Gandalf Visits Bombadil

by Vison
XI

As they came nearer, Gandalf became aware that there was some force at work in this place. The seeming Willow shimmered and the trunk of it changed form and there before him was an Elven woman……………

All the Eldar are fair. And the beauty of Elven women is cause for song, wherever they dwell. But here before Gandalf was an Elven woman so lovely he was moved to his heart’s core, and for the first time in his time in Middle Earth he understood the lure of a beautiful maiden as might an Elf or a Man. Her hair was midnight dark, spilling like dark water over her bare shoulders. He wondered what that hair would feel like in his hands. Cool as water maybe, and soft as the starlight. Her eyes were grey and shadowed, her face pale and somewhat thin but very lovely for all that.

She looked at Bombadil and then at Gandalf, and she bowed her head to each. “Master Bombadil,” she said, and her voice was music to their ears, “long has it been since I saw thee here! Greetings to thee, and to thy companion.”

Gandalf was caught, too, by the beauty of her voice, and he took note that she spoke the archaic form of Quenya as a scholar might speak it, but with an enchanting accent. He knew without being told that she was speaking as she had spoken all her life, that she was one of the First Born indeed, one of those who had dwelt in the Light of the Two Trees.

Bombadil bowed. “My lady Lorinil, it is a joy to see thy face again, and to hear thy voice. Here is my friend Mithrandir to meet thee.”

“Mithrandir,” she said, bowing again, “I greet thee.”

“Lady Lorinil,” Gandalf said. “I am honoured to meet thee.”

She smiled. “It is long since I met any other than Iarwain Ben-Adar here, indeed, the only other who has ever come to me here is the Riverdaughter. Tell me, Master Tom, is thy lady Goldberry well? Is she still the fairest lady that ever was in thy eyes? Does her beauty still put mine to shame?” An expression perilously near to a pout marred her loveliness for a fleeting second.

“She is as merry as ever, lady, and I love her right well, and she is still beautiful in my eyes, yes. But lady, dear lady, because I love her and think her lovely, it does not lessen my admiration of thy beauty and my care for thee. Nor hers, for she bade me greet thee lovingly in her name, should I pass this way.”

“If thou shouldst pass this way,” she said. “And here thou art. Yet I thought we had agreed, Bombadil, that it was fruitless for thee to trouble me again?”

Gandalf looked at Bombadil, then at the lady. “My lady,” he said, “if my presence is a trouble to thee….”

“I doubt that it will be,” she said, somewhat haughtily. “Unless this Bombadil has set thee on to disturb me.”

“I have set him to nothing, Lorinil,” Bombadil said flatly. “I have not told him aught of thee.”

“Thou must know,” she said, turning to Gandalf, “that this Forn person thinks I am in need of his aid. He thinks that I need to be rescued.”

“Lady,” Tom began, stopping when she raised her white hand.

“For thou seest,” she said, speaking to Gandalf, “that I am in this Tree. He sees it as my prison, while I know it for my refuge. It is an old argument between us, and I confess I am weary of his attempts to take me hence.”

“But, lady,” Gandalf said, choosing his words with care, “if I am to judge of this matter, I must know more of thy story. For it is true that Master Tom has told me naught, he only showed me thy Mithril brooch, and that only this morn.”

Her form shimmered, and for some moments she was vanished. Bombadil looked at Gandalf and shrugged, saying, “She is sometimes fretful, and withdraws herself. The first time she did so, I pleaded in vain for her to return. She either will, or won’t. She is capricious, and may not be persuaded.”

But this time, at least, her caprice led her to reveal herself again. She stepped forth from the tree onto the earth before Tom and Gandalf. “I do not know that thou art required to judge of anything, Mithrandir. Tell me, who art thou? For thou art not one of my people, the Eldar.”

“I am one of the Istari, lady.”

“One of the Istari? And who are the Istari? Where is that realm?”

Bombadil spoke. “Where shall we begin, lady, to tell thee all that has happened in the world since last I spoke to thee? There is no need for thee to know more of Mithrandir than that he is one for whom I will speak. Thou knowest that I mean thee no harm, and that none I speak for is a danger to thee.”

Even when she frowned she was lovely. “Even for thee, that is a great deal to ask, that I ask no more. Yet, as ever, thy brusque manner masks thy care for me, and I do know, be sure I do know, Master Tom, that thou meanest me no harm.”

She turned again to Gandalf. “Hast thee traveled lately in Doriath? Or rather in the lands that once were Doriath? I know that many of my folk have gone to Elvenhome, but that many remain. Speak to me of one or two that I might know.”

“I was lately in Lothlorien, lady, and traveled for a space with Galadriel and Celeborn,” Gandalf answered.

“Galadriel! And is she still so great with pride, thinking no other her equal in majesty or beauty? For her pride was her fame, thou must know, it went ever before her as the rays of the Sun go before the Sun when it rises. All that kin were swollen with pride and self-will, but I recall that some paid dearly.”

“The lady Galadriel is as she ever was, I guess. She has ever been my friend, and indeed, she was my most faithful counsellor in the War that was lately fought in Middle Earth,” he answered.

