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Almost There - Elwen of the Hidden Valley

Author:Elwen of the Hidden Valley
Title:Almost There
Rating:G
Theme:Back Garden of a Dream
Elements:Bend in the Road
Author's Notes:Not sure I fully understood the theme but this is what it is.
Summary:Tolkien gives us sparse details of the journey from Bruinen to Rivendell
Word Count:3377



The setting, characters and main events all belong to JRR Tolkien. I am only filling a gap with this fanfic.

ALMOST THERE

“Has the water level dropped enough, do you think?” Merry eyed the river, shuddering at the sight of a large dark cloak billowing in the water, snagged upon one of several boulders which had been dropped by the flood.

Sam chanced a foot in the grey flow and withdrew it with a hiss. “Tis icy. I reckon it's come from yon' snowcaps.” He pointed to where sun glinted sharply on jagged peaks that seemed to deny any hint of the fabled refuge of Rivendell. Still he shifted from foot to foot upon the bank, keenly aware that upon the farther shore Frodo had not moved so much as a hand while they waited helplessly.

Pippin was pale, his voice little more than a whisper and barely withheld tears shone in his eyes. “Is he alive, do you think?” Youngest as he was, yet he was the only one with the courage to say what others were thinking.

Sam's heart grew as icy as the river for a moment and then blazed hot. “No. Not Mr Frodo. He stood up to that rider at Weathertop. And he's come this far. I'll not believe he's dead until I touch him myself. I won't!”

At Pippin's question Glorfindel had leapt into the low branches of a tree, narrowing his eyes. Now he called down. “He yet lives. I saw his eyelids flicker. But his strength is failing. We dare not wait any longer.”

Strider frowned. “You or I may risk the crossing but the hobbits are too small. They would be swept away by the current before they had taken half a dozen steps and we dare not leave them unprotected on this bank. We do not yet know the fate of our enemies. They could be regrouping even now.”

Pippin clutched at Merry's arm and both flinched as Glorfindel landed only inches away. “Can you cross whilst carrying a hobbit?” Glorfindel asked Strider.

Aragorn turned to assess the flow, gauging speed by the passage of a small branch floating by. “If I must, yes.”

“And I can carry another,” Glorfindel announced easily. “We can place a third atop the pony.”

Strider's face cleared. “Aye. That could work.” He hurried to redistribute the baggage on Bill's back.

“Leave some of the less essential items. Your pony is as weary as you.” Glorfindel began collecting the discarded items into a heap.

Sam ran to help Aragorn unpack some of their spare clothing and cooking gear. Although, as they had already eaten most of their food, there was little to dispose of. When Aragorn saw Sam hesitating about leaving some of his master's belongings the man took pity. “We can always send some of Elrond's folk back to collect them, Sam.”

So it was that only a little while later the small party ventured into Bruinnen's icy flow. Aragorn carried Pippin upon his shoulders and led Bill, with a terrified Sam clinging to the stolid little pony's back.

Merry clung to Glorfindel's back and they were first to reach the far side. Glorfindel let Merry down at once and ran lightly to Asfaloth, pausing only to stroke the horses' sleek white neck before dropping to his knees at Frodo's side. Once there he carefully rolled the unconscious hobbit into his lap, revealing a broken sword, pressed into the mud. “And so you resisted even to the last,” he murmured.

“Has he sustained any further injury?” Aragorn called as he waded ashore and set down Pippin.

Bill had barely touched land before Sam leapt from his back and ran to his master's side, reaching out hesitantly to touch a cheek as cold and white as finely carved alabaster.

Glorfindel had been running a hand over Frodo's chest to check for hurts but now he let out a sigh. “He lives Sam, and has taken no further hurt.” Once more, he unclipped the silver flask from his belt and trickled a little clear liquid between Frodo's pale lips. When he was sure it had been swallowed he passed the flask to Merry and advised everyone to take a single sip. As it had before, the Miruvor brought renewed strength to body and spirit.

Merry looked about them. “I thought this would be Rivendell,” he stated with a disappointed moue. Of the fabled valley there was still no sign, unless it be the thin trail that climbed a steep brown slope to disappear into a fringe of pines above them.

“This land is under the protection of Lord Elrond but it is not Imladris,” Glorfindel replied as he helped Sam swaddle Frodo in their remaining blankets. “These are just the foothills of the Misty Mountains. Now we must climb.” With Frodo cradled carefully in his arms, Glorfindel arose. “And we had best do so quickly or he will be beyond even Elrond's help.”

Aragorn touched his arm. “The hobbits are exhausted. We cannot make good time. Perhaps you should take Frodo upon Asfaloth and leave us to follow.”

