1. A tale of Sea and Stone
Thyme to find him.
Myrrh to bring him
Rue to bind him."
Lothwen dried her long, black hair over the hot stove. The room was filled with the scent of herbs burning, a blessed mixture of dried petals that was said to attract her true love during the coming gathering.
In two days time, all the Sea Elves of the Grey Havens and the surrounding areas would gather at the sea shores for the annual celebration of the founding of Alqualondë, to honor the memory of their ancestors. Apart from the dancing, the singing and the blessings, this was held as the most hallowed night for betrothals and love lore. Maidens would gather sanctified seawater to bathe in as a glamour. They would sleep with sacred herbs under their pillows to dream of the face of their soulmates. The most courageous ones would use the secret charms to attract the mate they desired and bind his affection, although such methods were strongly disapproved.
Lothwen was the only daughter of one of the Captains with Noldor blood, but her mother had relatives among the Teleri. Lothwen had two older brothers; fine elves in their prime, happily wed and well respected among their kin. Her father had already received several proposals on her account, but Lothwen had turned them all down, longing for the one who would make her heart sing. But the years passed and none came her way, leaving her yearning.
Staring out of her window to the careless skies above, she wished silently for love.
Having her long hair braided in an old, complicated Noldor fasion, Lothwen placed carefully her miniature wooden boat on the water and gently pushed it away, with her heart's desire scribed upon the offering. With a tingle of jealousy, she passed by some newly betrothed couples and returned to her seat among her family. Her brother offered her a cup of warm mead and pinched her cheek, trying to cheer her up. She smiled sadly to humor him. And then she saw him.
The dancing flames parted for a moment and unveiled the face of a young Teleri captain. He was taller than her brothers and most of her kin. He kept his long brown curls neatly tied at the back of his neck, unlike her tribe that fashioned them in long, oiled braids. The elf turned and looked straight at her and her heart sang, drinking hungrily from his stormy eyes. And then the flames leaped again and she lost him among the crowd.
Lothwen believed then that her prayers had been answered. Quietly, she rose from her seat and sneaked away from the feast, seeking solitude for her heart was in turmoil. In a safe distance from the gathering, she knelt behind the protection of the rocks. She scribed a few words on the wet sand with her right hand. With his face in mind, she chanted her longing as a charm, as the waves kissed and took away her heart's desire. When the sea had wiped away all traces of the writing, she stood up to return to her family.
Just past the rocks, she saw him again. He came out of the sea, pushing his wet hair away from his luminous face with both hands. In her eyes he seemed like one the legendary heroes of the sea tribe, like a vision of another time and place. But when he smiled at her, the warmth in her heart and thighs reminded her that he was very much of flesh and blood.
In silence, he came out of the water and approached her. Slowly, carefully, as if he feared he'd break her, he took hold of both her hands.
"Star-eyed maiden," he whispered, "Do you dare to claim my heart? The Sea can be a jealous mistress," he warned her. And then he leaned over to kiss her.
She did not flinch, when his salty lips touched her own. She could not move. She didn't even dare to breathe, for fearing that she would shatter the dream. She felt his kiss like ethereal butterflies dancing upon her face, ghostly fingers smelling of moss and seaweed. And then she realized that there were tears flowing from her eyes, as her heart strove to match the briny taste of his skin. When he finally raised his head, he had taken a part of her soul with him. Lothwen knew then that she would never be complete without him.
They spent the night under the flickering starlight, sitting next to each other in silence, gazing at the chattering waves, barely daring to touch each other. And when it was time for her to leave with her family, Lothwen realized she had never asked his name.
The next few days passed in a blissful haze for Lothwen. Her lips were curled into a dreamy smile, while her body was confused by the newfound emotions. Hunger replaced thirst unexpectedly, only to discover heartbeats later that she had no interest in either food or water. She could neither sleep nor focus; all she could see was a pair of gray eyes shining like silver under the moonlight.
The day after the full moon, the young elf who had mesmerized her came to ask her father's blessing. Hidden behind closed doors, Lothwen witnessed light-headed the negotiations. And she finally learned his name. He was Belegadan Angolfain, one of the captains of the Teleri. His name was well respected among both their tribes. He came to her hearth bearing gifts of value, coats of sealskins and pearls and blades with sharks' teeth. And her father, although a Captain of noble blood by his own right, was deeply impressed.
With her face flushed, she accepted his proposal. She kept her eyes low, trying hard to maintain the mask of temperance, while all she craved was his touch. Her heart sunk when she learned that their wedding should be postponed until the next waxing of the moon. He had affairs to take care of before returning to her, along with his family and his friends to make her his mate. All they shared was a fleeting kiss before departure; but for Lothwen, this was enough to keep her awake for weeks.
At the dark of the moon, Dâwen, her mother, came to speak to her.
They sat under the old oak tree outside their home, listening to the soothing song of the crickets. Dâwen took Lothwen's hand into her own and stared at her love-struck eyes.
"Daughter," he asked her, "are you certain of your choice?"
She stared at her, confused by the question. "Of course. It's the only thing in my life I've ever been certain of."
