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It has been the assumption by many of those in the world of letters that Professor Tolkien's discovery of The Red Book of Westmarch (and other writings) in the early 20th century was not so much an exhumation as a fabrication. That is, like James Macpherson and the famous controversy of Ossian two hundred years earlier, Mr. Tolkien was considered not an historian but a fiction writer. But unlike Ossian, the existence of Mr. Tolkien's sources was never even questioned: they were dismissed by all but the most credulous (or faithful) readers out of hand. The documents were believed to be a literary device; almost no one took them seriously. This saved Professor Tolkien the trouble of proving his assertions, but it has led to serious misunderstanding.
It is surprising that no one found it at all strange that a professor of philology with no previous fiction writing credentials, at a premier university, should be the one to 'imagine' an entire history, complete with vast chronologies and languages and pre-languages and etymologies and full-blown mythologies. No one thought to ask the question that was begged by all this: if a previously unknown cache of historical documents of a literary nature were to surface anywhere on earth, where would that be? At the top of the list would certainly be the archaeology departments of Oxford or Cambridge. Who else is still digging in the British Isles? Who else cares about such arcane (and provincial, not to say insular) matters? And who would these archaeologists consult when faced with unknown languages in unknown characters in untranslatable books? They would go first to their own philologists in their own universities, to experts on old northern languages. This is exactly what Mr. Tolkien was. Coincidence? I think not. And when those discoveries were found to be of the nature they were—positing the existence of hobbits and elves and dwarves and dragons—is it any wonder the archaeologists washed their hands of the whole mess, never wishing to jeopardize their careers by making any statement about the authenticity, or even the existence, of their great find? One would expect them to make a gift of it all to the eccentric philologist who believed in it, though it was not in the least believable. To let him hang himself out to dry in any way he saw fit. Who could have foreseen, after all, that he would publish it to ever greater wealth and fame, and never have to explain a thing? The strange turns that history takes, not even the historians can predict.
The truth is that The Red Book (or a copy of it) did, and probably still does, exist. Nor is it the only surviving document, or trove of documents, from that part of our history. Other sources have recently been unearthed, in related but separate locations, that confirm this. It is true that the ruins of Westmarch were long thought to be the only existing repository of hobbitlore and the history of the elves. And it is also true that the present-day location of what was then Westmarch is still under a cloud. Only Professor Tolkien, and perhaps one or two from the archaeology department at Oxford, ever knew its exact locus. But, as I said, other fortuitous digs have yielded new evidence that Westmarch was a real place, and that The Red Book was an historical fact.
It is known to all of the wise (in hobbitlore) that Westmarch was only one of many population centers in the Northwest of Middle Earth. Bree, Buckland, Hobbiton/Bywater, Tuckborough, and several others in fact predated the settlement at Westmarch, and were not eclipsed by it until later in the Fourth Age. What is not as well known, because it was not included in The Red Book or accompanying artifacts, is that other settlements to the north and south of the Shire also gained pre-eminence later, and were therefore the natural repositories for important documentation. The wealth of material since discovered in these other sites not only rounds out our understanding of the Third Age, it often fills in gaps in the first two ages. And, most importantly, it supplies us with completely new information about the Fourth Age. The present volume is proof of that.
The tale told here is taken from The Farbanks Folios, an anonymous compilation of oral histories and Elvish lays probably composed sometime in the Fifth Age. None of the tales in these folios has been given a title in Westron (such as 'There and Back Again'), since none of the tales herein appear to have been written by any of their protagonists. There is no first person narrative, and much of the detail can only have been supplied by an 'omniscient' third-person writer living at a great distance in time from the action of the story. In that sense these are secondary sources, just as the all the information about the Elder days in The Red Book—that is, 'Translations from the Elvish'—is also (but as 'There and Back Again' is not—if it was in fact written by Bilbo.)
The Farbanks Folios as a whole deal with any number of events and narratives, as well as poems and songs. The present selection from them concerns only one major event, told in a single narrative. Although the author is unknown, he (or she) is assumed to be a hobbit. The other contents of the folios, and their similarities and linguistic connections to the Westmarch documents, makes this supposition unavoidable. The author has incorporated bits and pieces from other sources, such as from the elvish and dwarvish oral and written histories of the day. These external sources are occasionally the subject of other narratives among The Farbanks Folios, and in these cases I have taken the liberty of including pertinent information in the present tale, either by simply putting it in the tale itself (with a footnote), or adding it as a footnote. I have done this only when I considered it of utmost importance. Publication of overlapping tales, many of them incomplete, presents difficulties which perhaps cannot be solved to the satisfaction of everyone. All I can do is indicate my actions, and the reasons for them. It is hoped that the audience may remain indulgent, as long as their patience may be ultimately rewarded.
from the West
A Visitor in Brown
Primrose Burdoc adjusted the skirts of her pale-blue dirndl and patted her curly hair back into place as she approached the bridge. Over the water she could see the round doors and windows of Farbanks and the row of tidy gardens along Willow Way. But mostly she could see—because she was looking that way all along—a hobbit in a dirty yellow overall and an old straw hat kneeling amongst his potatoes, up to his knees and elbows in mud. If she hadn't known him immediately, he certainly wouldn't have been of any interest to her—a hobbit lass of 24 summers and as picky as any. In his present position, he was not likely to impress any passing female, not if she were 8 or 80. But Primrose, or Prim as she was called, knew the hole and the garden—yea, she knew the very straw hat on his head and loved it, though it was ever so unlovely.
The time of the year was mid-autumn and though the season had so far been mild, the nights were chilly. As the sun began to set Prim increased her step and pulled her shawl about her shoulders. But at number 8 Marly Row she stopped and put her basket of berries on the ground. Then she crossed her arms.
'Mister Fairbairn!' she said to the muddy posterior and undersoles of the grubbing hobbit. 'If you haven't noticed, it's almost dark.'
The hobbit turned round and squinted at her from under the crackled brim of the hat. 'Oh, yes—Prim, is it? Thank you, yes, it is late. Thank you.' And he turned back around and continued to muck.
'Tomilo* Fairbairn!' she continued to his backside, as if she were used to addressing that position. 'Do you propose to go on lying in that cold mud until your hands freeze up and the frost sets on your toes? I should just like to know, so that I can tell the mourners when they ask.'
Tomilo turned and squinted at her again, with perhaps a slight twinkle in his eye. Perhaps not. It was hard to tell in that light. 'Hm, yes, the mud is a bit cold. Thank you. I'm almost finished. I hope your mother is well?' And he returned to the mud.
*His name was Tomillimir, but everyone in Farbanks shortened it to Tomilo. The Fairbairns were descendants of Samwise the Great, through his daughter Elanor Goldenhair. Moving to the Westmarch in 1455 (Shire Reckoning), the Fairbairns naturally became interested in Elvenlore and language. Tomillimir is a name of Sindarin origin, meaning 'jewel of the sands'. The elves had intended 'tomillos' to mean the sands of the seashore, but the hobbits took it to mean sand more generally, including the sand removed from a burrow.
With a slight humpfh Prim adjusted her shawl, picked up her basket and returned to the lane. She looked back once, but as Tomilo was not watching her, she humpfhed lightly again and walked on.
About a quarter of an hour later, as the sun finally dipped all the way behind the hill and it was just beginning to get really dark, Tomilo looked up again. He looked first at the road. Then he looked at his hobbit hole and the dark round windows, shuttered with green half moons on wooden hinges. The white curtains, looking blue in the moony light, shivered in the evening breeze. Suddenly Tomilo felt cold and he got up and washed his hands and feet in a pail of rainwater under the eaves. Then he went inside and lit the candles and the fire. In the kitchen he lit another fire and started his toast and tea. As he put on his housecoat the kettle began to sing. In a moment he was at the fireside, his feet roasting on the fender, and his plate high with toast and honey and butter.
After supper he took down the candle and began to search for his pipe. Now, it should be in his morning housecoat pocket. Barring that, it must be at the bedside table. No, of course, he had left it on the lawn chair. But as he rummaged in the dark, even feeling about in the grass in case it had fallen, he thought he remembered putting the pipe in the right-hand pocket of his green breeches. Before he could run into the hole to test this latest theory, though, a thing happened. Not a great thing, mind you. But maybe one of those things that somehow leads to a great thing. That is how he thought of it later, anyway.
For he heard the clop of a horse's hoof, and the next thing he knew a black figure emerged out of the lane and came toward him. Suddenly a lantern was uncovered and the figure said, 'Tomilo, is that you?'
'Of course it is me; this is my hole isn't it? Who else would be standing outside my hole searching for my pipe? Is that you, Bob Blackfoot?'
'Of course it is. Who else would be wandering about Farbanks after sundown with a wizard on his heels.'
'I mean who else but the acting mayor is qualified to make these decisions?'
'Beg pardon? Bob, have you got someone there with you?'
'Yes, Tomilo, that is the long and short of it. Invite us in and I will introduce you.'
Tomilo did invite them in, and when he had re-entered the parlour and lit another candle, he turned round to see who his other guest was. What he saw surprised him, even though he had had some warning. Bob had indeed mentioned a wizard, but Tomilo had assumed it was all part of some jest. Standing there in the middle of the room, bowing his head to keep his tall hat from crushing its point on the low ceiling, was an old man with a white beard and a staff. His black kneeboots were heavily weathered and caked with grey dirt. His cloak was a rich brown, with a fur collar. On his forearm he wore a strange leathern device that Tomilo did not recognize. About his neck hung a heavy gold chain bearing a single precious stone with a warm brown glint. It flashed now in the candlelight and then went dark.
'Tomillimir Fairbairn, at your service,' said the hobbit finally, with a bow.
'Radagast the Brown at yours,' returned the wizard. 'Perhaps you have heard of me?'
'Sorry, no,' answered Tomilo.
