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Old 03-03-2020, 02:20 PM   #1
Mithadan
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Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
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Mithadan has been trapped in the Barrow!
Tales from Tol EressŽa

Tales from Tol EressŽa
by Mithadan
(Originally posted March 2, 2004)

∆lfwine sat beneath a beech tree, resting from his journey. Above him, the leaves of the tree were limned in a golden-green from the light of the westering sun. His back to the trunk and his fingers running through the thick turf amid the roots, he again wondered at the fortune that had thrown him up upon the white strand of this isle. To have been saved from drowning in the depths of the seas would have been enough; but to have been washed upon the shores of this land where legends walked beneath the skies?

"Fortune?" Pengolod had snorted. "Mere chance to have been carried to the shores of this land? Nay. It may be that chance plays some part in the unfolding of the Tale of Arda on the grey shores of Middle Earth. But in all the ages since Ulmo anchored Tol EressŽa in its place, not once has 'fortune' brought a child of Man to this haven. Nay, though the purpose is unclear, you were brought to tarry among the Eldar by more than mere chance."

The Elven-folk, ancient and forgotten by his people save perhaps in the tales of children, had succored him until he was hale again. Tales they told him of ages past when the world was yet new and wondrous. Of the three kindreds of the Elves they told him, and of the darkening of Valinor where the gods yet dwell. Songs he heard, of surpassing beauty and sadness, of the rebellion of the Noldor and the tragic war against the ancient Enemy of all who would live free.

And when told of the War of Wrath and the rescue of the Eldar and the Fathers of Men in Beleriand, ∆lfwine had asked, "If Middle Earth was indeed redeemed from the evils of Morgoth and he was, at last, utterly defeated, then why is Middle Earth not a garden shared by Elves and Men? Why did the Eldar abandon the Hither Lands then, leaving the world to the folly of Man?"

Pengolod had smiled sadly. "Say rather Ďfreed from Morgothís grasp,í not Ďredeemed.í Until Arda is remade, it shall not be redeemed from the taint of him. But the Eldar did not abandon Middle earth. Yea, many of the Noldor accepted the pardon of the Valar and returned to dwell here in the Lonely Island. Yet many, and also the people of our kin, the Moriquendi, remained behind; for a while. It was not our place to dwell ever in the lands of thy birth. But for many an age, the Quendi walked beneath the trees in what now are the mortal lands."

"When did the Eldar depart finally?" ∆lfwine had asked. "And why?"

"After the Third Age ended and the time of Man had come, the last of my brethren took to the sea bound for the haven of AvallůnŽ. As to why, that tale is best left to one who watched these events unfold," responded the Elf.


.....................................


And so, days later, ∆lfwine found himself on the road to the dwelling of that loremaster of the later ages. North he had traveled from Tavrobel towards the great haven of AvallůnŽ, then west towards the heart of the island. He had paused wistfully, in view of the white towers of AvallůnŽ, longing to visit that city and, not least, the pale Elven ships at their quays. To ride the waves standing by a high swan-beaked prow! But AvallůnŽ must wait. For now he sat beneath the beeches, tired and hungry, yet savoring the sweetness of an afternoon in this strange land. Even the air in this place seemed possessed of a magical quality, scented as it were with the flowers and the green things that grew in such abundance. Opening his eyes, he looked upon a stand of mighty trees across the road with smooth silver-grey trunks and fiery golden leaves. What had the Elves named them? MalinornŽ?

His reverie was broken by the clip-clop of hooves on the path to the east. Several riders rounded a turn in the road, among them a fine grey palfrey upon which sat an Elven lady of surpassing beauty. The riders slowed and gazed curiously at ∆lfwine. A tall raven-haired Elf, wearing a star on his brow bound by a slender fillet, spoke.

"Now here sits a marvel, the like of which I have not seen in years unnumbered. For, unless I be mistaken, this weary traveler is of the Atani. Hail and well met! What errand brings a child of Man to this Lonely Isle?"

"No errand but good fortune, though Pengolod holds otherwise," replied ∆lfwine as he rose.

"Pengolod the Learned has keen sight in this matter. Your name Sir?"

"∆lfwine I am, Lord. I seek the house of the loremaster Elrond at the instance of Pengolod."

With a sudden smile, The Elf turned to the lady upon the palfrey and cried, "Fortune does not guide this Man! What think thee Celebrian? Does chance have a hand in this meeting?"

