PartIII Chapter 4.2
Quest Day 6 by the hours of the night
- The King: Aragorn in Lothlórien, 2980 Third Age (the day before the vow is made).
- Elf and dwarf: Legolas and Gimli in Ered Luin, 25 September 2841 Third Age.
- Baggins and Gamgee: Frodo and Samwise in the Misty Mountains, 22 July 2941.
- Fangorn: Merry, Pippin, Treebeard and Gandalf in Fangorn Forest, 3 Jan 2001.
- The Dark: The Dark Lord, Captain, Lieutenant and Wizard, in an alternate parallel.
- The Light: Elsewhere.
The first hour from nightfall: the first hour of the command of The Dark
Of the King
They continued to search for a solution. In interpretation and debate they pursued the pronouncements of the past and promises of prophecies.
As the sun, sad and somber, realising Light’s work had not been completed, reluctantly passed its baton to the night, Galadriel called for super. She reminded them that they had taken no food or drink since the morn.
Ben-adar agreed, and manuscripts were set aside, and a meal was brought of succulent slow-roasted lamb, green crisp salad, warm sourdough rye bread, purple berries of the woods in clotted cream and soft-curd cheeses, with carafes brimming with rose-coloured wine. They spoke of other things as they ate, and the aroma of the freshly baked bread and fruity bouquet of wine infused the chamber, and save for Aragorn, for those brief moments of repast, they could loose themselves in the simple pleasure of food and drink.
Aragorn did not contribute to the conversation, solemnly he ate hurriedly from politeness, then sought leave; he was suffocating under the search. He was out of his league with these elven scholars in deciphering the riddles of the sages, and longed to leave the oppression of the immensity and by all measure, impossibility of the task; he needed the solace of self, he yearned for the freedom of the forest. Iarwain Ben-adar initially resisted his entreaties, but with Galadriel’s support, consented; stressing that beyond this chamber, theThird Age continued and must not be disturbed. Aragorn agreed to disguise himself from those of this time, and to return as the moon entered its second phase.
And so Aragorn left the others; left them to find an answer.
Of elf and dwarf
‘Gimli, look at this card,’ putting it delicately on the table in front of Gimli.
Gimli put down the manuscript he was reading, and looked at Legolas’s find.
It was embossed in gold, with a silver hand on the top corner, with words written in a bold exuberant script.
Legolas quivered with excitement:
‘This is the card of Celebrimbor, for the silver hand, which is the meaning of his name, was his emblem.
‘Can you read the message?’
‘It is in Quenya, but I think I will be able to make out the gist,’ Legolas replied, and took the card to study it.
Within minutes, with Gimli sitting, waiting silently, Legolas announced breathlessly:
‘Gimli, Gimli, the words, I am sure of them:
To the King of Khazad-dûm, my friend
A Ring of Power,
“Keep it secret, keep it safe” (Tolkien, LOTR, ‘A Long-expected Party’)
Elf and dwarf looked at each other in amazement for here, by sheer chance; they had uncovered evidence of Celebrimbor giving Durin III a Ring of Power, as the dwarven tradition had claimed. It was a veritable revelation, and they were elated by it. As they reflected on their windfall, there was a knock on the door.
Gimli jumped up and opened it; it was their escort.
They rapidly repacked the documents, returning the Celebrimbor card to its manuscript, and left.
Of those in Fangorn
Merry and Pippin stood bewildered as Gandalf disappeared. They had not clamored for an answer for his need to go, as they might have once, for they understood that some things were unanswerable. Yet they felt at sea with all these indeterminates, so they tried to keep busy. They looked through the parchment at the list of names, discussing the likely contenders for additional discussion, but they could not ease their rising disquiet, their guardians of the past had been called someplace-else and they felt bereft. They sought comfort from scones and ale leftover from lunch, but they did not have an appetite for them. Almost absent-mindedly, for something to do, Pippin took out his chronomap. As he unpacked it he felt a swooning feeling, and as it unrolled, there on the map, a light was pulsating, calling to him.
‘Merry, Merry, come look!’ he yelled.
Merry, who had wandered off, to check on some crystalline stalagmites, rushed back.
The hobbits looked mesmerized at the throbbing luminescence across a small area of the map, Pippin bent over,
‘Why it is shining out of the south-east edge of the Old Forest.’
‘On the bank of the Withywindle, where Tom Bombadil lived,’ Merry added.
‘What does it mean Merry?’
‘It means that we will have to ask Gandalf, Pip, for we have been warned about the strange powers of the map, and not to fool with it...’
‘But it beckons me, Merry…’ and Pippin reached out to touch the spot of light, now vibrating in unison to the flight of a flourishing cadenza of a harp.
‘Pip, stay from it, we are already embroiled in things remote from our comprehension, Gandalf will know. Pip, do you hear me…’
But Pippin was beyond hearing his friend, and he lunged at the light, touching the spot before Merry could push him out of the way.
For a second there was nothing. The light shivered, as if shocked by the touch, then a whirling sound rose from the map, and an explosive rotating column of air spiraled wildly, and catching Pippin’s hand as he was retracting it from the surface, and as Merry looked on horrified, Pippin was sucked into its vortex, and as suddenly as it appeared, it was gone.
‘Pip, Pip!’ is all Merry could call, staggered by the sight of his friend consumed.
He stood senseless, staring at the map; the light continued to pulse, giving no trace of its diabolical doom, Pip was gone. Then stupefied, tremors rising from the shock, Merry’s legs gave way and he crumbled to the ground.
For Gandalf, he felt a time-warp shudder, but caught up in the dilemma before him, had to dismiss it to be handled later.
For before him, as he left the lake, he saw Treebeard and Quickbeam at the woodland edge, deep in conference. He came to their side, and saw with dismay what they were looking at, for there in the forest, he saw a Nazgûl. He could not make out which one, though it was not the WitchKing… and stalking between the trees were five, no ten orcs; not those he knew of Mordor, these looked like the Uruk-Hais of Isengard, but they were more than the beasts breed by Saruman…
‘A Nazgûl, and orcs, ‘Gandalf whispered to Treebeard.
‘But not from our Middle-earth time, but from the time where you come…’
‘How can you tell this Treebeard?’
‘For like you, to our eyes, they have an aura, they come from beyond this world.’
‘These are the scouts, there is a troop following. They have massacred the army who pursued the little folk, all soldiers and their dogs,’ a dulcet voice flowed from above.
Gandalf looked up, and there was Nessun.
‘Nessun came and warned me in the cave of this killing force, who has not been hindered by the flood, for the Nazgûl searches using a device that is tracking something…’
‘Tracking a gold band,’ Nessun added, ‘for I flew down and saw its image on his black disc.’
‘They are tracking Light’s bands, then…’ and Gandalf glanced at the Nazgûl, who simultaneously turned in his direction, staring back and snorted, and with a vicious resonating hiss yelled commands and started to rush towards him.
Treebeard realised what had happened, and shouted:
‘Go Gandalf, go! Take the boat to safety; we will deal with Dark’s troops.’
Gandalf ran, but there was no cover between himself and the boat. If the Nazgûl reached the end of the forest, he would be in clear view. He did not look back until he reached the lake edge, where he realised if he took the boat under the waterfall, he would reveal the position of the hobbits. He decided to stand his ground, and make a fight of it.
He heard the trampling and hooting of the orcs as they gave chase, the Nazgûl at their head. They burst through the forest and halted for a second seeing their prey, sword in hand waiting for them. With a thunderous battle cry, they charged at Gandalf; he knew he would be no match for them. He raised his sword, waiting for their onslaught, but as they ran, four gargantuan hands scooped them up – throwing them into the air with such force that there was cracking and splintering of bones. As they fell to the ground, mammoth legs pounded their remains into the soggy earth.
But these giants were not indiscriminant in their step, for Treebeard saw where the black disc flew, and carefully picked it up, and handed it to Gandalf.
‘The Nazgûl alone had such a device; your position will be safeguarded for now. The Ents will deal with the other marauders. I will give instructions, then return to the cave and our search.’
With that Treebeard and Quickbeam returned to the forest.
Gandalf looked at the black disc, it was now emitting a high-pitched siren, and on its surface, a flashing light blinked furiously. Gandalf was certain it was transmitting a signal, a signal locating his band, so he shattered the disc against a rock; now silent and blank, he threw it out into the middle of the lake. It spluttered on the surface for a few seconds, then sunk to its depths. Gandalf hoped that it had not betrayed his position, but it mattered not, they would be gone at dawn, and he was confident that the threat of Dark’s forces in Fangorn would be vanquished.
He rowed back under the fall and into the cave. He was glad to be back in this concealed refuge, and keen to see his shire charges again.
He returned to find only Merry.
Of Baggins and Gamgee
It was time, time for Frodo and Sam…
Out of the darkness came a roaring strident voice, so voluminous and shrill that the cavern boomed with its sound:
‘Sméagol, now the Precious is gone, forswear your desire for it.’
Sméagol spun around, and trembling with trepidation, cowed “helpless with terror”. (Tolkien, TT, ‘The Passage of the Marshes’)
But Gollum raised himself to his height:
‘Who comess to sp’k to uss so, show y’rself!’
Out of the darkness, high on the wall of the cavern, a light and the shadow of a colossus rose, and from it a guttural voice of sway:
‘It is Sméagol that I wish to speak to.’
Gollum, sprung with a snarl, retorting:
‘But ‘tis Gollum that’l answer.’
‘Forsake The Dark and the Precious!’ the voice demanded.
‘Never, no, we must hav the Preciousss!’
‘Sméagol says also?’ replied the voice and shadow.
‘Sméagol says, w’ld want the Preciouss. We go find the Preciouss, nothing will stop uss!’ growled Gollum in reply, and then in the voice of Sméagol:
‘We dies without the Precious, we dies forever without it!’
‘Sméagol, this is your final chance,’ the voice responded in its booming tone.
But Gollum snarled back:
‘Wes only wantss it. Wes knowss that you wantss it too, but wes knowss were it is, but wes tell you not.’
And Sméagol continued sniveling:
‘Sméagol is not afraid. Only afraid of living without the Precious. We cannot live without the Precious…we obey only the Precious!’
With that he scuttled back to the lake, paddled his tiny dingy across it, and then ran into the darkness at the opposite end of the cavern.
He was gone.
Frodo and Sam cared not. They had done what The Light had asked. They had followed Gandalf’s plan, with the elf capes, Galadriel’s phial and the voice box. Sméagol had refused to deny the evil and the Ring. But as Gandalf had stressed, Gollum had revealed about life and death, with and without, the Ring. He had also ranted that a jewel existed. Frodo and Sam had never heard mention in old lore that Gollum had a jewel.
Frodo and Sam were relieved that they did not have to face Sméagol or Gollum, but they knew that they had to look for this jewel. For although Gollum had said he intended to take it, they had not seen him take anything from the island in his frantic rush to escape.
They climbed down to the pond’s edge, it stank stale and sour. The water looked like a slimy sludge. There was a thread of light that shone in the cavern, glistening grey on the water’s film.
They got into the boat, but with their combined weight, it barely floated above the water. They paddled with their hands, fretfully watching incase Gollum returned. Their hands covered with gooey slime, their progress was slow and arduous, and, ever threatening to capsize, they dreaded the prospect of being tipped into the foul ooze.
Of the Dark
The Lieutenant and Wizard reached the doors of the hall flush on the fall of night.
There was an ominous stillness, as it was that all anticipated something momentous to occur.
The Lieutenant left Saruman and returned to the seeing-stone.
The Yeoman was absent, so an underling met the Wizard and opened the massive doors; they groaned, reluctantly yielding access to the hall. The peon exclaimed in trembling tense tones, unaccustomed to receiving guests:
‘The Yeoman was told that you would be arriving. The Master waits for you.’
Saruman stepped into the hall.
A cavernous cold, the mark of this void and its Master, surged to greet Saruman.
The Wizard immediately felt controlled by a powerful being, everything seemed unchanged from the earlier meeting with the Dark Lord in his domain. The candelabra still stood near the table, the candles in last gasp of life, but there was no-one seated here. There was no-one in the hall at all.
Saruman saw light escaping from the doorway of the private chamber. The Wizard walked quietly, stealthily, towards it.