'Hm. I should have guessed as much. But you are a hobbit, so perhaps you have heard of Gandalf. Had some connections to Hobbiton, almost two, no, what is it, three hundred years ago now?'
'Yes, I have heard of him. I read about him in The Red Book once.'
'Yes, that's right. Now wait a minute,' said Radagast suddenly. 'Fairbairn. You aren't one of the Tower Fairbairns are you, the Wardens of the Westmarch?'
'My family comes from there, yes. I am not one of the Fairbairns. But I am a Fairbairn. One of my cousins is a warden. I have never met him.'
'There are a lot of Fairbairns now, I suppose. Just like Took or Brandybuck or Gardner. They're all over. Not room in the Shire for all of them, I guess. I suppose that's why you're here?'
'In a word, yes. There are other reasons, but that will do for now. But what about Gandalf?'
'Oh, Gandalf. Gandalf was a wizard, you know. One of five. I am one of the other four, you see. He was Gandalf the Grey. Or Gandalf the White, I should say. At the end. Or after Saruman the White was removed from the order. I am Radagast the Brown. That is my colour. There are other wizards, other colours. But that is neither here nor there. It may soon be, actually, but it isn't now.'
'Yes,' offered Tomilo expectantly, waiting for Radagast to state his purpose.
'I am a wizard,' repeated Radagast.
'Yes,' repeated Tomilo, looking to Bob for help.
Bob jumped to Radagast's side. 'Mr. Radagast here needs a message took to the Moria. None of us could do it; we're all that busy, you know. Besides, our families wouldn't allow it. The wives and all. So Mr. Radagast here suggested a bacheldore. Someone who could go to the Moria with a message and not be missed. I mean not be missed overmuch by his family, if you see what I mean, Tomilo.'
'Yes, Bob, not to worry, no offense taken, none meant neither I guess. But to Moria, you say? Dwarvish message, is it? They should run their own errands, the dwarves; then a hobbit, or even a wizard, Mr. Radagast is it?, could be left to his own taters.'
'It's not a dwarvish message,' answered the wizard. 'It's a message to the dwarves. And to others. I have many such messages to be taken all over: north, south, east and west. More than that I cannot tell you. Except that the message is very important. If someone from this village does not deliver it, I shall have to go myself. But I am expected in Gondor, to take the same message to the King; and also to Edoras. If you could see to leaving your garden for a fortnight, Mr. Fairbairn, I am sure Bob here could have someone keep an eye on it. And I can supply you with a pony. Working with beasts is a specialty of mine, you might say.'
'Well, I suppose I could get away for a week or two, if you can scare up a pony from somewheres. I'd rather not walk all the way there, it getting along in the year as it is—and I do have work to do, family or no.'
'Good, then it's settled,' said Radagast, ignoring this last part. 'We'll leave first thing in the morning. I can ride with you as far as the Greenway—I mean the New South Road, of course. After that you will be on your own. Now I must go out and see to getting the pony here in time.'
'Tomorrow morning! Sakes! Good gracious me! If we're going to rush off, why not go now? I can leave without any pocket handkerchiefs or warm clothes and be miserable the whole way. And get chased by dragons and swallowed by trolls and who knows what else. I've barely finished my supper and now I'm expected to pack. Why, I don't even know where my pipe is. Who can be expected to ride to Moria without a pipe?'
'Be calm, my good hobbit,' said Radagast, smiling to himself. He understood Tomilo's meaning well enough: The Red Book was well-known not only among hobbits, but now among the wider world as well. 'Nothing to get bebothered about,' he continued. 'We'll leave in the morning when you are ready. Take your time, but don't pack too much. The pony is long-legged and spry, but he won't like a heavy load, even with half of it a halfling! Do try to get up early, though. Be prepared, but don't dawdle. Oh, and your pipe—it's on the mantel behind you.' And with that he swept from the room and leapt on his horse, clopping away into the darkness.
'Well, he's a caution and no mistake,' said Bob, as the sound of hooves died in the distance. 'He came riding in about an hour ago from the west, as if all the sons of Smaug was on his tail. Strolled right into meeting and asked for the mayor. Never even took off his hat. Mayor Roundhead is in Sandy Hall, of course, for the Quarters, so I had to do the honours. You know the rest.'
'What's this message? Does it sound important?'
'Don't know. It's writ down and sealed, he says. You're not so much delivering a message as carrying a letter—that's what I would say, Tomilo. I wonder if it's that he don't trust hobbits? Just to remember it, I mean. And not to tell no one else.'
'Unlikely. Probably just a letter that don't concern us. Although if it's the same as one going to Gondor—and everywhere else, as he says—it should concern us, too. We've probably just been left out of reckoning again.'
'I don't know. If it means we'll be left alone, I say all to the good. I'd just as soon be forgot and stay forgot, as far as news goes anyway. Anything that concerns hobbits, we'll hear about it from the Shire. You take care, now. We'd appreciate a report when you return, if you think about it. Oh, and don't dawdle,' he added with a chuckle and a handshake.
Tomilo sat by the fire, thinking about tomorrow. And yesterday. First of all, he decided not to bother with packing until the morning. It was too dark to go looking for everything with just a candle. And he would take his time in the morning, too. If Radagast left without him, he left without him. As long as the pony was good, he could make it to Moria on his own. He knew where Moria was. Due east. He'd never been there, but he knew well enough.
Since the fall of Sauron and the end of the Third Age, times had been peaceful and easy. No one thought of goblins or wolves, much less dragons or black riders. Tomilo knew of them, it is true. He had read about them in the books in the museums—in Undertowers or Great Smials. But they were all creatures of the past, the last ones killed by his father's fathers' fathers, he thought. A trip to Moria was simply a good excuse to get out of Farbanks for a spell; to be on the road again, out under the stars. Farbanks was becoming just like the Shire. He had felt like the last bachelor in the Shire, and now he was the last bachelor in Farbanks. Or the last bachelor over thirty-five. It was rare now for a hobbit male to get out of his tweens untaken. Families were large, and the sooner they started, the larger they could get. This was fine with Tomilo. He came from a large family, of course, and he liked company. But he had never been one to rush into things. At thirty-six, there seemed more reasons for not marrying (yet) than for marrying. That was all. There were things to do first. What things, he was less and less sure. Still, something told him to wait.
So here he was in Farbanks, almost a hundred miles south of the Three Farthing Stone and more than fifty miles from the Old Forest. The last hobbit settlement in Eriador. The Town Hall itself, the only building in the village, only went up forty years ago. But it was needed, all said. Farbanks was needed for overflow, if nothing else. And then there was the trade with Minhiriath; and of course the leaf grew so well down here.
There were already bustling communities in the Tower Hills (where he had come from), the South Downs, even Fornost. Arthedain, that the hobbits called the North Farthing, was the most populous place west of Bree. Oatbarton alone was now bigger than Hobbiton and Bywater put together!
When Tomilo had moved from the Tower (as it was called), he had hoped to find things different on the frontier. He had envisioned a bit of excitement. New faces, new folks. Work to be done. But hobbits are a proficient race, and most do not hearken to excitement. Within the first few years Farbanks became as domesticated as Took Hall, everything running in its groove, well oiled and pleasant. In fact it was better, from the hobbit point of view, than Took Hall; for Took Hall had its eccentricities still, and its strong characters. Farbanks had no use for such things. There were no weeds in the gardens, no dead leaves on the thatch, no stones in the road. The mill ground its grist and the maidens sang and the children played under the Great Mallorn.
Tomilo fell asleep with the front door and all the windows open, satisfied with this bliss and yet somehow uneasy. He had no fear of burglars, but his dreams were fitful nonetheless.
The morning dawned clear and chill. As soon as the first ray stole through the front window and creapt across Tomilo's bed, he was out of the covers and collecting his gear. His packs were on the lawn, checked and re-checked many times before Radagast appeared. The sun had just begun to warm the dew when that wizard rode up on a well-formed bay with untrimmed mane and tail. Behind him trotted a slender mottled-grey pony—quite tall for a pony and a bit intimidating to Tomilo.
'Sorry I'm late,' announced Radagast, with no other greeting. 'I sent word to Bombadil last night, but the birds took their time. Drabdrab just arrived, and he's already tired and sleepy. We'll go slow and make it a short day. Still, we should get to Sarn Ford before we rest.'
Drabdrab was equipped with a saddle of superior workmanship, long worn but finely tooled. It had strange shapes cut into its flaps and intricate patterns even on the girth and stirrup leathers. It was also equipped with breastplate and breeching, but these were thin and mostly ornamental—for the hanging of bells or other decoration. Tomilo knew somewhat of working leather, and he asked Radagast about the figures and the tracery.
'That saddle was made for an elf child, I believe. Where or by whom I don't know. Imladris or the Havens, I would guess. Or Iarwain—that is, Bombadil, I should say—may have kept a much older saddle, from Eregion I suppose. Leather generally wouldn't last that long, but Bombadil has his ways. Those are tengwar, or elf letters, as you would call them, those lines running along the edge. Certar, or elf runes, are usually used for incising, but leather allows for the curving lines, so that the craftsman has preferred them here. I would read them for you, but they are too small for me to see without dismounting, and we are already late as it is. Remind me and I will translate them later. The larger lines are probably just decoration. Hop up and I'll tell you more on the road.'
Tomilo slung his packs behind the saddle and cinched them on. Then he scrambled uneasily up behind Drabdrab's neck. His legs were too short, and he had to climb back down and adjust the stirrups. Even at their shortest they still hung below his feet. Once in the saddle, his balance was good, so he just had to let his feet hang, unshod and unstirruped. 'Hobbitback', he thought.
