3. Chapter Three
Olwë saw how weary they all were, and, despite Elwë’s objections, decided they would abide for a time in this placid country, mingling with Finwë’s people. Many welcomed the respite and were eager to renew old acquaintances. Finwë had not been idle in his lingering; his people had crafted many lovely and useful items from local materials, and some of these they gave as gifts to the newcomers. Olwë demurred, being unable to return the courtesy, but Finwë insisted, saying their works were of little use if they could not be shared and enjoyed.
Elwë grew restless with waiting, and went abroad often and alone. This was ill-advised, for shadow-spirits haunted even this land, eager to ensnare those who were careless or unlucky enough to fall into their grasp. But Elwë refused to listen; he could not abide to remain idle while Olwë and others pursued their leisure. He must go out, he said, or go mad.
“You do not think he is foolish enough to try the road to Valinor on his own, do you?” asked Telwë.
“Nay, for he knows not the way,” Nowë told his father, “nor has he asked Oromë to bear him. He might do so, if his need were so great, but I do not think it has come to that.”
“It must be an exceedingly fair place, if he yearns for it so.”
Nowë could not say. He knew only that Oromë did not seem overly concerned over Elwë’s restlessness, yet the Vala had always been unreadable, and Nowë recalled his words, that he could not command the will of any who wished to stray.
And then, Elwë went abroad and did not return.
* * *
In the deepest woods, in the shadows where he had learned to find only silence, he suddenly heard sweet birdsong. And above it, soft at first, a voice singing, calling to him, and he forgot his errand, forgot all else but the voice and the lovely enchantment it wove about him.
He came then to an open clearing frosted by starlight and saw then the source of the spell. A maiden she was, yet unlike any he had ever seen save in the Blessed Realm. He stopped when he saw her, scarcely daring to breathe lest this vision of loveliness vanish.
Then she turned and their eyes met.
* * *
“Nowë! Why are you not coming with us?”
From his seat under the wide beech tree, he looked up at his father. Telwë stood with Olwë and Enel, who was the father of Olwë and Elwë. Long they had searched, as far and wide as they dared. Finwë and his people gave their aid, but to no avail.
At first, fearing the ever-present shadows that might have abducted Elwë, Nowë had joined the search, but as he slept a curious vision had come to him. Upon the path of dreams, he saw how Elwë had forgotten them and his yearning for Valinor, yet of the source that wrought this enchantment Nowë glimpsed only the pale oval of a face whose beauty struck him even in his repose.
“There is no need,” he said softly. “I do not think any harm has come to Elwë, but he is lost to us.”
“What have you seen?” Telwë wanted to know.
Nowë knew not quite how to describe his vision. When he awoke, he had heard a voice in his head telling him that Elwë had found that which he was meant to find. He knew not whence the voice had come, but when he emerged from the trees where he made his bower and met Oromë’s eyes, the Vala answered with a knowing gaze. “He has become enamored of the woods and chosen Lenwë’s path, to stay.”
His fear for Elwë vanished, though he could plainly see others were not so certain. Olwë defended his vision, and his parents, even if in private they did not understand his gift. Such things were not unknown among females, among mothers who had some special insight into the fates of their children; visions did not come with such frequency to males, nor with such power as they came to him.
They think it a strange thing, he thought, and it is passing strange, even to myself. I meant only to ease their fears for Elwë. I should know better than to speak so loosely.
* * *
Olwë led them when they were ready to march again. Finwë and his people, who now called themselves Noldor, unwilling to wait while Elwë’s people searched for him, had already departed. Oromë went with the Noldor on the first part of the journey westward before returning, and this time there seemed to be some urgency in the Vala’s bearing.
Along the shores of a great river they traveled, moving south through thin woods and willow marshes with the rushing of the water on their left hand. Nowë felt a change in the air, subtle at first, and listened for the rise and crash of waves that were the music of his dreams. Oromë confirmed that the river emptied into the Sea, but long before this Nowë tasted the moisture in the air, and it was like the salt of his tears.
As the hiss and crash of the Sea called to him, others noticed how the heavens began to lighten. Twilight lingered upon the land, and the stars were yet visible, yet the colors and shapes of things steadily grew more distinct.
“That light comes from Valinor,” explained Oromë, “where thou shalt soon go to dwell. There thou shalt see with thine own eyes the Two Trees whose waning and waxing give light to Arda.”
Nowë had no thought for Valinor. He wanted only to reach the end of the river, to climb the next hill and cross whatever distance remained between him and the Sea. He knew not what would follow, and cared not.
