Rosie was standing on the lowest step of the dais, watching the Big Folk mill about, when a familiar voice said behind her: “Rosie Cotton, whatever are you doing here?”
She turned at once, decidedly startled. What would old Malkin, the Big-Folk herbwoman, be doing here? And found herself looking at the white haired Elf queen. “Mal - kin?” the name ended with a gulp.
“That’s right.” the Elf said calmly in that familiar voice. Then grinned in a way that was also very familiar; “Of course you’ve never seen me all got up for best before.”
Rosie subsided rather abruptly onto the next step up. “But - but you’re an *Elf*, you can’t be old Malkin!”
“Oh yes I am.” she answered, settling comfortably on the steps next to Rosie. “Come now, don’t tell me you haven’t heard of the Queen of Elf-Hill and her habit of wandering in disguise?”
Well of course Rosie had, in bedtime stories when she was a little girl. She’d never been silly enough to believe them, and even if she had she certainly wouldn’t have expected a queen of the Elves to get herself up as a ragged old herbwoman in order to drink tea and gossip with the goodwives of Hobbiton! Bewilderment and dismay abruptly gave way to anger. “Well that’s a fine thing! Lying to us, tricking us!”
“Rosie, be reasonable, if I appeared in the Shire looking like this,” the Elf spread her arms displaying feathered cloak and silver gown, “you’d all hide under your beds until I’d gone!”
That was so obviously true that Rosie had to laugh, her brief anger slipping away.
“Now then,” said Malkin, “what brings you to Annuminas?”
“I came with my husband.” Rosie replied, and blushed at the smile that spread over the face that was growing more and more familiar the longer she looked at it.
“So Sam popped the question at last, did he, and high time too! I’m glad to hear it, Rosie, a good wife and a family are just what he needs after all he’s been through.”
“That’s what Mr. Frodo said.” Rosie agreed. “Sam needs - not to forget exactly - but to put aside all the terrible things he’d seen and done and learn how to be happy and peaceful again. And I’m just the one to help him do it.”
Malkin sighed. “It’s a pity there was nobody east of the Sea who could do as much for poor Frodo. But then he had suffered even more than your Sam.”
That was true. Sam hadn’t wanted to see it, of course, but Rosie had soon realized that Mr. Frodo had gone too far beyond himself to ever be able to settle back into the comfortable life of the Shire. “He wasn’t really a Hobbit any more.” she agreed quietly.
“That’s one way of putting it.” said Malkin.
“Rosie?” This time it was Sam’s voice, and the note of incredulity in it was perfectly understandable. He would scarcely expect to find his wife having a comfortable chat with a strange Elf.
“It’s Malkin, Sam.” Rosie explained, perhaps slightly incoherently. “Old Malkin the herbwoman, but she’s really an Elf.” turning back to the Elf-queen. “What’s your right name again?”
She smiled. “Isfin. You wouldn‘t know it, Rosie, but I’ll bet Sam does.”
He certainly seemed to, his eyes had gone round as saucers. “Feanor’s daughter?” (1) he asked in disbelief, then with sudden comprehension: “Of course, that’s why you said the War was your fault. What’s ‘is name who made the Rings would have been your - your -”
“Nephew.” she finished for him, sighed. “Poor, foolish Celebrimbor. You’d think the Darkening of Valinor would be enough to warn anybody against trusting strange Maiar bearing gifts, but we Feanori seem to be incorrigibly credulous.”
“Not all.” said a mild voice, an Elf man joined their group. He had broad shoulders and light brown hair and seemed somehow less intimidatingly grand than the other Elves Rosie had seen.
“This is my husband, Enerdhil.” said Malkin, or rather Isfin. “My dear, the Ringbearer and his lady; Rose Gamgee.”
The Elf bowed to them both. Rosie gave the queen a reproachful look. “Malkin said her husband was a smith.”
“And so I am.” Enerdhil said serenely, sitting down next to his wife.
Rosie looked puzzled. “But you’re a king -”
“That I am not.” he said briskly. “My Lady here lost her kingdom long before we were wed. I have never claimed to be more than the common craftsman I was born.”
