June 30th, 2002
I am awoken by some noise I cannot place. I open my eyes and initially I can't remember where I am, it is dark with just a bit of light coming in from the window. I sit up as the door opens a crack and light streams into the room. The door opens further and a ball of light six inches in diameter floats into the room. I shade my eyes while they adjust. The ball of light continues on into the room and Poisenna follows with her left hand hidden behind her back and her right on her hip.
"Good morning Leo"
I glance at my watch, 4:45 am. I think about reciting Gandalf's response to Bilbo at the beginning of the Hobbit but humor seems to have left me, so I just stand a bit straighter and raise my left eyebrow in frustration. We stare at each other for a bit and her jade eyes seem to have a hint of humor in them.
Poisenna's left hand appears holding a rose, "Thank you for the rose Leo". She watches me as she raises the flower and inhales its fragrance.
Surprised I respond, "I didn't think you would get it. They took everything as soon as I appeared. The rose bush should probably be planted soon before it dries out."
Poisenna still smelling the rose says, "I planted it yesterday afternoon outside my window. It has thorns, looking at a small wound on her right hand."
Not sure what to say, I reply, "I have never met a rose that didn't." Realizing how that may sound I groan mentally.
At this point, our conversation is interrupted by three elves, one carrying some towels and a jar, another carrying a large porcelain wash basin with steaming water and the third carrying my daypack. Looking over their shoulder I still see my elven guard in the hallway. Turning once again to Poisenna I sigh and raise my left eyebrow.
Poisenna smiles a small smile and says, "Get cleaned up Leo. I want to show you something." She wrinkles her noise and exits the room followed by the three other eleves and the door is closed.
I am alone once again. I self-consciously smell my armpits as I examine the light sphere, which continues to float in the room. I inhale deeply and blow a gust of air at the light, nothing happens. Good thing, I would feel pretty dumb if I had just extinguished my light. I tentatively touch the surface, nothing, no heat, no tactile sensation what so ever. Proceeding further I find I can pass my hand completely through the sphere of light, no heat, no tactile sensation. "Hmmm," I mutter to myself, "I wonder what Edison, and Einstein would say about that."
Realizing I must smell a bit after the events of yesterday I quickly stripe down and give my self a sponge bath. The jar, I find holds a powdered soap smelling faintly of lavender, not my preference but I was in no position to complain. Looking through my daypack I find it only contains my toiletries, no guns, no knife, nothing. I shave and put my clothes on again. After my bath they smell strongly of horse. I shrug and try the door, it opens and I only find Poisenna waiting in the hall. She lowers the rose and examines me.
"You seem to be in better spirits. Are you ready?"
"As ready as I can be at the moment."
"Very well then follow me". She turns and proceeds down the hall.
I find myself examining her once again. Her waist is narrow but not overly so, the curve of her hips and the shape of her legs are enticing, at least what I can discern from the cut of her clothes. She is dressed in pants of brown that seem to blend with the surrounding woodwork, and a cream colored blouse with billowy sleeves. Her waist is encircled with an intricately crafted belt of silver, it has a pattern of flowers, hawks and vines. "I'm sorry?" I realize she has said something and I wasn't listening.
She looks over her shoulder, "I said that today, the weather should be perfect."
"Perfect? Perfect for what?"
She pauses, and I almost run into her. I am very close, I can feel her breath upon my face as she says, "consider it my thank you, for the beautiful rose. I want to surprise you. Please no more questions for now."
I open my mouth and then close it. After thinking for a moment I say, "Very well Poisenna."
She smiles at me and the hallway seems to brighten, "After we exit, I have arranged for horses. It is but a short ride. Quickly, we don't have much time."
Curious, I simply follow. I force my eyes and imagination from her form, and try to concentrate on the passageways and corridors of Elrond's domicile. I realize that my survival may one day depend on this knowledge. Shortly, we exit through a side door and enter into a courtyard surrounded by plants and flowers. We proceed through an archway made of vines and I find a groom and two horses saddled waiting for us. Poisenna thanks the groom and we both mount and Poisenna takes off at a canter. Quickly I set off after her. It is still before dawn and I can barely see her. Luckily the horse senses are better than mine and I soon catch up. The ride lasts but ten minutes. I am unsure of the direction we are traveling but it has gotten a bit lighter and I can see that we are approaching a small hill. After cresting the hill Poisenna halts her horse and hops to the side. I dismount and look around us. Poisenna drops the reins and steps on them, wondering, I do the same. I can only see faintly but there appear to be dozens of elves standing and seated on the ground. They speak in whispers. Poisenna maneuvers her way to a small open area with a ground cover and a single elf seated upon it. She greets the elf and gives him an affectionate hug. It is Poldar, I instantly became wary. Poldar nods at me, and motions for us to sit. After Poisenna has taken her spot next to Poldar I sit next to her. The whispers of those around us stop and soon the only thing I could hear were the distant sounds of the Merrill.
