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Light from the West
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Glass Butterfly

Dearest Sam,

I hope what I have been telling you has not been upsetting. It’s just that the thought of what I have missed has been weighing on my mind a little. But it does not drag me down.

I know you will have a large family, and I sincerely hope and pray that all will be well with them. I’ve missed the praying room in Lord Elrond’s house, and have decided I need one of my own. Yes, of course one can pray anywhere, but I like the idea of having a special place for it without distractions, and I’ve found one. It’s a lone spot out on the beach, facing west, obscured from view by a clump of trees and there is a large flat stone there that just seems to have been placed for me to kneel and lean my elbows on it. Every night after I tuck Bilbo into bed I steal out with my light and stay there for about half-hour or so. Tonight I pray that all will be well with you and your family, that they will have peace and joy often, that they will have good health and fortune, that they will learn from their mistakes and that their sorrows and struggles will strengthen and sweeten their souls, that they will find the right mates and teach their children well, that they will find all the fulfillment they deserve, and bring you all the happiness and comfort you have earned in your life. I would wish them, and you, no suffering at all, but I know that is impossible in this life, and so I will wish it to be minimal and nourishing as rain to a garden.

But, to continue: Marílen came into the hallway with her hands loosely cupped together, standing timidly in the doorway. Feeling badly that I had not gone to her earlier and assured her the accident was not her fault, I put my arms about her. She suffered me to do it, but seemed to want to go to Lyrien, so I released her and she went to the bed and kissed her cousin’s cheek, saying, “Look what I found for you!” We were all gathered round the bed, upon which Lyrien sat with one arm in a sling, looking curious, and Marílen opened her hands to display a large butterfly with wings that seemed made of crystal; they were transparent with a soft icy sheen! I had never seen such a butterfly before, and evidently, neither had anyone else.

Lyrien’s mouth and eyes dropped wide open. “WHERE did you find THAT!” she exclaimed, just above a whisper.

“It was in the garden,” Marílen said very importantly. “I never saw one made of glass before, did you?”

The butterfly rose and fluttered over the bed, as if presenting itself for our inspection and admiration. Beauty hopped up out of her mistress’s lap to investigate. The girls giggled as she raised first one paw to snatch at the butterfly and missed, then tried with the other, then with both, her round golden eyes full of flame, it seemed. I could scarcely take my eyes away from it, myself. It was so fragile, so unusual, so dreamlike, it seemed as though it would burst soon, like a soap-bubble, that hovers in the sunlight like a tiny fairy-globe of glistening pearly color for a few moments and then is gone, prettier than a gem because it is so short-lived. The butterfly seemed to me as a fragment of starlight that had somehow strayed into the room. Lyrien looked as fascinated as I, and I was distracted from it only by her face, her eyes full of golden light as two dark wet jewels, with a universe of butterflies trapped within. She didn’t try to catch it; she seemed content just to watch it as we did until it found her open window and settled on a white rose growing on a vine just outside.

“Well, I never,” Bilbo said softly, after a moment. “Did you?” He looked at me and I shook my head mutely. I felt as though the butterfly were my own soul, hovering in a mist of love and sanity, feasting on beauty, tenuous as a snow-flake, glittering in the light of divinity, rare as a perfect pearl, reveling in the warmth of ardent gazing.

The spell was broken as Lyrien tried to restrain Beauty from jumping off the bed to the window-sill in pursuit of the butterfly, and Marílen caught the kitten and held her saying, “No no no no no, you mustn’t!” then returning her to her mistress, who distracted her by sticking her hand underneath the coverlet and wiggling it, saying, “Look, a mouse!” I sat cross-legged at the foot of the bed, Bilbo perched on one side of me, Galendur on the other, his hand resting warmly on my shoulder. Seragon sat on the chair beside the bed, Niniel standing beside him, Gandalf standing next to Bilbo. Lord Elrond remained in the doorway, looking on and smiling wistfully. Perhaps thinking he felt left out, Marílen skipped over to him and put her arms around him. Then Lyrien went to her daddy and climbed into his lap, as I told her with my mind to be careful and move slowly, and she did so, contrary to her usual impetuous manner. She put her good arm around his neck and whispered into his ear and hugged him tightly, and he whispered to her also and held her, his eyes tight shut against tears that filled them suddenly.

Yes, these things have lovely outcomes sometimes, but how they do hurt when they’re going on!

