I Will Not Say the Day is Done
Nor Bid the Stars Farewell
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 22, Part 119
The Lost Ones
March 9, 1452
Frodo woke with a shiver in a hard and lumpy bed, feeling a draft. He opened his eyes to a dawn-fired sky blazing between the silhouettes of hazel-wands swaying overhead. He remembered nothing at first, feeling only that melancholy contentment of one rescued from some tragedy, safe and mostly warm for the moment, putting aside all fears for the future in relief from escaping some deadly past. Petals blew past his face, and he watched them through half-opened eyes, as unthinking as a child under a blighted apple tree.
But thought came back, desired or not. The gardener in him knew that some hapless shrub of the desert must have bloomed prematurely, and the winds made mock of her efforts. He awoke to the cruelty of Mordor, his adopted home, his stepmotherland. And with that thought returned all memory of the dreadful night behind him.
Nevertheless, after rest and consolation, Frodo found his clarity of mind returned to him, and a certain peace with the prospect of mourning ahead of him. Frodo stirred and looked down from the nest that Hazel had shaped of her limbs. Down below he saw that where the Wargs had clawed the tree, now deep scores bled a golden resin.
"Oh, Hazel!" He gripped the woodlike flesh and felt his own tears fall. "I put you in that danger--how could I have been such a fool?" But the treelike being only swayed gently. "No, it's all right. You needn't lull me to sleep again. The sun has risen; it is time I faced the day."
And then suddenly her emotions rolled over him, bared by his growing powers--emotions riven of all her winters of the soul, freezing the sap and splintering the heart, all the fury of her soul-summers that withered leaf and desiccated brain, her spirit's autumns without harvest and her springs that never flowered; at last he felt come clear, through the tortuous windings of her thoughts, the ache of centuries of having no one to care for, no one worth bleeding for, only endless bitterness of memories and fighting for survival. The limbs that could easily have crushed him--that had crushed many creatures before him--clung to him now the way that Leech had clutched the waterskin on the day that they had found him.
"You have done well," he murmured. "Caring has returned to Mordor. It returned with my father, thirty years ago." He patted the limb that upheld him. "Now I must do my part in caring for those entrusted to me. Let me back down to the ground and I will thank you always."
But the limbs gripped him all the tighter, so that he began to fear. "Hazel--I must go!" The entwife trembled all over, and suddenly he felt the eruption of roots pulled up out of the earth, then a great thud, then another thud, and another, as she stalked out over the fields--away from Seaside. "Hazel..." He gripped the lens about his neck, but it brought him nothing save the realization that Hazel had not merely suffered terribly all these centuries under Sauron's rule--Hazel had gone mad.
Frodo clutched the lens tight and whispered, "Please...please...whatever blessed maia might listen who still holds to the ways of Valinor, give me the right words...magnify them...give me something!" He opened his eyes, and trying not to let his voice shake he pleaded,"Hazel? If you love me can you at least listen to me?" Each step thundered on, drumbeats on the hard-pan soil stretching out now beyond the fields. "Hazel, why do you cherish me so?" The steps slowed, but the hard limbs pressed him tighter still, so that her grip became painful. "Is it not that I bring with me the clean ways of farming back to your despoiled gardens? Isn't it what I hope to achieve here that makes me your child?" The tree-woman stopped, though her shuddering did not abate. "Why else have you saved my life, except to be what you love, which means doing what makes me who I am?"
The worst shudder of all rocked the entwife, and then Frodo felt the limbs relax, cease pinching him so. With a groan the wooden flesh bent down, slowly, reluctantly. As his feet touched earth Frodo stared up into that familiar semblance of a face--the dark, dry mouth ever-agape in some ancient misery, the eyes sunk so deep that one might be forgiven for mistaking them for mere holes in wood. Pity overpowered his fear, so that he did not run away. "Someday, Hazel, when you are stronger, you may tell me your story, darkness and all, and I will listen--though I admit it will take the ents to hear the story in full." He laid a hand on her bark. "But for right now I know that you have seen hard times--maybe the hardest times of all--and I will not take lightly my duty to heal whatever I can of what Sauron has marred--for you and for everybody."
