Actions

Work Header

The White Tower

Work Text:

THE WHITE TOWER

Elwing stood on her balcony, high on the white tower, seeing and hearing. A few feet away, a great white gull hovered and cried , its yellow gaze intent and cold. Further out, others of its kind spiralled and slipped on the strong, sea wind, their voices a shrieking cacophony. The wind moderated their fishy stink, which she noted and dismissed with the ease of long custom.

Below her the summer sunlight turned the flowing sea to molten silver about the pale reef that founded her home. On the northern horizon, distant even for the eyes of the Eldar, floated the dark chain of stony islands that had once been the Helcaraxë; pine-covered or barren or the homes of seabirds as the shifting climate and uncertain waters allowed. South and west the harbour curved away, sheltered from the wild Northern waters by great ramparts of rock and coral. Dark trees and bright-roofed buildings fitted themselves snugly along the arc of the shore: Hanstovanén, the northernmost city of the Teleri, the city of Elwing and Eärendil.

It was early morning, not long after sunrise. He was coming home, though still far away, sailing through the tumults of Ilmen. There would be many long summer days to pass yet, before he came home across the Walls of Night, riding the wild winds of the upper air and the sweet breezes of Aman. By the grace of the Valar she had this, or perhaps it was simply a condition of their union; the knowledge of his leaving and his return, always. A great gift, though double-edged as all gifts were for the Children of the Marred world.

On the other side of her closed door, the bell rang gently.

Elwing came back into her sitting-room through the tall glass windows and found the Captain of the Tower Guard waiting inside, having let himself in upon the bell’s chime. That was unusual for Nierninwa, who was punctilious in his own easy fashion.

“Lady,” he said without preamble, “the Kinslayers have come.”

The Lady of Hanstovanén, who was seldom called anything besides her simple name, looked at her friend with a close eye. Nierninwa was Falathren, tall for one of his people, grey-eyed and dark-haired; he smiled often. Now his calm beauty seemed suddenly hard, as if carved from the white driftwood that washed up sometimes on the beaches. The cool, joyful fire of the Reborn that shone always in his eyes burned cold, and he held himself spear-straight and very still. His voice was perfectly even as always, but Elwing could hear the effort that made it so. He had died at Sirion, defending the sons whom she had abandoned. He had forgiven her.

Elwing answered, as calm as he, “Yes. I saw it through the gull’s eyes. They have been camped at the border of the cultivated lands these three days past. They are not armed.”

Nierninwa nodded, an abrupt, uncharacteristic motion. His hands were clenched on his belt, not too far away from the sheathed knife. Their eyes met, and though Elwing lacked the power of osanwë, the mindspeech of the Elves, she knew his thought, for it was her own:

This time.

She turned back to the balcony, and beckoned the Captain to join her. The air was fresh and sharp; she drew it into her lungs in deep, gulping breaths. It was only her memories that suffocated her; too many, too strong.

“Three Ages of the world since they died and now the Valar have let them loose to trouble us all again. Shall I let them wait? Shall I leave them to the hospitality of the city?”

High above the Tower seabirds screeched and circled, tumbling in the gusting wind. Elwing rested her hands with careful lightness on the shell-smooth balustrade. The solidity of her house seemed suddenly doubtful, its strength brittle and untrustworthy. The singing of the wind was suddenly ominous; in its voice she heard once more the deadly wolf-whine of a killing winter. She touched the old memory lightly, unwilling to endure it again.

Nierninwa said slowly, “We have heard the word of the King and Queen. The Teleri have made their peace with the House of Fëanor.”

“And what of the Sindar? What of the people of Doriath and Sirion? Has my great-grandfather spoken? What has Elu Thingol to say of peace with the murderers of his kin?”

“ He has not spoken. No word has come from over the mountains.”

Dulindor over the mountains, Nightingale-land where Elu Thingol ruled alone, once more the hidden king, apart from his kith and kin in the Cities. Elwing’s great-grandfather but not her lord, for she was sworn now to Alqualondë and the Teleri, not Amon Aran and the Sindar.

The voices of sea and sky offered no counsel either. The Valar left the Elves to rule themselves, giving the lie always to Morgoth’s old slander. She had sympathy for that. The world must be a heavy enough weight, without the added burden of the Eldar’s petty dealings.

“Shall I send the guard to bring them here?”

Elwing considered a moment more, then shook her head. She was no longer the young princess of long ago, uncertain and alone, desperately treading a deadly path, leading her people step by step into disaster. The Lady of Hanstovanén would do her duty.

“No. This time I will not wait behind walls for my enemy to come.”

. . . . .

 

Nierninwa’s crew were waiting for her in the portico of the Tower: three dozen sea-hardened mariners, armed with harpoons and lightning spears. A few even carried the air-guns that the Sindar used in the hunt.

The Lady raised an eyebrow.

“They are only two,” she observed mildly. “And unarmed.”

There were grim chuckles from several of the crew, and Nierninwa grinned.

“How do we go, Elwing? By wing or foot, sail or horse or cart? Two feet or four feet or six? ”

That she had decided already. It had been some time since she had paid attention to the cultivated lands, and she might as well do something useful along the way. Nierninwa had known her for a long time; fourteen horses were waiting at the foot of the bridge that bound the Tower to the shore. The rest of the guard accepted their dismissal cheerfully and wandered off to their other pursuits.

They rode along the beach at first, and then southwest through the tree-shaded, branching lanes of the city, passing at a quick trot among gardens and houses and workshops. Passers-by waved or called greetings as always, but Elwing could feel the unease in the city. Word of the Kinslayers’ coming had spread swiftly among the people going about their errands, or breakfasting in their gardens. The Lady and her guard rode largely in silence, until the road turned south, leaving the city, and became a green ride through the cornlands and orchards that helped to feed the city.

Then they let the horses run, making good speed along the main inland road to the forest. It was a fair day. The sun shone bright and warm, tempered by cool wind and scudding clouds, so that they rode by swift turns in both sun and shade. The grassy, daisy-starred road passed among open woodland interspersed with orchard groves, vegetable gardens and the green and golden stands of perennial grain. Far away on the right-hand horizon rose the high, silent line of the Pelóri, snow-capped even at the height of summer.

Some of the guards began to sing in time to the chiming of their harness-bells, a cheerful ditty about the creatures of the deep and their strange reluctance to be caught and eaten. Elwing glanced at the Captain and said quietly,

“So, friend, when do you leave us?”

He smiled at her.

“Soon, Elwing. It has been our delight to dwell in your House and do you service, but Núrána’s re-fit is nearly done, and Lord Ulmo’s realm calls us. I have had word from Falathin; Alpessë will be back in port within a season.”

“So soon?” Elwing said, startled. “She has not been long away. Hardly more than a Great Year.”

