Gandalf Visits Bombadil

by Vison

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 pale 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.

Here the Lady Lorinil stopped speaking and looked at Gandalf. “A long tale, is it not, Mithrandir? Yet it draws to its end. And didst thou guess, when the day broke, and Master Tom here led thee through the Forest, didst thou guess that thou wouldst spend thy day hearing a tale of this nature? Ah, the heartburnings, and the smouldering glances and the longing thoughts!

Some way from the guesthouse and the dwellings of the other folk of this place was a sacred Glade in the forest. Kept for ceremonial use only, it was guarded always against the incursions of the malicious Trees. Here long ago had fallen a hero of the Wardens in an ambush by servants of the Great Enemy. His resting place was now the setting of the Summer Festival, and the Winter Festival, and any other ceremony of importance.

Thalion walked there with Minenil and me the next afternoon. How it came about that he had so little duty in these days, I cannot say. Two other Wardens walked with us, and we had a very pleasant walk indeed in the sunshine. Mablung was at the glade, and a gathering of others; some had brought their noon meal, some were marking out rings for the dancing, some were just gossiping.

Surely a lovelier glade could be found nowhere else, not even in Doriath. The lawn was smooth, and dotted about with Niphredil and Elanor. Arbours had been built, and benches, and at one side a platform was raised for the musicians to stand upon. Simple, unlike the elaborate and exquisite theatre of Thingol’s court, yet pleasing. I thought of the throngs that would be gathered in Nargothrond, and then of the few that would gather here. Another year, perhaps, I might travel to the larger Festival, and take my place with the greatest artists of the Elven realms. I was looking forward to this smaller festival more than I had thought I might, however. No doubt our performance would be spoken of for many years to come.

We walked on for some distance past the glade, and now Mablung and another warden walked with us, for Thalion was taking us to the place where we might look out over the secret valley. The path here was narrow and difficult of passage, for again the twisted roots of the watchful trees impeded us, and even branches dropped too near us, and the sense of brooding menace was powerful indeed..

“They are fiercer here than common,” Mablung said, “for they hate us for keeping the glade open. Every spring there are saplings and runners creeping across our lawn, and every spring we must uproot them and burn them. The trees never forget, and they never forgive.”

“It seems foolish to me to taunt them,” I confessed.

“I do not know that I would say we taunt them, Lady Lorinil. We are Quendi, after all, and the trees must learn to live and let live. They will not be allowed to invade our sacred place.” But he sighed.

“I think it is a lesson beyond their learning,” I replied. “How came your folk to live here at all?”

“That is a long tale, lady, and is not all sad to hear, being a tale with much of heroism and beauty. Mayhap one day I can tell it all to thee,” he said. “But now thou must mind thy steps for we are come to the edge of the abyss.”

And indeed we had come to the very edge. I looked out over a sea of greenery, the canopy of the Oldest Forest. The spot where we stood is just above here, Mithrandir. Just there, up there. How many fathoms? Dost thou care to guess how many fathoms? No? Well, then I shall go on with my tale.

Minenil had no fear of heights at all, whereas I was ever cautious, finding that my head grew light and my legs grew weak if I looked down into such a place. She gazed out over the green sea of trees and then down the rock wall. “Look,” she said. “There is a little waterfall, do you see? The sun’s rays make rainbows in the spray! How lovely it is, Lorinil. Come and see, sister. Here, I wilt hold thy hand.”

But I could not. I stayed back a little, while Thalion and Minenil stood side by side and he told her all the lore of this place that he knew. I could not hear much of what he said, for as ever when he spoke to her, his voice was deep and soft. They shared some jest or another now, for she laughed and shook her head. Puppies, I thought, or some other silly tale of our home. How could she think he would care for such things? A warden and warrior, bold and valiant, Thalion made merry with her as any would with a child. When he spoke to me, his manner was grave and calm, and we conversed as became adults.

I looked up and saw a great hunting Eagle soaring high, but lost it in the Sun. Just seeing the vastness of the forest below, fading into the blue distance, made my head swim a little. I wished to be away. And truth to tell, once one had seen the vista once, who could care to see it again? All we Quendi love Trees, I suppose, but some more than others. Mablung was at my elbow, and we turned, to return to the Glade. Minenil and Thalion must have taken some longer path, or maybe she was tired again and he held his pace to hers, for they were much behind us. But he walked beside me all the way to the guesthouse, even offering me his arm. Minenil walked now with Mablung and some of the others, and their laughter was sweet on the summer air.

Thalion smiled to hear it. “Hear that, Lady Lorinil? They are become mighty fond of thy sister and her merry heart!”

There wanted four days yet to the Festival and Minenil and I spent part of each day with our music. I had always loved to hear her sing, for in hearing hers voice I was told that I was hearing my own, so like they were. Truly her voice was a pleasure to hear, pure and clear as water, sweet as honey. We had been well-instructed, it is true, but instruction cannot make a voice out of nothing. We then looked over our robes and ornaments, and saw to the final tuning of our instruments.

