Ilmarë watched in amusement as Círdan lifted the glass of wine to his mouth and drained the contents of it in one long drink. She followed suit and although she had less wine in her glass, it took more time for her to finish. She leaned forward to put the glass on the table and swayed slightly, the spinning in her head forcing her to close her eyes. Círdan reached to grab her shoulders and studied her with concern.
“Ilmarë, have you not drunk wine before?” he asked.
She opened her eyes and found the worried look on his face oddly amusing. A laugh escaped her before she could stop it. “Of course I have,” Ilmarë replied, trying to control her laughter but having little success. “Although I cannot say I recall it making me feel so warm and relaxed before.”
Círdan could not help but smile as he waited for her to take a breath. “Well then,” he said when she paused, “I take it you have drunk wine since taking this mortal form?”
Ilmarë’s laughter slowed and she tried to concentrate enough to remember. “No, I do not believe I have. I assume I drank wine while in Valinor because the taste is familiar to me, but perhaps I was wrong because these strange sensations are not familiar to me at all.” The sudden realization of what she had said sobered her a little and she looked at Círdan with wide eyes.
“Oh… the wine affects your bodies this way? Remarkable…” she said absently as she considered again the pleasant, relaxed feeling she was experiencing. Another realization came to her. “But Círdan…you drank more than I did and you do not seem affected.”
“If you please…” Círdan assumed an indignant air, “it would take a good deal more than that to inebriate me. There are few mortals or Elves who can drink more than I can.” Then he looked at her and smiled guiltily. “Of course, I did have a few glasses of wine before I met your ship at the pier, so I do feel perhaps a little light headed.” He gave her a serious look and shook his finger at her. “But only slightly, mind you.”
This only served to set Ilmarë off into laughter again. Círdan sat his glass down and stood, holding his hand out to her.
“It is time for you to retire, Ilmarë. I dare say you will have little trouble sleeping now.”
She took his hand and rose from the couch. This time she swayed markedly and Círdan reached for her again, slipping his arm around her waist to keep her from falling. His hand rested on the curve of her waist just above her hip. The thrilled sensation she felt earlier when his lips touched her hand now returned, but with more force. Though she was unaware these feelings were evident on her face, she was aware of his hand suddenly tightening on her waist as he returned her stare.
Círdan cleared his throat and turned away. “Come, Ilmarë, I will show you to your room. It is best if you slept now.”
They walked across the house and down another hallway until Círdan stopped and opened one of the doors. He guided her inside the room and though many pieces of beautiful furniture filled the room, Ilmarë’s weary eyes were drawn directly to the large bed enclosed with heavy embroidered curtains that draped down from the canopy and grazed the floor. The sight of the bed reminded her of the weighted, exhausted feel of her body and at that moment she wanted nothing more than to sleep. Reluctantly, she left Círdan’s arms and carefully walked to her trunks, now sitting on the floor near the bed.
“This is the bedroom I will be staying in?” Ilmarë asked as she carelessly sorted through the trunk. She finally pulled out a thin white nightgown and walked over to the bed.
“Yes, if it suits you,” Círdan said, watching Ilmarë lay her gown on the bed. “My room is at the end of the hall. I thought you would be more comfortable with someone close by.” He walked to the trunk she had left open and bent down to replace the scattered clothing and close the lid.
Ilmarë removed her shoes and unfastened the back of her dress. As she pulled it off her shoulders and down her arms, she thought only of how heavy her body felt and how tired the wine had made her. “Thank you, Círdan,” she said with a sigh as she pushed the dress down past her hips, “you are very thoughtful.”
“I will have the help unpack your things tomorrow,” he said as he closed the latch on the trunk and stood. “You can tell…” he halted abruptly when he caught sight of Ilmarë. She let the dress slide down her legs and it pooled on the floor around her feet.
He watched in silence as she lifted the nightgown from the bed and raised it over her head. Círdan’s breathing quickened and his eyes followed the sheer material cascading down her body, slowing at her hips and ending in a white, silken wave that covered her legs. She picked the dress up from the floor and was laying it across the end of the bed when she finally noticed Círdan’s silence. Ilmarë turned toward him and the weight of his gaze on her body struck her like a blow, driving the somnolence from her. Shivers traced teasing fingers down her back again, brought on by merely the touch of his eyes on her skin. Warmth roared to life inside her stomach and expanded until it spilled out of the confines of her abdomen, flooding her lower body.
