1. Telling the Bees
Someone has to tell the bees when there has been a death.
I have heard that that they will take offense and leave a place if they are not treated as part of the household at a passing. What a misfortune that would be! Without them nothing green would flourish, no matter how sweet the soil, how caring a hand tended the garden. But more - their company, their fierce determination as they share the work, the busy buzzing of their conversation… my life would not flourish without that companionship.
And I have seen that the bees are messengers; as they go about their business, fertilizing the last fall blooms and setting aside with their unquestioning faith the last of this years stores for Winter and the promise of Spring, they will spread the sad news while still working to encourage life.
My news was a little unusual, for the darkest parts, the deaths, had happened elsewhere and some time ago. Still, it is a parting, to be sure, and my heart ached at the separation. I was, as he had warned me, torn in two. Yet it was the loss of the head of the house, and I knew it was my duty to tell the soft-furred ladies their master had gone. I wanted to have all my obligations fulfilled before I went again through my front door.
I stood on the path a while, choosing my time and my place. The garden table by the window where he had told me many stories to keep me out of my fathers way, knowing that the words of a good tale flourished in my young brain like mint… the kitchen garden, with its fragrance of lavender and wild thyme that spoke to me now of a place far away that had offered a moment of healing and home, and the great-hearted friend who had believed in our need… the rose arbor where he had told me to stop being so foolish, and welcomed my bride with open arms and heart…
You already know, I suppose. I am a simple man, and straightforward about these things. It called like a beacon, and I followed the golden light that gleamed through its branches down to the new tree in the party field.
The ground around was wild here, as he had preferred, winking eyes in the grass, buttercups and clover, new petals of elanor that coaxed us toward autumn unafraid. The ladies hummed softly in the sweet late air, full buckets on their legs as they readied themselves for the trip home over the fields, crisscrossing paths in the late heat, singing as they went - as much like four young friends with full packs and light hearts out for an evening ramble as made no difference. They had not yet left for their home.
I put both hands behind my back and tried to think of some fine words, reciting-words, the kind you are glad you thought to say when you look back. But I had no words as big as his heart, or as full as mine, or as soft as the bees.
I rocked back and forth a few times, and was startled to hear myself speak in the gathering dusk. "He's gone."
That wouldn't do at all, but how much could I say without loosing my own way. "He isn't dead… but he's not coming back, if you take my meaning. You have the right to know that I am the man in the house for now. I'll do my best for us all."
The ladies hovered in the still air, singing in a way that didn't seem so different from the night we met the elves while crossing to Crickhollow now that I thought about the two things together. Then they brushed against the golden stars that lit the lawn, and turned to cross the field.
Whatever it is that draws them over the grass and the fields to their own hive, unerringly, every time - I looked up and saw it, in the light shining in the small round window next to my front door.
Bees take their time - you cannot rush them. But I thought they would give me a chance.
My step was a little lighter as I walked up the path and went inside to yellow light, and fire; the warm smells of cooking and welcome. Rose drew me to my chair without a question; gave me a kiss and put Elanor in my lap. My daughter looked up at me and smiled like all the stars of heaven twinkling on at once.
I drew a deep breath. "Well, I'm back," I said.
Author's Notes: Telling the Bees about changes in a household is a real Celtic superstition.
Bees are a symbol of resurrection and immortality, often used that way in heraldry, too. The word is related to beo, byw - 'to be living.'
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.