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53
Horn of Plenty


Dear Sam,

I had a strange and wonderful dream last night. I dreamt that the Tower of Ecthelion became alight at the top just like Lady Elwing’s tower. And the beams from each tower found each other over the vast distance and connected, and a voice proclaimed, “The Light of Truth outshines the sun!”

Ahhhh, married life!! HOW did I exist before it?? To think one day I was one person, and now I am someone utterly different—but of course, you KNOW that feeling! And to think I am now one of the initiated…passion to be fulfilled, the steady building to an unspeakable climax and the sweet settling into the most perfect peace imaginable, a hand to hold in the night, a lovely face to waken to in the morning, a companion to grow old with…and now, to think I can give her all that she gives me…!

And guess what...the day after the wedding, as we finally managed to get ourselves up to get breakfast, and take it out on the terrace as always, I happened to notice a circle of the golden mushrooms—growing all around the gazebo! I looked to Anemone, and she looked out at them and back to me with an expression of puzzlement, then at them again…and back to me, and we both smiled.

Thank you, Northlight! A wonderful wedding-gift indeed!

But you must not suppose that we spend ALL our time engaged in the practice of the conjugal arts! We are not neglecting Guilin and Raven. Raven is our daughter now, after all. And we wish to know how Guilin is faring.

He is not doing as well as I hoped. He has taken to sitting in his room, staring out the window, motionless, for hours at a time, wearing but his dressing-gown, his hair uncombed, his feet bare. Raven sometimes sits beside him, holding his hand, but he does not respond. Lord Elrond told me he thinks that now that Guilin has turned Raven over to capable hands, he can retreat to a distant place inside of himself, an indulgence he had to deny himself when he had the care of her.

I went to him one visiting-day and found him so. I wished I knew Rûdharanion’s mind-probe so that I could find out what, if anything, he was thinking. I thought perhaps he was thinking nothing at all, that he had emptied his mind of all thought, all memory, all sensation, all awareness.

I remember trying to do the same, myself.

I sat beside him and began talking aimlessly. I told him Raven had signed “I love you” to Little Iorhael in temple that day and he had smiled at her. I said I wished to send her to school at the Orphanage, since I wouldn’t have time to teach her at home. I said Emleth asked after her often. I told him what Perion told me about Northlight--he sleeps in the little sitting-room between Guilin’s and Raven’s rooms, but not on the couch, and Nieriel, Raven’s hand-maid, had peeped in one morning and nearly fallen over to see him sleeping on the floor with his head on a pillow against the stone dog…which was not in his usual position sitting on his haunches, but rather lying on his side, legs stretched out. She stifled a squeak and ran in to waken Raven, took her hand and pulled her into the room. Yes, the dog was on his side, Raven corroborated her story. But the next time they went in and Northlight had gone out, the dog was in his usual position. I didn’t even know if it were true or if the girls had made it up to amuse me. Anemone said if it were true, she hoped Northlight wouldn’t do the same trick with the bronze boy in our bath-house.

No response.

Finally I went out to the garden where Raven sat on a bench with Northlight and Anemone. They looked hopefully at me, a look that pierced me to the heart, and I shook my head. Then Raven made a sign.

“She says,” Northlight told me softly, “that she wishes her brother to be erased so that he will be happy again.”

I looked at her stricken and she lifted her huge dark eyes that seemed full of the sorrow of all the ages, her mouth beginning to quiver. She made another sign, then burst into tears. Northlight put both arms around her and she sobbed convulsively against his shoulder. Anemone put an arm across her back and stroked her hair.

Swallowing hard, I went back into Guilin’s room. I told him Raven wanted him to be erased so that he could be happy, and asked him what he thought about that.

No response. I took his hand and guided it to the Evenstar that hung about his neck, then went back out. Raven was leaning against Northlight, her sobs welling up from time to time. He stroked her hair, slowly, from the roots to the ends, speaking to her in words that were inaudible to me. My throat tightened again.

“Raven,” I said coming over to lay a hand on her shoulder and kiss her wet cheek, “even if he IS erased, he will still be your brother, dear one. We will make sure he comes to know you again.”

Yet I knew it would never be the same. Guilin would be forever lost. And she knew it too.

“Will it be done immediately?” Anemone asked.

