3. Eärendil's Star
Of surpassing beauty was Eärendil, for a light was in his face as the light of heaven, and he had the beauty and the wisdom of the Eldar and the strength and hardihood of the Men of old; and the Sea spoke ever in his ear and heart, even as with Tuor his father.
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Chapter Three Eärendil's Star
It was in 2251 of the Second Age, so stated in the Tale of years, that Atanamir, who had sat at the Council in Imladris so many years ago, took the sceptre from his father and became King of Númenor.
Rebellion and internal division of the Númenóreans followed.
At this time also, the Úlairi*, the servants of Sauron were seen for the first time.
Elrond, forever watchful, received many messages from the south; but when the one came which announced the appearance of Nine Riders, who cried with the voices of death, he knew without doubt that the Nine Rings had betrayed their masters, and that it truly was only a matter of time before Sauron would take up arms again.
And even though it is not stated in the books of lore, that are kept in those last locations of learning, not even those in the place the Númenóreans called Rivendell, it was in that same period that a party, rather than a messenger, made its way south by horse. They kept on the west side of the Misty Mountains and travelled through the West Pass of Ered Nimrais*, the Pass that has no name, and rode through what in future times would become Gondor, to Belfalas. To Edhellond.
It had rained the second week of their journey, and the dampness still hung in their clothes. Elrond was glad they were entering warmer territories. It had been a long time since he had made such an expedition on horseback. The last time to and from Lindon over a century ago.
Officially this wasn't taking place. On the record he was in Imladris. If there were messages that needed immediate attention, Glorfindel would cover for him.
But he felt certain there wouldn't be.
It was Celeborn that saw him first, as he dismounted and brought his horse in by the hand.
'Gil-galad has demoted you to messenger?'
Elrond pulled off his glove and shook Celeborn's hand as they laughed at the remark and embraced.
'I was given an invitation when you left… I thought I would accept it.'
Celeborn stared at him for a moment.
'I simply cannot believe it. You, away from Imladris, all the way here.'
They walked into the direction of the wooden houses. It was as Celeborn continued speaking to him, that Elrond's eyes wandered over the grassy plain, knowing the sea lay somewhere beyond. But it was not the sea he looked for. He tried to remember what Celeborn had just asked him, but couldn't.
'I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that.'
'You seem preoccupied.'
Before Elrond could answer, a call came from a side he hadn't scanned yet.
Celeborn smiled at the young woman that came running, flushed as she arrived.
'I told you, father, I knew he would come.'
Celeborn smiled weakly and turned to Elrond.
'She actually did.'
Elrond smiled at Celebrían, not sure if it was the right way of reacting.
It was at that moment that Elrond unexpectedly was able to recall what Celeborn had asked him. He clasped the reign of his horse under his arm and started to pull off his other glove.
'However much I would like this to be a social call, I came because of more serious matters. Word came to us of Nine Riders.'
I need not have come personally, though, but Celeborn, do not hold it against me, mellon-iaur*…
'Dressed in black and taking shadow with them… Yes, we heard that too.' Celeborn said, interrupting his stream of thought.
Celebrían looked at them as she walked along.
'Does Gil-galad suppose these are the Bearers of the Nine Rings of Men?' Celeborn continued.
'If he does, I share that view with him.' Elrond said distantly. 'It is told that of the nine Sauron ensnared with those rings, three were great Númenórean lords. But only time shall reveal if that is the truth, I fear…'
Celeborn looked at his daughter and back at Elrond.
'She loves to listen as much as you love to recount…'
Elrond smiled broadly, bowing his head and watching his feet for a moment .
'Perhaps I shall, later.'
'Yes, first you must come and see Galadriel. And eat, my friend.'
Elrond let it wash over him with silence, his heart pounding and the madness of it all becoming more palpable still. At least to him.
When he met Galadriel, who waited for them at the small woodland area, just short of the sandy dunes, he feared the Lady would read his heart without difficulty. Yet if she did, it was veiled well, as she gave him a convivial smile and only touched his face before welcoming him.
'Sometimes there are visions that seem so far-fetched that we fear what else will happen when they come true.'
Elrond was unsure if she meant his coming to Edhellond, or the appearance of the Nine, the two closely linked in his mind. He did not voice his doubt.
'Before I shall hold council with Gil-galad, I wished to know your mind. About the Nine Riders…'
Galadriel smiled mystifyingly.
'You ask me to tell you what you already know.'
'I merely seek the council of one who sees more than most.'
Again a smile, but this one more forbearing.