The door was slightly ajar, and from within arose the strident timbre of the Dark Lord, words of authority and intolerance:
‘It must be done; I will have no argument… only the Lieutenant must be aware… I will employ my own device and co-ordinates!’
Saruman rushed silently back to the doors, discerning the peril of overhearing a confidence, and reaching there, puffed and anxious, insisted that the peon make a formal announcement of arrival.
The peon, realising the error in just admitting the Wizard, left Saruman at the threshold, shuffled into the hall and loudly announced the arrival of the Wizard.
Some moments elapsed, then the Captain appeared from the private chamber. The WitchKing obviously had not expected the Wizard so early, and so hale. After disappearing into the chamber, this towering shadowy figure reappeared, motioning the Wizard to the table, ordering:
‘Wizard, take a seat and wait.’
Then the form withdrew into the chamber, slamming shut the door; its dour thud reverberating throughout the hall, the candlelight shuddering in resonance.
Minutes dragged, Saruman waited, anxiety rising; the coffer on the floor.
The door reopened and the Captain reentered the hall. A titanic form, like a raging black bear, girded to attack, wild and unpredictable; behind, trod the Dark Lord, menacing and merciless.
Sauron sat at the head of the table. The Captain had stomped passed, and was leaving the hall.
Saruman’s throat tightened anticipating the onslaught, the memory of the previous encounter fresh in terror. However instead, an eerie calm pervaded the Wizard’s senses; a different guise in Sauron, one with incomparable mastery but now without the vestige of blatant dread.
‘I wish for us to consult on the level of Maia of Aulë, as our origins would so dispose. I have wont of your wisdom and knowledge,’ Sauron pronounced in a louring bass voice, then stopped.
Saruman filled this silence with a deluge of deliberation, then realized the trap.
Sauron uttered a scoffing laugh, a triumphant jeer. He stared at Saruman, penetrating the Wizard’s mind, and in a conciliatory tenor, as if comrades rather than omnipotent Master and base serf, he declared:
‘For how ever long we have use of each other, kin Maia, I will speak frankly to you, and I shall discern if you do so with me. I am cognizant of your meditations: “that he is terrifying when he acts as the Master, but more so when he extends his hand of respect”,’ a sneer settled on his lips, then without hesitation:
‘You are wise to fear me Wizard, for as we both realise, at some stage our use for each other may cease. But we are in the now, and our choices must wholly be determined by that. For I have seen what drives you, I appreciate how like me, you crave dominion over others. But in you, Wizard, there remains the question if this path you have selected is correct; you still feel that another is possible. I tell you verily,’ and Sauron’s voice rose in darkness, ‘there is no other. For your wavering, you fell in the Third Age to a lowly demise, murdered by your wretched spy. I put to you; you have made a choice from which there is no return. I offer you for now the benefits of the strength of that choice.’
He then offered Saruman a glass of inky-crimson liquor that he poured from a stone flask. Saruman accepted, and they drank deeply. It had an intense tannic taste, and Saruman tried to hide gagging on its acidic bite.
Sauron sneered inwardly at the Wizard’s weak constitution, and continued with his decree:
‘I have had concerns about various of your actions, but they are no longer of any consequence. My Captain has created a vast army in secret, of which our enemies are as yet unaware. We have not fallen into the snare of the Third Age, where our enemies learned of our preparations and I was forced to move before all was guaranteed for victory.’
He paused, quaffed an additional glass of liquor, offering more to Saruman, who politely refused; Sauron smirked with satisfaction, then resumed:
‘But you and I recognize that this war will not be won on the battlefield of men and orc as in Ages erst. That it stands on what we can from the past and future deliver under our control. The Light knows this, and has sent its emissaries temporally forward and backward to retrieve tools and secrets of combat. We must combine our insight to defeat them in this quest…’, Sauron halted, waiting for a response from the Wizard.
Saruman was lulled into a sense of needing to believe Sauron’s assertions, grasping full well whether he was sincere or not, he was right; simply the now mattered, and all that framed this thinking, the agonising and reflection, Sauron in any case would detect.
Saruman looked at Sauron, and Sauron’s eyes betrayed that he apprehended what Saruman had just rationalized.
Before it could be contained, Saruman’s mind conceived the notion “Sauron feels pride in his domination!” and knew that Sauron knew.
Their Maiar minds jousted in this space, but then in resignation Saruman submitted to Sauron’s will. When this occurred, a capitulating calmness overtook Saruman’s mind, like the pacifying of a frenzied tempest, and speaking openly to this Master of The Dark:
‘We have the power of Light’s travel at our disposal. We can track where they go, but not why. We have converted this travel into our own mode, and while we are restricted by the length of our transmigration, our powers are broader, for we do not lose “a sun and a moon” as they do. I have used this power to follow the Rohan maiden to Gondor; to uncover what it is she searches for. Moreso, we can decipher their messages, but this will be of limited avail, for they have recognized this, and are using an alternative transmission, the source for which we have not uncovered…’
Sauron interjected impatiently, he wanted to glean the Wizard’s insights, yet this recount was not what he burned to hear, but he resolved that he must not show in fervor what he desired:
‘It is from the Ancient One.’
‘It is then as we had suspected, since Ben-adar has been consulted by Gandalf and Galadriel,’ Saruman responded.
‘Yes, yes, this is known, and while I do not underestimate its value, what does your intelligence of elf and man, and of the White Wizard, reveal what they seek and why?’ added Sauron displaying mounting frustration.
Saruman breathed heavily and replied:
‘You spoke once to me of an event demonstrating the flaw and taint of man’s love. Gandalf strives to gain tidings of this, and stole a letter written at the Erukyermëof the three doves; a document that was meant to be destroyed.’
‘Yes it has come to me, that the White Wizard stole this letter from you, for my orders were not followed by one I trusted,’ Sauron corroborated ominously.
‘And the maiden and Isildur’s heir sought this event in the Great Books of Gondor.’
‘But for what purpose? For, from my understanding The Light cannot undo “the death of a one”, though I sense a direct connection between the Northern Queen and the Rohan maiden...’ Sauron declared irately.
‘They will discover the identity of the Lord of the Nazgûl!’ Saruman interjected, feeling superior for deducing this.
Sauron did not stop to acknowledge the Wizard’s deduction, focusing on the enemy’s tactics:
‘Yes, and that then my instructions were not followed. But there is no question of my commander’s complete obedience now. So what do they intend to achieve?’ Sauron questioned in a tone increasingly agitated.
‘Our best chance of unmasking their intentions is when they meet the Queen, the Lieutenant will locate and overhear…’ Saruman contended.
‘Yes, yess…. yet it gnaws me that I must abide… and be subject to… ,’ Sauron hissed lost in his ire, then recovering his composure, ‘And what is your reading of Steward’s first born and brother; for the AncientOneprotects them from becoming enslaved by the Dark.’
‘I surmise that the brothers pursue our pact with the Steward, yet… yet the intention is not clear….’ Saruman hesitated, fearful of the wrath of Sauron again thwarted for an answer.
Sauron did not respond as expected.
He stood up and wandered around the table, muttering to himself, but sufficiently loud for Saruman to heed:
‘The Quest has dispatched the White Wizard to Fangorn in distant times, where two halflings dwell with an Ent. The maiden and Isildur’s heir venture to Gondor to find out about a dead Queen, but the Ranger does not travel from Gondor with the maiden, but journeys to Lothlórien. The brothers strive to acquire the pact. The dwarf and elf go to Lothlórien then Rivendell. The remaining Shirefolk trek to Hobbiton then the Misty Mountains to grapple with the Stoor creature who had The One.’
He turned, eyes thundering with vexation, and demanded of the Wizard:
‘What-else is established Wizard, what-else?’
Saruman, reeling under the charge, answered reflexly what news the Lieutenant had just imparted:
‘The dwarf and elf travel to Ered Luin to…. meet Thráin….’
Sauron interrupted, and coming back to the table, retorted:
‘The elf and dwarf are on a mission to collect the Rings of Power. Nenya from the Lady of LothLórien, Vilya from the liege of Rivendell, and then a ring from the Dwarf-King. Yes, they are collecting the Rings, with the White Wizard’s Narya; they will have the Elf Rings of Power, and that one from the dwarves.’
‘Old lore decrees that the Elf Rings would be nullified with the destruction of The One Ring, if they continue to wield… together…. unlimited… supremacy…,’ Saruman blurted in disbelief.
‘I have foreseen and prepared for this,’ Sauron interposed, but mentioned nothing else, for there was no need to inform the Wizard of his plans; instead he proceeded matter-of-factly:
‘The Board has been set. The pieces are being placed. We anticipate and await their next moves. I have covered their melding the Rings of Power and the Steward’s favourite son,’ Sauron hesitated, then glaring in anticipation:
‘Wizard, what I need from you is the pass to the abyss, the key to theValar arcanum!’
Saruman gasped internally.
The second hour
Of the King
Aragorn, fully cloaked and disguised, strode into the forest of Lothlorien, breathing in the essence of its freedom. In a myriad of ways, he wished he was an anonymous ranger once more. He walked and walked through the bronzed leaves, trying to find the sense of it all.
In the royal house, they continued their search.
Under a cloudless sky, the moon in gentle glimmering repose surrounded by the fulgent gems of the heavens, Aragorn came to the secluded glen of Nimrodel. It was to the south of the waterfall, but here he could still here the singing of the Elf-maiden.
As a boy he had come here, and found peace – he returned now in his turmoil, to find solace and meaning.
He sat down in the lush grass and let the melancholic melody embrace him.
He knew that soon in the Third Age, he would meet up with Arwen, and they would pledge their troth…something he had just given agreement to put asunder.
The Aragorn of this time was at his happiest, his future with Arwen promised; and now he of the Quest, knew it could never be.
Could he see this promise made, knowing that she would leave; she would need to leave to save her kind…but she will never know of this sacrifice that had been made for her…and them. He wept at the loss, as he had when he saw Boromir’s life ebb-away. As his tears fell, a sinister shadow fell upon him.
Of elf and dwarf
The lieutenant entered the room, he had been warned that one was an elf, but he looked aghast at this prince of the Woodland Realm. He insisted that Gimli and Legolas surrender their weapons, and a guard searched them, taking their possessions, but to Gimli’s relief, not his armlet.
They were escorted along the colonnade and into the main hall. They were seated, with a guard on duty close by.
The hall was an enormous cavern, its floor, walls and high-arched ceiling were hewn out of the granite of the mountain. There was no adornment except along the walls, like titanic sentinels, basalt columns rose from floor to ceiling, and on these carved deeply into their flesh, were emblems of the dwarves from the ancient kingdom of Durin the Deathless. No light entered here, save for the shadowy flickering of candle-light.
They had not expected a welcome like that given by Lady Galadriel or Lord Elrond, and none was received.
While they waited, they spoke in hushed tones, confirming the words they would say to Thráin. They had agreed that Gimli would respectfully take the lead with these words.
They continued to wait.
Gimli rose to walk around. The guard jumped up and threateningly motioned that he remain seated.
Gimli, growled under his breath, but returned.
So elf and dwarf lingered apprehensively. Their anxiety mounted as the time dragged on, and they started to feel the chill of the air. There was a huge fireplace at the far end of the hall, and while it blazoned, the hall became noticeably colder and bleaker. They pulled their cloaks close around them, as did their guard.
Of those in Fangorn
Merry was shattered. He bewailed about the chronomap, about a light, Pip’s pressing on it, and a vortex consuming him.
Gandalf could scarcely understand him. Gandalf brought him a drink and sat him down, asking him to give him the details. Merry became calm, and showed the chronomap, the light still pulsating.
Gandalf sat down, in a quandary that clearly distressed him. He realised what had happened and their ominous predicament. There were two potential paths to take, each with dire consequences; reversal or retrieval. He pondered on the options, but was leaning towards retrieval; for he felt in his bones, like most things in life, things were as they were meant to be. Yes Pippin even in his new found state of revelation, was rash in his action to press on the light, but as in old lore, his recklessness had given the Fellowship valuable insights. As he mulled over Quest’s entanglement, he heard a sound, no, it was the melody of a song. He could not hear the words but there was a refrain, or remnants of a tune, he knew it, but could not recall from where it came; and as he sought desperately for its memory, a fragrance wafted in the air, of emerald grass and violet water lilies, of…
Gandalf rushed to open his chronomap, then opened Merry’s. On both, a light pulsed over the Old Forest, near Tom’s house. Gandalf realised it was a message, a summons. He sat alongside the grieving Merry:
‘Merry, grieve not, for Pippin is unharmed, of that I am sure. He was called… summoned to Tom; I do not know why, but for something of fateful import.’
