Lady of the Seas, The
1. Chapter 1
Unfinished Tales, or The History of Middle-earth Volumes I-XII.
The Lady of the Seas
Cirdan sat beside his white ship at the shore just west of Mount Taras and played on his lyre made from a turtle shell. He sang for love of the Sea, as he ever did, and his melodies
intertwined with the coastal winds and crashing waves. There was yet no light in the lands, and so Cirdan paused only when the stars had traveled across the sky to eat a simple meal of
steamed fish. He surveyed his beautiful white ship and admired it in the starlight. Then he continued in his musical praise of the Sea.
The waters of the oceans stirred as it ever did but then became oddly calm despite the winds. Cirdan's music fell silent as he stared at the flattening waves and the fading foam. He heard
the piping of conches, but they were not the Ulumuri that the Eldar had long ago heard. The music was softer in sound, higher in pitch, and more seductive yet just as powerful as the
lure of the Ulumuri. It was like the difference between the trumpeting of the swans and the chirping of the nightingales. The waters paused even from their movements to and fro against
the seashore, and, for a moment, Cirdan was reminded of Cuivienen, the Waters of Awakening, as he gazed out at the smooth, almost ripple-less surface of Belegaer reflecting the bright
stars in the dark sky above. Then a part of the Sea stirred, circling like a growing hurricane with water and foam forming a great, twisting cylinder. The top of the pedestal was like a fresh
seaspray. A dark figure rose from the center of that hurricane. Her head was thrown back, and her tresses were like a waterfall and lovely to behold. Her form of liquid seemed to solidify
as starlight entered her body until at last Cirdan beheld the chosen form of the Lady of the Seas.
Uinen stepped off her watery pedestal, and, as she did, a jet of water shot up from the ocean like a geyser so that her petite, bare foot came to stand at the top of the narrow fountain.
With each step, another geyser sprung forth so that the Lady of the Seas walked down to the shore on a stairwell of spraying water. She came to stand before Cirdan, and only a shallow
tide of water washed about her feet. The ocean lost its unnatural calm and again began to rock to and fro with dark waves. Uinen had chosen a form shorter than Cirdan's and reached
only to his shoulders. Her hair was as dark as the waters on a starless winter night, and her skin was oddly bronzed. Before, when Cirdan had seen the Lady of the Seas, she had been tall
beyond measure with green hair and skin as pale as sheer pearl. Her dress seemed to be formed from the very foam of the water. Cirdan reached out for her but then caught himself. He
bowed before the Lady of the Seas and dropped to his knees before her. Reverently, he took her right hand in both of his and brought it to his lips. Her tan hand was strong and muscular
rather than milky smooth and soft.
"Lady Uinen," Cirdan said, and his voice caught as he spoke her name.
"Nowe," she said. Her voice was deeper than it had been in the past. She withdrew her hand slightly and then turned it upward. Cirdan rose at her behest, though he loathed to do so. He
wished only to worship her and stay at her feet. "Long have you been away from your people, and they cry out to you along the shore. Some believe that the Sea has swallowed you.
Why have you not returned to Eglarest?"
Cirdan was amazed that such a matter had been brought to the attention of the very Lady of the Seas. "My Lady, I offer you my most humble apologies. I did not know that the Egladhrim
were troubling you so. It seems they are unused to Thingol's return, but they will adjust to his rule in time."
"So you have left the Falathrim because of Thingol's return?" Uinen asked.
"That is not entirely so, Lady Uinen, yet what you say does hold some truth," Cirdan admitted. "Elmo's influence did not extend past Eglador, and in that time while he was king, the Elves
of the Shores became accustomed to calling me Lord. I have no desire to be a king." Cirdan averted his gaze from the piercing eyes of the Lady of the Seas, but he found that he could not
long look away long. "I was but a steward and gladly turned over my charge to the rightful King of Beleriand, yet the Falathrim are less willing to release me as their Lord. I thought this
for the best."
Lady Uinen searched Cirdan's grey eyes and then put her hand on his cheek. "I have heard the songs that you have been singing to the Sea for the last five years, and they are filled with
sorrow. Five years by the reckoning of the Two Trees is no short time, long enough for a young Elf of the Falas to grow to maturity without the presence of his Lord. Though such
sorrow is, indeed, in the waters that flow through the depths of the earth, there should also be joy in that music." She drew Cirdan's head down to her shoulder and leaned her head
against his. "You are deeply grieved, and yet I cannot fully understand your lamentations. But you have ever brought comfort to my husband when he was troubled, and so I will do
what I can to comfort you now." She stroked his long silver hair with such gentleness that tears came unbidden to his eyes. He took her in his arms and clung to her as he sobbed into
her shoulder. She did not hush him and instead accepted his warm tears into herself. "I will stay with you, Lord of the Falas, until you are healed."
