20. Interlude III: City of Water
The young woman bowed thrice, touching the stone floor with her forehead. With a well-measured gesture, she made the holy sign, muttered a litany of sacred names, and stood up to leave.
As she walked the length of the cave, her ears caught the faint sounds of rustling robes, first far away in the distance, then closing upon her, unseen. A tremulous breath escaped her lungs, and she paused for a moment to listen. They were there, her sisters- she could feel their presence following her movements from the shadows, with gazes of silent mourning for their youngest.
And still, she was not allowed to linger for any longer. Outside, they were waiting for her to emerge, for the brutal sunrays to tear her away from the Mother´s darkness. She lowered her head, blinking the dazzled tears away while she took the stairs, until her eyes became able to find the way back to the boat. Two women, dressed in red and gold, knelt reverently to pick up her robes.
Melkyelid sat upon the back of the ship, slowly relaxing as the familiar roll of small waves rocked her body. At both sides of the channel, citizens paused their daily dealings to lean over the bronze railings, and take a curious glimpse of the young bride who would cross the ocean to dwell on their ancient homeland, where the sun drowned every night and ships who dared to wander beyond the last limits were swallowed by angry waves. Two children pointed at her excitedly, whispering between themselves.
The city of Gadir, ancient harbour of Pelargir, was never fairer than at this hour of the morning. It was the hour of the humid radiance, which spread through the urban forest of white and painted towers that crowned the tall houses. It was the hour when the first light touched the streets of polished pavements that the people of Gadir preferred to the corridors of their own houses, and the quiet groves where an awed girl had once caught glimpses of a blue, flawless plain between gigantic trunks of oceanic trees, always spreading their knotted, muscled arms to catch her in a deadly embrace of petrified wood.
This same light was now dancing in brilliant spots upon the calm waters, where an older girl had thrown her most precious jewels to pray for the love of an ungrateful young man. And as the boat sailed across the wide mouth where the channel died into the sea, with the Númenorean harbour upon her left and the golden sands of the cove beach upon her right, it also touched the wilder waters where she had bathed her naked body after her service to the Goddess.
Melkyelid went pale, as those distant memories mingled with another, more recent ones. A young woman cradled her shaking body with her own hands, lying upon the cold floor at the Lady´s feet
"Almighty Mother, you who rule the might of Sea, you who look with pleasure upon the joining of bodies in the dark hours of the night, you whom I have always served, and honoured, and held holier than the mother who bore me, take pity on your daughter in her great distress. Throw your mantle of shadows upon her, shut her in your dark womb, protect her from the cruel sun of tomorrow. Accept her eternal service, use her body to subdue men to your power, fill her mind with pious thoughts, until the day that she is lost and taken by the Doom of Men."
Melkyelid stood up from her seat. The heavy silver necklace that she was wearing made a clinking noise, and she remembered her father´s hands, turning it thrice around her neck.
"You are my pride. Even as you sit in your brilliant palace at the end of the world, never forget your blood."
Her mother, patiently tying the seventy thin braids of her hair with silver bands.
"You are my pride. Even as you watch the sun die in front of your eyes, never forget your blood."
Her elder sisters, who stole looks of mingled jealousy and admiration while they painted her fingernails with diminute figures of purple, and arranged the folds of blue silk spun in silver of her dress.
"You are our pride. Even as you bear long-lived children with the eyes of gods, never forget your blood."
The young woman saw the last arms of sand pass her by, the last rocks, the last collectors of the purple shell. Her fingernails dug into her palms, so harshly that they almost drew blood.
... The benign smile of cold ivory, last teaching of her Mother to her daughter...
The boat slowed its course, then bumped to a halt. In front of it stood the ship.
Melkyelid swallowed the ache and smiled a regal smile, serene and achingly beautiful like the goddess of ivory. Her city lay behind her back, with her towers and her gigantic trees, and her polished streets, and her shadowed temples.
And in front of the ship, stretching in front of the dead child´s eyes, the blue, flawless plain.
"Let us board before the wind changes." she ordered in a clear voice.
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.