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70
Miss Amaryllis


Dear Sam,

Well, I scarcely know how to begin. And I am not sure how to feel at the moment. I suppose I should feel glad to be alive, and so I am. But.......

The play has been postponed for two more weeks, our Aragorn having attempted rock-climbing and sustaining a nasty sprain as a result. While I would not wish a bad sprain on anyone, I feel like going and shaking his hand, for I feel the play needs a little more work before it’s really ready to be performed…and also, my stepchildren will stay just a little longer now.

Of course Anemone and Fairwind are most thrilled. Moonrise is none too pleased, for he was looking forward to seeing his mate and children…and so was Ebbtide, who has decided he no longer wants to be Ríannor’s doggie and his own Jasmine is just as desirable after all.

Meanwhile, Galendur’s brother Maldor has been having multiple qualms of conscience about his past behavior, particularly in not having given his brother and sister-in-law a wedding-gift, and now he has presented them with a belated one. After temple, Galendur urged us all to come over and see the surprise. We followed him home and down to the dock, where our eyes were dazzled by a two-masted, gaff-rigged boat with sails of bright clean white, her hull painted dark soft grey, her decks of polished teak. She had a bowsprit and scarlet and gold flags flapping from her masts, and a harpoon lashed on the starboard side of the rudder, and a wide bench at her stern.

“What a beauty!” I spoke up first, my estimate of Maldor jumping several degrees. He and his wife and son had come along also. Calanon does, indeed, look as Galendur must have as a youth. I can only wonder how it must have been for him, growing up in this family. He seems friendly enough, however. His mother, Sabariel, is dark-haired; for some reason, I expected her to be fair.

“She’s really splendid,” Calanon said of the boat. “Weatherly and ship-shape. We went for a sail yesterday. She’s more maneuverable than ours.”

“The poor Lady Vana,” Lyrien said, shaking her head at the little dinghy by the side of the new craft. “I hope she doesn’t feel left out. She looks like a little baby boat next to her mummy.”

“Not much resemblance, though,” chuckled Guilin. “I like the white sails. I think they always look better on a small boat than colored ones, somehow.”

“So do I,” Tilwen said, bouncing Little Iorhael on her arm. He was starting to get cranky, probably out of hunger. The little fellow has the appetite of a hobbit, I sometimes think. “They look purer and more serene out on the waves.”

“So what say we all go for a sail after luncheon?” Galendur said. “At least, some of us. There’s not room for all. So it will have to be the Bagginses, since they haven’t sailed yet. There’s a good westerly breeze blowing today.”

“What is her name?” Anemone asked. I had been about to ask the same thing.

“She hadn’t one yesterday,” Lyrien said. “Did you name her yet, Uncle?”

“Well...I thought I’d wait and ask the twins,” Galendur said, looking at Nightingale and Gloryfall, who gave each other startled glances and then looked to me, “seeing as how they are good at giving names. What say you, my ladies?”

They looked at each other again, nonplussed, no doubt at a loss when it came to naming boats. They looked to their mum, then to me, their eyes asking me for a suggestion.

“Amaryllis,” I said, before I could even think. To this day I do not know what made me think of the name. It just came right out.

Raised eyebrows all around.

“Amaryllis?” Maldor repeated. “Is that after anyone in particular?” His tone seemed to say, Some old flame, perhaps?

“Yes,” I said softly. “My sister.”

The twins gasped, and Lyrien and Sandrose followed suit.

“Really?” Galendur said. “I didn’t know you had a sister.”

I remember you saying something about your sister once,” Northlight said. “But I don’t remember you giving her name.”

“She was born too soon,” I explained quietly, “my mother having met with an accident, and her tiny heart was too weak to sustain her life. She lived not more than an hour after her birth. I was but nine years old. I called her Bud, because I thought ‘Amaryllis’ was too long a name for one so tiny. I still think of her as Bud, to this day. The Bud that never opened.”

“I wish she had opened,” Fairwind said clasping her hands. “You would have made a wonderful brother.”

“I wish you had spoken of her to me, Ada,” Raven said. “We could have put her name on the stone. Maybe we still could?”

“I think she should have a little stone of her own,” Anemone said. I nodded.

