Recap: Since it’s been a while since I posted the last chapter, I’ll just provide a short summary of the events of the previous chapter; if you have an excellent memory and don’t need this, well, then, good for you. Elanor woke in the healing chambers some days after the Great Council, anaware that any strange happenings had occured. Faramir finds her and returns her to their chambers, where Elanor discovers that Faramir plans to accompany the king on his hopeless venture across the sea as a last effort to save his people. The two have an argument over Faramir’s going, and Elanor leaves in a flurry of dispair. The following morning, she finds Faramir ill, and is required to nurse him back to health, after which she falls victim to the same disease. We come on her the morning after her recovery…
When Elanor rose the next morning, she felt superb, if slightly foggy. She dressed quickly and found that she was ravenous. Stumbling slightly, she made her way to the hearth, which was cold and bare, and lit the rotting faggots. Only a few lamps were alight, so Elanor’s slow brain worked itself around enough to realize that Faramir must still have been asleep. He deserves a good sleep, Elanor thought grimly. He’s been working himself to death over me.
A light knock sounded outside the door, and Elanor recognized it. Only one person ever used that light, hesitating sound.
“Anna!” she cried, and ran to the door. When she pulled it open, the girl turned and gasped, nearly knocking over the tray on the ground. Elanor suddenly found herself enclosed in a choking embrace, which she returned weakly.
“Oh, mistress Elanor,” Anna sobbed. “I thought I’d not see you again! When you took ill at the council, I was worried ill m’self! And then when you and master Faramir caught that ‘orrid plague, I nearly died o’ fright!” A thought suddenly seemed to dawn on her, and she stepped away quickly. “You are on the mend, o’ course?”
Elanor laughed, realizing as she did that she had not felt any mirth for a very long time. “Of course, my little gift. Now, come in, I’ve got the plates.”
As Elanor and Anna spoke, many things returned to Elanor’s mind. When she remembered the war against the Valar, tears started in her eyes, though they remained yet unwept.
“When, Anna? Has the King yet left across the sea?”
Anna started and frowned. “No, mistress, they’re said to leave in a fortnight. Did you say across th’ sea, mistress? Not where the elves go!” Her eyes grew wide in astonishment and the sight was so comical that Elanor nearly laughed anew.
“Yes, Anna, where the elves go…” She fell silent. The only thought with her now was one of how to protect her love. She could not keep him safe sitting idle in the ruins of Gondor. But how would she follow him? The king would not let a maiden, untrained in the ways of war, accompany his men into battle! If only she could somehow disguise herself… Her mind snapped suddenly back to the present. Anna was humming awkwardly to herself and looking mindlessly about the chamber.
“Anna!” Elanor said briskly. “Would you know if the lady Éowyn yet lives?”
Stuttering slightly, the young seamstress replied that she did, and that she and her husband, the Lord Faramir, were with the king even as she spoke.
“Can you give her a message, Anna? Make sure you remember. Tell her that the periana Elanor Gamgee greatly wishes to speak to her today. That is all, Anna. Now, you may return to your duties, I wouldn’t want to get you into trouble with the seamstress… Oh! And could you tell Isa Red-Dragon that Faramir and I are well? I do not wish to anger so formidable a woman and suffer her wrath!”
As Anna rose, she embraced Elanor and said quietly, “I’m so glad you’re on th’ mend, Mistress Elanor, so glad.”
Elanor patted her on the arm and reminded her not to forget her messages. As the girl departed, she sank back into her reverie. Yes, she thought decisively. If anyone can help me, it’s her. ‘Dernhelm’ indeed… the stuff of legends and fables.
When Faramir arose later, he was as though spring had come several months too early. He held Elanor’s hand tightly as they sat before the fire after their meager morning meal, often raising is to his lips and kissing it, making her blush foolishly. It was nearly eleven before there was a brisk knock on the door which opened before Faramir could rise.
