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67
Mischief


Dear Sam,

Well, it seems both our families are increasing! Now the twins have decided they definitely want to stay.

I remember Lady C. telling me she used to tie a blue string around Elladan’s wrist and a red one on Elrohir’s when they were babies so that she and their nurse could distinguish between them, but as they grew older she was able to tell them apart through differences in their personalities. So it is with our twins. With Gloryfall I am often unable to tell when she is joking and when she is being serious, whereas I never have that problem with Nightingale. And Gloryfall is much more absent-minded than her sister; she will enter a room and forget what she came for, while Nightingale, it seems, never forgets anything. “It’s good to have a smart twin, when one is stupid,” Gloryfall remarked to me once, and to my chagrin, I didn’t know whether to laugh or not.

They will sleep in the sea along with Fairwind, although Raven wishes they might share her room. They have slept in our guest-room a time or two, just to see what it was like to sleep “in the air” but Gloryfall said it left her so “discombobulated” (a word she got from Galendur, who got it from Bilbo), she didn’t know what was going on for a day or two.

They have been trying to persuade Embergold to stay, and I am hoping they succeed. Embergold has found that she greatly enjoys pondering things, exploring great concepts, which has made her a favorite with Donnoviel and Seragon and their set. If she goes back to her mate, all this pondering will go for naught, for he has no use for such. And I told her, sadly, that I could not make her decisions for her; they were for her alone…when all the while I longed to say, “Leave him behind, my dear, he is of no use to you. We have far more need of you here, where you can be loved and appreciated for what and who you truly are.”

Northlight will greatly miss his brothers. And Ebbtide will miss the Sporting Center, being fascinated with anything involving vigorous physical activity. He is a simple sort of fellow, what my father would have called “rambunctious,” unable to sit still for long, naturally mischievous, fun to be with at least for a while, although he can grow rather wearing on an old hobbit after so long. I doubt he thinks very seriously about anything, but he is surprisingly curious, and reminds me of Pippin sometimes. Of course I’ve always been a bit of an old fool about Pippin, and Ebbtide does remind me of how very much I miss him….

Moonrise is of a darker nature--or maybe it is his coal-black hair, slightly swarthy complexion, and dark-blue eyes that make him seem so. They give him a brooding appearance that makes him look more interesting than he really is, but he is clever and quick-witted at thinking his way around certain situations. And he is naturally protective, both of his siblings and of his parents, and he must surely be a good father. He has taken quite an interest in different kinds of rock ever since he and his brothers carved the monument for Hathol, and enjoys exploring the cliffs and caves and quarries on the Island. I think he would do well as a stone-cutter, if only….

Well, I suppose I must enjoy their company while they are still here, and I am sure they will come to visit often, for I think the Island has got a hold on them, and will not let them stay away for too long….And we'll still have Northlight. If you'll pardon me for boasting a bit, I simply must tell what he did yesterday. I was not present, but I heard plenty of it. Little Iorhael, who is now at the stage where he is apt to put anything and everything into his mouth, grabbed a chunk of apple at tea-time when Tilwen and Anemone were taking a break from their work, and Northlight was there, fortunately. The child swallowed the piece of fruit whole, and began to choke and turn blue. Frantically Til pounded him so hard on the back that he started to fall forward from his chair. Northlight jumped and caught him about the waist, and forgetting his own strength gave him quite a squeeze, at which the piece of apple popped from Little Iorhael’s mouth and his natural color began to return and he began to whimper. Needless to say, Northlight can do no wrong in Tilwen’s eyes now, not that she ever had anything at all against him! And I believe he is on an equal footing with me in Galendur's esteem also. Galendur certainly does love his little lad....

~*~*~

Just before noon this morning, I was coming out from rehearsal with Moonrise and Ebbtide, who are playing members of the Dead Army, and heard Inzilbêth's name spoken by Barathon, who portrays Eomer. Guilin was sitting on a bench across from him, both of them eating their luncheon, and Northlight and Fairwind sat at Guilin’s feet, all three their backs to me. Barathon did not appear to see me and my stepsons. Then I heard Fairwind’s voice, and halted.

