Aralorn rode in silence, her thoughts dwelling on what Elrond had told her when giving permission for her to leave Rivendell, and return to Rohan for a visit to her homeland. He had spoken of many things of the outside world; of the darkness she had known was spreading and consuming, but not in such detail.
“You will be taking a risk, Aralorn,” Elrond had said to her. “The world has changed much since you came to Rivendell.”
“I do know of that,” Aralorn said.
“But there are things you do not know of,” he said firmly. “The Darkness is growing rapidly. He is gathering an army of more than simply orcs, but I will not speak to you of this matter now. All I want you to know is that it will be dangerous…especially for you, for the enemy believes you no longer exist. I do not mean to frighten you, but give truth that is needed. They will kill you if they learn of your true identity. Aragorn is in danger, for the enemy knows that he still lives. The Dark Lord will stop at nothing to ensure that the heir of Isildur is dead. You must use your former name: Evelird.” Aralorn winced at the name, for it was laden with so much pain. She had nearly forgotten it, as well. It felt like wearing an old, worn, muddy, wet cloak that hardly fit. Elrond had a look of question, waiting to hear if she was still willing. Aralorn sighed and nodded. His face lightened. “I believe it is a large chance that harm will not come to you if you keep your identity secret and your visit short.”
“Do you think it is safe enough?” Aralorn asked timidly.
“I do,” Elrond began. “And I shall send with you two escorts to ensure it.”
Aralorn looked at the escorts with her now. Berior and Faron were their names. Both were kind and strong of heart and body. They rode at different paces at different times, for both theirs and the horses’ sake. Elrond had instructed them to cross over the mountains, find the Anduin river, and then follow it past Lothlorien and Fangorn Forest until they came to Rohan. It sounded simple enough to Aralorn. The three started out at a gallop for the first part of the journey, until they reached the mountains. It took longer than Aralorn would have guessed, but plenty of food had been brought along, and rests were taken to ensure that strength kept up with them (which it did). After descending the mountains, it wasn’t that long before they found the Anduin, and followed it southwards. It was many days before they passed the borders of Lorien and Mirkwood. Aralorn was sad that she could not stay and visit, but she told herself that someday she would see the woods of the beautiful elf haven. Days later, Aralorn caught sight of another forest. It was just out of her sight to make anything of it.
“Faron,” Aralorn asked the elf on her right. “What forest is that?” Without needing to look at where Aralorn was pointing he answered.
“That is the Forest of Fangorn.” His voice was light, as the color of his hair.
“The forest in which the Ents dwell,” Berior put in. He had darker hair, and looked as if he were slightly older and wiser.
“The Ents?” Aralorn questioned.
“They are Tree Herders – Shepherds of the Forest,” Berior answered.
“Herders?” Aralorn’s eyes widened. “Shepherds of trees? They are alive?”
“They speak to each other,” Faron said. “and have the ability to move.”
“Are they friendly?” Aralorn asked, very interested in this matter. Her escorts paused.
“They are no longer,” Berior said, his face grave. “You would be better off staying away from them.”
Aralorn quite enjoyed seeing these new lands that she had never laid eyes on before. Every passing day they grew closer to Rohan.
“We must be careful not to go too far west when we reach your homeland,” Faron instructed.
“Because of Isengaurd?” Aralorn asked, but she was near certain she was right. Berior nodded.
“The White Hand of Saruman is already beginning to stretch over the land of the Horse Lords. We must be on our guard always,” he said. His tone of warning and maybe uncertainty worried Aralorn.
Soon after, they crossed the borders of Rohan. Aralorn did not feel the welcoming feeling from the land as she thought she would. One day, just after dusk, as they were all stopping for a rest, suddenly Ithil’s head shot up. Aralorn was sitting the grass, treating herself to some food, and she looked up at her horse. The mare’s ears were darting this way and that, searching for sound. Her nostrils were flared, and her breathing heavy as she was absorbing some scent. Ithil then pawed the ground in restlessness. Aralorn did not get up yet to comfort her. Instead she watched and waited. Ithil’s senses were enormously sensitive – especially toward evil, and when she was uneasy or spooked, and acted the way she was now, it probably didn’t mean there was an elf walking in the woods…it meant something was wrong. At that moment, Ithil’s ears shot forward and locked in that position. Aralorn glanced at Berior and Faron. They, too were watching. Aralorn tried to follow Ithil’s ears…they led into the distance of the yellow plains, where in the light of late dusk, little in that direction could be made out. She walked over to Berior.
“Can you see anything? I fear that it may be evil,” she whispered to him.
“No,” Berior began. “What it could be, I do not know. It may not be of evil, though.” Aralorn got up and went to calm her horse. Although Berior seemed to be convinced that it was a bigger chance that it was something friendly, Aralorn could not think so. As she looked into the mare’s eyes, which now reflected the young moon, she saw a black fear.