Amarion watched as Calen closed her bedroom door. What was he going to do? He stared at the embers of the dying fire. He had promised. But would it help? He was running out of options. He looked over at his brother, absorbed in his journal.
“Naurion?” he said softly.
Naurion looked up from his book, quill poised to write another word.
“I am very concerned about Calen,” he began, “She rarely sleeps, the night terrors are becoming more frequent when she does sleep, she’s not eating as she should... and have you noticed? She does not laugh much any more.”
Naurion put his quill in the ink well, and put his book aside. “Yes, I’ve noticed. What do you propose we do? We have tried to give her space to work out her thoughts, we have tried to keep her mind occupied with other endeavours...”
“But nothing has worked,” concluded Amarion, sadly shaking his head, “In fact, I believe she may be getting worse.”
“Do you have any ideas?” Naurion asked, concern written all over his face.
Amarion nodded, “Where are Lindion and Nenion? We need to talk.”
The Elves in question were grooming the horses. Since they did not need help, Naurion climbed into the hayloft and lay on his stomach, looking down. Amarion merely leaned against the door frame and watched. No one said anything for a few minutes.
Lindion broke the silence, “Is something bothering you, Amarion?”
“No,” Amarion sighed, “and yes. It is Calen.”
Nenion snorted, “She bothers me too.”
“I did not mean it that way,” Amarion retorted, “and you know it. No, I am concerned. She has had a very melancholy spirit as of late, and I fear she will not recover from her depression unless we take drastic action.”
“And I suppose you have a solution?” Nenion quipped sarcastically.
“Actually,” Amarion brightened, “I think I may. I think she needs a change of scenery. We should take her on a trip.”
Lindion spoke up, “A trip? Where? There is nothing within a six day ride from here.”
Amarion thought for a moment. “Perhaps we could go to Mirkwood,” he said slowly, “I believe I heard that the shadow had been driven out of recently. I am certain Calen would enjoy meeting other Elves. She may even make some friends.”
“I am not so sure an excursion is the wisest course of action,” Naurion said, “On my last venture to Dale, I heard rumours of Orcs travelling farther afield than is their usual wont. And let us not forget the spiders. Calen is hardly prepared to defend herself, should the need arise.”
“She will have no need of defence skills,” Amarion declared, “We four will be with her at all times, and we are not untested on the battle field. The outing will be good for her. She has spent too long brooding and mourning.”
“Are you so willing to jeopardize our lives for her happiness?” Nenion exclaimed harshly, “I, for one, am against this.”
“Are you so willing to jeopardize her life for your security?” Lindion asked quietly, “If we do nothing, she may fade away entirely.”
Nenion divided an exasperated look between his three brothers. “I cannot believe how you coddle her!” he exclaimed, “She is no babe, nor yet a child. She is a grown woman, yet you insist on catering to her whims. She will never grow up if you do not stop this indulgence.”
Amarion looked at Nenion sardonically. “Oh yes?” he asked, “And was this your opinion when our parents left this world? I seem to recall someone indulging in a long period of mourning, followed by much coddling. In fact, I believe we took you on a trip, to distract you from your loneliness. Leave Calen alone.”
“Leave her alone?” sputtered Nenion, “I do nothing to provoke her. She was the one who put honey in my boots, I will have you remember! I hardly think that is the act of a morbidly depressed individual.”
Amarion sighed again. “You also do nothing to help her. When, apart from today,” he asked, “is the last time Calen did anything remotely playful?”
Nenion remained silent.
“Right,” Amarion said, “So, are we all in agreement? We take Calen to Mirkwood? When should we leave?”
The four brothers thought for a while. At length, Narion spoke up, “I see no reason to delay. It is fine weather for travelling, provided the horses can navigate in the snow, and there is nothing to do here that cannot wait until the beginning of the growing season. I would assume the paths will be easier to navigate the farther south we travel. ”
“Since no one is interested in my opinion,” Nenion muttered bitterly, “I will ready the horses. I still say what Calen needs is a good dose of reality.”