Her laughter fell like silver rain. "My Lord Elrond's house is but a stone's throw away," she said. "But the Elf you have found, ∆lfwine! You stand before Elrond and his wife; I am Celebrian. And these be Elves of his household."

Elrond leaped from his steed and clasped the Man by his shoulder. "Come ∆lfwine! Weary you may be. But that may be cured by a laden table and a draught of wine. You will tell us your tale and why Pengolod has sent you. And if I can be of service I shall."

They walked with the horses along the road and, indeed, but a stone's throw away a path led through the trees to a number of dwellings great and small. Elrond and Celebrian led him to the largest, a house of hewn white stone, where they were greeted by several elves who took the horses. ∆lfwine was led to a chamber with a fine bed and a basin filled with clean hot water. After he had washed, he was led to a great hall with a long table laden for supper. Elrond beckoned him to a high chair next to his own and bade him drink and eat to his ease before telling of his errand to that house.

After having his fill, ∆lfwine told the tale of his coming to EressŽa; of his sailing forth from England; of his entering the Straight Road and the world falling away beneath his ship; of his mates abandoning the vessel in fear; of the storm which wrecked his craft; and of the great wave that had lifted him and gently carried him to shore.

Elrond and his table marveled at the tale of ∆lfwine. "Indeed Pengolod erred not. Chance alone did not strand you here among the Eldar. Some great purpose lies behind these events which I cannot perceive. But tell, why has Pengolod sent you here?"

And ∆lfwine told of his sojourn in the house of Pengolod and the tales they had told him of the First Age and his wonderment at the hidden history of the world. At last, he spoke his questions of the fading of the Eldar during the ages after the defeat of Morgoth and of their departure from Middle Earth. "For it seems to me that had the Eldar stayed much grief might have been avoided and the history of Men less tragic," he said.

Elrond looked gravely at ∆lfwine. "The tales you seek are long and themselves woven with sadness for what might have been. Their telling will take many days and you have traveled far and long. Do you wish to begin tonight?"

∆lfwine nodded his head and Elrond summoned his household to a great hall where was lit a fire. When all were assembled, Elrond turned to ∆lfwine and began to speak.


....................................


Many days indeed passed in the telling of these tales of the Second and Third Ages of Arda. ∆lfwine listened keenly and heard of the foundation of Numenor; the MŪrdain and the settlement of Eregion; the making of the Rings of Power and the One Ring; the war between the Elves and Sauron and the ruin of Eregion; the AkallabÍth; the Final Alliance and its victory; the foundation of Gondor and Arnor and the disaster at the Gladden Fields; the wars of the Witch King and the fall of Arnor; the failure of the line of kings in Gondor; the War of the Ring; and many things besides.

Late one afternoon, ∆lfwine retired to the gardens behind the house of Elrond where there bloomed the elanor and niphredil. Long he wandered in sadness musing over the Eldar and the tragedies which befell them. After a time, ∆lfwine entered a clearing in the gardens where stood three monuments of bright white marble shot through with gold. Unable to read the runes carved on the stones, he sat and wondered of their purpose.

How long he sat there he knew not, yet suddenly he stood and looked about and found that night had fallen. The stars shone gently in the sky but to his surprise the monuments appeared to glow with a clear white light in the gathering dark. At that moment he realized he was no longer alone. Beside him sat Elrond, regarding the monuments with a sad smile. His grey eyes glittered under the stars and he seemed to be glimpsing a faraway scene.

Then, looking at ∆lfwine, he asked, "Have you heard tales enough of ages long past? Or do you crave the whole of the lore of the Eldar to weigh in your memories?"

The Man smiled. "I have heard of many wonders since I arrived on these shores. But my memory has room and to spare. Yet I have not heard that which Pengolod promised; why you and your brethren left the Hither Lands?"

"Maybe not all have, responded Elrond. "Maybe some tarry there yet hidden away in mountain fastness or in unknown green vales, as spirits or shades of the past. But you have had your question answered. It was the fate of Elvenkind to fade before the race of Men and give up Middle Earth to you and yours. But for the Three Rings whose power failed at the passing of the One, most of my kindred would have left to the West long before the Third Age was finished. The Fourth Age and the ages since are the time of Man."

"But cold and sadder is the world, I deem, without the Elves, and barren of lore and knowledge," complained ∆lfwine.

