I told you, didn’t I, that Lady Elwing is my spiritual counselor? I’m aware that some may smile over my devoutness. Who could not have faith, with so divine a priestess? While others might wonder how I could focus on Ilúvatar when I would far rather be thinking of her. All I can say is, it can be done, from the depths of a patient and thankful heart, and when one has another person to think of and wish to guide into the Light besides oneself.
Still, when Lady Elwing told us Rûdharanion’s whereabouts, my soul balked and shuddered. I was worried about him, true, but when it came to going out to…well. Even if I had liked him, it would still be no trifling matter!
Dûndeloth came in on our conversation—I had thought he’d gone home long before, but he had stayed to talk with Lord Elrond for a while, then come back to the library to retrieve a book he had forgotten and needed for a class he was giving in the afternoon. And a few moments later, who should appear but Tilwen! The basket was a ruse, as it turned out. She was only waiting for Galendur to climb that wall; then she’d doubled back quickly to the house on hearing the peacock's cry, slipped into the library and heard all.
I really wish I could describe Galendur’s expression when she made her sudden appearance!
“It will take the better part of the day to get there,” Lady Elwing said when everyone had settled down sufficiently. Bilbo had awakened and joined us on the terrace, as had Gandalf. “And we shall have to camp out.”
“No need of that,” Dûndeloth said. “There is a village not far from our destination, and my son lives there. He and his wife will be happy to put us up for the night, I am certain.”
“Very well then,” said Lady Elwing happily, “we can start out tomorrow morning then, if no one has any engagements in the next two days. Who will go then?”
I was silent. I felt I should go. But where we were going…well, surely Lady Elwing could do more good than I. She loves everyone, whereas I can’t even bear Rûdharanion; what good could I possibly do him? It wasn’t even necessary for me to go along to keep Galendur out of mischief; he had Elwing and Dûndeloth and Tilwen for that. And I knew from long experience that someone else was much more likely to get you into mischief than you were to keep him out of it!
Sam, you will laugh when I tell you why I decided to go, and even now, I blush to tell you. But, it was the way Lady Elwing and Dûndeloth looked at each other that decided me. They happened to be standing next to each other, a bit of noon-day sunlight peeping down through the vines at them, red and yellow and white rose-trees behind them, and he looked at her—not the way Rûdharanion had, but much as I must have looked at her myself. As if all the dreams of a poet's heart had melded together in the shape of a woman standing suddenly before him. I had been certain her heart was at the bottom of the sea with her lost husband—the legend of his ship and the Evening Star being just that, a legend; no one truly knew what became of him. And Dûndeloth’s heart was in the grave with his lost wife, who had been massacred by orcs along with their newborn child, many years ago. Then again, buried hearts can be resurrected…can they not? And they looked so beautiful together—Aragorn and Arwen had scarcely looked fairer on their wedding-day than these two Elves, who did not know each other well yet, but had until the end of days to learn.
Yes, I am ridiculous; I know perfectly well she will never care for me that way, and I can live with that, believe it or not. I am as an infatuated school-boy, content to be in the mere presence of his adored one. It is enough just to be able to gaze on her, and have her smile at me even if it is only the smile of a mother or a doting sister, and to be able to do anything in my power to please and help her, and to write odes in secret to her beauty and wisdom and goodness and whisper them only to the colors of the aurora over the garden in the night. Such is the virtue of this place.
And I would begrudge neither her nor Dûndeloth; I wish them joy for all time, these two who have been so undeserving of the pain and loss they have endured, and who should not have to go through all the ages with buried hearts, with only memories of bliss to see them through. But to have that joy flaunted right in front of me, who can never know it in full…well, if only they would wait until I am gone….Yes, Sam, I am selfish as well as absurd. What difference does it make, when I know perfectly well she will never be mine? And how could I possibly prevent them from falling in love merely by going along on this little pilgrimage? It is as with Gandalf and Ríannor, only even more so. I wouldn't have prevented them even if I could have, so why am I so set on going to keep an eye on Elwing and Dûndeloth?
But I resolve to go, nevertheless. Even though the very thought of going there fills me with soul-numbing dread and horror. I just hope and pray that I do not dream of that other place tonight!
Dear Sam, I don't mind telling you that I've put Sam-doll and Frodo-doll between our pillows tonight, and lie on my side looking at them and Bilbo as I dim the light...I think they will keep the evil dreams away! I wrote a new poem a while ago, which I will quote in part--I will not read the entire piece to you, for it may be very upsetting--only this:
and now your winged heart
will bear me aloft
above the foul clouds
of poison and loss
the shadows unspeakable
now are dissolved
such love astounding
I have not deserved
yet still you give it...
but can you replant
what they laid waste
in a matter of minutes?
for your sweet sake
I would renew it
and set down your story
so all might know
but is it beyond
even your skill?
my friend, have you found me
have you truly found me
or is it my doom
to be lost
to go home?