Frustration finally gaining the upper hand, Amarion spit out, “And I say what you need is a good swift -”
“Amarion!” Lindion exclaimed, “Please, do not start anything. We need to be very positive about this whole trip, for Calen’s sake. She needs it to be a pleasant diversion.”
Shamed, Amarion nodded and turned back to the house. Calen’s lamp was still lit, and he could see her silhouette at the window. She did not sleep again tonight. Over his shoulder he said, “I will go pack the saddle bags, and ready the house for our long absence,” and he strode over to the house. Resting his hand on the doorknob, he paused and prayed, “Oh, Valar, please let this work.”
Calen sat up all night, looking out her window. She did not notice the sun rising, and it was the birds singing that alerted her to a new day. And, like every other morning, she could smell the maltakáno brewing near the fire. She smiled to herself, ‘What would morning be without Naurion making that wonderful drink?’
Lindion called to her from her doorway, “Get up, we are leaving in an hour. Unless, of course, you wish to be left behind.”
Confused, Calen rolled from her window-seat, and ran to the door. “I beg your pardon?” she called into the hall, “Where are we going?”
Amarion peered around the corner and grinned. “We are going on an adventure, of course! Is that not what you and I discussed last night?” He looked down at her sleep wear, “Will you be getting dressed today, or do you intend to prance around the countryside wearing naught but your nightdress?”
Calen turned back into her room, and began to rifle through her wardrobe. “No, no, no,” she muttered, as she discarded one outfit after another. Then, at the back of the closet, she found the perfect one - comfortable for walking, made especially for riding... and it was her favourite colour. She donned it as rapidly as she could. After quickly braiding her hair and winding it around her head, she joined her brothers for breakfast.
“That was fast,” Naurion laughed over his maltakáno, “One would think you are eager to leave.”
“I am,” Calen replied, smiling happily. She snatched up one of the small cakes from the table and poured herself a cup of maltakáno, “I have waited decades for this opportunity. But where is Nenion? Is he coming as well?” she asked, looking around the kitchen.
“Yes, I am going,” Nenion himself replied, walking in from outside, “while some people were sleeping the day away, I was readying the horses. They cannot do it themselves.” With that, he stalked back out the door.
“Oh, dear. He is still very upset with me,” Calen said, her mood deflating rapidly. “Could he not get the honey out of his boots?” she asked, looking from one uncle to the next.
It was Naurion who replied. “No, not entirely. And he claims his feet will smell like bees' wax for days... I did not tell him it would be an improvement,” he grinned, advising, “Just do not mention either matter to him, and he will be himself again in a few days.”
Amarion finished packing the food into saddlebags and shoulder bags, and handed Calen her cloak. “I think we have everything we will need for a few weeks,” he said, scanning the room for any forgotten items, “shall we proceed?” And, offering his arm to Calen, they all went out into the snow and sunshine.
Elsewhere in Middle Earth, two weeks later...
Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee lagged behind as the group ran away from the Orcs of Moria. It was getting harder to breathe and grief threatened to overwhelm them. Finally, Legolas looked back and noticed Frodo and Sam some distance away. He called attention to the others. Aragorn and Boromir reversed course, and ran swiftly to the labouring Hobbits.
“Forgive me friends,” said Aragorn humbly, “I had forgotten about your injuries in our haste to escape. If you will bear it a little longer, Boromir and I will carry you to a safe place, where I can tend to your wounds.” Saying this, Aragorn and Boromir scooped up the little ones and ran to catch up with the others.
After running a little farther, Aragorn allowed the group to stop for rest and healing in a clearing, by a stream, near the edge of the Golden Wood. The other Hobbits, Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brandybuck, and the Dwarf, Gimli, set about kindling a fire to boil water as Aragorn knelt beside the injured Halflings.
Sam's wounds were ugly, but superficial. Aragorn was not overly concerned, though he did instruct Sam to wash his cuts with boiled water and athelas leaves before they were bound. Aragorn was more worried about Frodo's injuries. He had, after all, just been knocked into a stone wall by the thrust of an Orc's spear, and thrown across the hall. The fact that he was still standing was nothing short of miraculous. Despite Frodo's assurances that all he required was food and rest, Aragorn carefully pealed off Frodo's tunic, and was astonished to find a mithril corslet. The whole Fellowship marvelled at the intricate handiwork of the garment. Aragorn instructed Frodo to leave it on, even in sleep, so long as he was on his quest.
