My whisper echoed through the blinding light before it was captured by the billowing wind and dragged away; taking the bright light with it. My eyes blinked several times as I tried to get rid of the swirling spots in front of my eyes. To my side I heard Merry and Pippin gasp wonderingly and slowly my gaze trailed over the figure before me. They were clad in robes of startling white and their hair and beard too was the same dazzling snow cut peaks of the misty mountains. The same smile was printed onto their lips, an amused smile, and the eyes were still filled with that childlike spark that was caged behind the wrinkles of time.
“It can’t be!” Merry whispered, faintly, in disbelief.
“But you died!” Pippin muttered astounded.
I, however, forced myself to stand, placed my hands on my hips and said with a completely straight face,
“You are late!”
“A Wizard is never late, Authiel Galadhrim, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”
I raised an arched eyebrow and looked at him with annoyance etched into my expression.
“That is my phrase, Mithrandir!”
For some time I stood there staring at him but I was unable to hold back my laughter. I practically spat it out. Flinging myself forwards, I wrapped my arms around his neck and let a gleeful laugh escape from my lips. Gandalf hugged me back and his familiar smell of Old Toby lingered under my nose.
“Gandalf!” Pippin cried.
“Gandalf? Yes, that was what they used to call me, Gandalf the Grey. I am Gandalf the White!”
“I believed to be in the presence of Saruman; forgive me!” I whispered as I unpeeled myself from his arms.
He placed his wrinkled hand on my shoulder and replied, “There is nothing to forgive, for I am Saruman. Saruman as he is meant to be.”
My e-yes brows furrowed at his words and I looked at him in confusion for a moment before I began to understand what he meant. Suddenly, a thought popped into my head and I grinned at him with wide eyes.
“Have the Valar discarded him from the Istari?”
“It would seem so. There is now room for another, if they can prove themselves worthy.”
I looked at him hopefully; my eyes wide with delight,
“Then perhaps …”
A wild glint filled my eyes and madly grinned at him; internally screaming with delight. Once I was able to calm my happiness from my excited state, I crouched to the ground and helped the Hobbits get to their feet. Like a mother tending to her young, I brushed both of them down, looking over them individually to ensure that they did not have any extremely bad injuries. I placed my fingers tenderly around wound on Merry’s head and studied it closely for a few minutes. It was no longer bleeding, in fact the gash seemed to have reduced, somewhat, in size; it was only the vast amount of congealed blood that made it look so horrifying. I let out an angered sigh when I realised that I had no medical equipment that I could use to clean him up. Reluctantly, I took my knife out of my boot and sliced off the bottom of my already short skirt so that I had a long strip of moderately clean fabric in my hand. Under my breath, I whispered a quiet spell which cleaned the slightly dirty cloth and my fingers before I took the cloth and cut off a small cube of it. Using this fairly small cube, I cleaned up the area the best that I was able to with my very limited amount of supplies; trying as best as I could to not harm the poor Hobbit any more. He winced in pain as I enabled that he did not receive any infections that could ail him further. When it was clean, I wrapped the remaining strip of cloth around his head and neatly tied it at the back.
“That will do for now, well at least until I can find some proper medicine.”
He grinned up at me and said,
“You are welcome, my dear Hobbit.”
Treebeard moved to stand behind us, a smile etched upon his wooded face as he obediently looked down at Gandalf; awaiting his orders.
“Watch over these Hobbits, Treebeard, for Hobbits is what they truly are. Protect them from evil; keep them safe.”
Treebeard nodded his head and lifted each of them up, gently placing them on his shoulders.
“You have a choice, Authiel. Wait with me for the Second Fellowship, as the survives have named themselves, who follow in your footsteps or stay with these Hobbits; protecting them from the evils of this world.”
“There is but one choice for me, Mithrandir,” Looking towards the laughing duo, I paused as a smile grew on my face; before continuing, “I must stay with them.”
“I suspected as much.”
“Tell Legolas that I am well when you see him.”
He smiled at me before saying in a slightly quieter tone,
“Of course I will, mellon nin, but I think that someone else wants to see you before you leave.”
Furrowing my brow, I looked at him with a confused expression; waiting for him to continue. However, he did nothing. Instead he let out a low whistle. Following his gaze, my lips curled upwards until they were formed a beam at the familiar sight that lay before me. A familiar being galloped forwards. A majestic mare. A majestic mare with a coat of pure black and matching coat and hooves. Everything that covered the whole of her body was black; save for the pure white strip which ran down her velvet nose.
“Athae!” I grinned, running my hand across her smooth coat and then down her delicate nose. She blew hot air into the palm of my hand, warming my skin, as I placed a kiss in the centre of her white patch.
“Her satchels are loaded with food, weapons and a change of clothes for you all,” Gandalf explained.
A grateful smile filled my lips as I silently thanked him before I moved over to look in Athae’s satchel bags. In the first there was an array of Lembas bread, with some piece of fairly ripe fruit and several sheepskin wine pouches full of cool, refreshing water. Another held some weapons which I had neglected to bring with me from Lorien. Also, my staff was tied to Athae’s side; I was extremely thankful for that. The final satchel was divided in two. One half held a huntresses dress for me, and two cleaner outfits for my Hobbits, as well as several toiletries including a fair amount of medication.
I smiled thankfully before tightening the ties on each of the satchels. When it was complete, I turned to Gandalf and announced,
“I think we need to continue.”
With an elegant swish of my legs, I leapt onto Athae’s back and sadly smiled at the ageing wizard. Placing the hand from my none injured arm on my heart, I bowed my head and said,
“Namárië, mellon nin.”
[Farewell, my friend.]
Slowly, Treebeard plodded away from the shining light which Gandalf had bestowed upon us. I closed my eyes and sighed away the pain of leaving my lifelong friend again. I blinked away the prickling tears that were forming in my misty eyes and lightly nudged Athae in the ribs. Slowly, she ambled through the tree roots and over large stone after the Ent with two bobbing Hobbits on his shoulders.
I zoned out to everything around me, and concentrated on hardening my emotions so that I held my face in a blank line of pressed lips. The cool air slammed into me, causing a shiver to roll down my spine. The wind whirled through the trees causing ghostly groans and moans to fill the densely humid air. The tiring trees seemed to be lacking in height and their twisted limbs were heavily leaning on each other. A yawn spread from tree to tree, but only my sensitive ears were able to pick up the almost silent sound.
The trees are waking up!