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9
Intimations of Immortality

Dear Sam,

I hope you don’t mind it if sometimes my poems are a bit grim. They are a far cry from Bilbo’s, I’ll admit! But they are an outlet, and I feel much better after writing them. Dûndeloth himself recommended that I try depicting my worst experiences in verse, and Lord Elrond has approved also. So please don’t be alarmed! I shall write cheerier ones by and by, I know….

To continue: Dûndeloth tells me, Galendur, and Tilwen to stand out of Rûdharanion’s sight until we are summoned. We dismount and go to stand in a grove of trees on a slope about a hundred feet or so from the tower, while Dûndeloth and Lady Elwing ride there, dismount also, and stand outside of the building on opposite sides. I shade my eyes with my hand, since we are facing into the sinking sun, and look up at a window near the top of the tower. I can see Rûdharanion’s head, which appears to be bent over something. I think he is aware that someone has come, but supposes it to be mere passers-by.

“Are you all right now, dear?” Tilwen asks me after a moment, caressing my shoulder. I nod, although I feel a catch in my throat, her tone sounds so like my mother’s. Galendur had told her about the Tower during my nap.

“Hope you don’t mind it awfully,” he said to me as we resumed our journey. “Not sure why I did it. Something came over me, I don’t know what, and it just came out. You’re not angry?”

“Not at all,” I said in some surprise. “I didn’t ask you not to tell, after all. I wanted her to know, but didn’t want to have to tell it more than I must. This saves me the trouble, and I’m grateful.”

“You should have seen her,” he said and I could hear the proud smile in his voice. “I’d hate to be the orc that gets in her way now. Pity she came to the Island when she was only a lass; she’d have made quite the warrioress, I should think.”

“Like the Lady Éowyn,” I said laughing a little.

“The Lady who?”

“Éowyn —she was a princess of Rohan, now the Princess of Ithilien” I said, surprised. “She slew the Witch-King of Angmar. You’ve not heard tell of her?”

“I thought it was a man that did that,” Galendur said. I was flabbergasted.

“No—she disguised herself as a man and rode into battle in the Field of Pelennor with the Rohirrim. My cousin Meriadoc was with her, and he told me all. The Witch-King was the one who dealt me the wound that brought me here. I can scarcely believe you didn’t hear of all that!”

“Is that so? Old chap, you’ve simply got to have someone write down your entire story someday. It sounds positively corking!”

“Well—yes, it is rather…corking. I wrote it down myself, but left the manuscript behind. But I don’t think I could ever bring myself to write it again.”

“Then have Dûndeloth write it. It’s much too good to miss, and I don’t think anyone else on the Island knows even the half of it. It could well be the best tale that ever came out of Middle-earth, or anywhere else for that matter. And I’m sure that Dûndeloth chap could at least halfway do it justice, what say?”

Perhaps he is right, I think now as I watch Rûdharanion in the window. Maybe the Island should know the whole story. Maybe I am being selfish in keeping it to myself, telling only my close friends, and not disclosing all even to them. And Dûndeloth is the only one who could do it justice.

I nod, at Tilwen’s question, although a couple of tears escape my eyes, and I lay my hand over hers. Galendur, standing behind us, lays his hand over both ours, as we watch from the slope. Lady Elwing and Dûndeloth are still standing there, looking upward.

“What is she doing?” Galendur whispers. “Aren’t they going in? Or is she going to do that bird thing and fly up to the window? Can she really do that, or is it just a fairy-tale?”

“I don’t think they’re going in,” I say without answering his last question. “She’s saying something to him.”

“But her lips aren’t moving,” he says.

“She speaks with her mind,” I say, surprised. Galendur is not yet old or wise or attuned with the Divine enough to be able to communicate with his mind, and neither is Tilwen, but it is amazing that they do not know of this faculty.

“What does she say?” Til asks.

“I don’t know,” I say. “It is not for our ears, so we cannot hear her.”

“It was so good to get the chance to really talk to her,” Tilwen says. “There’s something so…so knowing and so tranquil, about her presence. She made me feel sort of…at one, you know? I can’t talk with my mother that way, she’s so critical and impatient, and so inclined to go off on all these, these tangents. I mean, sometimes she’ll just start going on about the Ultimate Meaning, or The Grand Scheme of Things, when I just want to talk of my problems, or my father, or something, and I end up feeling so trivial. It can be so frustrating. But Lady Elwing, she’ll talk of anything I want to discuss, and stay with the subject and work through it and everything, and she never makes me feel small and silly. She really understands me.”

“What problems could you possibly have here?” her bridegroom asks. “You surely don’t mean…me?”

“Of course not, you fool,” she giggles at him. “Come to think of it, my problems nearly all have to do with my mother. Small wonder I can’t talk of them with her.”

“How’d she know he was up there, anyway?” Galendur asks after a moment. "A little bird told her, I suppose?" Tilwen slaps his arm and then giggles.

“She just knows things,” I say smiling. “She lived in that tower before Lady Celebrían came to the Island, and left it to help her daughter-in-law heal from her wounds and give her counsel. She became a priestess in order to help her all the more, and has been gifted with divine powers.”

“I see,” Galendur says in some wonder. “What happened to Lady Celebrían, anyway? I never heard much of that.”

