Four months ago Earendil returned, and during that time the town was glad. His days were spent toiling with Cirdan; together they planned Curuanna's replacement, sometimes calculating materials in the storehouses, other times roaming the harbor wordlessly, garnering impressions of what the future held. Soon the building began, and the workyards were a din of hammering and Telerin singing.
Before dusk each day, the townsfolk would see their Lord pass down the middle street through town, with Cirdan at his side. By nightfall the porch of Earendil's home was lit with lanterns and laughter; looking closely Elwing could be seen, her twin infants ever in someone's arms.
When the long labor of Shipwright and Mariner was completed, the ship Telainathar was christened; seafarers frequently visited the moored beauty, eager for their Lord to disclose when the maiden voyage would embark.
None but Cirdan perceived Earendil's reluctance the day he finally made an announcement: "In one week, we set sail." His crew had burst into cheers, and though Earendil smiled at their merriment, his eyes betrayed him by straying towards his home where Elwing was waiting with his sons.
On the night before Earendil's departure, he and Elwing held each other even into the morn. They had watched their sons toddle about the porch, until both rested and slept upon a cushion, and were carried by their nurses to bed. Yet Earendil with Elwing remained, and they clung fondly to what would soon be out of reach.
"When will you return?" Elwing asked, not for the first time.
"I will return," Earendil answered, and wished it would be enough. Elwing tightened her hold of him, pressing closer to his side.
"If the sun never rose, I would not mourn its absence, if the lost day meant you would remain. I am that sorry to see you go."
Earendil sighed, and spoke with tired conviction, "Under sun or star, to Sea still I sail." He paused, listening to the rush of the waves echoing from beyond – a melody he heard even in sleep. "It calls to me always, and my purpose only more so. I must go."
"Ever as it has been." Elwing spoke softly, but her hands were fists. "I thought to go with you when we wed, and before."
Earendil unwound one arm from his waist, undoing the hand's tension with a soft touch to kiss her palm. "And so you might, once our sons are grown."
"They have their nurses," she ventured.
Earendil considered his reply. His childhood was different than that of his wife; whereas Tuor and Idril departed recently, Dior and Nimloth were slain when Elwing was five years of age. "Aye, but they have their mother also, who knows their needs better than any."
"They need to eat and be loved and kept warm. Any here may provide that for a time – they are cherished by all. What is being without me for one voyage to them? To you it is nothing!"
In a low voice Earendil said, "The Sea is unpredictable, and my doom uncertain. I need not to have nearly drowned but months ago to know that." Though he fell quiet, their thoughts were alike. Should he fail or be lost, Elwing would remain to nourish their sons through loss and despair. But if they were lost together...
Again Earendil spoke, "Nay, beloved. You shall stay to care for our sons, until they are Lords of this Haven during my absence – thereafter you may leave with their blessing. It must be their choice to chance becoming orphans, not ours."
"Their choice that we be together or sundered by the Sea?" Elwing frowned. "It was our togetherness which brought them hence. Why should—" but she vanquished such thoughts, breath quivering as she sighed. "Forgive me, I speak as if they keep us apart with selfish intention. 'Tis not so."
If Earendil was angry at her words, he could not be so when she met his gaze. Within her eyes was such loneliness that he wondered if he sat beside her still, or was already leagues away at Sea. "I sorrow for your absence, Earendil; always I wish to be near you. It is that simple."
In Elwing's heart were thoughts of her Silmaril, and how its brilliance comforted her at times – but never enough. Though she did not speak this, Earendil perceived her consideration, and it unsettled him.
"Cleave to our children for the companionship you miss; that is as it should be. My heart sorrows for my separation from them, and you, and our home here. I wish it could be otherwise, but too dire is my purpose to eschew that path now, for any reason. I must go."
Elwing shook her head, and hugged her husband tighter. It should be so -and she knew as much- that her home and children and motherhood ought to make her content. But she loved Earendil foremost, and everything she loved after was dimmer without him, and everything thus a shadow of what it could be reminded her of the glorious brightness away at Sea. So it remained between them, and they spoke no more that night.
As the sun rose hours later, they woke from a light slumber. Inside they fetched their sons, and broke fast together, just as many mornings before. Then Earendil bid the household a fond farewell, embracing his sons last of all. Reluctantly he was parted from them, watching through tears as their nurses bore them away to play and forget, as only children could do.
Hand in hand Earendil and Elwing came to the harbor, where Cirdan upon Telainathar was waiting. The ship was a grand one; less ornate than Cirdan's own, yet for the swiftness of its construction and excellence in design, it was splendid indeed. "It's perfect," Elwing said of the craft, whose name she could not recall. "Like a dream it will appear to any who espy it from afar."
"Thank you." Earendil still wore the frown that has assaulted him at home. Listless, he returned Cirdan's wave from the sterncastle of Telainathar.
