By the time everyone was awake, fed, packed, and finally ready to move the next evening, I was nearly bouncing on the balls of my feet. I hadn’t slept for even a second through the day and I couldn’t wait to get moving. It was better to be moving.
When I was moving, I wasn’t thinking.
And thinking was all I’d done all day.
Or rather, fretting.
But if we could just get moving, I wouldn’t keep thinking about everything. I wouldn’t keep remembering things best forgotten. I wouldn’t keep second-guessing myself and wondering if I could tell the others what was going to happen. Or at least tell Gandalf.
Errr, stop even considering it. You know you can’t tell Gandalf what’s going to happen. You know no one in their right mind would step into oblivion if they knew it was coming just because you tell them they’ll come out stronger on the other side. And even if he did believe you, just knowing might make him hesitate the slightest bit; then he’s really dead and the whole fellowship might be too. You can’t tell them and they can’t know. They might try to stop it.
Ugh, and I really need to stop having conversations and arguments with myself. Only crazy people keep talking to themselves. Plus, I never win an argument!
I sighed and picked up my pace as we started walking. Soon, I was walking next to Aragorn near the front of the group.
And far away from Legolas—who was bringing up the rear—as I could get.
Yeah, so that’s another problem to handle. I so need to figure out how to eliminate the extreme awkwardness there, too.
So shoot me! I’m crazy and still talking to myself.
So far, Legolas and I had both done our level best to studiously ignore each other as we started this evening’s march, but I was afraid it couldn’t last. Marching would keep us both occupied—especially since the temperatures continued to fall as we continued to climb—but eventually, we’d have to stop again. And then what?
How could I explain to him how different thing were in my world? And I refused to feel guilty. At least not about the life I’d led in my world. I’d done nothing wrong, but I sure as hell didn’t want to talk to him about it.
Okay, so I did nothing wrong outside of molesting him. Fantastic. I can feel guilty about that. Cross it off the list of things I always wanted to do. End up in a strange world. Check. Molest an elf. Double check.
I pulled my borrowed cloak around me and pushed forward, determined to wipe all lingering thought from my mind with every steadfast step.
As we’d begun that evening’s march, it became clear to all of the fellowship that our journey had turned for the mountain pass. All were apprehensive, but Boromir wisely advised all of the party to carry as much wood as each member could safely handle.
Having grown up in the shadow of the White Mountains, Boromir knew how cold it would get in the mountain pass, and how desperate we were likely to get too.
Unlike most of the others, I had no pack to carry, but I had a gut feeling I should carry as much wood as possible.
Finding two long leather cords in one of Bill the pony’s pack, I wrapped them around the ends of my faggot of wood, and hefted the modified pack onto my back. Even Bill was conscripted into further service to carry more wood.
Soon, it began to snow. Lightly at first. The others were surprised by falling snow so far south, but I knew the true cause. And that it hadn’t even begun.
Knowing we had to try continuing on, we started our march again. While the group had halted, so had the snow, but as we redoubled our efforts, the snow more than redoubled. Almost immediately, the wind was heavily blowing and snow fell in heavy sheets of white.
We all trudged on as best as we could, but few of us fared well. The men went first, taking the brunt of the workload in breaking the path, but few of the others were used to hiking in such extreme weather. My factory-made sneakers and pants were not made for winter either.
It had only been early fall back home and the loose weave of my slacks let more cold in than keeping heat in. But I’d climbed mountains before—though properly equipped—and I’d learned to suffer through cold in the service. The key was to keep moving and not let yourself think much about anything.
“Come on Pippin, can’t stop now. You just gotta keep moving,” I encouraged the youngest hobbit. I could see Gandalf and Aragorn stopped and talking ahead. I could only hope for Pippin’s sake we were close to where we would stop.
“—We have passed no place on the way up that offered more shelter than this cliff-wall we are under now,” Aragorn was saying as we stepped closer.
I stood beside Pippin and wrapped my arms and cloak around his shivering form.
“Shelter!” Sam muttered. “If this is shelter, then one wall and no roof make a home.”
I couldn’t argue with Sam, but truthfully, I’d been stuck in far worse places. At least here, we could see the sky. Or we would be able to if not for the snow.
We gathered around the cliff-wall, and tried to huddle closely for warmth. I spread my cloak wide, and wrapped it around Pippin and Merry on one side, and Frodo and Sam on the other.
Pippin wrapped his arms around me and pressed closer and closer into my side. I let my fingers splay across his head and tried to offer him what comfort I could. I’d never been particularly accustomed to closeness with others or offering comfort, but it struck me suddenly why the hobbits were able to so easily cling to me for comfort. Whether I liked it or not, they could cleave to the motherly facet of me, even whether I knew I had one or not.
They never would have been able to huddle together so closely with the men or others, but here in this world, my feminine, motherly side was the first and in some cases, only side of me that was seen or valued. And the hobbits needed what warmth we could spread and share.
Soon, Gandalf passed around his bottle of miruvor for all to share. Like any good liquor, it gave a wonderful feeling of warmth, but I knew we’d soon need actual warmth.
