Chapter Written by Elfhild
The golden rays of the sun swept across the courtyard, reflecting off the blue waters of the pool and dancing upon the lawn, its grass as lush and green as the emerald fields of EmeriŽ. The fountain in the center of the pool sent up streams which splashed downward, making tinkling sounds upon the surface of the water. Its perimeter was surrounded by clusters of flowers; orange and white lilies stood proudly upon tall stems, their stately figures overshadowing smaller flowers of many colors, and the bud-laden stalks of roses drooped low and touched the peaceful water, their blossoms playfully dancing upon bright green water lily pads. The sounds of the city were muffled by the high white walls, the brilliance of the pale stone muted by ivy and climbing roses which trailed ever upward.
The courtyard was vast and spacious, shaded by oak, beech, willows and evergreen trees and dotted with shrubs, such as juniper, jasmine and myrtle, and colorful, fragrant beds of flowers. There were exotic plants from the East and South of Middle-earth and the glimmering white blossoms of Niphredil and the golden stars of Elanor from the Elvish lands. In the spring would bloom bright daffodils, hyacinths of misty blues, pinks and purples, snowdrops, bluebells, the yellow buds of celandine, colorful bell-shaped alfirin and mallos of gold and white; in the summer the gardens would explode into brilliance as roses, snapdragons, marigolds, poppies, hollyhocks, asters, daises and many other flowers burst into bloom. Always were there herbs, such as yarrow, altheas, lavender, marjoram, parsley, sage, and thyme; some for cooking, others for healing.
The muted sounds of servants quietly going about their tasks this day in the early summer were caught in the confines of the closed courtyard, giving all a feeling of safety and security inside this place of great beauty. Upon the porch connecting to the palace, several cats were basking in the light of the sun, delighting in the heat that radiated from the stone. Beneath the portico upon the milky marble walkway, Princess IzrÍphel and her friends chattered as they dressed their dolls in royal robes of kings and queens. One of the cats had given birth a few weeks before, and some of the children played with the blue-eyed kittens. The mother cat, cleaning herself beside a large potted plant, cast protective glances, her yellow eyes gleaming, towards her young every now and then.
The lush, sweet smell of roses clung to the air as Lady PharazanÓ sat on the edge of the pool looking down at her reflection, which moved slightly in the ripples caused by the fountain. The fair face of young maiden with flowers and pearls entwined in her hair and a golden circlet about her head stared back at her, belying her great age. A soft breeze was blowing from the east, sending the long, lissome branches of the willow fluttering outward, bathing the lady in soft, ever-changing shadows. Gazing down at the water with half-closed eyes and a serene expression upon her face, she idly swirled her fingers about in the pool, mesmerized by the faint ripples caused by the graceful movements of her hand.
A clear musical voice rang out in the muffled din about her, and she looked up from her silent reverie. A procession of folk in fine raiment had just walked out of the palace, an ornate building of white stone with gold adornments around the columns and eaves, and stepped inside the portico. Lady PharazanÓ watched as Princess IzrÍphel, her great-granddaughter, rushed to her feet and bounded over to welcome the visitors with the bubbling joy and exuberance of youth.
A smile upon her delicate face, Lady PharazanÓ rose to her feet and elegantly moved over the cool grass in graceful steps on sandaled feet like a western mist which passed from the Blessed Realm over the many long leagues of the great sea. The breeze gently played with the finely woven cloth of her gown, and as she walked, she was as a shimmering figure of white and blue, the sun gleaming upon the intertwining gold and silver embroidery that adorned the draping edges of her dress. Her beauty was almost ethereal in the dancing sunlight, and perhaps one might think she was an Elven queen from the Lonely Isle who set sail from AvallůnŽ to visit this land of Men and gaze in awe at its splendor.