After the wounded were tended, the entire group sat down for a meal. It was a silent repast. Everyone was lost in his own thoughts, depressed, missing Gandalf.
Legolas, sitting off to one side, cocked his head, listening intently. “Does anyone else hear that?” he asked, looking around.
His friends looked at him with concern, hoping he did not hear the Orcs approaching.
“What do you hear, Legolas? Are they upon us?” asked Boromir, reaching for his sword.
“No, no, nothing like that,” Legolas said, shaking his head in bewilderment, “It sounds like... sobbing.” He looked at the hobbits, to ensure that it was not them. All four hobbits looked ready to cry, but no sound came from them. “I will go investigate.”
Aragorn rose from his place by the small fire, “You shall not go alone; these woods are filled with surprises.” He drew his sword and Legolas readied his bow with an arrow. After charging Boromir and Gimli to protect the halflings with their very lives, the two disappeared silently into the wood without a backward glance.
The two warriors strode noiselessly in the direction of the lessening sobs. They approached a small clearing with a large tree in the centre. There, huddled against the far side, was a cloaked figure, still sniffling.
They tightened their grip on their weapons, and Aragorn called out, *You, there. Stand up.* The figure started, and a hooded head peered around the tree trunk, but no other motion was made.
Legolas, watching from slightly behind and to the left, whispered, *Perhaps he does not speak Sindarin?*
Aragorn tried again, this time in Westron, “I said, you there. Stand up.”
Slowly, the figure rose to his feet, grasping a long staff, wearing a bag slung over his shoulder. Walking around the tree, he came to a halt facing them, his back to the tree. He braced his feet apart, and stood still, ready for a fight. Looking back and forth between the sword and the bow trained on him, the figure let out a resigned sign, straightened, and tossed the staff on the ground at their feet.
Aragorn and Legolas looked at each other, surprised at this unexpected gesture. They turned back to study the unarmed figure, standing before them in the shade of the tree. If they stood side by side, he would only come to their shoulders. The manner in which he stood indicated weariness. The travellers boots were worn, the thick dark blue cloak was mud stained and frayed at the edges.
“Who are you?” Aragorn asked.
“A traveller,” came the hoarse, whispered response, “No one of consequence. Let me be on my way.”
Legolas turned to Aragorn and said in hushed tones, *There is something... I cannot identify it... telling me this man is not as he seems. I do not think he should be allowed to proceed on his journey without further questioning.*
Aragorn nodded in agreement, *You speak wisely, my friend, I think we sha-*
While they were talking, they had slackened their hold on their weapons, and the stranger had taken advantage of the situation. He had snatched up his staff and bolted into the glade, running swiftly in the direction of the Fellowship.
The warriors took chase, overtaking him rapidly. Legolas tackled the man around the waist, both of them falling to the ground. The man wriggled and managed to throw a handful of dirt in the Elf's eyes and kick him in the chest before Aragorn put a stop to the fight simply by placing the tip of his sword under the stranger's chin. The struggling ceased immediately. Legolas quickly hauled the small man to his feet, wiped his eyes with one hand, and pinned the stranger's arm behind his back.
The man let out a cry and gasped in pain. Startled, Aragorn tore back the hood, causing a cascade of wavy, light brown hair to fall down his... no, her back. He was not a he, after all. He was a she! Aragorn peered at the girl closely. Tear tracks marked her face, but she was not crying now. She glared back at him angrily.
‘What in Middle-earth...’ he asked himself. She had the bright eyes and pointed ears that indicated Elven heritage. He was not only a woman, she was also an Elf?
Aragorn and Legolas looked at each other, then back at the girl. What kind of girl, Elf maiden notwithstanding, would travel alone, on foot, essentially unarmed in these dark days?
Legolas asked, in a hushed tone, “Who are you?”