Eloquent Elvish Stories
Playlist Navigation Bar
Way Home, The: 1. The Way Home
Elvish words in the story: muindor = dear brother, ion nín = my son
The oarsmen pull with mighty strokes, their chanteys rolling across the black water as the ships ply slowly upstream. Aragorn stands at the bow and gazes into the gloom that shrouds his course. Morning fog lies on the water and though the sun has risen, it is dark, for the reek of Mordor still veils the sky. I know he is weary and heavy of heart for he fears we may yet come too late to the White City’s aid. He stares ahead, as if willing the fog to part and a steady wind to blow from the Sea.
Wind – the sails are furled for want of it. The Men toil at the oars, propelling the great ship slowly onward against the current. Elrohir rests against the bulwark beside me and Legolas stands by the mast with the dwarf. Solemn Men of Lamedon & Lebennin throng the deck, some seated, some standing, waiting in uneasy anticipation of the battle ahead.
Above the ship a pair of gulls soar, their snowy white wings beating the brown air and crying their strange haunting song. The Elf’s eyes follow them. It wrenches my heart, for I have seen such longing in other eyes; longing that cannot be appeased anywhere this side of the Sea. The dwarf watches the birds also. I think he would hew them with his axe if he could but reach them.
‘Do you hear it also?’ Elrohir asks in a low voice. He leans on the rail beside me, elbows propped on the worn, stained wood, watching the churning water slide along the hull. He looks up at me, his features, so like my own, now masked in feigned unconcern.
‘I hear it,’ I answer slowly, studying the hint of apprehension in his eyes, for in truth, we have not before spoken of this between us. ‘But the Sea does not claim my heart, muindor. I could go – or I could stay.’
He nods and looks towards the river again as a ghost of a breeze wafts strands of dark hair across his face. ‘Do you know which you will choose?’
Elrohir straightens, turning slightly, bringing the conversation to an end. ‘I am going to see to the horses. I wish to be certain they are well cared for,’ he says. With a silent nod I watch my brother stride away across the deck and climb down into the hold.
How does one choose? I wonder. The gulls wheel about the mast now, and Legolas watches them as one transfixed, his heart already given to the call of the Sea. He had no choice, I muse, the gulls awakened the yearning from its long slumber and now it cannot be stilled. He will sail, if he wants peace. And those he leaves behind...
Memories crowd to the forefront of my mind and for a moment I stand in Imladris again, too choked with emotion to speak. Her eyes shine with tears as she embraces me, and for all the pain of parting, I see the longing there – the hope of peace and healing that had so cruelly eluded her here. Reaching under my collar I catch the fine silver chain and pull it out from under my tunic, letting the white carven shell rest in my open hand. It was her gift to me that day, a white gull, every feather of its outstretched wings engraved in intricate detail, and set with two minute gems for eyes. She said it was her hope that it would ever remind me of the way home.
But where is home? I have lived among Elves, I have lived among Men; I belong to both – yet I belong to neither. How can I choose? For a moment I shut my eyes tightly against the ache of loss – and the agony of choosing. My fingers close around the shell until the sharp wingtips dig into the flesh of my hand, but the unexpected sound of elvish laughter brings me abruptly back to the present.
Legolas gazes into the southwest, where the wind comes up from the Sea, and Gimli glares at him as one who has lost all wit. ‘Up with your beard, Durin’s son!’ Legolas laughs. ‘For thus is it spoken: Oft hope is born, when all is forlorn.’
What herald of hope the Elf sees in the murky air, what rumour he hears whispered on the frail wind, I cannot say, but I am heartened by his words, as are Gimli and Aragorn. Yet the moment throws into sharp relief the unlikeness between us. I have not his far-seeing eyes, nor can I say that I walked without fear as he did among the shades of Men; I still shudder at the memory. I uncurl my fingers and stare at the carved bird in my palm as my father’s voice echoes in my mind, ‘One day you will know, ion nín. Your heart will find the way. ’
Of a sudden, a great gull swoops across the bow and I turn to follow its flight. It spirals to a height above the mast where it hangs in the air for a timeless instant; then it cries as if in challenge and flies away up the river. I stare after the bird, envious of its speed and freedom as its angular wings carry it rapidly ahead of the fleet before vanishing in the mist. The sea-song pounds in my ears like waves on the shore. I have not before heard its call so clearly and for a moment it seems to hold my heart in thrall.
‘The gulls fly inland – away from the Sea.’ Legolas’ voice startles me from my thoughts. He stands beside me now, gazing into the murky air. ‘But one day, they will return to the Sea and their wings will bear them out over the ocean.’ He pauses with the drift of his thoughts and then continues, almost as if speaking to himself, ‘Perhaps, one day, I will return also; and I will follow them.’ He glances back at me and spies the shell gull in my hand. I read the question in his eyes.
‘A gift from my mother – on the day she departed for the Grey Havens,’ I answer, and he nods slowly. The Sea-longing washes over me again. Perhaps we are not so unalike after all.
Elrohir clambers from the hold and approaches Aragorn, who has ceased his pacing to lean wearily against the forward rail. The Sea-song drains away from me like a receding wave as I behold my foster brother. I consider the enormous task that lies before him and the love that binds my sister to him. Ai, there is much still to do here in the lands of Middle-earth and battles yet to be fought. The day will come when I must choose, if another path does not take me sooner; I need not seek to hasten it. I close my hand and tuck the chain back inside my collar with a sigh. Somehow I am sure; when the time comes I will know the way home. And my brother and I will take the road together, wherever it may lead.
I walk towards Aragorn to offer him what encouragement I can. The oars creak and the mariners chant and the sounder cries the depth of the river. The aged vessel groans as the pilot nudges her back into the midst of the channel. Aragorn paces again. And we wait for the wind.
* these lines of Legolas’ dialogue are taken from ‘The Last Debate,’ RotK
Playlist Navigation Bar