“I dare not go to sleep,” Serilinn said as they set out the following morning, having spent the previous night in Minas Ithil. “This is the moment of all moments. I have been waiting for this my whole life long.”
“It’s not so far,” Greenjade said as he lifted her up into the wagon seat, then assisted Meleth onto Nimrodel. Kaerwyn had already mounted Lightning. Radagast and Sméagol came chugging up behind, carrying a basket of food. “We should be reaching the border about noontime. You can catch a nap if you like; we’ll never let you sleep through the crossing.”
“Oh, I couldn’t sleep today if I had to,” Serilinn said as she settled herself next to her father. “Even though I barely slept last night for the excitement. Oh, I cannot BELIEVE this day has come at last! I know I am talking too much, but I can’t help it.”
“Talk all you like, my love,” Greenjade said giving her cheek a kiss. “Radagast and Sméagol are driving the other wagon, so they will not be bothered.” He glanced back at them with a wink.
“I am excited too,” Meleth said. “This is a new beginning for us all. The end of our journey, and yet the start.”
“I look forward to meeting the girls from the orphans’ home,” Kaerwyn said. “I knew some of them. They were good friends of mine. I’m so glad they are going to be there too. Do I have to get married also, if I live with them?”
“Do you not wish to?” Meleth said.
“I don’t know,” Kaerwyn fretted. “Perhaps if he was exactly the right man…but I don’t wish to marry just anybody.”
“You’ll not have to marry ‘just anybody’,” Meleth said. “The King laid down the rules. Only men who have lived in Calador for at least three years and have steady work and a good reputation may choose a bride from the new home. And she must be willing.”
“The idea of marriage frightens me a little,” Kaerwyn admitted. “I’ve not lived among males much. I know so little of them. I know not how they think…or anything.”
“Perhaps I can be of some assistance there,” Meleth said. “I could be a counselor for any who desire it, and discuss delicate matters that they may be embarrassed to ask about themselves. What think you of that?” she asked Greenjade.
“I was going to suggest that very thing,” he said turning to smile at her with his entire being.
“You will put up your flag, Ada?” Serilinn pleaded.
“As soon as we can come by a pole,” Greenjade said. “It’s just as well I did not put it up before, for it would be faded by now, and want replacing.”
“I want to be there when it goes up,” Serilinn said. “It will be the proudest moment of my life.”
Greenjade chuckled. “I think I already had my proudest moment,” he said, more soberly.
“Here is your new home,” Radagast said as they drove in site of his house. Serilinn had said not a word for the past quarter of an hour; she was rendered totally speechless, which was most unsettling for everyone. She was pale except for two red spots on her cheeks, her eyes glistening and ready to overflow at any moment.
And then she spoke. “Oh, myyyy,” was all she could find to say. “Oh myyyy. Oh myyyy. Oh myyyy!”
Dringon was there to greet them, having been seeing to the care of the house in their absence, and with him was a tall, fair-haired youth in brown tunic and leggings. He watched with interest as the party drove up toward the stable, then his bright-blue eyes widened at the sight of Kaerwyn on her horse.
“That’s a fine mare,” he said as he was taking Lightning and Nimrodel to the stables. “I’m Garulf, by the way. Greenjade’s assistant.”
“I am Kaerwyn,” the Rohirric girl said a trifle shyly. “Serilinn’s friend.”
“Did you have a nice journey?” he asked after a moment’s hesitation.
“Very nice,” she said, hesitantly also. “I did not expect so many trees.”
“There are a good many trees,” he said. And smiled.
“Yes,” she said. “Tall ones. And lots of open spaces also. A good place for horses.”
“Yes, it is,” Garulf agreed. And they both smiled.
“Look at this GARDEN,” exclaimed Serilinn, rushing past them toward the back yard, Pippin charging frantically after her as if fearing to let her out of his sight, barking. “My dreams are all coming true before my very eyes! It is soooo overwhelming, I don’t know what to do!”
