…And now let me explain myself. I’m sure you never did believe the story of why I left the Old Forest to come all the way down here. Grimwald didn’t. But he doesn’t matter. You do.

Old Tom was very wise, you know, for all he used to clown about and say silly things. We’d watch the world unfolding in the little pools which the swirling river cuts in its grassy banks. And most of what we saw was a delight to us. The world unfolding as it ought. But sometimes what we saw was sad and grim. And yet we stayed sitting in our little house in the woods and we never felt the need to interfere, to warn or advise, unless someone came knocking on our door. Then I suppose we tried to make up for it by giving all the help we could.

But one day there comes the dawn of a New Age. It’s no longer an option to sit there and let the world go by. Because it isn’t going to go by. It’s encroaching all the time. It’s eating away its banks. In the end it will sweep away everything that stands still.

Old Tom knew this. One day he said to me, “Goldberry my girl, we can’t just sit by and let this thing happen!” And so we hatched a plan. Tom took it hard, and so did I, but we packed our bags and left our little cottage, knowing we’d never see it again. We sailed down the big river to the big city and we went to places we’d never choose to go, and saw sights you’d never want to see.

Both Tom and I knew that really to take part we had to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. I shall never forget that night we met up in Minas Ithil, you and I. At first I was only an illusion in your eyes, just a projection of your fantasies. And then you made the discovery that there was flesh and bone underneath. That could well have been the end of it.

But then this awkward thing called Love cuts in. The Love Machine. All of a sudden, Goss, you reckoned your own safety—your continued existence—not worth a candle next to the idea that I was burning to death. And I, in my turn, knew then I was going to have to go all the way with you—right to the bitter end. And goodness!—didn’t it look bitter at times!

It was then I came to know that the fate of kingdoms is bound up tight with my own little life. Tom and I said to each other that in all our years in Middle Earth, this present age, this here and now, has been the best hope ever to arrive on the scene. I know… that’s what we say every time! But, just for once, we couldn’t stand idly by and see it all collapse again in shame and disorder.

…And so I battened on to you, hoping to play some small part in the crucial events of the last few weeks. I knew that to do so I would have to suffer pain and degradation and be dragged in the muck. But I found a man who knew all about muck—and neither revelled in it, nor let it stop him dead while he looked for a way round… which might not have been there. And so we achieved something worth looking back on. For you anyway, if not for me. Because I’m only a river nymph, a projection of your watery fantasies. Like I was of Tom’s.

Now that Tom’s gone I’m just going to evaporate. I shall leave Henneth Annûn and I shall give myself to the waterfall outside and let myself be borne away to the Great River, and thence down to the sea. I shall become foam upon the waves. I shall rise up with the sunlight to the clouds. And then I shall fall upon mountainside and forest and trickle into brooks and streams and rivers… and that’s the way the world goes round.

But Goss, my love, don’t grieve. We will see each other again! You’ll see me, to a greater or lesser extent, in the face of every girl you meet from now on. Because that’s my nature—that’s me.

…to be continued.