After a good bit of debate about who should fix dinner, Raven said she would do it, and they should come to her house to eat tonight, since there was more room. She wanted Amaryllis to help her. The child protested, “I want to go to the harbor, mummy!” and looked pleadingly all about her, especially at her Granddad.
“Let her go,” Anemone said. Little Peregrin had dropped off to sleep during all the discussion, wedged between her and Frodo. “I will help.”
“But Nana,” Raven said, “don’t you wish to be with Ada when you…”
Frodo said, fondling the little one’s tawny silky hair, “I don’t wish him overwhelmed with the entire family at his arrival. Northlight must drive me, but…”
“But…but…” Amaryllis looked close to tears, “I want to see them meet. After soooo many years apart…”
“So we all do,” her mum remonstrated, “but it’s their moment, and…”
“Lots of people will be there,” Amaryllis said sniffling. “Probably everybody.”
“Let her go, please, Raven,” Frodo said. “She is right, there will be many. And I do not mind sharing the moment.”
“Let everyone go who wants,” said a voice, and all turned to see Tilwen coming up the walk with Silivren in tow. “I will fix dinner, and Mother can help.”
Silivren skipped away from her mum and made herself right at home on the steps beside Amaryllis, who wiped her eyes and smiled at her friend.
“How did you know of it so soon, Til?” Anemone asked, rising to embrace her.
“Darling, are you forgetting who my mother is, after all this time?” Tilwen said giggling and stooping to kiss Anemone’s cheek, then Raven’s. “If someone gets betrothed, or sprains an ankle, or buys a new cloak, she knows the moment it happens, and will have it all over the Island in a matter of hours—the less suitable the mate, the more severe the sprain, or the less fashionable the cloak, the faster. So…what did you have in mind for dinner?”
“What is Sam’s favorite?” Anemone asked her husband.
“I think it is roast beef with fixings,” Frodo said uncertainly, hoping his memory did not fail him in everything. “Mushroom gravy, potatoes, onions, carrots, turnips…but he also likes leg of lamb, and fish and chips—and that would be easier to come by. Then there is roast suckling-pig, but I think no one would have sucklings this time of year. And the beef would be hard to come by…”
“Our fellows would be glad to bring in some fish,” Anemone said. “Then we would not have to send to the butcher-shop for something.”
“Is it really dead cow meat?” Skylark said, putting back a wisp of long pale hair. “Ugh, sounds horrible.”
“Not a bit of it,” laughed Frodo.
“You never tried it?” cried Silivren. “It must be tasted to be believed. Especially how my mum cooks it.”
“Can’t argue with that,” Frodo said.
“I detest the thought of killing a poor wee lamb,” said Amaryllis. “I could never bring myself to eat one. How barbaric!”
“It would take a long time to roast a pig,” Tilwen said, “but…”
“What about squid?” Treasure said eagerly.
“I think not,” Frodo laughed again. “I think—”
“We would need a whole side of beef,” Anemone said, “and—”
“I could catch fish myself,” said Summershine. “We wouldn’t have to send the fellows for it, I could just dive right into the water and—”
“Not send the fellows for it?” Northlight said. “We would be happy to do our part.”
“Yes, we could catch a whole net full,” Arkenstone said, “and…”
“We could have--”
“That would be too--”
“But we could--”
“The fish are spawning and--”
“Fissss,” little Peregrin said, waking up just at that moment. Now it was Starbright who had curled up asleep in her mummy’s lap like an oversized kitten.
“Yes, fishhhh,” said Summershine with a giggle. Peregrin slapped himself on the cheeks several times and went “Brrrrrr!”
“Mummy, he’s being ridiculous again,” grumbled Glimmerglass.
“He’s a baby, lovey,” Summershine smiled. “He’s entitled to be ridiculous.”
“Dicluss,” Peregrin agreed. Everyone laughed but Glimmerglass, who groaned and rolled up her eyes.
“Wait, I know!” Amaryllis shouted, jumping straight up from the step on which she had been sitting with Silivren. “I know just the thing!”
