PartIII Chapter 2.5
Legolas and Gimli in the realm of Lothlórien, Third Age, 27 August 3021
Legolas appeared, not in Caras Galadhon as originally planned, but deep in Egladil, the southern woodland of Lothlórien. He was unconcerned about this mis-location, and that Gimli did not appear alongside him, for Gandalf had warned that travelling before dawn they may be somewhat off their mark. He was thankful that it would only be a brief journey to the entrance to the ‘Fortress of Trees’, where he and Gimli arranged to meet, and he hoped that Gimli likewise was near.
As he had appeared, this Silvan Elf, son of Thranduil and prince of the Woodland Realm, blended in perfectly with the woodland, ‘clad in green and brown.’ (Tolkien, FOTR, ‘The Council of Elrond’ )
He made a strikingly handsome form, fairer and taller than men, with a slender but powerful build, and delicate and Adonis-type features. His fair hair was braided and pulled back crowning his head, but it was his lustrous lavender eyes that those who looked upon found hypnotic, for they shone with ageless vitality and affability. Many found him stunningly beautiful; but Legolas was unaffected by this reaction in others; in all he was a simple unassuming soul. On this day he was attired in his travelling garb, but he carried all his weapons of battle; his bow, quiver and fighting knives; always in the ready to meet whatever foe he came upon.
However, here he felt secure and he lingered for a moment contemplating this beautiful land, and its significance to all elves. He could hear as he charted his course north to the city, the River Celebrant gushing its way south to the Anduin. In the auroral light of the day, the Mallorn appeared a palish gold, and as he strode out, the half light and shimmering shadows gave a feeling that he had entered a dream-world. As an urgency came upon him and he started his journey north, he heard a soulful refrain, as like droplets of rain he was being showered by the sounds of passionate voice and harp. It told the history of the elves who had taken refuge in this land; of the dominion that protected them from the evil of The Dark, and now their departure to lands of sanctuary in the west. He found he was following the path to the chorale, when it ended abruptly; as if the story it told itself had ended.
Legolas then became aware that while this forest once had abounded with life, now its essence seemed missing. There were no sounds of birds or forest folk, and an eerie silence hung like a heavy mantle; only his steps broke this stillness as they echoed across the forest. His mind all of a sudden ran to thoughts of being quite alone in this world in this time:
‘Where was Gimli?’
It was at this time, that Gimli had also appeared. He was dazed and disoriented, for despite Gandalf’s warning, he was not prepared for where he had come forth; for it was nowhere like the Golden Wood he had expected. Instead his journey had taken him into the bowels of a vast cavern. Gimli had heard of no lore about caverns in Lothlórien, and was fearful that he was far off his mark. However, he did not linger on this thought, determined that he must find a way to the outside, and from there, gain his bearings to Caras Galadhon.
It was damp and dark, but Gimli’s dwarven eyes rapidly became accustomed to the blackness and he began his search for an entrance. Elven provisions, utensils and weapons of all sorts, were stacked up in piles around the walls. Gimli surmised that this cavern had been fitted out to provide a refuge against attack. He thought how alien this place would have been to the elves of Lothlórien, with their fortress in the trees, and how desperate must have been their need for them to contemplate retreating to this underground place. It was clear that no-one had visited this sanctuary for many ages, for everything was covered in a clotted layer of fine ochre dust.
As Gimli strode out, his footsteps causing the dust to swirl around his feet and waft into the air, something on the floor glinted and beckoned him. He bent over and pulled the object from its earthen bed, and when he dusted it off, wiping it casually on his cloak, he found it to be a magnificent dagger. The guard was straight and flared at the ends, and its silver double-edged blade and pommel were engraved with elven runes. As Gimli held it he felt that this was no ordinary dagger, and although he could not then fathom its significance, he sensed that somehow it held a key to his escape. His thoughts ran to those ancient keys of which The Light had spoken, in what seemed now, a far-off world. There was no Gandalf to help with his wisdom and conjuring, and no Legolas, who could have read the secrets of the dagger’s runes, and with whom he could share his find. Yet in short order he dismissed these thoughts; he was alone, and alone he would find a way out. So he put the dagger in his belt, and although his circumstances were dire, he surprised himself by smiling at the thought of Legolas’s disbelief when he would tell him of this elven cavern.
Gimli could taste the dust that had been disturbed, and looked up watching its flight in the stale air. High above him, drawing the particles upwards, he could see a circular slit in the cavern roof – and the glimmer of grey light piercing through. He instantly recognised that this was the entrance. His eyes now were fully attuned to the dark, but he could not see any obvious way to reach this flat-dome, some twenty metres up. He reasoned that when those who had taken refuge within the cavern, or planned to, would have had devices that would lead them down to the cavern floor and have given them access to the outside again. He looked to see if he could find such a device or use any of the implements stored here, but none of the objects were large enough to span the distance.
He began prowling like an animal in a snare, and within him a feeling of desperation was mounting; he knew his time was limited, for Legolas would be waiting anxiously for him and much needed to be achieved on this day.
He thought of trying to communicate with Legolas, but he was wary to fall back upon this, so early in their mission. There must be a way to the dome. He looked at the walls, on the four sides there was a wooden panel spanning from floor to ceiling. They looked as if each had been honed from a single titan Mallorn. Gargantuan trunks of trees, a metre in breadth and depth, and 20 metres high. On the sides of the pair facing one another, wide groves had been chiseled into their flesh, obviously, Gimli thought, for some ceremonial reason, for there was no purpose that he could see. Each panel had been fastened to the rock walls.
Or were they?
Gimli rushed over to one, and saw that it was not fixed permanently to the rock face at all; in fact, at its foot it had an enormous metal hinge-like device, as he had once seen on a drawbridge. For Gimli’s quick mind, he realised that this was a strut that when pushed from the wall, connected with the other three, and formed a bridge to the opening – or close to it. He was not sure how this ingenious mechanism worked, but he knew that this was the way it must be. Not thinking through the consequences, as was his way, Gimli tried to push the panel from the wall. But with all his strength, he could not budge the hinge. He looked around for something to lever it out with, but there was nothing of the tools that looked like it had the strength to move this. He went back to see if he could use his axe head just to start the movement, and as he pushed this into the hinge, it dislodged some of the caked-on dust and he saw some elven runes etched around a slot in its top. He recognised these runes instantly. He took out the dagger he had found, and placed it into the slot. Immediately, there was a shudder in the panel, then a booming mechanical groan as this huge plank started to lean from the wall. Gimli had by then been standing in front of this panel watching this movement unfold, when he realised that all panels were moving in unison. He jumped out of the way, as the colossal planks careered towards each other, coming to rest with a resonating thud, each plank supporting the other. Then the floor began to quake and a grinding sound began. The sound was so deafening that Gimli had to cover his ears, but it was unmistakably the sound of cogs and wheels just below where he stood. He could not see the engine that moved the panels, but he could hear the intermeshing of grating gears, and reasoned that some mammoth machine, unused for years, now had been woken and thrust into motion.
He stood back and watched in amazement.