‘And will Tom send him back?’ Merry questioned.
‘Well, it is not that simple, for I think he will need his chronomap from the journey back…, and it lies here.’
‘Then I will follow him, and take his map with him. Will that not work?’
Gandalf thought of this, ‘Yes, he could synchronize the pair of maps; it had never been done before, but it was possible…’
‘There is a grave danger Merry in this all. For such a venture has not to my knowledge been done, but are you willing…’, and before Gandalf could issue a warning, Merry interjected:
‘Yes Gandalf, do it… I will find my way to Pip, and return with him.’
Gandalf smiled at this selfless undertaking, most men would have balked at being cast into the unknown, but not this plucky hobbit. Gandalf set about to calibrate the retrieval. If he did not set it right, the hobbits may find themselves in a limbo of worlds. Lights pulsed now as well on the site of the cave.
Gandalf explained to Merry should all else fail; he should use the map to return to The Light on the 10th day. Merry confirmed his instructions, placing Pippin’s map in his cloak pocket, he hugged Gandalf goodbye, took the deepest of breaths, then with a trembling right-index finger pressed the light on the Old Forest.
For a moment there was nothing. The light quavered, as if startled by the touch, then a rushing sound rose from the map, and a frenzied swirling column of air erupted, catching Merry’s hand as he was withdrawing it from the surface (with his left hand, grabbing the map and clasping it to his chest), and as Gandalf looked on, Merry was sucked into its vortex, and as abruptly as it appeared, it disappeared.
Gandalf sat down. It had all happened so fast. ‘What if he was wrong and Pippin was not safe, now he had sent Merry to the identical ill fate.’ But he did not have time for doubt or recrimination, what was, what was; he must now find Treebeard and continue his search of the list.
He turned, and there was Treebeard. Gandalf questioned:
‘I understand naught of such sorcery, that I leave to you my friend.’
‘Then friend, let us return to over what your mind has dominion …’
Of Baggins and Gamgee
They reached the island; a disgusting mound of dirt just rising higher than the water which lapped greedily at its shores.
Using the phial of Galadriel they looked for anything resembling a hiding place.
Gollum had no structure on his ‘isle’. It was covered with refuse, remainders from lonely irksome existence. They started their search from the muddy edge. They did not even know what they were searching for… but reckoned that he must have buried his treasures, since there did not appear another way to hide them.
They wandered around, then noticed a pattern in Gollum’s footprints in the miry mud, they could make out where he had walked and sat. Following a set to a rocky outcrop, they found soil recently disturbed; dug-up in a frenzy then hastily re-filled.
They dug down, and came to a tin. A battered tobacco tin, which had held the prize of Longbottom Leaf. As Frodo lifted the tin from the dirt, they heard a yowling sound, as if it was crying out to them in pain. Excitably, they tried to see what was inside, but the lid was so tightly clasped on they could not easily open it. Sam placed the tin on the ground, then took out his knife and prized off a section; instantly a fiery crimson light escaped the tin, a bolt of such blinding brilliance that the hobbits recoiled in shock.
Recomposed, they cautiously edged off the lid, and the whole cavern became cloaked in the vivid rays.
The tin was half-filled with shimmering sapphire water and lying in this was a lustrous crystal jewel set on a silver clasp.
‘It is breathtakingly beautiful,’ exclaimed Sam, ‘Mr Frodo, what is it?’
‘I know not Sam…,’ Frodo replied.
He reached into the tin to touch the gem, but yelped in agony, the water and jewel were boiling hot and had burnt his flesh.
‘Sam whatever this jewel is, it does not wish to be touched. The Light said Gollum had far-reaching secrets. But no-one has mentioned that he had a jewel and The One.’
‘Mr Frodo, Ben-adar will know.’
Of the Dark
Sauron’s eyes seared onto those of the Wizard. Saruman suffered under Sauron’s sway, and Sauron savored that Saruman did so.
Saruman coveted the key, and could have taken it by force, but he intuited that he was dependent on the cooperation of the Wizard, so he bided his time in this charade of reverence with the Wizard.
While Sauron had the measure of the Wizard, so to Saruman was not taken in by Sauron’s deference, yet the Wizard craved to trust there was a skerrick of sincerity in his assurances.
There was no possibility of denying the Dark Lord; Saruman must recover the revelation – trancelike, the Wizard, summoned the prophecy. As the memories of it were retrieved, so Saruman, and Sauron, accessed them.
At Melkor’s banishment, his essence and the key to the path to his physical presence were encapsulated into a vial. The Valar were in a dilemma where to secure this potentially catastrophic key. It could not be kept anywhere where Melkor had any influence, as in the realm of Valinor, for there was potential even in banishment for him to corrupt. It had to be secured somewhere where no one would dream it to be. So it was determined that it would be hidden on Middle-earth, and the key separated so that there would be no likelihood of the pieces being reunited. A piece would be given to the roaming monks gathering the history of Middle-earth as an insignificant metal disc to be lost forever in their archives, and the second in disguise, to the Council of the Wise. As an added precaution, it would require two Maia united to call it forth, and then, only when the cosmos was aligned in darkness.
And so through the millennia, the pieces lay dormant, hidden and separate; no inkling to their terrifying significance.
‘Wizard, you have both parts to the key?’ Sauron commanded, hardly able to mask his desire for them, and not caring how this Maia acquired them.
‘By the vision I have, but I have never seen them connected,’ Saruman reported.
‘Then give the parts to me…’ Sauron roared, spittle from his utterance spraying in the air; a monstrous gloved hand reaching over to Saruman.
Saruman retrieved the metal disc he found in the Gondorian monk’s artifact box, that object nearly overlooked, as it had been so many occasions before. Now Saruman was drawn to it, the etched design mirroring that on the coffer, and had taken it, like once the Nazgûl poem had been stolen.
Saruman carefully laid the disc on the table and then leaned down and picked up the coffer, placing this alongside.
Sauron’s eyes squinted and he began to rant in fury:
‘What trickery is this Wizard, I have examined the coffer and all its contents, and none are the Melkor vial, and there are no secret compartments in which to conceal such a thing!’
Saruman remarked calmly:
‘The vial is not inside the coffer, My Lord, the coffer is the vial…’
Saruman gripped the metal disc and positioned its star with that on the coffer.
The sound of tubas and driving drums heralded a coming, a uniting of dark forces, the masters of The Dark. As the blare deepened and grew in menace, the stars fused, fuming and exhaling a flare of ebony, which swirled across the coffer, engulfing it, consuming it, and then itself, and all that lingered was the echoing of remote rumbling drums, and…
The two bent over to see what remained.
It was a crystal in the shape of an eye, and it throbbed with a crimson luminescence.
Wizard and Master watched, transfixed, mesmerized by its pulsation, darkness emanated from the crystal, not a light - an absence of light, a desolate chasm of nothingness, and from this oblivion issued a summons, a challenging compelling command:
Kiwokm umn hi kiomawin
Em wci mapcw eb wci Nukl Seem
On the night of the Dark Moon!
To the chords of a contrabassoon and double bass, the ebony flare revived; it whirled anticlockwise to reverse the transformation, and with a shudder that shook the Hall, and a spirit elsewhere, the coffer was restored.
Of The Light
Ben-adar perceived the pulsation of the Crystal of Darkness, and understood what this signaled. The vial had been revealed. At this juncture there was little that could forestall what those millennia ago they consigned at risk, nevertheless there was a short reprieve; the hammer could not yet fall, for the union of Dark’s Masters could not occur til the night of the dark moon. The Light had to QD11 to finalize the Quest. They were perilously close to the apocalyptic end.
Sauron pulled the coffer to him, and clasped the metal disc and inspected it closely, reiterating the revelation to himself, ignoring the existence of Saruman:
‘Then it is on the night of the dark moon that all will be one,’ then jolted to awareness of the Wizard, probed menacingly:
‘Wizard, your reckoning on what must happen?’’
Saruman wavered, searching for the way to convey the message:
‘Materializing the essence of the vial requires the concordant pronouncement of two Maiar…’
Sauron glared at Saruman, contemplating being beholden to this Maiar; he nodded in affronted acquiescence, and with clenched teeth, he vented:
‘Then Wizard, in conjunction we will call forth Melkor in five days on the night of the dark moon,’
and he dismissively motioned Saruman to leave.
The Wizard crossed the hall, Sauron’s eyes following, however as Saruman approached the Great Doors and looked back; the door of the private chamber was closing.
As Saruman strode along the corridor and over to the stairs, the shadows of the Captain and Lieutenant were hurriedly approaching the Hall, the Captain saying:
‘He will countenance no debate; he will journey himself to strike at the heart of the Ancient One …’
However, Saruman did not see or overhear these officers of The Dark, being caught up in dire thoughts:
‘I will survive at least until the night of the dark moon,’
and knowing that Sauron would know of this.
As Sauron awaited his Captain and Lieutenant, he riposted:
‘Yes Maiar kin, until the night of the dark moon.
The third hour
Of the King
Aragorn looked up, up at the fair navy sky, but a shroud was gradually enveloping the heavenly forms. A dense darkness fell upon him. The Elf-maiden’s song wavered then ceased, the folks of the forest floor and sky scampered off in alarm, and a whirring whistling wind wound its way through the wood.
Aragorn felt his presence. He jumped to his feet, threw down his cloak, and raised his sword, ready for the attack.
In the gloom, he heard nothing except the wind.
Then through the trees, he heard a rustle, then saw a light.
Out of the darkness, bathed in a glittering amber light, strode a majestic warrior, statuesque and handsome, with flowing blonde hair upon which sat a jeweled crown, a gothic god-like being with piercing cobalt eyes, encased in an iridescent gilded aura.
Aragorn was mesmerized by his appearance.
The being bowed before Aragorn, and from his mouth, not words, but the sonorous sound of a contrabass flute flowed.
Aragorn heard the flute and within his mind the words its melody spoke:
‘I have come King of the United Realm, to give you a solution to your torment… I have an answer to your trial...’
Was it an apparition Aragorn wondered, but as he did, the being glided towards him… he offered hope, he must be of the Vala summoned by Ben-adar…
Aragorn dipped his sword, and bowed to this Spirit of the Arda.
Of elf and dwarf
Gimli was becoming progressively more agitated; his words to Legolas becoming less hushed, and in frustration, scolding of the treatment shown to them as visitors; hospitality being a tenet of dwarven custom.
The guard glanced at them nervously.
However, just as Gimli was mouthing these words, an end door opened and a dwarf with a proud and stern appearance entered the room. He was tall for a dwarf, with a muscular physique and flaming red hair and beard; he was dressed in plain but stately raiments.
This then, Gimli and Legolas thought must be Thráin.
Legolas noticed at once though that he wore a number of rings of the kind that could have been Elven rings of power.
This dwarf was followed in by a number of dwarves; Dwalin, one other with striking auburn features, a general and their body guards.
With grace, Gimli and Legolas stood up on their arrival, and remained standing until Thráin sat down and motioned them to take their seats.
Thráin spoke to the visitors in a pleasant yet determined tone:
‘Welcome to my humble domain, kinsman, son of Glorin, and Elf of the Woodland Realm. I understand you come on a mission from Tharkûn, friend of our line. I know him not but have heard of his feats and valor in defence of our kin. What exactly is it that he wishes from the Durin of Erebor.’
‘Our mission is of the utmost secrecy, Lord Thráin, I fear it is not for the ears of all those present here, but it relates to the defeat of Sauron,’ said Gimli in a confident but respectful tone.
Thráin consulted the others, and although there was dissension and protestations, Thráin calmly replied:
‘Dwalin and my cousin will remain with me to hear what message you bring from Tharkûn.’
The others rose from their seats without demur and left the room.
Thráin looked searchingly and skeptically at Gimli then Legolas:
‘Dwalin has shown me Tharkûn’s letter and I have read his request for insights to a dwarven tradition’, then squinting his eyes in suspicion:
‘What is that he wishes from me that is so secret?’
