Greenjade gazed in transfixed wonder at the small family standing before him, barely hearing the introductions, along with Eldarion, now a handsome and princely young man, his sister Luthien, tall and breathtakingly beautiful at seventeen, and little Elwing, about six months old, looking out with interest from her nurse’s arms, one thumb tucked securely in her mouth.
Before them stood a small fellow, the height of Sméagol, but considerably stouter, with curly hair of a light tawny brown touched with grey, a solemn round face with round brown eyes that looked up at Greenjade just as wondering, above a fine brown waistcoat sparingly embroidered with white and gold, and breeches that rode above a pair of feet covered in hair the same color as that on his head, but with less grey.
Beside him, a plump little lady with flaxen hair in coiled braids, curling about her sweet face, and she wore a blouse embroidered with colorful flowers beneath a bodice of soft green and a skirt of a darker shade…and her feet were covered in yellow hair also. Next to her stood a lass with honey-colored curls lightly tinged with red, held back with scarlet ribbons, attired similarly to her mother, only in red with a shorter skirt, and her face was far prettier than those of her parents. She appeared as a lass in her early maidenhood, like Serilinn, at whom she was now looking with wonder and admiration in her large hazel eyes.
“Samwise Gamgee!” Radagast exclaimed, stepping forward to embrace the little fellow, while Sméagol drew back in some consternation and went to stand with Gimli. “Here you are at last! You did say you were coming out, but I had not expected you to bring your wife and daughter also. How lovely they are, and how well you are looking! How was your trip?”
“It is a great honor to meet the Gamgee family at last,” Meleth was saying, and Greenjade started at the sound of her voice and glanced aside at her and Serilinn and Bryseluthea. Mistress Amdir, who had come out to Calador shortly after Bryseluthea’s birth to help out, having missed Meleth desperately, held baby Iorhael, who had fortunately fallen asleep, worn out from the long trip.
“As it is for me,” Samwise said nodding to her, “and my Rosie and our eldest daughter Elanor. I was hopin’ we’d get to meet all o’ you, and now we have, and I’m most honored, my lady. I just wonder what Mister Frodo would say if he could know I’ve met his stepson an’ all.”
“Pardon me for forgetting my manners, Master Samwise,” Greenjade said, not certain how to address the fellow. He could have shaken Radagast for not informing him as to whom the guests were, and to think the Wizard had known all along…. “I had not once expected to meet my stepfather’s faithful companion, and I am honored and humbled to stand in your presence at last. And your wife and daughter are very lovely indeed, and I can see how proud of them you are. And if you are staying here for any length of time, I would like to invite the three of you out to our home sometime, if you would come. It is a long journey, but there is much beautiful countryside to be seen along the way, and I’m sure you would like to see what has been wrought in the land you once knew as Mordor. Of course, if the thought of going would bring back too many bad memories for you, I fully understand. But know our home is always open to you.”
“Oh, pleeeease come and see us,” Serilinn found her voice once more. “And stay as long as you like. I’d like to show you all our projects, and have you meet our friends, and see our capital city…and everything.”
“I would much like that, if Rose and Elanor wouldn’t mind it,” Sam said. Greenjade was taken aback at the fellow’s modesty, although he did not know why he should have been. “And if it wouldn’t put the rest of you out too much.”
“Oh, I would love to go!” Elanor spoke up. “Please mum, might we go! I want to see Mor—I mean, Calador…and Mt. Doom, and, and…”
“You can share our room,” Serilinn said, taking her little sister by the hand. Bryseluthea was struck dumb, which was downright unnerving, she being even more of a chatterbox than her sister. “We’ve a guestroom where your parents might stay. You can take the couch. It’s a princess couch. The Lady Eowyn gave it to us. It’s made of crimson velvet, and it’s most comfortable, and has a gorgeous embroidered cover that she gave us also. We’re not allowed to use it much, for Nana doesn’t want it to get mussed, and it’s used mostly for guests, but she won’t mind if we move it into our room for you. I can scarcely wait to show you the Bridehouse, and the temple, and the school, and--“
“And my castle,” Bryseluthea spoke up. The others laughed a little nervously. Bryseluthea’s “castle” was invisible, actually. Only certain privileged individuals were ever allowed to “see” it. Sometimes her castle would float away into the clouds, or sink into the ground, after which she would be morose for hours, until it should return to her. Whenever anyone in the family were in a bad mood, one of the others would say, “What’s wrong? Did your castle float away?”