The facing panels with the groves in their sides, supported by the other planks, started to move towards each other. They were moving along some track on the floor which had been covered by years of dirt and debris. As they moved, being driven by the mechanism below, the dust billowed up within the cavern, choking Gimli and turning the air into a ghostly screen.
Slowly the planks came to rest side-by-side, then with a rumbling groan the motion stopped. Gimli saw that the groves of these struts formed a ladder leading to the dome. These rungs had been cut for the reach of an elf, but Gimli, with his determination and strength, managed with little difficulty to climb to the top. However, when he reached this and stood upon the platform, he was still metres from the dome and the circle of light he had observed from below. While he reckoned that light glimmering through came from an outer edge of a cover to an entrance which was not completely closed, he could not see how this cover could be opened or how he could reach it from where he stood. He surmised that this was not because of his statue compared to that of an elf, for there was too much distance from the top of the platform to the dome even for Legolas to reach; the platform had to go higher.
But how could this occur?
Gimli was already in awe of the ingenuity of the mechanics, but how could the panels be driven further upward. In looking down from the platform, he noticed that the supporting panels had now been cantilevered against the upright ones. He realised that if these panels were brought together, they would push the platform higher. Some mechanism waited for a key. He searched the platform for a slot similar to that that worked the hinge. The tops of the struts which formed the platform, had been covered in years of grit and grime. With the dampness in the air this had congealed to form a solidified casing that Gimli could not remove with his hands. He took out his axe and hacked into this sheath and peeled it off. He was close to removing one side of the platform, and came to edge where the panels joined, and there was the slot, exactly as he had seen below, with the elven runes encircling it. This needed a key as did the hinge. Gimli realised that there must have been another such key. It probably was below, but now that the floor covering had been disturbed by the movement of the panels, he knew that it would be impossible to find. He reasoned that the key that fitted into the hinge, would fit here, but if he took it from the hinge, the mechanism could reverse its movement.
He clambered down, and started to look for something from which to fashion a replacement key that would hold the hinges in place, for a short-time at least. He reasoned that he would need to use the real key for the top slot – for a mechanism would need to be set in motion; the bottom key only needed to hold the panels in place. He hunted around and found a sword blade. It was of the same metal, and roughly at its tip the size of the key, although thicker. He used his axe to cut it to the right length. He ground down the thickness with his axe-sharpener.
He knew that his time was rushing-away; he had to take the chance that it would fit. He went to the hinge, and pulled out the dagger blade, and swiftly replaced it with his makeshift duplicate. He held his breath; the air clogged with dust and a silence that hung as heavily.
There was a slight shudder in the hinge, but it held. He did not have time to be sure, he rushed up the ladder. As he did, he did not see that his fashioned key was being repelled gradually from the slot. He was half-way up when he heard the deafening grinding sound, and knew the mechanism was reversing. Undaunted he continued to climb; he could feel the panels inching apart. He reached the top and slid the key into the slot. The grinding stopped, and as if the insertion of the key overrode the hinge action, he felt the motion of the supporting struts started to converge, pushing the middle panels up, levering them up from the floor. As this occurred he heard a whirl above him, and saw that a large plate of the dome was sliding aside, opening the apex of the cavern to the light. He had only a metre to go when the grinding started again, and he felt the panels upon which he stood moving apart. He was about to jump up to the entrance, when he saw the key being repelled out of the slot, without reasoning why, he grabbed it as he threw himself at the opening, stabbing the blade deeply into the edge of the opening. This miraculously held his weight, as he swung his axe with his other hand, its bit digging into the earth and holding firm. From this anchor he pulled himself up through the opening. He looked down into the cavern and saw that the panels were retracing their passage to their positions against the wall. As this occurred, he felt the ground on which he was standing moving. He jumped clear as the sod of earth slid across the opening. The dagger was still in its edge, so he reached over and pulled it out, and the trap-door locked itself into position with a swishing thump. Just around its rim, a miniscule gap could be seen; the gap that had let in the light that Gimli had observed from below. He was amazed at the skill of the fit and how it was camouflaged in the undergrowth of the wood. For even though he knew the door was there he could barely discern its form, and knew that if he returned, he would not be able to re-locate its position. So he took a broken branch of a Mallorn and thrusting it into the earth he marked the spot of the entrance.
He put the dagger into his tunic pocket, unceremonially dusted himself off and then looked around. Here he was, in the forest outskirts of Caras Galadhon, this creature alien to the dignified inhabitants of this land; a figure looking at odds with everything elvish. Short and stout in stature, with an olive and weather-beaten complexion and broad features, he had fanciful and expressive bistre-coloured eyes. His hair and voluminous beard, both the colour of the red-ochre earth of his land, hung loosely, braided in part but appeared matted and unkempt. He wore a corslet of looped steel rings under a diamond weave fabric tunic in a dusky maroon. His boots were made of leather overlaid with patterned metal, as was his helm. He had dispensed with his cape and shield in the cavern, awkward as they were in climbing the ladder, but he gave no thought to these, little did he care for costume or armor save his axe.
Although it was early morn, and the sun was still in silvery-white repose, its muted rays filtering delicately through the canopy of the Mellyrn, Gimli’s eyes were startled by the light. He closed them momentarily then opened them again, searching now for some bearing of where he was. He took out his chronomap which showed he was to the north of the Fortress. He was only off his mark a small distance, although he had been plunged into a cavern, which he sensed had been lost to all old-lore of this tree-top world. But he did not ponder on the significance of this, for he had made plans to meet Legolas at the city’s main entrance, and with this waylay, knew he was already late. He felt eyes upon him, looking out from the dense woodland, but pressed for time he did turn to check, instead he set out south. As he did, he became aware of the scent of the Mallorn blossom, and the silence of the wood. There was no scampering of forest-floor folk as he trod out briskly and determinedly; only in the distance he could hear the faint echo of another’s steps through the undergrowth far to his south. He did not hear the one who, as he left, stealthily came from the wood and removed his marker of the entrance.
When Gimli arrived at the city’s entrance, Legolas was already there. Gimli could tell that he had been there some time, and apprehensively looked in Gimli’s direction as he emerged from the wood. He ran over to him and embraced his smaller friend.
‘Gimli, I was concerned you were waylaid,’ Legolas uttered breathlessly.
‘And so I was dear friend, in a cavern in the northern outskirts of the wood…’ Gimli replied.
‘In a cavern - there are no such things in Lothlórien, my dwarf friend – perhaps the travelling has brought you an apparition of your home,’ Legolas interjected, half-laughing.
‘Ah such a cavern, Elf, was never to be found in Khazad-dûm. There was such miraculous machinery - only those of elven-blood could have forged its creation.’
Gimli commenced to describe what he had seen; Legolas stood open-mouthed, part in wonder and disbelief, when Gimli was interrupted by Haldir.
A march-warden of the northern borders of Lothlórien, Haldir had travelled from his position to welcome the visitors as special guests and take them into the city. Gimli looked upon the handsomeness of this elf, of broader build than Legolas, with sharper facial features, inquisitive eyes and wispy flax-coloured hair; he wore a cloak of charcoal woollen fabric and carried quiver and bow. Gimli thought: ‘here stands an indomitable spirit.’