“I shall not say harsh things of her,” she said gently. “My Ada would not like it.”

“Ha!” Barathon laughed. “It’s all right, my lass. I’ll never tell. Nor will Guilin, will you, eh? But the Prince wouldn’t punish you too severely for such as that, now would he? Surely he’s taken plenty of her guff.”

“He would not punish her at all,” Northlight said, slipping an arm about his sister. “She is grown. But she wishes to please him.”

“Yes,” Fairwind said. I grinned at Moonrise and Ebbtide, who merely looked puzzled.

“As you wish,” Barathon said good-naturedly, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. “But I thought to let you know—she has quite a following in the City. She’s even been going about insinuating that Guilin here has designs on your mother. Not that I believe it for a moment.”

“Our mother!” Fairwind and Northlight said simultaneously. I looked at Moonrise and Ebbtide, and I was NOT grinning. Both set their lips tightly together.

“How ridiculous,” Fairwind said with simple innocence. “Guilin does not fancy our mother, he fancies Nessima. The tall one.”

“It’s perfectly outrageous,” Guilin said. I think he must have had a red face, although it was hard to tell from this angle. “I think the whole world of your mother, but not in that way.”

“I knew she could be spiteful,” Northlight said, “but I did not think even she would stoop that low.”

“And even if I did fancy her,” Guilin said, “it would be an extremely awkward situation, considering our height difference, if you know what I mean.”

I could almost see Barathon, who is blessed with a lewd sense of humor, thinking of making a bawdy joke, but fortunately remembering there was a lady present. He cleared his throat.

“No one with any sense will think anything of it,” he assured the others. “But I thought perhaps I should tell you, before you heard it elsewhere.”

“Everyone will know he fancies Nessima soon,” Fairwind said, and I could hear her smiling. “He has a special gift for her, though I know not what it is. I am sure she will like it. I admire Nessima, even though she is, well, so very tall. I mean that not to be harsh,” she said turning her head to look up at Guilin. “I do admire her, I just wish I could take some of her inches, and give them to you.”

Barathon had the goodness to turn away, doubling over. I clamped my hand over my mouth.

“Thank you, my lady,” Guilin said with delightful diplomacy that made me proud, “but whatever my other shortcomings may be, I do not think lack of inches to be one of them.”

“What’s wrong with him?” Northlight said pointing at Barathon, whose shoulders were jerking violently.

“He’s choking,” Guilin laughed. “Quick, Northlight—do that thing you did with Little Iorhael!”

Northlight caught Barathon about his waist and squeezed, while Guilin laughed heartily and Moonrise and Ebbtide looked at me as if to inquire as to what the joke was. Well, I scarcely knew how to explain it! But at least the insult was momentarily forgotten.

Yet now, according to Tilwen, who heard it from her sister-in-law Sabariel--Maldor’s wife, the ice-princess, who has thawed out a bit since Maldor and Galendur seem to be reconciling somewhat, and who is a friend of a friend of the actress--, Inzilbêth has led some of her admirers to believe that she was “forced” to give up the part of Eowyn because “the Prince wished his stepdaughter to have it, and shamelessly pulled all possible strings”!

“Did you ever hear anything so preposterous?” Til fumed, nearly cutting herself as she diced up an apricot for her offspring, who was getting a trifle clamorous. We were on the terrace, she, Anemone, Northlight, Raven, Embergold, Moonrise, Ebbtide, the twins and myself. Sandrose and Onyx were playing jack-stones near the doorway, not paying much attention. Fairwind was at rehearsal, for which I was rather glad. “And to think some of them actually believe her! I cannot believe there are so many stupid people on the Island!”

“I have long known there were many who did not like the idea of those of other races being admitted here,” I said. “I suppose some of them figure among Inzilbêth’s friends and admirers.”

“According to Sabariel’s friend,” Tilwen said as she spooned the chopped fruit into her son’s ever-eager little mouth, “whose name I can’t recall at the moment, That Creature has been secretly watching some of the rehearsals, and she says Fairwind is one of the worst actresses she has ever seen. That’s certainly NOT what I’VE heard about her. I heard she was every bit as good as Inzilbêth, and has a much lovelier voice.”

