Frodo settled deeper into the pillows, unwilling to leave the comforting warmth of their bed, then realized it was still deep night. What bliss, he sighed silently, to wake with her in my arms. He gently tightened his hold on his wife, and carefully rubbed his cheek against her silken tresses.
He almost chuckled, but stopped himself. Dearest Lily, only you would be so bold to question the Elves with every expectation of receiving an answer. Was there ever another like you? I am quite certain not.
A deep shiver ran from his head to his toes, as Lily’s warm hand slid from his shoulder to his hip, pulling him closer. Her soft, wordless murmurs added to the pleasure of her head nestling against his chest.
His longing to wake his lover almost overwhelmed him. He swallowed hard, and started to push the desire away. Then he smiled. No, she would wake soon enough; he need only wait for her. He waited all his life for her, without even realizing it; morning was not far off...
Again he remembered she had knowingly waited twelve long years for him. Such faithfulness... he must find a way... a way to what? Repay her? Never would such a thing be possible... then what? If not repay, then mayhap a gift... wealth beyond the gold and jewels others valued... his Lily would not hold much store by those, but mayhap something dearer to her heart... yet all she sought from him was his undying devotion; but he wanted to give more. Some way to show her his gratitude and abiding affection... she did seem enchanted by the Elvish music. Mayhap a song, just for her, of his own making... mayhap a lullaby for their first child... he could not tell her of it, not until they were certain... Lily’s Lullaby... yes...
He mentally shook his head, and realized that in the meantime, he needed to get on with writing the tale expected of him...
Hearing the story of Eärendil from Lord Elrond had been a treasured opportunity, unlooked-for. It was more different than he had expected; to hear the ancient story from one of the participants in the tale. He had never thought to ask the Master of Rivendell to relate the history, but Lily had...
A quiet sigh escaped Frodo, and he kissed his wife’s hair lightly, above her ear. Memories of his first visit to Rivendell drifted into his mind. He had not seen the beauty of the place when he was carried in, after his wounding... he grimaced as the past rushed in, and his first instinct was to push those thoughts away...
Then Lily nestled closer in her sleep.
Frodo trembled. She was here. It would be safe to explore the past, if he was careful. He would need to remember it, if he were to write a proper history. Elrond’s tale gave Frodo pause for thought. Mayhap, he should write it the same way, as though it happened to someone else, not himself...
His wife shifted her weight more atop him, and his breath caught in his throat. Sometimes it felt almost as if she were endeavoring to shield him from some unseen enemy. Had it become such a habit for her, in so short a time, to protect him? And with her own self... he swallowed hard. How blessed he was...
Lily’s furred foot brushed against his, and a smile spread across his face; he struggled not to chortle. How many times, since they were wed, did he wake in the middle of the night simply because she moved?
“Frodo?” she mumbled.
His wife was not truly awake, not yet, he knew, and he kept his voice soft. “I’m here, beloved.”
“Mmmmm...” she sighed, and rubbed her cheek against him once more.
Frodo held his breath as yearning surged in his breast. He would wait. As much as he desired her, he would wait.
“Will you wake me in the morning, sweet?” he whispered.
“Mmm... yes... gladly...” came the muffled reply.
He felt her smile against him, then curl into him, and he cradled her close, finally drifting back into dreamless sleep with her.
Over second breakfast, Lily found herself expressing her concerns to her husband about being able to serve tea and at the same time pay proper attention to her guests.
“I’m beginning to wish I had not asked them,” she murmured. “What was I thinking, prying into their private affairs--?”
Frodo laid his hand atop hers; she stopped stirring her tea, and gazed up into his eyes. He offered her an encouraging smile.
“Sweet Lily, you worry too much. They would not care if we had only water and hard rolls to offer, and a dirt floor to sit upon, and I’m fairly certain Felena knew what was in your heart, did she not? She would not have offered, if she were unwilling.”
A soft smile touched Lily’s mouth. “Yes... thank you for reminding me.”
Frodo drew his brows together, unable to hide the surprise crossing his face. “You are unaccustomed to someone else... sensing your thoughts and feelings, as you sense theirs...” His voice reflected the awe he felt when he continued. “For it is a gift you’ve borne alone all your life... You’ll miss her when we return home.”
“Yes,” Lily whispered, holding back sudden tears.
