The Road Untold
by Joanne Harris
Heat, and the fall, and then pain and cold. And then nothing.
He woke up surrounded by faces peering down at him with academic interest and a certain amount of puzzlement. He blinked. What were they doing here? Hed left them all behind a long time ago, so long ago that they seemed like a dream. Perhaps he was still dreaming, perhaps he would wake up still in the darkness of Moria with the Company around him.
"It is Olórin, Im sure," one of the ladies said, pushing back a hank of golden hair. "Something about the eyes."
"Whats he doing back, then?" the tallest of the men asked, fingers playing idly with a piece of stone. "Do you think I can do anything with this?"
He opened his eyes properly, and sat up.
"Oooh!" said the assembled company.
"What happened?" he asked.
The man with the crown on his head scratched his temple thoughtfully.
"Well, we were all sitting here having a bit of a council and all of a sudden poof! You landed in the middle of the room."
"The Balrog?" he said. "Wheres the Balrog?"
"Balrog? What Balrog? Balrogs went out of date with the fall of Gondolin, old chap."
He rubbed his forehead and creased his eyes.
"No, there was a Balrog. We were in Moria, and there was a Balrog, and I fell. I think it killed me. Or at least it killed my body. A shame. I was rather fond of it."
The crowned one tutted. "Sauron playing around again."
Olórin stood up with a bound, feeling all of a sudden younger and fitter, the aches and pains that he had become used to gone.
"Playing around! Hes not playing! Havent you been watching properly? Havent you seen whats been happening over there? Hes trying to win control of the whole of Middle-earth!"
"Hes been doing that for years," a lady pointed out, straightening her tiara. "You cant expect us to watch every year of every Age, now. Thats why you and the others were sent."
"The others." He snorted. "Let me list the others. Those two in blue, whatever they were called well, they went off east and I havent seen hide nor hair of them since we landed. Radagast went dotty and started talking to animals. And your favourite," he turned to the tall man still playing with his stone, "your favourite has betrayed us all. Hes as good as allied himself with Sauron. Calls himself Saruman of Many Colours now. Im the only one left. The Eldar are doing their best young Elronds useful, and I have faith in what Galadriel says "
"Galadriel? Wasnt she one of Fëanors lot?"
"Forget Fëanor! The Silmarils are gone. This is the Third Age now!"
"I knew Id lost track of time," the golden-haired girl said, shaking her head.
"And now theres this Ring."
"Ring?" the crowned one asked. "What Ring?"
"The Ring that Isildur chopped off Saurons hand," Olórin explained patiently. "The one Sauron made before the fall of Númenor. Got lost, got found, now we need to destroy it. Were sending it to Orodruin."
"You really havent been watching, have you? A hobbit, Frodo, good little fellow, has volunteered to carry the damn thing all the way. Theres a Company with him more hobbits, an Elf, a Dwarf -" the tall mans eyes lit up, "- Boromir, whos from Minas Tirith, and Isildurs Heir. And me, until I fell off that bridge."
"No, we thought wed swim," Olórin returned cuttingly.
The others looked at each other. The golden-haired girl yawned.
"Whats wrong with the Eagles?"
There was silence, as everyone tried to think what was wrong with the Eagles.
"They dont care," Olórin said eventually. "They drop things. Rings are of no importance to them." He stopped talking and his eyes opened wide. "Rings! My ring!"
"On your finger," the lady in the tiara told him. Olórin held up his finger and saw to his relief the red stone glinting.
"Phew. Círdan wouldve killed me."
"So you think theres a problem?" the crowned one resumed.
"Yes. I dont think Frodo will make it on his own. Hell do something stupid, hobbits generally do; and although Frodos the cream of the crop hell try and march straight in at the Black Gate. The others well, Rohan could do with a spot of help; Aragorn would be of use there. If you could get the Ents moving that would be handy. Im a bit worried about Boromir, too. Volatile young fellow."
"So what do you suggest?"
"You could all start to watch, and try a little manipulation, if possible. You could send me back there."
There was a chorus of laughter.
"Send you back! Youre home, youre safe. And you want to leave again and go back there?"
"I have work to do," Olórin said grandly.
"Youre serious, arent you?" the crowned one said. "Well, well."
"How about an image change, then?" the lady in the tiara suggested. "Some nice white robes, spot of brilliance in your hair, a body that will stand up to mortal life a bit better?"
Olórin smiled. "That sounds wonderful."
"So be it, then," said the crowned one. "Well pop you back where you were last and get Gwaihir to come and pick you up. Galadriel can give you the clothes. Saves us trouble and time. When youre done, when this Ring is destroyed, I suggest you come back the regular way. Nearly gave old Ulmo a heart attack, you did. Hes gone to have a paddle to recover. Oh, and bring Galadriel with you. If shes really on our side again I think we can lift the ban."
"All right." Olórin turned to go and then thought of something. "I gather that Elronds daughter might not come home. Shes fallen in love with Isildurs Heir. Do you think she could give her ticket West to someone else?"
"Depends on the someone."
"Might be two of them, actually," Olórin admitted. "The hobbits. The Ringbearers. If it all goes to plan theyll have done a lot for Arda, and I think the least you could do is give them some rest."
The crowned one shrugged.
"Well think about it. Off you pop, then, and good luck. Make sure the battles are interesting watching; theyre so dull when one side beats the other in a day."
"Good luck!" chorused the others. Olórin waved, and as he waved, everything went black again
He woke up with a headache and something hard pressing into his back, and he remembered what had happened.
"What was I thinking of?" he asked himself, and closed his eyes to wait for the Eagle.