As rehearsed with Legolas, not wanting to release their finding of the card, Gimli responded:
‘He seeks confirmation of the dwarven tradition that claims that Celebrimbor gave Durin III a Ring of Power prior to Sauron giving the dwarf lords the seven.’
Thráin, answered civilly but somewhat dismissively:
‘This tradition is well known, what confirmation doesTharkûn seek from me.’
Gimli drew-in breath in readiness for what it had been planned for him now to say:
‘Tharkûn seeks that you confirm that Thrór passed this ring down to you and that it is in your possession.’
Thráin glanced at his cousin, who looked steely at Gimli.
An uneasy silence ensued.
Gimli turned to Legolas, who nodded. Gimli took off his armlet, and unrolled the scroll on the table, holding on to the emblem.
Thráin looked at the emblem… his cousin stood up and announced:
‘The audience is over.’
and walked from the hall, the others following.
The two were in this moment unguarded.
Gimli rolled up the scroll and asserted invigorated:
‘It is the cousin who is Thráin.’
‘And Gimli, what else than this knowledge have we achieved by this exhibition, for he has left us here with no avenue for discussion.’
‘Oh Legolas, do not know the mind of dwarves, we have ensnared his interest.’
The guard returned and motioned brusquely with his spear raised that they should follow him.
Of those in Fangorn
Gandalf was not himself; he was distracted with thoughts of Pippin and Merry. He would have hoped to have received some confirmation, some feeling, that they were secure, but instead, his unease grew. Doggedly he returned to the matter at hand, the next fifty on Treebeard’s list Ù9.1
Half-heartedly he commenced, but as he searched he became excited about the achievements in man’s motorized flight; there were the advances in medicine, where man was increasingly subduing the ravages of disease; but he did not feel that it was one of these that the Quest needed. He asked for an explanation of a number of laws that were proposed, and discoveries of the make up of matter, but then he came to the machines of war, of the air and space, and he was intrigued. Treebeard spoke of the scientists and manufacturers and the race between nations to perfect this weaponry… Gandalf listened intently, and stored the details for later; later when he would see the whole.
Gandalf felt the chill of early evening. They were in the Dark’s time now, and at its zenith, its full powers would come into force. This Gandalf was prepared for, but not for there being no signal from the hobbits. So with his anxiety surging he decided, as a distraction, to throw himself into the search.
‘We continue on Treebeard,’ he announced.
Treebeard realised the anguish his friend was suffering, and the diversion that the search offered, so he did not question the wisdom of continuing on, and stood in readiness for the questions.
As Gandalf journeyed through the list he saw a pattern emerging Ù9.2
a progression sometimes in minuscule steps, sometimes in giant strides, but always, there was another to build on or challenge what came before. Sometimes it was by deliberate plan or in others by chance, that the exact but further path was followed; sometimes a distinct, often, disparate direction was called forth. But whenever or whatever, it was man’s striving for knowledge or betterment, driven variously by his competitiveness, sometimes his lust for fame or money, or both, but nothing remained set in stone, nothing was immune to questioning. They sought answers from the vastness of the heavens and the very nucleus of matter; how fascinating the souls of these time were, how incredibly creative, but also devastatingly destructive.
Gandalf was utterly exhausted at the end, he had not reckoned on how emotionally draining this search would be, and then there were the unknowns with Merry and Pippin; had they been shielded from The Dark? Racked with turmoil, Gandalf went to get a dose of Elanor to clear his spirits.
Of Baggins and Gamgee
Conscious that Gollum could return at any moment, they rapidly closed the tin and placed it into Sam’s pack. They covered over the hole the way it had been left by the creature. Painstakingly erasing their footprints as they went, they returned to the boat and paddled across to the shore.
They were relieved to be leaving this place of gloom and ordeal. They followed the path back to the opening through which they had come. It was as dark outside as inside. It was mid-evening, and in a radiant sky, a shroud was slowly engulfing the moon and the stars. A heavy darkness fell upon them.
They were retreating to the tunnel’s entrance when they heard a shriek, a screeching and strident scream; a cry of hate and despair. Gollum must have returned to the island, and found the jewel had also gone. They did not wait; they ran out of the mine, nearly becoming entangled in the hoary tree, then stumbling down the rough track, past the boulders on their right and the mountain overhang. Caradhras loomed above them. A mighty mountain tip, in the dim moonlight, towering like a silvered crest, with eagles soaring in reverence to its majesty.
They continued to run, until they could run no more. Frodo and Sam dropped like stunned deer. Wheezing and gasping for breath, they could not even speak. Frodo tried to stand, but his legs crumbled beneath him. Sam came to his aid.
‘Come Mr Frodo, we cannot stay here in open view; we must find a place to hide until the dawn.
Sam was leaning on tree trunk, trying to help Frodo up, when a branch broke off, and he saw behind the tree a crevice, just a foot wide, carved into the mountain side.
‘Wait here Mr Frodo, I think we have been led to a hideout.’
He took Galadriel’s phial and squeezed through the opening. Inside a vast cavern opened up. Someone had lived here years ago, for rocks had been smoothed out as seats, and there was a remnant of a fireplace. He went to tell Frodo of his find but when he exited the crevice, Frodo was not where had been, and he smelt the pungent odour of orcs. Sam chided himself:
‘Oh why had he left Frodo, why had he not taken him with him?’
He then heard the excited yelling of orcs, and raced towards that.
There in the middle of six orcs, being prodded and probed was Frodo; despondent, but otherwise outwardly unhurt. They had made a campsite and had set a fire ablaze, and sat down to celebrating with the roasted stout of Isengard, trussing Frodo to a tree at the rear of the campsite. Sam made his way to the thick forest cover near to where he was tied. He took out the horn and Galadriel’s light, and just as they had addressed Gollum, so now he let fly a blaring scream and monstrous apparition. The orcs, blinded by the light and horrified by the scream, ran from the campsite. Sam rushed in, untied Frodo, and led him the crevice and cavern. They were safely inside, when the heard orcs crashing though the undergrowth in raving pursuit, rushing right by.
‘Thank you Sam, you rescued me from sure death, for I was sure the orcs intended me for their meal…’
Sam felt a glow of satisfaction, in his simple way he had done what he had promised Gandalf he would do, protect his friend.
Of the Dark
Alone in the chamber, Saruman grasped a modicum of relief. The potency of the Dark Lord was not smothering all fibre of life, yet nothing was immune from his will even here. Reflections, intuitions, if only these were free from his detection … Saruman strived not to think of this, rest and some surety, that was what were needed, but neither came.
Saruman decided to confer with the Lieutenant and trudged dolefully to the laboratory where they had worked, but was informed that the Lieutenant had departed with the Captain on a crucial undertaking for the Dark Lord.
In Sauron’s private chamber, Sauron had reiterated his plan, showed the Lieutenant his calculations and how he had calibrated his palantir.
The Lieutenant checked the figures and co-ordinates; all were accurate.
Sauron would be departing forthwith and by his computations, returning prior to mid-of-night, taking account of the loss of travelling-time.
The Lieutenant would monitor his course, and with the Captain, would watch for his return.
The quarter hour struck on the Tower clock, he was gone.
The Lieutenant and Captain were riveted to the palantir.
The fourth hour
Of the King
The being was approaching him, when a falcon of the forest screeched out a warning:
At the call Aragorn lifted his head from his bow, but did not have time to defend himself, for Annatar was upon him, and ran a dagger through his heart.
Annatar looked down upon his dying prey, let out a shrieking scream of triumph:
‘Ancient One, feel his death!’
In the royal house, Ben-adar heard the shriek; he knew it was Annatar. He dropped the manuscript he was holding, and with curt words of apology left the others… he went in search of Aragorn.
Of elf and dwarf
As they left the hall, they heard the reverberating strike of a clock of the hour of nine… and a shriek from a parallel time; they writhed in pain with its sound.
The guard looked back at them, and hastened them to follow.
They stopped; something dreadful had befallen the Quest.
The guard came back to them, motioning impatiently for them to continue.
Gimli gruffly gestured to him to leave them for a moment.
He hesitantly stepped out of the way.
Gimli driven by a sensation of dread, whispered to Legolas:
‘Legolas, I sense that one of our own has been…’
‘Gimli there is nothing we can do now; we must trust that others will see to his safety… Come, we have our own challenge to meet.’
‘Yes, the others will protect him…’
So the two started to walk again, the guard relieved led them into the bowels of the mountain. They walked for an age, or so it seemed, past dwarves who looked at the elf and grimaced and snarled.
Finally they came to an imposing door, embossed in bronze; it shone iridescently in the reflected candle light of the mines.
The guard knocked, and the door opened slightly, he presented his orders, then stood back to give entry to Gimli and Legolas.
The maid was opened mouthed as she saw an elf; he likewise, for this was the only female dwarf he had ever seen.
Quickly recovering her composure, the maid greeted them cordially leading them through the foyer, where a guard sat, to a courtly ante-room.
She offered them supper, which they thought out of politeness they should accept.
She saw them to the meeting table, ensured they were comfortable, then left.
This room was lined in azul-noce granite, and along its northern wall stood a magnificent vizag blue fireplace. A fire was ablaze, as was the copper and ironwood chandelier suspended from the rough-cut rock ceiling. There was an oak bookshelf covering the southern wall, a woven tapestry to its east and on the westerly wall, a massive, mithril-framed painting of the defeat of Smaug.
Legolas crossed to the painting, and smiled, for there in the fray was Gandalf – and to one side, was Bilbo.
The maid returned with steaming cups of brew and treacle biscuits, a specialty of the dwarfs.
Of those in Fangorn
Gandalf had poured out the dose when he heard the shriek and then the shrill screech; he dropped the glass. He could not catch his breath and faltered in his stance, then righted himself.
Treebeard saw his stagger and rushed to his side, but Gandalf waved him away.
‘No my friend, I am recovered but need time to think,’ and he stepped into the shadows of the cave.
Leaning against an outcrop of rock, he probed what he had perceived. Originally he thought it was of the hobbits, but now he realised it was of another. This brought conflicting emotions, relief that he had not sent the hobbits to their doom, as these cries signified, but anguish about the other inflicted. He sensed an ambush and betrayal, and a devastating loss; yet, and yet… But he could not linger on this thought, for he felt the flurry of a squalling whirlwind, and looking around, saw this column of swirling air gusting around the cave, picking up pieces of the rubble floor, and cracking off pieces of gypsum and crystals, and flinging them mercilessly around the cave, forcing Gandalf and Treebeard to duck the projectiles. Then suddenly it stopped; the cave was filled with a choking cloud of dust, so opaque that it obscured all vision.
Gandalf and Treebeard stood affixed, waiting for the dust to settle.
Out of the murk, totally shrouded in an ashen powdery film, marched Pippin and Merry, grins beaming on their faces, for they had achieved a miraculous return.
Gandalf hastened to meet them, and smothered them with his embrace, exclaiming joyously:
‘Well you scalawags, come tell me of your adventure.’
And the hobbits and Maia sat down side by side, Treebeard standing alongside.
It was, as had been surmised by Gandalf, Ben-adar who had summoned them. It was Pippin that told the tale in elated scrambled scenes. Of how he found himself in a similarly situated cave, in which, at its centre was a blazing capsule, and upon the walls were spectacles, moving pictures of momentous events. When his eyes became accustomed to the light, he saw into the capsule, and there was Frodo and Sam with a kingly-looking man, all robed in white, who looked across at him, then emerged from the pod, came to him, introduced himself as Ben-adar, saying he had expected him and Merry.
‘I said I was not sure if Merry would be here, for my journey was only by chance, and he replied graciously, that nothing is by chance, and that Merry would arrive, he was sure of that, but that as time was short, he would give me what he called me to take back to you Gandalf, and explain what should be done.’
And Pippin, held out a disc of indigo crystal and gave it to Gandalf, and obviously seeking to remember the precise words, pronounced with pride:
‘Ben-adar said: “it will replay all the revelations from Light’s visions of life and death, so that the correct choice can be made; but it will only come to fruition once all the visions are seen and future’s list understood.” Gandalf, is this message clear?’ Pippin pleaded with Gandalf.
