Light from the West by Armariel

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Part I:  Luminescence

1. Yachting

 

Dear Sam,

Bilbo is asleep at last.  I doubt an earthquake could awaken him now.  And it's not as if I had to shout into this glass to make you hear me!  Is it?  Yes, I'm certain you can hear me.  Normally the glass glows a bright silvery white, but when I talk to you, it takes on a pale warm amber, like candle-light, and such a sweet comfort; I feel as if you were very close at hand.  So I thought I would write down these words and read them to you just as I would write you a letter. 

It can get very tiresome lying in bed, even though they wait on me hand and foot and I can lie outdoors on the terrace as much as I please.  The library is next to our room, and I've barely made a dent in it.  But I'm getting quite an education, learning of birds and beasts and plant life and people and customs and lands I didn't even know existed.  They won't let me read for long, but someone will come in and read to me when I've exceeded the time allowed to me to do my own reading.  I have to admit, that when it's Lady Elwing reading to me, I find it very hard to concentrate on what she's saying for listening to the sound of her voice! 

I don't think I've described this room, have I?  The floor is made of white, ivory, rose-colored, dark-grey, silver-grey, and bluish stone, along with some that are white with a black veining, arranged into large starry patterns.  And they are polished to a high gloss and when the candles are lit in the evening, it looks as if the floor is full of stars.  There is a small fountain in the middle of the room, made of white marble interspersed with jasper and lapis and moonstones.  Bilbo and I both enjoy dangling our feet in the water.  But if we keep too still, there are little gold fishes in it that come and nibble on our toes.  Bilbo got a shock from this at the first also, and he wondered if gold-fishes were good eating!  They are much too beautiful to eat, however, and I told him so emphatically, and he laughed at me.

The walls are made of wide panels of a white stone with a silver sparkle, inlaid at the edge of each panel with some of the rose-colored and bluish stone and the black-and-white marble.  At the top of each panel is a fan-shaped carving of leaves and flowers, inlaid with a few of the same gem-stones in the fountain.  Below each carving is a candle-sconce of filigreed bronze with a crystal shade, and from the ceiling hangs a large round chandelier also of bronze, with prisms hanging down that catch the light.  On the side where the back wall should be, there are only columns inlaid with gems.  There are colored lights in the northern sky at night that take my breath away:  green, gold, dark blue, turquoise-blue, scarlet, rose, orange, and silver-white.  Some are as clouds and some are as light-beams radiating downward or upward; others are as streaks or swirls or giant flowers, moving and shifting and drifting about with entrancing slowness.  I wonder if they can be the souls of Gandalf's fireworks! 

And I forget about the splendours of the house for a while; no Elven architect can even come close to the Divine one.  I am going to love my new home..... 

 [A lengthy description of the garden follows, along with a good bit of rhapsodizing over the beauty of the Ladies, during which Bilbo suddenly awakens a full five minutes before Frodo realizes.  Thereafter he resolves to confine his outpourings to the Garden.]

~*~*~

They threw a huge party in our (mine and Bilbo's) honor on the beach last night! At last I got to see the beach. I am still not allowed to walk around much, but the Elves carried us out there in something called a "litter", which is a wide chair with a fringed shade atop, supported on long poles which are born along on the shoulders of four Elves. I was horribly embarrassed about so much fuss being made over me in public, while of course Bilbo enjoyed every minute of it!

We sat on big cushions piled on the sand for us, and Elf-children argued over who got to serve us. The one who served me was a little Elf-lass called Lyrien, who is the niece of our maid-servant, Tilwen. Lyrien is younger than the other children, but she has no qualms about telling them that SHE will serve me and that's an end of it! But she does generously allow her best friend, Marílen, who is also her cousin, to help.

"This is SQUID," Lyrien announces to me at one point, waving the huge plate with the strange-looking whitish matter on it under my nose. "You will pos—posit—positively not BELIEVE how good it is! Taste it!"