“I am sorry, Círdan,” she said softly as she walked toward him, now completely alert and drawn by some urging need to be closer. “I did not think about making you uncomfortable. I know it is appropriate to wear clothing in public, but I am used to undressing in the privacy of my room. Only Linquendil entered my room and I thought nothing of changing out of my clothes in front of him.”
“Linquendil saw you this way?” Círdan brought his searching gaze up to her face and she stopped moving, leaving some distance between them.
“Yes, several times, but it could not be helped. I had no one else to teach me how to clothe myself properly,” Ilmarë answered.
Her voice sounded breathless to her ears and only then did she notice how difficult it was to draw a full breath. She thought it was perhaps due to the way her body had suddenly become taut and tense. When Círdan spoke he sounded short of breath as well.
“Then no others have seen you like this?” Círdan moved closer now and closed the short distance between them. He knew he was taking liberties with Ilmarë too soon after just having met her, asking these questions, but he felt the need to know if she understood what she had done… undressing in front of him. If she understood what she was doing by looking at him this way - the way she had looked at him when he touched her waist.
The first night on the ship crossed her mind briefly but she dismissed it. Yes, the sailors had seen her nude, but they had not seen her like this; she had not undressed in front of them. She did not care to spend time explaining it at the moment, not when these sensations coursed through her body and the nearness of Círdan’s body only heightened them.
“No, no others,” she replied at last.
Círdan raised his hand and caught Ilmarë off guard when he ran his fingers down her cheek in a light caress. She closed her eyes and gasped with the pleasure that just the tips of his fingers on her skin stirred within her.
“No others have touched you like this?” he asked hoarsely for his throat had closed tightly shut when he saw Ilmarë’s lips part as she gasped. There was no question in his mind that he should not be doing this, but still he longed to touch her and did not want to pull away.
“No, none but you,” Ilmarë answered and rubbed her cheek against his fingers. She opened her eyes and met Círdan’s silver gaze. A powerful yearning seized her, although for what she did not know.
His fingers left her face, replaced by the palm of his hand pressed warmly against her cheek and he gently traced a path down to the skin of her neck. She wanted to return his touch but her inexperience filled her with doubt.
“Círdan…I have been told of intimacy between men and women…” Linquendil had explained it in general terms to her, but for some reason, it did not seem appropriate to Ilmarë that she mention his name at that moment. Nor did it seem appropriate to say that he had not fully explained what was expected on her part. “If that is what this is, then I do not know where to begin or what I should do…”
Her voice trailed off as her eyes fell to his lips, remembering the feel of them against her hand and wondering what feelings they could give to other places on her body…the body that was spilling over with rioting sensations, so much that she could scarcely remember to breathe. Ilmarë raised her hand to his face. She lightly ran her fingers across the soft skin of his mouth and moved close enough for their bodies to touch. Círdan shuddered, encouraging her to caress his cheek as he had done to hers.
“Teach me…please,” Ilmarë whispered as she raised her eyes to meet his.
Despite his struggles not to let his desire get the better of him, her whispered request proved to be the only persuasion he required. With a swift movement, his hand flew to the back of her neck and swept her close, allowing him to seize her mouth with his own.
Círdan meant for the kiss to be soft but he could not hold himself back enough to be gentle. His mouth slid across hers with unrestrained pressure as his arm encircled her and held her fast. A moan escaped Ilmarë and her hand clutched reflexively on his shoulder, showing Círdan that she enjoyed the passionate response. With tremendous effort, he pulled back far enough to look down at her.
“You are wrong to say you do not know where to begin…” Círdan said softly, his words mingled with the light kisses he continued to place on her lips, “…intimacy between a man and a woman may begin with something as simple as a shared look… a look that speaks of longing. Such as the look we shared when I first saw you on the ship or the look you gave when my hand touched your waist. This…” Círdan said and kissed her again, “…that is a kiss, but there are different types of kisses, Ilmarë.”
