1. Silver, Blue, and Golden
"Cannot, mama!" Boromir yelled, ducking a blow that came from a rather small fist. "You will never get it, Haldor!"
"Leave them be, for a while, Finduilas," Imrahil said, grinning at his sister, "We have them here so seldom! Especially around yuletide," he gave her a suspicious glance. "I must confess I am still amazed that the Steward was able to part with his family during the festivities. 'Tis not like him. Denethor is a man who places a high value on propriety."
"As well he should," she said, and for a moment, her gaze became absent, yet a soft , tender smile appeared on her lips. "His duties are many and allow for so little! The boys were anxiously hoping to spend a happy night with their father," and she could have said 'And I had awaited a peaceful night with my husband,' for, indeed, she had. "But, they cheered up when the scheme of coming to Belfalas for mettare was proposed. They capered and clapped," she laughed. "And, I was very happy myself. Spending the festivities alone in the city was not an event I particularly looked forward to." Imrahil glared at her. "Do not be cross, Im! Of course I wanted to come! I have missed you all very much. I am glad to be home."
"I know," Imrahil smiled, placing a hand over his sister's. "We are very happy to have you -to have you all! It has been many a year since you accompanied us during yuletide. I think, at least the boys, will benefit from it."
"So did Denethor say." Finduilas looked to the garden where her boys were still playing. Faramir had managed to grab one of Boromir's legs, tumbling him to the ground and allowing Haldor to seize the white feather from his grasp. The game was over.
"Faramir, you cheat!" they heard Boromir yell, but he quickly started to chuckle by Faramir's constant tickling. In a minute, they were all lying in the grass and laughing. Finduilas, too, smiled appraisingly.
"He said that it would do them well to learn customs different from their own," Finduilas continued, turning her eyes from the children to Imrahil, yet allowing her glance to stray at whiles back to the garden. "When they are grown, and have to step into their duties, they will need not only the knowledge gained from these experiences, but also the ability to relate to the people of the realm. It is easier to trust a ruler who knows you, and to be loyal to him if he really understands who you are, and shows it. We all have learned this, and it is important that my children learn it now. And, as important as any other thing, they need to learn about their family and its traditions," her face beamed with a lovely smile.
'How she seems to light up when she is here!' Imrahil thought, yet said nothing. He slowly watched how Finduilas rose and waved, her dark hair swaying with the western wind, making a striking contrast against the clear blue of the sky.
"Besides," she added, "I think it will be fun. The celebrations in the city can sometimes be wrapped by such formalities! It might get a bit dull, after a while, for two young boys. Here on the coast," and, she winked as she grabbed Imrahil's hand, bidding him come down to the garden with her, "things can get very merry."
"So they do, Finduilas," he said, laughing, "So they do."
"Boromir? Faramir?" Finduilas gently knocked, "Are you all ready? It is about time we go down."
"Sure, mama!" Boromir yelled and ran to the door where his mother was waiting with open arms. "I like these clothes better. They are not so stiff!" he said, tugging at one of his sleeves. "They're... airy!"
"That is due to the breeze and altitude. It does not get as cold as it does in Minas Tirith, so you are able to wear lighter clothes and fabrics," she said, pulling one of the curtain's ends aside, so Boromir and Faramir could feel the soft breeze as it touched their faces. She knelt beside Faramir, who was crunching a crayon between his small fingers, in an attempt to color a ship for his grandfather. "No, sweetling; it will work better if you take it like this," and she positioned the fingers so he could take the crayon with ease. Turning to Boromir, "I trust you had a fine day, my dear?"
"I did. There is so much room to run and many places to play. And, many children, too. I like the games they play here," he frowned, "although I could've done better, had it not been for Faramir's 'help'"
Finduilas laughed, and Boromir looked at her, baffled. "Oh, I'm sorry! Your face was funny, Boromir. Well, I think all the children had a nice time playing with you. I am glad you enjoy these games. I used to play, just like you, you know, when I was your age. I remember it very well."
"Will you play wit'us, mama?" Faramir asked.