“Just imagine that!” Nightingale exclaimed, from the swing where she sat with her twin, Raven between them. “Our Fairwind.”

“She DOES have a lovelier voice,” declared Gloryfall folding her arms. “She has a voice exactly like...like a flower.”

“A flower?” Embergold and Anemone said together, both raising their eyebrows, and looking nearly as twin-like as the twins.

“Well...you know what I mean,” Gloryfall said shrugging a little. “Like...well, like a rainbow.”

Nightingale jerked her chin in emphatic agreement. Anemone looked at the twins with a gentle smile of pride. Raven giggled.

“Ada,” Northlight said, “have you ever had anyone to tell you that you were not welcome here?”

“No,” I said, “although certain things have gotten back to me. I take no heed of them now. Have you had anyone to tell you so, Northlight?”

He was sitting on the steps with his brothers. I sat at the table, puffing on my pipe.

“Well, there were some fellows at college,” he said, leaning back on his hands and looking up over his shoulder at me, “who used to go about telling some people I should not be there because I was not of ‘their kind.’ This was back when I first started. Most students have been kind and helpful. But these…well, they would whisper to each other when I passed by and look at me. And sometimes one of them would ‘accidentally’ bump into me and knock me over. And one of them, whom they called Ionwë—he was pretty much the leader of them, I think—he said, pretending not to see me, but I knew he meant me to hear, ‘I suppose they’ll let just anyone in, these days. Makes you wonder what this island is coming to. Mortals and all manner of strange types.’ Then one day, he ‘accidentally’ backed into me while I was standing by the fountain in front of the college, and knocked me into the water. And I took the form of a small whale, and squirted the cold water all over him.”

Everyone laughed, including myself, although I was distressed to hear of our Northlight being treated thus. Why had he not told us before?

“Good for you,” Moonrise said. “So what did he do then?”

“Why, he threw a fit, I’m sure,” Northlight said. “I ruined his clothing and his books as well. In truth, I think he was far more upset about the clothing. He’s quite the snappy dresser, and spends a great deal more time looking into the mirror than into his books.”

I’d have made his clothing invisible,” Ebbtide said, and all laughed again.

“Well, I did make it shrink a great deal on him,” Northlight grinned. “I took pity on him later and unruined his books…but not his clothes.”

“Good for you—on both counts,” I said.

I wouldn’t have unruined his books,” Gloryfall said. “What a wicked chap!”

“Nor would I,” Nightingale fumed. “Served him right.”

“I didn’t tell him I had, at the first,” Northlight said. “His sister Arasinya told me that he told his father I tricked HIM to fall in the water. She said his father went on the rampage, shouting and blustering and threatening to make us pay for the damage. He said this was what came of allowing all kinds of strange ‘types’ to populate the Island and ‘perpetuate their kind among its rightful inhabitants.’ ‘What types are they going to allow next? Dwarves? That will be the day!’ he said, according to her. Those ‘types’ would be wanting to marry Elf-women and breed who knew what kind of monsters, he said. Then their mother got in on it, and while the three of them were standing around raging and ranting and going all about it, Arasinya quietly picked up one of the books and opened it, and there it was as good as new. And she examined the others and saw they were not spoilt in the least. I can just imagine Ionwë’s expression when she called his attention to that fact.”

“He got a red face,” Nightingale said through giggles.

“Very much so, I’m sure,” Northlight agreed. “He takes after his father, obviously. Good thing his sister does not. She told me she wished she could go to college also, but they wouldn’t let her because she was female. One scarcely needs a college education to get a husband, they told her. I said she ought to go when she was of age, because I think she seems very smart. Much smarter than her brother.”

Raven’s forehead puckered. “Do you see her much?”

“Why, no,” Northlight said puzzled. “I’ve not seen her since that day. It was many weeks ago, before the others came.”

Raven looked relieved.

“I hope his father gave him a good thrashing,” Embergold said, “whatever that means.” No doubt she has been listening closely to Dínlad and Perion.

