It is hard to keep my attention on my work. Instead, I find myself looking out the window at the setting sun. That at least remains constant. Yet it was not always thus, for I well remember the dark under the stars before either Sun or Moon first rose; nor will it be in the end, for one day, Arda itself will end and Anor with it. Still, I must believe that until that time the Sea and the Sun and Moon will endure. It would be a poor world where no sun sets over the water, and where no silvery moonlight plays over the waves. I sigh as my thoughts wander.
Ithil was first to rise in the West, and I believe nearly all Elves in Brithombar had turned out to watch as soon as we saw.
This Light had to be the work of the Valar, and we speculated that it had been sent as an aid in our plight while the creatures of the Enemy roamed freely. We did not hear about the death of the Trees or the return of the Noldor to Middle-earth until long after. It was even longer before we heard the full truth of what had befallen in those dark days in Valinor.
Then the Sun rose. The brightness of her light, and the heat of her fire were a shock to us, and some questioned whether this Light could be the doing of the Valar. I thought back to Cuiviénen and remembered the Light in the very being of the Hunter, the same that after shone in the eyes of our three lords who followed him West in the time before the Great March. To me at least it was clear that the Sun partook of the same nature, and was no deceit of the Enemy. Soon the doubters noted that the Enemy's creatures cowered before her, and we learned to endure – and even enjoy – her brightness and warmth.
The Sun also brought with her a season of growth as we had never seen; colours and shapes beyond our imaginations – flowering plants and many insects that now awoke for perhaps the first time since the Valar had made them.
Another thing that was immediately noticeable – apart from Sun and Moon themselves, obviously: the tides. It did not take long to realise that these were now both much stronger and tied to Ithil's path. Nowë, as Círdan was known then, quickly found some who were willing to watch the tides and the Lights both. I was among them.
It did not take long either before us watchers realised that there were patterns in what we were seeing. I already mentioned that the tides were tied to Ithil's path, and while it was difficult – certainly at first – to find any regularity in Ithil's wanderings, Anor soon settled down to a regular daily path.
Though we did not yet call it 'summer', that season quite a few of the Falathrim beside the watchers happily spent long days – and short nights – on the beach just to watch the Lights. Meanwhile we spent our time drawing schematics and calculations in the wet sand with sticks and betting on whether or not we had it right this time, only to be disappointed the next morning when we found – again – that either Anor's position or the time that she rose did not quite match our predictions.
We saw though that she rose ever earlier and set later, and that both sunrise and sunset moved ever more northward. And while each passing day brought a new chance to improve our calculations, we now wondered also whether Anor's northward shift would continue until there was a day where she would not set at all; and if she would go on to rise again in the West as she had when she first rose, or whether she would stop and go back south again before then.
Life was not all numbers and angles, for at the second setting of Anor my beloved and I had spoken our betrothal vows, and now we felt that the time to wed was here.
After a day of feasting, we finally managed to sneak away and found ourselves a quiet stretch of beach. The next morning, we woke together for the first time, in a delightful tangle of limbs.
Actually, when I say 'woke together', it would be more precise to say that, conditioned by months of sky-watching, I woke up first – just in time to see the Sun rise – and that my husband was awake a fraction later, as a result of my shrieks of delight. Even on this night I had adjusted my calculations and set my markers for sunset and sunrise, and the Sun had risen slightly later and marginally further south than she should have if her northern path had continued.
The next evening further confirmed that the Sun was indeed returning on her path, and that we had therefore managed to make the shortest night of the year our wedding night – a detail not overlooked by my friends among the Sun-watchers; it was a long time before I heard the last of that.
Of course, after those early days when we simply rejoiced in the Lights, the rest of the First Age happened. It was not all that long before many of the Enemy's creatures lost their first mortal dread of the Sun, though I doubt Orcs will ever move in daylight without pain. Even so, though the times soon turned dark again, the Falathrim still had the beaches and the Sea; and for many years my husband and I would commemorate the Summer solstice as we had the first time, rather than join the great feast in Brithombar.
I shake my head as I stare into the darkening evening sky and move a candle closer to light my work. Now, too, I can only hope I have my calculations right, but the joy of those long-ago summer days on the beaches of Beleriand is the furthest thing from my mind. And I doubt there will be much to celebrate at this year's summer solstice – except perhaps that we are still alive, still here.
It took nearly a year after the death of Númenor, but the seas are quiet again, and much of the damage the Wave did to harbours, towns, villages has been repaired; many of the island's survivors – though there are not that many in all – have settled among their kin who left earlier. Yet the coast still bears the scars, and Arda itself has been changed irrevocably. Even so, amidst all the upheavals that have been wrought, I have to admit that my first thought on realising that the world had been made round was annoyance at having to rework the equations that had served me for two Ages to take that into account.
Again I shake my head, and at last I go back to redoing the tide tables for Lindon.
This story was originally written for the 2012 Many Paths to Tread Yule Fic Exchange - the request (from Erulisse) was to write something about the very first Solstice.