“I must have gone a little bit the wrong way, then, if you’re from the Grey Havens,” Lila said. “No matter. I can make up for lost time if I run another hour today.”
“You’re running all this way?” Galdor asked disbelievingly. The two were sitting on boulders in the cave. “I was on horseback!”
“Why? It’s so much easier just to go on foot. You don’t have anyone else to take care of.”
“And the animal?”
Lila disappeared. Galdor blinked. He hadn’t seen her shrink back into the crevice he’d found her in the day before. Flinka was a small black spider crawling onto the invisible Lila’s shoulder. The elf didn’t know what had happened.
Be more careful! Flinka whispered to her. Galdor couldn’t hear her; Flinka’s voice went straight to Lila’s head. We can’t start trusting him like this!
I’m trying, Lila could speak to Flinka the same way Flinka spoke to her, she just didn’t like to. I’m trying, but. . .
We can’t afford for this to happen. If you hadn’t started talking to him-
If you’re going to start pointing fingers, let me tell you, there’s plenty of guilt to go around. You were the one who wanted to go to Rivendell, to leave Moria. You touched him. . .
They both shuddered. It was wrong. Wrong to the very core of being for someone’s Balingka and another person to touch. They both knew it.
What did you do that for, anyway?! Lila demanded. Twice!
I didn’t. The first time, when I knocked him over, I only came in contact with his clothes.
And the second time?
“Lila?” called Galdor.
Don’t let’s reappear! Flinka said.
I wasn’t planning to. Not yet, anyway. Lila sat back and relaxed as much as she could and still stay invisible. She opened one eye again. In a second Lila was wide awake again. What’s the matter, Flinka?
Flinka was flitting to different shapes more quickly than Lila had ever seen her do before. Moth, spider, mouse, butterfly, and back to a moth again, all black, so as not to be seen by Galdor. He hears our breathing. He’s coming. Look!
Is there anywhere we can go? Lila asked desperately.
I don’t know…. you might have to…
I hate doing that though. The elf was getting closer. Lila saw his shadow, where no other person would. Lila knew so many different languages, but not in our sense of the word.
Come on, Lila, we don’t have a choice. Hurry!
Shadow talk. Tom Goody. Lila took a deep breath and tapped herself on the forehead to remember the language of the Shadows. It was a secret language; none could hear save herself and those native to it. Not even Flinka could. To Galdor’s shadow she said, /Hello. How are you? My name’s Lila.
/Rodal, at your ser– Wait… You’re not a shadow. How do you understand me? How can you speak?
/I’m part shadow. Listen. You’re owner is dangerous to us, and he’s coming. May I please borrow your space? For long enough to get away only.
/Why? Why should I let you out? How can I know to trust you?
/True, I have no shadow whatsoever, but Flinka has, and she has been with me for my entire life. Ask her shadow, he will tell you.
Galdor’s shadow looked over Flinka’s. She still seemed doubtful, but shadows never lied.
/Very well. You can change shape? Substance? Whatever you wish to call it?
/Yes, Lila said simply. Flinka, get in a comfortable position. This is going to hurt. Flinka the moth nodded her graceful black head.
Galdor’s shadow, who, like all shadows, thought that only shadows could speak, and only in their language, moved slightly, and as Galdor came closer, (all this had only taken about three seconds, for shadows speak very quickly) Lila concentrated on only one thing. The transformation. She winced as the searing pain rushed through her body like fire.
She gasped involuntarily. It’s worse than the Balrog!
And then she felt a cool arm on hers, and the fire disappeared. She shrank to the size of a cat, and became Galdor’s head’s shadow.
“Lila?” she heard, and involuntarily she moved as Galdor turned his head.
Galdor listened as Lila’s even breathing turned into sharp, painful gasps, and then vanished. He was worried. But maybe she’d just held her breath, because she could see him following it.
“Lila? I won’t hurt you, child.”
Nothing. Maybe she had managed to slip out. He crossed the cave to the entrance, and stepped out. A bird flew past him and out of the cave.
Lila felt almost dreamy. She was moving with Galdor. He was moving her. She felt cool and relaxed. She didn’t feel the ground, the breeze, she put no effort into her movement; she just drifted where Galdor did. Lila could see in all directions, having no eyes. She saw shadows of insects and birds and tree, she could see the shadow of her beloved bird shaped Flinka fly toward the light. No solid, no liquid, just shadow. She would have stayed, have been Galdor’s shadow for life, but she had to go back to her life, and get away from a person she didn’t trust.
“Lila? I won’t hurt you, child.”
Lila knew that if she had a shape she would have sneered. A child! Her! As if four hundred twenty years was still childhood! But, still, it was to the immortal wisdom of an elf. She was a child to his eyes, whether four hundred or sixteen. She sighed in the language of a shadow. She found she could no longer speak any other, not even to Flinka, her heart’s friend, herself.
Lila, as soon as he turns his back to you, go to the rocks, and follow me. When he’s not looking at me I’ll make footprints of a horse going the other way. He’ll follow those, while we escape!
Lila? Are you there? Lila?
Lila longed to answer. But Flinka could not understand shadow language, no more than you can talk to your own shadow. Lila picked up the shadow of a rock and hit herself on the arm with it. But in the world of shadow one can feel no pain.
Flinka the bird shrieked with pain and remorse. She knew that the bond between person and Balingka was not the same as with a shadow. Lila could very well be dead, and Flinka would not have known.
/Flinka, think! Follow the plan!
Out in the sun, Galdor turned his back to Flinka. She went through with the plan. She galloped swiftly as she could, and as she vanished from sight Lila felt a horrible pain in her chest. Flinka was a bird again, soaring overhead, and Lila watched as Flinka’s shadow disappeared in the other direction. The pain of her Balingka was nearly unbearable.
Lila! Thank God you’re alive! He’s starting to follow my footprints! Come on!
Lila felt the coolness of Galdor’s shadow’s hand touch her throbbing heart, and heard her whisper, /You are not supposed to hurt. You are a shadow. We feel no pain. Go back to your Balingka. Hurry!
Lila slipped away. She was a shadow of a bug, a tree, a rock, a bird, unintelligent creatures who didn’t know the difference. And then she was a mushroom, and there was Flinka, right beside her. The pain was gone. In a cold shock she was a shadow no longer, but a shadow being, and Flinka was a long, silky, shining furred black monkey in her arms.
The fiery pain Lila felt when becoming a shadow was basically from all the heat she had ever known before in her life put together; not a pleasant experience, especially because of her age. You can pick up a lot of heat in four hundred twenty years. The cold shock was what she had picked up from those few minutes in the cool world of shadows. Not a lot. Sort of like jumping into a large lake in the early morning. The heartache was caused when Flinka and Lila were to far apart. It’s not so simple to describe, but one might put it as: an iron hand pushing between one’s ribs, clutching the heart, and attempting to tear it away. Also not a fun sensation. So Balinkas have down sides, too, but in the long run they make great companions. Please submit comments!
The address for part 1 is: https://www.theonering.com/docs/10810.html