Later, as Niniel went to start supper and Seragon went out to feed the horses, Bilbo and Gandalf in the next room talking, and Galendur had gone home taking Marílen with him, I sat down beside Lyrien on her bed, took off my pendant and asked her if she’d like to wear it. I felt a little guilty being there, for some absurd reason, and thought Bilbo and I should go home, but Niniel insisted we stay for dinner, and could stay the night if we liked; they had an extra room. I was relieved to see that she meant it. I had a feeling in the back of my mind that she and Seragon were not altogether pleased about my attachment to their daughter; that they were afraid she would eventually be wounded by my mortality. Still, Gandalf assured me that after today, I could do no wrong in their eyes.

Lyrien stared at the jewel wide-eyed for a moment, then pushed it back to me.

“No, you mustn’t give me this,” she whispered. “It’s your Evenstar, and you love it. I won’t take it from you.”

“I only meant for you to wear it for a while, Precious,” I said smiling a little, with a catch in my throat. She took it then, and gazed at it for a moment. I must admit I was glad I hadn’t offered to give it to her, for I keenly felt the loss of it even as she held it. Although I would surely have given it to her if I thought it was the only thing that would make her feel better.

“I’ll just wear it a few minutes,” she said, as though she sensed my feeling. “Lord Elrond’s daughter gave it to you, didn’t she?”

“Yes, she did,” I said smiling softly.

“Auntie Tilwen says she is the most beautiful lady in all the world,” Lyrien said. “Is she?”

“Well, I have heard that,” I said. “I have not seen all the ladies in the world, but she is the most beautiful one I have seen myself.”

“What does she look like?”

“Well…you’ve seen Lady Elwing. She looks a great deal like her.”

“Oh myyyy,” Lyrien looked at me round-eyed. “Don’t you think Marílen looks a bit like her too? As if Lady Elwing could be her mummy? Marílen is very beautiful, isn’t she?”

“She is indeed,” I said smiling to myself. This is one of Lyrien’s most endearing qualities, her total lack of envy. “And so are you.” I put a strand of hair back from her forehead, hoping she wouldn’t ask me which of them I thought more so, but she didn’t.

“Why did she give it to you?” Lyrien asked. “The Evenstar, I mean. Because you saved the world?”

“No,” I chuckled a little. “She gave it to me because…well, because I had been through some very bad things, and she thought it would help me. That’s why I let you hold it, because I thought it might help you feel better.”

“Was she in love with you?” she asked.

“No,” I said with a startled laugh. “She liked me very much, but she did not love me, not that way. She married a mortal man, the King of Gondor, and stayed in Middle-earth.”

“Aragorn,” she said, and I nodded. “Are you in love with her?”

I hoped I wasn’t blushing, but I’m afraid I was. “Well…I was, for a while. I thought I should never get over it. But then I came here, and things were different. I learned to accept what could not be changed, and…and to love others as well. So I care for her only as a friend now.”

“I’ll put it on,” she said, lifting the chain over her head, and I gave her a hand with it, “and you can pretend I’m her if you like. Then you can be in love with me too.” She giggled.

“I love you already,” I said, picking up a lock of her hair and kissing it, “as if you were my own child. Don’t you know it?”

“Truly?” she looked round-eyed at me again.

“Truly. I’d like to be your dad, except your dad is your dad, so I wouldn’t want to be him. Because I can’t imagine how he’d feel without his treasure. So I’ll just continue to be your friend, because I imagine that is the next best thing to being your father.”

The next day we went into the City, Bilbo, Gandalf, Galendur, Tilwen, Niniel, Seragon, Lyrien, Marílen, Dínlad, Lalaith, Leandros, and I, all together, Lyrien sitting in the little wheeled chair I once used. She told me it was such an honor to get to sit in MY wheel-chair, imagine that!—and here I’d been feeling so badly for her that she would have to sit quiet for a week or so and not get up and run and play. But when I expressed my pity, she just looked at me and said seriously, “Well, you had to be still a very long time too, didn’t you? So I guess I can do it all right.”

We all of us wanted to be the ones to push her chair along, so she said we could take turns. It was amazing; I suppose she had never been out on the town so. She would gasp open-mouthed and point here and there, saying, “Look at THAT! Do you SEE? Oh myyyy!!!” Both girls were in their best dresses and their hair was curled.

“There are FOUR hobbits on the Island now,” Lyrien giggled. She said she and Marílen had suggested clipping bits of their hair and sticking them onto their feet, but their mothers drew the line there.

