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23
Beyond the Towers


Dear Sam,

The Epic is almost finished!

We completed the second part about three months ago; I can’t remember if I told you that or not. Our title for it is “Beyond the Towers”--what do you think of that? But Rûdharanion has gone back to the light-house once more. Seems he has dropped out of the competition for the hand of Salmë. According to Perion, two more have joined her throng of admirers. I still think it will be Valandil, but it seems Bilbo has lost our bet, for she has declined Alcandor a second time. Bilbo is taking it rather to heart, saying will he really have to do all the cooking for a month?

Still, Alcandor has not stopped trying. I think Salmë can do better, and I like Valandil, who is the one I should choose if I were a lady, or if I were her father faced with the unenviable task of arranging a marriage for her. Bilbo, however, thinks he's too, too perfect.

“Which is all right now, but after he's married, he'll take up being a bore,” he told me. “Now that's not so bad for a mortal. His wife will only have to endure him all through her lifetime. But for an Elf, it's a whole different matter. The poor lady will have to go through all the ages being bored out of her mind by his relentless perfection. Think of that, now!”

I laughed and told him I could see his point, but I thought Alcandor was dense and wouldn't take no for an answer, and Bilbo said that was all to his favor. The chap was determined. Didn't give up easily. Like someone else he could name, he told me with a wink.

“She scarcely looks my way, and I cannot see how to please her,” Rûdharanion said to me the night before he left. “I have found my greatest peace in the Tower, and shall once more make it my home for a while. I do not expect you to come such a long way to visit me, my dear friend, but if you should happen to do so, know that you will always be welcome.”

“I can see the light from the Beacon from the place I go to pray on the beach,” I said, “very faintly, but visible on clear nights. I shall send up a prayer nightly for your happiness.”

I was sorry for him, but to be quite honest, I think he has something up his sleeve!

But anyway, the Epic. We have come to the part I’ve been dreading the most: the encounter with Shelob and the Tower and the trek through Mordor. I’m really afraid my bad dreams will start up again when I am forced to recall those horrors in detail.... But no, I’ll not turn back now. Nothing to do but face it, and know that it will be over…like the removal of a bad tooth, which hurts when going on, but feels much better when it’s out.

Still, that’s of little comfort when the tooth is throbbing and you are facing the ordeal of the extraction….

~*~*~

Well, the “tooth” is out now.

Dûndeloth told me he knew this part would be hard for me, and he said perhaps I should give him the details with my mind. But as I told Galendur, it is very taxing for a mortal. And so I told him all, scarcely aware of how I was trembling and sweating until I had finished, and he put his arm around me and held me tightly. And we climbed upstairs to the praying-room. I knelt at the northern window, Dûndeloth kneeling alongside of me.

“It’s very noble of you to do this, Iorhael,” he said, brushing the hair back from my forehead. “I would never have asked it of you if I had not thought how important it was for all to know the entire story. If it is forgotten, I think it could possibly mean the downfall of the Blessed Realm. In order for it to remain blessed, the Light of Truth must be kept burning. And that Light depends on what you have done, and the knowledge of it. For it was you who lit the Beacon, Iorhael. Did you never wonder why the light came back when you appeared at the Tower? And it is because of your story that it will continue to shine even after you have gone. For if it goes out, the Island will be plunged into eternal twilight once more. But if you can go along just a little more and finish the story, the Light will remain and the Island will be safe.”

So the fate of the Blessed Realm depended on me too?

I remembered a day when Galendur was acquainting me with the City, and we ended up at his favorite tavern, The Dancing Monkey. We had to pass another on our way, The Brazen Parrot, in front of which a couple of dandified Elves were lounging, obviously in their cups, and one of them called out to Galendur, “Who’s your friend?” and the other laughed as though he’d made some dazzling witticism.

“Pay them no mind,” Galendur told me, and I could hear him scowling as he slapped the reins on Nightwind. “Bloody twits.”

“That’s not where we are stopping, is it?” I said.

“I should hope to the Valar not,” he said. “That’s a place inhabited by a pack of milksops who never picked up so much as a pen-knife, let alone a sword, and spend most of their spare time sneering at those of us who soiled our lily-white hands on the battlefield. Better to have naught to do with them.”

“Were they born on the Island, then?”

“Most were, but not all. Some of them left Middle-earth to avoid going to war. Called it a ‘mindless morass of mediocrity’, but make no mistake. They came here so they wouldn’t have to fight, bloody cowards.”

I could hear some voices raised in song from within. What words I could make out, fell as freezing rain on my prudish ears. Yes, we hobbits have been known to sing some rather, ah, boisterous ballads when we've had a few, but one doesn't expect it of Elves.

“They shouldn't be allowed to sing like that where ladies and children can hear them,” I said. “Where do they learn such things anyway?”