"Oh! I can try, but I am unsure whether I will be any good at it," she said, as she lifted her son from the floor, placing him over the bed. His shirt was creased and wrinkled, and a bit dirty since he had been playing after getting dressed. Finduilas drew a clean shirt out of a drawer, and tenderly changed her little one's clothes. "There you go, Faramir. You are both looking so handsome and grown-up!" She stepped back to take a better look at her boys. They had, indeed, grown so fast it was hard for her to believe they were her own; and yet, they were. She smiled, and taking her hands to her hips, she asked, "Well, do you have your things ready, presents and all?"
"Almost," Boromir yelled. "Faramir was helping me finish the paint for grandfather's picture. And, we found something nice for little Elphir, and for you even!"
"I am pleased to hear it. I cannot wait to see what you got me!" she said looking around, a mischievous twinkle in her eye, and ruffled his hair a bit. "Now, do you remember your parts for tonight? I saw you practicing a while back."
"What part, though? The one for the ceremony at Minas Tirith, or for the one here?" Boromir asked.
"Both of them. We will celebrate, as we always do, but this year there are a few surprises in store. You will see," she said as she straightened the collar of his shirt. "Grandfather will give you a cue where you should start. You will do just fine! And, you look very handsome too; you remind me of your father." As Faramir tugged at her skirt, she smiled, "And you too, my little one! I will help you when it is your turn, and everybody will stand with their mouths opened when they see how clever is the Steward's youngest."
"Will papa be celebratin’ too?" Faramir asked, and bit his lips. "I miss him."
"Me too," Boromir chimed in.
"I know. I miss him, too, and I am sure he misses us," Finduilas knelt beside her sons, "You see, when one is such an important man as your father is, so many things depend upon you and you need to be willing to make some sacrifices of your own. Your father would rather be with us, but there are things that demand his attention beside us. Do you understand this?"
"I guess," Boromir said, and shrugged his shoulders, "I only hope he is fine, and will celebrate yuletide as we do. This is the best time during the whole year!"
"He will celebrate. He promised, do you remember?" she wrapped her arms around her Boromir, and kissed Faramir's brow, "So much you have grown! You will do a great job in helping grandfather Adrahil in the ceremonies tonight." Rising, she led them to the door. "Well, I suppose we ought to go downstairs and find aunt Elivrinel as soon as we can. Grab your presents, and your lantern, and let us go!"
"Mama?" Boromir asked, a rather worried expression on his face, "Do I still get a gift?"
"Every child in Gondor will receive a gift!" And then, both joined her, "A gift to remind us of this year and the promise of a better!"
The palace of Dol Amroth had been carefully decorated with bright silver bows and wide pieces of white and blue fabrics. Every once in a while, the eye would find a straying beam, a reflection of light resembling a star, which was no more than a few clusters of pearls that had been distributed around the room. The scent of fresh baked bread, fruits, nuts and candy mingled with the sea-breeze that filtered through the open windows. The hall had been profusedly lit; however, as evening started to fall and the sun sank over the clear blue waters, all torches and candles were blown away, one by one, until there was only sufficient light to see each other without tripping or falling.
This was a new experience for Boromir and Faramir, and when they saw how dark the room had become, they were somewhat reluctant to come down. Finduilas clasped their hands tightly, and so they descended the wide staircase and walked toward the table, where Adrahil had been waiting, along with Imrahil and his family, and a few other guests. Even though Haldor and Arien were there, Boromir thought something was amiss.
"Why are there so few people?" Boromir whispered. "This is not like Minas Tirith. Lots of more people live with us!"
"The first part of the ceremony in Belfalas," Finduilas leaned to his ear to answer, "consists of a private meal with only the closest family and as many friends as the head of the house can accommodate. It is much like the ceremony in Minas Tirith, but more... intimate. You will see."
"Do I have to speak now?" Faramir asked, his brow raised, and his voice a bit louder than Boromir's.
"In a few moments, my dear. Do not worry, I will help you. Come on, children, this will be fun!"
