Lila sat in one of the many shadowy crevasses in the rock of Khazad-dûm. Flinka lay curled in her lap in the form of a small grey kitten. Lila was holding a copy of The Hobbit in her smooth, delicate hands. Her deep blue eyes sparkled with the delight they poured over the old and worn pages. Lila could see in all light, but darkness was by far her favorite.
Flinka mewed and jumped up on Lila’s shoulder to give her person an affectionate lick on the cheek. Are you reading that book again? She asked with playful exasperation. Lila snapped back to reality when she felt the little Balingka’s* voice in her head. Come on! There’s the whole mine to explore. You don’t have to spend your whole life reading!
“Oh, Flinka, I can explore right here, and I’m not in any danger of what’s inside. You think this book is just as enthralling as I do! When I read this, I can feel it! This book is the only thing we have from Before; you know it is.”
That and all the other books Tolkien wrote. Really, we traveled to so many universes, we were bound to be trapped in one. Why not explore some more? There are probably lots of things to see. Why read Tolkien, when you can live it? Anyway, you have got your sweat pants and turtle neck and bandana and ballet slippers, and those stick out enough! Really, a person dressed in all navy blue sitting and reading in the mines?
Suddenly Flinka froze. She became a little black mouse and nipped Lila on the finger. Hide!
Lila placed the book in a little hiding place she had for it, a gap between part of the rock and the floor, and slid back into the shadows as far as she could. Anyone who had the best of eyes and looked in there would have seen a tiny black mouse, nothing else, for to all but Flinka, Lila had completely disappeared.
Hours passed, and finally the noise subsided. Lila reappeared. “What were those?”
I have no idea. Let’s not get caught by them, shall we?
“I wasn’t planning to.”
Now can we please go somewhere?
Flinka became a black fox and trotted off. Lila quickly caught up, and they set off together through the mines of Moria.
Let’s go to Rivendell.
It was really quite unexpected, to say the least.
“Are you kidding? It’s all so sunny…… so little shadow…. no where to hide….. we wouldn’t be safe….”
Lila, we’ve been cooped up in these mines for what… three hundred fifty years? Come on… I think all this time has played with your mind.
“Fine. But I’m bringing my books with us.”
No, you’re not. Leave them here. Let it go….. Lila, let it go. We can’t dwell in memories. Come on. We don’t belong here. We shouldn’t have been here this long. That life is gone. We can’t go back. Let it go. Let’s go to a life, you and me. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before.
“Great song cue. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Close your eyes and let music set you free! Only then can you belong to me! Yeah, I still remember the Phantom of the Opera.” Lila paused, and her voice took on a tone of great sorrow. “Do I have to? Please, Flinka, don’t take that away from me. Please…..”
Let’s go, Lila. We don’t belong here. Turn from the darkness. Embrace the light again.
So Lila the being of shadow and Flinka the Balingka turned their backs on the safety of the shadow to venture to the land of light.
Lila and Flinka stepped out of the mines into the dim light of a late day. The painful light attacked their eyes, doubled, because they felt each other’s pain as well. Flinka curled up in a little ball as Lila fell to the ground. Tears streamed from her eyes, blurring her vision. The light bounced off the tears and practically blinded her.
It was several hours before Lila and Flinka could see again. And it wasn’t because they had grown used to the light, but simply because night had fallen.
Okay, so we’re a bit inexperienced. But I’m sure that after a while we’ll get the hang of this. Soon enough, the daylight will be as natural as the darkness.
“No. Nothing will ever replace my Moria. We were safe there. But out here…. in the open…”
Flinka changed into a cocker spaniel pup and licked Lila’s face, then grabbed her sleeve and pulled.
Come on, Lila. Let’s get away. We weren’t meant for that life; for those mines. Let’s go somewhere safe. With other people. Come. Now.
Flinka may have sounded very gentle, but there was something that made Lila get up and run, the little puppy bounding in front of her. Lila was strong…. ever so much stronger than she looked, for she seemed to be not passed her sixteenth year. She could run for hours, and this she did. They stopped, eventually, for the day was coming over the horizon, and Flinka agreed that, just this once, they could sleep through it. Lila and her Balingka had covered many, many miles by the time they finally stopped.
5 days passed. The two companions gradually grew accustomed to the light. They ran in the day, found food in the evenings, and slept in caves or whatever else they could find at night. They covered ground very well, at a rate of about sixty miles a day. (Like I said, they were strong.)
Lila had stopped for a drink from a clear, cool stream by a large, shadowy boulder. The water was fresh, and Flinka the puppy lapped it eagerly as well. Lila stretched her legs and was about to start running again when she heard footsteps. They were loud to her, just as a human’s are loud to a hobbit. But these had been unexpected, and Lila had been talking to Flinka. So when she whirled around, the elf was already in the clearing when she noticed him.