“I think not,” I said. “The length of time it takes varies with the person. With Ríannor, it was but a few weeks.”

“Please tell him not to begin it just yet,” Anemone said. “I have an idea. Certainly a shot in the dark…but let us try it.”

~*~*~

Guilin was a little more himself today. He was still sitting by the window, but at least he nodded to me as I entered.

“I missed you at Temple today,” I said softly. “We all did.”

He shrugged. “I saw no point in going,” he said in a voice that seemed to come from a place far back in his head. “It wasn’t helping. In fact, I think it was having the opposite effect.”

“Several people asked after you,” I said. “You do know, don’t you, that Raven asked for you to be erased?”

“Yes,” he sighed, rubbing his temples. “I suppose you think I’m a selfish old coward? But what else is there to do? Perhaps it would be better for her in the long run. She wouldn’t have to live with the ruin I’ve become.”

“Perhaps so,” I said softly, laying something in his lap. “Marílen made this for you,” I said. He picked it up and looked at it with lifted eyebrows. It was a picture book.

“Marílen?”

“She’s a cousin of Lyrien’s. Dínlad’s sister, you remember Dínlad? He played me last year, and will do so again this year.”

Guilin looked at the picture-book without answering. On the cover was a drawing of the light-house, birds flying about it, and the sea in the background—with a flamingo wading in the surf, I noticed with amusement. Marílen is partial to flamingos, and once said she wished her daddy would carve one out of red coral to put in their front-yard. Guilin opened the book to the first drawing, which depicted myself and Anemone at our wedding, with the light-house in the background. Lyrien and Marílen stood at Anemone’s other side, in their blue dresses, and Northlight and Raven stood a little off at my other side. The words IN LOVE FOREVER MORE, THROUGH OUT ALL ETERNITY were painted in fancy letters at the bottom of the picture. There were portraits of me and of Anemone, and Lyrien, Northlight, and Raven, and of Gandalf and Ríannor, of Lord Elrond and Lady Celebrian, and Lady Galadriel…and yes, one of Guilin also. There was another of Guilin playing his fiddle as Raven danced, and one of myself and Anemone riding along in our pony-cart, and one of the peacock, even. And Galendur and Tilwen with Little Iorhael, and many others. The pages were carefully sewn together with bright-red yarn.

“She’s quite a little artist,” Guilin had to admit.

“She didn’t draw all the pictures,” I said. “They are by several children.”

“I can see that,” he said, riffling through the pictures again.

I turned to the doorway and motioned for Northlight to come in. He was pushing a wheel-barrow. Guilin did a double-take as he saw the pile of things in it.

“Yes, they are for you,” I said smiling. “They are from children all over the Island, and from my orphans also. Some of them made things; others gave things they had already. They badly wanted to cheer you.”

Guilin began picking up the things and examining them one by one. Raven stole in with Anemone. There were stuffed animals, carved ones, a little pillow of maroon velvet trimmed with lace, with “Guilin” embroidered in gold on it--Emleth's contribution. And an ebony mug with a dwarf-face carved on it, and a ball with his name pricked on it. And such unlikely objects as a lace doily, a silk scarf, a walking-stick, a coral necklace, a bag of marbles, a painted silk fan, a sundial, a jar of sweets, a horse-shoe, and other things. There was a bundle of letters and notes also, which Anemone had tied with a gold ribbon.

And…Dínlad’s horn.

I could scarcely believe it. Dínlad parting with his treasured horn?

Guilin sat holding it in both hands. “I’ve seen this before,” he stammered, “but…but…”

“It’s Dínlad’s,” I said, looking to Anemone, who stood with Raven looking solemn and even close to tears. “He carried it with him always, slung on a leather thong around his neck. Probably took it to bed with him at night. I can’t believe he would…he doesn’t even know you.”

“I remember now,” he said in soft wonder. “I remember seeing the boy with the horn, around town, on the stage, on the beach…you must give this back to him. It was surely a great treasure of his.”

“I wouldn’t be too hasty about that,” I said. “He may take it amiss.”

“And you let him do it?” he said looking hard at me.

“It was Anemone’s doing,” I said looking to my bride, who smiled shyly. “She and Northlight conspired behind my back once more. I knew naught of it until today. I should have, however—she can look innocent as her namesake flower, and that’s when you’ve got to look out for her.”

