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Light from the West
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Female Troubles

Dear Sam,

I dreamt that I saw Elanor and Frodo-lad last night. He is getting into everything, I’m sure. I saw Elanor distract him from a particularly interesting jar of something very messy with a string of little sleigh-bells she found. Not bad for a child of four!

At the very last minute Guilin decided to enroll in the college with Northlight. Needless to say, Northlight is thrilled. He was apprehensive about going alone, and I was almost afraid he would change his mind about going. It will be much easier to have a friend along, and they can study together and help each other over the rough parts.

Why is Guilin going? Well…it seems he cannot get Nessima out of his mind. He has tried looking at others, but she is the one he keeps going back to. And now he says he thinks he stands a much better chance of winning her if he tries to make something of himself. Just what he wants to make of himself, he isn’t sure yet. But he is making a start.

I asked him recently if the bad memories were receding, and he said yes.

“It seems they are fading along with the scars on my back,” he said. “Is that how it was with you?”

“Why, yes,” I said. “It seemed that the less visible my scars became, the less oppressive the burden of memory became. When they had disappeared completely, the memories seemed likewise. I stopped having bad dreams, and began to feel much lighter of heart.”

“I’ve a long way to go,” Guilin said, “but even a little easing of the burden is wonderful beyond telling, just as is the easing of pain. I sleep much better now. I don’t go to the Brazen Parrot any more. I saw Nithron and a couple of my other former chums in town the other day, and I know they saw me, but they acted as though they didn’t. Which suits me fine. Once you’ve had real gems in your possession, false ones don’t appeal to you any more.”

And he gave me a small smile of such unexpected sweetness and gentleness, as I have only ever seen him give to Northlight and Raven. If he gave it to Nessima, she would surely be won over on the spot and he would need naught else. But such a smile cannot be forced or planned. And it certainly would do him no harm to get an education.

“I won’t say as I don’t miss the gaming-tables,” he admitted. “I don’t know why they have such a pull on me. Lord Elrond tells me it’s because I've a need to win and keep proving myself. He’s been giving me sparring-lessons. Says it could be a useful substitute for the cards and the dice. I did take it when I was much younger, but I’ve a good deal of catching up to do. He says I ought to take lessons from your chum Galendur, that he’s the best on the Island. I’ve seen him at it, and yes, he IS damned good.”

I felt that qualm of jealousy and managed to squelch it. I’d confessed it once to Tilwen, how I felt when Rűdharanion and Galendur first became friends, and she laughed at me. “Weren’t you the silly one,” she said pinching my ear. “Galendur would die for you if he had to. He wouldn’t even get seriously injured for Rűdharanion.”

“The thing is,” Guilin went on, “Lord Elrond told me I needed a goal in sight, to motivate me toward full healing. I see that you are completely happy and at peace. On the one hand, that’s what I want, but on the other, I don’t always want to do what it takes to get there. I don’t want to be as good as you. So there you have it.” He chuckled ruefully.

I supposed it would be useless telling I wasn’t as good as he made me out to be. “Perhaps you should not worry about being ‘as good as’ anyone,” I said. “Instead you should concentrate on getting better one step at a time. And yes…you really should take sparring from Galendur.”

Please don’t laugh at me, Sam! It was still not easy for me to tell him that. But I felt that I would regret it if I did not. Friends, after all, are a vast part of healing. I spoke to Galendur and he agreed to do it, and I think he even knew that it wasn’t easy for me to ask him. That’s the thing about him; I never have to explain much to him. He seems to understand some things instinctively.

But once I had told him, the feeling disappeared on the spot. I think it is Northlight who is a little jealous this time. I hope I can get him over it!

And now Guilin does have a goal in sight: Nessima.

Raven is coming along nicely. I was the one apprehensive about her going to school. How would she fare with the other girls? But when I expressed this misgiving, Emleth took Raven’s hand saying, “Do not worry, I shall protect her.” The school is on the edge of the City, a pretty white house with a garden and many windows, and a path leading into a wooded area where the girls take their nature-walks. There are two class-rooms, one for the older girls and one for the little ones. In the morning the girls study reading and mathematics and history, and in the afternoon they have classes in Domestic Arts, and also Healing and Natural Sciences. The uniform is a simple dress of dark green with a white apron over it, on which is stitched the school’s emblem, a gull in flight. In the morning before classes, the lasses all stand in a ring and sing the school song:

As white birds in sunny flight
Each day our souls seek the Light
Each day brings discovery
Knowledge boundless as the Sea.
So let us go forth and endeavor
To live in sisterhood forever
Let us grow in unity
Strong in fearless harmony
Ne’er to let our Isle be marred
By quarreling and harsh discord
Making the most of each new day
Ever seeking the brightest way.
Flowers of joy spring at our feet
As we climb toward Wisdom’s seat
With the great Music we'll be one
In the ring of endless Sun….

