Lady From Beyond the Sea – Chapter 8 – Riddles
*Thank you to everyone who has commented. If it weren’t for your encouragement I would not have continued.
The morning was still young and cold when the Company set out again, guided now by Haldir and Rumil. Orophin had run in haste to warn the people of the orcs that had passed in the night.
Legolas could not help feeling some regret that they were leaving the Nimrodel, so he called out, “Farewell, sweet Nimrodel!” He thought that he would never hear again a running water so beautiful. He was beginning to understand in some degree that love that Zandra had for water.
They followed the path that followed the Silverlode, but soon Haldir turned aside into the trees and halted on the bank of the river. On the far bank stood another Elf, like his fellows clad all in grey. Haldir threw a coil of grey rope to him, and he caught it and bound the end about a tree near the bank.
“In these days of watchfulness we do not make bridges,” Haldir explained, making his end of the rope fast about another tree, “This is how we cross! Follow me!” He leapt up, and ran lightly along it.
“I can walk this path,” said Legolas, “but the others have not this skill. Must they swim?”
“Don’t assume so much.” Zandra said, a hint of laughter in her voice, “Not all of us are so clumsy as you think!” she lightly leapt onto the rope and ran across. Legolas watched admiringly She moves like a swan. he thought to himself as he followed.
Haldir and the other elf tied two other ropes above and on either side of the first, and so eventually the rest of the Company made their way across.
“Now friends,” said Haldir, “As was agreed I shall here blindfold the eyes of Gimli the Dwarf.”
“This agreement was made with out my consent!” Gimli objected wrathfully, “I will not walk blindfolded like some beggar or prisoner. I am no more likely to betray you than Legolas, or any other of my companions.”
“It is our law,” began Haldir, but Legolas interrupted him angrily.
“A plague on Dwarves and their stiff necks!”
“Come!” said Aragorn, “If I am still to lead this Company, you must do as I bid. It is hard on the Dwarf to be thus singled out. We will all be blindfolded, even Legolas.”
Gimli laughed, “A merry troop of fools we shall look! Will Haldir lead us all on a string, like many blind beggars with one dog? But I will be content, if only Legolas here shares my blindness.”
Legolas was not amused. “I am an Elf, and a kinsman here!” he cried angrily, then he felt a soft touch on his arm, and looked to see Zandra gazing at him, reproof in her eyes, and a hint of the fear that had lurked there through Moria. He cursed himself, walking blind would no doubt bring back terrifying memories for her. He began to protest that she need not be blindfolded at least, when her soft voice stopped him.
“The Company shall all fair alike. It is only fair.”
He felt ashamed at his selfishness, and submitted to being blindfolded.
All that day they walked on, they halted at night, and continued on the next morning. At noon they halted, and Legolas’s keen hearing registered a host of people coming towards them, he realized that they were a host of Elves. They were going to watch the northern borders, and guard against an attack from Moria.
“Also,” said Haldir, “They bring me a message from the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim. You are all to walk free, even the dwarf Gimli.”
When his own eyes were uncovered, Legolas looked up eagerly for his first sight of Cerin Amroth. His gaze traveled across the hillside, devouring the beauty all around him. Eventually his gaze alighted on Zandra. Awe was in her face, and for the moment her eyes were glowing. Despite that beauty of the landscape, he could not tear his eyes off of her.
Ai! he thought, I love her! He realized this in surprise. When had this happened? He really knew so little about her. I know she is good and kind. he told himself, She is caring. And when she forgets her pain, she sparkles like a diamond. No, like dew in the dawn. She would make any man happy. But could she love me in return?
She became aware of his regard, and turned to him questioningly. He shook his head, and then walked over to her. He stood silently for a time, savoring her nearness as he gazed again at the scene before them. He noticed Haldir walking up Cerin Amroth with Frodo and Sam.
“Shall we go see what they are doing?” he asked, offering her his arm. She hesitated a moment, a question in her eyes, and then laid her fingers lightly on his arm. A thrill shot through him at her touch, but he repressed it, and they laughingly followed the two hobbits.
They had climbed up to the flet at the top of the circle of trees that graced Cerin Amroth’s crown, so, indicating that Zandra should precede him, they also climbed up.
As he stepped on the white boards, he was surprised to see Zandra standing stiff, her fist clenched at her side, her knuckles white. He looked up and followed her gaze, and gave a hiss of surprised anger.
“There lies the fastness of Southern Mirkwood,” Haldir was saying. “It is clad in a forest of dark fir, where the trees strive one against another and their branches rot and wither. In the midst upon a stony height stands Dol Guldur, where long the hidden Enemy had his dwelling. We fear that now it is inhabited again, and with power sevenfold. A black cloud lies often over it of late.” He stopped, becoming aware of Zandra and Legolas. He turned to greet them, but stopped as he caught sight of Zandra’s face. She was deathly pale, her eyes dark in contrast as she stared in horrified fascination at the place where she had been imprisoned for so long. Legolas started forward, and gently touched her cheek.
