Dear, dear Sam,
Well! I suppose you are wondering how it got past me what was going on with Rûdharanion and Salmë, why their union came as such a surprise and shock. I am wondering myself. It certainly is not like Rûdharanion to keep such matters from me, and then there is Perion, who has faithfully kept us posted. Well, he is now a page for the Queen, I think I mentioned that before?
“It was the hardest thing I ever did, keeping it under my hat, so to speak,” Perion told us later. “But my first loyalty is to my ladies, and they wanted to see the looks on your faces when they sprang it on you. So Mistress Salmë asked me to keep it to myself. I hope you don’t mind it too much?”
“If that was the hardest thing you ever did, my lad,” Bilbo said, “count yourself lucky. But I admire your loyalty to your ladies. It’s a fine quality to have…and most true to your character. Right, Frodo?”
Rûdharanion was in a state of sheepishness. “I did mention to you that I had seen Salmë a couple of times, but you seemed preoccupied at the time, what with the play and all, to really pay attention. Then I decided that after all that business with Aredhel, I wanted to see if it was a go before speaking of Salmë again. I suppose I was afraid you would think me a fool, and wanted to be sure of her feelings before I made the business known once and for all, and so I told no one. But isn’t it wonderful? She truly cares for me now. I feel so unworthy. I only hope I can make her as happy as she is making me. It is my only wish now…save that you be the one to join us. For we both owe our joy to you, my dearest friend.”
Salmë told me they were going to adopt a little boy out of the Orphanage. He was the youngest of them, little out of babyhood, and a foundling. The officials of the Home had been reluctant to take him, for they suspected that his parents were still alive and they were a bit suspicious of his origins. I remembered him well enough, a tiny creature with coal-black hair, pale-gold skin, huge black eyes, and a slightly exotic appearance, and I didn’t wonder that Salmë wanted him. In fact, with that hair, he could indeed have passed for Rûdharanion’s child. Rûdharanion insisted he was not, however, and I believe him.
“He badly needs a mother…and father,” Salmë told me. “There are a couple of boys who look after him a bit, who seem to regard him as a baby brother, and I’m sure they will miss him. I don’t like to separate them, but I’d be willing to take them as well if Rûdharanion is agreeable to it. They must surely be fine lads to see to the little one as they have done.”
“I think he will be agreeable,” I said, and I sincerely hoped it. Three boys coming separately in the usual fashion would have been a handful, let alone getting them all at once. Still, I know what it is to be separated from those you’ve grown to love as brothers.
I still have to wonder about Aredhel and Alcandor. No denying they make a handsome couple. And no denying they look happy together. I have to grin, remembering that pink dress that had made a gawker out of the dapper Alcandor. But at the moment, I doubt that either of them are thinking much about clothes.
So it looks as if I’ve three weddings to preside over…for the time being!
I performed the wedding of Amras and Laurewen a couple of weeks after the play, beside the light-tower. Amras still needs a crutch to lean on, but he is able to get around pretty well, and doesn’t want to wait until he is as he was before his fall to be joined with his long-time sweetheart. He still can’t use his right arm very well, and I do hope it heals completely, since a blacksmith needs both arms, and he loves the work and was good at it. They will live in his mother’s house, but she will stay with his sister Haleth for a few months so the young pair can enjoy their marital bliss in private for a while. Aredhel gave Laurewen a beautiful pearl necklace for the wedding, much to my surprise.
“Well, maybe it’s human after all,” Tilwen whispered to me and Galendur when she heard of the donation. I had to clamp my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing aloud. Coming from Tilwen, that is progress!
The young couple wished to be married by the light of the Beacon, so they had to wait until dusk, impatient as it made them. But it was well worth the wait, for the light made Laurewen look so surpassingly beautiful, in her snowy gown, lily wreath and pearls, that I could see all the other maidens plotting to be wed by its light as well. And somehow I don’t think Amras is a bit sorry that I called him back!
But it seemed their wedding was a bit simple for Aredhel’s taste, according to Perion, since, as Bilbo once put it, that young lady had some notions in her head.
“She heard about that butterfly Marílen found in the garden, the one with the glass wings,” he told me and Bilbo one afternoon. “And she went and asked her if she could find any more, for she wanted to be wed with a whole flock of them fluttering all around. Marílen said that was the only one she ever saw, and that’s been a year ago, anyway. So now she thinks to be wedded by the waterfalls of your cove, standing on that nice bridge that arches over, and wishes to know if there be swans about, for she would like to have a pair close by to, you know, symbolize the purity of their union and all. I’ve not seen swans about the cove, have you, Master Iorhael?”
