Eichi slid off his chair by the cinders and hurried to the window. He heard the sound of an old man singing and small bells tinkling. His eyes lit up with delight as he struggled to reach the lock on the door.
“It’s Gandalf!” he grinned. “Gandalf’s back!”
Eichi succeeded in reaching the lock, but he could not turn it.
“Mother, help me!” he whined. “I want to go see Gandalf!”
For Eichi, seeing the old grey wizard driving by in his horse-drawn cart meant that he would hear wonderful stories sooner or later, often times sooner. He sincerely enjoyed stories of the small people living in a place called `The Shire.’ To know that there were people in Middle Earth that only grew to be as tall he was made him feel tall and proud, at least until Halas knocked him down again.
Keitaro shook her head and smiled. She unbolted the lock and watched Eichi shove the door wide open. Sure enough, there was Gandalf driving by in his wagon humming a little tune to himself.
“Be careful, Eichi,” she called as he raced toward the wizard. She suddenly felt sick and hurried into the other room. She fell to her knees, blood spilling out her mouth every time she coughed. Keitaro stopped coughing and sat for a few moments trying to regain some of her strength. As long as Eichi was with Gandalf, she could weep in peace.
Eichi ran toward Gandalf, waving his arms and shouting, “Gandalf! Gandalf!” The old man smiled and waved.
“Hello, lad,” he said cheerfully. “And how have you and your mother been?”
“Same as the last time you were here,” Eichi replied, climbing into the driver’s seat with Gandalf. “But I think Mother is in love.” Gandalf’s eyes widened in mock eyes.
“Really now!” he exclaimed, laughing heartily. “What gave you that idea, Eichi?” Eichi glanced in all directions before bring his hand to the wizard’s ear.
“She stares the man who patrols our part of the city,” he whispered. “His name is Caunwaithion, and he looks kinda like my dad.” Gandalf chuckled and ruffled Eichi’s hair.
“Well, my boy, I hope all works out,” he grinned. “I’m sorry, but I must get to King Aragorn’s palace as soon as I can.”
“Can I come, too?” Eichi begged. “I promise I’ll be good.” Gandalf nodded.
“Go ask your mother first,” he said. “Hurry.” Eichi slid off the bench and scurried back to his house.
“Mother!” he shouted. “Mother, can I go to the palace with Gandalf?” He ran inside, but he couldn’t find her. “Mother,” he called again. He heard a small groan before she replied.
“Yes, Eichi,” she said. “Go on, now. Have fun.” Eichi was hesitant to leave until he heard her quiet sobs coming from her bedroom. He knew better to leave her alone when she cried or else she’d try to hide her tears and behave like she was stressed until she cried again.
“Thank you,” he replied. “See you later.” He jogged down the path and leaped onto the back of the cart. “Let’s go!” he shouted gleefully. Gandalf gently snapped the reins, stirring the tall bay gelding from his mid-afternoon doze.
“Let’s move, Brevi” he said to the horse. The gelding shook his mane, and he began to trot toward the upper levels of the palace.
I can’t wait, Eichi thought. I’ll get to see the palace grounds for the first time. Maybe I’ll even meet the king! Hah! That’ll show Halas that I’m no loser around here.