Not Wholly Fruitless: 1. Cousinage

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1. Cousinage

T. A. 3003, Imladris


Bilbo reflected that old age had indeed caught up to him. He had caught a cold after a wintry day's walk, but unlike all those that had troubled him the past sixty years, this one had not gone away with rest, instead deepening into the flu. Yet though the grave might be ready for him, even now he was not ready for it, and in Rivendell even the flu had its compensations. The healer, apparently a high personage, was not quite as beautiful as the Lady Arwen, but that observation was rather like complaining that a star was not as bright as the Sun.

"Forgive me, Lady, but I cannot remember your name." Bilbo croaked. "I do remember meeting you on my last visit here, but only briefly, and sixty years is a long time for my kind."

The Lady, inwardly amused at the perian's not-strictly-medical interest, spoke softly as she tended him. "I am Hithriel. And I think that perhaps you are not as ill as you seem!" This was not wholly honest. The old Halfling was indeed ill, and she worried for him, but it was not for healers to tell their patients of their fears.

"Well, I don't know about this dratted flu, but if it brings your company, perhaps I should take my winter strolls more often!" Bilbo joked.

The healer laughed, but said "Not if you wish to continue seeing me with living eyes! But need you be ill to see me? In all my long years, I have known none of your kind save yourself.  I would like to learn more of Hobbits. Are all as ... interesting as you?"

"Unfortunately, my Lady, we are mostly a dull folk. Some of my relatives... but no, I would rather hear a bit about you. To whom are you kin to here in Rivendell?"

"Ah, that answer will be long! Are you certain you wish to hear it now?"

Bilbo sat up. "Lady, a Hobbit on his deathbed would hear such a tale, and I am not quite that far gone, I think, so tell on!"

Hithriel, though somewhat taken aback by the strength of the response, obliged.

"Very well! I hear that you haunt the library, so surely you know Erestor, my husband."

The Hobbit nodded enthusiastically.

"And you know Lord Elrond, of course. He is my second cousin, twice removed to the younger as Erestor tells me you phrase it. We use not such terms, but merely call each other 'Cousin' or 'Kinsman'. Hobbits' specificity is remarkable."

The healer mused for a moment before continuing. "So the sons of Elrond are also my cousins. And his wife was, is, my second cousin directly." The elleth paused, remembering the old grief, before continuing. "Doubtless you know Glorfindel - he stands out enough! He is my third cousin, once removed to the elder."

The hobbit figured for a moment. "Remarkable! Does that mean, then, that you are also cousin to the Lady Galadriel?"

Hithriel frowned for a moment before continuing half-merrily. "Of course. As the mother of Celebrian, the Lady of the Golden Wood is is also my second cousin, but once removed to the elder."

Bilbo saw the disdain on the fair face, and croak-laughed aloud. "I do not like all of my relations either. The ones who were originally my legal heirs, I found so distasteful that I adopted young Frodo. But he turned out so well that I am ashamed of having had dislike of others as a consideration for taking him into my home. Well, things are complicated when one has no children. Have you and Erestor any?"

This never grew easier. "We did. They were slain, long ago. Let us not speak of grief today."

Bilbo reddened. "I am very sorry, my lady. You appear so youthful to me that I can never quite grasp that you are older than I am, let alone that you must have lived many an Age."

Trying to turn to lighter matters, he offered; "But if you are cousin to both Elrond and Galadriel, you must come from an illustrious line indeed!"

The straight-backed elleth seemed transformed for a moment, pride lifting the burden of years. "We are all descendents of Finwë, the High King of the Noldor. I am his great-grandaughter. Feänor, of whom you no doubt have heard, was my grandsire. Of the tales which you hear sung in the Hall of Fire, my husband and I have lived many."

Bilbo was astonished. "Well, of all my adventures, being treated for a cold by such a daughter of Elf-Lords is one of the more unexpected! I .."

But the Lady cut him off. "Remind me not of how far our House has fallen!"

The Hobbit looked abashed, and the elleth softened.

"Not that I dislike my craft - it has been my delight, since I was little more than a girl. But occasionally I still wish that I were not only a healer, and such thoughts lead me to misdoubt the peace Erestor and I have found here in Imladris. We came, long ago, to dwell in the House of Elrond, in high positions, yet as subordinates. It was, at first, a hard decision. But we have found our stations, it seems. Elrond's stewardship of this valley has been remarkable, and we are glad of it."

The elleth looked sad, but only for a moment, before regaining the otherworldly, slight luminescence that Bilbo was only beginning to understand attached only to the ancient among the Elves, those older even than Elrond.

"So," she said, "when you sit in the Hall of Fire and hear  songs of Finrod or Fingolfin or Feänor or Gil-galad, think of me, and if you would know more of them, ask me or my husband! For, as you now know, we knew them all personally. But rest you now - there will be time for more tales when you are well!"

A week later...

The day was bright and held the promise of Spring. Bilbo found the healer in one of the many gardens. He gave a deep bow. "My Lady, your skills are remarkable. I feel fifty years younger. I had worried I might have started my last decline. At my age, such is to be expected. Well, I am ... at your service. I would have said 'forever', but that is a silly thing for an old Hobbit to say to an Elf."

The intensity of the elleth's smile added to the warmth of the day.

"I am glad to have helped. Do I guess rightly that you now come to collect your tale-debt?"

