She opened her eyes to the brightness of the morning sun filling the room. Though the sickness seemed to have passed, she chose to wait until after she had risen from bed before considering herself fully recovered. When she turned to look around the room, she saw the Elf had fallen asleep in the chair, his head resting against the high back of it.
She cleared her throat and said, ‘Good morning, Linquendil.’
He sat up quickly and drew in a deep breath as he stretched his shoulders. ‘Good morning,’ he returned and smiled at her, ‘I take it you feel better this morning?’
‘Indeed I do. Thank you for caring for me last night,’ she said as she moved to sit up. Linquendil tried to help her, but she waved him away with a smile. ‘It was only last night, was it not?’
‘Yes, it was,’ Linquendil said, relieved to see her more focused this morning. ‘I also take it that you remember me?’
‘I remember you, Linquendil, and not only from last night. You have carried me on your ship before, the times I was allowed to journey to the isle of Elenna.’
‘You retain memories of Númenor?’ he asked in surprise. .
‘Memories, yes,” she answered, “but of nothing more than the Westlands. I was not permitted to travel beyond those boundaries. I went no further north than the Bay of Andúnië and to the south, no further than the Bay of Eldalondë, yet it was enough. I was thankful for being allowed that much. But you already know of my travels there.’
She leaned against the smooth wooden wall behind the head of the bed, contemplating Linquendil with a frown, and said, ‘Although it does seem odd that I remember these journeys, yet cannot remember where I journeyed from or where I returned to.’
‘It is not so odd, unless you do not recall where we are sailing to or for what reason you go,’ he said to her, trying to gauge her clarity of mind before he spoke further.
She gave him a knowing smile, fully aware of the reasoning behind his tact. ‘I know where I came from and why I was sent, and who I was… who I still am, I suppose,’ she added after a thoughtful pause. ‘Anything beyond that is lost in a mist that hides my memories. I might well have been born on those shores I last departed from, for all I know.’
‘In a sense you were,’ Linquendil said. His body relaxed back into the chair, satisfied that he could speak of what he had been told and knew to still take care not to mention the things he had been instructed to avoid. ‘Can you tell me what you remember? You may speak freely, for I am aware of the situation and you will be breaking no confidences to talk with me about it.’
‘I will tell you all that I can recall, which will not take long for I assure you it is not much.’ She took a deep breath and sighed before she spoke. The memories were still hazy and had to be pieced together, yet when her mouth opened the words came out on their own.
‘I am of the Maiar and have been sent by the Valar to the mortal lands as a messenger… no, that is not the right word. An emissary, yes… an emissary, and my purpose is to gain knowledge of the evil they fear has returned to the mortal lands and to offer counsel to those who would seek to defeat it. Much of my memories and powers have been taken from me. I inhabit this form made of the substance of Arda that I may travel amongst the people unknown. Who I am and from where I come is remain secret, save to a select few. The Valar do not wish to interfere as they have done in the past for they feel they were in error.’
Linquendil felt uneasy listening to her speak. Her manner was that of one who repeats a passage committed to memory or reads aloud from a book; as one who does not speak their own words, but the words given to them by another.
‘They do not wish to repeat their mistake,’ she continued in the same flat voice. ‘They will not intercede directly with the troubles of the scarred lands, but cannot leave its people to battle alone. And so they have sent me to find what information I can and offer help and guidance as I may. I am the first they have sent in this manner, but others will follow.’
The distant look left her eyes as she drew in a deep breath. She frowned and shook her head to clear it. ‘Still, despite their reasons, why would the Valar wish to send one of my Order if they have taken away so many of the powers inherent to my kind? It makes no sense to ask a Maia to fulfill their wishes if they strip me of my strength. Why not use a being who lacks these strengths to begin with?’
‘Perhaps the wisdom of your kind is the strength they sought,’ Linquendil replied.
He crossed his arms and waited for her to sort through the thoughts with which she obviously struggled. He worried now that he realized how much of her memory and knowledge the Valar had stripped. In all the ages he had known her, she rarely questioned the will of the Valar. Her obedience and loyalty to them, particularly Varda, was renowned to all who dwelled in Valinor and possibly beyond. He imagined her loyalty played no small part in why she was allowed to accept this responsibility. But now…without the memories of who she was how much of what she had been still remained?
Frustrated by her doubts and her inability to call on any source of memory for reassurance, she threw her hands out in disgust and exhaled loudly. ‘If that is what I must rely on for this task, then I can only hope I have wits aplenty, for it will take a good deal of wisdom to get by on that alone.’
‘You should have more faith in yourself, Ilmarë,’ Linquendil said, taking her hand between his, ‘it is not like you to be so doubtful. You would not have been sent if you were not capable of this.’