The little princess hovered around the visitors, talking and giggling in excited tones, showering her attention upon one in especial: a finely dressed noblewoman of gentle and dignified bearing, a lady of great beauty, youth and charm, yet possessing years long past the lives of common Men. Lady PharazanÓ quickened her steps, her smile growing wider, and upon meeting, the two women embraced each other tightly, delighting in the comforting presence of a beloved friend. It had been quite some time since either had sojourned with the other and talked with friend and acquaintance in their great feasting halls, listening to tale and song as they drank of the sweetest wines or honeyed meads, laughing or crying or making merry. Separating from the visiting noblewoman, Lady PharazanÓ greeted the rest of her guests with tears of joy in her eyes, for the world felt new, but yet old, and the courtyard was filled with wonder and gladness and the melody of many birds.
After welcoming and tending to the needs of all, the two ladies and Princess IzrÍphel retreated to a stone bench beneath the shade of the willow, sitting together and talking of old times as the little maid stared up at them with shining eyes. When the exchange of tidings and well-wishes were over, the two noblewomen began to speak of plans and last-minute preparations, for yet more guests were expected to arrive later that evening. Though the promise of visitors filled IzrÍphel with excitement and the hours until evening seemed to her like many long ages of the earth, she soon lost interest in the conversation when it turned to matters of state, the affairs of ruling countries and provinces, and the realms of larger countries which possessed many vassals and fiefdoms. The little maid turned her attentions to her doll, a representation of herself someday far, far in the future when she, too, would become a beautiful lady of nobility and elegance like her great-grandmother.
Evening came at last. All was in order and the guests of earlier that day had already assembled in the great hall of the palace. Lady PharazanÓ and the other noblewoman stood near the great doors, waiting for the arrival of the other visitors. One of her cats, a soft, purring creature of rich, tawny fur, coiled about her legs, and then arching its back and hopping upwards, rubbed its lithe body against her shins in an attempt to gain her undivided attention. However, the cat remained ignored at her feet, for her mind was upon other matters. How both women had waited for this day! Lady PharazanÓ had prepared for weeks, sometimes becoming quite distraught when some plan had gone amiss and subjugating the ones responsible for the troublesome misfortune to an indignant tirade, for if their blunders had gone unnoticed, they would have offended the courtesy and hospitality of her house. Even now as they waited, she fretted and wrung her hands, and feared that perhaps the hall could have been more richly decorated, or the cooks could have been ordered to prepare more elaborate dishes, or that she could have worn a more lavish gown, and the one that she had on looked more like a peasant's dress than the fine raiment of a noblewoman.
And then, in the misty twilight, Lady PharazanÓ beheld him, a kingly figure in swirling robes of inky shadow and the blue of a midnight sky broidered with silver threads like the glitter of stars. Great power he possessed, as well as strength, nobility and the wisdom of long years, for indeed he was a high lord of the race of Nķmenor, in whose veins ran thick the blood of Elros. She felt the embers of an old fire stir to life deep within her heart, and she gazed at him with soft eyes filled with wistful longing. As she extended her hand, his cool lips lingered upon it, and shivers went up and down her spine, a feeling which she welcomed, for she always found it most pleasant.
Her husband had never been able to kiss like that, nor had he the power to leave her breathless and trembling after just a slight touch that was as faint and wispy as a gentle breeze. A shadow of sorrow crossed her heart when she thought of her husband, for he now lay entombed in the peaceful sleep of death. Lady PharazanÓ had far surpassed many of her children and some of her grandchildren, for while they laid in stone tombs surrounded by somber gardens of white Evermind, she still had life and though her years were great, the bloom of her youth had not yet been tainted by the blight of old age.
Both Lady PharazanÓ and her friend welcomed the king and his escort, their hearts filled with gladness and rejoicing, for greatly had his company been missed by both of them. At the feasting table, they exchanged tidings, some good and some bad; their voices like the chirping and twittering of song birds and his voice deep, calm and often solemn, but overjoying to the senses when it expressed his mirth. Long did Lady PharazanÓ steal glances at the stately figure, the silver embellishments upon his dark robes a dull gleam in the light of the torches, his crown glowing as soft amber in the dim feasting hall.
