3. Cause for Concern
On the morning that Earendil returned, Elwing leaving her sons with their nurses went to meet him. No one ship was missing out of the two departed, as had happened before, and this voyage had taken the expected duration of three months. With a light heart she reached the harbor foremost, though some others were setting out to welcome Earendil home.
As usual, the Harbormaster admitted Elwing with a smile and wink – passing so effortlessly, she chuckled to know that whoever came after her would have no easy time gaining immediate admittance onto the pier.
Telainathar sat motionless, and Cirdan's ship behind it was coming to a halt. Elwing watched the sails being furrowed as the anchors dropped, and listened to the songs that sprang forth from both ships as the seafarers prepared to disembark. Soon Earendil descended Telainathar in his usual fashion, though without flourish, and no song was upon his lips.
"Elwing," he spoke first, bowing in atypical formality owed to his preoccupation. "It is good to see you, as ever."
"And you, husband." Elwing curtsied to match her husband's gesture, smiling at the peculiarity of it. "Welcome home."
They embraced, and held for long. "How are the children?" Earendil wanted to know.
"Walking... or trying their best." Elwing giggled, "But they have excelled at falling down safely!" She felt his arms around her twitch in surprise, then slacken.
"I am sorry to have missed it," he muttered. Together they walked landward.
"Do not fret!" Elwing replied lightly, "Elrond has only just begun, and Elros is not such a fast learner, though an originator at heart."
"Already a year old this month." His face was troubled. "The storehouses are empty, you know. To build Telainathar took the last of our materials."
At this statement Elwing paused, knowing it was not wood for fuel he considered, of which they had plenty. She strove to retain her cheer, saying, "But now that Telainathar is built, are you not content?"
"The birchwoods of Nimbrethil is but a days march," he said. Yet both knew the hewing of trees and their transport here was long and hard work. Seeing her face fill with doubt, he continued, "It's meant to be, my love! Already in my dreams sails the ship next to be built; 'tis a matter of fate."
A dreamlike quality was in his voice, blue eyes aglow with anticipation that Elwing shared none of. She gestured beyond, her annoyance unsuppressed. "What of the ship you have?"
"Oh, Telainathar is a marvel, but her greatest achievements are her flaws, for now we perceive, Cirdan and I, what alterations will result in the finest vessel yet devised. Even the Sea was kind to our contrivance, sending us home swiftly so that we might bear this hope to fruition." He laughed, "It wants my chances to be fair, I deem!"
This Elwing did not understand, his obsession with ships and sailing, and the song of the Sea that she was just as pleased to hear sitting beside it, without desiring to float amidst it. "I am not pleased," was all she said.
The townsfolk had persuaded the Harbormaster to admit them at last. They came forth in good cheer to spirit away their beloved Lord for celebration and storytelling, while Elwing returned home alone.
When night had fallen, Earendil took leave of the saloon, despite any good-natured protests. At last a song was sung in his farewell; even that did not persuade him to remain for its duration. Backing out of the tavern with Cirdan at his side, the Mariner and Shipwright took deep breaths of the brisk air before turning to each other with tired looks.
"Is it such an event returning on Balar?"
"Hardly," Cirdan's tone was one of approval. "They thank me for my tidings and my effort – then they thank the stars for their continued safety, and leave me be. Although," here he nudged the other's shoulder, "I am not as nice to look at as you."
Earendil remained thoughtful. "The attention and praise bothers me little; sure enough it must be novel to those who remain here, what I do." He hesitated, and it seemed to Cirdan that he thought little of his next words, "Yet would occasionally that they praised the Silmaril for my return, and their continued safety, and left me be."
Cirdan frowned, perceiving an oddness – not in Earendil's words, but a matter they addressed.
After a quiet moment had stretched into several, Earendil gestured down the road to his home at its end. "Well, shall we?" he asked, a twinkle in his eye. "Your lowly bunk awaits you."
"Ah... nay, friend, not tonight." Sensing Earendil's distress, he explained, "Think nothing of it; 'tis only that cogitation has the helm of me. Mayhap I'll keep the Sea company tonight."
