I Will Not Say the Day is Done
Nor Bid the Stars Farewell
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 43, Part 140
By the Light of Earendil
April 9, 1452
Frodo had hoped that Bergil might turn in early, what with having a new bride and all, but Bergil and Elenaril in fact sat up late that night, haggling over a household budget. Frodo drank a lot of water before going to bed, knowing that bodily necessity would awaken him a few hours past midnight, but he needn't have bothered, for his roommates' raised voices did that for him. Long before the appointed hour Frodo opened his eyes to loud protests of "But sweetheart..." increasingly taking on a certain edge.
Frodo listened in the dark to fragments of conversation like, "But if you have not needed it for so many years, darling, how could marriage possibly change anything?" and "What exactly, do you mean by 'personal recreation fees'...Dearest?" and, "Good heavens--how many dresses can one woman wear?" and "Do you mean to tell me that all of these years you have paid others to do what any able-bodied man should handle for himself?" Frodo had to stifle snickers when Sauron started a running commentary, as though calling out the blow-by-blow progressions of a boxing-match. But when the discussion (to put it gallantly) continued perilously close to dawn, and when, far from winding down, doors began to slam, and fists pounded on said doors, and they'd slam open again, only to crash shut all the louder the next time, so that the conversation now proceeded, often as not, in shouts through wood, Frodo punched his pillow in frustration. The star Earendil would soon climb over the horizon.
Frodo dressed silently while first one voice, then the other, pleaded for reconciliation--but not, unfortunately, at the same time. Suddenly Fishenchips' decision to sleep over at the hospital-in-progress made a whole lot more sense; Fish must've picked up on something brewing as he worked beside the herbwife. Well, no hope tonight in sneaking out the front door, Frodo could see that plainly enough.
The hobbit stared up at his back window, and felt keenly anew the difference in proportion between Shire-dwellings and the architecture of men. He could plainly see the hazel wands beyond, now that he knew to look (and he saw also the stars between them, revealing the nearness of his appointment-time) but how to reach that high sill?
He looked about his room, in a speculative way, and then dragged over his tub. He turned the dinged-up metal box upside down, and then balanced his cot on top of that. He shook his head, regretting his incinerated chairs, but he did the best he could with what he had. Finally, for lack of anything better, he took a crate that held several reams of paper, removed the contents to make it light enough to lift, and upended this on top of the cot.
Then, gingerly, one furry foot ventured onto the slippery tub, which bent with a faint metallic twang, tipping the cot just enough to worry him, not enough to allow him to give up. The other foot slowwwwwly swung up to the cot, which wobbled in a way that made Frodo swallow several times before he dared to move again, his knees shaking nearly as hard as the furniture. He brought both feet onto the cot, and froze when the cot slid a little on the metal. At last he took a deep breath, then stepped high up onto the crate. For a moment he balanced there on one foot--before he felt the whole thing giving way under him, prompting him to kick off as hard as he could and make a mad leap for the windowsill!
At the crashing, clattering, ringing chaos rebounding off the stone walls, Bergil shouted up the stairs, "Are you all right, Frodo?"
"Yes, fine!" Frodo called back down, not feeling the least bit fine as he hung from his hands by the slick stone sill not at all designed for such use. "Quite all right, just terribly clumsy, that is all!" And then he grumbled under his breath such words that he would just as soon leave unheard by anyone.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, yes, absolutely sure! No problems here, no siree!"
Steps began to come up the stairs. "Frodo, I am sorry if our little disagreements have disturbed your sleep..."
"No, don't worry, think nothing of it!" Frodo shrilled. "But say--isn't that the sound of Elenaril packing?"
"At this hour?" Bergil cried, and ran back down the stairs. Meanwhile, Frodo's hands had worked up too much sweat for him to feel at all secure about trying to chin himself up. Nor did he dare to kick his feet about in search of something he could stand on; not that he saw any hope in such a course, anyway.
It seemed like forever, but in fact only minutes passed like this before he felt cool, long-fingered hands clasp his wrists. "It seems I have arrived just in time," Lanethil whispered cheerily as he pulled Frodo up over the sill into Hazel's waiting limbs.
