Making Small (or not so small) Changes
Christopher ducked Rumil's swing.
"Good!" said elf called, "Stay light on your feet!"
It had been three years since The Car Crash. Three years since Christopher had woken up in a strange forest with Haldir's arrow to his head. Haldir had marched him strait to Caras Galadhon, where the Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel had explained to him what had happened. Apparently Lady Galadriel had looked into a special mirror that she had and saw the car crash and subsequent arrival. According to her and Lord Celeborn, they had been sent there for a purpose, though what it was is beyond the skill of all but Manwe to foretell. He had been adopted by Rumil and his wife, Silmewen, and lived with them in Caras Galadhon. Oh, and another big surprise? Christopher was an elf, pointy ears and all.
"Ah!" As Christopher was distracted by thoughts of his arrival, Rumil twisted his sword out of his hand.
"You must always pay attention," his foster father lectured.
"Yes, Ada," Christopher replied, resolving to do better the next round.
"Now, let's try again."
This time, Christopher was able to hold his own for a minute, rather than half of one. As Rumil removed his sword from his student's neck, there came the sound of clapping from the side of the green sward.
"Well done, Anessen!" Haldir said, for it was he who had been clapping.
"Thanks, Haldir," Christopher answered.
Haldir now turned to Rumil, "You've worked him long enough, brother. Come, take a rest. You have both earned it."
Ten-year-old Christopher looked hopefully at Rumil. "Please, Ada?" he pleaded.
Rumil gave in. "Very well," he conceded, sheathing his sword. The small group made their way to the trunk of a large mallorn. Both Rumil and Christopher collapsed at its base.
"Here," said Haldir, offering each a tumbler of water. The threesome sat in companionable silence, all busy with his own thoughts.
Christopher was thinking about his new family, Rumil, Orophin, Haldir, and Silmewen. They had taken him in, taught him Sindarin, abet with a Silvan accent, and helped him to adjust to this new world. Rumil had taught him to use a sword, Haldir the bow of the Galadhrim, and Orophin woodcraft. Silmewen had comforted him though the night when he cried for Maggie, Mom, and Dad. The ache had dulled a little, over time, especially when Lord Celeborn had revealed that Maggie and Sarah would pass through Lothlorien in the near future, and that he would see Grace soon after that.
"Rumil! Haldir! Anessen!" a loud shout interrupted Christopher's thoughts. Miluiel, the midwife's apprentice, was rapidly descending from a high talan. "It is Silmewen!"
The two older elves exchanged glances, and then dashed to the ladder, Christopher following hotly on their heels. A feminine cry came from the platform above.
"Push!" ordered another voice, that of Maerwen, the midwife.
Haldir and Christopher stopped on the talan below Rumil's while Rumil and Miluiel went on ahead. Soft voices came from up above, with Silmewen crying out occasionally. Every time that happened Christopher gave a violent jerk.
Haldir put a hand on his shoulder. "Shh, Anessen," he said, "your nanneth will be alright."
"But what if she's not?" argued Christopher, slipping into English in his panic. "What if the baby dies? What if -"
Christopher's list of what-ifs was stopped by a good, healthy baby cry. The ten year old made to leap up the rope in an instant, only to be stopped by his uncle.
"Anessen, wait!" called he.
"I want to see Nanneth and the baby!" Christopher protested.
"Let your nanneth rest a bit before she has visitors. She will most likely need a day or-" he broke off. Rumil was coming down the stairs with a small bundle in his arms.
"Brother, Son," he began, "this is Megildur, my son, your nephew and brother."
The group of five hobbits, two rangers, and one pony trudged up the hill of Weathertop, into the deepening dusk. Strider led them to a small hollow in the side of the hill.
He pulled four swords out from his pack and handed them to Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry."These are for you. Keep them close." He told them, then turned to Maggie. "I am sorry that I have none for you," he told her. "I was expecting only four." Strider now looked at the rest of the group. "I am going to have a look around. Stay here. Sarah, come with me."
