For Into Darkness Fell His Star
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 19, Part 160
Threads in a Tapestry
After Strider left, carrying my last letter to you, Uncle Pippin and I had a bit of a celebratory dinner in honor of Tom's and May's birthday--what a day that was! But by now you have already read of the King's deeds, and my congratulations to the twins. To me, of course, it all took place yesterday; I hope they had nothing but happiness all the day long. Uncle took over the cooking, and it just felt so nice to eat a hobbit-cooked meal set forth by someone other than myself. Even if I have gotten used to a bit more spice than he fancies.
Can you believe that nothing much happened today? That has become so rare that I ought to mark it on the calendar! May 11, 1452. It gives me space to answer your letter.
First off, don't fault yourself for sending me to Mordor. Did Gandalf fault himself for packing you off to Mordor in your day? You suffered, too. But it all worked out in the end, didn't it? Trust, then, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
No, it hasn't been easy. Maybe it isn't supposed to be. I admit that sometimes I feel rather like flax--torn up from my roots, beaten and broken, pulled apart fiber by fiber. But oh, what a tale I might be woven into once the Valar finish with me! I finally begin to see the larger picture into which I thread. The tapestry goes on, Papa--you cannot spare me my part in it.
So, we're all Gardners now? Excellent! But does that make you the head of our own new clan? Uncle Hamson might welcome crossing the lot of us off of the birthday list--we're all a bit too much to keep up with, on top of all his other nephews and nieces. I tried once to explain to Eowyn the birthday customs of the Shire, who owes birthday presents to the byrding, who the byrding owes birthday presents to, and what the exceptions are, but she got quite lost. Not that you or Uncle Hamson either one owe me anything next October, no matter which one of you heads my clan. I've gone so far beyond the twelve-mile radius of custom that I couldn't even hope to reckon it.
Heavens, but that has a lonely sound!
May 12, 1452--Sorry I dropped off the letter early last night, hardly commenting on anything. Moods come on me, sometimes. I guess you know that. You can do all the right things for healing, but recovery does not happen all in a day. For a long time I have languished in that rather awkward, smelly stage of flax, no longer a living flower, not yet thread, sometimes feeling like nothing better than a mess retting on the lawn. A whiff of that yet lingers on the air. But since the King has restored me, each day dawns with further hope--I can feel at last the whirring of the spinning-wheel, pulling me all together again but into something new, and I look forward to the loom.
Uncle Pippin helps a lot. Today he rolled up his sleeves and toiled beside me in the field, sowing radishes and gathering up snap beans. We have talked all morning long together as we worked. I used to forget how young he was when he went abroad, but right now he understands me perhaps better than anyone. He knows a thing or two about how to handle having so much on your shoulders when you haven't quite reached adulthood, when nothing has prepared you for taking on responsibility so soon. Today we shared the most serious conversation I have ever had with Master Peregrin Took.
No, he wasn't officially put in charge of anything, but he did have to take over, by degrees, as Lord Denethor sank into madness. I had not realized how much--the Red Book doesn't say everything. Did you know that when, for a whole dreadful day and night, Denethor would not descend from the high tower, men would come at all hours, demanding orders, and Pippin had to make stuff up and claim that Denethor told him what to say? They wouldn't go away otherwise. It terrified him, he said, how men could die from one ill-advised word, and how he expected the Steward to roar down the stairs at any moment and demand his head. But doing nothing seemed far more dangerous than doing something wrong and correcting as they went. As it stood, Uncle Pippin had spent a lot of time eavesdropping on the debates of old veterans wiser than himself, so he basically said those things that every field soldier knew from firsthand experience--indeed, what the officers already knew, themselves, but did not dare to pursue without an order. And then Gandalf took over, and Uncle Pippin says he felt so relieved that for some hours he almost forgot about the army at the gates! It made the Battle of Bywater a snap, he says, later on.
Hello, again. I have just had the most amazing news! Mayor Aloe has just called an assembly to announce, if you can believe it, her engagement to Harding! As in mutual promise to marry! She understands, Papa--she understands at last! She looked embarrassed. I never saw her blush before. But she dimpled, too, and none of her old smirks.