“There are chaste kisses…” and he lightly brushed his lips against hers, “…and there are kisses between lovers which bring greater intimacy.”
Ilmarë had begun moving her body impatiently against Círdan’s as she listened to him talk, and now his hand slid further up the back of her neck and he wove his fingers through her hair. Círdan held her head firmly as he opened her lips with his tongue. When his tongue ran across hers, she stopped moving completely. Her body tensed with the unexpected pleasure surging through her body, but she required no more than a brief moment to recover from the shock. Círdan almost lost his balance when Ilmarë pushed her weight against him and began moving her tongue across his in return.
Círdan pulled his mouth away again and kept his eyes closed as he tried to regain some level of control, but Ilmarë’s hands made the effort very difficult for him. Her delicate fingers stroked his neck and she delighted in the way his smooth skin felt. He opened his eyes to find Ilmarë watching her hands as she ran them down his neck, stopping where it curved to meet his shoulders.
“You clearly have some idea of what to do, for you are touching me and that is what I want…to feel your hands on my skin, your lips on mine…” his voice trailed off and his mouth took hers again. He released her lips to say, “There are many ways to touch one another. I can touch your mind…your heart… your body…”
When his voice trailed off again Círdan lowered his face to hers and kissed her. Ilmarë reveled in the feeling of his tongue in her mouth and the feel of his skin beneath her hands. The sensations overtook her so quickly that she had little time to think about these completely foreign reactions.
Círdan’s hand left her back and slid around her body, coming to rest on her breast and squeezing it gently. Her head came up abruptly and a sudden cry burst from her.
Círdan pulled his hands away from her. Bereft of the dizzying sensations of his touch, Ilmarë protested desperately.
“No, Círdan…” she said huskily as she opened her eyes to look at him, “do not take your hands away yet.” She saw that his hands had left only to pull his robe open.
“Only for a moment, Ilmarë,” he said and smiled gently at the sight of her flushed face and glazed eyes. He pushed the robe off his shoulders and allowed it to fall to the floor.
He took her hands and led her to the bed. `Are you certain you want this lesson to continue?”
Ilmarë slid her arms around his neck again and smiled up at him. She brushed her lips across his and softly said, “Continue.”
“You learn swiftly, Ilmarë,” he breathed against her ear.
Círdan put his arms around Ilmarë and supported her head and back as he eased her onto the bed, lowering himself at the same time and carefully resting his weight on her. Something hard pressed against her thigh but before she could ask what it was Círdan kissed her again, the movements of his tongue drawing another moan from her.
Then, in an abrupt movement, Círdan pulled completely away from her. He sat on the edge of the bed with his back to her, taking deep breaths and shaking his head.
“I cannot do this, Ilmarë…I am sorry.”
She watched him in silence, trying to understand why he had pulled away. Her mind still swam with the excitement of Círdan’s touch. She had not known mortal bodies could experience such a level of pleasure and she did not want it to end. Ilmarë slowly sat up next to Círdan and studied him for a moment before she spoke.
“Is it that you do not find this body attractive, Círdan?” she asked without anger, wanting only to understand what had upset him. “Because it is Mortal and not Elf?”
He looked up long enough to frown at her. “No, Ilmarë, it is not that. I have been attracted to Mortal women, and your form is very beautiful. I can say with complete honesty that you are the most beautiful woman I have known.” He brushed her cheek with his hand as he spoke, but pulled it away quickly as though he were afraid to touch her again.
Ilmarë eyed him suspiciously, thinking Círdan was trying to save her feelings by speaking of her beauty. Then she remembered the men who had watched her appreciatively during her stay on Númenor and this brought her to the conclusion that Elves and Mortals clearly had lower standards of beauty than those in Valinor. If her unattractiveness was not the reason for his withdrawal then what was?
“You do not enjoy teaching me of these things,” she said and nodded in understanding, thinking she had found the reason for his withdrawal. “Your body does not feel this yearning that fills my body.”
“That is not the reason.” Círdan raised his hand to her face again and left it on her cheek as he spoke. “I would like nothing more than to teach you everything you wish to know and the yearning I have for you is very strong.”