The feast was a glorious occasion, with steaming broths, savory meats, tender vegetables, elaborate, fanciful dishes, and an abundance of wine and mead for all. Those attending were amused by the entertainments provided between courses and afterwards, and the hall resounded with laughter and merriment long into the night. Deeming their guests content and quite preoccupied with their goblets and drinking horns, Lady PharazanÓ and her friend rose and gave their farewells, thanking all for coming, and wishing them to continue in their revelry.
Retreating to an antechamber with the king, Lady PharazanÓ and the other noblewoman then turned their minds to matters of state, for, alas! no matter how much each woman loved her king, he would not pay them a visit just for their fair company, no matter how fond he was of it. More men and ships did he request, for once again did the wild savages of Middle-earth strive and wage war against those who only wished to bring them enlightenment and order. Lady PharazanÓ wondered why there always had to be fighting and bloodshed; why would not the wild men understand that the forces in their lands did not wish them ill, but rather help and protection? Such foolish pursuits! Perhaps that was proof that verily they did not have the skill or the wits to rule themselves, for they were a froward and undisciplined folk, ever struggling against reason and order and the might of a superior power. Yet they cried and cursed, and called civilized men evil and wicked, hating them and fearing them, wantonly proclaiming their freedom, as though to make peace with the high lords and submit to their better judgment would bring them under the yoke of thralldom. Such poor, misguided folk, lowly and pathetic, stubborn and willful, high and all-knowing in their own thought, their eyes blind to the light of wisdom and understanding!
There would be more men as their liege requested and companies soon would be mustered to sail in great fleets and quell the rebellions of the unruly savages. Alas that green fields would be stained with red! Alas for the mother and child who would be bereft of father, brother and kinsmen! Alas for the follies of a few, for many would be slain! But for such dire transgressions, punishment must be dolled out, though, of course, it grieved the heart of Lady PharazanÓ. She stroked the base of her jeweled silver goblet with a hand laden with rings and looked thoughtfully to the king, her heart beating a little faster just by the mere nearness of his presence.
More grave matters were discussed as the hours of the night passed, but then the conversation turned to lighter things, and once again did smiles play across the faces of Lady PharazanÓ and the noblewoman. No longer did war trouble their thoughts, and their hearts were lifted in gladness. However, all good things must come to an end, and the hour grew late and the candles burned low. The three rose from their seats and left the antechamber, the eyes of Lady PharazanÓ never leaving the form of the king as he made his way towards the guest quarters, the edges of his dark mantle swirling out behind him.
Saying farewell to her friend, Lady PharazanÓ retreated to her chambers and sat upon her window seat, brushing her long, silken tresses. The tawny cat was curled up in a ball upon the sill, purring contentedly and watching the movements of her hand lazily with one half-opened yellow-green eye. The moon was bright that night and bathed the land in shades of misty silver blue, yet the shadows were deep as darkness embodied in the groves of trees; the glistening points of a thousand brilliant stars flickered soundlessly in the heavens. The intoxicating fragrance of roses wafted in through the window, and the garden resounded with the singing of nightingales. Putting her brush down, Lady PharazanÓ joined them in their song, her voice loud and clear as bells tinkling, and she sang a song of gladness and thanksgiving, for her long years had been quite blessed and each day brought newfound happiness. Her feet took flight and she danced through the moonlight upon the starry floor, for her heart was merry and filled with purest form of joy, for ever did she fall more and more in love with this wondrous and glorious thing called Life.
YŰz‚yan ≠ "Land of Gift" or Nķmenor in the AdŻnaic tongue.
EmeriŽ ≠ Located in Mittalmar, the middle part of Nķmenor, EmeriŽ was a land of green rolling downs where many sheep were raised.
AvallůnŽ ≠ The eastern haven of the Elves of Tol EressŽa from which the Elves set sail in tall white ships to Nķmenor to visit the folk of that island.
PharazanÓ ≠ A name in the AdŻnaic tongue meaning "Golden Woman." (pharaz = gold; anÓ = a woman, female)
IzrÍphel ≠ A name in the AdŻnaic tongue meaning "Beloved Daughter." (izrÍ = sweetheart, beloved; phel = daughter)