Elrond raised his head and his eyes twinkled as he looked sidewise at his friend. "Pengolod himself could have told of the fading of the Eldar. While the purpose behind your coming to EressŽa is not clear, perhaps you were meant to hear these tales and carry them back to your people so that memories of the Eldar and our deeds are not entirely forgotten as the world becomes old. For this reason, Pengolod sent you to me, unless I be mistaken."

They sat quietly for a time under the clear light of the undying stars. With a pale glow, Isil raised his head above the rim of the land. As if greeting his light, the three stone markers shone yet more brightly amid the shadows. ∆lfwine stirred and gestured towards the monuments.

"And what be these stones?" he asked. "Like grave markers they seem, and I have not seen their like here. Nor would I expect to in these undying lands, if graves indeed they be."

A faraway look crossed the face of Elrond and he sighed. "Graves they be. Here lie great heroes whose memory we hold in honor and whose passing was a sadness of parting unto the end of Arda."

"Who lies here? Surely the power of the undying lands fades not!"

"It is not the lands themselves which are undying," responded the Elf. "Rather those who live here, the Eldar, the Valar and their people have life as long as Arda shall last. The lands themselves hold no especial virtue apart from those who dwell upon them."

Elrond sighed once again. "The morning after we sailed from the Grey Havens we drew nigh unto Tol Morwen. There we paused to do honor unto those who lay there on that sad remnant of Beleriand, and to those who perished in the wars of the First Age.

"Little longer did we tarry and soon we entered on the Straight Road and the world fell away beneath us. Then did many gather in the stern of our white ship for a last glimpse of Middle Earth, where we had laboured so long. And not a few tears were shed at that time. For diminish we must, yet we did not love Middle Earth less because of that.

"But the Ringbearers shed no tears. Frodo stood at the bow with the wind in his face and Bilbo sat beside him. They, at least, went without sadness, looking to the West and not back to the lands behind and below.

"And after a time, the seas became broad and flat again and we came beneath clouds and a light rain began to fall. Islands there were about us, small and dark, and ever and anon we might see the skeleton of some ancient vessel broken on the shores. We wondered at who might have come so far, Man or Elf, only to fall by the wayside to sleep unto the end of the world. The rain was not chill but warm, and soon the sweet smell of flowers seemed to fill the air."

"Aye," interrupted ∆lfwine. "The isles I beheld also, forbidding they seemed, and I feared to run aground. But the rains which took my ship were neither warm nor light and I smelled no flowers until I awoke on the sparkling shores of this land."

"Yet you were not broken with your vessel and to EressŽa you were allowed to come," replied Elrond before he continued his tale.

"When we emerged from beneath the clouds we saw before us this green island with its white beaches, and beyond rose the Holy Mountain which pierced the sky. Glad we were to behold that sight and many broke into song.

"Frodo's face seemed to glow and, for maybe the first time since his return from the Quest he smiled happily and in truth, and he turned to Bilbo and said 'Look! Behold our new home!' And Bilbo turned his wizened face and nodded as the breeze blew through his white hair. 'For a time, Frodo,' he responded. 'For a time.'

"As we made for the port of AvallůnŽ a great throng gathered on the quays, shouting and waving their arms. Bells rang and echoed in the streets and from the Tower there shone a bright light beneath the banners of the EldaliŽ. Many glad reunions occurred that day and joyous was my first sight of Celebrian standing whole and healed again.

He paused with a smile and turned to ∆lfwine. "Yet many had waited longer than I to be rejoined with their kin. A great white pavilion had been raised in the square of the city and there were many who had come even from Valinor to greet those who had at last come to Elvenhome. Those in the pavilion rose as the Ringbearers approached and the crowd parted, giving way before the Hobbits and Galadriel beside them.

"At the end of the pavilion stood a dais upon which several elves were seated. As we approached the dais, Galadriel gave a cry and rushed forward; for there indeed sat Finarfin, her father, and beside him Finrod, who had returned from Mandos, and other of her kin. Ages had passed since the sundering of that family and glad was their meeting.