“I’d admire to see your castle, little one,” Sam said smiling. “It must be a wondrous sight.”
And so it was that the Gamgees came out to Calador. Rosie remained behind, for as it turned out, she was pregnant…with their thirteenth child.
“Aye,” Sam said laughing a little as the others looked askance at the news. “We didn’t know it till we were almost to Edoras, or we’d of never come out. So it looks like we’ll be stayin’ considerable longer than we planned. I figure Strider, I mean, the King, can see to things, if you take my meaning. It’ll be somethin’ to have a babe borned in the royal palace. I hope it don’t end up goin’ to ‘is head.”
“Where are the others staying?” Serilinn asked as she and Bryseluthea helped Elanor to pack.
“With their grandmum and their Aunt Marigold mostly,” Sam said. “I’m feelin’ bad now to have to leave ‘em all behind for so long, but like I said, it weren’t accordin’ to plan. We had figgered to come back in about six weeks. Our youngest ain’t but about two year old, and a jolly handful he is and no mistakin’.”
“I wish we’d a’ never come out,” Rosie fretted. “I ain’t a’ lookin’ forward to the trip back with a babe to look after, I can tell yer that. This un ‘ll be our last, and that’s all I got to say about it.”
Greenjade wondered if she meant their last trip, or their last child.
“Well, I’m glad as I come along,” Elanor said softly to Serilinn, so as not to let her mother hear. “I’ve done naught but help look after young’ uns since’t I was born, seems like. And now there’ll be another comin’ soon. Yer’d think some folks ‘ud know when to quit.”
“I can scarcely wait to see it,” Serilinn said. “I’d love to hold a hobbit-babe. They must be sooo tiny, like Bryseluthea’s dolls.”
“I’ve seen a plenty of ‘em,” Elanor said. “If I had a silver penny for ever’ nappy I’ve changed, I could buy this palace.”
“We’ve a babe too,” Bryseluthea spoke up. “I helped Nana change his nappy once. He squirted me right in the eye. I wouldn’t do it again for ten million pennies.”
The others laughed. They set out the following morning, after a big breakfast.
“Ithilien is just like I remember it,” Sam said, as they traveled along the road from out of Osgiliath, “and it’s been, what, twenty-two, twenty-three years. Well I recall what a beautiful wild place it was. Well, it don’t look quite so wild now, come to think on it. But ever’ bit as beautiful.”
“How was your trip out here?” Meleth asked.
“Long…sometimes tiresome. Just as well the rest of the family weren’t with us, or it would of took us twice the time. We stayed at Edoras for a week. I wish Merry and Pippin had o’ come out with us, but they’re too busy with their families at the moment, they said. Well, what’d they think I was? And me with twelve of me own, and another on the way!”
“How many have they?” Serilinn asked.
“Well, Merry and his Estella has three lads and another on the way also, and Pippin and Diamond has but two, a lad and a lass. He’s spoke of bringin’ ‘em out someday too, only I don’t think Diamond is so keen on the idea. His eldest is named Faramir, and he’s but a lad but I can see he’s already keen on our Goldilocks, for all he pretends not to be.” Sam chuckled.
“I want to be called Goldilocks,” Bryseluthea piped up, bouncing in her seat. “That’s a beautiful name. Maybe I be called Goldilocks, please Ada?”
The others laughed, as they always did at nearly everything she said.
“Nonsense,” her father said passing a doting hand over her yellow tresses. “You’ve a very fine name already, my pet, and one that nobody else about here has. It’s my mother’s name.”
“Mister Frodo says she’s called Anemone now,” Sam said. “I like that. It’s right hobbitish, I think.”
Greenjade nodded. “So Radagast told me. I need to give him a good thrashing for not telling me who you were, though. I apologize once more for my behavior. But I had no idea whom I was going to meet.”
“Oh, no need for any apologies, sir,” Sam said. “And I s’pose Mister Radagast just wanted it to be a surprise an’ all. Please don’t thrash ‘im on my account, Mister Greenjade.”
