moment the old man quickened his pace and came with surprising speed to
the foot of the rock-wall. Then suddenly he looked up, while they stood
motionless looking down. There was no sound. They could not see his
face; he was hooded, and above the hood he wore a wide-brimmed hat, so
that all his features were overshadowed, except for the end of his nose
and his grey beard." (From 'The White Rider')
The fingers of the Entwash could be seen from high atop Gwaihir’s back. Gandalf resisted leaning too far over. First, he didn’t want to hurt the glorious bird and secondly, he did not want to fall off. A wry smile lit his face. Not a good way to enter Lórien, especially seeing as how he was definitely unclothed. He shivered at the thought of it, the wind rushing across his back as he held on. The Lord of the Skies, seeming to know the Wizard’s need, ruffled a few feathers and Gandalf found himself covered.
He closed his eyes and wondered why the eagle had flown in this direction. Lórien was to the northwest of the Entwash. This was a very circuitous way to reach the Elvish kingdom from Moria. At least, he believed he was being transported to Galadriel’s realm. Who else would have called the eagle?
Moria. He thought of all he had been through since they had entered that dark place. Even a Maia, he thought ruefully, had much to be afraid of in Moria. All his pretenses of calm and courage fled when the Balrog stood before him. He had had to swallow a number of times before he found his voice. Then, he had shouted to it to halt. Another wry smile graced the Wizard’s face. As if a Balrog of Morgoth would stop just because he told it to. He had hoped that the thing would stop long enough for them to escape, but that had been a fool’s hope if ever there was one.
He remembered the pain as the flaming whip wound round his legs, the incredible strength of the force that pulled him from the broken bridge, and the long fall that culminated in the battle on the top of Zirakzigi. For ten days they fought and, in the end, he died himself. Though he had slain the Balrog, the battle proved too much for him.
He shivered again and his ride offered more feathers for protection. No eagle’s plumage could stop these shivers. He realized he had not quite recovered from the shock of his return from Time. How long he had been gone, he had no inkling. He wished he could ask, but the wind would blow his words back at him. He rested, trying to put aside all thought or need until Gwaihir landed.
He woke with a start. They were headed north now; he could see the Anduin below him and what he knew to be Fangorn Forest to his left. 'Soon,' he thought wearily, 'I will be on the ground again.' Though he much appreciated his second rescue, he was bone-weary. ‘A pipe is what I need now. And perhaps some of Mistress Gamgee’s fine stew.’ A heavy sigh fell from his cold lips. ‘And a fire to sit around with Bilbo. That would be splendid.’
‘But Bilbo is in Rivendell and I am very much concerned as to what has happened to the Hobbits I have sent off. To their doom? I sincerely hope not. Especially Merry and Pippin. They should not even have gone on this fool’s errand. I should have listened to Elrond. But,’ and his face lit in a great smile, ‘they showed themselves well. Courage and strength they both have, more than even I gave them credit for.’
‘Sam and Frodo. The weight was so strong upon young Frodo when I left him. How much more must it weigh so close to Moria? Can he carry it that far without it tainting him? Without it tainting Sam and the rest of the Fellowship?’
‘This was not my plan – to leave them alone. They need me. And yet all my plans seem to have been for naught, for the Fellowship is now without my council. I wonder where they are now. Are they alone? Did they reach Lórien? Did Celeborn send Galadhrim warriors with them? It would be wise.’
He shook his head. ‘If he considers what he knows, if SHE has his ear…’ He stopped the thought and laughed despite himself. ‘If she has his ear indeed! When does she not? And yet, the Fellowship has been already chosen. Just because I am not with them is no reason to increase it tenfold. Aragorn will endure. But will Legolas and Boromir continue with them? Boromir’s need is to be with his people. Legolas is close to home. He very well might go back to Thranduil’s court. The need there is great too, if I read the signs correctly.’
Another shiver shook him. ‘All of Middle-earth will soon be tested. Will it be beyond their ability to defend themselves, the Elves, Men and Dwarves? Hobbits still know not what has befallen Arda, yet I deem them under attack in a much different way than Orcs and foul beasts. Hmm – foul beasts indeed. Men it is that will assail them. Will they be up to the test?’
All thought left him as searing pain enveloped him. He almost lost his hold on Gwaihir, but the eagle would not let him fall. He swooped to the side as he felt the Wizard sway, thus catching him and keeping him aboard. Gandalf patted its great neck and thanked the Lord of the Skies profusely.
‘I must quiet my thoughts; recover from the ordeal I have been through. No use to neither ponder nor worry about the Fellowship. They must do what they must do. There is nothing I can do for them now. Just hope that they will survive and succeed.’
Gwaihir began descending and Gandalf held on a little tighter. He could see the forest of Lórien before them. ‘Ah, so this, my friend, is where you are taking me. It must have been Galadriel herself who sent you to me. I have much to be thankful to the Lady of the Wood.’ Closer and closer the forest came; finally, Caras Galadhon could be seen.
Gwaihir landed on the lawn within the green-walled city. Galadriel and Celeborn waited as the eagle gently lowered its wing. Two Galadhrim quickly stepped forward and helped Gandalf dismount. They carried a white robe and slippers with which they gently clothed him. Lending an arm, they walked him towards their sovereign.
Galadriel stepped forward and welcomed him with open arms. Celeborn stood back, a large smile upon his fair face. “We are grateful that Gwaihir was able to find you,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
“You saw me in your mirror?”
“I did. When Aragorn told me of your demise, I knew it could not be true. The Valar sent you on a mission, and that mission, in my eyes, was not yet complete. Did you wonder?”
“As I lay upon the snows of Zirakzigi, I wondered. I was surprised myself to open my eyes once again and find myself still on Arda.”
“Your mission awaits. I am afraid the Fellowship is in dire need of your help. Though at the moment, you need to heal. Come, I have food and drink for you, and rest.”
“All sorely needed. Might you have some pipeweed?”