Please allow me to extend my thanks once more for being the best husband ever. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the patience and tenderness you showed me on our wedding night. I am sure you were aware of how frightened I was, but if you were at all hurt or offended by it, you certainly did an excellent job of hiding it! I am sorry it took me so long to overcome my feelings, but you know what I told you about what I endured in that castle. I was this close to calling off the wedding, that is how afraid I was. Thanks be to Iluvatar that I did not!
Would you be terribly embarrassed if I complimented you on your lovemaking skills? I do not know where you acquired them…I suppose from that book Eowyn lent us. I haven’t the courage to look at it yet--silly me! But I soon will. In fact, I think I shall take a peek at it today, when I get some things done about the place…if I ever do, that is!
Oh, I’m so afraid I will not make you a good wife! I love this little cottage so much, all the more so since we are wed, and scarce can believe I am living here. I smile every time I behold it. But I cannot seem to stay inside! Each morning I rise early, as is my habit, make up the fire in the stove and put tea on to brew, then I fetch the rolls from the spring-house to put in the oven. Then go outside to drink my tea. The weather is usually cool but I like it so. I put my shawl over my shoulders and sit out on the bench and watch the sun come up, with Nilde at my feet. And wonder if you are watching the same sunrise with me. Then I go to the stable and feed Nimrodel, then turn her loose to roam at will. After breakfast, I wash up, do a few chores about the house—sweeping, mending, dusting and such. Then I go out to exercise Nimrodel, who never goes far from the house if I am not with her…and that is where I go wrong! For once I am on her back, riding along on the road—I do not want to go back in! There is so much to see! So many roads to choose.
There is the one that passes by the waterfall. It goes upward a little, and there one can look into a deep vale full of poppies and asphodel and purple clover and white daisies. Butterflies abound already, and skylarks and thrushes are twittering everywhere. I can see falcons high above with the sun shining through their wings, wheeling slowly against the white and blue, and sometimes a rabbit will scoot wildly through the tall grass, perhaps to warn the others of the falcons? Sometimes I just have to take Nimrodel running through the meadow, with Nilde following us barking, I simply must be a part of this wide, open beauty before me!
Then the path through the forest. On this one I must be more careful when riding, for a stray branch may knock me off my perch if I do not look where I am going. And the trees are so, so very tall and old, and there are ferns and saplings and wild roses and bluets upon the velvet green moss, and woodbine and honeysuckle twining about the tree trunks, and the calls of wood thrushes echoing all about, and water trickling freshly down the cliffside into little green pools. And mushrooms and lichens and fungi of strange colors and shapes springing from rotting wood on the forest floor.
And yet another road that goes by a lake, impossibly blue and alive with geese and ducks and swans and other waterfowl swimming about the edge among the white and lavender water lilies and reeds and low-hanging pale-green willows that droop over the edge. Sometimes I will see people in boats farther out, usually fishing. And the great water-birds flying above, some in flocks, some alone! If I could but fly with them! Oh but in my mind I am flying always….
And then there is the path that leads beside a wide stream, shallow in some parts, deep in others, with a small bluff on the other side. It comes from the waterfalls one can see much farther down--there are three falls, descending from a very high cliff, and on top of the cliff I can see many trees and flowers and ferns tinged with water drops glittering in the sunlight.
And sometimes I simply must go exploring up the mountainsides, so that I might look down upon it all, but the trouble is that I have no shoes that are suitable for such as yet. I think I will go and see Eowyn and ask her if she can have some sturdy clothing and boots for climbing and hiking made for me. Now can you understand why it is I cannot stay indoors?
It is well I have Mistress Amdir now--I protested to Eowyn rather prematurely about not needing a housekeeper. I do not know what I would do without her! She is good company, and more interesting than one might suppose, and often makes me laugh. She talks a good deal about the War--she used to live in Minas Tirith. So we have a good bit to talk about. Well, of course I can never tell her of my life in Duathris’ castle--that must remain within the family, and I would not wish to speak of it anyway. I merely tell her that I am acquainted with tragedy and grief, myself...and that seems good enough for her.
I am happy that Serilinn is doing so well in school now, surrounded by girls as thoughtful and intelligent as herself. I suppose she sent you copies of those maps she drew for the capital of Calador? She showed me some of them. What an amazing lass! Now she says some of her classmates are designing them also. She also says she is planning to build a little model city for them--she doesn’t know what she’ll use yet, but I’m sure she’ll think of something!
