June 9th, 2002
I am awakened by the sound of horses skidding to a halt. The room is illuminated with oil lamps and the light of the crescent moon. In walks Elrohir resplendent in chain armor. His hair was dark and his eyes gray, with the timeless quality of those who have chosen the elven path. Following in his wake are more than four dozen other elves. I stand and try to stretch. Elrohir watches me from the head of the table. The minutes pass by and eventually I blink. Elrohir turns to his left and mentions something I don't catch. An elf leaves and returns shortly with wine. After taking off his riding gloves Elrohir drinks some of the wine and addresses me, "Who are you?"
I can't resist, "A stranger in a strange land, Lord Elrohir" I answer honestly.
Elrohir's left eye arches as he takes another drink of wine. "What is your name and where do you come from?"
I am about answer when two additional elves enter, Poldar and my attractive aikido partner. I bow to my aikido partner and say, "My Lady, I am glad to see that you are well." Poldar's eyes flash and I continue my answer, "My name is Leo, Leopold, I come from America but my family is originally from Northern Germany, Rodewald to be exact."
Elrohir continues, "Leo Leopold, where is America and who is it's sovereign?
I smile and reply, "No, no just Leopold von Rodewald. Leo for short." I pause, considering my answer. "America is a land far-far away, it has no sovereign, it is a representative republic. Our current president is George W. Bush." Elrohir asked many more questions about the place I was from and how I got here but nothing I said seem to satisfy him. Eventually he gave up and changed his line of questioning.
"What are you doing here? Why have you come to my father's house?", Elrohir queried as he sat down.
"I am traveling about the country. I enjoy fishing and sight seeing. Today, I have come to the last homely house to introduce myself and to ensure there are no hard feelings between the elves and myself. If I may approach I have brought gifts?" Receiving a nod I approach and extract the wrapped boxes. "This is for you Lord Elrohir, this is for Lord Elladan". I walk over to my aikido partner, Poldar places his body before hers. "This is for you Lady…."
She pushes Poldar aside and says, "Piosenna. My name is Piosenna."
I nod, smile and return. Returning to Elrohir I indicate the last packages, "These last packages are a gift to all the elvish people. If I may open them?" Again receiving a nod I open the packages and set up the Diskman, connect the speakers and insert the batteries. The assembled elves watch my every move. I talk as I assemble the system, "I have heard the residents of Rivendell enjoy music. I have brought some music to share. This piece was written over 100 years ago by a very famous Russian composer by the name of Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov. It is entitled Scheherazade. It tells the tale of the Sultan Schahriar, who was convinced of the faithlessness of women. This confused sovereign swore to put to death each of his wives after their first night together before they could betray him. His first wife Scheherazade saved her life and others by arousing his interest in the tales that she told him for a thousand and one nights. Driven by curiosity, the Sultan postponed her execution day by day and at last abandoned his blood thirsty plan." Finally, I open the CD jewel case holding the CD in my hand I said, "With your permission my Lord."
I press play, a soft beep and music fills the hall. The opening theme, menacing and abrupt in octaves startles the assemblage. I smile and whisper, "The impatient Sultan." As the sweetly expressive violin solo begins, I whisper, "The beguiling Scheherazade." For 45 minutes the elves were transfixed. Even Poldar seemed moved. As the music continued more and more elves entered until the hall was full and entrance way was crowded. I noticed not a few elves were crying during the seductive inventiveness of Scheherazade as she finally had her way and extinguished the Sultan's ire in cellos and double-basses.
As the music stopped and the CD spun down the hall became quiet. The silence continued, and then a lone clapping could be heard. I looked and saw Piosenna, clapping with tears in her eyes. Soon the hall erupted in applause. Elrohir smiled and clapped as well. With a gesture, the hall was quiet once again. "How is it possible for such music to come from the box?"
I smile and sigh, I attempt to explain 20th century technology and signal processing techniques. I deny that it is magic but I am not sure if I convinced him. During a pause in the questioning I attempt to change the subject. Please open your presents Lord Elrohir, Lady Piosenna, and if Lord Elladan is here please open your present as well. I discover that Lord Elladan is visiting King Aragorn and Queen Arwen.
Elrohir opens his gift and appears confused. "Lord Elrohir that is a Leatherman multi-purpose tool." I demonstrate as I talk, "It has two types of pliers, wire cutters, two types of knives, a diamond-coated file, scissors, five different types of screwdrivers, a bottle opener, wire stripper, and this lanyard attachment prevents you from accidentally losing it." As I hand it back it appears Elrohir is most impressed with the serrated knife.
"Lady Piosenna, for you I have brought a sampling of chocolates. Women where I come from love the taste. But beware they are loaded in calories." I watch her tentatively taste some Callebaut, her reaction was priceless. Soon all the chocolate is opened and passed around.
Elrohir once again gestures and the hall falls silent. "We thank you Leo for the gifts. But I would like you to explain two other things." He nods to an elf and he places two things on the table for all to see. One is an empty brass .44 casing and the other is the leg trap I threw into the river.
