Aldamir's Journey

by Frodo Baggins

19  20  21

Chapter 19 -- Leaving Lothlorien


    Outside Caras Galadhon, on a green sward, stood Galadriel, robed in white with a cloak of deep red, with a golden circlet on her hair. The sun was setting, and its magnificent beams of golden light crept into every corner in the Elf-city and threw a gilded mantle over Galadriel, and her hair shone as living light. Haldir, clad in the shining, leaf-like armour of the Elves with a dark crimson cloak thrown over his shoulders, stood before Galadriel. Behind him stood his company, four hundred strong, with Aldamir at their head. He too was clad in graceful Elven armour, but like the rest of the warrior Elves, wore a cloak of midnight blue; Uruviel had made it for him and fastened it on his shoulder with a crescent-shaped brooch. On his head rested a light, strong helm, adorned with leafy patterns.

Galadriel surveyed the Elves gathered before her, and her eyes were full of mixed love, pride and fear for them. She raised her hand in blessing. “Galadhrim! May you go forth to victory against the Dark One; may Eru bless you and may the Valar protect you. I cannot see the future, but I know that you will not all return.” She paused, and great sorrow was in her eyes. “My heart is grieved to know that... We can only trust to hope.”

Haldir bowed, and she placed her hand on his shoulder, speaking words which only he could hear. Then she turned to the Elves, and raised her hand once more; again the star glimmered between her fingers, and its light fell like a blessing on the Elves. "Namarie!"

The Elves lifted their bows high and called out in return, four hundred silver voices bidding their forest and their queen farewell. Haldir bowed, and turning, led them away.

Aldamir lingered for barely a moment, gazing about. Then he turned, and followed Haldir; not once did he gaze back again.

The Elves were silent as they walked through the Golden Wood for perhaps the last time. Each listened intently to the sounds about them; small birds pouring out song, clear silver streams tinkling in quiet merriment, mallorn leaves rustling softly in the breeze. Aldamir almost couldn’t face the fact that he might never return.
 
Never return...

   The words echoed in his mind with a dark echo and he shook his head to clear them away. I will not think of such things! Yet the thought would not recede completely. For just a moment he stopped, and closing his eyes, drew in a deep breath, savoring the air and burying it deep inside himself as one would hide a treasure of great value.

When he opened his eyes again, Lindir was looking at him. The Elf tried to speak, but no words would come and he shook his head. Falling into step beside him, Aldamir grasped his friend’s shoulder and each took comfort from the gesture.

At length they reached Sírmentë, and stood on the banks of the Anduin. In another moment they would embark, and Lothlórien would be left behind. Haldir turned and gazed back into the wood for a long moment.

Aldamir bent his head and said a silent prayer to the Valar. Even if I never return, protect Lórien from evil for as long as it stands...

At his feet lay a mallorn-leaf, silver-green with delicate, faintly golden veins. Bending down, he took it into his hands and studied it silently. It lay quiet in his hand, almost like a living thing. Tracing its delicate veins with his finger, he sighed and looked up into the sky. The sun had dropped below the circles of the world and stars were beginning to twinkle faintly; soon, he knew, the sky would be jet-black and the stars would shine brilliantly in its vaults.

Haldir bowed his head and sighed. Turning to his company, he said quietly, “Come, Galadhrim. The moon is rising and we must put as many miles as we can behind us this night.” He said no more; Aldamir sensed he did not have the heart to speak further.

Aldamir slipped the leaf inside his tunic, near to his heart. One by the one, the Elven army embarked, sailing across the river in slim, grey boats. Once they were all on the other side, Haldir bade farewell to the Elves who had sailed them across, and led the company away into the dusk.

Aldamir lingered for a last moment, gazing at the wood lying behind him in the protective, deepening shadows of the night. The tall mallorns could be glimpsed deep in the woods, and here and there an elanor was visible through the darkness, petals folding up in sleep. In his heart he bade Lórien a silent farewell, and turned to follow Haldir and the Company.

He did not look back as Lothlórien faded into the shadowy night.    


19  20  21

Chapter 20 -- Journey in the Night
   
    The company traveled long in the darkness, making hardly a sound as their swift feet passed lightly over the ground. They walked side by side in narrow lines, taking comfort in the nearness of one another, and in the peaceful quiet of the night. Occasionally one of the floating banners would catch in a small breath of wind and whip about, rustling softly, but beside that there was little noise. The Elves did not speak; they had no heart to. Behind them lay their beloved home, perhaps never to be seen again; before them lay dark forests and stone keeps. Not that they were losing courage or heart; rather, they wished to contemplate in silence the turn their path was taking.
 
At first they marched only over wide, rolling, grassy plains; there were no roads save for an overgrown, forgotten one here and there, with grass and moss and all sorts of small plants growing through cracks in the long-forgotten stone. Here and there a bird twittered softly, or the soft footsteps of a deer passed them by, but other than that there was no sign of life on the lonely plains.
 
“Aldamir,” said Lindir in a low voice, as they walked beside each other.
 
“Yes.”
 
“I...do you think there’s any chance of our surviving this?”
 