“Then we can continue.” Ilmarë smiled and leaned toward him, but Círdan rested his hand on her shoulder and held her back.
“No, we cannot.”
“I do not understand, Círdan.” She was becoming frustrated, made worse by her disappointment. “First you say I am beautiful and you yearn for me, then you say you cannot continue touching me even though it is what you want. I would like to know the explanation for this.” She pulled his hand away from her face and waited for him to speak.
“You must understand, Ilmarë, I want very much to give you what you ask…but if I am to teach you of the ways of lovers then I must teach them all.” Círdan sighed and ran a hand through his long, silver hair, showing that he was disappointed by the situation as well. “You were told of intimacy between men and women, but were you told of the rules that govern those relationships?”
Ilmarë shook her head and had no idea what rules he spoke of.
Círdan took a breath and said, “Each race and culture of Middle-earth has their own rules, and some races have more than one set of beliefs. The Elves are one of the races with differing beliefs about such things. When the Noldor returned from Valinor they brought with them the belief that the joining of the bodies signifies marriage…a lifelong commitment. But…” he gestured toward himself, “those of us who stayed in Middle-earth and did not journey to Aman - the Grey Elves we are called – we do not believe this way. That marriage is a lifelong commitment, yes…but not that a man and a woman laying together means they are married. For us, marriage is achieved when vows are exchanged.”
“If this will not result in our marriage, then why do you stop?” Ilmarë asked, still not understanding his reasons.
“Because we also believe that this intimacy should not take place merely because of the needs of the body…this yearning you feel, it is called desire. Elves feel desire but we are not swayed by it as easily as Mortals tend to be…or so I have been told.” Círdan frowned with worry and ran his thumb across her cheek. “The Grey Elves believe…I believe…that to share yourself with another it should be for a greater reason than just desire. Two people should feel love for one another before the joining of bodies. I desire you and I care for you…but I am sorry, Ilmarë, I do not love you. Not yet.”
He frowned as he watched her and Ilmarë realized Círdan expected her to be upset by his admission. “From your expression, I gather that women who are told a man did not love them would be distraught in some way. Would only women be affected or would men be grieved to hear this as well?” she asked curiously.
“Then you are not angry with me?” Círdan asked with relief and when Ilmarë shook her head he smiled. “Yes, most women would be very upset to hear that, and I expect most men as well.” His hand left her face and he took her hand and held it.
“I am disappointed,” Ilmarë said with honesty, “and I am unhappy that my body still yearns, but I am not angry with you. To not allow oneself to be driven by desire seems wise, but to control something so powerful is exceedingly difficult.” She shrugged her shoulders and felt embarrassed to admit her ignorance. “Although I now know what desire is, I do not fully understand what you mean by love. I have been told what it is and the idea of it is clear, yet I have no experience with it.”
“Nothing was mentioned of my being espoused to anyone, and for some reason I feel certain I was not. If there was one in Valinor for whom I felt love, it is among the memories hidden from me,” Ilmarë said and let out a long sigh. “Then if I must wait until I feel love for another before I am able to fulfill these desires will there at least be some sign to tell me of it?”
“There are different levels of love, Ilmarë,” Círdan answered, searching for the right words, “and it comes about in different ways. Some know they are in love from the moment they meet and for others it takes many years. I cannot explain it to you - I have not found it myself. I have loved others enough to be intimate with them, yet not enough for marriage. But I have been assured that when you feel enough love that you wish to remain with another for the full of your life, you will know beyond all doubt.”
Círdan noted that their discussion had calmed Ilmarë’s passion. Her face was no longer flushed and her breathing had slowed to normal. However, his desire had not subsided and he was irrationally irritated at this. Even if he did not already know what lay beneath her nightdress, the thin material left little to the imagination. To watch her body shift beneath it with each movement she made was trying his resolve. He released her hand and left the bed to pick his robe up from the floor.
“There is no need to discuss this now,” Círdan said, putting his arms back into the sleeves of his robe, “you cannot learn everything about intimacy in one evening. We will have time to discuss this further during your stay here with me.”