“Zandra,” he whispered, but she whirled form his touch and fled down the ladder.
Zandra ran blindly away from Cerin Amroth, she ran from the image of the darkness that seemed to be reaching out to her, calling to her to return.
“Zandra!” she heard someone call, but she ran on unheeding.
Suddenly her arm was caught in a strong clasp, and she was whirled around. Two strong hands gripped her shoulders and shook her slightly.
“Zandra1 What happened?” she heard Aragorn saying. The darkness cleared, and she looked up into eyes that were dark with worry. She flung herself against his chest, and felt his powerful arms embrace her comfortingly as she sobbed.
“Shhhh. Its all right. The darkness is gone. You are free.” he whispered into her hair. He saw Legolas come running after her, but motioned him away. After a while her sobs slowed and stopped, and she gently pulled from his grasp. He caught her hand as she turned away, and pulled her down to sit beside him on the grass.
“I am sorry,” she whispered, “I don’t know why I did that. . . the sight of . . . that place . . . brought back such memories.” She buried her face in her hands again. Then took a deep breath and continued, “I am all right now though.”
“Zandra something else has been troubling you.” Aragorn said, “It is more than simply grief over Gandalf.”
She nodded, but said, “I really don’t wish to discuss it.”
“You don’t have any choice,” he said bluntly, “You are going to talk about this. You need to talk about this.”
“Normally I would have discussed it with Gandalf,” she said quietly, and he took it as agreement that she needed to talk.
“I know I’m not Gandalf, but I have been used to thinking that we were friends as well,” he said, and made it into a question, when she nodded, he continued, “Gandalf is not here so . . .” he did not finish for she stood abruptly and turned away. Then just as suddenly turned back, and her eyes were sparking with anger, but Aragorn knew it was not directed at him, but rather at herself.
“Yes!!! He’s not here!” she railed, “And it is all my fault!” She turned away again, great gulping sobs racking her body. He stood and rushed to her side, taking her shoulders and turning her to look at him again.
“What ever gave you that idea?” he asked.
“I . . ” she stopped, her tears making her unable to speak, he waited until she took a deep breath to steady herself, “If I had faced the Balrog then he would be here now.”
“But you might have fallen yourself.” he pointed out.
“Yes, but at least Gandalf would have been here. It is not as if I have done any good on this quest anyway.”
“Zandra,” he rebuked her, “You mustn’t talk like that. You have done as much as anyone else.”
She shook her head, “I am worthless. Cowering in fear because of a little dark. Going hysterical because of the sight of a forest. I should not have come.”
“What would that have done?” he asked, “If you had not been there, Gandalf would still have fallen.” Her eyes widened. She had not thought of that before. Aragorn continued, “It was his choice to make. He could have allowed you to fight, but he was the leader. Your responsibility was to follow orders, you did well. He wanted you to continue.”
“Why?” she whispered, tears streaming down her face, “Why am I here?”
“I don’t know,” he said sadly, “But I know there is a reason.” He smiled, “Hey, if you hadn’t blocked my way, I might have fallen with Gandalf! So you probably saved my life!”
She shook her head, but he could see that a great burden had been lifted from her, she was more the person he had come to know through Gandalf. But there was still one thing that he had to ask her.
“What did you see in the Mirrormere?” he asked, “I had expected you to be cheered by it, but instead you were more despondent than ever.”
She heaved a great sigh, “I saw Gandalf,” he waited, knowing somehow that there was more, “And I saw, a . . . a riddle.”
“A riddle?” he asked, and she could see he was surprised.
“Yes, a riddle. What do water, fire, earth, stars, and shadow have in common? And what do they have to do with me?”
“I. . . I don’t know,” he said honestly, “That is one we shall have to think on.”
The sun was sinking behind the mountains, and the shadow were deepening in the woods, when they went on again. The night was far advanced when they reached the city. It was like no city that Zandra could remember seeing. There were mallorn-trees taller than any they had yet seen. She could not guess their height, but they stood in the twilight like living towers. In their many tiered branches countless lights were gleaming, green and bold and silver. Haldir turned towards the Company.
“Welcome to Caras Galadhon!” he said, “Here is the city of the Galadhrim where dwell the Lord Celeborn, and Galadriel the Lady of Lorien. It is their wish that you should ascend and speak with them. I will go first. Let Frodo come next, and with him Legolas, and the Lady. The others may follow as they wish.”
As they followed, Zandra wondered again at being singled out like this. Frodo she could understand, and Legolas, but why her? Surely Haldir did not truly think she presented any danger to Lothlorien!
Legolas was walking behind her on the narrow stair. She had not had the courage to speak to him after her episode of the day before. That is twice I have lost control in front of him. she thought ruefully, He must truly think me a poor creature. She thought of the look she had glimpsed in his eyes before they had climbed Cerin Amroth, and her cheeks heated. Silly! He was dazzled by the beauty of the forest. You should not let your imagination run away with you. You know that Elves are notorious for only choosing their own kind, and you don’t even know what kind you are!
