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May Challenge "Tying Up Loose Ends"

Author:Virtuella
Title:Passing Grace
Rating:G
Theme:Galadriel comes to Edoras
Elements:Tell how the people of Edoras reacted when the Elves escorting Arwen to Gondor came through their city-- given the superstitious attitude the Rohirrim had about the Golden Wood, how did they feel about seeing the "Sorceress", Galadriel, in person? Were they surprised by the Elves? Overawed by them? Did their appearance change some people's minds about them?
Beta: Clodia and Finlay
Author's Notes: This story focuses on minor characters from “The Measure of a Man” and “Truth Be Told,” but knowledge of these stories is not required to understand this one. Middle-earth belongs to Tolkien.
Summary: Four children see Galadriel riding up the streets of Edoras. For each of them, it's a different experience.
Word Count:4000



“Put on your shoes,” said Gléowine the minstrel to his grandchildren. They had been skipping about the yard barefooted in spite of the weather, which was not too pleasant for the time of year, overcast and windy. “We are going to see something special today.”

“What’s it, Grandpapa?” asked Grimstan, the only one who had paid any attention to his grandfather’s words.

“We are going to see Elves.”

“Fairy folk? Where, Grandpapa, where?”

“Well, here in Edoras of course. They are coming this afternoon.”

“How do you know?”

“Oh, I have my sources.”

“When are we going?”

“As soon as you are ready.”

Grimstan darted away and pulled his sister Cyneburg by the sleeve.

“Grandpapa is taking us to see Elves.”

“Don’t be silly.”

“It’s true! He just said so.”

Cyneburg glanced at her grandfather, who nodded. So she grabbed the two youngest by the shoulder, shooed the third ahead and marched next to Grimstan into the house, where a frantic search for the shoes ensued. Their mother was out, which made things harder, but eventually all five stood suitably shod at the front door. Grimstan fidgeted with the door knob while his grandfather meticulously straightened his tunic. At last they were off, he, grandfather and Cyneburg each holding one of the little ones by the hand. Through the gate and down the Smithy Lane they went, past roaring forges, and out onto the main street. Many people had already assembled here; the news must have spread quickly that Éomer King was expecting the fairy folk. The crowd was happy, though, to let the children stand in front, and so they lined up, with the younger ones in the middle and Grimstan and Cyneburg on either side. Grimstan felt his grandfather’s hand on his shoulder.

To his left, two women were talking in the kind of whisper that was loud enough to be heard by all around.

“It’s most shocking! Théoden King would have never allowed it.”

“Never! To let such a witch come here – she’ll put a spell on our children and lead them away with her, just you wait and see.”

“Is that true, Grandpapa?” said Grimstan in a low voice.

“Do you think it is true?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then wait and see.”

Waiting was something Grimstan did not relish, but he knew his grandfather well enough not to expect any further explanations from him at this time. Later, he would most likely talk about it at length, but for now, Grimstan understood, he wanted the children to observe.

“Will she turn me into a frog, Grimstan?” asked his youngest sister in a tone that implied she would quite fancy such an experience.

“I don’t think she would, Darel,” said Grimstan, but he pulled her closer and wrapped his arm round her shoulder.

And then She came. On a palfrey white like none had ever been seen in Edoras, She sat with easy grace and silent poise. Silver bells on the bridle, silver bells at the stirrups, every tinkling step was the note of a song. Her hair, so golden, Her gown, so bright, the fluted sleeves cascading over Her skirts, the slender hands holding the reins – it was nothing. Nothing compared to the light on Her face that shone, gently, gently, into this heavily clouded day, almost like a sudden glimpse of the sun.

Others followed, in fine gowns and on fine horses, a silver-haired Lord, a veiled maiden, two Elves who looked like brothers, and many more. Grimstan stared. He clasped his sister to his side, but it wasn’t for fear of losing her to dark magic. Had he not clung to her, he would not have been able to stand still.

When they had passed, he wanted to follow, as did many others who had lined the street. His grandfather, however, called him to his senses and led them all back home by the shortest route.

“And what do you say now?” said Grandpapa once he was seated again on his bench among the flower pots. “Is the Lady of the Golden Wood an evil sorceress?”

“Oh, no!” cried Cyneburg. “She was so beautiful.”

“Grimstan? Is Cyneburg right?”

“I’m not sure, Grandpapa. I think someone could be evil and still be beautiful.”

“Aha! Well said, Grimstan.”

Cyneburg pulled a face and strutted away to play with the little ones.