Starbright woke up just that moment, blinking.
“And that would be?” Raven raised her eyebrows. Amaryllis grinned up at her Granddad, who grinned back with a “But of course” expression.
And he and Amaryllis said together, “BILBO’S DELIGHT!”
Little Iorhael, who came by about half an hour later with his father, was sent into town to procure the needed ingredients, and Arkenstone hastened off with him to help him carry the things back. Amaryllis said to Silivren, grabbing her hand, “Let’s go curl our hair. We’ve no time to lose!”
“But curly hair is not in vogue now,” Anemone said, but the girls didn’t seem to hear her, as they thundered in the front door, Skylark, Treasure, and Glimmerglass scrambling after them. The others laughed.
“I’ve a feeling it will make a very swift comeback,” Tilwen said, as she watched her son go with dreamy eyes. Little Iorhael was the fastest runner of any elf-lad his age on the Island, and he could outrun many older ones as well. Hardly anyone would race with him now, because they knew they didn’t stand a chance of beating him. He was beautiful to watch in motion, his fiery hair streaming behind him, his long legs pumping in a blur of incredible grace.
Arkenstone, running along beside his friend, was much smaller, but just as swift. The two lads appeared as a yearling bay colt galloping along with a little black-maned pony at his side, in effortless carefree harmony beneath the island brilliance.
Summershine said she wished to check on Belladonna, and took her two smallest ones off with her. Galendur sat himself down on the floor beside his dearest friend, after kissing him on top of his head, and when his son was out of sight, he looked to Frodo, at a loss for words…very unusual indeed, for him. Frodo met his friend’s eyes, having some idea what he was thinking. He wondered how it had been for his friend to watch him grow older, little by little, when he himself did not age. Wondering if they would grow apart, when he grew too old to play, unable to keep up with the others, capable only of watching, making the occasional pithy observation, handing out advice, sometimes without being asked for it…which he had told himself he would never do but occasionally caught himself at it anyway. But Galendur had never abandoned him; he was as a devoted son now, coming by several times a week, taking him out driving or boating, accompanying him to the Sporting Center or just sitting and talking to him as equal. Five years ago Frodo had fallen down the steps at the Palace and broken his leg in two places, and had to stay there for several months while it healed. Galendur had come to see him even then, keeping him cheered and amused as far as he was allowed. It would have been rather tedious without him, even with his family all about....
“Why don’t you take a chair,” Frodo said cheerily enough, at the same time reaching down a hand to him. “We’ve plenty enough of them.”
“Because then I’d have to get up,” Galendur said just as cheerily, taking the small withered hand and pressing it very gently, “and my backside is perfectly happy where it is.”
“Lazy sod,” Frodo teased him.
“Bloody well right,” Galendur said with a wink. “So…when is this ship supposed to be arriving?”
“According to the Fount of All Knowledge,” Tilwen said, “otherwise known as my mother, approximately half-past six. Which gives us about eight hours. They’re not having the party in the park tonight; it will be tomorrow.”
“Good,” Frodo said. “I do not think he would be up to a huge party tonight. He would want just the family about, I’m sure. My dearest, is the guest-room well dusted and everything?”
“I shall see to that,” Raven said. “I’ll take the curtains down and wash them. I’m sure they haven’t been washed in a good long time, maybe a year.”
“I hope the voyage was not too rough for him,” Frodo said thoughtfully. “I invoked the Sea-Lord to give him smooth passage and the winds to blow the ship as quickly as possible, and the heavens to shine on him in the day-time. He has ever had a horror of the water. I wonder at him coming at all.”
“I don’t,” Anemone said with a little smile as she settled down beside him in the long chair once more and laid her head on his shoulder.