With a nod of tribute and some urgency, Haldir pronounced:
‘Kin Elf and Dwarf Friend. My Lord and Lady welcome you to Caras Galadhon; they have been waiting for your arrival. Please follow me. You will find that there is much activity in the city, as we make preparations for many of our folk to leave this land.’
Gimli and Legolas acknowledged his welcome, but before they could say anything, Haldir headed towards the tree-top fortress.
As they followed, Gimli whispered to Legolas:
‘I saw disbelief of my account in your eyes, when we are done here, I will take you to the cavern.’
‘Not disbelief, good friend, just amazement,’ Legolas replied warmly, as he followed Haldir.
They did not speak further, for although both had been to this city, entering it again was still full of marvel. An extraordinary city built in the middle and on top of giant gilded trees. On a mount in the forest, it was surrounded by a moat and stone wall. It was in essence a fortress, but one of breathtaking beauty and amazing design. For it was composed not only of a network of flets, perched among the branches of the Golden Mellyrn but of lush gardens interspersed with alba rosa marble fountains, which sent silvered wisps of spray effervescing through the air. In the flush of the day, these shimmered with the soft-hued beams of filtered light, on this momentous morn, resonated with the sound of the mournful singing as preparations were finalised to leave this golden-world. A gentle warm breeze wound its way around the foliage, giving the air a balmy feel and bringing with it the luscious fragrance of the gardens, of blooming bud and blossom.
It was with this dream-like aura, that Legolas and Gimli came to the royal hall of Celeborn and Galadriel. As it had been when they met the Lord and Lady of Lothlórien with The Fellowship of the Ring, a pale chiffon light filled the hall. This cascaded from the walls of jade and silver but reflected brilliantly from its ceiling of gilt. Yet as they entered in this time, Celeborn and Galadriel were not there to greet them. There was pressing but not frantic movement within Caras Galadhon, as Galadriel was soon to leave on her journey to the Grey Havens; to depart forever into the West over the Sea.
However, within minutes of their arrival, Galadriel appeared.
‘You will please forgive my absence and welcome to you kindred-Elf, son of Thranduil, and Elf-friend, son of Gloin. As you know soon I depart this place, my home for all these many years, for I must leave Middle-earth and this time for now. Celeborn makes readiness for my departure, but he will remain behind to see in the Fourth Age of Middle-earth.’
Legolas and Gimli bowed in deference to this Queen of Elves. Gimli looked up at her, with eyes of adoring admiration. He was captivated by her beauty of body and spirit when he met her with The Fellowship; now she seemed different, yet an aura of allurement still radiated from her. This arose from more than the handsomeness of her features: tall and regal, with the palest of ivory complexion, gothic nose, perfect shaped and voluptuous lips and glistering azure eyes; for she bore a manner of boundless grace.
She walked to them, her floor-length silk robe of iridescent pearl floating around her, her shimmering blonde hair flowing across her shoulders; Gimli was mesmerized. However, still he could not shake a sense that she was not the same as she was in the Third Age; there was some harshness in her eyes and some resoluteness in her smile, which hinted of a turmoil and lack of willingness…
Caught in these thoughts, Gimli was nudged by Legolas as Galadriel motioned to where some chairs had been put in readiness of their arrival.
Galadriel then spoke, her words breathless but definite:
‘I have seen your arrival with a profound purpose from the future; however, I cannot concede with the wishes of the Quest to relinquish Nenya.’
Gimli and Legolas looked at each other in stunned disappointment. They were aware of Galadriel’s far-reaching powers and that with these she may have foreseen their request, and that this request was fraught with issues, but they were not prepared that before they had the opportunity to put the case of the Quest, Galadriel would have made her decision to withhold Nenya. However, before either could give words to their predicament, Galadriel continued:
‘I see and feel your plight - that I should have made a judgement before I have heard the declaration from the Quest. However, you must realise that Nenya provides the Galadhrim protection from The Dark until we all can leave Middle-earth. I cannot relinquish this ring to you without grave peril to all my people of Lothlórien, for even though Sauron is defeated in this time, there is evolving darkness through which we must pass.’
Legolas responded with regard but in a determined tone:
‘My Lady, our mission is not for this time or the now, although we need to regain Nenya while you are in Middle-earth, our Quest covers all that comes in the future. As you have foreseen rightly, dire evil continues beyond our time and the destruction of Sauron in this Third Age. So we understand the peril that the absence of this ring will bring, but it is for the sake of what lies in those years beyond that we ask you to make this… sacrifice.’
Galadriel looked intently at Legolas then Gimli, her eyes darkening to an intense sapphire. After a breath of hesitation, she replied calmly but resolutely:
‘Yes, of what you speak is true. For I have seen The Dark as it envelopes the future, with Sauron embodied in other forms. It was a vain hope that to defeat him in this Age, would see his end forever. I appreciate your honourable purpose, but you must see that I owe a responsibility to my people, to see them all to safety over the Seas… and into… the future.’
Her gracious words and gaze pierced them, and they could for a while find nothing to counter her argument.
Gimli, breaking away from her trance and hold over him. He began in a voice tinged with desperation, his words said with downcast eyes:
‘Dear Lady, it is not my wish to speak against you, for all you say is right and true, but we come with… a more pressing need than you and now… and…’
then continuing, returning her gaze:
‘Gandalf has realised this need and relinquished his Ring to the Quest.’
He took out the casket containing Narya, and opened it; The Ring of Fire, glowed a scarlet-red and began to sing to Nenya.
Galadriel sat back in her chair, then stood up. She looked at Narya pulsing within the casket, and then as if overpowered by some other force, responded in deeper and somber voice:
‘Immense power Elf-friend you have within your grasp, and now within mine…,’ but then quickly recovering her composure:
‘A wondrous gift Mithrandir… Gandalf, has bestowed on the Quest. I cannot..,’ then after hesitating in thought:
‘I cannot do similarly without counsel from Celeborn.’
Before Legolas could thank her for her reconsideration, Galadriel continued:
‘I will return soon with Celeborn. Food and drink will be brought to you. You have the freedom of our realm,’ and then she left. Her robes rustled as she walked agitatedly from the chamber. She had been unsettled; she knew how profoundly this decision affected her, as it did both those she left behind.
Legolas and Gimli remained seated, astounded by what they had witnessed. For even this virtuous Lady, had come under the power of the Ring which had bonded to hers.
‘There is monstrous evil even in these Rings,’ exclaimed Gimli, ‘see how it nearly corrupted one so pure.’
‘We must warn them of Sauron’s control,’ added Legolas.
Gimli nodded in agreement, but not knowing how to break this news to one who so believed and depended on the Rings.
Food and drink was set before them, but neither desired any, realising how close to failure they were on the initial part of their mission. They walked outside and felt the urgency of those completing the preparations for the departure. From this highest platform, towering above the forest, they could see the mid-morn sun, rising to its radiant glory, cloaked in a honeyed haze. Yet, strangely from a cerulean blue sky, they felt the sprinkling of rain. Sad soft drops, as if the sky was shedding tears in sorrow of what lay ahead; the Lady of the Golden Wood was to abandon it, never to return. The breeze, once gentle and warm, now took on a new life, and with an intensity and chill, it whipped around the tree tops, bringing with it, from the depths of the wood, the aroma of fallen leaf and rank decay.