‘Yes Pippin, I understand… a truly remarkable device. And Merry…’
‘Once Ben-adar had given me the disc and message, Merry arrived, with the chronomaps… He farwelled and bade us safe journey, and reentered the capsule, and another, a wizard in blue raiments, set up the chronomaps for our return journey. And here we are..’
‘So you are, and looking no the worse for wear,’ Gandalf added jovially, but then a seriousness came upon him, and in a sober tone asked:
‘Did Ben-adar say anything of Annatar… or one…,’ but before he could finish his question, Merry replied:
‘He said that there were many things for which we must find our own path. The Light will help illuminate where choices are to be made, but which to choose, must be ours to make. He said: “It is not for The Light to set our ultimate course or provide all the answers, for it is the striving for our own that will define our destiny.”’
So as they recommenced their search, they were filled with gratefulness for the protection of The Light, but as the Prussian blue night and tangerine moon were being challenged by a savage storm, which was beyond their sight in the cavernous place, so there were things of splendor and savagery, they could not yet see.
Of Baggins and Gamgee
They had just breathed a sigh of relief at their safety, when they heard as if from a distant time, a blood-curdling blare:
They knew that this warning was not for them… but for one of them… then they heard a shrilling scream of triumph.
They were shocked and chilled to their core. Something horrendous had happened, and they did not know what… and not knowing brought with it a shattering feeling of terror.
Frodo was dismayed and stunned, but Sam knew that there was nothing they could do, and that they needed to focus on their current situation, for they had many hours before the safety of the dawn.
‘Mr Frodo, there is nothing for it, whatever trap The Dark has set, we must trust that The Light will, and can, counter...’
Frodo was overwrought by the reverberations of the scream, but he saw the wisdom of Sam’s words, and after a fretful pause, replied:
‘Yes Sam, soon on the dawn, we will be with friends, with Ben-adar; we have but this night to endure.’
‘So let us prepare for our journey, so that we will feel assured in the dawn’s coming.’
So the hobbits set their chronomaps for their Old Forest destination.
Frodo opened his knacksack and took out slices of an oatmeal loaf, smoked beef and honeycomb biscuits, which they ate as a distraction to their predicament, and that which had engulfed another.
The hobbits restlessly waited for the dawn. As the night lingered, they spoke of their adventure with Bilbo and Gollum, and their near misses with orcs and… and then they continued with their speculations on the gem, and as they spoke, Frodo all of a sudden fell quiet, as if a revelation had engulfed him…
Of the Dark
The Lieutenant and Captain saw the image of the forest, then heard the falcon cry: ‘Annatar, Annatar!!!’, then beheld the strike and shriek, then the taunt:
‘Ancient One feel “his” death!’
The palantir went opaque, then sinisterly silent.
The Captain shocked by this, ordered:
‘Lieutenant, restore the palantir!’
Composedly the Lieutenant explained this was as it should be, their Lord would be absorbing the energy from the palantir to transmigrate to The Dark.
Saruman hearing the shriek, hastened to the Lieutenant’s room. The aide anxiously admitted:
‘The Lieutenant has not returned, and we have received no message on the prospects...’
The fifth hour
Of the King
In the forest, Aragorn lay dying in a bed of golden leaves, his blood gushing from the lesion, the dagger embedded in his breast.
The falcon swooped down from the canopy, standing guard and crying out, acting as a beacon for the Ancient One.
Ben-adar followed the call to where Aragorn lay. He knelt over him, and Aragorn whispered to him on his expiring breath.
Ben-adar was astounded, devastated. How could this be…how could this happen?
Aragorn was dead!
He picked up Aragorn’s body and carried him through the blackness of the night.
A faint film of rain flittered from a charcoal sky, and through the forest there rose a mournful cry.
Of elf and dwarf
They had been in the room for a time, thankful for the biscuits and brew, however they could not dismiss from their minds a feeling of grief for somewhere yonder.
Gimli started to express his apprehensions to Legolas, when the door was opened by the guard, who checked the room, then stepped back and Thráin entered and locked the door behind him. He walked across to the table, Gimli and Legolas standing, and sat down. He motioned them to sit, then spoke in a rumbling bass voice:
‘We can talk frankly here, son of Glorin and friend of the Woodland Realm. Tharkûn asks much of me to speak of what has been a legend for eons. You have a mystic map, may you present this to me again.
Gimli withdrew it from the armlet, and set it upon the table.
Thráin picked up an edge unseen by the two. His right hand was bejeweled with rings of topaz and blue-faceted crystal; his other had a long scar, a memento of the Battle of Azanulbizar. He scanned their faces.
‘You cannot see the map other than the emblem?’ he enquired.
‘No Lord Thráin, we have been told by Tharkûn, only a King of the Dwarves or a Maia can perceive it.’
Thráin paused in thought, then responded:
‘It was a clever ploy to uncover my identity… but more meaningfully, for Tharkûn to entrust this treasure to your care, I can be assured of speaking to you openly and with trust, but I sense it is not the knowledge of this ring that you seek, but more… I ask for you to be forthright in what Tharkûn asks of me.’
Gimli drew breath in seriousness; for he knew how he delivered this message would be crucial to its success:
‘The shadow of darkness lingers across Middle-earth and beyond. Sauron may survive in this world, this Age, and will permeate all that comes in the future unless he is defeated. The Light that Tharkûn refers to in his letter to Dwalin is the foremost hope of The Dark’s eternal destruction. To do this the rings of power must be unified…’
‘To your point, dwarf-kin.’
‘We seek you to freely relinquish your ring of power to us as agents of Tharkûn.’
Thráin stood up, and walked to the picture, then turned:
‘Here is depicted the gallantry of Tharkûn, who came to our aid to defeat Smaug. The line of Balin owes him much…and in friendship would give him anything he should request, except for this, for this I cannot do.’
Thráin said this in such a composed and definite tone, Legolas felt there was no recourse, for dwarves were known for their stubbornness, however, Gimli was not about to give up.
‘You speak of friendship Thráin, then with friendship there is loyalty and sacrifice for others, so dear to the heart of all dwarves…’ but before he could finish his sentence, Thráin retorted:
‘Do not speak of loyalty or sacrifice kin-dwarf, for dwarves have fought and died for countless causes not their own, but I cannot give up the ring because I am about to journey to reclaim our lands of Erebor. The success of this is considered improbable with the ring (under his breath, rings), but impossible without it. So I wish you to relay this highly confidential message to Tharkûn, I deny his request not because I wish the power for myself, but because of the decisive mission I am about to undertake. I reveal this to you in absolute trust for even my own blood knows nothing of my intentions.’
He then stood up:
‘I will see that you are escorted to the reaches of the Lune,’ then turning to look at Gimli directly, ‘I sense that we will met up again, son of Glóin, and it pains me to send you away unsatisfied.’
As he approached the door, Gimli spoke in an urgent tone,
‘I know that I speak out of turn, but there are things Tharkûn did not write about in his appeal, about your quest.’
Thráin stopped, turned to look at Gimli, now standing defiantly.
‘You speak of the outcome of my journey,’ Thráin said walking back.
Legolas looked at Gimli, for it was not in their hands to tell Thráin of his doom, for this could not be changed.
‘I sense you have seen this yourself, Lord Thráin,’ Gimli added.
‘I have not the ability of foresight, as does Tharkûn, and believe that such insight perilous, for our doom is written and should not be tampered with. So I will not ask you about my end, for my end means little to me now except for the message I send to my people, that one should not cower in exile. But the ring, does Sauron take the ring?’
‘Although there are various stories, this is the way it is usually written,’ Gimli responded.
‘Then as I cannot undertake my journey without it, I will put it into a place that Sauron will not find it.’
‘And if you should be tortured, how would you keep this secret from him…’ Gimli uttered, but then stopped realising that he had gone too far.
‘Then I sense that you, son of Glóin, will come to my and its aid. I feel that we have both disclosed already too much, so I wish you a successful journey to where you must go,’ and with that Thráin strode from the room.
Legolas glared at Gimli, Gimli answered:
‘These words needed saying.’
‘And if they changed his mind to undertake the journey, and his death, we know his death must not be changed,’ replied Legolas in growing unease.
‘I knew what I released to him would not change his mind or his eventual doom,’ replied Gimli, then continuing ‘We must discuss what we must now do. We cannot have this discussion here as I sense we may be overhead, let us retrieve our weapons and leave this place.’
He walked to the door and as he opened it there stood the guard waiting for them.
‘We will escort you to the outer-reaches of our settlement, and there return your weapons,’ he said.
Of those in Fangorn
With a revitalised zeal, the three approached their search, confident that all would be brought into a whole by the indigo crystal.
The three were stunned by the achievements, only dreamt by them in the realm of the Valar; of man’s reaching for the heavens and the secrets of the essence of life. They quivered with what forces may unwittingly be unleashed by such instruments of exploration and control, and their thoughts ran to where could it all end? And yet, was it not the same desire to conquer the stars and others, that lead man in the struggle against disease and suffering; was it not the selfsame human trait of endeavour, manifested in a variant way? But the paths to progress were precariously paved for where man’s manipulation of nature had led to incredible improvements in the quality of life, so it had also been shown to have catastrophic consequences.
It was for Pippin to observe in his guileless words what the others felt:
‘There are many of gallantry and selflessness, yet not far removed, are those who are ignoble and self-serving; the seeds of Sauron linger here and have found fruition. And what if Sauron himself gained access to what we have seen; then I fear all is lost for this world and evermore.’
Gandalf consolingly patted Pippin of the shoulder, it sadden him to see such realisation in him, once simply a carefree hobbit of the Shire:
‘We may be assured Pippin, there is no reason or sign that Sauron knows of this future or what it has brought. We have but two more hours of searching the list, do you feel you can push on without a break and see it to its end?’
The hobbits nodded in agreement.
Treebeard bought jugs of Ent draught, which they drunk and were refreshed, revitalised to continue into the depths of the night.
Of Baggins and Gamgee
‘Sam, what if this gem is the original Star of Elendil, the one that Isildur wore on that direful day, when the One Ring deserted him in the Anduin and he was slain by orcs …’
‘Are there not varied versions of Isildur’s end in old lore…and also the telling that the jewel was found by Aragorn in the treasures of Orthanc after Saruman’s death…’
‘Yes, Sam you are correct, there is controversy over Isildur, his death and the loss of the Elendilmir… what if, as the One Ring was discovered by Deagol on the bed of the river, Sméagol found the gem as well, for both were worn by Isildur at his end…'
‘But what of the account that Saruman’s agents had found this… and Saruman had kept it secretly hidden in Orthanc…’
‘Ah, there is suspicion over this claim, and just as there were rumours that Saruman forged a Ring of Power of his own, just so he could have created a replica Star…’, then jumping to his feet, Frodo took the tin, saying agitatedly:
‘Sam, the Star is calling to me… I feel it; it wishes to tell its story, come, let us open the tin and see it once more…’
‘But its light will escape through the crevice and reveal our position…Mr Frodo, I am fearful of tempting such a risk…’
‘Then Sam, we will block the hole with our cloaks… come, help me,’ as if one possessed, Frodo began to plug the hole with all manner of clothing items.
Eventually, when the hobbits felt no thread of light could escape, they sat down before the tin.
‘Open it Sam, open it!’
And its light filled the cavern… a brilliant, billowing deluge of argent light… and with it, a rhapsody of sound, enchanting the hobbits. They transfixed on the gem, mesmerized by its resplendence… then, as if the gem itself was answering their questions of its story… they saw, as if it was an unfolding painting before their eyes; there was no passage of time in their now, no night or day, just the story of the jewel…
Of the Dark
The Lieutenant and Captain lingered in a strained atmosphere. Never comrades, merely disciples of the Dark Lord, they had never been together without Him.
They did not try to make small talk.
The Captain paced the chamber, then the hall, revisiting the palantir are regular intervals, demanding updates from the Lieutenant.
The Lieutenant took up position at the palantir and did not move.
Occasionally the palantir spluttered into activity, fiery lights swirling with sounds of sirens, strident screeches that would bring around the Captain, but then it would fade out and become clouded and mute.
The night drew to its zenith, and there was no sign of the Dark Lord.