There was a chorus of gasps from three hobbits and the golden elf lord seemed to consider for several moments. “No. I think their presence may help to hold Frodo to this world a little longer. Put Merriadoc and Peregrin upon Asfaloth and Samwise upon Bill. I shall carry Frodo and we will make better time thus.” He nodded to the still swiftly flowing Bruinen behind them. “Lord Elrond knows we are here and will send help to meet us.”

Aragorn did not release Glorfindel, dropping his voice as he asked, “And what of that which he carries? Do you sense it?”

The elf's grey eyes seemed to fill with stars, although the sun still shone. “I do. But it is quiet for now. Perhaps Elrond's influence here has subdued it, although I suspect he may not be able to do so for long. For the moment we are safe.”

Aragorn continued to hold him. “Or perhaps it bides its time. If Frodo should pass fully into the shadow he will try to take it to his new master.”

Glorfindel's eyes dropped to study the pitiful bundle in his arms. “Then you and I will do what we must. But that time is not now and if we move swiftly it may never be.” He glanced down at the hobbits. “Come. We have no time to lose.”

Aragorn helped the remaining three hobbits to scramble onto the mounts who now followed him without hesitation. Glorfindel strode ahead with his precious charge, continuing their punishing pace of the past few days. Fortunately Aragorn was used to such conditions, although even he was not so sure footed as when they left Bree. Solid little pony that he was, Bill trotted on, receiving an occasional encouraging nudge from the much bigger Asfaloth.

Now settled upon Bill's sturdy back Sam took time to look about him, although his gaze returned often to Glorfindel's square shouldered back and golden hair. He imagined that sometimes, when the sun shone just so, the elf seemed to glow. Then he shook himself out of such un-hobbit-like fancies.

Soon they passed into the deep blue-green darkness of the pinewood. The air revived them with its sweet, sharp fragrance and the path was now thickly carpeted with brown mulch that provided comfort to foot and hoof alike after the hard metal of the road they had been travelling.
Unseen woodpeckers drummed and Sam would have been charmed had he not also noticed that birdsong ceased as they moved through, and then resumed behind them. He wondered if even they could feel the presence of that evil thing which his master bore.

For some time they climbed, at least that's what Sam's back told him as he braced against the angle of the trail. Beneath the mulch their path became invisible but Glorfindel and Aragorn trod surely. Then Sam noted that they would occasionally adjust their course when passing small piles of white stones and he realised that these must be markers to the trail. With no horizon to be seen through the thickly crowding trees they would otherwise become hopelessly lost and Sam shuddered at the thought, remembering all too clearly their ill fated passage through the Old Forest beyond Buckland. Bill snorted and jibbed sideways as a bright red squirrel darted across the path before his hooves and Sam grabbed a handful of mane as both regained their balance. Even so, he sensed no threat from this forest. Indeed, there was something ancient and somehow wholesome about it and he began to relax. Then his gaze returned to the tall elf and he wondered how much further they must travel. This, “Weren't no time to be wool gatherin'”, as his gaffer would say.

Over time the path grew even steeper, the trees more sparse, and Bill's hooves began to clatter upon stone. Half an hour later they had climbed beyond the treeline onto bare grey granite. Beneath the trees the air had been still and almost comfortably warm. Now they found themselves upon a narrow ledge that clung to a mountain face, buffeted by a cold north wind that forced them to draw their cloaks more tightly and hug the rock face. Sam only dared glance once into the deep gorge on their left and at his gasp Merry and Pippin, bringing up the rear upon Asfaloth, elected not to look at all. Still, Aragorn and Glorfindel led them surely and Sam set his teeth to endure, knowing that Mr Frodo endured a different battle; one Sam could not help him with at present. He hoped that Rivendell would appear soon.

Even as that thought entered his mind they turned a bend in the trail. Sam pulled Bill to a stop, his mouth falling open in awe. There, framed by a natural arch in the rock, was a place that could only be Rivendell.

A ring of jagged peaks, crowned with snow that glowed honey in the light of the now sinking sun, surrounded a deep cloven valley. At it's base Sam could just make out the foaming ribbon of Bruinen and at first wondered that it could make so much noise when it was so far below them. Then his gaze lifted once more and he saw what seemed to be a hundred waterfalls, large and small, that trickled from rock ledges or issued from caves to thunder in shelving cascades through layers of arching rainbows. At their bases lakes and pools reflected a blushing sky and sparkling streams ran off to form the source of the river that was their recent saviour. Below him Sam could see that the pine forest resumed but beyond that birch and oak took over, and the valley itself showed impossibly green meadows, occasional tall trees blotting them with long purple shadows as the sun dipped to hide behind the valley rim.