“Zandra?” came Legolas’s voice behind her, “Are you . . . all right?”
“Of course Legolas,” she said, “I am sorry, . . . I . . .” she sighed.
“It is all right,” he rushed to reassure her, “I understand. I just wished to be certain that you were not, . . .” he fumbled for the word, “. . . harmed . . . by seeing, . . . Mirkwood . . . so suddenly.”
She smiled, relieved, “Truly, I am fine!”
They arrived in a chamber of oval shape, many Elves were seated there. On two chairs in the midst, beneath the bole of the tree sat Celeborn and Galadriel. Frodo had just sat down beside Lord Celeborn. When Zandra and Legolas entered he greeted them graciously, and then Galadriel spoke.
“Welcome Zandra! I have long wished to meet you. I know of your suffering in Dol Guldur. It is my hope that whilst you are withing my realm the shadow of your memories will be somewhat lifted from you.”
“Thank you.” Zandra said with a slight bow. She saw Haldir fidgeting in the crowd and smiled at him. “It is difficult to remember darkness when surrounded by the beauty of your wood. I only hope that I can be instrumental in preventing any more to be ensnared in the Shadows.”
When the rest of the Company was gathered they discussed the tale of their travels, and the fall of Gandalf. Galadriel was very grave at these tidings, and when the tale was told she spoke.
“Your quest is known to us,” she said, looking at Frodo, “But we will not here speak of it more openly. Not in vain will it prove, maybe, that you came to this land seeking aid. I will not give you counsel, saying do this, or do that. But this I will say to you: your Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while all the Company is true.”
And with that word she held them with her eyes, and in silence looked searchingly at each of them. When it came Zandra’s turn, she felt Galadriel was offering her knowledge of who she was, and all her memories, if she would but remain here when the Company left. She shook her head, never taking her eyes from that piercing blue gaze. I know that you do not have that power, she thought, But even if you did, I will not fail Frodo.” Galadriel smiled, and released her gaze.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” she said. “Tonight you shall sleep in peace.”
The following morning Zandra felt restless, so she arose with the dawn, and began to wander about the woods. She eventually found herself beside the river. The rushing water was music to her ears, and she lifted her flute to her lips.
“My lady?” she heard before she could play a note. She turned to find Haldir slowly walking towards her.
“Haldir.” she nodded in greeting.
“I. . .I wish to apologize,” he began.
“You already did,” she said, waving her hand, as though to wave away his apology.
“I did not realize. . . that you. . .”
“Please do not mention it! I realize that it was a mistake, I do not consider it.” she interrupted him.
He clicked his heels together and bowed, Much in the manner of a grand courtier, she thought in amusement. Somehow it seemed out of place in a forest. He bowed again, and, turning on his heel, strode away.
She shook her head at his strange behavior, then turned back to the river. She lifted the flute again to her lips, and began to play. At first she just let the music flow with the sound of the water, but slowly a haunting melody began to form in her memory. Softly and simply she played it at first, and then with more surety, adding embellishments. Slowly the last note faded into the woods.
“What song is that?” Legolas asked, and she was not surprised to find him at her side, “It is beautiful. Rather, plaintive, or questioning, but haunting.”
“It has words,” she said, although she was surprised to realize that she knew it did.
“Will you sing them for me?” he asked, but she shook her head.
“I am not a singer.” She almost said more, but stopped in confusion, not sure what she was going to say. She turned away again. Then slowly, she began to whisper, half singing:
Tell me the reason I was born to roam,
Tell me the reason I am so far from home,
Tell me the reason only birds can fly,
Tell me the reason I was born not to die.
How many mountains will I have to climb,
How many memories will I leave behind,
How many daydreams will I make come true,
How many heartbreaks until I find you?
There is a valley that is called Peace of Mind,
There is a river running right by it’s side,
There is a moment of Glory so new,
There is Eternity to spend loving you.
Her voice trailed off, and she realized that her eyes were filled with tears.
“What does it mean?” Legolas asked.
“I . . . don’t know. I did not even remember it until just now. It. . . is a . . . question song. A . . . riddle. I think that last verse holds the answer to the questions in the first two, . . . but . . . I can’t understand it.” She turned to him, her eyes pleading, “Why can’t I understand it? Why can’t I remember?”
Slowly, hesitantly, he pulled her into his arms, she made no resistance, but buried her face in his chest. He rested his chin on her golden head.
“I don’t know Zandra,” he whispered. He leaned back, and with one finger under her chin, tipped up her head, and looked into her tear filled eyes. Slowly he lowered his head, and brushed her lips with his. Her eyes drifted closed, and he deepened the kiss. Finally he lifted his head, a tender smile on his face.
“You are so beautiful,” he whispered, brushing her cheek lightly with his fingers.
His words acted on her like a bucket of cold water, and her eyes flew open. For a moment she stared at him, and then she whirled and fled into the trees.