Then he dared to approach the wounds that the wargs had rent in her. Gently he touched them, cleaning out any foreign matter with his handkerchief. When he had finished, he cleared a pocket of his waistcoat of lint and filled it instead with the hardened, golden tears of resin. "I will see to it that you have not bled in vain," he assured her, though he doubted whether Leech survived the night. "One way or another," he muttered to himself.
Then he left, though not without turning back, again and again, to look over his shoulder at the lone tree standing forlorn in the wastes beyond the fields, ruddied by the spreading dawn. He had not remembered running uphill last night, but then flight from wargs does not dispose the mind to attend to details. It seemed a weary distance to trudge, but as his Papa always said, "It's the job left undone as takes the longest."
Yet he had not gone far before he heard galloping behind him. He turned to see Stumblehoof and Bleys coming down the road, bearing Elenaril, Bergil, and Mattie. "Hallo!" he called, waving his arms. "Over here!" Bergil and Elenaril had almost sped past when they reined the horse in, letting Mattie catch up on little Bleys.
"Frodo!" Bergil cried. "What are you doing out of doors at this hour?"
"No time to explain! Just give me a ride back, if you please." Up in the saddle, in front of Elenaril in front of Bergil, he said, "You might have arrived just in time, but I don't know. Leech looked in a bad way when I left."
"But Frodo, why did you..."
The hobbit took out a handful of resin in answer. Elenaril's nostrils flared and she said, "I am not familiar with that one, but it does smell potent."
Frodo replied, "Let's just hope it proves potent enough."
When Fishenchips opened the door to them, he looked as haggard as a haunt, himself, yet at the sight of Elenaril he shouted, "Ya brought her! Ya did it, li'l buddy! But..." and here the man broke down into laughter more like sobs, "but ya see...ah, but...it's like this. Leech...ah...Leech jus' died in my arms mere minutes before." And he chuckled uncontrollably, doubled over, hanging on the doorknob, as one who has lost his mind. "Minutes! Only minutes! Ah, but we're fools all, ever' last livin' one of us, and hope's the joke! Hope's the folly of us all."
"Hope is no folly," Elenaril said softly to him. "I played the fool indeed when I let go of it." Then she pressed a cool hand to Fishenchip's brow and hummed a faint song to him, sad and sweet, till he calmed and straightened. When he had fully come to himself again she said, "Lead me to him, Fishenchips."
The man nodded; with sagging shoulders he led them in silence to the hanging bed, where Leech lay waxy and unmoving, with his legs straightened out and his arms crossed over his chest. Too exhausted for tears, Fishenchips told them, "He stopped breathin'. I just finished arrayin' the body when ye got here. Uncurlin' the fingers took some doin', but I did it." He shook his head. "I did it fer him. He wouldn't a wanted to end with his hands contorted so." After a solemn minute Fish scooped the body up in his arms. "Well, he led a sailor's life, so I guess pitchin' him in the ocean suits him best. You folks round up the other sailors as knew him, but let me carry his body fer him, please."
Abruptly Elenaril tensed, like a deer who smells something alarming in the air. "No...no! Wait!" Elenaril stretched out her arms till her hands found Leech; she laid trembling fingers on his lips and on his chest, her head swinging wildly about as though she searched out something for which eyes would do no good. "Leech has not quite left, though he holds to his life by a fraying thread." Alarmed, Fishenchips dumped the carcass back onto the bed. But then the herbwife stumbled back again, her hand pressed to her mouth. "I have no skill for one who wanders so far from us as this--only the King could call him into his body once again." She backed into her husband, and when she felt him there she turned into his arms and sobbed tearlessly against his neck while he held her. "We have come for nothing, my love--I have failed this need."
"Now wait just one minute!" Frodo tugged at her sleeve. "Leech walked too far to get here for you to give up just yet! It makes no sense."
