Changing the Ending
Summary: Eomer's daughter decides a legendary tale needs a happier ending.
Lalaith sang softly to herself, as well as the flowers and trees, stones and sky, and ought else of a mind to listen, as she hopped and danced along one of the many small streams flowing down from the Hills of Tarnost into the Bay. Sometimes when they visited Grandfather, she'd explore a new stream or meander along a goat path she had not yet followed. Today, though, she was content to follow this old, familiar route. It led to small, merry waterfall that always sang her cheerful songs, of which she was particularly in need; Elfwine had learned the Lay of Nimrodel from Legolas when last he'd visited Aunt Eowyn and had sung it to Grandfather that morning. Just to show off…Lalaith thought, her smile faltering. It is such a sad song… Could he not have learned something less grim while in Ithilien? Legolas always sings cheerful songs to me.
"I know!" she announced to the waterfall as she reached it. "I shall make it a happier song! Would you like that?" The waterfall bubbled cheerfully, which Lalaith took as assent. "I shall play the part of Nimrodel and you can be Amroth," she informed the tumbling water. "Only this time, we shall not be parted and shall sail off together to the Elf-lands."
"That would indeed make it a happier tale."
Lalaith started as the voice. "Oh!" she exclaimed, as she turned to find a golden-haired elf maiden—with very sad eyes, she thought. Most elves seemed to her to have sad eyes…even Legolas, although he was nearly the merriest person she knew. "Mae govannen," she greeted, with a slight curtsy.
The elf maiden replied, with a smile, "Well met to you, as well, child."
Lalaith stared a moment longer than was polite, she knew; the elf maiden was as fair as the waterfall was merry, and seemed almost as though she sprung up from it. Lalaith had met many elves; now that they had settled again in Edhellond, she saw many a new elven face whenever she visited either Grandfather or Aunt Eowyn. It was their presence in the hills around her that provided Papa and Mother and Grandfather the assurance to allow her the freedom to wander, for which she was grateful. But I have not before seen this elf maiden, I am certain.
"Nay, for I rarely venture forth from the high treetops when others are about," the Elf-maiden confirmed, and Lalaith's eyes grew wide as she wondered how the maid had read her mind so easily. The elf-maid smiled, wanly. "I have watched long, and you are so very unguarded…"
Lalaith quirked her head. "You have watched me?"
"Indeed, child," confirmed the maiden. "Every time to visit this land, which is not often enough… That is how I know your name is Lalaith."
Lalaith's eye brows rose in surprise, but then she curtsied politely. "I am indeed Lalaith," she stated. "May I ask your name in return? And why you watch me?"
"I watch you because you remind me of an elf-maiden I knew long ago, one who was dear to me and whom I miss, so it cheers my heart to see her in your expression and hear her in your voice," the elf-maiden replied. "And my name is Nimrodel."
Lalaith's expression flamed with pleasure. "Like the song!"
"Yes, just so," confirmed Nimrodel.
Lalaith grinned, but then remembered her manners, and bobbed her head politely. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Nimrodel."
"You should have shown yourself sooner," Lalaith scolded. "The waterfall and I love making new friends, don't we, waterfall? Are you shy? Brother says he wishes I were more shy…" Nimrodel laughed, a soft tinkle of a sound that made Lalaith grin. She had a sense, though, that the elf maiden did not laugh often. "It is because you are so sad…like the song?"
Nimrodel's expression clouded, and Lalaith nodded, knowingly. "I've heard Papa say it took a long time for Aunt Eowyn to push past the darkness and find light again after the great war. Is it the same with you? Papa and Grandfather and Uncle Faramir rarely speak of it, so I think it must have made a lot of darkness."
"Indeed, I think it must have," confirmed Nimrodel. "Though the shadow fell upon my heart long before…"
"Long before!" Lalaith echoed, her eyes growing wide with dismay. "I think I could not stand to be sad for that long."
"Nay, it is not a path I would have chosen, either," Nimrodel admitted, with a breathless wisp of a sigh. "But too often our paths are chosen for us."
Lalaith frowned at that. "You shouldn't let someone choose a sad path for you! You should stay here and let my merry waterfall sing you cheerful songs."
Nimrodel smiled sadly. "Indeed, its songs are quite happy, but it is too near the shore."
"You do not like the shore? Do the waves scare you? They scare me sometimes…especially when it storms," Lalaith admitted. "I always think of Amroth when it storms… How desperate he must have been to get back to the shore to wait for Nimrodel… How sad she must have been to finally reach the shore and find him drowned…"
"Impossibly sad, I think," answered Nimrodel, her gaze shifting forlornly toward the shore.
"I wonder sometimes if he wanders the Elf-shores hoping to see her again someday," Lalaith continued, mournfully. "I think it must make him very sad that she never came… Perhaps he asks Mandos if she has come and refuses to leave until she gets there… I do not know which I would prefer if I were waiting for my love to return to me. Perhaps it grieves him less to rest within the Halls while he waits? Or perhaps it gives him hope to wander the shores watching for her? What do you think? I cannot decide which to hope for?"
Nimrodel returned her sad gaze to Lalaith. "I do not know which I would hope for, either," she admitted.
Lalaith nodded, comprehending the difficulty in making such a choice. "So I try to hope, instead, that since the elves have returned to the shores and so ships sail so often these days, that Nimrodel has found her way onto one and they will soon be reunited. That would make it less sad that the elves will be gone from these lands someday… Don't you think?"
"Hmmm…" came a distracted response, and Lalaith noticed her eyes had again wandered toward the shore.
"Don't you think?" Lalaith repeated.
"I think…," Nimrodel said softly. "That I have sat for too long in the darkness; it is time to find my light." Turning back to face Lalaith, she smiled, a hint of hope reaching her eyes this time, and added, "And I think you should indeed make it a happier song and sing to your waterfall of the day Nimrodel and Amroth found each other, once more, upon the lands of the Undying, and never again were parted."
She glanced away at the sound of her Grandfather's voice approaching. "Grandfather!" she greeted, running into his arms as neared. "Come, meet my new friend!" But looking over her shoulder, she found the elf-maiden had gone. "Where has she gone?" Lalaith murmured.
"Who?" Imrahil asked.
"My new friend… An elf maiden. Her name is Nimrodel; just like the song!" Lalaith explained.
Imrahil quirked an eyebrow, inquiringly. "I thought your waterfall only sang you happy songs; the tale of Nimrodel is not a happy song…"
"Oh, but…" Lalaith started, but then shrugged. She is a shy elf maiden, after all. "It is not a sad tale anymore, Grandfather," she said, instead.
"Indeed," Lalaith explained. "The waterfall and I have written a new ending for it… where Nimrodel sails at last to the Elf-lands, where Amroth waits for her upon the shore…"
"You will have to sing me this new song," requested Imrahil. "For I think I will like it much more than the original tale."
"Perhaps I will, Grandfather, or perhaps it shall just be a song for me and the waterfall to share…," Lalaith teased with a grin and began to hum softly, as they turned toward home.