Radagast headed down the Farbanks road, southeast, and Tomilo followed. He gave Drabdrab no signals with the reins: it was unnecessary. The road was straight, Radagast was ahead on Pelling (the big bay horse) and what else was there to do but follow. As they got to the edge of town, though, Tomilo heard someone calling to him and he pulled Drabdrab up. Radagast stopped also. The Burdoc hole was the last in the bank to the north of the road, and Primrose was at the gate looking toward Tomilo. Suddenly she ran up to Drabdrab and patted his nose.
'Where are you going, Mr. Fairbairn? You look packed for a while.'
'I'm just delivering a letter to Moria, Prim. I'll be back soon.'
'Are you working for the post now?' she asked with a smile.
'No. Bob asked me to do this special. It's important or I wouldn't. I'll be back.'
'All right. Don't burgle any dragonhoards. And if you do, bring me back something pretty. You take care of him Radagast!' The wizard tipped his hat to her, and they trotted the horses back into the lane.
'Who was that?' said Radagast. 'Fiancee?'
'What do mean "Who was that?" She knew you. How did she know your name?'
'Oh, I've seen the lass a time or two, gathering berries. I ride in this area occasionally, looking for lost things, finding found things. She has a bright eye, doesn't she?'
'I suppose,' answered Tomilo, grumbling.
After a couple of hours the two riders came to the main road from the Shire to Sarn Ford. A turn to the northwest would have taken them to Waymoot, and beyond to Little Delving. But their way was south and then east. Not a soul was to be seen for miles in either direction. The traffic of Eriador stopped for the most part at Farbanks. Men did not use this road, and the occasional elf or dwarf who did were rarely to be caught doing it.
All that day Tomilo followed Radagast, speaking little. For a hobbit Tomilo was rather taciturn, having lived by himself for many years, and so having lost the habit of easy speech. As for Radagast, he was the least social of all the wizards, and wizards are a rather solitary lot to begin with. Whilst Gandalf had wandered about all the Western World, having his hand in the affairs of almost every region, and most households; and whereas Saruman had at first attempted to befriend the elves—especially the Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn of Lothlorien—but had in the end to make due with the company of orcs; at the same time Radagast had always lived alone, either at Rhosgobel or in his solitary rides through Mirkwood and Wilderland. Radagast's only friends had been the beasts and birds, with whom speech was partly or wholly unnecessary. So it was drawing on toward evening before Tomilo finally thought to ask a question.
'Mr. Radagast, Sir, I were wondering if we might stop for a bit? I do believe Drabdrab is almost done up. What with not sleeping at all last night, as you said.'
'So he is, my boy. I almost forgot, with all this on my mind about Moria and Gondor and everything else. I'm usually quite aware of the beasts and their needs—I suppose I'm not really myself these days. We'll stop just before we reach Sarn Ford—over the next rise and down the slope. Of course, it's not a ford anymore, not since the King built the bridge, but that's what they still call it.
Radagast and Tomilo had so far travelled quickly. The wizard had not wanted to press Drabdrab, but the horses had been trotting or galloping much of the way. Only on uphill stretches, or when the road turned bad, did Radagast allow the beasts to walk. So they had made it to the vicinity of the bridge by nightfall.
Tomilo had been over the Baranduin only a single time—on a daytrip to Bree long ago. But the great river was much larger here, only some 50 leagues south of the Brandywine Bridge, having gained the flow of the Withywindle as well as several other smaller rivers. It was still muddy and red, and Tomilo thought to himself that he would not want to fall into it. The water looked very cold. He and Radagast did not cross yet, but made camp to the right of the road, under a small copse of trees, in clear view. They were not hiding from anyone, nor did they fear to meet travellers. In fact, Radagast quite hoped to meet travellers, especially dwarves. He could not pass on important messages to those met on the road, but he could learn somewhat from them about the news on ahead, on the road or off it. And the affairs of the various peoples had suddenly taken on a new urgency for him. To do what was necessary over the next several months, Radagast must learn everything possible about all those around him—their trusts and mistrusts, new alliances and long-standing grudges.
It was in the recent memory of Radagast that none would think of stopping near a crossroads or a ford such as this great bridge. In these newly prosperous times, however, such spots were the best place for travellers to congregate, to camp after nightfall, and to expect visitors with tales of new wealth, new discovery, and larger families and towns. If this is what Radagast desired, he was not disappointed. He and Tomilo had arrived early, but soon after dark a travelling band of dwarves came over the bridge and made directly for Radagast and Tomilo's blazing fire. The hobbit could hear them singing as they tramped along: a proper dwarf song of gold and silver and hidden hoards of wealth.
In a deep dark cave in the mountain's lap
We delve straight down with a mighty rap
of our pick, ho!
Then we take what we finds
from the glittering mines
as long as it shines
out bright, ho!
And none can blast the great black stone
or chip and crack the earth's backbone
like Durin's kin!
Not elves or men!
Not by the beard on Durin's chin!
Be it silver or gleaming gold
or clear-white jewel or metal cold
we will find it
earth can't bind it
from the tools of dwarves, ho!
The song ended as they came into the firelight—clumping loudly in the dark as only dwarves can—and bowed low, introducing themselves in turn.
'Frain, at your service.'
'Bral, at your service.'
'Kral, at your service.'
'Min, at your service.'
'Radagast the Brown, at yours and your entire family's, I'm sure,' replied the wizard, not bowing, but only touching his brown stone with his right hand and peering again into the fire. 'Oh, and this is my travelling companion, the estimable hobbit, Tomillimir Fairbairn, of Farbanks.'
Tomilo bowed low, but looked at the dwarves uneasily. Although a wide traveller among hobbits, Tomilo had not met any of the Naugrim before, and he found their hard-edged visages and abrupt manner disconcerting. Their clothes, too, were exceeding strange: dark and loose-fitting kirtles, heavier surely than the weather called for. And with boots large and wide enough for a very large man. Even Radagast's boots were not so large. He might have worn Frain's boots as overshoes, with his own boots inside.
'Do you come from Khazad-dum, as I suppose?' asked Radagast. 'And is all the news still good from there, I hope?'
'The answer to both your questions is yes and yes,' replied Frain. 'The news is good. So good, in fact, that we would have little reason to return to our mines in the Blue Mountains but for family that has remained there. My brother, Kim, prefers our place there. Less competition for space, and for reknown. It is still true as it always was that for mithril, there is no place to compare to the mines of Khazad-dum. But for jewels, the Ered Luin still yields great wealth.'
'That is true,' added Kral. 'In fact, with new tools made of mithril, we are delving deeper and discovering more than ever before. All our mines all over Middle Earth are yielding more, due to the use of mithril tools, as well as the abundance of dwarves to wield them. Now that we are not constantly at war, we may work doing what dwarves were made to do.'
'Mr. Fairbairn is travelling to Moria,' interrupted Radagast. 'I hope the roads remain in good repair.'
'They do. But I wonder why a hobbit is going to Moria?' answered Frain. 'We have had no trade with the Shire, save for pipeweed, in many years. Might I ask if you are a trader in leaf, Mr. Fairbairn?'
'No. I have a message from Cirdan for King Mithi.'
'From Cirdan of the Havens? Is it important?'
'I do not know. I am only the messenger.' Tomilo left it to Radagast to explain, if he would. But Radagast changed the subject. It was clear he felt the message to be appropriate for King Mithi, but perhaps not for idle conversation with every passing dwarf, no matter how trusty they might at first appear.
'Do you know anything of the Great South Road?' asked Radagast. 'I myself am travelling that way and wonder if there is any news from Rohan or the Gap. Is Orthanc still deserted?'
'For all we know Orthanc is as it was five years ago and fifty years ago—naught but a haunted tower,' said Bral. 'It is rumoured that the treemen kill any who come near. Dwarves have never had any love for forests, or for the creatures in them, so we do not go that way or speak of it. When we travel to the Glittering Caves we cross far down the Isen and come in from the west, hugging the foothills of the Ered Nimrais. As for the South Road, there is no news. But the folk of Dunland are not ones to make news or pass it on, and we ask no more. I think you will find everything remains quiet. But if you are Radagast the wandering wizard, as I think, you will know as much as we do about the ways over and around the Misty Mountains.'
'I am that Radagast, as there is no other, but I have been in Eriador on one errand and another since the first of the year. The eagles and lesser birds of Rhovanion do not often travel west of the mountains, and I have been left without my usual sources of information. I must arrive in Minas Tirith—I mean Minas Mallor*—before the end of the month, so I must gather news on the hoof, as it were. There is really no time to lose.'
'Sarn Ford to Minas Mallor in a fortnight? You will have need of your friends the eagles if you desire such speed. Your mount will be halt before you reach Edoras, though I would not let such a beast carry me even across the river. Your feet will carry you there more surely, though perhaps with less haste.'
'I plan to change horses in Rohan. Good Pelling here is from the West Emnet in the fields of the Rohirrim, and he will carry me there as surely as any, and need no prodding as we get closer to the grasses of his home. But perhaps you can at least tell me of the Dwarvish settlements in the Green Mountains.* Does trade remain good between Minas Mallor and Krath-zabar?'