“It’s just ‘Greenjade’. And I wouldn’t dream of thrashing him, Master Samwise. That’s just a figure of speech.”
“May I be called Anemone then?” Bryseluthea said. “Anemone Goldilocks. That’s what I’m going to call my new princess-doll.”
“Then do so,” Greenjade said smiling. “But you’ll always be our Bryseluthea, our very own perilous flower.”
“I’ve a flower-name too,” Elanor said to Bryseluthea.
“Aye,” Serilinn said. “We’ve some elanor growing in our garden. I can’t wait to show you.”
“What does ‘perilous’ mean?” Bryseluthea asked.
“Dangerous,” Greenjade said.
“I’m dangerous?” the little girl squeaked.
“Most definitely,” her father said. The others laughed.
“Oh, myyyy,” Bryseluthea said solemnly, in unconscious imitation of her sister, who was now overcome with giggles.
Nilde looked relieved to see Radagast and Sméagol return. She was quite old now, and was not expected to live much longer. Yet she was always glad to see her master, even though she did not go with him on his trips any more. Pippin still barked happily at the sight of Serilinn, although he was not a young dog any more either. He spent much time with his mother now, lying beside her in the shade.
Barely one day after the Gamgees’ arrival in Elvea, Serilinn and Elanor had pledged undying friendship, and Serilinn gave the hobbit-lass one of her prettiest necklaces, and Bryseluthea tried to give her the princess-doll, but Elanor protested she couldn’t take it.
“It’s yer best one,” she said. She was but little taller than Bryseluthea, who appeared as a child of five or six, although she was actually nine in years. “I’d feel bad, if I was to take ‘er from you, and I don’t think my dad ‘ud let me, anyways. What of one of yer older ‘uns?”
The little girl whisked over to her bed, where all twelve of her dolls sat in a careful row ranging from the smallest to the largest, and looked over them thoughtfully, her hands clasped behind her back.
“This one,” she said picking up one of the smallest dolls, which her father had made for her. It was a baby, with a lacy bonnet and white gown and bootees made by her mother. This she presented to Elanor, unconsciously cradling it before hesitantly handing it to her.
“Are ye sure ye want to give me this?” Elanor said in wonder. “It’s awful sweet, it is. Almost like a real babe.”
“Bri-bri,” Serilinn said, “instead of a doll, why don’t you give her your new bead purse? I can make you another.”
Bryseluthea brightened a little then, and fetched the pretty purse from a drawer in her bed-table. Elanor kissed her cheek as she took it.
“Ohhhh! A hobbit kissed me!” the little girl exclaimed, clapping a hand to her cheek.
That evening, Serilinn informed Sam that Elanor was “the most adorable thing she ever saw.” Bryseluthea said, “I think so too!”
Everyone laughed, even Elanor.
And once more, Greenjade found someone who could tell him about his stepfather. The one who could not only supply all the missing parts as to his past, but about his present, as well.
“Oh, and Northlight is to be married soon,” Sam said after a lengthy description as to what Frodo had been about on the Island, with the whole family hovering about listening, with the exception of Iorhael, who had been put to bed long before, and Bryseluthea, who fell asleep halfway through in her mum’s lap. “He’s most happy about it. Him and Raven both. And Frodo and your mum also.”
“Wonderful,” Greenjade said, his throat tightening. “That is…just wonderful. I’ve no more words.”
“I’ll give ‘em all your regards if you like, sir,” Sam said modestly. “And those of your family.”
“Aye, please do,” Greenjade said through the lump in his throat.
The next day they all set out to see the capital city, which was called Vanimeldë. It took almost two hours to reach by wagon. Meleth stayed home with baby Iorhael, but Bryseluthea insisted on going along, so she was allowed. Sméagol remained behind with Nilde, uncomfortable in Sam’s presence. Radagast, Sam, and Greenjade, and all three girls piled into the wagon and set out after breakfast.
“I’d not thought to meet Gollum ever again,” Sam remarked as they drove away. “Well, but he ain’t Gollum, in a manner of speakin’. I never once would of thought he’d turn out like he has. Cookin’ an ever’thing. I can recall when he wouldn’t eat nothin’ ‘less it was raw, like. And now he’s as good of a cook as any hobbit, and better’n some.”
