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Light from the West
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Dear Sam,

You may have been wondering if I've met any famous personages yet. Well, I have! And I am studying with one of them now!

At first I wasn't allowed to have visitors; now I am, but I am consulted first to see if I want to meet them. Lord Elrond told me one day that the great poet Rûdharanion wanted to meet me. I nearly fell over flat, at the thought of such a great honor! Well, you probably have not read his poetry; it isn't of your sort, and I've not read it all myself. But when I heard he had requested to meet me, I dove into the library and found a volume of his epic poems and read well into the night. I was quite fascinated, although admittedly some of it is rather dry stuff, and I might not have kept at it so hard if he were not coming to meet us the next day. But I ploughed through as much as I could, hoping I could keep an intelligent discussion going, and he would be impressed with me.

In the city is something called a "college" which is a school for big folks, which I may attend someday. Rûdharanion teaches there. And of course Lord Elrond told him that Bilbo and I both write poetry, and he might consider taking us both on as students. Tilwen was as excited as I—for she writes some verse too, and Lady Celebrían told her she was welcome to stay and meet the great poet as well. We had to get all spruced up, and took an inordinate amount of time about it, but in the end we looked quite dashing, and Tilwen looked lovelier than ever in pale rose.

Our guest of honor arrived a bit early for dinner. He was, as you might expect, tall, imposing in a robe of brown velvet embroidered with gold, his tunic and leggings of a lighter shade, his ebony locks smoothly combed down and braided. When introduced he looked most startled to see me. I imagine he was expecting me to be small, but not this small, surely! But he got his bearings quickly enough, looking at the Ladies with admiring eyes—very admiring, I must say—then remembered himself and wrenched his attention back to me and my uncle.

I had prepared a little speech of greeting, and had practiced it on my good-natured uncle several times, and he'd told me it was very fine and touching and poetic too…but now I could not remember a word of it.

"This is such a great honor for me," I could only stammer out. He bestowed a kindly, and it seemed, amused, smile upon me.

"I have heard a great deal about you from my old friend," he said with a glance toward Lord Elrond. I was puzzled; Elrond said he had only met him before once, and that was a very long time ago. I looked to him, and his mouth twitched a little, and I thought I saw his eyes twinkle. "And not only did he tell me of your magnificent deeds on behalf of Middle-earth, but he says also that you are a poet of no mean abilities. Has your work been published in Middle-Earth, or do you write under an assumed name?"

"I have only written since coming here, really," I admitted, ducking my head in embarrassment. "I only wrote a few little things before then. In fact I think I only wrote one poem of any real merit at all. But I was ill when I first arrived and was confined to my bed, so I wrote a good deal to pass the time, and I think I am starting to show a bit of improvement…perhaps."

I hoped and prayed he would not ask me to show him my work—at least, not in front of all.

"You are modest," he beamed, as Tilwen filled his glass...and, I don't know, but I am reasonably certain Galendur would not have liked the way he looked at her just then. It seemed to me his eyes strayed just a little too far below her collar-bone, and lingered a bit long on her form when she moved away from him to serve Gandalf. "Shy and unassuming. I find that charming, particularly in relation to your accomplishments. Such courage, such selflessness, such daring, such unflinching sacrifice in the cause of all helpless humanity! You've no idea how inspiring it all is to me, how, how humbled I am in the presence of it all. As a matter of fact, I am seriously thinking of writing an epic, based on your deeds. So I was wondering if you could be of assistance to me. I'm sure I know very little of the actual tale, and if you could supply me with the details? In return I would be greatly honored to tutor you in your own writing. Perhaps you could even join my class? Yes, I can see you've been ill, but when you've fully recovered your health...what say you to this?"

I glanced at Lord Elrond and could see he had not been informed of any such plan for an epic about me. Yes, in Middle-earth I'd had a ballad written of me, which was embarrassing enough, but an epic poem? Couldn't they just wait until I was dead?

And even if I had liked this fellow better than I did, there was much I was still loath to disclose.

But I could see Bilbo preening. What a great delight it would be for him, an epic about his favorite nephew, written by one of the great poets of all times? Perhaps if I were as selfless as Rûdharanion claimed, I should do it for the sake of Bilbo if nothing else?

Tilwen came and sat down on the settee beside me, smiling shyly. Rûdharanion looked surprised to see that the serving-maid would take such a liberty, and he looked equally astonished to see me not only allowing but welcoming such presumption. I tried not to smirk at the emotions I could see wrestling behind his eyes: at first distaste, then puzzlement, then a vague amusement, as though he had mulled it over and decided the matter was rather charming after all. Or at least, he had better think so, if he wanted my assistance and cooperation with his epic.

