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15
Needle in a Haystack


As Sam and Frodo returned to their room to get ready for supper, they saw that flowers had been put into every vase in sight, and that other receptacles had been brought in and filled with flowers also, and set on every article of furniture that could hold them, and garlands had been draped across the head-board and foot-board of their bed and over the windows and doorways. The hobbits looked at each other with raised eyebrows, then heard a stifled giggle. Glancing toward the window, Sam could see the tops of four small heads behind the garden shrubbery: blue-black, red-gold, auburn, and yellow-gold.

Near nightfall, the hunting-party returned, tired, dirty, hungry, and a bit cross, having failed to bag their quarry, or even pick up any sign of them. They had given the “dogs” Raegbund’s dagger to sniff, starting out at Ionwë’s flat, and tracking the scent well into the forest. But these two had been living in the wild for a considerable time, obviously, and knew how to cover their tracks. Lord Elrond told the hunters not to be discouraged; the Island was vast, at least to anyone on foot, and the fugitives could be anywhere.

“Might as well try lookin’ for a needle in a haystack,” Sam said as they sat in the garden after supper, he and Frodo with their pipes, the children being prepared for bed. “Or two needles. And it's a mighty big stack.”

“It could well be,” Galendur said, “that after Ionwë refused to join them, they turned and went back where they came from, and are sitting there now, laughing up their sleeves at the idea of us gadding about on a wild-goose chase.”

“Well, we must not take chances,” Northlight said. “Not when we have families to consider.”

“No,” said Lady Elwing, “they have not gone back. They are out there.”

“Oh?” Olórin said. “Where? Why did you not tell us before?”

“Because I do not know where they are…now,” Elwing said in her soft voice. “I know only that they are about. Perhaps it will come to me in time.”

“I will consult my glass,” Frodo said. “Perhaps it can show us something.”

“Yes, do that,” Sam said. “Don’t know why we didn’t think of that before. A pity we haven’t one of those palantir things. Maybe it could show us.”

Frodo asked Northlight to retrieve his glass, which Ionwë had returned to him that morning, from his room. He took it into a little chapel in the Palace, set it on an altar and knelt before it, his lips moving. Sam sat on a small bench at the back of the chapel, motionless and silent, waiting. And the glass grew filled with light, which grew ever brighter, until the dark little room was full of a soft glow. Sam could see silver candle-sticks, a vase of flowers, and a tapestry depicting the Two Trees, hanging on the western wall. There was but one window, and it had colored glass, bits of it arranged into the form of a tree also.

“I can see them,” Mister Frodo whispered after a few moments. Sam stood up stiffly, and went to stand behind his friend, looking downward.

“Where are they?” he said. “I can’t see naught, meself.”

“I’m not sure,” Mister Frodo said. “They are in a dark place in the forest. I see a tall one with dark hair and a very square chin. Ionwë described Beleg thus, if you remember. And the other with sandy hair and a bump on his nose where it was broken once and failed to heal properly. That's what gave him his name, you know--that nose. No one seems to know his real name. Bows and arrows are lying on the ground beside them. They’re sitting before a small fire eating a stew of wild coney and vegetables…stolen, no doubt. I can smell it. They are talking, but I cannot understand what they are saying. Hmm…Raegbund is laughing now. I think they are aware that they are being tracked, and are congratulating themselves with having eluded their pursuers.”

“A fine thing,” Sam muttered. “Well, at least we know they’re out there, and up to no good. But how to find them?”

“I wish I could hear their words,” Frodo said.

“Maybe…if you turned the stopper on the glass around a bit, the sound might get louder?” Sam suggested. Frodo laughed a little.

“Sam,” he said. Then he sat in silence for a moment, watching intently.

“What are they about now?” Sam whispered. Frodo did not answer. He sat absolutely still.

“I think they are somewhere near the cove,” he said at last with a shudder. “I think they do not know where we live exactly, but they do know Northlight lives in that general direction. They are biding their time, waiting until we are certain the danger is past, to strike. But they are not aware that we are at the Palace.”

“Well, that’s a fine state of affairs!” Sam exclaimed. “I s’pose we have that Ionwë to thank for our lives, then. But are we to stay here till the end of ‘em? It’s a fine and splendid place, for sure, but I know you must want to go back home as soon as possible.”

