One Geek To Rule Them All

Chapter 21

Previously:

"And even in these latter days dwelling in the trees might be thought safer than sitting on the ground." Said Gimli. He looked across the stream to the road that lead back to Dimrill Dale, and then up into the roof of dark boughs above.

"Your words bring good counsel, Gimli." Said Aragorn. "We cannot build a house, but tonight we will do as the Galadrim and seek refuge in the tree-tops, if we can. We have sat here beside the road already longer than was wise."

"All right, time to nap Katniss-style." Said Kitty.

Chapter 21: Lothlórien

The Company now turned aside from the path, and went into the shadow of the deeper woods, westward along the mountain-stream away from Silverlode. Not far from the falls of Nimrodel they found a cluster of trees, some of which overhung the stream. Their grey trunks were of mighty girth, but their height could not be guessed.

"I will climb up." Said Legolas. "I am at home among trees, by root or bough, though these are of a kind strange to me, save as a name in song. Mellyrn they are called, and are those that bear the yellow blossom, but I have never climbed one. I will see now what is their shape and way of growth."

"Whatever it may be," said Pippin, "they will be marvelous trees indeed if they can offer any rest at night, except to birds. I cannot sleep on a perch!"

"Then dig a hole in the ground," said Legolas, "if that is more after the fashion of your kind. But you must dig swift and deep, if you wish to hide from Orcs."

"Be careful!" Devin called softly as he sprang lightly up from the ground and caught a branch that grew from the trunk high above his head. But even as he swung there for a moment, a voice spoke suddenly from the tree-shadows above him.

"Daro!" it said in a commanding tone, and Legolas dropped back to the earth in surprise and fear. He shrank back against the bole of the tree.

"Stand still!" he whispered to the others. "Do not move or speak!" There was soft laughter heard over their heads, and then another clear voice spoke in an elven-tongue. Frodo could understand little of what was said, for the speech that the Silvan folk east of the mountains used among themselves was unlike that of the West. Legolas looked up and answered in the same language.

"Who are they, and what do they say?" asked Merry.

"They're Elves." Said Sam. "Can't you hear their voices?"

"Yes, they are Elves," said Legolas; "and they say that you breathe so loud that they could shoot you in the dark." Sam hastily put his hand over his mouth. "But they say also that you need have no fear. They have been aware of us for a long while. They heard my voice across the Nimrodel, and knew that I was one of their Northern kindred, and therefore they did not hinder our crossing; and afterwards they heard my song. Now they bid me climb up with Frodo; for they seem to have had some tidings of him and of our journey. The others they ask to wait a little and to keep watch at the foot of the tree, until they have decided what is to be done."

Out of the shadows a ladder was let down: it was made of rope, silver-grey and glimmering in the dark, and though it looked slender it proved strong enough to bear many men. Legolas ran lightly up, and Frodo followed slowly; behind came Sam trying not to breathe loudly. The branches of the mallorn-tree grew out nearly straight from the trunk, and then swept upward; but near the top the main stem divided into a crown of many boughs, and among these they found that there had been built a wooden platform, or flet as such things were called it in those days: the Elves called it a talan. It was reached by a round hole in the center through which the ladder passed.

"Hey, is that okay?" Kitty whispered. "They didn't ask for Sam."

"It's fine, because it's Sam." Devin whispered back. "Don't worry, just leave this one to Legolas."

"Hmm. You've got a lot of faith your boyfriend, huh?" Kitty cooed teasingly with a sly grin. It was so obvious Devin had a crush on the Elf.

"Sh-Shut up!" Devin stuttered lowly, blushing furiously. Didn't she realize they could totally hear everything they were saying?

When Frodo came at last up on to the flet he found Legolas seated with three other Elves. They were clad in shadowy-grey and could not be seen among the tree-stems, unless they moved suddenly. They stood up, and one of them uncovered a small lamp that gave out a slender silver beam. He held it up, looking at Frodo's face, and then Sam's. Then he shut off the light again, and spoke words of welcome in his elven-tongue. Frodo spoke haltingly in return.

