In the morning he found himself alone, covered by the black cloak with the iron claws tucked carefully out of sight, and he wondered if he had dreamed the previous night...yet he felt wonderfully refreshed, and as he sat up and looked about, yawning, he noticed the barn looked wonderfully clean and neat. A far cry from how it had looked last night.
And then he saw Lúthien coming in smiling with a bucket of milk in one hand and a basket in the other. A delightful smell of fresh rolls was coming out from it. She wore her cloak loosely on her shoulders so he could see the blue gown she wore beneath. Huan came up behind her, gnawing a large ham-bone.
"Did you sleep well, my friend?" she asked Gaergath as she set down the bucket and the basket. "Here is breakfast. Let us eat quickly, and be on our way. How do you feel now?"
"Better than I have in a long time," he said. He saw her take two plates from out of the basket. Each was heaped with buttered rolls, boiled eggs, and jam. There were two wooden cups for the milk. "How did the barn get so clean? You didn't do it while I was asleep, did you? You should have awakened me; I would have helped."
"Likely you did not hear my cow-milking song either," she said jokingly. He noticed there was no sign of barn-cleaning on her--no bits of hay clinging to her gown, no dung-smell, no bits of dirt on her fingers. Her hair was bound into a long braid that hung well past her hips. The blue color of her gown suited her to perfection.
The Star of the morning, he thought. A universe of butterflies fluttered in his belly.
"You don't suppose they will follow us?" Gaergath said as they made ready to leave.
"I erased Huan's tracks, and scent," she said. "My cloak can do that. It has special properties."
"Can you fly with it?" he asked. The bag seemed awfully heavy now. Why could he not simply leave it behind?
"Nay," she said, "but that is a good thing. Flying is too far beyond what the human form is intended. And yet I can but wish I might, just this once. It disturbs me to think I would do it, even for him."
"Why should it be disturbing?" he asked.
"To embrace evil even a little," she said, "is to embrace it much. Yet I would do so in order to free him, if it were necessary, and suffer the consequences myself...and yet, I would not be the only one to suffer thus."
"What of good?" he asked. "If one were to embrace good a little?"
"To embrace good 'a little' is to embrace it not at all," she said softly.
He was silent as he mounted the horse once more, thinking of what she had said.
Perhaps he should burn the cloak next time they stopped, while her back was turned. He could build a fire, and put it in....
And yet even then, he knew he could not do it. Gloom and sadness overtook him once more, and somehow he thought of the farmer he had shot. If he could not embrace goodness for her, for whom could he? It seemed evil was to be his final destiny, after all....
When they reached the river crossing, after days of tireless riding and stopping to inquire direction and take a bit of refreshment and rest, Gaergath let the horse go, and asked that he might sit in front upon the dog's back, fearing that his body would betray his true feelings. She agreed to this arrangement.
He was astonished at the speed of which the dog was capable--far faster than any horse he had ever ridden. It was both frightening and exhilarating. And the touch of her body at his back as she clung to him...he wondered if the bliss of the Undying Lands could ever match this. Surely it could not even come close.
And yet there was pain in it also. He gladly endured it, savoring what he had, even knowing it would be brief.
"This is the River Sirion," he said after they had reached a place that looked remotely familiar to him. "I know it. It is darker than other waters I have passed. The Island is here...although I am not sure how far."
"We are almost there!" she exclaimed and quickly dismounted from the dog's back.
"Aye, but I cannot see the tower," he said. "I fear it is a long way yet, my lady. And it is near nightfall."
She did not seem to hear him. Her eyes were dreamy, then pain-stricken as if something hurt her deep inside, then joyous, then sad once more. And then suddenly she began to sing.
Love oh love, lift, lift up your head,
from your hard dark pillow, fear no more
I am here, drenched with longing
keen as the seagull's cry
wild as the call of the mating elk
sweet as the breath of summer rain
burning as the fire of holiness
deep as the music of the seas
to hear your voice and touch your hand.
I am coming, swift as the river,
soon as your next breath,
a blossom of readiness
to ripen in your noontime
to die inside you,
to dream in your waking
to gather and flow,
to plant and to flourish.
Love oh love, lift, lift up your voice
from your nest of horror
from your cage of pain
remember our joy
and answer my song
and know that I come on driving wing
without delay as the wind of storm,
as the lightning on the waves!
"I heard his voice," she said, and he had not thought it possible for her to look more beautiful, and yet she did so. "Let us go now! He awaits me!"
And they were off once more.
It was nearly nightfall when Gaergath said he thought these surroundings looked familiar.
"I do not think we should go," he said. "Elves who visit the tower are never seen again, 'tis said."
"You may remain behind," she said, "if you wish. If aught happens to me, will you see to Huan? Let him go back to his master if he wishes, then perhaps Celegorm will be shamed into goodness once more."
"Of course I will," he said, "but I shall go with you. I have my dagger."
"You do not think we passed it?" she said anxiously.
"Nay, I would know place, if I saw it in my sleep."
"Perhaps his wicked magic keeps it hidden?"
"Your cloak will know it," he said turning to smile a little.
She kissed his cheek.
He wished he had died there and then.
The last hour of their trip was the happiest he had ever known, or ever would know.
"We are here," he said as they came to a tangle of dark wood, where a foul mist brooded, and no strain of birdsong could be heard.
"I know," she said and he could actually hear her shiver. Yet he himself was not afraid.