I remember seeing a drawing of a squid in one of Lord Elrond's books. Remember that monster with all the arms, Sam, in the lake at Moria? This creature appears to be a distant relative of it—and it is eaten as a delicacy here?? Repressing shudders with every ounce of determination I have, I take a bite, which I have no choice but to do with the sweet child's lovely eyes watching me so intently—perhaps I can send her off for some fruits and hide the squid in the sand when her back is turned—but it isn't nearly as bad as it looks! It's quite palatable in fact. And the fried clams and shrimp and buttery crab-legs that go with it are incredibly delicious. I had been fretting on the ship about whether Bilbo and I would like sea-food. Well, I doubt I shall ever fancy oysters, which the intrepid Elves eat raw here, but I must say they look—ahem--entirely unappetizing. And there are some fishes called "anchovies"—when I first bit into one, I spewed it right out again before I could even think, mortified at my horrible breach of manners afterward. But leave it to Bilbo—he tried one and found it entirely delicious!

I expect him to try raw oysters sooner or later!

I had not known Elves could make so merry, or that they were so fond of dancing, and that their dances had so much variety and intricacy, such fire and passion, or that they ever danced for the entertainment of others. There is one, danced by three couples, in which the ladies wear a black silk gown with a skirt that is full and a bit short (above the ankles! Have mercy on a poor old sick hobbit!), richly embroidered all over, and flowers and feathers in their hair. The waist leaves the arms mostly bare and the ladies wear many bracelets on both wrists and ankles, which jingle when they dance. The males wear dark tight leggings and a white tunic also, with black and gold embroidery. The music starts out slowly. At the first, the male-Elves stand still while the ladies move about them with a surprisingly sinuous strut, clutching at their skirts and shaking them a bit, showing colored ruffles underneath. Then the male-Elves suddenly turn and catch them at the waist and lift them high into the air and twirl them about, while the music gets faster and faster, growing in fire and intensity. It has a dark and foreign sound to it, and the dancers move faster and faster with it, the ladies whirling until I think they must grow dizzy, then they leave the men and dance with each other, their hands lifted high in the middle and touching, as they skip in a circle with the males watching until they decide they've had enough and go after the ladies, seize them and begin dancing with an ardor that is almost frightening. Surely this sort of dancing might be considered a bit improper in Middle-earth, but no one here seems to take any exception to it!

There is another dance with males only, all wearing the black leggings with a wide sash of scarlet and gold, and nothing above, save for broad gold bands on their wrists. Their faces are extremely serious as they dance, with their long hair flaring out, working up a sweat, and the only music played is on two drums, a big one pounded with clubs and a small one played with the hands. It is a powerful and masculine dance, and Bilbo whispers to me at one point that he doesn't think it seemly for them to dance half naked with ladies looking on; could I imagine hobbits doing so? But it seems to me that the ladies do not mind in the slightest, judging from their dreamy smiles!

A dance for ladies follows, as feminine as the other is masculine: they wear gowns in light colors and, of course, garlands of flowers in their hair, and their feet and ankles are bare. The music is brisk and very gay and graceful, harps and flutes and zithers and female voices singing, and the dancers seem to greatly enjoy themselves, in great contrast to their male counterparts, who seem almost sullen in their intensity. The ladies seem to be celebrating both their own and each other's beauty, brushing their fingers lightly over each other's hair and faces at times, and as you may imagine, I cannot take my eyes away from them. Nor can Bilbo.

Then comes a dance for children, and Lyrien and Marílen take part in this. They line up with the smallest elflings on one end and the largest on the other, girls in front and boys in back, and the dance is lively and intricate, and I worry that some will forget the correct steps and will be greatly embarrassed before all, but this does not happen. The music, played on flutes and harps and pipes and tabor, is most delightful and joyous. It sounds the way sunshine on running water looks, and the girls all wear short white silk dresses and their hair is curled, and they wave colored streamers about, and I have tears in my eyes at the end of it all and so does Bilbo.

Lyrien, after being hugged and congratulated by her parents, dashes up and throws herself almost into my lap, enquiring breathlessly, "Was I good?" I tell her, "You were the best one of all." She giggles saying, "That's just what my daddy said! But I think it isn't true." She takes my injured hand as the next set of dancers comes along, caressing it and beaming. She has hair of the loveliest copper color, a very unusual hue for an Elf. Her aunt and mother and grandmother all have it, in varying shades, Tilwen's being much lighter, while Niniel's is considerably darker. But her grandmother's is the most striking of all, a blazing fiery color. I wonder if perhaps they are descended from the red-haired Elf Maedhros.

