Caethir did not sleep that night. He rarely needed to, but often made himself do so in order to block out that day’s or week’s trials for a blissful few hours. Instead, he shimmied up the rope at High Kings Crossing and spent the night either laid out in the cold air star-gazing or staring across Lake Evendim as the moon’s reflections danced upon its surface. His wound still stung, but the Elf was accustomed to blocking out or ignoring pain. He had managed a few scribbles about the past day, but between hoping Gwaerennaur would be fine for the ride to Dwaling and thoughts about the places and people he had left behind – his heart hadn’t been in it.
As he sat lost in his thoughts, he noticed a touch of pink appear on the horizon and that he was colder than he had realised. Shivering, he stood and and stretched, taking in the fore-dawn all around Evendim. From Annùminas in the West, Emyn Uial in the North West and the Barandalf in the South-East, another day of tensions for the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth against the forces of The Enemy slowly seeping insidiously into their fair land. He tried to block out his experiences with the oath-breakers of Parth Aduial.
“West,” he murmured turning back in that direction, but not at all referring to Annùminas.
West was where Freedom for the Elves could be found. Freedom, healing, restoration and finally, release. Caethir frowned.
“But not necessarily happiness,” he pondered.
Sighing he made his way carefully to the rope that led back to the inside of the Colossus. Carefully lowering himself down, early morning aromas of leaf teas and hot broths wafted up to him and knew he had to eat.
An hour or so later, Caethir and Gwaerennaur were packed and ready to go. A small band of Rangers had already departed for dawn raids against the Tomb-Robbers and a select group had been chosen to investigate a goblin threat. Theodhal himself had readied his pale blonde horse to accompany the Elf to Dwaling.
“Well my friend,” the Ranger smiled, “I don’t know which is worse – facing goblins, or the chattering of Hobbits!”
Caethir shook his head, a grin playing at the edges of his mouth. Such familiar wording and tone!
“Well, we all have to make our choices and suffer the consequences. Hobbits cook better food than the goblins, or so I’ve heard!”
Theodhal sat back in his saddle and laughed.
“Come then my dear Elf, let us be on our way so you can conveniently arrive in time for lunch.”
Passing out from the Colossus, they turned their respective horses South and trotted up the hillside. Clouds had gathered overhead, but the southerly breeze was warm. Caethir hoped that the sun would eventually burn the clouds away as it sometimes did in the region. By his estimate, it being late Summer he hoped he would reach the Trollshaws by Fall.
Theodhal looked across at his companion as the two horses slowly made their way over the hills that bordered the beaches of the Barandalf.
“Are you always this deep in thought?”
Caethir glanced sideways at the Ranger.
“Only if there is nothing life-threatening in the moment. I don’t think that will happen today – quite a pleasant change!”, he replied
“Yes, and I think you’ll find Dwaling…more hospitable than when you arrived all those months ago.”
“It could hardly have been less welcoming, but it will be interesting to see how the village has changed.” Caethir acknowledged.
The Elf had been correct about the journey and the weather. Though a few Sand Lurkers had appeared interested in the traveling pair, there were few other threats to concern them. The combined effort of the Rangers at High Kings Crossing and the Hobbits overseeing affairs at Dwaling, even the brigands had been kept at bay. So it was, sometime after mid-morning that they casually rode into the village.
Caethir shielded his eyes from the sun and gasped. No longer was the evil gloom hanging about the village. The Glass-blowers seemed busy and Hobbits mingled about; busying themselves with the day’s chores. Burrows that had been sabotaged before the Elf had arrived were now fully restored. At both ends of Dwaling, armed and armoured Hobbits could be seen guarding the folks within.
“Quite a transformation you brought about by facing down Sharkey’s men for the halflings, Caethir”, Theodhal grinned.
“I did not act alone, but yes,” the Elf acknowledged.
“We never do act alone, but we should still honour our own contributions. You should still honour your contributions”, the Ranger said pointedly.
“Yes, you are correct. And not the first to have reminded me of that.”
What was it again?, Caethir pondered as he dismounted his horse. We never know how far our own impact will resonate.
Theodhal saw the Elf return to his thoughts, but he reached down to offer his hand of friendship to Caethir, who turned and smiled back at his friend, and shook the hand wholeheartedly.
“Thank you, for everything. I will return in a few months.”
“So I’ve heard,” smirked Theodhal, before turning his horse to return North to his duties.
Caethir watched as his friend disappeared into the distance, wondering what in Middle-Earth the Ranger had meant. It was his own horse that brought him back to his senses.
“Right! Yes, you’re quite right Gwaerennaur – we need lunch. Or second breakfast. Or elevenses. Or whichever excuse to eat we’ve arrived in time for!”
And with a smile, he led the dark-grey horse by the reigns into Dwaling in search of food.