“Probably from pirates,” Galendur snorted. “But if that were the worst they got up to, I shouldn't think so much of it. I did my share, back in my wild young bachelor days before I was compelled to settle down and become the shining exemplar of pristine elven virtue you see today. And we can't really hold it against the ones who were born here. I suppose it's not their fault if the sharpest thing they ever wielded was a stick for cleaning under their nails, and the worst they'll likely have to endure is having their favorite race-horse throw a shoe at the last minute. What burns me is the ones who came here to laugh up their sleeves at those of us who were fool enough to lay our lives on the line so they could sit on their bums combing their locks and cutting their eyes at the ladies and comparing one wine-bouquet with another and making idiotic jokes about what we went through. I'd like to pack them off to Mordor so they can clean up the place and get a little mud and ash between their dainty toes. Not that they're likely to be much of an improvement.”

I told Dûndeloth of our conversation. “What does that say for the future of the Blessed Realm?” I asked him.

“That's precisely why we must make your story known to all,” he said. “If it is forgotten, we give the Enemy the advantage, even here, and he always strikes at the softest places. And you saw where the softest places were that day. But knowledge will give us the armor we need.”

I try to keep that in mind. But the rest of the Epic is not much easier. I do not enjoy recalling my feelings of guilt, loss, failure, shame, betrayal, and longing for That which was destroyed, even though I know now that those feelings were the doing of the Enemy. I could see that Dûndeloth feels badly now about making me relive them, as Gandalf and Elrond feel badly because I had to undertake the Quest after they failed. And I feel badly for all of them, burdened with such feelings for all their days.

But later in the evening Lady E. and Lady C. came over with Ríannor and we had a lovely visit, which did much to chase my doldrums away. I sat apart with Lady E. and asked her if she knew aught of the sea-folk.

“All I really know is that they are the creation of Ulmo, even as the Dwarves were the creation of Aulë,” she said. “Although I was the bride of a mariner, I have never considered the Sea to be my true element, which I believe to be the air itself. But I have heard that the sea-folk have often taken the forms of fishes, dolphins, whales or seals, that according to some tales they could assume human form when on dry land, and have been known to mate with humans. Humans very rarely see them, for they are shy and secretive in their ways, and some people fear them, calling them dangerous, treacherous, seductive, and full of tricks. It is said that they can sing, and lure sea-farers to their deaths with their lovely, eerie voices, lying upon rocks sticking up from the waves. Some say they appear as beautiful women from the waist up, and as fishes from the waist down, and perch there combing their long hair with combs made of fish-bones.”

I chuckled nervously. She went on to say that others said that they were as horrible one-eyed monsters with serpents for hair, who could turn men to stone with a mere gaze. I shuddered. She smiled and said she thought these were mere inventions of fanciful minds that wished to provoke a shiver, or deter their adventuresome sons from going to sea.

She did not ask me why I had asked about the sea-folk. I do not know whether or not she knows aught of Marilla, as I call my dream-girl although I am certain it is not her name. Why Marilla should have taken a liking to me, I still have no clue, but I suppose I will find out someday.

If only the fulfillment of heart’s desire did not necessitate loss…but seems it always does, in some way or another!

~*~*~

The Epic is finished! Part Three is entitled “The War of the Ring.” How good it feels to have it all done!

I sent word to the light-house to Rûdharanion that it was finished, and invited him into the City for celebration, which was held at the Palace. And Rûdharanion smiled and shook Dûndeloth’s hand, congratulating him on having completed such a masterpiece, and I could see he was sincere. There were readings from all three parts, and music and dancing, and of course, plenty to eat and drink. I danced with both my sweet girls, and with some of their friends, one of whom told me, “See that girl over there, with the yellow hair and the blue dress? Do you know what she said about you? 'He looked at me with his eyes! I'm in LOVE!'” We all laughed uproariously, and I became quite boisterous as the drink lowered my inhibitions. I’m told I made quite a speech, standing on a chair and making expansive gestures, but I can’t remember a word of it, and I think some rakishly gorgeous fair-haired Elf was pulling my leg.

The Palace is truly a thing of wonders. The Grand Ballroom, in which most of the party was held, is hugely circular, with a floor of marble polished to a most high gloss, in a pattern of a sun-burst, and the largest chandelier I have ever seen hung in the middle of the high ceiling above. And plenty of candles in wall-sconces all around, between which there are full-length mirrors framed in intricate gold and moonstones and pearls, so that I feel as though I were inside of a star.

And I saw Aredhel, clad in a gown of a most luscious shade of pink, which became her magnificently, particularly with her white shoulders rising above it. I suppose she cannot help it if her figure is a bit, well, resplendant, but must she make the fact so obvious? She came arm in arm with Salmë, who was attired in cream and golden-brown embroidered in gold, pink and golden roses in their hair, which was arranged elaborately…yes, with curls. It was Lyrien who pointed them out, and Marílen gasped loudly.

“They have squiggles,” Lyrien whispered, dismayed that grown-up ladies would indulge in such frivolity. I was a bit shocked, myself, as though I had caught my mother and aunt playing at jack-stones.

But the feeling went away as I once more took in Aredhel’s roseate gown, and saw Alcandor fairly gawking at it. A chill ran over me. No, he was NOT looking at Salmë. He was definitely looking at Aredhel…and gawking. Aha!



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