It was not entirely true that I knew naught of it. I had known she was up to something. When I asked her, she had merely replied that it was a secret, and I would know it eventually.

“But why would he give this to me?” Guilin said. “He does not know me from…from a hole in the wall.”

“He wanted to be like Iorhael,” Anemone said. “He said it seemed something Iorhael would do—give up the thing he treasured most for the sake of someone else.”

I felt myself blush. This was how Dínlad saw me? It wasn't even true. Had it not taken divine intervention to make me give up my treasure for the sake of others?

“And he said that he thought he could play him better this year if he did something he thought Iorhael would do,” Anemone added. “I tried to talk him out of it. I suggested he make something. He’s very good at wood-carving. But no, he would give you the horn. He said he did not want you to be erased, for he admired you, and he hoped the horn would make you change your mind.”

Guilin stared at the horn a good long moment. My head fairly spun from the silence in the room. Raven sniffled. Northlight clutched her hand. Guilin looked at her, then at the horn, at Northlight and Anemone, at me, at the horn, and Anemone again.

“Then you must tell him,” he said hoarsely, cradling the horn to him as though it were a newborn child, “that Guilin offers his profoundest thanks for his more than generous gift, that he will take the greatest possible care of it…and that it has indeed changed his mind.”

~*~*~

Today Guilin told us that Hathol took him over for two whole days.

“I have been trying to take your advice,” he told me, as we left Northlight and Raven strolling about the garden, and Anemone sat and talked with Lady C., “and ‘make friends’ with Hathol. I told Lord Elrond what you said about it, and he said it sounded a good idea. Then a few days later, I woke with a feeling of peace I had not known since I don’t know when. My sister kept looking at me fearfully all through breakfast, and that’s when Northlight told me I had been ‘someone else’ for two days. Of course, I did not remember a thing. I only knew I had awoken feeling more relaxed and cheerful. I think you had a good point about him taking over for me to give me a break from the burden of memory. Perhaps he really is just standing guard so I can get some sleep, so to speak.”

“You do look much better,” I said.

I saw he had set some of the gifts about on shelves and on the wardrobe, and in the window, and even on the bed, so it looked almost like a play-room. The picture-book, I noted with a smile, lay on the bed-table with the sheaf of letters. And the horn lay on a small table between the chairs in which we sat facing the window. Most of the obviously feminine items he had given to Raven. But the embroidered and fragrant lacy pillow lay on the bed.

“From what they told me, he seems a rather pedantic and tedious chap,” Guilin said with a chuckle. “Scarcely dangerous, but not exactly someone I’d care to have as a chum, either. I hope he didn’t bore everyone out of countenance. Sometimes I can feel that old restlessness stirring in me, the wish to break out and get away from everything, that I used to feel in my youth. But of course, there’s only so much ground I can cover now. Sometimes I feel that keenly, and I think, just supposing I do recover, what then? Where will I go from there? Shall I marry, get a position, settle down and raise a family? I came close to trying all that, but to be truthful, I find the prospect a bit frightening now.”

“It suits me just fine,” I pointed out. “Yes, once I was as you, somewhat, and liked to go off once in a while tramping in the wild, seeing new places, meeting new people, having small adventures, not wishing to be tied down to the same routine. Thanks to the legacy Bilbo left me, I was free to do so. Yet I was always glad to return home and sleep in a bed with a roof over my head once more. I can see why the sort of life I am living now may not seem very interesting to those who know nothing of it. It’s scarcely the stuff of adventure tales. Yet it is the stuff of paradise. Our house has never been more aptly named.”

“Ah yes—‘The House of Joy and Delight’,” Guilin snapped his fingers. “You know, the first time I saw that name, I thought it sounded rather like a…well…”

“You can say it,” I grinned. “Bilbo and Galendur thought so too.” We laughed.

“By the way,” he said, “at the wedding I saw you talking to a lady who was very attractive indeed. I felt I had seen her before. Tall, wearing a light-green gown, wavy dark brown hair spilling down her back like syrup from a jug, and a pair of amazing blue-green eyes looking out from some rather straight thick eyebrows and angular features, like the sea in the sunlight seen through the branches of a dark tree. Do you recall the one?”

