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49
Lifting the Veil

“Who wants to hear my dream?” Anemone asked. “About Greenjade?”

Raven, Nightingale and Gloryfall immediately were all ears. Frodo smiled.

The previous night he had noticed a light in his star-glass of a particularly rosy hue, and heard a soft voice speaking. And he said to it, “Let Anemone have the dream this time. He is her son. Unless we both might have it.”

And that night they both had it, but he decided he would let her tell it to the others.

They were at Fairwind’s and Barathon’s lovely beachside home, with white pillars surrounding and red tiles atop the roof, and flowering bushes growing between the pillars. And huge trees behind, one of which they all sat beneath, there being benches and long chairs and a round table. Northlight was playing on the beach with his new puppy, Spinner, named for his fondness for chasing his own tail. Recently Northlight had found a light wooden disk about twelve inches in diameter, which had obviously once formed the end of a small barrel, and on a whim he had hurled it away, whereupon it had gone spinning through the air, and the puppy raced after it and caught it just before it could hit the ground, and brought it back to him, begging with his eyes for Northlight to throw it again. So Northlight took it home and sanded it well so as not to get splinters, and lo, he and Spinner had themselves a new toy. He and Guilin were tossing it back and forth to each other, while Spinner dashed wildly in between them trying to catch it, and occasionally succeeding.

Ebbtide sat close by, looking perfectly happy, holding his week-old firstborn son in his arms, and his wife Jasmine sat beside him smiling at the infant and then at the others, and Fairwind sat on the ground facing the beach where her adopted sons Emerion and Faelon were playing in the water with Moonrise’s sons Crystal and Piper, and Embergold’s daughter Sandrose, while the smallest ones, Onyx and Summershine, were more interested in the puppy. Onyx would keep trying to distract him by throwing sticks, which usually worked, and Summershine would try to ride him, calling him her horsy. Spinner would not have stood for that from just anyone, but Summershine was Summershine. He would take anything she did with a wagging tail and a ridiculous grin on his face, as did nearly everybody else.

“You’d a dream of Darkfin?” Gloryfall said to her mother. “Oops…I mean Greenjade.”

“Tell it, tell it!” Nightingale said. “What has he done this time?”

Raven was silent, just looking at Anemone, then at Frodo, then back to the others, and to Anemone once more.

“Well…” Anemone said, “I don’t know if you would truly be interested, seeing as how Fairwind had a Wedding just recently, but…”

“A WEDDING?” the twins chorused. “Our Greenjade?”

“Aye, none other,” Anemone smiled. “So you do wish to hear of it?”

“Wait,” Raven said springing up, “let me call Northlight first. He will want to hear.”

And she went running down to the beach. Frodo smiled and looked at Anemone.

“He certainly likes that dog,” she said fondly. “Even better than the stone one.” She glanced at Moonrise and Ebbtide.

“I should wonder if he didn’t,” Moonrise laughed as his youngest brother came running with Spinner at his feet and Raven at his side. “In very truth, I suspect Stony is a trifle jealous. I can swear I’ve seen him snarl at that pup a time or two.”

“I’m glad he has him,” Frodo said. “I’m rather fond of the fellow myself. That is one happy dog. It’s good to have him about the place.”

“He is the cutest puppy I ever saw,” Gloryfall said. “I'm glad there was that one left in the litter when Nightingale and I found it.”

Her twin grinned impishly.

“So Greenjade is getting married now?” Northlight said as he sprinted up and flopped down on the ground near Fairwind, facing his mother and stepfather. Raven sat down beside him, with Spinner at their feet. Guilin plopped down behind them all.

“Silly, he already has,” Nightingale said. “So, Nana, when are you going to tell it? Or must we get the little ones here also?”

“Nay, I am watching them,” Fairwind said, rather coolly it seemed. “I do not think they would care to hear of a Wedding. Go on with the tale, Nana. I’m listening. What see you?”

“A beautiful temple,” Anemone said, looking away toward the water with dreamy eyes, “smaller than ours, and much more simply constructed, but with beautiful windows of colored glass each representing one of the powers. It is on top of a hill on which is built a white city, directly across from a magnificent palace, in front of which is a white tree, a fountain, and two lovely statues sitting side by side.”

She glanced aside at her husband, who looked away and whistled softly.