The next day the hunters set out once more, this time near the cove and surrounding areas. Ionwë begged Northlight not to go with them, saying he feared for his life and offering to go in his place, and Sam hoped Northlight would heed…but obviously he had somehow inherited Frodo’s stubborn streak, and he would go. But this time, Ionwë was allowed to go with them, although the Queen still asserted that he was not in good condition for the expedition, and fretted a bit about him after he had gone. It tickled Sam a bit to see the way she had stepped in where Ionwë’s mother had failed. And yes, he had to admit it: he was a trifle worried about the chap, hisself.

In the meantime, it was not dull at the Palace, with all the youngsters about the place, clamoring for more stories, telling tales of their own, singing songs, showing off, teaching the hobbits some of their games, with plenty of youthful enthusiasm. And they were treated to a sparring-match between Little Iorhael and Arasirion. Iorhael was the son of the finest sparring-master on the Island, who had taught him well, but Arasirion was the son of Gandalf, and although he was a few years younger, the lads were evenly matched as to both size and skill. It was a thrill and a wonder to see the two beautiful boys go at it with such fire and grace and surety, even if Sam wasn’t certain which one he was supposed to pull for. Iorhael won the first match and Arasirion the second, the lasses cheering shrilly for both. Lúthien smiled on both lads, but it seemed it was the dashing Arasirion at whom she smiled brightest…not noticing the way Iorhael looked so wistfully at her when she did so, Sam noted. He only hoped she wouldn’t end up spoiling the friendship between them. She was no Honeysuckle Goatcloset, that was for certain!

And it was most lovely to see the way Lord Celeborn was going about getting to know his daughter all over again, the way he looked at her, after being separated from her for such a long, long time…seeing how she had been healed from the terrible things that had befallen her, her joy in her family and surroundings, her delight in life in general. It was as if he were seeing her as she had once been, yet with a difference: she was like a beautiful window behind which the sun had come up, filling all she was with new riches and refinement, purifying and outlining, absorbing all her old, vital, maiden colors into the white fire of divinity. And Sam rejoiced in being able to tell her what was going on with her elder daughter, who had a Lúthien also, Arwen having named her own daughter thusly upon learning that she had a baby sister so called. And she had also a Celebrían, and an Elwing, along with her son Eldarion. A strange thing: Elwing was the one fair-haired one among them. Celebrían much favored her father, which was odd to see, while Lúthien did look the most like her mother, and folks said that the original Lúthien had indeed been reborn….

And Sam was happy to have Mister Frodo to hisself at night, though at the same time feeling a trifle guilty to be doing Anemone out of a husband. But she pointed out that Tilwen was being done out of a husband also, and would have to sleep alone for a while, if Anemone didn’t keep her company. She couldn’t very well do such a thing to her best friend, now could she? she said with twinkling eyes. Sometimes such accommodations had to be made. Sam smiled so gratefully at her, and also wondered how she would make do when Mister Frodo was no longer about. A sad thing it would be for her, to live out her life alone…but then she would have her family and friends all about her, and they would keep her from the coldness of the wet ground at her feet….

But once more the hunters’ quarry managed to escape, and the next day was the same. They was tricksy devils and no mistakin’, Sam had to admit. Mister Frodo consulted the glass again, and sat looking into it a long time, this time with Anemone and Northlight looking on.

“I can see a farmer’s wife complaining to her husband about her garden-patch being raided,” Mister Frodo said after a while. “Wait…I know her. Her name is Anira…”

“I know her too,” Anemone said, sitting up straight, then looking at Sam. “She and a friend of hers stole a dress-design from me, a very long time ago. I painted a pirate-ballad on her back…when I still had my powers.”

“I remember that!” Sam said. “I told Rosie about it, and we both laughed our heads off. And so she married a farmer, did she? Amazin’.”

“I told her what I did one day,” Anemone said smiling. “I expected her to be angry, but she laughed and said it served her and Lissë right. We’re all friends now. I buy vegetables from Anira sometimes, or trade her honey or wine for them.”

“So Beleg and Raegbund are in that vicinity now?” Northlight said. “Where exactly is the farm located?”

“About three and a half miles south of the Cove,” Frodo said. “So they are not far, if they have not moved away from that spot, and I think they have not.”

“They’re goin’ to strike at the cottage, all right,” Sam muttered. “I hope that stone dog bites a huge chunk out of the both of ‘em. That’ll learn ‘em.”

“It might discourage Raegbund, if it were only him,” Northlight said. “But it would probably only increase Beleg’s determination. He’s the sort who would stop at nothing, I think, to get what he wanted. He would figure a way around it.”

“So what do we do now?” Sam asked. “This just don’t bode well at all.”

All fell silent, Frodo staring at the glass intently, the others looking at him. And then Anemone suddenly sat up straight.

“I have an idea,” she said.



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