'And even though I am not a counsellor I believe you can tell the High-king that I fear it is true. If that is wherefore you came.'
As her eyes caught his, Elrond had a hard time to keep his face without expression. Yet he could not look away. At last Galadriel released him with a smile. 'You surely will not go in haste away. Not without staying for a while, nor without having seen the sea? You have travelled long to reach it.'
'Gladly I will stay awhile. Though I intent to leave in no more than a week.'
'Those seven days you will be welcome. But do not linger now, refresh yourselves,' she motioned to Elrond's companions, only then returning to him. 'And we shall welcome you as fits the Lord of Imladris and his fellow travellers.'
The humble splendour of this small haven community, which stayed just outside Edhellond, perhaps did not match Lórien's or that of Imladris in many ways, but Elrond felt oddly comfortable as he sat down at the table and listened to the stories that were told by other guests. Like they had at Lórien, Galadriel and Celeborn seemed to gather many Elves around them here as well.
They sat so until it neared sunset, when Celebrían touched his shoulder.
'I am going to see the sunset by the sea… If you wish to, join me. You could tell me about your journey.'
'It would be a privilege, my Lady.'
Like others, they left the table and wandered off. If he had never reached the sea he would have been contented still.
Celeborn and Galadriel stood watching as the two people walked out of even Elvish sight and Galadriel rested her head on her husband's shoulder.
'I fear it shall take many years yet… He feels he cannot yet give her what she deserves…'
'It will turn out right.'
'Still there is something which I cannot see clearly… Perhaps nothing.'
Celeborn kissed her and took her hand, his eyes lingering in the distance before turning away.
'This place reminds me of being young, it reminds me of seeing the sea at Forlond.'
'Do you miss Imladris?' Celebrían asked, looking at him sideways, as they walked up the green hill toward the top.
'Yes.' Elrond answered immediately, making her laugh at its abruptness. He looked at her and grinned. 'I really do.'
'My father didn't believe me when I said you would come. But here you are.'
Elrond gave her a smile and locked his gaze onto the horizon, which appeared as they came closer to the top.
'So it seems.'
They were not alone walking up the hill, but all seemed to respect their discretion. The view was like the ones he had seen in his youth, but different. Elrond wasn't sure if after all those years it was him or simply because this was another part of Middle-earth, another sea. Likely it was both… When he watched Celebrían, dressed in white, the setting sun shining on her hair, he became aware of a sudden feeling of desire. A yearning to put his hand through that hair, of wanting to protect her, offer her a safe place, a safe world. And straight away came the realisation that he wasn't quite in the right position to offer her any of that. While Sauron still existed in Mordor and held the One Ring, the Elven ring he held would stay subject of an incessant hunt. And Imladris could easily become the target of a siege once again; Sauron would be eager to take his revenge after the defeat over five hundred years ago.
But how much safer was she here, with Galadriel, who possessed one of the rings as well? Of the three, she was closest to Mordor.
Are you certain you are not trying to find an excuse?
Celebrían looked up at him.
'Do you think the appearance of the Nine Riders is an indication that Sauron is returning?'
Elrond shrugged his stream of thought.
'They have been spotted, but only near Mordor. It is a sign, but it could take many years before he has gained enough strength. Gil-galad has more worries about the state of things in Númenor.'
'Since the defeat of Sauron, the Kings of Númenor seem to have changed their view towards the Eldar. Against us.'
'Tar-Atanamir's grandfather was already envious, his gaze was more westward than to the east. For the Men of Númenor seem to think there is no greater gift than immortality. But compared to his son and grandson, he was a good man.'
Elrond knew she was waiting for him to press on, hoping he would give in to the urge of explaining. Celeborn had been right: she loved to hear the stories as much as he loved to tell them. He pointed to the rocky beach below, but did not need to voice his question.
'I know a way down nearby.' She said, catching his elbow and gently making him walk into the direction she wanted to go, in more ways than one. 'Tell me more.'
He smiled and yielded, clearing his throat before starting.
'Since the beginning of the line of the Númenórean Kings, it has been the custom of the Rulers to take their titles in Quenya, that being the noblest tongue of the world. And though the ways of Men can be capricious, this tradition is still honoured, a tribute to the choice of the Half-Elven, which Elros made before he became Tar-Minyatur. But over the long years that have since passed, some began to grow envious of the things that were beyond their grasp. And it was said that Tar-Ciryatan disrespected his father, and his desires to cooperate with the Eldar, when he ascended the throne. Taking the Sceptre of Andúnie* by force. He built a great fleet and oppressed the men of Middle-earth, greedy of wealth. Many believe it was then that the Shadow came first upon the bliss of Númenor.' Elrond looked at Celebrían, who walked beside him on the beach. 'His son, Tar-Atanamir, proves much like his father, and in these early years there is much that is cause for worry. He speaks openly against the ban of the Valar, but at least for now does not dare defy them.'