Please write to me soon, my husband, I long to hear from you! I do not like to think of you in that dreadful place…for I know it is so. Two more months! How can I wait so long? Perhaps I can learn to be a wife…if only this place were not so full of life and music and a thousand beauties…then maybe I would not be so distracted by it all, and could attend to my duties. And would not be drawing pictures and writing poems about it all. And would not be wading in the shallow part of the stream and feeling the silky sand beneath my bare feet while tiny fishes nibbled at my toes…or singing songs in the forest to hear them echo off the cliffside…or digging up clumps of wild flowers and seedlings to transplant into my garden…or placing my ear to the boles of trees to hear the sap running within…or dancing in the tall grass because I simply cannot contain the joy that spurts through my veins like the water in the fountains…..
Ever your own
“That letter looks a bit the worse for wear,” Radagast said, startling him as he entered the hut, where Greenjade sat on the rough settee reading.
“It’s nearly nine months old,” he said. “I keep it with me to read if I’m feeling down, although I've plenty of more recent ones.”
“And you are feeling down now?” Radagast asked kindly, coming to sit on a chair beside him.
“A bit,” Greenjade admitted as he folded the letter and tucked it back into his vest pocket. “I’m missing her a good deal...yet thinking I don’t want her to come here. It’s scarcely her kind of place...or her kind of folk. And she’s so in her element where she is.”
He had been in Mordor for one year now. It had recently been deemed habitable enough for Nilde to live there, and so on his last visit to Ithilien, Radagast had taken her back with him. The tawny pup was now the property of Meleth and Serilinn, Elboron having fallen for one of the little black lasses, to the surprise of all. He did not name her Whippersnapper, but rather Blackqueen, his father and Beregond being fond of playing chess. She was called Queenie now. The other puppies had been taken by villagers.
“Now our Pippin will be able to visit his brothers and sisters,” Serilinn said. “Isn’t that superb?” This being her new word, which never failed to make Greenjade smile.
After Serilinn had sent the request to Edoras to find Kaerwyn’s horse, Lightning, Eomer had sent some men to search for her, and they had found her after about three months. And, of course the King refused to take any payment from Serilinn--telling her rather that it was the least he could do for her in repayment of the happiness she had helped to bring to Edoras. Eowyn offered to keep Lightning, but Meleth said it would be better to have her close where Kaerwyn could come and visit her often. And she was good company for Nimrodel. The mares would graze side by side in the wide pasture out back of the cottage, ambling along as two sisters happy just to be in each other’s presence. Needless to say, Serilinn now had a friend for life. Kaerwyn was quite a different girl now she had her horse back, full of life and vigor and fun. She loved to gallop on her horse all over the place, yelling and whooping and jumping fences and other obstacles, so that Meleth feared she would get herself hurt. Pippin would dash after them, barking and yapping, while Serilinn chased after both, laughing and shouting and trying to keep up. And Greenjade and Meleth watched with face-splitting grins, two parents standing in the sunlight with their arms about each other’s waists and sweet grass and cool red clover at their feet and a host of stars hovering all about their heads….
“I’m sorry to be so remiss about writing,” Radagast was saying. “But I’ve scarcely had a moment to myself in I don’t know how long. I’m constantly on the go.”
“You didn’t take your respite,” Greenjade scolded him. “I know the King decreed that it was no longer required. But you still should have a holiday, even so. Take a few days now, I say. Dringon can see to things while you’re gone...and I too.”
Dringon was a giant, over seven feet tall and very powerfully built. Sméagol could have walked under his legs without ducking his head. He was a stonecutter, which was how he got his name, meaning “hammer”--his real name being long forgotten. And he was largely in charge of keeping order in the settlement, since not many would have cared to go up against him. He was far more quick-witted than he let on, and Radagast, who was much regarded as the leader of the settlement, respected his counsel.
“I don’t like to travel so much any more,” the Wizard said. “And I’ve grown much attached to this place, strange to say. I certainly did not expect that to happen.”
“I wish I felt the same,” Greenjade said.
“So how long are you here?” Radagast asked. “Your stint in the army is not over yet?”
“Not for another year,” Greenjade said. “And I’ll be here less than a week. Wish I could come up more often, but it’s two hundred miles from the outpost, and over some rather unfriendly terrain. I’ve just come back from Ithilien, and stopped by here on the way.”
“And I’m glad you did,” Radagast said. “Sméagol and Gimli are on a hunting expedition, and may be bringing back some meat tonight. There’s bread and cheese here, if you cannot wait so long.”
“I could do with a bite,” Greenjade said. “I ate a huge meal at Minas Ithil, but that was several hours back.”
“I’m sorry I can’t offer tea,” Radagast said as he went to the kitchen to fetch the proffered viands. “We’ve fresh milk, however.”
“That will do,” Greenjade said. “I brought jam, by the way. Blueberry and strawberry.”
“Wonderful!” the Wizard said in almost childlike delight. Jam was nearly impossible to come by in the settlement.