"Welcome, my lady!" Adrahil called as soon as he saw his daughter approach. "Happy mettare!"
"Happy mettare, my lord," Finduilas bowed, "Elen sila ir dartha and mor."
"Boromir, Faramir, come sit by me!" Adrahil had reserved the seats to his side for his older grandchildren, Boromir to his right, and Faramir to his left. "This will be a fun night, I promise," and he winked.
"Hello, grandfather!" Faramir yelled when he heard his voice, and casting aside his former reluctance, he ran to his side. "Elen sila ir dartha and mor!"
"What have we here?" the old man clapped while drawing the child to him, "Has this young child already become a wise lore-master? Finduilas, you have been teaching them very well."
"I only hope I do as well as you did with me, Sire," she nodded.
"Come Boromir, to my right. You shall play the part of my second in command tonight." The eldest son of the Steward opened his eyes wide, and ran also to meet his grandfather. He noticed that instead of being lined with silverware and china, the table had been arrayed with a beautiful dark-blue tablecloth, and on top of it there were three candles, and an old book. There were a few boxes, wrapped in silver and white, and a basket filled with some objects Boromir could not make out in the dim light. The boys left their presents over a small table to the right of the room, and assumed their appointed places.
"It is a great pleasure to have you all here tonight," Adrahil began, "As we remember and thank for what has been, and hope and plead for what is to come. Elen sila!"
"Elen sila!" they all chorused.
With a signal from Adrahil, two of the servants blew away all the lights in the room, except for one. All of a sudden, they were left amid a shadowy world. Faramir turned toward his mama, and she clasped his hand, reassuringly. "It is all right, Faramir."
"We are ready to commence. Boromir, would you please light the first candle for me?" Adrahil asked. The candle gave out a soft silver light. After it was lit, he grabbed the book from the table, and began to read, "Our realm first saw light after the darkness of a frightful night. Out of the shores and waves of lost Numenor Elendil the Tall and his Sons Isildur and Anarion, traveled to Middle-Earth, the distant Shore, to find a new home. At the turn of the year, we remember what has been, and just as the day follows the night, we look forward to the future with hope."
Boromir recognized this as his signal. "This candle reminds us of our forefathers, both Eldar and Edain, their deeds and sacrifices on our behalf. We remember them by the silver light and the white pearl."
Faramir, who had fixed his look on Boromir as he began to speak, understood it was his turn to find the pearl inside the basket, as his mother had taught him. He quickly grabbed it, and holding it tightly so it would not slip, he placed it by the silver candle, then turned to Finduilas, who met his stare with a bright smile. "Well done," she whispered.
Adrahil continued, "The light stands for the past and what it has given us. The pearl shines bright as a symbol of prosperity and union. May Gondor always enjoy those."
Boromir, then, lit the second candle. It shed a mild blue glow, and it resembled the glimmer of the waves under the light of the sun or moon. "The second candle, the blue candle, reminds us of the present and our part in it, our duty to keep our land free and glorious. We remember it by the blue light and the swan's feather."
Faramir put his hand into the basket, drawing from it a soft and very white swan feather. The little boy gaped when he saw the blue flicker of the candle as it lighted it; it appeared to him as though the sky or sea had been caught on that reflection.
"The light stands for what is now," Adrahil read, "our alliances and promises. The feather is the symbol of our home and what we hold dear. May we remember that the day of tomorrow depends on what we make of it today."
At last, Boromir lit a third candle. This time, it shone with a bright golden glow that quickly outshone any other light in the room. "The third candle, the golden candle, stands for the future and the hope it brings. We remember it by the golden light and the brown pebble."
Faramir, eager to fulfill his part as beest he could, had been paying careful attention to all that was said, and when the turn came, drew out of the basket a brown stone, perfectly polished yet not round. He placed it solemnly by the golden candle.
