Lily was grateful Felena suggested they make a trade. Felena would teach her about teas with unlooked-for benefits, and she would help the Elf make blackberry preserves. And Frodo was invited to spend the time with Elrond, Elrohir, and Gandalf.
The hobbit hid her smile, wondering if the Elves knew the respite they offered. Lily could feel her husband’s desire for her growing, but she was not yet ready. The diversions were a relief for them both.
Lily sat on a tall stool as Felena ladled the last of the jam into the clearest glass jars Lily had ever seen.
As the Elf filled the last one, she glanced at the hobbit, and caught her studied gaze.
Lily blushed, and averted her eyes.
“My lady, what is it you wish to ask of me?”
“This is not the query I hold in my heart, but curiosity roused by the realization that you have recently been calling me by my name, as I have asked -- but just now you called me ‘my lady’.”
Felena glanced to the far side of the kitchen, where several Elves were busy with the preparation of the evening meal. She lowered her voice. “Some would not be comfortable with the familiarity you have afforded me.”
At the hobbit’s surprised stare, the Elf continued. “Are there not those in the Shire who prefer the formalities, while others hold less store by them?”
Lily blinked. “I’d not thought of it that way, but yes. I simply did not expect it among the Elves.”
Felena smiled. “Ask me the question in your heart.”
A light blush stole across Lily’s face. “I don’t wish to seem ungrateful or presumptuous. Neither am I accusing or angry...”
Felena turned her full attention to the hobbit. She sighed, and sat on a low stool so they were at eye level. “Please, feel free to speak your heart, whatever it is you need to ask.”
Lily searched the Elf’s eyes. “You know what I would ask, do you not?”
“Yes, my lady.”
Lily sighed. “Frodo taught me that the Elves do not -- interfere -- in the lives of others...”
“You want me to say it,” Lily stated.
“The manner in which you voice your thoughts reveals much of the way you feel--”
“--and helps you understand what I truly want to know?”
“Beyond the obvious questions; yes, my lady.”
“So be it. Since our arrival, Frodo has been led purposefully through his memories of the Quest. I anticipated his facing them eventually, but this has been deliberate and exact, and I -- I would like to know for what purpose. Why could they not simply unfold of their own accord?”
Felena fidgeted, then laid her hands in her lap. “My lady, please know first that Lord Elrond and Mithrandir both discouraged this course of action from the outset, so please do not lay any blame at their feet.”
Lily’s brows drew together. “So this was your idea?”
“Yes, my lady.”
“I had hoped to spare you, my lady.”
“Yes, my lady.”
“Please, explain yourself.” Lily smiled to soften the request.
The Elf straightened her shoulders, and the hobbit’s eyes widened.
Lily could not hide her astonishment. “You are opening yourself to me. I don’t know why I’m surprised to learn the Elves may choose...”
“Because you cannot?”
“Some Elves are able to shield their thoughts and feelings, but not all. When Mithrandir told us of you, those that could agreed to safeguard you as best as we were able...”
“There is more,” Lily realized. “And it is tied to the -- gentle guidance through Frodo’s memories.”
Felena smiled gratefully at Lily’s choice of words. “Mayhap I should not have allowed my own experience to influence me, but I could not deny the growing impression that I stayed in Middle-earth for this end...”
“Tell me,” Lily invited.
Tears gathered in the Elf’s eyes, then she quelled them. “My son was lost, in the battle against Sauron.”
“I am sorry. So much happened that we in the Shire knew nothing about.”
“Many sought to protect the Shire, as much as possible.”
“Frodo told me. With the immortality of Elves, your loss must seem as only yesterday...”
“Yes and no, my lady. Pardon me, I was unclear. My son was lost fighting in the Last Alliance of Men and Elves, with Elendil and Isildur.”
“Forgive me, but I don’t recall Frodo ever mentioning those names when speaking of the war -- though I seem to remember them being mentioned at some time...”
Felena smiled gently. “Frodo did not know them, but he did know their heir, the King, Elessar.”
“Yes, my lady. Isildur cut the Ring from Sauron’s hand, long ago...”
“That’s where I remember hearing those names... when Frodo told me the history. And your son was lost in that battle...”
The Elf nodded, and the hobbit drew her brows together. “Why was the Ring not destroyed then?”