She shook her head again and snorted in disbelief, looking toward the window as she spoke. ‘It is difficult to have faith in myself when I have no memory of who I am other than what I was called, a given task, and the rules I must follow to complete it. How can one have faith in an empty vessel?’ Realizing what he had called her, she looked at him curiously. ‘Ilmarë is the name you know me by? For I have others, as well. That, at least, I remember.’
‘I know what names you have been given throughout your time and why, yet Ilmarë is the name I have always called you.’
She leaned closer and searched his face closely as she said, ‘Then you knew me well when I was still myself?’ When he nodded she asked, ‘What was I like? Do you see anything left in me of what I was before?’
Linquendil hesitated for now she asked the same question he himself had pondered only moments before. What answer could he give when he was uncertain himself? The truth, he decided… as best he could give it, at any rate.
‘You were always happy and rarely without a smile, and you brought comfort to many. You had a quick wit and loved to laugh and see others laugh with you. And above all, you were kind… too kind at times. It was one of your failings,” he said, growing agitated as he spoke. “What failing is kindness, you may ask, and I will tell you; too much of it is always a failing to the one who gives it. All too often great kindness toward others leads to the neglect of oneself. That is what you could never understand. There were times when your kindness brought you sorrow, as it seems to have done once again.’
Linquendil caught himself, closing his eyes and drawing a slow breath. Ilmarë watched him with a mixture of surprise and concern. She had not imagined he knew her well enough to be upset by some wrong having been done to her. She waited, unsure what to say to him, and after a few moments he opened his eyes and shook his head.
‘More than that I cannot tell you, I am not allowed,’ he said and gave her a smile. ‘However, I can tell you something of the person I knew remains within you. Your features have changed, but when I look into your eyes the friend I have always known is still there.’
She returned his smile gladly and tightened her hands around his. ‘There must have been some good in me to warrant having a friend such as you,’ Ilmarë said. Linquendil’s reassurance lightened her spirit and things seemed less grim. She released his hands and playfully waved him away. ‘Now, move aside and let me climb out of bed. We shall see if I fare any better with my body this morning than I did last night.’
Linquendil stood and moved the chair out of the way as Ilmarë pushed the covers off. She gratefully took his offered hand and swung her legs down from the bed to place her feet on the floor. After hesitantly resting her weight on her legs a few times, she stood and found it was easier than it had been the night before. She looked to Linquendil and offered him a slightly unsteady grin.
”I must become accustomed to the burden of this ill-fitting body,” Ilmarë said as she raised and lowered her arms a few times, testing the weight of them.
“Do you remember your assumed form?” Linquendil asked.
“Not the look of them, no…” Ilmarë said, still distracted by the movement of her gangly limbs, “yet I do have a vague memory of the feel of my form.” She stilled her arms and thought for a moment, then dropped them as she looked at Linquendil. “The feel of my assumed form was nothing like this one. This body feels lumbering and awkward to me now but in another day or two I should be reasonably adept at handling it. I have not forgotten so much that I cannot remember how to move around or how to speak, and the rest is returning to me gradually.”
Ilmarë took a few experimental steps, then smiled triumphantly and said, “Shall we go up on deck now? I would like to be out in the open air for a time.”
‘After we change your clothing.’ He pointed to the dress she wore and said, ‘That is a nightgown, only for sleeping in. The thin material is more comfortable to rest in, but…well…’ he shrugged his shoulders, ‘it is not a very modest garment. You must change into a dress now.’
She remained next to the bed and watched Linquendil walk to the chest again and open the latch.
‘Are all males as comfortable with choosing women’s clothing as you, Linquendil?’ she asked, amused by his lack of hesitation at rifling through the chest.
‘No, not all; I have been wed for many years, Ilmarë. Of course, you would not remember my wife or my home on Tol Eressëa. I have grown accustomed to handling a woman’s clothing after all this time. Besides, it is no great feat to choose a dress.’ He frowned as he sorted through the clothing in the trunk and said, ‘There are many items of clothing in here I do not recognize. I believe mortal women wear undergarments which Elven women do not bother with. If that is what these are, I am afraid you will be left to your own devices to figure out what goes where, my dear.’
‘Perhaps I could ask one of your companions from last evening to assist me. They did not seem to be easily caught off guard by the unexpected.’
Linquendil turned and shook his head to see the overly innocent smile on Ilmarë’s face. He had always been amused by her sharp wit and he was relieved to know she still possessed it. ‘Well now… there is unexpected and then there is unexpected,’ he told her. ‘Judging by the look in your eye you intend to remind them of their discomfort. Be easy with them, Ilmarë. They are all of them unmarried and all of them only male. You must forgive us our weaknesses.’
She laughed loudly to see Linquendil’s own all too innocent expression and she gestured toward the dress he held as he turned to face her.
‘I am happy to know you are made of sterner stuff, Linquendil, for you will have to show me how to get in and out of these dresses. Either the knowledge was lost in the memories taken from me or it is a matter I never had cause to know. Either way, I am unfamiliar with it.’