“What do you say to fire?” Boromir questioned as the snow continued to fall at a heavy pace. “The choice seems near now between fire and death, Gandalf. Doubtless we shall be hidden from all unfriendly eyes when the snow has covered us, but that will not help us.”
“You may make a fire, if you can,” Gandalf sighed. “If there are any watchers that can endure this storm, then they can see us, fire or no.”
But try as everyone might, no fire could be started, not even by elf or dwarf. I kept my eyes low and made no offer of help. When Gandalf finally stood to light it himself, he glanced at me curiously, no doubt remembering the Zippo lighter securely in my pocket, but he made no comment and continued to use his staff to light the fire. I was determined to be as unobtrusive to the story as possible while I was here and not let myself change how things were supposed to happen, if I could help it. I had horrible visions of world ending consequences from the slightest change in the storyline.
He spoke a command in another language, and fire crawled up the wood. “If there are any to see, then I at least am revealed to them. I have written Gandalf is here in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of Anduin,” he sighed.
We all huddled closer to the meager flames and waited for them to warm us.
“I hate listening to that terrible howling,” Pippin complained as he shivered and laid his head in my lap.
I forced a laugh despite how I hated the howling as well. “Well, why don’t you sing us a song to cover the howling wind, Pip,” I told him.
He shook his head and burrowed deeper, Merry pressing closer against him on his other side. “Can’t sing,” Pippin said, “too cold. You sing us something.”
“Please, Lane,” Merry pressed when I started to object. “Something to take our minds away from this cold.”
Sighing, I looked up to note the expectant gazes of the others. Of course my suggestion would backfire. Although, Merry was right, we needed something to take our minds from the bitter chill of the cold, even if I hadn’t sung aloud outside of my shower in years. But what to sing?
“When you wish upon a star—”*
I began singing. Cold as I was, I felt my voice break several times, but I kept on. I could mostly stay on key, though I’d always sung in a lower octave for a woman. I did like singing, even if I was a poor imitation compared to many of my mother’s relatives. I definitely hadn’t been graced with crystalline singing voices.
“I’d wish upon a star to be back at the Green Dragon with a nice mug of ale,” Merry commented when I finished. “If I could find a star that is,” he added.
“Would you sing another, Lane?” Frodo asked eagerly. This was the closest I’d physically been to Frodo in many days and I could feel a darkness from him that made me want to push him away, but his kind, eager eyes stalled me. He needed his heart lifted more than any of us. His burden was both heavier and more important.
So instead, I forced another laugh and continued to sing for them. I tried to remember whimsical Disney and children’s songs, and eventually even sang a few old Celtic songs I could remember my grandmother had been fond of singing when I was quite young. They didn’t ask for translations to those songs, and I was too tired to offer them.
“Why don’t you sing a song, Legolas?” I asked when I looked up and saw him sitting with his eyes peacefully closed. “Your voice is far more musical than mine.”
He looked up and an emotion I couldn’t name shone in his eyes. “Nay. Elvish songs are long and too often full of heartache and tragedy. Your songs are more fitting and comforting to us.” He glanced at the hobbits and the others waiting with their eyes gently shut. “Your presence and spirit gladdens and comforts us.”
His gaze was warm and friendly, and I knew it was his way of bridging the gap that had formed between us. The chasm that had seemed to separate us all day and night disappeared until not even the fire between us seemed to separate us. I knew he was trying to express that though he still couldn’t fathom the ways of my people, he accepted me. I was surprised that it was a balm to my injured pride, and surprised that after only one day of avoiding each other, how relieved I was to have it over.
Looking at the hobbits, I saw they were close to sleep. Or at least as close as they were likely to get. I figured I could find one more song to sing.
An old favorite of the guys’ in my company came to mind. They’d enjoyed listening to it when we were stationed overseas. Listening to it, they were able to imagine their wives waiting for them back home.
“I put away the groceries. And I take my daily bread. I dream of your arms around me, as I tuck the kids in bed.
“I don’t know what you’re doing. And I don’t know where you are. But I look up at that great big sky, and I hope you’re wishing on the same bright star—“**
By the time I finished singing, the hobbits had fallen into a restless sleep—but at least it was sleep.
“Do your people often wish upon stars, Elaina?” Legolas asked in a quiet voice.
I chuckled at that. “Dreamers do, anyway.”
“Do you wish upon stars?” he pressed.
“I’ve been known to. Even when I couldn’t see them. I knew they were there somewhere.”
“What do you wish for?”
I considered things I’d wished for in the past. Dire things and superfluous things. And I considered telling him the children’s saying that wishes upon stars had to be secret to come true, but decided I wanted to answer anyway. “Most recently, I’ve found myself wishing to return my world again.”
“Perhaps you are meant to be here. You offer comfort to the hobbits none of us could,” he thoughtfully offered.
It was nice knowing that I wasn’t as completely useless as I had mostly felt so far, but it was such a small measure. This world was strange and foreign to me. At least in my own world, I felt competent and needed.