Isa Red-Dragon swept swiftly into the room, not bothering to close the door, and unceremoniously felt both hobbit’s faces. She forced them to open their mouths, looked into their eyes, and listened to their breathing, while not saying a word. Finally straightening, she gave a rare smile and spoke.
“Aye, you’re both well. You can leave your rooms now, just don’t over-tax your strength. Eat regularly and sleep when you’re tired, even in the middle of the day. Oh, Master Faramir, you’ll have to report to the armory this next day, find some mail that fits.”
Faramir bowed his head and Elanor said, “Thank you for what you’ve done, Lady Red-Dragon. Without your potion, we’d not be alive.”
“Nonsense. That potion’s just an excessively strong cough syrup, with an old recipe for strength stirred in. I did nothing for the disease. You fought it all yourselves. Now, I bid you good day. Farewell.” And she was gone.
For much of the day, Elanor dwelt on her meeting with the Lady Éowyn and how to explain it to Faramir. Fortunately, her worries were unfounded, for Faramir retired to his chamber before three o’clock to ‘rest his eyes.’ Several minutes later Elanor crept to his room and found him sleeping more quietly than the grave. She smiled, hid a small yawn, and closed his door behind her.
It was four o’clock when Elanor, nodding in her chair, bolted awake to Anna’s knock on the door. The girl stood beaming on the threshold.
“I did jus’ as you asked, Mistress Elanor. The Lady told me t’ give you this.” She held out a folded piece of parchment and looked at Elanor expectantly. It read in a flowing, sure script;
Lady Elanor, Éowyn of the Mark
Please meet me tonight in the sixth hour in the main gallery. We may speak there. Send your reply with your humble messenger.
Éowyn of the Mark
Elanor smiled. “Thank you, Anna, this is perfect. Would you mind taking my response?” Elanor searched for a quill and wrote on the back of the letter.
Lady Éowyn, Six o’ clock is well. If you believe we can speak freely in the main gallery, that will do also. Elanor Gamgee
Six o’ clock is well. If you believe we can speak freely in the main gallery, that will do also.
“Thank you so much, Anna, I can never repay you. Here, a silver penny for your trouble. No, don’t argue, just take this back to Éowyn!” Anna fled from the room, smiling widely and pocketing her coin in her skirt.
Elanor went to her chamber to prepare herself for the Lady and was dismayed. Her skin was gaunt and gray, her usually lively hair was lank and limp, and her clothes hung so loosely about her that they looked like oversized robes. Sighing sadly, she began to repair the damage. She scrubbed her face until much of her color returned, and spent most of her time washing, combing, and curling her bedraggled hair around her fingers. She relaced her bodice more tightly and tied a wide sash about her waist as a belt. When Elanor had finished she stood back from her looking glass and smiled. She looked as she had before her illness, and found that the dress fitted her more slender form nicely.
Elanor retreated to the living quarters and found that it was but five minutes of six, and hurried out of her sanctuary into the labyrinth of the hall, closing the heavy door as quietly as she could, though still producing a meek thud. She nearly ran to the main gallery and found it deserted except for one elegant, aged woman sitting alone. She had shining silver locks flecked with the golden color of her youth, and her carriage was that of a proud and strong woman who had defied all pampering. Though her flesh was aged, even this was not readily apparent, for the spirit in her eyes and heart was one so powerful that time had no influence. At the time Elanor met with her, the Lady Éowyn was four and sixty years of age, and looked not older than forty.
“My Lady,” Elanor said when she had approached and kneeled reverently.
“Rise, Elanor, for we will speak as equals or we will not speak at all. You have not come to me for naught. Something troubles you, and you believe I alone may help… I wonder if it is not the voyage of the king, whom many shall follow…
Elanor found herself telling the lady of all that had come of Faramir’s decision to fight with the king against the Valar, about her love for him, and about her need to follow him, even to death and the ends of the earth. Elanor trusted the Lady Éowyn with not a single doubt, and the wise woman only sat and listened for as long as Elanor spoke, seeming to know and understand every word of her lips and thought of her mind. When she had finished, the Lady spoke, almost half to herself.