“Dearest Lily, why not ask for help, so you may simply concentrate on enjoying your guests?”
Lily stared at her husband, blinking with wonder.
A broad smile spread across Frodo’s face. “You’d not considered the possibility, had you?”
Adber approached their small table with a fresh pot of tea.
Frodo turned to the Elf. “Adber, have you a moment?”
The Elf inclined his head, his voice low, even melodious to Lily’s ears. “How may I serve you?”
Frodo eyed his wife, then gently squeezed her hand.
She glanced at her husband, and then at the Elf. “Adber, I have invited Felena and Elrohir to tea, this afternoon.” She could not hide her discomfiture. “It seems I’ve become -- mayhap -- a bit too, well, at ease here, and forgotten this is not my home...”
Frodo realized his wife was uncertain how to continue. “Adber, would you be willing to help with the serving?”
“I should be delighted to serve your afternoon tea,” the Elf agreed, a dignified eagerness held within his smile.
Lily searched Adber’s face. “Is that a glint I see in your eyes?”
The Elf glanced away, and struggled to hide his smile. Then he met Lily’s steady gaze. “I confess,” he replied, still fighting to keep from smiling, “that I too have been -- curious -- about the relationship, from time to time. There has never been an -- unobtrusive opportunity to learn its -- depth. As I shall be traveling with Felena soon, I appreciate the opportunity to learn the details firsthand. There is clearly something between them, but it is -- unclear, to my eyes exactly what.”
Frodo smiled as he watched his wife fuss over the details of the afternoon tea. Did Bilbo ever fret this way? No, on the contrary, Bilbo was in his element when he had guests he himself invited, rather than the kind that simply dropped in.
When Lily rearranged the cups on the tea service for the fourth time, Frodo laughed out loud.
Lily stared at him wide-eyed, enjoying his laughter despite herself; then she sighed. “I’m fidgeting, aren’t I?”
In his effort to withhold even more laughter, Frodo’s brows raised and furrowed until they were nearly the shape of question marks.
“Not at all, dearest,” he managed, and winked at her.
“Master Baggins! You’re teasing me!” Lily protested, but she was giggling, all the same.
“Yes,” Frodo admitted. He took one of her hands and kissed the back of it. “I was also noticing how lovely you are today.”
“Oohhh!! None of that, you silly hobbit!” Lily giggled, then stopped herself, endeavoring to be serious. “I was fidgeting, and no way around it!”
Then she leaned forward and planted a warm kiss on her husband’s brow.
Frodo’s eyes closed, and his breathing stopped. A sudden wish rose within him that no one was coming to take tea with them, and that Adber was away. When he opened his eyes to meet Lily’s gaze, she was smiling indulgently at him. She sensed his thoughts...
Adber stood quietly to the side, and glanced away, aware he was unexpectedly privy to an intimate moment. The interactions between the couple were heartwarming, and he realized he would miss them. Even as he felt tears gather in his throat, he swallowed a smile. He was grateful they requested his assistance, and gladly waited to do any small task the Ring-bearer’s consort might ask of him.
Lily started, jumping slightly in her chair, when the knock came at the door; she noted without surprise her guests were precisely on time.
Adber performed the role of servant, at his own request. He welcomed Elrohir and Felena, then ushered them past the smaller sitting room and into the main room, where Frodo and Lily greeted them warmly.
At a quick glance, Felena noted the bed was neatly made, and two larger chairs had been added, facing the two hobbit-sized chairs set before the quiet fireplace. The room’s table was placed beside one of the smaller chairs, and a tea tray already occupied the tabletop.
The hobbits invited their guests to be seated, then Frodo saw to it Lily was comfortably ensconced in her chair, next to the tea service. When he was certain all were comfortable, he settled in the chair beside his wife.
Lily had worried about an awkward silence, but quickly realized she need not have. These were Frodo’s friends, and hers as well, and this was a precious opportunity to become better acquainted. Her heart whispered Elves did not share the details of their personal lives but rarely, and her worries had been unfounded, proven so by being granted the gift of this visit. Her offer of tea and cakes, and whatever else might be desired, was accepted graciously, as she knew it would be. And Adber’s presence was a comfort, for if they needed anything she had not thought to include, he would see to it.
Without preamble, Elrohir inclined his head in Felena’s direction. “You may share your part of the tale, first.”
