Masha: O.K. Even if I do enjoy doling out stories in little cliffies, I'm not a total sadist. So here is Part 3.
Dragonfly: Yeah, someone should at least introduce Saruman to the idea of recycling.
Mo: Oh, Anomen is going to be more than I little shaken up, I promise you.
Karri: He's a tough little blighter true, but this is going to be a near one.
Joee: Alright. I'll see what I can do to extricate him from the peril in which he finds himself.
Beta Reader: Dragonfly
The Grief of Gandalf the Grey: Part 3
As Anomen was swept down the river, Saruman turned to the servant, who stood watching, his mouth agape.
"Hasten back to Isengard," he ordered, "and fetch back other servants so that a rescue may be effected."
Actually, Saruman was quite certain that what would take place would be not a rescue but rather the recovery of a body. And he did want that body recovered. He thought with glee of the coming scene: Gandalf being escorted into the room where the cold and stiff little body would be laid out. Delightful to contemplate!
As the servant scurried back to Orthanc, Anomen was trying to hold his breath and fight his way to the surface, but the water tumbled him about so that he could scarce tell which way was up. At last he could hold his breath no longer; he gasped and promptly swallowed a bellyful of water. With his lungs becoming starved for oxygen, he felt himself slipping away. The last thing he remembered was feeling regretful that he would not be able to tell Elrohir of his adventures.
Fortunately, although unaware of the fact, Anomen was of course a mammal. It is a peculiarity of some mammals, especially young ones, that when they fall into very cold water, they are subject to the 'mammalian diving reflex'. That is, their bodily functions slow to a crawl, thus preserving the oxygen needed to sustain life. So even though Anomen was unconscious and floating face down in the water, he had not in fact drowned. He was still very much alive, for his brain and his body had gone dormant so that every last remaining atom of oxygen was being conserved.
In this state the rushing water carried him down the Isen. Now, at the same time that he was being borne downstream, salmon were battling their way upstream to spawn. This was an event that took place annually, and it was of great interest to eagles, particularly the giant eagles, who would swoop down and pluck salmon out of the river the same way that lesser eagles will seize trout from a stream. Thus it happened that this very day Gwaihir and his kinsmen were soaring above the Isen as Anomen was being carried downstream by the torrent.
"Hul-lo!" thought Gwaihir to himself as he spied Anomen's limp body. "If that's a salmon, then I'm a woodpecker."
The eagle flew down to investigate, and seeing that it was an elfling, he plucked Anomen from the river and flew with him to his aerie. As soon as Anomen felt the air upon his face, he spluttered and gasped, vomited forth a great quantity of water, and began to breath again, albeit somewhat spasmodically. He was very dizzy and disoriented, of course, and when Gwaihir deposited him in the midst of the great pile of sticks at the tip-top of the tall tree in which he nested during the fishing season, all the elfling could do was sit there and blink owlishly at the great raptor. Fortunately Gwaihir did not notice the resemblance, for he was not above eating owl—particularly as there was one nearby who had been disturbing his rest each evening with his mournful hooting.
"You're not a fish, you know," said Gwaihir sternly. "You have no business going for a swim in such a fierce river."
Anomen could only gape at the great eagle, his mouth forming an 'o'. "Hmmm," mused the Wind-lord, "with his mouth open in that fashion, this elfling does in fact look rather fish-like."
However, Gwaihir had already dined quite well on salmon that day, so Anomen's resemblance to a fish merely struck the raptor as a curious fact, nothing more.
By now, Anomen had begun to shiver violently. As he was in no condition to explain who he was or how he had come to be in the river, Gwaihir could not very well return him to whatever elven nest he'd fallen out of. So the Wind-lord decided, sensibly enough, that for the time being he'd better treat Anomen as if he were one of his own nestlings. With his wing he swept Anomen beneath his body and he settled himself upon him as carefully as if the elfling had been an egg. No down duvet could have been warmer, and there let us leave our little Elf for the time being.
By the time Anomen was falling into a deep sleep in Gwaihir's nest, the searchers sent out by Saruman were returning to Isengard, where they reported to the Istar that they could find no sign of the body.
"The water is very fast, my Lord," said one timidly, "and he must have been borne by it far away long before we ever began our search."
Saruman sighed. "That is a great pity," said he as he thought regretfully that now he would never have the opportunity to observe Gandalf's face as he beheld his protégé stretched out cold and dead before him.