"Tilwen writes some poetry also," Lady Celebrían spoke up with obvious pride and fondness, at which Tilwen blushed delightfully. "She wrote a very lovely piece that she recited at her wedding recently—you may have heard about that, and everyone loved it. Even I was surprised; it brought tears to my eyes. I think she has a great deal of potential. Perhaps she could sit in on the lessons too?"

I smiled a little, reached over and took Tilwen's hand and pressed it. Rûdharanion looked taken aback.

"So you were wedded recently?" he said, looking at her, then at me, then at her again. Surely not…?

"Oh yes," she said radiantly—even her gown glowed, it seemed. "About two and a half weeks ago. I wish my groom were here to meet you, but he gives sparring-lessons to young lads, and has two of them today. Perhaps he will drop by later this evening if he gets finished in time."

I grinned to myself. I could just imagine what Galendur thought of the idea of meeting a great epic poet.

"Ah," Rûdharanion looked relieved to know that someone else was the lucky groom, yet a little disappointed that there was one, "let me offer my congratulations, then, my dear. It may surprise you that I have never known wedded bliss, myself, although I came close a time or two. But as for poetry…well, yes, I have heard a bit of verse written by ladies here and there, and very pretty stuff some of it. However, quite frankly, I truly do not believe that members of the fair sex are capable of turning out works of any real consequence, and would do much better to devote themselves to the work they were originally fashioned for. Not that there is any harm in turning out occasional trifles as a pleasant diversion, but—"

Can you believe the nerve of him?! I could feel my face literally burning. I glanced at Tilwen and saw her sitting stunned, her cheeks flushing, then tears starting in her eyes...and that did it for me.

"Sir," I stood up, my fists clenched beside me, "how dare you speak so insultingly to a young lady? If I were lord of the manor, I would ask you to leave—and if I were big enough, I would toss you out myself!"

Everyone gasped. Rûdharanion flushed and then paled. Ai...he had done it now, I could almost hear him thinking. So much for his epic.

"But...but I meant no offense," he stammered. "Truly. I am most fond of ladies and have the utmost respect for them, and have gone to battle in their honor many a time. I would never dream of deliberately insulting even the most lowly of them, and I greatly apologize if I have inadvertently done so. If you would please allow me to make it up to her..."

"I?" I actually laughed. "Why do you speak of her as if she isn't here? She is a guest in this house and my friend. If you have things to say to her, then say them to her. But I think you would do better to leave right now. I assure you, if her bridegroom were here now, he would take his sword and slice the fine garments off your body, exposing you before all!"

I distinctly heard Bilbo smack his palm with his fist.

"And if I had my blade with me now, I would do likewise," he spoke up, jumping up to stand beside me. "Now see here, my friend, if you've as much regard for the fair sex as you claim, you'll take yourself off this minute, and NOT steal any more such glances toward any of the ladies of this house as I've seen you dealing out. I may be old, but I'm neither blind nor stupid, my fine fellow, and I've seen more respect for ladies out of a drunken hyena!"

In spite of my outrage I had to smile. Bilbo was wound up now. This was his chance to make a Speech, and leave it to him to make it a good rousing one—even if the only place he had ever seen a hyena was in Lord Elrond's books. Poor Rûdharanion could only stand there, taking it. It scarcely needed a blade to bring him low now. I could see Gandalf trying hard to suppress loud laughter as he came forward to our guest of honor.

"Come, I think I had better show you to the door," he said, "while there's still anything left of you. I've a feeling if I don't get you away from here, Sauron will not be the only one almost literally embarrassed to death by hobbits."

"So…this means you will not help me with the epic?" Rûdharanion looked pleadingly at me.

"When balrogs wear ice-skates," I said, hardly able to believe his audacity.

I was rather relieved to see Gandalf escorting him out the front door, even as he looked back and stammered out another apology to me and Tilwen, who looked more composed now. Lord Elrond apologized to us both also, and I told him there was no need. Tilwen smiled gratefully at me and Bilbo.

"But please tell Galendur nothing of this," she pleaded. "He'll just go out and make a big scene, and stir up a lot of unpleasantness, or end up making a fool of himself. I'd rather he just didn't know anything about it. And he's right, you know—Rûdharanion, I mean. My poetry isn't very good. And it's certainly no great calling for me; it IS just a pleasant diversion, and of no consequence."

"So it is with me," I said. "If I had a great calling, it has been fulfilled, and nothing is left to me now but pleasant diversions. At least, as far as I can see."

A couple of days later, Elrond told me another great poet wished to meet me. The one known as Dûndeloth. I had not even been aware that he was still living. And he was a far greater poet than Rûdharanion had ever even dreamt of being.

And I am studying with him now! And so is Tilwen.

But more later; I think they're coming to tell me to put the lights out…


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