Meanwhile I watch Lyrien and Marílen from time to time, as Marílen fondles Lyrien's hair, and at one point she takes a lock of her own and intertwines it with a lock of her cousin's, then holds up the resulting strand of copper and dark brown hair interestingly twisted together and knotted at the end, and Lyrien grins as though Marílen had accomplished some amazing feat of artwork, and they remain so joined for a good deal of the party.

Later there is boat-racing, in which I am allowed to participate. Galendur insists I ride with him in his boat, saying he is sick and tired of watching me sit on my backside being petted to death by elflings, it's a disgusting sight and high time I got in on some action. I tell him I would very much like to do so but don't like to leave Bilbo sitting alone. Gandalf, or Olórin as he is called here, comes to my rescue, together with Ríannor saying they will sit with Bilbo, who tells me yes, I must run along and have some fun before I get too old. Galendur scoops me up and slings me over his shoulder like a feed-sack, ignoring my threats to let the boom smack him overboard if he doesn't put me down, and plops me into his dinghy, and sails us over to the formation, where other Elves wave and shout greetings. Galendur's is a right pretty little craft, with a silver star-burst on her mainsail and a striking pattern of gold crescents painted around her hull. She's called the Lady Vana after his mother.

There are no whales about to make huge waves, although we do see a sizable marlin, and Galendur regrets his lack of a harpoon--as if this little boat would hold that big fish and us too, but knowing Galendur, he would figure a way! And we narrowly avoid a jagged rock that we missed seeing when a wave covered it, but he skillfully maneuvers around it. We come in third, with Lord Elrond coming in first. Well, his father was a mariner, after all! Lady Celebrían was riding with him. The boat was hers originally, but she gave it to him when he returned. She beams with pride at him as he helps her out of the boat.

The second-place winner is named Halidor, who is a sailor from way back. He is seems miffed at Elrond having beaten him for all he pretends otherwise. (Yes, Sam, I know I thought the same of Galendur when I first met him, and now we are great friends, but…but…but!) He and Elrond reluctantly shake hands, then with us—or rather, Halidor shakes hands with Galendur; he scarcely looks at me. But Galendur keeps his arm across my shoulders saying what a fine jolly crew I would make if he could just get me to stop singing bawdy ballads while racing. How can anyone expect to win with such a distraction? I am well accustomed to his sense of humor, but it doesn't sit well with Halidor, who appears in a bit of a huff as he and his missus take their leave. Tilwen comes up smiling proudly, and we are pounced on by Lyrien and her parents also, and Gandalf.

"The Lady Vana is still the prettiest boat," Lyrien reassures us. "None of the others have stars on their sails. But Lord Elrond's should have a jewel on the prow, what do you think?"

I agree that would be a nice touch, although I privately think a jeweled sailboat a bit of a stretch. She whispers into my ear that she doesn't like Halidor, and I giggle. And Galendur says, "Well, we came in third, that's not so bad, what?" That is good of him, for he very much likes to win. And he is a much younger and far less experienced sailor than the others; before coming here he had never even seen the sea before. So, really, it's as if he did come in first. "We did ourselves proud, old chap!"

"'We'?" I say. "You did it all. Yours is a single-handed dinghy. I don't even weigh enough for ballast yet, despite the way your adorable niece stuffed me like a pillow all afternoon."

I wink at Lyrien, who winks back, to my amusement.

"Ah, no," he says, looking deadly serious, which for him is positively phenomenal. "YOU did it all, Ringbearer. But for you, we wouldn't be here now. You're the founder of this feast, and don't you forget it, or I'll keelhaul and hang you out to dry until the crows laugh in your face."

Well. What can I say? Can hardly even retort that his boat doesn't have a keel, only a centreboard—let alone a yardarm for hanging!

(And I was NOT singing bawdy ballads--I was praying!)

More later...they are coming to check up on me soon.....

 




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