'It is good. We still do not mine north of Nurn. And we have yet to explore the Ash Mountains. The fear of Barad-dur and Minas Morgul remains strong and overcomes even our love of delving and our need for untapped veins of ore. It is said that Sauron sapped all the strength from the mountains about Mordor long ago, to feed his fires and his armies, and so we have an excuse for staying away. But in the Green Mountains, that once were the Mountains of Shadow, we have not found this to be so, at least south of Osgiliath where we have dared to go. The range there is mostly untouched, since Sauron oversaw almost no work—he only stole from the hoards of others. It is said that the dwarves of Khand supplied him with iron for his
*The name of Minas Tirith had been changed by King Eldarion to Minas Mallor: 'tower of the rising sun.' And upon the rebuilding of Minas Ithil, it was also renamed: Minas Annithel, 'tower of the setting moon.' Two reasons were given for switching the nomenclature (remember that it had been 'tower of the setting sun' and 'tower of the rising moon'). The first reason given by Eldarion was that the sun could be seen to rise in the east. Minas Mallor faced east, hence the logic of the name. His Steward complained that the Ephel Duath blocked any view of the rising sun. But the King replied that, by that way of thinking, the name Minas Anor had been just as senseless, since Mt. Mindolluin blocked the sunset. The second reason given by the King was that the moon had always been a metaphor for the elves. The age of the elves was waning, the age of men was waxing. Therefore, after the fall of Sauron, the name Annithel was more descriptive. The Steward agreed on this point. And at his urging, the Ephel Duath was also renamed: Ered Galen, the Green Mountains.
armouries; but where it was mined, we know not. We still do not communicate with the dwarves of the east, who fought for Sauron, or at least were under his dominion. Most have fled into the far reaches of Rhun and beyond, where our knowledge ceases.'
'You have a king now at Krath-zabar?'
'Yes. King Rath. The High King remains at Erebor. But we also have kings at Moria and the Glittering Caves. They are independent but remain under oath. Little allegiance is required in times of peace, but we retain our all our traditions. Our kingdoms are very strong.'
'Good,' said Radagast. 'That is as it should be, my good Krain. The dwarves are a wise people in their way, and we need your strength. I am glad that you prosper. Now, I was wondering, can you be so good as to tell Mr. Fairbairn here the proper ways to approach your gates at Moria? I have not knocked on your door, so to speak, from the west—I always pay my visits, rare though they are, from the east, arriving from the Dimrill Dale. Is there anything a hobbit should know about arriving at the shining portals of the Dwerrowdelf?'
'Nothing. The way is wide and well-marked and we have no gates. We do not fear attack, being all but impregnable anyway. And a single hobbit on horseback is not likely to cause much alarm. Even the great western gates of stone that have been rehung and given new passwords are rarely closed, save at night. Mr. Fairbairn only need state his errand to the gatekeeper and he will be led along the proper passages and taken good care of. Such a visitor usually would find an audience with the King extremely difficult, if not impossible. But the names of Radagast and Cirdan should gain you a few moments, if I am not mistaken. Messengers are treated with due respect, and the dwarves have not forgotten the proper forms. You should address King Mithi as "Lord," Mr. Fairbairn. Other than that, if you are polite you can do little, being a stranger, that would give insult.'
Radagast and Tomilo took their leave of the dwarves early the next morning. A heavy fog had settled in the river valley overnight and Drabdrab was dripping with dew as Tomilo slipped up into his saddle. Pelling snorted and blew great draughts of smoke into the heavy air, trying to warm his nostrils for the long day ahead. Radagast checked the horse's hooves carefully and rubbed his ears, speaking softly to him. Then he wiped the mist from his own saddle with his brown cloak before mounting. The dwarves were pulling on their great packs as Radagast and Tomilo rode past.
'My good dwarves, you said you were travelling to the Blue Mountains? Are you crossing the Lhun?'
'Indeed,' answered Frain. 'The old mines are all in the southern range, of course. But our new mines in the northern range of the Ered Luin have become most profitable. The caves we seek, and the home of Kim, are some two days journey past the river Lhun, high in the eastern slopes.'
'I wonder if you would be so good as to give a message to the elves as you pass the Havens, if it is not too much out of your way. I know you have little love for the elves (except at times some of the Noldor—since Aule rules the hearts of all of you), but if you could let Cirdan know that I found someone to go to Moria, and that I myself am gone to Gondor, it would be a great help to me. It is a simple message and may be passed on by mouth to any elf you meet.'
'We will if we can. But won't you tell us what message goes to Moria and Gondor? If it concerns the dwarves of Moria, it will concern us. And we had rather not wait for the message to travel on the road we have just covered and back.'
'I'm afraid that is impossible, unfortunately. It is a message from Cirdan to Lord Mithi himself. What he may choose to do with that information, I know not. He may proclaim it as news of general interest. He may not. But I suspect you will hear of it soon enough, one way or another. I fear I have been imprudent in handling the whole affair, and I apologize. I have grown accustomed to talking freely in these untroubled times, and I am afraid I have said too much. I should have said nothing at all, and saved you from needless concern. But again, thank you for your news of the east, and give my message if you can. If you cannot it is of little importance.'
Radagast and Tomilo left the dwarves and rode over the bridge, passing into the open lands beyond. The day was warming quickly, and the two riders hoped to leave many leagues behind them by the end of it.
Despite the prosperity of the Fourth Age, the wide lands between the Baranduin and the Greyflood remained mostly unpopulated. It was almost fifty leagues to Tharbad, and from the bridge at Sarn Ford to the new bridge at Tharbad there was little to see. The ground was rocky and flat, with few trees and little vegetation of any kind. At one time, the Old Forest had covered much of Cardolan, reaching even to the northern parts of Enedwaith. But the cataclysms at the end of the First Age had temporarily inundated a large part of Middle Earth, from Beleriand all the way to the Hithaeglir. Beleriand remained drowned to this day, and Ossiriand as well—save the small regions of Forlindon and Harlindon. The Gulf of Lhun had taken Mount Dolmed and the cities of Belegost and Nogrod, and many other fair things had passed away forever. The receding waters left Eriador changed but intact. Most of the Old Forest had been swept away, never to return. Cardolan arose from the waters a desolate place, and it had remained desolate in many regions to the present age. As Tomilo looked north toward the South Downs and the Barrow-downs, he saw nothing but low bushes and dry grass as far as the eye could see. Brakes of hazel and clumps of thorn there were, and dry rivulets meandering through the rough country like a weird sunk-fence dug by a madman. To the south it was much the same—a few stands of trees here and there in the distance, and some old willows and oaks along the line of the Brandywine as it snaked its way to the sea.
The two travellers had been riding all day through this empty heath, stopping only to eat and to water the horses. Radagast had been grumbling to himself since the bridge at Sarn Ford; and suddenly, in the late afternoon, he spoke up, startling the hobbit out of his musings on the landscape.
'I have made a terrible mess of the whole affair already,' he began, almost to himself, or to Pelling. He stroked his beard and fumbled with the brown stone about his neck. 'I either say too much or too little. For ages I have spoken to almost no one but the birds and beasts, and now I am expected to converse with dwarves and hobbits and who knows what else. I am not fit for it. I am the wrong one to trust with such things. That meeting with the dwarves was a complete disaster. Imagine, sending dwarves with messages to elves, and hobbits with messages to dwarves! I don't know what I am thinking. But I can't do it all myself. It is too big for me, I tell you.'
'What is too big?' asked Tomilo, somewhat surprised to see a wizard out of sorts.
'This. . . this whole. . . Oh, I can't say. That's the problem. I wish Gandalf hadn't gone back, sailing away just when things look really bad. Bother, I shouldn't have said that either. See, I can't be discreet, as wisdom demands. I was always the least of the wizards, and now I'm made to feel it. I'm surprised Cirdan even trusted me as the messenger. Gandalf would never have told a band of travelling dwarves of the existence of a message to their king. It is absurd. I am a counsellor, sent here to gather information, not pass it on like a fool at any chance meeting.'
'I don't think you did any harm. If we have all become too trusting, it is only to be expected. Times are good.'
'For the present. Good times cannot last, my dear Mr. Fairbairn, and being overtrusty is not a custom that ever lasts, for it undermines itself. I must not let my tongue wag, and I must think out my policy beforehand.'
'Well, your hints are as disquieting as any news could well be. I won't ask you about the message, since I can see you feel you have said too much already, and since I will likely find out soon enough, when I am in Moria. But I wonder if you, or Cirdan, have had the foresight to send messages to the Shire? I am sure the Thain would be interested to hear of any news that concerns the rest of the world. And he might take it ill hearing the news secondhand, from the king's messengers, or from my report to Farbanks.'
'Don't worry about that, my friend. The Thain has likely already been told, since your lands border on the Western Sea. The Tower Hills are only a short ride from the Havens. On this, the hobbits will be the first to know rather than the last. Cirdan remembers Frodo Baggins and his companions, and the Shire will never be left out of the reckoning of the wise again.'
'That is well, at least. Still, whatever concerns you had about our talk with the dwarves cannot come to anything, surely. The dwarves of Moria mean no one any harm, do they? I don't see how what they know could be of use to anyone, even the enemy. And there is no enemy. '
'Doubtless you are right. There is no enemy, for the present. Besides, it is not that I am worried about leaking any information. I only told them of a message they will hear of later, in the proper way. But that is what I mean. It was not proper. They should have been told or not told. I must relearn the proper forms. I must become more wary. I must learn to speak to strangers as one of the wise would. I must not say more than is necessary, or show weakness. There may come a time when such traits might be fatal.'
'Oh my! I hope not, or we shall all be dead, and me first of all. Surely it is not as bad as all that!'
'I have already said too much.'
'Well, then, let's change the subject, by all means. Evening is coming on, and I can't be imagining such things. Let's see, why don't you tell me what these letters on my saddle mean? It will be dark soon and you won't be able to see them at all.'
'Yes, you are right. I think we have had enough riding for today. I am in a great hurry, but I think there is no need for us to travel after dark. When I leave you at Tharbad, I can make whatever speed I want. For now, let us be easy with poor Drabdrab. He is not used to these distances like Pelling.'
Soon they dismounted and unpacked the horses. Once camp had been made and a small fire was going in preparation for the night, Radagast approached Drabdrab and studied the saddle closely for many minutes.