Ilmarë frowned as she watched him, not liking the distant, nervous behavior. She did not want him to be uneasy around her and treat her differently because of what they had shared…or not shared. She left the bed, too, and walked to Círdan with a smile, hoping that if she jested with him it would lighten his mood and make him less angered at her. Truth be known, she was curious about something but had not the nerve to ask it during their discussion. Asking it in jest would provide a suitable excuse…
“Círdan, when you lay against me on the bed something firm pressed against my leg,” she said with what she hoped was an innocent expression. “Does the firmness I felt have something to do with the physical differences between men and women?”
Círdan started to answer, but closed his mouth only to open it again. “Well, I…what I mean is…” His mouth continued to work itself in his loss for words, reminding Ilmarë of the fish the sailors had caught from the ship. The thought forced her to swallow her threatening laughter.
“Could you provide me with a description of this male firmness? I admit, curiosity has gotten the better of me and there are none but you whom I can ask,” she said and glanced at the front of his pants, hoping the teasing would lighten his mood and that perhaps she would indeed garner the information from him.
It had taken a few moments but Círdan caught on to Ilmarë’s tone of voice and poorly suppressed amusement. Deciding to turn her jest to his advantage, he assumed an accepting air and moved his hands to the waist of his trousers.
“Describing it would be far too difficult,” he said with a shrug. “It would be much easier just to show you - but only a quick look. I would not want to overwhelm you.”
Círdan made as though he would unfasten his trousers and Ilmarë gasped as she threw her hand up to cover her eyes. For some reason the thought of seeing his more masculine parts unnerved her and was far more information than she had expected.
“I did not mean it, Círdan. It was only a jest,” Ilmarë spluttered in embarrassment and Círdan laughed heartily at her discomfort. She attempted to glower at him but she could not help but smile at having her teasing come back on her. She was thankful at least that he was no longer distant with her.
“Will what happened between us affect your having a friendship with me, Círdan?” Ilmarë worried that once his laughter had passed, he would be uncomfortable with her again.
“No, it will not. I will always be your friend,” Círdan said, running his hand down her cheek again. “Our friendship may or may not become something stronger, but I assure you it will never go away.” He leaned forward intending to give her a small kiss but thought better of it, not wanting to lose the hard-won control over his desire. “You will have to forgive me, but I think it best if I did not kiss you good night. Sleep well, Ilmarë.”
Ilmarë nodded and watched Círdan walk to the door. With a final smile for her, he closed the door behind him and she heard the latch click into place. The excitement brought on by the desire had fled her body and with it went what little energy she had left. Ilmarë trudged wearily back to the bed and barely had time to crawl beneath the covers before her mind started drifting into sleep. Her final thought was of how thankful she was for the wine and the weariness. They kept her from having to lie in bed and reflect on the intense disappointment she still felt from Círdan’s withdrawal and rejection of her.
Except for the occasional colorful bird flying overhead, the beach at Avallónë was peaceful and deserted. Normally, Ilmarë would have enjoyed the solitude but today it grated on her already impatient state of mind. She paced back and forth on the shore by the piers and continuously checked the position of the sun in the sky. A silvery powder flew up from her bare feet with every anxious step she took and hung in the air behind her like a glittering mist. The water of the harbor she kept her keen eyes upon was clear sapphire blue and the sun she kept close watch upon reflected brightly off the water, the silvery sand, and the high alabaster tower that rose above the harbor, creating the illusion that some magical, early twilight danced over the bay. But all of this beauty escaped Ilmarë’s notice; the only sight she wished to greet her had yet to appear.
As her eyes scanned the water again they caught a flash of white. Ilmarë looked at it closely for she had been tricked by a high wave earlier, but in the next instant she was certain her wish had at last arrived. A white boat with tall white sails rounded the end of the peninsula that stretched out beyond the bay and into the water, and headed for the harbor. Now Ilmarë’s impatience became anticipation and she pressed her hands together, resting them against her lips almost as though she were in prayer as she watched the swiftly approaching Elven ship.
