June 8th, 2002
Once again I find myself in Middle Earth. I have entered as close to Rivendell as possible. For unknown reasons the Signal Generator can't position itself any closer to Elrond's house than about 10 miles. Perhaps it is due to some numerical rounding in the software, but I would have thought 64 bit math would be more than adequate. I decide to enter downstream, north of the Merrill stream. With luck I can get there in one day, try to resolve the elves animosity towards me and return to the portal before the weekend is over. Who knows I might even be able to get in a little fishing.
This time the portal is on dry land. I will not open a portal in water ever again. It took me almost ten hours to clean up the mess. I was lucky it wasn't noticed. The air is fresh, the sky is blue and the Merrill valley is breathtaking. It reminds me of the scenery from Alaska. I pile a few rocks and scuff the dirt around the portal site. I then spend a few minutes trying to commit the location to memory.
Imladris, the home of Elrond, a refuge and stronghold of the Elves should be about 10 miles to the east. I wonder why Boromir had such a difficult time finding it. It seems relatively easy to find if you just travel up the Merrill stream from where it joins the Bruinen. It isn't the shortest route but it probably only doubles the distance. I guess I will find out. I hitch up my daypack and start walking up the Merrill valley.
My pack is heavier this trip. In addition to my normal gear I brought last time I am bringing gifts for my meeting with the elves. For my aikido partner I brought a selection of chocolates. Not being a connoisseur of chocolates I made the mistake of asking the advice of some women at work. I found there was no clear winner so I decided to buy a sampling of chocolates. Individual packages of Callebaut bittersweet from Belgium, Noir Amer, which roughly translates to black bitter from France, Esmeralda a bittersweet chocolate from Ecuador, and finally both dark and milk chocolate from Ghirardelli in San Francisco. Assuming Elladan and Elrohir are in charge now that Elrond has left, I bought two Leatherman 'Wave' Tools with the belt sheath. And then for the entertainment of the rest of the elves I brought a Sony Discman, with speakers and the London Philharmonic's recording of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. All are boxed and gift-wrapped. The batteries themselves must weigh a pound.
I have decided to sneak into Rivendell. Towards this end I purchased a complete set of Army surplus Forest Camos. I am still amazed with all the pockets the pants have. Most of them are empty. The forest is predominately oak and beech and my camos blend perfectly. I will travel along the edge of the forest as much as possible. This should hide me from any aerial surveillance and tend to conceal me from casual observers on the ground as well.
The valley floor appears to be about one to two miles across with the Merrill swiftly flowing in its banks. I can hear the river from the edge of the forest. The valley floor is obviously the flood plain of the Merrill. I wonder how often the Merrill floods it banks. From the appearance of the local flora I would guess that it has been decades since the last flood event. At the edges of the historic flood plain the Merrill valley rises steeply. A mountain range to the north and to the south the valley rises steeply to a ridge of hills, beyond which are the high moors. I can count six distinct hills along the ridge to the south. In Wales they would probably call these hills mountains but I use the term to put the mountain range to the north in perspective. From my brief glace to the north I can see seven to eight snow capped peaks. The higher elevations are covered in a blanket of conifers. The Merrill and the Bruinen rivers bound the mountain range to the north on all sides but the east. The Hithaeglir (Misty Mountains) to the east are taller still, the peaks hidden by clouds. I can only compare it to the Rocky Mountains that neatly divide most of the North American continent.
The morning passes quietly as I make my way up the valley. Every half hour I make my way to the edge of the forest and scan the valley with my binoculars. The Merrill itself appears to be about 50 to 100 feet in width, flowing and splashy over the valleys weathered bedrock. Numerous small waterfalls averaging from five to twenty feet give the appearance that the river is naturally terraced. About midmorning I made a discovery. The Merrill has been damned. At a narrow spot in the gorge, a mile long dam has been constructed. The dam appears to be of earthen construction lined with rock on both the upstream and downstream embankments. The surprising thing I discovered was the evidence of a large bottom spillway.
Curiosity gets the better of me and after verifying that no elves or hawks are about I take a closer look. I climb along the downstream embankment and look at an engineering marvel. Mounted in a foundation of granite is the gate. The gate has a curved faceplate connected with steel arms to a trunnion. Further examination does not reveal how the gate is powered. I can only conclude that magic must be involved similar to that used in the gates of Moria.