“It was a mistake that I ended up here,” I assured him and myself. “The best place for me would be to get back to my world.”
“This could be your world. It could be your home,” he insisted.
I had no reply for him.
We were all silent the rest of the night.
The next day, we tried to press further. The men even scouted ahead in the snow with Legolas somehow running ahead of them on top of the snow.
But as I knew would happen, soon they decided they could not continue upwards. Though a path was not entirely decided, I knew where they would be taken. Moria.
When the others turned to start back down, I stayed where I was.
“Come, Elaina. We will reach warmer temperatures soon. We must keep moving,” Legolas encouraged, turning around to face me.
I shook my head. “I can’t,” I hoarsely whispered. I couldn’t remember when I’d been able to sleep last, but my dreams had been haunted by dark caves I couldn’t escape, and now my waking thoughts were plagued by fears of what horrors Moria would bring.
The others stopped to look back at me, and Legolas stepped closer. “I do not wish to enter the darkness of Moria either, but we shall do it together,” he promised, instinctively it seemed, knowing what was wrong. At least partially.
I shook my head again and rubbed my suddenly sweaty palms on my thighs. “I’m sorry, I can’t go with you. Not into Moria,” I whispered.
Aragorn stepped closer as well. “We cannot leave you behind. We have given you our protection.”
“And that’s very honorable of you, but you can’t force me to go into Moria. I won’t,” I insisted.
Legolas pressed a hand to my shoulder and whispered, “I do not wish to attempt the dark either, but we can help one another brave it and bear it. You will not be alone.”
“None of you are getting it!” I snapped. “I’m not going there! I spent two years stuck rotting in a cave as a prisoner of war. I won’t go willingly into another cave.”
Aragorn looked startled but only asked, “What is it you think you shall do instead?”
“I’ll keep going over the mountain. Someone might have cause to keep you all from crossing through the mountains, but who would waste their energy on stopping a lone woman?”
“This is madness,” Boromir finally barked. “You cannot expect to traverse the mountain alone.”
With a shrug I said, “I’ve climbed my share of mountains. I’ll be fine alone.” Though when I went mountain climbing in the past, I was normally properly outfitted.
“I will accompany you, if you are so determined,” Legolas finally acceded, a look of relief in his eyes.
Feeling guilty, I told him, “No. Your loyalty and place is with the Fellowship. You have to stick with them.”
“You can’na think to climb the mountain alone, Lass,” Gimli added, his concern plainly evident. “What if somethin’ should happen to ye?”
“I’ll be fine,” I repeated. Seeing Aragorn gear up to launch in again, I cut him off. “Unless you want to carry me down the mountain bound and gagged, it’s not happening, Aragorn. I won’t go.”
He suddenly turned to Bill and rummaged through the packs until he had refilled his own pack with fresh supplies. Handing it to me, he said, “May the Valar watch over you and protect you. I hope to see you again on the other side.”
He nodded and turned away back down the mountain as I sighed in relief.
Boromir started to argue, but I gave him a hug and fondly kissed his cheek. He instantly fell silent, but he grabbed my arm as I started to pull away.
He removed his finely crafted fur cloak and held it out to me. “You shall need the warmth upon the mountain,” he said quietly.
I removed my own cloak and handed it to him in exchange. “Thank you, Boromir. You are a fine, honorable man. Never forget that,” I sincerely replied as he donned my cloak and I his.
After saying quick and tearful good-byes to the hobbits, and even Gimli, I stood before Gandalf. I felt my heart constrict as I gazed up at his wizened wrinkled face.
I couldn’t bring myself to hug him—we weren’t that close. And shaking hands with a wizard just seemed out of place. But I nodded briefly, and kept my head down as I remembered what he would face in Moria.
“Remember, no matter what happens, you’re never alone,” I whispered as I felt a tear fall.
Wiping it away furiously, I turned to face Legolas’s curious and saddened expression. He studied Gandalf for a moment, and then turned to me.
“Tell me at least that we shall meet again,” he pleaded quietly.
And I understood what was unasked. Would they make it through Moria?
“I’ll be waiting for you on the other side of the mountain, my friend,” I assured him.
He looked relieved, secure in his belief that I knew what was to come. Making me feel even guiltier shouldering the burden of what was to come.
“I will miss your company and the tales of your strange land,” he whispered.
I looked down to hide my guilty expression and didn’t respond.
“Your people are strange to my people’s ways it is true, but you are kind and generous and a good companion. I shall miss you greatly,” he whispered, his hand reaching out to grasp mine, almost as though through sheer desperate force of will, he could make me go with them.
“I’ll miss you too,” I admitted, though unwilling to examine that further. “Keep your bow close,” I advised, remembering the wolves they would encounter on their journey down, and all of the dangers of Moria.
I quickly pulled my hand away, and silently started back upwards on my ascent through the cold and snow.
A/N: *When You Wish Upon a Star from Disney
**Come Home Soon by SHeDAISY