I apologize for the lack of rhyme but I scribbled it down rather hastily; maybe I can improve it later on....
“Are you sure you want to do this, Baggins?” Galendur asked me next morning as we made ready to set out on our journey. He had assured me he carried no blade, and offered to let me pat him down to make sure. I told him, with mock disgust, that I would take his word for it. “You look a bit…well, peaky, if you know what I mean. You sure you’re up to this?”
Lord Elrond had said I could go, of course. I was half hoping he wouldn’t. But he said I could, as long as I did nothing to exert myself. And no climbing those steps! Of course, I have been allowed to climb the stairs to the second floor for a long time now, so long as I don’t run up them or any such nonsense….
But Lady Elwing’s bird-tower is an entirely different matter.
How she knew he was there, I have no clue. Certainly he had not asked her permission to hide out there. I must assume that she just knew, in the way she knows such things.
When she first offered to take me there some weeks ago, I had politely declined. Even in her presence, I did not think I could bring myself to go near it. I must avert my eyes at the sight of the Tower of Avellonë in the City when we go there, and even the bell-towers of the Temple of Ilúvatar make me dizzy if I look too long at them. I have never told her why I have such a horror of towers; I merely let her think I fear heights. But the truth is, I can hardly bear to stand outside of a tower and look at it, even if I do not go inside.
Well, but I have scaled rock formations with Galendur a time or two—not very large ones, it’s true, as I am not allowed so much exertion yet, and he does a good job of looking after me when we go on a jaunt. And I’ve climbed the willow-tree in Lyrien’s back yard in order to help build her a flet. So he knows, surely, that I do not have a terror of heights, although I don’t truly love them, either!
I’m not sure why or how I ended up telling him about the Tower of Cirith Ungol…ah, there, I’ve said the name. Yet I found myself doing so. Tilwen was talking with Lady Elwing, Dûndeloth with Gandalf, who would stay behind with Bilbo to keep him company, as usual. I can swear Galendur turned a little green, saying “Oh, sh--!” You wouldn’t suppose it, but he’s really quite sensitive.
After a few stricken moments, he asked me, “So why are you going? Why put yourself through it? Can you be so worried about the blighter as all that? Come now, even you can’t be that disgusting. Saving the world is one thing, but a twit like Rûdharanion is a nag of a whole different tint.”
“Well, I am worried about him,” I admitted. And it was the truth. “I mean, it’s because of me that he’s there. I’ve ruined his standing at the college, and…”
“Bollocks. I’m sure they all know at the college that he’s full of horse manure…and I doubt they even know what happened, unless young Dínlad hopped on his pony and galloped all over the Island proclaiming it, which somehow I seriously doubt.”
“Still, I’ve ruined him in some way, I’m sure,” I said. “And so it’s up to me to put it right.”
“So. You’re just going to go climbing up there after him, and shake his hand and tell him all is forgiven, and coax him down into the land of the living? Is that what you’re going to do? Really, my friend, you’ll have to pardon me if I somehow don’t see it.”
“Of course not. I’m not that disgusting, thank you very much! Besides, Lord Elrond has forbidden me to climb those stairs. I don’t know what I’m going to do, honestly. I suppose it will come to me when we get there. I just feel I should go, is all. And if I am disgusting, it has worked in my favor in the past...and if I may remind you, my dear friend, in yours also.”
“In that case,” said Dûndeloth, who had walked in on the last of our conversation, “shall we be on our way? With whom do you wish to ride, Iorhael?”
The horses had been brought out, saddled and loaded with some food supplies and a change of clothing for each of us. Lady Elwing had lost her steed a year or so ago and had yet to replace it, so Lady Galadriel lent her Maegfán, her white palfrey. Dûndeloth had a fine chestnut gelding, Tilwen a pretty grey and white pony. And of course, Galendur had his magnificent black stallion, Nightwind. I wished I had brought my pony Strider with me, but I had not been sure he could withstand the journey over the sea.
Judging from the air between them, it was my guess that Galendur and Tilwen had, er, made up rather nicely the previous night! Not that it was preventing her from tagging along to keep an eye on him, or anything….But it would have been rather uncomfortable to have them at daggers drawn with each other the entire trip.
“He’s riding with me,” Galendur said. I smiled gratefully at him. As heavenly as it would have been to ride with Lady Elwing, her body pressed against mine in such a way as it would never be again, I don’t know if I could have kept her from guessing the true nature of my dread, in such proximity. And if she had guessed it, she would have turned right around and taken me back home. But since Galendur knew, there was no need of my keeping anything from him.
And then he swung me up on Nightwind, and it was too late to change my mind about going.