“Isildur could not, for the same reason Frodo could not. The power of the Ring is such that the bearer cannot destroy It.”
“Yes... of course. Many times have I endeavored to convince Frodo of this... There is much I understand, but still it is difficult to grasp the immense power of the Ring. And truly, I am sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you, my lady. I thought my heart might break, but some part of me whispered there was still something for me to do in Middle-earth. I endeavored to pick up the threads of my life, certain that with my husband beside me there was still hope, perhaps even another child.”
“Your husband? I’ve not met him, have I?”
“You have not, my lady. At first, my husband would not speak of Galind’s death; then he would not speak of his service. Gradually, he spoke less and less of our son, until he would not speak of him at all. No matter how I endeavored to draw the memories from him, he would not. It became unbearable, for both of us. He chose to leave, and go into the West.”
“But you chose to stay...” Lily’s voice was hushed.
“Yes, my lady. I could not ignore the ever-present feeling that there was something more for me in Middle-earth. I have waited long and wondered often what my life’s purpose could possibly be, then we learned of your coming.”
“What have I... what have Frodo and I to do with you remaining here?”
“The Ring-bearer would not speak of the Quest when last he was in Rivendell. I followed Lord Elrond’s counsel and did not interfere. Then, when I learned of your impending visit, I knew the time was finally come.”
Lily searched Felena’s eyes. “Time for what?”
“My purpose for lingering in Middle-earth, my lady. In my heart, I knew that if the Ring-bearer chose to remain silent and unwilling to share his memories, even with you, then he too would soon search for release from this world’s cares. If I could, I wished to spare you the -- the heartache I endured.”
“But Felena, could you not have gone with your husband, to the West?”
“Yes, my lady, but it was not my time. I had not yet lost hope.”
Lily’s voice was filled with wonder. “You stayed to offer us hope.”
Felena lowered her eyes. “It was mayhap presumptuous, but yes, my lady.”
Lily hopped off her stool and flung her arms around the Elf’s neck, weeping.
Felena was so surprised that for a moment she sat without moving, then gently enfolded the hobbit in her arms.
“Thank you, dear Felena,” Lily cried quietly in the Elf’s ear. “I feared so for Frodo. Sometimes he seemed to be drowning in his memories, and I did not know how to aid him. I was so afraid. When we married, I thought that with the darkness gone all would be well, even though I did believe Gandalf when he told me Frodo’s memories would haunt him still. But truthfully, I did not fully understand. How could I? Frodo’s memories... his life, on the Quest, are so far removed from anything I can even begin to imagine. There were questions I wanted to ask, but didn’t know how, and I feared stirring too much pain. Thank you, my friend.”
“You honour me, my lady,” Felena whispered.
Lily pulled away and searched the Elf’s eyes. “What do you mean?”
A tremulous smile touched Felena’s lips. “You called me friend. There is no greater honour.”
A broad smile lit Lily’s face, and she laid her hand on the Elf’s cheek. “Only a friend would care so much to worry about the risk of interfering in the life of someone they love, and then do it anyway.”
A silver tear slid down the Elf’s cheek. “My lady, you are too kind.”
Lily stared as the Elf blushed.
“My lady, I have not told you all. There is more. I owe your husband a debt of gratitude I can never repay. A reason I have never dared share with anyone, but with you, I must. I stayed in Middle-earth for a deeper purpose. Through the ages, ever has the desire smoldered within me -- the burning hope of seeing the end of Sauron, once and for all. When the Ring-bearer first arrived in Rivendell, I could not believe he would be the one. He was so small, and yet, even then, a light shown within him. Because of him, my son is finally avenged,” Felena finished, unable to hide her simmering anger. “I had hoped to accompany the Ring-bearer into the West, but -- he shall not have need of that now.”
Then the Elf recovered herself quickly. “I am sorry, my lady. I should not have told you.” She turned her gaze away, staring at the floor.
Lily struggled to take in not only the words but all the feelings rushing over her. Then she reached out and laid her hand gently on the Elf’s shoulder, and waited.
Finally, the Elf raised her tear-stained face to the hobbit.
A tender smile touched Lily’s mouth. “Dear Felena, thank you for telling me. I understand better the need you felt to repay the debt you thought you owed my husband. Please, consider the debt paid, in full, with my deepest appreciation.”
