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1
The Two Travelers

You shall not see your mother or your siblings again, until you have reached the Other Side, if and when you do. You may never visit the Isle on which they now reside. However, you will not be utterly alone. You shall have a companion. He will travel with you not as a servant, but as an aide, who will accompany and assist you in your journeys. In this way will he also redeem himself. Should you part, for any reason, you are on your own. Your mother’s companion has interceded on behalf of this one, and so I send him with you. Your creator will be no help to you in your sojourn on land....

“The Shadow” from Light from the West

Part I



~~~


I. The Two Travelers

They stood at a crossroads near a thick forest, looking ill at ease and by no means delighted to be in each other’s company. All they appeared to have in common were that both were male, both dressed as for a long journey on foot, and both had the appearance of having recently escaped the most horrific fate any could ever expect to endure.

One had the appearance of a Man, wearing a grey-green jerkin over a coarse black shirt and leggings, a grey cloak, and high black leather boots, and he bore a pack on his back consisting of a bedroll and a bag of supplies. In one hand he gripped a stick of beechwood, seemingly not knowing quite what to do with it. He was slender and slightly above average in height, with shoulder-length, straight black hair brushed carelessly back from a narrow, pale and sharp-featured face, in which a pair of silver-blue, piercing eyes shifted from one side to the other, then up toward the sky, then to his companion, who stood leaning upon his walking-stick glancing nervously about.

This other fellow stood not quite four feet tall, very stocky in build, with a thinly curly mop of dirt-brown hair falling about a round face dominated by two pale-green bulging eyes, a short thick bulbous nose, and a very wide mouth in which gappy teeth could be seen, for it never completely closed. He wore a brown tunic over a light grey shirt, short breeches, and brown boots that seemed very large for him. His skin was both ruddy and sallow, his chin beardless, unlike that of his companion. He kept shifting from one foot to the other, looking at each tree and flower and stone and twig as a blind man experiencing sight for the first time, passing his stick from one hand to the other. His hands and feet were large for the rest of him, and he bore a pack on his back also.

“Must you keep fidgeting?” the Man said after a moment, raking an impatient hand through his night-black locks for about the tenth time. “So tell me once more—whom are we supposed to be meeting here, and why is he taking such a time about showing? Or are they going to leave us to find this Mordor on our own?”

The small fellow looked up fearfully at his companion. “Mordor,” he murmured. “We goes to Mordor? No…say not so. Dreadful place. Sméagol not goes to Mordor. No, no, no, no, no, no….”

“I’m surprised you could think any place dreadful after…” The Man hesitated. “And you know we’ve no choice. It’s either that, or back to that other place with the both of us. Is that what you want?”

“No no no no no no!” The other blanched in abject terror, falling to his knees. “We not goes back there! Not never! Cruel mens, they hurts us so!”

“Oh, do stop sniveling,” the Man snapped. “We are going to Mordor, and that’s the end of it. That is, if this fellow who’s supposed to be taking us there ever shows himself. And if he doesn’t, why then we’re on our own, I suppose. Here, get up. Don’t make me kick you. If you don’t wish to go with me, then be off with you. I don’t care, I’m sure. You’ve been to this Mordor before, I take it? Of course you have, they told me all about it. So how is it?”

“Mordor is dreadful place,” Sméagol whimpered, rising to his feet once more, trembling. “We has been there, we has. Long, long ago. Dreadful, dreadful. Full of nasty orcses with whips and kniveses, and long, long spears. And—“

“But these ‘orcses’ are all dead now,” the Man pointed out. “Or so I was told. After Sauron’s tower was toppled, they were destroyed in the cataclysm. Now we’re supposed to be going there to help clean up the mess they left behind, and make some sort of garden spot of it. Even though it’s been all of six years since the tower was destroyed. I should think they could have made something of it by now without our help. But I don’t see what we’ve to fear now. What could possibly be worse than that place from which we were released? And you were there far longer than I.”

The wretch started moaning again, clutching his walking-stick so hard, it was small wonder it didn’t break. Greenjade felt once more that totally unaccustomed spasm of pity, which was perhaps the only thing that kept him from raising his own stick and delivering a hearty thwack to the poor creature.

“What will become of us?” Sméagol murmured after a moment. “Why can we not just die? Why wicked mans sends us to Mordor? Why they keeps us in the Bad Place?”

“Stop it,” Greenjade snapped, feeling some urge to succumb to the same self-pity. Why, indeed? And he had to unwillingly remind himself that he was free from the horrible Dungeon of the Shadow because of the two people he hated most. But for their intercession he would be there still. He reminded himself that compared to all that, Mordor seemed a garden spot already. “We’re going. And after our time here is done, we will go to the Gardens. Did they not tell you all that?”

“Yes, they told of pretty Gardenses,” Sméagol admitted, wiping his nose on the back of his wrist. “We see pretty Gardenses in the window, yesss.”

“I saw my children there,” Greenjade said softly. “But I do not think they saw me. I did not see my mate. I was told she was killed by my enemies. But it was my own sister who slew me. Fairwind. She was my favorite sister. She always seemed the most understanding. And yet she killed me. And Northlight, he was my favorite of all my brothers. I had not much use for Moonrise and Ebbtide. They were of little consequence, those two, content with their existence as it was, no curiosity, no ambition, no wish to explore and know and conquer and and rule. But Northlight, he was another matter. He wished to look, to know the world beyond the sea, to lead, to discover. Like myself. Yet he betrayed me also. Went back to them, he did, and led them to me. Did they tell you he played you in the drama they gave?” Greenjade laughed bitterly. “Fancy that! I can imagine no one less like you than Northlight. Did they tell you?”

Sméagol did not appear to be listening. “They took our Precioussss,” he hissed. “Master, master betrayed us. Master took our Precioussss. The Baggins, and that other. They stole it from us!”

“Baggins,” Greenjade laughed again. “Aye, that’s the one. Do you know that your master is my father now?”

Sméagol looked up through uncomprehending wet eyes at the taller figure. “Master? Master is man’s father? No no no no no no….”

“Yes yes yes yes yes,” Greenjade mocked him. “Your ‘master’ mated my mother, in the Blessed Realm. Married her, in fact. So ‘the Baggins’ is my stepfather. Fancy that! He it was who got us out of the Dungeon, you know. He has connections with the Valar. So perhaps you would do well to speak respectfully of the fellow, what say?”

“Baggins got us out?” Sméagol was still incredulous. “No no no no. Not possible, that is. Not possible. Man tries to tricks us!”

“I do hope this fellow we are to meet will teach you to talk properly,” Greenjade said half to himself. “I do not know how long I can listen to this jabber of yours. I have heard naught like it before. My stepfather was far more patient than I, to put up with such. A pity I never met him, and never shall until we're both dead. He might have imparted some of that patience to me.”

“Not possible,” Sméagol repeated, also half to himself, clutching his staff as to a lifeline, looking to it as if begging it for answers. “No no no. Not possible, it is…”

“Ah, but it is possible,” said another voice behind them, and both fellows turned to see what appeared to be a large man all in brown, with a brown dog by his side. Kindly brown eyes twinkled out at them from a tanned and weathered face framed by long-hanging grey-white hair and beard. A little brown finch perched on his left shoulder. “Good day, good fellows. I am here to guide the two of you to Mordor. You may call me Radagast. ”




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