Bergil answered in a groaning voice, "Death often makes no sense to mere mortals like us."
"No! Don't listen to him, Elenaril--we have no time for that. You say that only the King could bring Leech back. The King--or anyone of the line of Beren and Luthien. I know for a fact that the King did healings before anybody ever crowned him, and he called his kin in Imladris greater healers still, though they bore no royal titles in all their years."
Elenaril shook her head, confused. "Elrond departed over the sea long ago, and none now know where his sons might wander. And the Queen dwells just as far away as the King."
"What about yourself?" Frodo countered.
"What?" She jolted up from Bergil's embrace. "What do you mean?"
Frodo felt the lens heat against his heart. "Don't you feel it in yourself? Haven't you ever suspected? I may be an ignorant hobbit from the Shire, but even I know that the last kings of Gondor's decay, before Tar-Elessar restored the line, led intemperate lives. And since I've been about in the world I think I know a little more about what that means than I used to."
"Are you...surely you cannot say..."
"And why not? We hobbits have a rule that if you get a maiden with child you must marry her, no matter what the differences between your families, but I have learned in my travels that men are not so particular. Who knows how many of the later kings scattered the seed of Elros in the back alleys of Minas Tirith? Why, the poorest slums of Gondor must teem with royal blood!"
Elenaril listened, frozen. Frodo took her hand and led her back to the bed. "Listen to me--you can sometimes read minds, without the help of any talisman like my lens. Where do you think a skill like that comes from? And you cured me of the dragon-sickness after the manner of the kings--you called a lost piece of my spirit back into my body. Who outside the lines of Elros and Elrond could do the same?"
In a small voice, scarce daring to hope, Elenaril said, "Let me smell that resin again." He held it up to her and she bent over it, snuffling, then rose. "I know now what we must do. You must take a coal from the fire and place it in the thickest cup you have. Drop a pinch of the resin onto the coal."
Frodo startled. "You want to burn something so precious?"
"Just do it!" she snapped, her old authority returning as she stood straighter still. When the hobbit followed her instructions a sharp, sweet incense filled the room. "Walk around the patient and myself, wafting the smoke upon us." She bowed over the sick man, taking his hand, and called out, "Leech...Leech..." her voice growing ever fainter as the healing-trance took her, swaying on her feet. "...Leech..." Frodo walked around and around as she had told him to, fanning the incense on them with his hand. She sank to her knees almost as though she fainted, her hands still upon the patient, her forehead pressed to his. "...Leech..." they could barely hear her now, as though they listened from far, far away.
Bergil watched her pale, watched the beads of sweat start up and trickle down the ripples of her scar. "Frodo, Fishenchips, you ask too much..."
"Shhh," Frodo said.
"But what if this kills her? How far down the Halls of Mandos does she have to venture to find him, and what if she can't come back?"
"Hush! I know..."
"You are a child and you know nothing!"
Bergil knocked the hobbit aside, the cup shattering on the floor and the sparks flying, and he reached to grab his wife, but Frodo tackled the man's arm and hung from it with his whole weight, dragging it down before Bergil could fling him off. Still clutching the man's shirt, Frodo hissed, "You will kill her for sure if you break her trance aforetime! Don't ask me how I know--I just do!"
Bergil turned as white as his bride at that, but just then Elenaril sighed, raising her maimed head up once again. Suddenly Leech coughed, opened his eyes and smiled the most radiant, peaceful smile that ever graced a haggard face. "My lady...he rasped, barely a whisper. "How fortunate is Mordor, that a princess like yourself should choose to stay with us."
"Stay I will," Elenaril breathed. "With my beloved people, as lost to Gondor as I have been."
Fish let out a whoop and danced a hornpipe around the room, setting up such a commotion that the old stones echoed till it sounded like twenty sailors capering about. Bergil sank to his knees and stared. Frodo found himself grinning uncontrollably. He clasped the kneeling man on the shoulder and said, "Bergil, my friend, I don't think your parents have any call to fault your wife's lineage any longer!