WRITING FOR A CHANGE 15

More fanfic; this time complete with Frame, the setting being the Library of Imladris from my days as a virtual, RP librarian. (lotrplaza.com)

Tiny bit twee, but there you go;

I, Saranna of Imladris, transcribe here a tale that I found written, in an antique hand, upon several frail sheets of parchment of great age. They were lying amid other ancient scrolls and volumes in a dusty cupboard in a forgotten corner of the library of Elrond, where Serveanthesia and I went one day to clean and tidy.
We agreed that it should be shown to Master Elrond and Lord Glorfindel, who received us graciously and bade us rest while they studied our find. Honey-cakes and wine were brought to us, and we sat in silence, feeling a little self-conscious and very dusty, while the Waters of Bruinen roared outside the window and the two Lords pored seriously over the sheets, handling them with great care.
At last they looked up at us. “This is a find of great importance,” Master Elrond declared. “It confirms a rumour that I heard long ago, from Cirdan of the Havens, and so I have reason to believe the tale it recounts. Of your courtesy, Lady Saranna, do you make a fair copy on fresh new parchment, and then would you, Lady Serveanthesia, work at the restoring and preservation of these sheets; for this may be the only written record – written by I know not who – of the Last Two Istari.”
Serveanthesia and I curtsied, set down our goblets, received the sheets with care, and retreated. Now I have made my copy, and my dear colleague is working with all her skill on the preservation of the treasure. So now the tale may be seen by all here in the Library at Imladris. It is called

Better late

Cirdan the shipwright stood, tall and straight as a carven pillar in the halls of Manwe. His right hand was raised in farewell as he watched the traveller moving slowly away into the east, leaning upon a staff and picking his way cautiously like one who had never before trodden the green earth. As well he might, the elf-lord reflected, and so did his brethren before him. He counted them over once more, naming them in his mind as if sending after them a blessing and hope for their success. Curumo, Olorin, Aiwendel, Alatar, Pallando – five Istari from beyond the sea. Then something tugged at his memory. Five? But did not Lord Ossë speak to me – of seven?
The last Istar was out of sight now, and Cirdan turned back to his dwelling and his work. Not for many of the speeding years of Middle Earth did the matter came back to his mind. He thought often of the Istari, whom men now called Wizards, but his mind ran chiefly on the one called Olorin, the last-comer, he who bore now in secret the Ring Narya. Cirdan would shake his head as he thought of the troubles and sorrows that might lie before this great one.
After this long passage of time, when Middle Earth lay under an uneasy peace and the shadow had not yet reformed in Dol Guldur, Cirdan was seated at his ease one day upon the green slopes above the cliffs that framed the Havens. He gazed out toward the west, and took simple delight in the loveliness of sea and sky. His reverie was broken at length by the sound of a mighty cry.
“Master Elf! Cirdan!”
Master elf, indeed! Frowning, the ancient elf-lord arose, and peered over the edge of the cliff. There, seated upon a fair-sized island as comfortably as one of the Eldar might have rested upon a stool, was a familiar figure. Putting aside his resentment at being so casually named, Cirdan bowed respectfully, and said, “Welcome, thrice welcome, Lord Ossë” – for it was indeed the Maia. Vast and wild he was, shimmering blue and green as the seas he loved, and he smiled at Cirdan.
“Time and tides have brought me to you again, old friend. How goes the world with you? What news here on the shores of Middle Earth?”
Cirdan opened his mouth to answer, but from the recesses of his memory came other words, unbidden. “Master – what became of the last two Istari?”
The effect of his words was greater than he could have dreamed. Never did he expect to see, upon the face of one of the great ones, the servant of Ulmo, a look of stupefaction. “Oh!” said Ossë. “Oh.” And with a mighty flick and a huge splash, he was gone. It was long before Cirdan saw him again.