Without thinking twice, Lila, who had not seen another being in so long, disappeared into the shadow of the boulder. When it was clear, however, that the darkness wasn’t great enough to conceal her, Flinka became a leopard, a deep growl rumbling in her throat.
The elf saw the danger and slowly drew his bow. He had no intention of shooting, but he wanted to be ready, just in case. The animal noticed. It turned into a small kitten and leaped into the young girl’s arms. The girl backed up slowly, cradling the kitten in her arms. He stepped forward.
“No…. no….. please!”
He reached out and gently touched her shoulder. She recoiled, and backed up even more, until her back hit the large boulder. She could go no further. The girl looked at him with large, blue, frightened eyes, and with a whirl of chestnut hair, turned and ran. To the elf’s surprise, she didn’t run away. At least, not very far. She turned into a cave. He didn’t understand. If he had wanted to get away, he wouldn’t have trapped himself in a cave.
The elf stepped lightly into the cave. Suddenly, a huge form leaped at him, knocking him down and sending his bow flying. A massive black paw reached over, pulled the quiver of arrows off his back and tossed it lightly aside. White teeth flashed out and grabbed the clothes on his back, and the gigantic creature lifted him off the ground. The elf felt the hot breath on the back of his neck, and, for the first time in his life, quailed in real fear. But he didn’t lose his senses. He reached down and pulled out a knife and plunged it deep into the animal’s neck. He heard a cry of pain as the animal lowered him back down to the floor of the cave, with surprising gentleness. The elf was now thoroughly puzzled. A stab like that could have killed anything. And yet, that huge black form was still breathing. And even more than that, the cry of pain hadn’t been from that creature at all. It had come from a shadowy corner of the cave, from a crevice in the rock. He stepped away from the heaving sides of the giant bear, collected his bow and arrow, and went to see where the sound had come from.
The elf looked down into the tear stricken face of the girl he had seen before.
“Are you all right?” he asked, worried. “Did it hurt you?”
“How can you see me?”
He heard a groan from the animal, and drew his knife again, as it got up. But as he approached it, the girl grabbed his leg.
“Please,” she moaned, “Please stop hurting us. Flinka is over there; she is hurt. Please, help her.”
“She just tried to kill me!”
“Are you an elf or an orc?!” the girl shrieked. “Help her, please! Please, stop the pain! We can’t take it any more! Don’t you understand? Won’t you help her? Stop the hurt! You can do anything to us… we don’t care, just stop the hurt! Please!” To the animal she said, “Flinka, come here.”
The bear turned into a small black mouse and slowly dragged herself over to the girl. Then the elf understood. Whatever the animal felt, the human did too. The animal would have been dead now, if it weren’t for the girl. And the girl couldn’t hold up much longer. Soon she would give in and they would both die. He couldn’t let that happen. But how could he stop it?
“Be strong, child. There is no way I can help. Don’t give up. `Tis all I can do to stay here. I’ll get some water from the stream. There is nothing more I can do.”
So saying, the elf got up and walked to the stream. When he came back with water for the mouse’s wound, and a drink for the girl, he saw she was now lying down with the mouse curled up next to her, only now it was a kitten. When he gave the girl her water, she made the effort of sitting up. Pressing his hand in silent thanks, she said in a difficult whisper:
“You are not an orc.”
The girl stroked the kitten’s head gently, then lied back down again to a sleep that the elf was afraid that she would never wake from.
But wake she did, the next morning the elf found her sitting on a rock with the animal as a dog beside her.
“Good morning,” she said when he stepped into the cave. “Balingkas are fast healers. We are doing much better today, thank you.”
Being wise enough, he decided to let her tell him what she wished when she felt like it. He didn’t press her with questions, and she seemed happy enough without him interrogating her.
“I know it’s not my place to ask, really, but where are you heading?” she said.
“I’m going to Rivendell. Why do you ask?”
“I was just wondering. I was heading there myself. Oh, and I’m sorry,” she added, “For the way Flinka behaved yesterday. It looked as though she gave you quite a scare. We haven’t seen another person for so many years.” The dog limped over to the elf and licked his hand, her tail between her legs. “Will you tell me your name? You may call me Lila. And you?”
“Galdor of the Grey Havens.”
*A Balingka is a rare type of animal; a shape shifter, really. At the beginning of his life, one will find a person (such as an elf, human, hobbit, dwarf, etc.) and pretty much attach himself to the person. (“him” is used generically; it could refer to either gender. One who has read The Golden Compass, or any other book in that series could think of a Balingka as a dæmon, although there are a few differences, which you may notice soon enough.