The wolves driven off, the halflings quickly fall asleep, exhausted and frightened as they are. Mithrandir is deep in some wizardly musings over his pipe – at least, I am sure that is what he would say he is doing, but I – I wonder if it is true that as elves rest with our eyes open, wizards may be awake and thinking with their eyes shut.
But not, I think, when they breathe so deeply.
I daresay it is a gift to be able to rest so well – but I notice that we four, we four who are, I am coming to realise, the armed guard of this party, find it hard to relax.
The dwarf and the man of Gondor – are deep in some discussion, which started I think, comparing weapons, but, by their looks, has since moved on to – earthier and more pleasurable matters.
So long as they do not expect the rest of us to join in, or indeed, listen to more stories of their prowess – at fighting, drinking, or – or loving – I am content that they should be so distracted. For there are questions I – ignorant wood-elf as I am – would have answered.
“You – I understood you to be a ranger?” I begin disingenuously, for I know he is but this has been puzzling me, so when he nods, “and these others, well, the Man, anyway, are used to travelling?”
Again he nods, and I pause, wondering how to phrase it.
“Yet – snow – is a problem? I – I understand for the Halflings, they are so small, they would be buried, but – you two also – you seemed – bothered? Do you not normally travel in winter?”
He sighs, and his eyes glance briefly skywards,
“Yes, we travel in winter. Yes, snow is a problem. A little – no. A lot – yes. For rangers, with winter cloaks, and boots, and prepared, then no – and I am sure the Men of Minas Tirith are at least as hardy. As indeed, are dwarves,” he frowns, rebuking me for ignoring our other companion – but – I do not wish to know of dwarves. Ada would not want me to show interest. Then he sighs, “Master elf, we are not creatures of the wild in the way you are.”
“So – so all these packs – that you all carry – it is not merely custom – you need so many – clothes?” I suppose it sounds foolish, for who would bring unnecessary burdens on such a journey as this, and I flush as I hear my own words, “in truth,” I say, trying to explain, “I do know little of mortals. I – I find it peculiar – that you need to think of all weathers, that you need carry so much food, not merely eat less, that – that you rest with closed eyes – it is as though you are dead – and –“ I stop, there are some parts of elven life of which I do not wish to speak. I had known there would be some oddities, travelling with such a group, but I had not realised how many.
He meets my eyes, and I see a sympathy I had not hoped for, as he answers,
“It is not easy to be alone among those who are not your own kind. I understand.” And perhaps I look doubting, for he adds, “Remember, I have spent many years in the House of Elrond, but for all his kindness – I am a Man, and no elf.”
Before either of us can say more, there is an interruption from the other wakeful pair.
“Did you think I suggested carrying extra wood merely for comfort -?” the Man begins, but before he can say more, he is interrupted,
“For the love of Mahal, elf, do you know nothing? Even I, dwarf of many journeys as I am, and hardier than any other mortal race, would not prance around a mountain in such foolish light boots and clothes as you wear. Yet we are not rebuking you for your idiocy.”
I flush and bite my lip. No, they are not, but – “I said, I know little of mortals. And if I do not ask, I will not learn.” I sigh, wondering why I bother – he is of the line of Durin, stubborn and uninterested in any other. I turn back to the ranger, and see a small smile under his beard, which heartens me to say, “I do not even know much of Noldor, of the peredhel. In my Forest the clothes I wear are as much as any would ever need. The weather is the gift of Iluvatar, it is not for us to do anything other than welcome it.”
The dwarf mutters something, something I think I am glad not to hear, under his breath, and turns away, the two of them soon lost in their tales of – warmer times. My companion quirks an eyebrow at me, a trick he must have learnt from his foster-father, I think, and says quietly,
“Is it also true, as rumour would have it, that when far from the court of your king, your Silvans are – very weather-proof indeed?”
I shrug, so that is what they say of us, those proud Noldor, that is what they think when they look down upon us, wild wood-elves that they call us, and I wonder if he thinks to shame me – but I am not shamed by my people. I meet his eyes again, easily this time,
“Of course. Clothes are a convenience, and a courtesy, a respect we pay the Sindar court, and those not of our kind.” And I see his eyes light on my hair, and anticipate his next question, “Our kind I said. Silvans. Have you never found there can be the world of difference between the truth of your blood, and the truth of your heart, ranger of Men who yet calls Imladris home?”
He smiles, and looks sadly away, so that I wonder what, exactly, is in his mind, as he replies,
“In that, at least, I can understand you. For my blood would have me be here, while my heart bids me stay where it has long been given.”
But whatever his meaning, I think that he and I may yet become friends if he also can understand what it is to be constantly torn between what one should be and what one is. And while the chill of the air may still lower his spirits, and the chill of the dwarf’s dislike dampens mine, perhaps this new friendship will warm us even as the fire warms our less hardy companions.