"I don't want to talk about it," Frodo muttered. But even as he spoke the open breezes seemed to blow his fear and embarrassment away. The boughs felt secure to his hands and feet, and full of life that meant him well.
"Do you have the serum?" the elf asked as they climbed down.
He felt at his pocket to reassure himself that the bottle remained unbroken. "Yes."
"In a clear glass flask, I hope?"
"Yes, though a tin one would have served me better, with all the risk I had to take--easier to fall upon, if it came down to that."
"You need not have gone through so much trouble," Lanethil told him. "I have rope."
"Now you tell me!"
"Sensible persons never travel far without rope. I thought you would know that."
"I do, but mine became a clothesline months ago." Already he felt his mood improving, with the sweet smell of hazel-blossoms all around him in the fresh night air, and stars ablaze among them.
The elf chuckled. "And you did not consider me a sensible person?"
"I didn't say that. After all you've been through, though, it's a marvel that you haven't cracked up completely."
The elf hopped down to the ground. "Oh, I tried that, many lifetimes ago. I almost think that boredom with my own troubles cured me more than anything." He helped the hobbit down and they circled around and into the barn. Both moved so silently that Bleys never woke. Dragon-Girl lay curled up on the straw, a blanket snuggled around her. The soft sighs of her sleeping awakened in Frodo parental instincts that he did not yet know he had.
"How harmless she looks," Lanethil murmured. "I wonder how many of her victims took her in because of that illusion?" Then he did something that utterly shocked Frodo. Rather than ask for the key to the lock, he knelt, thrust his left hand in through the slats, and in a louder yet beguiling voice he called out, "Awaken, little darling, and nourish yourself." He tipped his fingers back and the inside of his wrist forward as the golden eyes opened and gleamed there in the dark.
Dragon-Girl sat up, blinked a moment, then yawned, stretched, and scratched her uncombed scalp vigorously. Then, on all fours, she approached the elf's wrist, sniffed at it a moment--and then bit in deeply!
"What are you doing?" Frodo exclaimed. The donkey stirred and fussed to hear him.
"Softly, my friend," Lanethil replied, wincing as the child suckled at his blood. "We do not wish to disturb your guardian's sleep."
"He isn't sleeping."
"All the more reason for silence, then." Blood dribbled down the girl's chin and added new stains to the spatters already starting to mar her dress. "I offer her a temporary anodyne for the unbearable hunger within her. The living blood of an elf can, for a little while, quiet the demands of dragon-blood. Saruman often found it so."
"Do you mean to say...ohhh no!"
"No one will ever know, I fear, how many of the Moriquendi Saruman trapped, to ease what he had done to himself, to give himself a moment, now and then, where he could once again appreciate a sunset for an hour, or the simple pleasures of spring. More to the point, it staved off an increasingly impractical hunger of another sort--for not all of the missing Rohirrim fell to the predations of orcs. It did not take many elves--you can draw a good deal of blood from a single one of us, a little at a time, and stretch his life out for many years longer than a man's--and the secretive Avari that he preferred went unremarked in their absences."
"That...but no! The implications are just too horrible! Grima Wormtongue..."
"Had never tasted dragon-blood." The elf's voice sounded increasingly strained.
"How do you know? You weren't there, but what Saruman hinted about Lotho's fate..."
"Would have been a lie. No, I have never been to your Shire, but I knew men loaned to Saruman's service and I heard the tales they told. Grima relied on his own eloquence for his enchantments; otherwise Saruman would have found him too dangerous to keep close to him." Now the elf leaned against the cage, grimacing. "Whoever your Lotho might have been, he at least had a clean death at the hands of Grima Wormtongue. Whatever his master did afterwards I cannot say, but it does sound to me like Saruman wanted to cover something up with an alternate explanation."
Frodo leaned against Bleys' stall, nauseated. What a horrible fate might have befallen him, had not Elenaril intervened!