"That I do, my Lady!" the old Hobbit laughed. "Since I am bidden not to go on any more of my walks for a time, I thought today a good one for hearing tales. And also I recall that you wished to know more of my family, though I warn you, though my life has been short by your counting, if I begin that tale, you may find I am, how do you say it? Longwinded?"

Hithriel laughed, for of course Erestor had warned her of just that. "Perhaps I should tell my tale first?" she suggested.

The old Hobbit nodded eagerly. No doubt the deeds of her kin make for better tales than Gerontius' foibles or my young cousins' pranks, at least to anyone who is not a Hobbit, he thought.

"Whom then shall I tell you of?"

"Well, how about your brothers and sisters?"

The smile vanished, so Bilbo quickly added "In happier days. You must have had some! But I do not wish to impose. Forgive me, it is a trait of my folk. No living Hobbits have had kin killed in battle, so it is a hard grief for us to wrap our minds around. Or tell me of your childhood - whatever you prefer."

The elleth replied "Your folk are blessed, then," before brightening. "But you speak wisely. I spent many happy days in my brother's company when we were young, and even many under the Shadow. Very well, I shall tell you of my childhood, and of my brother."

"Celebrimbor was only twenty years older than me - our births were close together as the Elves account it. And so we were close, and protective of one another. That was the way of our family."

"He was very fair, though he took not the care with his dress and appearance that many do in Imladris. Learning, work or play occupied our days, but we had little time for things we deemed trivial. Such we learned from our parents, and they from theirs. My father was one of the greatest smiths of our people, surpassed at that time only by his own father and grandfather Mahtan, so it was only natural that my brother became a smith himself. And indeed he became a great one, in time."

"My mother and her sister were healers. Although we then lived in a land with no enemies, or so it seemed, still some took hurt in accidents, particularly while hunting or at other sports. So, equally naturally, I followed my mother's path."

"And though we were of the line of the King, we were only minor great-grandchildren, so we knew not the burdens of princes. Not then! It was a happy childhood, shared with my friends, my brother and his friends. Indeed, his closest companion was Erestor. So I cannot remember a time when I did not know my husband. Does that seem strange to you?"

"Not at all." the Hobbit replied. "Who would make a more natural match than a friend of a close kinsman? It makes for strong families. Half the marriages in the Shire are such - that is why we are all cousins!"

The elleth smiled. "So it was with us, in those days. Most of our cousins were far older, but some were our age. Argon son of Fingolfin and Idril daughter of Turgon were close childhood friends of mine. If you think me fair, you should have seen Idril! She was Elrond's grandmother, you know!"

Bilbo dared not interrupt - the ancient ones seemed to carry the weight of the world within themselves, and it was rare to see one so excited and unguarded.

"So, when we had free time, we would visit one another, or our older relations. Celebrimbor and I were fond of Fingon, Orodreth, and Angrod in particular, as well as various kinsfolk of my mother and grandparents, whom you doubtless have never heard of. We mostly dwelt in one city - Tirion the Fair it was called, and so it was! Imagine, if you will, Imladris, but a hundred times larger."

"Once we grew a bit older, we would ride together to the Mountains, or the Sea. Not often, for by then our crafts and apprenticeships called all of us. Perhaps we worked harder than was wise, but that was the way of our folk."

"My brother came to spend most of his time with our father or grandfather, at the forge. But the duties of healers and scribes were lighter in those days, so oft Erestor - did I mention he was a scribe and messenger for Finwë? - would come to our house seeking Celebrimbor, and finding him gone or occupied, would instead visit me".

"And after a time, Erestor began to visit when he knew quite well that my brother would not be at home, and " - the elleth grinned mischievously - "it is my belief that King Finwë sent him to our House with messages to Adar a good deal more than was necessary. A conspiracy!"

"A happy one, though, for one thing led to another, and before my hundredth birthday I was wed. That was a great day, but since it marked the end of my 'childhood', I will end the tale for now."

"Thank you, Bilbo, for helping me to recall those days. It is refreshing to tell of them anew." But it seemed the Lady was distracted, for she looked past him.

Bilbo turned to see the Counsellor of Imladris standing at the edge of the garden.

"Conspiracy? If so, it was a conspiracy of one. I would not have dared ask the King to send me on such visits."

The counsellor smiled warmly and turned to the old Hobbit.  "Yet I do not doubt he knew more than we guessed at the time!  And seven thousand years later, here we are. Now you have heard much of my childhood as well. It was a good one. And though much is darkened, some things have not." he said as his gaze returned once more to his wife. 

Bilbo bowed.  "Thank you, my good Elves, for a wonderful tale. I think I will go indoors and find something to refresh myself. Enjoy the day!"

The old Hobbit concealed his mirth until he was well out of sight and hearing. He had, of course, learned nearly eighty years back how to politely excuse himself when the mood suddenly took a couple he was visiting, but excusing himself for that cause from this pair, whom he was given to understand were older than the very Sun - that was something new! He doubted not that, should he ever return to the Shire, the gaffers at the Green Dragon would find tales of Smaug wholly believable by comparison.

A/N: I think the canon leaves plenty of room for some 'extra' great-grandchildren of Finwë who didn't make into the Silmarillion. Here Hithriel is one of these.

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.

Story Information

Author: maeglin

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: Multi-Age

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 01/25/13

Original Post: 08/16/09

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