Legolas drew his cloak closer to himself, staring out past the wood, caught in the quandary of not knowing how to proceed if their request was refused.
‘We must put the case of the Quest more forcefully Legolas,’ Gimli uttered reading Legolas’s dilemma.
‘And if we are not forceful enough in our words?’ responded Legolas.
‘Then we must be forceful by other means,’ Gimli replied.
‘It must be given freely Gimli,’ reminded Legolas.
‘And if not so, then?’ continued Gimli.
‘Then we have failed, and so the Quest,’ concluded Legolas despondently as he walked further along the platform, looking out to the horizon, seeking inspiration and answers from a world and time afar.
As he did a Galadhrim appeared and announced:
‘Your presence is requested by the Lord and Lady.’
When the entry of Legolas and Gimli was announced, Celeborn and Galadriel were in animated conversation with the Galadhrim Council. As the two entered, the conversation was terminated and the Council members turned to watch the visitors approach. Attired as they were entirely in alabaster cashmere robes, Gimli was taken with their stately appearance. They looked at him, and his Elf companion, with distrust and concern.
As Legolas and Gimli reached Celeborn and Galadriel, the couple stood up to greet them, and ushered them into a room off the Hall, Lothlórien’s Council Chamber. The Council members followed behind, engaged in fervent whispering.
Legolas and Gimli had been in this chamber previously with The Fellowship, but now it had been stripped of all ornaments, and only the conference table and chairs remained.
Celeborn and Galadriel sat at one end, Legolas and Gimli on one side of the table, and the members of the Council on the other.
Celeborn always the hospitable host, welcomed them, explaining:
‘We are making last-minute preparations for our departure, and our Council meeting was in any case going to begin – so we welcome you to this. Galadriel has informed me that you wish to put forward a request from Mithrandir.’
Legolas addressed Celeborn sensitively and with courtesy:
‘Lord of Lothlórien, indeed we come with a message from Gandalf - from Mithrandir, however,’ and he hesitated as he looked at Gimli and Galadriel, 'the nature of this message is, and I apologise for this discourtesy,’ looking at the Council members who looked sternly back at him, ‘is only for the ears of your Lord and Lady.’
The Council members muttered vehemently to each other, then looked at Celeborn.
Gimli looked also at this kingly elf, waiting to see his reaction, and it was as if time had been placed in slow-motion. He saw Celeborn tilt his head ever-so-slightly, his fair-locks rippling with the motion, the ice-blue of his irises deepened as his pupils expanded, his mouth quivered nigh imperceptibly, and then, as he leaned towards Galadriel, he spoke, and for Gimli the spell was lost.
‘I will hear the message of Mithrandir in private.’
With no demur, the Council members stood up and left the chamber, locking the doors after themselves.
Along the walls facing south and east, there were open portholes, looking over the woodlands and Silvan realm. Across these were drapes of turquoise brocade, but the breeze now reaching a ferocity, blew viciously through the curtains and against those within the room. It was a portent of the struggle that would ensue.
Celeborn stood up and closed the shutter closest to the table where they sat. When seated again, he said:
‘A message from Mithrandir, on this, one of the last days for most of those of Lothlórien, tell me all that he wills and why. Galadriel has spoken to me of one issue saying that you will explain the rest.’
Legolas recounted their mission, and the needs of the Quest. Gimli displayed Narya. This time as Galadriel lifted her hand, a brilliant crystal light shone from Nenya, reaching out towards Narya.
‘The Rings seek each other,’ said Galadriel serenely, now in total control.
Celeborn then spoke in a commanding and sonorous voice:
‘Galadriel has told me that she has made the case for the Galadhrim, so I will not speak any more of this, except to say that we could not relinquish Nenya without major peril to our journey. I must concur with Galadriel on this matter – we have no choice but to refuse…’
The two of the Quest had feared this response. Legolas hesitated trying to find the words to respond, but Gimli interjected in a forthright manner, as was his way, and that of dwarves:
‘Dear Lord, apologies for my rude interruption, but we all have little time, and there is one thing of which you may not be aware. The Dark has control over the three Elven Rings, and this control is hidden from the bearers.’
Celeborn and Galadriel looked at one another in alarm, Galadriel exclaiming:
‘That would not be possible without my knowing.’
‘It is verily My Lady. For in that lies Dark’s ultimate power; that the Ring and you are tied to him unknowingly. In the Age of the future, from where we have travelled, he is seeking to consolidate his power through these Rings,’ stated Legolas in a tone unusually forceful and direct for him.
Galadriel shook her head in skepticism, but Celeborn nodded his in agreement, and in a tone of disquiet and revelation, said:
‘It was written that when The One was destroyed, the Elven Rings would lose all their potency. Galadriel, you, yourself, said this. Yet, Nenya continues to have power. I fear that what Mithrandir’s message proclaims is true. We must relinquish the Ring to the Quest, so Dark’s plans can be thwarted.’
But Galadriel would not accept this argument.
‘I would feel his presence. It is through his defeat that it continues its powers, the prophecy as told was not correct,’ she protested vigorously. ‘I will need to consult the Mirror and the prophesies before I relinquish what I believe continues to defend our people.’ She stood up, nodded respectfully to each visitor, and left the chamber.
‘I fear Galadriel does not recognise what is the truth of Mithrandir’s message, but I am confident she will once she had taken counsel. I offer you a chamber to rest until she returns. With apologies I must leave to finalise our preparations, for too soon we must leave Caras Galadhon. I will return and continue here alone to see in the Fourth Age of Middle-earth. When I ultimately leave, a veil of mist will hide the city’s existence forever, or if fate provides, until the return of the Sindar. My steward will take you to a chamber.’ With that Celeborn followed Galadriel outside.
Legolas and Gimli sat at the table until the steward appeared and ushered them to their chamber, hospitably asking if they needed anything. Feeling more confident that the success of their task was within their reach, Gimli realised that he had not eaten or drunk anything since they had left The Light. He politely asked if, in the midst of their preparations, food and drink was still available. He was reassured by the steward that there was no problem in providing this. Within minutes, a basket overflowing with sumptuous fruits, cheeses and breads was brought to them, and Gimli sat down eagerly to enjoy this moment. He motioned to Legolas to join him, but Legolas hesitated saying:
‘Gimli, you believe she will see the truth. I believe that Sauron will mask this from her, and she will deny the request.’
‘Ah Legolas, you do not give her sufficient credit. Galadriel will see through the deception, I have no fear of this. But she will do this reluctantly, and thus I do not expect her to return for some time. So come and join me, we have little else to do to pass the time. They will not want us wandering around Caras Galadhon while they complete their preparations.’
Gimli was correct.