“Your sister is hasty,” said Grandpapa. “Quick to speak and quick to sulk. I am glad you are more cautious, for all that you can never hold still for two minutes together.”

Grimstan looked at his feet and saw the groove he had scratched into the ground in the short time he had been standing next to Grandpapa’s bench. He sat down and tried to keep his legs from twitching.

“It’s not that I think she is evil,” he said.

“What do you think, then?”

“I looked at her horse, you know. It wasn’t afraid at all. If she was bad, wouldn’t her horse be scared?”

“Would it? Could she not put a spell on it?”

“I’m not sure…well, no. I don’t think there could be such a spell. I’d trust the horse.”

“Well, well.” Grandpapa reached down and picked up his ginger cat that had been rubbing against his legs. “That is not how I would have worked it out. But it is good to see that you have approached this question in a manner that is worthy of the Eorlingas. I’m proud of you, Grimstan.”

Such praise from Grandpapa! Truly, the Queen of the Fairies could not be evil.


~oOoOo~

“Stand still, will you?”

This was spoken from the corner of the mouth, the rest of which held a dozen or so pins. From her towering stance on the stool, Ardith looked down at her kneeling mother. It was strange to see Mama look so small.

“I can’t believe how much you’ve grown,” said Mama in the same pinched voice. “Thank goodness, there was still another inch to let out. Turn!”

Ardith obediently turned very slowly and allowed her mother to pin up the hem of her dress, bit by bit.

“There, that doesn’t look too bad,” said Mama, her mouth now free of pins. She tugged the hem of Ardith’s dress down, stepped back and squinted at it with her head to one side. “Fana, take a look, is this straight?”

Ardith’s older sister, who had just come in, crouched down and peered at the hem.

“Seems fine to me,” she said.

“Take it off then, Ardith,” said Mama and lifted her off the stool. “I should be finished with it by tonight.”

The girl pulled the dress over her head and handed it over.

“I have news,” said Fana. “Elves are coming to Edoras. Father told me; I met him in the Smithy Lane, and he’d just heard it from the king’s advisor. It’s the Lady of the Golden Wood with her daughter and brothers. Or was it her sons and her sister? I can’t quite remember. But they’re on their way to Mundburg, because the daughter or the sister is to marry the new king there.”

“Well, let them go to Mundburg, then,” replied Mama. “I can’t say I’m too keen to have them here in Edoras. To be sure, I think those tales of her being a sorceress must be exaggerated, and I’m more willing to admit the merit of all kinds of folk after what we’ve seen in the war, but still. They live forever, those Elves. It’s not natural. And they have all those magic tricks. Mark my words, there’s some mischief on the way.”

With this, she sank into her favourite chair and threaded a needle to begin her work on Ardith’s dress.

“Can we go and see them, Mama?” asked Ardith, who had listened to the tidings with wide eyes.

“See them? Whatever for?”

“Oh, please, Mama, I’d so much like to see them! Just a little glimpse. Please, Mama!”

Her mother shook her head, but with a smile.

“Well, if Fana is willing to take you…”

Ardith spun round and looked at her sister.

“Fana, please!”

Fana was already holding out her hand.

“Come,” she said, “let’s get some clothes on you, for you can’t well go to see Elves in nothing but your shift.”

With Fana’s help, Ardith quickly put on another dress and then ran to the door before her mother could change her mind. Mama, however, was resigned and contented herself with admonitions.

“You listen to your sister, Ardith, and I want to hear no complaints about you! Look after her, Fana, and mind that no mischief comes out of this.”

By the time they arrived at the main street, a large crowd was already milling about. Ardith clung to Fana’s hand. How exciting this was! She would see real fairies! Fana had found a good place for them to stand, on the wooden stair that led to the upper storey of a house. Others pressed against them from both sides, and Ardith was glad of Fana’s arms wrapped around her from behind. Was that the sound of horses coming up the street? If only people would be less noisy! She craned her neck.

And then She came. On a palfrey white like none had ever been seen in Edoras, She sat with easy grace and silent poise. Silver bells on the bridle, silver bells at the stirrups, every tinkling step was the note of a song. Her hair, so golden, Her gown, so bright, the fluted sleeves cascading over Her skirts, the slender hands holding the reins – it was nothing. Nothing compared to the light on Her face that shone, gently, gently, into this heavily clouded day, almost like a sudden glimpse of the sun.

Oh, there were others, too, men and women, and all of them shining and all of them fair. But this one, this one was out of a dream.