It was in what had once been known as the Plateau of Gorgoroth. Radagast and Sméagol and Gimli had a house all together, built of stone and mortar, with but two rooms, and a thatched roof. There was one window, of woven sticks, and a loft of sorts, where supplies were kept, and Radagast insisted on sleeping up there when Greenjade came to visit. In another room was the kitchen, consisting of a fireplace, a table and two benches, and a larder. Further back from the kitchen was what served as a sitting-room, with three large chairs covered with old blankets. And a wolf-skin rug, the property of Nilde now. Gimli complained of the stink, but she clung to it as a child to its favorite toy.
“You’ve a house made of chunks of Mount Doom,” Greenjade remarked as he inspected the rough and smoky-looking walls of the hut, and the black-bricked fireplace. “And perhaps of the Dark Tower as well.”
“I fully intend to have it whitewashed,” Radagast said as he bit ravenously into his slice of bread and jam. “Gimli has been out looking for lime deposits.”
“What are those green things up there on the roof?” Greenjade asked as he happened to glance upward. “They appear to be plants of some sort.”
“Succulents,” Radagast said. “They are supposed to prevent lightning, and promote prosperity, when grown under roof thatch, or between tiles.”
“Well, this house looks prosperous compared to some I've seen around here," Greenjade conceded. “What of the lightning?”
“We've not been struck yet,” Radagast said with twinkling eyes.
After the meal, they went outdoors to have a look around. Out back of the hut was a garden, where potatoes, carrots, peppers, beans and onions were grown, along with tobacco and herbs, hemp plants, and more succulents, namely aloe, along with stem and leaf succulents, sedum and sempervivum and hawortha, in shades of green and red and pink and yellow, and thirst-quenching purslane, all edible, according to Radagast. He had planted many fruit and nut trees with the seeds he had picked up here and there on their journey, and they were grown considerably over the past year, although not bearing fruit yet. Some were nearly as tall as he was. He had acquired bees in Ithilien to pollinate the trees, and now had several hives. Grass and clover now grew over one part of the plain, grazed by cattle and sheep and horses and donkeys, and daily they went out with wheelbarrows to collect dung to make fertilizer. There was a dairy nearby, so that Radagast and Sméagol and Gimli were kept supplied with milk and butter and cheese and eggs. There were fields of wheat and oats and barley and flax also, that the three of them had helped to sow and cultivate. They had built a mill near a stream from the mountains, diverting it through the plain to irrigate it and supply water to the inhabitants and cattle. The lava rock had helped to make the soil fertile, and the crops grew in thick and lush now. There were even flowers. A huge crater carved out by flying rock during the cataclysm had become filled with water, so they had a watering hole. Wild deer could occasionally be seen, as well as rabbits and foxes, and badgers and wolves and bears and wild goats and pigs. Gimli, though retired as a warrior due to a leg injury he had suffered in a riding accident four years previous, found himself able to hunt, Legolas having taught him to shoot, and he and Sméagol and a few others enjoyed occasional feasts over outdoor fires, swapping war stories and singing old ballads. Sméagol was accepted as one of them, after they saw and tasted what he could do with a pot and a few herbs and beans and potatoes.
He managed to deal with the fearful memories of Mount Doom now that the land was so changed; it scarcely looked the same as he remembered, what with the grass and trees and houses, the streams and wells, and so much work to do, he could only fall fast asleep at night, with little time to lie awake brooding on the past. He lived in the present only, and contented himself with the company of the Wizard and the Dwarf and his beloved Nilde. It was all he wanted...for the time being. He had his bed, even if it were not so soft as he could have desired, and the feel of grass beneath his feet. He could fish in the stream, and feel the water about his ankles as he sat on the bank in the sunlight with Nilde at his side. If he ever sighed with envy of Greenjade and his Meleth and Serlinn, he did not sigh alone.
The settlement was mainly of men from many different nations and regions: Eriador, Gondor, Rohan, Rhovannion, Rhun. There were very few women, mostly wives of the settlers, and very few children. There was a town of sorts. On the “main street” was an alehouse, with a couple of rooms above, called The Belching Bridegroom. It was run by a widow called Alphi. She was in her middle sixties and as energetic as a maiden of twenty, and nearly as strong as a man and as hard working, with sharp little dark eyes under thick brows that nearly met over her beaky nose, and a tooth missing in front, through which it was said she could spit like any man.
In addition to The Belching Bridegroom, there was a smithy, a jailhouse, a feedstore, a butcher shop, a general store, a cartwright’s shop, a potter’s shop, and even a bathhouse of sorts, not that many bathed. Some men complained that there was no brothel, but not enough women could be persuaded to come out for the purpose a brothel afforded. There were two sisters from South Gondor, but they lived in a one-room hut together and when one was “servicing” a client, the other had little choice but to go outside and wait. Radagast had heard tell of them, but still did not know where they lived. The huts all looked much the same. Scarcely what Serilinn had envisioned for a capital city, to say the least.