They met Guilin in town, along with his two eldest sons, Arthion and Turin. Guilin and Nessima had a nice large house near what was once the Orphanage. It was now mainly a school for all children in the City, and the dormitories had been converted into living quarters for the teachers and staff. Guilin had a thriving business he ran together with his partner Tulian, with Nessima who did the book-keeping, and also with Arthion and Turin, who were boys yet but well able to help out, especially Arthion, who had a combination of his father’s head for business and his mother’s no-nonsense approach to hard work. And Turin made up for what he lacked in both by his incorrigible good humor and unflagging friendliness. And dark-eyed Little Anemone and red-cheeked Carandol were small and adorable enough to draw customers when all else failed. And Tulian's wife and son and daughter did their part also.
Frodo, Anemone and Northlight stopped in the shop to have an ice, on the outdoor terrace—for one of Guilin’s big ideas was to have tables outside, an idea other proprieters had taken up also--and told in soft voices of the coming ship, while a street-musician strummed a cittern nearby. And Turin said, “How jolly! I’ve never seen a ship! Except barges from Aman, and they don’t count.”
“Will they let us come on board?” Arthion asked. “And go down below? And climb on the rigging?”
“Will the crew sing wicked songs,” Turin queried, “and have tattoos?” His mother shushed him sharply.
Little Anemone said, “Will they bring treasure?”
“They will indeed,” Frodo smiled, “but not the kind in chests.”
“Will the captain have a monkey?” asked little Carandol, who had heard many stories from his dad.
“If he doesn’t,” Guilin grinned, “we can lend you to him for a while.”
Carandol shook his head emphatically like a wet dog and all laughed, the older ones with notes of sadness mixed with the laughter. Long afterward, they went to Fairwind’s. It was not far from the harbor, at that. Oddly enough, they had not heard of the approaching ship.
Barathon’s mother had gone to live at Embergold’s widows’ home shortly after her son’s wedding, intending to stay only for a few weeks so the newlyweds could be alone together. But after Barathon invited her to come back, she said she liked it at the Home, with so many other widows to talk to—they “understood” her, she said. Fairwind was not entirely sorry, for her new mother-in-law could be fearfully critical. Emerion was reluctant to come home from the Orphanage to live as well, for there were no boys to play with living near his uncle’s house. So Barathon and Fairwind ended up adopting his best friend, Faelon, from the Home, and Emerion was only too delighted to go back then. Years later Fairwind surprised them, and herself, with a brother, Meriadoc, and much later, with a little sister, Éowyn.
Barathon hefted Frodo up from the cart and carried him to the garden outside, and set him down on the long chair they kept especially for him, while Fairwind laid a beautifully woven throw over him. He had never been quite the same since his fall five years ago; he had been able to get along quite well before then, if a trifle more stiffly than in his younger days. Now he walked with a limp always and had to use a stick, and his leg pained him in certain types of weather. Fairwind, being the healer that she was, made him the sort of tea that eased such pains, although the weather was fine. The tea usually made him sleepy, and he finally curled up for a nap, after making the others promise to wake him when it was time to go to the harbor. And Anemone, sitting beside him near a bank of crimson and white roses and fragrant purple wisteria, stroking his silver curls, cheek and hands, watching the familiar light that slowly began to radiate beneath his skin, spoke the thought that no one else had dared express that day, though nearly all had been thinking it.
“His time won’t be much longer now, will it?” she said just above a whisper to their stricken faces. A thrush that had been singing quite merrily flew to a more distant tree to continue his song. And the sea murmured of treasures and heroes, and patient dreams, and bridges and stars and poetry, and small flowers that lived sweet brief days alongside of trees that abided throughout the ages. And the wind mustered up a vigorous breath of air to fill sails embroidered with swans and flutter banners high above anxious heads and hearts. And young Meriadoc laid his chin on the shoulders of his old mastiff who lay dozing in the soft afternoon sunlight, the tamarinds above making dark dancing lace on the dog’s back, and little Éowyn played a slow haunting melody on her flute, up in her tree-seat nearby.
And the sun sank lower and lower in the West.
“I think we had better wake him,” Anemone whispered at last.
“It’s well that the sun is behind us,” Frodo murmured as they stood near the dock. “Or some of us should go blind with watching. When I first arrived here, it was at sunrise. Strange that he should be coming at sunset.”
