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In The Winter Garden

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This story is No. 6 in the series "Return of The Key.". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Returnverse story. Something very strange is happening in Éowyn's garden - could Dawn/Tindómë be the key to the mystery...?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Lord of the Rings > Dawn-Centered(Recent Donor)curiouslywombatFR13921,5535338,51920 Aug 1017 Sep 10Yes

West Over Water

The poor little thing looked very frightened. Not surprising, Éowyn thought; if she’d been lost for days when she was that size, been rescued by Riders she didn’t know, and taken, not to a farmstead, but to Lothlorien, she’d have been just as scared.

She chased everyone away and tried not to be upset when the elfling shied away from her, too, but went to Orophin without complaint.

Tindómë and Haldirin arrived and the presence of the other elfling, and his mother, seemed to reassure the recently rescued little one. Tindómë spoke rapidly in Sindarin; Éowyn recognised a few words, and wasn’t surprised when Tindómë turned to her and said, “Orophin will bring him to our rooms – and I will give him a bath!”

Legolas took the horses, to walk them to the stables, but didn’t object when Éowyn waved forward a couple of grooms. Instead he joined her for refreshments and told her a little more about the elfling they had found.

“His grandmother,” he said, “was very desperate. For them to travel without a larger party, just avoiding all non-elvish settlements, to get to The Havens, speaks volumes. To lose Tharhîwon as he searched for berries must have been heartbreaking; stay, and risk her daughter fading before they got to The Havens, or leave the elfling and hope for assistance…”

Éowyn vaguely understood the concept of the immortal elves dying by ‘fading’ - but she still wondered how anyone could leave a child and hope for the kindness of strangers… elves were different.

“We really did not expect to find him where we did,” Legolas continued. “Either he had walked a good distance, in the wrong direction, or his grandmother was wrong about where they were. However, he is here, and he is safe. I will ride to Eryn Ithil myself, to call off the search, as he seems to have attached himself to Orophin. I will go up and say my farewells.”

Éowyn arranged for someone to find clothes that might fit the elfling (Thar-something? She wished they had simpler names, sometimes…) and then went up to Tindómë and Rumil’s suite.

Rumil opened the door. Beyond him, from the bathing room, came the sound of splashing and laughter.

“Come in,” he said, with a slight smile, “Tharhîwon is already less frightened.”

“And cleaner…” Orophin added, as he came out of the bathing room.

She handed over the clothes and waited, with the two brothers, until Tindómë emerged with the two elflings. Thar… Tharwon… certainly looked very different in clean, un-torn, clothes with his hair combed sleekly down his back.

He held back, behind Tindómë, when he noticed Éowyn; Haldirin, however, came over and hugged Éowyn – much to her surprise, as he had never done so before! Then he turned, spoke to the other elfling, and Éowyn realised he was reassuring his new friend that Éowyn, too, was a friend. She felt a lump in her throat.

“If you don’t mind,” Tindómë said, “I think it might be best if we take Tharhîwon to Eryn Ithil in a day or two, and then come back for Haldirin’s puppy.”

Éowyn understood, of course, and said so. The visit of the elven family had been restfully uneventful (until today!); she appreciated their slow pace of life but she had had, truth to tell, enough long days in which nothing happened for now. Faramir and their eldest daughter would soon be home from Minas Tirith, the other three not long after; life would be back to its usual, more hectic, rhythm. She looked forward to it.

……………………………………………………

Éowyn had, clearly, believed his story of the desperate grandmother and fading mother. Better that than her realising the little figure was an elfling who had been dead for many mortal lifetimes and haunting her gardens!

As there was, of course, no hunt to call off in Eryn Ithil, Legolas simply spoke to those who needed to know about Tharhîwon before Rumil and Tindómë brought him home. Rumil would see that Lord Celeborn knew the elfling was now free of the Winter Garden and able to travel to The Havens with the party from East Lorien.

He envied Tharhîwon. Soon the elfling would be on the great ocean, following the straight path; he would see the Undying Lands before the winter… Surely there must also be family waiting for the little one, or the Valar would not have chosen this route for him? When Legolas sailed (as he knew he would; he could feel the sea calling him, even here), he would be leaving his family behind.

The thought ‘Maybe Naneth…’ started to form. He squashed it down.

‘But if she had remained Houseless, surely Adar would…’ He squashed that, too, and strode firmly off to find Eldroth, his Marchwarden.

……………………………………………………

It was lovely to have Sam, Merry, and Pippin visiting Eryn Ithil, as well as Gimli. Legolas had ensured that there was suitable furniture and even Sam had agreed that there was plenty of good food.

Gimli had been told the whole story of the Winter Elfling, and had been introduced to Tharhîwon who he had declared, in his guttural Sindarin, to be a good, strong, young elf.

The hobbits, though, were given a slightly edited version; Gimli had agreed with Legolas that hobbits had a fear of ghosts, even though they told excellent ghost stories – possibly why they told excellent ghost stories… They may have treated him differently had they know all about him.

Both Tharhîwon and Haldirin loved to be with the hobbits even though they had very little language in common. They clearly understood that the hobbits were not elflings, but fully grown, and treated them with respect. The hobbits, for their part, treated the elflings as they would young hobbits.

More than once Tindómë found Haldirin and Pippin, lying on the riverbank together fishing for trout, whilst Tharhîwon helped Sam and Merry collect mushrooms.

It was an idyllic interlude, really. Tharhîwon gained in confidence, put on a little weight, and seemed more and more part of the family…

Almost every day Legolas reminded Tindómë that Lord Celeborn would soon arrive; Tharhîwon would travel, then, to East Lorien and thence to The Havens and Aman. Almost every night, Rumil reminded her of the same thing. In between times Orophin and Lithôniel reminded her of it as well.

