Chapter 11 : Sojourn in the Golden Wood
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Thank you to VanaTheEverYoung/Hufflepuff (depending on the site) for the beta work. Thanks also to NancyBrooke of the Open Scrolls Archive for the Sindarin translation of “The strongest power is found within.”
And to my readers, thanks for all the reviews!
It was with horror that Frodo watched Gandalf plummet into the dark depths below the bridge of Khazad-dûm. Mere moments before it happened, he had begun running to the bridge, to the place where Harry stood…but Boromir, who had been unable to prevent Harry from going back, now easily put an arm out to stop the Hobbit. Frodo resisted, trying to get to the place where Gandalf dangled off the stone, clinging by the very tips of his fingers…if he could just go near Gandalf, if he could just touch him it would put everything right….
But then Gandalf told them to run, losing his grip at last. Frodo heard someone crying out in denial, sobbing, and it was only when Boromir picked him up that he realized it was himself. He wanted to go back; he cried out Gandalf’s name as though it would bring back the Wizard’s cryptic smile and twinkling eyes. Against his will he was borne away, though a hail of badly aimed Orc arrows and into the brightness of day at last.
It was not until he was finally set down that Frodo fully let go of any hope that Gandalf might yet be alive. As the others climbed out into the light on the stony mountainside, he wandered off to be alone with his grief.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Hermione said faintly.
She collapsed on a rock and did just that before beginning to sob. “I – I can’t b-believe I did that! I wasn’t thinking d-during the battle…Oh, it’s so horrible, how c-can you all just stand there?”
Harry and Ron just stood there awkwardly; it was Legolas who put a comforting hand on her shoulder. Hermione tried to shrug it away, but he held on, gentle but firm.
“It is a necessary evil, Hermione. All of us, I am sure, abhor the very idea of taking a life. But you must understand that in a battle, no enemy will stop attacking if you lower your weapons.”
“I-I’m a Gryffindor,” she sobbed. “I’m supposed to be brave!”
“And you showed your courage down in the Mines,” the Elf said. “You need not be ashamed.”
Legolas gave her a final comforting pat before leaving her with her hands over her eyes. He walked lightly over to where Ron and Harry stood. “She is in a state of extreme shock,” he said to them quietly. “It happens to many after their first battles. Do your best to cheer her up.”
As he moved on, Ron stood there with his mouth working soundlessly.
Harry and Ron waited uncomfortably for a few moments, just looking at Hermione as she shuddered with sobs. Then Ron sat down next to her and put a comforting arm around her shoulders.
“Definitely not the Gringotts type, what d’you think?”
Hermione gave a slightly choked laugh through her sobs, but she was smiling weakly when she looked up at Ron.
“N-no.” Another wave of tears filled her eyes and began to spill forth. “B-but…Gandalf…he…” She could not finish, and instead began sobbing into Ron’s shoulder.
“Shh.” He stroked her rather severely plaited hair gently. Harry decided to leave the pair alone and wandered over to a rock where he could sit alone and face eastward, with his back to the exit from Moria. He no longer even wanted to think about the place.
The grief in the air surrounding the rocky area was palpable. The Hobbits were all weeping; Gimli, restrained by Boromir, was struggling to reenter the Mines. Legolas and Aragorn stood in the middle of everyone, silent but with sadness written clearly on their features.
Harry did not cry. He did not remember a time when he had. He had not shed a tear when Sirius had died; rather, he had stormed about in a rage, locking up his grief and nearly allowing it to consume him from within.
It was then, as he looked out and at a white, frothing stream that he realized: holding on to his grief would get him nowhere. Would Sirius have wanted him to be tied down by it, especially if there was adventure to be had? No. And so he let go of his sadness for both Sirius and Gandalf. He did not weep like the others were doing; he just took a deep breath and steeled himself anew. Gandalf had died for a cause he believed in, just as Sirius had. Harry owed it to them to complete the two missions he now had: first this one in Middle-earth, then he would eventually hunt down Voldemort if he, Ron, and Hermione ever got back home.
Not if, he told himself. When.
He stood looking silently out over the land spread before him. The brightness of the sunlight blinded him after nearly four days spent with very little light, but neither the sun nor his sadness would bring tears to his eyes. Perhaps Voldemort had stolen this ability from him along with his parents and his happiness.