“Now I am inside of the Temple,” she continued. “I see many folk sitting on long benches, dressed finely and looking very solemn. And I see a man all in brown, with a long beard, standing with several others. And another man all in white, with a much shorter white beard, at the podium. Oh, and I see two fellows in royal blue, with long dark hair…they look exactly like each other, I must say…” She glanced with twinkling eyes at Nightingale and Gloryfall, who grinned at each other as if sharing some secret. “A lady stands with him, in a beautiful gown of violet blue…”

“Violet blue?” exclaimed Embergold. “Should she not be wearing white?”

“She is not the bride,” Anemone explained. “I believe she is the Queen. She wears a silver circlet on her head. There is a lass at her side, wearing the same color. A beautiful little lass, somewhat younger than Raven, I think, but of the same sort. She holds a bunch of white roses, and her hair is held back with two little pearl clasps, and the braids have white and silver ribbons wrapped around them. She wears a little silver locket. Her gown has beautiful white lace at the sleeves, and silver embroidery.”

The twins sighed and looked at each other with dreamy eyes, then at Raven, who was smiling softly at the picture.

“Is there music playing?” she asked.

“Aye, lovely music,” Anemone said. “Someone is playing on a harp. I cannot see who it is. I think it is from a balcony above. Ah…whom do you think is coming in now, from the side door?”

“The bride?” the twins chorused.

“Nay, I should not call him a bride,” Anemone laughed. “He is in silver grey embroidered in scarlet and green—a velvet jerkin, with a silver chain about his neck, and a splendid medallion showing a white tree on it. And a snow-white shirt underneath, and grey leggings and fine leather boots. His hair is trimmed and neat, rather short, and he has a small beard, and he is fairly glowing from head to foot. You would not know him for your brother. I scarcely recognize him as my son, and would take him for the King at first, but the King is coming in just behind him, and he is a much older man. I think he could pass for Greenjade’s father, in truth. He is in similar array, but with the white tree embroidered on his tunic. And the swan-winged silver crown upon his head. He smiles as he takes his place beside Greenjade, for but a moment, then makes his way down the aisle. The twins are smiling as if they know some wonderful secret, and I wonder if they are plotting some outrageous prank…”

She paused and looked at all three of her sons, who didn’t even bother to try to look innocent. Fairwind looked mildly disturbed, Frodo could not help but notice.

“There are more coming in, a fair-haired Elf, I see, and what appears to be a very small man with a braided brown beard…”

“Gimli the Dwarf,” Frodo said smiling. “With Legolas.”

“And another small fellow, smaller than the dwarf, but with no beard. He is in a soft blue, and his hair is curly and combed very neatly, and his face is clean. He is looking rather wistful, even a bit sad. And he takes his place amongst the groomsmen.”

“Sméagol,” Frodo said softly. Northlight looked at him thoughtfully.

“Where is the bride?” Raven asked.

“I am wondering that myself,” Anemone said. “Oh, wait…I see someone…it is two maidens all in violet blue, carrying small bunches of white and blue flowers. They appear to be sisters, although not of the same age. They are trying to look solemn, but seem a trifle nervous, though delighted to be wearing such lovely gowns. I suppose they don’t get to dress so fine very often. They move slowly up the aisle, then stand beside the little dark-haired Elf-lass, smiling at her, then at the audience. One of them wiggles her fingers a little at someone out there and smiles, and her sister looks reproachfully at her, but she does not seem to notice. Ah, but now they are all looking expectantly, for the door opens, and a figure all in white appears….”

The twins barely repressed a squeal. Raven just smiled radiantly. Northlight looked at her, still absently petting the dog, who was worrying a stick.

“What is her gown like, Nana?” Gloryfall asked anxiously, as though afraid her mother would forget to describe it.

“It is rather simple, but low in the neck, of pure white silk embroidered at the bodice, with beautiful lace attached to the sleeves, falling far below her wrists, down to her knees in fact, buttoned as it were with little pearls to the elbow, then falling away to leave her forearms bare. There are three points coming down from the bodice in front, a long one in the middle and two shorter ones on each side, with more panels of lace hanging from each one. The skirt is plain white, the train trailing behind her, with an overlay of lace in back. The veil covers her face, but is transparent, so that one can see her hair, which is very like that of our own Queen Galadriel, gathered up in front and falling down the back, and a wreath of white lilies holds it in place on her head. She holds a bunch of blue and white flowers…white roses, I think, and blue hepatica, and some tiny golden daisies, or something like them. She slowly moves up the aisle, and her hands seem to tremble a little. I can see her feet in little white slippers embroidered with pearls, just peeping out from beneath her skirt. She seems to be glowing all over also….”