“No,” I said suppressing a chuckle, “but there is a mountain lake that has some very lovely ones, although it’s rather far out. If she must have swans about, that would be the place for her, I should think.”
“Yes, I know of that lake, and I suggested it to her,” Perion said as he bit into a chunk of melon, absently wiping the juice that ran down his chin with the back of his hand. “But she’s partial to waterfalls too, and would like to have both swans and falls if possible. You don’t suppose the swans would take it amiss if someone were to round up a couple and bring them about to the cove for the wedding, do you? Dínlad and I could do it, perhaps. Maybe. But I don’t know. Somehow I think the swans wouldn’t go for it.”
“If you or anyone can do so, then she is welcome to be wedded at the cove,” I said. “But I cannot guarantee that the swans would take it well, or behave themselves during the wedding. Could she not settle for ibises or flamingoes? There are plenty of those, and they are very beautiful.”
“I don’t know as she would go for that,” Perion mused. “She’d like to use the Queen’s swan boat—but since the Queen doesn’t still have it, and there’s not much time to build another, I suppose she’ll have to do without. One more thing, she wants music—from all sides, a little group of singers and musicians on one side of the cove and another on the other, and a third one from up at the top of the waterfall, for she fancies the idea of music from above, you know? How does that sound to you, Master?”
Bilbo nearly doubled over laughing, and I gave him time to settle down before answering.
“As you know,” I said, a bit breathless from laughing myself, “there are five falls, and one would have to play and sing very loudly to be heard above them. It would get rather noisy, I should think. And as for the one above the falls, it would be dangerous as well. I think we’ve had enough people fall to their deaths this year. If she would be wedded on that bridge, then she had better do without the music.”
So in the end, it was the light-house for Aredhel too. She was disappointed about the swans and falls and musicians and all the rest of it, but she took it surprisingly well. And Lady Celebrían played the harp up in the tower above, so that the bride got to have her music from on high after all, even if she had to do without her swans. Instead of white she wore a gown of pale gold, and a very simple star pendant, and the only fall was her dark hair cascading freely down her back from its traditional lily-wreath. But just as I pronounced them husband and wife, a nightingale began to sing from the forest close by, and everyone stood in perfect silence, just listening, and even the sea seemed to hush itself in the twilight so the little singer could bestow its modest blessing on the newlyweds.
And the Queen had a little swan-boat made for them; she’d have had it made sooner if she had known Aredhel was so keen on swans, but she found out a little too late. But they were delighted with their wedding-gift just the same, and once in a while they take it out to the cove, and Aredhel plays her lute and sings softly as they drift along.
It was Salmë and Rûdharanion who were wedded on my bridge, which had been entwined with garlands of flowers in preparation. And they were fine with the ibises and butterflies and hummingbirds, and the peacock who perched in a tree over the smallest fall, and the mysterious music of the mingling waters. But of the corner of my eye I saw Aredhel and Alcandor in the swan-boat with the little orphan-boy sitting with them. Aredhel played her lute very softly, and when I had joined the couple, she began to sing in a silvery voice that scarcely sounded like her own.
Go, blessed pair, and seek the realm of music
Dwell in the Light that beams upon your bliss
Climb the bright stairway among the stars of wonder
Long may you know the joy that springs from each kiss.
And I sang the next verse as she continued to play:
White are the stars that course the vast heavens
Purple the firmament that cradles their delight
Silver the fulling moon, gold the lamp of morning
Fair the Evenstar that illumines our twilight.
And we both sang the next part, and others with us:
Fairer still the Children who grace this verdant islet
Gracious the Beings that heal us of our blight
Glorious the One who spreads it all before us
Blessing our pathway with peace and eternal Light.
And as the newly joined couple drifted down the bridge to the other side, leaving me standing alone, I felt something hit my shoulder, softly, like a flower…which, as it turned out, it was. I bent and picked it up, and saw it was one of the large blue flowers that grew on a vine up the cliff-side. And I looked up and saw a tiny girl who appeared as if one of the Island’s loveliest blooms had taken human form, sitting on the stone arch above the highest waterfall, and she didn’t look the slightest bit worried about falling as she smiled and kissed her fingers to me.