“A most uncommon craftsman.” said Isfin.
Rosie stared at him. “I never thought of that,” she said, amazed. “but of course there must be Elves who work for a living like regular folk. You can‘t *all* be kings and queens and magicians and the like.”
“Any more than all Hobbits are gentlefolk and heroes.” Enerdhil agreed with a smile. “But they don‘t sing songs about us commoners, just the kings and queens and magicians.”
“I seem to recall a certain simple craftsman having a song or two to his name.” Isfin said mildly. (2)
Her husband smiled at her. “Only because I went and got myself mixed up in the affairs of the Great. Not unlike you, Master Gamgee.”
“Isfin,” yet another new voice joined their conversation, this time it was Beomann Butterbur’s, “Himself’s asking for Gilfanon, do you know where he’s got to?”
She shook her head. “I haven’t seen him since we arrived.”
“Try looking up.” Enerdhil suggested gently.
Hobbits, Man and Elf-queen did so. For a moment Rosie didn’t see anything but the starry ceiling and the boughs of the Tree, then she spotted a tall, white clad figure already high in the branches and climbing higher.
Beomann gaped, then gasped: “Idiot! What’s he think he’s doing?”
“Taking at look at the ceiling,” I would guess. “Enerdhil said calmly. “It is his work you may recall, no doubt he wants to see how it’s weathered the long years.”
Beomann shook his head. “I just hope he doesn’t break anything - off the Tree I mean.”
“Don’t worry, he won’t.” said Enerdhil.
Aragorn was talking with Gilvagor, Borgil’s younger son Boromir, the Dwarf-lord Curumaith, some of his fellows, and a couple of the Firebeards when Beomann rejoined them.
“I’m afraid Gilfanon is temporarily unavailable.” he said dryly. The others looked at him questioningly and he added; “Look up.”
All did, and laughed. “Typical.” said Gilvagor, shaking his head.
“With all due respect, sir,” Beomann said to Aragorn, “I am *not* following him up there.”
“No need.” the King assured him. “He’s got to come down eventually - I think.” and Men and Dwarves shared another chuckle.
Not far away Hirgon was being enlightened by the Lady Region, the King’s foster sister. “Then it is the same Isfin as in the old stories then, the daughter of Feanor and Queen of Dor-Winnion?”
“Of course.” said Region, calmly as if there were nothing at all unusual about having a First Age Noldorin Exile as a neighbor. “She’s lived in East Lindon since Beleriand foundered.” she looked at him questioningly. “Surely you remember her part in the Last Alliance?”
“Yes, but that was long ago.”
Region nodded. “Even as the Elves measure it. The White Lady, like Elrond Half-Elven, is an old friend and ally of our people and our house. We know her well here in the North.”
“We had few Elves near us in the South,” Hirgon admitted, “and those we knew have long since sailed West.”
“Isfin says she will never return to Aman.” Region answered. “Her memories of the Blessed Land have been spoiled by the Rebellion and the Darkening and the Kinslaying. And her father and brothers are gone and will not return. I must say I‘m glad of it, a world without Elves would be too sad to bear.”
Hirgon, who had grown up in a world without Elves, or Dwarves, looked around him at Elves, Dwarves and three different kinds of Men - not to mention Halflings! - chatting familiarly together and shook his head in a sort of amazement . It was almost as if by sailing North they had sailed back into the Elder Days when the peoples had been near allies and the world filled with wonder.
Arwen Undomiel perched on the arm of the Silver Chair of Elendil talking to her kin; Celebros, Arianlos and Lassarion. And to Nolwen of Amon Geleidh, one of Isfin’s ladies, who was sitting in the Queen’s chair. (3)
“But whatever gave you the idea of approaching the Firebeards?” Arwen asked Lassarion.
He smiled ruefully. “Sheer desperation. I knew my force lacked the weight to be of real help to the Dunedain, and there are no better heavy infantrymen than Dwarves.” he shrugged. “Sauron was strengthened by divisions between his enemies. It seemed to me high time to end this one. After all Thingol was as much to blame as the Dwarves for what happened.”