The white ship did not take long to traverse the enchanted waters and soon Ilmarë was running down the long, white pier, the wooden boards making a hollow noise as her bare feet hit them. Linquendil was helping a beautiful, dark-haired Elf onto the pier who barely had time to set her feet down and turn around before Ilmarë reached her, throwing herself at the Elf and wrapping her in a tight embrace.
“Melian, you have arrived at last. I could scarce believe it when Linquendil spoke to me from afar saying you were returning with him. Your absence has been sorely felt…I have missed you,” Ilmarë said and felt her friend return the embrace. “I am so happy you have returned.” She felt the sadness that cloaked the light of Melian’s spirit, and Ilmarë held her tighter. “Yet I wish it had been a more joyful return for you.”
“As do I, Ilmarë,” Melian said at last and raised her head. “Look at you…you are more beautiful than I remember, and I did not think that possible.” Her smile chased away some of the grief surrounding her. “I feel very plain next to you.”
Ilmarë sighed at the modesty in the words. “No matter what form housed your spirit, Melian, plain is something you could never be.” She waved her hand toward her body and said, “This is the same form I wore when you last saw me. I have dwelled within it for so many years that I do not notice it anymore.”
“When I arrived at the Halls of Mandos and my body was renewed I asked Námo where to find you. It was he who told me that you now made your home on Eressëa and I came here straightaway.” Melian frowned and asked, “You remained in this form all the time I have been gone?” Ilmarë nodded slowly, knowing her friend would disapprove. “Then it is true you have not returned to Valinor since the death of the Trees?”
“No, I have not, and I note you did not stay there long either.” Ilmarë’s expression grew saddened and she looked over Melian’s shoulder, out toward the sea where it met the sky in twin layers of blue, and said, “The things in those lands that I loved above all were taken from me. There is nothing for me there.”
“That is something I understand all too well,” Melian said softly.
Ilmarë felt selfish for thinking of her own losses instead of Melian’s. “Did you find Thingol before you left Mandos?”
“No, I was not allowed,” Melian replied shortly. Ilmarë opened her mouth to speak, but Melian spoke again before she could. “I do not wish to speak of it now, Ilmarë. I am weary after my trip and I wish to rest. Will you show me to your home?” As an afterthought, she added, “Does Eönwë dwell here with you?”
“Yes, for the most part,” Ilmarë said, pulling out of Melian’s arms. She took Melian’s hand and led her down the piers. “He does spend time in Valinor, as well, for he does not like to serve the Valar from afar as I do. Elentári comes to stay with us at times.”
Over her shoulder, Ilmarë caught sight of Linquendil on the pier and greeted him warmly. “Welcome home, Linquendil,” she called, “will you accompany us?”
His face creased into a smile and he waved. “I must tend to the ship, but I will be by shortly to see that our new guest is settled.”
Ilmarë and Melian left the pier, taking a road of white sand and smooth silver stones that began just beyond the piers. They held hands, making their way up the road toward the grassy hills rising above the harbor. As they walked, Melian inhaled the air deeply; its purity refreshed her, cleansing her spirit and mind as her body filled with it.
“Linquendil told me of Eressëa on the journey here,” Melian told Ilmarë as she looked around. “He told me of the Land of the Elms, and of Gilfanon’s house with one hundred chimneys that sits near the bridge of Tavrobel, which I would very much like to see. But Linquendil’s tale of the Olórë Mallë caught my attention most of all, and where it ends at the Cottage of Lost Play…I want to hear the laughter of children again, Ilmarë.”
“I will take you there whenever you wish.” She would have promised anything to drive away the sadness that had returned to Melian’s face. When they crested the hill Ilmarë smiled in relief to see Melian’s joy at the sight greeting them.
A majestic white mountain rose out of the southwest, and even from a distance it towered over the forests filled with trees of gold, silver and red. A silvery mist covered the higher slopes of the mountain and the summit was lost in the clouds, well out of sight.
“Taniquetil,” Melian said, her breath catching as she spoke. “It is good to be home.”