Galadriel consulted the Mirror and the book of prophesies. She walked by herself through the forest, through its trees, grasses and flowers, soaking in their beauty this last time. She had seen Dark’s continuation, a lingering malefic presence in images of the future, but had not contemplated any link to her Nenya – the ring of protection and preservation from evil control. Its powers had forged and sustained all in Lothlórien, and it seemed still as pure and steadfast as its name, of water and adamant, as when Celebrimbor has forged and hidden it; how could The Dark touch it? But niggling at her was the realisation that it was forged with the art taught Celebrimbor by Sauron, at its root, its very essence, was The Dark’s touch, but… As she agonised, she realised that it was that she doubted her powers without the Ring that fought off any wish to accept Dark’s influence of it now…
She was in a turmoil - where could she turn for the truth. She knew what Celeborn would say, so she did not seek his counsel. She returned to the glen of the Mirror, and sat beneath the Tree of Amroth, and uttered the words:
Ig Hqaes Ipa, O taaj wiuq biuptam, ot Papwe soaf si axom?
Giy yomm sga Hemefqol avots yosgius ots?
How will the Galadhrim exist without it?
She sat waiting for the reply. The sun also seemed to be waiting; it held its position in the sky, maintaining its power over the day. It lingered overhead, its pastel peach rays spraying out through the forest and touching the glen where Galadriel sat, bathing her in its light; in the colour of immortality, she began to feel secure and comforted. The breeze could not reach her in the glen, but it blew furiously around the trees forming an invisible barrier against any intrusion.
The message returned, carried on the breath of the sky and floating to her as an autumn leaf falls from the uppermost canopy of the wood:
Axom gofat yosgop sga Qoph. Wiu epf sga Hemefqol paaf pis sga demta niyaq sgea sgot get cabila. Qalalcaq wiuq tiph id Xeqfe, dimmiy gaq.
You and the Galadhrim need not the false power that this has become.
Remember the song of Varda, follow her.
Galadriel felt the burden of doubt lifted from her. As she left the glen, the sun waned and drifted low; the power of its rays no longer needed to light the way of the message to her. The breeze softened and melted-away as she returned to speak to Celeborn, and then to where Legolas and Gimli were waiting.
‘Mithrandir’s message is true; Nenya has been connected to evil. If it can be used by the Quest to finally destroy The Dark, then I freely, as bearer of it on behalf of all Elves, surrender it to you, on the condition, that once redeemed from evil it is returned to the Galadhrim.’
‘And that it shall be,’ confirmed Legolas.
‘One final matter from old lore that must be observed. It will be expected that I wear Nenya when we meet the White Ship at Grey Havens, for it is written that the three Elven Rings were shown then.’
‘Then it will be at Grey Havens on 29th September that we will collect Nenya from you,’ responded Legolas in heartfelt thankfulness that all had worked out; their mission in Lothlórien having been achieved, or virtually. He bowed at Galadriel then at Celeborn, then said:
‘Dear kin of the Golden Wood, I wish you well on your journey to the White Ship. We must now travel to Rivendell. For Elrond awaits us there this day before the next dawn, before he finalises his preparation for leaving Rivendell.’
‘There is only one means that you could make the journey to Elrond by dawn. Only one steed could travel there in time. My precious, Naharóf, descendent of Nahar, steed of Oromé, the Huntsman of the Valar. The greatest living horse in Middle-earth, kept as a secret from all; its being only thought of as a legend and not even mentioned in the writings of old-lore.’
‘Greater than Shadowfax?’ Gimli responded reflexly, in defence of Gandalf’s famous steed.
‘Ah, Shadowfax is the noblest of the living Maeras. Naharóf, rivals in power and speed Felaróf himself. Not even Shadowfax could get you to Rivendell in time, no horse could. But Naharóf is not of normal blood-lines. He is of the Valar,’ Galadriel smiled at the two, then added ‘I will see that Naharóf is readied for your journey,’ and then she turned and walked off into the city.
They waited, and then as the sun slid hesitantly into the west, she returned, composed and serene, the Galadriel they knew from The Fellowship.
‘All has been made ready for you at the northern edge of the Golden Wood. Haldir will escort you there. Naharóf will be waiting for you. Soon we will be leaving ourselves for the journey to Grey Havens.’
‘We will be waiting there for you, Dear Lady, and for Nenya,’ Legolas replied.
Galadriel turned to farewell them, saying:
‘I trust not the Ring, and I fear that you may not convince Elrond to depart with Vilya; for it has a particular significance for all elves of mixed ancestry. But I wish you well in your mission.’ With that she bowed in respect and friendship and walked to where Celeborn was waiting for her.
It was then that Gimli realised that he still had an issue to be solved. He walked to where his hosts were standing; Legolas, concerned about his agitated motion, followed alongside, trying to convince Gimli that their audience was over and that they had to leave. Undaunted, Gimli spoke out:
‘My Lord and Lady, I must speak to you of a cavern in the wood....’
Legolas was afraid that he would raise this, and interjected in embarrassment,
‘Gimli, friend, this was merely an apparition of your journey..,’, but before he could finish his attempt at muzzling Gimli, Celeborn responded:
‘What Elf-friend do you know of a cavern in the wood…?’
Gimli then recounted his adventure in the cavern, taking out the dagger as proof of his experience.
Legolas looked on in amazement as the story unfolded; he watched Gimli in his excited narration, and the concerned expressions of Celeborn and Galadriel. It was clear that that of which Gimli spoke, this Lady and Lord were aware and were fearful of its exposure.
When Gimli finished, Celeborn sighed and glanced at Galadriel, who nodded that he should proceed. He spoke, his brow furrowed with premonition:
‘Friend of mines and earth, you have uncovered one of the deepest secrets of the Elves of the First Age. Neither Galadriel nor I have knowledge of this except for what we have read in an elven manuscript of the First Age. We thought it so far-fetched that we concluded it was only of legend, for it was not mentioned by the Master of Middle-earth in any of the lore of the Ring.’
While not wanting to be disrespectful, Legolas could not refrain from confirming what Celeborn had said:
‘My Lord, you say that there is such a cavern in Lothlórien - a cavern for elves? How did this come to be?’
Celeborn looked over at Galadriel, wavering in what more to release; she answered:
‘It would seem unbelievable that Lothlórien elves, being dwellers in the trees, would create such a place as refuge. The story goes that the prophet Elmowë (descendent of Elmo, the younger brother of Thingol) foresaw that a darkness would rise again and descend upon Lothlórien, challenging the existence of all its elves. At this time, a decree was brought by a Council of Silvan Elves, for they had no lord then, that a refuge be prepared in a location that no one would dream the elves would take sanctuary. And as it was written, these elders commissioned the twin brother of Elmowë, Elumë, who was a renowned engineer, to build such a sanctuary in the heart of the woodland. And so it was done in readiness for the assault, but its existence was kept a secret from all except the elders and the band who built it. They were charged with leading the elves to the refuge at the moment of threat of attack on the city itself. And so they waited through the Ages, but the Darkness did not infiltrate this land for it was protected by Nenya. Then these elves were called back to their kin, and then they moved with Greenwood the Great to Mirkwood. All memory of this sanctuary was lost, as was that of Elmo and his twin sons; we know of it and them only through the manuscript recording the history of the Silvan Elves. We have searched for the cavern’s existence for years to no avail, and yet Elf friend, you have come upon it in your Quest, and through your exploits we know that it exists and what astounding engineering feats it contains.’
Gimli, smiling with this acknowledgement, responded:
‘Then My Lady, may I give to you this dagger as a gift of my find, and I can lead you to the cavern’s location for I have marked its entrance.’
