It seems this Island will simply not let me feel sorry for myself!
It affords me plenty of luxuries, to be sure, but seems in a conspiracy to deprive me of that particular one. Every time I feel myself getting in the doldrums, just when I'm starting to enjoy it, someone comes around to haul me out of it.
Sam, are you laughing at me??
Naturally I was overjoyed when Dûndeloth agreed to write my story. Was any hobbit ever so honored? He said he'd wanted to from the beginning, but he would not ask, he would wait until I asked him. I was still recovering, and might not want to dredge up a lot of memories that might still be painful, and so on, he said. And if I did not ask him, then he would simply not offer. Of course, I've been telling him bits and pieces of it, ever since I showed him the poem I wrote of that dream I had in Minas Tirith (if it was a dream) in which Boromir's ghost appeared to me to ask my pardon.* I had to do a good deal of explaining first, of course. Then I showed him the poem, thinking he might like my use of imagery, which I considered rather vivid, and he actually had to blink back tears. Then he got that look that reminds me of the one Seragon gets sometimes, when little Lyrien says something even more than usually sweet or funny or wise, and he said, ahem, yes, the, ah, imagery was excellent. That was when I first thought I ought to ask Dûndeloth to write the story. But even so, I did not feel ready yet.
But now he is writing it! And yes, in spite of my brave words to him, it IS hard to wade back through this sea of memories. I try to keep up a good front, lest Lord Elrond put an end to it. Recently I was going through the part about the Ringwraiths and my wounding, and it put me out of sorts after he left, and I started having dark thoughts about him. Bilbo had fallen asleep, Gandalf was off who-knows-where with Ríannor, and the others were busy, and I was left to my own devices. I didn't feel like doing any writing of my own, or reading either; I couldn't go anywhere by myself, and I wasn't sleepy. I took a walk around the garden, sat and dangled my feet in the fountain trying to catch fishes and pick up pebbles with my toes, climbed up on the gate and looked out, poked around the library for a while, but I couldn't shake this feeling. Finally I went back to the terrace and sat down to treat myself to a good mope. That was when I noticed something on the table.
It was a large clam-shell, lined with fresh berries, and a very large golden mushroom with the word LOVE pricked on it, several tiny flowers stuck into it here and there. Along with this a note that read: Dearist Iorhael, a Fairy toled me to give you this, your Lyrien.
Do you see what I mean? It happens every time!
Oh yes...you're wondering about the manuscript, and the sparring-match, and the rest of it. Well…Rûdharanion declined to come with us to Firnhil’s—Dûndeloth’s son. He said he would abide in the tower. I didn’t like to leave him alone there, but I couldn’t very well stay with him either, so I told him perhaps we would see him again soon before the match, and we went on our way, I still clutching his stillborn child as we rode off in the dusk.
Firnhil and his wife Maianna were delighted to meet us, and had prepared a wonderful dinner. Firnhil is very like his father, save that his hair and eyes are not so dark, and Maianna is fair-haired and of course, very lovely and girlish, looking little older than Tilwen, for all she has three grandchildren, and a great-grandchild on the way. Her enormous eyes grew even wider as I was introduced to her.
“I have seen you before, but from a distance,” she said in a slightly breathy voice. “You are even fairer close up, if I may be so bold.”
No, Sam, she wasn’t flirting! She is just one of those people who say whatever pops into their heads, without a forethought of the effect. I got my bearings fairly quickly, however, and was strongly tempted to quote some poetry at her, as with Goldberry (of whom she strangely reminded me)…and--I succumbed! But this poetry, at least, was my own....
A white-gold lily she
with eyes as dewdrops gleaming
and petals from a tree
or pearls cast from the sea
when with blue stars ’tis teeming
and clouds of mithril fair
through which the sky-lights gleaming
dance gentle in her hair
and float in purpling air
as sails in moonlight beaming....
And over dinner, it was Firnhil who suggested that Dûndeloth write my story.
You could have heard a fly clear its throat. Everyone ceased chattering, looking first to Firnhil, then Dûndeloth, then me. And finally, I found my voice, which said, almost independently of my brain, “I would be greatly honored, more than words could tell.”
And Dûndeloth said, “I assure you, the honor would be mine.”
Maianna wept. So did Tilwen.
I was fairly dancing in the stars.
Lady Elwing waxed prophetic, and told Tilwen, Galendur, and me that in the space of two years we would each have our heart’s desire. In the case of Galendur and Tilwen I could guess what that could be, Tilwen having intimated to me more than once that she could scarcely wait to have a child. And I was overjoyed to think it would be soon. Dear sweet Til, she will make a wonderful mother! And that child will never know a dull moment with Galendur.