Cirdan wanted to refuse. He wanted to declare himself unworthy of her attention. But, instead, all he could do was cry into her shoulder.
Cirdan awakened to the aroma of cooking food, but the smells were entirely unfamiliar to him. He thought it peculiar since he'd been living alone for years, but the oddity of the situation
didn't stop him from rising to investigate the delightful odors that floated into his bedroom from the kitchen of his boathouse by the Sea. He would not relearn caution for still many years
to come. Before the hearth, he beheld the dark-skinned form of Lady Uinen. She turned to him as he came to stand by the entrance of the kitchen and smiled, and, in later days, even the
light of the sun would pale in comparison to her smile at that moment.
"Did you sleep well, Nowe?" Her voice was as deep as the oceans, yet it remained feminine and soft.
"Thanks to you, Lady Uinen, I slept better than I have in many years," Cirdan said. He thought himself mesmerized by her beauty, but the unfamiliar yet alluring aroma of breakfast drew
his eyes from her. What was she cooking that smelled so good? As soon as he realized that food had lured him from the Lady of the Sea, Cirdan flushed in embarrassment. Lady Uinen
only laughed. She beckoned him to join her at the short table of polished wood.
"The Elves of the Falas continue to surpass the Elves of Alqualonde in matters of shipbuilding, but there is so much more to life," said Lady Uinen. "The Falathrim also call themselves
the Eglain or the Egladhrim, the Forsaken Elves, yet Lord Ulmo of the Waters, Lord Osse of the Seas, and I, his Lady of the Seas, have always been with you, have we not? Even without
the Light of the Blessed Realm of which Elwe long ago spoke, there is joy to be found."
"I know it well, my Lady."
"You claim to know this, Lord of the Falas, yet you have been despairing by our shores for years now, dwelling apart from others and singing songs of sorrow to the Seas," Lady Uinen
chided. "Allow me to show you a part of the pleasure that you are missing, and perhaps you can return to the Havens of the Falas and teach your people to find similar beauty in these
lightless lands." She pulled aside the simple white cloths that had been covering the food on the table. "This is steamed lobster with cubes of mango. The tail is particularly delicious and
can be dipped in this butter sauce here. Here we have tiger prawns, seasoned with herbs and complimented by garlic noodles. It is true that the Falas lacks the corn that can be found in
Eglador, but rice grows in abundance, and, with it, I have made rolls of rice mixed with vinegar and sugar. Atop these rolls are slices of barbecued eel. These are of fresh salmon. Within
these rolls are fried shrimp. And these, fried soft-shelled crab." She poured him a glass of wine and gestured for him to eat.
"Surely this is a feast worthy of the Lords of the West," Cirdan said as he sampled the first dish, the lobster tail. It was unlike anything he'd ever tasted before. He looked to Lady Uinen
with wonder and appreciation. "My Lady, never did I imagine that shellfish could be eaten, and now I find that it is an unimaginable delight to the palate. I am forever in your debt."
Lady Uinen laughed. "When you return to your people and teach them what you will have learned from me, then will your debt be paid. These dishes that you are sampling are recipes of
Alqualonde." Cirdan paused briefly from tasting the subtle flavors and moist texture of the garlic noodles. "You are surprised, yet you should not be. The Ainur have no physical forms
in the realm of Arda, and we assume these guises only to share in the presence of the Children of Iluvatar. It is my hope that you will return once more to the Havens of the Falas and
share your culinary experience. The Falathrim will invent new foods, and my Lord Osse and I will visit you by the shores of Beleriand. You will share with us your newest dishes, and we
will be able to taste the very healing of Arda Marred, for Lord Osse and I long ago believed that the Elves should remain in Middle-earth to heal the hurts of the world."
"I will do what I can," Cirdan said, "but it will be difficult to create dishes more fine than the ones that I have today tasted."
"You will think of something," said Uinen. "I have faith in your inventiveness. Once, you made only rafts and floated on the calm Waters of Awakening, to the very waterfall of
Cuivienen. Yet by the time the Teleri came to the Sea of Rhun, you had learned to craft white ships that cut the waves of the waters with grace and speed."
Cirdan paused in his dining of fine seafood and lost himself in the recollection of that time. "The older boat were mere skiffs and seemed unsuitable for the Sea of Rhun, the first sea that I
had ever beheld, and so I crafted a new ship and did not venture out into the waters until that white ship was completed. When I did, the white ship glided through the crested waves,
parting foam on either side. It was then that I beheld you for the first time, and your tresses mingled with all the waters of the Sea. Faintly, almost lost in the gentle breeze, I heard you call
out to me. You called me Cirdan, the Shipwright, and to that name only have I answered ever since." Cirdan smiled ruefully. "If not for you, I might now be known as Raftwright or
Skiffwright rather than Shipwright."