One of the guards behind laughed and said, “Alpessë came too close to a sea-lizards’ mating fight(1). They turned on her and, well, she is a fine ship, but the Earthqueen’s elder creation are none of them gentle. Falathin is weary of science for now and is coming home to ward the Tower and let her crew recover their nerve.”

There was the general laughter at the unfortunate captain’s expense, interrupted by a long, singing call high above them. Elwing looked up, and lifted a hand in acknowledgment of the great sky-ship; it rode the winds without effort, its shadow rippling swiftly before it over the fields. The guards waved and whistled. A tall woman with golden hair had the helm; as Elwing watched, the wide steering-wings curved to bring her craft into its smooth descent towards the mooring tower further inland. Its trailing pennants were of two colours: Vanyar-white, and a complex gold and brown design that she recognised as the device of the Onnangolmor, the Loremasters of Creatures. Then she saw the name drawn on the sky-ship’s hull in flowing, golden letters, and flinched: Arwen.

Kind Nierninwa said only,

“You will not be bringing the Kinslayers back to the Tower tonight, then.”

“No.” She was almost relieved.

It was the custom of Hanstovanén that the crews of visiting ships, whether of sea or air, were feasted by the Lady on their first night in port. The Sons of Fëanor could stay where they were for another night. She would not change her habits for them. She tapped her heels to her mare’s flank, and felt her lengthen her stride in response. Nierninwa and the guard followed suit, until they were running among trees and fields and thickets as swiftly as the cloud-shadows across the fields.

It was not long after that they reached the green wall of the forest’s edge. The road bridged a small stream that ran under the eaves of the trees, and then plunged into the shadows of the wood. The riders slowed to a walk to greet the half-a-dozen foresters lounging at ease under the trees on the other side. They came to their feet to hail the Lady, and whistled their horses up from where they grazed under the river sallows. As the augmented company cantered along the green ride through the wood, their leader, a woman named Gilfaril, made her report to the Lady and the Captain.

“They are camped at Iantathren, on the other side of Sirith Edrain. We have kept close watch upon them, but they have done nothing but fish, and bathe in the pools, and watch the creatures of wood and water. They are unarmed and have not hunted.”

She and her people carried bows and long air-guns with the ease of those well-accustomed to their use. Now she looked at Elwing uncertainly.

“Elwing, do you truly think that they still mean us ill?”

She was young, born in Aman long after the War to survivors of Sirion. The Kinslayers were only a grim legend to her, as to all the younger generations of the Eldar. The Lady smiled at her reassuringly.

“No, friend, I do not. But that does not mean that they must needs mean us well. We will go warily, and give back what they offer us.”

Gilfaril nodded, acknowledging, and fell back among her people.

“Well said,” Nierninwa said quietly.

Elwing sighed. “My friend, do you doubt me still?”

“I would doubt anyone, when it comes to the Jewel.”

. . . . .

The trees rose around them, their trunks straight and clean, their branches interlacing under the Sun. They rode through stands of white and golden birch, and red oak, and sharp-scented spruce and fir. After a while Gilfaril came up beside the Lady again, telling her of the affairs of the wood: damage from the lightning of Ossë’s storms, a stray cave lion from the foothills slain by the hunt, the introduction of new plants and beasts, the breeding of forest trees for greater strength and use and beauty.

Far above their heads the tree-tops roared in the wind like surf on the shore, but on the forest floor it was dim and cool among the great brakes of holly and fern and berry. A hundred kinds of bird twittered and squeaked and sang in the thickets and the tree-tops. Insects hummed in boggy patches thick with moss and cranberry vines, and small creatures rustled about their business under the leaf-mould, unconcerned by passing Eldar.

This was not the tangled wildwood where the Laiquendi wandered, over-mountain in Valinor where no power but Yavanna’s lay upon the land. This was a forest of the Sindar, tended and cared for, as much a garden as the pleasaunces of Tirion or the flower-meads of Valmar. Elwing savoured its busy peace, drawing strength from the strength of her domain. In Hanstovanén and its lands, the people of Forest and Shore lived side by side in the joy of their ancient kinship; no longer the hunted fugitives of Sirion-mouth, but a people strong and singular and acknowledged among the clans of the Amanyar. Since the Teleri had ceased to build their ships of wood, there were no longer even quarrels about the felling of trees. The home-port of the Silmaril was blessed, even in the Blessed Realm.

They halted at noon to eat a light nuncheon of bread and fruit, and to water the horses at a spring that flowed from a rocky outcrop in the woods. Elwing splashed her face and dabbled her hands in the water where it sprang from the stone. Its cold, bright touch both calmed and refreshed her. Nierninwa and Gilfaril, and others of the company did the same, readying themselves for the challenge to come.

As they approached the southern limit of Hanstovanén’s lands, the mood of the company grew more sombre. The guards fell silent and checked their weapons. The foresters made sure that their air-guns were loose in the saddle-holsters. The horses ran more swiftly, feeling their riders’ unease. The forest ended abruptly at the top of a long, grassy bank that sloped down to a meandering water: Sirith Edrain, the Borderstream. Three trimmed logs rested on stone footings, forming the simple bridge for which the place was named; but on the far side ran only a narrow path, almost invisible among the undergrowth. The road proper turned east at the bridge and along the near side of the stream, following it to the sea and the main coast road. On the other bank the willows grew thickly, their leaves silver in the sunlight, trailing in the slow, golden-brown water. Two figures stood in the shadows, as still as trees themselves.

Elwing walked her horse down the slope to the stream’s edge, a little way from the foot of the bridge. The others followed at her back.

“Come forward,” she said. “Strangers.”

They came out onto the logs, two tall men side by side, moving as lightly and quietly as any forester. Elwing noted it, and then remembered that these two had been known as hunters in their time. Stalkers, clearly, rather than chasers like their brother, the traitor Celegorm. They stopped at the mid-point of the bridge, and both bowed.

“Lady,” one said, “I am called Amrod in your tongue, and this is my brother, called Amras, of the Sons of Fëanor. May we have speech with you?”

Elwing looked at them, considering. She had never seen them close before, either living or dead. In the nightmare confusion of Sirion’s fall she had faced terrible Maglor, and lived only because others had died defending her. His younger brothers had only been distant figures among the bloody-handed throng. She had received the news of their fall, but by then Sirion was taken, her sons lost, and it only remained to deny the murderers the fruit of their evil, and take the Jewel with her into death and the Sea.

Their likeness to each other was startling. Her own sons had been twins, but no more like to each other in looks than in temper. This pair were of one face and form, the carven beauty of the Noldor eerily repeated. They were alike in dress also, clad both in the simple garments of grey that the Reborn received upon waking. It was only by the minor difference in the colour of their hair that she could tell them apart. The one who called himself Amrod was as dark as any Sinda, but his brother’s hair was that strange shade of red-streaked brown that only showed itself among the Noldor.

