Yes, there she was, sitting beside the words I had written over a week ago, that had never washed out, and the little gem-stones were still there—and more of them, I think. Raven had asked if she could have a few of them, just a few, she said, and Anemone had smiled and told her to take all she wanted. But Raven only picked up about two dozen, and gave half of them to Emleth. And now I think those two dozen have been replaced.
Fairwind took the reins as I jumped down from the cart, and she drove it to the stable as I went down to Anemone and the twins, who sat with their arms about their mother on either side of her. Gloryfall (always the more emotional one) had tears on her face, and Nightingale alternately fondled her hair and her mother’s. Anemone’s eyes were reddened, but her cheeks were dry.
“Please go back to the house now, sweet ones,” I said to the twins, who rose and embraced me, then turned and ran to the cottage, hand in hand. I sat down beside Anemone, who remained seated. She averted her face toward the jeweled words in the sand.
“I am so sorry, my love,” I murmured as I laid an arm about her waist and kissed the top of her head. “So sorry.”
She did not weep, but she leaned her head on my shoulder after a moment. I held her close, and could hardly tell where I left off and she began, so completely did she fit into the hollow of my body and my soul.
“I knew it would happen, sooner or later,” she said. “He had made so many enemies...it was only a matter of time before his evil deeds would turn on him. But I did not think it would be his own sister who would prove his undoing.”
“Nor did I,” I said, vastly relieved that she did not seem angry with me. “But...well, things happen in unexpected ways sometimes.”
How inane it sounded, even if it were the truth.
“When he was born,” she said, “I called him Greenjade. But his father wished him to have a ‘dangerous’ name to strike fear into our ‘enemies,’ so he changed it to Darkfin. My parents had given several of their children dangerous names—Hurricane, Lightning, Blackwing, Crossbow, Wildwave, Stingray, Skyfury, Firespear, Avalanche, Sandstorm, and my own, Sea-anemone—so why should not he? Hurricane never liked her name either, and changed it to Fairwind. I gave her new name to my eldest daughter somewhat in defiance of her father, but also in tribute to my sister, who lost her life saving others. But he was obsessed with the idea that we had all manner of enemies lurking about, biding their time, plotting our downfall. And convinced that his firstborn son would be the one who would ultimately destroy or subdue them. Darkfin took after him in that respect. He seemed to believe we were surrounded by enemies also. He was so sure of it, he ended up making enemies of others, merely by supposing them to be so.”
“Yes, that makes much sense,” I said.
“He said I could give the others pretty names if I liked,” she said, “but our eldest would be formidable, our Protector. And how could anyone be formidable who was called Greenjade? I must wonder how different things would have been if he had kept his name. Would he have turned to the dark one then? Or is that putting entirely too much blame on a name?”
“The name may have had something to do with it,” I said, “but seeing as how his father groomed him to be a terror to all about him, I would say that was a far greater factor.”
“He came from a realm that was frequently at war,” she said, “and that may account for his notions that we had so many enemies. I dare say his father was the same way--he was so certain he had enemies that he ended up making them of those who might have been his friends, had he chosen to trust or negotiate. But he told me we could trust no one, that those who did so were fools. And he had many dreams that his eldest son would rise and overthrow our foes and bring about peace and strength. Sometimes I even believed him, and so I consented to the change of his name. Not that he needed my consent.”
“But in the end, it was your eldest daughter who brought about the peace and strength,” I pointed out. “It is thanks to Fairwind that the seas are happy and at peace now. And the way she turned out was your doing.”
“Do you really think so?” Anemone looked up at me then.
“I know so,” I said. “She was the true protector, the one who brought about the downfall of your enemies. Yes, it was terrible that it must come about as it did, but solutions often involve immense sacrifice. And I really think Fairwind will do all right. Someone spoke for her today, and I think she will accept him. Love will prove her healing.”
“Yes. I think he will make her a wonderful husband.”
“Then I will have another son,” she said clasping her hands together, tears springing to her eyes, “to replace the one I lost. The one who was never really mine...stolen from me by enemies we never had.”
“She also wishes to be a healer,” I said. “Think of that for a daughter of ours. Did you know of this?”