He looked at her, but did not comment. Those with assumed forms need not bother with clothing; they thought of the garments and they appeared. The mundane details of choosing it and taking it on and off were unnecessary for them and therefore unknown. Still, Ilmarë did not remember this and as such he could not speak of it.
‘I will help you with what I can, yet any further knowledge must wait until you acquire some mortal female companions whom you may ask,’ Linquendil said and held the dress out to her. ‘Here now, you change and we will go to the galley and feed you. You must be hungry by now.’
Ilmarë placed her hands on her stomach and nodded in understanding. ‘So that is what pains me: the need to feed this body? I knew your bodies suffered from these hunger pangs, I have heard them called. I feared the horrible illness from last night had returned.’
Ilmarë looked down and began experimentally raising the nightdress up the length of her legs and Linquendil looked away. Feeling she understood the process, she took the hem of the material in both hands and pulled it up over her head. Linquendil looked back when Ilmarë gave a loud, frustrated yell. She had managed to lift the gown over her head but her arms were trapped against her head by a mass of fabric pulled tight by her struggles.
He held his laughter and carefully extricated her arms from the nightdress. Her hair fell wildly around her face and she let out a loud sigh of relief when freed from the clothing. Linquendil twirled his index finger at her and held up the dress again.
‘Turn around and I will put the dress on you,’ he said, but she shook her head at him and took the dress from his hands.
‘I would prefer you to explain it and I will do it myself. I must learn to do this without help. If I allow the small tasks to overwhelm me, I have little chance of handling the more important ones,’ she said.
He took the dress back from her and held it out between his hands, pleased to note it was of a simple design. He showed her how to unfasten the back, refastened it, and he unfastened it again before giving it back to her.
‘Now hold it by the shoulders and spread the top of the dress open so you can step into it.’ Ilmarë did as he said and Linquendil nodded. ‘Pull it up past your waist and place your arms in the sleeves…one arm at a time,’ he added pointedly, knowing trying to pull both arms through at once had caused her problems with the nightgown. ‘Then fasten the back of the dress closed and that is all there is to it.’
She slid her arms in the sleeves with no problem and he waited patiently while she struggled to refasten the back. After several determined attempts she succeeded and turned to him with another triumphant smile.
‘There, it is done. It will merely be a matter of practice, and I will have no difficulty managing my clothing. Now may we go to this galley you spoke of?’ she asked of him.
Linquendil shook his head and pointed to the slippers on the floor next to the bed. ‘Not yet; first you must put shoes on your feet.’
Linquendil showed her how to put on one shoe and Ilmarë slipped the other shoe easily onto her foot; she was surprised at how light and comfortable they were. She looked at him expectantly and her shoulders sagged in disbelief to see Linquendil shake his head again.
‘There is more?’
‘Oh, yes, there is more.’ He smiled and pointed to the dressing table on the opposite side of the room. ‘You must do what ladies call ‘freshening up’, namely brushing your hair and washing your face. I will show you how to clean your teeth after you have eaten.’
With a long-suffering sigh, Ilmarë followed Linquendil across the room to the dressing table and sat in the chair he pulled out for her. She raised her head and her irritation, her hunger pangs, her frustration… all were forgotten. A sickening feeling filled her, as though the breath had been driven from her body.
A mirror hung on the wall behind the dressing table and the reflection there stunned her. A stranger looked back at her – a woman with long hair, so black it gleamed. The woman studied her with wide shocked eyes of dark gray. Ilmarë raised a wavering hand to the stranger’s face and touched the golden-hued skin with her trembling fingers. They slowly trailed down the length of the slender neck and moved back up, then along the fine line of the jaw. The skin felt odd to her, though she could not say why. Perhaps the consistency or perhaps the ridges now marring the skin of her fingers were the cause. She stopped her fingers at the hollow of her cheeks and pressed them into the skin there, finding more hard forms beneath the skin, the name of the hard structures eluding her mind in its shock-numbed state. Her fingers brushed against the long lashes framing her eyes and her lids fell shut. Ilmarë blinked quickly as tears began to run from her eyes. When she looked into the mirror again, she traced a finger down one of the wet trails on her cheek and then let her hand fall to the table where it landed with a dull thud.
‘Oh, Linquendil,’ she whispered in a wavering voice as she watched tears spill from the unfamiliar eyes and roll down her cheeks, ‘what have they done to me?’
The vague memory of her assumed form returned. No…not so much a memory but the vague impression of an airy, flowing radiance, so different from the heavy, coarse feel of this body and the dull look of it. I feel as though I have glided along the winds and air for the whole of my existence, yet now I find myself chained to the ground in this prison of flesh.
‘It is not permanent, Ilmarë,’ Linquendil said as he knelt next to the chair and turned her away from the mirror, ‘and trust me when I say this form is not as unsightly as it seems to you at this moment. Give yourself time to become accustomed to it.’ He wiped the tears from her cheeks and gently placed a finger under her chin, raising her face to his.