“I like the name Amaryllis,” Gloryfall said. “There's just...something about it.”

“Yes,” Nightingale said. “It’s, well, very seaish, I think.”

“The Amaryllis Baggins,” Galendur said rubbing his chin. “Does have a nice ring to it, wouldn’t you say?”

“It’s very sweet,” Tilwen said. “I would be honored to have a boat bearing your sister’s name, Iorhael. As honored as I am to have a son who bears yours.”

“Fine, although just ‘Amaryllis’ would be better I think,” I said. “What say the rest of you?”

The others all shouted “YES”, the younger ones dancing and skipping about in glee, and Anemone laid an arm about my waist, Fairwind smiled gently at me, Galendur grinned at us both, and Little Iorhael said “Go!” at the top of his voice.

“So it’s unaminous,” Galendur said. “The Miss Amaryllis she is. Perhaps we could call her Bud for short...or, maybe not,” he said as I shook my head no.

We had a little christening party there on the beach, with a good many eats, and even a bit of dancing. After a good long drink of ale, Galendur said he had once learnt a sailor’s dance called the “hornpipe”, which he would attempt, if anyone knew the music.

“Is it fitting for the ears of ladies and children?” Maldor asked. I might have asked the same, had I not known Galendur better.

“It’s got no words, that I know of,” he said. “It goes something like this...” He began to whistle a very gay, catchy tune. Maldor nodded.

“Why yes, I do know that one,” he said and began to whistle it also. The children began to clap in rhythm with it as Galendur started dancing on the dock. Little Iorhael giggled and clapped also. Tilwen took his hands and moved them together more rhythmically. I watched Galendur’s feet carefully, then suddenly Raven sprang up and went to join him in the dance. She did it better than he, her face aglow with unadulterated enjoyment. When he tried a really tricky step, she imitated it exactly. After watching her with enchanted pride, I got in on it also, and Anemone after that. We made the pier rattle, and no mistaking. Not to be outdone, Moonrise and Ebbtide soon joined us, then the twins, then Calanon. I could swear his mother looked at him in consternation, but if he noticed, he took no heed. The other day Tilwen had told me that Sabariel told Raina, Ortherion’s wife, that Til was “really rather a nice little thing, after all.” Nice little thing, indeed! Glad as I am that Maldor and Galendur are finally reconciling, somehow I think it will take a good long time to warm up to Sabariel....

Finally Galendur began assembling his “crew.” Since Calanon, Sabariel, Lyrien, and Tilwen had gone sailing yesterday, they would remain behind this time. Fairwind, the twins, Moonrise, Ebbtide, and Northlight eagerly leaped onto the Amaryllis’s deck. Guilin soon followed, a little reluctantly, it seemed. Raven hung back, as I expected. She is less afraid of the water than she used to be, thanks to the twins, but when it comes to boats, she will definitely keep her feet on dry land. Embergold said she would prefer to remain on land also, telling the children there wasn’t room for them this time. Sandrose protested a little, but I think she really wanted to play with Lyrien.

Anemone said that since there were so many of us, that she would stay with the others this time. How profoundly thankful I will always be that she made that decision....

~*~*~

Soon we were running--that is, sailing with the wind behind us. Galendur and Maldor began explaining and discussing all the riggings, and the gear for deep-sea fishing, with which most of us were already more or less familiar, and then they began telling stories about the fish and squid and octopus they had supposedly caught in the past, some of which sounded pretty far-fetched to me, but we pretended to believe them. Although I did have all I could do to stop naughty Ebbtide from making fun of Maldor, who does get rather long-winded, by standing with his back to him and mouthing along with him, making exaggerated faces and gestures.

I did like Maldor better, however, when he remarked what a good dancer Raven was.

“Have you had her taught?” he asked me.

“No,” I said, “but I may do so soon. Although she seems to be doing fine on her own.”

“We teach her a good deal,” Nightingale chimed in, “and she teaches us. Only, she does not dance high on the cliffs with us. But that is a good thing for her.”