On the way home, Ardith was very quiet. Only once did she speak, and it was to ask Fana whether the Fairy Queen’s dress was made of wool just like her own.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” said Fana.

“What else then?”

“I don’t know.”

Mother still sat in the same chair they had left her in, the hem of the dress half finished. Ardith lingered by her side and listened to Fana telling of what they had seen. Her eyes fell on the scissors that her mother had put on the wicker table next to her chair. She picked them up. Slowly, she began to cut into the cuff of her left sleeve and further up towards the elbow. The scissors made a cheerful, chirping little noise. With a bit of imagination, she could fancy it sounding almost like silver bells…

“Whatever are you doing, child! Stop that this instant!”

Her mother’s sharp voice jerked her out of her daydream. What was she doing? She stared at her arm.

“I wanted to have wide sleeves,” she said, tears springing to her eyes when she realised that she had just ruined her best dress. “Wide sleeves like the Fairy Queen.”

Her mother sighed heavily.

“See?” she said. “Nothing but mischief.”



~oOoOo~

He had lived there all his life, short as it was, and yet he could not get used to the smell of the tannery. Ever since he was old enough to go about by himself, he had been helping out by gathering those odiferous substances his father’s trade required. Lately, Father had taken him into the sheds so he could learn how to pound and scour the skins and paint them with lime, and these were not the worst of the tasks that awaited him. Brecc was eager to acquire any skill, but he would have preferred ones less nauseating.

Today, though, his mother had claimed his services. He was to go up into the city, to the market, and fetch a long list of things he kept repeating under his breath as he walked along the high wooden fence towards the gate.

“A bunch of parsley, a bunch of rosemary, two sewing needles, a small jug of honey, a wedge of cheese…”

The further away he got from the tannery, the fresher the air. He swung his wicker basket by the handle. Though the sky was grey, he felt it was a good day.

It took him a fair while to buy all he needed, not least because he liked to dawdle among the stalls and look at merchandise not meant for the likes of him and his slender pouch. In this manner, he idled away much of the afternoon, until he felt he could no longer keep his mother waiting.

When he came back to the main road, he saw that people lined the street on either side as if in expectation of some noble persons. He wondered who it could be, since both Éomer King and the Lady Éowyn had come back a few weeks ago, and the old king was lying dead at Mundburg. His basket clutched to his chest, he joined the ranks of those waiting, he knew not for what. He strained his ears to catch some of the talk that bubbled around him.

“…said they were on their way to Mundburg and…”

“…is to marry their new king, you know.”

“The Lady of the Golden Wood, she is…”

“Good gracious, who can believe it!”

“…and his sons, fine warriors, they say.”

“Fine warriors! Where were they, when our men were slaughtered on the Pelennor?”

“…can’t imagine that Éomer King would…”

None of this made much sense to Brecc, but out of the whole hullabaloo he caught just this: the Lady of the Golden Wood was coming. But wasn’t she some kind of sorceress? Could she bewitch them all? Would the king welcome her in Edoras?

And then She came. On a palfrey white like none had ever been seen in Edoras, She sat with easy grace and silent poise. Silver bells on the bridle, silver bells at the stirrups, every tinkling step was the note of a song. Her hair, so golden, Her gown, so bright, the fluted sleeves cascading over Her skirts, the slender hands holding the reins – it was nothing. Nothing compared to the light on Her face that shone, gently, gently, into this heavily clouded day, almost like a sudden glimpse of the sun.

And then more Elves, one after another, all beautiful, all serene. The crowd quivered. Some hissed, but many cheered. When the riders had passed, Brecc found himself following, swept along with the throng, all the way up to the Golden Hall. There, at the foot of the great stair, the procession came to a halt. The Lady of the Golden Wood turned her horse, faced the people and spoke.

Hail, good folk of Edoras. I thank you for your greeting. I see that some of you doubt the wisdom of your king in extending his welcome to us. Hear this: What was long hidden shall now come to light. What was sundered shall become whole. We come to you with open hands, bearing no gifts, but a promise of friendship. Search your hearts and see if that is not what you desire.

The basket creaked in Brecc’s arms.

“You took your time, Brecc,” said his mother when he came home. “Why, we’re nearly ready for our supper. Here’s your father now.”

The tanner appeared through the back door, drying his hands on a towel. Mother put the steaming bowls on the table and they all sat down. Brecc stared ahead at the wall. His parents’ spoons clanked against the bowls.

“You’re very quiet, Brecc. Have something on your mind?”

“No. Yes. Well, I don’t know…”

“Out with it lad! You know you can tell your old father.”