Aldamir did not look up, but he slid his hand inside his tunic and touched the leaf hidden there. “I don’t know,” he said softly. “I don’t think anyone knows. We can only hope.”
 
“But if we do not,” went on Lindir, “and all comes to naught; if the battle is lost, it will all have been in vain. We will have died for nothing.”
 
“No.” Aldamir stopped and looked at his friend. “Even if the battle is lost, it may not mean that the war as a whole is lost. We are doing this for Frodo’s sake; for Middle-earth. We must keep the Enemy’s attention away from Frodo at all costs, even if it means losing our lives. As long as he is waging war on us, he will not look for Frodo; he will be concentrating on defeating us. And that is what is vital. He must not know where Frodo is, or what he is doing! That is why we are going; we must hold his attention for as long as possible. Even if we all die, it will not have been in vain if Frodo succeeds!”
 
Lindir gazed far away into the darkness. “Thank you, Aldamir,” he said at last, very quietly.
 
Aldamir smiled and placed his hand on Lindir’s shoulder. “Be of stout heart, my friend,” he whispered. “All is not lost yet!”



 
As they moved farther southwards, the moon rose in the sky, shedding a bright silver light, and the terrain became more rocky. At first there was more grass than stone, but slowly it leaned the other way. Every so often, the ground would drop away beneath them in small cliffs; sometimes they would have to climb down a steep incline in order to go further.
 
But at last they came to the edge of Fangorn; a long, ominous, thick line on the dark horizon, slowly growing larger as they drew nearer, eerie in the moonlight.
 
Aldamir, walking in front of the column beside Haldir, shivered slightly as the moonlit woods loomed up before them. Orcs and such he did not fear, but the thought of the unknown, shadow-shrouded, tangled depths of this ancient forest gave him an unpleasant feeling.
 
“I do not like the look of that place,” said Haldir in a low voice as the dark line grew into a thick border of trees.
 
“We’ll have to watch our step in there,” muttered Aldamir.
 
They did not speak as they approached Fangorn’s border, and just as the solid line of trees rose up before them, Haldir halted and held up his hand. For a moment there was silence as the Elves contemplated the next step in their path.
 
Aldamir gazed at the forest closely. The border was very dense; there seemed hardly to be any openings for them to pass through; only here and there did the trees part a little. Outwardly, and at first, the trees appeared to be like normal trees, but Aldamir sensed something strange, something different about them. A sullen, almost dulled life throbbed through their veins; even as he stood there he felt as if a powerful stream of tingling life ran through the air, and a shiver ran down his back. It was not open, vibrant life like the mallorns of Lórien possessed, but rather a suppressed, brooding life; powerful but subdued.
 
“These are no ordinary trees,” he murmured aside to Haldir. Haldir nodded, scanning the border of the forest and trying to catch a glimpse of the moonlit depths. It was difficult.
 
He turned to face the Elves gathered behind him. “I cannot say what will happen in Fangorn,” he told them, “but we must be careful; step warily. None know what may be found in the depths of Fangorn in these days; we must be careful. Walk quietly, and be on your guard. But do not lose heart! We will conquer this wood yet.”
 
A murmur of assent ran through the Galadhrim, and Haldir turned and led the way into the dark depths. Slowly they went in, stepping softly, trying to find a way through the tangled border. At last they were all through, and gathered together behind Haldir. He took a deep breath and stepped forward.
 
The shadowy depths seemed to swallow them up immediately, and Aldamir shivered.


19  20  21

Chapter 21 -- In Fangorn's Depths

Aldamir never forgot the journey through Fangorn. It almost felt like he was walking through a dream of sorts; a mysterious, shadowy dream full of strange things. Sometimes he was sure something was looking at him, but when he turned there was nothing. Only the tangled, strangely twisted branches of the trees.
 
“What ails you, Aldamir?” asked Haldir in a low voice as they went. “I’ve seldom seen you like this – you act as if there are wild creatures all about.”
 
“I don’t know what it is,” answered Aldamir. “There are strange things in this forest; I don’t like it. I seem to see things all the time, and then there’s nothing. It makes me dizzy, all these things which are not there.”
 
“We’ll stop now for a short rest,” said Haldir in reply, and called a halt. “I want to get a grasp of what this place is like,” he said to Aldamir as the Elves laid down in various places to rest. “What about you? Do you want to rest, or will you stand on watch?”
 
“I’m not tired,” replied Aldamir, who was curious as well. “I’ll stand watch.”
 
“All right.”

 
For a while things were quiet as Aldamir sat leaning against a stone, taking what little rest he needed from the quiet peace. Yet he sensed a queer undercurrent to this peace; it was a strange peace, which seemed as if it could alter at any moment.
 
Aldamir took stock of his surroundings. The company was resting in a soft-floored clearing, surrounded by trees. As far as he could see - which wasn’t very far - there were trees upon trees, strange, twisted trees with eerie wispy curtains of moss hanging from them, as a beard would hang from an old man’s chin. Here and there moonlight filtered through the thick foliage, throwing a strip of silver on the mossy floor. Sometimes, too, he would hear noises, as of ancient, deep, woody voices, speaking to each other in low voices. But how could there be voices in this place? Yet if it wasn’t voices, what was it?
 
