It couldn't be, could it? Glorfindel! He tried to call back, but his tongue felt thick in his mouth. He realized he was desperately thirsty. There. He thought he saw lights flickering down the beach - was that torchlight? Yes! They appeared to be floating in the darkness.
"Halloo, any survivors?" called another unknown voice. He spoke Westron with a strange accent.
"Findel, Fin!" Erestor rasped. The torches seemed to be going away. No! He began to crawl. "Glorfindel," he yelled as loudly as he could. "Help, oh gods, don't leave me!"
The torches were coming nearer. Someone cried, "Look, there's something over there!" He heard feet scuffing rapidly through the sand. The next instant Glorfindel was gathering him up in his arms, hugging him tight, rocking him. "Erestor! Thank the Valar, you're alive!" His voice was husky as if he were fighting tears.
"Am I?" Erestor asked. "I wasn't quite sure."
Glorfindel laughed. It came out as a sob. "I never thought I'd see you again," he said. He dashed his hand across his eyes. "Gods, you're like ice. Aramir," he called, "a blanket, quickly." He began rubbing Erestor's arms, then helped him drink from a skin of water. "You idiot," Glorfindel said affectionately. "Where have you been? You've had us worried. Come. There's a village near here. They've got a bonfire and a feast going. It's Mettarë, don't you know? They are celebrating. As luck would have it, they have a custom to seek out and fete any travelers passing through on this night and they are used to shipwreck victims it seems. So we are more than welcome."
"And the others," Erestor asked, "have you found any other survivors?"
"A few of the sailors, including Lornis." Glorfindel's voice was heavy with anxiety.
"Neither the Captain nor Ardan?" Erestor persisted.
Glorfindel shook his head. "I fear what might have happened to them."
"And how did you escape?"
"Enough questions for now, Erestor. Come."
A young man appeared leading the white stallion. Glorfindel took a blanket from him and wrapped it around Erestor. "Here is Oiolairë, Erestor," he said soothingly, almost as if he were speaking his calming, nonsensical language. "He turned out to have Ossë's blessing after all. You asked how I escaped. The ship had tilted so much that Oiolairë couldn't gain a foothold and I was forced to batter out a hole in the ship's hull with an iron stave. Then this braveheart leapt into those raging waves and towed me to shore."
Erestor put a hand out to stroke the stallion's neck, "Good horse," he said, and Oiolairë rumbled softly. Glorfindel boosted Erestor astride, then led Oiolairë over the sand. Dazed, Erestor retreated into the simple sensations of comfort: the enfolding blanket and the horse's warm flanks. The animal's gait was smooth. Gently it rocked him as he slumped forward onto its neck. Everything was turning into fog. He fell asleep.
The horse's gait changed into short, upward lunges. His neck bumped Erestor's nose. Erestor opened his eyes, then sat up. They were climbing a sand dune. When they reached the top, he could see below them a village of thatched huts. It was brilliantly lit with a huge bonfire in the center and torches scattered throughout. He could hear drums, singing, and laughter. Oh, and the wonderful smell! There was a scent of something delicious cooking. His stomach told him exactly how long it had been since he'd last eaten. He peered down at Glorfindel, who was looking anxiously at him. Erestor smiled and Glorfindel's face relaxed as he returned the smile.
"I'm glad to see you awake," Glorfindel said. "It's just a little further now."
Glorfindel led the horse down the other side of the dune. Erestor noticed that there were two men on either side of them. They were dressed in coarsely woven plaid tunics and trousers whose legs were bound from ankle to knee with crisscrossed thongs. Their hair was cropped to the chin. They smelled strongly of sweat and wood-smoke.
"You can stop for a bit at my house here, Master Glorfindel," the younger man said. "Me Mum'll get your friend a dry set o' togs."
Glorfindel inclined his head. "We are in your debt, Aramir," he said. "Come on Erestor, slide off now."
Erestor half fell off Oiolairë into Glorfindel's arms. It felt so good to hang onto him. His body was solid, comforting. Erestor was reluctant to let go but he didn't want to appear weak. With an effort, he pulled away. Glorfindel put his arm around Erestor's shoulder and led him into the house, where they were met by an older woman with grey-flecked dark hair and laughing eyes.