“That he is,” Radagast agreed. “I don’t know what we’d have done without him…before Meleth came out here. You should see the house the Elves built for him. They equipped him with quite a wonderful set of cookware. I bet he’ll be proud to show it to you.”
“He baked me a cake with my name on it,” Bryseluthea informed him eagerly.
“That must of been a mighty big cake,” Sam said with an attempt at solemnity.
“It was HUGE,” Bryseluthea said with very wide eyes. Everyone laughed.
“You’ve not met the Queen’s brothers yet, have you?” Serilinn said to Elanor. The hobbit-lass shook her head.
“But Sam-dad has,” she said proudly. “They are twins, aren’t they.”
“Aye. I’m going to marry Elladan someday,” Serilinn said dreamily. “He asked me long ago.”
“That’s what the Queen said,” Elanor nodded.
“I can hardly wait for that glorious day,” Serilinn said.
“Mikala has twins now too,” Bryseluthea said. “But they don’t look alike.”
“I know,” Elanor smiled. “They’re named Frodo and Sam.”
“Only they’re called Iorhael and Perhael,” Serilinn said. “Their elvish names. Our little brother is Iorhael too.”
“Her baby-boy is named Pippin,” Bryseluthea said. “Like our dog.”
“It’s somethin’, to have namesakes in foreign places,” Sam said. “I wish my old gaffer could a’ knowed of it. You know he passed on two years ago.”
“Did he?” Greenjade said. “I am sorry to hear of it.”
“He was old, and had a plenty of ailments,” Sam said with a sigh. “Reckon he’s out of ‘em now. It’s well Rosie’s parents are still livin’, or my bairns wouldn’t have no grandparents now.”
Elanor pressed her lips together, blinking back tears. Obviously she and her grandfather had been close. Serilinn passed her fingers lightly through her curls.
“We’re almost there,” she said with excitement as the city loomed closer. “I can see the gate.”
“I can’t hardly take it in,” Sam said, “that we’re goin’ to where the Dark Tower was. I seen it fall with my own eyes. The Eye was at the top, just a burnin’, and we could see it all the way from the mountain, me and Mister Frodo, from that rock we jumped upon. I don’t like to remember it. And now it’s gone, gone forever? And we’re goin’ back to where it was an’ ever’thing. Nobody back home is goin’ to believe this.”
“My Ada was in the war,” Bryseluthea informed him. “I wasn’t born yet.”
“Not that war, Bri-bri,” Serilinn said. “He means the War of the Ring.”
“Oh,” Bryseluthea said.
“You know the story,” Serilinn said. Bryseluthea nodded wisely.
“I know it frontwards and backwards,” she said. The others laughed.
“Your lasses are really somethin’, Mister Greenjade,” Sam said. “I know you’re most proud of ‘em, as you should be.”
“Most proud indeed,” Greenjade said. “As you are of yours.”
The sky was a tent of gladness above them.
The City of Vanimeldë fairly gleamed in the sunlight, with marble stone in varying shades ranging from pure white to grey-white, soft beige and pale rose, and black, some mined from quarries in Calador, some brought in from Gondor. Tall lamps lined the main street made of bronze with crystal globes, a fountain gracing the middle of the widest street, sparkling in the sunlight, and up ahead was the beautiful house where the twins now lived. Serilinn had designed it, no less, Radagast hastened to inform them. The entrance was based on the Door of Durin, with the words “Speak Friend and Enter” carved over it. Rose-trees stood all about, and two lamps representing the sun and the moon, flanked the door.
“We will drop in in the afternoon, perhaps,” Radagast said. “Likely the brothers are not in just now.”
“How do they like ruling and all?” Sam asked.
“It seems to suit Elrohir,” Radagast said. “I don’t think Elladan fancies it much. He’s complained that if we didn’t live so near by, he would go mad from the boredom. He misses both his old rangering days and being a healer, although he still is a healer here. He’s said he even misses battle. Poor fellow.” He chuckled a little.
“I can’t take it in that he’s livin’ in a city built by orcs,” Sam said, “or that we’re in one now. It’s too much for my old head.”
“I can’t take it in that Elrohir fancied an orc-maiden once,” Greenjade said. “When that happened, I thought I’d heard it all.”
