2. Breakfast with Tears
The voice belonged to the maidservant, who was human. When she received no answer, she wondered if the customer had left without paying. She knocked once more, then entered. What she saw surprised her.
On the floor; the contents of a bag discarded while rummaging desperately and disorderly for some thing or other. On the chair; the waterbasin with some fresh-scented leaves floating in it. Leaning against the table, a bow as long as its owner was tall.
And on the bed, the owner of the bow and bag sitting, eyes closed, lost in a reverie. In her hands, some small object of glass. She seemed to be speaking to it:
'Dimmed, dimmed in my hands, lightless now. I am unworthy! No light for my darkness... dimmed, dimmed!
Spellbound, the maid watched the hobbit lift a hand, a sword suddenly gleaming in it. It was the most wonderful sword she had ever seen, a work of art...
Too late the maid realised what the halfling was about to do; the shining blade went for its bearer's heart, the eyes suddenly jerked wide open -
But no blood came, only a jingle of metal. Something was in the way, maybe just a purse of coins in a pocket. The halfling dropped the blade and spoke a long string of unintelligible words. (Much later, when the maid was old, she would tell her grandchildren the strange customer had spoken elven swearwords, so malicious was her tone and so fair the sounds.)
'I did not give you permission to enter!'
'And nobody gave you permission to leave without paying, madam.'
'I'm sitting right here!'
'Sure you are, and trying to escape by means of a sword! What do you fear so much? A ball of glass? A hangover?'
'My heart is pierced already. I was just finishing what life had begun.'
'A broken heart, madam? I had one too last summer, but you know; it was mended before Yule.'
'Bring me breakfast. Give this goldpiece to the landlord; I will stay until tomorrow. And send Mr Brandybuck here.'
'Who? I thought you came alone?'
'Marron, the waiter.'
'But his name is Maggot, madam. We have no one by the name of Brandybuck in the house.'
'I must have misunderstood something he said. You do have a Marron, don't you?'
'Marron Maggot, the waiter. I'll see if he is in.'
Marron arrived with the breakfast: toast, ham, apples, bacon, eggs, cheese, tea and milk.
'I'm supposed to eat all this?' Niphredil asked.
'Are you feeling ill?' Marron sounded worried.
'I will before I'm halfway through this. Hey, you would not happen to be hungry?'
Marron thought back: Brandon hadn't forbidden eating breakfast with customers.
'As a matter of fact, I am.' He sat down.
'Gladys told me something worrying.'
'Gladys is the maidservant?'
'Yes. She said you tried to... kill yourself. With a sword. Sting, unless I am much mistaken.'
'I would have blamed myself, you know. For making you remember.'
'Oh, no! Then I'm glad I live.'
Marron saw tears on her cheek.
'Why do you cry?'
'I am unworthy. I lied to you, or made a false impression. I did not leave Tol Eresseä entirely of my own will, I was almost banished.'
Niphredil sighed. 'When I turned twenty-five, my mother gave me a great gift: A necklace with six pearls. Each pearl held a charm; if I touched one, I would see myself in a mirror as the image of any one of my mother's six past shapes. And if I spoke the name of the shape, it would become mine for a week.
These were the shapes: Híniel, a child with red hair; Cal-Urúnya, a spirit of golden flame; Maialaurë, the very twin of young Galadriel; El-Carnil, a wild hunter; Elai, a noble lady of the Noldor; Hawkfeather, a silver-haired mortal.
And as soon as I was alone, I took one of the shapes - Cal-Urúnya, whom only one soul had ever seen, Cal-Urúnya, who had brought that soul, Sauron, to his knees.
In this shape I seduced the one I admired, the one my mother once loved. I seduced Eönwë and he was mine. He asked my name and I told him the Quenyan version of it - Nécadil. Myself as myself he had never loved, and did not when the week was over, when I suddenly came to him in my own shape with the ring he had given me in my finger.
'Where did you find that?' he asked.
'You gave it to me.'
'No, I gave it to Nécadil...' Then he realised the name was mine, and I saw a shadow fall upon his very being. Eyes, face, and stature all lost something of their glory.
'So it was all a lie.'
'But I love you!' I pleaded.
'True love cannot lie. You are a child, and a foolish child at that. Tell me, who put the charm and shape of a Maia upon you?'
'My mother, with these pearls.'
'So the shape was hers?
'It was, once. Cal-Urúnya she named it.'
'A name Sauron gave her. "The blazing red flame". It was a shape she wove to reveal her full glory as a servant of Aulë. I wonder if the taint of Sauron still spoils that shape - was it before you took it, or after, that you decided to win my heart?'
'Then the taint is all yours. Tinwen's daughter, child of the Ringbearer, my student archer, you have disappointed me more than anyone ever, including your mother. Perhaps you will grow into a better direction, perhaps not, but you shall do it without my company. I will not come to Tol Eresseä as long as you live here. And I have authority to punish you, Niphredil. Give me the pearls.'
'With trembling hands I obeyed, and he took the pearls and they turned into smoke in his hand.