“You must follow your love, but you fear that the king would not allow you to go. This I know is true, and I suspect that if your companion knew, he would forbid such an endeavor as well. So what we must do…is let you follow them without their knowing of you. I see now why you searched for me, the Warrior Dernhelm. First, you must understand your quest, for I would not send any into the jaws of death unknowing. You know whom you will seek to challenge?”
“You know that if you leave, it is likely you may not return alive?”
“Never to see the fields of your home, to hear the voices of your kin, or touch the soil of your roots?”
“And still you wish to follow your love into the very clutches of doom?”
All was silent, and a single tear fled Elanor’s eye, brushed swiftly away, before she spoke her whispered reply.
Éowyn’s heart was moved by the lonely being who sat before her. To the Lady’s eyes, Elanor was as a rose encased in bitter frost. If not allowed to grow, and soon, her heart would wilt and die. She should have been the happiest she had ever known, for even Éowyn could see her soul was touched by her first love. Yet Elanor was sorrowing, and her love was soon to be ripped away, could she not find the will and strength to follow.
Éowyn embraced the hobbit and brushed away her tears. “You will go, may the Valar take my blood. You will come to me each night of the fortnight before you sail, for I cannot hope that you know all the ways of the sword. I shall teach you, for those of us in Rohan know well that even those who cannot wield a sword may still die by one. On the last night of the second week, you will come to me and I will prepare you, for your appearance must be greatly changed. Your locks must be cut, and, I must say it, Elanor, your feet are distinctive. Something must be done about them as well… Also, I will find you clothing appropriate for boys of the age of thirteen, and… what else…? Stand before me, I must see you better.”
Elanor stood and the Lady shook her head. “Ah. I fear that we must bind your chest, for your form is not that of a young boy’s. It shall not be pleasant, as I remember well, but it is necessary…” Éowyn’s eye darted over Elanor’s shoulder and her face hardened. Her voice dropped to a whisper. “I believe that someone is listening…and has been for some time. Do not fear, all shall be set to rights.” Her voice grew loud and commanding. “I have not yet heard of draperies that move of their own will! Come forth!” Slowly, tremulously, a figure emerged from behind a large silken tapestry and drew forward as one being led to doom. It stepped into the light and Elanor gasped.
The girl’s olive face was crimson and her hazel eyes brimmed with tears. She fell upon her knees and cried piteously;
“Forgive me, Mistress Elanor, I’m so sorry! I-I jus’ wan’ed t’ make sure yeh was safe; it was so strange, th’ way yeh called on th’ Lady. An’ j-just now when yeh said yeh was leavin’, I had ter put me hand o’er me mouth to keep from cryin’ out. The Lady mus’ ‘ave seen me move. An’ yer goin’ t’ cut yer hair! I always loved yer hair, M-Mistress Elanor, ‘s’not right t’ cut it all off, jus’ like that!”
Elanor went and knelt beside Anna and put her arm about her shoulders. The rage that had welled in her had gone, leaving only compassion and pity for her foolish friend. She smoothed her auburn hair and spoke into her ear. “I forgive you, Anna, for you did what you thought was best. But you must understand, you can tell no one of what you have heard, and must even forget it yourself. If-“
Éowyn lifted her head and spoke suddenly. “I do not believe that the girl should forget what she has heard, for I know too well that a secret borne alone is the hardest to keep. Girl, your name is Anna? You wish to remain with Mistress Elanor, do you not?” Anna nodded feverishly, and Elanor opened her mouth to speak but was silenced. “You do not wish to fight?”
“I will if I must, milady,” the girl replied stoutly, not entirely concealing her fear from her voice.
“But you do not wish to?”