I step over to the items, "This," holding the .44 brass, "is an empty pistol cartridge." I attempt to explain how guns work, primers, powder, slugs, chambers, rifling and the expansion of gasses. I pause seeing the incomprehension on their faces. Suddenly I have an idea, "Just as Vilya aided your father in controlling aspects of air a pistol uses air to push a lump of lead very quickly through the air."
Understanding is visible on his face as Elrohir says, "So Piosenna is correct in relating that you single handedly defeated an Orc/Warg scouting party?"
"Truth be told it was more like running away than actually engaging them in combat. I was lucky."
The answer seemed to please him but as his gaze shifted to the leg trap he said, "Why did you free the werewolf?"
I look at the trap. With sudden understanding I realize it was not stainless steel but silver alloy. "I had no idea. I thought it was just a normal wolf. I felt sorry for it. I don't like leg traps, they are cruel and inhumane."
Elrohir shakes his head, "Inhumane they may be but for the foul spawn of Sauron they are one of the few ways to capture and kill them."
Speaking from ignorance, "Are all were-creatures hopelessly evil? Now that Sauron has been defeated couldn't some of them…"
Elrohir interrupts, "No, they are doubly damned from both Morgoth and Sauron. They are baneful to all."
The questions continue. Questions about my dark glasses, my fishing gear, my binoculars. Item by item we go through my pack. I offer to demonstrate dry fly fishing tomorrow morning. During a pause I ask, "Lord Elrohir, how is it that we can understand each other?"
He looks at me and says, "Enchantments have been casts upon this hall so all may understand and all must speak the truth."
"Are you saying this room is a lie detector?" Elrohir nods. "Well I guess I am glad I spoke the truth. So are there enchantments in the forest above the dam?"
Elrohir nods again, "Indeed there are Leo. How is it that you were not affected?"
I laugh, "I was affected. But after noticing their effects I was determined to make my way here regardless."
Elrohir looks at me closely, "You penetrated deeper into the valley without being detected than most. Even the Rangers of the North would be hard pressed to get as far as you did." At this point Elrohir is interrupted by a messenger. Nodding Elrohir, says, "We shall continue later. Please rest and refresh yourself." Elrohir then turns to leave.
"Excuse me, could I perhaps sleep in Bilbo's room?"
Elrohir once again looks at me closely, "Sleep well Leo. At dawn you can show me how to flyfish."
I awake at dawn to the alarm on my watch. I mumble, "I'm awake", as I shut the alarm off. After rubbing the sleep from my eyes I reset the watch for 10:00 am. I slept in Bilbo's room, but not in his bed. No wonder Elrohir looked at me so strange. The bed and all the furniture are sized for a hobbit. So I ended up sleeping on the floor. According to my watch I have only slept three hours but I feel great! I spend a few minutes stretching and loosing up. The room is on the ground floor facing south. The fireplace is clean and cold. I open the door to the outside and find an elf guard, "Good Morning". He nods and seems to watch me carefully. The gardens are beautiful and the air is invigorating. The sky to the east is pink, but it will be another hour yet before the sun rises above the Misty Mountains. Someone has kindly brought me water to wash with, and more fruit, cheese and bread. Ravenously I break my fast. Don't the elves eat any meat? It is a wonder they grow so tall. After satisfying my hunger I take the opportunity to wash, shave and brush my teeth. I am still amazed by all the pockets these pants have. I open the door leading to the inside of the house, and find another guard. I smile and close the door. I gather Elrohir doesn't exactly trust me. I amuse myself by looking about the room. The walls are covered in paintings, maps and poetry all by Bilbo Baggins.
The door opens and Piosenna enters. Her smile brightens the room. I find myself smiling in return as I say, "Good Morning Lady Piosenna." She replies with something I can't understand and from a pocket hands me a necklace. The necklace is curiously wrought of semi-precious stones, strung on a fine wire. I put it on and thank her. She smiles and leads me from the room. Attempting to fill the silence as we walk I say, "I hope you slept well." Again she smiles. I guess the magic of communication only exists in Elrond's hall. "I do hope you forgive me for kissing you the other day but I was just trying to let you know I was not your enemy." Without comprehension she once again smiles and continues walking at my side. "Well truth be told I do find you very attractive. And I envy your skills in the woods. I had no idea you were married, I hope Poldar will forgive me as well." Speaking softly to myself I murmur, "Why Leo you were falling for the fair elf maid. Lucky for you she is married. Long distance relationships rarely work out. Besides which you are human and doomed to die, while she is immortal." My mood darkens a bit and I silently follow her the rest of the way.
We exit the house onto the east veranda and join Elrohir and a group six elves talking quietly in the garden. Piosenna leads me up to them, and says, "My Lord Elrohir, I present you Leo, refreshed and fed." Piosenna then turns and smiles at me.
My face turns bright red as I realize she could understand me the whole while. Elrohir, thanks her and asks me to demonstrate my fly casting technique. An elf hands me my pack. I rig up and explain my gear. "The rod is Sage's SLT-590 and is made of graphite. It has a medium-fast taper and ultra-smooth action and the latest slim-line ferrule technology. The reel is Ross's Gunnison 2, machined out of bar stock aluminum and has a strong, smooth and sensitive disc drag system. The line is Cortland's 555 latest floating line." They all listen attentively but ask no questions.