Along the strand of Ilmarin, two figures wandered. “Olgarnon,” said one, “how much longer do you suppose we must wait? Though Time passes not here, I sense that far across the seas, in mortal lands, there are great deeds awakening. When shall we be called to play our part?”
“I do not know, Panortir. But we must await the commands of our Lord Ossë”
The two meandered on, looking out across the sea to the lights that twinkled upon the Lonely Isle. They spoke of the long suffering of the Eldar, and touched yet again upon when they would be sent to play their part in the healing of Middle Earth. Suddenly their shared reverie was broken by a great wave that surged over the sparkling shore and washed about their feet. They retreated hastily up the beach, and not a moment too soon as it proved. With a great slither and shlurp, the normally imposing figure of Ossë came ploughing up out of the waters, to land in an undignified heap at the feet of his two servants.
“Oh – there you are – thank goodness. Quickly now, upon my back, or we shall be too late for the work you have to do.” Clumsily the two Istari scrabbled up and clung as best they might to the slippery back of their Lord. Back into the sea he sploshed, and headed East as if the Great Enemy himself were in pursuit.
Olgarnon struggled for a while to retain his elegant pointed hat, but lost it before they had passed Tol Errësea. He ventured to address Ossë. “My Lord, why such haste? We are glad (here Panortir nodded) that at last we may carry out our service; yet this tumultuous journey is not quite what we had expected.”
Ossë blushed a vivid deep aquamarine. Indeed, he mumbled, and the Istari had to ask him to repeat his words. “Time, Time,” he said, “Time may be the ruin of all. For it fleets and it flows in mortal lands, and oh, my brave ones, I fear too much of it may have passed before I bring you there!”

After a wet and uncomfortable journey –but they felt it would be rude to complain – Panortir and Olgarnon at last descried ahead a towering cliff, and could hear the cries of seabirds that swirled about them. “Are those the Grey Havens ahead, Lord?” asked Panortir. Ossë’s reply puzzled him.
“I do hope so – but who knows what may have happened by now? I fear we have gone adrift among the Enchanted Isles.”
At length they were passing up an inlet out of the open sea, between cliffs topped with rolling green hills. They looked about expectantly for elegant elven buildings, and were taken aback when Ossë emitted a great fishy groan. “Too late, too late,” he moaned, and flung them off his back onto a small stone jetty, not at all as elegant as they had expected. “We must decide quickly,” he said. “For I have delayed too long, and the world you were to serve has rolled away into the mists of history. Here, now, things are quite different.”
“But do Mortals and Elves still need our help, my Lord?” Olgarnon asked.
“Oh indeed – they always shall – but whether you will find any Elves now is another question. I must away before anyone sees me – so you will have to decide, quite without knowledge of the world I leave you in, whether it is your wish to stay. If I find my way back to where and when I should be, it will be beyond even my powers to come to you again.”
Panortir and Olgarnon looked at each other. Then they turned back to Ossë. “We will stay, my Lord,” said Panortir. “We will learn what needs this world has now, and walk among the people, and help them.”
“Well done,” said Ossë. “May the Valar protect you always.” And he was gone, leaving the last two Istari standing uncomprehendingly upon the shores of Cornwall in the 21st century of an age quite other than that they had expected.