I stare off into the same direction as everyone else. Ah, they are going to watch to sun rise. The wind seems to be just a cool damp breath upon my face, I start to relax and enjoy the moment. A few birds in the distance begin to sing. The first hint of dawn begins above the Misty Mountains far to the east. The clouds are high in the sky with lots of bumps and ridges. I can now make out the first hints of color. At the horizon a blush of yellow and orange, the cloud valleys are a deep orange and their ridges are dark bluish black. A few trees about 50 yards away are outlined in black. The colors shift as the sun continues to rise, more birds begin to greet the day. The sky over the Misty Mountains is now a bright orange and the cloud valleys are a deep red. The clouds further away are navy blue and the sky to the west was robin's blue. The sky was mirrored by perhaps a dozen small lakes on the valley floor. The Misty Mountain's shadow ran the length of the valley. The terminator of each was clearly visible. As the sun slowly rose above the Misty Mountains the sky changed once again to a full chromatic range of deep oranges and reds. It was at this point I first saw them, the rainbows, dozen's of them all along the valley. The number of rainbows continued to increase as the sun continued to rise. I actually counted a triple rainbow. Except for the presence of Poldar the moment would have been perfect. I wonder if Poisenna knew that Poldar was unfaithful. How could she get married to such a jerk. Then again I wondered if perhaps it was an arranged marriage, or maybe elves have multiple partners. I just didn't know.
The moment had passed; the sun was above the Misty Mountains. The elves began to disperse. I rose when Poisenna rose. She looked at me and smiled, "did you like your present Leo?"
"Indeed, it was the most impressive sunrise I have ever seen. I will remember it always. Thank you."
Her smile softens and she turns to Poldar, links her elbow through his and says, "see, I told you he would enjoy it."
Poldar nods, looking at me and says, "It would appear you were right. Leo continues to surprise me."
I feel like he is talking about the family dog. Not bad for a human. They continue to walk up to me when Poisenna threads her free arm through mine. I look up at Poldar and he looks at me. I don't think he approves. The three of us continue walk along a path that a few of the other elves are also using, the horses we arrived on are nowhere to be seen. Poisenna attempts to draw Poldar into a conversation. He answers distractedly and with short sentences. We continue to walk along the path. After a period of relaxed quiet she turns to be and says, "What aspects of the sunrise did you like best Leo."
After a moments reflection I reply, "The way the sunrise was mirrored in the lakes and the appearance of multiple rainbows was unique. As was the fact that the sun seemed to rise almost perpendicular to the valley. The combination of those and other subliminal input seemed almost magical to me. I find it difficult to put into words. Once again, I thank you."
Poisenna, Poldar and I, locked arm in arm, continued west along the path in silence for many minutes, each deep in our own thoughts. Off to our right I notice steam rising above some dark evergreen shrubs next to a small gnarled tree. As we continue to walk I notice numerous small, naturally appearing hot spring baths. The scene is a study in the subtleties of a green color scheme. What appears to be a native vine maple complements the larger maple above. The background of deep and medium greens draw my eye to a relatively bright vertical stone. The stone I realize is only about 5 feet tall but the plants have modified the perspective.
We turn towards the paths and cross an unhewn stone bridge that appears to be more natural than elf-made, which contrasts with a nearby stone lantern that has been extinguished. Looking down I notice stones have been placed close together in the manner of nobedan but the walkway varies in width. The jigsaw puzzle of carefully chosen and placed stepping stones creates a nearly continuous smooth surface, although the stones are just uneven enough to prevent the stroller from hurrying. The vegetation softens the effect blending with its surrounding. New foliage of pieris 'Flame of the Forest' makes a brilliant accent.