"Welcome!" the Elf then said again the Common Language, speaking slowly. "We seldom use any tongue but our own; for we dwell now in the heart of the forest, and do not willingly have dealings with any other folk. Even our own kindred in the North are sundered from us. But there are some of us still who go abroad for the gathering of news and the watching of our enemies, and they speak the languages of other lands. I am one. Haldir is my name. My brothers, Rúmil and Orophin speak little of your tongue."But we have heard rumors of your coming, for the messengers of Elrond passed by Lórien on their way home up the Dimrill Stair. We had not heard of—hobbits, of halflings, for many a long year, and did not know that any of you dwelt in Middle-earth. You do not look evil! And since you come with an Elf of our kindred, we are willing to befriend you, as Elrond asked; though it is not our custom to lead strangers through our land. But you must stay here tonight. How many are you?"

"Ten." Said Legolas. "Myself, four hobbits, two girls; and two men, one of whom, Aragorn, is an Elf-friend to the folk of Westernesse."

"The name of Aragorn son of Arathorn is known in Lórien," said Haldir, "and he has the favor of the Lady. All is well. But you have only spoken of nine."

"The tenth is a dwarf." Said Legolas.

"A dwarf!" said Haldir. "That is not well. We have not had dealings with the Dwarves since the Dark Days. They are not permitted in our land. I cannot allow him to pass."

"But he is from the Lonely Mountain, one of Dáin's trusty people, and friendly to Elrond." Said Frodo. "Elrond himself chose him to be one of our companions, and he has been brave and faithful."

The Elves spoke together in soft voices, and questioned Legolas in their own tongue. "Very good." Said Haldir at last. "We will do this, though it is against our liking. If Aragorn and Legolas guard him, and answer for him, he shall pass; but he must go blindfolded through Lothlórien."But now we must debate no longer. Your folk must not remain on the ground. We have been keeping watch on the rivers, ever since we saw a great troop of Orcs going north towards Moria, along the skirts of the mountains, many days ago. Wolves are howling on the wood's borders. If you have indeed come from Moria, the peril cannot be far behind. Tomorrow early you must go on."The four hobbits shall climb up here and stay with us—we do not fear them! There is another talan in the next tree. There the others must take refuge. You, Legolas, must answer to us for them. Call us, if anything is amiss! And have an eye on that dwarf!"

Legolas at once went down the ladder to take Haldir's message; and soon afterwards Merry and Pippin clambered up on to the high flet, while the others hid the luggage they would not need for the night in a deep drift of leaves and made their way up to the other talan with their blankets. Gimli was rather huffy about needing a 'guard', but they were all glad to be off the ground and out of immediate danger.

"This is fun." Said Kitty as she wrapped herself in her blanket and snuggled close to Devin for warmth. "Like when we used to have sleepovers in the tree-house your dad made for us. And that Haldir sounds fine."

"Do you not ever stop?" asked Boromir, chagrined to find her chasing after yet another Elf.

"No." Kitty said frankly. "I mean, what would be the fun in that?"

"You also dwelled in the trees in your land?" Legolas asked Devin.

"Oh, no. Some people might, but most of us lived on the ground. But it is common for parents to build small tree-houses for their children to play in." Devin explained.

"Yeah, it was like our secret base!" said Kitty with a grin. "That thing was the bomb. We even had hammocks in the shady space underneath the platform. Yeah, those were the good old days." She sighed wistfully. Then they grew up and life got complicated. "Hey, Devin, can you sing me a lullaby?"

"What, now?" asked Devin, raising an eyebrow.

"Please?" Kitty said sweetly, batting her eyelashes. "I'm too excited to get to sleep without one." She was wound up tighter than a cuckoo clock.

"All right, but just one." Said Devin with a wry smile. "Any requests?"