Lanethil pulled his hand back suddenly through the cage. "There!" he gasped. "That should hold you for now, little one." The child sat back in the straw, looking sleepy and content, wiping her chin in an unconscious way; as the elf's hand dripped darkly onto the straw. Lanethil rose, drew a strip of cloth from his pocket and bound his own wound, with some help from Frodo, then took the key from the hobbit and went in. He wrapped Dragon-Girl in her blanket and carried her out so tenderly that one would never have guessed the damage she had done to him. "A descendant; I can smell it in her," he murmured.
"Is that why you would go so far for her?"
Lanethil frowned at Frodo. "I go so far because she is a child of Illuvatar--nothing exists more precious in this world: not kingdoms, not rings of power, nothing! But come swiftly now--see how far Earendil has risen?" He pointed through the barn door; as they went outside Dragon-Girl gasped and gazed up at the heavens as though she saw them for the first time in her life. She remained docile as Lanethil carried her up the slope of a hill, Frodo trotting behind, trying simultaneously to keep up and avoid brushing a kaktush or stepping on something sharp in the dark. The hill turned out taller than it had at first appeared--something Frodo had noticed about desert promontories. He huffed and puffed before he got all the way to the top, but this did not dampen his appreciation of the sight of the elf silhouetted against a sky full of stars--as elves must have looked in the days before sun or moon.
Lanethil laid the girl on a flat boulder about breast-high, that reminded Frodo of the place where the dwarves had expelled Sauron from Legolas. He was not the only one to notice; he felt an uneasy stirring just to the left of his soul.
"Frodo, the flask, please." Frodo surrendered it, expecting the elf to place it upon the boulder, too. But Lanethil set it on a much lower rock, going down on all fours for a moment to judge the angle critically between the two stones. Then, to Frodo's further surprise, Lanethil stood and picked up the hobbit, raising him to the boulder instead, to stand beside the drowsing child.
"Frodo, you must be the one to do this, since you administer the medicine. Take out your lens. Hold it up so that the light of Earendil shines through it. Bring that light to focus on the flask."
Frodo twisted to face behind himself. The star had indeed arisen over the horizon in the time it took for them to climb the hill. He held up the glass that his dear sister May had given him, adjusted his position until he had it lined up just right, and then carefully turned the other way, facing a thin sliver of moon, fiddling with the focus until a beam of pure white light, far stronger than anyone should have expected from a star, focused onto the bottle and kindled a kind of spark within.
Lanethil began to hum softly, and then began to sing, his voice surprisingly rough at first, yet in a rich and textured way, that pleaded in his curious dialect for the creatures of this world--the wonderful, fallible, Children of Illuvatar. As the music built in volume and in resonance, Frodo saw pass before his eyes the entire history of that star, from the luminous unfurling of the Two Trees' first buds, to the crafting of the Silmarils in wonder and in fire, to the great deeds and fell committed in their pursuit, to the courage of a shellshocked mortal man and his dauntless elvish/maia lover, who burst all barriers asunder by the power of her songs! And then from there the long and anxious journeys of Earendil himself, long wandering lost, yet letting nothing turn him back from his plea for mercy on behalf of elf and mortal-kind alike--and the triumph when he finally sailed into the forbidden harbor. But not to rest, turned rather to a sailor of the skies, ever shining forth his ancient, purest light for the hope and the healing of the world!
The child lay on the rock and watched the elf with wide, golden eyes, never moving. Frodo held steady the lens, watching the young moon slip down behind the western mountains. Now the bottle appeared to hold liquid light within. The song fell back to rough, gentle tones of supplication, as it merged its plea with Earendil's, and it sounded thick with love, and as warm as a mother-made, homespun woollen blanket; Frodo suddenly had a vivid memory of Papa wrapping him in just such a blanket after a late-night dinner picnic to learn the names of stars, picking him up and carrying him home.
Then Lanethil lifted the flask, passing his hand over it while muttering words that Frodo could not catch, and when he had done it looked ordinary once more. The elf smiled at Frodo, a little crookedly, his stance a little bit lopsided, not quite what one would expect of an elf, yet perfectly right for him, and said, "Well, we have done it, I think." He helped Frodo down, took up Dragon-Girl once more (who fell asleep instantly in his arms, snug against his breast) and led the way back to the Tower-House as the first light welled up on the eastern horizon presaging the dawn.