Gandalf Visits Bombadil

by Vison

Minenil was lying upon her bed when I went back into the guesthouse. She had been crying, I could see, but when I entered her room she sat up and said, with pathetic cheerfulness, “The worst is over now, Lorinil. Now I must begin to plan what I am to do next.”…………

……..In the hours and days that I had worried and watched over her, I had given this matter much thought. Though she seemed now somewhat recovered in both body and mind, I believed that it would be long indeed before she would be really well. And, there was that which could not be undone. But there was healing for her, true healing, if she would take the Straight Road and so make her way to Elvenhome.

For is this not the path ordained for our people? Others that I knew had taken that way, when grief and weariness bore them down. True it is that our folk are immortal, but that does not keep all fear and trouble from our doors, indeed, I think at times that it must be worse, to know that one will live forever in sadness. For Minenil, there would be peace, and all that she had suffered she could forget, in Elvenhome. There was the cure for shame and grief, even for such as she. And she would be forgotten here; in time who would remember her, a maiden who once sang, and who went away? Forgotten with her would be all this woe that was so troublesome to me. And to her, knowest thou! And to her.

At any time one met them on the ways, the pilgrims returning to Aman. None would refuse Minenil’s company, and none would need to know what cause had sent her thence. Surely, surely, this was her best course, and then, why then, one day we would all meet again and live in bliss and joy forever, so it it told…..I determined to be on the watch for such a party, for these travelers might come from anywhere, going Westward.

Howsoever that was to be, I said naught to her about it just yet. For she was too ill to travel, and her mood, besides, seemed still strange and fey to me. Ever had she been guided by me in the past, and no doubt she would see the wisdom of my plan when she was more settled in spirit.

“Well,” I said then, “why do we not go out into the garden and walk about for a time? Thou hast lain upon thy bed for days, and thy body requires some air and exercise. Come, little sister. Put the future out of thy mind, and come out under the blue sky with me.”

She leaned on me as we walked, but the air did her good as I had known it must. And she took some dinner, a proper dinner, and even a thimble-full of the flask of Miruvor that was sent in to us. It came with a note attached. “For the Nightingale,” it said. The flask itself was of the finest Crystal, the stopper of Mithril. An exquisite thing, something to be treasured. A gift of great meaning, too, for there are conventions in these matters of romance, know thou. Crystal and Mithril combined are signs of serious intent, of interest that is more than passing fancy.

Ah, Thalion! I thought. I sipped the liquor slowly, its warmth stealing over me as the warmth of his hands had in mine.

He came the next afternoon, and for several afternoons after, and we three walked about in the garden. He let Minenil lean upon his strong arm, and kept his steps to hers. I was content to walk ahead, or behind, for when we stopped in the arbours that were set about the grounds, then would he and I converse while Minenil sat, pensive. It was not that we conversed on lofty topics, know thou, but of the flowers and the birds and such things.

I asked her what they spoke of, when I was not by. “I told him somewhat of home,” she said. “He laughed at my tales of the puppies. They are likely weaned now, are they not sister?”

Puppies? She spoke of puppies? Of course he would laugh, and think her a child. Poor little Minenil. I felt a wave of compassion for her, that her life was so blighted now. I wondered if there were puppies in the Blessed Realm.

He spoke, one day, of the Old Forest, as it was known in this region. “It is as Mablung told thee,” he said. “The forest is a perilous place, and even we Wardens do not go there alone. There is worse, besides. There is a valley beyond those hills where our folk do not go at all. None that I know has ever been there, though it is not really forbidden. One can stand and look down into the greeness, I fancy it is somewhat like the Sea. But the Trees down in that vast bowl are unlike any found here, at least so the tales go.”

“But someone must have gone there,” Minenil said, “if there are tales.”

He laughed. “Maybe. But maybe it is just fancy, lady. Ever will folk do thus, make up tales if no truth be known.”

At times Minenil would rest, and Thalion and I would walk more briskly, and go further along the paths. He did not offer his arm, though I would gladly have taken it.

“Thy sister grows stronger, lady Lorinil,” he said. “It must delight thee to see it.”

“Yes,” I answered. “It relieves much of my care, to see the roses blooming in her cheeks again, and to see her smile.”

“Your care has done more for her, methinks, than the touch of the healer. Love is a good medicine, they say.”

“So they say,” I answered.

“It is odd, is it not,” he said, “that love can come upon one so unaware? Out of the blue, as the saying is.” Then he looked at me, and smiled. “I know that I did not ever think that it could come out of the Old Forest.”

My heart beat quick. “No?”

He glanced at Minenil, where she sat dreaming on a bench. “When I think of thy peril! All alone, two gentle maidens, in that deadly place! And she so weak, and forlorn. How would she have fared without thee?” He looked again at me. “Lady Lorinil, I asked you once if you wished to send to your mother and father. I ask again, for messengers are going to King Thingol’s court next week, and would gladly bear word from you and your sister.”

“I have spoken to Minenil, but she did not wish to do so,” I answered.