‘You have long desired to see what the lands of Middle-earth have become and at last you have the chance,” he said so earnestly that Ilmarë put her grief aside to listen. “To gain something we truly want, most often sacrifices must be made. This is yours. You will finish your work and return to Aman, and there the form you have known will be given back to you. Until that time enjoy this opportunity you have been given for it will never come again. Do not waste this journey with unhappiness at this temporary form you must wear. Who knows? You may become attached to it after spending enough time with it.’
Ilmarë ’s look told Linquendil how seriously she doubted that likelihood and he smiled as he stood and pulled her up with him.
‘I do not know what I was thinking, telling you to brush your hair. It can wait, the wind will muss it anyway.’ He led her toward the door and said, ‘Come now, we will go above deck for you always did love the open sea and watching the sunlight dance upon the waves. The light of it was like stars freed from the heavens to go where they would, you would tell me, and the sight of it lightened your heart. We will go to the railing and watch the water as we wait for the sun to climb high in the sky.’
Ilmarë gave him a small smile, forced but thankful, and she followed him from the room in search of the sunlight and the waters of the sea.
That morning marked the beginning of their second day out to sea, and by the end of the day Ilmarë had discovered she enjoyed food. After finally leaving the deck, they spent most of the afternoon in the galley. Her gushing appreciation of the food pleased the cook to no extent and he prepared many different dishes, all of which she sampled. The enjoyment did little to lessen the horror she felt later that day when Linquendil explained to her the workings of the body after eating and drinking. The discovery only served to solidify her opinion of the unpleasantness of a Mortal body, yet Linquendil assured her this was something the Elves endured as well.
Though that reassurance fled her mind later that afternoon when Ilmarë’s full bladder pained her enough to finally gain her attention. Linquendil sighed in disappointment when he saw Ilmarë squirming with this new and unpleasant sensation. Her squirming had turned to a quick impatient bouncing movement by the time they reached the latrine. He gave Ilmarë a hasty explanation to raise her skirt high and sit down, then to just relax and allow her body to perform its function.
Linquendil immediately heard the sound of Ilmarë’s bladder relieving itself but her loud exclamations of disgust immediately covered the sound. He shook his head and leaned against the latrine door as he listened to Ilmarë’s vocal tirade concerning the foul nature of the Mortal form. A deep sigh escaped him as he berated himself for not accepting his wife’s offer of traveling with them to aid in Ilmarë’s care.
After Ilmarë’s hasty exit from the latrine, Linquendil escorted her back to the deck and then offered a reluctant reminder that her body had yet to rid itself of the afternoon meal. Ilmarë felt the cramping sickness return to her stomach and rise into her throat as she listened to Linquendil speak. He patted her shoulder consolingly before he left her at the railing and returned to his place at the wheel.
Ilmarë looked around the deck for something to take her mind off the revolting eventuality and, as luck would have it, Linquendil’s companions from the previous night chose that moment to walk up the stairs. The last one to emerge from below deck was the Elf who had taken a last, stealthy look at her unclothed body. For the life of her, she still could not fathom his reasons for wishing to look at this ungainly form, but she shrugged the thought off as she hurried to catch him before he caught up with the others.
He caught sight of her coming to meet him and his eyes widened before he looked away. The skin of his cheeks darkened again and he looked helplessly in the direction of his friends, but he stopped and waited, shifting nervously from one foot to the other.
‘Good afternoon…or I should say good evening, judging by how close the sun is to leaving the sky,’ she said with a friendly smile and pointed toward the sky.
The Elf only gave her an uncomfortable glance and looked away quickly, much as he had done the night before. Her innocent expression did not falter as she watched him.
‘You do not recognize me?’ she asked in feigned concern after a few moments of silence. ‘Oh, but that is understandable. My body is hidden by these clothes where as it was bare last night; and you did not look long at my face.’ She smiled brightly as though struck by a sudden idea and reached for the fastenings on the back of her dress. ‘Perhaps if I were unclothed again you would remember who I was. It will only take a moment…’ and her voice trailed off and she began tugging to unfasten the dress.
‘No, my lady, wait…’ he finally said in a panic as he held his hands out desperately signaling for her to stop. ‘Please, I assure you, I remember you… I do.’
Ilmarë lowered her arms and could not hold her amusement any longer. She smiled at him just before she burst out in laughter and the mariner’s surprised look made her laugh all the harder. The realization that she had been teasing him set in and he rolled his eyes and smiled, but more importantly his nervousness was gone.
‘Forgive me for making jest at your expense, but I wished to ease your worry beyond what a simple apology would have allowed,’ she explained. ‘Although I do apologize for having caused you such embarrassment last night; I was not myself. Fortunately my rest seems to have returned some of my wits to me. What is your name?’