“Oh, nothing, really, just… I wish words could be…kept somewhere. So they won’t be forgotten, I mean.”

“Keeping words, what nonsense are you talking,” said his mother.

“Not such nonsense as you may think,” replied his father. “Do you forget that the parchments I make are used for writing? They hold both words and numbers. Not that there is anyone to do this now, what with Hiltibrand dead. The king’ will have to appoint a new scribe. It won’t be you, though!” he added quickly, when he saw his son’s eager eyes. “You have enough to do learning my trade. Don’t let shining fairies put fancy ideas into your head.”

“No, Father, I won’t.” Brecc dipped his spoon into the soup and began to eat.

~oOoOo~


Outside Fryn’s window stood a young birch tree. Its twigs were thin and prone to trembling in the slightest breeze. One of these feeble limbs stretched out towards the windowsill and during the leafless months of winter had hovered about two hands’ width above the wooden shelf. As spring came and the buds swelled, the twig had begun to sink. From day to day, there was barely a difference, but at the end of a fortnight it hung noticeably lower, and so it continued to droop with the ever-increasing weight of the sap that made the foliage plump.

Fryn had decided that it was a sign. On the day the twig touched the windowsill, Father would come home. She repeated this to herself every morning, though she did not say aught to her mother, for Mother had told her not to hope any longer. “Those who survived the battle have all returned, Fryn,” she said. “Let’s not deceive ourselves. We have lost him.” Yet Fryn could not give up and she kept watching that twig on which depended her happiness. The twig bowed lower and lower, but there was no saying whether it would ever reach down far enough. Still, without fail, Fryn would look every day. At last, this morning when she opened her shutters, she saw a leaf brushing against the windowsill. Today, then.

Fryn made her bed as neatly as she could and put her rag doll on the pillow. Her little chamber right under the roof contained little else, only a chair on which stood her wash bowl, and a small chest for her clothes.

When she came down the stair, she found a bowl of porridge on the table that was still warm. Her mother had already left for the Golden Hall, where she worked as a scullery maid. Fryn ate her breakfast and cleared the table. In the kitchen, the embers of the fire were still glowing. She poured the hot water from the pot into a wooden bowl and washed the dishes. After about an hour, she had finished all her other chores. She took a knife and nipped outside, where she cut the last two flowering branches off the lilac shrub. They went into a jug and onto the table, to both brighten and scent the room.

With nothing else to do in the house, she strolled down to the market place and wandered among the stalls with neither plan nor power to buy anything. Around noon she returned to the house. He wasn’t there yet. She went into the kitchen and ate a slab of bread with butter, taking care not to drop any crumbs on the scrubbed table. Then she went out again, all the way down to the gates. She found a boulder to sit on by the wayside, from which she could see the road where it first came into view. For all that it was early summer, the day was grey: clouds hung low and travelled swiftly.

Thus she sat for hours, watching the people come and go with their bundles of cloth or of firewood, with rattling carts or on splendid horses. Every now and then she fancied she could see him, just emerging from the bend in the road, but each time she had to confess she had been mistaken when the rider drew nearer.

At last, she sighed. Waiting by the gate was no use. What did Grandmother always say? A watched pot never boils. She had to give up her look-out post and give him a chance to enter unobserved. If she would walk about for another hour or so, she said to herself, he would be there when she came home. Determined to believe this, she made her way back up into the city. In and out the lanes of Edoras she wove, with little care of whom or what she saw. Chance took her out onto the main street that led up to the Golden Hall, and here she heard a commotion that caught her notice.

“They’re coming!”

“Where? Where?”

“So many of them!”

Of course, thought Fryn. Father would not be the only one to return. There would be a whole éored of lost men riding up the cobbles. The sound of horses’ hooves was only faint, much softer than what she usually heard when their iron-shod feet hit the cobbles, and mixed with this was a vague sound as of something ringing. Whatever that meant, she would find out later. Just now she could think only of this, that he was nearly, nearly here. Fryn closed her eyes and only opened them when she was sure the riders had almost reached her. The street, she saw, was crowded with even more people.

And then She came. On a palfrey white like none had ever been seen in Edoras, She sat with easy grace and silent poise. Silver bells on the bridle, silver bells at the stirrups, every tinkling step was the note of a song. Her hair, so golden, Her gown, so bright, the fluted sleeves cascading over Her skirts, the slender hands holding the reins – it was nothing. Nothing compared to the light on Her face that shone, gently, gently, into this heavily clouded day, almost like a sudden glimpse of the sun.