'Well, Bombadil must have had this saddle a very long time, though how he kept it in this condition it is beyond my skill to tell. I know something of the tanning of hides and of the preservation of things, but I myself could not conjure a spell to make leather last this long. This saddle comes from Hollin, the very place you are now headed. It was made sometime in the Second Age, before its destruction, and long before the destruction of Numenor. It bears the inscription of its maker here, you see?—it says in Quenya, the language of the Noldor, Galabor of Hollin made this. Written quite prominently. And here below, writ even larger, running in this great arc, the letters say, Arethule, child of the West, Varda protect thee.* And see all the fine tracery. These are symbols of the Noldor. The two trees and the stars. Above Galabor's name are the phases of the moon, punched into the leather. And these are the Silmarils—see, below the central star—that the First House of the Noldor still used as signs even after the defeat of Morgoth and the final loss of those gems.
'This saddle was made for a child—a very special child, I should say—for most leatherwork at that time would have been inscribed in Sindarin rather than in Quenya. Saddlework was mostly a thing considered too vulgar for such high speech. This elfchild, Arethule (which means "sun spirit"), was no doubt one of the children of the contingent of High Elves living in Hollin at that time. Celebrimbor, grandson of Feanor (who invented this writing), was one such. His inscription was on the west doors of Moria before they were broken. I think the dwarves keep the fragments of that door as heirlooms in the vaults of Khazad-dum. The parents of this child may have been of the same family as Celebrimbor. If Galadriel were still in Middle Earth, she might be able to tell us somewhat of this Arethule. She was of the Third House of Finwe and Celebrimbor was of the First, but she and Celeborn spent many years in Hollin in the Second Age, I believe, before going on to Lothlorien. No one else but Bombadil could say aught of such a thing as this saddle, I think. Keep it well, Tomilo, while it is in your care! It is a thing of great worth, and would be greatly treasured by some in Imladris or Lorien, were it known to exist. I wonder how it came into the hands of Bombadil in the Old Forest? It is a question for our next meeting. Come, let us tend the fire and prepare our dinner. The light is now gone.'
*Here is a letter-for-letter translation: galabor eregioneva essent/ arethule/ tartanno numenello fanuilos le tirai. You will notice that two different r's are used. The r in Galabor is a final r, and so is the only one that is not long. The e in essent is not written, since it would be understood that no word begins with ss. Also, 'to make' is a very common verb: it had become unnecessary to differentiate it from words beginning iss- or oss-, &c. Proper names beginning with a vowel still required an initial character, however. That is why Arethule does not begin with the Quenya character for r. Since the tehtar (the super-character devices) indicated a following vowel in Quenya, but never a preceding one, the initial A must be indicated with the character used. The 'a' tehtar was often also used, especially as a decorative flourish in formal writing. This was not read Aa. In this mode used by Galabor the Quenya y character is a long r, the y with a doubled tail is rd, and a tripled tail is rt. The Quenya character u translates nn. Tirai is subjunctive.
The next morning Tomilo and Radagast set out once more. Tomilo was amazed to think that he was sitting on an heirloom of the High Elves, made in Hollin in the Second Age. As they galloped through the empty lands, he became lost in his own imaginings, taking him back in time—a time when wondrous creatures still walked in Middle Earth, passing with grandeur and terror. Elves with glittering swords and rings of fell power, tall men with high helms and burnished shields, great worms and foul goblins and Witchkings in black robes.
It was true, the King in Gondor was yet a person of great majesty and lineage—or so Tomilo had been told, for he had never seen him. And elves still lived in faraway places, in towers by the sea or in great caves in the forest or in tall trees on the other side of the mountains. But he had never seen them either. Even when he had lived in Westmarch, only a few leagues from the Havens, he had not encountered a single elf. There were tales of them, to be sure, and reported sightings. A messenger even rode through occasionally on the main road for all to see, or so it was said. All the same, Tomilo had not seen one. He had never even seen a dwarf until two days ago. All borders were supposed to be open, after the fall of Mordor and the rebuilding of Arnor. And yet little had changed. In good times, folks kept to themselves. They kept their thoughts to themselves, and took care of their own.
Men had passed through the Northfarthing quite often, soldiers of Arnor and the builders and settlers of Fornost, reclaiming all the fertile valley between the Hills of Evendim and the North Downs. But even these, after a quick look at the settlements of the hobbits, and maybe a stop in the taverns for a taste of 'halfling beer', had returned to their own towns and farms, and were mostly never heard from again. Except for pipeweed, and the occasional trade of a pony, the products of the Shire did not interest the men of Fornost. They already had their own markets in the south. And the tastes of men and hobbits, whether in food or clothing or housing, had little overlap. Each community was content to keep to itself. No mixed town, of the Bree sort, had formed during the expansion of the Shire and the emigration of men from Gondor to the north countries. It was once thought that there might be, and King Eldarion, son of King Elessar, had promoted the mingling of man and hobbit, or at least the sharing of economies. He had reversed the decree of his father that had forbidden men to enter the Shire, and had encouraged friendly relations between the two peoples. Men were still forbidden to settle in the Shire, but they were not forbidden peaceful excursions, or the building of relationships, business or otherwise. And hobbits were encouraged to settle in Arnor in any way they liked—in the towns or out of them. But it had never come to pass. There was simply too much resistance from within. The hobbits of the Shire were proud of their independence and the men from Gondor were also content with their own society.
Two more uneventful days passed on the road. The riders met no one and saw no other beast larger than a squirrel. Radagast searched the skies for birds of good omen or ill, but found neither. Near the end of the third day from the ford, he and Tomilo weathered a short storm that blew in violently from the southwest. They could see it coming for hours and took shelter at last under a lonely tree; but though it poured hard enough to sting any exposed skin (and threatened to spook the ponies with the loud thunder—only the soft words of Radagast kept them from rearing), it did not last. They returned to the muddy shining road and continued their progress under the still growling sky.
The next day was dry. The storms had gone on over the Misty Mountains to soak the uplands of Lorien and the Dimrill Dale. Tomilo and the Wizard had fallen into their accustomed silence after breakfast, and the hobbit had been daydreaming again—thinking of the times when adventures actually happened. In the books he had read of the old times, a hobbit couldn't so much as leave his hole without terrible, dangerous, interesting things happening. Tomilo didn't really want anything too interesting to happen, but a little minor adventure might be welcome. Meeting someone that Radagast could zap with his staff, for instance. But Radagast wasn't a wizard like Gandalf, thought Tomilo. Radagast didn't even carry his staff. There it was, just tied to his saddle, sticking up in the air, useless.
Tomilo's thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Radagast himself. They had been riding all day, with only short pauses to rest the horses. Radagast had not spoken since midday.
'We are about five leagues from Tharbad. We will camp here and make the crossing tomorrow. There are marshes we will have to cross before we get there, and they will be better managed during the day, when we can ride through them quickly. During the night they would give the horses (and us) little rest, even this late in the year. It is still many weeks until the first frost, except in the mountains, and the flies in the marshes are yet a nuisance to travellers on the road. Here the ground is firm, and there is even a bit of dry wood for the fire. Come, let me tell you what to expect tomorrow.'
Tomilo followed Radagast off the road and into a loose thicket of brambles and scrubby trees, gnarled and blasted as if by passing flames. A white fungus covered the ground here and there, and the roots of the little trees rippled the ground like waves, threatening to make sleep very difficult. The earth appeared to offer no flat spot large enough even for a hobbit to lie down upon in comfort. Pelling and Drabdrab, meanwhile, entertained no such fears. They would sleep standing. For now they rustled through the undergrowth, searching for late shoots or the scent of anything soft and green. Radagast wandered off in search of water. Tomilo made the fire.
Over a frugal meal of bread and sharp cheese and apple cider warmed over the flames, Radagast gave Tomilo the directions for tomorrow. After the bridge at Tharbad, Tomilo would be on his own. Radagast must go south with all speed, and Tomilo must turn toward the mountains. There was a road that followed the Glanduin for almost forty leagues* before crossing it and turning north.
'You must take this road with good speed,' Radagast told the hobbit. 'Drabdrab should make the journey to Moria in four days. Five at the most. The crossing of the Glanduin is a ford, not a bridge; but it is shallow and slow, save in the spring when the snows melt. You should have no trouble with it now. For a few weeks in May it is swift and treacherous, and for this reason it is also called the Swanfleet. Swans do not frequent the upper reaches of the Glanduin, near the mountains. But further down, in the marshes at the confluence of Glanduin and Gwathlo, there are great flocks of swans and geese and ducks unnumbered, especially at this time of year. They stop over on their long flights from the Bays of Forochel to their wintering homes in Umbar and Harad. In a few weeks the waters of the Nin-in-Eilph, the Waterlands of the Swans, will be white with the pausing flocks. You may also see some from the northern vales of the Anduin, who fly over the Misty Mountains to join their western cousins in the long flight south over the White Mountains. These birds from the east pass over the Misty Mountains just as we do—through the Redhorn Pass.
'Once you have crossed the Glanduin, simply follow the dwarf road north and east some ten or twelve leagues until you reach the Sirannon, the Gate Stream. This you follow to the gate, of course. There were once some stairs and some falls as you made the final approach to the Western Wall, but I don't know if they have survived the rebuilding of the West Gates. But I expect you will have been spotted by dwarves by this time, and will have an escort the rest of the way.
'An escort?' interrupted the hobbit. 'I'll be a prisoner, you mean.'
'No, no. Don't be absurd, Mr. Fairbairn. None of that. No one keeps prisoners in the Fourth Age. But don't be suprised that the dwarves should want to keep an eye on you. It is their kingdom, after all. They can't be expected to allow strangers to wander about willy-nilly.'
'I suppose not.'
'After you have delivered the letter to King Mithi, and taken some refreshment and rest, you will no doubt wish to return as quickly as possible to your garden and your work. Stay as long as you like in Moria. I don't mean to rush you. Mayhaps the great caves of the dwarves will be of more interest to a hobbit than to a wizard—what with your instinct for burrowing, I mean. At any rate, ride back the way we came. There is no other way, unless you want to return through Rivendell and take a month in the journey. When you arrive in Farbanks, simply release Drabdrab at the north end of town, and be sure he is well watered. He will make his way back to Bombadil.'