"The Irish Lullaby." Said Kitty.

"That one, huh?" Devin said softly, gazing up at the stars glinting through the pale roof of quivering leaves. She began to sing in a low, sweet and mournful melody one of the songs her mother used to sing to her:

Over in Killarney, many years agoMy mother sang a song to mein tones so sweet and lowJust a simple little dittyin her good old Irish wayAnd I'd give the world if she could singthat song to me this day

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, hush now, don't you cry!Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, that's an Irish lullaby.

Oft in dreams I wanderto that cot again.I feel her arms a-hugging meAs when she held me then.And I hear her voice a-hummin'to me as in the days of yore,when she used to rock me fast asleepoutside the cabin door.

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, hush now, don't you cry…

Devin must have been more tired than any of them had realized because she drifted off before she could finish her song, and fell asleep leaning against Kitty, who had gone out like a light shortly after the first verse. Legolas lay listening to the wind in the boughs above, and the sweet murmur of the falls of Nimrodel below with Devin's song running through his mind. It was the first time Devin had ever sang the Irish lullaby in front of their group, but it was not his first time hearing it.

Devin woke again late in the night. Kitty and Gimli were still asleep, but Legolas was gone, and the others were wide-awake, tense as they peered over the edge of the flet, listening. Aragorn and Boromir had their hands on the hilts of their swords. Carefully and quietly, Devin moved closer to the edge and squinted into the darkness in an attempt to see what Legolas was up to. The sickle Moon was gleaming dimly among the leaves. The wind was still. A little way off she heard a harsh laugh and the tread of many feet on the ground below. There was a ring of metal. The sounds died slowly away, and seemed to go southward, on into the wood. Then there were no more sounds. Even the leaves were silent, and the very falls seem to be hushed. Devin shivered. She was fully aware that Legolas could take care of himself and had most likely gone to help his woodland kin, but she could not help but feel anxious for his safe return. She understood why the others were so tense. They were all thankful that they had not been caught on the ground; but the trees offered little protection, except concealment. Orcs were as keen as hounds on a scent, it was said, but they could also climb. They waited with bated breath until Legolas silently rejoined them.

"A strong company of Orcs has passed." He said. "They crossed the Nimrodel—curse their foul feet in its clean water!—and went on down the old road beside the river. They seemed to pick some scent, and they searched the ground for a while near the place were we halted. Haldir did not feel the four of us could challenge a hundred, so we went ahead and spoke in feigned voices, leading them into the wood. Orophin has now gone back in haste to their dwellings to warn their people. None of the Orcs will ever return out of Lórien. And there will be many Elves hidden on the northern border before another night falls. But we must take the road south as soon as it is fully light."

Day came pale from the East. As the light grew it filtered through the yellow leaves of the mallorn, and it seemed that the early sun of a cool summer's morning was shining. Pale-blue sky peeped among the moving branches. Looking through an opening on the south side of the talan Devin saw all the valley of the Silverlode lying like a sea of fallow gold tossing gently in the breeze.

"Beautiful." She breathed as she gazed out in wonder.

"Yes." agreed Legolas with a soft smile.

The morning was still young and cold when the Company set out again, guided now by Haldir and his brother Rúmil. "Farewell, sweet Nimrodel!" cried Legolas. Frodo and Devin looked back and caught a gleam of white foam among the grey tree-stems. "Farewell." They said. It seemed to them they would never hear again a running water so beautiful, for ever blending its innumerable notes in an endless changeful music.They went back to the path that still went on along the west side of the Silverlode, and for some way they followed it southward. There were the prints of orc-feet in the earth. But soon Haldir turned aside into the trees and halted on the bank of the river under their shadows.