"Yes, my Lord," agreed the servant, still nervous. He needn't have feared, however. Even though the Istar was disappointed at not being able to put Anomen's body on display, he still congratulated himself, both because he had done away with Anomen so cleverly, at so little risk to himself, and because the elfling's death would grieve Saruman's unwitting rival. In his malice, Saruman was too gleeful to be overly irritated over the fact that Anomen's body was not to hand.
While Saruman was in such a perversely jovial mood, a servant brought him word that Gandalf the Grey was riding through the Ring of Isengard. Saruman hid all traces of glee and prepared himself to give Gandalf a welcome that the White Wizard trusted he would never forget.
"My dear friend," Saruman said solemnly as Gandalf entered his throne room and looked about for 'his' elfling. "My dear, dear friend. I hardly know how to break the news to you—indeed, I do not."
Saruman was rewarded by the look of fear that flashed across Gandalf's face.
"Where is Anomen?" the wizard said apprehensively.
"If only I had not set aside my staff," said Saruman. "If only the little one had not stubbornly ventured to the very brink of the Isen on a day when the water was so high and swift."
"Swept away by the Isen, my friend. Undoubtedly he was overwhelmed by the fury of the river and so incapable of battling his way to shore."
"I at once sent a servant to summon help, my friend, but nothing could be done."
It was several minutes before Gandalf could speak. All the while Saruman enjoyed watching the emotions that swept across the face of the distraught wizard: disbelief, confusion, grief, guilt.
"'Tis better than any play," thought Saruman. He was immensely gratified at the effect the news was having upon the Grey Wizard.
At last Gandalf collected himself enough to speak.
"Where is his body? I would carry him back to Imladris."
"I am so sorry, Mithrandir," said Saruman. "I sent my servants miles down the channel, but they could find no trace of the little fellow. At least you can console yourself that he could not have suffered long. Likely he drowned within minutes or was dashed against a boulder and so lost consciousness. Even if he avoided those perils, the frigid waters of the Isen would have numbed him so that he would have felt little pain. You must allow yourself to be comforted by these thoughts."
But Gandalf was not comforted by such images. That entire night he paced back and forth, back and forth, his beard wet with tears.
"I should have returned him to Greenwood when first I found him," he berated himself. "Then at least he would still be alive. I should never have meddled. Never! It was arrogant of me, and the little one has paid the price for my willfulness and pride."
The next day, gaunt from a night of sleeplessness, Gandalf insisted on departing immediately without even breaking fast.
"I must ride to Imladris at once," he told Saruman.
Saruman's sorrow at seeing him go was genuine. The Lord of Isengard had looked forward to enjoying Gandalf's misery for several more days. He tried fruitlessly to persuade the wizard to remain for a few days at least.
"You look unwell, Mithrandir. You should not depart in this state."
"No! no! I cannot stay. Elrond must be told."
"You could dispatch a letter," suggested Saruman.
"No, I must tell him face to face. He will want to upbraid me, I am sure, and I will not avoid that which I deserve."
Although he hid it well, Saruman now was gloating once again. His disappointment at having his entertainment cut short by Gandalf's departure had been replaced by the realization that the death of Anomen might provide him with an unexpected benefit: perchance a wedge would be driven between Gandalf the Grey and his erstwhile ally, Elrond of Rivendell. Excellent!
Shoulders hunched, eyes sunken, face pale, Gandalf rode away from Orthanc. Gleefully, Saruman watched as Anomen's friend passed through the Ring of Isengard.
"When I first laid eyes on that little brat," Saruman chortled, "I thought he might prove to be useful to me. I have been proven correct, even if not in the way I had expected. I am not sorry, however, for matters have turned out even better than I planned."
Several days later, Gandalf rode wearily up to Elrond's Hall. Dismounting, he went straight to Elrond's private chamber, where Elrond sat taking counsel with Erestor and Glorfindel. When Gandalf entered, all were struck by how worn he looked.
"Why, Mithrandir," exclaimed Elrond, trying to be jovial, "you look so very weary. Has Anomen proved to be so trying a charge!? But where is the little one? Has he already run off in search of Elladan and Elrohir?"
Gandalf did not speak. Elrond grew alarmed at his silence.
"—is dead," said Gandalf bleakly.
All three Elves cried out in horror and astonishment.
"No," protested Erestor. "That cannot be!"
"But it is so," replied Gandalf despondently.
Glorfindel leaped to his feet, and his hand grasped the hilt of his sword.
"It is not so," he growled. "It had better not be so."
Now Elrond arose.