The Captain persisted in pacing, snarling impatient threats at the Lieutenant’s inability to be definitive on Sauron’s whereabouts.
The Lieutenant, a veteran of tortuous military interrogations, largely ignored the Captain’s rantings, concentrating on recalibrating the palantir in preparedness...
Saruman became alerted to a difference, it seeped into the Maia’s consciousness; Sauron was gone! The Dark Lord’s overpowering influence was missing. The Lieutenant must have been called to oversee him transported somewhere, it was this that Sauron had spoken in his private chamber and overheard by Saruman. Where was this?
The Wizard frantically endeavored to realign the seeing-stone to trail the Dark Lord himself. However, regardless of the readjustment, the palantir was a vacuous sphere. Sauron was returning...
The sixth hour
Of the King
Those in the royal house heard the wailing and knew that Aragorn was dead. Stupefied with sorrow, they waited in silence for Ben-adar.
Of elf and dwarf
Gimli and Legolas were escorted through the passageways of Thrain’s Ered Luin kingdom, through the darkness and dank of a people far away from their home in the west, through stone and metal wrought to hold mines hewn out of the mountain, their guard now their escort, into the brilliance of a star-filled night in the Blue Mountains.
Through an overgrown thicket they followed a trail that led to the upper-reaches of River Lune.
At that point their escort handed over their axe and bow, and their provisions, saying:
‘Our Lord Thráin wishes you good speed with your journey and gives you this envelope, which must only be opened in the light of the pre-dawn.’
He handed an envelope to Gimli, then walked off, leaving Legolas and Gimli to struggle with how they would meet Thráin’s refusal.
Of those in Fangorn
A tempest raged outside. They heard the wind, a growling gust that tried to gain entry to their sanctuary, but save from a surge of spray, the cascade fought off its intrusion.
The night was pitch-black, and bode ill for what lay before them. They all, even Treebeard, felt the chill of malevolence.
Gandalf could not shake a feeling of overwhelming sorrow, but he tried to hide all sign of this from the hobbits, however, as he gazed at them, he saw in their reserved quietness, that they felt what he did.
But they were not to be diverted from their mission by the darkness that threatened to consume them, so they continued their search Ù9.3
Before them loomed intriguing events, how could man walk upon the moon, make a picture of Sarurn and Venice and Halley’s comet and send shuttles into space. Man had reached the heavens in his thirst to conquer his world, would he find the land of the Valar? And yet this search had brought him to the fragments of life itself, how could a life be conceived in a glass tube and one carry someone another’s baby ? The enormity of it all was staggering, and with all the tales and wonder of it, had become awesomely intense even for a Maia, and through this all, playing on their minds, how could they find just that one?!
They stopped discussing all that they had heard and seen, conscious that fewer than fifty were to be revealed, and now they worried also, what if they had missed the one that they had to find. For the hobbits there seemed no real rhyme or reason to choose one over the hundreds that were astounding. However, for all three, there was an overpowering conviction that the one would reveal itself.
After more Ent draught, which acted as an inspiriting elixir, they continued.
The night grew darker, the tempest outside more ferocious; the hour of The Dark was upon them.
Of the Dark
The Tower clock had struck the hour of midnight, and the Dark Lord rematerialized.
Still in the identity of Annatar, strikingly handsome, he strode from the time-nimbus seemingly unscathed.
In fact, there was a sensation of unrestrained triumph as he greeted his commanders. He had infiltrated the protected realm of the Ancient One and struck down the Quest’s warrior – the Ranger King. How vulnerable and impotent The Light had proven to be!
However, despite his outward bravado, dismissing the entreaty of his Captain to take respite, he was sensing that all was not well within him.
He sat down, and discerned a creeping lethargy engulf him. Not wanting to show any sign of weakness, he directed that the Lieutenant withdraw but remain in readiness.
The Lieutenant bowed respectfully to Sauron, and although intuiting an affliction in the Master, exited without demur.
The Captain stayed.
Saruman observed Sauron in the palantir, and noticed even in this formidable titan, the insidious draining of life-forces by crossing a parallel of time. The stone’s visions blurred, then fell into shadow. Desperate to maintain the link, Saruman invoked the Maiar-connection.
The seventh hour
Of elf and dwarf
As they walked, Gimli stumbling over root and twig, they felt a shadow come over the land. There was a stillness on the earth, but over the sky, a caliginous cloud was consuming the stars, then the moon. As a shroud it covered the sky, plunging the earth into stygian shadow, and an icy chill blew across their path.
Of those in Fangorn
They felt the savage sting of the Dark Lord’s gaze, but it did not divert them from their course, thirty-five to go Ù9.5
Man continued his advances into the building blocks of life, and with that he seemed to strive to create it as he willed, but was he not shown, how despite his prowess and to where he had come, all was not yet in his control. And to man’s other realm of pursuit, farther into space he plunged, extending his reach transversing the galaxies, and straddling his world, he had cast a net with such wondrous ties, that all could feel as one, as if distance and time were no longer a relevance, could it be here, that the one resided?
They were done, they had journey through 435 achievements and exploits, feats of lofty reasoning and creations of space, matter and life, alongside those of implements of survival and everyday living, and of its destruction.
They were finished, and to the disillusionment of the hobbits, “the one” did not miraculously appear.
Gandalf could see their discontent and reasoned why, so soothing he said:
‘The one will become apparent when we see the complete picture, and we still have the revelations of the indigo crystal to put all in context.’
It was then that Merry and Pippin realised that the background images from the visions had just ceased, for which Merry relieved, exclaimed:
‘Gandalf, the visions have halted, will the crystal now direct our path to “the one”.’
Gandalf placed the crystal down on a limestone outcrop; it gave no indication of life, but reassuringly he stated:
‘As we have journeyed through man’s discoveries and inventions, from my visions, this other, searched for the inner character of man. As we must ponder on all we have seen, so must they; I imagine this will not immediately be discernible. But let us use this time, to take refreshment, for it has been hours since we ate.’
And the hobbits, relieved of the pressure of search and visions, felt famished, although it was not that they normally ate at this mid-of-night.
So after all the food was laid out, they filled their plates with honey-cured ham, fried halloumi and seeded rolls, they sat upon the seat-like formations and ate heartily with swigs of malt ale.
As if a paralyzing burden had been lifted, the hobbits excitedly chatted about what they saw were the advances from which they were sure “the one” must come. Gandalf laughed at their naive enthusiasm and choices, he did agree or disagree with their ‘favourites’, saying he would wait to see… The night’s zenith passed, and with it came the surety of a promise to be fulfilled.
Of the Dark
Suddenly the seeing-stone flared alive, but it was not the Dark Lord it tagged, but the other Maiar, the White Wizard; Saruman looked-on, awestruck.
Saruman rushed to the Tower Room to advise the Lieutenant.
The Lieutenant had just arrived back from the hall.
Caught in a confidence, the Lieutenant made an excuse for the inability to talk with the Wizard: the Elf’s location was urgently required. It was a lie, and Saruman would not be so easily fooled. While Saruman did not trust the Lieutenant, and vice-versa, they depended on each other’s skills and acumen to share the responsibility of answering Sauron’s demands.
Saruman was sure that Sauron had been affected by the time-travel, but did not say anything; the Wizard held out to be informed and asked to intercede. To bolster the Lieutenant’s reliance on Maiar sagacity, Saruman disclosed the deciphering of the signal of the ancient ally of Gandalf. It was a tracer of this Ent’s slow deliberations that Saruman had captured, utterances generating a list on parchment and recalled for the Shire Folk and White Wizard, and now reproduced on the seeing stone for the Lieutenant.
‘These are laws, discoveries or inventions over the millennia. Many relate to the heavens, look!’ Saruman proclaimed, pointing to “soft landing on the moon”. It speaks of a landing on the Moon!’
The Lieutenant countered:
‘This is the mad ravings of a demented tree. We cannot put any store in this.’
Saruman hovered in a quandary, then rejoined:
‘Do not so easily dismiss this Lieutenant. For I conceive that miraculous things have eventuated, things and events that we could never imagine. Here behold, mention of an “international space station”. No Lieutenant, these are real enough, actual achievements of mankind, and the Quest searches amongst them; for a means, an omnipotence, to bring back to obliterate The Dark.’
‘Could it be the weapon of ultimate carnage?’ the Lieutenant raised gravely, ‘It lists a “fighter aeroplane’, what could that mean?’
‘”Planen” is “to glide, soar,” Saruman deduced, ‘it could mean a fighter that glides or soars.’
‘As our winged fellbeasts?’ the Lieutenant queried fretfully.
‘Much more than this! For afore this is listed: “flight of man”, and then “man in space” and “manned space ship”. I judge those of the worlds-to-come have conquered the skies and enabled man to fly without fellbeasts,’ the Wizard asserted, amazed and over-awed.
The eighth hour
Of the King
Ben-adar arrived in the royal house with the body of Aragorn.
They laid him in the imperial crypt of the Silvan Elves of Lothlorien.
Galadriel sang over his body, a haunting hymn, of soulful loss and sorrow.
And across Lothlórien…and the time of the Quest, the requiem rained down.
Of elf and dwarf
The moon and stars had been consumed, and it was as if they had fallen into the bowels of the earth. They could hear the muted sounds of the torrent, the river gushed far-below them. Then they heard upon the wind Galadriel’s hymn.
They stopped…and the haunting refrain faded out…
They were overcome by melancholy.
Legolas stopped in his tracks:
‘I can go no further for now.’
Gimli stabbed his firestick into the ground, its rays swallowed by the shadows. He went to comfort his friend:
‘I do not know what has occurred, but know what we must do.’
‘Gimli do you not realise, there is death on the wind, and we have failed to convince Thráin to give us his ring…the Quest is over.’
‘Where is your Silvan-elf optimism, leave the pessimism to a dwarf like me, we are experts at it,’ he countered, and grinned at his comrade.
Legolas smiled; yes it had always been him that tried to see the possibilities, now their roles were reversed…
‘But Gimli I cannot see beyond this darkness…’
‘Then let us get somewheres it is not dark.’ Gimli replied, ‘It will be the dawn soon…and we have a distance to travel to get to the river, when we will see what light Thráin’s message gives us…’
So firestick in hand, the two set off anew…
Of those in Fangorn
They had eaten their fill, but for the hobbits, a stupefying tiredness came upon them. Gandalf could see that they could hardly keep their eyes open.
‘Come Merry and Pippin, rest here for a while. I do not envisage that the crystal will commence its transmission for some time; I will wake you as soon as it does.’
So, thankful for the respite, cloaks were laid out, and the hobbits lay down, and within minutes were fast asleep.
Gandalf and Treebeard walked from their resting place, and spoke of strategy. Gandalf respected Treebeard immensely, for though reserved in gesture and speech, and despite his assertion that he did not understand much, Gandalf knew that his knowledge of history was profound, and of man, was penetrating. So it was, Maia and Ent, huddled in reflection, that Gandalf was jolted by the strains of a haunting hymn.
Treebeard could see Gandalf’s recoil, but could not hear the sound, and asked:
‘What is it dear friend, what distresses you?’
‘Oh wise Shepard of the Forest, there are so many things happening; so many at risk, thrown into unknown and unfathomable realms, and now, something calamitous has occurred, for I hear unbounded sorrow.’
‘Is it in your power to change what has occurred?’
‘I fear not, dear friend, for I do not even know where the sorrow arises.’
‘Are their others that you trust that are there?’
‘My heart, says yes… but in all honesty, I do not know.’
‘Then trust your heart and fret not, for this will drain your powers, all of which you will need to do what you must now do.’
Gandalf smiled at this giant of the wood, how astute his advice:
‘Thank you Treebeard, your advice is sound and wise…’ but before he could finish his sentence, he heard a buzzing, and looked around, to see the indigo crystal light up. Gandalf rushed to where he had left it, near to where the hobbits were sleeping, and at its call they bolted upright from their slumber.
Of the Dark
The night-tide flowed slowly to the end of the witching-hour.
Lieutenant and Wizard were struggling to make sense of the list when an urgent order arrived for the Lieutenant to go back to the hall.
Saruman stayed with the stone, wondering about the state of the Dark Lord, for his image was irretrievable in full-form, only a sinister shadowy outline loomed on the orb.