"Cirdan the Shipwright," Uinen said softly, and Cirdan shuddered, for her voice was seductive and touched the very core of his being. "I did not know that you had seen me then or
heard my call."
"Neither did I," Cirdan said. "Yet a part of me could never forget."
Uinen spent a short time with Cirdan, yet it was an eternity for him. In that time, she taught him the recipes of the Falmari and showed him how to barbecue and deep fry meat. She told
him tales of the Alqualonde and described for him the beauty that was in that lamplit havens. Her words summoned magnificent images of the swanships moored in the Bay of Eldamar,
the Arch of Living Stone, and the beautiful Calacirya, the Pass of Light that shone upon Alqualonde but not so brightly that the stars were rendered invisible. Before she left him, Lady
Uinen asked Cirdan once more to return to Eglarest and take the Lordship of the Falas. She wanted the Havens of the Falas to be as glorious and beautiful as the Swanhavens. The
governance of the Seas drew her away, but she promised to return to him, and, if what she saw pleased her, she would stay yet longer to behold the wonders of the Falathrim.
The Lady of the Seas walked hand-in-hand with the Lord of the Falas out to the waters. A great fog rolled out from the dark waters until Cirdan could not see beyond his own nose. Uinen
guided him though, and so his steps were sure. At last, they stopped at the ocean's edge, and sprays of chilly water sprinkled over his feet. Uinen took his face between her hands, and
her body came up against his. Even when her face came close to his, he could not make it out in the thick fog. Her lips touched one cheek lightly and then the other. Then Uinen's body
seemed to melt into the fog and slowly drift from Cirdan. The fog cleared to reveal the starlit heavens and rolling waves. He heard the water folding upon itself and crashing upon the
cliffs. This time it was not the sound of the conches but the smell of the crisp air as it blew over the foaming waves that drew Cirdan to the Sea. It was the same as the scent of Uinen's
raven-dark hair, which he'd grown to love in the days when he'd lean over her shoulder as she cooked.
The next day, Cirdan set sail in his white ship for the Havens of the Falas.
The shoreline about Brithombar lit with torches as soon as Cirdan's white ship circled Cape Andras. The few scattered groups of torches multiplied quickly. Before long, Cirdan could
hear the distant music of piping, the playing of wistful reeds, and the wailing voices of the Falathrim. By the time he docked, all of Brithombar had come from their homes to greet him. The
coast was filled with light and song for joy at Cirdan's homecoming.
Yssiondur (1), Lord of Brithombar, came forth and put a wreath of niphredil about Cirdan's forehead. He kissed Cirdan on either cheek and seemed about to give a speech, but emotion
choked him, and tears ran unchecked down his face. Around them, young Elven lads and ladies tossed flower petals in the air and sang to the fluting and piping of their friends.
Cirdan raised his hand and the people of Brithombar fell silent. "Thank you all for such a warm welcome home." There was much cheering and tooting of horns. "I wish to speak to all of
the Falathrim of what wonder befell me while I was abroad. We will hold a high feast at Eglarest for all of the Falathrim. Send the heralds forth to those who do not live in town."
Cirdan did not stay long in Brithombar. He made arrangements with Yssiondur and then departed for Eglarest.
Cirdan's welcome to Eglarest was no less spectacular than his homecoming at Brithombar. His white ship was spotted out at Sea long before he was close to shore. By the time he docked
at the stone quay, every man, woman, and child of Eglarest was present and singing, dancing, or piping.
The Steward of Eglarest embraced Cirdan warmly and said, "Welcome home at last, Mariner of the Great Seas. Lord Osse and Lady Uinen be thanked for your safe return to us."
"Thank you, Nen-Cenedril (2)," Cirdan said. "I am glad to be back." They walked back to the town amidst flower petals and cheers.
"You left with an uneasy heart," Nen-Cenedril recalled. "Did you find your answers in the Waters?"
"Yes, and much more." Cirdan smiled. "You were right, my friend. 'Water, like the mind, reflects clearly only when calm.' The unhappiness that I'd felt before was of my own doing, but I
see clearly now and am no longer marred as I was before." He held up his hand to forestall further questions. "More I will not say until the Feast."
"Feast?" Nen-cenedril repeated.
Cirdan nodded. "I've asked all of Brithombar and the Falas to come to Eglarest for a Great Feast. Then, I will tell you in full the tale of my healing."
In those days, the world was yet safe, and all the folk of Brithombar left that fair town to go to Eglarest for the feast proposed by Cirdan. The animals were allowed to roam free and would
be herded home later, and the doors of the houses were closed but not locked. The mariners of Cirdan grew confident because of their lord's return, and the sails of the white ships of
Brithombar were unfurled again. The ships, with sailors and peoples of Brithombar, ventured onto the dark waters of the Sea and followed Cirdan's swanship to the harbor of Eglarest. In
the days that followed, these ships, joined by those of Eglarest, would ferry many who did not wish to travel by land to Eglarest. And the people of the Falas who lived freely along the
coast also went to Eglarest with their families to hear what Cirdan would have to say. When all who would answer the summons were assembled, then the Great Feast began.