“You believe the story the Lord of Nogrod told Beren?” Arianlos asked interestedly.
“Luthien did.” Lassarion answered. “And it seems likely enough, we all know the effects of Dragon gold.”
“It was not the gold,” Nolwen said quietly, but with certainty. “it was the Silmaril. The Great Jewels always fired covetice in the hearts of those prone to that fault.”
“How can that be?” Arwen frowned. “They were filled with the light of the Trees and hallowed by Varda herself, their influence should have been for good.”
“But obviously it wasn’t.” Nolwen answered dryly. “First they corrupted my Lord Feanor and his sons, and later the Lord Thingol and the Dwarves of Nogrod.” she raised a hand as Arianlos started to protest. “I do not say any of these were guiltless, but the Jewels spoke to their weakness and made it grow into a madness that consumed them.
“The light of the Trees was a hoarded blessing.” she continued quietly. “When the Valar chose to keep it selfishly for themselves rather than sharing it with Middle-Earth they tainted it with the sin of covetice. And from that came all of the mischief.”
“But the Silmaril didn’t corrupt everyone who held it.” Arwen protested.
Nolwen smiled. “Beren had only one treasure, there was no room in his heart for another. For him and for Luthien the Silmaril was naught but a beautiful bauble. For Dior it was the memory of his parents and a sacred trust. And for Elwing too it was a trust to be guarded and given up to the one for whom it was meant. They had no covetice in their hearts and so the taint of it on the Jewel did not affect them.”
“The Doriathrim and the Nogrodrim had been friends for years uncounted,” Lassarion said quietly, “I cannot believe they would have fallen out so merely of their own will. Dragon gold or Silmaril some outside power moved them to that final quarrel, of that much I am sure. And that being so to continue to blame the Firebeards and the Firebeards alone for the bitter end of our friendship is clearly unjust.” he shrugged again. “Besides it was all a very long time ago.”
Nolwen laughed. “That’s the Man in you.” she told him. “They are more forgiving than either our people or the Dwarves, or maybe just more forgetful.”
“Not all.” said Arwen dryly.
“The Dunedain are too long lived.” said Nolwen. “Long life means long memory. I remember Urin saying that though he himself had reason to be grateful for it, the greater span granted to the descendants of the Elf Friends was a mistaken gift. As usual he was right.” (4)
“I have heard many Dunedain say the same.” Arwen admitted. She turned to Arianlos. “What of your uncle?” she asked, unconsciously lowering her voice. “Did he sail with my father?” (5)
Feanor’s granddaughter smiled faintly. “Of course not,” she answered just as quietly. “though both Elrond and Gandalf tried to persuade him.”
“And Mother and me, and the rest of her children as well.” said Arianlos’ brother Gilfanon joining their circle.
“And you were not tempted?” Arwen asked.
He stared at her with exagerated dismay. “Have you gone daft, Cousin? Me, in a timeless, changeless land with no one to talk to but Elves - and High Elves at that!” he shuddered histrionically. “I’d be madder than my grandfather in a century.”
“You are madder than your grandfather.” said Celebros.
“Yes, but in a much more entertaining way.” his brother by marriage replied, then continued more seriously: “I don’t know if it was Gandalf’s own idea or the Valar’s but both should have known better. Feanori do not belong in Aman, you’d think the Rebellion would have taught them as much.”
“I certainly would.” Nolwen agreed.
“By the way,” said Celebros, “Aragorn was asking for you earlier, Brother.“
“Was he? I’d better see what the King wants, I do hope it‘s something interesting.”
“I think you will find it so.” said Arwen.
“How is the ceiling?” Aragorn asked politely. The Dwarf lords and Boromir had been called away by Borgil of the Rhudaurim, leaving only Gilvagor and Beomann with the King.
“Sound enough for the most part,” Gilfanon answered, “but Alcarinque is a little loose in its setting, I’ll see to it later.” He smiled. “We can’t have stars falling on the heads of the King’s courtiers now can we?”
“Certainly not.” Aragorn agreed. “Gilfanon, we are ready to begin the work of rebuilding the old fortress cities; as you had a hand in the building of Fornost I assumed you would be interested in helping to restore her.”