“Mine too,” Meleth said dreamily, coming up slowly after her. “We truly are home…for the time being.”
“Look,” Elrohir exclaimed to Meleth as he watched the Elves working on the new dormitory under Greenjade’s supervision. Meleth looked, and saw a lady among them, with golden hair rather like her own, bound into a braid, carrying a large pale of water. “Is it possible? No…I had no idea there were…females…among them. She must be from Ithilien.”
He stopped, looking embarrassed to have uttered the word “females” in front of a lady, but Meleth merely smiled.
“I do not know,” she said. “I have not seen her before.”
“It is impossible,” Elrohir said. “Even if there were any, why would they have sent her back? Surely she was not in the army. Do you know her name?”
“Nay,” Meleth said. “I have not met her.”
“She is of the Ithilien Elves,” Elrohir said. “She’s very lovely. Far too lovely for…”
“She is indeed,” Meleth said. “Why not go and speak to her?”
“I know not what I would say,” Elrohir stammered.
“I am sure you will think of something,” Meleth smiled. “You might ask her her name, if you are so curious as all that.”
“Perhaps I will…eventually,” Elrohir said.
“Eventually,” Meleth said, pulling a mock frown. “Well…if you do not ask her now, someone else may beat you to it, you know.”
And she turned away so he would not see her giggle, and went to catch Nimrodel, who was straying into the garden patch.
“Will they pass into the West someday?” Serilinn asked Greenjade as she brought him his lunch, looking at the Elves working on the nearly completed building.
“I do not know,” he said taking the basket from her and lifting the cloth with a smile. “They seem content here. I dare say they will stay for a great many years…longer than you will.”
“But they could, if they wished?” Serilinn said.
“I am not sure,” Greenjade said. “I have little communication with them, other than work matters. We do not make casual conversation.”
“It seems unfair to me,” she said, “that they could go into the West, when you could not. Do you think the ban could be lifted? Since you have done well here, and helped Calador to become purified? I think they should let you go.”
“It’s no matter,” he said trying to refrain from a sigh. “I will content myself with my family and my work here, and look forward to meeting my loved ones in the world to come. I am happy with that. I do not ask for that to which I am not entitled. Even if the ban were lifted, I doubt I will live long enough to go when Legolas gets that ship built.”
“I still wish you might go with us,” she pouted.
“You will be with me someday, you and Meleth,” he said. “It will be a good while, but it will not seem so to me, or so I’ve been told. You will enjoy the Undying Lands. And I will see my other children again.”
“I would love to meet them,” Serilinn said smiling. “And you’ll meet the Ringbearer and his lady? Your mother?”
“I can scarcely wait to meet him,” Greenjade said. “Well, no, that is not quite true. I can wait…for however long it takes. But I am much looking forward to it.”
“What of Utiradion?” she asked after a moment. “Have you seen him again?”
“Nay, and neither has anyone else,” Greenjade said, startled at the question. “I am afraid he perished in the fray, or was ambushed by the enemy.”
“I suppose so,” she said sadly. “I would have loved to meet him, and thank him for saving your life. I would have done much for him, and made him something very beautiful, although I don’t know what.”
“Perhaps we can make him a monument,” Greenjade said.
“That would be a wonderful idea,” she said, “if we but knew where his body lay.”
And she fell silent once more, waving to Kaerwyn as she brought a pitcher of water to Garulf.
“Kaerwyn and Garulf are sweet on each other,” Serilinn said softly, turning to Greenjade again, brightening.
“You’ve noticed that too?” he said with a chuckle. He was glad they were hitting it off, at the same time rather sorry now that Kaerwyn was moving out. She had been a big help about the place, working as stable-boy full time. Her knowledge of horses was astonishing. She was resourceful and inventive, and could do extraordinary things with ordinary objects. And she had a daring and mischievous spirit and sense of fun that landed her in trouble sometimes, yet she always managed to extricate herself from it with a laugh, and she was smart enough to learn from her mistakes, and best of all, she made Serilinn laugh. Garulf said she had clean spoiled him for other girls. Things were not dull with her around.