"There is one of my people yonder across the stream," he said, "though you may not see him." He gave a call like the low whistle of a bird, and out of a thicket of young trees an Elf stepped, clad in grey, but with his hood thrown back; his hair glinted like gold in the morning sun. Haldir skillfully cast over the stream a coil of grey rope, and he caught it and bound the end about a tree near the bank. "Celebrant is already a strong stream here, as you see," said Haldir, "and it runs both swift and deep, and is very cold. We do not set foot in it so far north, unless we must. But in these days of watchfulness we do not make bridges. This is how we cross! Follow me!" He made his end of the rope fast about another tree, and then ran lightly along it, over the river and back again, as if he were on a road.

"Wow. Okay, your turn, Devin!" Kitty said, pushing her friend to the front. "You've got this."

"No, I don't. A rope is way different from a balance-beam, Kitty." Devin protested, digging in her heels.

"I can walk this path," said Legolas; "but the others have not this skill. Must they swim?"

"No!" said Haldir. "We have two more ropes. We will fasten them above the other, one shoulder-high, and another half-high, and holding these the strangers should be able to cross with care."

When this slender bridge had been made, the Company passed over, some cautiously and slowly, others more easily. Kitty soon learned just how right Devin had been about the rope-bridge, and found herself inching along like a caterpillar as she tried not to lose her balance and fall off, clutching the guide rope like a life-line. Devin, however, found the task much easier than she had been expecting and walked across almost as quickly and lightly as the Elves with only one hand loosely poised on the guide rope, just in case.

"Forget cheerleading, you should be in Cirque du Soleil." Kitty told her.

Of the hobbits Pippin proved the best for he was sure-footed, and he walked over quickly, also holding only with one hand; but he kept his eyes on the bank ahead and did not look down. Sam shuffled along, clutching hard, and looking down into the pale eddying water as if it was a chasm in the mountains.He breathed with relief when he was safely across.

"Live and learn! As my gaffer used to say. Though he was thinking of gardening, not if roosting like a bird, nor of trying to walk like a spider. Not even my uncle Andy could do a trick like that!"

When at length all the Company was gathered on the east bank of the Silverlode, the Elves untied the ropes and coiled two of them. Rúmil, who had remained on the other side, drew back the last one, slung it over his shoulder, and with a wave of his hand went away, back to Nimrodel to keep watch.

"Now, friends," said Haldir, "you have entered the Naith of Lórien, or the Gore, as you would say, for it is the land that lies like a spearhead between the arms of Silverlode and Anduin the Great. We allow no strangers to spy out the secrets of the Naith. Few indeed are permitted even to set foot there."As was agreed, I shall here blindfold the eyes of Gimli the Dwarf. The others may walk free for a while, until we come nearer to our dwellings, down in Egladil, in the Angle between the waters." This was not at all to the liking of Gimli.

"The agreement was made without my consent." He said. "I will not walk blindfolded, like a beggar or a prisoner. And I am no spy. My folk have never had dealings with any servants of the Enemy. Neither have we done harm to the Elves. I am no more likely to betray you than Legolas, or any other of my companions."

"I do not doubt you." Said Haldir. "Yet this is our law. I am not the master of the law, and cannot set it aside. I have done much in letting you set foot over Celebrant." Gimli was obstinate. He planted his feet firmly apart, and laid his hand upon the haft of his axe.

"I will go forward free," he said, "or I will go back and seek my own land, where I am known to be true of word, though I perish alone in the wilderness."

"You cannot go back." Said Haldir sternly. "Now you have come thus far, you must be brought before the Lord and the Lady. They shall judge you, to hold you or to give you leave, as they will. You cannot cross the rivers again, and behind you there are now secret sentinels that you cannot pass. You would be slain before you saw them." Gimli drew his axe from his belt. Haldir and his companion bent their bows.

"Well, that escalated quickly." Said Kitty, taking a step back, while Devin sighed.

"A plague on Dwarves and their stiff necks!" said Legolas.

"Come!" said Aragorn. "If I am to lead this Company, you must do as I bid. It is hard upon the Dwarf to be singled out."

