Summary: Silmarillion-based. Pengolod's farewell is disrupted yet again, and our story ends where it began.
Story Rating: Rated PG.
Disclaimer: These characters and Middle-Earth are the copyright of the Tolkien estate and this fan fiction is not meant to infringe on that copyright in any way.
Thanks to beta readers Aayesha and Suzana.
The week before the wedding passed swiftly. There had been a huge amount of gossip. Unexpectedly, it had mostly been about Ciryatan.
The day after Ciryatan had confronted Pengolod, Soup had bustled up from the harbour with more news about Ciryatan. “The Prince just swept up to the Venturers’ house after the great turtle went away, and he burst out onto the balcony where Lady Lauri was watching it all with the Lord Venturer, and he declared that Venturers were the King’s right hand and he was going to finish making the Venturers and the Royal House one if –” Soup paused for breath. “If Laurinquë would have him! Then he gave her a ring off his own finger, made of gold, with a stone of adamant! Worth a whole ship!”
Pengolod lifted a brow. “Interesting timing.”
“It makes Prince Ciryatan the centre of attention, certainly,” said Aelfwine.
“Without too much politics, and in a way nigh guaranteed to win his parents’ favour,” Pengolod mused. “Can you imagine what their children will be like?”
This was all above Soup’s head. The youth stopped looking perplexed when Aelfwine asked. “Did you hear when they’re going to be wedded?”
“Don’t know. The woman who told me just went on about dresses after that.” Soup looked at the basket Rothinzil had left behind in the shop earlier that day. “Did you, um, did you and Mistress Rothinzil have a nice visit, master?” They all stopped talking about Ciryatan’s engagement, and Aelfwine spoke of his own to Rothinzil.
Most of the Rómennans were as pleased about Ciryatan’s dramatic trothplighting as if they themselves had been Laurinquë’s kin. The only ones openly displeased were the single men, who groused that any woman expecting a betrothal would now demand a gold-and-adamant ring, herself. When Aelfwine went to the wine-shop up the street to order for his small wedding, the wine-keeper said, “Lucky you got in before all this with a silver ring, Aelfwine. That’s the way the Elves do it, isn’t it, Master?” This last was directed to Pengolod.
“Yes; a silver ring for the elf-man and the elf-woman, when they get betrothed. They wait until they are married to exchange rings of gold,” he answered.
“Something for the fellow as well, I like that. Pity we won’t be doing it like the Elves anymore. Ciryatan sets the fashion, he does,” said the wine-keeper.
His wife bustled out and seemed to dissolve into sentiment at Aelfwine’s news. “You’re getting married! So soon? I do suppose it’s the right thing to do, isn’t it?” she said, giving Aelfwine the briefest, newly assessing look. “She’ll be a good wife, and I’m sure she’ll appreciate you being so honourable. We all wish Ciryatan was getting married tomorrow, just imagine, a royal wedding for a lass of Rómenna. We haven’t had a royal wedding as long as anyone living can remember! Tar-Telperien, Eru bless, never married, and Tar-Minastir wedded young and quiet before the sceptre went to him. What have you ordered?” Her spouse tilted the slate. “Give them ten percent off – no, fifteen. And you tell everybody you got your wedding wine from us, won’t you? There’ll be a lot of weddings soon, between Ciryatan and the troops coming home!” She beamed at them, elbowed her husband, and went into the back again.
“That was very good of her,” said Pengolod, when they had left.
Aelfwine pulled at his moustache. “Not her! Kept me from trying to bargain for twenty-five percent, is all.”
They also went to the bailiff to schedule the use of a fair garden open to the common people, and went to some trouble to find a roaster available for hire on the day. Both the prim bailiff and the rubicund roaster, like the wine-keeper’s wife, assumed this hasty wedding was due to need and honour. Pengolod was chaffing Aelfwine about the names for his future children, expected in six months’ time, as they walked back.
The chief problem with the swift-planned wedding, Pengolod decided on its morn, was that he had not been alone with Aelfwine in days. Aelfwine’s mother and Rothinzil had hardly left. Pengolod knew that this was due to him. Four days before the wedding, as Rothinzil fussed over what Aelfwine might wear, he had offered up the finery Gil-Galad had given him. Rothinzil had been so enchanted by the rich fabrics that Pengolod gave the pair of them the robes outright. She and Aelfwine’s mother had grown friends as they remade the silver-blue under-robe and pantaloons into a gown for Rothinzil, and altered the azure silk over-robe and its sash to fit Aelfwine.