As she followed Strider, Sarah looked over her shoulder and called back-
"Be careful! Fires might not be such a good idea!"
"Why would Trotter say that?" asked Sam, looking puzzled.
Maggie shrugged, though she was grinning. "Beats me!"
The hobbits talked quietly for a while, and then Frodo lay down to catch a short nap. Maggie noticed that he was already looking more pale and drawn then when she had first met him, in Farmer Maggot's wheat field.
"Oi! Maggie! Could you find us some firewood?" Pippin called to her after getting her attention.
"NO! Didn't you hear what Sarah said?"
"But it's cold," Merry protested, "and I for one want a warm meal."
Maggie opened her mouth to contest him, and then closed it with a snap. She had suddenly remembered what Aragorn had told the hobbits in the book, and what he had done in the movie. "Fine," she declared.
"Yes!" exclaimed Sam, excitedly. "I'll cook."
With that, the small campsite flew into a flurry of activity. Merry took Maggie to find wood, Pippin started the fire, and Sam began to cook.
Soon he was finished. The bacon was perfect, as were the sausages. As Sam was divvying it up, Pippin started slicing tomatoes. When he was finished, they all dug in.
They ate in silence for a while, before Pippin broke it.
"Can I have some more?"
"Okay Pip," Merry answered him, reaching into the pan with a fork. He looked at Sam, who had so far refused any tomatoes. "Want some tomatoes Sam? Great tomatoes."
Sam shook his head.
At that moment Frodo woke up. He sat bolt upright.
"What are you doing?!" he demanded.
"Tomatoes, sausages, and nice crispy bacon," replied Merry.
"We saved some for you, Mr. Frodo," Sam put in, picking up the plate and walking towards the addressed hobbit.
Frodo jumped up, horrified. "Put it out you fools! Put it out!" He ran to stomp out the flames.
Maggie jumped on him.
"Frodo Baggins! They've already seen the fire; it's no use hiding now. Let's use it as a weapon. Besides, you would've hurt your feet."
"Wha-" Frodo was interrupted by a bone chilling screech. The cry of a Nazgul.
Frodo sprang up, shoving Maggie off of him.
"Go!" he cried, pushing her ahead of him. "Go!"
The others followed quickly, and the small group wound their way up the old stairs, worn by two ages of passing feet ascending and descending. The screech came again, louder, closer this time, but no less blood curdling. Spurred on by pure panic, the hobbits reached the summit. They spun around, back to back. Five Nazgul appeared, each framed by a broken arch. Taking slow, ominous steps, they approached their victims. Suddenly, Sam sprang at them.
"Back you devils!" he shouted.
The Nazgul easily deflected his blade, throwing him against a rock. He lay still.
Merry and Pippin grouped in front of Frodo and Maggie. Two more Nazgul thrusted them aside effortlessly, leaving Maggie and Frodo without a protector. Frodo dropped his sword and scrabbled in his pocket for the Ring as they both back away.
Maggie could vaguely see Pippin's and Sam's' terrified faces out of the corner of her eye. Frodo tripped over a stone and fell backwards. The lead Nazgul drew a wicked knife with a sickening sound of metal upon metal. Frodo vanished! Without thinking about what she was doing, Maggie threw herself on top of where he had been. There was a sudden, awful pain in the back of her right shoulder, someone screamed, and her world went black.
Sarah and Aragorn were examining the ground closely for tracks. Or rather, Aragorn was, and Sarah was standing looking on in amazement, wondering how on Earth he did it. He seemed to know exactly what a grain of dirt in the wrong place meant. Her attention was suddenly distracted by a hoof print in the soil to their left. She opened her mouth to say something, but the owner of the hoof print beat her to it. An inhuman shriek rent the still night air to shreds. Aragorn whirled around, drawing his sword from its sheath with a shing.
"Run!" he shouted at Sarah, who was rooted to the spot with terror. After a second's hesitation, she bolted away from the dark horse and its even darker Rider.
Aragorn quickly forced the Nazgul back, then turned and dashed after Sarah, who had not gone far. He grabbed her hand and made off again, this time in the direction of a small glow on the hillside. She stumbled after him, her dress snagging on bushes as she went.
