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Pitfalls of the Palantir  by Haleth

Once again Haleth was exploring the markets of Dale. Unlike the previous day when she had wandered aimlessly, now she was intent upon purchasing supplies for the journey south. She bought new water skins and food then went in search of a rope maker.

Inglor seemed to have recovered from their falling out.  He had given her the gift the previous night’s visitor had bestowed upon him. It was a bag of sweets; hard, crunchy beans covered in a sweet, rich candy that melted in her mouth. The bitter-sweet flavour reminded Haleth of the beverage she had sampled the day before. She had been eating them slowly but steadily for several hours. The more she ate, the more she craved.

Inglor insisted that he did not care for them, which Haleth did not believe. She thought he was trying to appease her after the unpleasantness of the day before, though he had not been the cause of the discord. It was certainly something men tended to do in the aftermath of a disagreement with a woman.   He was blatantly bribing with candy her to improve her mood.

The graft was working. Haleth’s step had more bounce in it than it had had for many years. She almost felt like singing as she moved from shop to shop, energetically haggling for the best prices.

 

~*~

Inglor sat in his room all that night and the following day worrying.

He was certain Haleth had looked into the palantir. Whatever she had seen had upset her greatly and provoked a devastating argument between them. The disagreement was nothing new; Haleth had attempted to quarrel with him many times in the past. Inglor had always deflected her anger or accepted the consequences of her outbursts without retaliating. He had always assured himself that she was angry at a situation, not at him personally.  But this time had been different.  Her barbed comments had been highly personal and his native tranquility had utterly deserted him. The entire episode was extremely disturbing.

He had been certain they were about to go their separate ways when she had knocked on his door, apologized and offered to accompany him to Gondor.  This had been an immense relief.  The thought of traveling all those empty leagues without her saddened him. Although he was grateful for her change of heart, Inglor reflected that there was no creature in all of Middle-earth as baffling as Haleth.

She was taking an unusually long time to purchase the required supplies. He was thinking of searching for her when there was an insistent knock on his door.

The breathless Innkeeper waited on the other side. His adolescent daughter and several of her friends stood behind him. Inglor's heart immediately sank. The scene was a little too familiar, especially in light of the previous night’s argument.

"Begging your pardon, sir," the Innkeeper said. "It's the woman. Your companion."

"What happened?" Inglor asked, imagining that Haleth had been knocked unconscious by one of the young, giggling girls who stood outside of his room.

"You'd best come," the Innkeeper shook his head. "I'll explain on the way."

~*~

Haleth felt as though she could fly. She stood on the top of the tallest turret in the town of Dale. One slender hand shielded her eyes from the westering sun. The other held fast to a slim flagpole. The Lonely Mountain loomed to her right, its bulk over-shadowing the town.

There was quite a crowd on the streets below. Haleth vaguely wondered what was holding their attention. It likely was not important. She swung around the flagpole, her feet dancing lightly around the thin edge of stone.

"Haleth!"

It was Inglor's voice. He was leaning out of a window in the tower. Why did he look so worried?

"Greetings, Inglor!" Haleth let go of the flagpole and waved. There was a collective intake of breath from the crowd as the scarecrow figure leaned one way, then the other and finally recovered her balance.

"Do not wave!" Inglor cried as he crawled out of the window and began to climb towards her. "Hold on. Just wait there and I will come and get you."

"Bring a picnic lunch!" she shouted down to him. She watched him climbing steadily towards her and wondered why he was moving so slowly. He was an elf. He could almost fly. She wondered what it was like to fly.

Haleth was about to try flying when a sharp twinge of pain fluttered across her chest. Maybe flying was not such a good idea after all. There was still the view, though.

"Look, Inglor!" she called, facing again to the west and as he clambered next to her. "I can almost see my house from here.

"If there wasn't so much geography in the way." She waved her hand dismissively at Wilderland, letting go of the flagpole as she did so. Inglor grasped her hand and pulled her back to the vertical.

"And if it hadn't been burned down," she added wistfully.

"Be still," he said, brushing the hair from her eyes. Haleth had never voluntarily spoken of her home before. He had often wondered about it and would have been very interested to hear of it, only not in this particular location.

She looked terrible. Her face was as grey as long dead ashes and her pupils were so dilated that only the barest sliver of green was in evidence. He drew her close to him and could feel her heart pounding like a trip hammer.

"And if it hadn't sunk," she added in a whisper.

"Be still," he said. "I will carry you, if you will allow me."

~*~


Inglor did not receive Haleth's permission to carry her. Her eyes grew wide and she gave a faint cry like a dying bird. Then she fell against him and was terribly still.

Living or dead, he had to get her off of the rooftop. He was vaguely aware of the crowd below as it buzzed like an angry swarm of bees. The clamouring whispers were drawn upward to him, but he could make out no individual voices, no separate words. It was a living, breathing force of collective will, an immense animal, watching him with horrid fascination as he carried Haleth to safety.

He could feel the potential of the crowd, the raw power and emotion that could be ignited by the proper master and his heart quailed at it. It was a manifestation of how mortals differed from the Eldar. The elves could only seldom call themselves together for a common purpose, and then only at great need. The Atani could do it on a sunny afternoon when something out of the ordinary happened.

There was a loud round of applause went Inglor handed Haleth to waiting hands on the safe side of the window and then followed her.

He retrieved her limp body and made his way down the stairs, unhearing of the compliments that were offered to him like scentless, forced flowers and of the other, less flattering comments directed at his companion.

"Do not die," he whispered into her hair. "Not yet. Not like this."





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