"My heart tells me it cannot be so," he said sadly. "I do not feel the gap in the fabric of life that I would have thought I would perceive if Anomen perished. Yet Mithrandir says it is so, and we must come to grips with his words. Sit down, Glorfindel. Mithrandir, if you can, tell us what happened. If your grief is too great, however, the tale can wait until another time."
"No," said Gandalf. "I would tell you now."
Quickly he told the tale, for it was as brief as Anomen's life had been in the eyes of these Elves. When he had finished, all sat silent for awhile. Elrond at last spoke.
"It is not your fault, Mithrandir. Not even a wizard can see all and rule all. Any wizard who came to believe so would be a fool and a menace."
"Believe me, Elrond," replied Gandalf, "I already knew that I was not omniscient and omnipotent, but if I had not, my failure in this instance would have proved it to me."
"Not a failure," said Elrond firmly, "for you also are not omnipresent—you could not always be by Anomen's side."
"My head tells me that you speak the truth," said Gandalf, "but my heart reproaches me."
Elrond shook his head.
"You may grieve, Mithrandir, as will we all, but do not add guilt to the burden you carry. It is already too heavy. Now go rest, my friend."
Gandalf arose but swayed with weariness. Glorfindel was instantly on his feet, but this time to support the steps of the wizard. Gandalf tried to wave him off, but Glorfindel insisted on helping him. He took firm hold of his elbow and led him from the room. Erestor arose likewise.
"Elrond, would you like me to summon Elladan and Elrohir?"
"Yes, Erestor, if you please."
A short time later the twins stood before their father, wondering why a grim-faced Erestor had fetched them.
"My sons," said Elrond gently, "Anomen is gone."
Elrohir could not stop the tears that sprang to his eyes.
"So he has chosen to remain at Isengard," he said mournfully.
"No, Elrohir, he has—he has passed away."
"Then he has gone to the West, where Nana dwells?" said Elladan in surprise.
"I am afraid not, Elladan. He has gone to the Halls of Mandos."
The twins stared blankly at their father. What he said made no sense to them.
"How could he be in the Halls of Mandos?" asked Elladan, confused.
"Because he has perished, Elladan. He fell into the swift waters of the Isen and was swept away."
"Those words are not true!" shouted Elrohir, suddenly stirred to passion. "You are wrong, Ada. Those words are not true!"
He turned and stormed from the chamber.
"Elladan," said Elrond gently. "Go after your brother. Stay with him, but do not make him speak unless he wishes to."
Numbly, Elladan turned to follow his twin, but Elrond called him back. Enfolding the elfling in his arms, he kissed him twice on the forehead.
"One of those kisses is for your brother. Give it to him when he is ready."
"May I have a third kiss, Ada?" Elladan said piteously. "One for Anomen—for his memory, I mean?"
"Of course," replied Elrond, kissing him a third time.
Elrohir had gone to the chamber that he shared with Elladan—the one that he had shared with Anomen as well. He sat on Anomen's bed and made no attempt to hide his tears.
"It's my fault!" cried Elrohir. "It's my fault! If I hadn't been so unkind, Anomen would never have wished to leave Imladris."
Elladan threw his arms around his twin.
"Elrohir, it's not your fault! Anomen didn't leave Imladris out of dislike for you but out of love for Mithrandir. Blame the Isen if you must, but do not blame yourself!"
But Elrohir would not allow himself to be comforted. At last he fell asleep sobbing in Elladan's arms. For a very long time the distraught little Elf continued to take great shuddering breaths, and all throughout the next day his eyes were swollen because of the many tears he had shed.
Late that day the elders reassembled to eat a subdued evening meal in Elrond's chamber. The twins did not attend. Erestor had gone to summon them, but found them where they slept huddled together on Anomen's bed. He decided against rousing them and went to the kitchen and fetched fruit, bread, and cheese and placed it at hand so that, if they woke during the night, they would have something to sup upon—if they were able to eat, of course, which Erestor doubted would be the case.
In Elrond's chamber, that elf-lord, in spite of his own grief, was again trying to convince Gandalf that he was not to blame for the death of the elfling, but the elf-lord was having no more success than Elladan had had with Elrohir.
"Mithrandir, you could not have foreseen such an accident."
"If I hadn't brought him to Orthanc, he would not have been standing on the banks of the Isen."
"That is true, but what is to say that he would not have fallen into the Bruinen? It, too, can be a fell river after a strong rain. Any river can be so—aye, even the gentle Baranduin of which you are so fond. You must not blame yourself so."
