Anemone’s plan was simple, inspired by an earlier discussion of the Play. The family would be at the cottage…only, they wouldn’t be. Moonrise’s eldest son, Crystal, had the silvery hair, and could be mistaken for Northlight if one didn’t look too closely at his face. His cousin, Ebbtide’s daughter Whitegull, had the black hair, despite her name, and could pass for Raven at a distance. Crystal’s youngest sister, Lotus, who was about Amaryllis’ size and approximate age, would stand in for Amaryllis. And Summershine, being the dead ringer for Anemone that she was, would portray her grandmum.
“What about us?” Sam said, feeling mighty curious about who would play him.
“You and Frodo have been taken to the Palace,” Anemone said smiling, “and there you will stay. All the others will be lurking about, watching, and when the villains appear…well, they won’t know what hit them.”
“Does Lotus HAVE to be me?” wailed Amaryllis, and Sam had a strong feeling she and her cousin were on the outs with each other. “Why can’t I be me? I’m not afraid any more. I want to go out there. Please please please please please please please?”
“No, dearie,” Anemone said reaching out to caress her granddaughter’s hair. “Lotus has powers you do not. We won’t risk your life out there.”
“It’s not fair,” Amaryllis said and sank back with a pout, her arms folded. “Why does it have to be Lotus of all people? Why can’t it at least be Butterfly?”
“Butterfly has golden hair, remember?” Northlight smiled. “Lotus has your color, and could look like you to anyone who doesn’t know better.”
“Lotus looks NOTHING like me, hair or no hair,” Amaryllis grumbled. “And she gives herself such airs, like she’s the queen of the world or something. She’ll never let me hear the end of it.”
“Don’t be so silly,” Raven said. “We are protecting your life, little lady. And Lotus would be glad to do so, I know. Now sit up and stop pouting.”
“She’d better not get into my things,” Amaryllis muttered, sitting up a bit, but keeping her arms crossed. “She’d better not wear my pearl bracelet and lose it. And she had BETTER stay out of my diary!”
“She won’t get into your things,” Moonrise said smiling. “She won’t even be at your house, little Elf. But just to ease your mind, if you will tell me where you keep your diary, I’ll tell Summershine and she will hide it for you. You do trust Summershine, don’t you?”
“I’d trust her with the depths of my inmost soul,” Amaryllis said. “But I wouldn’t trust Lotus as far as I could throw her. I can’t believe the two of them are sisters.”
“That’s enough, Amaryllis,” Raven said.
“And Crystal’s wife and Whitegull’s mate are going to be less than thrilled,” Amaryllis pointed out, “about them pretending to be husband and wife, and living in the same house. I smell trouble brewing already.”
“They will be close by,” Northlight grinned, “to make sure their mates stay out of mischief, I’m sure. Perhaps they’ll pretend to be birds. Or snakes…or fishes in the fountain. Or...spiders. Big horrible ones. You wouldn't want to be there.”
“Errrgggghhhh,” Silivren shuddered. Sam found himself nodding agreement. Castiel nibbled at a fingernail, her dark eyes very wide.
“I want to go and watch, at least,” Amaryllis pleaded. “I could hide and watch. It would be so interesting. It’s no fun around here.”
“You've seemed to be having lots of fun with your friends since you came,” Anemone pointed out.
“I wasn’t,” Amaryllis said defiantly. “I was only pretending.”
Silivren stared at her in open-mouthed shock and looked at Castiel, who looked as astounded as her cousin.
“Somehow I don’t quite believe that,” Raven said suppressing a smile.
“Well…maybe I was having some fun,” Amaryllis said. “But that was then. I’m having a hideous time today.”
“Poor dear,” Anemone said shaking her head.
“And poor Lotus,” Frodo said pulling a sad face. “She didn’t even get to come to the Palace, and you did.”
“She could have come,” Amaryllis said. “If she’d wanted to. And she’d better stay out of my things.”
“So where is this world-famous diary?” Moonrise asked her.