Harry was jolted out of his reverie when Aragorn called out, “Legolas, get them up.”
Harry turned around to see Boromir halfheartedly trying to set Pippin on his feet. “Give them a moment, for pity’s sake!”
“By nightfall these hills will be swarming with Orcs! We must reach the woods of Lothlórien. Come, all of you, get them up.”
He called out to Frodo, who had wandered off. As Harry made his way back to where Ron and Hermione were now standing, he looked to where the Hobbit stood. On Frodo’s face was a look of such pain that Harry felt a stab of guilt for letting Gandalf go so easily. Had the old Wizard known this would happen, that the Ringbearer would be in such distress at this loss?
The Company finally came together in a few minutes, drying their eyes and putting on stoic expressions. Not a word was said as they followed Aragorn, who had taken up the position as leader of the Fellowship, down through the foothills and closer to the distant woods.
Hours later, Aragorn led them into a strangely silent forest of tall trees that Harry could not recognize. A strange, unsettling glow seemed to come from all directions, giving the place an eerie quality. There was no sign of habitation; the only sounds were the occasional whispered conversation and rustle of leaves underfoot.
Gimli was muttering something to the Hobbits about an Elf-Witch who lived in these woods. Then, quite suddenly, Frodo halted in his tracks.
Harry wondered about this for a moment, but almost stumbled into Ron when another memory surfaced. That deep, ethereal voice he had heard on the Hogwarts Express murmuring, “Frodo…Your coming to us is as the footsteps of doom. ”
Harry shook it off as Ron asked, “Harry?”
“Mr. Frodo?” Sam said at the same moment.
Harry and Frodo did not reply, but they shot glances at each other when they began to move on. Harry knew that look; he had seen it on Ron’s and Hermione’s faces several times. It said, quite clearly, Talk with me later.
Harry gave the barest of nods. Now Gimli – presumably going on about the “Elf-Witch” – was saying, “Well, here’s one Dwarf she won’t ensnare so easily. I have the eyes of a hawk and the ears of a fox. Oh!” As if to mock his words, an Elven arrow had appeared inches before his nose.
The rest of the Fellowship halted in their tracks, finding themselves surrounded by archers. As Aragorn put up his hands, a tall, haughty-looking Elf strode into view, with a hint of a smirk playing around his mouth. His features reminded Harry vaguely of Lucius Malfoy, what with his long, silvery hair, grey eyes, and current expression.
“The Dwarf breathes so loud we could have shot him in the dark,” the Elf said.
Gimli merely growled.
The Elf began conversing with Aragorn in rapid Elvish. Harry and Ron glanced at Hermione for a translation, but she shook her head, too tense to provide one at the moment. After several minutes of discussion, the Elf jerked his head, indicating that Aragorn should follow. Aragorn glanced back at the Company, indicating wordlessly that they should follow suit.
Their guards led them even deeper into the forest with grim expressions, finally showing them up a rope ladder and onto a platform they called a talan – or, as Aragorn said, a flet. Legolas and Aragorn stood in front of the rest of the Fellowship, conversing with the Elves’ leader. Harry looked at Hermione.
She glanced back with an exasperated expression. “They’re only greeting each other,” she said in a low voice. “Nothing important yet.”
Gimli, growing angry at the use of Elvish, spat an insult in his own language back at the leader, whose name appeared to be Haldir. Aragorn seized him by the shoulder and remonstrated, “That was not so courteous.”
Haldir looked back to where the Hobbits stood. His gaze came to rest on Frodo.
“You bring great evil with you,” he said softly. His expression sharpened and he looked at Aragorn. “You can go no further.”
Aragorn stood still for a moment, stunned as Haldir began to walk away. A second later he followed, arguing once more in Elvish.
More the thirty minutes later the others had placed their packs on the ground as they waited for something to come of Aragorn’s pleas. Harry noticed that Frodo was sitting all alone near the far edge of the platform, looking around at his companions. All – even Sam – glanced back at him with expressions that said very clearly, this is your fault. Frodo sat hugging his knees, looking crestfallen.
