The Light of Stars
There had been on the ship which had brought him to Tol Eressëa a number of Elves from Lothlorien. Most of these had chosen to settle in a mallorn grove on the southwest coast of the island. It was familiar enough to feel comfortable; different enough with the sound of surf below the bluff that they knew they were indeed come to the Undying Lands. They even had the view in the distance of the glory of Aman proper, to which in time some might choose to go. Here they’d built their flets and their halls and homes.
A new hall was finished, and they’d planned a celebration, asking Iorhael to join them. He’d come gladly, arriving near sunset, listening to the telling of tales, joining in the singing, dancing with them among the trees. He’d shared in the laughter, the music, the companionship. A feast had been presented, with food of many kinds, and much wine. He’d eaten and drunk little enough--where once he’d not been able to eat much now he needed but little to sustain him; but simply to have him present was for them joy enough.
They rejoiced in his companionship. While many native to Aman remained shy with him, those who’d come from Middle Earth felt protective of him, wished to include him in their rejoicing, vied as once his cousins had done to bring him to laughter, to see the glory of his pleasure and his smile light up the night, his own Light brightening to rival Elbereth’s stars.
As the night neared the dawn and more tales were being told he’d leaned back against the bole of a great mallorn and closed his eyes--just for a moment--and had fallen asleep. The tree was honored to have the Ringbearer lean against it, and cherished him in his rest. Alerted by the tree that their guest had fallen into dreams, his hosts had quieted their own laughter, watching his sleep with wonder and a growing appreciation of the trust he showed them. One had quietly withdrawn into the hall above, and had returned with a light blanket; three together eased him to lie upon the soft moss, and the blanket was tucked lightly about him to protect him from the dew. For a time several lingered to watch him sleep, to watch the Light of his Being, so different from that of Elves, gently pulse with his breathing, before finally leaving him to his dreams.
It was late morning when he awoke, the mallorn under which he’d slept offering him greetings as he stretched and sat up. His hosts were now about the business of the day, and he could hear them here and there throughout the grove, some high in the branches and some nearer at hand, calling out to one another in fair voices or singing in full contentment. He noted the blanket and was grateful for the caring it embodied; he rose and carefully and neatly folded it, then laid it over a low branch for its retrieval.
A basin and ewer of fresh water had been left along with clean towels for his refreshing; and food for him to make a dawn meal. He washed his face and hands and the back of his neck, and took some bread and watered wine to break his fast. Carefully he rinsed cup and plate and poured out the water upon the ground, and seeing to it he’d left the area as neat as possible he stood and looked about him.
This was a section of the island he’d not explored before. He had no reason today to return in a hurry to the small summerhouse that served as his home, so he let his feet take him where they would through the grove. A group of three does and their fawns crossed the path before him, and he stopped in delight to watch them, watching their grace and beauty as they turned to examine him briefly before continuing on their way. A stag suddenly stepped into view beyond them, watching him, giving him warning it would brook no disruption to the small herd’s peace. He smiled in return, bowed gracefully, then straightened to watch the last of the fawns disappear among the trees, the stag finally springing after them, reassured its warning had been heeded.
Iorhael laughed almost silently.
The mallorns here were even greater and more wonderful than what he remembered in Lothlorien, there above the valley of the Anduin in Middle Earth. He was awed by their size, rejoiced in their power and majesty and sheer beauty. Silver boles and branches bore leaves of a green he didn’t think he’d seen ever in his travels through Middle Earth; golden flowers dropped their petals about him as he walked, showering him with a sweet odor that refreshed and delighted.
Suddenly he was aware before him of a glory of Light shimmering beyond the nearer trees, and he headed toward it in curiosity. He stepped out from behind the last tree to find himself at the edge of a glade that was alive with Light and color, shimmering and glimmering, drifting with the breezes, swirling in the sunlight.
The ground was carpeted with grass, thick and lush, soft and cool under his feet; and the grass was heavily starred with great, golden blossoms of elanor. But it was the air over the grass and flowers that captured and reflected the light of Sun and trees, for it was full of jeweled butterflies, rejoicing in the warmth and glory of the Light that filled the glade, dipping down in turn to visit one or another of the star-field of blossoms lifted such a small distance above the ground.
He and the butterflies all seemed to stop briefly as he stood still at the edge of the woods, contemplating one another with equal awe, he thought. The butterflies seemed drawn toward him, swirled and opened their dance to accept him among themselves, not in fear as would those of the mortal lands, but in welcome. Slowly he moved through their number, looking about himself with joy and delight, until he reached the center of the glade. Here he stood, turning himself to look at them filling the space about him with glimmers and gleams of colors with the majesty of the mallorns behind them, light and shadow outlining their silver trunks.
A few came closer and closer to him, lighting briefly on his hair, his shoulder, the breast of his silver robe. Opals, sapphires, peridots, rubies, garnets, amethysts, ambers, emeralds, topazes--living jewels surrounded him, their colors shining splendidly in the light of Anor upon them, catching the Light of his Being and reflecting it upon one another, the boles of the trees, the eaves of the woods, on the grass and flowers, and back on Iorhael himself. He felt overwhelmed with Light, drunk on color, giddy with the dance all about himself. He held out his open palm, and one of the greatest landed there briefly. He brought his other hand beside the first and looked down on it as it spanned the space between his hands, as it filled his hand with a private rainbow, itself a living prism.
He wanted to share that beauty, and the one he wished to share it with was Aragorn. He closed his eyes, and the glory of the Light beat against his lids. Oh, Aragorn, you cannot know how much I wish to show you this! he thought. They catch Light from everywhere! If you were only here that your Light might shine on them--it is already glorious beyond telling--what would it be then?