She said, “Come forward and speak.”

They came across the remaining distance and down off the stone footing onto the grass before her. At Nierninwa’s unobtrusive signal, her people moved up to form a loose half-circle about the two men.

Amrod said, “Lady, our House has made its peace with the Teleri. We would not trespass upon your lands, or upon your presence without your leave. But we do indeed ask your leave to remain here for a time, for we have great need to speak to the Lord Mariner when next he returns from his voyaging.”

“Why?”

Elwing knew what his answer would be, even as she asked.

“Lady, for to call upon him to give us the Silmaril that we have sworn to recover from all who hold it.”

Gilfaril and the foresters had their guns unholstered and aimed, even as he spoke. The half-circle of riders closed in, harpoons and spears poised to kill. Neither brother moved or spoke.

“Hold.”

Nierninwa checked his horse at her command, though his spearpoint did not waver from its aim at Amrod’s throat. Had she still been mortal, her anger would have had her heart hammering in her breast; haste might have tempted her into swift and unwise words. Instead, she said, “We have expected your coming for some time now, since the news came of the return of Fëanor’s sons into life, and your eldest brother’s coming to Alqualondë. You have dallied long upon the way.”

Amrod looked up and his pale, shining gaze caught hers. He and his brother were Calaquendi still; neither death nor the darkness of their crimes had quenched the Tree-light in their eyes. When he answered his voice held a poet’s cadence, the power of his line shown forth in spoken melody.

“We were delayed by wonder, Lady. The land is far changed from what it was when last we walked here. What was stone is rich earth, what was dust is trees and green grass and the fruits of summer, what was barren ice is water singing.”

His words caught her suddenly, as if they shared a singer’s waking dream, seeing the dim forms of men and women, shadows moving slowly through stony darkness, guided only by meagre lamplight in the shadows and the cold. Their banners showed in the dim and fitful light - the blue and silver of Fingolfin’s people, the many-coloured rays of Fëanor’s badge, the golden flower of wise Finarfin. The Exiles, the Host of the Noldor before the changing of the world; at the beginning of everything, both the glory and the pain.

“I am told, “ Nierninwa said, in the prosaic manner of a teacher conveying some tidbit of necessary but not particularly interesting information, “That when the Sun first rose, Her light fell on this land that had lain always in the mountains’ shadow, and by Her power and the will of the Lady Yavanna, life came to what had been wasteland.”

His voice, deliberately flat, untuned the Kinslayer’s melody, and woke Elwing from the dream like the chilly slap of a wave across her face. She blinked, and looked at silent Amras. Like his brother’s, his face showed neither fear nor threat, nor any hope at all. He stood statue-still, waiting upon her word. Free from the spell of Amrod’s voice, something in the Kinslayers’ demeanour laid a cold touch upon her heart. Though the two men stood there in plain daylight, as plainly flesh and blood once more, she had an odd sense that she spoke to ghosts, caught between death and the renewal of life.

She said, “And if my lord refuses you the Silmaril, as he must? What then, Kinslayers?”

Amrod lifted his right hand and then let it fall again to his side. It was a deliberate gesture, a movement of the dance, precise and graceful. She knew a few of its meanings; Idril of Gondolin had taught her son the arts of their people before she abandoned him for the West. Surrender was one meaning; costly victory was another; I have no comfort for you was a third. None of them was anything welcome.

“Then the Oath will take its course, Lady.”

The guards stirred but did not move, obedient to her earlier order. Nierninwa’s horse made two smooth paces forward, bringing his speartip just that little bit closer, into killing range. A lightning spear did not need to touch flesh.

“No,” Elwing said, cold and level. “Let him explain himself.”

To Amrod, she said, “Do you threaten me?”

Amrod looked along the spear and into Nierninwa’s eyes. Amras looked at Elwing.

Amrod said, “No, Lady. If Eärendil Idril’s son refuses us the Jewel, we will do no harm to him, or you, or yours. We will depart your land in peace and we will not return. This we swear in our father’s name, and in the name of the Jewels that he made.”

The wind whispered gently among the willows, and the rippling voice of the water was very quiet. The scent of grass and pine-trees and horses and Eldar was strong about her. The Sun’s heat stroked her skin. Her mare stamped nervously and swished her tail. Finches flickered through the bilberry bushes up the slope, in the forest’s shade; she heard the little rattle of their wings among the twigs. All the strength of her small, un-Marred realm, ready to her hand.

No. Not un-Marred, not while the Eldar lived there.

“My lord is from home,” Elwing said slowly. “But if he wills, when he returns, he may grant you audience. Until I summon you to my Tower or dismiss you, you will remain here, in the charge of Mistress Gilfaril and her people. Do no harm and none will come to you. You are not among friends and my eye is upon you.”

Amras bowed to her, acknowledging her words. Amrod said, with Nierninwa’s spear still at his throat,

“We thank you, Lady, and we will keep your peace.”

“See that you do, Kinslayer,” Nierninwa said. “You have made your peace with Olwë and Falmariel (2), but you have not yet made your peace with us.”

 

Gilfaril and her foresters stayed at Iantathren. Elwing and her guards took the path along the Sirith Edrain down to the sea, and rode back to the Tower by the coastal road. It was still bright when they came in sight of the city, but the Sun had begun Her slow setting. It was low tide, and the waves were quiet. Across the sun-golden water the Tower glowed, miracle of the Sea-Elves’ Art. It had not been built of quarried stone, but grown slowly like a shell, layer upon layer rising from the rich, cold seas of the North. From the sea-battered reef it sprang upwards in great spiralling terraces, fantastically winged and buttressed. Its walls were brilliant white in the noontide, rose-golden at Sunset and Sunrise, and at night they shone softly, giving back the light of Moon and stars.

The riders slowed their horses to a trot as they approached more trafficked ways. The road was busy with farmers returning to the City for the evening market, the day’s harvest of seed and fruit and vegetables loaded on their hexapedal carts. Silk-growers tended their molluscan charges along the shore. Ships rode at anchor along the quays of the harbour - sleek fish-hunters and swift kite-wings and the great swan-ships and the little speedy skiffs that plied the shore. High against the bright sky, men and women rode the wind on the wings that Elwing herself had devised long ago, back to the City or out to the scattered villages along the coast.

Elwing sighed. Another duty waited for her.

“So, Nierninwa, is there word of who my guests are and the hour of their coming?”

Nierninwa’s face lost the abstracted look of those speaking mind to mind. He said, “They will come at the dinner hour. They are the company of Arwen, a vessel of the Aulendili and the Hellevantari(3). They are explorers, led by the Lady Lalazel of the Vanyar. They come from Tirion, and go...onwards.”

He smiled for the first time in many hours.