“Or on the roof,” Gloryfall said. Maldor’s eyebrows nearly touched his hairline, and I could see Galendur trying not to laugh out loud, his back to us as he steered. “It’s lovely to dance on a person’s house. Especially when it is the house of those you adore. I would love to dance on top of the Place of the Bells someday. I should think it would make me feel very close to the Creator.”

Maldor must have thought we were pulling his leg. He nodded, then grinned.

“And can you make your gowns change color as you dance?” he asked. Startled, I remembered Anemone’s little trick of a year and a half ago, and I laughed aloud.

“I would wear a gown in rainbow-stripes,” Fairwind said, “except that on the Island, it is considered improper to wear too many colors at once. I do not know why.”

“Elves do not like excess,” Northlight offered by way of explanation.

“Once our Nana painted a lady’s back with a pirate-ballad,” Gloryfall giggled. “And a treasure-map. The lady was saying wicked things about her and Raven. And Tilwen. Imagine!”

“She was scarcely a lady, then,” Maldor said.

“When she still had her powers,” Nightingale nodded. “I wonder if she doesn’t miss them, but she says when one has a mate like our Ada, there are far better things than powers.”

I looked at her in what I hoped was a warning. I don’t think she noticed. But she did leave it at that.

“I would like to have such a mate,” Gloryfall sighed. “Nightingale and I never had mates because we could not bear to be apart. Perhaps we could meet male twins on the Island and all live in the same house, although it would be strange to sleep in the air all the time. I tried it once, and it did not seem to agree with me. But perhaps I could get used to it, if I had a mate who would make me feel like the queen of the universe every night.”

Guilin turned away quickly, gripping the rail. I had all I could do not to laugh aloud, although I could feel myself getting a red face. Moonrise and Ebbtide looked puzzled as to what was so funny.

“You’ve a most unusual family,” Maldor told me, after a thoughtful moment--as if I didn’t know it already.

“That I do,” I agreed good-naturedly. “And I’m most proud of it.”

“As you should be,” he said, and I warmed up to him more and more. “I dare say you never know a dull moment.”

“Never,” I agreed, at the same time thinking such was probably not the case with him.

Before long Galendur started singing, saying, “Do you know this one?”

Up jumps a crab with his crooked legs
Saying, You play the cribbage and I'll stick the pegs
Singing blow the wind westerly, let the wind blow
By a gentle nor'wester how steady she goes...

Up jumps a dolphin with his chuckle-head
He jumps on the deck saying, Pull out the lead
Singing blow the wind westerly, let the wind blow
By a gentle nor'wester how steady she goes...

Up jumps a flounder so flat on the ground
Saying, Damn your old chocolate, mind how you sound
Singing blow the wind westerly, let the wind blow
By a gentle nor'wester how steady she goes...

Up jumps a whale, the biggest of all
He jumps up aloft and he's pawl after pawl
Singing blow the wind westerly, let the wind blow
By a gentle nor'wester how steady she goes...

Up jumps a herring, the king of the sea
He jumps up on deck saying, Helms a-lee...
Singing blow the wind westerly, let the wind blow
By a gentle nor'wester how steady she goes...

Up jumps a shark with his big row of teeth
Jumps up twixt the decks and shakes out the reefs
Singing blow the wind westerly, let the wind blow
By a gentle nor'wester how steady she goes...
*

“What a jolly song,” Nightingale said. “I think I could make a verse also. How is this?”

Up jumps a squid with his eight slimy feet
Saying, I would dance with every maiden I meet
Singing blow the wind westerly, let the wind blow
By a gentle nor'wester how steady she goes...

Everyone cheered and sang along with the chorus. Moonrise sang:

Up jumps a dog where the captain’s wife sat
And when she did stroke him, he buzzed like a cat
Singing blow the wind westerly, let the wind blow
By a gentle nor'wester how steady she goes...

“You make one, Ada,” Fairwind said when we could all get our breath from laughing. “You are a poet after all.”

The others piped up, “Yes, Ada, you do one too,” and so finally I took a deep breath, and sang:

Up jumps a sea-maid as fair as the dawn
She kissed me and fed me on mushrooms and prawn
Singing blow ye wind westerly, let the wind blow
By a gentle nor'wester how steady she goes...

I sincerely wished Bilbo could have been there, and hoped he was having as fine a time as I was….