The City is amazing, full of surprises; every time I go into it, it seems I notice something I had missed before. There are artworks on walls—frescos and mosaics, bas-reliefs, sculptures, gates with fascinating ironworks, some made like dragons, some like trees, some like ships, others like strange sea-creatures. There are balls of crystal, stone, obsidian, ivory, gold, or marble atop many of the gateways and the fountains with which the City abounds. And the stones paving the walkways are large, square-cut and polished, with bits of gold or silver caught in them, glittering in the dazzling sunlight. Some walks have checkered patterns of black and white, some with star-bursts. The streets are paved in a tawny stone, and it boggles my mind to think how long it has been there. Balconies hang over the walk-ways made of wrought-iron in black or white, curved into intricate and curly patterns with pots of flowers and shrubs set out on them, and white lace curtains behind, fluttering in the breeze. The buildings are made mostly of a white stone, but every so often you will happen upon a façade of colored tiles, some arranged in beautiful patterns, and sometimes you will see windows made of colored glass, forming pictures also. And statues of people and animals will greet you at many turns. And there are quaint little shops and huge lofty buildings, and you wonder what could possibly be in them. And markets all over the place. And street-musicians and acrobats and dancers. Yes, I thought Minas Tirith was a beautiful city, but this one makes it look drab and trifling by comparison. And the silver-blue-green mountains in the distance behind make for a most majestic back-drop, and the Palace crowns the City with radiant glory.

Galendur, being the big show-off that he is, had to pause to watch some acrobats, and get in on what they were doing. He has been teaching Dínlad to juggle, and he stopped before a youth who was juggling some large painted sticks, and asked if he could have a try at them. There were six of the sticks, and I didn’t really think he could juggle all six. Four perhaps, but six? The juggler seemed to recognize Galendur, who is rather famous after all, both for his sparring prowess and his feats on horseback, which he often performs in the evenings for the entertainment of the Island's youth. He took just three sticks, and gave the other three to Dínlad, then asked me to sing a tune, one that he could dance to. I was reluctant, but the girls looked so pleadingly, I couldn’t hold out for long. So I sang the one I sang at the Prancing Pony that night, about the cat and the fiddle, and Galendur started to dance as he juggled, which took me by surprise, for I didn’t think he could do both at the same time—yes, I had teased him about it once, but I didn’t think he could really do it—and now here he was! Of course everyone was in total awe, and just to test him out, I started singing a little faster, slapping my hands against my knees in rhythm, and he began dancing faster, not missing a beat, and after the next verse I upped the tempo even more, pretending I was not aware that I was doing so, but I doubt he was fooled. Then Dínlad started to dance also, and came up beside him and they both juggled all six sticks together. Three verses more and I dared take it even faster, and the juggler watched open-mouthed, until I wondered if he were just a bit disgruntled about being shown up thus. Yet I felt proud of Galendur, even while I sang ever faster, and he began tossing the sticks one by one to the juggler, trying to get him in on the stunt. And just as I sang the last verse, they had gotten rid of all but two sticks, which they returned to their owner with a bow and a flourish as everyone applauded. There was a shower of coins, which Galendur and I tried to give to the juggler, but he insisted upon us keeping them. And so Galendur bought sweets for all, and gave the leftover coins to various performers here and there.

Then we found a coppery-haired doll at one of the stands, much to our surprise, since most dolls are either golden-haired or dark-haired, and the lady there (after being assured that yes, I was who I was) explained to us that one day she had seen a darling little girl with the loveliest coppery hair with what were presumably her parents, and she just had to make a doll with tresses of the same color. We grinned and summoned Lyrien forward, and Marílen pushed her wheelchair up to where the lady could see her, and she gasped and said, yes, yes, that was the very child, and whatever in the world had happened to her?? We explained, and asked her how much the doll cost, and she said not a thing, this doll was meant for this little lass, and she handed it to me to give to Lyrien, who thanked her with delightful graciousness.

“Lyrien makes dolls too,” Marílen informed the lady as she caressed her cousin’s curls. “When she’s a grown lady, I imagine she will make the prettiest dolls on the whole Island!”

“This one doesn’t have squiggles in her hair like mine,” Lyrien said cradling her new doll, “but that’s all right. I can make her some. I know how now.”

The adults all laughed. I found a doll with hair very close to the color of Marílen’s, and asked the price of it, and the lady said she would give it to me for all I had done, and I thanked her, and presented it to Marílen.

“I didn’t hurt myself,” she protested even while looking longingly at the doll.

“But you felt badly yesterday,” I said, remembering how she had gone to Lord Elrond, “so you should have it, Sweetheart.” She took it then, and held it tightly, then hugged me also.

Sam…she looks nothing remotely like you, it is true. But I think she is what your soul looks like!


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