Aelfwine had been busy coping with congratulations, and several friends of his had returned together from The War in Middle-Earth. Pengolod sat to one side when they came by in the evenings, bringing wine and food, flirting with Rothinzil’s friends and even Aelfwine’s mother. He was touched by jealousy, but his gratitude to them was greater. In their company, he saw where Aelfwine had learned the art of friendship. Soup, run off his feet with a thousand errands and shy around the returned warriors, took refuge in Pengolod’s quiet.
The night before the nuptials, Pengolod was able to relax. The elf-boat had not come to port that day, though the moon rode full in the sky. It took little coaxing for Pengolod to recruit Soup to slip about Rómenna that midnight. Together, they found and took the best flowers and greens for the wedding garlands, cautious amongst the moonlit shadows. “Much too late to ask permission, isn’t it?” whispered Soup, as Pengolod boosted him over a garden wall.
“I’m sure that Yavanna approves of flowers for a wedding. So remember, if anyone catches us, we’re doing this for a woman,” Pengolod hissed, leaping silently after. “No, none of that one –none from the laurinquë trees. You get the jasmine and I’ll climb up yonder and get some nessamelda.” He stifled his curses when it turned out that the richly fragrant flowers of the nessamelda were guarded by inch-long thorns.
On the wedding morn, Aelfwine admired the garlands they had woven, looking on as the roaster set up in the courtyard. Then he paced about in his finery, all nerves, as his party gathered. The wedding was to be at midday. The wait would have been dull if a messenger had not come by halfway through the morning. “The elf-ship is come to port, my lord. Ciryatan said you wished to be informed, as you are sailing on it today?” the messenger said dubiously, looking at the folk dressed for festival.
Pengolod sighed. “Is it just arrived?” To his relief, the messenger nodded. “They linger until the tide changes. I have until the night. I will see your wedding out as my last deed here, Aelfwine. Don’t go yet, fellow – I have luggage for the boat.” In a great rush, sweating in his green robes, Pengolod saw his luggage down to the ship. He returned to Aelfwine’s with enough time to comb out his hair, don his chaplet of leaves, and join Aelfwine's procession.
The Meneltarma was the hallow of Númenor, and the only one, but Elves and mortals shared the urge to have a place of ceremony near their dwellings. In lost Gondolin, this had been a sacred grove, set within the city’s walls. Rómenna’s accommodation for lesser ceremonies was similar. Use had become custom, and a lovely grove had become something of an orchard-garden, planted to have blooms throughout the seasons. Late-summer flowers arched beneath the yavannamirë trees, their branches bowed beneath their rich scarlet fruits. It had other touches befitting this use, several benches and a handsome sundial. As Aelfwine’s small group entered, a larger wedding party was on their way out.
They had some time to wait in the midst of the garden, where the grass was tamped down. Rothinzil, being the bride, took far longer to get there, as she was obliged to kiss whoever wished it along the way. At last her larger party, loud and merry, arrived. When they did, Eadwine, the groom’s father, took Aelfwine’s crutch, then draped a long garland of oiolaire and fragrant nessamelda about his son’s neck. Aelfwine’s calm, long-faced mother quietly handed her son the garland he would give his bride. When they stepped aside, the silence that Númenoreans linked to sacredness had taken both parties. Rothinzil, being a widow once already, walked across the grassy space alone to Aelfwine. He draped a long garland of nessamelda and late roses over her shoulders, as she lifted her hair to let it fall around her neck. Then, they both looked at Pengolod.
Elvish vows, speaking of marriage for the life of the World, embodied or not, would have been an insult to widowed Rothinzil. Hoping that the new words would suit, Pengolod spoke. First in Sindarin, then in Adûnaic, he said these words:
“Like all in this isle, you stand beloved of the Valar and of Illúvatar, Eru, the one who created that the world would be heard to sing. The chorus of this song, that which links all, is affinity and love. This song it is that has brought you here to be wedded to one another. While you both walk in Arda, love each other truly and deeply, that you do not rue love left unsaid, or loving deeds left undone. Be a mirror for each other’s fairness, as you each deserve; and be the tending hands that give each other daily care, to keep your hearts in tune. Such devotion pleases Eru well, for through it your love becomes a song itself, enduring through high notes and low.”