But as for myself, what could it possibly be? No…surely not. Not this soon! Yes, of course I want more than anything for you to come here, Sam, but in two years? But there’s only one other thing I can think of, and surely that can never be…
“It is not what you are thinking,” Lady Elwing told me with a wistful smile. “You do not know what your heart’s desire is yet, my dear friend. But in time, with patience and prayer and work and waiting, it will come. Your reward has been only fulfilled in part.”
But for the wine at dinner, I doubt I could have gone to sleep. Dûndeloth was put up in the guest-room, Tilwen and Lady Elwing in their daughters’ room (their younger daughter having married over a year ago). They offered to move the two long cushioned chairs from the garden into the guest-room for Galendur and me, but when I said I would like to sleep outside under the stars, Galendur said he would do likewise—for which I was glad, since I really didn’t want to be alone.
In the garden, I could see the light from the tower in the distance, and long after Galendur dropped off to sleep, I thought of the manuscript, and of Rûdharanion all alone in his tower, and I worried about him once more, and said a prayer that he would be all right. I wished to read some of the manuscript, but there was not enough light for it, for I had forgotten my star-glass—of all the times to forget it! But I was soothed by the thought of Lady Elwing’s promise, and by the light of the beacon, which gleamed like a low-hanging star in the drifting silvery clouds, and I hoped it would be a comfort to Rûdharanion as well.
It wasn’t until we had gone back home that I took the manuscript out. His description of me should give you some idea of the overall content:
A hero fine and true
Though he stood but five feet two
Raven locks abounding
And eyes of piercing blue.
He left his love behind
His destiny to find
Altho’ he gave his heart
For aye with hers to bind….
Five feet two!? Since when are there brown ravens?? I dare say, had he gotten far enough, he would have had us storming Sauron’s Tower with our swords after I dramatically flung the Ring into the fire!
And yet, believe it or not, along with all this nonsense there was much beautiful poetry, and I was moved. Reading it was like looking at the corpse of a grotesque child that was not meant to be, yet had beauties along with the deformities. I laid it in the bottom drawer of my desk and closed it softly as if reluctant to disturb its rest.
The sparring-match has not happened yet. Rûdharanion needed more time to prepare than we supposed. Galendur himself is giving him some coaching, and somehow, this idea doesn’t sit well with me. He invited me to watch a time or two, and I went, for I always enjoy watching him, even if I won’t pick up a blade myself.
But after I went the second time, I got quite a shock. Rûdharanion wore dark red leggings and a white shirt deeply cut at the throat, tall black boots, and a colorful sash, and his black locks were neatly trimmed to shoulder length, bound with a bit of crimson silk. Galendur was similarly attired, only in blue leggings, and they went at the practice with great energy and zest and style, and I could see Rûdharanion had come a long way. It was a delight to watch, at first. Yet after a while, I had the feeling something wasn’t right. They seemed to enjoy themselves far too much. When one took a hit, the other laughed and pulled his opponent to his feet. When they paused to rest, they talked as though they had known each other a very long time, about sparring techniques, comparing the old with the new, speaking of past bouts, debating the merits of other sparrers, one laughing heartily at a witticism the other made, then talking more and more, seeming to forget my presence.
Sam……they are…FRIENDS!! Did you ever hear anything more preposterous?? I can’t believe it!!!
I hate Rûdharanion.
First Ríannor came between me and Gandalf. Then Dûndeloth came between me and Lady Elwing. And now, Rûdharanion dares to come between me and Galendur…and WHAT can I do about it?
Oh, I know why. This is his way of getting me back for refusing to give him my story. I would not give in, and now he is doing this thing. And Galendur is too big of a ninny to see it! And I cannot tell him because I will sound a jealous fool. Which, of course, I am. This is just NOT what I wanted!
Tell me you’re not laughing at me, Sam. Yes, I know. Rosie came between us, too, and I got over it eventually, and learned to be happy for both of you. So maybe I can learn to live with this latest outrage. The healing virtue of the Island will take care of it in time, surely. The only thing is, one must be receptive to it; it does not come unbidden. And I am not feeling very receptive at the moment. Will someone come between me and Bilbo next?
When the day of the match came, I didn’t want to go. Bilbo, of course, could hardly wait, and couldn’t understand why I was in such a murky mood. Of course, he’s not so keen on Galendur yet, but he’s far less keen on Rûdharanion, and could hardly wait to see him get a thrashing even at the hands of his nephew's disreputable friend. He nattered on and on about it, while I just sat brooding, hardly listening. There was no one, really, who would understand my absurd predicament. Finally Bilbo said he’d catch a nap before the match so he wouldn’t be too tired when the time came. I went and sat out in the garden, watching the fountain and thinking about how unfair it all was, until I, too, drifted into sleep.