Galadriel answered appreciatively:
‘Oh no, Elf Friend, you must keep this prize. You see, in the vaults of Lothlórien, we found a pair of daggers with exactly those elven runes, which now I realise must have been stored there as spares. We realised they were linked to the cavern, for the runes state:
When Darkness descends, you must use this key,
It unlocks for all, a place of safety.
However, the keys were useless without the location of the cavern.’
Galadriel smiled at Gimli, and Celeborn added:
‘Dear Elf-Friend, the dagger is forged from mithril, from your own homeland, and is made of such strength that it can slice through any metal with ease. It is only fitting and proper that you keep it.’
Gimli looked down upon the dagger in his hand, ‘from mithril’ he thought ‘how amazing and wonderful’, but he tried to insist that Celeborn or Galadriel take it, but the elves adamantly refused; Galadriel saying:
‘You both must leave now, for the time moves on precipitately. Haldir will take you to Naharóf, but as you journey north, if you could show him where the cavern exists, then we will visit it before we leave. It is strange that it has laid there for centuries, and just as we leave this land, we will find it.’ Galadriel paused, then continued, ‘May I ask one final thing of you Elf-friend, did you see any form of life?’
‘No my Lady, but… I did have a sense of someone watching…’
‘Yes, it is as we felt when we searched the region you spoke of. There is a vague mention in the manuscript that one elf may have been left behind to guard the site, and therefore, all these years, he has remained, abandoned and forgotten,’ she hesitated again, then looking at Celeborn, she pleaded:
‘Celeborn, we must find him, for he will be utterly deserted when we leave these lands. We must find him, and take him with us – westward.’
Celeborn took her hand, and in a voice filled with empathy:
‘If such a one exists Galadriel, we will find him, but for now, the day is coming to a close, and we must see off our guests for they have far to journey before the dawn.’
With Haldir leading off, they walked towards the northern-most reaches of the Wood. It was now the concluding hour of the day, but with the denseness of the trees here, they could not see the sun holding its position in the sky, waiting to light the beginning of their journey.
As they walked, Gimli noted the various landmarks that he had taken account of in his journey south: the Mallorn with a split trunk, the clump of five Mallorn with their branches so inter-twined as if they were embracing one another, the moss covering a fallen Mallorn. Haldir and Legolas were amazed as Gimli picked up the cues, progressing from one to the next, as if indelibly marking a trail for him – until he rushed excitedly into this clearing:
‘This is it…this is it… I am sure,’ then looking around, ‘The branch, I am sure it should be just here! Just here’, he exclaimed, spinning around, looking for his marker.
Legolas scanned the trees for a sign of the other.
The eyes looked on; then receded back into the depths of the Wood.
The light dimmed.
Haldir stood back and waited. Legolas went across to his friend, and uttered softly:
‘I am sure he is looking, dear friend, we must make no more of this. Celeborn and Galadriel will return, you have located the clearing for them, they will find him and the cavern on the morrow. We must continue our journey.’
Gimli nodded in agreement, and the three proceeded across the clearing, as they did the dagger in Gimli’s pocket started to pulse. Gimli slowed his pace and took Legolas’s arm, whispering:
‘It is here; right here, the key calls to the cavern.’
Legolas replied without stopping:
‘Then we will inform Celeborn that the keys they hold will find the location,’ and clasping Gimli’s arm in return, ‘you have found it for them good friend, and with this, they will find the forgotten-one.’
With this accomplishment, they strode out with increased vigor and determination.
The eyes followed them as they passed. He was going to wait, as he had for centuries, when he sensed the dagger’s call, so, at a distance, he followed the three.
Suddenly they broke through the edge of the wood, and there stood, unsaddled a titanic pure-white stallion; a steed of awesome majesty. He would have towered over Shadowfax. Long-sloping shoulders, massive chest, gigantic muscular legs and loins that rippled with the surge of blood through gaping veins, a robust noble head on a boldly crested neck, spirited jet-black eyes, and thick flowing mane of slivery-white, which as he shook his head, flew wildly into the air. His coat shimmered in the waning sun, and he moved around to face the three as they emerged from the wood. Naharóf pawed the ground in anticipation, threw his head back and neighed, a thunderous sound that resonated through the wood; startling the one who was hidden.
He had just reached the edge of the forest to behold this creature trot over to the three.
Naharóf was majestic yet fearsome looking, and even Legolas, an experienced horseman, felt daunted by his size and presence.
The one in the wood stood in wonder.
Haldir approached Naharóf, and the stallion of the Valar put his head down to reach the elf. Haldir whispered to him, and then returned to Legolas and Gimli.
‘Naharóf knows you wish to journey to Imladris, the home of Elrond. You need not direct his course, for this has been set. He knows that you are on a mission for the Lady of the Golden Wood, and will not stop or alter his stride until he has delivered you to the deep valley of the gorge. He knows that you must arrive afore the dawn.’
Haldir helped Legolas up, and then Gimli, and handing Legolas the reins, declared:
‘You need only give him his head and stay upon him. Fly fast and fearless. When you arrive, set Naharóf free, he will return to Lothlórien.’
Haldir stepped back, and the mighty horse half-reared as he turned to the north, and within minutes had flown across the plain, transporting the elf and dwarf to the Lord of Rivendell and Vilya.
Naharóf flew northwards, through Drimrill Dale and then the pass of Caradhras, along the plains west of the Misty Mountains, then on to cavernous valley in eastern Eriador – through the heather-covered moors, past the beech and oak forests, through the dying sun and dusk and through the darkening skies, until they crossed the River Bruinen and came upon the northern bank where Elrond dwelled. Naharóf stopped here, the only time in all the journey. He threw his head back and neighed. Legolas and Gimli slid from his back, dazed by their long flight.
Naharóf dropped to his knees, gently nustled his charges, then bounded up, reared to his full height, great black hoofs soaring-high into the star-lit sky, then he turned to the south, and was gone.
Legolas and Gimli in Rivendell, Third Age 28 August 3021
Elrond was waiting at his doorway. A very different figure than his Lothlórien-kin. He was of thin build and shorter than Celeborn; he had proud features, a strong Roman nose and prominent forehead, with a pallid complexion and dark-haired. He wore his haired braided, although on this night it hung untied; his slate-grey eyes appeared weary and forlorn, his mouth, tense and tight. He was simply but elegantly robed all in silk-cloth, a cream under-robe and cranberry-coloured cloak.
He welcomed Legolas and Gimli and took them within. The room was bare but for six chairs and a table, for most of Elrond’s possessions and people had already departed. However, a fire was lit, for the air was chilled; the night having travelled into its shadowy far-reaches. He handed them bowls of steaming broth, for he knew that they had journeyed far without stop; from Lothlórien on the mighty steed of the Valar, Naharóf.
Elrond gave them a few minutes to catch their breath and eat their broth, but conscious of the urgency of their mission, dispensed with other pleasantries and spoke directly:
‘Legolas and Gimli, in recognition of what I know of your mission, I will speak to you without formality or moderation of words,’ he looked at the two, who while a bit taken aback by his directness, so unlike the Lord of Rivendell they had known, nodded in understanding.