When he had said this fully, he asked them, “Can you live thusly with each other, and love well together?”
Knotting their fingers together, the pair said, “Yes.”
“Then be you both, Rothinzil and Aelfwine, Aelfwine and Rothinzil, together espoused. Embrace now, and be wedded with a kiss.”
Kiss they did, as a wind took the grove, setting the branches of yavannamirë swaying, and sending up all the bees and butterflies that had drowsed among the blooms. When they separated, Soup brought Aelfwine a fine, small wooden box, holding two bands of gold. Aelfwine showed Rothinzil the elvish engraving inside them before sliding hers onto a finger. She did the same for him, eyes shining with delight and surprise. Pengolod smiled, deeply pleased. Aelfwine had said that no gift was needed between such friends as they. Nonetheless, he had urged Aelfwine to allow him to turn some of his remaining Elvish gold into these rings, with the excuse that, as he had been asked to speak the vows as an Elf, he would not consider it done right if they did not have gold rings to exchange.
With this done, Aelfwine’s mother took something else out of her basket, a document and a pen and ink. On the broad stone of a sundial, before all the wedding-watchers, the new couple signed off on a written vow to share their modest goods. Aelfwine had some savings, and it turned out that Rothinzil had been thrifty with her widow’s portion. The watchers from both parties were visibly eased when this practicality was dispensed, assured that their dear one would be treated fairly. Pengolod thought that the two lovers redeemed this when Aelfwine folded the sheet, kissed it, and offered it to Rothinzil. She kissed it where he had pressed his lips and tucked the sheet into her bosom.
The newlyweds (Aelfwine with his crutch restored to him) led them as they all went together to Aelfwine’s shop, which was now become home for Rothinzil as well. A professional associate of Aelfwine’s said to Pengolod, “Very nice. Very well-spoken. I like an old-fashioned wedding. Do you charge a lot for this?”
“I will wed no more Númenoreans, I fear. I leave for Tol Eresseä tonight.” Quick as a thought could flicker, he added, “I don’t know what Aelfwine charges, though; you could ask.”
Wedding-feasts in Númenor were held where the newlyweds dwelt. The only rule over who might come was that whoever walked under the feast’s garlanded archway was obliged to bring both a house-gift and a feast-gift. The latter was an immediate contribution to the day’s merriment. Aelfwine was surprised at how many of his neighbours walked beneath the garland, bearing wares from their shops to give and food for the feast. Rothinzil’s saucy women friends mingled eagerly with the returned soldiers Aelfwine knew.
The mirth went on until the last of sunset had faded. Gradually, folk left. Soup helped bring the leftover food and drink into the shop. There was so much that the broken meats and half-finished dishes covered the shop’s double counter. Pengolod assumed that they would go down to the shop’s cool cellar, once farewells were said. The first of such was his goodbye to Soup. To give the newlyweds some privacy, Soup would be spending at least one night on Eadwine’s boat.
At last, it was only Pengolod, Aelfwine, and Rothinzil. Standing before them, Pengolod opened his hands. “It is time for me to depart, as well. I am sorrowful, but I am glad to leave you thusly, wedded and happy. Whatever Time does, know this; that the memory of how you are today will live in me, for the life of the World.”
Aelfwine said, quietly, “I will miss you here and now.”
“Will it always be that mortals cannot go to the Elves’ shores?” Rothinzil asked.
Pengolod replied, “If the world changes, perhaps, you might come to Avallonë, or the son and daughter you will have. Name them with your names, that I may know them, should they come.”
Rothinzil gasped, “A son and a daughter? How can you know?”
Pengolod never had a chance to answer. At that instant, outside the shop, there was a familiar din; the distinctly out-of-tune horns and yodels of the Little Court, with cowbells added to rack up the dissonance. He was outraged to see their painted faces pressed grotesque and laughing against the windows’ glass. The core of the racket was the repeated cry, “Taxes for the Little King! Taxes for the Little King!”
Rothinzil murmured something salty and said, “Those stinking mummers! They come around mocking whenever a widow or widower remarries. I’d thought having an Elf around would stop them entirely. My ill luck!”