Harry knew how this felt. When he was in second year most of the people at Hogwarts had believed he was the one attacking fellow students; even ghosts had thought him guilty. He also knew that Ron had helped him pull through the worst of it by being there to support him.
Now even Sam did not want to talk to Frodo. So Harry got up and walked over to where the Hobbit sat, settling down next to him.
“You heard her too, didn’t you?” the Hobbit asked in a low voice.
Harry nodded, glancing over to see Frodo thinking hard. Frustration and guilt surfaced on Frodo’s features, compelling Harry to speak.
“It’s not your fault,” he said quietly.
Frodo didn’t turn his head. “How can you say that? It was my decision to go into the Mines.”
“But blaming yourself won’t do anything.” Harry was surprised to hear himself say this; it was as if he needed to convince himself as well as Frodo. “Gandalf made a choice, and in the end, it allowed us to escape and continue the Quest.” Just like Sirius made a choice….
When Frodo did not respond, Harry added, “The Ring already weighs you down. Carrying this guilt will only slow you even further.” I must kill Voldemort eventually…. I can’t let guilt about Sirius eat me up…. I have to focus on the task….
There was a long silence. The Frodo said in a quiet voice, “Thank you.”
“You and Ron saved my life, and those of my two cousins, when you distracted the troll. We owe you for it.”
“Oh…well, you’re welcome. Or, as you might phrase it, Harry Potter at your service!” He gave the best bow he could in his seated position.
The corners of Frodo’s mouth began to twitch upward, but his face fell again as Haldir emerged from his argument with Aragorn. “You will follow me,” the Elf said, looking less than pleased about it. He scrutinized Harry for a moment, as if debating whether to say something, but instead turned away. Everyone stood and gathered up their belongings once more.
Apparently these woods were just the very outskirts of Lothlórien. The Elf Haldir led them along a winding path for hours on end. They finally made it to the top of a ridge just as the sun was beginning to set before they stopped.
“Caras Galadhon,” Haldir breathed, “the heart of Elvendom on earth. Realm of the Lord Celeborn, and Galadriel, Lady of Light.”
The Elvish names were somewhat lost on Harry, who merely saw a stand of exceptionally tall trees, but he continued to follow the Elf together with the rest of the Fellowship.
Dusk had settled in when they reached the trees. Harry looked up and gasped in wonder. Beside him he heard Ron and Hermione do the same.
Above their heads soared an intricate, beautifully constructed series of flets and walkways. Staircases wound gracefully around unbelievably tall trees, the likes of which Harry had never seen before. Little silver lights were placed here and there throughout the entire structure, giving the place an ethereal glow. It was easily as beautiful as Rivendell, though the atmosphere was certainly more eerie.
They were led up a staircase that seemed to ascend for ages. Night had fallen before they reached the very top, where they stepped out onto a magnificent platform. They stopped and waited before a large staircase, which led into the largest and most elaborate flet they had yet seen.
Two noble Elves, the Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel, descended the steps to stand before the Fellowship. A glow seemed to emanate from the pair, an ethereal light that set them apart from other beings. They began to speak, but Harry, exhausted as he was, paid little attention to their words. Harry vaguely realized that they were talking of Gandalf’s fate, a topic that he was quite willing to avoid.
Then, quite suddenly, a voice spoke sharply right to his mind: Harry Potter…
He jerked out of his reverie and looked up. Galadriel was not looking directly at him, but he knew it was her voice that he had somehow heard.
“The Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail to the ruin of all.”
Her eyes met Harry’s as she said this. He had the distinct feeling that he was being X-rayed – something only Dumbledore could do to him. It was unsettling to feel Galadriel’s eyes boring intently into his. He tried to look away, but could not as she began to speak to him yet again, a whisper to his mind.
You do not belong here. You and your friends lie outside the pattern of events, and that may have unforeseeable consequences…
With an effort, an unnerved Harry tore his eyes from her powerful blue gaze. No one he knew of could touch his mind without any need for spells – no one, that is, except Voldemort. And while Harry knew that Galadriel was an ally and could be trusted, he wasn’t sure whether he liked her.