"The light stands for the years to come and our hope for the future. Gondor is the land of stone. May it forever remain thus." Adrahil closed the book and laid it on the table. For a few moments he said nothing, but stared at the light of the candles in front of him. Then, as one who recalls something that has been long in the memory, he spoke again. "Three lights for the past, present and future. Three lights that stand for that which we all are. May the light always shine, even when it is most dark and fearful. May we keep the light in our heart for this new year and those hereafter."
After that, Imrahil walked toward the head of the table, where his father stood. "In days of wealth or peril, in times of peace or struggle, we look toward Numenor where all light began. Let us look westwards, now." A feeling of solemnity and pride filled the room and the hearts of those present. Denethor, no doubt, had been conducting a similar ceremony in the plains, or on the shores of Anduin, or in a camp, or wherever he was. These were the words being uttered in the houses at Minas Tirith, and on the palaces and homes throughout the land of Gondor. Fathers and sons, grandparents and grandchildren, all would be celebrating together, for a year had passed, and there was the promise of a better. The past, present and future, joined together in one night.
"Now is the time, Faramir," Adrahil whispered in his grandchild's ear, and he smiled to Finduilas, who lifted the boy, placing him on the chair so everyone could see, and he could see everyone.
"Elen sila ir dartha and mor," he said, "Elen sila an uir"
Then, the prince of Dol Amroth took the silver candle, Imrahil took the blue candle, and they gave Boromir the golden candle. With this light to guide them, they went about the room lighting all the other candles until it was as bright as it had been before the lights went out, and even more.
"Now," Adrahil proclaimed, "Let the celebrations begin!"
The silver-wrapped boxes were passed around, so every child got one. They were distinguished with a card, and in each box there was an item to mark one of the previous year's accomplishments. Finduilas had carefully selected, with Denethor's approval, a set of wooden soldiers to give Boromir, for during the year he had begun the study of Gondor's military history. Faramir received a book with all the alphabet's letters beautifully drawn, and the equivalent sounds to the common speech, adunaic and sindarin. This year, Faramir had given his first steps toward learning how to read, even though he was not very good at it; Finduilas had hoped this gift would encourage him to go on.
The children also had a chance to give presents to their elders, some of which were handmade. Grandfather Adrahil received a wooden plaque with a ship on it to hang on the wall at his study. Uncle Imrahil got a set of parchment leaves and a quill. He had been a bit lazy on his correspondence with Minas Tirith; even Denethor himself had to stifle a laugh at this clever gift his sons had proposed. Aunt Elivrinel was very happy to receive a clay figurine in the likeness of a swan; Boromir thought she could put it on her book-shelf, but Faramir believed she would most definitely place it by her reading table. Even little Elphir, Imrahil's one-year-old son, was gifted with a set of wooden blocks, painted by the boys. Finduilas received a sea-shell pendant to put on the silver chain Denethor had given her for their anniversary.
"It has been a pleasure to have you all here, tonight," Adrahil said, placing a hand on his eldest grandhild's shoulder, "Now, I would like you all to accompany me outside for the Amroth celebration."
"Amroth celebration?" Boromir asked, louder than he would have wished, "I thought we were over! I am getting quite hungry."
"No, my lad," Adrahil said, "we are over with gondorian celebration. Now we are on to Belfalas celebration. Go and get your lantern and let us go."
"But, I need to eat!"
"There will be plenty of time for that later, son," Adrahil said, "But, I trust that after we go outside, you will be so entertained and tired even to eat. Come on!"
Outside the palace, a large crowd of people had already gathered, lanterns of all colors and shapes on their hands. The children played, and some whirled their lights in the air, producing different kinds of figures that lingered in the air as fireworks. The elder chattered, and the ladies laughed, and they all seemed merry. Finduilas put a small candle inside her children's lanterns. "You will see how wonderful this is! All the colors of the rainbow are here, and even more colors you have never dreamed of. This is the prettiest part of mettare in Belfalas!"
"Happy mettare!" Adrahil called, and a every whisper was silenced. "As we gather this nigh when darkness lasts longer, we pray that the stars may shine bright for us, tonight and always. Elen sila!" With this, the prince of Dol Amroth started his walk toward the shore, followed by a great crowd of people with lanterns.