Well, I think Maldor and Guilin had planned to do a bit of deep-sea fishing, but what with all the talk and singing, they had pretty much forgotten about it. The wind was blowing a bit hard by now for it anyway. I had not realized how far out to sea we were getting. I felt we should turn back, but not wishing to be considered silly and old-maidish, I said nothing for a while, reminding myself that we had sea-folk aboard, six of them yet. Maldor hung some hooked lines on back of the boat, which he explained were for trolling for albacore, going into great detail as he explained the differences in the bait for albacore, bluefin and yellowfin. I could still see the Island as I looked back, but only just.

And suddenly I became aware of a sense of evil that made me chill all over.

I went to Galendur with the intention of telling him to turn back right now, when I felt the Amaryllis rise on a wave that mounted higher and higher...and yet it seemed that the wind had slackened. I stumbled and grabbed for the rail, and that was when I noticed what was unmistakably the fin of a shark--and no small one either--in the distance. And I started to call out, when I felt myself being pushed from behind, and I fell and hit my knee on the deck, then felt a wash of cold water over me. Someone grabbed my arm, calling, “Ada!” It was one of the twins. She pulled me to a sitting position, screaming, “Guilin has gone over!” I saw Guilin’s head disappear into the waves below, and the Amaryllis rose ever higher.

And the shark was closer.

I saw Northlight, Moonrise and Ebbtide leap into the water after Guilin, desperately hoping they could find him and fetch him up--the fool could not swim, as I remembered. Maldor was heaving-to--that is, trying to stop the ship, pulling on the sheets to adjust the sails, while Galendur desperately tried to maneuver through the wave that was tossing the boat about as though it were a toy. Glancing up at the mizzen-mast I noticed the life-preserver hanging from it, snatched at it and threw it over to my stepsons, whom I could see were holding Guilin’s head above the water. Moonrise caught it, but it appeared to me that Guilin was unconscious--still alive I hoped--and they would not be able to make him hold to the life-preserver. I spied another line hanging to a hook on the main-mast, tied it with unbelievable speed around the mast, then made a running-bowline at the other end, feeling thankful that I had been paying attention when Galendur taught me how, and even more so that I had been so patient in teaching Onyx, who had quite an interest in tying knots. I tossed the loop I had made in the line to my stepsons, and Northlight caught it and put it over Guilin’s head and shoulders and secured it under his arms.

“Here, Ada,” Nightingale said, “you hold to the line so you don't get washed overboard. We will pull him in. We are strong enough.” And she and her twin grasped the line, which was certainly thin and I wondered if it would hold, until I noticed what it was made of. Híthlain.

And I saw the shark again, as Maldor frantically trimmed the sails. It was huge, looming above the waters which were rising once more, and I could see the teeth, some of them at least nine inches long, as it came closer and I was about to call to the twins to pull harder, when I saw Fairwind dive for the harpoon lashed to the starboard side. She hurled it at the shark with unbelievable force and it struck the creature behind the gills, and it went under the water and I saw it no more. And the twins pulled Guilin in, and incredibly, the wave began to recede, little by little, and the Amaryllis pitched about, but seemed out of danger of capsizing.

And I saw Northlight climbing the rope with the life-preserver, as nimbly as a spider climbing a web-strut, his brothers coming up after him. The twins took the line off Guilin and let him fall limply onto the deck. I went to him and felt his chest.

“He’s not breathing,” I gasped. “Turn him over, quick!”

They turned him over and I straddled his waist, pushing beneath his shoulder-blades with quick sharp thrusts with the heels of my hands, feeling thankful once more that Aragorn had taught us this life-saving technique on our journey.

“Is he breathing?” Galendur asked, looking over his shoulder at me from the rudder. “Here, let me—”

“No, you must steer,” I said. “I can do this.”

“Maldor can steer,” he said. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am.” And I continued to push, praying silently the while. And wondering what I would tell Raven if I did not succeed. Please breathe, Guilin. Please, you must breathe...ye Powers above, help me to save him.... I saw Northlight close his eyes, moving his lips...

