But for the afternoon, Queen Lilwen had taken Emerald with her to Lond Daer to see the gardens. They were beautiful at this time of year, a never-ending maze of pinks and oranges and buttercup yellows. Still, instead of tagging along, Svea had relished the thought of an afternoon on her own, basking in the warm glow of the sun on the beach.
She remembered the first time she had seen the seashore, that first venture from the glowing woods of Lothlorien. She had been with several of her closest maidenfriends and off they had snuck early one morning to gallivant around the countryside without a chaperone. After wandering for several days without the faintest notion of where they were going, there had been the ocean, a glittering blue expanse stretching further than even their Elvish eyes could reach. White clouds had ambled lazily across the sky, casting their shadows across two fishing boats that were just pulling into a dock not far down the beach near a cluster of small houses and shops.
Svealora had glanced at the water, at the clouds, at the fishermen and their tiny village, and a tugging at her mind told her in that very moment she would never set foot in Lothlorien again. And when a thing tugged at her mind, it was never wrong.
“Every time I see you, it as though you have lost more and more of your Elvish blood,” a voice mused close at hand. Svea’s eyes darted open at the impossibly familiar voice, and her smile outshone the sun as she slowly pulled herself to her feet. “Did you not hear me approaching? I don’t exactly walk silently nowadays . . .”
“No, I should think you don’t! Valar keep you, what are you doing here? And in your condition!”
Ivorwen smiled and took Svea’s hands in her own, explaining, “Well I am not in such a bad state. I suppose this has been more of an Elvish pregnancy than a man pregnancy; we were curious which it would be, weren’t we? But I feel fine.” Svea dropped her hands to tenderly touch the bulge in Ivorwen’s dress. For a moment, her brain skipped back to that beach, those fishermen, her own pregnancy . . . but Ivorwen was here!
“But you didn’t answer my question. What are you doing here? I would expect that husband of yours to have you holed up—“
“Perhaps if it were a son, I would be so,” Ivorwen laughed. “You know how men are with their heirs. But no, this is a girl.”
“You are sure of it?”
“As sure as you were of me.”
“Well then the Valar help you. You were an awful child.”
“I wasn’t!” Ivorwen laughed. Carefully she lowered herself to the sand and didn’t complain when Svea unlaced her boots so that she could her toes through the warm grains.
“No, not compared to the little princess I care for now, you were an angel. But first, for how long are you here?”
“Not long. I’m very close, you know, but when I learned Dirhael meant to pay a visit here to King Orwig I insisted I come.”
“Ah, he still hasn’t learned to tell you no, then?”
Ivorwen laughed, “Of course not! Now come, tell me of this little princess while I warm myself. I feel as though I have been frozen these past few years . . .” For though Ivorwen herself had been raised in the humid sunshine of Gondor in the South, she had married Dirhael, one of the Northmen, and so lived with he and his people far north in Arnor. She loved him, and she had adapted, but how she missed running through the surf with her mother and prying the hot sand out from between her toes.
When, hours later, Svea took her daughter’s arm and led her back up the shore, they found the palace in a state of madness. The royal sons had gone off hunting in the afternoon but it seemed a warg had gotten the better of little Hergest and Tegryn, and in saving them Beven had been equally injured. The queen had returned from an already upsetting afternoon in which she almost misplaced dear Princess Emerald only to find three of her sons injured and her other two fighting loudly over whose fault it was and her husband nowhere to be found, having locked himself up with Dirhael and several other men to basically drink and play cards.
“Milady,” Svea began, rushing up to the Queen lest she rip out her shiny black locks from the root.
Queen Lilwen sighed, “Svea! Emerald, take her. Don’t let her out of your sight! And these . . . do something with these—put them in my room. I must see to my sons . . .” and off she ran in a flurry of black curls and blue skirts.
“Why is Mama sad?” Emerald asked as soon as Lilwen had vanished from sight. Without even waiting for an answer, however, she continued, “Why are your cheeks red, Svea? Why are you so big, lady?”
“I am going to have a baby,” Ivorwen replied with a tender smile, looking down in the curious green eyes. “A little one, just like you.”
“Just like me? Can I play with her?”