As I look up, a weathered wooden boundary fence with a stone base is before me. It is open enough to permit a filtered view of two small buildings almost hidden within the trees. Poisenna disengages her arms from Poldar and I and says, "This is the second part of my surprise for you Leo. I hope you enjoy this as well." She then smiles at Poldar and turns to the left while Poldar leads me to the right.
Entering, the building turns out to be a changing room. I follow Poldar in stripping down and grabbing a large white towel. I wrap the towel around my waist and follow Poldar. I immediately notice Poldar simply draped the towel over his arm as he walks along a small stone path. He pauses occasionally to greet other bathers and I am greeted by bathers as well, none of whom I recognize.
We eventually come to a small rock pool. Poldar sets his towel along the edge and steps into the pool. I fold my towel and join him. The water is very hot. I close my eyes as the warmth relaxes every muscle from my neck to my toes. My mind starts to drift as I surrender to the peaceful setting.
I am startled out of my revelry as Poldar says, "The entire elven council met for over nine hours yesterday to decide what to do with you Leo." I turn to regard Poldar. I find my anger and frustration at my treatment rise as I reply, "I would have though even Ents could decide what to do with a prisoner quicker than that."
Poldar looks at me and replies, "Is that what you think?"
"What else could I conclude? As soon as we entered you had them disarm me, confiscate all my possessions and place me under arrest. As soon as we got the Last Homely House I was confined to a room and guards were placed at the doors. Now that I think about it, it is clear from the beginning that none of you have trusted me, and in fact I have been used. You came with me to spy on my world with questionable goals. Since my first visit to Middle Earth I have done everything I could to be friendly and helpful. I have never been the aggressor in any encounter. I have only defended myself. Have you forgotten that I saved Poisenna's life? And what did I get in return, a yard of shaft in my side. I personally find your methods and morals disappointing."
Clearly surprised Poldar calmly responds, "The guards placed at your doors were there for your protection Leo."
"Protection from what? I am in Rivendell, are you saying the elves are trying to kill me?"
Poldar shook his head, "The Third Age is history Leo. As we begin the Fourth Age things are not what they were. And no, as far as I know none of the elves want to kill you."
"So why are you treating me like a criminal?"
Poldar, continuing to be calm said, "Your are an unknown Leo, a stranger. You are one of a few who have penetrated our defenses. You bring new weapons and skills into our world. We were obviously concerned."
"So why didn't you just cast a spell and question me as to my motives. I had nothing to hide and have told you nothing but the truth."
Poldar smiled and said, "It is clear you speak from ignorance. Magic is not as simple as you assume. Besides magic is fading from the world."
Stubborn I respond, "Gandalf appeared to pop spells off easily enough."
Shaking his head Poldar said, "Mithrandir, was one of the Istari. It is difficult to explain to one without the ability or knowledge."
"So what is the big mystery?"
Poldar calmly continued, "Your appearance was coincident with a number of other strange happenings over the last few months. For the first time since the War of the Ring orcs have been encountered in the Merrill valley. Your encounter was just one of many our patrols have detected. The orcs appear to be advancing from the east. We have sent scouts across the Misty Mountains in an attempt to determine the cause, to date none of them have returned. The orcs seem to have disturbed other creatures as well. The end result is an unsettling disturbance on the land.
"Is Sauron reforming?
"No, Sauron will never trouble Middle Earth again. The cause is due to something or someone else."
With a sense of foreboding I ask, "So what does this have to do with me?"
Poldar looking at me very seriously replied, "We would like you to help use determine what is going on?"
"Me? What can I possibly do that your elven scouts could not? If your scouts with magic, experience and their other abilities failed, what makes you think I might succeed?"
Poldar replied, "I think you under estimate your abilities Leo. Elves despite our long lives are not as powerful as your seem to believe. Furthermore, with your technology you have the ability to quickly explore and reconnoiter the lands to the east of the Misty Mountains."
"Why didn't Elrohir ask me?"
"He will Leo, later today. I am just trying to give you some time to think out your answer."
After a rather long silence Poldar rises and says, "I must attend to other matters. Please enjoy your bath."
I watch Poldar exit the bath and dry himself and then make his way back. My mind and thoughts are chaotic. I close my eyes as I try to consider my options. Should I do this quest? What about my job, my family, my cats? I'm no warrior. I'm a foolish engineer playing with DoD software and hardware. Can I even do this? Am I really capable? Maybe. I feel confident that I could survive in the wilderness if it was filled with mundane creatures, but Orcs and Dragon and Trolls? Oh My! I feel overloaded and just try to relax in the embryonic warmth of the bath.
