Story by The Nimrodellian Tale-Spinner
The elf who called herself Laralini sat at the top of the hill, regarding Mericc with bright curious eyes as he came up to rest. Her companion, the great bear Morko, lay at her side, his gaze much more watchful and intense, and Mericc thought to himself that no better watch warden could be found for one such as her.
He wondered what errand brought them to this forest. Even having traveled with several, the ways and manners of the elves were often strange to him. But most of all he wondered where Graham’s son was, and if he was too late.
“When I first heard your’ singing, I had thought you were perhaps Bombadil’s wife Goldberry”, Mericc said as he sat down beside her. “But, there is no mistaking elvish singing for anything else.”
Laralini smiled and opened a pack that she had behind her and pulled out an elixir of greenish liquid. “No, I am not her, though I do not begrudge you the mistake. She is a wise and fascinating person, I had great pleasure in meeting her when I came into these woods”.
She unstopped the elixir and the air was infused with a sweet aroma that unburdened the spirit and cleared the mind. “Drink this, but not too much, it is very potent”. Mericc drank a little and almost instantly the weariness of the previous battle subsided and muscle and limb felt rejuvenated and fresh.
“Well, I do hope that helps”, she said, “though I am afraid it cannot do much for the look of you, there must be quite the tale of adventure to that!”
Mericc looked himself over and couldn’t argue the point, his armor bore the dents and scratches of the fight with the bears and he was coated in mud and grime. “Just a bit of a tussle with some of the fine denizens of these woods, a pack of foul looking bears that I had never encountered in here before”, he replied.
“Goodness, whatever did you get involved with them for?” Laralini exclaimed.
“I wasn’t exactly planning on it!”, Mericc retorted. “I am in these woods on a mission and ran across the bears by a shallow pond. They attacked and I was forced to fight them off. It was fortunate that your bear friend came to help when he did.”
Laralini frowned at this. “I do hope nobody was hurt too badly…but”, she looked off towards the direction of the pond, “I guess if you and Morko are here then the others must be dead. Still, I don’t suppose you can blame them for attacking, you WERE trespassing on their grounds.”
“They didn’t give me much of a chance to leave”, Mericc remarked rather annoyed.
“I guess I can understand that though the loss of life is still saddens me” Laralini sighed. “There are some very dark places in these woods that I felt as soon as I entered and me and my dear Morko have steered clear of them as best we could. But I suppose one of your kind does not find it as easy to sense the ways of the trees as well as elves do.”
“I assure you Lady, I do not kill if I do not have too”, Mericc said. “But there are many times in my line of work where it is unavoidable.”
The elf maiden considered him for a moment before speaking. “I am afraid that my experience with the younger race is very limited and so far I have found myself disappointed. The men I have come across have seemed to me either brutish and coarse or weak-willed and cowardly, not at all like the heroes that I read about in the old stories. But you are different Mericc Angadraug and I wonder if perhaps I’ve just been exposed to the wrong sort in my journeys. To have taken on those evil creatures as you did was very brave.”
She paused and Mericc took the opportunity to ask what had brought her into the forest to begin with. She looked down at the flower that she had been studying earlier and began.
She had been born in Lothlorien and for years uncounted had walked in the gardens and pathways of that most elvish of lands. But it was not in the flowers of the vales or the splendor of the mallorns that she found her love, but in books and tomes of lore was her heart ever given.
She spent endless hours pouring over the many volumes in the library of Caras Galadhon, and learned much of the wisdom and knowledge that the elves had accumulated throughout the ages. But mostly she loved tales of the far-off lands beyond The Golden Wood and stories of heroes and adventures in years long past.
She delighted in passages about the glory of Gondolin, marveled over the love of Beren and Luthien and trembled at the might of Thangorodrim and the greatness of it’s fall. Many a night she dreamed of the wide world and the many places and people she had only ever read about.