“Come, Emerald, you can play with both of us now. Maybe when her baby is older, you will play with her. But first, let’s get you cleaned up. Why are you all wet?” Because Svea’s arms were full with the sword and book that Queen Lilwen had thrust into them, Emerald took Ivorwen’s hand, too young and exuberant to feel any sense of unfamiliarity.
“You are very pretty,” Emerald told her, staring at her face as they walked. Occasionally, she tripped on slightly raised stones, due to her not watching where she stepped. Emerald was an adored princess, though, and had learned that even if she fell, she would be so praised and loved on that it really was quite worth it.
Ivorwen laughed, “Thank you, Princess. You’re very beautiful yourself.” To Svea, she commented, “She’s quite chatty, isn’t she?”
“Oh, this is her being shy, even. There doesn’t have to be anyone in the room. When you put her down to sleep, she just lays in the dark, talking and singing to herself for the longest time. She really is a funny child.”
“I was in a boat.”
“Oh, you were?” They reached the wing and Svea called the maids to draw a bath. She slipped Emerald into the warm water while Ivorwen perched on a stool nearby, watching her mother with her new little ward. Svea had been a good mother to her. Yes, there had been some trials, but no one could ever accuse Svea of not being a good mother, and she hoped someday Emerald would realize how lucky she had been in her nurse.
“I was in a boat!” Emerald suddenly shrieked. Svea and Ivorwen both startled and Ivorwen laughed that such a loud noise should come from such a little girl.
Svea scolded, “Well all right, but there’s no need to yell about it.” She grabbed a towel from the shelf and pulled Emerald out, then wrapped her up tightly and carried her into the bedroom. Ivorwen followed, nodding at the maids as they came to empty the tub. Emerald repeated again and again that she had been in a boat as Svea dressed her in a pale blue playdress and brushed the tangles from her red mane.
Finally, with a very dramatic sigh, Emerald asked, “Why was Emmy in a boat?”
“Mother, she’s about the funniest child I ever saw!” Ivorwen laughed hysterically. Taking the hint, she asked the little girl, “Why was Emmy in a boat?”
“They gave me a flower. It was yellow,” Emerald answered. “Mama, um, forgot it.”
“Who gave you a flower?” Svea asked, clearly seeing nothing much in the story. They had, after all, gone to Lond Daer to see the gardens, and at this time of year probably had run in to other people. The least someone would have done was pick a yellow flower as a present for the princess.
“VŠna and Romy. It was yellow.”
“That was very nice of VŠna and—Emerald! Who gave you the flower?”
Emerald gave a disgruntled huff, not appreciating her nurse’s inability to listen. Secretly, she blamed this new lady who clearly stole some of the attention away from her. “VŠna and Romy!”
Ivorwen’s eyes widened as she pressed to Svea, “She couldn’t possibly mean . . .”
“Emerald,” Svea said, now fully listening to every single sound Emerald made. She looked the child straight in the face and asked slowly, “Did these people tell you their names?”
“Yes, and they took me in the boat and gave me a flower. Mama cried so they went in the water and took me back.”
“And what did they tell you their names were?”
“VŠna and Romy!” Emerald yelled, then laid back on the bed to show she was finished with this conversation. If the adults weren’t going to listen to her she didn’t want to talk to them anyways.
Ivorwen and Svea, however, were dumbstruck by this information. Surely the child was mistaken, though it seemed pretty clear by her lack of presentation that she wasn’t lying. She seemed completely unaware that the names should ring any bells; to her, it seemed, being in a boat was the most important part of the story.
Shaking her head, Ivorwen insisted, “She must have heard wrong. Surely she can’t mean . . . I mean, it’s not possible. . . is it?”
“What need would two Valar have of taking a small child for a boat ride?” Svea agreed. “But then, we of all people know not to question the Valar and their ways.”
“Yes, but having feelings and dreams are far different than the Valar actually paying you a visit at the age of three! The Valar haven’t appeared to anyone in physical form in hundreds of years, have they?”
“Not that I’m aware of. But . . . Emerald, when you say Romy, do you mean OromŽ?”
“Romy!” Emerald nodded, halfway off the bed. She was bored. She had told her story and now she wanted to play.