She wasn’t hard to look at either. Not beautiful as Elf-maidens were, but healthy and fresh-faced, attractively disheveled and rooted in goodness and life.
She reminded Greenjade a good deal of Nell.
Sméagol had became the official cook for the village. He would cook a big pot of stew each morning, sometimes beef, sometimes rabbit, sometimes ham or venison, and at noonday, the working men would bring bowls and spoons which Sméagol would fill with a big ladle. They would eat it at the long tables provided for them, over which a pavilion was eventually erected to protect them from the weather. By and by the pavilion would acquire walls and a fireplace over which Sméagol might cook the stew without interference from the elements. He was thought very highly of for his culinary skills, and although the men teased him at times, they were always glad to see him, and set up a huge cheer when he arrived at the pavilion.
And now he could be seen with his stewpot at the site of the dormitory, and the Elves partook of the meals, and all smiled each time he came into their site. He became a mascot of sorts for them, and eventually they would build him his own little house, very near Radagast’s.
The flagpole arrived just after the dormitory was finished. There was a huge celebration as the banner was hoisted up the pole…by Serilinn herself, who solemnly declared that this was the greatest honor she had ever known. And as cheers arose from the crowd, the ever-ready tears spilled from her eyes as all looked up at the flag flapping wildly in the strong breeze, with the sun shining through the blue field and the golden-brown body of the Eagle, and the golden letters of the name she had chosen for her new home.
Shortly after the wedding of Kaerwyn and Garulf, the first couple from the new dormitory to marry, a daughter was born to Greenjade and Meleth. And so Serilinn’s dream of getting a little sister was fulfilled. She was named Bryseluthea, for Greenjade’s mother. He could only hope his mother would somehow know of the child and her name.
And as he held his newborn for the first time, perching on the edge of the bed beside Meleth, whose golden head rested on his shoulder, Serilinn hovering close by and fairly weeping with delight, Radagast and Sméagol standing in the doorway looking on, he realized that all the joyous moments of his life were mere preludes to this, this tiny warm curled life, still damp from its first bath, fitting exactly into the crook of his arm. This was what it was all about, after all. He had thought he had known, but he’d had no clue, truly. This, and this, and this. What else was there?
This was the Truth he had been long seeking, and now it lay sleeping in his arms, the jeweled and infinite window to the Divine.
A few days later as he was holding the little one, he suddenly looked up to see Serilinn gazing down at him and her baby sister, wistfully, even fearfully. He extended a hand to her and she took it, as he asked her with his eyes what was troubling her.
“Do you love her more than me?” she asked him. “She is of your flesh and blood, and I am not. Do you love her more, Ada?”
He felt an acute pang at the question. Well…he might have known she would wonder such a thing. What to tell her?
“Nay…not more,” he said pulling her over to sit at his side. “As much. I love you not one whit less, flesh or no flesh. You need never trouble yourself on that account, my darling. You are the world to me. She is new, and as you say, of my flesh and blood. So if I am filled with joy and wonder of her, it does not mean that you are any less to me. You are the reason I am here now, immersed in bliss for all time. Naught is sweeter to me than to hear you call me your Ada. Never forget that, most beautiful one.”
She smiled and leaned her head on his shoulder, and he laid his cheek on top of her head, blinking hard.
“I think she will look like Nana,” Serilinn murmured after a moment.
“I think so too,” he said smiling also.