"I should not have left him there."
"Mithrandir, you could not have watched him at all times. Nor could I have. No one could have—not unless we had chosen to keep him under lock and key. And what if we had? He would have grown up someday and been unprepared for the perils that would have faced him. Like as not he would have escaped drowning in the Isen only to have been swept away by the Anduin."
"Unprepared for the perils that faced him?" said Gandalf bitterly. "He was unprepared for the perils that faced him."
"Mithrandir," said Elrond, with a show of calmness that he did not feel, "no one can be prepared for all the perils that may be encountered—not you, not I."
At last, like Elrohir, Gandalf felt asleep on a settle in Elrond's chamber out of sheer bodily weariness. The elf-lord did not trouble to wake him but merely gently drew a cover over the wizard and withdrew to sleep in his sons' room. Seeing the twins asleep on Anomen's bed, he hesitated, but then somehow contrived to slip into the bed as well. Elrohir, without ever waking, unconsciously seized upon him, clutching a handful of his tunic tightly in his hand throughout the entire night.
As Gandalf had been riding through the gates of Rivendell with his sad news, Anomen was at last recovering enough to give Gwaihir an account of himself.
"My name is Anomen," he told the Wind-lord, "and I was visiting at Isengard. I went for a walk alongside the Isen, and I stepped on a loose stone. It shifted and threw me into the river."
"Isengard," said Gwaihir. "Very well. It shall be easy enough to return you there."
"But I don't want to go back to Isengard! Mithrandir was not there. I don't know where he is right now, but I do know where Elrond is. Please, my Lord, can you not take me to Imladris?"
"That will mean crossing the Misty Mountains. I generally keep to the east of those peaks. However, you have mentioned Mithrandir. You are a friend of his, then?"
"Oh, yes! He meant to come back to Isengard for me, but if he came there and found me gone, he would go on to Imladris. I would much rather wait for him with Lord Elrond in Imladris than with Lord Saruman in Orthanc."
"Ah, yes. Saruman. Bit of a cold fish, isn't he, but not one I have any taste for."
Gwaihir chuckled at his own humor. He had a habit of doing that, and as he had a cruel, hooked beak and sharp talons, creatures were not inclined to gainsay him.
"Well," continued the Wind-lord, "Gandalf and I get along rather well, as his wit is as cutting as are my talons, a characteristic that has always recommended him to me. As you are his friend, tomorrow morning I will convey you over the mountains."
Although Anomen had recovered from his near-drowning, he was still rather weak, for he had not had a proper meal in several days. Gwaihir had brought him a salmon, but Anomen could not stomach raw fish. When it came time to depart, then, Gwaihir carefully picked him up in his talons because he feared the elfling would not otherwise be able to keep his grip. Anomen found it rather terrifying to be dangling far above the crags of the Misty Mountains, but he was eager to return to Rivendell and so made no complaint. Gwaihir flew with him to the top of the mountain that overlooked the valley of Imladris and deposited him there.
"You can make it from here, I trust. The thermals are not very favorable for me to descend any lower."
Anomen eagerly assured him that he could find his way from there. So anxious was he to return to his friends that he ran down the mountain at such a reckless pace that soon he was practically sliding.
Gandalf and the Elves were assembling in the garden at this time, for Elrond had decreed that this spot, so beloved of the elfling, was the most fitting place for a memorial ceremony. As they stood waiting for Elrond to commence, Glorfindel noticed a plume of dust arising from the side of the mountain. He cleared his throat.
"Lord Elrond, you will please pardon me. Yonder dust plume is likely nothing, but anything that looks like an avalanche must be investigated promptly to address any risk that may arise to our people, either from a natural rock fall or from one triggered by foes who may be attempting to find a way into the valley."
"Of course, Glorfindel," replied Elrond. No matter how great their sorrow, they could not set aside their responsibilities.
Glorfindel left the gathering and strode swiftly toward the dust plume. By then Anomen had lost his footing altogether and was tumbling over and over down the mountainside, rolling faster and faster. Glorfindel squinted up at the rapidly approaching ball of dust and made out an occasional hand or foot.
"Looks like someone is plunging down the slope," he said in alarm, and he broke into an uphill run, meaning to arrest the person's progress before he could do himself an injury. The Elves below saw Glorfindel scrambling up the slope toward the descending dust ball and wondered at what it might mean.