Lily then sat on her stool once more. “I cannot begin to imagine the loss of a child--” her voice hitched, and she fingered an unseen spot on her skirt. “But I fear I may learn.”
Felena relinquished her own sorrow, and searched the hobbit’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, Felena... I should not overshadow your grief with my own, even if it is in an attempt to convey understanding. I cannot truly begin to even comprehend the depth and breadth of your anguish.”
Felena did not miss Lily’s brushed-over confession, and fervently wished she could assure the hobbit she would have children; but the gift of foresight was not hers.
“A child would be blessed to have a mother such as you, my lady.”
“I hope so,” Lily whispered, her lower lip trembling.
One of the Elves from the other end of the kitchen quickly approached. “Is all well, my lady?”
Lily blinked back her tears. “Yes, yes, all is well. Thank you.”
The Elf glanced furtively between Lily and Felena, then nodded and returned to the meal preparation.
Felena watched the hobbit compose herself, and felt keenly the strain of the constant interactions, then decided something would need to be done, but it would need to wait a little longer. On the morrow, perhaps...
The hobbit dabbed her eyes with the corner of her apron, and smiled. “May I share our conversation with Frodo? I find it difficult not to tell him everything,” she finished shyly.
The Elf nodded, and smiled encouragingly. “And there is one more thing I have not told you. There was one other reason I sought to serve. I have been gifted with second sight.”
Lily’s eyes grew wide. “Like me?”
“Yes, my lady. I desired the privilege of employing my gift for the benefit of the Ring-bearer, and more particularly for his consort.”
“Do all Elves have the gift of sight, then?”
“Oh, no, my lady. Only a very few are blessed with the gift. I am the only one in Rivendell. Lord Elrond is blessed with foresight, and the Lady Galadriel is able to perceive the thoughts of others, to a certain extent.”
“I’ve never met anyone like me,” Lily stated in wonder. “Is that how you knew what would help me...”
The Elf drew her brows together in question, then her face cleared, and she smiled. “Oh! Do you mean the raspberry tea?”
“I have served many women, my lady, including the Lady Gilraen, Estel’s mother. And as for your gift of sight, I am not entirely like you, my lady, for I sense a gift in you that reaches far beyond my own...”
“My gift, for Frodo alone...” Lily murmured, almost to herself, then she smiled at the Elf. “You seem able to decide how much you feel from others?”
At the Elf’s nod, Lily continued. “Was it something you learned, or have you always known how?”
“I have always known, but I have learned the finer points of it.”
At the hobbit’s downcast expression, the Elf grew puzzled. “What is it, my lady?”
“I don’t suppose you could teach me?” Lily was doubtful, but could not help but hope. “Just -- just so my own gift doesn’t so easily overwhelm me.”
Felena smiled. “My lady, you are already learning. It is simply a matter of practice.”
Lily sighed and did not attempt to hide her disappointment. “Yes, Gandalf told me about changing my -- my focus, but it is still so difficult.”
“It shall grow easier with time, my lady.”
“But I’ve not as much time as you, Felena.”
“You do not need it, my lady. Ilúvatar grants as much as is needed and more.”
Lily nodded. “There’s still so much to learn.”
“Learning never ceases, my lady.”
At Lily’s questioning gaze, the Elf continued. “Ilúvatar does not cease...”
“So learning does not cease...” Lily finished simply.
When Felena finally returned Lily to her quarters, in time to prepare for the evening meal, Frodo was already there and had just finished readying himself.
Lily stood silently in the archway between her dressing room and Frodo’s, and gazed at her husband as he straightened his coat in the mirror. It was velvet, with matching breeches of midnight blue, and he wore a sky-blue satin waistcoat; and underneath it all a bright white silk shirt. The colours served to light up his fair skin, his dark hair; his eyes--
Lily realized she had stopped breathing. And then Frodo turned from the mirror, and met her eyes in startled delight.
To Lily’s heart, they spoke a thousand words without uttering a single phrase.
Then Frodo breathed, “I’ve missed you,” and smiled.
Lily hesitated, only a moment, then flew into his open arms and laughed. She held him tightly, and whispered in his ear, “Frodo-love, I missed you, too.”
