1. Fading Leaves
[The manuscript transcribed below bears this inscription on the flyleaf:
Written for the King Eldarion, at his request, this fifty-eighth day of hrívë, or 26 Narvinyë according to the Gondorian reckoning, F.A. 198.]
The entire House was in an uproar; even the library was no longer a peaceful refuge. Trunks and packing crates half-filled with books and scrolls stood about, and tottering piles of paper covered the reading table. Thick golden bars of sun fell through the band of high windows that encircled the ceiling, illuminating the wraiths of dust raised by my packing.
The disorder not only pained me, it made it near impossible to find what I needed. I picked my way across the room to the catalogue stand and leafed back to the beginning, where the oldest works were listed. Checking them against the list in my hand, I squinted trying to make out the titles. The former archivist had preferred to use his own archaic version of the Cirth, and I still stumbled over the more cryptic abbreviations.
Rubbing my eyes (and no doubt smearing dust on my face), I looked around at the chaos and sighed.
"What troubles you, Tasariel?" The Master of the House stood in the doorway.
I waved my hand at the half-full shelves. "There is so much here, Master Elrond, and nowhere for it to go. Your personal library has been readied, and will leave for the Havens tomorrow. Elladan and Elrohir have asked for a few things to remain as well. But the rest – all these years of history and poetry and thought – what will become of it? I can't bear to think of it left a prey to mice and rot, or sealed in boxes away from the light. These were written to be read!"
"Do not fear too much; Imladris will not be deserted so soon. My sons will watch over it, at least for a time," Elrond said quietly. "What do you feel should be preserved?"
"The great tales are known in Aman, I am sure; we need not weigh the ship down with copies of the Lay of Leithian, or the Narn i hîn Húrin – except perhaps those that are annotated, or finely illuminated," I added conscientiously, and Elrond chuckled. "It is the histories of the Second Age that I worry about; there is much here from that time. And what of the later chronicles of Arnor?"
"My foster-son would appreciate those," Elrond murmured. "Perhaps I should send them to Arwen…" I winced at my ineptitude in bringing forth a painful subject.
He shook himself free of reverie and looked directly at me. "Tasariel, let me beg a great favour of you. Will you take the Arnorian chronicles to Minas Tirith? They should be delivered by one who knows them well, and can tell the archivist there of the contents."
I hesitated, and he added, "You need not fear that it will delay your departure unduly. Another ship will be sailing from the Havens next autumn."
"I know, Master Elrond. And truly, I would be glad of a chance to see Gondor before I depart. I will take them south for you."
* * *
And that is how I came to Minas Tirith. Though I see that so far I have made a very poor historian – I have not set down anything of who my family were, or indeed who I am.
I was one of the youngest in Imladris, having been born only a few years before the Shadow arose again. My parents and grandparents were Noldor of Eregion who had sought refuge with Elrond at the time of the Deceiver's first assault against the Eldar. Having no desire to live through another such war, they departed for the Undying Lands as soon as rumours arose of another nameless fear in the East. All expected me to go with them, for not only was I still very young, but I was not a bold spirit; I have always been rather timid and reserved. To everyone's surprise (including my own), I decided to remain in Middle-Earth. I am still not quite sure why.
Perhaps I felt that too much remained for me to learn here. Even more than most Eldar, I loved languages, lore, and old tales of great deeds. By the time I was of age, I had spent so much time in the library and scriptorium of Imladris that even the testy archivist accepted my presence. By imperceptible degrees I became his friend, his apprentice, and finally – when he too traveled West, with the Lady Celebrìan – his successor.
For many years I was content, surrounded by the wisdom of hundreds of yéni lying cool and dry on the shelves about me. My special province of study was the years of Annatar the Deceiver and the fall of Eregion; even Mithrandir did not disdain to seek my opinion when it became a matter of urgency to know what or who the Necromancer of Dol Guldur was. Though I argued that it was truly Sauron, and not one of the Nazgûl, I felt no fear as yet; I was still too sheltered to appreciate what that might actually mean.