“But he didn’t marry her?” Sam said, looking appalled.
“Nay,” Greenjade said, “and I’m glad of it, although I’m sorry for her.”
“I can’t picture it,” Sam shook his head. “I didn’t even know they had she-orcs. Did she have little orclings and ever’thing?”
“I’ve no idea,” Greenjade said. “I never even tried to imagine it. Some things are better left unconsidered.”
They drove down the market-place, which was busy and noisy now. Sam looked on silently at the folks hawking their wares, likely wondering which ones used to be orcs. And if regular folks bought from them, and ate the food, and all that. He shook his head.
“It’s a beautiful place,” he said. “Differ’nt from any other city I saw. Wish’t there was some way I could show it to the others back home. Well, likely they wouldn’t care anyways. They don’t have much interest in furrin parts.”
“I’m goin’ to study an’ remember,” Elanor said, “so’s I can describe it to all the others, like. I’ll show ‘em that way.”
“You can take some of my drawings with you,” Serilinn offered. “I’ve a great many of them.”
“She’s very good at drawing,” Bryseluthea said. “She can do many things.”
“Elanor’s good at a lot of things too,” Sam said proudly. Elanor’s cheeks pinked. “She’s the smartest of all my lasses, as well as the prettiest. Some folks say she looks more like a Elf-maiden than a hobbit. Don’t let that go to your head now, lass.”
Elanor blushed furiously.
They passed by many establishments: the apothecary, the smithies, the barber, the bookseller, the perfumery—where they stopped and bought a little bottle of scent for Rosie and one for Elanor also—the shoemaker, the bakery, the locksmith, the pawnbroker, and two or three eateries. There were several other buildings that were under construction, up ahead. And a bridge—for the cataclysm had opened an underground spring, which had gouged out a small river, and the Elves had diverted it into the city. There were a few musicians about, and Elanor gave a coin to one of them, who looked admiring at her and smiled. He looked and sounded distinctly Elvish, and Sam had to wonder.
“I wonder if any of ‘em knows the Lay of ‘Frodo of the Nine Fingers’,” Sam said as they went their way. “Do you know of that ‘un, Mister Greenjade?”
“Just ‘Greenjade’. Aye, I know it well. One of the bards sings it for us every time we go to Minas Tirith.”
They stopped at an inn—yes, there was one, and Serilinn had named it: The Laughing Eagle. The food was excellent, the ale just fair—according to Sam. The Green Dragon still served the best anywhere, he declared.
Later in the afternoon they stopped at the twins’ home, and Elrohir invited them to stay for supper, looking once more at Elanor with incredulous eyes. Elladan asked them to stay the night, but Radagast declined, saying they must be getting home. He was worried about Nilde, he said.
As they rode home, Sam said once more that he couldn’t take it in that Vanimeldë was the city on which Sauron’s tower had once stood.
“I wish Mister Frodo could see it all now,” he said with a sigh.
It was close to dusk when they arrived at home. Meleth ran out to meet them, looking troubled and sad.
“Is something wrong with Iorhael?” Greenjade asked her as he returned her embrace.
“Nay…it’s Nilde,” she said looking to Radagast and the others. “I think…”
“Where is she?” Radagast asked, paling distinctly in the dimming light.
She was out back of the house, under a tree, with Sméagol, who held her head in his lap, stroking her fur, which had turned from golden brown to mostly grey in the past few years. Pippin hovered anxiously nearby. Radagast stooped down to peer at her and she opened her filmy eyes and looked at him, then raised her head a little.
Radagast sat on the ground and took her to him, holding her head to his breast and stroking her, crooning to her softly. Sméagol began to sniffle, caressing the hair of her back. Serilinn knelt and took Pippin in her arms, while Bryseluthea sat down and petted him. Sam and Elanor stood at a respectful distance, just behind Greenjade and Meleth.
“Is she sick?” the little girl asked softly and anxiously.
“She is leaving us,” Radagast said, his voice hoarse with suppressed anguish, his eyes leaking. “There’s naught we can do for her. Her time has come.”
Nilde looked up at him for a long moment, as the sun sank lower through the trees in the west, and Pippin whimpered a little at his mother’s side. Then her eyes closed, and her final sigh took a piece of the lives of all who loved her with it.