The next morning they rode on. The flies of the marshes were still torpid from the cool night air, and bothered them little. Before long they came to a grey bridge, some nineteen ells across, made of stone and marly earth. There were carven figures at each entrance, smaller versions of the great pillars of the Argonath, but much less foreboding. Rather than the helm and crown of the ancient kings, these stone heads bore only the single star of the House of Elendil. They were carven in the likeness of Elessar, who had refortified Arnor and rebuilt much of the road to Arthedain and Fornost. In the right hand of each figure was a marble bough—an image of a shoot from the White Tree of Gondor, scion of Nimloth. And the left hand was raised, not in warning, but in greeting.
As Tomilo rode between the figures and over the waters of Gwathlo he thought of the King now in Gondor, great grandson of Elessar, the fourth of his line. Tomilo had never considered that he was part of a larger realm, that the Shire was only a kingdom within a kingdom, suffered to exist only by the goodwill of a great man in a faraway city of towers and flying banners and white trees. A great man Tomilo would probably never meet. Tomilo paused at the middle of the span, and Radagast turned also to peer at the slow-moving waters.
'What is his name? I mean, what is he called, the King in Gondor?' asked Tomilo.
'He is Telemorn, son of Celemorn, son of Baragorn, son of Aragorn. But he is called King Elemmir, after the star Elemmire, one of the first stars in the heavens wrought by Elbereth before the first days. See, there it shines even now, the star-jewel, blazing high on the breast of Menelmacar.'
Tomilo looked up, but he could see nothing in the bright sky but blue beyond blue.
*The Numenorean measure of distance was the 'lar,' equal to about three English miles. I have followed Professor Tolkien's usage of the 'league' to translate 'lar,' making the forty leagues in question approximately 120 miles.
'Yes, the stars are there, even during the day, my good Mr. Fairbairn,' laughed Radagast. 'They do not run away and then scamper back, just for your delight. But the sun drowns out their dim glow from the eyes of most.' The wizard stared at the sky intently and seemed to lose himself for a moment. 'Hmm, where was I? Oh, yes. King Elemmir has ruled only a score of years, following his father King Eldamir who ruled almost a hundred. The new king is a young man, by the measure of the Numenoreans, being not yet seventy, I believe. I have seen him only once, when he was a boy, in the Druadan Forest. He was beating a small drum, trying to call out the Druedain, the Woses. But the little men would not show themselves, not even to a future king of Gondor. I remember Telemorn complained, and said, "They might at least beat their drums in answer." But it was to no avail. He and his escort had to return to Minas Mallor with no new stories of the Pukel-men.'
'Pukel-men? Woses? Who are they? Are they dwarves?'
'No, no. They were not fashioned by Aule. They are one of the strange creations of Iluvatar. Although of much the same stature as dwarves, they are far more nimble. Also, they love to laugh, when they are with others of their own kind. They do not delve and have no love for wealth or hoards. Dwarves do not like woods, but the Druedain will live nowhere else. There are few left in Middle Earth, and it may be that the loss of woods and the loss of the Druedain are not unrelated.'
'Do you think there are Woses in the Old Forest?'
'Not now, at any rate. Before the flood, when the Old Forest spanned much of Eriador, I should think that the Druedain flourished there. But now, none are left. The only two-legged creatures in the Old Forest are Bombadil and Goldberry. And perhaps one other.'
'There I go, getting ahead of myself again. There may be one other that you might include. But he is not a man or elf or halfling or dwarf or wizard or sprite. And he prefers to keep his existence to himself—much like Bombadil and Goldberry. The Red Book has been a source of some frustration for them, if you must know, for they do not want visitors. The scouring of the barrows has left them open to nosy neighbours from the east, and they have been forced to live further down the Withywindle. This. . . this two-legged creature also wants to be left alone, so please forget I said anything. Besides, he is no one to go visiting. His welcome is unlikely to be warm.'
'Well, the mysteries of the world do accumulate, travelling with a wizard. Especially one with a loose tongue. But back to the King. Is this King Elemmir the one you must deliver the message to now?'
'Yes. Precisely. And if I don't train my tongue in the next fortnight, it could be very unpleasant for me. Telemorn is said to have a reputation for irascibility. And he is not likely to be impressed by a wizard, a brown one least of all. A messenger with bad news is never wanted. An unexpected one, even less. An unexpected one with a stained cloak and overworn boots—well, he is in some danger of being thrown into the Anduin.'
'Surely you exaggerate! Are you suggesting that I may be in some danger in Moria? Are the dwarves likely to be inhospitable, on account of this message?'
'No, you are right. I am getting overexcited about this whole business. You have nothing to fear, my dear hobbit. But do be prepared for a few awkward moments. Especially on the day after you first meet with King Mithi. Once he reads the message, the air in the caves may be a bit thick for a while. I can tell you this much: there is nothing urgent about the message—there will be no muster, no general upheaval. You will not be caught in any call to arms or flight to the strongholds or any such thing. But the King and his counsellors are likely to be a bit tense. They may question you. They may be angry that you can tell them nothing more. Or that you are a hobbit. But I do not think it will go much beyond that. Remind them that you are under the protection of Cirdan, the elves of the Havens, and myself, as well as the Thain. Offer to return with messages, if you can think of nothing else. You need not return past Farbanks: I will have riders going west before winter, and I will instruct them to ask in Farbanks for any letters to be sent on to Cirdan.'
'If I can think of nothing else? You make it sound like I will be lucky to get out at all! I have more than half a mind to turn around and ride back now. You never told me there was any danger!'
'Not danger, Mr. Fairbanks. Never that. Let us say, unpleasantness. Some small unpleasantness. You know how dwarves can be. Testy. No more than that. Now please don't get in a huff. They will have no reason to keep you there, no matter how they feel about the news. They really have no use for hobbits, and dwarves don't keep slaves. No matter what else may be said about them, they are not that.'
'All right, enough. Please don't say another word about slaves. Everytime you try to relieve my fears, you end up adding to them. I will go, Mr. Radagast. But I consider you deeply in my debt. And I don't believe I will know how deeply until this is all over with.'
Radagast and Tomilo passed the bridge and rode down to the crossings beyond. About a league from the river the road diverged. To the left it ran directly toward the Misty Mountains hanging ominously in the distance. To the right it curved in a long arc, disappearing amongst the trees and boulders. Somewhere beyond it straightened out and ran almost due south into Dunland. This was the New South Road, identical to the Old South Road but for its improved crossings and general upkeep. Bridges had replaced fords, and here and there a small village had taken root where the road crossed water or skirted a wood. There was even an inn in one of these villages, near the halfway point from Tharbad to the Gap. The inn was run by men of Gondor, not by the Dunlendings: indeed the entire village consisted of settlers from Gondor. The only exceptions were the groomsmen who worked in the stables. They, of course, were of the Rohirrim. The villages of the native Dunlendings were mainly off the road, and these villages contained no inns or taverns. Even after three centuries, they neither travelled nor wanted guests or other company. Much like the Woses, they only wanted to be left alone.
Tomilo looked at the mountains in the distance. They were still small and indeed misty. They looked much like a line of low clouds, and one had to squint to make out where the clouds of mist stopped and the mountains of mist began. Suddenly Tomilo heard a distant honking, high above and to the left. He looked up and watched as a great vee of white birds wheeled over and turned to the south. He listened to the fading honks until they were out of sight.
He turned to Radagast. 'It makes me want to go now and see the swans where they gather—what did you call it?'
'Yes. Just that. I should think they would be easier to meet than the dwarves.'
'Now, now. Don't get yourself all in a pother. I tell you the dwarves are more bark than bite. And, as beautiful as the swans are in the marshes, I must tell you that Khazad-dum is also something to see. You should be pulling at your toes in anticipation, not grinding your hobbit teeth. Even an avoider of palaces, as I am, would make a week's journey to see the Dwerrowdelf for the first time, and count it time well spent, even with no other business to be done. See, look at Drabdrab. He knows where he is going. Hollin never forgets the elves, and never loses its mystery, no matter how many ages come and go.'
Tomilo felt the pony quivering under him, and fancied that the beast did indeed seem to want to gallop off down the road. This put him somewhat at ease. Also, he thought how he was on a saddle that might be quivering in anticipation as well. This seemed somehow absurd, but also somehow fitting, and the hobbit smiled to think he had thought it.
'I hope everything goes well in Gondor, with the King and all. I guess maybe I won't see you again. In a while, I mean,' stammered Tomilo.
'Yes, this is good-bye for now. I am sure I will find something to say when I get there. Let us hope it is not too awkward. Well, I must learn to speak sometime. And this is the time, by all appearances. Be that as it may, we may meet again, my dear hobbit. I must say that Gandalf was right about the halflings, as he was about everything else: your reticence and honesty both play well, even in the ears of the "wise"; and, for myself, I have no fears about your ability to deliver the message to the dwarves. And I shouldn't be surprised to see you again. Eriador is not so far out of my reckoning as it once was. Stay on the road, and don't stay too long in Moria. Winter is not far away, remember! Farewell!' With that he turned Pelling and galloped down the right hand way, his brown cloak flying out behind him and waving above the dust.
An Unexpected Welcome
Despite Radagast's final words of encouragement and Drabdrab's apparent excitement, Tomilo still felt a bit glum as he made his way along the Glanduin road. The unknown contents of the message weighed on his mind, as did all the veiled forebodings of Radagast. The letter itself was in his pack, safe and sound. He reached back to be sure the pack had not come loose, or fallen off. It was still there, all right, but touching the leather only made him think of the letter all the more. When Radagast had given it to him as they parted, Tomilo had only glanced at it for a moment (he did not want to seem too curious). But he did see that it was sealed with wax that bore the impression of the brown stone that hung about Radagast's neck. Tomilo assumed Cirdan's seal was inside.