Aldamir stood up quietly, and walked to the edge of the clearing. Peering through the twisted, moss-covered branches, he listened. No voices, but the small tinkle of a stream met his ears. Aldamir found it not too far away, winding in and out among the trees with a subdued chuckle. It did not laugh openly like the streams of Lórien, but its quiet voice warmed Aldamir’s heart, and kneeling, he dipped his hand into the cool water. It slid about his hand and through his fingers with a silky caress, and he shut his eyes as a pang of longing for the bright blue waters of Lothlórien hit him. Bending down, he drank of the sweet, cold stream and stood up again.
 
As he did so, he noticed suddenly that the light coming through the trees was more golden than silver. The sun must be rising, he thought in surprise, looking about. A little further on, the light seemed to shine down stronger, and leaping lightly over the stream, he went toward it, curious.
 
But suddenly his foot caught in something and he stumbled, nearly falling. Catching an overhanging branch to steady himself, he looked down in surprise at a root which his foot had slipped under. He was puzzled. That root hadn’t been there just a moment ago!
 
Then the branch he was holding moved, and the root lying over his foot lifted itself and moved.
 
“Hoom,” said a deep voice with a strange quality about it above him. “Hm, hmm....what have we here?”
 
A shiver ran down Aldamir’s spine. Slowly, he turned and gazed upwards.
 
His wondering blue eyes met a pair of deep, strange eyes; golden-colored with bottomless black orbs, with leaves waving softly about them. In his astonishment, he did not notice that his sword had slipped from his hand. His eyes traveled over the strange being before him, taking in the mossy, bark-covered limbs, the leaves fluttering about, the occasional mushroom sprouting out of his cheek. For several moments he couldn’t find his voice. A tree...living, speaking to him!
    
The unfathomable eyes studied him keenly for a moment, and he gazed back into
them in open, unmasked astonishment. Never before had he seen such strange eyes; they seemed to be deep wells full of memories from the very beginning of the world.
 
A deep, rumbling chuckle sounded from the depths of the tree. “You are not used to seeing a, hoom, an Ent every day, are you, elfling?”
 
Delight mingled with a fearful wonder surged through Aldamir. “An Ent,” he repeated. “A tree-herder, from days of old.....I did not know that your kind still walked the earth.”
 
The Ent chuckled once more, and then sighed. “Yes, that is the way it is now. It is long indeed since we went about openly, and now we are forgotten. We are dwindling; the count grows only less. There are no Entings.”
 
“Many are the tales I have heard, telling of your kind,” said Aldamir, still wondering. “Were there not also Entwives?”
 
“Yes, once,” sighed the Ent, and Aldamir glimpsed sorrow in the amber eyes. He was almost sorry he had asked. “But that was long ago. They are gone now, and there will be no more Ents.”
 
Aldamir was silent.
 
The Ent turned and chuckled again. “Why so silent, young one?”
 
The Elf shook his head. “I was only thinking...”
 
“Hoom, hm, you are thinking, Of what?”
 
“Merely of the tales I have heard. I find it wonderful that there are still some like you on this earth.”
 
“Hoom, hoom! Of course there are still some! We are tough; we are not destroyed easily. There will be Ents for a while yet!”
 
Aldamir took a step backwards as the Ent went on muttering something about “cursed....burarum.....burning....wizard.....” He had a feeling that an angry Ent was not a good thing to be too close to.
 
Finally he found the courage to speak again. “Why is it that so many fear this forest? Everyone I know has warned us against going here.”
 
The Ent turned and looked into the blue-grey eyes of the Elf. “Hoom....It is because of the Huorns, the trees. They have grown wild, with so few of us to look after them. Men are afraid of the trees. But tell me, young one, what are you doing here? What drove you to brave the paths of Fangorn?”
 
Aldamir told him. At the mention of Saruman’s name the golden eyes glinted dangerously. “Curse him, the black-minded wizard! He is destroying my forest; too often his servants have come here, burning, killing, cutting, hacking, burning! And you are going to fight him, to kill his orcs? Good, good! What is your name, elfling?”
 
“Aldamir, of Lothlórien.”
 
“An Elf of Lothlórien is always welcome here. All Elves are, for they will not hurt the trees. They are friends, hoom, hm. I am Bregalad.”
 
Aldamir opened his mouth to reply, but noticed suddenly that the Elf-camp was astir. Elves were arising and strapping on their bows, buckling their swords at their sides. Bregalad noticed as well.
 
“Hoom hm, your company is moving,” he said, and his deep eyes twinkled. “You had better be getting back to them, had you not?”
 
Aldamir smiled. “Yes, I must. It was an honor to meet you, Bregalad.”
 
The Ent chuckled. “And meeting you, Aldamir. Go, and may Iluvatar bless you. Remember, you and your kin are always welcome here!”
 
Aldamir bowed and turned to go. The last he saw of the Ent was the deep, indescribable eyes gazing after him with a merry twinkle in them.