Dazed and confused, she looked at the little group around her: the three elves and their horses, and the two hobbits. She was surprised to find that she wasn’t much smaller than the elves. She then looked down at herself, and saw she was wearing a grey coat, leggings, and riding boots. They were all in greenish grey suede. The coat was laced in front and closed with a buckle at the waist. From the waist down, it was open in the middle, and formed a full skirt. The boots were light, flexible, and very comfortable.
“Let us take you to a safe campsite for the night,” proposed one of the elves. Aurora and the hobbits followed the elves up a hill, and settled upon its top.
“What is your name, my lady?”
“An unusual name for an elf-maiden, but I have heard it once before, a very long time ago. There was a Lady Aurora who lived in Mirkwood centuries ago, but she mysteriously disappeared. Where do you come from?”
“I would rather not answer this question, but don’t worry: you have not offended me,” she reassured the elf. At that moment, a lump was swelling in her throat, and she closed her eyes and breathed deeply, to regain her composure, as she heard her parents inside her head, calling for her in the pine forest, near the lake.
“Who are those black riders?” enquired Frodo.
“We will not tell you who these riders are, but we shall have help sent to you on your dangerous journey,” replied one of the elves.
“I will go to Rivendell to send you help. My journey may be speedier than yours, as they do not hunt me,” offered Aurora, impulsively, still in a state of great shock. The black riders weren’t discussed much longer.
Frodo was the more curious of the two hobbits, and stayed up rather late, until finally, he fell asleep.
“Lady Aurora, you are very brave, but I do not like the idea of an elven maiden going alone, on foot, to Rivendell, especially during these dangerous times, even though you may go unnoticed.”
Gradually, they saw the reflection of a white light grow, in the greenery around them, until a white horse appeared. Its coat reflected the moonlight, and it had long, golden mane and tail. It was saddled, and wore a bridal.
“Aah! Elarinya! You come to us at last! I see that my father is fallen!” cried one of the elves, as the horse trotted to him, head drooping in sadness, and licked his ear with affection.
“Lady Aurora, we have nothing to do with Isildur’s bane, but we were attacked by a group of Black Riders. My father decided to stay behind to fight, and ordered us to leave him. He said he would find us. He has not, but his very faithful horse has.” The horse started to show interest in Aurora, and went over to her. She sniffed Aurora’s out held palm, and let her stroke her nose.
“Elarinya, the Mornstar. Her father was of the Mearas, and was a present to my father, from the Golden Hall at Edoras. Her mother was our most beloved of mares, and one of the finest.” The mare had starting licking Aurora’s face, making Aurora laugh.
“On reflection, you should ride her. She has the stamina to allow her to gallop for days without being breathless or tired, she senses danger miles away, and she knows the way to Rivendell. She is also very gentle and considerate towards her master, if she is well treated.”
“Thank you very much, but how will I return her to you?”
“We are going into the West, and we shall not need her there. I would rather you kept her, as you will probably need to ride again, and I will not feel so guilty about letting you go, as you will be riding Elarinya.” He stood up, seemingly to check her saddle.
“I see there is enough food packed in her saddle bag to take you to Rivendell, if you ride hard. There is also a gourd of water. You are quite fortunate to be travelling at this time of year, as fruits, berries, and nuts are starting to ripen. I will give you directions and advice.” Elarinya’s behaviour towards Aurora confirmed the elf’s belief that it was quite reasonable to let Aurora ride her. Elarinya was now lying down next to Aurora, with her head in her lap.
“You may follow the Road, but do not stay on it. From here, go straight to the Brandywine Ferry. The Bridge will probably be watched. Then, ride north until you find the Road, which you should then follow, until it bends. Leave it and ride straight ahead. You will soon meet another road. Cross it, and you will find Chetwood in front of you. Enter it, but go to its north-eastern edge. That way, you will be able to avoid Midgewater. Ride straight on to the Weather Hills, and cross them. After that, you will need to regain the Road, to use the Last Bridge. Avoid the Ford, as I believe that also will be watched. As you leave the Bridge, go into the Troll Shaws. Ride on, and you will find Rivendell Valley. Elarinya knows the way, so do not fear to lose it. At night, have only short rests, for that is when the powers of the Black Riders are strongest. When you do rest, try to be on high ground, so that you may see around you, and be as well hidden as you can.
You had better rest now. We will wake you in the morning.”
* * *
She was now lying on the ground, and could feel the chilly night air. A heavy weight kept her eyes closed.
“Aurora! My dear daughter, please wake up! What happened to you? Why are you unconscious? Can you hear us? Please! Please wake up!”
She heard her parents’ cries over her immobile body, unable to respond. Her father’s cries caused the most emotion, for she never thought he would cry over her. She could never have believed that he loved her and cared for her, until now. But now, it seemed too late.
She decided to exhaust herself as much as possible during her journey, to try to avoid having these visions.
* * *
“Lady Aurora! Awake! You should be leaving soon!”
Aurora woke up under a black starless sky: dawn was approaching.
As she was taking a quick breakfast, the elf spoke to her.
“This is the most dangerous part of your journey. The Riders are not far away, as they are waiting for Frodo and Sam to continue their journey. You must not be seen. I cannot stress that enough. Remember that the Black Horses are also of the Mearas, although they have been bread in Mordor. They may have as much speed as you, and maybe more. If you are lucky, you should be in Rivendell within 3 days. May you have a safe and swift journey. Go!”
She rode down the hill and straight ahead, pressuring Elarinya’s sides, to ask her to gallop, and soon, dawn broke. In mid-morning, she reached the Ferry, and crossed the Brandywine without any sign of trouble. She then rode north, and found the Road in early afternoon. She stopped nearby to have a meal and tend to Elarinya.
She followed the Road, and in early evening, found the bend, left the Road and Road straight on. As the elf had told her, she found another road, and crossed it. On the horizon, she saw the outline of a wood, and galloped to it to reach it before nightfall. She tended to Elarinya, took her evening meal, and rested.
Although the weather was fine, she felt as though a heavy, dark cloud was upon her all the time. She was still confused, and couldn’t believe or understand what was happening to her. She decided to live here, until she would wake up, in Scandinavia. It was surely just a dream, that her mind, tired of her life, had invented.
In early morning, she recieved a gentle nudge, and opened her eyes to find Elarinya’s head next to hers. She had a quick breakfast, saddled the mare, and trotted to the north eastern edge of Chetwood. She found the most of Midgewater to her right, but spent the day picking her way through the edges of the swamp, and reached the Weather Hills by evening.
She rode up a hill, and decided to rest there for the night.
Slowly, a dark fear crept into her heart, and she finally woke up with a start. Elarinya was restless, and Aurora finally sensed the center of trouble. There was an isolated hill to the south, and squinting in the dark, she saw Black Riders approaching it, and encircling it. Aurora saddled Elarinya, and mounted her. She let her pick her way stealthily down the hill. Aurora decided to walk on rather than gallop on, to avoid making too much noise and attracting attention.
After what seemed an eternity, she looked back, and saw the Hill very far behind her. At that moment, a flash of light split the sky. It had seemed to come from the hill-top, and she faintly heard what would have been a loud, booming voice.
She then rode hard to cross the Last Bridge, and spent the rest of the early hours of the morning resting in the Trollshaws. When she mounted again, she let Elarinya choose the way.
As midday came to pass, she started climbing another of the numerous hills that filled the surroundings. The heavy cloud that had hung over her seemed to lighten, and the grasses seemed greener. As she reached the top, she found it was quite a special hill.