As I return to the forest I wonder what the purpose of the dam and lake. Having seen no cultivation or habitation below the dam I can only conclude the dam was built for defensive purposes. At this point in the valley, the dam and associated lake would allow a relatively small number of elves to defend the upper valley. Smiling I also realize the impact of opening the spillway on an approaching army. The resulting flood would devastate them. Could this be the explanation of the flood at the Bruinen Ford? I doubt it, as it would take the flood waters too long to travel the fifteen miles to the Ford. Then again who knows, perhaps Elrond released the waters hours earlier and was holding them in check, just upstream until Frodo crossed and the Black Riders were vulnerable. He was a Loremaster after all, and he wore Vilya the most powerful of the three Elven Rings.
The lake is about two miles long and I estimate it depth to be about 75 feet. Beyond the lake I make my next discovery. The valley floor is covered in hayfields, acres and acres of Timothy Hay. The hay is still is green and probably wont be cut for at least another month. I continue to stay in the forest but this forces me to take a more circuitous route that will add miles to my walk. About a mile above the lake I ford a small creek and in another mile I ford another flowing south. Surprisingly I find that it is not a second creek but the same creek, for I see my footprints in the mud.
How in Hades could I get that disoriented? I check the sun but it is near zenith and provides little help. So I pause and dig out my compass. Three times in the next half hour I find myself turning. I realize that in the forest I can see no landmarks, but I have never gotten this turned around so quickly. What is going on? Concentrating I focus on the compass and take sight lines and in another ten minutes I approach another creek. It appears to be the same creek. But I am approaching it from the west. I convince myself it is a different creek. The sun continues to hover around its zenith as I head east. Correcting my path once again I am beginning to get a little frustrated. I find I must seriously concentrate on my path or I end up heading in another direction.
I am beginning to understand Boromir's dilemma. I decide to ponder the situation while I eat an apple. Could this be a spell of some kind? A confusion spell? If so it appears to only affect me and not my compass. Perhaps the spell has been put on the forest to prevent creatures from doing exactly what I am trying to do, sneak up the Merrill valley. I am determined to continue. My pace slows as I focus on my route. Slowly my sub-consciousness gets my attention, I smell smoke.
Following my nose I make my way to the edge of the forest. There I see the source of the smoke. A homestead lies below me, smoke lazily drifts in the breeze from a stone chimney. Is this Elrond's house? The homestead consists of a single story house, two barns and corral. Milling about the structures are about 25 Lipizzan horses. I find some cover and relax. Twenty are adults with white or light gray coloring and five colts in bay coats. The horses are compact with excellent proportions. I estimate they stand 15 to 16 hands; their manes and tails are abundant. They all have the classic flat or slightly convex nose, small ears, substantial neck, massive chest, lean quarters and clean legs that characterize the breed.
So, I wonder what the elves would do I liberated one of their horses? Probably hang me. My dreaming is interrupted when I see an elf exiting the barn leading a fine stallion. The elf speaks to the horse, removes it's halter and then laughs as the stallion canters away. Slowly I back off until the trees screen me from the clearing. I circle the stud farm and then head east-southeast along the foot of a ridge always keeping in the trees. The confusion spell is annoying but I am learning how to ignore it.
I stop for lunch in a nice shady spot, deep in the forest. A couple of jays with gray and white plumage join me. I break the apple core in two and toss one half to each. They each grab it and then fly to a nearby tree to eat their treat.
Around 2:00 I round the ridge and find myself heading northwest. I continue on for only a half a mile or so before I drop down and cross a larger creek head roughly east again. The number of homesteads is increasing. They all are cleverly constructed of native materials and blend with their surroundings. It's becoming more and more difficult to avoid being seen. The elves appear to be living an agrarian existence.
Around 4:00, I enter a huge orchard and narrowly avoided being seen. A youth, the first immature elf I have seen, passes within 25 feet of me. The orchard is a peach orchard. I wait for the elfling to get out of sight before I head north and get into the oak and beech forest. I continue east rounding another ridge. The terrain continues to get steeper and steeper and soon I am forced to enter the orchard, apple this time.