Oh, and about the mushroom and berries: I didn’t eat them right away. Lyrien and her fairy had obviously gone to so much trouble with it, I would just keep it to look at for a while. I sent a note by Tilwen asking Lyrien to be sure and thank the fairy for such a lovely gift, which did much to lift my spirits. I wished I could go and thank her myself in person, but it was too far out there and I didn’t have a ride, so I would go next day. I decided I’d save the treat until tea-time, but the mushroom smelled so nice, I finally gave in and took a nibble. It had a sweet, delicate, creamy and most delightful flavor, like no other mushroom I had ever tasted before, and so I ate it all, devoutly hoping Lyrien’s fairy knew where more of these grew. Then I sampled some of the berries, which were delectable also, and found myself unable to stop eating them…until I found among them…a pearl.
I nearly fell out of my chair.
It was quite a large pearl, and would have been extremely valuable in Middle-earth. I sat staring at it for the longest. Perhaps, I thought, Lyrien didn’t know it was a pearl when she found it, and thought it just a pretty round stone. Surely her mother would never have allowed her to give it to me? But probably Niniel knew nothing about it. I showed it to no one except Tilwen, who gasped, and stared, much as I’d done, and when I said I must return it, she agreed, and the next day we went over there. I didn’t show the pearl to Seragon or Niniel, asking if I could speak with Lyrien privately, and we went out into the yard, where I showed it to her.
And she looked at it with huge round eyes, saying, “The fairy gave you a pearl??”
I narrowed my eyes. Imagination is a lovely thing, but this was going a bit far. Then again, I told myself she just didn’t know how valuable pearls were.
“Where did you find this?” I asked her, more sternly than I meant to.
“I didn’t,” she said, her beautiful hazel eyes looking straight into mine, and there was not the slightest sign of a lie in them. “I didn’t know it was in there. I didn’t look. I did put the flowers in it, and I put the word LOVE on the mushed-room by myself, but I didn’t put the pearl in, I promise.”
“This fairy,” I said after a moment, “she must have been pretty strong to carry all this to you, being so tiny and all?”
“Oh no. She was as big as me,” Lyrien said. “But she had a body like a lady. She had bosoms. And she was all shining. So I knew she was a fairy and not a little girl like me.”
“Did she have wings?” I had a funny feeling. Lyrien is extraordinary even for an elf-child, but still—bosoms? That was hardly the sort of thing I would have expected even her to say!
“No, I think not,” she replied, the picture of perfect innocence. “She just came in the garden and handed me the shell and asked me to give it to you. Then she was gone. Are you angry with me?”
“I could never be angry with you,” I said gently. “But…perhaps I should give you back this pearl.”
“No. It’s for you. The fairy gave it to you,” she insisted. “You keep it.”
I keep the pearl in the shell on my desk, and look at it in bafflement from time to time. I will never know what to make of it, I’m sure!
Now I wake up to someone shaking me by the ankle and calling me Baggins, and of course there’s only one person on the Island who calls me that, and I look up, blinking, half forgetting where I am.
And Galendur says, “Come on, the match is in one hour. You are riding with us, aren’t you, old chap?”
And I look up at him and he extends a hand to help me up and he smiles, in a special way he has smiled at me just once or twice before, a smile he gives to no one else except perhaps Lyrien, whom he adores as much as I do (he has a very different smile for Tilwen)…and I know right then he will never, ever give that smile to Rûdharanion, friend or no friend. And I smile back, wondering how I could ever have been such an idiot, and let him help me up, and the match is the most thrilling I’ve ever watched. Rûdharanion gives him a rough time, indeed, and for a while we are wondering if maybe he won't just surprise us all...surely not...as Galendur takes quite a hard hit, lying still for a long moment, but then he springs up, does a most startling back flip and dances at his opponent, and Rûdharanion makes an equally startling riposte, and they are everywhere at once, and in the end it is Galendur who wins...but just barely. Rûdharanion shakes hands with him, sweaty and grinning, Galendur thanks him for a fine fight, and everyone is cheering at the top of their voices, and I am standing on my seat and Lyrien climbs up into it beside me, one arm around me, and we nearly fall off, and Gandalf catches us and laughs and holds each of us in one arm tightly while Tilwen weeps for joy and Niniel hugs her and laughs and cries all at once.
And much later we go and celebrate in the city, after Lyrien’s parents take her home early. We sing and drink wine and laugh and shout, well into the night, until we’ve had more than enough, then Rûdharanion turns for home, telling us he has resigned his position at the college and will stay in the tower for a while. I invite him to temple, and he says he will come, and he does, from time to time. And sometimes I can see the beacon from Lord Elrond’s house, when I climb up to the praying-room, which faces to northward. It’s quite faint from there, but I go up every night before retiring to make sure it is still shining. I keep thinking, as long as it is there, perhaps Rûdharanion is at peace. And I think he is.