"And amid the clamour and the tears, one strode forth onto the dais and held out his arms to the Ringbearers. Tall with raven hair he was, with a silver robe covering his mighty thews and a silver circlet about his brows. EonwŽ it was whom I had last met in the wrack that had been Beleriand at the end of the First Age. The crowd hushed as he spoke: 'Welcome Frodo and Bilbo and from ManwŽ I bring greetings! Never before have any of the younger race graced these streets and ages will pass before any do so again. Yet few of greater valour have ever walked here. Thy deeds have been told in song even unto the peak of Taniquetil. Welcome!'

"The Hobbits blushed crimson and stammered their thanks, unable to meet the bright eyes of EonwŽ. Olorin it was who gently took them by the shoulders and guided them onto the dais to stand among the mighty of Arda amid the cheers. Many a glass was filled and drained in toast that evening much to the discomfort of my little friends. Yet whether they will or not, great heroes they were and deserved of their place.

Elrond paused, leaning back to look at the stars. He smiled again and continued. "Bilbo did not fall asleep once during that celebration. He spent much of the evening speaking to Finrod about Beren Erchamion. Ever a lover of tales was Bilbo. And Frodo as was his wont sat quietly listening and speaking little.

He paused again and stood to walk to the first monument. Resting his hand on its peak, Elrond nodded his head and resumed sadly. "Bilbo died a year after, on his birthday. He summoned Olorin and myself and we traveled with him and Frodo to AvallůnŽ where we carried him up the steps of the Tower to the Chamber of the PalantŪr. Olorin braced him upright as he gazed into the stone. As old and tired as he was, he stood for an hour seeing visions of his home at Bag End, of the Hithlaeglir and the Lonely Mountain and, finally, of Aragorn in Minas Tirith with my beloved Arwen. Then we bore him back and laid him down on this very spot so he could see the stars.

"Frodo was crying pitifully but Bilbo raised his hand to clasp Frodo's and said 'Now hush. My little part in this tale is done. It must go on without me as you must. Fear not; I don't. There was never a Hobbit more lucky than I, to have seen what I have seen, done what I have done and known who I have known. This tale is yours now until you too pass out of it and until the world is renewed and we meet again.' And saying that he closed his eyes and passed gracefully into death. But Frodo raised his head amid his tears and nodded his head as if to agree.

"Frodo lived many years of Men at ease here in EressŽa. Then one day he too summoned Olorin and we again traveled to AvallůnŽ. Not to the Tower, but rather to the piers where we sat long looking out upon the seas. And over the horizon there came a sail and a white ship which came into the havens, its prow cutting the waters with swan's head held high. At last it docked, and many Elves climbed the gangway to the docks and again there were many reunions. After many minutes a short white-haired figure followed wearily.

"'Sam!í said Frodo. 'At last you are here. I have been waiting too long for you to come. Don't tell me you were afraid to go sailing?'

"Sam responded, 'Begging your pardon Mister Frodo, no I wasn't. Afraid that is. But I couldn't leave Rosie behind. I had to wait for her to leave first.'

"'I'm so sorry Sam,' said Frodo, kissing his forehead. 'I know you miss her. But I am glad you are here.'

"We returned to the house once more and dined with Frodo and Sam. Then we left them alone to speak of their time together and what had happened since. We heard them talking long into the night and then all was quiet. In the morning, we found them lying together hand in hand looking happy as if nothing ill had ever happened to them. It was March 25. And now there are three gravestones on Tol EressŽa in the garden of Elrond."

Elrond took a deep breath and stood silently before the markers. Then he bowed deeply and turned to ∆lfwine. "Come. Its late."

END
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Old 04-02-2020, 09:37 AM   #2
Huinesoron
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Huinesoron has been trapped in the Barrow!
In the words of a certain Hobbit, "I've put this off for far too long..."

Reading this story, I mean - it was a month ago I asked if commenting on it was okay! But, like Master Samwise, I made it here in the end.

I was a little wary of this story for the first half or so, when it seemed it might be about to turn into just a retelling of LotR, but I should have had more faith. The gravestones proved how wrong I was, and the story after that point was pure emotional gold. The high points, as I'm sure you intended, were the reunions/acclamation, Bilbo's visit to the tower, and Sam's arrival.

The line that's sticking with me is "I had to wait for her to leave first", which is just so Sam. It also draws a link between the hero of LotR and its author; it would be nice to think that after Tolkien lamented that "the story has gone crooked, & I am left, and I cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos," he was able to console himself by thinking of Sam and Rosie's end; and if he imagined it anything like this, it would be a comforting tale indeed.

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