And then I heard a wonderful noise...choking, coughing...and I never thought I would be overjoyed to hear anyone vomit, but when Guilin heaved up a stream of sea-water, I thought it the loveliest sound, next to Anemone’s voice, I had ever heard....

I continued to push, and he coughed and sputtered, then I let him be, and got off his back, hearing him breathe on his own.

And I saw him look up at me as I knelt beside him, pushing the sodden black hair back from his face, and wiping the water away from his eyes and nose and mouth with my wet handkerchief.

“Iorhael?” he murmured, and I heard the others sigh with relief.

“I’m here, Guilin,” I said taking his hand. “Are you all right now?”

“Now you see...” he murmured, then coughed again.

“See what?” I took his hand in both mine.

“Now you see,” he said when he could get his breath, “why I don’t like the water.”

~*~*~

Maldor found a blanket under the bench at the stern and put it around Guilin, who sat up and leaned back against the hull. The twins made quite a fuss over him, bringing him a flask of miruvor that Maldor had found along with the blanket.

Fairwind seemed strangely despondent, considering that she had saved Guilin’s life, and the lives of her brothers.

“It’s the strangest thing,” Maldor was saying. “Where the deuce did that wave come from? The wind wasn’t strong enough. And that shark was big, but not big enough to cause a wave like that. A blue whale leaping into the air could have made it, but not a shark that size.”

He looked to the brothers, who seemed to know what I did not, but they were strangely silent.

“Could a small earthquake under the sea have caused it?” I asked.

“No, that would have made a wave mighty enough to drown an entire continent,” Maldor said. “I don’t understand it. Some devilry was at work there, that’s all I can think of.”

“Well, Fairwind did damned good,” Galendur said, glancing at my stepdaughter who leaned against the rail, looking out to the water, not responding to what he said. “I was going to harpoon the bloody devil myself, but she beat me to it. And the way she hurled it--I never saw anything like it, not even in the war. She stopped him cold. I’m feeling silly that I didn’t do it myself, did nothing at all really.”

“You had to steer,” I reminded him. “And you did a wonderful job of it. No telling what would have happened to us all if you hadn’t kept your wits about you.”

“I hope I didn’t hurt you when I knocked you over,” Guilin said to me. “Didn’t mean to do it so hard, but that wave was coming right at you. It’s damned strange--it’s as if the water was reaching up a huge hand to smack you right into the drink. And it got me instead, or maybe the boom hit me--my right arm feels like someone took a nasty big club to it. But thanks to all of you for hauling me in...and you for getting me breathing again. It’s a hideous thing, not to be able to breathe. Nothing I’ve ever been through has prepared me for that.” He shuddered.

“I’m not hurt,” I said, although, now that he mentioned it, my knee felt good and sore where it had hit the deck. “Thank you for saving me.” I tried to take it in that he had risked his own life to save mine.

But what was wrong with Fairwind?

~*~*~

The weather felt ridiculously beautiful now.

As we drew nearer the shore, I realized we must have passed the barrier that kept danger from the Island, and that accounted for the sense of some great evil that had seized me. Guilin was talking quietly with my stepsons, the twins with Fairwind…I could not understand what they were saying to her, but their voices sounded as though they were trying to comfort her about something. I went back on the pretext of examining the trolling-lines, not much surprised at finding them gone, still wondering about the wave and the shark, when I heard Fairwind’s voice behind me.

“Ada,” she said just above a whisper, “may I speak with you alone for a moment?”

“Of course, dear one,” I said. “What is it?”

“Please swear never to tell Nana what I am about to tell you,” she pleaded. “Please?”

“Well...I don’t like to have secrets from her, you know,” I stammered, then suddenly, somehow, I knew what she was about to disclose. And here was one secret I could keep from Anemone with my last breath.

“That, that thing,” she lowered her voice very close to my ear, “it was no shark. It was...”

“Darkfin,” I whispered. She nodded, her lips quivering.

“He made the wave,” she said, almost tonelessly. “He meant it for you. And there were others with him, but they fled after I speared him. They would have made more waves, and killed all of us. But he’ll never try it again. He’s dead. I killed him. I killed my brother.”

~*~*~*~*~

*Old sea chantey...not exactly ME, but I thought I could get by with it this time...;);)



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