realized he was standing with his blade bare in his hand. Hastily he returned it to its sheath, and to his relief the Elf under the forest eaves lowered his bow. “I would like to know, myself.”
She nodded at him. “We will come with you, I think. Khilmet, Anormene,” she said, directing the last to her brother. The Elf nodded and faded into the trees.
Eodred hesitated. “You know who I am–Eodred, of the Mark–but I do not yet know you.” Was that too bold? There were three–he peered at the third Elf, still standing under the trees–and he was only one. But she only smiled, a little sadly.
“Of course. I am Eädil, which would be ‘lover of being’ in your language. This here beneath the trees is my brother Avar, as we call him. He is ‘the Unwilling’, because he will not do any deed without careful thought. My other brother, whom you met, is Anormene. That is ‘thousand sun’, for his hair and eyes are bright as gold. But Elven names are often difficult to the untrained tongue; you can call us Islove, Avar, and Sun if you wish. We are the three children of Elros, son of Elrond.”
Eodred nodded. “Thank you… Islove.” He started off between the trees towards the fields, where the setting sun tipped the grass with red, as if a great fire had begun burning, and the clouds above were heavy and dark as smoke. Moments later Eodred realized that overhead the sun still shone; it was not the sun that set fire to the grass. He broke into a run, heading for the edge of the trees and Fangorn Forest.