'Now, Ohtarcë, give me my ring. It was never meant for you.’
Ohtarcë was my student-name, "little warrior". It was the last time he spoke it, and I knew I must obey.
As the ring left my finger, I understood where I had erred. My love had been real, but untrue all the same.
And I saw what ring it was: Fanya the White, older than the Sun and Moon, yet this was one of the few times it was outside Valinor. Aulë himself had set the diamond in it, and my mother had worn it before the shadow fell on her path. Eönwë had had it in his finger after that, every time he proposed to my mother. He had worn it while he cut off Morgoth’s feet, and the black blood had stained it. He had worn it when he lifted high the two Silmarils, and their light had purified it.
‘And I had worn it, unworthy.
‘If I had known any sooner, I might have found some of the power that ring must have, but I had to give it back the moment I understood.
‘No more words had Eönwë for me, and he departed. Later the same day, my parents wanted to speak to me. It seemed he had paid a visit to them. Actually, they did not say much. On the dining-room table there was a parcel of fine cloth. Inside it I found this bow of mine, and the vine and arrows.
‘What is this?’ I asked.
To my surprise it was Quetondo who answered. He is a jewel-spirit, and usually spoke only to my mother. In every room of Underhill there is a special pedestal for him.
‘You do not know? Silly girl, Ohtarcë, if you can’t even guess!’
‘Eönwë sent this?’
‘He brought it’, my father said.
I held up an arrow and gasped:
‘This is made by ainurin hands!’
‘Indeed. Last time a mortal held such an arrow was at Dagorlad, when the archers of Anarion ran out of arrows and picked up all they found, and no mortal has owned such a bow since Numenor fell. Name it, Ohtarcë.’ Quetondo did not usually command anyone. This had to be special. Yet I resisted.
‘How can I accept this? It ought to go to the east, and slay worthy enemies! Arien’s blood! I don’t think Beleg Cuthalion ever saw the like of this!’
‘Arien’s blood indeed. Name it, Sercë Arieno!’
‘Enough names, Quetondo. Let her keep her own.’ said my mother.
‘I name you Cúlind, the Singing Bow.’
And I lifted it and it was mine. And so was the wanderlust, the thirst for the hunt, that accompany the servants of Oromë. For they had made my fair Cúlind, carved it from the branch of a deathless tree, strung it with a substance I cannot name, which has never broken or loosened, and remains taut even when wet. Look at these arrows - the red-feathered are for war, the green for hunting, the black for a warning. This was the gift of a teacher to his student.’
‘What do you think of me now, Marron?’
‘Legolas was right. You are just plain wonderful.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You were taught by the greatest master of weapons that ever was. Your baggage seems to consist of treasure upon treasure. This room is full of the scent of athelas. The sun is your - what - aunt, is that not so? And still you worry about what I, a servant, think of you! If you cannot trust yourself, trust your fate.’
‘Besides, I too have a confession to make. Everyone here thinks my name is Maggot. Master Meriadoc exiled me, because I am in love with his daughter. She is adopted, and her mother was named Maggot. Her grandmother is trying to help us.’
‘What is her name?’
‘Eowyn. What is she like?’
‘She has golden hair, golden eyes, and a golden heart. She is like a summer sunrise, like an autumn garden, like every dream I ever dreamed. Need I say I love her?’
‘How could he?!’
‘Merry. I mean your Master Meriadoc. Deny you and Eowyn your true love.’
‘It is not decent for a Brandybuck to marry a Brandybuck, says he.’ ‘What are you going to do?’
‘Eowyn wants to escape, but I’ve told her I have no home to offer her. I have yet to convince the landlord to employ her and give us a room to ourselves.
‘That simply won’t do! The daughter of the Master of Buckland as a servant? And Merry never to see his error? Let’s see...’
Niphredil picked from the floor a heavy pouch. She opened it and put something in Marron’s hand. He looked at it, and gasped.
It was the largest gold coin he had ever seen, decorated on one side with the tree and crown of Elendil, on the other with the profile of Queen Arwen.
‘You... I cannot...!’ he stammered.
‘It is my wedding gift to you. You are, after all, the only child of my second cousin! It shoud be enough to buy a small house. If you lived by yourselves you would have a reason to ask Mr Butterbur for a better pay, and perhaps Eowyn wouldn’t have to work and she could take care of your little ones.’
‘Really, this is too much.’
‘Not for me it isn’t. I have four more. And the mithril, the brooch, the sword, the bow... and some other things. There have been dragons poorer than Niphredil Baggins.’
‘The phial of Galadriel?’
‘Yes. Gladys saw it, then? The Lady gave me a light in dark places, and she said my road would be long and lonely.’
‘Your road... you are on your way to the Shire?’
‘I was. Now I’m on my way to Brandy Hall. Cousin Merry needs some... feminine advice.’
‘Do you think he will listen to you?’
‘Hmm... Sam Gamgee is the Mayor, you said?’
He will listen to me, at least. And the Mayor does the weddings.’
‘Thank you, Miss Baggins!’
‘You’re welcome. And please call me Niphredil.’
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.