The Hobbits did not like heights, so the Fellowship climbed back down to rest among the great roots of the mallorn trees. They laid out their packs and bedrolls, removing their cloaks and jerkins before leaning against the massive trunks. Above them, the Elves began to sing a melody as haunting and beautiful as phoenix song.
Legolas would not say what the other Elves were singing, and neither would Hermione. The lyrics brought tears to her eyes and soon enough she had rolled over and fallen asleep. Harry, Ron, and Aragorn were all polishing and sharpening their swords; Ron sat close to Hermione’s sleeping form and scowled at anyone who came too close.
Harry rubbed a soft cloth over the blade and lion emblem one last time before sheathing his sword. He stood up and was about to go sit with the morose-looking Hobbits when Boromir suddenly appeared in front of him.
“Walk with me?” the Man asked.
Harry gave a nod, leaving his sword with the rest of his belongings but keeping his wand stowed within his tunic.
They wandered among the trees, passing clear pools of water as the silence stretched between them. Finally Boromir spoke.
“We have indeed had ill fortune during the course of the Quest. Forced to take the dark road of Moria, then Gandalf fell into shadow…”
Harry responded with a noncommittal, “Mmm.”
Boromir glanced sideways at him. “I asked you before we began the journey in the Mines who you were. I had half a mind to ask Gandalf, but…”
“What is there to know? I’m just Harry Potter, of the race of Men.”
“But is that all?”
“What of these strange abilities you and your two friends have? Flying broomsticks, melting snow without effort, light at your command? Where do you three really come from?”
There was no avoiding the question, so Harry decided to give a truthful but incomplete answer.
“As for where we come from, I don’t think I should say. But those ‘strange abilities’ as you call them … that is magic.”
Boromir threw him a calculating look. “Magic?”
“Yes. The three of us are wizards, though we are trying to avoid using our powers unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
“Kin of Gandalf?”
“No … At least, I don’t think so. He said we had a different brand of magic.”
Boromir now had a thoughtful look on his face. “Powers such as yours would be a valuable asset in our fight against the Enemy. If you and your two friends were to come to the city of Minas Tirith we could likely arrange something …”
“Only if the Quest takes us there,” Harry said firmly.
“Gondor is at the very center of the fight against Sauron.”
“Ron, Hermione, and I swore that the Ring would make it to Mount Doom and be destroyed. That was our mission; we did not promise any more than that.”
Was he mistaken, or did that greedy look he had seen on Ron’s face flash across Boromir’s features as the Ring was mentioned? But it was gone as soon as the Man spoke. “Elrond told us that we were to go no further than we will.”
“But I, for one, wish to go all the way to Mordor with Frodo. I have to make sure that happens, or else – ”
He broke off abruptly, lest he reveal too much.
“Very well,” Boromir said. “If the road does not take the Fellowship to Minas Tirith, so be it. But at least consider the offer. You and your friends would be safe within the city walls – and is that not what you want the most?”
With that, Boromir turned back to where the others were. Harry allowed him to move out of sight before beginning to follow.
When Harry returned to the campsite, he found nearly everyone asleep, though Aragorn and Boromir were nowhere to be seen. Exhaustion finally taking over him, Harry fell into a deep sleep such as he had not had in a long while.
Frodo still looked tired the next morning, as though he had slept uneasily or not at all. When Harry awoke, the Hobbit was deep in talk with Sam already, so Harry went over to where Ron and Hermione were sitting. He ate a breakfast of fresh bread and fruit as he told his friends about Boromir’s proposal.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Ron.
“What?” Harry and Hermione said at once.
“I mean…look, if we all go to Minas Tirith, we can rest up a bit before taking off into Mordor, can’t we?”
“He has a point, Harry. After all, Minas Tirith is right in sight of the awful mountains surrounding Mordor.” She shuddered at the thought.
“We can’t go,” Harry said firmly.
“Why not?” Ron asked, his tone insistent.
“Don’t you get it? Frodo is carrying the Ring! If we were to bring it into the city, it could wreak havoc!”
“If Frodo were to keep it hidden…” Ron said, but Harry cut him off.
“That’s not the point. Frodo keeps it hidden from view all the time, but can’t you see what it’s been doing to Boromir? To you?”
