Title: Isilmë’s Gift
Elements: No life can be dreary when work is a delight.
Author's Notes: Írimon is Tar-Meneldur’s birth name; Anardil is Tar-Aldarion’s birth name
Summary: Isilmë has a visitor.
Word Count: 2520
Nísilmaldar, 706 SA
The boy chased through the forest, his dog leading him further and further into the trees. Isilmë watched his fair hair gleaming under the sun, then darkening, as he ran beneath the canopy. Neither the forest, nor her were used to his boisterous laughter and shouts but his energy made her smile.
“Anardil!” she called, not for the first time. Her law-sister was a sweet, peaceful woman but no mother liked to see their children returned to them with scraped knees.
“Anardil, nephew, come here!” she insisted.
He leapt over a fallen tree trunk and halted in his tracks. “Auntie? Can we stay just a little bit longer?” he shouted from the distance.
“We can. But do not run that far, my darling.”
Anardil’s dog had ran back to his owner when he stopped. The boy scratched his ears. Isilmë heard him talking to the dog as they walked toward her, and again she smiled. She missed having a boy around, and all that boundless vitality. Valandil had been a handful too, when he was little. This visit from her brother was very refreshing and she was happy to have her peace and quiet wrecked by the little imp.
A rabbit crossed Anardil’s path and the dog chased after it. She could not help but chuckling when Anardil followed him, forgetting that he was coming to her. Back in the city, her brother and sister were discussing matters of great importance, but she cared none for the politics. Silmariën and Írimon could have the ruling all to themselves. Her place was here, among the trees, gathering leaves and berries and herbs.
She reached up for the lower branch of a nessamelda tree and picked a few berries. She would make some tea for Írimon once she and Anardil were back in Eldalondë. She had plenty of dried berries in her workshop but the fresh ones were better. Almarian had confided that they were trying to have another baby but that it was not being easy.
Anardil came running up behind her, startling her. Isilmë laughed and picked him up.
“Stop, Auntie, I’m too big for that!” Anardil said, laughing and squirming.
“You are only six,” she replied, laughing as she put him down. “I will tell you when you are too big for being babied by your aunt.”
Anardil hugged her at the waist. The dog was jumping up and down around them and a soft breeze rustled the leaves.
“Hear the nightingale singing?” Isilmë asked. “Time to return to Eldalondë. Aunt Silmariën has a surprise for your mama.”
“Is that so?” Anardil asked. “For her birthday?”
“Smart boy. I did not know you already knew how to remember birthdays. Many adults have trouble.”
“Papa told me. And I am not that little, Auntie!”
Isilmë laughed and hugged his shoulders, as they started back on the way to their mounts. Almarian should be starting to worry by now, and Isilmë did not want to miss the sunset in Eldalondë, where everyone took a moment to look at the west, say a prayer and gather their thoughts. It was important that Anardil grew up knowing the traditions of every corner of Elenna, and especially of Andustar.
“Auntie, how come you never married?” Anardil asked, after they had walked for a while. “Do you not want babies of your own?”
Isilmë looked down at his expectant face. “I have never met the right person, I suppose. And I had Valandil and now you, when your father visits. And maybe one day you and Valandil will have children of your own for me to pamper.”
Anardil nodded solemnly. “That makes sense,” he said, extracting a chuckle from Isilmë.
“You are a delight, do you know that?” she said. He was too young for her to tell him about how every other person, safe for her siblings, criticized her choices in life.
Anardil beamed. “So all you like to do is to collect plants and make ointments and potions?”
“And perfumes too!” Isilmë said.
“And you never get bored?”
“No life can be dreary when work is a delight,” Isilmë quoted, making Anardil roll his eyes.
“You sounded like my tutor, Auntie,” he said, poking her arm with his finger.
Anardil ran ahead, but then turn back to her side.
“Auntie, why is that ring that Papa brought to Aunt Silmariën so important? And why is everyone so serious?”
“The Ring of Barahir is an old heirloom of our family. Grandfather Elendil wanted to give it to Aunt Silmariën because he cannot give her another thing that she wants.”
“What is that? To be queen?”
Isilmë was startled. “Where did you hear that, Anardil?”
Anardil lowered his face and blushed. “I know I should not eavesdrop, but no one tells me anything.”
Isilmë stroked his hair and stopped walking, turning to face him. “You know how the eldest child of the king becomes the next king?”