The twins and Raven all let out their breath in a whoosh, then giggled. Fairwind frowned ever so slightly. Embergold smiled and so did the brothers, including Guilin. Frodo grinned to himself. This was another reason he had decided to let Anemone tell the dream. She would remember far more details about the gown than he.

“How is Dar—Greenjade looking at her?” Nightingale asked.

“Exactly as you imagine,” Anemone said softly. “As though he were looking at a lifelong dream that is now standing before him, feeling his unworthiness, a bit of trepidation, as though wondering if he will be able to live up to her estimation of him. Unable to believe his good fortune in finding her and making her fall in love with him. And of course, anticipating the joys to come, once they get away from the crowd and into each other’s arms in the bridal chamber….”

Frodo had to turn away for a moment, his shoulders shaking. Anemone was still Anemone, without a doubt. Not that he would have had her any other way.

The twins were looking at each other in gleeful delight, their eyes nearly closing, then looking mischievously at Northlight, then at Raven, then at their sisters.

“Have they such a book as you and Ada have, Nana?” Embergold asked Anemone solemnly.

“I’ve no idea,” Anemone said. “The one who sent me the dream did not supply such information. I should hope they have one, as all couples should. All right...where was I?”

“Greenjade is looking at her…” Raven suggested. “Oh...I have a new sister now, yes? And a brother I shall never see.”

“That you have,” Anemone said a bit more soberly.

“Are they taking their vows now?” Gloryfall prompted.

“Not yet,” Anemone said. “Now she is standing before him, and the music has stopped playing. He reaches over with trembling hands and…”

“Lifts her veil,” Embergold whispered.

“Aye, he lifts her veil, and…”

“How does she look?” Raven said, also in a whisper.

“Lovely, ever so lovely—she is an Elf, after all,” Anemone said reverently. “Her eyes are as blue as the blue flowers in her bouquet, her cheekbones high and glowing, her mouth soft and pink as…” She looked to her daughters with lifted eyebrows.

“Carnations,” Embergold said.

“Rose petals,” Gloryfall said.

“Baby feet,” Raven said.

“Cream over strawberries,” Nightingale said.

“Rose-colored velvet,” Fairwind said after a slight hesitation.

“Ripe peaches,” Sweetfern said.

“Crab meat in red wine,” Northlight said. Raven giggled, and the twins snatched pillows from the chairs and beat him with them. Spinner barked and yapped, at everyone in particular. It got the children’s attention then, and they all came running.

“Please go on, Nana,” Embergold said as the little ones came clambering over to see what the uproar was all about. They were disappointed in hearing that their grandmum was telling of a Wedding, of someone they didn’t know, but they were mollified when Barathon came out of the house carrying a tray full of pastries. Summershine just avoided her daddy Moonrise, who made a ferocious face at her and growled, and she gave a little screech and ran to her granddaddy, who took her right on his lap. All laughed. Barathon sat down beside Fairwind.

“Where was I?” Anemone said.

“He was lifting her veil,” Raven said.

“Ah yes. Well, he lifts her veil, and put it back over her head. She wears a string of pearls with a little diamond pendant, and they look into each other’s eyes, and the man in white is speaking, asking them if they take each other to be joined in holy wedlock, and they say they do...”

“And he places a ring upon her finger,” Sweetfern said dreamily, looking at her own ring.

“And she puts one on his,” Jasmine said looking at Ebbtide’s ring, then at her tiny sleeping son, which he was still holding, and seemed more than content to do so.

“And then he says, ‘You may kiss the Bride’,” Raven said.

“And he takes her into his arms and kisses her full on the lips,” Gloryfall said.

“And all the bells begin to ring,” Nightingale said.

“And then the little dark lass goes and embraces them both,” Anemone said. “She is their daughter now.”

“What is her name?” Raven asked.

“I did not hear it,” Anemone said.

“She is an Elf also?” Embergold said.

“She is,” Frodo said. “We may see them yet. Or, at least, you all may.” He sighed.

“What about after?” Ebbtide spoke up. “What pranks do the groomsmen play on the bridal pair?”

“As if I’d put ideas into your naughty heads!” his mother laughed. “I did not see that much, anyway.”

“But you did see the celebration?” Nightingale asked.

