Rayn on the back of Rest fairly flew through the forest. She being the only one on the trail, she was able to go much faster than the company had coming up, and she was out of the forest and traveling along the treeline by nightfall. Her hair streamed out behind her like a mane in the wind. Her sense of direction aided her, and she made straight for Dol Amroth, where the Elves had first landed. As she rode she planned her travel in her mind. She would stop on the coast and build a boat, and then would depart, taking Rest with her, for Alqualondë, where she would tell her father of the coming danger and make her people ready for war. Her army would then travel northward, towards Aman, to meet Legolas at the western shore of Helcaraxë.
“The Valar protect us,” she whispered to herself, shaking her head. Rest snorted as he galloped along.
§ § §
In late afternoon of the third day Legolas reached the southern border of Ossiriand. He pulled Sleep to a halt and looked to the south. He fancied his eyes could see all the way to the Shire, but he knew that no eyes of the free peoples, Elven or other, could see that far. He regretted that he would not be able to visit the quaint farming towns of the Hobbits. As he thought of the Halflings, the children of Middle-earth, Legolas knew he could not let Morgoth destroy what the Valar had worked so hard to build.
“What is it, Master?” Balved asked, following Legolas’s gaze.
“It is a wish, a hope that will never prove itself. And it is also part of the reason we fight so hard for our world.”
Balved nodded, though he did not understand.
The darkness had returned. Legolas’s eyes had grown so accustomed to the dark that he did not notice it until the Army reached the first of the many rivers in Ossiriand. Yet it was there. The Army crossed, and they made their way northward for the next river.
The rest of that day and into the next two days was the same, over a river, onto dry land, until the next river should present itself. When they had crossed the last river, Legolas called a halt.
Aeraew flapped down to land next to the horse.
“What course shall we take?” he asked.
“You know the lay of this land better than I, what is there?” Legolas asked of the bird.
“I have flown over this land many times, and there are two paths. The first is in a more direct line to Helcaraxë, but we must travel through a forest and over a range of dangerous mountains before we reach flat ground again. The other will take us north, around the great range of mountains, through a flat land between this range and the Iron Mountains, directly in the veiw of Angband,” said Aer.
“We do not know that Morgoth has returned to Angband,” said Legolas, contemplating their chances.
“We will take it, then?” asked Aeraew.
“We will, for flat ground makes for better speed than mountains.”
“So be it,” said the bird, taking off.
The company of Elves, alive and undead, pounded across the miles like wind across a meadow, leaving no mark on the path that they trod. As they drew closer to the edge of the range of mountains that would serve as their guide west, Legolas felt the air around him grow chilly and damp. The darkness became pressing, the same darkness that he had felt when Ungoliant had shown her hideous face in Aragorn’s tomb. Unlight. He looked to the north, towards the tiny shadow on the horizon that was the mountain range of Angband. “The Iron Mountains” they were called. Even his keen eyes had trouble picking it out in the dimness of the air, but he was of Elven blood, and deep within his eyes burned the flame of the Valar, the flame that lighted him when he grasped the hilts of his knives. And to him it seemed as though he saw that same fire reach to the sky from behind the dangerous peaks of Angband, “Hell of Iron” in the Common Tongue. Legolas shuddered.
§ § §
Ulmo came to Nienna in her halls that night. She had returned to her grey dwelling on the far western shore of Valinor, past the Pelóri Mountain range. Ulmo swam swiftly through the many rivers that stretched across Valinor to finally reach her door. He stood on the hated dry ground and knocked on the grey oaken door that stood displaying an image of the two trees in a silent, mourning rain, with silver deer and horses gathered around them. Ulmo stared at it for some time before receiving and answer from within.
“My door is always open to any who come seeking knowledge and patience. Enter,” said the voice of the Weeper.
Ulmo opened the door and took a step inside.
“Fair Vala,” he said, entering. “I come seeking neither, but the sun has risen and fallen since I have asked you a question you said you would provide answer to. Will you not speak?”
Nienna stood beneath the tall doorway that opened the Hall of Entry. She stared at him across the great room that was the center point of her halls. The Beginning, it was called. The walls were decoarted with ornate carvings of Elves and Maia that had come to Nienna as her followers during the first age. Their countenances stared at the door, diamonds in their eyes, a look of strength in sorrow within their many faces. They seemed to stare at Ulmo, who patiently awaited Nienna’s reply.
“I have decided,” said she. “That before I do for you that which you have asked, you must first show me why I should. For when I look upon your face, what do I see? I see a mask of hatred for your enemies, and hope for that which is yours. I see water,” she paused. “and ice. I see a ruler, I see power, I see the King of the Waters of Eä, but I do not see love or longsuffering, and I will not walk long with impatience.”
The echo of Nienna’s voice faded into the depths of the great Hall. Her eyes locked with Ulmo’s.
“But,” said she. “I will walk a little with learning.”
“It is enough,” said Ulmo. “I would do anything to walk but a moment with favor in your sight.”
“Then come,” said Nienna. “I have much to teach you.”