All too soon Lord Celeborn arrived. He would stay only a week, to allow Tharhîwon to get to know him a little, and then take the elfling to East Lorien. The party heading to The Havens would leave very soon after that.

Tindómë tried to make it all sound like a wonderful adventure to Tharhîwon. She explained to him about the grey ship and told him that, even if his Nana and Ada were not right there to greet him, Lady Galadriel would look after him. She looked amongst Rumil’s pictures for one of a ship, of Lady Galadriel, and then, at Gimli’s suggestion, pictures of Frodo, too.

The elfling was most impressed, it seemed, to think there would be a hobbit where he was going!

When Sam realised that Tharhîwon was to travel with some of Lord Celeborn’s people to The Undying Lands he asked Rumil to draw a picture of the three hobbits together. Rumil showed him those already drawn – he had been a step ahead.

Sam, and the other two, penned long letters to go with the pictures. They were packed into the elfling’s bags along with pictures of all his friends, the horse Orophin had made him that first day in Ithilien, and a blanket Tindómë knitted for him.

The last time she tucked the two elflings into bed together, and sang a song of roads and star-shine, Tindómë wanted to cry.

“We will see him again, meleth,” Rumil said, softly, as he stood behind her, “and he will not forget us, I promise.”

“I know,” she answered and, next morning, she waved him off with a smile.

Only Rumil knew for sure how many nights it took before she no longer cried as she looked at Haldirin, asleep, alone.

……………………………………………………



Epilogue... some time later...

The great wooden ship sailed through thinning morning mist; all those on board somehow aware that they were almost at the end of the voyage.

Legolas had built this ship – not single handed, of course, but he had set into motion the harvesting and seasoning of the timber and arranged for one of Cirdan’s shipwrights to come, when it was time, to oversee the work so that the exodus from Eryn Ithil would not overburden those still at The Havens. On board were almost a hundred elves, one dwarf… and The Key.

The building of the ship, the tears and farewells, are for another story – now we join those on board as the mist lifts and land comes into sight, closer than expected.

One passenger had half expected to see a large statue with a torch held up in one hand but, instead, there were white buildings catching the sunshine. Two small boats came out to greet them and guide the large vessel to the quay. A quay where many elves gazed up, seeking out faces in the crowd on the ship; just as those on the ship scanned the crowd, hoping against hope to see a remembered face looking back at them.

Soon elves were coming up the gangplanks, others going down the gangplanks - surrounded by reunions, Tindómë was suddenly caught up in an unexpected embrace.

“Gandalf!”

She hadn’t been sure if the Maia would be there and, if he was, if he would look totally different, but he was just as she remembered – only looking much less tired.

“There is someone who is waiting quietly to greet you.” He waved an arm and she was suddenly aware of a small group, a little way off, which already included Legolas and Gimli.

Gandalf propelled her, and Haldirin who he seemed to have spirited away from his father and sister, through the crowd which parted in front of them. Gimli was embracing, not Lady Galadriel (so, she’d lost that bet then… Tindómë thought), but a grey haired hobbit – Sam Gamgee!

Beside him Legolas had clasped a slighter figure – it could only be Frodo.

Gandalf, seeing her surprise, spoke quietly, “They age more slowly here – both are elderly, but have been awaiting Legolas and Gimli… However…”

His gaze travelled past them to a tall figure behind them. The dark haired elf took a few steps forward and looked at her, smiling.

“Someone else,” Gandalf finished, “has been waiting for you.”

Immediately, she knew him; but not his name, now, or why he was with the hobbits. Even so, she opened her arms and he came into her embrace.

Tindómë held the ellon away from her and looked him up and down.

“You do your parents proud,” she said. “What should I call you now?”

“Tharhîwon,” he answered. “Tharhîwon Baggins at your service!”

She shook her head; surely she had misheard.

“Correctly, it should be Tharhîwon Frodoion but my Adar and my uncle think plain Baggins is better,” he said, smiling at her confusion.

Before she could say anything more, he turned to Haldirin and greeted him by name.

As the two young ellyn talked, Gandalf explained.

“We think his parents must have remained in Arda, Houseless, but unable to rejoin him – perhaps they were taken captive and died far away from him. Even Lord Namo does not know for sure. But my Lady Nienna knew the elfling needed love, and also that Frodo needed someone to care for, a family. Bilbo tried to remain but he was very, very old. She feared that Frodo would have nothing to live for – a hobbit needs a family.

“Of course Tharhîwon has grown up surrounded by elves – he does not lack elven influence. I think Elrond and Celebrian treat him as they would have done Arwen’s children. But Frodo gave him all the love of a parent, just as Bilbo did for him – and it was returned. When you used The Key to free Tharhîwon, you also gave purpose to Frodo. For this, many, many of us, are very grateful.”

Tindómë thought back to that summer; how she had wanted to keep Tharhîwon with her and Rumil. If she had realised that he wouldn’t find his family in Valinor…

Then Frodo turned to her, his eyes alight with welcome.

“Tindómë! I hoped that you would come with Legolas and Gimli. I have waited for so many years to thank you for the gift you gave me, even though there are no words sufficient…”

His son’s gaze followed the elderly hobbit as he covered the distance between them, and Tindómë knew that the Winter Elfling had found his family; a family as unusual as he was himself.



The end


…………………………………
The BtVS characters do not belong to me, but are used for amusement only. All rights remain the property of Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, and the original TV companies. The same is true of the LotR characters for whom all rights remain the property of the estate of JRR Tolkien and the companies responsible for the production of the films.

The End

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