“There is dancing and singing in the Place of the Fountain,” Anemone said. “All making merry. Naught that you have not seen before. The King and Queen dance with each other, and one of the twins—the Queen’s brother, I think—dances with the little dark lass. Then the other dances with her, then she dances with both at the same time. There are three other little lasses there—her friends, I think. They stand together and watch until she goes back to them, and they are joined by many other girls, and they dance in a ring, then go to a long table laden with goodies. Then the bridal couple dance, only with each other, while all others look on. They dance beneath the White Tree, and the two stone figures seem to be smiling and glowing to see them. Afterward, the Bride turns her back, and flings her bunch of flowers over her shoulder at the crowd. One of the young ladies catches it. I cannot see how she looks. But everyone cheers, although some of the other lasses look disappointed not to have caught it.”

“Why would she toss away her lovely flowers?” Fairwind said. “I did not toss mine. I have them still, although they are long withered, and shall save them even when they are crumbled into dust. Lovelier they are to me, than all the flowers blooming freshly about us now.”

She smiled up at Barathon, who now held Sandrose on his knee. Onyx now sat beside his mother, Embergold.

“It is a custom,” Frodo explained. “The maiden who catches it, is supposedly the one who will marry next.”

“Oh!” the twins cried simultaneously. Gloryfall said, “We should have that custom here. It sounds jolly.”

“It sounds rather foolish to me,” Embergold said. “I like customs when they are sensible, but I cannot see how catching a flower-bunch ensures one of matrimony.”

The twins looked at each other in exasperation.

“You should have thrown yours to Embergold, Fairwind,” Nightingale said. “Then perhaps she would have a husband now.”

“I wish for no husband,” Embergold said smiling with her arms about her son. “I’ve my little fellow here. He does very well for me.”

Onyx snickered.

“We would have made you another flower-bunch exactly like it,” Gloryfall assured Fairwind.

“That is sweet of you, sister, but it would not have been the same,” Fairwind said smiling. “Well, I should be glad for D--Greenjade, and I shall try to be. But I do not see why he should be entitled to so much bliss, after the life he has led in the Sea. It seems he is being rewarded, rather than punished. I cannot understand the concept behind it.”

“I feel much the same,” Ebbtide said. “He tried to kill us, after all. And very nearly killed Guilin.”

Guilin, sitting beside Northlight and Raven, cleared his throat a little. Raven laid her hand over his.

“Likely he has done something to merit it,” Frodo said. “I do not know all he has done in Middle-earth. It has not been revealed to me. But I am certain he would not receive such a bounty without having made himself worthy.”

“I think so too,” Northlight said. “He was one who wished to know much, and was deceived. He has passed out of the deceiver’s hand now, and refused to succumb further. As did I. And I know he deeply regrets the wicked things he did now. I doubt he will ever be entirely free of the guilt.”

“I do not think poor Sméagol will enjoy any such happiness,” Frodo said thoughtfully as he let Summershine squirm out of his lap to go play with the puppy some more. “Then again, he has over five hundred years of wickedness behind him. I dare say the most he will have to look forward to is occasional comforts and the hope of passing into the Gardens when it is all over. Perhaps it will be enough for him. As for Greenjade, I think he will do much good in years to come, and a mate who will bring out the best in him is what he needs for inspiration and motivation.”

“I think you are right,” Anemone said with a doting look at her husband. “As for Garland…well. Perhaps I should not speak of her at all. I will sound as if I were blaming her for his past behavior. Still and all, I can scarcely help but be glad it was not she who was wearing that bridal-gown.”

“I wonder who the, er, lucky fellow was,” Moonrise said taking Sweetfern’s hand. “I wouldn’t care to be in his shoes, myself.”

“Well,” Fairwind said, “I must say, I do not understand how these things work. I am glad for Mother’s sake that he was released. And I hope for the sake of his bride, his child, and others around him, that he will stay on the right path.”

“I will try to see it that way,” Ebbtide said. “But it is hard for me to think of him as my brother, just the same. Guilin fills his place in my estimate. He is our big brother now.”

“That he is,” Northlight said with a little affectionate smile at Guilin, “but, as far as I am concerned, Greenjade is my brother yet. I do not expect anyone else to agree.”

“Well, for what it is worth,” Moonrise said, “I will agree. Although I’m with Ebbtide where Guilin is concerned.”

“And I,” Embergold said. “Greenjade is no longer Darkfin. I have long ceased to think of him as such.”

“I shall try, at least,” Fairwind said.

“And I,” Nightingale said. “Although yes, Guilin is a wonderful brother to us.”

“And I,” Gloryfall echoed. “After all, we saw Greenjade’s Wedding.”

“And perhaps someday we shall see his bride,” Raven said. “I wish to meet the little dark lass. My heart goes out to her already.”

“You shall see her,” Frodo said softly, “someday. But I shall not.”



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