"Mama," Boromir asked, and he looked around at the departing figures of some of his own friends, "Where are we going?"
"We are going to the beach, darling."
"The beach?" the expression on his countenance was a mixture of amusement and bewilderment. His eyes twinkled, "Now?"
"Yes!" Finduilas yelled, as she took her sons by the hands and started to run behind the line of folks, "Is this not great?" As they ran, they felt the wind on their faces and the strong scent of salt that comes with the water. It was too late to hear the crying of gulls or the beating of bird's wings, but the sea seemed to be too much alive, or at least, awaiting them. The men sang, and the women clapped, and the children raced to see who would get to the shores first. Everywhere they looked, they would find a laughing face... or, a lantern.
"Look!" Faramir cried, pointing his finger forward. "Look, mama! Boromir, there it is!" Before them, a dark horizon loomed in the night, like a black mantle spread before them, even darker than the night. Every voice was hushed, and all laughter was stilled, until the silence was only broken by the swaying of the waves and the passing of the wind as it whooshed stirring their clothes and hair. Finduilas fell to her knees.
"It is beautiful," she whispered, drawing her hands to her face. "Oh, so beautiful! Do you see it, Faramir? This is the sea."
A voice reached them, from the front, of a man who had started a song. It was not a merry song, and it was not a song of jokes or pranks. It was a sad, sorrowful tune. One by one, different voices started to mingle with the first, weaving notes and melodies together as the enthralling sounds slowly took shape. The song was in Sindarin.
"What is it they sing?" Boromir asked his mother, and he held his lantern tighter.
"They sing of the lady Nimrodel."
Faramir's face inmediately lighted. He loved to hear his mother's stories, and he clung to her gown in expectant silence.
"Not now, my dear," she said, "But, I promise I will tell you more later."
"Why do they sing such a sad tune at a time like this? We should all be happy!" Boromir asked.
"You know, we remember the past and it makes us happy! After great sorrow and darkness, always there is a light ahead. Tonight we have honored the light that was, the light that is, and the one that is to come. Just as the sun will shine tomorrow, so we must remember that even though things do not always go as we plan," she smiled, for she saw in her sons the recognition of the words she was saying, "there is something to look for. And, now we toss our lanterns to the sea as a token of this and a memory of what was, is, and will be, our salvation, life, and hope." So, Finduilas rose and, leading the boys toward the shore, they slowly tossed their lanterns to the sea, mayhap they would make it to the distant coast.
A stream of laughter broke away as couples formed a circle, and men played music, merry music, and children started to sing. Boromir soon found himself in the middle of a group of running children, and quickly disappeared into the crowd, laughing and clapping. Faramir, however, remained standing by the shore, his eyes fixed on the flickering light of the lanterns as they sailed away from him.
"Dear son," Finduilas took his hand and brushed a few strands of hair from his pale brow, "what do you-"
"Where are they going? Will they ever come back?"
Finduilas saw a deep longing in those piercing eyes. Sometimes, she grew afraid that she could not unlock the secret behind that keen stare, too much like Denethor's. She bit her lip. "That nobody knows. But, they will sail west, whither our hope also goes. Happy mettare, my Faramir."
"Happy mettare, mama. May our hope sail still."
Author’s notes: I hope this did not get overly long or boring. However, I thought yultide celebrations in Dol Amroth would be a mixture of Gondorian solemnity and Elven liveliness. Thence the references to light, Numenor, hope, and the merrymaking afterwards. They also say words to each other in sindarin, since they are considered to have elven blood as well. I hope I managed to convey the feeling of a mixed heritage, and I hope you enjoyed reading this. Any comments will be greatly appreciated. Thanks to you all for creating an environment like this one where we can all share and learn from each other. Hope it’s not too late to wish you all a happy and successful year!
Elen sila ir dartha and mor: this would be my sindarin attempt to say “May the stars shine during the long night.”
Elen sila an uir: “May the stars shine forever.”
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.