Tomilo wondered what a letter could say that would make even a wizard turn into a fool, second-guessing himself and forgetting simple things like watering the pony. The hobbit was clever with his fingers and he thought he could probably get the letter open without damaging the wax. No, that would be absurd. Preposterous. It was even more repugnant to the hobbit than the idea of living in ignorance. Normally he would never even consider opening a letter not addressed to him, but this situation had put him out of sorts. This surprised him almost as much as anything: that he would even think such a thing.
But try as he might to think of something else, his mind kept returning to the letter. He tried to think of the swans again. He listened to the sky for a while, hoping to hear another honk. Anything to break his train of thought. But he had come too far east for the swans. They were already behind him. Finally he reached into his pack and pulled out the letter. He looked at it closely. There was no writing on the outside save two words only: Moria, in Cirdan's flowing script; and underneath, in Radagast's tall letters, Khazad-dum. Both were written directly upon the leathern wrapping. The only other thing was the thick wax seal. This was no letter for the post. It was a message from a wizard to a king. A message from an elf prince to a wizard to a king! Tomilo's hand trembled as he held it up to the sun. There were no holes in the leather, no chinks, not even a dot of paper visible.
What if he lost it? What if he were attacked by orcs or dragons? What if someone else found the letter after he was killed? How would they know who it was for? Tomilo assumed that anyone important would know Radagast's seal. In such a case it would be returned to Radagast, supposed the hobbit. But what if the terrible thing that the letter was warning of happened before Tomilo could get to Moria? Or what if the letter got eaten or destroyed by fire, and Tomilo escaped? And what if Radagast died in the terrible event, the cataclysm? Shouldn't Tomilo know what to tell the survivors?
Tomilo shook his head and pinched himself. His mind was playing him tricks. He was not making any sense. Suddenly he laughed. If a cataclysm befell or Radagast were eaten by dragons, neither King Mithi nor anyone else would need to be warned of it. In that case it would have already happened. Still, he would like to get a glimpse of the letter.
He now had the letter right up to his face, examining the wax in close detail. At that very moment Drabdrab suddenly snorted and stamped. Tomilo looked up. A crane was dancing in the grass a few yards away from the road. It was trying to pick something up, but the thing was moving too, and at first Tomilo could not see what it was. Then the crane stabbed it with its beak and Tomilo saw that it was a large trout, still alive. The crane had been flying over, had dropped the fish, and had come down to retrieve it. At last the bird made firm its hold on the fish and it leapt again into the air on its great grey wings. Then it flew back west toward the marshes of the swans.
Tomilo looked again at the letter. For some reason he no longer felt compelled to open it. In fact he now felt a bit ridiculous—as if he had been in some spell. He slipped the letter back into his pack and fastened it tightly with the thong. Then he spoke jauntily to Drabdrab.
'That was close, my friend,' he said to the pony. 'I don't know what might have happened if I had read that letter. If it is as bad as Radagast hinted it was, I might have simply run off mad into the wild and never returned. Mad Fairbairn, like Mad Baggins. Come to a bad end, like great aunt Pemba in the Midgewater Marshes. Or I might have gotten caught as a spy by the dwarves—when they noticed the hobbit prints in the wax—and been hung upside down in a dungeon as bat fodder. If that bird hadn't dropped his dinner when he did, I don't know what I might have done. Makes me question myself, it does. Makes me question my strength. Can't say that's ever happened before, but I guess I never handled a letter from a wizard to a king before. Sort of a trial by fire, I suppose. It appears that Radagast is not the only one being tested and finding himself lacking. I hope we all grow a bit—before whatever it is that is so bad happens. If I nearly melt in the presence of an important letter, what would I do faced with a dragon, like the great Bilbo was? But I guess hobbits were made of sterner stuff back then. We're just mice and worms compared to the heroes of the past.'
Drabdrab snorted an angry-sounding snort, as if he found this speech none to his liking.
Tomilo laughed. 'Well, Drabbie, your family line may be as spry as ever, and I shouldn't be surprised to find that you were a definite improvement over your ancestry—no matter how accomplished. But I haven't your confidence. Not at the moment, anyhow.'
The rest of that day was uneventful. Tomilo and Drabdrab followed the road league after league, slowly diminishing the distance between themselves and the mountains. But even at the end of the afternoon, after a full day of riding, Tomilo could see little change. The mountains still loomed under the clouds—not too far away, but not too close either.
At dusk they stopped. A few yellowhammers were flitting about with grass in their beaks, hurriedly patching their nests before winter. Several drops of rain fell but it didn't look like pouring just yet. The mist from the mountains had come out to meet them, though, and it glazed the back of the pony and moistened the hobbit's curly hair. Tomilo found his cloak and hood and put them on before unloading Drabdrab. Once the packs were off, the pony wandered away a few yards in search of the best grass. Tomilo prepared a cold supper and glanced round for a dry spot. There were no trees, but several very large stones lay nearby in a sort of L shape. Two of the stones leaned together and provided just enough of a roof to keep a hobbit dry, provided the rain did not increase and the wind did not begin to blow. Drabdrab returned and huddled against the east wall of the larger rock. He did not seem to find the mist too inconveniencing. Soon he and Tomilo were asleep, the hobbit's head almost underneath the pony's forelegs.
The next day started much like the last had ended. The mist still fell about them, perhaps even thicker than it had been in the evening. It either rained or threatened to rain all day and nothing else of consequence happened. Tomilo and Drabdrab passed another wet night in the wilderness and awoke to another misty moisty morning. Finally, at about noon of the third day since he had left Radagast, Tomilo noticed a change. The road turned north and began to descend. The fogs thickened as the hobbit and his pony went down and down, the trees and bushes along the road becoming closer and denser at the same time. There were even signs that the vegetation had been cut back to keep it from overgrowing the way.
Suddenly Tomilo saw two large shapes rise out of the gloom. At first he was startled, but Drabdrab continued walking forward, unconcerned. Soon the hobbit could see that the shapes were but bridgeposts, standing out on each side of the road. As they got closer, Tomilo saw that they were carven stone figures, in size and countenance much like the dwarves he and Radagast had met at Sarn Ford. The figures each gripped two-headed battle-axes and wore helms strangely shaped. Over the bridge spanned a narrow arch, bearing a message to all who would cross. This it said:
Cross in Peace
Lord of Moria
But someone had climbed the span and scratched with a sharp stone two words under the incised warning 'or retreat.' The words were 'in pieces.' Tomilo found this dwarf pun rather disconcerting. If it was in fact done by dwarves. Tomilo doubted it, having great difficulty imagining dwarves with any sense of humour at all, even morbid.
Tomilo and Drabdrab passed under the arch and crossed the bridge. Radagast had said the crossing would be a ford but he had obviously not known about this new bridge. The Glanduin rushed by underneath, icy cold and fleet from the now looming mountains. If the fog had lifted, Tomilo would have seen that he was at their very base, the foothills beginning in a quick rise just to his right. Over these foothills (and on a clear day) a traveller could see the many tiny falls that fed the Glanduin. They shone in the distance as they rushed down the rocky tree-covered slopes and fatefully met one another at the bottom, impelled by the curve of the vale. Now, at the end of a long season of melt, the falls were at their ebb. But in the late spring the water under this bridge would be white with the raging runoff of just-melted ice.
On this late autumn afternoon, under a low sky—one that touched the treetops and merged with the fog of the vale that rose to meet it—no such sights were to be had. So the hobbit trudged off down the dwarf road with his hood over his face and his cloak pulled tight round his waist. He tried to remember what Radagast had said. He thought he had another day or two from the river crossing to the Gates of Moria. Tomilo did not look forward to it. With the rain and fog it appeared to be a wet and weary two days, at the best. The rainy weather made him think of Bilbo's travails with the dwarves, just before they met the trolls. Did trolls still exist? he wondered. If they did exist, where did they live? This seemed as likely a place as any, thought Tomilo. Near to the mountains, in the wilderness. And what about goblins? Goblins weren't extinct, at least as far as he knew. They hadn't all thrown themselves into a pit when the Great War had been won. They weren't terrorizing travellers, like in the old days, but they were corked up somewhere, biding time and doing what mischief they could, on the sly. How much mischief could they do, Tomilo asked himself, this close to the mountains? Maybe more than enough for him. He whispered to Drabdrab to pick up the pace, and pulled his cloak about him even tighter. The pony jogged on a few paces, just to humour him, but then settled back into a walk. There was no danger he could smell. But let him get a sign of trouble on the wind, and see how fast he could go, he told the hobbit with a snort and wag of his ears.
It was the end of the next day and our two heroes were soaked through and very grumpy. It had been drizzling all night and all day, and there wasn't a dry spot on either of them. The night had been miserable, with no campfire and no hot food and only a few hours of shivering sleep. The hobbit and the pony were both cursing the name of Radagast, and recommending the dwarves to their own messengers and mail service, and dratting the whole interconnecting scheme of wizards and high elves and kings and other meddling busybodies who couldn't leave well enough alone. Tomilo thought of his potatoes and his winter lettuces and of his woodpile that was nowhere near the size it needed to be. By the time he got back it would be too late to catch up. What had the dwarves ever done for him, that he should go through this misery for nothing, as a favour to a stranger in a brown cloak? Confusticate the whole lot of them!
Just as he was working himself into a real steam, mumbling audibly and beginning to wave his arms about, Drabdrab stopped. Tomilo became still and mute as stone. He listened to the road in front of him, straining to see through the fogs. Suddenly he heard the sound of marching feet. Just as he began to see some small shapes looming in the distance, he heard a cry:
'Halt there! This is a dwarf road. It serves the kingdom of the Khazad. State your purpose.'
