For Into Darkness Fell His Star
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 2, Part 143
Various Points of View
April 11, 1452--Today we had two (2!) ships come into harbor, bearing rich wedding gifts from Ithilien and Gondor for Bergil and his bride. The most welcome gift of all came from the Queen, consisting of a water-purifying fountain, which might well save lives this summer. The second most welcome present came from Lord Faramir, consisting of wood. You have to understand that around here few trees grow, and those resemble bushes more than anything, so that wood becomes a treasure greater than gold.
Most welcome, that is, to the general populace. The greatest boon of all, of course, to me at least, was your letter! Oh Papa--thank you so much for thinking of kingsfoil in your son's need! I cannot tell you how many times I have missed it. And seeds, too! Oh, how I shall pamper them, giving them sips of my own drinking water if the Mayor will not allot me more.
And I see that you have not been generous with me alone. The rider of the post sends her thanks. (Don't let anyone know her gender, by the way; people commit strange crimes out here, of the Sandyman sort.) I suppose that Mattie will let us speak frankly from here on out--now that she gets her cut, and knows that you doubtless realize the damage she could do to our little May. (You do realize that, don't you? Especially with the mandatory waiting period before an adoption becomes complete.) I'm sure that at this point, at least, she will allow us to say anything that does not threaten in any fashion her access to her poppy-gum, which is all she really cares about. But we must never anger Mattie with letters to authorities, although the very thought of her blackmail makes me wish that I could hate her!
Yet pity moves me more than love. You should have seen the state that she arrived in: battered beyond recognition, after someone caught her in an act of theft that she perpetrated so as to smoke more gum. And laughing! Laughing like her body meant nothing to her, neither its beauty nor its health nor its very survival. So why should it distress me, what she does, what her dangers, her injuries, her humiliations that don't even register as such to her, when I know the folly--nay the betrayal of my family!--in loving her?
Yet I cannot get over the sight of her face! I have tried to think of her as dead to me, Papa. I have tried to slay her in my heart--or rather, give her leave to slay herself. But it won't suffice to let go of the corpse, to mourn and then be done. She keeps on coming back! She comes back just as dead as ever and she rots before my eyes! I can never quite heal of her. If I tried, I would hold an endless wake, and then we'd wallow in our graves together.
I don't care if she does read this. I hope it makes her think. I despair of ever making her feel. But I suppose I merely waste my ink where she's concerned. She could have had my love, and yet she chose the poppy over me. I suppose I should wish her joy in her marriage to smoke and its illusions. She certainly would tell me that she's happy, though I think her spouse has used her roughly.
But enough of that morbidity--we received many good things, two whole shiploads full, not just for Bergil and Elenaril to keep, but also things to share, and the entire community feels blessed to host them. And food, too, of course--always welcome. Much of the furniture we got today will go to the new hospital, naturally. But some will go to the Tower House, and I must say I'm glad of it. It felt good to sit down in a real chair at a real table once again! I would have, of course, preferred a chair to my own height, and especially one pulled up to your table in Bag End, with you sitting across from me and Mama bringing in the pudding, but such as fortunes go in Mordor, we have been blessed today.
I must train myself to feel it.
April 12, 1452--Well, Mattie has left town on her postal rounds, in a dark mood, particularly angry with me. There is no helping it. She seems to have gotten it into her head that unless I join her in dissolution (with the gum--nothing else will serve) I cannot understand her or even share the least fellow-feeling with her. I hope that she has therefore written me off; I find her friendliness far too painful. Let our relationship be one of receiving and delivering mail, and vouchsafing her the occasional bribe.
I take some consolation in Dragon-Girl's improvement. This morning I looked in on her and surprised her in a sweet (one-way) conversation with Bleys! To relate in kindly fashion to a beast oblivious to her wiles shows a remarkable Hello, Sam. May I call you Sam? Certainly Samwise, in full, does not become a person of the station you have attained, considering the rather embarrassing meaning of the name, so I will take the liberty of shortening it for you, as your old master was wont to do--for your dignity of course. Yet to call you Mayor Gamgee seems so formal between old enemies, does it not? Or do you go by Gardner, now? That would be like you, I expect, to rub my nose in my fall at the hands of a slave.