“Narthel and Nendis assure you that the preparations for dinner are well in hand.”

 

. . . . .

Arwen’s company dined with the Lady of Hanstovanén and her household in the long light of Sunset, on one of the broad garden terraces that spiralled around the Tower. They sat on a lawn of grass and white clover, and feasted on raw sea-urchins, a delicacy of the Falathrim, and sweet scallops, and little clams in clear broth; grilled crayfish, and chopped octopus fried in oil and green herbs, and slices of white fish baked in butter with onions and black pepper from the south; salt-tangy samphire and pale shoots of sea-kale, bitter-leaved salads and round loaves hot from the oven. To drink they had the strong cordials that the townsfolk brewed, and the golden-green wine of the Calacirian, the gift of the guests, and after the main meal the fruits of the northern summer, raspberries and cloudberries and bilberries, whose sweetness needed no adornment.

No lamps were lit as evening fell, for the Tower itself shone with a fugitive radiance as the first stars appeared. The company separated gradually into smaller groups, for conversation and music and star-watching in the evendim. Some strolled about the gardens, admiring the sweet-scented flowers that opened with nightfall. Elwing moved among her guests, joining in speech and song and merriment in turn. Finally she slipped away to a quiet corner of the garden, higher up and around the curve of the Tower wall, where a little fountain bubbled gently among pebbles. A single jewel(4) was set under the water, so that its faint, starry fire shimmered on the artfully placed boulders and thick moss, and the tall, elegant stems of black bamboo. A jug of honey mead and two cups stood ready on a flat rock. She sat down on the moss and waited.

After a while, a tall, bright-eyed woman came drifting to her through the rustling shadows. In the twilight she shone, very faintly, like an echo of starlight. She had been introduced earlier with the rest of Arwen’s company: Ñólanis, the keeper of the great engines that propelled and maintained the sky-ship . She pronounced her name in the old style, Ngólanis; her dress too was of the antique Noldorin fashion, simple in cut but lavishly embroidered with waves and clouds and seabirds, a delicate compliment to her hostess. Her hair was that same Noldorin red-brown; it had shone unsettlingly vivid earlier, in the fiery light of the setting Sun.

The mead was poured; pleasantries on the excellence of dinner, gardens and entertainment were carefully offered in archaic but fluent Sindarin, and gracefully received. The efficiency of Captain Nierninwa and his crew was commented upon.

“I am glad that you have come, Lady,” Elwing said. “In this moment I have great need of the knowledge of the Noldor.”

In careful, courteous words, the Lady of the Tower told her guest of the coming of Fëanor’s sons to Hanstovánen, and the colloquy at the Bridge of Willows. Ñólanis’ strong, handsome face showed dismay, but when she answered her voice was calm and firm.

“Lady, I know the terms of Fëanor’s foul Oath, none better. I was there in the Great Square of Tirion when he and his sons swore it, and the torches could not lighten the darkness that came upon us then. Cursed be the hour that my daughter loved him! My wise child, whose wisdom failed her then and after.”

Elwing nodded. There had been efficiency somewhere, clearly, and not only Nierninwa’s. At the very moment of her need, Tirion had sent the very mother(5) of Nerdanel herself, Fëanor’s wife and mother of the Kinslayers.

“And now I must know what the terms of the Oath truly are, my lady, so that I may judge the weight of,” Elwing hesitated briefly then gave up. “Your grandsons’ words.”

Ñólanis was silent for a long time. Then she said softly, chanting,

Be he friend or foe, or foul offspring of Morgoth Bauglir, be he mortal dark that in after days on earth shall dwell, shall no law nor love nor league of Gods, no might nor mercy nor moveless fate, defend him forever from the fierce vengeance of the sons of Fëanor, whoso seize or steal or finding keep the fair enchanted globes of crystal whose glory dies not, the Silmarils. We have sworn forever!”

“This they swore, my daughter’s sons, with Manwë and Varda and the Holy Mountain to witness. They called upon themselves the Everlasting Dark if they should fail and bound themselves in the name of the One. Those words I will not repeat, Lady, nor will any of the Noldor, even for you.”

The night was silent around them. The laughter and song from the lower gardens seemed very far away, but the Sea murmured on below them, unquelled and undaunted.

Elwing said at last, “Yet the Oath was done with, long ago; so the Valar have said.”

“I do not know,” Ñólanis said. “Those accurséd words had their own power and their own...life, their own weight in the Song. It may be that they echo yet. It may be that even Mandos could not release my grandsons from their yoke.”

“But if that is so,” Elwing said, “And if my lord refuses them the Silmaril, as surely he will, for it is not his to give, then they are doomed.”

Ñólanis lifted her hands and let them fall, without art or grace.

“I do not know,” she said again. “Neither what may befall thereafter, nor why these two of all my grandsons should yet be so burdened. Maitimo, that is, Maedhros, endures and whatever his troubles the Oath is not among them. Caranthir is indifferent, so far as I have heard from my daughter. Celegorm and Curufin remain yet in Mandos, and assuredly I would know, had ill befallen them there. Maglor... is lost but living, so the Weaver says.

“I do not even comprehend truly what it means, that doom they invoked. Perhaps no incarnate creature can.”

Yet her grandsons had preferred to do murder upon murder rather than face the fate that they had called upon themselves. And ages ago in Sirion, Elwing would have damned them all happily, thinking it only justice for their crimes. She shivered. Despite the starlight on the sea, and the shimmer of the jewel, the night seemed all at once dark and filled with horror, as no night of Aman should ever be.

Ñólanis said, very softly, “I remember the Unlight of Ungoliant, and the darkening of Aman, when the Trees were murdered. It was more than mere night, which we knew in Middle-earth and did not fear. The terror of that darkness we will not forget, until the ending of the world.

“I am sorry, Lady. I fear that I have been of little aid to you, and no comfort.”

Elwing rose to her feet.

“Not so. You have given me much to think upon, and knowledge that I lacked. I thank you, Lady Ñólanis, and those who sent you.”

Ñólanis had risen with her hostess, but paused, abruptly still. She laughed, an unexpectedly sweet sound.

“Indeed, in the working of chance is the will of the Valar shown! That will teach me to be so intent upon my own affairs that any god Who wills may move me hither and yon unheeding!”

Elwing asked, with real interest, “You mean this sky-ship of yours? I have never seen another so great in size, or of this same design.”

“Nor will you, for a while at least.” The note of joyful pride in her voice was familiar and pleasant. Elwing heard it in Eärendil’s voice each time that Vingilot received another refit and improvement to its design, or he and the Meneldili(6) devised a new instrument or experiment to study the tangled reaches of Ilmen.