“She was captured by orcs, and was dealt a Morgul-wound like mine,” I say very softly, shuddering. “They did horrible things to her, before she was rescued by her sons. I’d rather not speak of it.”

“Of course," he says gently. "So…what in blazes did she do up there, all that time? Lady Elwing, I mean.”

“I don’t know," I say, grateful to him for dropping the subject so quickly. Sometimes the thought of what happened to Lady Celebrían tears at me more than the memory of what happened to me. The thought of anything so hideous befalling one so gentle and loving is a shaft in my heart that may never go away completely, and threatens to interfere with my own quest for faith and healing. "I imagine she did not stay up there every minute, but went about doing what she could for those who needed it. She loves tending wounded creatures. She has done much for those who came here for healing, who had been hurt in body or spirit, and there were a great many. She helped Lady Ríannor to find the Door.”

“The Door?”

“That’s what she calls it. The Door that leads out of the Shadow and into the path of the Great Light.”

“Why, yes. Of course. So…is she going to do that bird thing, or what?”

“Pay him no mind,” Til says poking me a little. “He’s just a big silly. Stop being such a--a flibbertygibbet,” she tells her husband.

I laugh: “No. She cannot do it at will. The Lord of the Seas must grant her the boon, and she must invoke him, which takes much doing. I don’t know how that all works, but I seriously doubt it will happen this time.”

“Bugger. I really wanted to see that,” Galendur says like a disappointed little boy. I chuckle.

“What is that round thing at the top?” Til asks. I look up. There is a transparent globe atop the tower, which I had not noticed before. It glitters in the evening sunlight like a great gem-stone, taking on glints of gold and rose and silver-blue.

“The tower was a light-house once,” I say. “That must be where the light comes out.”

“Really?” Galendur says. “I had to wonder if she really hauled a load of firewood or oil or whatever up there every night to burn. So it all comes out that glass ball?”

“You forget, it’s an Elven light-house,” I chide him smiling. “But after she left the tower, the light ceased to glow, it is said. It’s just a tower now, and the globe is merely a pretty ornament. I think she said she knew when her husband died, the light took on a strange hue, a pale sea-green, and the air became full of salt-tears, and all the birds wept together.”

“Ohhh,” says Tilwen, choking up.

“But of course she did not die of grief,” I continue, “unlike other Elves who couple with mortals, and must live to see their mates die. She had hope of seeing her son once more, and so she endured. And now she is happy at last, with him by her side.”

“I’m so glad of that,” Til says, sniffling a little. “My father was mortal too, did I ever tell you?”

“I think you did once,” I say. She has told me several times, actually.

“And so was Galendur’s mother. That’s really how we met, you know. We had that in common.”

Marriages between mortals and Elves are much more common than I once supposed. Few of them ever make it into legend, however. And very few of them ever re-marry. Selfishly, I hold onto that hope as I watch Dûndeloth and Elwing.

And now I can see Rûdharanion’s face. At last he has come to the window and is looking out. He holds a sheaf of papers in one arm; yes indeed, he has been writing. And now, I know what.

“He’s writing my story,” I say. “That’s what he’s been doing up there. His version of it, that is.”

“Is he?” Tilwen asks, sounding more than a little outraged. “How do you know?”

“I don’t know how, I just do,” I say.

“Damn,” Galendur swears softly. “Do you read minds, or what?”

“No, I can hear thoughts when they are spoken to me, but only if they are for me. I cannot hear or read things that are not meant for me, nor would I if I could. But I am sure that’s what he is doing, although it’s possible I am wrong.”

“I cannot believe he would so desecrate your wonderful deeds,” Tilwen exclaims. “Is there naught we can do to stop him?”

“Naught apart from killing him,” I say, glancing sidelong at Galendur, “and I will not have that. I suppose it does not really matter; I doubt he will ever show it to anyone.”

I look up at the face in the tower window. There is something pitiful about the way he clutches the sheaf of parchment to him, like a mother who fears her child will be taken from her. Why should I worry over him? He is a fool, an egotist, a snob, a coward and a liar, and why should I care what becomes of him? I am as mad as he, if I think I can turn him toward the Light. Or am I?

I have to smile, however, as I look at Til. She is beautifully flushed, her silver-green eyes full of furious sparkles, and I can see now why Galendur is so enchanted with her when she is in a fit of temper. She actually bends down and picks up a stone, straightens and makes ready to hurl it at the figure in the window. I reach out and clutch her wrist, shaking my head at her, unsure whether to laugh or cry in the moment.

“I wasn’t going to hit him with it,” she explains, and I release her wrist. “I don’t think my aim is so good, anyway. I only wanted to shake him up a little.”

Galendur is in a fit of suppressed laughter, one hand over his face. I notice that the sky has darkened above us, the western clouds aflame. Then the face withdraws from the window.

“I think he’s coming down,” I say, my heart racing. We all hold our breath. Yes, I really think he’s coming….

“Look!” gasps Til, dropping the stone and pointing upward. And behold, the glass orb atop of the tower is starting to glow, a mere glimmer at first, then brighter, and brighter still, until it is as radiant as the moon, then it glows more until it looks like a much larger version of my star-glass, casting its beams far out into the twilight….



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