"Yeah, no offense, but your laws sound pretty racist." Said Kitty with a frown. Devin agreed, but she already knew having this debate would be a moot point once they met Lady Galadriel; but in order to do that they first had to jump through this hoop.

"If one of us is blindfolded, then we should all be blindfolded." Devin said, though she knew Legolas wouldn't like it.

"Yes, we shall all be blindfolded," agreed Aragorn, who had been about to suggest just that before Kitty butted in; "even Legolas. That will be best, though it will make the journey slow and dull." Gimli laughed suddenly.

"A merry troop of fools we shall look!" the Dwarf said. "Will Haldir lead us all on a string, like many blind beggars with one dog? But I will be content, if only Legolas here shares my blindness."

"I am an Elf and a kinsman here." Said Legolas, becoming angry in his turn.

"Now let us cry: 'a plague upon the stiff necks of Elves!'" said Aragorn. "But the Company shall all fare alike. Come bind our eyes, Haldir!"

"Kinky." Commented Kitty with a smirk as they bound her eyes with cloth, earning herself a few raised eyebrows, though she could no longer see them.

"I shall claim full amends for every fall and stubbed toe, if you do not lead us well." Said Gimli when it was his turn.

"You will have no claim." Said Haldir. "I shall lead you well, and the paths are smooth and straight."

"Alas for the folly of these days!" said Legolas. "Here all are enemies of the one Enemy, and yet I must walk blind, while the sun is merry in the woodland under the leaves of gold!"

"Folly it may seem." Said Haldir. "Indeed in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him. Yet so little faith and trust do we find now in the world beyond Lothlórien, unless maybe in Rivendell, that we dare not by our own trust endanger our land. We live now upon an island amid many perils, and our hands are more often upon the bowstring than upon the harp."The rivers long defended us, but they are a sure guard no more; for the Shadow has crept northward all about us. Some speak of departing, yet for that it already seems too late. The mountains to the west are growing evil; to the east the lands are waste, and full of Sauron's creatures; and it is rumored that we cannot now safely pass southward through Rohan, and the mouths of the Great River are watched by the Enemy. Even if we could come to the shores of the Sea, we should find no longer any shelter there. It is said there are still havens of the High Elves, but they are far north and west, beyond the land of the Halflings. But where that may be, though the Lord and Lady may know, I do not."

"You ought to at least guess, since you have seen us." Said Merry. "There are Elf-havens west of my land, the Shire, where Hobbits live."

"Happy folk are the Hobbits to dwell near the shores of the sea!" said Haldir. "It is long indeed since any of my folk have looked on it, yet we still remember it in song. Tell me of these havens as we walk."

"I cannot." Said Merry. "I have never seen them. I have never been out of my own land before. And if I had known what the world outside was like, I don't think I should have had the heart to leave it."

"Not even to see fair Lothlórien?" said Haldir. "The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater."Some there are among us who sing that the Shadow will draw back, and peace shall come again. Yet I do not believe that the world about us will ever be as it was of old, or the light of the Sun as it was aforetime. For the Elves, I fear, it will prove at best a truce, in which they may pass to the Sea unhindered and leave the Middle-earth forever. Alas for Lothlórien that I love! It would be a poor life in a land where no mallorn grew. But if there are mallorn-trees beyond the Great Sea, none have reported."

"… I think I understand." said Devin quietly after a pause. The girls had been unusually silent as they listened, for they could not help but be reminded of the events of Katrina and the slow recovery afterwards. The grief of the Elves was like that of the people of New Orleans, of everyone who had suffered through the damage and devastation. Even now, ten years later, the effects could still be felt in Louisiana. Just as with the loss of a loved one, the wound might heal, but you would never be the same. There would always be a scar beneath the surface. There was now only 'before' and 'after'.All of the Elves could detect the sorrow in her voice and were surprised to find how much it seemed to resonate with their own.

"Yes," said Haldir, "I believe you do."