The ninth hour
Of elf and dwarf
Through brush and scrub they staggered down the path; two souls with the weight of forlornness and failure on their shoulders. They did not speak as they concentrated on the steps of their descent.
As they walked, eyes were upon them. They snarled and cursed, wanting to attack this curious duo of dwarf and elf, but fearful of chancing this until they had advantage in an ambush. They waited until they reached the culvert.
The late night sky, bistre in colour, pulsated and writhed, stars and moon struggling to pierce the consuming clouds. A wild whorl of wind had sprung up and blew wrathfully, bringing with it the rank odor of their covert foe.
Gimli walked up to Legolas, who had taken the lead down the path, whispering:
‘We are being watched.’
‘Yes, they have been stalking us since we stopped, be ready for an attack.’
Gimli tightened his grip around his axe; Legolas brought his bow forward.
What the two did not realise, is that a band of dwarves also followed them, charged with covertly guarding them until they reached the river; they had staked their stalkers. And as they saw the orcs take position at the culvert, they assailed them.
There was clanging of metal and shouting as the fray took place; Legolas and Gimli thought they were being attacked, then realised that the combat was occurring elsewhere. They ran in the direction of the commotion and arrived in time to see the dwarves decimating a band of orcs.
The entered the fray, and within minutes, it was all over.
Their guard from the mine, came over to them, puffing and bloody:
‘Your way is unhindered to the river. We must return…but wish you well,’ he called to his troop, shook hands with Gimli and nodded to Legolas, and they disappeared into the woodland.
Of those in Fangorn
From the crystal had shot a light that shone upon the rear wall of the cavern, and in that light stood a figure cloaked in white. A towering regal man-like form, with a sweeping hair and beard. Pale skinned, with dazzling azure eyes, he began to speak, in melodious words:
‘Friends of the Shire and Maiar of Manwé, I call to offer you aid in your search. Acknowledge your presence, for while my image and voice is transmitted to you, I cannot see but will hear your response.’
‘Ancient One, noble prophet of the Valar, we are here and await your counsel. What must we do?’
A solemn smile came upon the Ancient One:
‘What you must do Olórin, you must do, that only you can determine, but I can offer you some directions from which you may choose a path. For in the concession of The Light to grant you this one request from the future, this choice is inextricably interwoven with an understanding of the meaning of life and death; visions of which were revealed to others of your Quest and myself on this day in a collateral plane. However, by their bands and race, the two from the Shire are linked with these others; as we are by our ancestry. So it will be that these visions are open to you, and from these you may derive your meaning and plot your path. Do you understand this charge?’
Gandalf listened, agonised how to answer, then responded:
‘Counsel of the Lords, I thank you for your graciousness in defining our ancestry so, but my heritage is not of your glorious line,’ Gandalf hesitated to see if Ben-adar wished to speak, but he waited for Gandalf to finish his concerns:
‘Nor do I wish to question the rationale of the gift you offer, however, I humbly ask how it will be possible for us to view all these visions, when we had a sense of them as they ran from sunrise to the mid-of-night, yet we have only four hours before our dawn and a decision having to be made?’
The Ancient One paused in thought, then answered:
‘Olórin, we are spirits of the Undying Lands, our connection is forged by this. But you ask wisely of the time, for this is measured, yet we are fortunate, for there is a conjunction of happenings on this anniversary day of the Master of Middle-earth in this 2001st year, though occurring in separate planes of days of the Quest. If you choose to take up this path, you merely have to step into the light of the crystal, then those moments in these rays remain separate to your time, and when you step back into your time, it will recommence from whence you left. But know that such transpositions of time and mind are not perfectly definable and without risk. I leave you to choose.’
Gandalf conferred with Merry and Pippin, they unanimously agreed that, for the sake of the insights that would be revealed, it was worth whatever the risk.
‘We understand and wish to proceed,’ Gandalf confirmed steadfastly on behalf of the three of them.
‘Then step into the rays,’ was his welcome, and as they did, Ben-adar disappeared from the light, and they were conveyed into a space where time conjoined and racial memories flowed.
Of the Dark
There was no news of or from the Lieutenant.
Though exhausted, the Wizard could find no rest; the list of names, terms… probing them for meaning… what was their significance… how was the cipher to the Quest’s search cast…?
Saruman, mind spinning and recognizing the impossibility of decoding Light’s intent directly from the list, reckoned that if the final hours of Gandalf’s sixth day could be exposed, sufficient clues may be derived to infer Light’s goal, and thereby counter this.
Saruman set about to stalk Gandalf on a waning QD6.
The tenth hour
Of elf and dwarf
Legolas and Gimli, invigorated by their skirmish, proceed down the lower slopes of the mountain. Through tangled thicket and barbed brush, their progress was slow, but free from attack.
Of those in Fangorn
They all returned and were transformed.
Parallels of time had merged, Quest Days and those of Middle-earth; and from this, insights emerged.
As kinsfolk, Merry and Pippin experienced what Frodo and Sam saw of a hundred parables, and through these, the seeds were sown for understanding.
With kindred-blood, Gandalf and the Ancient One, melded in revelation; the Maia viewing the prophet’s vision, not only of the hundred chronicles, but that which had came before for Ben-adar in the Quest and old lore time. So it was that Gandalf saw Boromir in the Old Forest, Aragorn in Lothlorien, Éowyn with the Queen, and the connection of Melkor and Sauron; an awing apprehension arose at what had happened, and what might be.
For the three teeming loose-ends colliding with meaning, how could all these come together?
Ben-adar could not help them, save for granting them the insight of an ancient prophecy; a prophecy of the esteemed Elven seer, Elmowë, who wrote millennia before, which Ben-adar recited it to Gandalf:
Ygap xotoipt bimmofa epf laepoph taalipmw cawipf hqetn
Bemm diqsg sga Alaqemf Tseq id sga Aeqsg – sga Tseq id emm Bippabsoip
Diq yosgop ost mulopatbapba, emm nuqniqs tgemm cabila bmaeq
Epf sqeptdaqqaf dqil Qúlo’t ruomm ynip got neqbglaps
Hmiyoph moja sga tiqbgoph tup, sga i[a yomm ca catiyaf
Epf sga Bgmoqotsomcip tgemm gixaq ygaqa ettuqepvat ecofa.
Call forth the Emerald Star of the Earth – the Star of all Connection
For within its luminescence, all purport shall become clear
And transferred from Rúmil’s quill upon his parchment
Glowing like the scorching sun, the one will be bestowed
And the Chlorostilbon shall hover where assurances abode
Gandalf repeated and translated the prophecy for the hobbits, and its essence as best he could; for he did not understand it in its entirety, especially about the reference to the Chlorostilbon; he knew this was a humming bird, but how could this hover over the parchment. However, he was undaunted, for the Emerald Star and Rúmil’s quill and parchment mentioned in the prophecy… well they had all three, or so he hoped, for he had not seen this gem since Merry and Pippin had taken it to Fangorn.
Merry reading Gandalf’s concern, confirmed that it was still safe with them. He urgently rummaged through his knacksack, and there it was, still attached to the medallion mirror.
Gandalf rolled the parchment and placed the quill alongside. Then, not knowing what would occur, but trusting that they would be directed to their cause, he called forth the Star:
‘I call upon you, Emerald Star of the Earth – the Star of Connection.’
There was nothing.
He repeated the chant.
Had he not remembered the words of the prophecy correctly…he went over them:
Call forth the Emerald Star of the Earth – the Star of Connection,
and repeated them to the hobbits. How could he have gotten them wrong?
The hobbits looking anxiously on…
It was Pippin who realised:
‘Gandalf when you first told us of the prophecy, did you not say “The Star of all Connection?” ’
Gandalf smiled greatly relieved, and responded, patting Pippin on the head:
‘Yes, Pippin, you are correct, how astute of you! The Star is not usually known as this, but in my initial telling of the prophecy I did repeat the line literally as told, then omitted the ‘all’ in my calling it forth.’
So he repeated his chant:
I call upon you, Emerald Star of the Earth – the Star of all Connection.’
and instantaneously, an incandescent light erupted, filling the cavern with its brilliance, and from this gem, came a singing from the voice they had heard in The Light, from Yavanna, Queen of the Earth, as she entranced and embraced their thoughts.
Of the Dark
Saruman startled from a trance engulfed in a crystalline blaze of prophecy. A Maiar-ancestry had forged a route to the orbit of Gandalf and Ben-adar, through which Saruman glimpsed the contact, the nexus; then, shaken by the Lieutenant, it was ruptured…
Saruman span around, furious at the intrusion, but seeing it was the Lieutenant, calmed down, retorting:
‘Lieutenant, you have disconnected….’
‘Comrade, you were raving, delirious...at the edge of sanity…’
‘Of what did I…’
‘Of prophecies, kindred-blood, colliding meanings… and other intelligible recitations…’
Saruman took a deep breath, there was no point in alienating the Lieutenant with an angry rebuke, so in a mock manner of unconcern:
‘No matter; I was on the verge of infiltrating Gandalf’s pursuit, but it will be retrievable. What of the Dark Lord, there was a tracer in the palantir of him journeying in time’s parallels, then his depleted aura re-entered The Dark.’
The Lieutenant, not deceived by Saruman’s appeasing expression, but accepting this as the Wizard was essential for the Dark Lord’s grand scheme, confirmed:
‘The Dark Lord attacked The Light at its core. His trek drained him of some elements, but already this has been reversed. He has been called away and will not be returning until the morrow, but has given these rare documents for you to review,’ and handed over a bundle of manuscripts to Saruman. The packet was tied by a thick leather chord; a piercing presence emanating from the pages.
Saruman unbound the package and reeled back with the vehemence which exuded from the author, not Sauron, the Dark Lord of Middle-earth, but from his Master, Melkor, Master of the Fates of Arda.
Saruman handled the papers warily, commencing to translate from the language of The Dark, the declarations and presages of Melkor.
The eleventh hour
Of elf and dwarf
The sound of the Lune now was booming just below them. They came to a large granite outcrop protruding over its raging rapids; its surface churning in whitewater and reflecting the bluish hue of the moon in its waning way, forcing itself through the cloak of clouds.
From this ledge, they had an unobstructed view up and down the channel, and with the overhanging gnarled willow, they were screened from view. It was here that they could wait sheltered for the dawn.
They were bone tired, but Legolas could not relax, he paced around. Gimli urged him:
‘Come sit Legolas, we have time to rest after our days of riding and negotiations from Lothlórien to Rivendell and the bowels of Ered Luin.’
‘I cannot relax Gimli, until we see what Thráin has granted us in the envelope. Do you think it the ring?’
‘Legolas, from the feel of the envelope, and my measure of Thráin, there is no ring.’
‘Gimli, then we have failed, and you seem unperturbed.’
‘Unperturbed because we have not failed yet. Come sit, then I will tell you the plan that Thráin and I have set.’
Of those in Fangorn
And as the night crept to the hours of its end, enfolded in Yavanna’s nimbus, so their thoughts were disentangled, and from this lay clear the meaning of their search.
The singing faded and the emerald rays were drawn back into the gem, and with them, the meaning of their thoughts became manifest.
Gandalf knew now what he was looking for, only a few of the hundreds could bring to fruition what must be done.
Gandalf went to the parchment, for the remaining part of the prophecy had yet to be fulfilled.
But the quill lay dormant, except…
He picked it up, and its shaft was faintly pulsating and humming, almost imperceptively.
He had not noticed previously a pattern had been etched along its length, of the heavens, and where the place of sun was portrayed, there a rounded indent had been carved… the size of the…. Gandalf realised what was meant to be slotted within.
He removed the gem from the medallion and it fitted precisely. He held the quill over the parchment, and directed it down the list, stopping at points where he was drawn, but it did not change its demeanor. However, as Gandalf reached his last choice for the one, it came alive, a scarlet aura rising from the parchment.
Merry and Pippin spontaneously realised what this meant:
‘It has been found, Gandalf, it has been discovered,’ exclaimed Pippin ecstatically,’ looking down at its title, joyous, though he did not understand it all.
‘Our search has come to a triumphant end,’ Merry added elatedly.
But Gandalf continued to hold the quill upon the parchment, drawing it closer to the end, then, it came alive again, but this time, a bright viridian light shimmered, as if it was hovering, over the listing.