The words were out of Harry’s mouth before he knew it. Ron’s blue eyes hardened as he looked back at Harry, and Hermione had turned her gaze away.
“What do you mean, to me?” Ron asked in a soft and dangerous tone.
“It’s got a hold on Boromir,” Harry whispered. “Ron, you’re my best mate, I don’t want the same thing happening – ”
“I think I’m done eating,” Ron said, standing abruptly. “See you later.” With that, he turned on his heel and disappeared into the trees. Hermione cast one glance at Harry before she rose as well. With a mumbled apology, she took off after Ron.
By then Harry had quite lost his appetite, but he could hardly follow his two friends at the moment. So he walked off in the opposite direction, making note of all the small pools and streams that he passed.
Their supper was brought to them by an Elf between sunset and dusk. The food was wonderful, but Harry couldn’t help thinking that it would seem better if only Ron and Hermione would meet his eye. The two sat on the opposite side of the circle of companions, pointedly looking down into their food so as to avoid Harry’s gaze. Later, Hermione gave a quick “Good night!”, but Ron did not speak at all. So it was with frustration and slight anger that Harry curled up in his bedroll and went straight to sleep.
How he heard it, he did not know. Sometime later in the night he awoke to the barest stirring of leaves, so light it might even have been the wind. But when he turned over and squinted at the source of the sound, he saw that it was not the wind at all. The bright white gown and cascade of long blonde hair told him that it was the Lady Galadriel. He rummaged around in his pack for his glasses. What was the Lady doing down here at such a late hour?
Harry pushed the spectacles over his eyes and saw Galadriel off in the distance, disappearing around a tree. It was as though she had called him without words; an overwhelming curiosity suddenly took hold of him, and he quietly stood and began to follow her.
He rounded the tree and spotted a clearing with a pedestal at its very center. A shining silver basin stood upon it, and there, poised as though she had been expecting him, was the Lady Galadriel herself. Behind her was a bubbling pool fed by a small waterfall, a silver pitcher standing just at its edge. Oddly enough, while Harry was sure he had explored this very area earlier, he did not remember any such clearing. Yet it all seemed right out of a dream….
“So,” Galadriel began in her deep voice, “you have returned.”
Harry frowned. “Returned?” he echoed.
“You know both who you are and who you were. You understand the evil you face both now and the time from whence you come. What would you do with this knowledge?”
“I…How d’you know?”
The Lady smiled gently as she responded cryptically, “There are ways.”
“How much do you know?”
“Enough to understand. What of my question?”
The answer was obvious, of course. Harry began to speak, more to himself than to her. “If I knew how to defeat Voldemort I would definitely try. I know that my mum’s love protected me when he gave me this,” Harry said, pushing aside his long and slightly unkempt bangs to reveal the lightning-bolt scar. “And I know that it can link our minds and that he gave me some of his powers. But I don’t have much to go on from there. There really isn’t a spell that sends waves of…of love out to attack anyone.” The very idea in itself sounded ridiculous.
“Would you seek the answer in the Mirror?”
Harry considered. “I was never any good at Divination.”
“You need not be. Would you look?”
“Would it give me a straight answer?”
Galadriel gave a soft laugh. “I fear that even the wisest would not know. The Mirror does not always show truly what may come to pass. You must decide what is important.” With that, she dipped the pitcher into the clear pool and poured the water into the silver basin. “Come.”
Harry did as he was told and stood next to the pedestal, looking down into the rippling surface of the water at his reflection. The person staring back at him seemed almost a stranger; a small growth of beard made him look much older than sixteen years, his skin had tanned, and his hair was longer and messier than usual. He was rather broader in the shoulder than before, the result of long hours of practice with the sword. He only recognized the round glasses, green eyes, and thin scar as being himself…but then the water began to shimmer, rippling rather than swirling like a Pensieve’s contents, and a small image appeared.