The two friends turned away from the sea and began to walk along a track that led up over the green hills. As they went they passed one Mortal, but he cast only a cursory glance at them and did not speak. Panortir wondered greatly at the plugs that the mortal wore in his ears, and the strings that dangled from it and went into his pocket. “Did you hear a strange sound, as of dimly-heard song, coming from that person?” he asked Olgarnon. But they could make nothing of it. At length they came down the far side of the hill into a settlement, cottages and houses built along the side of a stream that flowed down to join the inlet of the sea. Upon some of the buildings words were written, and it was fortunate indeed that the Istari chosen to help with the troubles of Middle Earth, had been gifted with the knowledge of all tongues, and of all possible tongues. They read the writings aloud to each other, but could not be certain of their meaning. “Museum of Witchcraft”, “Home-made pasties”, “Fresh Cream Daily”, “Ye Olde Tea Shoppe”. At last came a word that they knew, inscribed upon the door of a tiny cottage – Rivendell. But it did not resemble the Last Homely House as it had been described to them. Olgarnon had noticed something else. Outside each house there stood a metal container of huge size, large enough to hold several persons – indeed, through the windows that lined the sides of each of them, he could descry seats. Each container sat upon four wheels constructed of a substance novel to him. And each stank hideously. “Are these objects the work of the Dark Lord?” he asked Panortir. But before the other Istar could answer, the door of the nearest dwelling opened, and the two shrank back into the shadow of the next building. They felt instinctively that they needed to know more before revealing themselves. A person came out of the door, and walked toward the metal container. Pointing one hand at it, she caused a bleeping sound and a simultaneous flashing of lights, lights of a deep amber colour, at the corners of the container. “Magic” hissed Panortir, but Olgarnon motioned him to silence. They watched in horror as the person opened a concealed entrance in the side of the container, and climbed in. After some moments, a noise like the yelling of an orc-horde arose from the container, and it began to move. It roared away from them along a smooth road, over a bridge and out of sight. “Angband work!” snarled Olgarnon, but received no answer. Turning, he saw that Panortir had swooned and was lying at full length upon the ground. As he wondered what to do, a voice came from above him, and he looked up to see a woman beaming kindly at him through an upper window.
“Need any help, me ‘ansum?” she enquired in an outlandish accent. Olgarnon nodded dumbly, and before he knew it she had emerged from her house, helped him to raise up the insensible Panortir, and led them both inside. The two Istari sat dumbly side by side on a comfortable couch, while their rescuer disappeared into a smaller chamber, muttering something about, “A nice cuppa and a slice or two o’ saffron cake and cream.” She reappeared in no time, bearing a huge tray, and the smells that came from that tray were a great improvement upon those that had issued from the metal container. The Wizards sat up and began to feel – – yes, this must be hunger, each realised simultaneously. Here in Middle Earth, they were subject to the needs of their mortal incarnations. They said very little to their hostess while they munched their way through several slices each of cream-slathered cake, and drank many cups of tea.
“Well, now, I do love to see folk enjoy their food,” beamed the lady. “I don’t recall to have seen you about here before, were you looking for the Folk Festival, for you’m certainly dressed for it me dears, ’tis over to Tintagel not here in Boscastle, do ‘ee see?”
Panortir was gazing in silent fascination as she talked – he had just realised that this was his first sight of someone old. Olgarnon endeavoured to take up the conversation, determining to feel his way until he could see what sort of world they had landed in. “Yes, that is it,” he said, “we took a wrong turning and found ourselves here in your charming village; and my friend was weary, and hungry, so I am indeed grateful for your kindness, madam, in succouring us.”
“How old-fashioned you do talk! Mind, I like that, and I daresay it fits in well with these folk and myth shenanigans over to Tintagel. If you would like, I can give you a lift there, ‘twould be no trouble.”
“A lift?” wondered Olgarnon.

Twenty minutes later the two Istari were clinging desperately to one another in the wide rear seat of one of the snorting wheeled containers. In the front seat, the lady wielded an incomprehensible array of implements that were somehow fastened into the inner surface of the device. Panortir was near-hysterical, and Olgarnon was beginning to wish they had taken up Ossë’s implied offer of a return to Aman. At last their well-meaning friend swung the circular device sharply round, and the container plunged into a wide green field, bordered with ancient hedges, and filled with a huge throng of people. “Yer ‘tiz!” she announced cheerfully. The Istari scrambled thankfully out of the box, and Olgarnon managed to remember his manners sufficiently to thank her. Then he leapt back in terror as the metal contraption began to move again, swung itself about in a series of leaps and jerks, and carried their benefactress away. Panortir grabbed Olgarnon’s arm, whispering, “Brother, brother, what dreadful place is this?”
The other Istar looked around. In truth, the surroundings looked less fearsome than he had expected. There was a loud and inexplicable noise filling the air, not unlike a greatly magnified version of the sound that had apparently emerged from their first Mortal that morning. Yet the booths that filled the field, draped in cloths and coverings of many hues, and the folk who moved about the place, seemed cheerful and welcoming enough. As the pair stood staring, one of the Mortals came up to them, a young woman dressed in a flowing green gown, who smiled at them. “Hey guys, how’s it going?”
Panortir looked over his shoulder in the direction taking by the roaring container. “It has gone,” he replied thankfully. But the young woman was now seizing each of them by the elbow, and dragging them further into the field. “You’ll be wanting the Wiccan stall, I can see. Cool costumes, fellas, anyone would think you were real wizards, ha, ha!” Panortir opened his mouth to reply, but a sharp look from Olgarnon made him close it again. He looked ahead and saw a large group of men and women, dressed in garments very similar to those he and his brother had acquired once designated Istari, who were all gathered in a circle and chanting.
“Hey, here’s two more for you – don’t conjure anything I wouldn’t!” and their guide was off and away at once. Kindly faces turned to the newcomers, and one large red-faced fellow came and embraced them both. He wore a tall pointed hat decorated with stars, and pinned to the front of his robe was a large shiny brooch proclaiming “Gandalf Lives!” Thank the Valar for that, at least, thought Olgarnon. Their new friends drew them into the circle and began the chant again. They also passed around large mugs of some foaming beverage, which the two wizards greatly enjoyed. After they had had several of these tankards, things began to seem hazy to them, and eventually they lost all track of what was going on. By the time the stars were opening in the darkening sky, both Istari were snoring gently on a heap of straw behind the stall. The Wiccan gathering kindly slipped away without disturbing them.