“<>Arwen is the first of her kind, though I hope not the last. She is intended for far voyaging in dangerous winds and treacherous terrain, for we her company intend to overfly and map all the boundaries of Aman, even to the Last Shore of Uttermost West, or at least, its material manifestation.

“She was long in the building, for many skills were needed, and you may know, Lady, that it is not so easy for masters to work together in counterpoint, each Art contributing to the greater whole. Without Master Elrond’s wisdom, we would still be arguing over the specifications for her sails!”

It was Elwing’s turn to check herself. Sirion had fallen when her sons were only children. Elros she had never seen again, for mortal lands had been forbidden her, the price of Eärendil’s passage and hers. She had lost him forever without ever truly knowing him. Elrond’s loss had been greater than hers, for he had had an Age of the world to love his daughter. When he came to Aman at last, weary with the long years, with partial victory and ultimate defeat, she had not known, still did not know, how he might be comforted. She sent letters to him, where he dwelt at Queen Lalwen’s court in the Lonely Isle, and received his replies.

There were swifter means of communication, but by tacit consent of both they were not used. Their correspondence was courteous and kind. They did not meet.

“He...named your ship.”

Ñólanis inclined her head. It was clear that she knew how matters stood between Elrond and his mother; to Elwing’s relief she did not speak of it.

“It was he who led our company; organised work, calmed disputes, made sure that we had the supplies we needed, made sure that the different Arts sang each their part in due time and order for this great making.”

She hesitated, then added, “She is named Arwen because like his daughter she will travel strange paths; but this Arwen will come home again.”

Away in the lower gardens a sudden golden voice was lifted in song, splendid and terrible as Sunrise. The Vanya captain was singing, a song that Elwing did not know, though if she allowed it the spell of the music would enfold her, even at this distance. She turned towards it, almost without will.

“It is a song of the Trees,” Ñólanis said beside her. “Maglor made it in Tirion, in the noontide of our joy.” She seemed now both sad and slightly amused. “The Vanyar are often oblique, but rarely subtle.”

Elwing bristled. “Do all the Cities then mix themselves in my affairs?”

Ñólanis said gently, “The Vanyar dwell at the feet of Manwë; they see both far and deep, and Lalezel our Captain is close in friendship with my daughter. Alas, Lady, anything that touches upon the Silmarils is of interest to us all, in Valmar and Tirion and upon the Mountain itself.”

She bowed, and at Elwing’s nod left her to return to the company. Alone, the Lady of Hanstovanén stood where she was for a long time, listening as the
Kinslayer’s joyful song shone like the Silmaril in the night around her.

. . . . .

The days following were quiet but not peaceful, as all waited for the Mariner to return to his home port. It was understood that Arwen would not fly before then. Her company passed the time in the town or with the Meneldili in their towers in the foothills, or among the shipwrights in their yards. The Kinslayers remained quiescent at Iantathren under Gilfaril’s steadfast ward.

Elwing went grimly about her accustomed tasks. They were not heavy, for the easy-going Teleri demanded little of their lords. It was the Lady’s duty to keep an eye and a hand on the weather and the realm, argue with Ossë on behalf of the sailors, judge disputes, mediate quarrels and preside over the council that oversaw the daily care of the city. She ruled alone, for it was understood that the Mariner had his own Doom and his own duties. So Elwing spoke for Hanstovanén in the councils of her overlords Olwë and Falmariel in Alqualondë; once she had spoken at the seldom-met council of Ingwë and Laurien(7) in golden Valmar. That had been the meeting at which the High King and Queen of the Eldar had told their peoples that the Sons of Fëanor were to be recalled to life.

No one in the City spoke of the Kinslayers or their request, though all surely knew of it. But as she went about her business in the Tower and the City, Elwing felt unease grow among her people. This time, the joy with which the City anticipated the Silmaril’s homecoming was tainted with fear of what might happen thereafter. Sometimes she met Ñólanis, but they spoke mostly of aeronautical questions; the matters of the first night were never touched upon.
Alone, she paced her rooms and her anger at the Kinslayers grew.

At last one evening Elwing summoned Nierninwa to her spare, lightly furnished rooms and told him, “The Mariner will be here at dawn, the day after tomorrow. Make a place ready for the Kinslayers, but let them not come here until he and I have spoken.”

Nierninwa glanced at her wings, mounted on their stand on the pearl-nacred wall. They were long and white, quiescent in their harness, their power at rest. Elwing said flatly, “Fly to him in my stead. Tell him...”

There were too many words. They tangled in her throat and would not come. Nierninwa was merciful, and asked no questions. He knew what burned in her heart. “I will, Lady.”

The next evening the Star shone in the western sky, faint and distant but drawing near. By the morrowdim it was visibly a ship to Eldarin eyes, small and shining in the dark. At her balcony she heard the rush of great pinions as Nierninwa rose from the Tower in her place, on his own storm-grey wings. She clenched her fists on the balustrade and waited for the Silmaril to dawn. She heard her people singing their welcome from the roofs of the town and the balconies of the Tower. The light of the Jewel grew, not brighter, but deeper as it drew near. Vingilot had her own radiance, a ship of crystal and silver and cloud; but her beauty was nothing compared to the living glory that shone at her masthead, outshining the forgotten Sun as the Silmaril gave back the light of dawn a thousandfold.

Vingilot settled into her usual anchorage out in the centre of the harbour, her wings folding like a swan’s. The skiffs went out to her at once, to repair and resupply, to bring the Meneldilil news of the fate of their experiments, to bring her husband home. This time, for the first time, there were guards on the quays.

Having broken her long custom already, Elwing waited further, until her husband had had time to bathe and eat and rest. The time passed swiftly, for the light of the Jewel shone through her windows, lovelier than Sun or Moon or stars or fire. Living and strong, the heirloom of her house, won in pain and ultimate sacrifice. Thingol and his line had died, Doriath and Sirion had died, all to possess the Silmaril. And yet It remained unstained, Its terrible sanctity untouched, unmoved by the river of blood that had been shed for Its sake. All that dwelt in Its un-Marred light was made by It more beautiful, more wholly fair. Her Tower, her City, her woods and shores and streams and fields, her people, her light.

When she went to him at last, she found the Mariner sitting cross-legged and barefoot on a divan, looking out of the wide, arched window. In the Jewel-light he shone like one of the Calaquendi, golden as a Vanya, strong as a Noldo. By her choice he was counted among the Eldar; but in his features she saw always the mark of Tuor his father: the bright shadow of mortality, the Gift of Iluvatar that they had refused. She thought sometimes that he might see the same in her.

Eärendil followed the ways of Gondolin and Tirion and eschewed furniture; his rooms were a welter of carpets, cushions and hangings, all worked in the many colours of the sea. They were always quiet, except for the song of the waves and the wind. The Mariner had little interest in other music, though the star-lore that he brought back for the astronomers had led to several interesting new schools of both composition and mathematics.