'What do you predict will happen?' Celebrían asked, looking differently at the sea that, far more northerly, housed the island Elrond now spoke of.
He shook his head.
'I find it hard to predict. They are a powerful and wise people. But it depends on the man who leads them, and at this moment, it lacks perspective on that front.'
'How much of your brother do you recognise in them?' Celebrían asked.
Elrond raised his eyebrows with an almost silent sigh.
'Not as much as I would wish…'
'When Atanamir came to Imladris, I tried to detect if he resembled you, physically and characteristically. But I wasn't very successful.'
'I have long given up.' Elrond said, even if it wasn't exactly true. He still watched for any likeness, but had given up hope to ever recognising his brother in the face of one of his descendants.
'Do you ever regret your choice?'
As he made sure that they were safely away from the waterline, so they would not get their feet wet, Elrond pretended to consider the question. In his mind he had often contemplated it, always arriving at the same answer.
But did it matter if our feet get wet? He wondered absently.
Celebrían noticed his drifting, but said nothing.
It was almost dark when they returned through the dunes.
The house, if it could be called that, since it merely had an elaborate roof and ornately carved walls conveniently placed as windshields, was scarcely lighted.
'I wish you a good night, Lady Celebrían.' He said softly.
'May your first night here be a peaceful one, Master Elrond.' She whispered back.
They headed off in alternate directions, not looking back.
Arriving in his allotted room Elrond did not miss the luxuries he would have had in his own, back at Imladris. For the first time since arriving he felt the tiredness of journeying. The bed was certainly an improvement from half-sleeping on a horse or on a damp forest floor. He fell asleep in a moment.
Once it became known that visitors from Imladris had arrived, many made their way to the place where Galadriel and Celeborn resided. And even if most suspected these were no ordinary visitors, no one raised questions, simply calling them herdir*. And indeed, the only mention of these visitors that can be found, is from the diary of an old land-bound sailor, which states that: 'the leader of the visitors was an apt storyteller, his voice clear and dignified, as of someone who speaks often of the olden days.' That, and a mention of the fact that the Lady Celebrían, who usually went on excursions of the nearby coast during the day, spent the entire week at home, not missing a word.
Yet after six days of sitting near, not too near, but close enough to hear his voice and carefully observe the mannerisms she had grown to like, Celebrían wished she had had more time with the Lord of Imladris, time alone, like on that first night.
He had been busy through the day, packing up gear and talking with her parents, last conversations about pressing matters, she assumed. But now she was unable to find him, and simply sat on a higher part of the hill, her arms around her legs, watching the sun slowly going towards the horizon.
'Do you mind if I join you?'
Celebrían glanced over her shoulder and smiled at Elrond, for he it was that had spoken to her.
'I was afraid you would spend your last night talking, instead of seeing the last sun-set over the sea.'
'I am touched.' Elrond teased, sitting down next to her, crossing his legs and leaning back on his hands. 'But I am glad I came.'
'Will you go to Lindon without delay?'
He shook his head.
'I plan to return to Imladris and leave from there.'
'Undoubtedly with a more impressive following.'
'The road from Imladris to Lindon is considered safer than the one leading here.'
'One would say that for that reason alone you should have taken a larger following here.'
'Not if one wanted to stay unobserved.'
Celebrían turned away and looked at the sky again.
'Please do not patronise me, as if I were a child.'
'I did not intend to, my Lady.'
'I am sure you did not, Master Elrond.' Her use of his title was retribution for his use of hers, for she felt it further belittled her. They had talked around titles when together before, but now this would probably end.
To her surprise Elrond changed his position and looked at her intently.
'Let us not… I sincerely apologise for speaking to you in such a way…' Celebrían glimpsed back at him. Elrond seemed serious when he continued. 'Would you mind if we stopped using those titles? At least in private?'
She smiled gently.
'I would have to get into the habit of it.'
Elrond held out a hand, inviting Celebrían to lay her hand into his.
When she did, a little hesitant, blushing, and hoping it blended in with the colourful light of the setting sun, he gave her the most enchanting of smiles.
Celebrían was unable to describe all the feelings that went through her body; besides the fluttering in her stomach, the warmth of his hand travelled up to her face and ears. It was all encompassing.