They soon reached the campsite, where the fire was beginning to burn low.
Aragorn grabbed two sticks; both flaming at their ends. He shoved one into Sarah's hand.
"Use this against the Riders."
They flew up the stairs, just in time to hear a scream of pain.
Aragorn dashed into battle, becoming a whirling firebrand.
Sarah forgot any and all Nazgul and dashed across the courtyard.
"Maggie!" she screamed.
Frodo was visible, though shaken, and was holding a bleeding Maggie in his arms, while Merry, Sam, and Pippin grouped around them protectively.
Sarah pushed past them and lifted her friend in her arms, simultaneously dropping the torch. Frodo picked it up and heaved it at a Nazgul that was sneaking up behind Aragorn.
Merry ran up to him. "Strider! You've got to help her Strider!"
Aragorn came over and knelt by the knife, picking it up and examining it. The blade vanished in his hand. "She's been stabbed by a Morgal blade," he declared grimly. "This is beyond my skill to heal. She needs elvish medicine."
Swiftly, he wrapped the handle in a fold of cloth and stowed it in his bag. Taking Maggie from Sarah, he turned and began striding away.
"Come," he said over his shoulder, "hurry."
As they made after him, Sam noticed a small problem.
"We're six days from Rivendell. She'll never make it!"
Aragorn ignored him and muttered to the moaning girl -
"Hold on Maggie."
After four days of walking, with very little rest and even less sleep, they came to a clearing with three very ugly stone trolls as decoration. Maggie by this time looked utterly awful. She was pale and sweating, wheezing and gasping horribly.
Sam tried to distract her by pointing out the decor.
"Look, Maggie. It's Mr. Bilbo's trolls, Tom, Burt, and William." He touched her cheek. "Maggie? Strider, she's going cold!"
"Is she going to die?" Pippin sounded terrified.
Aragorn turned to look at him. "She is passing into the shadow world. She will soon become a wraith like them."
"No!" Sarah involuntarily let out a startled cry. This wasn't supposed to happen. This was all supposed to be in a book, or on a TV screen, not happening to her best friend.
There came the screech of a Nazgul. Merry looked up.
"They're close," he warned.
An idea seemed to suddenly occur to Aragorn.
"Sam," he asked, "do you know the Athelas plant?"
"Kingsfoil? But that's a weed!" protested Sam.
"It may help to slow the poison," Aragorn replied. "Hurry!"
Sam dashed off, only pausing to grab a torch. Aragorn followed him.
"Quick! Get a fire going!" Sarah told Frodo, as the other two were with Maggie. She rummaged through the packs piled atop Bill for a water skin and a cooking pot. Though confused, Frodo did as she asked, or rather, as she ordered.
Quickly rigging a crude support, she filled the pot with water and hung it over the flames. At that moment Sam came charging in, a handful of damp leaves clenched in his fist. He stopped and asked very suspiciously-
"What are you doing?"
"Making it so we can use the Athelas more effectively," Sarah answered. She looked more closely at his face. "Do you honestly thing that I'd do something to deliberately hurt Mags?"
Sam had the decency to look embarrassed.
Sarah stuck her finger in the water, the jerked it out again. "Ouch! I'd say it's hot!" She held out her hand for the Athelas. Sam looked loathed to give it up.
"Go on Sam, It's alright," Frodo said, putting a hand on Master Gamgee's shoulder. Sam warily handed over the leaves.
Sarah took them, and then put most of them in her pouch, leaving only a few out. These she crushed and cast into the now boiling water.
"Sam. Could you get me a cloth and a bowl?"
He handed them to her, and she dipped the dish in the Athelas-infused water. She walked rapidly over to Maggie.
Dumping the cloth in the liquid, she rung it over Maggie's forehead, murmuring as she did so.
"Come on Maggie! Come on!"
She turned to Merry and Pippin, who were hovering over her anxiously.
"Can you help me flip her?" she asked.