Anomen was small even for an elfling, but his momentum was such that when he reached Glorfindel, the balrog-slayer was quite bowled over. The astonished onlookers now saw two balls of dust rolling down the mountainside, one smaller, one larger. They abandoned the garden and ran for the spot where they adjudged the balls might at last roll to a halt.
When they arrived there, they saw two dust-covered figures gasping upon the dirt. One, the larger one, they knew to be Glorfindel, but who was the smaller one? Someone seized a bucket of water from the well and flung it upon the little figure.
"Anomen!" shrieked Elrohir and Elladan. Elrond and Glorfindel were overjoyed but speechless. In his excitement, Elrond quite lost his eyebrows. Erestor broke into tears. As for Gandalf, he flung his arms around the elfling and squeezed so hard that Anomen yelped.
"I am so glad!" the wizard kept babbling. "So glad!"
"Can't-bre-eathe!" Anomen gasped. In the end, Elrond practically had to pry Anomen out of Gandalf's arms.
That night there was a bit of a tug of war. The twins insisted that Anomen sleep in their bed chamber, but Gandalf insisted that Anomen sleep in the wizard's room, just as the elfling had done the first night of his arrival at Rivendell. Eventually, after listening to the twins and Gandalf quarrel as if they were all elflings, Elrond stepped in and decreed that Anomen would sleep in the chamber he had been sharing with Elladan and Elrohir, but that Gandalf could tell him stories and remain with him until he fell asleep.
In fact, when Elrond stopped to check on the younglings before going to bed himself, he found Gandalf sound asleep on Anomen's bed. Anomen was curled up next to him, his head buried beneath the wizard's beard.
"Hmph!" snorted Elrond. "And that one pretends to be so fierce and gruff! Great lug of a wizard snoring away, taking up very nearly the entire bed. Poor Anomen will have a dreadful crick in his neck if he sleeps the night through in that cramped position. I'd best move him to my own room, where the bed is larger."
Elrond carried Anomen to his own chamber and tucked him in beside him. An hour later, however, something roused Elrond. He awoke to find Anomen gone. Back the elf lord went to the elflings' room to make sure that all was well. Elrohir, Elladan, and, yes, a still-snoring Gandalf, but no Anomen. Concerned, Elrond went to Glorfindel's chamber to ask him to help search for the elfling. To Elrond's surprise and amusement, there was Anomen, tucked in beside Glorfindel.
"There's another one pretends to be gruff and grim," he said to himself as he returned to his room by himself.
A little while later, Glorfindel sat bolt upright as he sensed a disturbance in his room. There was Erestor, who had just stumbled over a boot as he made for the door with a sleeping Anomen cradled in his arms.
"Here now," hissed Glorfindel. "What do you think you are doing!?"
"You always arise at the first hint of dawn," Erestor whispered back. "I thought it would be better if Anomen were bestowed in a chamber where he would not be disturbed so early in the morning."
"You mean your chamber, I suppose."
"Well, yes. I do not usually arise until it is full dawn."
It is a marvel that Anomen's rest was unbroken that night as he was shifted from chamber to chamber. But perhaps as he passed from the arms of one Elf into the arms of another, he sensed how loved he was, and that awareness more than offset any jounces or bumps his body may have been subjected to. In any event, he did not wake until it was well past dawn, and when he did he was back in his own bed. (Gandalf had at last awakened and had gone off in great indignation to retrieve the elfling from Erestor—arousing the unfortunate Elrond and Glorfindel along the way, of course.) He was alone, as everyone else had gone to breakfast, for all agreed that he ought to be allowed to sleep as long as needful. So Anomen was very well rested, indeed.
While Anomen slept in that morning, Gandalf betook himself to the library, where he composed a missive to Saruman.
"You will be glad to know, my dear Saruman," wrote Gandalf, "that Anomen did not in fact perish in the Isen. Thanks be to the Valar, a good friend of mine, Gwaihir the Wind-lord, happened to be passing overhead. Spying our elfling floating face-down in the river, he swooped down and lifted Anomen up. He has now conveyed him safely to Imladris, where I have been but lately reunited with him."
"Wretched bird," snarled Saruman as he angrily perused Gandalf's letter. "I pray that he never again meddles in my affairs!"
Of course, Reader, Gwaihir would indeed 'meddle' in Saruman's affairs on at least one further occasion. As in the present instance, the Wind-lord was to do so quite inadvertently, but with results just as fortunate for Gandalf and his friends—amongst whom Anomen was still destined to be numbered, albeit, as we all know, as Legolas Thranduilion, Prince of Mirkwood.