The day of the Festival itself we rested. There is ever the danger of over-preparing and becoming stale, knowest thou.

We had not seen Thalion since the day he had taken us to the Glade. But he had been thinking of us, for when it came time to go from the guesthouse to the Glade, Mablung and another warden came to walk with us and carry our music and our instruments. Thalion had duty until the first hour before sunset, and would seek us out in the crowd when he came.

Minenil and I were not now completely unknown to these folk. We were greeted kindly and courteously as we walked about. Gilraen embraced Minenil gladly, holding her off at arm’s length and exclaiming at how well she looked, and Minenil laughed and said only that fine feathers make fine birds. For she did look lovely in her rose coloured robe, her dark hair caught up with ribbons of the same hue. My gown was a darker shade of rose, and I too had taken great care with my hair. We were called a pretty pair, all our lives, yet it never grew wearisome, for what maiden does not love being praised for her beauty?

A bell was rung to begin the ceremonies, and we all gathered to hear the first songs. The folk of this place had a choir, and they had chosen three old, well-known pieces written especially for choruses. I was most impressed with the quality of the singing, although the mannerisms of the conductor made me smile. A lack of dignity, too much arm-waving and grimacing, not the cool, orderly and graceful direction of the conductors we knew in Doriath.

Then came a maiden to recite poetry. She chose the Lay of Luthien, which is ever welcome, and earned her applause honestly, for she did not recite too ill, considering. Her robes and the fashion of her hair were long out of favour in Doriath, but she had been quite well taught in the art of recitation, and would no doubt improve with practice.

Came a break in the performances, and folk walked about, eating and drinking. Tables were scattered hither and thither, and there were sweetmeats and wine, all of the best. It was now the first hour before sunset, and there came Thalion with his wardens.

He came to me, smiling. “Lady Lorinil! Thou art a lovely rose in our garden!” He took my hands in the usual greeting.

Minenil was standing aside, watching some dancing, she was keeping time to the merry music with her hands, laughing. She turned and saw Thalion and came forward smiling.

Thalion took her hands in the customary way. “Minenil,” he said. He said nothing of roses or gardens. He said nothing at all more than her name.

We were to sing one song after this pause in the proceedings, then another at the last. It is the place of honour, to perform last, and the Guild had been somewhat reluctant to place us there. I had insisted, citing the magnificence of Thingol’s court and our prominent place among the artists of Doriath. Though this was an out of the way place, the folk did not lack in courtesy, so gave way to the wishes of a guest. I knew they would be pleased, when the festival was over, for our last song would be the crowning glory here.

Again the silver bell sounded, calling everyone to their places. Minenil and I made our way to the stage. The rays of the sinking sun spread a scarlet and golden glory over all, and there seemed to be a haze of especial beauty in the air. The sky was that deep blue that comes on these summer evenings, except in the West where it was a blaze of colour.

Minenil and I exchanged a smile, for a Nightingale’s evensong rang out nearby as we arranged ourselves and our instruments.

Though Minenil had much of shyness in her nature, once she took up her lyre and touched the strings, her shyness vanished. She drew deeply on herself to sing, pouring from her heart her love of beauty, and all her joy and delight in life and this world. We sang now of the Light of the Two Trees, Telperion and Laurelin. The song was fashioned so that she sang the part of the White Tree and I the Gold. Silpion and Malinalda, two of their other many names, were our names as well, knowst thou. Minenil was Minenil Silpion as her birth was recorded in the annals of Doriath, and I am Lorinil Malinalda. Thus were we named by our dear mother, so very long ago.

I was aware of Thalion standing near. He stood with the setting sun at his back, and again he was standing all gilded and glorious, his beautiful face in shadow. Yet I needed not to see his eyes to know the expression they held.

Never had we sung so well. The song ended, and we laid our fingers over the strings of our lyres to silence them, and there was utter silence in the Glade. The air seemed to swell toward us, somehow, in delight and adoration, and then the folk stood and applauded, voices ringing out in joy. We bowed and bowed, and laughed, and looked at each other and laughed yet more in sheer happiness. It was this, after all, that we loved, the singing, and the song, and the bliss of knowing that we had become one with our music, and that we had given so much pleasure to those who heard.

There was a pause now. Someone came and helped us, carrying our instruments, and leading us to where we were to sit, so that we might watch the rest of the performers until it was our time to take the stage again. I heard little, for I was yet in that mood of fulfilled delight, recalling the feeling that had swept over me as we sang. We could not have sung more perfectly had we been, indeed, at the great festival. I knew, I knew in the core of my being, that my own voice had been mellowed and sweetened by my love for Thalion, that my heart had been softened and made more open to joy.

I drifted into a dream of the future, of what might come for us. Returned to Doriath, to the court, I would take my place with Thalion at my side. King Thingol would welcome such a valiant and doughty warrior, and Thalion could exchange his Warden’s habiliments for the armour and arms of the mightiest King on Arda. We would shine, we would blaze across the realm like comets, our blissful love lighting us as beacons of happiness………………………

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