The Elf’s face brightened. “Very much so!” then he frowned. “You don’t mind a few changes I hope, I have some ideas.”
“Not within reason.” said the King.
Gilfanon’s eyebrows went up. “And what is that supposed to mean.”
“It means,” Gilvagor answered, “that he wants the City finished in this Age of the World - so none of your tricks!”
“And just what do you mean by that?” the Elf demanded.
“I think he’s probably talking about the way you tore down Minas Sul three times, secretly at night, during its building.” Beomann said helpfully.
“I never did!” Gilfanon said indignantly, then added: “Besides I’d had a better idea. And anyway it was only twice. Elendil always did exagerate.”
“Watch him.” said Aragorn to Gilvagor.
“I will.” his cousin answered fervently.
1. Isfin, daughter of Feanor, is of course totally AU. She is mentioned in an unfinished story called ‘A Maid of Elven Tirion’ which so far has only one chapter. Her kingdom of Dor-Winnion was in eastern Beleriand and took its name; Land of the Maidens, from Isfin herself and her twelve maiden attendants, (the same twelve who accompany her now). She befriended the Edain and those who lingered in Estolad were her vassals. She also tried to restrain her brothers, with little success. After the youngest, Amras, who she had done her best to protect from the Doom was slain by his own brothers’ men as he helped defend the Havens of Sirion Isfin washed her hands of Maedhros and Maglor, now the only survivors and passed over the Blue Mountains into Eriador, settling on an outlying hill, now known as Amon Geleidh, Hill of the Noldor, or simply Elf-Hill, where she still lives with the surviving Feanorians.
2. Enerdhil, Isfin’s husband, takes his name from the maker of the Elfstone, (in one of Tolkien’s versions) but is also AU. He was chief artificer of Gondolin and led the House of the Hammer. The songs Isfin mentions are about his great feat of slaying a Balrog during the final defense of Gondolin. Readers of the Lost Tales will recognize elements of the story of ‘Rog’ head of the House of the Hammer of Wrath, in this. Unlike that tale Enerdhil and some of his craftsmen manage to survive the battle and escape with the other refugees down Idril’s secret way.
3. Celebros is the son of Elured, the elder of Elwing’s twin brothers, and Lassarion the great grandson of Elurin who was the younger. Like Arwen both count as Half-Elven. Unlike her they have not been offered the Choice which is unique to the heirs of Earendil and Elwing. However because of their high percentage of Elven blood they can basically live as long as they choose, until the weariness of the world becomes to much for them - as has happened to Lassarion’s mother and grandparents. Elured endured the long years for the sake of his wife Lorellin but was slain in the WR and his soul has presumably passed beyond the Circles of the World.
Arianlos is the eldest of the four daughters of Isfin, and so sister-daughter to the Sons of Feanor. You can imagine how thrilled Elured and Celeborn were with Celebros’s choice of wife! ;-) but then falling in love with controversial spouses seems to run on both sides of the family!
Nolwen is a much older and far wiser Davne from ‘A Maid of Elven Tirion’ and one of Isfin‘s twelve companions. Her contention that the light of the Silmarils was tainted is original to me, (as far as I know) and admittedly subversive.
4. Urin son of Turin is also an AU Sil character of mine. He is mentioned in a couple of other stories; ‘Rangers of the North’ and ‘The Awakening’. After the War of Wrath he went east over the mountains rather than west to Numenor, and a number of the Edain followed him. He had a powerful philosophical influence on the remaining Feanori, Elrond Half-Elven, the Runedain of the Downlands and Weather Hills and later the Dunedain of the North.
5. Arianlos and Arwen are talking about Maglor, who the Second Age Elven emissaries Morinehtar and Romestamo discovered working against the Shadow among the Men of the East. Though persuaded to visit his sister and daughter in the West Maglor has asked that his identity be kept secret. This is not difficult as he has changed beyond all recognition, being both blind and aged like a Mortal Man by his trials.
‘Covetice’ BTW is not a mispelling but an archaic form of the word ‘covetous’. Anyway the Professor uses it, so I can too! ;-)
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