Crossing the Sea: 6. Alqualondë

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6. Alqualondë

"When I was a child, the waves called to me, but I could understand nothing of their words, only my father's name, and my mother's name, and the names of my brothers. Those names the waves spoke, and repeated, and kept on repeating, again and again, until I wept, and held my hands to my ears."

"But when the time came at last, instead of drowning me, the sea shattered and quenched me, and sent me away into the air. And now it seems that the waves speak to me with new voices. Yet even as the fear ebbs, the ache grows, and my children cry out to me ceaselessly."

She sat beside the window, as she often did these days, watching. Sails came and went in the harbor below, and white sea-birds wove amid the sails, flitting low, skimming the water. And always the wild-plumed breakers roared and sang, galloping forward on a rolling field of cobalt and grey, one after another dashing themselves to pieces on the beach. But I did not know if her eyes saw any of these things.

I went to Elwing's side by the window, as I recalled her words. With a slight start, she turned away from the horizon, out of a dark world of memories, and met my eyes. She was still so very young.

"I see them now, in the middle of all the panic and death, the swords clashing, the screams, the Kinslayers shouting. All that smoke, and the smell of blood, and my boys in the middle of it all...They were too young to know what was happening, and they begged me, don't leave please oh mother don't leave, but I--"

She must have seen something in my eyes. "I am sorry, my lord," she whispered.

I took her hands in mine, as if she was my own poor lost child.

"I do not know how to comfort you, Elwing, except to say that I understand--something of it." I wanted to say something more to her, to tell her that her sons would be well, that all would be well and the pain would diminish with time. But that would not have been the truth.

"But for your comfort and kindness, lord," she replied, gazing into my face, "and that of the queen, I would have already died many times."

"My gentle child," said I, "you did not die. A Lord far greater than I rescued you; the wind's unseen hands guided you to us. And I am thankful beyond words, for you have become very dear to me."

Elwing pressed my hand, then quickly looked away again, but not before I caught a flash of tears in her eyes.

"Forgive me, for I know not how to speak my emotions. I lost my own father when I was a girl...I have brought you only anxiety and heartbreak, my lord. Would that I have anything other than these to offer, to lay at your feet!"

"No, not only anxiety and heartbreak." I stopped for a moment, trying to choose the right word. "You have brought us joy."

She shook her head incredulously.

"How can that be, when I have none to give? After I left my innocent babies to die, and fled here in defiance of the Valar's prohibition? After all that I have seen and known, all that I have done?"

"Yet you still watch the sea," I reminded her, gently. "And you still watch the western hills."

Elwing did not reply for a while, and we fell silent. Outside, the wind cried, lifting the waves, shaking the leaves of the evergreens in the garden. In the distant sky, a solitary eagle wheeled among the lowering clouds, very slowly, its wings hardly moving. The year was getting late.

But then, suddenly, subtly, something felt different. Perhaps it was the momentary glint of the sunlight streaming through the grey clouds, perhaps the shifting wind, or the voice of the sea, or perhaps it was the entire world itself that changed, impalpably, unexpectedly. Something seemed to stir and lighten within her, and she took in a deep breath, almost with a gasp, and lifted her face to me once more.

"You have spoken to me of hope before, lord." Her eyes were brimming now with surprise, bewilderment, wonder. "But now I believe you. I believe you. For there came to me a mysterious feeling, just at this moment, like a movement of the air, or a voice out of the silence that I cannot understand. Something quickens my heart, saying--saying that my Eärendil is coming back to me. It cannot be...But it must be,"

Her voice trembled a little, and she halted, seeking confirmation. I nodded, slowly. I believed her. Of course. She would not have everything taken from her after all.

"Listen--do you hear it?" A smile was starting to rise to my face. "I think Annairo and the others are coming to see you."

Outside the room, on the stairs, the laughter of a small child rang out, crystal-clear, glorious and free.

***

"Father?"

Eärwen's soft voice roused my from my thoughts.

"News have come, father. I received a letter from Finarfin." My daughter paused briefly, and I saw that she held a sheaf of closely written pages in her hand. "The Great Ones have heard the prayer of Eärendil the Mariner and granted it," she went on, her voice outwardly calm. "They will go to war against the Dark Enemy, to deliver Middle-earth from his shadow. Battle is preparing."

I should have been surprised and perhaps troubled; instead somehow all I felt was weariness.

"The hearts of the Valar are merciful indeed," I murmured.

"Their messengers will come here soon, I believe. My husband will march with the host." Eärwen hesitated again, though only for a nearly imperceptible instant. It occurred to me that she was trying to read my reaction. "He has been waiting many years for this."

She was pale and lovely and weighed down with sorrows, nevertheless there was something different about her: in her expression I saw both anxiety and a quiet determination. Her eyes, although still a little red-rimmed, were clear and dry. My child had wept so much in recent days. No tears were left now.

And suddenly there flashed before my eyes a memory from another time of mourning, an image of her with her head bowed, alone and silent, lit with the fitful glow of candles and torches, for the other Lights had gone out. She had been sitting long beside her brother's bed and later his grave. Then as now, she had wept her eyes dry. And she had come to me, then as now.