Anardil nodded affirmatively.
“Well, Aunt Silmariën is the oldest child of Grandfather Elendil, and she should like to be queen. She has been ruling Andustar with Uncle Elatan for a long time in all but name and she knows how to do the job. But some people in Armenelos think that only boys should rule and they want your father to be King’s Heir instead.”
“But Papa does not think that way.”
“No, he does not,” Isilmë said, as they started walking again. “My sweet brother is a dreamer and would rather be up in Forostar, finishing his tower and watching the stars.”
“Do you know that Papa is teaching me how to read the stars to find my way?” Anardil interrupted, all excited.
Isilmë laughed. Her nephew really was a delight. After naming all the stars that he knew to impress her, Anarion returned to his questions.
“But, Auntie, if Papa does not want to be king and Aunt Silmariën wants, why does it have to be this way?”
“The Council of the Sceptre will not have the laws changed. They think that the ruler should always be a boy.”
“That does not seem fair at all!” Anarion said, indignantly.
“Ooh, sweet boy,” Isilmë replied. They arrived at their mounts, who still patiently nibbled the grass where they had left them. Isilmë helped Anardil up and mounted hers. They were alone – no servants, no courtiers escorted them and waited solemnly for them. She was so glad to have found a haven in her sister’s home, away from Armenelos and all the ‘should bes’ and ‘ought not to bes’. She had unparalleled freedom here.
As they rode back, Isilmë had shout for stop Anarion from galloping in his pony several times, but eventually he settled down by her side.
“But what about the ring?” Anárion asked, interrupting Isilmë as she named a few trees for him.
“It is a token from Grandfather Elendil, and it means that now Aunt Silmariën and Uncle Elatar are the Lady and Lord of Andustar. It is fair, since they were doing the job before. Besides Uncle Elatar comes from a very old family of Andustar, as old as ours, and many people come to him for advice and other matters. The ring itself was an offer from the Lord Finrod of the High Elves, to our forefathers long ago, to symbolize the friendship between our houses. It is said that it has magical powers…” Isilmë added in a funny voice, trying to lighten the conversation.
“Magical powers? Can I use it to turn my tutor into a fat, lazy cat?” Anardil said, with a twinkle on his eye.
Isilmë wiggled her eyebrows. “Who knows…”
“But Auntie, it is not fair that you did not get a gift too.”
“Your papa says that one is on its way for me!” Isilmë said. “It is a surprise.”
They arrived at Eldalondë just in time to trot to the harbor and sit still on their horses, watching the sunset, along with a few fishermen, a passerby, and the artisans who had shops in the waterfront.
After the sun disappeared into the water, they headed north to Elatar’s halls, following the waterline. Dusk fell slowly, and the first star came out, next to the moon. Isilmë looked up and smiled at her patron.
“You smile a lot, Auntie,” Anardil said.
Isilmë laughed. “That is because I am a very happy person, my dear. You do say the oddest, most endearing things.”
“What do you think your gift will be?”
Isilmë was spared answering the question, as they arrived at the courtyard and dismounted. Almarian was already waiting at the steps, with open arms.
“Look at you, my darlingness, you are covered in dirt.”
Isilmë winced, but she knew her law-sister better than that.
“Judging from the amount of grime and dust, I am betting that you had the time of your life,” Almarian said, winking. “Did you pester your auntie too much?”
“No, Mama, I was really good, was I not, Auntie?”
Isilmë laughed. “He was excellent!”
“Now run inside. Elia is waiting for you to help you with your bath before dinner,” Almarian said.
The two sisters-in-law stood at the doorway, watching as Anardil ran up the stairs, still full of vigor after a day out in the forest.
“Sister, a guest has arrived while you were gone,” Almarian said. “He was sent by Tar-Elendil and has some things for you.”
Isilmë walked ahead of Almarian, crossing the hallway and entering the salon. A tall, male figure rose from his seat and bowed deeply before her. An elf! Suddenly, Isilmë was conscious of the berry stains in her humble linen dress and of the dust in her face and hair. Oh, the hair, completely disheveled from the ride. And her face was probably red from the sun. She certainly felt it hot. Her chest constricted. Her father would be embarrassed at his daughter, greeting such an illustrious guest dressed like a country maid. Ooh, living in Andustar for so long had made her forget that she had to be ready at all times, never be common, never be caught off-guard. Before she could utter a word, the elf spoke in the most crystalline Sindarin she had ever heard.