Well, well, that is all behind us now, I think. The war must seem so distant to you, after all these years--though of course, it seems like yesterday to an immortal like myself. I do pick up the odd bit of information from young Frodo's brain, and I see that you have made yourself quite comfortable in the Shire--the sovereign of that nation, as I understand it, rich beyond your wildest expectations, living in a renowned mansion with hirelings of your own, married to the fat little wife of your dreams and surrounded by an obscene number of progeny. And judging by the images that I encounter here in Frodo's memories, as compared to the images I had from the eyes of my Nazgul, when they swooped down upon you on my very doorstep (in vain! I do admit it!) I feel that I can repeat the words of my servant Saruman (as your son has read them in that book of yours) when he said to your predecessor "You have grown, halfling." Especially around the region of the belt.
Whereas I...but that is another story, is it not? Not the sort of story one would like to hear before one of your abundant Shire meals (and when is it not either right before, during, or immediately after a Shire meal?) It might cause indigestion. It might disturb the endless peace and plenty and utter serenity of mind that you have come to enjoy.
Or are you so serene? Does it worry you, just a bit, my relationship with your son? Oh, here they are, memories of letters that you have written--definite concern. Touching. But what cause have you to complain? I have come to treasure our darling Frodo! And I assure you that the feelings become more mutual every day. Do you know that he misses me now when I stay away too long? And he even lingers, just a moment or two, where smells remind him of me, bless his soul (if a scoundrel may bless, and I think he may) though he does not realize it--not yet. Yes, we have grown quite familiar with each other, Sauron and his Little Frodo. After all, love poses no real barrier to my vengeance--not when I can rob you of the most precious thing that you possess.
Oh yes, I woo him, in ways that you could never match. And I have not yet begun. Oh, the things I have in store for your eldest son! Ah, but fear not, I wish for him only the best. I have so much to offer him, that a mere dirt-grubber like yourself, dear Mayor, cannot begin to fathom. You have not the faintest comprehension of all of the marvels, all of the magic at my disposal to share with him. You cannot compete. You will be nothing to him, before I finish with him. You will not recognize him. Your son is mine!
Ah, but I realize that you stay ever-mindful of my paucity of power, thanks to your diligent efforts against me, and those of your dear, dear master who abandoned you even after you carried him on your back, the one you named your son for. Poor, poor lonely Sam! But that won't matter, you see. My knowledge and my cunning suffice for me, and the kindness of friends. Once Frodo fully understands the breadth and scope of all that I have to offer him, he will willingly surrender everything he has to me. Is that not true love--that total surrendering of self?
Yet have no fear, my dearest foe. Your Frodo will not die! Right before I drain the very last drop of him, I will teach him how to rob the power of others! And two shall harvest more than one ever could. Can you see my generosity, now? With his help, then, we shall both enlarge ourselves, beyond even what most hobbits have a stomach for! Among the other things that we shall do together, he and I. Oh, I will make him happy in ways his father never dreamed! For he has become my precious, my chosen one. Are you not proud of him?
May you have joy in all of your remaining children. I will give thought as to what to do with them. I am sure that Frodo will help me, once I bring him around. Oh, but you and your pretty little brood-mare have together engendered so many differing opportunities for me to break your heart! I will rename each of your children after a different conquest of mine that you have bereft me of, just so that you can get a feel, a faintest shadow of my loss, as you lose them. I think I shall call Frodo "Nurn". Yes. That is what he will represent for me, when I utterly vanquish him, and he begs me yet for more! Elanor, your fairest child, I would like to call "Ithilien." For after all, that was mine too, however briefly. Rose the Younger shall be Harad, with her pretty textile arts. The others I shall have to give more thought.
Do you doubt me? Then ask yourself this. As you well know, you left me with no hands, nor any other portion of anatomy. Who, then, has penned this message to you? Ah, I can just imagine the expression on your face as you realize what I say. And how is it that the hand of Frodo, having written all of this, yet knows it not? How chanced it that when he proofread this letter, he completely missed my firmer, darker, more obvious strokes of the pen? I tell you, I have great plans for the lad, and I have just begun. Some things never quite heal the same as they were before, as the monster herbwife likes to say.
I am about to make my move. I have my pieces all in place. The night after tomorrow, it should be. Not that knowing that will do you any good, as you will get this letter more than a month after too late. He will be mine, enthralled, and without regrets. Oh no, we mustn't allow dear Frodo to feel regrets--I never do, after all. Ah, but what a difference a single night can make! And poor Samwise the Brave, Hero of the Shire, lives so very, very far away! advance in regaining her humanity, I think. She still snapped at my hand when I reached to change her water (I moved quickly, and remain ten-fingered) but Lanethil told me not to expect her to recover all at once, so I haven't let it discourage me. Oh, would that I had as much hope for Mattie!