“She has her eye on you,” Greenjade teased Radagast, as they ambled along the main street, watching Alphi dumping a bucket of dirty water from the upper story of the alehouse, almost drenching a couple of passers-by. One of them yelled something at her that Greenjade could not quite catch, and she made a hand gesture at him the meaning of which he could only guess. Then, catching sight of Radagast, she waved and smiled hugely. “Have you seen her looking at you when your back is turned?”
“Bah!” the Wizard scoffed, and laughed. “I doubt any woman could put up with the likes of me for any length of time. I would make the most exasperating husband ever, I should think.”
“You probably would, at that,” Greenjade said with a wink. “I’ll wager that one would make a fine wife, however. You could come in drunk as you pleased, and she would merely rap your knuckles and then pour you into bed, and dump cold water in your face in the morning when you awoke with a hangover the size of Mount Doom.”
“Indeed,” Radagast said drily. “Speaking of wives, how is yours?”
“She’s teaching a school now,” Greenjade said smiling.
“Is she now? How so?”
“Aye. She has about eight little pupils in the morning, and they have their lessons in the front room of the cottage. In the afternoon, she teaches their parents…in the mayor’s house, no less. Since there’s not enough room for all in the cottage. She’s written to Eowyn requesting a school building, and I think it will be done soon. So she is keeping herself busy, and she loves the work. However, I’m afraid she won’t wish to come here. She says she can’t wait, but she may change her mind when she gets here. She’s thoroughly in love with Ithilien, and I dare say we both would be more than happy to make our home there.”
Greenjade had not yet seen fit to fly his flag here, and he kept it wrapped in a cloth under his bed at the outpost. The land had been officially renamed Calador, but in his mind it was still Mordor.
There were still orcs about, but now that Sauron had been defeated and cast out, they seemed broken and kept to themselves mainly. Unknown to the others, Radagast brought honey and bread and cheese their way once a month. In return they kept away from the settlement, and only occasionally slipped in to pilfer vegetables or chickens.
It was chiefly their presence that got in Greenjade’s way, and caused him to think of the land as Mordor still. But what to do about them? Radagast had asked him not to speak of them to Elladan and Elrohir...as much for the sake of the twins themselves as for the sake of the orcs.
“I’m sure they know of the orcs,” Greenjade said as they went to look at the grove of walnut trees Radagast had planted the year before. “Yet I do not think even they would invade the orc colony in cold blood, without sufficient provocation. And I doubt the theft of a few potatoes or pullets would come under the heading of ‘sufficient provocation.’ Yet I do have a problem with the colony, if one can call it such, being there. It’s the main reason I don’t wish Meleth and Serilinn here. Would that I could simply serve out the rest of my stint here, then go back and settle in Ithilien with them! But that cannot be.”
“I’m truly sorry for it, Greenjade,” Radagast said. “They make me uneasy also. And I do not fool myself that showing them a bit of kindness and tossing them a few bones is going to ‘civilize’ them. They have been too far ingrained in evil for for too long. However, extermination is out of the question.”
“Perhaps they’ll end up killing each other off eventually,” Greenjade said, peering up at the sky. “I’ve noticed buzzards circling in that direction a time or two. But maybe that’s too much to hope for also. How many are there, do you know?”
“I’ve no idea,” Radagast said. “Not so many, I think. Likely not more than a hundred or so. I think there are Uruks among them; I saw some footprints too large for mere orcs.”
“Sounds a rather large number to me,” Greenjade said. “At least, in proportion to our population. What do you think it would take to provoke them into a full-scale attack so that we might fight them off and be justified in killing them all?” He laughed grimly.
Radagast frowned. Greenjade’s laughter sputtered and died.
“Their colony is nearly forty miles east of here,” the Wizard said. “I do not think they want much to do with us, and can be trusted to keep their distance. It will never be a perfect land, but perhaps we should accept her as we find her, and do what we can to bring out the best in her. And concentrate on bettering ourselves and our own folk, rather than a folk that does not wish bettering.”
“Be that as it may,” Greenjade said, “I still do not wish my wife and child anywhere near where those vile creatures are in any proximity. The story of the twins’ mother is haunting me a bit, I think. The thought of risking the loss of my heart’s treasures is more than I can bear. I suppose it will have to be as it is now, with us living apart for all our days, and seeing each other when we can.”
“Then let us go on as we are now,” Radagast said, “and perhaps in time, it will get better. Things will work out, I am sure, although I cannot foresee how it will happen. And I believe I see Gimli and Sméagol returning from the hunt...and I’ll wager that’s a wild boar they are carrying on a pole between them.”
“Superb,” Greenjade said without a smile.