Where Many Paths and Errands Meet
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 10, Part 10
(September 24, 1451)
Legolas soon led them off
the well-trod road into a small wood by the side.
"Elves pass this way," he said, as he took them
onto a narrow, shadowed path, glimmering in slender beams
of sunlight that intermittently pierced a lofty ceiling
of jewel-bright autumn leaves. They rode slowly, pushing aside
branches and moss as they went, or at least the hobbits
did. Legolas threw out his arms to either side and let
every leaf, twig, tendril, or strand of moss brush over
him, face and limbs and chest, his eyes closed in relief
and his lips slightly parted. Frodo smelled a richness in
the air that must've always been there in the natural
world, but that he had not noticed till then, at least
never so sharply as today. He breathed in green, gold,
scarlet scents, tart and spicy, soft brown bark scents,
sweet and resinous, heavy dark earth scents that reminded
him of Papa, all because he watched the elf breathe in so
deeply that he somehow seemed to borrow an elf's
perceptions of the world.
They came to a hillock so deep in moss that they couldn't
hear their ponies' hooves at all--a green and cushioned
world, canopied in a gold brocade of leaves. "Elves
camp here," Legolas said. He dismounted, but not
with the grace that Frodo had come to expect--shakily, rather.
"Are we stopping?" Frodo asked. "So soon?
It's not even lunchtime yet."
"You must forgive me," said the elf, "but
I have not slept since I entered Bree." And he cast
himself down upon the moss. In an instant his eyes lapsed
into the slow, rhythmical blinks of elvish sleep. Frodo
looked to Merry in bewilderment as the hobbits dismounted
and tied their ponies up.
"Nine days," said Merry. "That's a bit
much, even for an elf." He unpacked a blanket and
spread it over the sleeping figure. "You might as
well make yourself comfortable, Frodo--I don't expect
he'll wake until tomorrow."
Frodo studied Legolas where he lay. "He's not doing
too well, is he." He turned to Merry. "Is this
normal? You said that mortal lodgings annoy elves--but to
the point where they don't sleep at all?"
Merry squatted down beside the elf. "No, that's not
right. We stayed together quite some time in Gondor, and
he slept just fine." He studied the face before him.
"He does look thin--but then elves run towards
slender builds in the best of times." He stood up
while Frodo unburdened the ponies. "It could be
nothing--maybe in these latter days all elves have become
a bit...fragile." He went to help Frodo.
"Uncle Merry," said Frodo suddenly as he
brushed his pony down. "What do you know about
fading?" The older hobbit did not reply, but his
hands fell away from his own steed. "Uncle
"You have no idea what you are asking," Merry
said, staring far away.
"Then that's the best reason to ask, as Papa always
says. You started to fade a little yourself, didn't you,
after you struck the Nazgul?"
"That was different. That had pure evil behind
it." Merry shuddered, the color drained from his
face. "And I didn't "fade" so much as get
"What about my namesake?" Frodo persisted, as
he set up camp, while his elder stood there with clenched
fists. "Everybody says that he nearly faded from the
morgul-wound before Elrond saved his life."
"Again, different. Poison, with a spell behind
"But they used the same word. And after him and Papa
destroyed the ring, he started to fade again--more
slowly, but he did. Papa had to send him west to get
"That has nothing to do with whatever Legolas is
going through right now."
"How can you be sure? Papa says that people started
to treat the other Frodo like he wasn't even there."
He walked back to the sleeping elf. "Do you suppose
that he's in pain?"
"No, Frodo." Merry came over and put an arm
around the young hobbit's shoulders. "No. This is
different. It comes of something natural, not connected
to the Dark Lord or any other evil. It's just a kind of
aging, really. Elves were only put on Middle-Earth for
just so long--and while that's a whole lot longer than a
hobbit or a man, or even a dwarf or a tree, still, all
things have their limits. And they should, Frodo.
Otherwise this world would become old and crowded and
tired. Sooner or later we all make room for something
new. Maybe all our friend needs is help accepting
Yet for some reason, the minute Merry said
"natural," Frodo's heart said , No...not
entirely... He found May's toy gripped in his hand in
his pocket. He released it, shrugged, and went in search
of wood for the campfire, for he felt a bit chilled. At
least, if they caught one of those rays of sun just
right, the magnifying glass could prove useful for
something after all. But the clouds closed overhead and
began to drizzle.