Felena bit her lip, endeavoring to suppress a smile. “As the hobbits would say, ‘Age before beauty?’”
Lily and Frodo shared brief, confused glances.
The Elf maid quickly assured them, “I believe I heard it said by Master Pippin to Master Merry.”
Frodo laughed, nodding. “Quite probably.”
Elrohir’s grey eyes had flown open wide, and he chuckled. “And as a Man I once heard tell, ‘So say you, not I.’”
Felena blinked in surprise, then laughed. “We should not keep our friends wondering.” She turned her full attention to the hobbits, in particular to Lily.
“I came with Lord Elrond, along with a remnant of the Noldor, to help him found Imladris -- Rivendell -- to create a refuge. My husband also came, though we knew each other only by sight, to start. In the building of this place, we became better acquainted, and chose to wed. I bore a son...”
The Elf’s voice caught, and she blinked back tears. She quickly glanced at the others present, and smiled weakly.
“I am sorry, dear Felena,” Lily murmured. She was glad she had related all that Felena had told her to Frodo, so the Elf did not need to repeat the story.
Felena nodded once, her appreciation openly expressed in her clear grey eyes. “We each have our part to play. My son fought with Gil-Galad, and was lost. My husband fought with Elrond and lived.” She sighed. “Be that as it may, when Elrond chose to wed Celebrían, it was a happy time here and eased some of the ache in my heart. Then she delivered twin sons, Elladan and Elrohir” -- Felena glanced at Elrohir -- “and then a daughter, the Lady Arwen.”
Lily and Frodo both noted the fond smile Elrohir bestowed on Felena as she spoke.
The Elf maid continued. “It was a peaceful time; at least, it was here in Imladris...”
As though it had been rehearsed, without hesitation, Elrohir picked up the tale.
“The Darkness in the East was growing steadily.” He met the hobbits’ curious gaze. “Do you know the story of my mother?”
Lily nodded. “Yes.” The stark response felt awkward to her, and she searched her mind for something more. “I have been fortunate to see her butterfly garden.”
“It was one of my favourite places,” Elrohir smiled. “That, and the cave behind the waterfalls.”
Lily blushed crimson, as did Frodo.
At the sight, Felena offered a gentle smile, then addressed Elrohir, “I told them of it.”
“Good! Then you have seen it!” the Elf chortled. “It was a wonderful place for children to hide, and tell secrets, and to practice telling the stories we heard in the Hall of Fire.”
Elrohir’s countenance clouded, and he sighed. “Then my mother decided -- to pay a visit to Lórien.” He paused and closed his eyes as if to marshal strength. When he opened them again, he stared over the heads of his small listeners, lost in memory.
“Though she was rescued, and my father employed all his knowledge of the healing arts, he could not ease her pain completely. A year later, she sailed into the West.”
For a moment Frodo was lost in his own memories of being healed, as far as possible, by Elrond; it seemed a lifetime ago, rather than just short of two years. He felt Lily’s hand upon his own, and met her eyes, and knew she was with him in the memory, she who had somehow completed his healing, in some manner that amazed even Lord Elrond... mayhap someday he would be permitted to understand what had taken place on the day he and Lily were wed...
He realized he very well might have needed to depart into the West also, if not for Lily... and he suddenly knew: Lily understood this as well...
Their eyes locked and held, all their life together glimpsed in a moment...
The hobbits blinked and woke from their reverie, as once again, the Elves switched narrators as though planned; Felena now resumed the tale. She sensed they were ready to continue.
“My husband chose to join the party escorting her to the Grey Havens, and though he did not speak of it, I knew he would not return.”
Frodo held very still, while Lily uttered a barely audible gasp. “He didn’t tell you he was leaving?”
Felena smiled sadly. “I knew, dear Lily. He did not need to tell me. I knew.” The Elf eyed the hobbits thoughtfully. “He knew of my gift and felt no need to say anything. How I cursed my gift, for a time. Would things have been different if we had spoken? I do not know, but I do regret we did not say farewell. He left with the company, and did not return.”
Elrohir placed a comforting hand on Felena’s arm, and once more picked up the story.
“My brother and I took it upon ourselves to clear Middle-earth of every orc we could find, at every opportunity. On one of our return visits, we were requested to escort our sister to Lórien. Our father believed it better for Arwen to be with our mother’s mother, the Lady Galadriel. As we readied for the journey, an Elf maid helped in the preparations. It seems our father had leaned on her help considerably.”