Dâwen sighed. "Child," she said softly, "you are of Noldor blood and he is of the sea. The two tribes rarely mix, for good reason."
She shook her head. "I do not understand." She pouted. "I do not care."
Dâwen rolled her eyes. "Oh, but you will care, my daughter. The people of his tribe have a lover you cannot rival. Their wives and their mothers know this and have accepted it long ago, for their blood has been imbued with the brine of the sea. Tell me, Lothwen, what will you do, when he sails against the weather, not knowing if he will ever return back to you? Will you sing along with the rest of the Teleri females the joyful songs of parting, unaware if you will ever see a grave to cry over?"
Lothwen had paled. Her mother took pity on her and kindly stroked her hair.
"I did not mean to sadden you, my child. But the Teleri blood in me had to warn you, for I have seen many torn hearts. Think of this, before your own heart breaks." She tenderly kissed the girl's forehead, recited a blessing over her lowered head and left.
Despite Dâwen’s foreshadowing words, Lothwen was too deeply in love to think rationally. When Belegadan returned at the waxing of the moon, she had already forgotten that meeting.
Under a starlit sky, Belegadan placed his wedding gift of pearls around her wrist. The brief flash of pain was soon lost in the waves of bliss that followed that night and all the nights after. They rarely spoke, for their minds and bodies thought alike. She hardly noticed that she was now parted from her family. His gray eyes were all she lived for. He laughed, and she savored the sound like aged, sweet wine. He kissed her, and her body needed no other nourishment than the warmth of his skin. And with every day that dawned she loved him deeper.
She would sit for hours at the shore, watching him dive gracefully in the deep, returning with little tokens of love; seashells and pearls and starfish. He would lay everything before her feet, clutching her legs tightly and resting his head on her lap, letting the warm sunlight dry his skin. And when the night came, her body was another sea to conquer, until all that was left was sweet surrender.
But the day of their first parting finally came. Lothwen had known it all along, but somehow her heart had never believed it; until the day she found herself on the docks, among the other she-elves of Grey Havens, the mothers, the sisters and the wives of those who were sailing away. The proud, joyful songs of parting meant nothing to her. They were just words, words that had no power to extinguish the pyre that burned her inside. All she saw was Belegadan's smiling face as he stirred the wheel away from the harbor; away from her.
The grief overwhelmed her. Soon the grief became fear, fear that bit her late at night every time she heard the howling of the wind. Her eyes were fixed on the horizon, scanning for a returning sail, waiting in horror any change of the weather. She rarely ate anymore. From dusk till dawn she'd sit on the cliff outside their home, watching and waiting, oblivious of the wind and the rain. The seagulls grew accustomed to her presence after a while, and the sea hawks kept her company during her long wake.
Then the day came when she saw his sail against the setting sun. Suddenly, her long night was over. She ran to the docks, stumbling and scratching her bare feet, with her long hair flowing behind her, unkempt and braided with twigs and seaweed. He frowned seeing her haunted eyes, but the joy of holding each other again quickly overpowered any dark thoughts. And her life had meaning again. Her nights had stars and her days had laughter. The howling wind did not keep her awake anymore and the clouds were no longer omens of death. Slowly and steadily, she began to heal.
When the time came to be parted once more, Lothwen vowed that she would not allow grief to overpower her. But this was a promise she was unable to keep. And every time he left, she drifted slowly away, moving in a shadowy world of fear and sorrow.
Then came the time when his ship was late. Days turned to weeks and the moon waxed and waned with no news of Belegadan's fate. Until another ship sailed into harbor, bearing black banners, the sign of ill news. Lothwen was seated on the cliff when her eyes met the dreaded sail. A sudden pain pierced her heart; the unbearable knowledge that he was lost to her. The Sea had claimed him as her own.
For countless days she remained motionless, until her clothes were withered and her tears had dried. Gathering whatever strength she had left, she raised her small fist against the ocean and cursed the waves with all the power of her stolen love. She cursed Valar and Eldar alike, for taking the light from her life.
A sea hawk circled thrice over her head. Then came thunder and lightning and the storm was set loose. The wind whipped her mercilessly, but Lothwen could feel no more pain. She had been turned to a boulder of white marble, eternally gazing upon the horizon's trail, waiting for the sail that would never come.
The stone still stands near Grey Havens. Young maidens crown it with garlands during the full of the moon. If their love is true, the stone weeps and its tears are said to protect those who sail away. Legend has it that it howls when the storm approaches, calling the ships back to the harbor. When a ship with black banners sails in, it cries. Tears of blood flow down the white surface, a silent lament for those lost at sea.
But when the sea is calm, and the sun dances upon the waves, one can find little tokens of love at its feet; seashells, pearls and starfish, placed there by an unseen hand. And the breeze laughs and sighs. Around the stone then shines a blessing, the hallowed residue of a love too deep; deeper than the depths of the ocean and the limits of time.
Until the stone is no more, broken down by the wind and the rain, reduced to sand and pebbles. Then the tortured soul inside it will be released, free at last to reunite with her other half at the Halls of Mandos.
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.