Undaunted, Merry pulled from a bag a tightly-packed
bundle of a dense and brightly colored silk, along with a
roll of hide. In no time at all he had thrown a rope over
a bough and raised up the most gaudily merry little
pavilion that Frodo had ever seen, complete with a
leather floor. Lines of scarlet oliphants paraded around
its circumference, blue monkeys capered, and green fronds
of plants unknown to The Shire waved in brilliant dye, in
between bands of intricate designs in all possible
colors, all on a golden ground. Merry cheered up considerably with the work, and
whistled as he and Frodo loaded their supplies into the
tent. It felt much warmer within, even without a fire.
The cloth held a strange, faint scent that Merry said
came from a kind of wood used to perfume things like
They tried to rouse Legolas to join them, but the elf
pushed them away without coming fully awake, grumbled as
he wrapped the blanket tight around himself like a hooded
cloak, and fell fast asleep again, with the rain now
pouring down and his blanket soaking up the mud. Merry
shrugged and said, "Well, you can't force a fool to
come in out of the rain."
"Maybe it's better for him," Frodo said,
"if he's sick of staying indoors. And I've never
heard of elves catching cold." They took shelter in
the pavilion, themselves, wrapping cozily in blankets,
sitting pillowed on their bags of clothes. "Uncle
Merry, do you have any paper to spare?"
"Sure. I always carry extra. And I suppose you'll
need pen and ink, too." But when Merry brought out
the supplies, instead of an inkwell, he opened up a
little metal case with a shallow cup in it next to a cake
of something that looked like charcoal.
"What's that?" Frodo asked.
"Ink. They make dried ink in the east--it's better
for traveling. If there's one thing I can't abide, it's
having an inkwell spill all over my luggage. Here--you
fill the cup with water, and mix the ink as you go. The
eastern pen is more like a brush; dip it in the water,
then work it against the cake of ink, and there you have
it. It's elementary, once you get the hang of it."
He demonstrated. "See? What do you want it for--got
a poem in your head?"
"No, I want to write home."
"Already? But the nearest mail-drop is the Prancing
Pony--don't tell me you want to turn back."
Frodo bristled a little--did Merry think him a child?
"Not at all. But if I write as I go, off and on,
I'll have a letter worth sending by the time we reach
Rohan." He wrote down, "September 24,
1451," but then he laid the pen-brush down again.
"I don't know what to write," he sighed.
"Small wonder, since you've only been gone a few
hours." Merry lit himself a pipe, then got out a
little book of poetry, and his spectacles, and started to
read. Frodo stretched out on the leather floor with the moss underneath, and
listened to the rain thrumming softly on the silk
overhead. Animals cavorted above him in blazing colors,
animated when the wind made the cloth buck and ripple.
"Merry, doesn't Legolas have a friend among the
"That's Gimli--and don't you ever slip up and call
him Gimmi to his face, for pity's sake! He's sensitive
enough about allegations of dwarvish greed." He went
back to his book.
"It's a shame he didn't come along; I bet he'd know
what to do about Legolas."
"What to do about Legolas is leave him alone--you
can't go around fixing friends to death, Frodo. You're
making way too much about way too little. Now let me read
in peace, all right?" He bit down hard on his pipe and
turned his back.
Frodo sighed and picked up the paper again; if he
couldn't write anything, he could at least decorate the
margins. The pen resembled a really good paintbrush, and
Frodo had a certain talent for rustic designs.
"Gimli's far away in the Lonely Mountain,
anyway," he murmured half to himself.
Merry laid his book down. "No he's not, come to
think of it. I supplied an expedition of dwarves that he
led to the Glittering Caves of Aglarond, just a year or
two ago." He smiled suddenly. "That's right in
Rohan. Imagine that!"
"Do you think that's just coincidence?"
Merry sighed. "Now what are you on about?"
"No, think about it. If Legolas went into Mordor on
the King's behalf, he would've come down from Mirkwood a
couple years ago--about the same time Gimli left the
Lonely Mountain. They must have traveled together."
"Maybe, maybe not," Merry said around his pipe.
"If they did, it's hardly surprising for a couple
good friends." He picked the book up again.
"What if Gimli's worried, too, and keeping an eye on
Merry slammed the book to the floor, then pulled a ledger
from his pack and tossed it at Frodo, saying, "Here.
Check these figures and make sure that they add up right.
You've got way too much time to think about nothing,
lad." Then he picked up his book a final time,
adjusted his spectacles, and refused to answer to
anything except meal-calls for the rest of the day.
But that night, as Frodo lay in his blankets, peeking out
the tent-flap at the faint glimmer of the sleeping elf
through a blur of drizzle, he asked, "Merry, in all
your travels, did you ever know Legolas, or any other
elf, to sleep out in the rain voluntarily?"
Silence. Then Merry said "No," and turned over.