Raven joins in the singing with her hands, since she cannot yet do so with her voice. The others seem to find it fascinating. Raven was none too happy about having to take morning classes with the little girls, but she is so behind in reading and writing, she cannot possibly keep up with the bigger lasses. But she may take her afternoon classes with them, at least. And Lyrien and Marílen are delighted to sit by her, and Emleth helps her after school so that perhaps she will catch up before long.

I’ve had to forbid her to dance for money, after I realized it would hardly look well for the daughter of a Prince. I told her she might dance for her own pleasure, but if she needed money, I would see to it that she could earn it in a respectable way. I hated to tell her this, since I would prefer to spoil her and let her have her way in most things, but as her father I realize I must set boundaries. But to my vast relief, she seemed glad of it. I wondered if she had hated dancing for money and never let on, and if perhaps Guilin knew it, but I did not ask either of them. Let the past rest.

Anemone is adjusting pretty well to mortality. I can’t say as I don’t worry about her. I guess I told you already I had to teach her to swim all over again, but she took to that quickly. But one day I came in and found her slumped in a chair in obvious pain, holding to her lower belly. I can scarcely tell you how that frightened me.

“I have that time when I bleed,” she gasped when I rushed to her asking what was the matter. “Tilwen said it might hurt sometimes, but it was never like this be—where are you going?”

I ran into the front room in search of the medical-book Lord Elrond had given us, and frantically thumbed through it looking for the section on “Female Troubles.” Then cursed myself as I realized we had none of the ingredients for the remedy, save athelas. I picked some and tried to think what to do next. Raven was at school. I supposed Northlight had set out for college, but he walked in just then. I explained the situation, and asked him to go in search of the necessary ingredients. He went to his mother and stood looking at her for a moment. She looked on the verge of telling him to go away, but he knelt and took her hand.

“Nana, I can draw the pain from you,” he said. “Lord Elrond showed me how when I lived at the Palace. It will last until we can make the brew. There’s just one thing…” He looked up at me. “I must give the pain to someone else, in order to take it from you.”

“Give it to me,” I said without hesitation, caressing her hair.

“No!” Anemone said sharply, jerking her head away. “I would wish this on no one, you and Northlight least of all. Go and gather the stuff, I can bear it until then.”

My stubborn streak rose once more: “Give it to me, Northlight.”

“Not on your life,” Anemone said. I’ve a feeling my bride can out-stubborn me, at that. “If you knew how it felt, you would not even ask. You would throw selflessness to the four winds.”

“Give it to me, Northlight,” I said in my no-nonsense voice.

“No,” Anemone said, looking downright dangerous.

“Yes,” I said.

“Oh, bollocks,” she snapped. I winced, but nodded.

“Suppose I divide it between you?” Northlight suggested.

“Can you do that?” I asked, startled.

“I don’t know,” he said modestly. “I don’t even know if I can do it at all. I can but try.”

“Try,” I said. Anemone clamped her lips together.

Then she said, looking balefully at us both, “Very well then. But if you end up not liking it, it is your own fault and I told you so.”

Northlight, after assuring me that I would not bleed, laid his hand on his mother’s abdomen, closed his eyes and began to chant under his breath. As it turned out, he was unsuccessful in dividing the pain in half, and yes, I ended up getting it all.

I can only say I am VERY glad to be male!

Recently I came upon her in a none too cheery mood. She said she needed to wash her hair. Now, this is no easy matter for her, since she has so much hair and is still not used to washing it. The washing part itself isn’t so bad, so much as the combing it out afterward. I had to instruct her not to rake the comb through it, and how to patiently work out the tangles. She is tender-headed, as it turns out, and makes quite a fuss when I try to help her comb it. Then she threatens to cut it, and I implore her not to, sounding rather pathetic and ridiculous, I’m sure.

I told her I would help her wash it, and suggested she get into the tub and let me do the work. She seemed in a perilous mood, and I had a feeling I had better exercise caution.

“I think that time is about to come upon me,” she said. “This time, if you want to take the pain on yourself, you are more than welcome to it.”

“At least this time we have the ingredients handy,” I said in my most conciliatory tones, wondering if there were a concoction for the mood she was in now. Still she did let me help her undress after I had filled the tub for her. I considered getting in with her, then thought better of it.

The hair-washing went off better than I expected. I heard only about three swear-words out of her when the soap got into her eyes. After I rinsed it out, however, I realized I had forgotten the comb. I wondered if I would end up with bruises if I drew her attention to my remissness…and then I told her I had an idea and would be right back.

I went into the house and found the jar of balm, which I had used on her back when she was so badly sunburned, remembering a story I had written some time back. Then I retrieved the comb and padded back to the bath-house.

“What are you going to do with THAT?” she exclaimed, looking at the jar as though it contained boiling oil.