Could it be that she had made herself forget, and thought of it no longer? How? How could it be that she no longer remembered the pallor of her brother's face, no longer remembered herself kneeling on the dock, sobbing, the entire front of her dress red with his blood? The storm in the darkness, and the black waves? The bodies and the broken wails? The little girl crouched by her mother and father who lay dead in the street, endlessly pleading for them to wake up? The helplessness of all the mothers and fathers?

"How many of our people, do you imagine, would be willing to bleed for the Noldor?" I asked. "And I will not command them to do so. I will not. I cannot."

I did not intend for it to come out like this. I did not intend to be harsh and angry at her. But Eärwen just nodded. Then as if acting on a quick impulse, she took a step forward and placed her hand lightly on my arm.

"No, of course not," she replied simply.

No. She did remember. Like each one of us, she remembered it all, the blood and the betrayal, and the agony, and the rage, remembered it every day, relived it every day. Yet somehow, her heart had turned differently than mine.

Eärwen stepped back a little, looking up at me. There was no reproach in her eyes, only--regret? Awkwardness? A trace of disappointment? But she soon regained her composure.

"I will return to Tirion, father. He needs me."

My turn to nod. She had said these same words to me, once upon another time.

"I'll just go talk to mother, then. And pack some of my things."

I nodded again. We stood there facing each other without a word, and after a moment Eärwen turned away. She began to walk to the door.

She was walking away from me. The lamps threw distorted shadows of her receding form against the walls. She was walking away down the corridor, her back rigidly and defiantly straight, resolutely not looking back, towards the night, the leaden gloom which the lamplight could not penetrate. Though I could not see her face, it came to me--it struck me with absolute certainty and clarity that my beloved girl was fighting, with all her strength, to hold back tears...

"Eärwen!"

She stopped, her hand on the door handle, and in two or three desperate strides I crossed a distance of five-hundred-odd years and was by her side.

"Eärwen, I know this comes years, many years to late, but I want to tell you that I am sorry. To have blamed Finarfin for the dreadful deeds of others, and then--and then to have blamed you for your courage and your great love for him. I was heart-sick with anger and grief. I love you, Eärwen, my dear, sweet child. And Finarfin also. I remember that, before all this, I used to tell him that I loved him as my own son...My love should have better withstood the darkness."

I could not find any more words. My daughter stood completely motionless, one hand still gripping the door, her eyes fixed on my face. Then she uttered a soft, wrenching cry.

"I never meant to add to your pain, father." The words, when they came, tumbled out of her at a rush. "I never meant to hurt you at the very worst of times...I knew you were suffering so much, as was mother, and all of us. As was I. As was I. Please, father, believe me, I never meant to abandon you. It was just that I had to--"

She bowed her head, and I took her into my arms. With a small shiver of relief she clung to me tightly, burying her face against my shoulder.

"Will you tell him that I miss him--that we miss him?" I asked, after releasing her at last. "My timing is terrible, I am afraid, but I speak sincerely."

She gave me a tiny smile, the first in days. But when she spoke again, her voice was thoughtful.

"He will come to Alqualondë, I think, but it will be with the host." She shook her head. "Oh father, I am so afraid that I will lose him, too...But I must not hold him back..."

***

I stood beside the window, as I often did these days, watching. Eärwen had gone. Down the garden, the cedars and cypresses rustled, calling out to each other, and sere leaves fluttered and danced like yellow butterflies over the still green grass. Somewhere in the distance, someone was singing. The faint snatches of melody were mingled with the cries of the gulls, wistful, but clear and pure. And a peal of bright young voices burst out right beneath the window, almost as if in response, though I could not see the children. The Darkness was only a tale to them, and Middle-earth only a dream.

Above, the clouds were dispersing, flying across the sky like wild swans. And upon the sea passed slender boats and proud tall-masted ships; the snowy wave-crests glistened and frolicked about their hulls. Some were coming to dock, returning from long journeys, and others were just setting out towards the deep waters, their newly-hoisted sails billowing with the wind and with hope.

Then the light or my own heart must have played a trick on my eyes, for I saw many more ships on the water, white-prowed with sails of silver, gliding out of the harbor in swift succession, steering forth over the ocean once again. But it was a memory no longer, for this time the rhythm of the waves was a deep and gentle music instead of a raging storm, and instead of red flames in the black night, it was sunlight that gleamed upon the foam.

And there rose within me an irresistible thought, an utterly irrational thought, though it felt as true as the sun and the waters, and the very air. I thought that Elwing's young sons, whom she had left behind in such sorrow, were not dead after all. I thought that they would grow up, grow wise, grow strong. And maybe one day, they would come to find her.

Maybe one day--though it was not a day that I could yet foresee--I would find all the pieces, and make things right once more. Maybe the pain would lift one day, and turn to light, though now its weight seemed far too heavy to bear. Maybe one day it would become possible to forgive, and be forgiven. Maybe one day, our lost loved ones would return to us, crossing time and death, crossing the wide, sundering sea.

Maybe one day.

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.

Story Information

Author: alena

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 1st Age

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 10/31/03

Original Post: 09/22/03

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