After the war my parents feared had come to pass, I understood better their reluctance to stay. I had seen death at last, for it had come to many of the Dunedain of Arnor and even some of the Eldar of Imladris defending the northlands. I believed that I too desired nothing more than to leave these mortal shores and go where no stain of illness nor death could mar Arda again.
* * *
Elladan and Elrohir were to escort me on the journey south, for foul things were still abroad in the Misty Mountains, and having decided not to sail immediately they wished to see their sister once more.
We stayed long enough to bid farewell to those who were leaving – Elrond, the perian Bilbo, in fact most of the folk of Imladris. The vale was dim and sad after their going, and we departed quickly.
I had been to Lothlórien once many years ago, with my parents in the train of the Lady Celebrìan. I was eager to see it again; but now, like Imladris, it was a place of shadows. The gardens of Caras Galadhon were deserted, the Mirror gone with Galadriel. Celeborn remained, and was as courteous as ever, but the warmth had gone from his manner.
But before we left, he spoke to me directly. "You have the look of one who is still firmly rooted in Middle-Earth, little willow tree. If you decide not to sail, remember that there is a place for you in Lórien, for some of us will remain even though the Lady has gone."
That was the first time I realized that some of my people might not leave Middle-Earth. Elrond's children, of course, had always had the alternative of mortality due to their blood; but it simply had not occurred to me that any of the Eldar – especially so great a Lord as Celeborn – could or would choose to stay behind in these fading lands.
* * *
Minas Tirith was fascinating. It reminded me of my parents' tales of Ost-in-Edhil; it was clear that whoever built these towers and walls had known Elvish forms well. But it was colder and more formal, unsoftened by growing things as yet, though Arwen told me that Legolas of Mirkwood had promised to improve that.
The process of cataloguing the material I had brought with me was more complicated than it had seemed in Imladris. Master Parmandil died not long after I arrived here, and I began again with his successor. Then King Elessar asked me to stay on for what he called "a short time" and assist his scribes in writing the history of the War of the Ring.
I found it an absorbing task, and the archives of the Kings of Gondor were certainly not without interest for a historian. In fact I was so preoccupied that the day I should have left for the Havens passed almost without notice. I considered leaving; but, I told myself, another ship would sail next year. I had time yet.
And so I continued working on the history of the War. I am quite proud of my chronicle of the battles of Lórien; I believe it to be my masterwork. I even became somewhat of a scholar of the periannath, from reading their Thain's Book and from the visits of Meriadoc and Peregrin.
Somehow, it never seemed that the time was ripe for me to depart. Each summer the thought of a grey ship waiting at the Havens crossed my mind, and each summer I decided to stay just a little longer.
* * *
And so here I sit, many years of men later, writing these words in a tower of the city I grew to love. The White City itself has changed very little, though none of the people I knew when I came here remain. King Elessar died long ago, and Arwen laid down her own life in turn. Soon after that, Legolas sailed West with his dwarven friend.
I have not seen Celeborn again, nor Elladan and Elrohir since their sister's death. I wonder if they linger still in Imladris, unable either to leave this land or to depart this life. Or am I the last of my people left on these shores?
Strangely enough, I do not feel alone. I suppose that I have always relied on books and scrolls for company. At any rate, I have never felt the need to leave this city of mortals and go in search of the few Sindar who might remain in Ithilien or Eryn Lasgalen. The city changes, although slowly, and mortal lives begin and end in a flicker; but knowledge remains, and I as its guardian.
Perhaps one day I shall travel to the Havens, and see whether any ship remains to bear me across the wide sea. But I think not. I am well content here, and if in time I fade... it is only fitting that some memory of the Firstborn should linger on, even after Men have forgotten all.
* * * * * * *
Thanks to Lyllyn for perceptive beta comments.
The name Tasariel, if I have managed to wrestle successfully with Quenya, should mean "willow maiden."
A yén is an Elvish "year," roughly 144 solar years. See LoTR Appendix D.
Parmandil, the archivist of Minas Tirith, is borrowed from Azalais' excellent story "After Such Knowledge."
This is meant as an entry for the "Anything, but ordinary!" challenge, but I think Elrond may have too many lines for it to qualify as strictly within the parameters.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.