Prologue: Fourth Age 483
Iris Fairbairn came out of a deep dream in the bedchamber of her tiny cottage on the edge of the Downs near the Tower Hills. Iris wiped the sleep from her eyes and looked around the darkened room to see what might have disturbed her rest. She was a proud, sensible woman who could trace her lineage back to Elanor, the daughter of Samwise Gamgee, and she was not given to the sort of light fancies that might bring her awake in the middle of the night. All was quiet; her husband snored peacefully at her side, and she reached down to pull the covers back over his hairy toes. The moon was waxing toward full and a shaft of pale light knifed in through a crack in her shutter. She rose from her bed and tiptoed to her window, drawn there by a feeling she could not name.
She saw that an elven host was passing over the downs, as quiet as the wind on the grass. There was no singing, and the bridles of their mounts made no noise, nor did the hooves and footfalls upon the sward.
At the head of the train rode a pale haired elf. His face was grim, and he wore no outward sign of rank upon his brow, yet any who saw them would have recognized his lordship over the company. At his side rode a dark haired woman whom he looked upon with grave courtesy and a tender regard.
The sight of the passing grey host moved Iris to rouse her small daughter Daisy and bring her to the window. "Look, child, the elves are riding."
The little hobbit girl smiled with delight. "They are so fair! Remember how Grandma Lily always liked to tell the story of the time she saw elves riding to the Havens? I did not believe her when she told me how beautiful they were. But, Mama, why are these elves riding east?"
Iris shook her head. Whenever elves were seen, and they had not been seen for many a year, they rode westward towards the sea. These elves rode away from it, and on the face of the Elven-lord was a somber look as if he were riding to his doom. And yet, at the same time it was a hopeful expression, a strange, resigned joy in whatever was to come. The look said, "Home."