A single, narrow bridge soared dizzyingly over the river in one delicate, perfect arching span and beyond that arose the Last Homely House. It seemed to grow out of the trees in layer upon layer of steeply gabled, shimmering green tiled roofs. Any buildings less like a hobbit hole Sam could not imagine and he realised that Mr Bilbo's descriptions could never have done it justice. It was not one huge hall, or even a line of huddled houses such as men build, but a collection of loosely connected buildings of varying shape, that stepped down the valley side, surrounded by impossible terraces that seemed to balance unsupported over sheer drops. Each building showed a delicate pale tracery, more window than wall, the terraces before them no doubt providing awe inspiring views of the valley and river below, were Sam ever brave enough to tread them. Here and there walls curved to embrace huge and ancient trees or attenuated into covered walkways that sprang lightly over trickling streams or powerful waterfalls.

An occasional crumbled ruin peeped above the tree tops and Sam recalled Bilbo telling them that this valley had been inhabited long before their beloved Shire was ever dreamed of. Even from this distance the house looked huge and Sam wondered just how many elves lived here. The only place to compare within the Shire was Brandy Hall but he suspected that Merry's family home would fit easily within but one wing of this great edifice. Below the balconies were laid gardens, clearly still in bloom even this late in the year, and lush lawns swept down to shrubberies only just beginning to bronze with autumn colour.

A large calloused hand touched his leg and Sam looked aside to find Strider smiling at him. “It is beautiful, is it not? But there will be time later to admire it properly. Now we must bring Frodo to Lord Elrond.” He clucked to Bill and the pony moved forward, onto a path that zigzagged down an alarmingly steep slope, to disappear into the trees once more. As if by some magic the wind dropped and a warm breeze flowed up from the valley, bringing with it the sweet scent of pine, now merged with that of late blooming honeysuckle and other still green and growing things. Woodsmoke curled white from many chimneys and Sam fancied that even from this distance, he could smell freshly baked bread and hear fair voices raised in a lilting song of welcome.

Suddenly Glorfindel called out. “Lindir! Mae g'ovannen!”

A slender, dark haired figure sitting a chestnut horse emerged from the trees below, followed by a line of other riders. The newcomer raised a hand in greeting, touching knees to his mare's flank to urge her forward. When he drew level he leapt to the ground, running to clasp forearms with Strider. “Maedol! Na vedui, Estel.” Then he turned to Glorfindel and his clear brow furrowed as he saw that which he bore.

Glorfindel did not waste words on greeting. “We must get this little one to Elrond as swiftly as possible. He has been stabbed by a morgul blade. Have you spare mounts?”

Lindir's eyes widened at the news then took in the weary and bedraggled hobbits and dipped a small bow. “Forgive me,” he offered in accented Westron. “Welcome to Rivendell, sirs.” He did not allow them time to do more than offer their own sketchy bows before returning his attention to Glorfindel. “Lord Elrond said you would have much need of haste so we have Estel's horse and also ponies for our guests.” As he spoke another elf led forward the mentioned mounts and Aragorn began to lift Merry, Pippin and Sam from their temporary perches.

Merry and Pippin winced as they tried to straighten legs spread too wide across Asfaloth's broad back for too many hours. Of the three, it seemed Sam had fared best, sitting upon the pony. Their new escort gave them little time to adjust, however, before lifting the hobbits, like so much baggage, onto new ponies. These were not the sturdy, shaggy little mounts of the Shire, but sleek coated creatures with shimmering manes and tack strung with silken tassels and delicate silver bells.

Aragorn stepped forward to stroke the velvet nose of a tall grey horse. “Na vedui, Roheryn.” The horse blew gently into Strider's face and he smiled before gathering up the reins and hoisting himself wearily into the saddle. “Now I am truly home. Come, we must ride swiftly but it will seem only a short distance upon elven steeds.” He turned the horse about with but a twitch of the rein.

Sam watched in startled amazement as Glorfindel, with Frodo still cradled securely in his arms, leapt from ground to boulder and then into Asfaloth's saddle in one flowing movement. Sam's new mount turned about with barely a thought and they all filed down into the trees.

Aragorn was right. Whether it be by elven magic or simply because their mounts were fresh, it seemed to be only minutes before they were emerging from a stand of birch trees that shone silver in the thin starlight, and making for the bridge Sam had noted from the valley entrance. Now he saw that it was every bit as narrow as it had looked then and also that it had no parapet. It was fortunate that Sam's new mount was sure footed for he let the creature have its head, his own body frozen into terrified immobility after just one glance at yet another long drop beneath them. He began to wonder what made elves so fond of such architectural insanity.

Once across Sam's breath grew easier as they passed beneath an ivy draped archway and into a large, torch lit, cobbled courtyard. There everyone dismounted, the elven escort gathering up reins to lead horses and ponies away through another arch. Bill followed willingly and Sam hoped their hosts would give him an extra measure of oats, for he had surely earned it and more in the past few days.