And he opened his eyes, and saw there standing facing him Aragorn, shining as he could do with the Light of Stars about him, looking down at him, his smile adding more glory to the glade. Blue eyes met grey, and their smiles combined in the perfection of the moment. Frodo looked down at the butterfly standing on the palms of his cupped hands--they were filled with living Light, and he lifted it up to show to the Man. Do you see, brother? Do you feel its glory filling you?
He saw the Light refracted through the wings of the creature reflected from the white robe Aragorn wore, saw it elicit an answering glow of shining emerald from the brooch he wore at its neck, saw another from the emerald of the Ring of Barahir on his outstretched index finger. He heard a faint chiming as the butterfly flexed its wings, felt it make the short flight from his palms to Aragorn’s finger; saw his own Light reflected below its wings, Aragorn’s captured above them. Both pairs of eyes were now on the glory of the creature, as it lifted from Aragorn’s finger and flew upward toward Anor herself. And as they looked upward to follow its flight, their hands touched. Light and shadow, glimmers of faerie colors, flickered across Aragorn’s face and were reflected in his eyes, fell gently on the Hobbit’s silver robes; it seemed as if the Lights of many stars were shining down on them through the wings of the butterfly as Frodo Baggins felt once more the healing touch of the King, felt the pleasure and blessing of it fill his whole being, reminding him as he’d not been reminded for some time that he still dwelt in a body that had hands and fingers that rejoiced to know the touch of those of another like to himself. The Lights of both of them flared, bright and joyous, and more rapidly the butterflies swirled about them both.
Then Aragorn was gone, but the warmth of that shared touch was still there. Slowly Iorhael sank to his knees, so grateful for that moment of awareness, unaware of the tear of joy slipping down his cheek. He looked up to see the butterflies formed a living, shifting dome of glory over the whole glade as they danced and fluttered in the air and sank to drink from the elanor blossoms before they rose again to rejoin the company of their fellows.
A new glory shone from behind him as the Lady Galadriel came out from under the boughs of the mallorns to look on him, kneeling in the midst of the shimmering display of Light and color. The butterflies were beautiful enough on their own; swirling as they did about Iorhael they were doubly magnificent as they caught his Light of Being as well as that of the sun above them and that reflected by the mallorn trees that grew all about them.
Did he realize, she wondered, how beautiful he was in the eyes of the regular inhabitants of the island? His Light of Being was so different, fragile and transient and pulsing like a distant star where those of the Elves tended to be more constant and steady. Day by day, however, that Light strengthened, filled him more and more, increased in its glory. And much of its beauty came through the knowledge that it was transient, that one day the body it filled would no longer be enough to hold it, and the world of Arda would no longer give it room enough to know its fulfillment.
Iorhael’s hold on life had remained somewhat tenuous, a fact which he knew but which no longer gave him concern. And because he recognized that, in spite of his intention to remain here at least until Samwise’s arrival to join him, he might yet find this day, this moment, to be his last, now that his life was no longer dominated by pain and loss he simply opened himself to each moment of joy as it came, grateful that he could do so.
His delight in the butterflies was so palpable, and there was a deeper content he knew as well, as if a vision had been granted to him. He focused on a single insect as it bobbed and wove its way through the dance, watched it land on the bloom by his knee, its shifting wings casting sparkles of colored light across the robe as it lay across his thighs. As a number of them began to shape a figure about his head, almost as if he wore a circlet of flickering wings and jeweled bodies, he closed his eyes and tilted back his head, feeling the delicate breeze set in motion by each wing beat, hearing the minute squeaks and chimes as upper and lower wings rubbed against one another as they lifted and fell. Then he opened his eyes and twisted himself to look at her through the veil of moving wings, and his smile widened more, and wordlessly he invited her to share his delight with him. As she finally moved to join him again the dance opened to accept her within it. She moved to his side, smiled down at him as he gazed up at her, now seeing his face entire, now part of it seen through shifting wings. A single tear sparkled on his cheek, of more value than the treasures of Dwarves or Elven-wrought jewels.
She ran her fingers through his curls, once dark and now simply glorious and rich with warmth, soft as sighs. “It is good to see you knowing pleasure this day, Ringbearer,” she said. He smiled in answer. “Elrond had asked me to seek you out for him.”
He looked up with interest. He’d not seen Lord Elrond for some time, for he’d journeyed to the mainland and had intended to seek the heart of Valinor itself. That he’d think to return here so soon, and to seek himself out....
Shifting reflections of Light could now be seen under the mallorns from the direction from which Iorhael himself had come, and he turned that way. The first Light was certainly familiar enough, as Elrond approached, dressed in an outer robe of deepest blue over a silver under robe, the outer embroidered in silver and decorated with silver, blue, and lapis beads. The intricate knots of his temple locks were also held in place with beads of lapis and silver, and about his brow he wore a circlet of mithril set with sapphires and lapis. His face was full of a deep and solemn joy.
But it was the figure behind Elrond that caught Frodo’s attention, as one filled with the familiar Light of Stars, tall and beautiful, familiar yet utterly foreign to him, followed the Elven Lord, his shining hand on Elrond’s shoulder, the circlet he wore about his brow simple and set with a single shining jewel whose glory the butterflies caught and cast about the glade in a further display of color so intense it was almost more than Iorhael could bear.
Eyes filled with the Light of Stars looked down into his own. In his heart he heard the Shining One say, At last we meet, child of my spirit. So long I’ve waited for one to come who shares and understands the Becoming....
And the hand of Eärendil the Mariner lifted him to his feet, and Peredhel and Hobbit smiled into one another’s eyes.