“It’s in the topmost of my chest of drawers,” Amaryllis said primly, “buried under my…things. And it's not world-famous, only I know what's in it. And I'd much prefer to keep it that way.”
“I’ll tell Summershine then,” her uncle promised her. “In the meantime, I’m sure you’ll have a less hideous time here, if you’ll make up your mind to it.”
“Well, I’m ready to go back home,” Silivren said to her mother, tossing her head. “Since some people seem to think we’re not good enough to associate with them, and not good company any more. What do you think, Castiel?”
“I agree with you,” her cousin said. “I guess I know when I’m not wanted around here. I really came to be with my sister and my nephew anyway, so there.”
“Perhael?” Amaryllis sniffed. “Pooh. He’s only a baby.”
“I’m not a baby,” Perhael spoke up from his corner where he was intently constructing a fort with blocks.
“He’s not a baby,” Castiel agreed. Ninniach snickered traitorously, poking Perhael in the belly with a forefinger. Perhael slapped his hand.
“Yes you are,” Amaryllis said. “You still sit on your mummy’s lap. Only babies do that. I bet you still wear nappies.”
“That’s enough, Amaryllis,” Raven said darkly.
“He does not wear nappies,” Castiel said even more darkly.
“I don’t wear nappies,” Perhael said. His chubby little face was getting considerable red. Shy and quiet as he was, he plainly had a temper, Sam noted.
“I bet you do,” Amaryllis said with a little giggle. “I bet you wear nappies with your name on them. I bet you suck your thumb when nobody’s looking.”
“I don’t!” Perhael said, and suddenly he stood up and charged at Amaryllis like an angry little bull. He flung himself at her and tackled her round the waist, and she laughed and tickled him under the arms. He shrieked and tried to tickle her back, and soon they were rolling around on a rug like puppies, both of them giggling hysterically. Ninniach and the other girls soon got in on it, then Jolyan and Iorhael and Arasirion came running in to see what all the racket was about, until Raven and Tilwen and Lyrien separated them all, telling them to take it outside. After a short while, a game of hide-and-seek could be heard going on outdoors.
“Well!” Sam said after they had gone. “Felt like I was back in time, for a minute there.”
“Not much difference between elf-children and hobbit-children after all, is there,” Frodo agreed laughing a little. “So…I think it is a good plan, do you? Perhaps I can watch what goes on through the star-glass…and maybe influence them somehow. Perhaps if I project my thoughts toward Beleg and Raegbund, I can lead them somehow astray.”
They discussed the idea in more detail, and after several suggestions, debates, nitpicks, and quibbles, they decided to go with the original plan. And after luncheon Moonrise departed, after once again promising Amaryllis to ask Summershine to hide the diary.
“He’ll probably forget,” she muttered after her uncle had gone. “And Lotus will spread my inmost secrets all over the Island, and I’ll never be able to hold my head up again. I’ll be doomed.”
“Those must be some very interesting secrets,” Frodo noted with a smile, and Sam wondered if the secrets had aught to do with a certain red-haired lad. “But I shall influence him through the glass not to forget. Then your inmost secrets will be quite safe, my love.”
Amaryllis smiled at him with profound gratitude.
The next morning Frodo said he would have to concentrate fully on the glass to see what was going on, so he could not have everyone gathered around. So only Sam, Anemone and Northlight stayed in the room with him, along with Elrond. They retreated to the elf-lord’s private study, which had a window facing northwest—this seeming to afford the best reception for the glass, since the Beacon lay in that direction.
Three pairs of blue eyes, one pair of brown and one pair of dark grey watched the glass intently, willing Beleg and Raegbund to appear. After a quarter of an hour or so, Frodo murmured that he could see them now, finishing up the remains of a meal…roasted chicken this time. He focused his thoughts on them as hard as he could, willing them in the direction of the cottage. Sam willed them also, figuring two heads were better than one especially seeing as how there were two villains out there.
“I think they’re going now,” Mister Frodo whispered after a while. “They’re on foot, walking up the mill-road. Here comes someone. It’s Lainadan the miller’s son Imrathon, driving a wagon full of flour-sacks….”