“I want to try something,” I said. “Just lean back and let me--”

“You’re going to put THAT in my HAIR? I think NOT!” she spat.

“It’s only the balm,” I pleaded. “I think it could soothe your scalp while I try to take out the tangles.”

“But I’ll be a MESS!” she nearly screamed.

“I think not,” I sighed. “Just let me try it this once. Please?” I tried to look sad. It wasn’t so hard, at that.

She lay back in the tub, and scowled. “Very well,” she snapped. “But if I come out looking like something a troll spat up, it’s all your fault.”

I worked a handful of the stuff into her hair, rubbing it in and then, on a thought, I started easing it into the long strands on down to the ends. I expected her to demand to know what I thought I was doing, but she did not speak. It is unlike her to give me the silent treatment, so perhaps the fragrance of the balm was having an effect on her mood, after all. I picked up the comb and drew it through her hair, and encountered not a single tangle! She made not a sound and I thought she might have dozed off, so I continued combing her hair until I was finished.

“That was rather nice,” she said as I laid the comb down. I smiled.

“Now I’ll rinse it out,” I said as I reached for the pitcher. I expected her to protest, but she nodded. So far, so good. I filled the pitcher and gently poured the water over her head. Then I took a towel and rubbed the excess water from her hair.

“Thank you,” I distinctly heard her say. She stood up and I helped her dry off and dress. It was a lovely sunny day out, so I suggested we go outdoors and I would bring her something to eat. She smiled, and I dared to say she didn't look like anything a troll spat up. She giggled.

We went out into the garden and I went back into the house and made up some bread and cheese with strips of dried meat and a heavenly sauce someone had sent us, and some fruits and mushrooms, and brought it out to her. And she devoured it, then apologized for being so “horrid” and asked me if there were any of “that cold stuff” left. Once I had left a jar of cream down on a block of ice in the fruit-cellar to cool it and had forgotten about it when someone came over, and when I went down again later found it almost frozen through. On an impulse I tasted it, and finding it thoroughly delightful, I began to experiment with it, mixing in a little sugar, and vanilla extract, and fruit juice, then I served it to the others who became ecstatic over it. It is particularly delicious served over cake.

I went down to the cellar, where there was a bowl of cream on the ice, and I took that and went upstairs and mixed in strawberries and orange slices, then took it out to her. The sun had dried her hair by then and I nearly dropped the bowl.

I had thought her hair lovely before, but now it was so silky and shimmery and full, glittering with shades of gold I hadn’t known existed. I took her hand and led her inside to look into the mirror, and she gasped. I took a brush and drew it through her locks and it looked even more beautiful, it seemed to be full of the sun and the moon and the stars all together. I felt I should write a poem about it, but my mind was blank. And she gazed at her reflection, then turned to me, radiant all over, laying her hands on my cheeks.

“Chapter eleven?” she whispered.

Now she is in business. She begged the formula from Lady C., and made up some—Raven had to help her, since only an Elf can impart the special virtue to the balm—adding pure water, a bit of perfume, and some extracts from various flowers and plants. Raven’s hair came out so shiny and silky that the girls in her school fairly stared her down, and their mothers came to us and begged to know what we were using on her hair, and in one afternoon Anemone had taken orders for a dozen bottles of the stuff. By the end of the week, she had sold a hundred or more. I use it myself, I confess, and am quite taken with how my hair looks now...and more importantly, so is Anemone. Guilin, who is good at selling things, peddles it for her, and he brings her all the money, swearing that he has kept none for himself, and I believe him. Of course, she pays him for selling it, but he will take very little. She did insist, at first, that Northlight go with him, to make sure he didn’t cheat anyone, but she trusts him now. He knows a glass-blower, and together they designed a special bottle—very similar to my star-glass. “Bring the star-light to your hair,” he says mellifluously to the ladies as he makes his rounds. He is in his element, and of course they can’t resist!

But Nessima turned up her nose at it. “I’ve no use for frivolities,” she said, even when he offered her a free sample, “and if I were to use this stuff, it would cause such a stir in the Orphanage, I should never know a moment’s peace. All the girls would be wanting it. Please do me a big favor and don’t even bring it around. It’s difficult enough to keep order as it is, without a lot of unnecessary feminine indulgences.”

Well! I thought that would discourage him. But as it turns out, discouragement only strengthens his resolve. That’s the way he is.

And now I’ve another idea.

The play is six weeks away. I am looking forward to it with a mixture of anticipation and dread. Once more I will be directing the scenes with the hobbits, and will be playing Bilbo once more…although it will be easier this time, since I’ve little to do but act very old.

Last night I paid a visit to Dűndeloth, who as you know, is playing Faramir…whom Nessima loves, as I think I told you before. And I asked a favor of him, a very big favor….


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