“Anna, I know that the king is searching for apprentices to meet his company’s needs on this journey, and he needs one from every craft. If I am correct, there is only one other seamstress’ apprentice, and he is neither as skilled or as aged as yourself. If you request to be of service, you will go with Elanor. You will work constantly, for the men will need your services daily, but I do not doubt that you are equal to the task.”
“Thank you, milady,” Anna gasped as she rose.
“Now, go,” bid the Lady Éowyn. “Elanor and I still have much to discuss. And remember; you must tell no one of what you have heard, for Elanor and I would be held as though treasonous.” Anna turned and fled, exiting the hall quickly as a rabbit pursued.
“Milady,” Elanor said softly, “Why did you do that? I would rather that Anna be safe in Gondor than in danger with me.”
“I did not lie when I spoke of a secret kept alone being the hardest to bear. In the days of the battle of the Pelennor Fields, many times did I wish I could confide in those around me, even the halfling, Meriadoc, who lies now in the tombs of Gondor. Truly, I doubt that even one so stalwart as yourself could bear your plan alone. Also, how safe do you believe Gondor can remain, with the will of the Valar against them? We have not yet seen the tiniest fraction of the power of the Lords of the West.”
Elanor bowed her head and said nothing. Éowyn spoke again. “You will face your hardest test before you ever leave these shores. On the night of your departure, you must leave your beloved and come to me, for I must prepare you. I had not this trial in my days, for I had no one to leave, only many to follow… Elanor?”
Without her willing it, Elanor’s eyes had drooped as she listened and a heaviness came into her limbs. Again she felt the pain in her skull, but she heard no word. She saw only a vision of the world in darkness, covered in many tombs. A woman walked amid the graves, clad in a glistening robe of starlight, filled with many sorrows. The woman came across a single flower, one of golden elanor, and held it aloft. The world brightened, and joy returned. When Elanor again came to herself, Éowyn was looking at her with concern. “Yes,” she whispered, “I will go, no matter the cost. It must be so.”
She said nothing of the vision, but the Lady bid her return to her chamber to rest. “On the morrow, return to this place again at six o’ clock. I will be here.”
On returning, Elanor found Faramir sitting at the fire, reading the Red Book. Telling him that she had been walking with Anna, she smiled and sat with him, resting her head on his shoulder and reading with him. They read of the fall of the Dark Lord, and the days after in Gondor during the time of great joy, and the joining of the Houses of Elendil and Elrond, and of the Mark and Gondor, and the days of peace that followed. The final page read;
for me to go. I’ll be following Mister Frodo now, and going with the Elves. I’ll be the last hobbit of the Fellowship to leave, and I’m ready. I don’t wish to leave the Shire, and my family, but they’ll be taken care of. There’s nothing left for me here, since my Rosie died, and I’ve been away from my Master for so long. This book will go to Elanor, along with my things from the Great Journey. My last hope is that the Shire, and all of this Middle Earth, will grow beyond all my reckoning, but no one will forget what we lost to keep it. May the stars shine upon your face. -S.G.
The book was not closed, for both hobbits had fallen asleep.
* * *
Far away, in a land where time had no power, another hobbit drifted towards slumber. He was roused by a hand on his shoulder, and his amber eyes opened wide and clear. “Mister Frodo?” he asked, no hint of sleep in his voice.
“I’ve just heard news from the Lady,” said the other, a being with sapphire eyes that gleamed in the darkness. “Aragorn’s coming in two weeks.”
Wide awake now, Sam grabbed his master’s arm. “What about Elly? Is my Elanor coming too?”
“The lady says it must be so. She has found a way.”
Samwise buried his face in his hands. “Drat it all, Elly,” he murmured softly. “You’ve always been too clever fer your own good.” Looking up, he met Frodo’s eye. “That settles it, Frodo. I’ll fight beside her or I’ll not fight at all. I’d ruther die defending her than see her hurt, or killed. Even if I have to go it alone.”
“You won’t be alone, my friend. You’re never alone.”