The hobbits looked astounded, for although it was as Elmowé had foretold, what was this subsequent find?
Gandalf sat them down and explained, as Ben-adar had to him. One thing, they from the future could bring, the other, an assurance was needed that what seemed impossible was possible. The first, Gandalf would retrieve, the other, the hobbits, would gain.
The ultimate maneuver had been determined. The choices now locked into place, their chronomaps would be automatically set for the selfsame date as they had journeyed on QD6, the birth date of the Master of Middle-earth in the millennium year, and the location, to the greatest minds in the chosen field.
Via the Emerald Star, Ben-adar had transmitted to the agents of influence of The Light of these times and places. Arrangements had been made to meet them and retrieve the Quest’s mark unhampered and to ensure their return by QD10.
Gandalf was to travel to an island where an academy had been set up to foster the cooperation of academia and creative industries for advancement of this pioneer technology. His contact was its world director.
The hobbits were to journey to one of the most powerful nations of this time, to a venerated institution of learning and research. Their contact was the Head of the Centre of Excellence.
All was in readiness for their departure.
The hobbits withdrew to the place of the rose crystalline formation, made themselves as comfortable as they could, and although a weariness sucked their innermost energy, they could not relax with the excitement of it all.
Gandalf moved to the cave entrance with Treebeard, he was arranging contingency plans should not all proceed as intended.
Of the Dark
The Lieutenant retreated to observe the palantir, in preparation for tracking the Quest’s next movements at dawn.
The Wizard was engrossed in studying the doctrines of The Dark.
The twelfth hour
Of elf and dwarf
‘A plan, I heard no plan?’ replied Legolas in a quandary, mixed of anxiety and exhaustion.
‘And I will not tell you what you did not hear if you refuse to sit,’ responded Gimli jovially but insistently, ‘Come join me in a bite to eat and a quaff of red, otherwise you will be no good to me, or the Quest,’ and taking from his pack a hunk of smoke-cured goat cheese and sourdough loaf, breaking off a piece of each for Legolas, and passing these to him the wine bota.
With that Legolas sat down and joined his friend. He had not realised how tired he was, and how famished.
‘Well if you put it like that, what plan did I miss?’
Gimli looked up at the sky; the clouds were being defeated, and in retreat, the moon had reclaimed the heavens. He saw upon the star-lined night an image of Isildur, as by his name, Servant of the Moon, fray the cloud-servants of The Dark.
‘Look Legolas, the omens of the sky portend our success.’
Legolas scoffed affably:
‘When Gimli have you ever trusted the presage of the heavens…’
‘There is much you do not know that I trust’, Gimli laughed, slapping Legolas on the shoulder, then continued:
‘But from this vantage point in the light of day, we could almost see as far as the Grey Havens where the meeting of those to go westward will occur in just over 180 years. Where you must meet Galadriel and Elrond to collect the rings.’
‘Where we both will go, as planned, on QD 7,’ countered Legolas.
‘But that is not possible, nor would it be needed, for all things have been set for the collection of the ring from Galadriel, and we cannot influence any further the choice of Elrond, for that lies in the hands of Aragorn; all which can be done without me. We do not have the time to travel there and then to… Dol Guldur.’
‘Dol Guldur!’ gasped Legolas, ‘why would we travel there…into the dungeons of the Dark Lord.’
Gimli, looked at his friend, then adamantly continued:
‘I must travel to Dol Guldur in TA 2850 to meet up with Thráin.’
‘This is the plan you have devised. Gimli this is no plan with any chance for success, for we know that Thráin will not be able to keep the ring from Sauron.’
‘But it is only the servants of Sauron that will capture him. He will see then that there is no hope for him indeed with the rings, he will keep it hidden and give it voluntarily to the Quest.’
‘If he still has a ring!’
‘He will guardedly hide it.’
‘I fear not well enough for the interrogation he will experience, from which he lost his mind…’ Legolas hesitating to sigh, ‘Gimli this plan has immense flaws in it! Better we should return and convince him of his folly and yours for placing yourself in Sauron’s liar, for there is hopeless danger for you there.’
‘He will not listen; he wishes it this way.’
‘But you cannot change what must be, Sauron must retrieve the ring.’
‘Yes, I know, but he has the other, of which nothing is written in old lore…’
‘But that may be because Sauron did not recognise it as a Ring of Power, or Thráin heeding Elrond’s warning hid it someplace along the way. And, and, you cannot change the course of Gandalf picking up the map from him…’
‘Yes, I know…’
‘Well how will this all occur?’
‘I will find Thráin after Gandalf has been…’
‘But it is said that Thráin was delirious then, he didn’t even know his name, so how will you get anything sensible from him, and it is written that he dies soon after, and, and…oh Gimli, it is all too impossible and fraught with danger …you risk certain death for limited, no, no chance of success…’
‘Ah my dearest friend, "Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens’.’ (Tolkien, FOTR, ‘The Ring Goes South’)
‘Honourable words Gimli, but you do not even know the date when it was that Gandalf found Thráin...’
‘But Legolas, I do know, for I recall Gandalf telling me this…although I know it is not recorded anywhere in old lore…’
‘I cannot remember Gandalf mentioning this to us…’
‘For you were not there when we were discussing dwarven legends and the coincidences of life, he mentioned in passing that by chance he found Thráin in the dungeons of Dol Guldur in 2850 on Durin’s Day, the very same anniversary of when Thráin set out on his ill-fated journey…’
And so the friends argued back and forth ‘til the moon waned and the closing threads of night fought the coming of day.
Of those in Fangorn
Gandalf checked on the hobbits, they were soundly asleep. He would not disturb them until the dawn, when they would be leaving this place and his protection, but he did not feel as he thought he would, an anxiety for their well-being, rather, looking upon them, a certainty of their success.
He walked back to the entrance, and through the cascade, he could see the greying glimmer of a grim starless night. The wind had dropped in its ferocity, but a swirling howl encircled the cave.
He could sense the searching of the Dark Lord, but was unperturbed, for it was a feeling of The Dark’s desperation to restrain them, and this had been foiled at every turn. Now all things of his Quest had fallen into place, when only at the dawn of this morn, all seemed formidable and daunting. He had not forgotten the assault of Annatar, but that was now in the hands of others of mightier will than his. He could not influence this outcome and trusted in the powers of The Light to make right what The Dark had put asunder; so with a grateful heart he waited for the dawn.
The night was in its perishing throes. The wind had been appeased, and in its place a calmness came – with a surreal stillness, the fading threads of beleaguered moonlight flickered in a slate-gray sky, the dawn was imminent. He was wishing it to be.
Of Baggins and Gamgee
As the night wound it weary way to its it end, so they had been suspended in watching a passing parade; of all those whose lives had touched or been touched by the Star: of Silmariën, daughter of the fourth King of Numénor, who handed it to the Lords of Andunie; of Elendil who had rescued it from the downfall of Numénor; of a tragic kingdom of Northmen, unrecorded in old lore, now resurrected by that of the Quest; of Isildur’s death; of its journey with the One Ring washed along the bed of the Anduin – lost for 3000 years, of an image of a Stoor hobbit being dragged by a goliath bass, then diving for and retrieving a gilt-metal object; of the screech of death, and different Stoor, repeatedly diving into the waters looking for something; of a hand reaching out to it and having being scolded, recoiling in pain; of returning with a beaten tin scooping it up with the waters of the Great River; of an ever more gruesome face that gloated over it as the tin was oftentimes opened with the words:
‘my secrety prize, no’ne searchess for yous… no’ne knowss yous livess, my Preciouss star’;
of two from Hobbiton looking in awe…
And so they were consumed by this parade, and would have missed the coming of the dawn, except for a doleful refrain that pierced their space:
A crushing melancholy brought them back from their state of swoon. Sam jumped up like a startled rabbit, it took him several seconds to orient himself, he went reflexly to the crevice, blocked by their cloaks, gasping for breath and sight, pulling out these coverings, he saw the failing smoky strokes of night… and through the hole flares of light began gushing, to the notice of the orcs in the campsite below. With shrieks of triumph they ran towards the blaze.
The moments before the dawn
Of elf and dwarf
As the light of the pre-dawn appeared, Gimli opened Thrain’s envelope. There was a pair of cards within.
The card from Celebrimbor with the inscription, which they had seen in Dwalin’s room:
To the King of Khazad-dûm, my friend
A Ring of Power,
“Keep it secret, keep it safe”
and another, a silvery card-size piece of metal. It was light yet sturdy, rigid yet smooth to the touch, and to Gimli, it glowed in the twilight. Straightaway he recognized it was made of mithril. On one side it had a triplet of embossed writing in the archaic dwarven language of Khuzdul.
Looking over Gimli’s shoulder, Legolas could make out the words: ‘dush’: dark, ‘uzu’: shadow, ‘ai-menu’: upon you, but nothing-else, so he asked:
‘Gimli, I can understand only a couple of words, what message has Thráin left you?’
Gimli smiled at his friend, pronouncing gleefully:
‘He has confirmed our pact, for he writes:
If all falls in dark shadow
This will light your way to me
Upon you will I and the ring wait.’
see Legolas how it is… he understands and waits for me.’
‘Waits for you with words of darkness and death,’ Legolas replied aghast.
‘But the mithril card does more than carry the words Legolas, for look at the light that it provides… it glows like a torch…
Gimli, I see no light, except the glimmer of the embossing…’
‘Tell me verily Legolas, you cannot see how light radiates from the card,’ and Gimli handed the mithril to Legolas for a closer look.
As Legolas took the card, Gimli saw the light disappear, so he took the card back, and the light shone from it again.
‘Ah what a fantastical device Thráin has bestowed on me, for to me, the card will illuminate my way, but a light which others, such as the orcs of Dol Guldur, cannot see…’
‘Marvelous, but…’Legolas remarked unconvinced, but Gimli interjected:
‘There are no more buts that matter, Legolas. So we are agreed, we part here, but will meet up again in The Light on QD10. Be not fearful dear friend, for it is not in your demeanor to be so; we will both succeed in our mission of the rings.’
With that Gimli calibrated his chronomap, Legolas looking forlornly on, then he embraced his friend and parted this time, travelling to 25 September TA 2850 in the pits of Don Guldur, “still dim and dark, untouched by the light of dawn.” (Tolkien, TT, ‘The King of the Golden Hall’)
Legolas felt a staggering desolation, for he knew that Gimli went to ruthless peril but knew it was fruitless trying to dissuade him from what he had in mind to do.
So it was that Legolas traveled alone to Grey Havens in TA on 29 September 3021, “as the first light of dawn came dimly in the sky.”(Tolkien, FOTR, A Journey in the Dark’)
Of those in Fangorn
Gandalf woke the hobbits. They sprung awake, having not realised that they had fallen asleep. Swiftly all possessions were gathered up, and good-byes said; Gandalf giving instructions about what should be done if any misadventure should occur. Merry and Pippin nodded eagerly, but had no qualms that all would go as planned for Gandalf had given them the Emerald Star as a guiding talisman.
Heralded by the sound of the Colors of a New Dawn the dawn stirred the shadows from the trees, and the hobbits ventured to a world of medical discovery, and Gandalf, to a frontier of reality, with “the first glimmer of dawn upon the golden roof” (Tolkien,Two Towers, ‘Palantir’) of future’s store.
Of Baggins and Gamgee
Sam realising what had happened, rushed to the tin and closed the lid, yelling:
‘Mr Frodo, the dawn is upon us, take your chronomap, cloak and bag, I have the gem and all else.’
Then they heard the sound of orcs, their faces peering into the chasm, then arms reaching in, the crevice was too narrow to enable them to squeeze in, so they started pounding at the opening with their axes, with each blow a slab of rock shattering and the crevice widening with “the chill wind of dawn.” (Tolkien, TT, ‘The Riders of Rohan’)
Of the Dark
As spores of sunlight scattered, streaks soaring through the sky, those of the Quest, facing the challenges and revelations of QD6, traversed to new destinations marked by the Lieutenant, the Wizard was riveted in reviewing Dark’s doctrines; so much avowed and threatened, Saruman shuddered with the sayings as they “gloomed dark against the twilight.” (Tolkien, FOTR, ‘The Old Forest’)