She buried her face in his neck and breathed deeply of his scent, then she pulled back enough to gaze into her lover’s eyes. All he felt for her flooded her senses, filling her heart to overflowing. She silently gasped, and wished he too possessed the gift of sight as she did, so that he might also feel all her love for him. Instead, she softly caressed his lips with her own, once, twice; tenderly tasting, hoping what little she could offer would be enough to convey her feelings for him.
Frodo accepted her kisses with pleasure, then realized she was endeavoring to share her love with him as clearly as he shared his love with her. In answer, he opened himself more fully to her, hoping she also felt his deep appreciation for her.
The widening of her eyes told him she understood.
The bells for the evening meal rang throughout Rivendell.
Lily blinked, breaking their trance, then glanced at herself. “Oh, dear, I’m not at all ready for supper.”
Frodo smiled. “Come, give me what you’ve got on, and I’ll hang it up and endeavor to find something suitable while you prepare.”
Lily giggled, and kissed her lover’s cheek. “Thank you.”
She slipped out of her dress, handing it to Frodo.
He chose an appropriate dress for his wife, and handed it to her when she was ready. Then he carefully focused all his attention on the task of putting her other clothes away in the wardrobe, while Lily pulled on the mouse-grey satin Elvish dress, followed by a sheer powder-blue overdress.
Lily ran the brush through her hair, then tied it with a ribbon in the same powder-blue material as her dress.
A deep blush rose to her cheeks at her husband’s admiring glance, and then he smiled and offered her his hand. As she took it, interlacing their fingers, she giggled. Then they hurried to the evening meal.
As the evening wore on, Frodo knew that even if Lily were able to give him love he could not ask her for it this night. Her weariness was clear to him. Wonder touched his heart as he realized he alone seemed to notice. He truly shared in her burdens and could make them easier to bear, seeing to it she had what she wanted, and needed, frequently before she asked.
Being separated the whole of the day had been difficult for them both. It was the first such day of its kind, since before they had wed. Frodo imagined there would be others like it in the days to come, and he decided he would endeavor to keep them few and far between. He knew he needed her, but now he glimpsed just how much she needed him as he adeptly covered her silence, unobtrusively answering for her.
The festivities in the Hall of Fire had only begun when Lily’s head bobbed and dropped to Frodo’s shoulder. She struggled to keep her eyes open, but found it increasingly difficult to do so. She knew her head nodded several more times, but was unable to stop it, as once again she found the comfort of Frodo’s shoulder.
With a quick glance about the Hall, Frodo bowed his head to acknowledge their host, then shut from his mind all those present but Lily. He helped her stand, and escorted her back to their rooms.
Lily knew she could not test her husband’s limits by asking him to help her ready for bed; it would not be fair to either one of them, so she dragged herself through the task. More than once, she stood in the middle of her dressing room, staring at nothing, completely unaware of anything about her. Then she would shake herself and attempt to get ready for bed. Finally, she was in her nightshirt, sitting in front of the mirror, but entirely unable to remember why she was there.
Frodo stepped behind her, smiling. He gently took the brush from her inert hand, and began stroking it through her hair.
She sighed and relaxed. “Thank you, Frodo-love.”
“You’re welcome, Lily-sweet.”
Frodo allowed himself to enjoy the responsibility he assigned himself. When he finished, he laid the brush on the table. He gazed at his wife’s face in the mirror. Her eyes were closed, and she was smiling softly. His heart swelled, and his throat closed, for the tears gathering there.
Gently, he lifted his lover into his arms, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, nestling her head against his shoulder, already nearly asleep. He carried her into their room, and laid her on their bed. After he pulled the covers up, he kissed her cheek. Frodo smiled as Lily sighed and burrowed into the pillows. He did not resist his desire to sit on the bed beside his wife, and tenderly run his hand through her tresses. Her lashes fluttered on her cheeks, but did not open. An affectionate smile touched his lips; then he sighed and stood and stretched.
He finished readying himself for bed, thinking again of watching her ready herself for bed, completely unaware of him; so weary she was... She needed a respite. His brows furrowed. How could he give her what she needed? He blew out the candles and stood still for a moment, staring at nothing as the thin grey smoke drifted away unseen. He came to himself again, and blinked once, then slid into the bed next to his wife. His heart skipped a beat as she turned to him in her sleep. He gathered her into his arms to rest, with a soft prayer of thanks on his lips.