Ilmarë smiled and pulled on Melian’s hand, encouraging her to continue down the road. Soon they reached Ilmarë and Eönwë’s impressive home set close to the sea, the blue of the water an attractive backdrop for the silver-dusted gray stone of which the house was built. Eönwë was gone to Valinor, and Ilmarë and Melian spent the next several weeks together. Melian’s spirit lifted some and she found enjoyment in the large gardens surrounding the house, in particular, the many beds of lissuin. This did not surprise Ilmarë, for she well knew the fragrance of the flower eased a troubled heart and the scent had soothed her own troubles for many years.
One evening not long before sunset, Ilmarë and Melian sat on the silver shores while Melian wove a wreath for herself of the flowers, pausing occasionally to admire the dewy red petals of the lissuin. Taking into consideration the change in Melian’s behavior in the past weeks, Ilmarë thought it safe to broach the subject Melian had avoided up to that point.
“Melian, why did you leave Middle-earth while your daughter still lived? Did you not wish to spend what last years she had together?”
Ilmarë watched in disappointment as the joy on Melian’s face dimmed and she sensed her friend’s withdrawal. Any time Ilmarë asked of these things Melian fell silent and refused to speak of Lúthien or anything that had gone on in Middle-earth. Ilmarë sighed and watched the water, trying to think of something else to talk about, for she knew Melian would remain silent until a new subject was offered.
At the sound of Melian’s voice, Ilmarë’s head snapped up in disbelief.
“Doriath was doomed to destruction,” Melian said softly as she gazed out over the water, and the weight of her choice was evident in her face. “Its fate was sealed with the death of Thingol and the course could not be changed. Had I remained I would have met my death as well. What purpose would that serve? I have seen enough death and suffering and I wish to see no more.”
Melian hesitated, but then her head dropped and her voice was little more than a whisper. “To sit with Thingol’s body and feel it empty of his spirit was the greatest pain I have ever known.” Ilmarë heard Melian’s voice catch and several minutes passed before she spoke again. “But my pain is eased, for I know that after his time in the Halls of Mandos his body will be returned and we will be together again. Our parting is a passing sorrow. To see Lúthien’s body after the spirit has fled is something I cannot bear to witness. She is held now to the Gift of Men and will never return. I want to remember Lúthien’s life, not her death. The sight of her stilled body is a memory I will not have.”
Melian looked at Ilmarë and sighed, “It is a weakness only a mother could understand.”
Ilmarë moved closer to Melian and slipped a comforting arm around her shoulders. “I understand loss, Melian, but my loss seems insignificant in the face of your pain. I do not judge you, my friend. To lose a child is beyond recompense.”
Melian rested her head against Ilmarë’s shoulder. Tears rolled down her cheeks and her smile was wry and spoke of irony. “The time when I was known as Tindriel and you were known as Melinárë is very distant now. It seemed as though no sadness could touch us in Almaren.”
“Do not say that name. To be called Melinárë holds no fond memories for me,” Ilmarë bit out in sudden anger, and immediately regretted her sharp tone. “Forgive me, Melian, but the thought of my happiness then only brings greater pain to me now.” She rested her head against Melian’s and pushed the grief rising in her throat back down into the cold recesses of her heart, where it had been hidden for so many years.
“I saw him once… in the dark hours following the death of the Trees,” Melian said hesitantly and felt Ilmarë stiffen at the words. She did not know if she should continue.
“What did he...” Ilmarë began, “…did he speak to you?” A nervous fear clutched her as she waited for Melian’s answer.
“Not with words, no…he stood upon a high mountain far away, but in the darkness I could see the fire of his spirit even from afar. When I touched his thoughts he was terrified - he feared for you… for your safety. Morgoth’s actions had caught him unaware, he had not foreseen what would happen. None of us had. He worried for you and the loss of Telperion…he did not know if you were near the Trees when Ungoliant…” Melian’s voice broke off and she did not finish. There was no need.
“His thoughts were of me?” Ilmarë asked and hope rose within her despite her attempts to quell it.
“I begged him to return to Valinor, telling him it was not too late to repent and ask for mercy from the Valar. I told him how you suffered without him and for a brief moment, I thought he would agree.” Melian’s voice became hard with her anger at the memory. “But once again he turned his pain into rage and he mocked me, saying he had no need to return to Valinor; his pursuits were there in Middle-earth. He said you made your choice when you refused his pleas and forced him to leave Valinor alone.”