“At least they ran shy of the wedding itself,” said Aelfwine, patting her consolingly. “We’ve got enough wine left that they’ll be pleased and go soon.” To Pengolod, he added, “This is the one time we can get a word edgewise in to them. You’ll see.”
The noise increased. Rothinzil rearranged her garland and said, haughtily, “Better open the door. They just get louder until you do.”
Pengolod did so, and it was filled entirely with the tall, broad figure of the Little King. “I heard our good Prince was engaged, but wedded so soon? Ciryatan, you must have twisted your foot running to put the garland on your bride.” Behind him, the other mummers yelled out, correcting him, so that he feigned surprise. “What? Aelfwine the bookmaker? You don’t say. Here’s a drone who’s been busy while the other bees went a-stinging! If a man like that, covered in ink and with one foot lasting lame, can get wedded, the rest of you clowns can as well.”
Pengolod recoiled at the words, for something like had been whispered underhand several times that week. Aelfwine retorted, “I’ll write that in my inks and hold you to it, you lime-smeared gulls and the garbage scow you follow! Lame I may be, but if I don’t dance at your weddings, you’ll never hear the last of it.”
With his face rippled around a huge grin, the Little King said, “And how about the little woman, hey? I heard she took a look in at half Kingstown before she took her pick, and that all and sundry had a taste of her muffins. Good muffins, they say. Excellent muffins. Really the best muffins!” He made broad groping gestures, miming around imagined “muffins,” while he went on to add, “Now our baker has turned hostler, it seems. They say no-one manages stallions like a widow! She must know that a lame horse can still be a fine stud – and he won’t go a-roaming to find other mares.”
Rothinzil stamped one foot so hard that her garland fell off one shoulder. “Don’t sass me, you jealous old horrors! Some call you’ve got to come around insulting poor widows when they become new wives. Where’d your other Queens before this one go? You must’ve eaten them to get so fat!”
Pengolod chimed in, “Bees, muffins, horses, what a mess of insults! Sweep it all back to the inn-stables where it belongs. Good King, to give us such nonsense, you’ve fuddled your wits with your own feasting on plump-breasted hens, or maybe green almond sweetmeats. Tell us all, which was it?”
The Little King pretended to stagger. “Verily, ouch. I am not armed, I say, I am not armed against such an assault. Be married and be happy, someone has to, after all. Now that you have my blessing, good people, will you pay your taxes to the Little Court or no?”
Rothinzil pointed to the food. “There it is, you hog, for you and all your swinelets!”
Happily, the mummers streamed in, crowding the shop, and attacked the remaining food and drink. Pengolod met the Little King’s eyes as he rolled through the door. “Is this truly necessary?”
Nûph roared with laughter. “Not for my belly! ‘Tis the custom. The wine looks good, though.” He picked up a pitcher and drank from it directly.
Quietly, Pengolod said, “O King: I found the answer to your question.”
Above the mouth of the jug, Nûph’s brows flew up. “You did?” When Pengolod only nodded, Nûph added shrewdly, “Ah. You found it. But you say not if you will tell me.”
“I have told Aelfwine. It is best that you hear it from him,” said Pengolod.
Nûph was quiet himself before he grinned. “That’s twice as vexing as your feeble insults, elf-man. Between this rabble and the wedding-night, you’ll make me wait a day for it.”
“You and Aelfwine may have more than that to talk about,” said Pengolod.
Nûph waved this off. “If you’re trying to get me to keep an eye on your mate, I’ll do it. Should Ciryatan take a dislike to him, that’ll make looking out for your friend all the more amusing, fear not. So enough of your politicking! No sense of humor, you Elves, that's the problem. I hear you're off. Drink with us one last time!”
Pengolod intended to stay only a moment for that. Then, he fell into a final word with Rothinzil; then, a next-to-final word with Aelfwine, over a second cup of mead. Somehow, he was helping the Little Queen fix her wig’s braids more accurately when guards banged on the door. “Hey there! It’s nearly midnight. There’s working folk dwelling here and they want to sleep. Get out and go home, you clowns!”
Amidst the moans and groans, Pengolod hissed, “I must fly! What if they’re Ciryatan's men – and they see me here?” He dragged at the elbow of the tallest zany. “You, change cloaks with me, quick. They won’t know me, that way.”