“It shall be as she wishes,” he said.

We walked further. “Midsummer will soon be upon us,” he said. “Though it is not, perhaps, as great a festival as that in Nargothrond, we here celebrate that happy Eve with a festival of our own. Wouldst thou take part in it? For I confess I long to hear thy voices, and would it not be a good thing for thy sister, to do something so joyful?”

I was somewhat taken aback. True that we had set out for the great Festival in Nargothrond, and true, as well, that we had practiced long and late to perfect our singing and playing. But the last weeks had put this out of my mind. Still, it was ever my pleasure, and Minenil’s, too, to raise our voices in song.

But to be asked by him! His attentions so courteously offered were a delight to me, though I sometimes wished he would speak more plainly, would do more than sigh and look away rather than into my eyes. This was a boon I would be glad to grant him, as I would be glad to grant any boon, no matter how he asked.

When I asked her later, Minenil at first refused to even consider it. “O, Lorinil, I couldn’t, indeed, I couldn’t! Do not ask it of me, sister.”

“I must tell thee,” I said, “that the notion did not originate with me, but with Captain Thalion. He said he longed to hear me sing, and he has been so kind to us, that I would wish to please him. And are not all our songs meant to be sung by our voices together? I do not think I could arrange any for my voice alone, not when the Eve is so near. Though this is only a small festival in an out of the way place, I would wish to shine, as we would have doubtless shone in Nargothrond.”

“Captain Thalion?” She grew thoughtful. “In that case, I will try, Lorinil. For he has indeed been more than kind. This evening, then, shall we take up our instruments, and practice?” She smiled. “I must tell thee, Lorinil, that just thinking about singing cheers me, and makes me feel that perhaps one day I might be joyful again!”

Thus we did, and it was sweet indeed to spend the evening as we had been wont to do for so much of our lives. We read over the list of our songs and music, and laughed together and made merry as we were ever used to do.

That we would shine, I had no doubt. For, as I had said to Minenil, this was an out of the way place, and they would doubtless never have heard such singing and playing as we would bring them. We were from the court of Thingol, and everything there, every art, whether of music or dance, or painting, was known to be the finest in the world. Ancient music, perfected over ages, must ever be preferred to any newer, lesser works. The venerable and precious masterpieces that we had been taught could not be surpassed.

The next evening, when Thalion came by, I was able to tell him that I had spoken to the Guild, and that Minenil and I had been welcomed as guests to the Festival.

“That is happy news,” he said, smiling.

I would have done anything to cause him to smile down at me as he did then.

“I confess that I am more pleased than I thought I would be,” I answered. He and I were standing in the porch, looking to the West. The rays of the lowering Sun caught in his gear and his fair hair, seeming to gild even the torc of Galvorn and Mithril that he wore as his badge of rank. An errant breeze caught a lock of his hair and I longed to smooth it down, I longed for any reason to touch him. Insensibly I leaned closer.

He smiled again. “Lady Minenil!” he said, looking past my shoulder. As he moved to meet her, he rested his hand for a moment on my shoulder and glanced smiling at me. How should I read that light touch? Light, maybe, but again the warmth flowed from his hand to me, and I wished that Minenil had chosen another moment to join us. I turned and he held both her hands in that way they have there and she was looking up at him with her great shadowed eyes.

He sat with us until the the Moon and Stars were out. We had a merry evening, and ended by Minenil and I singing a little. A light-hearted tune, a lesser work of a great poet in Doriath, much in vogue there when we had left our home. It was dark in the porch, and Minenil and I were at the railing, so that he was looking at us with the Moon behind us. Now was he all silvered by Isil’s light. That light was bright enough, though Isil waned, that I could see his face. Though he might be diffident of speech, his expression betrayed all that his manner might conceal. Were we but alone! Surely, surely he could not look so, and fail to speak!

We ended our song. “Minenil,” I said, “the air grows chill, and you are not wearing your scarf. Think thou, little sister, that only days ago thou wert so ill! My darling, it is time that thou sought thy bed.”

“I am a little chilled and weary,” she said. “I think that I will go in now. Good night, Captain.”

“Good night, lady Minenil,” he said, taking her hands again. Still holding them, he turned to me, “It grows so late, even the Nightingale seeks her nest. Good night, lady Lorinil. Forgive me, I forgot the hour, such was my joy in thy music.”

“Oh,” I replied, “we are accustomed to late hours, at Thingol’s court. It is just that Minenil is not strong yet…” I did not go on to say, “But I am strong! There is naught wrong with me, that I need go to rest before moonset.”

No, I did not say it. For he smiled at me and put out his hands to take mine. “Ever the good sister! “

There was praise I might have valued more, maybe he might have praised my sable hair, so carefully dressed, or my white arms. I wore Mithril bracelets on each wrist and on my upper arms, fashioned by the artisans of Thingol’s court, and my robe was of cerulean blue that looked silver in the moonlight. But praise of sisterly devotion was better than no praise at all, and any words that he spoke were a delight to me……………

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