He rose to greet her, not quite smiling; their embrace was tight and lingering. Elwing held him to her, learning again the long, familiar lines of his body, the warmth of his presence, both of body and of spirit. She could never be entirely certain of the Valar’s reassurance that his fëa would return from the wastes, even if ill befell his flesh. She had chosen the life of the Eldar for them both, unable to bear his death. As the price of her choice, she would suffer until the end of time the fears of the Mariner’s spouse.

After a long while, Elwing leaned back against his arms and looked into his face. They were nearly of a height, for all of Thingol’s line were tall. Nierninwa had told him; there was anxiety in the blue, Mannish eyes.

“I am sorry,” she said. “I was a coward, and Nierninwa did my duty for me.”

His hand stroked her hair. When he was at home she wore it loose in the Noldorin style because it pleased him, just as he wore the draped tunic and trousers of the Sindar for her sake.

“ It was bound to happen,” he said at last.

Elwing blinked. “What? You expected them to come here ?”

“Did not you?” The anxiety in him was for her. For the matter of the Kinslayers he had only detachment and cool curiosity, and cooler determination. He was very like his mother.

“This is the only Silmaril left untouched by their hands. Of all those who have desired the Jewels, only Beren and Lúthien truly surrendered one of their own will, and even they could not let it go again when it came to them a second time.”

She pulled herself from his arms and took a step back.

“It was the heirloom of my House and I yielded it freely.” The sons of Fëanor might have recognised the stony coldness of her tone.

The Mariner said, very gently, “To me, my love, your wedded spouse united to you as no other could ever be. And the Silmaril dwells here, if it dwells anywhere.”

Her pale eyes narrowed. “You cannot give it up. It was the charge of the Powers upon you!”

“I accepted the duty freely, yes, and continue to accept it, until the End. But you and I and all of us are still free, my love, and if I wish I may lay the duty down. I do not think that the Valar will condemn me, if I ask Them for release.”

The implications of his words were almost too terrible for her fear and anger to endure. She turned away, pacing the soft carpets, and chose the lesser pain.

“And shall They let you give it to them? The Kinslayers that the Jewels themselves rejected?”

Eärendil sat down cross-legged on the divan, his back to the pouring light outside.

“Unless Lord Eönwë arrives to forbid it, I see nothing to prevent me. They have returned from the Halls of Waiting. Surely we may trust the Valar not to have released them untimely.”

Elwing stalked over and glared down at him, hands fisted in the pockets of her tunic.

“The Powers unleashed Morgoth on Middle-earth. They trusted the mortals of Númenor. They condemned you to endless wandering. Shall I trust Their good judgement without more? I asked sea and sky for counsel, when the Kinslayers came to my borders, and received none.”

He looked up at her, his smile wry and sweet. “The Valar learn from Their mistakes, my love, as do we all who live long enough, or again. The Earthqueen made the Trees and their Light, but one of the Eldar preserved that Light when She could not. They and we are equals in this venture and our choices are our own, now and always.”

“And the price of choice is also ours to pay,” Elwing said grimly. “And not only ours.” She paced another turn about the room, head bent but shoulders still straight beneath the weight of lordship. He watched her in silence, waiting. It was past noon, and both Tower and city were settling into their afternoon quiet, before waking again to evening. Someone on the floors below was playing a flute very softly, a little, drowsy melody that mingled with the unceasing rush of the waves below and the high yelp of seagulls to make a soothing, afternoon sound.

At last Elwing came back to him, no longer troubling to hide her pain.

“Did I choose wrongly, that day in the Ring of Doom?” she asked him. “Did I bind you against your will when I chose the life of the Eldar for us both? Did I make myself your gaoler rather than your wife, and hold you here when you had rather gone beyond the Last Shore with your father’s people?”

“No!”

Eärendil came quickly to his feet and to her, taking her hands.

“Never say that, beloved, never think it. You know why I gave the choice to you. I love you, then and now. I could not have borne to see you age and die in mortal kind. Nor could I have endured to leave you forever, and widow us both until the End and perhaps after.”

She thought of Dior, the first of the half-elven, and Nimloth of the Sindar, her mother. The Valar had offered the same choice to her father as to all the children of Melian’s line. If he had taken the mortal path her mother could not have followed, and so he had chosen to stay. They lived over-mountain now, in Thingol’s realm. And also she thought of Elros her son and Arwen and Elladan and Elrohir her grandchildren, and the price in sorrow and unending loss that had been paid for each of their choices. She touched her husband’s cheek lightly with one hand.

“And so instead here we are together until the End, my love. Well, I suppose it could be worse.”

He said, “We have always been strength to each other, not weakness. This is a small thing, this coming anew of the Kinslayers. A note in the Song, no more.”

She heard both the reassurance and the warning. One note, yes, but sometimes one note was all that was needed to change the key and the direction of the music.

. . . . .

Another evening, and another company was gathered in the gardens of the Tower, for another purpose. Elwing followed the custom of Doriath and kept her High Seat outdoors, except in winter or rough weather. Halfway up the gardens was a quiet space, carpeted with thrift and squill and clover. Her throne stood there, shaded by apple trees. When the Tower was raised, Finrod Felagund himself had come North and shaped a seat for her out of a great boulder of jade, thrown up upon the beach by the waves. It was a lovely thing, its translucent whiteness delicately carved to hint at waves, and clouds and wings. It was, by design, of no particular comfort.

Nierninwa was there, and the other officers of her household, and the present members of the Council of the City. Ñólanis had a place of honour at the Lady’s left hand, with Captain Lalezel and others from Arwen’s company. Eärendil stood at Elwing’s right, his face impassive. There was no light but the common red of Sunset, for the Mariner had gone out to his ship and taken the Silmaril from where it shone at the prow. It was the dark of the Moon and high clouds occluded the opening stars. The night to come would be very dark.

A bell chimed, and several figures came walking up through the gardens; the Kinslayers, escorted by Gilfaril and her foresters, all armed. They came into the shade of the trees, where the Lady and her people waited. She did not rise to greet them, for they were not guests. She sat now in judgement.

Gilfaril and her people joined the throng among the trees, leaving the Kinslayers to come forward alone. They bowed to her and to the Mariner; both acknowledged Ñólanis with courteous nods. Amras smiled at her and Elwing offered a wary smile in return.

Amrod said, “Lady, we are come at your summons, for the purpose of which we have spoken.”

There was a little stir among the watching elves; all knew what was toward, but Elwing had not told anyone of what her decision might be.

She said, “You desire the Jewel still.”

He too smiled, very faintly. “No, Lady, we do not desire it. Not at all. We surrendered life and honour and all peace forever for its sake. How should we still desire it? We make no claim, for the Valar have judged that we have none. But we ask it of you nevertheless, as we must, as a boon of your mercy.”

