Gandalf Visits Bombadil

by Vison

Gandalf and Bombadil hear the Lady Lorinil……

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………………………

He was sitting beside me, with Minenil on his other side. I allowed myself to lean against him, ever so little. It is not the custom of our folk to be demonstrative, to wear our hearts on our sleeves as the saying goes, but such was my exalted state that I gave way a little.

He turned his head and our eyes met. He had ever that expression of grave calmness, his air of gentle seriousness. He smiled at me, and nodded. “Until this night,” he said, “I had never heard any singing so wonderful. Your voices! So perfectly blended, and so lovely. Long will I remember this Midsummer Eve, long will it live in my heart.”

Where my arm touched his, ever so lightly, there was that warmth that I always felt from him. I drew away a little, there was no need to draw attention to us. Yet I yearned to him. My hands longed to know the texture of his hair, the feel of his skin. My heart quickened at the sound of his voice. Above us the sky darkened and deepened and the first stars awoke.

At last it was time for Minenil and me to sing again. As we took our places there was a ripple of applause. Lamps had been lit at the corners of the stage and they shed their silvery-gold light across the boards and gleamed on our ornaments and on the gilded Lyres we carried. Her eyes met mine and I felt a wave of affection for her sweep over me, her face was so sweetly lovely and her loving nature shone forth, and we clasped hands for a moment.

We sang of Aman, the Blessed Realm. Blessed and free of Evil, the land in the West, beyond the Great Sea. My eyes stung with tears, knowing that when she was safely there my little precious sister would once again be as she had been, for no stain was there upon any flower or leaf in that land, no corruption nor imperfection, nothing broken, not even a maiden’s heart.

Again our voices took two parts, she sang of Varda and I of Manwe. Then our voices were blended into perfect harmony. This was one of the most sacred of all songs ever written, and though we had sung it many times, ever did it touch our deepest being. Solemn, but not sad, serious but swelling with joy, this hymn was the purest expression of we who are the Firstborn and all that we hold to be holy.

The music ended, the last notes faded into the starlit night. We bowed with our hands held over our hearts, then embraced and bowed again. The applause fell over us like rain seeming unending, and then, it was over.

No matter how exalted one’s being, no matter how moved and full of joy and bliss, one still has to come down the stairs, and take up ordinary breathing again. Someone took our Lyres away, and we were led to the Guild table near the centre of the glade where we were to sit in the seats of honour and take part in the feasting. The night air was warm as new milk, and though there was no moon, the sky was ablaze with white stars. Low on the Western horizon Earendil sailed on his eternal voyage, and the belt of Menelmacar swept in a band of brilliance from North to South.

But then I saw that Minenil was not with me. She had come down the stairs with me, had she not? I turned back, I wanted her to be at my side just then, to hear the praise that would be poured over our heads.

I went past the foot of the stairs and around into the shadows. There she was, my little sister. And there he was. Thalion.

I felt as if I had been turned to ice. For she was in his arms, and he was kissing her and tangling his fingers in her hair and telling her in that deep, soft voice of his that he loved her, he loved her, he loved her……..

And she, she was clinging to him, her white arms around his neck, her body curved in against his.

They did not know I was there. I did not move. I did not breathe, my heart did not beat. I waited.

“I must go,” she said, at last. “I must go to Lorinil! We are to be at the Guild’s table, we are the guests of honour!”

He loosed his hold upon her. “Go, then, beloved. I will come to thee after, and we will walk together in the Starlight.”

Another kiss, and he stepped away into the darkness.

She came around into the lamplight. “Lorinil!” she said. “Oh! I am sorry I kept thee waiting, sister. I am ready to come with thee now.”

“No doubt thou art,” I said. “No doubt thou art ready to come with me now.” My voice trembled. I took her arm.

“What is it?” she asked. “What is wrong? Lorinil! Do not look at me so!”

“How should I look at thee? Thou false sister! Thou treacherous vixen! I saw thee! I saw thee in his arms, kissing him, and whimpering of thy love!”

She tried to pull herself away. “False? How false, sister? I do love him. I do. And he loves me.”

“He cannot love thee! How could he? Think of what thou art!” I shook her.

Her voice was calm. “We are to be wed. He has sent to Father, with the messengers to the King.”

“No,” I said. “That cannot be. Thou art lying, Minenil.” Then I struck her, and flung her from me.

“It is ever so,” I hissed. “There is that in thee that draws them to thee. Thus was our uncle led to his death, by thy soft ways and thy cozening nature. He knew thee for what thou art! And now, now thou hast entrapped Thalion the same way.”

She struggled to her feet, and stared in horror at me. “Lorinil! Lorinil, my sister….”

“Sister! Do not name thyself sister to me, thou art my sister no more! Dishonoured and shamed as thou art, and deceitful as thou art, and sly and cunning! Thou art hateful! Hateful!”