“I fear he is too big for a thrashing, more’s the pity,” I said smiling. “At least, from his father. So has Ionwë given you any trouble since then, Northlight? Somehow, I think not.”

“No,” Northlight chuckled, “he quite avoids me now. Especially after Guilin heard of the business with the fountain. He marched right up to Ionwë and fairly shook the bones out of him, saying if he ever ‘trifled’ with me again, he’d stick his head in the fountain for two hours.”

Raven smiled with delighted satisfaction. “I hope he does,” she said.

“And good for Guilin too,” Tilwen said. Little Iorhael giggled uproariously.

“Go!” he said. This is the one word he has in his vocabulary, but he uses it to express a great deal. It overwhelms his mummy with pride and joy every time.

“Hmmm,” Moonrise said. “This gives me an idea. This Inzilbêth—we could teach her a lesson. Who is that fellow she fancies?”

“Dûndeloth,” Northlight said. “The one playing the fellow Guilin plays now—Faramir.”

“Right,” Moonrise said. “Well, what I was thinking, was, perhaps one of us could go looking exactly like Dûndeloth and pay her a visit, and make violent love to her…and…”

“Now there’s an idea,” Ebbtide said, then sobered. “But what if she were to throw herself all over you and ravish you utterly? Ugh!”

“Then I turn into…an octopus,” Moonrise said and the rest of us fell into convulsions. Sandrose looked up from her jack-stones then. Onyx looked up at his mum questioningly. Little Iorhael burped.

“Go,” he said, a little sternly it seemed. Raven sprang up, took him in her arms and sat back down with him on her lap, tickling his tummy.

When I could get my breath, I said, “My lads, forgive me if I sound a stuffy old bore, but really there’s no need to ‘teach Inzilbêth a lesson.’ She is getting her punishment now. Her acting career is in ruins. No one of any importance believes the things she’s been saying. She will never have the standing she once enjoyed.”

“But she deliberately tried to ruin the play,” Tilwen said, “all the while knowing how much depended on it. And all because she couldn’t get what she wanted. She oughtn’t to just get by with that. And then there are all those, those things she said.”

“She isn’t getting by with it,” I insisted. “She’s punishing herself.”

“Wouldn’t it be funny,” Nightingale said, “if we could give her a love potion that would MAKE her fall in love with an octopus? Could you imagine?”

More laughter. “But you cannot make such a potion,” Anemone pointed out. “It is impossible to make one fall in love that way, here.”

“I still think it would be fun,” Ebbtide said. “Can you imagine the look on her face? It would set her back a thousand years.”

“Ten thousand,” Moonrise said.

“Very well then,” I said with a sigh, “have your fun if you must. But do no damage, either to person or property. Or you may well get a thrashing.”

Gloryfall came over and put her arms around me, stepping over Onyx on the way.

“We adore you, Ada,” she assured me kissing my cheek, then laying her head on my shoulder, “even if you ARE stuffed.”

“Go!” Little Iorhael said with a huge grin.

~*~*~

In order to impersonate Dûndeloth convincingly, Moonrise and Ebbtide decided they would need to learn him better, observe him closely, study his mannerisms and gestures and speech-patterns. And so they got the idea to follow him about, in the guise of dogs.

After Gandalf/Olórin’s wedding, Dûndeloth had gone to stay with a colleague for a while, in order to allow the newlyweds their privacy. Not that this was entirely necessary, the house being plenty large enough to accomodate all three of them, but nevertheless he would stay with his fellow-professor for a few weeks. When he left the college or the theater he would often walk through the park, taking his time, sometimes sitting on a bench beside the fountain, reading, writing, observing the names on the Orphans’ Wall, or chatting with passers-by, children, or friends he met. Thus were Moonrise and Ebbtide, in their canine forms, well able to observe the poet-professor at close range.

One evening he had been invited over to Olórin’s for dinner, unknown to the brothers, who followed him all the way to the house at a distance, slinking through the bushes and flowers in the garden out back of the terrace where Dûndeloth sat with Olórin and Ríannor.

“Is someone out there?” Olórin said, noticing the way Dûndeloth kept looking out toward the shrubbery.