“Ah yes, ever have her great all-seeing eyes and comely form cast a spell. She is lovely, I suppose, in that hard, golden way.”

Gandalf looked at Lorinil, at her sable hair flowing over her white shoulders, and her grey eyes that just now held an expression of scorn. It was on the tip of his tongue to say, “But thou art as lovely as she, lady.” He did not say it, understanding that unless he denied Galadriel’s beauty, Lorinil would spurn his words. He thought that maybe her tribulations had worn upon her, had made her as Tom described, fretful and capricious, and his heart was moved by pity for her. So, instead, he said, “But I would know thy story, lady. Tell me, please, how it has come about that thou art ‘in this tree’.”

She sighed, and settled her graceful form to the earth, wrapping her white arms around her knees and staring into the distance. “Last I lived with my people in the Kingdom of Doriath.,” she said. “As Minstrels we were bred, my sister Minenil and I, as was the custom of our house. For my father Lomelin was known as “the Nightingale” in the court of Thingol, and the very birds of the dusk would fall silent to hear him sing. And my mother, Nienil, was known for her lovely voice, and the songs that she made, in all the kingdoms of the Eldar.

Whatever we wished for, in the way of instruments or singing masters, we were given. Oft we sang together, Minenil and I, and the fame of our blended voices was told in every realm. No greater pleasure had we than to do as we had been taught! No other care had we, than to learn new songs, and to master every form of instrument that came to our hands. Surely no maidens among the Eldar were ever so accomplished, and for certain no other maidens took more pride in their learning. Proud, we were called, but we were proud to be named so. For did we not have much in which to take pride?

It fell out that we were invited to visit my mother’s people in the realm of Nargothrond. My mother’s brother Aellin brought the invitation, and he was to escort us thence, through Talath Dirnen to the River Narog and on to his home on the River Ringwil. There was to be a great festival, and minstrels from all over Arda were to be there. It was held by my mother’s folk to be a certainty that we, her daughters, would bring great glory to her house.

Thus we set out, Minenil and Aellin and I. And for some days our journey was a pleasure jaunt, and we sang as we walked, and our laughter rang in the trees of Doriath. Although Aellin was our mother’s brother we had not known him well and we took great delight in his merry ways and light heart. Fair he was to look upon, too, and though he was our uncle, we were glad enough to have such a companion. We vied, my sister and I, for his favour, each attempting to outdo the other in song or mirth.”

She paused, sighing. “But then came the day when Minenil and I quarreled. I do not remember now just what we quarreled about, but hot and hasty words flew between us and at last she fled, weeping, away from me. In vain did Aellin speak out against our anger, and when he found that she had gone and would not come to his call, his anger in turn rose up and he held it to be my fault, that she was maybe now lost and in danger. Ever was it the way, for Minenil had the knack of drawing all to take her part, and ever was it I who was held to be ill-tempered! I would not go with Aellin to find her, but took up my lyre and sat upon a rock and began to make a song that would shame her, and him, and show that I had been in the right of it.

But there was no one, seest thou, to hear it. Came the dark, and they were not returned. Now did I call, and wander hither and thither, seeking them. All the night passed so, and in the morning I came upon the body of my uncle Aellin, lying dead in a welter of gore.

Know thou that I wept, then, and cursed my pride and ill-temper, for at the least my uncle was dead, and at worst my sister, too. His dead hand held her brooch, that very one that Bombadil showed thee, Mithrandir. I took it up and kissed it, and called out her name again and again. “Sister! O, sister!” I cried. “Minenil, my darling, where art thou?”

How long a time now passed I do not know. I wandered nearly witless, and at last it seemed good to me to take up my lyre again, and to sing. But not the song I had made in my foolish anger, no, that song I forced from my memory. Instead I sang a song that Minenil had made for me, a little silly thing that made me laugh when she sang it. I could scarce form the words for tears, but at last I calmed myself and it seemed my voice rang out more clearly than it ever had.

When I paused my song, imagine my delight to hear her voice in answer! And then she came from the woods, running to me, and we met and embraced and for the moment naught else mattered. But then, holding her away from me that I might look again upon her dear face, I saw that she was ghastly with blood smeared upon her hands and her gown, and that her eyes were wild and unseeing, and that she turned from me.

“Sister!” I urged. “O, sister, tell me what has befallen thee!” Then, I understood. “Our uncle! Wert thou there, when he was slain? Saw you that awful deed?”

She did not speak, but nodded, and the tears poured down her face. She trembled, and could scarce stand, but when I tried to tend to her, she would not be still. “No!” she cried, at last. “No! For we must flee! He will come, he will come, and slay us both.”

“Who will come, sister? Tell me,” I begged her.

All that she would do, then, was to cry out again that someone would come, and that we would be slain.

So we fled. But we were lost, and so we fled from nowhere to nowhere. Long days passed, and longer nights. Oft would she stop and listen. “Hark!” she would whisper. “Hark! Dost thou not hear them? The footsteps……”


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