I miss Crookyteeth sometimes. I mean I still see her around, I drop in for bread, bringing in my flour for her to bake--it saves me time, more precious than coin. And she always smiles and talks sweet to me. But I miss her lips, and her embrace. I really wish that she'd have been born a hobbit.
Anyway, back to your letter. As for poor Buttercup, can any of the Klaefields read? If they see that Ted Sandyman has signed away all claim to May, she might believe that you have no intention of forcing her to marry him.
I am surprised to learn that Elanor still has not gotten her entire household together yet. I do not imagine she needs all that many sheets and blankets, but brings up excuses to visit Mama. I know my sister. It's a long ways away that she lives now, and no mistake! But I imagine she will get used to it. After all, if I can adjust to living in Mordor, I am sure she will settle down in the Tower Hills.
I am glad to read of young Rosie's expanding enterprises at the needle and the loom. Tell her I need a new weskit, and I will pay for it. In fact, I need new everything. Uncle Pippin has remarked upon my patched and stitched-up rags. But you know better than most what I'm up against around here. Please pass onto her my measurements, sent on a separate page.
I am getting better at sewing, but I am not terribly good at it. Not like Legolas was. Do you remember when the orc wounded me in Hollin? In healing me the elf ripped off my sleeve and made a tourniquet of it--all rather hastily, and not on the seam. Yet by the time I was fit to ride he had already stitched the sleeve back--and the rent in it--so neatly that you could hardly tell it had suffered any damage at all. But then I suppose that the Eldar have time enough to gain more than abundant experience in every possible endeavor.
I wonder how he's doing, off in his tree? Does the flowing sap of spring feel good to him? Does he sense increasing sunlight on the newborn leaves?
I'm sad to learn that we have lost old Farmer Maggot. If any hobbit could have understood what an elf might feel within a tree, it would have been him. There is so much that I wish I had asked him, but he lived so far away. (Ha! It seems like a stone's throw to me, now!) I hope Bran Maggot paid close attention. Some things should not die--and won't, if we keep the old tales going. But I can see your point--his body had become too painful for him to stay in it anymore. May he pass swiftly and easily through the Halls of Mandos, to greater marvels beyond!
And Tom and Goldberry showing up to honor him! That must have been something! I wish I had been there. But no. I cannot share in wakes anymore. I wonder if you have guessed that already? I do not know if I ever can. Will people think me very strange back home? But I suppose they would, anyway.
What a peculiar thread I have become, in the tapestry to which the Valar weave me! I hope that I do not clash too much, now, with the brocade of the Shire. I hope my colors shall soon mute down to earthtones once again.
Our little Pippin, a teacher already! And sharing with all who come--that is really how it should be, don't you think? Teaching should be for everybody willing to put in the work to learn.
Tell Merry-Lad to beware--lads too eager for adventure might wind up anywhere. Look what happened to me, and I hardly ever daydreamed of anything beyond our fields and gardens!
I am sorry. That came out wrong. I had better go to bed; I have put in a hard day's work.
May 13, 1452--I have begun to get the hang of when best to eat my four brandy cookies a day. I munch on the last one, now. I do best if I put it off till late, so that I can fall asleep during the six hours of peace provided. Once I'm safely out, Sauron cannot mess with my dreams.
He still maunders on, sometimes. But now he sounds old, making a stab at tempting me at times, but more and more often reminiscing over his foul career with a perverse sort of pride. But it has a different sound to it, of one who secretly knows that his "accomplishments" are all long-past, and the morrow shall not bring more. Still, it does not make for pleasant listening! But that quality of "once upon a time" brings comfort to me even in the worst of it. (I could only write that while he's nodding off. Don't worry, Papa--he shall not visit consequences on me for it.)
But back to your letter! You needn't talk in code anymore. Nor must you fold gold leaves into the pages of your letters--the days of fear and bribery are over. Mattie has abandoned her run, and has lost herself in the wild. The Lady Eowyn hunts her, but it might be the greatest challenge of her career as a healer of wild minds. I regret more than anything, all the same, that she never did read your message to her. Sometimes I hope that if enough people confront her with what she has allowed to happen to her, she will snap out of it. I wish the Lady Eowyn luck in finding her!