‘What was written in old lore that the Elven Rings lost all their powers upon the destruction of The One, has been shown to be false, or at least in this junction of time, no longer to be true. You have seen Celeborn and Galadriel, and obtained their promise regarding Nenya. Now you come with the same request to me regarding Vilya. I understand that Galadriel has warned you that Vilya has a vital significance for all elves of mixed ancestry, for there is a “doom laid upon us”’. (Tolkien, ROTK, Appendix A(v))
Legolas and Gimli were amazed by his knowledge of what had just happened, but before Gimli could ask Elrond if Galadriel had been in contact with him, he added:
‘I have seen this. As I have seen much before.’
‘Then you know that The Rings are tainted with Dark’s control,’ Legolas responded guardedly, not wishing to be rude, but speaking as straightforwardly as Elrond had.
Elrond replied with a strained expression on his face, clearly affected by the doom he had foreseen:
‘I know that time has fused and been renewed, and that from this, Sauron has re-emerged to influence the world, just as you have come from another, as Light’s defence against this. I have sensed his attempt at connecting to Vilya, but his influence as yet has been repulsed, but I have been warned that as The Dark grows stronger, so will his influence over Vilya. It is my hope that once Vilya can be transported beyond the shores of Middle-earth when I travel West over Sea, Dark’s connection to it will be broken, and all its powers can be used to restore the balance of… immortality.’
‘I sense the urgency and strength of your conviction Lord Elrond. Is there no way, you could relinquish Vilya’, pleaded Legolas, ‘for all future is dependent on this.’
Elrond did not respond immediately, giving serious consideration to Legolas’s words; he then replied in a solemn and sincere tone:
‘Dear cousin, the future of all elves of mixed ancestry, and I fear even those of purest lines of all divisions, has sat on knife’s edge ever since…,’ he hesitated, a darkness overwhelming him with melancholy.
He stood up and stared gravely at the standard of Rivendell, a resplendent banner of the secret valley and waterfalls, and then at the solitary remaining statue before it, that of Eärendil, father of Elrond, which, sensing the trial set before the Lord of Rivendell in this time, threw down shadows of distress and despondency. Elrond sighed in anguish, then continued:
‘There is much I have seen, but little have I been able to do to interfere where dark-doom has so perilously perched. Only Vilya holds, in unity with… other forces… some future for the elves...’
Elrond then walked back to Legolas and Gimli, and sat down with them:
‘I know that Gandalf has looked far into the future, and seen no forms exist there but men. I know that he has agonised over this dilemma and hopes the Quest will align the worlds through The Light. I am not confident like him that this can or will be done. I know that he has relinquished Narya into the trust of the Quest, but he does not have the fate of kin at risk.’
Elrond stood up again and like one wounded in soul, prowled around the empty space of the room.
Never before had Legolas seen Elrond in such a perturbed state.
Elrond noticed Legolas’s worried gaze, and acknowledged:
‘I see Legolas that you are concerned with my disposition, and I tell you verily, that my mind is tormented by what path to take.’
‘Lord Elrond, perhaps if we understood more of this dilemma, we could help you choose a path…’ responded Legolas distressed by Elrond’s demeanor.
‘Legolas speaks wisely Lord Elrond. You speak of a unity of forces protecting the elves; as one, we may uncover a path that separately each may not find,’ added Gimli sincerely.
Elrond thought heedfully on these words, then taking the hands of Legolas and Gimli within his as a sign of grateful friendship, declared:
‘You are both right. For a Fellowship of strange comrades defeated Sauron in this Age, perhaps the knowledge of elf and dwarf, could find this one correct path.’
Elrond went across to the fire, and stoked it, then returned to the table, leaning towards the others.
‘Of what I am about to declare, no other soul is aware, except now Aragorn. He has received this revelation from the Elven book of prophecy. I have seen that he will seek me out in a time of long-ago in order to put things right. But in this, I know only another unfathomable sorrow will follow.’
Elrond stopped, Legolas and Gimli waited uneasily for him to continue.
‘It is difficult to comprehend that love so sublime could be so perilous,’ then looking at Legolas and Gimli, ‘ah, I have but left your mind with a riddle, I should start from the beginning. It started with a chance meeting in Rivendell, and then a love that grew, waiting for the fateful reunion in Lothlórien.’
‘Lord Elrond, you speak of Aragorn and Arwen, but surely nothing evil could come from their pledge,’ gasped Legolas.
‘At a level of love, no, but at a level of doom for the world, grievous peril existed in Arwen’s sacrifice,’ Elrond continued.
And then Elrond told them of the prophecy; that which Aragorn had found in the copied manuscript in Great Library of Gondor; and he himself had read. All these years Elrond had struggled to accept the fate that: “the years will bring what they will”*. (Tolkien, ROTK, Appendix A(v))
And Legolas and Gimli saw that the dilemma was in choosing one of a pair of unbearable paths.
‘Is there no other way?’ Gimli uttered sorrowfully.
‘I have sought the counsel of the Ancient One, and there appears no force that can counter or nullify the prophecy. However now, in this fusion of time, the potential of a renewed future is in the offering. I wait for Aragorn to return to the day of the pledge, for his action here will determine what course… what course is possible. I cannot foresee his decision for he has not yet made it,’ continued Elrond ‘but you see now how I cannot relinquish Vilya, for if the prophecy holds, cleansed in the West of Dark’s influence, its powers to heal and preserve will be restored and may be linked with the power of… of others… to forestall the doom of mortality that will descend on all elves of mixed-race, and more, from what Gandalf has seen foreseen, on all elves.’
‘But Lord Elrond, it may not be necessary to relinquish Vilyauntil Aragorn has made his decision, for if he takes one path, Vilya may not be essential for the existence of the elves,’ argued Legolas, ‘If this occurs before your departure from Middle-earth on 29th then Vilya could be entrusted to the Quest at Grey Havens, when we will pick up Nenya from Galadriel. We are going into Quest Day 5, as long as Aragorn’s decision occurs by Quest Day 8 when we travel to Grey Havens, then the Quest’s plans still hold.’
‘And if Aragorn makes his decision later than this day or chooses another path?’ Elrond responded.
‘Then this outcome was fated to turn out this way, and we will seek counsel of our course of action from others wiser than ourselves,’ Legolas uttered with a conviction that surprised even himself.
Elrond sat silently, contemplating this reasoning; then he nodded his head in affirmation:
‘You argue a wise position, son of Thranduil. I know that you speak with the future of your Silvan people, and that of all elves, in your heart. We will meet again at Grey Havens on 29th. If all goes well, then you have my word to relinquish Vilya into your hands; if not, I will seek counsel with the other bearers at that time.’
‘The Quest could not ask more from you, My Lord,’ Legolas responded overwhelmed with gratefulness that this word had been given.
‘Then we are done, and not before time, for the dawn is soon upon us and I know you must leave then,’ Elrond replied, starting to rise from his chair.
Legolas started to rise, but Gimli remained seated and asked:
‘Lord Elrond, in the time remaining before the dawn, may we seek your counsel on an inconsistency that has been written regarding the Rings of Power given to my people.’