Lanethil worries me. I know that he has given Dragon-Girl more of his blood, no doubt while I slept. He looks pale and a little sunken-eyed, and moves in a weary fashion that I recognize too well from my own anemic past. I confronted him, and he admitted as much, but he insists that she needs this nourishment from him, he doesn't mind, and he can spare it. Besides, he said, it is just as well that he should look a little tired at this point, what with everyone marveling at his alacrity and productivity at the smithy. If he shows a price for "working too hard" (which is to say, hardly working, for an elf) then people will accept him without envy. Oh, he knows the foibles of us mortals all too well--and loves us nonetheless!
Even so, I urged him to caution; while it is not uncommon for elves to die and be reborn once or twice in their unending spans, he has made a habit of changing bodies fairly often, and I do not like it. And the flesh he has now has seen hard use--he has wrinkles, Papa, especially around the eyes. Fine ones, granted, but they're there. If he uses this body up too fast, then by the time he returns, and his newest form grows to maturity, I would likely have died of old age! So for all practical purposes he would have died to me indeed, and I would miss him! He is the sort of person that one can grow fond of rather quickly, and has already become a bright spot in my tenure here.
The sky looks like rain soon--or would if this were the Shire. That mottled cloud-pattern, that you taught me presages a coming downpour in about a week , doesn't really say much here. I have seen it any number of times, with nary a drop to grace the land. We don't even get morning dew around here anymore.
April 13, 1452--The new chicks have started to hatch! Oh, how pitiful and vulnerable they look at first, all wet and exhausted, lying in the fragments of their shells--but how soon they fluff up and perk up, waddling about with cheeps and peeps and a bright-eyed interest in the world. What a sign of hope they are! And you may trust me on this much--they will keep their beaks. (I never thought that I would need to say so strange a thing--no wonder I sound mad to some! Nothing I once took for granted holds steady anymore, and all that folk take for granted here sounds grotesque where I come from.)
Dragon-Girl has made remarkable progress. I have noticed her eyes looking distinctly greenish of late, and the pupils have drawn back to long ovals, not so much splits anymore. But more than that, she begins to ask normal questions like a normal child, to respond to beauty as non-dragons understand it, and to show an interest in what goes on around her that has nothing to do with her own well-being. Lately I have heard her talking kindly to Bleys, and he seems to return her affections. This morning I came in and found him nuzzling her cage. I feared for him and ran forward when I saw her reach up, but she only petted his nose. He, of course, ate it up and never knew his danger.
If she has progressed so far, it seems to me that she might respond well for a pet to care for. I remember how tending pets taught each of us, your children, a selfless kind of love (and yes, I still do miss Billie-Lass! But that makes me no less fond of Bleys.) I think I will bring her a chick, a soft little puff of sunlight, for her very own.
Well, that went over less than well! She did take the chick into her cupped and eager hands, cooing over it, giggling when it nestled down contented into the warmth of her palms--and then she popped it into her mouth! She looked as happy as any child would with cheeks puffed up with candy, chewing and crunching away with a bright-eyed smile, a little bit of down fluttering on her lip. I must have looked as aghast as I felt, for her smile dropped at the sight of my face and she said (with her mouth full) "What? Ya eat eggs, don'tcha? 'Twas an egg yesterday, were it not?" And then she spat out a beak.
Well, she did have a point. And I do eat chickens as well as eggs--though I prefer to cook mine first. So I made little of it. She did thank me for bringing her something more pleasant than rat to eat; I have to give her credit for that. We must take her progress as it comes. And maybe see if we can introduce her to cooked food yet.
April 14, 1452--Happy birthday, Pippin! And how is my most intelligent little brother doing? Not so little, anymore, in your tweens--twenty-three seems rather important to me, exactly a decade before you come of age, and quite old enough to get into all manner of mischief on your way to adulthood. Not that I expect much mischief from you, dear brother, except for occasionally "borrowing" a book without permission and "forgetting" to return it. But do please remove your nose from the pages, however briefly, to enjoy the sweet spring air that I know must waft through Hobbiton this time of year. Feel green grass between your toes for me, and I will think of you as I walk on grit and sand. Make that your present to me, to take one day under the sun and the boughs of trees, out in the big, green world!
I have work to do, now, a busy day ahead of me. But I promise I will think of you all day long.