“A couple of dogs have taken a liking to me,” the poet chuckled. “They’ve been following me about for three days now. I thought I saw them out in the garden. Ah yes, there they are. A black one and a tawny one, over there behind the jasmines. Handsome fellows they are. I wonder from whence they came, to whom they belong.”

“Perhaps they are strays,” Ríannor said. “I see them. Poor creatures, perhaps they are hungry.”

“I tried calling them to me,” Dûndeloth said, “but they are shy. They do not come.”

“Strange,” Olórin said rubbing his chin. “That is not dog-like behavior.”

Moonrise, upon hearing this, looked to his brother, with the message Perhaps we should go to them. They may suspect. Ebbtide agreed, stepping hesitantly from the bushes.

“There they are,” Dûndeloth said leaning down from his chair. “Come, fellows. Look what we have for you.” He laid a plate Ríannor had brought down on the floor. The brothers stopped short as they saw the vile-looking mess on the dish. Were they expected to eat that? They looked to each other.

“Doesn’t that look tasty?” Ríannor said. “Poor beasties. But they don’t exactly look starved, do they? Perhaps they do belong to someone.”

“But why would they be following Dûndeloth?” Olórin said. Moonrise avoided his eyes, and turned his attention to the nasty-looking stuff on the plate. It did smell better than it looked. Perhaps he ought to take a taste, just to allay suspicion…and then he flicked his tongue it. Hmm. Not bad. Not so bad after all…but what was Ebbtide doing? Why…he had gone to the lady, who was now stroking his head and ears. He remembered to thump his tail and let his tongue hang out, wishing he might lick her hand, but he was not so bold.

“What a lovely boy!” she was saying. “Look, my darling—isn’t he special? Perhaps we should keep him. What think you?”

“But we don’t know where he came from,” Olórin stammered.

“I think he likes us,” she said. “Dûndeloth, you may have the black one. He’s a beauty—but there’s something about this one. Such soulful eyes he has.”

Moonrise nearly choked on his food. Soulful eyes! Wait until the others heard that one!

“How about it, my lads?” Dûndeloth said, fondling Moonrise’s ears. “How would the two of you like to stay with us? Think you’d like that?”

The tawny dog closed his eyes in bliss as the lady ran her lovely pale hand over his head and back. Well! And then…what was that sound he was making??

“Listen,” Olórin said. “Is it my imagination…or is that dog purring?”

“Why…yes, it does sound like it,” Ríannor said. Dûndeloth listened. Moonrise began to growl.

“Something very strange is going on here,” Olórin said. “I’ve a feeling there’s more to these hounds than meets the eye. Or ear.”

Moonrise suddenly began to bark, on the pretext of spying something in the garden. The three humans peered out.

“Is there someone out there?” Ríannor said, standing and stepping back from her chair.

“Some nocturnal creature perhaps,” Dûndeloth said. Moonrise bounded up and dashed out into the shrubbery, barking and snarling. “Or a cat. I see no human shape.”

“I’ve seen no cats out there before,” Ríannor said. Olórin was silent. The tawny dog darted after the black one, reluctantly disregarding the lady’s protests. They ran a fair way until they met in the park once more, reassuming their human shapes.

“Stupid,” Moonrise rasped at his brother, “it’s cats that buzz when they are stroked, not dogs! Now that Gandalf fellow is suspicious!”

“I forgot,” protested Ebbtide. “I’ve seen precious little of either beast. And the way her gentle hand caressed me…I could scarcely keep my silence!”

“So I suppose you would be her doggie now?” snapped Moonrise. “Yes, I can see it all. My brother the dog. Mother will be so proud! Bragging to all of her son’s soulful eyes!”

“But is she not a beauty?” Ebbtide sighed. “Such a fair creature I’ve rarely seen the like of, on land or in sea. Truly a legend she is.”

“Well, your legend belongs to another,” Moonrise said, “and somehow I do not think he will be so agreeable to share his bounty. But come, let’s go. I think we’ve learnt enough of him to portray him with some degree of convincingness. Now, if we can find out where she lives….”



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