Guilin didn't show up that morning.
When I emerged from my bedroom, I saw the door of the guest-room standing ajar, and Raven was still in her night-gown, sitting on the bed with her back to me, looking at something—the glass I had put in her hand, no doubt. I suppressed a chuckle as she unstoppered the bottle and took a deep whiff of it, and I remembered a faint fragrance clinging to it--it had started out as a perfume-bottle, no doubt. Then she replaced the stopper, bent down and picked up something from the floor--the burlap bag. I supposed she was about to get dressed and started to withdraw, when something silver caught my eye, and I saw her take from the bag a gorgeously wrought chalice studded with moonstones and lapis. This she held for a moment, then rose and went to set it softly on one of the shelves with the other wedding-gifts. I tried to remember who had sent it to us. Anemone had it written down somewhere, a list she was keeping of who had given what. I think the chalice was from Firnhil and Maianna.
Anemone was taking rolls from the oven, Northlight seated at the kitchen table talking to her and drinking juice (he doesn't like tea). I kissed him on the top of his head and Anemone on her lips, breathed in the fragrance of the bread, then sat down at the table and began to nibble at the fresh fruit in the bowl in the middle. Northlight asked me if Raven were awake yet and I said she was, and would probably be in soon. I wondered if I looked the way he did when Anemone's name was spoken in my presence.
Sam, when your wedding was at hand, did you count the weeks, then the days, then the hours, the minutes until the big day? Did you feel a mixture of ecstacy and trepidation as the time slipped interminably away? Poor Northlight—imagine having to wait twenty or so years for your beloved to grow up! Yet he seemed very happy just to be in the same house with her…breathing the same air. Rather like I had once been with Lady Elwing.
Raven came in, dressed, with the little phial in her hand, and she seemed to have absorbed a good deal of its light. A smile nearly split her face and she kissed my cheek before she kissed Northlight, draping an arm about my shoulders, and how I did love her then. She was so beautiful, so light on her feet, and so alive.
After breakfast Northlight and Raven went outside so he could show her the stable-rooms, and Anemone and I talked seriously for a long time as we cleared the table and washed up, and then Tilwen came over with Little Iorhael in his basket. I asked her if she would be willing to go with Anemone to take Raven into town to see if they could find her some decent clothes. The night-gown she had worn last night was little more than a rag, and I would wager it was the only one she owned.
"Of course we will," Tilwen said. "Don't you and Northlight want to come with us?"
"We would," I said in an undertone, glancing toward the stable, "but we would not leave the house when Guilin may be coming. I don't trust him. Northlight and I will work on the stable while you are gone. On your way into the City, is it possible you could stop by Leandros' and ask him to come out here with some tools, or send someone here to help us? I would not ask it of you, except that he lives along the way."
"I'll be more than happy to," Tilwen said as Raven came running up to see the baby, Northlight following close behind. "What a lovely couple they will make! Just like the two of you."
"I'd like to have something made for her for our wedding," I said. "Anemone has a few drawings to choose from."
"Do you know," Tilwen said, as she settled Little Iorhael into Raven's arms as the girl sat on the swing, and Anemone went indoors to retrieve the sketches, "that some of Anemone's designs have become the rage now? The other day I distinctly saw three or four ladies wearing gowns identical to some of the ones she drew for Lyrien and Marílen a few weeks back. I went up to one of them and complimented her on her dress, and do you know what she said? She said 'Why, thank you, my dear! I designed it myself. I'm delighted you should have taken notice of my poor little efforts.' Did you ever?"
"No!" I exclaimed. "How could that have happened?"
"Oh, I suppose the girls quite innocently showed the drawings about," Til said, "and some ladies took a fancy to them, and copied them to have them made for themselves. It just seems so outrageous that they should be passing them off as their own ideas."
"Oh, I don't mind at all," Anemone said as she came out holding a portfolio, looking positively delighted, at that. "I am flattered that people like my silly gowns enough to copy and wear them. And to think that I didn't even know what a gown was until a few years ago!"
"I agree with Tilwen," I said as I watched Northlight sitting beside Raven gazing down at the baby in her lap. "They were your ideas, and you should be reaping the profits. But I don't know how that works. Til, what did you say to her?"
"Well," Tilwen said, "I told her, 'Why, how very strange. I could have sworn that one of my dearest friends designed a gown exactly like it, but it must have been my imagination.' Unfortunately, Little Iorhael picked that very minute to start crying, so I didn't really get to see her reaction. But imagine the nerve of her!"
"Let's go," Anemone said with her cheeky grin. "Maybe we'll spot some ladies wearing my gowns…and have a bit of fun with them."
Tilwen looked at her, then giggled conspiratorially. "Why, yes…let's! Coming, Raven?"
I lifted my eyebrows, wondering what they might be getting up to, then shrugged. Let her have her little fun while she still can. After that serious little talk we had had that morning….
Northlight hitched up the cart for the ladies, and Tilwen drove, while Raven held the baby in his little basket, and looked back at Northlight and kissed her hand to him in the same slightly exaggerated manner she threw kisses to her audience. The gesture was amusing coming from one so young, and I had to wonder once more about those scars.
As we went to the stable, Northlight asked me what he should do while he waited for Raven to grow up. I said, "Work, play, learn, make new friends, read, develop your skills, think, pray, take up new interests, make beautiful things, delight in the beautiful things others make, help others, watch Raven grow, learn her, help her to overcome the darkness in her own past. Time goes much more quickly here than you might suppose, and all the more so when you fill it with the things that will keep you in the light. There is a college here, which is a school for grown folk. Perhaps you may like to attend? I thought of going myself, but I had Bilbo to look after, and I got quite an education when I was living and convalescing at Lord Elrond's, so that it seemed unnecessary. I will take you there one day, and see what you think. Some of my friends teach there."
I felt myself glow with pride at the very thought of sending Northlight to college, of watching his fine mind grow and develop with the knowledge he would acquire. I had an idea of how Bilbo must have felt. At the same time I wondered how I would persuade Raven to submit to Lord Elrond's treatment of her scars.
Northlight and I had nearly finished knocking out the partition when the peacock announced someone's arrival…Guilin's.
"You want to WHAT?"
We were sitting on the beach once more, Guilin, Northlight and I. Leandros and another carpenter of his guild were chopping up the wood from the partition near the stable. Guilin had apologized for being so late, explaining that he had run into a couple of fellows to whom he owed money, and things had gotten a little nasty. When I told him about the betrothal of Raven and Northlight, he looked slightly outraged, but I gave him my steady gaze, and he managed to contain himself.
"Anemone and I discussed it this morning," I said. "Seldirima doesn't want Raven about, yes? And she won't go to the orphanage, I know that. I—"
"What makes you so sure she won't go?" Guilin said. "You are the one who makes sure the conditions there are as they should be, do you not? I went myself to check it out—you surely don't think I'd leave my sister there if it weren't all right, do you? And it's a nice place, nothing remotely like Middle-earth orphan's-homes, god-forsaken places that those are. Much nicer than the place we live in now. But…but am I to understand that you and Anemone…"
"Yes," I said quietly. "We wish to adopt Raven as our daughter."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.