“This is impossible, Mother.”
“’Impossible’ is merely a challenge to the Valar,” Svea shook her head. “I just . . . Emerald tells stories, but that she should know those names . . . And she never lies, she just has a tendency to exaggerate a bit . . . But this doesn’t appear to be one of her stories.”
Emerald had recognized the sword and book left on a chair by the door. She ran over to these while the women talked and began tugging at the handle of the sword, wanting to see it glisten again the way it had in the boat. It was heavy and cumbersome, though; far too so for the delicate hands of a small girl. She managed only in yanking it off the chair where, even wrapped as it was in a cloak, the sound of shattering glass echoed around the room.
“I sorry! I did not mean to!” Emerald yelped, leaping away and covering her eyes as though this took all the blame off her. Svea rushed to her side and began turning her arms and legs over, looking for cuts of any kind. Ivorwen, meanwhile, pulled the cloak up, allowing the pieces of sword to clatter loudly to the ground again.
“Ivorwen!” Svea chided, then added, “Emerald!” Lilwen had meant it when she had instructed Svea no to let her out of her sight; apparently the girl was into everything today.
Ivorwen, however, ignored her mother’s scolding and instead asked, “Do you remember, mother, the sword that they had in the palace in Minis Tirith? The broken sword, you remember?”
“The sword of Isildur?”
“I saw that sword every time we visited the palace,” Ivorwen continued. “Right in the entrance hall as it was . . . now tell me, Mother, is this not it?” Svea pulled Emerald onto her hip as the only way to detain the child and, standing beside Ivorwen, looked down. The sword had broken and landed exactly as it was displayed in the capitol city of Gondor, only here on the bedroom floor.
“Impossible . . .”
“And what sort of sword shatters upon being knocked off a chair?”
“But . . .”
“I think Emerald is telling the absolute truth,” Ivorwen stated, turning to face the little girl. Emerald’s face lit up at her name and she gave Ivorwen a giant smile, though she was too busy staring longingly out the window to hear what they were saying.
Svea frowned, “I think so, too. But I’m terrified to know why the Valar are appearing at all.”
“And why they are bringing swords to children.”
“What of that book?” Svea asked, motioning to the remaining object on the chair. Ivorwen pulled it up and propped it open on her belly. Every page was blank, though. “Apparently it’s not for us to read.”
“Put me down!”
“Emerald, did those people say anything else to you?”
“No. Put me down!” Svea sighed and did so.
Ivorwen shook her head, “I just don’t—well, I suppose we aren’t supposed to understand, are we?”
“Do you still have your dreams?” Svea asked, taking the book from Ivorwen and setting it back on the chair.
“Occasionally, though not very often. Does . . . does Emerald have dreams, do you think?”
“I don’t know that she would be able to articulate them if she did. But perhaps I will begin asking her—“
“And write down what she says. I’ve been writing all mine down, like you taught me. Nothing of significance lately, though.”
“Yes, well—oh! Emerald, don’t play with that,” Svea gasped, yanking Emerald up by the arm. “I’m afraid this all has my brain so fuddled I’m not paying any attention too—oh!” Emerald begin to cry, but Ivorwen and Svea stared silently down at the now-complete sword, which Emerald had pieced together as though it were a puzzle. Her fingers were not cut, and indeed the edges seemed dulled as though it had not just recently been broken, but had been so hundreds of years before.
“Well if that’s not a sign, I’m not sure what is,” Ivorwen mused.
“An evil omen, more than likely. Oh, don’t cry, Emmy. Come, let’s go play outside, away from these things. You’re just a little girl. The Valar can’t take you from me yet!” She put Emerald down just long enough to gather up the pieces of the sword and bundle them back up in the cloak. Perched atop the book on the chair, the sword ‘s presence still dominated the room in its forebodingness. It was just a sword, most likely not Narsil stolen from Gondor. And yet Emerald’s meeting with the Valar was impossible to explain away, and Svea and her daughter both were the last ones in Arda who could deny the interference of the Valar with their everyday lives.
Ivorwen cast one more glance at the bundled sword, then followed her mother and the little princess out of doors, her child kicking against her ribs.