‘My name is Beldanwë, my lady, and if you will forgive my behavior, then I will forgive your torment of me,’ he said, his smile showing he had already forgiven her.
‘And mine is Ilmarë,’ she replied.
‘Yes, I know your name and who you are. That we were trusted by the Valar with this knowledge and the responsibility of bearing you to the mortal lands is an honor to all of us,’ Beldanwë said with a respectful bow of his head. ‘I was also honored to have spoken with King Elwë when he brought you on board at Alqualondë.’
Alqualondë…oh yes, the shore of sand mixed with jewels and pearls, lit by giant lamps in the shape of swans. But Elwë is not familiar, yet if he is the Elf who brought me on board…
‘Elwë is your king?’ she asked with interest. ‘And his name is also Thingol?’
‘He is known by both names, and others besides. The Teleri of Alqualondë hold his brother, Olwë as their king; yet my mother and father were among those led to Aman by Elwë. When he was lost on the journey many of the Elves left without a leader followed Olwë. Nonetheless, my family has always held Elwë as king,’ Beldanwë said.
Ilmarë looked at him closely. ‘Would you tell me the story in full… of Elwë and your people? I would very much like to know.’ He frowned in worry and she added, ‘As long as you do not tell me anything of myself or my time in Aman, it is allowed. It will be necessary for me to known the history of those I am sent to help.’
‘I would be pleased to tell you all you wish to know about the histories,” he said, smiling again. “Though I was born on Eressëa I have heard the tales from my mother and father all my life.’
Beldanwë led her to a small bench near the railings but before sitting he waved his hand to catch Linquendil’s attention. Linquendil did not leave the wheel of the ship, only watched Beldanwë as though he were listening then nodded his head. Beldanwë took his seat next to Ilmarë and there they sat for hours as she listened with great interest of the tales of Beleriand and the First Age. No doubt her tutor would have continued, but she was forced to stop the tale after learning the fate of Thingol and Melian’s daughter, Lúthien.
As though sensing her weariness, Linquendil came and bade her to say goodnight. Ilmarë’s body felt unbearably heavy as she dragged herself along, leaning against Linquendil as he led her down the stairs and back to her room. Once there, she went straight to her bed and was fast asleep before Linquendil could even light the lamps.
She woke the next morning to find a small cot into the room. No doubt Linquendil had slept there out of worry that she might wander again. Yet the cot was empty and he was nowhere to be seen. Ilmarë was up and dressed when he returned to the room. She sat at the dressing table putting her shoes on, careful not to look in the mirror. The thought of seeing the stranger there frightened Ilmarë and it was something she was prepared to do again, not just yet.
Linquendil was happy to see that she was becoming more familiar with choosing clothes and dressing but judging from the smile on his face, something else contributed to his cheerful state.
‘There is something I want you to see. Come with me,’ he said as she took his offered hand and he led her out of the room.
When they reached the deck, Ilmarë saw they were fast approaching a harbor. The water met the land in a narrow strip of sandy beach and just beyond it rose a steep and rocky incline. Buildings sat in the odd places where the ground leveled out on small, flat areas. A road ran up the incline angling back and forth between the plateaus, taking advantage of the level sections of ground. The road ended in a city sitting atop the first level of cliffs. It was a large city, spreading out over the smooth terrain there and on the far side of it a second set of cliffs rose behind the city. The ship pulled alongside a long, wooden pier stretching far out into the water.
Ilmarë saw the pier and smiled as a memory rushed to her mind. Recalling familiar knowledge reassured her, for the emptiness of her mind had been a frightening feeling.
The pier is longer than one would expect because the water is very shallow in places. The reefs along the shoreline are dangerous as well, even for ships with shallow drafts, but the keel of this ship is deep and takes more water than most. That is why we dock at the far end of the pier. Linquendil told me these things on my first journey here to Andúnië.
She turned to Linquendil, who expectantly awaited her reaction.
‘You have brought me back to Númenor,’ she said and saw him relax into a smile. ‘Thank you, it is good to see a familiar sight. Those have become few and far between for me.’
Linquendil nodded in understanding. He turned to watch a group of Elves and Men unloading cargo from one of the ships docked in the harbor. After leaving the ships, they took the cargo to the base of the cliffs. There, another group of workers hauled the items up the cliff by means of a large crane fitted with pulleys and ropes.
‘I thought it might,’ he replied still watching the workers on the shore. ‘We will stay here for a few days, and then resume our journey to Middle-earth. That will cheer you and put you in a better state of mind for your arrival in Lindon.’
Her eyebrow rose as she studied him, and she asked, ‘You were given permission for this? I admit, that the Valar would allow it surprises me.’
He shrugged his shoulders and smiled, still looking toward the shore. ‘I was not given permission because I did not ask for it. It is not uncommon for a ship to stop at different ports of call along a traveled route, so I doubt it will even be questioned.’ Linquendil gave her shoulders a squeeze before stepping away. ‘There are things I must do now to take the ship in to dock, and then we will go ashore.’