Someone shouted from among the trees, “We will not give up the Jewel!”

There was a rumble of agreement from the company. Elwing raised her hand, and slowly quiet fell.

“We will not give up the Jewel,” she said. And before any other could speak, added, “It is no longer ours to keep or give.”

This time the outcry was louder, and lasted longer. She let it run for a while, then nodded to Nierninwa. The Captain waved a hand at one of the guards, who picked up the hammer and struck the bell beside him, full force. The crash of sound rolled over the company. In the silence that was left in its wake, Nierninwa cleared his throat.

“Pray, quiet for the Lady.”

Elwing looked around her. All of them had known the Kinslayers’ purpose beforehand. Nonetheless her household and council were in disarray, the peace of Ages overthrown in an instant or so it seemed. No. This time, matters would fall differently, one way or the other. She lifted her hand where she sat, and her husband clasped it in his briefly before she withdrew it.

She said to the Kinslayers and to her people, “Long ago I yielded up the Silmaril, freely and of my own will. You must ask your boon of him who holds it now.”

Eärendil stepped forward to stand before her throne. Into the silence, Elwing said, “As I was given the choice long ago, so I give it back freely. Choose thou, my love and I will abide thy will, as thou didst abide mine.”

The Mariner reached within his coat, and brought out a small round case of black metal, with the image of apple-blossom embossed upon it. It was of galvorn, a long-ago gift from Eöl in token of the difficult reconciliation between their Houses. A gift as enigmatic as its giver, for the Dark Elf had no interest in the Silmarils; the stars had always been light enough for him. But perhaps the clear sight that he had learned in the Halls of the Dead had shown him that one day the Mariner would have need for it.

Eärendil opened the case, and the rosy light of evening brightened with gold and silver, as the Silmaril added its glory to the Sunset. A little sigh came from those who watched, but the Kinslayers turned their faces away.

“Sons of Fëanor,” the Mariner said, “Kinsmen. You have asked for the Silmaril, for the fulfilment of your Oath. Tell me now and truly, before us all, what you will do if I deny you, as is my duty and my right.”

Amrod said quietly, his gaze fixed on Eärendil’s face, “We will do as we have sworn to the Lady, Mariner. We will go and never return.”

“Foresworn, as you deem it. Into darkness everlasting.”

“Yes. It is no matter. It is the choice that we should have made at the first. We will make it now gladly.”

Elwing shuddered inwardly, and saw her horror echoed in the faces of her people. This was an obscenity, to speak so easily of obliteration. Eärendil continued, apparently unmoved, “And if I grant your boon? What will you?”

Amrod blinked. For the first time, the fixity of his purpose seemed to waver, as if he had never considered this possibility. Amras remained unmoving at his side and Amrod said, “In truth, we do not know. We stand now at the fork in the path, the modulation of the melody, and we do not know the end.”

“So.” Eärendil tipped the Jewel from the case onto his bare palm, as casually as a Noldorin gem-smith handling a diamond. It shone in his hand, deadly and beautiful, and those who were gathered there crowded closer, unthinking, until Nierninwa signalled to the guards to step gently between. Even Elwing leaned forward a little where she sat, until she remembered herself.

There was a waiting silence.

The Mariner inclined his head and held out his hand.

“Take it, freely. It is yours, if you desire it.”

Amrod took a step forward. And was neatly outflanked by his brother, who slipped around him with hunter’s speed and lifted the Silmaril in one smooth snatch of his fingers. There was a collective gasp; Ñólanis cried out and there was open fear in Amrod’s face as he turned, reaching too slowly to prevent his brother from taking the danger upon himself. Amras stood still, his face without expression, the Jewel-light bright through his fist. He turned his hand upwards and opened his fingers and the Silmaril glowed quietly on his unmarked palm.

This time, neither Elwing nor Nierninwa tried to quiet the minor uproar that followed, though no one ventured to approach the Jewel. The tears were running openly down Ñólanis’ face, and even the Vanyar seemed astonished.

Elwing looked, not at the Kinslayers, but at her husband. He was...changed, in some subtle but definite fashion. Not that he stood less tall or straight, but there was a lightness in his face that she only now realised had been missing for a very long time.

“So,” Amrod said softly. “It is done. Thank you, Lady, and you, Mariner.”

He held out his hand to his brother. Amras dropped the Silmaril into it without hesitation, and Amrod in his turn stood still for a long time before the miracle of his father’s Jewel. But there was something in his face besides wonder as he looked into its endless depths of light, shining in the cup of his palm. When he looked up at last, his voice was soft, but in the tense hush all heard it. “It is a great weight. Too great for us to hold. We would bear it in your stead if we could, but we cannot. Our House no longer has the heart for it. I am sorry, cousin.”

And he held out the merciless light, for the Mariner to take up again.

There was a subdued cheer from some of the councillors, but not around the throne. Elwing felt Ñólanis shift beside her, a sudden movement as suddenly suppressed. Eärendil sighed and took the Silmaril back, with the same matter-of-fact ease with which he had given it away. He put It back into the case and closed the lid, releasing them from the power of Its presence. The quiet twilight flowed back among the trees. The clouds had thinned, and the first few stars could be seen through the veils across the sky, now that the light of the Jewel was gone.

The Mariner nodded gravely to the Kinslayers. “Where do you go, cousins, now that you are truly free?”

Amrod answered, “We will find a home by the shore in Eldamar, or in Tol Eressëa, if Queen Lalwen permits it.”

Like Eärendil but a moment past, both he and his brother stood, not more straight, but more easily, as if they had been freed from an invisible chain. At Earendil’s enquiring glance, he added, “Our brother Maglor is still lost, far away in the Great Lands, and someone must keep watch, against the day that he shall come home.”

There was a little silence, perhaps as the company pondered the likelihood of this. Elwing said on an impulse, “For tonight, you may stay here, as guests of my House. But on the morrow....in the south, on the northern shore of the Bay of Eldamar, a tower was built for me when first I came into the West. It has stood empty since my people and I removed here, but it is still mine. Dwell there as my kinsmen if it pleases you, with my good will.”

Amrod glanced at Amras, who nodded, the briefest inclination of his head. It was the first time that she had seen any gesture of communication between them; she caught Amras’ eye, and realised that it had been a deliberate courtesy to her, a subtle easing of the distance between them. Both of them bowed again, twice.

Amrod said, “ Thank you, Lady. Cousin. We accept your gift of hospitality gladly, and will repay it as we can, in the days to come.”

There was expectancy in the air again, though of a different kind from earlier. Everyone was waiting for their dismissal and the chance to discuss, exclaim over and spread the news of this momentous evening. Instead, Elwing asked the question that had followed her down all the years.

“If we... if I had given you the Jewel at Sirion, would you have left us in peace then?”