The three hobbits huddled closer together, slightly over awed by the broad shallow steps before them, the tall double doors with their carved faces of intertwining leaves and flowers, the delicate green and gold gilded columns that soared upward to support a wide, intricately carved canopy of pale wood. Slowly the doors swung open.

The figure who strode forth was no taller than any other elf they had so far encountered. Although his long robes were perhaps richer, they were little different to those worn by the occupants who paused to look down curiously from balcony and window. His sleek dark hair, falling straight about broad shoulders was no blacker than Strider's and yet Sam guessed that he was standing before a being of awesome power and, along with his companions, felt compelled to offer his deepest bow.

When he dared to look up again he found his eye captured by a keen, steel-grey gaze that seemed to plumb his deepest thoughts, hopes and fears. It was some relief then when those uncanny eyes blinked and the strong face drew into a polite smile.

“Welcome to Imladris, gentlehobbits. I am Elrond. You are weary and no doubt hungry after your long journey. Hot baths, good food and soft beds await you within. Lindir will show you the way.” Now he strode down the steps to Glorfindel and reached out to tenderly push aside the blankets swaddling Frodo. “So this is our young Ringbearer.” His voice dropped as though speaking only to himself. “So small a frame to contain so strong a fae.” He held out his arms and Glorfindel relinquished his burden willingly. Gathering Frodo close Elrond turned in a flow of wine red velvet, climbing the steps in long strides that Sam could not hope to match.

“Here, just a minute! Where are you off to with my master?” he cried indignantly as he scurried after this tall stranger and tugged urgently at his robe.

Now Elrond did something that no other big person had, in all of this journey so far. Pausing, he turned and then hunkered down so that his gaze was level with Sams'. Once more the little gardener felt he was being examined too closely and he blushed at his rash words. But now Elrond's gaze softened and he glanced down at Frodo's still face before asking, “You love your master very much, do you not?”

Sam shuffled his feet embarrassedly then straightened his shoulders. “More than my life,” he replied earnestly. Did Frodo's pale eyelids flicker at his admission?

Elrond nodded, his features softening into a smile that held all the promise of sunrise on a warm summer morning. “Then come with me, Samwise Gamgee. For your love may avail as much as my skill, if we are to draw your master back from the shadowed path he treads.” He arose smoothly and moderated his long stride as they entered a wide hallway. Hurrying along beside him Sam finally knew that if anyone could heal his Mr Frodo it would be this Elrond.

END

Mae g'ovannen! - Well met! (Sind)
Maedol! Na vedui – Welcome! At last (Sind)

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
silver_trails
May. 16th, 2017 12:48 am (UTC)
This is a beautiful story!
elwenlj
May. 16th, 2017 10:19 am (UTC)
Thank you. I love PJ's version of Rivendell and this is a snippet of the tale that not many ff writers fill.
shirebound
May. 16th, 2017 02:19 am (UTC)
Ohhhh, I love every single moment of this. How utterly exhausted they all must have been, hardly daring to hope, yet soothed by the sweet valley and a long journey finally at an end. This is wonderful.
elwenlj
May. 16th, 2017 10:20 am (UTC)
Thanks for your lovely comment! I think PJ caught the magic of the moment of first seeing the valley perfectly in both LOTR and Hobbit. And yes, they must have been beyond exhausted.
febobe
May. 17th, 2017 03:01 am (UTC)
*cries*

You get better and better all the time. <3

LOVE this. I only had time for a quick skim-through tonight, but it's wonderful. I can tell!
elwenlj
May. 17th, 2017 09:55 am (UTC)
I used a pound of PJ and then scoured Hobbit and LOTR for any tiny reference to Rivendell. I mixed them all together, added some half baked ideas of my own and produced this confection. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
blslarner
May. 17th, 2017 05:36 am (UTC)
Ah! But I, too, love the healing period once the Hobbits and Strider reached Rivendell. Beautifully wrought.
elwenlj
May. 17th, 2017 09:49 am (UTC)
I wrote a long fic about the healing itself some years ago but I realised that I had missed out this little slice of the journey. Glad you enjoyed this. :)
hhimring
May. 19th, 2017 07:55 am (UTC)
I really like this more detailed description of what Tolkien lightly sketches in--especially the beginning at the Ford where they are solving problems I had not thought about!
And the ending just shines with your love for Rivendell.
elwenlj
May. 19th, 2017 09:02 am (UTC)
Thank you! I scoured the two stories for details about the area and events and figured that controlling a flood such as Elrond and Gandalf created would not be a precise science.

I love all things Rivendell and Elrond. What can I say? PJ's version of Imladris is not JRRT's . . . when he talks of flat ceilings with carved beams I pictured Tudor . . . but I fell in love with it.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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