“She spoke of it somewhat,” Anemone said, “when Emleth hurt her ankle, and Fairwind bound it for her, and she told me it was a wonderful thing to make someone’s pain better. And once Little Iorhael fell down and cut his knee, and she was the one who patched it, and talked so gently to him, he stopped crying quickly. She said she would do that often. I said something of healers on the Island, and she seemed much interested.”
“I suspect it is a mother she truly wishes to be,” I said. “But if that is not to be for her, then healing could be the next best thing.”
We watched the waves, which seemed uncommonly gentle, in silence for a few minutes. I held her head against my breast and stroked her hair, wrapping myself around her in body and mind. The sky was cloudy, as though it felt too much blueness would be a cruel and naked thing, and so it put on a white lace veil out of consideration for the wounded small being below it. The birds were quiet, and the sand-pipers did not come up on the beach as usual, having no fear of us. Even the roaring of the waterfalls seemed subdued. After a while I could begin to hear a very soft wordless singing, sad and sweet, but from which direction it came, I could not tell.
Fear not to walk upon the night
I have spread out my soul for you
to spare your feet, and I have poured
my light upon the waters
so your eyes shall be not blinded
with too many tears, and that
your heart may cease its bleeding
and know its dearest desires
and seek its warmest nest
in the palms of my hands
and the day shall clothe you
with hope and bliss once more
as I raise you to my face.
Love will hover all around
as candles surrounding your bed
fragrant and steady and bright
none will ever burn out
leaving you gazing comfortless
upon a dark and smoking gap.
Always will there be a pair
of arms to carry you
many a pair of eyes
to smile upon you
when the stars forget to shine
a chorus of voices
to lull you to peace
when the great Music
falls silent in the waters
always a boat to bear you
into the safest haven
where the great Light awaits
to cover you in final glory
at the end of all things.
I found myself singing softly an old lullaby my mother used to sing to me, remembering when I had stood outside her door and sung it the night after little Bud was laid in the ground, and my father came and found me at it, and he lifted me up and sang with me, all the verses we could remember, and made up one or two of our own. And then he opened her door and she turned in the bed on her side, her face wet, and held out her arms and we both went into them, and lay there all curled together until the dawn.
“What will happen now?” Anemone asked me after a long while. “What will become of him? Where is his soul? He cannot have reached the Other Side you spoke of, surely. Will he be destroyed, or have torment as some say, or...”
“I honestly do not know,” I said truthfully. “I have sometimes wondered what becomes of those who willfully choose...the wrong path...” (I avoided saying “evil” for her sake) “I used to wonder about Sméagol especially, how he was faring in the next world, and so forth. I sometimes wonder if perhaps they could be purified and sent back to make a new start. But I’ve not heard of any being so.”
“Do you think it could be?” she asked, sitting up and clasping her hands once more. “Is it possible that perhaps he could be Greenjade once more? You brought Amras back...and then there was Olórin, and...is it possible? Iorhael?”
Oh dear. What to tell her? For I truly did not know. For my part, I thought it better to leave him where he was. But she was his mother, and how could I tell her such a thing? This was a mystery I would never fully understand, the bond between a mother and that which she had conceived and grown in her body, and suffered great pain in delivering, and lay in joy with it in her arms for the first time, and named it and suckled it and protected it and watched it grow and felt its pains and dreamed of what it would become under her care. What would I ever really know of that, save what I had observed in others?
And I had no infinite powers--no powers at all really. Well yes, there was my glass...and I’d often suspected the Valar had all contributed to its contents...well, why not? That included Lord Námo, did it not? It was worth a try.
“I do not know, my dearest,” I said finally. “I will try to invoke the Lord Námo with the glass, and we might make intercession for him. But please do not get your hopes too high. We may be asking too much. We can but try. I will bring it out when the Evenstar is brightest, and do what I may.”
She leaned against me once more and we sat like that in silence for a while. Then finally she said very softly, “He wished to destroy me, you know. He tried to destroy all of you, to bring me down the hardest way he possibly could. What did I do wrong?”
I felt her tears cascading against my hand, and that was when I lifted her in my arms and began carrying her down the beach in the late light, and it seemed she had no more weight than little Summershine, however much her own heart may have felt a millstone in her breast.