Pippin moved forward and together they rolled Maggie onto her front.
Sarah gasped when she saw the wound. It was festering badly. What was even worse was knowing what it would eventually do. Hurriedly she laid the rag on the cut, saturating it in the fragrant water. Maggie let out a small scream as it made contact. At that moment a wholesome light filled the clearing. Arwen had come.
Arwen jumped off her horse. Alighting on the ground, she went over to Maggie.
"Maggie," she called softly, "Im Arwen. Telin le thaed. Lasto beth nin. Tolo da nan galad."
"Who is she?" Merry asked softly.
"Maggie!" Arwen's voice was urgent.
The wonderment was clear in Sam's words. "She's an elf."
"She's fading," Arwen whispered anxiously.
Aragorn went to put Athelas on the wound, and then stopped in amazement. "Who did this?" he asked.
"Trotter did it," said Pippin, pointing to her who was kneeling beside Maggie.
"It was well done," Aragorn praised, before turning to Arwen, who had been trying to get his attention.
"She's not going to last," she told him. "We must get her to my father, as well as the one who carries the burden."
"Yes. I have been looking for you for two days."
Aragorn picked Maggie up and carried her over to the horse.
"Where are you taking them?" Merry cried in alarm. They ignored him.
"There are six wraiths behind you. Where the other three are, I do not know."
Aragorn lifted Maggie onto Asfaloth, Arwen's horse. He turned to Frodo. "Can you ride?"
"Yes," Frodo answered in the affirmative.
"Good said Aragorn, and lifted him behind Maggie without further ado. "Ride to the Ford of Bruiden. The horse knows the way. When you reach there, tell Lord Elrond to send horses for us. Ride hard, for Maggie."
Frodo nodded, and Aragorn slapped Asfaloth's rump.
Arwen cried to the horse in Sindarin. "Noro lim Asfaloth! Noro lim!"
As they disappeared into the trees, Sam yelled angrily at Aragorn and Arwen.
"What are you doing?! Those wraiths are still out there!"
The shouts of his faithful Sam grew fainter as the white elf horse charged through the trees. The girl in Frodo's arms moaned and slumped forward.
Suddenly, as he glanced to the side, he could see another horse through the trees, a black horse. Looking to his other side he perceived with horror that there were three more. The woods ended. He looked back as they galloped over the open space, and saw a terrible sight. All nine Riders arrayed against him, closing in. Now they were almost on top of him! One galloped alongside and reached out a hand, though for the Ring or for Maggie, Frodo could not tell.
Maggie sat up; the most alert Frodo had seen her since the night before Weathertop. She seemed to see them as he himself had seen them, when wearing the Ring.
Without warning, they were in the Bruiden, the Loudwater on the borders of Rivendell. The horse slowed to a trot, a walk, and finally, a stop. They turned.
There, strung out on the water's edge, were the nine Nazgul.
Frodo sat up and, with a great effort, drew his sword, clutching Maggie to his chest.
"Go back!" he tried to shout, but it came out as a whisper.
The harsh, terrible laughter of the Riders came across the river, grating on his ears.
"The Ring! The girl!" they cried with deadly voices and the leader urged his steed into the water.
Frodo summoned the last of his strength. "No!" he cried bravely. "By Elbereth and Luthien the Fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor Maggie!"
The leader raised his sword. It flickered like a pale flame. Frodo's felt like lead in his hand. He soon dropped it. The rest of the Nazgul drover their horses into the river, then It happened. The rapids swelled, and some took on the shape of horses leaping and prancing.
Frodo regained control of his senses, and pulled Asfaloth away from the water. Maggie fell off, and Frodo hastily dismounted after her. She seemed to become paler, translucent, even.
"No!" shouted Frodo. "Maggie…hold on. Help's coming!"
A noise was heard in the distance, and Frodo looked up. Running down the path was an elf with long golden hair. He appeared to be shouting in Sindarin. Frodo frowned in bewilderment when he heard what he was saying.
"My poor horse. Wait till I get my hands on Arwen. Tie me up and take Asfaloth indeed!"