“That sounds like Nessima,” I suppressed a laugh. “She is the head matron of the orphans’ home. Scarcely your type, I should think, and at least twice your age.”

“Well, damn my eyes,” he said looking shocked. “Yes, that’s where I met her. Yet I thought her hard-nosed and old-maidish, and I’m sure she considered me an outlandish wastrel, and rightly so, I dare say. She’s improved vastly from the last time I saw her. Most striking and imposing and, well, different, in a way I cannot quite describe. I never supposed she could look like that.”

“Nor did I. I thought as you did when I first met her. But eventually I came to see a different side of her, and now we are good friends. But I must warn you, she is of a bookish sort, still rather proper and orderly and no-nonsense, although she does have a sense of humor and deep down she is quite the romantic, try as she might to conceal it.”

“Hmm. It does seem an unlikely match, what? Yet you did manage to get around her. Daeleth seems a bit flimsy and too sweet now by comparison, and as for Seldirima, I can’t imagine what I ever saw in the silly puss…fickle bastard that I am.”

“Worse than Rûdharanion,” I laughed. “But I told you before and I will tell you again, you must find complete healing and peace before you can find love. Not the other way around--trust me, it does not work that way. You must just give yourself time and have patience, and work toward what you want. It will not be easy, but it will pay off, I promise you.”

“Not easy at all,” he admitted. “It’s definitely not something that comes naturally to me. But I suppose you are right.”

“I hope I don’t sound as pedantic as Hathol,” I said, “but…seeing as how you missed Temple—again—I thought I might tell you something the priest said this morning. A professor began his class by holding up a glass of water, asking his students to guess its weight. The students tried, then the professor said, ‘I really would not know unless I weigh it, but my question is, What would happen if I held it like this for a few moments?’ ‘Nothing,’ the students said. ‘What would happen if I held it up like this for an hour?’ asked the professor. ‘Your arm would begin to ache.’ said one of the students. ‘You are right,’ said the professor. ‘Now what would happen if I held it like this for a day?’ ‘Your arm would go numb, you might have severe muscle stress and paralysis, and might even have to have the healer,’ ventured another student. ‘Very good. But during all this, did the weight of the glass change?’ asked the professor. ‘No,’ replied the students. ‘Then what caused the arm to ache and the muscle to stress?’

“The students were puzzled. “‘Put the glass down’ said one of them.

‘Exactly!’”

I paused, looking to see Guilin’s reaction.

“There’s a point in all this, I know,” he said after a moment, “but I’m not much good at making such connections. I’m rather a lazy chap, and not given to serious pondering or solving riddles. So tell me, what’s the lesson beneath?”

“Life's problems are something like this,” I explained. “Hold on to them for a few minutes in your head, and they seem all right. Think of them for a long time and they begin to ache. Hold them even longer, and they begin to paralyze you, and you will be able to do naught else. It is important to think of problems in your life, but even more important to put them down at the end of every day before you go to sleep. That way you wake the next day and are fresh and strong to take on fresh challenges.”

“I’m even worse at putting glasses down,” he said, and I laughed out loud. To my amazement and delight, so did he. “You know, you really should bottle and sell that laugh of yours,” he said after a thoughtful moment. “It would fetch a fair price among healers, I’m sure.”

“Have you figured how to blow the horn?” I asked him as he picked it up from the little table.

“Blow the horn?” he said. “Is there another lesson in this? It’s a bit much in one day for my brain, you know.”

“No no no no, I just thought that blowing on it might be an outlet when your feelings built up and you felt an urge to yell and scream, but feared it wouldn’t be decorous or that it would frighten people around you. Perhaps if you took it out to the garden and blew a few hearty blasts, it would be a way of yelling without giving alarm.”

“So show me,” he said as we went out to the garden. “That kind of lesson I could learn, I’m sure.”

“It takes practice,” I said after I had instructed him and then wiped off the mouthpiece and handed the horn back to him. “And I know Dínlad would be pleased and comforted to know his horn is being put to such good use.”

“So what do I call you now?” he asked as we ambled back indoors later, thinking it must be getting on for supper-time. “You are my sister’s father…and yet I can’t very well call you father myself, can I? I’m at least five times your age, although you’ve got it all over me where wisdom and good sense are concerned. ‘Brother’ would scarcely do either.”