Simultaneously they let their hands go and pulled back. Elrond looked up at the darkening sky.
'Eärendil's star* will appear soon.'
'Do you wish to wait for it?' Celebrían asked him.
'Unless you wish to go.'
Celebrían shook her head and sat back, looking for the same star. She had experienced before, that Elrond answered most of her questions very straightforwardly. Her mother had often reprimanded her for asking too personal questions. But her mother was not here, and he didn't seem to mind.
And we have to talk of something.
'Do you remember your parents?'
Elrond was quiet for a long while, and Celebrían considered that his silence could mean he did not want to answer. As she contemplated asking it again, for perhaps he had not heard her, he spoke softly.
'I sometimes think I should remember, and even that I do… But I cannot even remember my mother's face. Sometimes I imagine I can hear her voice, in my mind. Just out of reach, like an answer to the mysteries of the world, I can never catch it…'
Celebrían watched him, his eyes fixed on the sky. He raised his arm and pointed upwards.
'There it is. Right there.'
Watching and easily discerning the brightest beacon in the night sky, she whispered:
'Eärendil sailing the heavens in his ship, the Silmaril shining on his forehead.'
Elrond nodded, not taking his eyes off the darkness high above.
How she found the courage, Celebrían did not know, but she leant towards him and fleetingly pressed her lips against his cheek, before getting up and making her way downhill, leaving Elrond sitting there.
She waited for him to return, making sure he could not see her if and when he did. But he did not come. Celebrían finally gave up and made her way back to her room. She slept badly that night, tossing and turning, the turmoil in her stomach never resting.
The next morning she was awake well before dawn, already hearing voices outside, the sounds of horses waiting. Outside she saw most of his fellow travellers, but not Elrond himself. Her father came up from behind.
'I believe Master Elrond has been misplaced.'
Celebrían smiled hearing her father's amused tone.
'Shall I see if I can find him?' She asked.
Galadriel joined them and smiled at her daughter.
'He might be where you left him yesterevening.'
Celebrían smiled and began running before her flushed face became too obvious.
Halfway up the hill, where they had parted the night before, she found Elrond, walking into the direction of the house. Wide awake and with a dreamy expression over him.
'They are leaving… I thought… Did you stay here all night?' Celebrían asked as she slowed down and met up with him.
Elrond nodded slowly.
'I believe I was preoccupied.'
'I am sorry.' She offered. He looked at her strangely.
'There is nothing to be sorry about.' He caught her hand for a moment. 'I simply wish to thank you for a… striking evening.'
Celebrían looked into his clear grey eyes and guessed the unspoken words.
'You have to go…'
'I shall visit when I have an opportunity.' He added, turning around.
When she stayed where she was he stopped for a moment.
'You are not coming.'
'It would be awkward.' She answered, afraid to meet his eye.
He raised his hand for a moment as a gesture of goodbye.
'Good journey.' Celebrían called after him. But he did not turn as he started a sprint, back to the house, back to Imladris.
Elrond pressed the company unremorsefully, travelling back to Imladris. There was a surge of energy that ricocheted through his body and it made him nervous. The only way he could forget it was to push on.
Instead of in fourteen days, they entered the valley ten days after leaving Edhellond and because Elrond refused to slow down, word of their return had not yet reached the Last Homely House when they reached the stables.
Throwing his horse's reign over a beam for an attendant to take care of it, he made way for his chambers. Once there he stormed in, and pulling off his travel cloak, ended up on the balcony, overlooking the valley that usually gave him so much peace. He rested his hands on the cold stone of the handrail, and drew a deep breath.
'It is not often that I find my vice-regent missing, especially not for over a month.'
Elrond could recognise that voice in his sleep. He turned around.
'My Lord Gil-galad…'
Gil-galad sat peacefully in a chair on the balcony, his booted feet resting on the same stone ridge Elrond had sought for support just moments ago.
'Glorfindel was not very willing to tell me where you were… Would you like me to guess?'
'Not really,' Elrond mumbled, in a extraordinary lapse of protocol.
Gil-galad smiled broadly.
'You are aware that such an answer only makes me more curious?'
Úlairi is another name for the Nazgûl, the Ring-wraiths
Ered Nimrais is Sindarin for the Mountains of the White Horns
mellon-iaur literally means 'friend-old' in Sindarin
herdir is Sindarin for master or lord
the Sceptre of Andúnie would later be called the Sceptre of Annúminas, which would be founded by Elendil in 3320 of the Second Age
Eärendil's star the brightest star in the Western sky, commonly considered to be Venus
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.