"Ah, Master Glorfindel, you've returned successful I see. Is this the one you've been so wrought up over? Glad am I for your sake that he's been found." She came over and eyed Erestor shrewdly. "Handsome, to be sure. What do they call you, sir?"
Erestor kissed the woman's hand "I am Erestor, Madam. I thank you for your hospitality. And what might your name be?"
"Ah you've fine manners and the fair sound of the First-Born in your voice. I am Widgewyn. It's not often we host elves from Lindon in our poor village, even though 'tis not uncommon for us to pull shipwrecked sailors out o’ the sea. The rocks that jut from the promontory out there are treacherous, lying as they do just under the surface. Most like ‘tis why Lord Ossë has such a following in these parts." She folded her hand over Erestor's and patted it, then exclaimed, "Ack! Your hands are cold as a wight's. Let's get ye into dry things. I expect my son Aramir's stuff will fit you well enough. You're about the same shape, though you're sommat taller. Here, take these. You can change in the next room."
She thrust a bundle of clothes and a drying cloth into Erestor's hands. He found himself pushed through a rush curtain into a dark room, a little dizzy from Widgewyn's take-charge manner. Glorfindel came with him. The room was sparsely furnished, a straw pallet, a chest, and a small table in the corner on which burned candles and a sweet-smelling grass. Sitting on it were a variety of objects: seashells, dried kelp, salt crystals, and a statue of a god with long curling hair. It was all very familiar - a shrine to Lord Ossë. Erestor looked more closely. There, perched jauntily next to a shell, were the little horse and the bell he had bound to Glorfindel's wrists to help with the seasickness. He glanced at Glorfindel.
Glorfindel shrugged. "They let me sleep in here last night. I thought an offering to Ossë wouldn't be amiss. Who knows, maybe it helped."
"Maybe. It's possible he heard you," Erestor said. "Findel, we've lost our stores, all our gear, and the letter from the Prince."
"Then it's fortunate that you read it so you can relate its contents to Ereinion. Don't worry about that now. It's unimportant," Glorfindel said. He was looking at Erestor with a soft expression in his brilliant blue eyes.
Erestor nodded. He turned away slightly, attempted to unclasp the hooks on his jacket, and found his fingers stiff with cold. He clicked his tongue in exasperation.
"Here, allow me," Glorfindel said. He began peeling away Erestor's damp clothes. Uncharacteristically, Erestor stood passively and let him. He was trembling from cold, or perhaps something else.
To take his thoughts away from Glorfindel's warm hands, he began asking questions. "How did you meet these people so quickly, Findel? And how did it get to be Mettarë? That was a day hence from the time the ship wrecked."
"My dear friend, you've been missing for an entire day." Overcome for a moment, Glorfindel stopped. Then he said in a raspy voice, "I never thought to see you again. I was certain you were dead."
"Not so certain, it seems," Erestor said softly. "You came back to look for me."
"Indeed, I did. Hope lends strength when reason despairs. What happened to you? Where were you for an entire day and night?" Glorfindel succeeded in freeing Erestor of his coat, shirt, and undergarment. He began tenderly drying him with the cloth, starting with his face and hair. It felt so good.
Glorfindel paused and peered intently at Erestor’s hair. He fingered one of the shells braided into it. "In the name of Mandos, where did these come from?"
"I met my Master," Erestor explained. "The Lord Ossë. Apparently he kept me awhile before returning me to this plane of existence." He paused, waited for Glorfindel to meet his gaze. "I was dead, Findel, or close enough to taste it. Once again, I owe him my life."
Glorfindel ran a finger over Erestor's neck and chest, stroking in a circle around one nipple. "Mmmm. Strange bite marks," he commented. "Is this the shape of a Maia's teeth?"
Erestor looked down at himself. "It must be," he said.
Glorfindel cocked his head. "Is that your secret then, Counselor? Are you beloved by a god?"
Erestor nodded, almost imperceptibly.
"Lucky for you, I guess," Glorfindel said gruffly. "I am grateful that he has returned you. The clothes are there on the chair. I'll leave you to finish in privacy." He was gone from the room before Erestor even had time to protest. His absence felt like an ache.