Ilmarë followed him and watched while Linquendil shouted orders to the mariners to drop the anchor. The white ship bumped gently against the wood of the pier as they drew alongside and the Elven mariners on board threw several ropes to the Men waiting on the piers, who tied the ropes off securely. The gangplank was lowered and Ilmarë accompanied Linquendil ashore along with several of the mariners.
Ilmarë enjoyed the few days spent on Númenor, mostly spent on the shores of the bay or wandering the town of Andunie. A large marketplace filled the center of the city with many merchants’ shops lining the terra cotta brick-lined streets. Perhaps it was being surrounded by other mortals or perhaps she was becoming more accustomed to her body, but whatever the reason Ilmarë soon found her surroundings less drab and dreary.
Some of the clothing in the shops of Andunie appealed to her: dresses of simple cut and design but made of beautiful materials ranging from light fabrics with intricate beadwork and embroidery, to silky diaphanous fabric that shimmered with each movement. Not far from the merchants’ square was a large courtyard and in the afternoons Ilmarë would sit with Linquendil at a table shaded by spreading trees. Fragrant red flowers covered the branches and the silver leaves reflected the sunlight like dancing stars. For these attributes, the tree had been named Vardarianna, gift of Varda. It also was Ilmarë’s favorite among all the trees of Númenor.
From beneath the gray-barked branches of the Vardarianna trees Ilmarë watched the inhabitants of Númenor as they walked past. They were tall, as tall as the Elven mariners mingling among them, though the women’s height was just shy of the men’s. Their hair varied from shining black to gleaming gold, and for the most part their eye color was either bright blue or silvery gray. Ilmarë noted with surprise how closely the Númenóreans resembled the Elves, both the males and the females. She also quickly noted the resemblance of her own form to the women she saw on the streets of Andunie; so much, in fact, that some of the merchants even asked which part of the island she hailed from. The realization soon dawned on Ilmarë that her form was meant to be that of a Númenórean.
‘Yes, you are quite right,’ Linquendil answered when she commented to him about it as they sat on a large rock near the shoreline of the bay, ‘it is clear you were meant to appear Númenórean. And why, is the unasked question I see hovering in your eyes.’ He shrugged his shoulders. ‘It could be that the Númenóreans are the mortal race the Valar are most familiar with and so modeled your appearance after theirs. Or possibly they wanted others to assume you were from Númenor, to help keep the secrecy of your identity. I do not know, Ilmarë.’
‘Not knowing… that is a feeling I am all too familiar with, Linquendil.’
She watched as he picked up a flat pebble from the sand and with a small jerking motion he tossed it out over the calm waters. It hopped across the surface of the water several times leaving delicate, spreading rings in its wake before disappearing beneath the water. Ilmarë picked up a similar stone and tried to imitate Linquendil’s throw but the stone only made a half-hearted leap and fell into the water with a hollow ‘plop’. She sighed and began shaking her head when an idea came to her.
‘Beldanwë has been teaching me of the history of the First and Secondborn, can you not teach me things as well? You have taught me much already, but I wish to know things about the world around me, things that will aid me in keeping up the appearance of being from these lands. Or at least being familiar with this body,’ she said and waved her hand toward the ship as her eyes lit up with the thought of gaining knowledge. ‘Teach me the ways of mariners; that should be easy enough for you. Teach me of the differences between the lands here and those of Middle-earth. I know they exist just from listening to Beldanwë’s tales. Or teach me of…’
Yes, yes…’ Linquendil said, laughing and holding up his hands for her to stop, ‘I understand Ilmarë, and I will teach you those things and all else I can think of before we reach the havens of Lindon. Would you like to begin now?’
‘I certainly would…’ she replied and bent down to pick up another flat stone, ‘and I would like to begin with this skill you have of making the stones fly across the water.’
‘Well now, that takes a fair amount of dexterity and expertise, my dear. Not just anyone can master it, but for the sake of our friendship, I will try.’ He winked at her as he motioned for her to follow him closer to the water’s edge. He stood behind her and lightly grasped her arm as he guided it forward. ‘Hold the stone with your thumb and your forefinger…just like that. Now it is all a matter of how you move your wrist as you throw it.’
Many sailors on the docks watched the pair with amusement: the tall, white-haired Elven captain and the dark-haired Mortal woman making an odd couple as they skipped stones out into the bay until well after the waters had taken on the rosy glow of the sunset.
A few days later the white ship took its leave of the piers of Andúnië and took a heading toward the harbors of Middle-earth. The remainder of the journey passed quickly for Ilmarë. It seemed the day came all too soon when Linquendil called her up on deck.
