Two figures sat in the long soft grass, a girl in sweat pants, a turtle neck, a bandana, and ballet shoes, all navy blue. In her arms was a silky haired black monkey; a Balingka, her smooth little paws twisting through the girl’s chestnut hair.
“Never, never again,” sobbed the girl, Lila, into the monkey’s fur. “We should go back to Khazad-dûm. There was no pain. Nothing like this.”
No, Lila. The monkey changed to a lizard and squirmed away from the being of shadow. Come on. We’ve gotten this far. One day, maybe two, and we can be in Rivendell. Come ON!
And with that Flinka was a bird, and she was flying. . . she got twenty feet away from Lila, when Lila felt it in her heart. Tears blurring her vision, she was running after the bird as quickly as she could go, which was a remarkable speed for her appearance. The bird kept flying ahead, pulling the girl behind her, despite the obvious pain it was causing to them both.
“Stop!” Lila gasped. “I’ll come! I’ll come to Rivendell. Come back and stay with me. You’re starting to bleed again! Your neck!”
Flinka slowed, and as the two came closer together, the pain stopped, and was replaced by a knew, fresh one, they both felt it in their necks, where the elf, Galdor, had stabbed the bear formed Flinka only a day before. She perched on Lila’s arm.
How bad is it?
“The stress opened it up again,” Lila said, sounding concerned. “No more flying for you for a while. I can hear him coming again. Be a mouse. Crawl in my pocket and I’ll run in the direction of Rivendell. Quickly. He’ll be on his horse soon. I think he’s figured out by now that we want to be left alone, but that still won’t help anything if he bongs into us.”
Promise you’ll go the right way?
“You have my word. Hurry!”
As soon as Flinka was safely curled up in her pocket, Lila went several yard away from the trail and ran towards Rivendell. She paced herself at about 20 mph, a speed she was sure Galdor wouldn’t think she could go, but was easy enough for her to keep up. So, she thought, the elf thinks I’m only sixteen, does he? With four hundred twenty years under my belt, in the body of a sixteen year old, I may still be a child, but I’m not the weakling he thinks I am. Heck, I could probably outrun his horse for a short distance if I had to, and of course, if I was lucky. Maybe not.
Lila heard the noise of pounding hooves behind her. Five miles back, Galdor had just mounted his horse. At least she could hear him. He couldn’t have heard her falling footsteps; the transformation between human and what she was had given her the ability to move with far more grace and silence than even the elves.
As silent and graceful as a shadow. More strength than a shark. Swims like a jellyfish: no splash, no breath, just grace and comfort and hidden danger. Magic at the tips of her fingers, ready to open to a knew universe. Look where it had gotten her. Trapped in a world where none could understand her, her parents long dead, the key she needed to travel to her home lost, just a lost little girl running from an elf to a land of more elves.
Lila, stop it. You’re depressing yourself.
Lila smiled. She wasn’t lost, she wasn’t alone. She certainly wasn’t a little girl; she had gained wisdom over the years. You’re right, Flinka. Let’s go to Rivendell. Let’s see the elven folk.
I like your thinking!
Lila ran. And ran. Eventually Flinka insisted on becoming a white tailed deer, and prancing about ahead of Lila. The hoof beats of the horse behind her got fainter and fainter, and then died out.
As the day grew old and the sun began to set in a beautiful array of colors, Flinka trotted to Lila’s side. She ate some grass, and Lila felt herself filling up. In the light of the twinkling stars enshrouded in the velvety black sky Flinka lay curled up next to Lila, she whispered:
We’re free Lila. We’re free!
“I know.” Lila felt her eyelids growing heavy. She shut them and soon was fast asleep.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Lila picked up the key, holding it close to her face, studying it with care. It was old-fashioned, heavy silver, with three loops on the handle, and the most complex design she had ever seen. It was about two inches long. I wonder what it goes to, she thought, holding it up to the dim red light of the setting sun. The key was hollow, and as she looked at it a crumbled, brown piece of paper fell out. Lila squinted in the little light she had left to read it. The print was in a strange language, one she couldn’t recognize at all. Shaking her head, she blew on it, clearing away a bit of filth, revealing a word. understand it said. It was written in English, and surrounded with a boarder of red and green ink, all loops and curls. The words on the paper vanished, and were rewritten in shining gold, bright like flame.
Between universes you shall go.
Sunny gold, white with snow.
On your own from now on you’ll be.
Be free, follow me.
A lock is a barrier no more
You now have the key to every door.
Doors no one else can see.
You can find, pass through freely.
For I give you the gift of Sight.
From world to world shall be your flight.
And so you have a place to hide,
The world of Shadows shall be your guide.