"You will not sleep?"
"I might yet, but I'll do it under the stars." Suppressing a wince, he hoped the last word had not been stressed in his speech, as it was in his mind. But Earendil's face betrayed no recognition, and Cirdan bent down for a kiss on the Half-elf's cheek. "Good night, tot," he said grinning.
Earendil replied with a shake of his head, "Get you no sand where it belongs not, ancient one. Good night."
Cirdan laughed, and turned wagging a finger to shame the other. His smile remained through most of town, yet when the narrowing path tattered off to sandy loam, his mood had likewise deteriorated. 'Under the stars', he thought acidly, ashamed at his own slip, though Earendil noticed it not. 'But not under the Silmaril'.
He snapped his fingers in irritation over suspicions he could not justify, foreboding he could not vanquish. Elwing's jewel was the one thing he had never spoken to Earendil about, in all their years of close friendship. Ever it seemed strange to Cirdan how all of the Haven's residents were enamored of the Silmaril. A sacred jewel, yes; the last remnant of the light of the Two Trees, yes... but a bringer of good fortune to its loyalists? That Cirdan could not believe.
The Silmaril was a glorious sight to behold; he had seen it once, when Elwing insisted -as an ally and friend loved as kin- that he not be denied the privilege. It was as beautiful and terrible a thing as he had ever looked upon, and the memory had not faded. Thereafter he better understood the songs that the Havens’ sailors sang, knowing they lived amid the jewel's light. But its divine protection? Its healing grace? Cirdan did not believe. And he wondered if Earendil did either.
Earendil walked deep in thought, his heart ill at ease. For the first time he could remember, he did not look forward to seeing Elwing. Her displeasure was his doing, and for that he was sorry; knowing that he would carry through with his plans -and that she would forgive him- made matters worse.
Only failure can disgrace my purpose, thus I simply must not fail. A familiar aphorism, one chanted as a mantra when the nights were cold upon the lonesome Sea. Yet his mood did not lift.
Once the path inclined he looked up, and saw the house quiet as usual for nighttime, except for a faint glow emanating behind the structure. For a moment he knew not what to think. Turning, he thought to discover if any among town marked this apparition. Few Elves moved about, paying no heed to Earendil’s home.
He continued to the rear of the house, finding himself amid a thriving garden that had not existed three months ago. Dwelling not long on this curiosity, he strolled through, approaching the Steep Cliff beyond. Elwing stood there facing the Sea, her body reduced to a silhouette framed by the Silmaril's brightness.
"Elwing, ‘tis I." Earendil was surprised by the tension in his own voice.
As she turned he averted his eyes from the shining jewel hung from her neck. "Join me," she called happily. "Join my vignette, husband."
Frowning and unable to explain his disquiet, he obeyed. "You used to keep it hidden." He glanced sidelong at his wife, whose eyes did not leave the horizon. "I think I would prefer it that way."
"Did you see my garden?" Elwing asked, no indication that she had heard his words.
"I did." He waited for something more, but Elwing wordlessly nestled against his side. At length he turned her towards him, forcing her eyes to depart from the distance, and spoke without the caution of before. "Elwing, do you even know the hour? Is this where you sleep?"
"Midnight, and of course not," she said smiling. "But our sons are asleep already – I would go to them with you."
He muttered an apology for his curtness that she dismissed with a smile, and together they walked towards the house. Elwing purposefully lead them through the garden's narrow path, paved with chips of fragrant driftwood. "Is it not wonderful?" She cupped a flower in her palm, bending to smell its aroma before gesturing for her husband to do the same.
With little enthusiasm Earendil complied, his troubled expression unaltered by the sweet scent. "I've never known foliage to grow so quickly."
"Our produce has ever grown as such; but since you cannot cook you would not notice!" Elwing’s airy laughter rang like a bell, and her eyes were aglow with pride as she said, "And now even more so."
Earendil closed his eyes, dreading the thing he wished not to hear, yet knew to be true.