Olgarnon awoke with a dreadful pain in his head, and found Panortir still asleep beside him. It was morning, and the field was empty. White clouds scudded across a bright blue sky, but Olgarnon found it was rather unpleasant to look up into the brightness. Just as he discovered this, Panortir sat up suddenly beside him, and moaned. “Oh – oh my head! Brother, what is wrong with my head?”
“I do not know, Panortir, but I can assure you that something equally unpleasant is wrong with mine.”
“What shall we do, brother? Where are we to go? And whom are we to help?”
“Pssssst!” Both the wizards jumped at this sound. They looked around, but could not see where it came from. “Pssssst! Over here.”
Under the hedge that bordered the field, a diminutive figure crouched, and was urgently beckoning them to come over to it. They arose cautiously, and staggered to its side. It stood no more than 2 feet high, and was dressed in a rather brightly-green set of doublet and hose. Its elegant ears were delicately pointed and its hair plaited about its face.
“Who are you,” asked Panortir, “are you an Elf-child?”
The being snorted. When it spoke, its voice was a curious blend of the musical speech of the Eldar, and the cosy chat of the tea-and-cake lady. “Child, indeed. I be dwindled, b’ain’t I? Dwindled to a rustic folk, and never an Istar have I see these thousands of years, my masters. Be you come to take us oversea, back to Elvenhome as we still recalls?”
Olgarnon noted the wistful sound behind the surface bravado in the small being’s voice. He spoke gently.
“Master Elf, for so I deem you to be, I fear that it is not within our power to carry you hence. The Havens are no more, and we two are adrift in this land as are you. Did I hear you say ‘we’?”
The small Elf nodded. “There be some few of us still, a-hiding from the mortals who refuse to believe in us – and hence comes our littleness, so I do believe. If’n no-one never looks at you, you tends to become smaller.”
Upon hearing this sad notion, Panortir spoke up. “What can you mean, Master Elf? How can it matter who ‘believes in’ you? You are of the Eldar, though small in stature, and are due the honour and respect of mortals.”
The small one stared up at him for a moment, and his voice broke as he replied, “They calls us – us, that once walked with heroes and kings – they calls us “Piskeys”!”
The two Istari were deeply shocked. Neither could speak for a moment, but then Olgarnon asked, “What is your name, Sir Elf?”
“I am Garen, and I come of the house of Finrod, so I do, though none be left to believe it!”
“Then of your courtesy, Garen of the House of Finrod, do you lead us to the dwellings of your kind. For I think, once we have talked and learned from one another, that my Brother Istar and I may have found our calling.”

And so it came to pass that in the popular tourist site of Tintagel, a new emporium was shortly opened, run by two gentlemen of respectable appearance, whose garments tended towards the opulent but could never quite be called eccentric. Their establishment was called The true elf-lore – and many came to purchase their volumes of tales, elegant sculptures and models, and stunning pictures, all revealing the true glory and splendour of the lineage of the Eldar. And so as many years rolled by, it came to pass that more and more who learned of them would exclaim, “I believe it all, I know it is true!” And the hearts of the two respectable gentlemen were glad. Why, when Garen and his kin came to visit, they were so tall as to pass with ease along the streets of the mortal town, and all looked at them and greeted them pleasantly. And the blessing of their presence was felt again along the Western Shores of Middle Earth.

Here ends this strange, almost incomprehensible tale. It may be that the Lords of Imladris understand more of it than I – and of course they are right in their command that it be preserved for all to learn from it. But who wrote it down? And what does it mean? I, Saranna, cannot tell.

odin-the-wanderer-by-georg-von-rosen-1886

 

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