Gimli was caught in a quandary, knowing that he could not speak of another part of the Quest with this elf, but he was driven by a longing to know the truth from one who was so intimately aware of the history of the Rings.
For one moment Elrond froze, near in the act of standing. He sat down again, but his face had become ashen, as if he was caught in a conspiracy or a hidden truth. Caught in a breath he responded:
‘What, Son of Glórin’, do you ask… and do you know?’
‘I know what is spoken of in dwarf tradition, of the Ring given by Celebrimbor…’
‘To Durin III,’ Elrond interjected
‘Then it is true Lord Elrond?’
But Elrond did not reply; he sat pondering a response.
A silence lingered as the day fought the night for existence. It was now in the zone before the dawn. Elrond, clearing his throat as he had his mind, spoke:
‘Walk with me into the forest, ready for our Minuial, the twilight of the dawn as you would know it Gimli, there I will entrust you with a secret about dwarves and their Rings.’
The three walked in silence, Elrond contemplating what of a secret he could release; the two, stirred by what this Elven Lord was to reveal to them, after having revealed so much already.
Concealed in this forest of the western foothills of the Misty Mountains, nothing stirred, there was no sound other than their muffled footsteps. It seemed that no other beings existed in this space, as the moon and stars spluttered in their death-throes.
Elrond stopped in a scrubby clearing, looking up into the sky.
‘It seems as if the dawn has been delayed…’ and taking a gulping breath, turned and faced the two that waited for his revelation.
‘It is on this spot an Age, a hundred and eighty years ago, I stood with a dwarf, such as you Gimli. He had secretly left Ered Luin and was seeking to return to his homeland in Erebor.’
‘It was Thráin – how did he come here?’ asked Gimli.
‘He sought an answer to the exact question you asked. He was driven to return to regain his homeland. He knew that he was pursued by the servants of The Dark, but he left all others but one of his kin, to seek from me what I knew of the Dwarven Rings. He sent this other in the cover of night into Rivendell. He had been captured by the sentinels of Rivendell, but with the urgent message he carried, he was brought forthwith to me though the hour was as now. I have not the time to tell you all, but I agreed to meet this king of dwarves, in this clearing, where no other was present, and so secret was this meeting that it was not mentioned in the lore of the dwarves or Rivendell. He explained that he sought me out, for in all his world, he had heard of no other who knew of the Rings of Power except the Lord of Rivendell, and he sought from me answers about the Rings he had.’
‘Rings?’ ‘Rings?’ Gimli and Legolas both exclaimed simultaneously.
‘Yes, for he had two Rings handed down to him that he believed were Rings of Power.’
‘How could that be?!’ Gimli gasped.
‘For this remarkable secret he was entrusted with, and then entrusted me. Celebrimbor had forged seventeen rings…’
‘Seventeen rings?’ Gimli interjected, then at once embarrassed by his outburst, ‘Lord Elrond, please continue, I will interject no further.’
‘Yes, for it is written no-where other than Celebrimbor forged sixteen. But this Elven King came to Durin and in friendship gave him one Ring, swearing him to secrecy that this one existed, and stood apart from the sixteen that was known by all from the lore of Middle-earth. This Ring and its secret was passed from one Dwarf King to another, and to no-other. But as happens, through whispers, a tradition grew that a Ring had been given directly by Elf to Dwarf, and in this lay the contradiction, for all knew, as it was told in the lore, that in being tortured, Celebrimbor released to Sauron the whereabouts of sixteen Rings. And so Sauron reclaimed these sixteen, giving as lore has said, nine to Lords of Men, and seven to the Dwarves. Thráin wondered, as all who knew only this old lore, why the Seven given to the dwarves did not turn them into Ringwraiths, as occurred with the Nine and men.
‘In his telling me this, I remembered a prophecy which I been told in an Age far-past by the Prophet of the Sindar, who dwelled on the peak of Methedras. He told of an Elven Ring of Power untainted by the touch of The Dark, casting a protective force across those of its kin. I assumed that the prophecy related to the Three of the Elves, but as Thráin told me his secret I knew it meant Durin’s Ring and the Seven of the dwarves. When I revealed this to Thráin, I saw a smile come upon his face, for this explained how the dwarves resisted the force of the Rings touched by the Dark Lord, and he thanked me, saying that with this Ring, he was now confident that he could reclaim his homeland.
But this was only part of the prophecy, for it spoke of the dwarven rings that…’
Elrond hesitated, trying to recall the words of the prophecy, and as they came to memory, he repeated then aloud as he had to Thráin those centuries before:
‘Of ring…rings… not by… fire consumed….
The Dark in Darkness-Deep
… With vengeance… shall the bearer strike…
And reclaim… them… to his own…’
Elrond struggled with the words, then confident he had repeated them correctly, he continued:
‘I implored Thráin that this could only mean that Sauron would strike him down and take his ring or rings… But despite all my entreaties to him not to venture onwards, and knowing as he did that agents of The Dark were trailing him, he would not listen. I asked him if he would not take heed to what the prophecy told, that he give me one of his Rings for safe keeping. But stubborn and suspicious dwarf, he would have none of this. He left that evening, swearing me to this secret, and all these long-years I have spoken to none of it, even Mithrandir. As I saw Thráin walk from this spot, I knew that dark-doom waited for him, as it did; for as the prophecy had said, and as it was written in the lore of Middle-earth, he was captured by the agents of The Dark and died in the pits of Dol Guldur where Sauron took the Ring of Power from him. No mention was made of a second ring, and I surmise that either Sauron did not realise that one of the other rings Thráin wore was a Ring of Power, or else, with my warning, Thráin hid the Ring along the way, and its very existence was lost to all, even to my memory until you asked of it now.
Legolas and Gimli were stunned by the unfolding of this story, which bought a rush of questions about Thráin and the Ring, however, as Elrond finished its telling, night’s darkness grew greyly, anticipating the virgin glimmer of the birth of the dawn. Both knew they could not risk leaving outside these rays, and they still had their chronomaps to set. Elrond saw their anxiety; he quickly wished them well and then walked into the forest.
Gimli set his time and space, and then leaving his map with Legolas, he ran after Elrond, moving faster than Legolas had ever seem him before.
He reached Elrond, and puffed, implored of him:
‘Tell me Lord, what did Thráin and the rings look like…’, but as he was finishing his plea, he heard Legolas call out warning that the dawn was almost upon them.
Gimli hesitated, looked at Elrond, but could not wait for his answer, but as he rushed back to Legolas, he heard Elrond shout after him:
‘Tall for a dwarf, with flowing auburn hair and beard…’
but in his haste to return to his position on the verge of time, Gimli did not hear:
‘he has a long scar upon his left hand. The Rings, the one of the Seven had a blue-faceted crystal, the one from Celebrimbor – a topaz…’
Gimli arrived back into the clearing just as it was coming to dawn, the first flush of the sun’s amber rays were mounting the hills, casting-away the shadows of night and piecing the dead of the sky, vanquishing the moon to its place of the dark, away from the day.
And so the two, revelations spinning in their minds, travelled at this moment of golden breath back to the far-eastern bank of the Lune on 25 September III 2841, just before Thráin set out for Erebor.