I feel a slight wave roll across my chin and I open my eyes. Poisenna, naked like some living Greek statue is stepping into the water. I feel my face burn, but I continue to watch her as she settles into the water.
Obviously noticing my red face she asks, "May I share your bath Leo?"
"By all means, as long as you think it is wise?"
Confusion on her face, "Wise? Why would it not be wise Leo."
"Won't people, Poldar, misunderstand?"
"We but share a bath Leo, why would Poldar care?"
"But Poldar… In my country it would be unwise to share a bath… Poisenna I am very attracted to you and… Never mind. I will do nothing to tarnish your honor or reputation." I decided to shut up before I made a complete ass of myself.
"Thank you Leo, you are a gentleman." Poisenna smiled and relaxed further into the water, her breasts floating just 10% above the water. I looked off to the left hoping to think about things other than her enticing form.
After a brief moment of quiet she asks, "So what will you do Leo?"
I briefly wonder if Poldar arranged this meeting, guessing how I felt about his wife, in an attempt to influence me. "I honestly don't know. I gather Poldar told you about this crazy scheme?"
Wrinkling her nose she says, "I was present at the meeting yesterday. The decision to ask for your assistance was reached in council. I have not spoken to Poldar about this."
"Oh", I replied not knowing what else to say. After awhile I broke the silence and said, "espite what you think I am no hero. I have never had any military training. I just like to hunt and fish. Besides, do you really think I could do this, a stranger in strange land? All by myself?"
"Sometimes the least likely turn out to be heroes. I remember a few Hobbits that despite themselves turned out to be true heroes. Besides who said you would do this alone?"
"Oh, I just assumed from what Poldar said… S o Elrohir is going to form some sort of fellowship?"
"Fellowship?", she smiled obviously understanding my reference, "That will be discussed at today's council. Speaking of which we had best get dressed, eat and get ready. The council begins in an hour. Shall we?"
Holding out my hand we exit the bath together, towel off and make our way toward the changing rooms. Once again I find my eyes admiring her. In the changing room I found my clothes had been cleaned and laundered.
The council was attended by many. It was held on the porch where the Council of Elrond took place during the Fellowship of the Ring. The major difference was that I was the only human present and there were no dwarves or halflings. Speaking before all the elves Elrohir presented the quest much as Poldar had previously. I watched the various elves as Elrohir spoke and found many were watching me. The only friendly face was Poisenna's. When the question came I answered that I would attempt it. Until that moment I could not have answered one way or the other. I found myself examining, once again, my likelihood of success. I didn't think it was statistically meaningful.
I was brought out of my introspection when I heard Poisenna speak, "I will accompany Leo on his quest." She was looking at me intently.
"What?" I murmured to myself. I looked at Poldar and noticed he was frowning.
Elrohir nodded, a hint of satisfaction on his lips, as he said, "It has been decided that Poisenna shall accompany Leo on the scouting expedition on the eastern side of the Misty Mountains. I wish to thank all those present for their comments and assistance over the last two days. Those who know the lands to the east are requested to assist in the planning.
The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent pouring over maps and discussing various locations that should be checked out. Throughout it all I could faintly hear Mozart's Die Zauberflote from somewhere within the house.
The ride down the valley is quiet and uneventful. Poldar and Poisenna ride on either side of me while eight other elves armed with bows and long sword surround us. When we reach the point of departure I dismount and Poldar hands me my possessions, "I think you may need those Leo. Furthermore, I would suggest you bring your bow and your sword. It is best to be prepared."
I nod and watch Poisenna approach my side, equipped as if for war. She hugs Poldar and they exchange farewells. I look off toward the east admiring the view perhaps for the last time. Soon the air begins to shimmer. Poisenna and I step into the zone as shouts occur and the sounds of arrows being loosed. Turning I see a silver streak moments before it hits me. No it did not hit me, it hit Poisenna knocking her down and out of the zone of shimmering air. Looking down I see a large silver-gray wolf at my side, an arrow protruding from her side. Further examination is interrupted by another arrow that appears in her left rear leg and continues into my right calf. I grimace in pain as Middle Earth fades and I find myself once again in the laboratory.