I approach the edge of the stream and Elrohir and company follow. "It helps to be able to see the fish so I always wear polarized glasses. This section of the stream is relatively quiet. I try to determine what the fish are eating so I will disturb the bottom a bit and seine the residue. It looks like midge and caddis fly imitations in sizes 16 to 20 will work best this morning. So I will tie on a nine foot tapered leader, 7X. I always use a nail knot to attach the leader to the line and a clinch knot to attach the fly. Always try to use a fly that matches what the fish are eating."
I open up my fly box and show them what I plan to use. For the first time this morning they ask me questions about the artificial flies. How I tied them and what they represent. I decide to start with a size 16 ribbed hare's ear. Looking around I spot a small fish. "Over there in that relatively shallow, choppy water is a fish or two. I will attempt to cast upstream let the nymph sink and bounce along the bottom with the current." After stripping some line and a few false casts I present the fly right where I want. I watch the line for the indication of a strike, nothing. I strip a bit more line and cast it three feet further upstream. I detect a slight bump and I set the hook. "In general you want to play the fish to improve your chances of netting it."
"Wow! It's a golden. Where I am from this is called a golden trout (Oncorhynchus aguabonita), which is Latin for pretty water. The golden trout is California's state fish. But now days it can be found in Idaho, Washington, Wyoming and Colorado." The fish has dark olive back and bright yellow sides with a reddish lateral band that runs through 10 to 12 blotches called parr marks. The side is peppered with dark spots, mainly above the lateral band, and the spots become larger toward the tail. The dorsal, anal and pelvic fins have white tips and the tail is heavily spotted. "Lord Elrohir, do you want the fish for your meal today?"
"Not today, Leo."
Nodding I reply, "Then I shall release it. For small fish I usually just turn the hook over and the fish will fall off." The next hour swiftly disappears as I catch and release another 12 golden trout. I then join Elrohir and his group of men and demonstrate how to cast, and shoot line. I spend time with each of them teaching them the fundamentals. At 10 o'clock my watch goes off and without thinking I turn it off. Interest in casting disappears as they are enthralled with my watch. After explaining it's function I say, "Lord Elrohir, I must depart soon if I am to make it back to the portal today."
Elrohir, nods and leads the way back towards the house, issuing instructions to another elf, who dashes away. I can hear Scheherazade drifting from the open windows. Soon eight white horses are led around and Elrohir announces, "Lead the way Leo, we will accompany you."
"With pleasure Lord Elrohir. Before we leave, Lord Elrohir could I please have my pistol back?"
"It shall be returned to you before you leave Leo." I nod and quickly break down my rod and stow my gear. Slipping my pack on I mount the mare closest to me. It is a fine animal, the best I have ever ridden. Elrohir and six other elves mount as well. I am pleased to see Piosenna is among them, and not so pleased to see Poldar is joining us as well. All the elves are armed with bow, sword and dagger. With a nod from Elrohir I set off a trot. I feel self-conscious as I fall into the motion of posting.
As the road is left behind and we enter a long stretch of path slicing through the orchards, I turn and ask, "May we canter Lord Elrohir?" He looks down the path and nods. I click my tongue, and barely tap my heels and the horse sets off. For ten minutes I relish the strength, speed and joy of ridding a truly marvelous steed. I rein the horse into a walk as I pull aside Elrohir. Breathlessly I say, "Wonderful horse Lord Elrohir. She is simply a joy to ride."
Elrohir has a twinkle in his eye as well, "Do you have many horses Leo?"
I sigh and shake my head, "No, I can't afford it. A steed like this one would be almost my entire years salary. No, the best I can do is ride at a school a few times a month."
Once again, Elrohir only nods and watches me. I smile and pull ahead a bit and once more enter a trot. The next few hours pass quickly for me and soon I am standing near the portal. It will open in just a couple of minutes. The elves have dismounted as well. Approaching Piosenna, I begin to remove the necklace as I say, "Thank you for the use of this wonderful necklace…"
Elrohir interrupts, "Keep the necklace for now Leo. You will need it when you return. I am sending Poldar with you. I am interested in this country you come from."
Shocked, I turn to Elrohir, "Lord Elrohir, I can't take him with me. It might kill him. We might both get arrested. How will I get him through security?"
Elrohir once again smiles, his thoughts his own, "Leo, you are a charming guest and we thank you for the wonderful gifts you brought. But I must assess the danger associated with this land of yours. As for killing him, be sure to return him unharmed, I am holding you responsible Leo." Elrohir then steps up to Poldar embraces him and whispers something in his ear. Poldar nods to Elrohir and then steps next to me.
Piosenna then hugs and kisses Poldar on the cheek. I turn slightly to see if the portal has opened. As I look back Piosenna is standing before me. She kisses me on the cheek and says with a smirk, "I will see you when you return Leo. Take care of Poldar for me." She steps back and hands me my pistol.
Blushing furiously, I take the pistol and stammer, "I will my lady." The portal opens and Poldar and I step through. My face still red, I watch Piosenna and the Merrill valley fade from view.