'I am alone and unarmed,' called out Tomilo. 'I bear a message from Cirdan of the Havens for Lord Mithi your King. I beg leave to pass in the name of Radagast the Brown, who gave this message to me.'
For a moment there was no answer. Tomilo could hear a low discussion from the direction of the dwarves. Then one of them called out again.
'Come forward. Dismount first if you do not come on foot.'
Tomilo dismounted and walked forward slowly, leading Drabdrab. As soon as he came out of the fog, he could see that there were only four dwarves, also unarmed and looking rather unprepared and confused. But when they saw Tomilo, they all relaxed. One (not the leader) said, 'A halfling?' The leader immediately snapped, 'Silence, Galka!' and walked a pace forward.
'You say you have a message for Lord Mithi? May I ask what it concerns?'
'It is a sealed letter. I do not know the subject. Only that it is urgent and that it comes from Cirdan.'
'Elvish business, eh? Delivered by a halfling. Perhaps it concerns pipeweed?'
'I do not think so,' answered Tomilo.
'No. The elves probably don't smoke. Galka! Have you ever heard that the elves use pipeweed?'
Galka looked at the others. They only shrugged. 'I don't think so, Sir.'
'You don't think so?'
'I have never seen an elf, Sir. But I have not heard that they smoke.'
'No. It doesn't seem like something an elf would do, does it? Not pretty enough, is it?'
'I say, is it, Galka?'
'All right, then. I am Kavan, Second Marshal of the West Gate (to Tomilo). And your name, please.'
'Tomillimir Fairbairn, of Farbanks, Southmarch, the Shire.' He was about to add, 'and you can call me Tomilo,' but he thought better of it. As soon as the dwarves became accommodating, he would become accommodating, too. But not until then.
'Well, Mr. Fairbairn, we shall lead you to the gates. We wouldn't want you to get lost in the fogs and go tumbling into a ravine,' said Kavan, with little or no expression. The hobbit wasn't sure if the dwarf was being friendly or impertinent. The five of them proceeded north along the dwarf road, Kavan leading and the hobbit in the rear with Drabdrab. The pony seemed calm. He at least was not offended by the Second Marshal's manner, despite what he had said of elves.
They had gone about a league, all silently plodding through the heavy air and soggy ground. It was not raining, but it threatened all the time to begin again in earnest. The hobbit hoped to reach the gates before that happened. In his present mood, any more rain might break the dam in his spirit, and he might say something truly impertinent to the Second Marshal or the Gatekeeper or the King himself. If he could just get near a bit of a fire and have a bowl of hot soup, he might be in proper spirits again. These two wishes took hold of his mind, and he passed the next hour going from fire to soup and back again.
Just as Tomilo was beginning to get dizzy from the circularity of his thoughts, and was beginning to think of climbing back on Drabdrab to save a bit of strength, the dwarf in front of him dropped back and whispered something. It was Galka, the smallest (and youngest looking) of the four dwarves. He was little taller than the hobbit (although Tomilo thought to himself that a hobbitchild could live in one of the dwarf's boots). Galka's beard, though full, was short and pointy. It barely reached to his breastbone. His hood was red, and it crumpled over to the left. Galka occasionally fixed the point, as if self-consciously aware of its inadequacy, but it was of no use. It always returned immediately to the left.
'I have seen an elf, you know,' is what Galka had first whispered. Tomilo looked at him as if there might be some follow-up to this information. But as none was coming, he finally nodded and said, 'Ah!'
Nothing was said on either side for at least five minutes. Tomilo thought the conversation had hit its one and only peak, when suddenly Galka turned again and whispered, 'On the bridge!'
'What bridge?' pursued the hobbit, mostly to be polite.
'Over the Aksul—I mean the Glanduin. He—the elf—he was riding over it. I was under it.'
'Why did you tell the Second Marshal you had never seen one, then?'
'Oh, Marshal Kavan—I never tell him anything. He wouldn't believe me anyway. If I said I had seen one he would have told me I hadn't. I don't think he even believes in elves.'
'Ah!' answered Tomilo, to fill the pause.
'Have you ever seen one?' asked Galka.
'No. But I believe in them. This message is from one. It would be hard to have a real message from an imaginary person.'
'Hah! That's just what I think, too! But Kavan. . . no. I think he thinks you are just a salesman of the leaf, with a good story to see the King. He never believes anybody.'
Tomilo thought about this for a moment. It really did not matter what Kavan thought. He had the letter in his pack. That was all that was necessary.
'What,' continued Tomilo, 'were you doing under the bridge?'
'My hood blew off and fell through a crack in the timbers. I had to climb down and fish it from the stream. Just as I got into the water I heard bells tinkling. So I stood very still. I looked up through the crack and saw him. He had golden hair!'
'Galka?' cried Kavan from the front of the line. 'Did you say something?'
'No, Sir. Mr. . . ah. . . Mr. . . ah . . . what's your name?' (he whispered to the hobbit).
'Fairbairn,' the hobbit whispered back.
'Yes. Mr. Fairbairn asked me how much longer and I told him we were almost there.'
'Is that it, eh?' called back the Second Marshal. 'Nothing at all about elves?'
'All right. We'll be there in a few minutes, Mr. Fairbairn. See that shoulder of rock? We go round that, turn right, and we are on the steps. Come up to the front so I can pass you through to the Gatekeeper. You'll have to give up your pony, but we'll take care of him while you're under.'
Tomilo and Drabdrab went up to Kavan's side as the little troop passed the shoulder of rock. A series of low steps began almost immediately, climbing slowly over a low prominence and down. Just beyond, a great depression in the mountains opened up and the hobbit and the pony could see before them a small plain surrounded on three sides by the cliffs. Tomilo could not actually see the mountain walls, obscured as they were by the fogs and vapours. But straight ahead, on the eastern side of the plain, the cliff wall was sheer, rising some five and thirty fathoms at its highest points before breaking into rough mountainside. On the north and south sides the rise was less sheer; indeed, the road on this side of the plain curved back and forth as it dodged around fallen boulders and small arms of the hill that reached out into the grassland. The open area was somewhat more than a mile across, north to south; from the shoulder of rock to the east wall was two furlongs. This is the area that had been filled by the lake when the Nine Walkers had arrived from Rivendell. Tomilo remembered the description of the lake well, and was relieved to find that the dam had been broken by the dwarves and that the plain was now dry. As he and the dwarves progressed east along the winding road, they crossed several rivulets, spanned by short low bridges of stone. These rivulets snaked across the plain to meet the Sirannon, the gate stream, which had now regained its old banks. It now filled the Stair Falls with its turbid waters before continuing on to meet the Hoarwell far to the west.
The dwarves had also replanted the holly trees along the eastern wall. Tomilo counted at least a hundred on the south side of the gate, and he guessed (rightly) that there must be the same number on the north side as well. During most of the two hundred and ninety odd years since the last of the old trees of Hollin had been uprooted by the Watcher in the Lake, these new trees had stood as a symbol of the rebirth of Eregion. Legolas and Gimli themselves had helped to plant them in the first years of the Fourth Age, and the elf and the dwarf hoped that they would be a sign to both their peoples that the years of enmity were at an end. It was even thought for a time that the elves might start a settlement near the gates. However, the loss of all wooded areas in that region had doomed any such plans, as had the diminishing number of elves remaining in Middle Earth. In the first three centuries of the Fourth Age, the elves had found it difficult to maintain their settlements in Lorien and Greenwood, and so they found it necessary to abandon any talk of resettling Hollin. Since the departure of Legolas, no elf (save the occasional messenger) had been closer to Moria than the western edge of Lorien. And the elves of the Golden Wood did not often pass its borders, especially on the mountain side of the kingdom. This may account for the doubts of Kavan.
In addition to the holly trees, the dwarves had also planted a line of cypresses along the Sirannon. Dwarves were not usually overfond of trees, but cypresses held a strange and unique appeal. The cypress was a tree after their own kind: simple, hardy, long-lived, and fond of rocky places. The cypresses on the plain of Moria thrived, and the dwarves came to love them.
Tomilo and his escort reached the gate without further incident. The hobbit entrusted Drabdrab to a very short dwarf with hay in his blue hood. The hobbit stroked the pony's nose and told him they would be back soon. But Drabdrab seemed less nervous than Tomilo: he just swished his tail and snorted. Tomilo took it as a good sign and breathed out a long breath. They were finally here.
The stone doors stood open and Kavan led Tomilo and the other dwarves past four sentries lightly armed, under the great arch. Just inside were two guards in full dwarvish regalia: mail, high helms, and battle-axes, all of shining mithril. Beyond them Kavan selected a torch from a line on the wall and continued straight up the long stairway. At the top, the hobbit continued to follow his leader, but the other dwarves did not. Their tour of duty over for the day, they returned on their own to their various posts or families. At the first opening on the left, Kavan asked the hobbit to wait outside. The dwarf entered and Tomilo could hear him speaking to someone beyond the doorway. After a moment he called Tomilo in.
'This is Mr. Fairbairn, from the Shire. Mr. Fairbairn, this is Captain Gnan, Gatekeeper of the Third Watch, West Door. I have told him your story. He will sign you in. Mr. Fairbairn, good day.' And without another word, Kavan turned and strode from the room.
'So, Mr. Fairbairn. You have a message for Lord Mithi? I think I can be sure that he gets it. Thank you for coming. Sign this and leave the letter here and we will see to getting you some dinner and a bed.'
'I'm terribly sorry, Mr. Gnan. . . I mean Captain Gnan. I mean I am supposed to deliver the message to King Mithi personally. It comes from Cirdan of the Havens. Radagast the Brown entrusted me with it. I am afraid I really must see King Mithi myself, if just for a moment. It is really quite important.'
'Yes. Quite important. Something about pipeweed, I believe?'
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