The image showed Gandalf at the bridge in Moria, raising his staff and bringing it down in a surge of brilliant light. The water moved again almost as if he had breathed on it, and now he saw a small figure of a rider in white, chasing away large, dark reptilian beasts…
The Mirror turned dark and Harry leaned in closer, trying to make out what the image was. Then a faint green glow filtered down from the upper end of the Mirror, spreading out to reveal the castle of Hogwarts. But it was not Hogwarts as Harry remembered it…the gates were mangled and broken, and it looked as though there were people dueling in the front of the lawn, but they were too tiny to make out…The image pulled back, and it was with horror that Harry realized the source of the light was the Dark Mark, hovering over the castle…Hagrid’s hut appeared, all ablaze…
Images flashed before his eyes. The Burrow in ruins…Grimmauld Place abandoned and dark…Ron lying on his side with his eyes open, wand fallen to the floor at his side…Hermione’s face, eyes staring glassily at nothing…
A final image appeared, and Harry felt his sword-callused hands gripping the sides of the pedestal so hard that his knuckles were turning white. Dumbledore, lying with his limbs at strange angles, a trickle of blood issuing from the corner of his mouth…clearly dead…
Harry wrenched his eyes away from this terrible vision to look Galadriel in the eye. “Is it real?”
Her words reached his mind directly. It may come to pass if you do not find the answer soon. You were given a gift when you were sent to this time, accident though it may have been.
So it won’t? Harry thought back.
I cannot say. The answer may be found here in Middle-earth, or it may not.
“Why can’t you just tell me? You already know all about me,” Harry voiced aloud, loosening his grip on the pedestal. He glanced down at the Mirror, which now innocently reflected the treetops and stars above.
Galadriel sighed. “There are some things that are best left untold. It will be to your advantage to discover the answer for yourself.”
Harry slept fitfully that night, which was unfortunate because they packed up their belongings the following morning to leave Lothlórien. He tied his jerkin on and belted his sword to his waist blearily, listening to the two Hobbits seated next to him.
“What are they?” Pippin asked.
“Bread, my dear Took! It seems as though they left us breakfast!” Merry said excitedly.
The sound of enthusiastic munching came from behind Harry, who turned his head to see a small leaf-wrapped package at his side. He pulled on the corner of the leaf to see what was inside, and sure enough, there were ten pieces of flat bread.
Ron dashed by, ignoring Harry, who was now in the process of rolling up his blankets. Feeling rather as though he had lost his appetite, Harry placed the packet of bread into his traveling bag and swung it onto his back.
Aragorn made an entrance into the camp, already dressed and ready to leave. “Come!” he said. “The Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel wish to meet with us before we depart.”
The Fellowship hurried to pack their possessions before following Aragorn as he led them through the trees to a clearing that, by the sound of rushing water, was close to a river. Celeborn stood there with ten other Elves; Galadriel was nowhere to be seen. Each of the Elves held a bundle of grey-green cloth and stood solemnly as the Fellowship formed a semicircle opposite them.
“The Lady Galadriel has chosen to gift you with these Elven cloaks,” Celeborn said. As if on cue, the other Elves unrolled their bundles. “They are light, warm in the winter and yet cool enough to be worn in the height of summer. The Lady herself helped weave the cloth.”
He nodded, and the other Elves stepped forward to stand in front of each member of the Fellowship. Aragorn looked each member of the Company in the eye before unfastening his own cloak and laying it to the side. Everyone else imitated him before the Elves swung the cloaks carefully around the shoulders of the Fellowship’s members. Harry noticed that a delicately made brooch of green and silver fastened the cloaks as a final touch.
“Never before have we clad strangers in the garb of our own people,” Celeborn said, as the Elves stepped back silently. “May these cloaks shield you from unfriendly eyes.”
Harry chose to pick up his old cloak and folded it, stuffing it in his bag together with his Invisibility Cloak, provisions, and water skin. He shouldered his pack once more as Celeborn beckoned to the Company.
They emerged into a more brightly lit clearing where Galadriel stood, several more Elves behind her. Once more the Fellowship formed a line across from her.
“We wish you well on your Quest,” Galadriel began, “but we would not allow you to take your leave without first giving you these gifts.”
She began at the end of the line, where Legolas stood, and presented the Elf with a new bow. She gave Hermione a similar one of a smaller size, smiling as she did so.
“You are very brave, Hermione Granger, to venture out upon such a Quest as this. This bow is indeed worthy of your newfound skill. May it serve you well.”