I suppose it was just a matter of time before I was discovered. Three Elven males tending the trees spot me before I spot them. I nod and continue walking. One of them takes off running and the other two follow me at a distance. I attempt to act like I belong. I don't think they buy it, for in less than twenty minutes my progress is halted by a squad of elves all armed with bows, four men and three women. I scan the faces but do not see my aikido partner. They force me to drop my pack and pistol, and then move ten feet away. Ah, news of my exploits proceeds me, wonderful. One of the elves issues an order and my pack and gun are picked up, the others, arrows nocked watch my every move. I smile and say, "Mellon". The elves don't even blink.
We are soon marching to the east. I can see mountains to the left through the top of the trees. Good, the elf carrying my pack and gun isn't playing with them. The elves are all over six feet, the males about 6'4 and the women 6'1". They appear taller due to their lean build. They all have blond or light brown hair and they all have blue, gray or green eyes. The elves appear not to be taking any chances as they surround me as we walk, none approaching closer than 10 feet. They lead me to a path and soon we exit the orchard.
The frequency of the homes increases. Our route soon comes to a real path lined with river rock. Vines heavy with grapes can be seen everywhere. The path leads to a small bridge spanning a small creek running north to south. Our path winds around the trees. As we come around a bend I catch my first view of Imladris, Rivendell, Elrond's house. When we come to a small rise I can see the falls below the house. Looking south I can make out the winding stone steps leading up the ridge on the far side. The gorge around the house is not quite as I pictured it, or should I say as Tolkien drew it. The Valley is steep, I will admit, but it is not the sheer cliffs that Tolkien illustrated in the Hobbit. It also is not as narrow. Furthermore, I would never call Elrond's abode a house, a mansion perhaps but not a house. The structure is large, 200 feet on a side and three stories tall, with a central tower in the middle. Bells from the top of the tower are tolling.
Elves begin appearing from behind tree and rock, some standing in the open. They all appear to be mature adults. Once again I wonder about the absence of adolescents. They all stare at me with ancient, inhuman eyes. I am lead to the last homely house. Marched up the veranda and into the house. The air is cooler within but I have not opportunity to look around as I am escorted into the first door on the right. The leader stops, points to a chair and says, "Sit here. Do not move or you will be shot. Do not speak if you are not spoken to."
I stand there dumbstruck. I understand them. I am in an immense hall close to 50 feet by 100 feet. The cathedral ceiling is 25 feet over my head. The elves move to their positions, one in each corner and one at each door. The leader instructs one of his men to put my possessions at the head of a large table. Annoyance in his voice the leader addresses me, "Are you simple? I said sit!" I take my seat. The leader moves towards the head of the table as I look around. The walls are covered in frescos. Depicted on the walls are scenes from Middle Earth's three Ages. The detail and skill amaze me. The craftsmanship on the wood beams, table, chairs and molding is beyond compare. The leader begins to open my pack, "Do be careful". The guards tense and he looks up quickly and says, "Do not speak!" But he leaves my possessions alone.
Time passes. The day's last light shines through the windows along the west. The elves stand motionless only their eyes indicating that they are not statues. I here commotion outside and an elf dressed in leather with a bow over his shoulder enters and strides towards me. I stand and wonder if this is Elladan or Elrohir. He locks his eyes with mine and without a word hits me with a right cross. My training allows me to roll with the punch but I am still seeing stars. I return his glare as I defocus my vision to take more of his body.
He attempts to follow with a backhand. My left hand grasps his as I pivot and then grasp his right elbow and lock the joint with my right hand. He looks surprised as he makes friends with the hard slate floor. I follow him to the floor. He attempts to rise and I apply pressure to his joint while whispering, "Relax or you will break your arm!" A groan escapes his lips. The leader of my guards commands, "Release him or we shall shoot you!" I release his arm and step back, I taste blood. The elf scrambles to his feet and starts to draw his sword.
I step in and hold his right hand with my own keeping his sword in its scabbard. I look up into his eyes and see his rage. The Elven leader shouts, "Poldar, don't be foolish. Leave the human to Elrohir, he will decide his fate." Poldar relaxes and I release him and step back.
Poldar shaking with rage glares at the leader of the guards and turns and stalks out of the room. As darkness descends lights are brought in and a meal of bread, cheese and fruit. To drink, water that tastes slightly sweet. After finishing my snack I am escorted to a water closet. Although not a flush toilet it does have flowing water to clean the waste. After finishing I am escorted back into the hall. My guards are silent and I amuse myself by following the wood filigree with my eyes. Eventually my eyes grow heavy and I fall asleep.