“Gildor Inglorion, at your service, Lady Isilmë,” he said. “I have brought you a book at your father’s request. If I may show you…”
Gildor seemed to accept her muteness. Perhaps he was used to men who had not seen an elf in all their lives being stunned. She had seen elves once before, in Armenelos, when she was a child, of course, and it was not his nature that made her uneasy, but rather her own lack of preparedness.
Gildor approached her and offered his arm. He led her to the drawing table Elatar kept by the bay window and showed her the book. It was enormous, tall, wide, thick, with an ornate leather cover with gold lettering and almost shimmering in the failing light.
“This has taken some time to make,” Gildor said, turning the cover and the first few pages. “When your father asked us if one of our king’s scribes could prepare something of the like, Lord Elrond was eager to claim the task for himself.”
Isilmë gasped. She realized her hand was trembling on Gildor’s arm. Her mind raced too fast for any thoughts to merely connect, let alone make sense.
“Lord Elrond was most pleased that from the blood of his brother a healer had come forth. Here,” said Gildor, turning the pages. “See? There are drawings, a sample of the herb and the ailments it is used for as well as the recipes.”
Isilmë opened her mouth, trying to form words. “It… it is magnificent.” She felt her voice quiver and tears stinging her eyes. She swallowed the ball in her throat and turned to face Gildor. “I cannot find enough words of thanks for this gift. It is wondrous.” She curtsied to her knee, her head bowing low.
“Dear lady, please rise,” Gildor said. For the first time, Isilmë thought he was somewhat flustered. “I have two letters for you, as well, one from your father and one from Lord Elrond, who wants to exchange impressions with you on the plant life that is exclusive to Númenor.”
Before Isilmë could reply, a whirlwind ran into the room.
“Aunt Isilmë!” Anardil said, clutching her hand in his, while he stared wide-eyed at the elf. “Is that your gift?” he asked. “But it is a book!”
Isilmë smiled. “Yes. Grandpapa loves books very much, and he had this one made for me. Look how pretty it is. And special,” she added, glancing at Gildor. “This is a very special gift, which I will treasure for the length of my life, and put to the very best use, whenever needed.”
Anardil pulled her hand until she leaned down. “Is that an elf, Auntie?” he whispered.
Isilmë chuckled. “Aye, child, but secrets are ugly. Lord Gildor Inglorion, may I introduce my nephew, Anardil, son of Írimon?”
Gildor bowed politely. “It is a pleasure, young one. I hope I will meet you again in my next voyage to your beautiful island.”
Anardil bowed and then hid behind Isilmë’s skirts. Hearing steps behind her, Isilmë looked at the door. Elia stood there, with a towel in her hands.
“Apologies, my lady,” the poor girl said, blushing darkly.
Isilmë stroked Anardil’s head. “Time for your bath, my dear. Run off, now.”
Later that night, after everyone had gone to sleep, Isilmë stood in the salon, in her nightgown, reading the beautiful tengwar and tracing the delicate drawings with her fingertips. The light of the moon pouring through the windows lent even more magic and grace to her wondrous gift. In her left hand, she held tight the two letters, pressing them against her chest.
One, from her father, told her about how the gift had been commissioned some time ago and all the cares that went into its making. No more words were said but between the lines Isilmë read another tale, of how her father was no longer disappointed that she would never be a great lady like her mother or Silmariën.
The other letter, from Lord Elrond, brother of her venerable ancestor, was friendly, warm, inquisitive, humble, not like anything she might expect from the Herald of Elven King Gil-galad. He asked many questions about the species of plants that grew only in Elenna and Aman, asked her for seeds and for tips on the uses, among other things. It was akin meeting a kindred soul through a sheet of paper.
Isilmë reread the letters and tucked them carefully inside the book. Then she went back to her bed, where a little boy had snuck in earlier that night, asking many questions about the elves and the continent. He slept soundly but snored ever so slightly.
Isilmë smiled. Swollen tonsils, very common at his age. She would make him a tonic with leaves of taniquelassë and carrots for that, the next morning, she thought, as she snuffed out her candle.
Elia - To Bless/Help Out (from http://www.realelvish.net/sindarin_names.php)