For once, even Hermione had no words, but she smiled and nodded at the Lady thankfully. Galadriel then handed Merry and Pippin a small dagger each before moving on to Sam, holding a length of silvery cord in her hands.
“And for you, Samwise Gamgee, Elven rope made of hithlain.”
Sam thanked her, but then glanced over to where Merry and Pippin were admiring their new knives. “Have you run out of those nice, shiny daggers?”
The Lady merely smiled before moving on to Gimli. The Dwarf shuffled and mumbled as she stood before him, waiting for his request. It came as a surprise to Harry – a single hair from Galadriel’s head. She smiled again as she took up a few strands of hair and cut them off with a small knife, handing them over to Gimli, who immediately stowed them in a pocket. His face held an expression of wonder.
Ron was next. Galadriel regarded him gravely.
“Your loyalty to your friends runs strong. Take care that you do not come to harm by it.” She presented him with an elegantly made knife, its blade long and straight. Ron’s eyes widened at the sight of the rich silver scrollwork around the hilt.
“This is not of a typical Elven style, but it suits you. With it, your aim will ever be true. Use what talents you have and do not be tempted by the power of darkness.” Harry watched as she handed him the knife and was almost sure that she slipped him something else wrapped in a cloth.
She moved on to Boromir, who chose to avoid her eyes. Harry guessed that she spoke directly to his mind before she gave him a belt.
Aragorn had stood between Boromir and Harry, but he had somehow disappeared. So it was Harry who faced Galadriel next.
“For you, Harry Potter, a walking staff.” The golden-brown stick was a little shorter than Harry was, with a small sphere of wood covered in a thin tracery of gold carved into the top. Elvish characters ran all the way from the top to the bottom. Harry took it into his hands and realized that holding it felt as natural as holding a wand. There was no rush of magical warmth spreading from his fingertips up his arm, but it just felt right.
“It will guide your feet safely over uneven paths and will lead you to wisdom. And remember, I valan vellwain vi dortha, the strongest power is found within.”
With that cryptic note, Galadriel walked over to where the last person was standing: Frodo waited at the end of the line, looking up to meet her eyes.
“And for you, Frodo Baggins, I give you the light of Eärendil. May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
A small crystal phial exchanged hands and Frodo bent his head respectfully. Then Galadriel leaned down to kiss the top of his head in parting.
“Your journey commences once again,” she said to the Fellowship in a sad voice. “The Lord Celeborn, myself, and Elves of Lothlórien all wish you well on your endeavor. Haldir will lead you to the boats.”
The boats already had their belongings stowed in them, together with extra packets of the leaf-wrapped wafers. Harry overhead Legolas call them lembas and say that only a bite was needed to sustain a grown man for hours on end.
There was one boat that was slightly longer than the others. Aragorn directed Harry, Ron, and Hermione to that particular one.
“I will be taking Frodo and Sam, and Boromir has Merry and Pippin in his boat. Legolas will be taking Gimli, so there is no place for you three but here.”
Harry glanced at Ron and knew that he wasn’t too pleased about this arrangement, for the two of them still weren’t talking. Harry noticed, with greater unease, that both Ron and Boromir were watching Frodo more often than was necessary to keep guard. Yet Harry felt that to give Ron another warning would only infuriate his best mate even further. Hermione was still talking to both of them, but the situation was becoming increasingly awkward.
“I will lead us down the river. All you must do is follow,” Aragorn said before he moved to speak with Celeborn.
Harry clambered over the thick tree root that served as a small dock for the boat and sat down inside. The boat rocked back and forth as each of them entered, but it stayed afloat. Out of the corner of his eye Harry could see Sam clinging to the sides of his boat, a frightened expression on his face.
Soon enough Aragorn returned and they were all situated in their boats. Harry and Ron took up the paddles and followed Aragorn’s lead downstream, Hermione sitting quietly between them. At the very border of Lothlórien they passed the Lady Galadriel, who raised her arm in farewell. She met Harry’s eyes once more.
I valan vellwain vi dortha, she repeated into his mind.
What does that mean? What power?
You will discover it in time. I cannot tell you more.
But the Lady just smiled sadly and shook her head. Farewell, Harry Potter. May you find the answer you seek.
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