The dormitory, which had been affectionately dubbed the Bridehouse, never quite stood empty. When the young occupants married and left it for homes of their own, others came to take their place. The garden grew so extensively, it was now technically a farm, complete with cows, goats, chickens, and even pigs. There were two young women there who did not wish to marry, and they went off together to live and set up their own dairy. One of them had great skill at concocting delectable products of milk, cream, butter, or cheese, which they sold from a shop that Greenjade helped build for them. The expected remarks and insinuations about their living arrangements were made, but never went beyond that, as long as the delightful dishes kept coming, no one truly cared what went on behind their doors.
And Radagast had a small temple built nearby. Many a couple was married there.
The Elves settled, as designated, in the west and south of Calador. They did much planting and farming and building, and some worked in the mines, but few of them married. Their orc-past sat too heavily on them, for the most part. But there were very few violent incidents reported among them. And they did much to help the former captives of Sauron in the southeast, who never knew of their origins.
And it was they who built the capital city, after all, where the tower of Barad-dur once stood. The twins, whom Aragorn placed in charge of ruling Calador, went to live there. Fortunately it was but about forty miles from Elvea. It had a cool and ethereal beauty about it, rather like Minas Ithil. Many of the buildings were from Serilinn’s designs, slightly modified by architects of more experience, yet very recognizable, and with a gently quirky uniqueness that would come to be known as “the Serilinn Style.”
Elrohir did approach the former orc-maiden, whose Elvish name was Amarthedhel, but the relationship did not last, and she soon went on her way, saying she did not wish to “tie him down.” Greenjade kept any lewd jokes on that subject to himself, and so did Elladan, if he thought of them at all. Elrohir was actually relieved on the whole, after the initial hurt, for if he had darkness within himself, she had that much more…nearly four thousand years’ worth, and although she had been purified, her memories remained. It would all have been too much for him to deal with in the end, he said.
And yet, she was the most beautiful and tragic being he would ever see….
A son was born to Greenjade and Meleth when Bryseluthea was nine years old. He was named…of course…Iorhael. He was the first Iorhael born in Calador, but he would not be the last.
Bryseluthea did, indeed, resemble Meleth. She had an amazing imagination, and loved playing at fairies, and gremlins and suchlike. She was quite the little leader among her playmates, who were pleased to do whatever she liked, whether what she liked meant building bug castles out of mud or her mum’s best dishes, or disguising themselves as beggars and going about to people’s houses asking for sweets, declaring that the healer had told them it was the only thing that would save their children from certain death…. Upon hearing that she was half Elven, and might choose whether to be Elf-kind or mortal, she declared she would be mortal, so that she might have a Funeral. She had no idea what that was, but she’d heard folk talking of them, and she got it into her head that she wanted one, even after it was explained to her what it was. For weeks all anyone heard out of her was funeral, funeral, funeral. She held them for her dolls, and had one for herself, after which she obligingly came back from the dead, “Just like her daddy.” Serilinn loved her dearly, and quite spoiled her, as everyone did.
When Iorhael was but a few months old, King Elessar summoned the family to Minas Tirith once more. “There is someone here I would like you all to meet,” he wrote, and the messenger lad was as mystified as anyone.
Greenjade and his family went in one wagon; Radagast, Sméagol, and Gimli in another. Garulf and Kaerwyn and their two little sons took a third, wishing to see what was afoot, although the King requested that they not bring too many people with them. Still, Kaerwyn was family, Serilinn insisted. She had actually grown an inch and a half since her arrival in Calador ten years before, and she was, she confided to Kaerwyn--whom she still regarded as her best friend despite the fact that Kaerwyn was a full-grown woman with a family now, while Serilinn still appeared as a lass barely blooming into maidenhood--that she was starting to get breasts, although one couldn’t tell it unless one got up close. She wondered if Elladan had noticed, but she didn’t dare ask anyone. She would simply die if he gave the slightest indication, she solemnly declared to Meleth. Even so, she did hope he noticed.
When the party arrived in Minas Tirith several days later, and saw the three beings awaiting them, everyone was rendered totally and completely speechless.
Save for Serilinn, and all she could manage was “Ohhhh!!!”