Before the assembled people of the Falas, Nen-Cenedril spoke first. "Elves of Brithombar, Eglarest, and the Falas, welcome to the Great Feast in honor of the safe return of our Lord
Cirdan." He paused as the air filled with cheering, clapping, and whistling.
When the people at last calmed again, Cirdan rose and spoke. "I have not called all of the Falas together to selfishly celebrate my return."
"We would not object if this was a selfish celebration, my Lord," said Yssiondur, Lord of Brithombar. The Elves of the Falas cheered in agreement.
"Thank you, my friends," Cirdan said. "But I called you together to speak of my vision. During my journeys abroad, the Lady of the Seas came to me at Mount Taras. There, she spoke to
me of our long sundered kin, the Teleri, led by King Olwe, brother of Elu Thingol."
Cirdan then launched into songs about the Teleri and of Alqualonde, the Swanhavens. These he had composed as he sailed down the coast of Beleriand and returned to the Havens of
the Falas. His music summoned images of the Arch of Living Stone, the lamplit havens, and the rich culture of the Teleri that had developed since their arrival at the Blessed Realm. The
last image that the Falathrim saw was that of the Light of Aman streaming from Calacirya, the Pass of Light, and kindling the dark waves of the Sea to crests of silver and gold.
When Cirdan finished his songs, a silence as heavy as fog came over the people of the Falas. They were in awe of their great kin and the paradise that was their home.
At last, Yssiondur spoke. "Truly the Kings of the Eldar were not mistaken in accepting the invitation of the Valar. By the Bay of Eldamar, our cousins dwell in the Light of the Blessed
Realm, under the stars, and by the Sea. Truly, there is something of everything in Alqualonde. What more could any Elf wish for?"
"In seeming that is true," Cirdan said, "but, in the Council of the Valar, the Lord of the Waters spoke against those summons." (3)
"I had heard that our abandonment was but an accident. Lord Ulmo wished to keep us in Middle-earth and deny us the Light of the Blessed Realm?" said Yssiondur. "I find that hard to
"Yet it is true," Cirdan said. "When I discovered that Olwe and the greater host of the Teleri had departed, I purposed to follow them in my ship. Ulmo asked me then to abide rather by
these shores, and I obeyed. At Mount Taras, Lady Uinen at last explained the reason for this. Lord Ulmo believed that the Quendi should be left free to walk as they would in
Middle-earth, and with our gifts of skill to order all the lands and heal their hurts. (4) This purpose we have unwittingly fulfilled to some extent. Beleriand is fair, though dark in
comparison to the Blessed Realms, and the Falas prospers under the guidance of the Lord of Waters and the Lord and Lady of the Seas.
"As you have yourselves seen, the Teleri of Alqualonde have brought into the world beauty not before conceived, as was intended by Iluvatar, the All-Father. More of this you will
witness soon, for Lady Uinen taught me a small part of their exquisite cuisine and I have instructed the chefs of this festival in these matters. I do not ask you to look enviously upon
their foods and yearn from the Blessed Realms beyond the Seas. I did not return to the Falas thinking our people in any way inferior to those who left these shores. Instead, I wish to
show you something of what is possible in the Realm of Arda. Lady Uinen has promised that she and the Lord of the Seas will come among us in time and judge our work. Let us not
disappoint them. Before, we unwittingly aided in the healing of Arda Marred. Let us now actively seek to heal our world and enrich Arda with our creations."
At that, the many new dishes made according to the recipes of the Falmari of Alqualonde were unveiled and the Great Feast began. The Falathrim sampled shellfish for the first time. They
discovered the crispiness of deep fried foods. They marveled at the beauty of the desserts. They harkened to the words of their Lord Cirdan, for they were overjoyed at his return to
them. As they feasted, they thought about how to improve their own cooking. They remembered the songs of Alqualonde and imagined how to mimic the beauty of the lamplit
Swanhavens in the fair Havens of the Falas. And their eyes shone, for the Lord of the Falas had returned, and there was joy in the hearts of the Falathrim.
(1) Yssiondur="Servant of Yssion." Yssion is yet another name for Osse.
(2) Nen-Cenedril="Water-mirror." This is not related to Galadriel's mirror. The name is taken from a sage in "Romance of the Three Kingdoms." His name was based off the Taoist phrase
quoted by Cirdan: "Water, like the mind, reflects only when calm."
(3) Silmarillion, page 61.
(4) Silmarillion, pages 52-53.
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