The pier was lively and crowded with the bustle of seafarers in final preparations and of their kin in farewells. Elwing assumed this moment of privacy would be their last. "What would you say to me, husband, that you have not said for all this morning? Yours is a rare mood, so glum and quiet."
Earendil looked upon her, his countenance farseeing. " Kiss me now farewell, and take you again upon that path, and do not look back. Go home to our children – sing and play and dance with them, for I cannot, and tell them that I love them, and that I will return; and take this to your heart also. Those are my words." He said nothing about the Silmaril, though like an unsolved riddle it lingered in the corners of his mind.
"As my Lord commands it," Elwing teased in a defiant tone, tears in her eyes that did not match her strong voice. For several moments they embraced – if they noticed the amused glances at this prolonged demonstration of affection, they cared not. Their eyes met for only an instant after their ended kiss, then swiftly they walked away, in opposite directions.
Earendil was amid a swarm of seafarers, excited and of good cheer, the moment he set foot upon the pier; an honest smile found his face by the time he boarded Telainathar. He did not know that Elwing turning against his wishes saw this, nor that the sight would not be forgotten.
From the garden pavilions Elwing did not watch Telainathar set sail, nor from the Steep Cliff did she watch it disappear beyond the horizon – though in each of these places most other residents were assembled, with the rest singing songs of farewell from the harbor below.
In her home Elwing heard these songs continue well unto noon, though she did not sing. But her sons listened by the open window of their playroom, as any of Elvenkind would be charmed by music so sweet; perhaps they even wondered whom the songs were sung for, and why.
Long after the singing ceased, and her sons napped upon a quilt, Elwing sat in a wicker chair by the widow. In her hand rested a jewel that did not quite ease her heartache, and yet she could not bring herself to leave it isolated in an otherwise unoccupied room.
As the sun dropped lower, shadows grew long, and darkness threatened the last rays of daylight, still the Silmaril glowed keenly, reminding her of brighter times... and that was some condolence, at least. But it was not enough.
The illustration was almost complete, after beginning it nearly a year ago. A gentle dove of ivory, flying over a golden field, white clouds sharing the blue sky, and a sad willow weeping for the setting sun. Elwing stitched with painstaking care, whenever she was able, and she wore calluses for her dedication. Presently she added more shadow, and highlighting; mere details compared to the difficulty of before. Even so, she did not appreciate distraction, in any form.
"Nana...?" spoke the owner of the gray eyes that had been staring up at her for several minutes. Elwing looked sideways and down, to where her son rested his chin on small hands, his face framed by the seat cushion and the curved armrest above his head of black hair.
"Where is your nurse, my precious?" Elwing asked kindly, yet no answer came. "Where is your brother?" At that her son smiled widely. With each other, she thought – or he did. "Best you find them, lest they worry." Elwing returned her attention to her craft.
"Up?" her son piped, one of his few words.
"Not with my needlework, love. 'Tis unsafe for you." Elwing did not glance back, and her son eventually toddled away, making a calculated pattern from one piece of furniture to another, determined not to revert to crawling, but not yet skilled enough to cross entire rooms without support. Seeing this in her peripheral vision, Elwing smiled. He was a bright and spirited tot to waddle on his feet even before most Elf-toddlers would – and though not strong enough to do it well, clever enough to do it still.
Finally Elwing held up the completion of her long toils, examining it with admiration. She imagined how Earendil would react, for he was ever amazed with the art of needlework. Her thoughts then turned to what manner of frame to make, or have made, and she began to conceive of a dual purpose for the picture and its frame. Unfortunate, that even her hobby was overshadowed by troubles of obligation; but so it goes, and her recent concerns were dire.
A new place to hide the Silmaril was needed, for it had been kept in her sons' crib, but soon the children would outgrow the cot, and a Silmaril would not be a secret if stowed under speaking children's pillows. It was too obvious that the Silmaril might be kept near her own person, thus it had no asylum amid her personal things, not even in something resembling a box for simple jewelry or other keepsakes. It had to be hidden, and protected, someplace safe, unexpected.
Elwing started, and found her eyes unfocused, and the embroidery lying at her feet upon the floor. "Y-yes?" coming back to herself, she collected her dropped work, and stood up from her chair.
In the doorway, a servant stood with concern in her eyes, but repeated steadily, "The noonday meal is prepared, my Lady."
Giving her thanks, Elwing followed the maid out. In the dining room, she kissed each of her sons waiting there before being seated, and the meal was served as usual. But in Elwing's heart, doubt repeatedly claimed her attention. Had she anticipated such a purpose for her stitchery ere it was even complete? Was that impulse, to devise a new hiding place for the Silmaril, what hastened her progress along?
Thinking back, Elwing was shocked to realize the effort she had made to work on the craft, putting it before other duties, even if it posed an inconvenience to herself or others. But no, she relaxed. Never had she put such a material thing above her dear sons.
Elwing sighed in relief, and answered to her name being called, not realizing it was the third time the servant had spoken it.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.