She had been below, practicing the reading and writing the Elves had been teaching her when Linquendil appeared in the doorway of her bedroom, once again telling her he had something to show her. When she reached the deck it was late afternoon. She noticed a coolness to the air which had not been there that morning. Linquendil led her to the railings and with a flourish of his hand directed Ilmarë’s attention toward the east.
‘Ela, Ilmarë,’ he said with a smile. ‘Have your first look at Middle-earth.’ He watched her eyes widen and his smile widened with them. ‘We have left the waters of the sea and now travel through the Gulf of Lhún. That is the coast of Harlindon and soon the city of Harlond will be in sight.’
Her eyes now lacked the keen sight of Linquendil’s but Ilmarë could see the lands in the distance. The coastline stretched out for miles in each direction. She could see the sands of the shores in places, light brown and not pale like the sands of Andúnië. Woodlands crowded with trees stretched back into the lands. Though smaller and less graceful than the trees of Númenor, they were ablaze with the colors of sunset, in gold, orange and red. Linquendil had explained the change of seasons in the mortal lands and she knew the plants and trees were showing signs of the beginning of autumn. Ilmarë inhaled deeply as she looked out over the water to the land across the gulf.
‘It is beautiful. I did not think it would be, but I was gravely mistaken,’ she said.
Linquendil nodded and said, ‘The lands of Middle Earth do have a beauty of their own.’
‘Yet you prefer the lands of Aman?’ she asked with a sidelong glance.
‘Of course; Eressëa has long been my home,’ he said. ‘I once lived in these mortal lands ages past, until the time when we were called by the Valar to come to Aman. With my people, I rode through the sea upon Eressëa.’ Linquendil glanced at her and smiled. ‘I was known as Linwë then. I did not come to be called Linquendil until I became acquainted with the Elves of Valinor.’
Ilmarë’s head came up suddenly in surprise at this revelation but he did not notice for he had turned to look out over the waters again. ‘We traveled through the waters on the island until it came to be anchored by Ossë in the waters off the coasts of Valinor, in the very place it now rests. In time, many of my people did leave Eressëa for the light of Valinor but I was among those who did not. Great is my love for the Lonely Isle and to my eyes there is no place more fair.’
She nodded and returned her gaze to the lands before her. Away in the distance she saw mountains, but did not ask their names; she did not wish to break the silence as she and Linquendil watched the lands slip past.
The mountains themselves and the lands at their feet rose from the earth like a stairway. The sandy shores of the gulf ended in grassy meadows, their green spotted here and there with splashes of color from the yellowing grasses and wildflowers beginning their fall bloom. Beyond the grasslands began the woods, and over the trees topped with the red, orange and golden hues of autumn towered the mountains. The steep sides of the dark giants stretched up to the sky brushing the clouds with their snow-covered pinnacles.
The strong love Linquendil had for Aman was understandable, but now the lands of Middle Earth enthralled Ilmarë with their riot of smell and sights. The life emanating from them flooded her senses and she had an unexpected connection to these lands as she gazed upon them. When Linquendil told her she had long desired to see the mortal lands Ilmarë had not believed it possible but now she understood. A force here touched her spirit, pulling her in and wrapping firmly around her. In the past days she had felt an increasing sense of anticipation, as though something awaited her. Now she was certain whatever it was, it waited here in these lands.
Linquendil rested a hand on her shoulder. She jumped slightly as she pulled her gaze away from the lands to look up at him.
‘You should prepare your things, Ilmarë,” he said, “We will be arriving at Harlond by early evening.’
Ilmarë did not speak, only nodded before hurrying back to her room to collect her things. An odd mixture of excitement and fear filled her and she could not have said which was the greater.
Although she did not tarry it was still well after dark when she arrived back on deck. She found Linquendil at the wheel and told him she was ready. He pointed toward the bow of the ship at the lights drawing ever closer.
‘The southern piers of the Grey Havens,’ he said. ‘I sent word of our arrival to Círdanand he will meet us there.’
Ilmarë nodded. ‘Yes, I was told of him before I left Valinor, but I did not know he was bearded until you told me.’ She laughed and added, ‘Of course, I would not have known it was unusual had you not told me that as well. I am looking forward to meeting him. Yet you did not tell me why he bears this odd trait.’
‘Well, there are those who say we Elves grow beards in the later cycles of our lives and that Cirdan was one of the first Fathers who awakened by the Waters,’ he said, ‘yet that is not so. I am older than Cirdan and Thingol is older than me, and there are many who are older than Thingol. Yet I know of no Elves who are bearded, save Cirdan and one other who dwells in Valinor.’
Linquendil glanced down at Ilmarë and said, ‘You must ask him, for whatever the reasons are, they are his own.’
The ship drew close to the piers and Linquendil had the first mate take the wheel. He walked with Ilmarë to the bow of the ship amidst the sailors hurrying back and forth across the deck in preparation for docking. As they came closer Ilmarë saw the lights came from large wrought-iron lanterns suspended from tall posts. These lined the piers and stretched back up into the city, lighting the roads as well.