Elwing persisted, "‘Tis of course the Silmaril, my love. Ever has it been a deliverer of good fortune upon us, and indeed it helps our very sustenance to thrive." She walked into Earendil's arms, embracing him. "Never before did I realize how much more potently its endowment would manifest, if only—"
"Elwing, tell me no more. The jewel brings us benefit, and that is well, for the Havens are prosperous and our people content. Yet it is only us who are safe, and it is only our Haven that remains, while the rest of Middle-earth plunges into darkness and danger, our kindreds into uncertainty and despair. I care not how we here are blessed as we are now, for I know it will not last."
"It is because of the Silmaril." Elwing shook her head in confusion. "It keeps us well."
"And fine that it might," said Earendil. "But nothing will avail us forever. There is nowhere left to flee, Elwing, from the many evils that ravage this land, and the Silmaril..." he paused, stricken to silence by the growing look of dismay on his wife's face – a reaction he was ashamed to cause. He sighed. "The Silmaril yields sweet fruit, yet it cannot end a war for us."
"Nor does it need to," was Elwing's retort.
"Nay," Earendil turned, trailing a hand along the bindings of a lattice archway, "for that is my task." He walked on, and Elwing soon came back along his side, both of them somber and quiet. They remained as such until entering their house; then Elwing led Earendil to their sons' shared nursery, made out of a room which had served some different and forgotten purpose the last time he had been home.
In three days' time, all who would assist were prepared for the journey to Nimbrethil. On the last evening before departure, Earendil returned home from the workyards alone. From the road he spied Elwing amid the town's crops – sowed twice as wide since the season before. Around her neck hung the Silmaril, showering all that lived with its gentle glow. Earendil paused at the sight, his eyes skipping from the harvest to his wife, rendered pale by the radiance of her jewel. Continuing towards his home, he thought of the children he was again to leave behind too soon.
"Well, there you are," said Cirdan. Earendil came into the playroom, almost sorry that the Shipwright happened to look towards the doorway. "How long have you been spying on us?"
Dropping to his knees to embrace both his sons, Earendil replied with a smile, "Long enough to hear that you were telling a story appropriate for young ears." With that he kissed each twin's head. Carrying the boys to where they had been, Earendil sat with them on the floor before the chair Cirdan occupied.
Seeing that the children had forgotten his story in their excitement over Earendil's entrance, Cirdan said, "It's been hours, tot; what took you so long? These two were impatient enough to come and wake me so I could go fetch you." He laughed away Earendil's apology for that, continuing in good humour, "Did you forget your way home then? Fall into the Sea?"
"Nay," Earendil answered. Then after a hesitation, "Was Elwing here when you arrived?"
Now Cirdan understood his friend's unrest. "No." As they toiled to ready the storehouses and workyards for the timber they would return with, Elwing had come to visit her husband daily, never remaining for long. When Earendil would inquire towards her other occupations, she replied that the Haven beckoned for the Silmaril's presence. Of this Earendil had, in Cirdan's opinion, ever pretended not to hear.
With a nod Earendil sighed. Eyes falling upon his sons, he pulled the nearest into his lap. "And where are your nurses that you would trouble our guest at this hour, hmm?
Pursing his lips with a tiny finger, Elros whispered, "Sleeping."
Cirdan snorted. "Had you seen the way they scaled my bed, it would be the least of your awe that they evaded their nurses also." At Earendil's stricken look, he cried, "Ai! Such alarm from one who rides the helm like a seesaw."
"Give them no ideas," came the mumbled reply. Climbing into Cirdan's lap, Elrond asked what a seesaw was, and Earendil stopped Elros' ears while the Shipwright gave a detailed description.
Soon a maid entered, having heard voices at this odd hour. Following her back upstairs, Earendil put his sons to bed, then escorted Cirdan to his room, though his thoughts were elsewhere. The maid had not inquired towards Elwing's absence, and nor had his sons.
"You are troubled," said Cirdan, stopping before his door.
"No." Earendil flinched at the hard look received. "Yes."
"Talk now, or later?"
Bending for a kiss, Cirdan thought to leave the other in a lighter mood. "Your sons are bright as their mother's Silmaril. They will make fine sailors."
Earendil frowned, and turned to go. "I sincerely hope not."
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.