You shall have your revenge, at the last.
She lifted a blue glass phial to her lips and drank deeply of its contents, ensuring that she had ingested it all. After replacing its carved stopper, she leaned forward and gently flung it into the water, a ghost of a smile flitting across her face as the bottle began its inexorable journey away from her.
She waited for a few moments until she was sure that the draught was beginning to take effect, then waded into the water. Soon she found herself floating on her back, the current easing her from the shore.
Looking up at the stars Erendis formed a last, bitter, dim thought.
Now shall I be true to Aldarion’s ill-naming. Uinen, take your new Lady of the Sea, as I am welcome nowhere else.
Despair had not always been her closest companion…
A man walked down a short corridor, its stony surface mostly void of decoration. Small torches blazed brightly in the hallway, having been lit earlier as the sun was setting. He stood for a moment before the sturdy oak doors, five-pointed stars carved into both sides, representing the isle over which the man inside the room was ruler. Then, he knocked.
‘Yes, Caltan?’ The fifth King of Númenor was surprised when his devoted servant interrupted him at his solitary meal. His wife, Almarian, knew that he had planned to spend a few days of respite at his tower in Forostar, but she did not often visit him there, preferring to remain at the royal city of Armenelos.
The servant respectfully bowed his head. ‘I apologize for the intrusion, my Lord, but you have a visitor.’
Tar-Meneldur nodded his head to indicate for the servant to continue.
‘It is the wife of your son, Lady Erendis.’
‘Erendis!’ the King exclaimed, dabbing at his beard with a cloth. ‘Show her in, by all means!’
Meneldur was taken aback, and hoped that her unexpected journey did not portend ill news. He stood back from the table and went to meet his guest. He was almost at the door when Erendis entered. Though sixty-six years had passed since she had first come to his court, Meneldur continued to be held spellbound by her beauty, and he was grateful that his obstinate son had finally wed her after what he considered to be an improper amount of time.
‘Erendis!’ He enfolded the raven-haired woman in his arms as she clasped her arms around him.
‘Atar aranya,’ she replied with affection, then stood back from him. ‘How farest thou, father?’
‘Well indeed, and pleased to have your company. But Erendis, what errand brings you hither?’ He embraced her hands in his as he looked at her worriedly. ‘Does Aldarion or the Queen send you with unfavorable tidings?’
Smiling, she shook her head. ‘No, Tar-Meneldur. Tis nothing that should make you anxious.’ A mischievous gleam came into her grey eyes. ‘Well, that statement may not be wholly true.’
Meneldur motioned for her to join him at his board. ‘I will ask Caltan to bring us some more food and wine, but then I must insist that you tell me what has brought you to this isolated retreat.’
Once the servant had been summoned and then again dispatched, the King sat down across from his daughter-in-law and looked anxiously at her.
‘My dear atar!’ she laughed. ‘Please forgive my decided lack of decorum. I have come here of free will and with warm greetings from the King’s Heir. I do bring news, it is true.’ She stopped for a moment to look down at her hands which were intertwined on her lap.
She raised her gaze to Meneldur’s once more, then said quietly, ‘By the grace of the Valar, Aldarion shall have an heir this spring.’
Meneldur beamed. ‘Ah! This is joyful news indeed!’ Then his face grew troubled. ‘But surely you did not need to bring such word yourself, now that you are expecting? What if you had been injured?’
Erendis’ lips upturned. ‘I do not wish to insult the King, but surely he realises that he is speaking to no child, and the risk involved in travel is miniscule.’ She held a hand over her abdomen. ‘I wished to tell you in person, as well as avail myself of your extraordinary view of the heavens. I have found that the nights come and yet I do not sleep well, and so I hoped perhaps to spend a few days with you and learn some of your vast knowledge of the star patterns. If I must be awake during these night hours, most assuredly I could be learning from the wise Star-watcher!’ A hardness came into her voice as she continued, ‘Perhaps the granddaughter or grandson of the King will set her or his eyes to the inky skies above and the wooded plains of this fair isle, rather than being called away by the Sea.’
Meneldur nodded in assent, though his smile had faded. ‘My son has been always thus called, even to the point of heeding Her wishes over that of his father.’ He sighed, then reached out for Erendis’ hand. As she placed it in his, he said more warmly, ‘But now surely he shall remain for long years in Númenor and in your home in Armenelos, assisting in the raising of his heir. And in his continued cultivation of woods.’
At this, Erendis blanched, but said nothing.
‘Do you not accompany Aldarion to his ever-growing forests? From our discussions over the years I know how fond you are of wooded glades and the peace that they bring you.’