An Elf stood in one of the glowing circles the lamps cast on the pier. His robes of white and silver stood out but the silver of his hair outshined them, reflecting the light of the lamp and gleaming like starlight. He stood facing the ship and obviously awaited their arrival. The ship slowed, continuing toward the pier until it met the wooden structure with a sudden bump. Ilmarë looked down and grabbed the railing to help keep her balance. When she raised her head again, the Elf had left the light to move closer to the ship and now she saw his face clearly.
Outside the lantern’s halo the light of the newly risen moon illuminated him. A neatly trimmed beard covered the lower half of his face, the hair of it as silver as the hair of his head. He gazed intently at her and in the moonlight his grey eyes appeared almost silver as well.
How ethereal he is, this apparition of silver and white,
Ilmarë thought, spellbound and openly returning his stare. Linquendil pulled her away from the railing and led her away to the gangplank that had just been lowered to the pier.
Leaving his place at the edge of the pier, Círdan walked to the end of the gangplank and smiled as he watched his guests descend.
***Ela! – Telerin: ‘See!’ used to indicate an object when pointed to.
***Beards on Elves: In Letters, Prof. Tolkien said that Elves grow beards in the later cycles of their lives to explain to one reader why Cirdan had a beard. Honestly, I think he had so much going on, he forgot he’d said Elves didn’t have beards when he gave Cirdan one at the end of RotK. But a friend asked me to give a reason why Cirdan would have a beard and I was game.
***Ilmarë: Well, I guess it’s obvious now who and what she is. I needed the Maia blood to make the later storyline concerning Annatar work; in the original version of this story I had created a sister for Lúthien. I couldn’t have the character too closely related to Elrond because of this strange aversion I have to inbreeding; call me old fashioned. It never sat well with me though. I felt like I was cheating by making up a family member for such an important character, but I was at a loss as to how to make it work. Then, as luck would have it, I was looking up information on Khamûl in Unfinished Tales and I reread the chapter on the Istari while I was there.
I would basically have to quote the whole chapter here to explain everything, so instead I’ll just touch on the important points. It says ‘Of this Order (Heren Istarion) the number is unknown; but of those that came to the North of Middle-earth, where there was most hope….the chiefs were five.’ Now, on the previous page, it says they were first seen in ME in the Third Age, but that section is specifically discussing the five above-mentioned ‘chiefs’ who came to the North. At least that’s the way I’m going to interpret it. In People of Middle Earth in the chapter Last Writings there is a section on the Istari that’s a fragment from the chapter in UT that Christopher Tolkien couldn’t decipher at the time. He’d obviously figured it out by the time PoME was published, though. It discusses two other Istari who were sent to ME in the Second Age, Morinehtar and Rómestámo.
For my own purposes, I took this all to mean that there were others who came to ME besides Gandalf and Co., and some of them as early as the Second Age. It never says there weren’t any females among them…of course, it doesn’t say there were any either, but hey. In Letters, the professor says the Istari were always sent in the form of ‘old men and sages’ but nobody says a sage has to be old and male, they only have to be wise. Semantics…it’s all about semantics.
UT also discusses how the Maiar were put into ‘bodies of Middle-earth’ and were subject to all its weaknesses, including being able to be led away from their purpose and do the wrong things. ‘…forgetting the good in the search for the power to effect it.’ I love that quote. This next passage is talking about Gandalf and Co. in particular, but I thought it would apply to all Istari: ‘For it is said indeed that being embodied the Istari had need to learn much anew by slow experience, and though they knew whence they came the memory of the Blessed Realm was to them a vision from afar off, for which (so long as they remained true to their mission) they yearned for exceedingly.’ So they came back to ME with limited memory and limited powers.
Since in this story she’s supposed to be the first, I figure she’s the Valar’s guinea pig for tinkering with the Maiar’s brains, so to speak, and maybe they went a little overboard on the memory wipe. Or maybe it’s more like a firewall or partitioning a hard drive: the information is still there, it’s just not accessible.
If you find something to burst my theory, please let me know if I missed anything.
As far as using Ilmarë, that boils down to the fact that A) I didn’t want to subject myself to the torture of making up a new name and B) I preferred to use a character that was already there, but vague. She was perfect. In the Silm, it says ‘Chief among the Maiar of Valinor whose names are remembered in the histories of the Eldar Days are Ilmarë, the handmaid of Varda…’ and it goes on to talk about Eönwë. Then she’s mentioned in a different incarnation in Book of Lost Tales. And that’s it, no other information. Well, in David Day’s Illustrated Tolkien Companion, it says she throws spears of light down from the sky, but I don’t know what that’s all about. It’s nowhere in the books and nobody else seems to know where it came from either. If you know, please pass it on to me.
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.