“I hope they don’t do him harm,” Sam said. Northlight nodded, frowning.
“They won’t,” Frodo said. “They are asking him if this is the road on which the Ringbearer lives…”
“He surely won’t tell them,” Northlight said.
“Imrathon says yes, it is,” Frodo said. “Normally he would not. But I influenced him. If he had not told, they would have gotten rough with him.”
“Well then!” Sam said, and didn’t know what else to say.
“He is telling them now,” Frodo said, “that the Ringbearers have been taken into the Queen’s protective custody at the Palace, but the others have gone back home. Says he’s not sure what’s going on, just that they must be kept safe. Beleg and Raegbund smile and nod, and say yes, that’s a good idea, you never know who or what might be out lurking about. One never can be too careful. All that sort of thing. Then they thank Imrathon for the information, and salute him and go on their way. Imrathon looks troubled and somewhat baffled. Wondering why he told them what he did, of course. He seems to be considering turning back to his father’s. I tell him to wait until the others are well out of earshot, then go tell his father.”
“That’s good,” Sam said.
“Now they are going up the road. They are singing a song, the words of which I don’t care to repeat. Raegbund hurls a stone at a wild animal, misses, and laughs. Oh…now a young maiden is coming up the road with a basket…”
“Oh no,” Anemone said.
“She is a long way off, and they do not see her. I tell her to take a path leading up to a spring. It’s Falathwen the wainwright’s daughter. I tell her to stay by the spring, and she does so. I tell her to take the meadow road. Yes…she is going through the woods in the direction of the meadow road, and seems frightened….Now Beleg and Raegbund are passing her way. I will them to look up so they will not notice her footprints. Raegbund hears something in the woods and looks back her way, then glances to his companion with raised eyebrows. I influence a pheasant to fly up suddenly and distract them….”
“A pity we can’t influence a bear to come along and make short work of ‘em,” Sam mumbled. “Or can we?”
“If a bear were coming…but no. If I had not seen a stuffed bear in an elf’s home once, I would not believe there were any bears on the Island. But not to worry. Our sea-kin will step in where wild beasts will not.”
“So what are they doing now?” Anemone asked.
“Still walking,” Frodo said. “We will have a long wait, I fear, before they get to the cottage, since they are on foot. They have about three and a half miles to go yet. But I must not take my eyes from them, in case they should do more mischief along the way….”
Another quarter of an hour went by before Frodo had anything of interest to report, and Sam felt his eyelids getting heavy, but he fought to stay awake, since he was supposed to be helping to influence the scoundrels. Anemone went to get them something to eat. Northlight sat in grim silence, and Sam wondered what was going through his mind. His composure was admirable. Sam looked up at Lord Elrond, who was looking down at a book. The elf-lord noticed the hobbit looking at him and smiled.
“I doubt you were expecting this much drama when you came to the Island, Master Samwise?” he said.
“Well, no, I weren’t,” Sam admitted. “But now that I’m here, I s’pose I must take whatever comes, whether good or ill. And I’m not one whit sorry for it, neither. What’s goin’ on now, M—Frodo?”
“I can see Crystal,” he said, “talking with Moonrise. Whitegull is with Lotus in the garden. Summershine is with little Starbright and Peregrin on the terrace. They are admiring the stone dog….”
“They ain’t scared of it?” Sam said.
“Not in the slightest,” Frodo smiled. “Starbright is trying to climb on its back.”
“Who’ll mind them while Mistress Summershine is at the cottage?” Sam asked.
“They will stay with their grandmum, Sweetfern,” Frodo said. “Now Lotus goes up and catches little Peregrin up and swings him around. She’s acting a good deal like Amaryllis, I must say….Ah, now I can see them. They are on the other side of the bridge.…”
“Oh no,” gasped Sam. “You’ll tell the others they’re there, Mister Frodo—I mean, Frodo?”
“They already know,” Frodo said. “And Beleg and Raegbund look ready to cross the bridge....”