Amrod looked faintly surprised.

“Yes, Lady. Of course.” His gaze met hers, too bright for her to see what might hide behind.

“And in time the Jewel would have returned to Angband, when Morgoth’s armies overran us, and you, and Gil-Galad on Balar. And there it would still be, with its fellows in the crown of the Master of Middle-earth. For without the Silmaril there would have been no voyage into the West and no emissary to the Valar and no great fleet coming up out of the Sunset for the succour of the world.”

Elwing looked around and saw the unsurprised dismay on her husband’s face, and the utter lack of expression on Nierninwa’s. Ñólanis simply looked grim; but she too had clearly heard such thoughts spoken before.

“It is done with,” she said heavily, before anyone else could speak. “It does no good to chew over might-have-beens like old bones. The Song is Marred and all the world with it. The gods too are bound, but They play no games with us. However the music resolved, they would have found a way. The preparation for war began when our people departed and continued throughout the years that they were gone. The Valar would have found a way, Silmaril or no Silmaril.”

“Perhaps, Grandmother,” Amrod said. “And perhaps not. But you are right that it no longer matters. Some discords can never be made sweet again, sing as we will. Silence is the most that we hope for now.”

“But someday, perhaps,” Eärendil said. “There will be new songs to sing.” He held the occluded Silmaril in his hand again, invisibly but quite clearly braced against the weight of its presence.

Amrod did not answer at once. At last he said only, again, “Perhaps.”

Elwing rose and went to her husband and clasped her fingers carefully about his, sharing the burden.

. . . . .

It was a day of brilliant light, cloudless and clear. The Sons of Fëanor were long gone, and Arwen had flown. Elwing and Eärendil stood at the far end of the long pier that stretched to the edge of the reef. A crowd of townsfolk waited with them, to bid Nierninwa and his crew farewell. Alpessë had limped into port a dozen nights ago, and Elwing’s new guard-Captain and her people were still cheerfully recounting their adventures to all who would listen. There had been encounters not only with sea-lizards, but with the great squid-kind that hunted them. Strong though the swanships were, they were not built to long withstand the tentacles of a kraken in direct attack, and it had only been Falathin and her first mate’s power that drove the beasts off before they reduced Alpessë to splinters (the size and number of all the creatures involved was of course still growing in the telling).

The water rippled beside the pier, and Núrána’s sleek, grey bulk rose into the sunlight (8), to cheers and singing from the crowd. Like the great fishes whose shape she mimicked, the deep-runner could not long endure the air; her shining, flexible hide needed water to maintain its strength. The hatch opened, and Nierninwa leaped out onto the pier, smiling. Elwing and Eärendil embraced him, one after the other, and wished him a fair voyage, as did many of the townsfolk. He replied in kind, but the call of the Sea was already strong upon him, and he did not linger once the songs of farewell were sung. Núrána sounded her horn, three notes as deep and sweet as the horn-call of Ulmo her Lord, and returned to her element. Her wake showed for a while, heading eastward; then she found her depth and was gone.

The people dispersed, bidding the Mariner and the Lady polite farewell before going about their own business. Falathin hovered briefly, before apparently deciding that they were safe enough on their own. Elwing watched her stride back to shore, then turned back to her husband. He held out his hand, smiling, and she took it. They strolled back along the pier hand in hand, and then towards the Tower along the sandy curve of the sea-walk.

“I think that I will go with the deep-runners soon.” she said. “If my people consent, Olwë and Falmariel may send some other of the Swan-kin to rule here for a space. I have a yen to explore the deeps below, as you explore the deeps above.”

Her husband’s eyes shone. “That would be a fine thing!”

He waved his free arm at Vingilot, swinging at anchor in the bay. The Silmaril blazed again at her prow, its light sensible even in the full blaze of the Sun.

“We will meet each other half-way, as we did of old, only you will rise from the depths and I will descend from the heights, and we will meet and exchange the tales of our wandering, at peace upon the sweet bosom of the Sea.”

Elwing laughed, sudden and sweet.

“And perhaps I will find the other Silmaril, the one that was lost under the waves.”

Eärendil stopped and turned to her, abruptly sober. The wind had gentled, and the only sound was the low lapping of the water against the shingle.

“And if you do, beloved, if you find it, what will you then?”

She smiled still, but her eyes were serious.

“My love, the Sea is Ulmo’s realm; nothing moves or is there without His will. I would not dispute the Silmaril with Him.”

They were close enough that even the soft breeze tangled their hair about them, gold and dark. They shared a long glance.

Elwing said gravely, “Two sons of Fëanor have been more than enough company for this Age. I do not wish to also find Maglor importuning me at my doorstep some day.”

Eärendil laughed, but there was still a shadow upon him. She understood and was not angry. She clasped his hands and lifted them to her breast and made him her promise eye to eye, as on the day that they had wed, long ago in another world.

“Beloved. Trust the Sea to keep what it holds. Let the Jewel shine below as its match shines above. Wherever it lies, I will let it be. ”

 

. . . . .

 

Footnotes:

(1) In a late essay on Aman, Tolkien said that every beast that there had ever been except those perverted by Morgoth existed in Aman. There are therefore plesiosaurs in the waters off the Blessed Realm, and cave lions in the foothills of the Pélori. There might even be dinosaurs somewhere about, possibly safely sequestered on the formerly-Enchanted Isles.

(2) Falmariel is an invented name for the Queen of the Teleri, Olwë’s wife and Eärwen’s mother. The character is quasi-canonical in that her existence is logically necessary.

(3) Hellevantari is the invented name for the invented airship-pilots of Valinor. From hellë - “sky” and vanta- “walk”. Literally, “skywalkers”. Many but not all of them are Vanyar. I assumed that if the Valinoreans had artificial wings, which they canonically did, after Elwing invented them, they could have airships too.

(4) The Noldor learned to capture light in jewels very early in their history. I assumed that the art would be widespread in Aman by the time of this story (beginning of the Fifth Age, Middle-earth time).

(5) The name Ñólanis and everything else about her is my invention, but the character is quasi-canonical in the sense that her existence is logically necessary - she is the mother of Nerdanel and the wife of Mahtan. The red-brown hair was associated with the Aulendili, the especial followers of the Vala Aulë. Mahtan, Nerdanel, Maedhros and Amras had it, canonically; I have let Ñólanis have it as well because I felt like it.

(6) “Sky-friends” - astronomers

(7) Invented name of Ingwë’s wife, the High Queen of all Quendi. Another quasi-canonical character.

(8) Yes, it’s a submarine of sorts. If the Vanyar can have airships, the Teleri can have submarines. Don’t ask me how they all work. Eldarin technology is of the Clarkeian sort, sufficiently advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic. The name is intended to mean “Deep-wanderer”.