She fled, sobbing, into the darkness. I could see her pale form ahead of me, in the blackness beneath the Trees. I heard voices raised and saw torches flaring in the darkness, but I sped after her, I did not heed aught else.

She did not see where the path led, and the Trees let her pass unhindered. I saw her at the edge, heard her cry out. Then, she was gone, and I heard nothing.

In a little while they came, Thalion and the Wardens. I sat with my back to a Tree, but it had not sung to me, had not sung me into stillness, and I had to rise and face them when they came.

Mablung came and drew me to my feet. “Lady Lorinil,” he said gently. “Where is the Lady Minenil?”

I pointed. Then, I turned to Thalion. “She told me, she said to me, that she feared to bring dishonour to thee, and that it was better so.”

He shook his head. “That is a lie,” he said, his voice flat and hard. “She was seen fleeing from thee., and from thy vile tongue.”

“But I love thee, Thalion,” I pleaded, and O, how I wish now that I had held my tongue. For he did not need to know that, nor to hear me humiliate myself before him! “I……I did not dream that thou couldst love such as she…..”

His face held such contempt that I fell to my knees scorched by it. “Such as she? I would have blessed every day that I dwelt with her! Her love was the most precious treasure in all the realms. No greater honour could have come to me.”

He sighed. “I cannot bear that she should go all alone.”

I can still see him, as he was in the starlight, above at the edge of this abyss. He simply stepped into space, just one step more than would keep him among the immortal Quendi, and he went to join Minenil wherever it is that such souls go.

The lady Lorinil stopped speaking. Gandalf looked at her with cool pity, and waited. “Listen,” she said, at last. “Dost thou not hear her voice, in the falling water? I hear it, my little sister singing to me. Minenil! Minenil, my darling.”

They took me to the guesthouse, not knowing else what to do with me. Gilraen came, but I sent her away.

One day when I was not watched I came to this place. The Trees up there let me pass. Yes, they let me pass. I found that I could climb down without fear, for truthfully, I did not care if I fell. I walked about for a time. I found Minenil’s brooch, this very one, but I lost it, it fell from my hand somewhere. Somewhere out there, for I wandered hither and thither, wandering too, in my mind.

I heard the Willow Tree singing to me. I listened, and came closer, and I heard his sleepy voice. Willowman, Willowman, Old Man Willow, I heard thee. Old Man Willow, he sung me into quiet and peace, and gave me shelter. For Old Man Willow is the Weaver at the loom. His roots are the web and weft of the Forest, creeping grey and silent beneath the earth, and he weaves all into his thoughts, and thus he enthralls any who come near…….

Tom Bombadil said, “Lady, again I say to thee as I have said twice before in ages past, let me sing thee out of thy thrall. Here is come Mithrandir! Together we can sing thee free.”

She shook her head. “It is better as it is, Master Tom.”

“There is healing for thee, and joy, in the Blessed Realm. Come, lady,” Gandalf urged.

She seemed to lean toward Gandalf, putting out one white hand. But then she drew it back. “But there,” she said, “I will not hear her. She is not there.”

“There are other singers, lady, and other songs. Come. Put thy hand in mine.” He put forth some of his power, and he felt Bombadil beside him, strong and true.

Bombadil sang softly. “If Minenil could speak to thee, lady, she would bid thee go.”

“Yes,” Lorinil answered. “For ever was she my loving sister, ever had she a gentle heart. And she is not alone here. He is with her.” She closed her eyes. “But I do not hear him. Not ever. He does not sing to me, you see.”

Gandalf reached again, and his hand caught hers, though it was more form than substance. “Lady, hear me. Do not listen to the song of Old Man Willow. Hear me!”

Her hand lay still in his and she looked at him with her great dark eyes. “There is great power in thy grasp, Mithrandir.” It seemed she leaned yet closer, almost she took a step, her shape was altered into more reality and less shadow.

“Give thyself to that power, lady. Trust me, and Old Man Willow must then let thee go.”

She laughed. “O, Mithrandir, Mithrandir. It is not the Willow Man that keeps me here.”

“I know that, lady. It is thine own heart. But hear me, hear me! The world has turned, and a new age has begun, and all that was will be no more. These old days and these old ways are fading, fading. Come, come to where thy life awaits, to the long home of thy people.”

Something cold came into her eyes. “Yes, my people,” she said. Then, withdrawing her hand, she said, “I will not go upon my knees and beg forgiveness. Such as I am, at least here I am not required to humble myself.”

Gandalf reached, and Bombadil cried out ancient words of power. But she withdrew, and was now a vague shape only, glimmering white in the shadows.

After a time her voice came, faint and sweet. “It is truly better thus. There can be no healing for me, for I do not want healing! I want what was, and can never come again.”

Gandalf lifted his staff and struck the heel of it hard upon the earth. He uttered words of command, and the air about him and Bombadil and the Willow Tree was charged with energy. The shape of the Lady Lorinil appeared again, and she held out her white hands, but not in supplication, rather in a gesture of denial. Then she was gone.

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