“Are we ready to go to the harbor?” Northlight called to his wife and youngest son after breakfast.
“One moment,” Raven said from the top of the stairs where she was attempting to dress a very excited small boy. “Branion, hold still, please. I cannot button your shirt when you insist on wriggling so. Don’t you wish to see the ship come in?”
“YES!” he shouted. He nearly always shouted his answers. His mother laughed a little as they finished dressing, he firing questions at her the while: “Is it a big ship or a little ship? Will anyone be on it? Where does it come from? Will we sail on it? Is it a pirate ship? What color is it?”
At last they had settled into their cart and headed out down the road into the city, which was quite a ways with a little lad pestering them with questions and chatter the whole time.
“How did they know the ship was coming?” Raven asked when she could get a word in edgewise.
“They have ways,” Northlight grinned. “Being an Elf, you should know that better than I, my love.”
She grinned back at him over Branion’s head. “Aye, it seems the Queen has a connection of some sort with Middle-earth still. Or perhaps, Lord Celeborn. I hope they are right. You know Sam said Greenjade’s wife and daughters would be coming someday. I do hope they are on board; I am longing to meet them.”
“A pity Greenjade won’t be with them,” Northlight sighed. “Having been sent back as a mortal and all. But they can tell us all about him. I wonder how his last days were.”
“Who’s Greenjade?” Branion spoke up, bouncing a little in his seat.
“My eldest brother, whom you never met,” Northlight replied, laying a hand on the little boy’s dark head. “Your uncle. He is dead now, of course. But I think you’ll be meeting his daughters, and perhaps his grandchildren, if there are any. Perhaps they’ll have some your age to play with.”
“That will be fine, if they are not girls,” Branion said. “Are Amaryllis and Hathol going with us?” he asked referring to his much older sister and brother.
“I imagine they will beat us to the harbor,” his mother said smiling, “seeing as how they are much closer than we. I’ll bet they are there now, wondering what is taking us so long.”
When they finally arrived at the harbor, they found that quite a crowd had begun to gather. They found Hathol, who had been staying with his cousin Meriadoc the previous night, waiting there along with Meriadoc, his younger sister Eowyn, his two older brothers Emerion and Faelon, and his parents Barathon and Fairwind, as well as his grandmother.
“So when is this ship due to arrive?” Hathol asked his mother after she and Northlight had greeted and embraced the others.
“I do not know, dear,” Raven said. “Sometime today, that is all I know.”
“So we might be waiting all day,” Hathol said.
“That is possible,” she admitted. “Have you seen your sister?”
“Not today,” he said.
“I should think she would be here ahead of all of us,” Raven said. “You know how she is.”
Hathol grinned. “Aye, I know.”
“Look,” Fairwind said. “There are Lord Elrond and Lady Celebrian out already. You don’t suppose their sons are finally coming?”
“I do hope so,” Raven said. “Sam said one of them was betrothed to Greenjade’s daughter. Surely he is coming. I hope they both are. Lord Elrond said they might choose mortality, but I hope for his sake neither of them did.”
“I feel rather strange,” Fairwind admitted. “I don’t know what I would say to them. I wonder if they know I…I killed him. You do not suppose he is…no, surely not.”
“With them?” Northlight said. “Nay. He was sent back as a mortal. That was over a hundred years ago. He could not still be living…and even if he were, he would not have been allowed to come to the Island.”
“I wish our Ada were here,” Raven said. “I know he would love to be meeting yet another grandchild…even if she is well grown by now. I wonder if she has children.”
“There are two daughters, according to Sam,” Northlight said. “And a son, I think he said. There may well be more now.”
“I wonder if the daughter married Elrond’s son,” Raven said. “If so…we will be related to the Queen by marriage, at least. Imagine that. Branion, come away from that dock!”
“I can imagine it,” Northlight smiled as he went to save his son from a horrible fate on the pier, on which a rather large gull perched giving Branion an evil look.
“Here come Amaryllis and Iorhael now, with their young ones,” Fairwind said smiling to Raven as another cart drove up in the near distance.
Nearly an hour went by with no sign of a ship. Fortunately, Amaryllis had brought food. They all enjoyed an impromptu snack of bread and honey and golden mushrooms at the edge of the crowd. Amaryllis’s sister-in-law, Silivren, with her husband Amonost, soon joined them, together with their daughters and her parents and younger sister Meril, who favored Hathol with a flirtatious little smile that the lad affected not to see, and then the twins Nightingale and Gloryfall with their families, and Embergold and Moonrise and Ebbtide, and Raven’s brother Guilin and his family, so that the crowd grew ever larger in the morning gladness.
And close to noontime, a shout from somewhere in the crowd finally indicated that the ship was indeed approaching….
The Albatross had docked, her anchor had been dropped, her sails trimmed and furled, and now the gangplank was lowering. Northlight and Raven found they could not get through the crowd with Branion, so they asked Hathol to take charge of his ebullient small brother so that they might press on through. Hathol took the little boy by the hand and went to join his sister and her young son and daughter in the shade.
Several Elves were descending the gangplank, and Northlight and Raven watched with interest. There were about a dozen of them, all male, but no two who looked exactly alike. They gathered on the dock, yet no one went to greet them, and they did not seem to know where to go. Then a dark-haired Elf descended and went to the others, who looked relieved to see him, and soon a fair-haired Elf came down, carrying someone, apparently a tiny little old man with a white braided beard. Northlight and Raven looked at each other in puzzlement.