As they spoke thus, the Company filed slowly along the paths in the wood, led by Haldir, while the other Elf walked behind. They felt the ground beneath their feet smooth and soft, and after a while they walked more freely, without fear of hurt or fall. Being deprived of sight, Frodo found his hearing and other senses sharpened. He could smell the trees and the trodden grass. He could hear many different notes in the rustle of the leaves overhead, the river murmuring away on his right, and the thin clear voices of birds in the sky. He felt the sun upon his face and hands when they passed through and open glade.As soon as he set foot upon the far bank of the Silverlode a strange feeling had come upon him, and it deepened as he walked on into the Naith: it seemed to him that he had stepped over a bridge of time into a corner of the Elder Days, and was now walking in a world that was no more. In Rivendell there was memory of ancient things; in Lórien the ancient things still lived on in the waking world. Evil had been seen and heard there, sorrow had been known; the Elves feared and distrusted the world outside: wolves were howling on the wood's borders: but on the land of Lórien no shadow lay.

All that day the Company marched on, until they felt the cool evening come and heard the early night-wind whispering among many leaves. Then they rested and slept without fear upon the ground; for their guides would not permit them to unbind their eyes, and they could not climb. In the morning they went on again, walking without haste. At noon they halted, and Devin was aware that they had passed out under the shining Sun. Suddenly she heard the sound of many voices all around her.A marching host of Elves had come up silently: they were hastening toward the northern borders to guard against any attack from Moria; and they brought news, some of which Haldir reported. The marauding orcs had been waylaid and almost all destroyed; the remnant had fled westward towards the mountains, and were being pursued. A strange creature also had been seen, running with bent back and with hands near the ground, like a beast and yet not of beast-shape. From this description, Devin knew the creature had been none other than Gollum. He had eluded capture, and they had not shot him, not knowing whether he was good or ill, he had vanished down the Silverlode southward.

"Also," said Haldir, "they bring me a message from the Lord and Lady of the Galadrim. You are all to walk free, even the dwarf Gimli. It seems the Lady know who and what is each member of your Company. New messages have come from Rivendell perhaps." He removed the bandage first from Gimli's eyes. "Your pardon!" he said, bowing low. "Look on us now with friendly eyes! Look and be glad, for you are the first dwarf to behold the trees of the Naith of Lórien since Durin's Day!"

When her eyes were uncovered, Devin looked up and caught her breath. They were standing in an open space. To the left stood a great mound, covered with a sward of grass as green as Springtime in the Elder days. Upon it, as a double crown, grew two circles of trees: the outer had bark of snowy white, and were leaf-less but beautiful in their shapely nakedness; the inner were mallorn-trees of great height, still arrayed in pale gold. High amid the branches of a towering tree that stood in the center of all there gleamed a white flet. At the feet of the trees, and all about the green hillsides, the grass was studded with small golden flowers shaped like stars. Among them, nodding on slender stalks, were other flowers, white and palest green: they glimmered as a mist amid the rich hue of the grass. Over all the sky was blue, and the sun of afternoon glowed upon the hill and cast long green shadows beneath the trees.

"Behold! You are come to Cerin Amroth," said Haldir. "For this is the heart of the ancient realm as it was long ago, and here is the mound of Amroth, where in happier days his high house was built. Here ever bloom the winter flowers in the unfading grass: the yellow elanor, and the pale niphredil. Here we will stay awhile, and come to the city of the Galadrim at dusk."

The others cast themselves down upon the fragrant grass, but Devin and Frodo stood awhile still lost in wonder. It seemed to Devin that they had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which none of the languages she knew had a name. All that she saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of her eyes, and ancient as if they had endured forever. She saw no color but those she knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if she had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful. In the winter here no heart could mourn for summer or for spring. No blemish or sickness or deformity could be seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lórien there was no stain. It was so beautiful tears began to form in her eyes. Devin felt as if she was seeing Heaven on earth. To her father, it would have been; and now her heart ached with a longing and a wish to show it to him.

