So this is Imladris. Rivendell. In all my life I have never journeyed so far from the wood of my home. Such mountains to cross to get here. Such a distance I could see. So many lands I will never visit. I did not know how it would feel to ride so far, so fast. To make decisions, to follow a road and find my way. To meet so many strange peoples. To be so alone.
For here, there are only Noldor, and the half-elven. There are men. There is the wizard Mithrandir. There are these strange Halflings – hobbits they call themselves. And there are dwarves.
Noldor – Ada, you were right. They are sure of themselves. They are wise, and beautiful. They scare me, and I find I am so glad of all your schooling in impassivity.
And the half-elven are the same. I feel rough, untutored, unlearned among them. They talk casually of crossing vast distances, killing, fighting, healing, and yet, they are so beautiful. I feel unfinished next to them.
I find I am glad of the mortals around me, to whom I am an elf, no more, but no less than these others.
The men, I find I can understand. They are not so very different to my people I think. Fighters, trackers, hunters, people of the wild and the battlefield. No doubt they will have some strange customs (and indeed, I need only look at their oddly small ears, and shaggy, ill-groomed, unkempt, short hair to be sure of this), yet I think perhaps I could deal with these mortals. You were right about men, Ada, as I suppose I should have known, from all your dealings with Laketown and Dale.
Mithrandir is, as he has always been. I am glad of his presence. I feel safe when he is near.
Hobbits, as I must learn to call them, are a strange race. They seem happy, yet tougher than they look, you said, Ada. No doubt you were right there too. The oldest seems to remember you fondly, and I wonder what in you inspired this affection. More than I have ever felt. The hobbits seem impressed by my lineage, which is ironic, so I do not mention that I am your least favoured son. They are a tight-knit group. I envy them that.
And then there are the dwarves. Quite a lot of dwarves. Although as I cannot easily tell them apart (all I can manage is to tell different hair-colours, any other features are lost to my eyes under those strange beards), I am unsure exactly how many. They are from Erebor, and I thank the Valar that I did not meet them on the road – for I would not have wanted to travel in company with Naugrim. Nor I think, would Lord Elrond have been welcoming had I inadvertently offended those whom he treats as valued guests. And this, itself, is strange to me – I know you trade with these, Ada, yet to my knowledge never would they be guests in your halls. The fact that we once imprisoned dwarves, maybe even some of these, on their way to re-take their mountain – we do not mention this, not yet at any rate. In the house of Lord Elrond, one does not wish to be unseemly.
But I find myself unnerved by all these peoples, and the dwarves most of all. It is the lack of expression. And they wear braids, but I am unsure whether my reading of them is correct. It is almost easier with these others, and their oddly short hair – at least I know I am missing no clues.
Still, some of those who live here are friendly enough to a lone elf, and I have found groups to join for combing most evenings. Which is a relief – I knew that being sent like this was a punishment for my lack of judgement, but I had not realised the worst of it. Being an elf alone is not easy. It is not natural to us. When I was truly alone, on the road, I was happy, I admit, and that is odd I know. But I was seeing places I had never seen, travelling so far and so fast. Being alone among others – that is harder.
What have I done? What have I committed myself to? Through shame at my failure to hold on to one small creature, I have bound myself to this hopeless quest. That, I do not regret so much, for it still seems to me that in honour this was my only choice. But I fear my lord king will disagree. I fear there will be payment for this, should I ever return to my woods. Yet, that I would risk, for in journeying thus I shall see so much more of this world than I had dreamed I ever might.
But to journey thus, in such a group. I admit, I had not considered that. Men, hobbits, one of the Maia – no elves. And a dwarf. How can this group work together? How can this be a group? There will, I think, be no real bond, no mesh. I will be alone, yet with others. Ada, I know you will be angered by this. A dwarf. For weeks, months. My skin crawls. Son of one of those unlucky dwarves imprisoned for losing their way. This is not going to please the lord king or the father in you, Ada, and I do seek to please you, though I never have.
It is done. And what may come of it – who can say? One thing is certain though – I shall not return to my wood the same elf that left. I shall have seen much. And my heart lifts with this thought. Mountains. Plains. Rivers. Forests.
Perhaps the Sea.