Erendis shook her head, then turned quickly as Caltan entered, carrying a small platter of smoked fish, herb-roasted vegetables, and a flagon of sweet white wine that was commonly served in the royal home.
‘Ah! Thank you, Caltan!’ the King’s baritone voice boomed as the servant placed the items on the table. As Caltan bowed to leave, Meneldur reached out and put his hand on his servant’s arm. ‘The Lady Erendis brings with her most happy tidings,’ he said, then raised his cup. ‘Eru be praised - she is with child!’
Caltan smiled as he looked at her, placing his hand to his chest above his heart. ‘By the Valar, long may the line of Elros, son of Eärendil, continue on these blessed lands.’
Erendis nodded in return. ‘To my eyes, this is a most beautiful land. The rolling hills, bays teeming with fish, the joyful bleating of lambs - ’ She stopped for a moment, then continued on defiantly, ‘these should prove more than satisfactory and restrain even the most wilful of hearts from constant sojourning from our silver-sanded shores.’
An almost imperceptible glance flickered from servant to King, then Caltan said, ‘I am most happy for the King’s Heir and his wife. And now, if I am no longer needed…”
Meneldur nodded, and Caltan left the room. Erendis busied herself with a glass of wine, then took a few delicate bites of fish. Putting down her utensil, she said heavily, ‘Father, I have not joined your son at his tree-harvesting for some years. I find what he does there distasteful. Seeing him grow trees only to cut them down for his ships leaves me in a wretched state. So I go there no more.’
In the silence that followed, Meneldur chose not to look at her, but instead at the fire blazing across the room in its hearth. He knew well of the fiery personalities that both his son and daughter-in-law possessed, and while he intended to command respect from the two, he knew also that the bounds of a marriage were held alone by the husband and wife. Though he ached at his daughter-in-law’s obvious pain at his son’s actions, he was resolved not to be party to the taking of sides in such matters.
And so, even-handed and wise ruler that he was, he changed the subject.
‘Your white sapling, the gift of the Eldar - that flourishes in our garden, does it not?’
Erendis nodded in assent, her bright grey eyes shining with hope and happiness. ‘Yes, my Lord, however even after two years it looks to remain a sapling forever. Though to those who are immortal, its growth must seem quick indeed.’
She laughed at this, though Meneldur knew his daughter-in-law well, and could hear the undercurrent of sadness in it. For all of her beauty, Erendis was of the line of Bëor, and not Elros, and thus her lifespan would never reach as long as that of Tar-Meneldur and his progeny.
‘The birds, also, atar, they sing contentedly the days long and are pleasing to all who hear them.’
Meneldur smiled, grateful that despite the many ill-advised sea journeys and years of waiting, his son had finally married, and his wedding had been blessed by the Eldar themselves. Full of joy with the news that within the year he would have a grandchild, he told Erendis, ‘Come! Let me show you to the top of this tower, and there you shall behold the work of Varda in her most splendid glory.’
As Erendis stood, he took her by the arm, saying, ‘Your visit was opportune indeed. I have made many calculations of the stars in their courses since my youth, and I believe that tonight will be an evening of particular beauty. Tis why I made this visit myself, though my dear Queen begrudges every night that I am away from her side.’
The pair left the room, leaving one of the doors ajar, then went to another thick wooden door, set back into a rounded archway. Tar-Meneldur released Erendis to reach under his cloak for a small gold chain to which a rather ornate key was attached. He unlocked the door, then pulled it open, its hinges silent.
Erendis had only been to the King’s star watching tower on a few occasions, but it had always felt welcoming and comfortable her. As Erendis followed Meneldur, climbing the dozens of stairs that spiralled to the top of the tower, she reflected that despite its very rustic qualities (for a lodging-place of the King of Númenor, it was very undecorated indeed!), it was an appealing place. The daylight views of the island were splendid, but it was at night when the ingenuity of the builder was most apparent. From the top of the tower, on an unclouded night, the firmament of stars blazed overhead, the air at the northernmost spur of the isle being the clearest of all.
Erendis had begun to regret her decision to accompany the King up so many steps, not only because it was taking place at the end of a long day of riding, but also since she was into her fourth month of pregnancy, but then she saw with relief the stone door that opened out onto the tower landing. Meneldur grunted, jerking the door open which appeared to wish to remain stubbornly closed.
‘I have not been here in many months!’ he exclaimed, then extended his arm to Erendis. She grasped it, and after five more steps, she found herself once again on the smooth stony floor of the high tower of Tar-Meneldur Elentirmo. She closed her eyes for a moment, greedily breathing in the heady air of the northlands. As her heartbeat slowed to its less strained rhythm, she opened her eyes, and gasped.