"It's sunlight and bright day, right enough." Said Sam, who was now standing beside Frodo, looking round with a puzzled expression and rubbing his eyes as if he was not sure that he was awake. "I thought that Elves were all for moon and stars: but this feels more elvish than anything I ever heard tell of. I feel as if I was inside a song, if you take my meaning."

Haldir looked at them, and he seemed to take the meaning of both thought and word. He smiled. "You feel the power of the Lady of the Galadrim." He said. "Would it please you to climb with me up Cerin Amroth?"They followed him as he stepped lightly up the grass-clad slopes. Though she walked and breathed, and about her living leaves and flowers were stirred by the same cool wind as fanned her face, Devin felt that she was in a timeless land that did not fade or change or fall into forgetfulness. When she had gone and passed again into the outer world, still Devin the lost girl from Louisiana would walk there, upon the grass among elanor and niphredil in fair Lothlórien.They entered the circle of white trees. As they did so the South Wind blew upon Cerin Amroth and sighed among the branches. Devin stood still, hearing far off great seas upon beaches that had long ago been washed away, and sea-birds crying whose race had perished from the earth.Haldir had gone on and was climbing to the high flet. As Devin prepared to follow him, she and Frodo both laid their hands upon the tree beside the ladder: never before had she been so suddenly and keenly aware of the feel and texture of a tree's skin and of the life within it. She felt a delight in the wood and the touch of it, neither as forester nor as carpenter; the delight of the living tree itself.As she stepped out at last upon the lofty platform after Frodo, Haldir took her hand and his, and turned them toward the South.

"Look this way first!" he said. Devin looked and saw, still at some distance, a hill of many mighty trees, almost like green towers. Out of it, it seemed to her that the power and light came that held all the land in sway. She longed suddenly to fly like a bird to rest in the green city. It was the cradle of Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, born and used by Lady Galadriel to create and protect Lothlórien. Then she looked eastward and saw all the land of Lórien running down to the pale gleam of Anduin, the Great River. She lifted her eyes across the river and all the light went out, and she was back again the world she knew. Beyond the river the land appeared flat and empty, formless and vague, until far away it rise again like a well, dark and drear. The sun that lay on Lothlórien had no power to enlighten the shadow of that distant height.

"There lies the fastness of Southern Mirkwood." Said Haldir. "It is clad in a forest of dark fir, where the trees strive against one another and their branches rot and whither. In the midst upon a stony height stands Dol Guldur, where the long hidden Enemy had his dwelling. We fear now that it is inhabited again, and with power sevenfold. A black cloud lies often over it of late. In this high place you may see the two powers that are opposed one to another; and ever they strive now in thought, but whereas the light perceives the very heart of the darkness, its own secret has not been discovered. Not yet." He turned and climbed swiftly down, and they followed him.At the hill's foot they found Aragorn, standing still and silent as a tree; but in his hand was a small golden bloom of elanor, and a light was in his eyes. He was wrapped in some fair memory: and as Devin looked at him she knew that he beheld things as they once had been many years ago in this same place, when he and Arwen first pledged their love for each other; and he spoke words in the Elvish tongue to one whom Devin and Frodo could not see. Arwen vanimelda, namárië! he said, and then he drew a breath, and returning out of his thought he looked at them and smiled.

"Here is the heart of Elvendom on earth," he said, "and here my heart dwells ever, unless there be a light beyond the dark roads that we still must tread, you and I. Come with me!" and taking their hands in his, he left the hill of Cerin Amroth and came there never again as a living man.Devin stole one last sad glance back at the beautifully crowned hill, knowing what would eventually become of it. Once Frodo destroyed the One Ring, all the other Rings would become powerless, including Nenya. With the ring gone the magic and beauty of Lórien would fade along with the extraordinary mallorn trees, all except the one that Sam would grow in Hobbiton, and it would gradually become depopulated, until by the time Arwen came there to die in the Fourth Age, when it would be deserted and in ruin.

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