It was the Queen of the Fairies! It had to be. She had to be a queen. Fryn hardly noticed that there were other Elves in the procession. Seeing Her filled her mind to the brim. When She had almost reached the corner of the street, She turned her head and Her eyes met Fryn’s for a fleeting moment.

Be of good hope, child.

A gust of wind flung up Her hair and it touched the low branches of a plum tree that stood by the roadside.

Then she was gone. Fryn remained where she was; it seemed futile to try and follow in the throng that closed in after the riders. A minute or two, and the street lay quite deserted. Fryn walked up to the plum tree and reached for the lower branches. It was as she had thought. A single shimmering hair hung from one of the twigs. Gently, gently, she untangled it and wrapped it round her fingers. All the way home, she clutched her fist with her new treasure.

“There you are,” said Mother. “You’ve tidied up the house very nicely. What a good girl you are. Sit down, I’ve made some stew.”

So Father had not come. Fryn pressed her hand to her side.

“Anon, Mother. Let me just go to my bedchamber for a moment.”

She scurried up the stair before her mother could ask any questions. From the bottom of her chest she took a small wooden box with a carved leaf pattern on the lid. Such treasures as she possessed were kept in here: a shiny rose-coloured stone, pretty snail shells, two of her own milk teeth, the bright blue feather of a kingfisher. She curled the fairy queen’s hair into a neat coil and placed it, gently, gently, in the box. Perhaps she only imagined it, but it seemed to glow still.

“I am of good hope,” she said.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
dreamflower02
May. 25th, 2010 01:21 am (UTC)
This really is beautiful! I love the repetition of the description of Galadriel in the different parts, and the differing reactions-- each one suited to the personality of the young observer.

I think my favorite is it the last one-- so simple, and so heart-breaking, as young Frynn puts her faith in the tiny souvenir she has found. "I am of good hope."

So very touching.
virtuella
May. 25th, 2010 09:31 am (UTC)
Thank you! This was a lovely scenario to play with, so thanks for the prompt. And fortunately Fryn did not hope in vain, though she did have to wait quite a bit longer!
(Deleted comment)
virtuella
May. 25th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It probably helped that I was using characters from a longer story of mine and thus had a vivid idea of them and their surroundings.
(Deleted comment)
virtuella
May. 25th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you, yes, that was what I was trying to get across.
thunderatiger
May. 25th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC)
This was fantastic. I love all the characters you brought to life and all the different reactions. I was particularly intrigued with Ardith, who showed that there was indeed some mischief that came from the elves. Small mischief, but mischief nonetheless. Those tales have to start somewhere, and there's no denying that elves are different from mortals. But my favorite moment probably came from Grimstan, who demonstrated some absolutely charming horse-sense, if you'll pardon the pun. It actually reminded me of Samwise Gamgee, but with a very Rohirric flavor.
virtuella
May. 25th, 2010 05:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you! My little brother used to absentmindedly cut up his sleeves as a child, and somehow that motif seemed to fit here.
curiouswombat
May. 25th, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC)
That was lovely - I, too, have wondered what the people of Rohan must have made of this visit. I really like the way these children all react to Galadriel, hardly seeing the others at all.
virtuella
May. 25th, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I think Galadriel must have been the most impressive of the lot by far. Elrond, while he too wears a ring of power, is not someone I imagine with the same kind of sparkle.
blslarner
May. 30th, 2010 06:44 am (UTC)
I find I love this, Annette, and particularly the repetition of the same description for Galadriel herself that is experienced by each of those who sees her. This repetition gives a pleasing rhythm to the tale, and not only ties each experience to the others but helps to set and confirm the tone from section to section. Each takes away his or her own lessons learned; but they are ever unknowingly bound together by having seen the Lady of the Galadhrim that day and having felt her own particular spell on their hearts.

And that she would wish to project just that image on the youth of Rohan, who will see her perhaps but once again in their lifetimes, if that, is most intriguing. In her way she is the weaver of webs, both tangible and intangible, that Men have ever conceived her to be!

I'd hoped to nominate this for a MEFA, but I see Elynn beat me to it. Wise lady! Good luck!
virtuella
May. 30th, 2010 01:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you! What I was trying to convey with the repeated paragraph, in which the prose has quite a different tone, is how the otherworldliness of Galadriel appears in the otherwise mundane context of these children's lives. It's very kind that you thought of MEFA nominating this. Ellynn had meant to nominate Truth Be Told and was beaten to it, so we had worked it out between us that she'd nominate this.



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