Lila stared at the poem, climbing to the top of the hill. The moon was coming out, large and silver and cold. The cruel wind whipped around her face. She stuffed the paper back into the key, ignoring the harsh crackle it made as it crumbled. Lila was alone. Very alone.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Lila! Wake up!
Come on! You’ve been asleep way to long. It’s past sunrise!
Lila was on her feet in a second. Flinka the deer had already eaten breakfast; Lila could tell by the full feeling in her stomach. Flinka started to run, dragging Lila behind her. Lila sped up, and quickly caught up to the Balingka.
What were you dreaming about? I could tell it was a memory, but not which one.
“It. . .” Lila stopped, and changed to the more silent form of speech. It was when I got the key. When I found the paper in it. . . Remember? It was when you were still hidden.
Yes, Flinka said shortly. She didn’t much like to talk about the fact that Lila hadn’t even known Flinka had existed before the age of twenty.
As they ran, they kept an air of silence about them. There were no more conversations for several hours. Lila wanted to talk more about the dream; she hadn’t had it for hundreds of years. But it didn’t seem right.
Lila, let’s stop at the next water source we come to. I’m getting tired. Flinka panted
I said, I’m getting tired. And I’ve got one heck of a headache. Maybe we should take a break; drink some water; maybe take a short nap. . . you know. . .
“Flinka, we’ve only been running for a few hours. How come you’re tired? Normally you can run for a whole day like this. What’s wrong? How come I don’t feel it?”
At least, that’s what Lila wanted to say, but just as Flinka had finished, Lila felt a wave of fatigue sweep over her, accompanied by a horrible headache, and an urge to drain an entire lake. Gasping, she nodded, stumbled forward, and collapsed by a little trickle of water. Face down in the muddy earth, she dragged herself to the dirty spring and gulped down as much as she could. Flinka followed, and the two figures felt themselves sliding out of consciousness. . .
As the hours passed, and Lila and Flinka lay unconscious in the mud, the elf made his stately way toward Rivendell. His horse’s hoofs clipped along the compacted earth of the trail. When Galdor looked the other way, his shadow nodded in silent greeting to Flinka’s, and whispered to Lila, /I thought you had no shadow. Perhaps you were mistaken. But shadows never lie, so I am now confused. Who is the other?/
Lila stirred but didn’t wake. Rodal, the shadow, sighed and obediently followed her master and his horse down the trail.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She didn’t know what had happened. As Lila held the key, she saw a door. Frowning, she walked around it. It had no width. At all. It simply was from the front, gone from the sides and back. What was a door doing here? On top of a hill? It wasn’t there when she had climbed the hill. . .
Out of curiosity, she pushed the key into the lock. A jiggling noise came from the knob, and the door swung open. Bright golden sunlight poured out from beyond the door, contrasting horribly with the silver moon. Lila stuck her hand through the doorway, a good foot in. Leaving it there, she walked around as much as she could, looking at the “back” of the door. She let her other arm pass freely through the air where her right should have been. Between universes you shall go. . . Lila looked around her, at the world she knew. Her sister had disappeared years ago, Stephen, the person she had loved so, was dead. . . her mother was mentally retarded, her father constantly drunk. . . there was no need for her to stay here. She looked through the door once more, where a young girl played in the long grass of the meadow with a beautiful furry rabbit. Lila felt tears stinging her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she stepped through the doorway, and slammed the door behind her.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When Lila next opened her eyes, it was day. Not the next day, no, but three days later. Her face had a crusted layer of salt on it. Crying. She didn’t remember why she had woken, but it was strange.
“Strider, what is she?”
Lila looked up to the blurry, sun framed, plump face of. . . a man- but he didn’t look right for a man. He had the size of a child. She moaned and turned over. Face down by the spring again, she took a long drink. . . and threw up. Over and over, until there was no water in her stomach; and then acid came out instead. Finally she could stop, and she lay gasping and sobbing; shuddering with weakness, aching with exhaustion.
“Flinka, what happened to us?” she whispered. “Why are we like this?”
“What she is, I don’t know. But she is in trouble.”
Sam shook his head. Frodo blinked in surprise. He had seen a shadow flit over Lila, resting a hand on her forehead, disappearing under a rock. The shadow had no owner. He frowned, but said nothing.
Lila’s vision didn’t get any better, but her mind did. She looked up in fear to the face of Strider, who she didn’t recognize.
“Who are you?” Strider asked.
“Lila, sir. No more. . . just- just Lila.”
“Why are you here? What happened?”
“No!” Lila struggled to her feet, ran a few yards, and fell. Frodo thought he must have been imagining it, but he had thought he had seen a rabbit bound after her; lick her tear stained face. And, though the sun was quite bright, unless he was much mistaken, the girl had no shadow.
Address for part 1: https://www.theonering.com/docs/10810.html
Address for part 2: https://www.theonering.com/docs/11322.html