The bright stars seemed close enough to touch, hanging low in the sky. She tipped back her head, drinking in the impossibly bright swaths of lights twinkling in the placid ocean of night, forcing herself to blink to ensure that she was in no dream.
‘Aranya,’ she murmured, ‘you are a strong-willed man indeed if you are able to tear yourself away from such a vision as this.’
Meneldur chuckled from a near distance, then said, ‘Come this way, daughter.’
Erendis walked carefully along the edge, holding onto a waist-high edging which ran the perimeter of the tower. Meneldur was standing with his back to a small torch, its flickering light casting dim shadows on the walls.
‘Look that way, to the east,’ he suggested, raising his arm in that direction.
Erendis scanned the heavens, then said, ‘The Valacirca! It is so bright - and there is Helluin, as well!’ She shook her head in wonder. ‘Would that when I lie awake at night, I could see such visions as clearly from my window.’
She gazed at the Sickle of the Valar for so long that she began to feel a bit drowsy in spite of the vividness of the sparkling patterns suspended in the black sky. All of a sudden, a quick movement caught the corner of her eye, and she turned her head to look past Meneldur, who was nodding his head.
Thinking perhaps that she had imagined it, Erendis began to look again at the semi-circle of stars when she saw it again: a searing flash of light, streaking down as though to join them on the earth.
‘Father!’ she cried in confusion, ‘What are they?’
Meneldur draped his arm around her shoulder. ‘They are éli lántala - falling stars.’ Embracing her, he spoke softly, ‘My calculations have proven correct! Keep your weary eyes open for just a few moments longer, and you shall see quite a display of them, blazing their quick journeys from Eru’s realms.’
The pair stood silently for a while, Erendis placing her hands on her belly as she snuggled closer to her father-in-law, grateful for his warmth in the chill air. Above them, stars darted across the skies, a veritable shower of cascading celestial lights.
The King turned his gaze from the showy spectacle to look down at Erendis, noting his son’s betrothal gift bound around her head.
‘You are aptly named, Tar-Elestirnë,’ he said quietly.
Erendis smiled softly to herself, even as she held her eyes to the stars’ dance in the heavens.
‘I do not think on it often, though I suppose that is true. Now that I bear a new soul of the line of Númenor, I must think of her - or him - and decide how to hand down both things and thoughts.’
She was suddenly overcome by anxiety for the future, and clenched her eyes shut, so tightly that tiny, unreal phantoms of light danced before her, then she snapped her lids open again. Only the benevolent dark sky greeted her as she continued to gaze upward, an occasional shooting star providing a unique backdrop to the more common and yet still humbling vision of the night sky.
‘Are you ready to depart, my daughter?’
Tar-Meneldur’s resonant voice echoed through her, and with a start she realised that she had accidentally begun to fall asleep.
Vigorously shaking her head, she replied, ‘I would stay here as long as I could. I have never seen such glories, and I am loath to depart.’ After shivering in the cold for a few moments despite huddling under Meneldur’s cloak, she continued, ‘Yet, perhaps your suggestion has much merit.’
The wise King nodded his head in understanding, and taking Erendis by the hand, they leisurely made their way back to the door that would take them back to the base of the tower. Erendis went first, holding tightly to the stair rail, but the Star-watcher turned his head and tarried at the top step for a few lingering moments before closing the door, his eyes sparkling as he saw yet another brazen light streaking across the sky.
‘For you, Queen.’
The seventh ruler of Númenor bore an irate expression even as she accepted the small package and parchment scroll. It was late, and she had not wished to be bothered. She scowled at the messenger, and he bid a rapid retreat from her chamber.
What is this, that is could not wait until the morn? she mused, then looked idly at the seal.
She sat up straight.
It was from her mother. Brows furrowed angrily, she almost tore the scroll apart, wondering what under Eru she could have to say to her after so many years.
Quickly scanning the words, she found that the hair on her arms stood up straight, then despite herself, tears unbidden came to her eyes.
High-language, of course! Ancalimë thought bitterly, quickly restraining her emotions as she read the words again, more deliberately this time, the Old Elvish having been taught to her as a child.
To Ancalimë, my dear daughter -
I am, at last, had by the Sea.
Keep this diamond as your legacy
and as a reminder of the mother who loved you above all else.
With pale, trembling fingers, Ancalimë unbound the expertly wrapped parcel. Delicately she pulled out a thin, silver chain, a bright diamond fillet bound to it. Almost idly, she pulled the chain between her fingers, causing the star-shape to chase from one end of the necklace to the other.
Then she hurled it across the room.
All italicised words are in Quenya
atar aranya- Father My-King
Tar-Meneldur Elentirmo- Star-Watcher
Tar-Elesterinë- Lady of the Star-brow
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.