There was, as had been anticipated, a large crowd, although not so huge as some had expected. Frodo stood between Anemone and Northlight, and Fairwind and Barathon and their children stood to their right, and Raven and Amaryllis to their left, along with Arkenstone, Skylark, Treasure and Glimmerglass, all the lasses with curled hair. Guilin and his family stood next to them, and Galendur with his son and daughter. And Nightingale and Gloryfall, with their elven husbands Calanon and Amonost, their children and grandchildren…the twins looking no less girlish than they had the first time Frodo had ever seen them, although now they seemed to have acquired a trifle more solidity. And he smiled to think they would meet the one they had named Easthope Sunbrother, so long ago….
And the crowd cheered as the Royal Family arrived in their coach, Lord Elrond and Lady Celebrían stepping out first, then their young daughter Lúthien, looking like a younger version of her maternal grandmother, all in white, her rippling golden locks elaborately arranged. Then Lady Elwing, and Olórin, formerly known as Gandalf, with his wife Ríannor and son Arasirion…and then the Queen’s young footman, Perion, together with his wife Lyrien and their small son Perhael…And then the Queen herself, arrayed almost as for a wedding…strange, no matter how many times he saw her, he who had been one of her chief counselors for decades, Frodo was always astonished afresh at her beauty, which had never been more radiant than now. A collective gasp went up from the rest of the crowd as well, which held its cheering for a long moment in its reverence.
And then Lyrien spied Frodo, and a smile lit her nearly all over, and she took little Perhael by the hand and hastened over, daintily making her way through the crowd.
“Iorhael!” she said in a whisper, although whispering was unnecessary. “Is he truly coming?”
“Yes, truly,” Frodo said as he embraced her, and then little Perhael, who had his mum’s coppery locks and big hazel eyes, although his own had a tinge of green in them, like his dad’s. He had been born just five years ago, at the same time Frodo had fallen on the Palace steps—when he had come to see the new arrival. Up until his birth, Lyrien had been a lady-in-waiting to the Queen.
“I can scarcely wait to meet him,” she said. “It seems almost too good to be true that he really is coming. Remember when Marílen and I used to play you and him with our dolls?”
“How could I forget? Where is Marílen?”
“She’s here somewhere—surely, and Dínlad and their folks. But there are so many people, I can’t see her. It's hard for her to get away what with the baby and all, but surely she wouldn’t miss Sam coming for anything.”
Frodo ruffled Perhael’s hair gently. The little boy was silent, clutching at his mum’s hand.
“Sam’s name in Elvish is Perhael also,” Frodo said to him, although the little one had surely already been told so. “Although, I’ve always thought it should be ‘Panthael’—fully wise. And your daddy played him on the stage, when he was but a lad himself.”
Perion came up just then, and scooped up his small son from behind and set him up on his shoulders. Lyrien laughed.
“There, young ’un, now maybe you can see,” Perion said. “Doesn’t take after his dad much, does he? Scarcely a word he says, even alone with us.”
“Who can talk with you around?” Lyrien laughed at her husband. She smiled with blinding radiance at Perhael and then at Frodo, putting a hand to her curled hair. “I have squiggles, did you notice?”
And they talked and reminisced, and finally Perhael ventured to speak, informing the others that his puppy ate bugs, and for some reason Anemone blinked back tears at this, even as the others laughed, and finally a squeal broke forth from Amaryllis, who grabbed her granddad by the arm and pointed out to the horizon, on which something was heaving into sight, and several gulls sprang from out of nowhere and began circling high above.
“LOOK!!” she shrieked with a most unprincessly abrogation of dignity. “HE’S COMING! HE’S HERE! HE’S HEEEEERE!!!”
And the entire crowd broke into song.
How will it be, to meet you again?
Will our eyes dart
from one side to the next
shy of connecting? Will my arms
hesitate to clasp you, however anxious
my heart to bump into yours
and will you know me
after so many years
have done their work?
I'd know you anywhere;
amongst the stars
on the moon
in the midst of nowhere
or in a dream
no fear that I won't.
But will you know me?