“You don’t suppose…” she said, and they watched as another Elf came up behind with a wheelchair, in which the fair Elf placed the little old man. “Can it be?”
“Nay, he’s too small,” Northlight said, yet wrinkled his brow. The fair Elf began pushing the wheelchair along the dock.
“Oh, it’s the Dwarf,” Raven said after a moment. “That must be Legolas!”
“Aye,” Northlight said. Fairwind came up beside her brother and sister-in-law and all three watched as Legolas wheeled the Dwarf along the pier, and the cheering crowd made way for them until they could not be seen among them.
“Look!” Raven said as a dark-haired Elf came with a lovely golden-haired young lady on his arm, descending the gangplank, and shortly after them came another Elf, looking exactly like the previous one, save that he was clothed in crimson while his brother was in dark blue, escorting an equally lovely dark-haired lady holding a small boy a little older than Branion by the hand. A scream rang out in the crowd and an Elven couple began pushing forward.
And the two identical male Elves broke away from the ladies and dashed forward, one of them embracing Lord Elrond and the other catching up Lady Celebrian, fairly lifting her off the ground and swinging her around and around. Then each did the same with the other parent, until Queen Galadriel swooped down on them along with her husband and a tall lady who much resembled the queen came up behind, and with a whoop, the brothers pounced on her also, the sister they had never seen before….
Northlight and Raven smiled at each other, then looked to the two ladies who stood smiling on the dock, then looking back over their shoulders as if waiting for someone else….
And finally another golden-haired lady appeared, very like the first one, but older, holding to a wheelchair with no occupant, and a grey-bearded fellow in a brown robe, also carrying what appeared to be a very old man, but considerably larger than the dwarf….
And Northlight and Raven looked at each other, rendered absolutely speechless.
“I do not know how he managed to stay alive so long,” Serilinn said softly to Raven as Northlight carried Greenjade into the shade of one of the palace gardens, and sat down with him on one of the long chairs near a fountain. Her son, Edenost, was getting acquainted with Branion and some of the other children over in the courtyard, while the twins were still talking to their parents and sister, who were all yet weeping for joy. Bryseluthea sat with her mother, looking on, glancing in Elrohir’s direction from time to time, looking uncertain of what to say. Legolas sat apart with Gimli and the dark-haired Elf, who turned out to be his father, Thranduil, while Radagast talked with Olórin and Lord Celeborn, who both addressed him as “Aewendil”. “I was not sure he would make it through the voyage. And yet he did.”
Greenjade rested his head on his brother’s shoulder, attempting to pronounce his name with his nearly toothless gums. One tremulous bony hand groped the air, and Northlight took it and kissed it. A tear fell on the white head of the ancient man in his arms.
It went so hard with him, losing our son, Meleth was saying to Galadriel next to her. It went hard for all of us, certainly. But for him…I did not expect him to live long after. He was quite old, even then. But he held on, not wishing us to have to suffer yet another loss so soon. He is like that…so unselfish….
Iorhael, Greenjade tried to say, where is he now?
It’s all right, Ada, you will meet him soon, Serilinn said coming to sit beside him and Northlight.
He is here?
Nay, Ada. He’s waiting for you. There is no hurry. He will still be there when you are ready.
Greenjade caught sight of Bryseluthea pressing a small white cloth to her eyes. This disturbed him somewhat, although he did not know why.
You must speak loudly, Serilinn said to Northlight. He does not hear well. And his mind wanders a little too. He so wanted to see you…and the others before he left us altogether. Then Radagast told us he’d had a dream in which Lord Ulmo said the ban had been lifted…
Let us go sit over there with Bryseluthea, Meleth said coming over with her eyes glittering very brightly. We have had our time with him. Let them have theirs now.
And she pressed a kiss on her husband's brow, then went back with Serilinn to sit with Bryseluthea and Raven and Amaryllis.
Greenjade looked up and saw Fairwind’s face hovering above his, looking anxiously down at him, it seemed… could it really be Fairwind? He spoke her name, and it seemed her face bent down low over his….And then her lips touched his forehead, her hands caressing his face, her voice whispering his name. Her hair, as pale as Northlight’s but much longer, brushed over him as a waterfall of light. Then two others appeared, with hair the same color and faces exactly like each other. And more and more faces, until…
Nana, he spoke,…for there she was, right before him. Looking at him with blue eyes of recognition for the wayward son she had lost, and had found again. Her tawny hair streaming down like honey in the sun, her rose-colored dress, she was there, forgiving him, welcoming him home, into her arms…
you dance high and free
with waves for your stockings
and bells 'neath your heels...
Nay, brother, it is Summershine, our niece, Northlight's voice spoke. Moonrise’s daughter. She does favor our mother a great deal. We will take you to see the place where our parents are buried, and Sam too. You can see the Beacon, a great and beautiful light, from our porch….
But Greenjade could only look at her, saying, Nana…Nana….
And she leaned her face down to his, wrapping her arms about him, pressing his head to her bosom, caressing his straggly white locks, tears seeping over her cheeks, glittering like tiny stars in the silvery air of the West.
Welcome home, my son, she said.