Tell Ruby I look forward to her pressed flowers.
And no, Papa, I have no intention of putting on boots. Ever. My feet pressed skin-to-skin to the earth is the only thing, sometimes, that reminds me of who I am. No danger frightens me more than losing that.
And here I read your caution against brandy. Oh, Papa, you have no idea! But your confessions about Strider's disastrous bachelor party do lessen the pain of remembering my own folly. Thank you. It could not have been easy to admit such things to your son, whose respect you naturally expect. Yet I respect you all the more for your honesty! And as for the dance that so shocked Master Elrond and dismayed the groom, I suppose I owe you a description, but do not tell the little ones. If you think the Dance of Seeds might have been too much for me, wait till you hear this...
...Papa, if you really think you can find a hobbitess willing to ride out to Mordor, across the Poros Pass and everything, then you'd better send her on over and we'll get the marriage done with, and no more trouble. But alas--that would be a long shot, I imagine. And yes, I still miss Crookyteeth. I wake in the middle of the night and find myself hugging my pillow. But it does not hug me back.
Yes, I am afraid that your assessment of my nightmares about howling wolves came all too true. But Sauron has weakened, now, barely a whisper, one I think that I can live with. I suppose everyone hears the whispering of temptations, more or less all the time--my little voice is just something more of a nag than most. But it goes much better now that I know how not to feed him. I no longer waste my quiet times in fear that he will start up again, nor, when he does talk to me, do I exhaust myself like a bird fluttering against a snare, entangling myself more and more with each effort to escape. I rest quietly in the threads of his deceits, waiting for greater powers to lift them off of me, one by one.
It has grown late. I will write more tomorrow.
May 14, 1452--The ponds have already sunk to little more than mud-puddles. I have reassured the people that this is all right, they're supposed to drain into the soil--better there than into the sea. Deep roots will find them again.
I apologize for calling Master Bilbo "Mad Baggins", although I do not believe he would object. Would have objected, I mean. He has shown up so often in my dreams that I almost feel as though he lives still and I know him indeed. But you are right at least in one thing--I have no call to snicker over madness. I do not believe that he was ever mad, merely a free and eccentric soul, bless him. The real thing, the illness of the mind, is no laughing matter. But if I sound weary, it is merely the lingering fatigue of the convalescent. My life makes sense again. I begin my days in calm and end each night in peace.
I forgot that when I sent that letter Fishenchips had not yet healed of his wound. Since then he has become so adept with his hook that sometimes I forget he doesn't have both hands. You must have read by now of his punishment for blurting Mattie's sex, but the time has nearly passed, and he shall soon resume his beloved lessons. He bears his disgrace patiently. There are things I cannot tell you, these not being my own secrets to share, but if anyone crushed down so low as he has been can fight his way back up to light, the way he has, then hope indeed prevails in Middle-Earth, and her promises are no lies.
But never mind that; As I gaze up at the high-slit windows, I can see slivers of a wraparound sunset like you would never find in the Shire--gilt-edged fire to the west, soft rose and lavender to the east. I would give almost everything to be able to go outside and watch the entire thing! And why not? What would it take to add a western balcony to this tower? Someplace safe from prowling beasts, where one could go out and get a whiff of air and watch the stars wheel overhead. Here I have resigned myself so miserably to all sorts of conditions which, when I think about it with a clear mind, I could change. I am beginning to think that the greater part of defeat is believing oneself defeated.
March 15, 1452--Today Elenaril has taken Fishenchips back into her good graces, and his lessons resume. She has hinted that he shall soon participate in a bit of midwifery. I know she cannot mean herself--she has not even ripened visibly yet. I am not sure what she means--I have seen no one about the village who looks close to delivery--it is not like the Shire, where a lady can hide such things. At any rate, she and Bergil have moved back in with us, and the house feels more alive somehow, not just us bachelors rattling around in it, trying to raise a disturbed little girl by ourselves. And you are right--Elenaril is an inspiration to me, and yet another sign of hope. My days grow steadily brighter, step by step.
Every day I begin to see more of the design into which I weave. And I find that I like it.