“You gotta be drunk. Mine's just sailcloth,” he protested, holding out his arm so that the canvas, the red and yellow of some racing boat, hung down.
Pengolod could only plead, “I have to get out of here so that they don’t know it’s me – if they think I’ve overstayed - don't ask. I beg you!” He undid his fine sage-green cloak, of silk and wool, as he spoke.
“Well, all right. Your loss,” the mummer drawled. When the cloaks were exchanged, he gave Pengolod a wink and put on a loose-limbed stagger, swirling towards the front. “Hey, look at me, everybody! I'm an elvish loremaster!” The Little King roared, as did everyone else, so that the guards hammered again.
“All right, oh, all right!” Nûph groaned. “But I’m bringing my new counsellor with me.” The tall fellow and Nûph went out first, and immediately began to banter with them.
At the back, with Rothinzil by his side, Aelfwine held the other door open. Pengolod slipped over. They stood there and stared at each other for a moment. “I have known the last moment would come for all these days, and it surprises me yet,” said Pengolod.
Aelfwine reached to take his arm, or perhaps Pengolod went to pat his shoulder, and they embraced. Aelfwine said, “I'll write to you soon. I’ll give the letters to the elf-boats.”
Pengolod replied, “Some elf-boats go the other way; I will answer. Fare well, my friend.”
“How can I not, with what I have gained this summer?” Aelfwine said this with a glance for Rothinzil, who had taken his arm. He folded his silk-clad arm around her, tenderly.
Shy at the last, Rothinzil said, “I hope you find - well - whatever it is that would please you.”
Pengolod understood. “Perhaps. I will hope for it. But I must fly to find it. May the stars shine on you ever!”
Pengolod drew up the hood of the mummer’s cloak. Then, he turned and legged it across the courtyard, and ran down the streets to the harbour. He knew the way well enough to dash without glancing through the moonlit night, even when he passed by a pair of guards. When he hit the harbour’s great square, he paused beneath the shadow of Unien’s statue and gasped in relief. The white mast of the elf-boat was still at its quay. He was ready for one last sprint when someone said, “Hey, Longshanks! You, in the motley!”
Pengolod spun about to see a cluster of revellers from a more exalted event. They must have just left one of the great houses on the better side of the square. Some were more in their cups than others. The more sober ones were amused to see their red-faced friend, his rich hat askew, yelling, “You're one of those mummers, the Little Court. Give us a jest then; go on!”
Without thinking, Pengolod said, “Good sir, I've no time. I must run before the elf-boat leaves for Avallonë, if I'm to sail.”
His listener bellowed with surprised, appreciative laughter. “Oh ho, that's a new one,” he chortled.
“It's true! I must!” Pengolod declared.
At this, they all fell about, one or two of them even clapping. The main fellow grinned and said, “You clowns just get better all the time! Here, you've earned it!” After a clumsy grab in his purse, he threw a handful of coins at Pengolod.
Quick as thought, Pengolod caught them all neatly, then twitched back his hood. “Most obliged, sir,” he said. With an artistic bow and flourish, he fled, leaving them gasping.
He sped across the square, through the elegant quay, up the plank, and onto the deck of the elf-boat, to reel there breathless. “Made it!” he gasped.
Cool in their surprise, the elf-crew looked at him. The captain cleared his throat. Eyeing the sailcloth cloak, then deciding to ignore it, he said, “Pengolod of Lindon, now that you are here, we sail. Your luggage is battened by your berth. You may go below, if you wish it.”
Pengolod murmured, “Once we sail...”
He drifted to the railing when the boat’s moorings were loosed. His heart slowed to its normal pace as he felt the familiar, Elvish company and Elvish language, settle around him. As the journey began, he pocketed the coins, then stood where he could see the city and its lights, until Rómenna was receding, lost to the night, behind the warding island of Tol Uinen. The light of the tower there, the Calmindon, was the last sign of Rómenna to be seen.
When its light had gone, the elf-captain came to Pengolod. With the faintest hint of offended dignity, he noted, “There was no need to run. We were waiting for you.”
Pengolod could not have said, himself, why this made him laugh, instead of weep.