But the journey is hardest that is never begun and whenever she would get it into her heart to leave Lothlorien, she would look around and see the beauty of the land and the glory of it’s people and always she thought ‘Maybe next year’. One day while she was reading about Ents and their search for the Entwives, she looked up and saw the Lady Galadriel before her.
“Long have I watched you study my books of lore and observed you starry-eyed as the minstrels sang songs of days gone by”, She said. “It has not been difficult to see the wishes of your’ heart and the fears that bind it. I think in this I may be able to help you Laralini, follow me.”
She beckoned and Laralini followed, her eyes downcast, cheeks flushed. She had always been in awe of the Lady Galadriel who had never spoken directly to her. In a daze she wound her way through the streets until they came to the gate to Galadriel’s personal garden. She walked transfixed by the loveliness of all that was around her. Here the beauty and essence of Middle-Earth stood sharper and more poignant than in anywhere else in the world. In the center was a basin of silver and it was to this that the Lady Galadriel made her way.
“Look into the mirror Laralini and you will find all that you have dreamed of and more”. She motioned to the young elf who trembled with anticipation as she ascended the few small steps to the mirror’s edge. “You will learn much of things that will fulfill the yearning of your spirit and much that you might wish unlearned, but in both you will gain much profit in knowledge and wisdom. I cannot see where it shall end for you, but if you are strong enough to look you may be strong enough to make it through.”
“And so I looked”, Laralini continued. “At first there were only the stars overhead but then the waters opened up to a far green land of gently rolling hills that I had never seen before. As I bent down to get a closer look I saw to my amazement, a little people, the first people that I had seen who were not elves. I was completely enraptured.
Suddenly as I got closer I felt the world close in around me, the garden fell away and the land before me came into sharper focus. I went into a swoon and when I woke up, I found myself in the land the inhabitants call The Shire. It was not long after that I came upon my friend here,” she said smiling as she ruffled the fur on Morko’s back. “We have been exploring the land ever since.”
A year ago Mericc would have found the tale unbelievable. But he had seen many unbelievable things, including The Golden Wood, so was inclined to believe this elf maiden, strange as her story was.
Laralini went on, “I found the Halflings a fascinating race, there is nothing like them in any of the stories or books that I have read, I am sorry to leave their land behind. Our dealings with men have not been nearly as kind, I am afraid Morko had to deal roughly with a few unsavory ones that we ran across. I was beginning to think the promise of the younger race was all but spent until Morko found you. It is a shame the young man who crossed our path earlier was not more like you. I….”
Mericc was up in a shot, “What other man?” All other thoughts vanished from his head, Morko growled in surprise at the warriors sudden movement, but the elf maiden calmed him.
“He appeared to us out of the brush a couple hours ago”, Laralini replied. “He was disheveled and unkempt and had a terrified look in his eyes. I tried to say something, but I am afraid he took one look at my Morko and went screaming off out of sight. I sent off my companion to find him but he must have lost his scent and come across you instead.”
Mericc noticed the elf bite her lip and look towards the south, a worried expression on her face. “There are many dangers in this forest for the unwary and I fear the worst.”
Mericc looked over his armor and sword, preparing to head out. “I have been in many tight spots and perilous situations and have learned not to fear the worst until it arrives. I came into this forest looking for that boy and hearing that he is alive, or at least was a few hours ago, gives me hope that all is not yet in vain”. The elixir he had drank earlier had healed him of much of his weariness and he felt that he was ready for what he thought would be the last stage of this journey. Laralini looked at him with wonder.
“I consider myself fortunate to have made your’ acquaintance Mericc Angadraug”, Laralini said with a smile. “Perhaps there is some truth to the old stories after all.” She picked up her pack and placed it on her back. “It would be a shame to part when I am sure there is much I could learn from one as traveled as you obviously are. I would be honored if you would accept me and my Morko’s help in the noble task you have set before you.”
Mericc was inclined to refuse but he admitted that Morko at least would come in handy and he was intrigued by Laralini’s story. They headed off deeper into the woods, the great bear in front smelling for any sign of young Tom.