“What’s wrong with ‘friend’?” I said.

“Not a thing,” he smiled. The room was full of the late sunlight.

Anemone and Lady C. were giggling uproariously together, and it seemed to me they sounded rather, um, naughty. A few days ago, Galendur had told me he overheard Anemone and Tilwen comparing our…ahem…performances. “I think I need to borrow that book of yours,” he said with a wink. I knew how hard I must be blushing, and he laughed at me and slapped me hard on the back and said I was full of surprises and no mistaking.

“We were discussing the correct way to launder handkerchiefs,” Anemone said when I asked them if they were having an interesting conversation. She looked at Lady C. ever so sweetly, and the Lady looked back just as sweetly.

“And how to cook battered eels,” she said.

“Sounds delicious,” I said.

“And how to grow…mustard,” Anemone said. “It was mustard, wasn’t it?”

“Most definitely mustard,” Lady C. said with a solemnity worthy of the Temple itself.

“I thought as much,” I nodded.

“And besides domestic matters,” Anemone said, “we discussed literature.” She took a piece of candy from the glass bowl that sat between the two ladies, and popped it daintily into her mouth.

“Literature. But of course,” I imitated Galendur a little. Tilwen had once commented that I was the only one who could imitate him successfully.

“Books can be most fascinating,” Anemone said.

“I’ll have to take your word on that,” Guilin said. “I don’t think I’ve peeped into one in over a hundred years.”

“Perhaps you should try it someday,” Lady C. said blandly. “It could be...most enlightening.”

“Do I get the distinct feeling there’s another riddle in this?” Guilin said lowering his eyebrows.

“Could be,” I said winking at the ladies. “We Bagginses have always been good with riddles. At times it has proved our salvation.”

“A savior’s work is never done,” Anemone said gently, reaching over to lay her hand on mine.

“Never,” I agreed, taking her fingers to my lips as I looked into her twinkling eyes, “and neither is her husband’s.”

~*~*~

“So, do you feel up to Chapter Five tonight?” Anemone asked me as we rode home alone in the dusk.

“I was thinking of Chapter Six,” I said, nuzzling her hair and breathing deeply of its fragrance, “but Chapter Five would do just as well, I’m sure.”

“Perhaps we could do both--that is, if you think you’ve the stamina for it.”

“I think I could muster it somehow,” I said as I turned onto a more private road.

“Perhaps we’ll write our own chapter someday,” she said, taking her foot out of her slipper and caressing mine with it. “Oooo…I LOVE this fur!”

“Perhaps so,” I chuckled. “There are worse things one can be known for.”

“Come to think of it,” she said, “Chapter Four was really nice last night. Really, REALLY nice.”

“Was it? I didn’t notice,” I said. She giggled. “Was that what you were discussing so earnestly with Lady Celebrian? Chapter Four?”

“We princesses must stick together, you know,” she said very primly, glancing up at the emerging stars.

“I’ve said it before,” I said after a long moment, “but…I can scarcely tell you how wonderful it is that you love it as much as I do. If you didn’t, that would be simply terrible.”

“How can I not?” she giggled. “When you have such marvelous book-learning.”

“No other book-learning has ever paid off so abundantly.”

“Ah, so I take it you do not consider The History of Tol Eressëa to be of vast superiority?” She referred to a tome with which someone had presented me shortly after my arrival.

“It has its merits, but no, I don’t think so.” I could hear a nightingale deep in the distance. Anemone kissed my ear caressingly.

“Nor The Collected Essays of the Most Venerated Sages of Aman?”

“Not even that one. Although there is no question of its wisdom.” Actually, at the moment I could not recall a single word that was in it. Not the way her fingers were fumbling at my cravat.

“I must admit,” she said, “that I myself prefer our book over Lady Celebrían’s The Complete and Comprehensive Guide to the Art of Cookery.”

“That one runs it a fairly close second,” I said. “So…you do not miss your powers now?” I had not asked her before, and had resolved not to. But it had to come out.

“Powers? What powers?” she said, running her fingers very lightly over my cheek and throat in a way she knew drove me absolutely wild. “My Prince. Your magic leaves mine in the dust. And that is the plain truth.”

“Thank you,” I said, just before I took her chin to guide her mouth to mine. “That’s all I really needed to know.”




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