On Tol Eressea, in his study, Pengolod let the coins slide from his fingers, letting them jingle down into their bowl. He tapped his fingers on the burled wood of his work-table. He had ceased to long for Middle-Earth the moment he stepped on the quay of Tol Eressëa. Something about the place immediately resonated through his being, like a fair note of music, or the paths of childhood and their remembered beauty, renewed without diminishment or regret. There had been pleasures both gentle and vivid to follow, and reunions unimagined. But hearing of a mortal come to the shores of Elvenhome after so long stirred up his profound curiosity once more. Where were they, with that mortal? By now Pengolod was aching to have his story, to find out how Middle-Earth had changed since the last Elf had come to the isle.
Restless in his impatience, he opened a low drawer and flicked through some papers, without reading them. He remembered their contents well enough. There were letters from Aelfwine, describing the births and advancements of his son, Eadwine, and daughter Vingilot; a few missives from Aerlinion, when he had been in Rómenna between sailor’s ventures; then letters from Aerlinion and Vingilot together, chronicling their own fortunes and how Eadwine's fair face had won him a wondrous marriage. Their own son (named Aelfwine again) had let the correspondence lapse. Pengolod had been only a name to him, and times had changed in Númenor. It was out of fashion, at the end of Ciryatan’s reign, for a mortal to be an Elf-Friend.
Pengolod had not taken it ill. Indeed, he had wondered, upon hearing in Númenor’s darker years that Rómenna was become the haven of those faithful to Illuvatar and the Elves. Perhaps this was the echo of his long-past friendship, there, or maybe it meant that it was the Elf-Friends now who, unwelcome at the court and exiled from their lands in Andúnië, took refuge in the neighbourhood of Kingstown, amongst the wanderers and the poor-favoured and the earthy tricksters. Pengolod had hoped against hope that his friend’s distant scions had not been corrupted by Númenor’s later evils, but been amongst the Faithful who escaped the island’s terrible end.
He himself had written of it, and tried to evoke the richness of what had been lost to evil: and Númenor went down into the sea, with all its children and its wives and its maidens and its ladies proud; and all its gardens and its halls and its towers, its tombs and its riches, and its jewels and its webs and its things painted and carven, and its lore; they vanished for ever.
Pengolod opened a window and called. A bright-eyed magpie fluttered down. Pointing an ink-stained finger at the bird, he said, “Go home, and say this: Pengolod will be late returning; strange matters are afoot.” The bird hopped and repeated this, with a mocking lilt, then tilted its head expectantly. “You’ll get something for it when you get there,” Pengolod replied. The bird clicked its beak and was off, just as Pengolod heard a tread draw near. It was a heavy tread, the kind he had heard but rarely in the Elvish city. He was ready when the door opened.
Or so he thought. The mortal who walked in was nothing like the friends he had been remembering. He was harder, warier, visibly worn by a hard journey, glancing about as if he expected the stones of Tavrobel to melt away like a dream. His grey eyes were set deep and glinting in his tanned sailor’s face, and grey streaked his brown hair. Warily, he glanced back at the elf who had guided him, and came into the study only when gestures urged him. This stranger bowed to Pengolod, then looked around. His look lingered on one wall, where a tattered cloak in yellow and red sailcloth was hung like a banner. This mummer’s cloak was all that remained of the fleets of Númenor.
“Greetings. What is your name?” Pengolod asked, clearly. The mortal stepped back, and looked at his guide for cues. Seeing that he really was without any elf-language, Pengolod started at the beginning. He placed his ink-marred hand on his own chest and named himself, then made an open gesture towards the mortal.
Still grave, the mortal set his sun-browned hand on his own chest and said his own name. Pengolod smiled. It had been long since a new language had come to his ears. When the mortal smiled in reply, then, at last, Pengolod felt something familiar about him. He gestured invitingly to the room’s broad, cushioned window-seat. Gingerly, the mortal sat down.
Pengolod turned to the guide and nodded. “You can go. I think we will be some time.” Even the basics between two intelligent folk took some work, at the beginning; the names of things, then grammar and actions. And, perhaps, Pengolod would learn if the mortal’s name meant something he would recognize. He had a feeling that it might.
Pengolod's section about Númenor that is italicized in the Epilogue is quoted directly from the Alkallabeth in the Silmarillion.
Please do not reproduce or repost this story without permission from the author. First posted April 22, 2005.
Feedback or comments on this story are welcome - email Tyellas here.
Magweth Pengolodh Sections