Erestor quickly peeled off his wet leggings, stockings, and boots. Shivering as he dried himself, he donned Aramir's clothes, pulling a cloak over his shoulders. The clothing felt rough against his skin, but it was dry and that was something. His hair and skin felt sticky. He wished for fresh water to wash away the salt. Even more, he longed for a hot meal, then to fall asleep in Glorfindel's arms. Outside he could hear the sounds of celebration. Well, at least there was hope for the hot meal part. It seemed so strange to be here attending to mundane needs when, not so long ago, he had been trapped and despairing within a sinking ship. He wrapped his arms about himself thanking the Valar for the gift of his life. He should not tempt fate by asking for more.
He pushed past the curtain of hanging rushes into the next room, bright with fire. Widgewyn was dipping something out of a pot into a mug. She handed it to him. "This'll warm ye up. Drink it while I rinse and dress that hair. 'Tis way too lovely to be hanging about in snarls. Don't fret. I did Master Glorfindel's for him too. And it didn't hurt much, did it luv?"
Glorfindel smiled. "Not so much," he said.
"When he arrived yesterday, he was a sight," Widgewyn continued. "Sit ye here. I do love a man with long hair."
Erestor took a sip of the drink thinking it would be tea. Instead, he choked with the burn of a harsh liquor, then immediately felt warmed to his core. The taste wasn't so bad either, once you got used to it. He took another sip.
Widgewyn laid her finger aside her nose. "Old family recipe," she said. "You'll feel like yourself in no time."
After a cup of the stuff, Erestor agreed completely with her assessment. He was relaxed, amiable, and found himself joking with the others. Widgewyn rinsed and dried his hair, removed the shells, then applied a light oil to help in combing it out. "Ah, there," she exclaimed when she was finished. "Look at the luster in it now, Master Glorfindel. Just like a raven's wing. Have you seen any sight prettier?"
"No," Glorfindel said. He sat back in his chair as he took another swig of the fiery liquor.
Widgewyn said to Erestor, "Your friend here was fretting something fierce last night. I had to give him a cup o' chamomile so he could settle down enough to get some rest."
"He always has had a responsible streak," Erestor said, "much as he tries to suppress it."
Glorfindel folded his arms in mock annoyance.
Widgewyn laughed. "Males. They can never tell each other anything in plain words. So, should I braid it up again or leave it out?"
"Braid it," Erestor said.
"Leave it loose," Glorfindel said at the same time. His eyes were glowing softly.
Widgewyn looked from one to the other, then nodded as if something was confirmed in her mind. "I'll just pull a braid from either side, tie them together in the back, and leave most of it out," she said.
At that moment Lornis, Zirik, and Nadroth burst into the hut. "My Lord Erestor, glad am I that you were spared!" Lornis said. He went down on one knee. "I came to thank you for saving my life from that Lorcastran spell."
"A lord are you?" Widgewyn exclaimed, taking a step away from Erestor. "Stopping here in my house? And it must be Lord Glorfindel as well, I take it, from King Gil-galad's court?" She dipped her knee, pulling her skirts wide in a curtsy.
"No titles," Erestor said. "Dear lady, to you and everyone in this village, we are but ragged castaways dependent on your hospitality. Please do not treat us any differently." Lornis rose and Erestor embraced him and the others. "I'm glad you escaped. Tell me what happened!"
Soon they were all seated with a cup of Widgewyn's brew while Lornis told them about frantically trying to paddle the raft away from the ship, while every wave seemed to fling it back. Then the archers from the black ship began firing arrows amongst them. "Unhappily, one hit Aratanur between the shoulders," Lornis said. "He didn't survive it. When that happened, we all leapt from the raft, grabbed whatever was floating, and paddled for dear life."
"What happened to Captain Armalak and Ardan?" Erestor asked. He could see Glorfindel shaking his head behind Lornis.
"We lost sight of them in the storm. But I fear many were taken by the black ship's commander," Lornis said miserably. Zirik and Nadroth nodded their confirmation.
"We must attempt a rescue," Nadroth declared.
"Just us five? Not likely," said Glorfindel. "First we need to return to Lindon and tell King Gil-galad what we know. Then, by Mandos, we'll hunt down that black ship, and if our friends are held captive, we will free them."
"No, my hot-heads, first you must have some supper," Widgewyn said. "Aramir, get them bowls and take them out to the fire. Go on. It's Mettarë. Enjoy yourselves afore ye start aplotting. Shoo!" She waved them out.
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.