As Melian’s anger increased, so did the volume of her voice. “Before he disappeared into the darkness I cursed him as the coward that he was and I named him for the cruel being his selfish resentment had made him. I named him…”
“Please,” Ilmarë said quickly and shook her head against Melian’s, “I know the name, Melian. Please do not say it. I cannot bear to hear it.”
The anger only served to increase Melian’s tears and the unceasing grief she felt at the loss of her family.
Ilmarë held her tightly and said, “You should go to Valinor for a time, Melian, take your rest in the gardens of Estë and allow her to give you comfort, for you are in sore need of it.”
“I will go,” Melian answered, “if you will go with me. You cannot hide on Eressëa until the end of days, Ilmarë. You have not escaped your pain; it has followed you here.”
Ilmarë sighed, knowing to argue was futile. Melian had always been very persuasive and stubborn and Ilmarë had always given in to her. Yet Ilmarë would have conceded regardless. If her presence would ease Melian’s pain, she would go with her…though Ilmarë knew she would pay a price for the kindness.
“Very well, for you I will go. In the morning we will ask Linquendil to take us.” Ilmarë gave a small laugh and added, “This will please Linquendil and Eönwë to no end. They have tried to convince me to return for a very long while.”
They sat together in silence, watching the sky grow dark and the stars appear one by one to assume their respective places in the twilit terrain.
Ilmarë awoke suddenly and sat up. The sound of the waters of Eressëa still echoed in her ears and for a moment she could not place where she was. Then it came to her – the waters she heard were those surrounding the Grey Havens and she was in her bed, in Círdan’s home. She lay her head back down on the pillow and sleep came quickly. But before it did, the words Melian had spoken to her on the ship echoed through her mind….
You will have dreams once you arrive in these new lands; pay close attention to them and know what you see in them is true. In this way, I will send what help I can…
****Melinárë: Quenya – ‘Lover of fire’
****Tindriel: One of the considered names of Melian, BoLT 1.
****Almaren: The area of land in Middle-earth where the Valar originally lived, before Elves or Men were awakened. They erected two large lamps to light the lands, but Melkor/Morgoth destroyed them and the Valar left Middle-earth and built Valinor.
**** Estë: Melian was a Maia who served both Vána and Estë. Vána was a Valar, wife of Oromë, primarily concerned with plants and animals. Estë, wife of Irmo, was the Valar who healed all sorrows and injuries in Valinor.
***The Land of the Elms, the House of 100 Chimneys, Gilfanon, The Bridge of Tavrobel, the Olóre Mallë or the Path of Dreams, and the Cottage of Lost Play – All of these are from the Book of Lost Tales, the first book in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien. These were early details Professor Tolkien had worked out for his mythology and later abandoned, but the descriptions of the lands of Tol Eressëa are very charming, and unfortunately some of the only ones that are given of those lands.
***The habitation of Tol Eressëa: Some people think that Eressëa was abandoned after the Teleri left for Valinor and Avallónë was not built until after the Noldor arrived at the end of the First Age. That is not my opinion, however, and I also like to think not all the Teleri left. Some also hold the belief that Eressëa was under continual twilight. The Silmarillion says that the sun passed over and lit even Valinor for a time each evening. Eressëa was quite a ways east of Valinor. So again, just my personal opinion that there were sunrises and sunsets on the Lonely Isle.
****Laws and Customs of the Eldar: In Morgoth’s Ring, volume 12 in the History of Middle Earth series, there is a section concerning the laws and customs of the Eldar.
Personally, I think Laws and Customs was something that was abandoned because there were things in it that just didn’t gel. But even if it were something applicable, Christopher Tolkien says that the noted title indicates Aelfwine wrote these observations. So that leads me to believe that he wrote this after being around the Elves in Aman. That’s how I’m going to use it here, as a different belief for different cultures type situation, just like our religious and social beliefs today. Some believe one way, some believe another, but boy, doesn’t most everybody think theirs is right and everyone else’s is wrong? I wanted to use this to create some political and social tension with the clash of beliefs.
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.