He studied Felena warmly, then smiled. “Both of them cared only for what became of Arwen, and us. I fear I spoke rashly on one occasion, declaring that we already had a mother and did not need another. I found myself put gently but firmly in my place when she asked, without rancor, if she were allowed to be concerned about what happened to a wonderful mother’s children. I was bitterly ashamed for my outburst. I knew of the battle, and the loss of her son. My sight is quite dim, more like that of Men than Elves. For all the years I have lived in Middle-earth, I did not understand the heart. Fortunately, our dear Felena is forgiving, and has ever been the dearest of friends.”
The hobbits glanced at each other, then back at the Elves.
“Not unlike an aunt, in the Shire,” Frodo mused.
Elrohir smiled and nodded, then laughed at Felena’s quizzical glance. “Felena is unfamiliar with the term.”
“Lily is an aunt,” Frodo explained, “to her sister’s child, Pearl.”
Seemingly unable to help himself, Frodo found himself revealing what he was thinking. “I’ll never forget the first time I saw her holding the babe in her arms. It is a cherished memory for me. So lovingly she held her, and so carefully, at the same time.”
Felena brushed a tear from her eye before it could fall on her cheek. “I do remember holding the twins, and the Lady Arwen as well. I was permitted, with several others, to attend Celebrían and the children, from time to time. I did endeavor to remind myself they were not mine, but there were moments...”
Elrohir kissed her cheek affectionately, and she gazed up into his face as she spoke. “On the morrow’s morrow, we shall be leaving Imladris, and I do not know if I shall ever see this dear face again.”
“Do you not?” Elrohir queried.
“Mayhap the truth of the matter is that I do not want to know, of a certainty.”
Elrohir nodded and smiled gently. “And you are finally ready to depart into the West?”
Felena nodded slowly. “It is time.”
Elrond’s son glanced at the hobbits, then back at Felena.
She smiled, reading Elrohir’s question. “Yes, I wish to accompany them as far as I may. To the Last Bridge, we shall travel together. Then I shall continue on with the Elves of Lothlórien...”
The Elf maid turned. “Adber shall be traveling with us as well.”
Silent throughout the telling of the story, Adber bowed his head in acknowledgment. “It is time.”
“Yes,” Felena continued, “and, at Lily’s request, while we travel, I wish to teach her more of the healing herbs. I have seen to it a book has been prepared with what she has been taught here, so she need not attempt to remember it all.”
“Thank you,” Lily murmured, her throat tight.
Felena smiled at the hobbits; she sensed Frodo was far away, with thoughts of the journey home. “In truth, it is quite selfish. Though we go on ahead of you -- for you shall need rest, I know -- it shall provide me with the opportunity to see your home in the Shire. I shall be most discreet.”
“Sam will help you,” Frodo offered, once again fully present. “He is the soul of discretion, and he’ll be delighted.”
Lily’s breath caught. “Felena, you’ll not be able to say farewell to Elladan or Arwen.”
“There is no need,” Felena assured. “Elrohir shall share my thoughts and wishes.”
“It is a strange fate indeed,” Elrohir smiled at Felena; then he turned to the hobbits. “It was I who most resented Felena at the first, but now I hold the closest bond with her. When Elladan and I decided we should convince our father to come to Minas Tirith, my twin decided it was I who should go, so I might see Felena. Though the gift of sight was never mine to claim, I knew Felena would be leaving soon, so I gladly accepted the opportunity given to me.”
Elrohir turned to Adber. “You shall see to our Felena?”
Adber bowed low. “It shall be an honour, my lord.”
“And what of you, Adber?” Elrohir queried.
“Me, my lord?”
“Yes. You are not traveling with any family, or you would have continued to the Grey Havens with them.”
Adber glanced away, then met Elrohir’s steady gaze. “My parents were lost defending Lothlórien, my lord.”
Then Adber met Felena’s sympathetic nod. “I am no replacement for your son, my lady, but I would gladly consider you kin...”
“Thank you. It shall be a comfort to travel with kin instead of alone,” smiled Felena, and bowed her head slightly.
The bells echoed throughout Rivendell, beckoning all to the evening meal.