> > > When he, the herald voice of Gil-Galad,
> > > Did come to Elendil’s folk bearing news
> > > Of war, of pestilence, of last alliance
> > > Twixt Elves and Men against the Eastern Fire
> > > And Eastern Ring, he set his eyes upon
> > > The creaking ships, the aged hands that held
> > > Age-transcendent elven-works and scrolls,
> > > The young hands with the psalm, the child, the sword.
> > > Amidst this grandeur next to futility,
> > > He saw, like one might see a raven in
> > > The forests of Eol, a wizened maid
> > > Who walked towards him with a look of fate.
> > > “Elendil be’eth occupied,” she said.
> > > “Orowen be’eth I. I hail from there,
> > > The House of Healing. There, the wounded die
> > > In peace, while we do tend their hurts” she said.
> > > “Elendil sai’th that my house is yours
> > > Throughout your stay within our humble town.
> > > For when the king is occupied, I oft
> > > Fulfill this humble task of great import.
> > > For some few guests. Now tell me, elven-man,
> > > You treat all speaking tongues with dignity.
> > > But does this task degrade your king or self:
> > > Namely: for maid to play the host to man?
> > > The herald laughed, a sound like carven urn
> > > Of silver plate. “A forward tongue you have,
> > > Dear Orowen, to ask this thought so strange so first
> > > Among our words, but I will answer it.
> > > Tis true, we ought to not think it a social slight
> > > The times we find ourselves with maids alone
> > > Except for three small points of nature’s plan.
> > > The first is that in times when Woman’s host,
> > > She’s careful not to show her wit and make
> > > Her manly guest regret his lack thereof;
> > > When man is host to man, the two can speak
> > > More freely knowing they ‘lmost equals are.
> > > The second’s that in times when Woman’s host,
> > > The things of which she knows are not the man’s,
> > > And thus insulted are his speech and wit.
> > > The third is that the man is king of home;
> > > For one king to be hosted by his peer
> > > Is honor, loyalty and due respect,
> > > But e’en the greatest consort’s not a king.”
> > > (As they spoke they walked a ways through town.)
> > > And Or’wen laughed, a cloudy sunset sound,
> > > “I know of many things be known to men,
> > > I hope I’m not like those thrice dull women.
> > >
> > > But see, we reach my house,” the widow said.
> > > A quiet house, with garden filled with vines
> > > Of creeping shade, green holly-bush of yew,
> > > And bitter herbs for medicine to make.
> > > An archen door with beams of ancient wood
> > > That stagnant stood like Morwen’s wild tomb
> > > Did ope upon the wrinkled walls within
> > > Encrusted with her baubles of the past
> > > Soft and tender mathoms fancied she:
> > > A tapestry of Nienor’s nakedness,
> > > A pukel-girl with knife and shield and fat
> > > War-grimaced face of strong impending doom,
> > > A china urn of nightshade-color’d ink
> > > Ornate within and out with sleepy runes.
> > > From thing to thing the herald’s eye did dart
> > > Confounded with the faintly war they made:
> > > Like orcs confounded with tree-light they waged
> > > Upon themselves and on his senses six
> > > A little bit like in the elder days.
> > > And as she spoke in quaint and silvery tones
> > > That quieted and blended with the fight
> > > While the herald listened, wholly stupefied,
> > > By her age-temperate verbage and décor,
> > > She brought a drink in piquant, steaming cup.
> > > “Small stirrup-cup” he said (a feeble joke).
> > > She laughed. “Why should I serve such cup to you,
> > > The cup that goes from maiden’s hand to king’s,
> > > When we can drink the equalizer, tea?”
> > > She laughed again, and with a trembling hand
> > > So wrinkle-thin like chestnuts from the Wold,
> > > She disposed of the brew within his mouth.
> > >
> > >As when the lights of Valinor were quenched
> > >By struggling 'gainst The Spiders beak and webs
> > >When life and light were sucked from trees, and pools
> > >Imprisoned in Ungol'ant's mucky hulk,
> > >So was the trick within the fatal brew:
> > >Surprise unlooked for, death unprophesied,
> > >Steamed forth from it; the ancient widowed maid,
> > >Became more violent than the youngest, freshest dark
> > >Demonic uruk-hai of fatal brood
> > >In her surprising scheme of drinked death,
> > >And the elf, the drinker unaware
> > >Felt his life grow dim, his vigour faint.
> > >His slender elven-love did stand right there:
> > >Was she an elf, or Entwife of the beech
> > >Convulsed into a blend of troll and orc?
> > >And in that tone of fear and anger mixed,
> > >He fell to ground, all cold and faint-away.
> When with a block of ice a prankster strokes
> A sleeper's head, and rouses from his rest
> The one who sleeps so soft and peacefully,
> The sleeper feels his life-force drain away
> In slow and gradual headache agony
> (Like short-lived fizz escapes mead-jars unsealed);
> The herald rose, and with the sudden start,
> With which one wakes when hearing war-cry's gong,
> He felt a red-hot iron pinching him
> And with despair realized his limbs were bound.
> "How now!" She leered with coldest vict'ry cry
> "Do you expect to bear your message forth?
> You fool-mistook me for a common nurse,
> As innocent and simple as a wife.
> No wife am I, no widowed olden maid.
> A terrible swift Mordor-queen am I.
> With promises from HIM of future fame.
> If I kill you, no message shall be sent
> From Gil-Galad to southern king of men.
And when your lord hears of this deadly deed,
Attribuiting its guilt to Elendil,
There will be no new league, the elves and men
Are left to face the great Dark Lord alone!"
And as he writhed and cried aloud in pain
The messenger of Gil-Galad despaired
And in the mood that causes suicide
(a pleasure in which elves do not indulge)
His mind began to work its fantasies
Of deark and dearth and hallways full of fear
In which the very stars were always veiled
And life and light extinguished for all time
Except in sundry jails and torture-halls
In which resided fair Celebrian
But fair no more, a shell of former self,
Doomed to die unless some daring one...
UNLESS some daring one would come:
One whose task it is to hope
Against all hope and live against all death
With sword in hand and eyes light-blazing fresh
So that without the sword, the eyes will do!
And as she moved a knife towards his wrist,
A Harad-blade, convulsed with swirls of steel,
He said, with voice of calm and even tone,
"I pleasure in the thought of that small thing's
Invigorating, lightly tickling touch."
And as she laughed at his final jest,
Her cutting hand then gave a little slip,
There came from it the sound of sawing things
That bind the muscle to some harder thing
By name, the table on which he was bound.
And as she coiled in her joyless mirth
He stood and looked upon her shriveled form.
"Were you a man," he said "I'd bow before,
The duel that'll deal your deathly punishment.
But since your not, I'll grab your wrinkled arm,
And simply bind you in your own jail cell."
He left her there, and, telling Elendil,
Saved the lands and had her put in jail.