When Oromë led them from the marshes of the river estuary, Nowë balked, thinking the Vala meant to separate him from his desire, but as the earth under his feet grew soft and sandy and the undulating song of the waters pulsed ever more strongly in his blood, he stilled his protests.
“Look now,” said the Vala from Nahar’s back. “Behold Belegaer, the Great Water that lies between thee and Aman.”
Nahar stood nearly at Nowë’s shoulder; he could feel the great beast’s breath warm upon his neck. It seemed Oromë’s words were for him alone and he turned his gaze down the brow of the hill where the sand stretched to meet a vast horizon of water.
Behind him he heard cries of astonishment and fear. For this was not Cuiviénen, whose waves lapped gently at the shore, but a living thing whose heaving breath rose and fell upon the edge of the land, lashing the rocks with white-frothed spray. Nowë heard the screaming of gulls overhead, and saw more of the birds wheeling and diving above the crest of the water.
“I would venture closer still,” murmured Olwë. When Nowë was able to tear his eyes from the Sea long enough to look at his cousin, he saw Olwë was as entranced as he.
The sand was cool and soft, yielding to their footprints as the two of them drew near the water’s edge; a few others, braver than the rest, followed, but most huddled on the hill behind Oromë, tempted by fear to flight. The water surged up onto the sand, teasing the Eldar with white foam and then retreating. Nowë laughed at the feel of the spray on his face and darted his tongue out to taste the salt water on his lips. Beside him, Olwë was throwing off his shoes to walk through the waves and feel the wet sand between his toes. He tried to persuade Sílarielle to join him, but she hung back, daunted by the crashing foam.
Their laughter was cut short by the blast of a horn from the hill. Turning, they saw Oromë rising tall in Nahar’s saddle, his great hunting horn Valaróma raised to his lips.
“He is not calling us back, is he?” asked Olwë.
And then, from the deep, came an answering call. The music of many horns sounded through the water and set some of Olwë’s followers scurrying away from the foam and up the beach. Olwë looked at his cousin, wondering if they should not also retreat.
The music was both strange and beautiful, terrible and intoxicating. Nowë did not want to move, did not think he could for the longing those horns stirred in him. He turned toward Olwë, urging him to stay, but the waters between them suddenly surged upward, exploding into a column of white foam. The resulting wave knocked him backward into the surf, and as he surfaced, coughing and choking on salt water, he saw a figure bending over him.
A male shape it wore, like unto Oromë, yet its body and face were of the living, moving water. The hand that grasped him and pulled him upright was twice the size of his own; it felt strangely solid, yet he knew he could have put his fingers through it with ease had he tried. Through salt-stinging eyes, he saw Oromë ride to the surf’s edge, where Nahar pawed at the sand as if in greeting.
“Late they have come,” said a deep voice like the crash of a wave. “Already the others have departed.”
“See now,” replied Oromë, gesturing to the hills behind him where the Eldar who had huddled in terror were slowly venturing forward, drawn by their curiosity and something else. “They have heard the Ulumúri; the longing is upon them.”
Nowë knew not what the Ulumúri were, but his ears longed to hear again those horns, and to throw off his wet, clinging garments and dive into the deep. He might have done so, were it not for the hand holding him. Looking up, he saw the spirit glimmering through the curtain of water and wondered what manner of creature it was.
“Are…are you a Vala?” he gasped.
Laughter crashed over him with the pounding surf. “Nay, I am Ossë, servant of Ulmo Lord of the Waters. And what is thy name, Elda?”
“I-I am Nowë, aráto.”
“And thou dost not fear me, Elda?”
Nowë gazed up at Ossë. He heard the crashing of the surf pound in time with his own heartbeat, and the echoes of the sea music that impassioned his blood. The Maia’s hand was still upon him, powerful yet gentle.
“Nay, I do not fear thee,” he whispered, dimly aware he was using the language of love to express his longing. If thou art the Sea, then I love thee.
* * *
Land of many rivers: Ossiriand, with its seven rivers.
Finwë’s largesse is noted in The Silmarillion, Chapter 5, in which the Noldor learn to mine gems in Valinor and “hoarded them not, but gave them freely.”
Nowë’s dream is a paraphrased version of the encounter between Elwë (Elu Thingol) and Melian in Chapter Four of The Silmarillion.
Enel: The first three Elves to awaken at Cuiviénen were named Imin, Tata and Enel. For the purposes of this story, I have made Enel the father of Elwë and Olwë.
Ulumúri: horns of white shell made for Ulmo by Salmar the Maia, “and those to whom that music comes hear it ever after in their hearts, and the longing for the sea never leaves them again.” The Silmarillion, “Valaquenta.”
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.