The night sky was clear, beautiful and the moon was standing in full shape at the highest point, surrounded by myriads of stars. One seemed to gleam brighter than the others.
The whispering wind rustling in the trees and the steady chirping of crickets were the only sounds in the night.
The deer that had just browsed calmly felt only the sharp pain of the arrow that had hit it directly in its heart. It just managed to make a leap forward then fell dead to the ground.
A hooded figure approached the dead animal with light footsteps, grabbed the antlers and with great effort pulled it in the direction of a small campfire.
She wiped sweat from her forehead, washed her hands in the little creek near her camp before she began to skin the animal and fillet the meat with skillful movements.
"This seems to be a lot of meat for a girl of your size" a warm and friendly voice spoke from somewhere behind the trees. She didn't even flinch for she had been aware of his presence for quite a while now.
"Even a girl of my size needs supplies. The more meat I have the less often I need to go hunting" she replied calmly without stopping her work. A smile curled her lips as she felt him moving closer to the fire. He remained still, watched her for a little while longer before she sighed and stopped preparing the meat.
"Why are you here, Gandalf?" she asked and turned to look at him. Her emerald eyes sparkled in the moonlight and as she pulled her hood back a long, silky mane of red hair fell over her shoulder. It was a wild mix of dark and fire red and it shone bright in the flickering light of her campfire.
"I came to invite you on an adventure, my dear" the wizard said and his mouth twitched slightly into a smile.
Liliana raised an eyebrow and watched him carefully. "An adventure? What kind of adventure are we talking about?"
She has known Gandalf for quite a while now, ever since she settled down in the wooded outskirts of the Ered Luin. He passed through from time to time to take a look at her, to make sure she was fine. He was the one welcoming her ten years ago. She was fifteen back then, arrived at the Grey Havens with one of those white ships that normally never return from where she came from.
And she would have never been able to see that place she lived since her age of five for she was from the Men-race though grew up between people of her race and elves. She knew a lot about elves and grew up with them after her mother had to send her to Aman, the Blessed Realm, where she lived until her age of fifteen.
She grew up in the protection of Manwë, king of the Valar and his wife Varda, Queen of the Valar. The reason why she was able to live in Aman was that she was the last descendant of the first and greatest house of Men.
She snapped back out of her thoughts as she saw Gandalf watching her intensely and waiting for her to give an answer to a question he seemed to have asked but she did not pay attention to him so she had no idea what he wanted her to say.
"I'm truly sorry, Gandalf, I must have been in kind of a daydream. What did you say?" she asked with a soft voice.
He smiled at her, always amazed by her young innocence when it comes to interaction with other people. She preferred the company of animals or remained alone by herself. She rarely went up to the cities of the Ered Luin. She did not trust the dwarves living up there. Gandalf once told her the only thing distinguishing her from the dwarven women would be her slim shape and the lack of facial hair but she was rather small for a woman of the Men-race especially for the people of her house were the tallest of their entire race.
Also her hair and her eyes were so different from those of her people. The people of the House of Hador tended to be blonde with blue eyes and of great height. She was the exact opposite with her emerald eyes, that red hair and her shortness.
"I said that there will be a meeting in the house of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit from the Shire. The meeting will be in three days."
She nodded, walked around him to the creek, filled a pot with water, hanging it over the fire to make the water boil. While waiting for the water to heat, she washed the meat and cut it into smaller pieces. Gandalf frowned for she seemed to ignore his question. In fact, she was thinking about his offer, and for that she needed to go on with her work. She was not one of those people who sit still, thinking about tough decisions in silence. She needed to work; her hands had to do something, her mind had to focus not only on the decision but also on her actual work.
"Who will come?" she finally asked while she mixed sea salt with pickling salt before she pulverized juniper berries with pepper, caraway and garlic.
"Well, there will be me, of course, and Master Baggins. And some dwarves—" his voice trailed off as he saw her head lifting up in surprise and clear disdain.
"Dwarves? What business is it that brings me into the actions of dwarves?" she asked but went on mixing the salt with the spices.
Gandalf stepped closer and placed a hand on her shoulder. She stopped in her movement and looked at him.
"I promised not to tell anyone the details. I'm already doing more than I'm allowed to by asking you to come" he said ominously.
She shook her head but had to smile. Gandalf and his riddles, she somehow loved him for that. The water boiled and she took it away from the fire to let it cool down. "And what were you allowed to do?" she asked curiously. He chuckled and let himself sink down on a tree trunk.
"I was told to find a fourteenth member for the Company. And with Master Baggins I already made my decision even if he's not satisfied with that and he's not expecting what's there to come in three days. Oh, I'm certain he'll be surprised a lot when those dwarves knock on his door" the wizard chuckled. Liliana could sense that he was really amused by himself and could not help but smile.
"And why do you ask me to come as well? If you're only allowed to seek a fourteenth member, why are you still looking for a fifteenth?"
He simply watched her for a while. Liliana felt quite nervous now. She went on preparing the meat as he suddenly said, "You are young of age, body and heart. And yet your soul is as old as times. You may become the soul of this Company for you've seen places no one of your race ever saw and they never will. Your ancestry and soul will enrich the Company of those dwarves. You should at least think about it. The Shire is not that far from this place' merely a day's ride at a steady pace. You still have your horse, I suppose?"
Liliana was quite irritated by what he'd said before. She knew her soul was more than six-thousand years old but still fresh and young in her twenty-five year old body. She smiled as he mentioned her horse.
"I still do have Arroch. He's down at the creek. You do know he responds to only my whistle"
Gandalf smiled. He knew very well why she named the horse he had given her as a gift for her sixteenth birthday Arroch. It was the name of the horse of Húrin, Lord of Dor-lómin and one of her famous ancestors.
"Fine. I will think about it but I won't promise to come. Don't wait for me" she finally said and saw that he was satisfied. He knew her better than she thought. He caught her interest and Liliana was too curious not to come and at least listen to what that whole business was about.
He got up, placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed it gently. "I do believe we'll meet again soon" he replied with a smirk and she lowered her head a bit just to look back up at him with a slight smile.
"Aye, we'll see, old friend" she said and watched him disappear into the darkness of the forest.
She shook her head, giggled quietly and continued with her work. But her mind circled around the wizards words, and as she lay down to sleep a couple hours later she knew she had to meet him again; him and this mysterious Company of dwarves.