1. The Other Shore
"...and the Teleri saw the coming of that ship out of the East and they were amazed, gazing from afar upon the light of the Silmaril, and it was very great."
--Quenta Silmarillion 24
They burst in, the bright swords in their hands already red-stained with blood; they were Elves but terrible and merciless: the ones who had killed her mother and father and brothers, now come for her, for the Jewel. And she was already at the edge, the very edge, the end, nowhere to turn now, no place, no hope now, only the emptiness about her, and the raging sea, the roaring, mad sea far below her and inside of her, and they burst in.
Her sons, she glimpsed her young sons in the shadows, off to the side, ignored for the moment but it would not be for long, Elrond holding baby Elros close to his chest, half-kneeling, half-sitting where he had just fallen, leaning forward a little, eyes fixed upon her, a smear of blood on his face. Oh not her children, not here. She saw Elrond clutching the baby tightly, his black hair whipped by the sea wind, huge dark-grey eyes fixed upon her, silently screaming, imploring, her innocent children here, where they have already burst in, the armed merciless Elves, the demons of all her nightmares, who were now advancing upon her and her young boys with red-stained swords, and at that moment the Jewel upon her breast suddenly burst into light. Blinding white light, its brightness drained the world of all colour; all she could see was light, nothing was left except light, for this Thing was Fate itself making its inexorable demand, and she died. In that one instant she died a thousand times, a hundred thousand times, died by the sea, by the sword, died by Ice and torment and most of all by fire, the fire of the Silmaril burning her to ashes and nothingness. Amid all that white fire was only a small patch of darkness: her child Elrond's black hair wind-whipped about his face, and the imploring eyes, the baby starting to cry, the howling sea, oh my darlings I am so sorry--
And she turned away, stepping into empty space.
* * * * * *
"Do you ever wonder about the sunrise, Calion?"
Clouds of dawn filled the eastern sky, pink and golden like many roses, ever-shifting and mingling, tinged with silver and violet at the edges. On the horizon where the sea met the heavens, the sun was rising crimson and radiant, very slowly, as if she wished to linger and admire the clouds, her heralds. Her reflection lay upon the surface of the sea, shining over the gentle waves, stretching from the edge of sight all the way to the Telperion's carved prow. Eärlinde, a young Elf-girl, sat on the deck of the sailboat, gazing out into the distance, her chin upon a slender hand. Her dark hair fell in two long thick braids down her back, and the new dawn's light shimmered in her dreamy dark-blue eyes, just like it shimmered on the rippling waters.
"See the reflection of the sunrise, so bright and golden-red--it looks exactly like a path upon the sea, going out straight and far, far away, does it not?" she continued in a quiet voice, half talking to herself. "It seems that one can aim the boat right at the sun, following the path, and just keep on sailing..."
"Perhaps we will land in Middle-earth, then," the boy sitting next to her replied softly. He was a silver-haired, gentle-eyed lad, about her own age.
"Middle-earth..." the girl repeated slowly, rolling the syllables upon her tongue. "Isn't it strange, Calion, to think of it, so far away, on the other side of the same sea? To think that the waters all about us may have come from Middle-earth--"
"And we, too," said Calion. "They say that many of our people still live in Middle-earth, and--" he hesitated, "there are those who have returned there."
The two children were quiet for a while. Before them, the path of sunlight flickered with the waves, beckoning, and on the other side of the boat, the coastal hills were only a faint outline in the distance, still half-veiled by the morning mist. A flock of swans came flying from the shore's direction, wheeled overhead about the Telperion's mast, and passed on, their great snowy wings beating against the wind.
"Do you hate the Noldor?" Eärlinde asked suddenly, breaking the silence.
"I don't know..." Calion answered, his fair young face thoughtful. "It is said that the Lord Finarfin is noble and wise; our own Lady Eärwen is his queen, you know, and she remains with him. But I remember once I found my mother weeping; she did not know I was nearby and thought that she was alone. Her father and mother and two brothers were all killed when the Noldor came and robbed us of our ships. Though her parents have returned from Mandos, her brothers have not." He paused for a moment. "She was only a young girl then."
"What could have made them do such a terrible thing? We had been friends and kin with the Noldor for so long, since the very beginning! The light of the Jewels must be more beautiful than one can possibly imagine..."
"I wonder where they are now."
"Eärlinde and her sweetheart!"
The cry rang out immediately behind their backs. Spinning around, they saw a small boy with hair as dark as Eärlinde's, and a smile full of mischief. "I'll tell everyone that Eärlinde has got a sweetheart, and it is Calion--"
The serious mood dissipated in an instant. Leaping to her feet, Eärlinde sprang forward and caught her younger brother by the arms.
"Who taught you to say that, Annairo?" she cried, her face flushed. "Calion is not my sweetheart! And you are such a fool of a child!"
"Oh let go!" Annairo squealed between giggles, squirming, for his sister was holding him with one arm about the waist, and with her other hand has started to tickle him mercilessly. "Let go or I'll tell mother--"
Calion laughed. "He doesn't even know what the word means! Did Beledir tell you to say this, Annairo?"
Wriggling free of his big sister's arms, the little Elf-boy nodded, stuck out his tongue at them, and ran off towards the back of the sailboat.
A tall youth was standing astern, at the helm.
"I did not mean to disturb you, my young doves!" he called out merrily as the others approached. "But the captain of the ship requires the presence of his crew--come, help me take out the lines, for the wind's in the southeast."
Eärlinde's cheeks went hot again at the older boy's words. Did Beledir really have to always tease her like this? Glancing at Calion, she found him grinning back at her, looking almost pleased.
"Try not to get in the way, Annairo," she sighed absent-mindedly, giving each of the boys a short stare. "How could mother and father have allowed you to tag along?"
Annairo made a face at her. "You only fear to be ashamed before Beledir, even though your sweetheart is really Calion," he retorted, and ran away before his sister could catch him.
"Tell us about the light, Beledir," Calion asked, smiling.
Eärlinde looked over at him, glad of the change of subject. Moreover, it was a question that she had also wanted to ask. The light had first appeared over the sea several cycles of the moon ago, like a magnificent star, increasing nightly in brightness, until the entire eastern sky glowed like silver. Though it had since receded again, Eärlinde could still see that mysterious glow in her dreams, and it seemed to whisper to her, of wondrous things to come...
"The light..." A far-away look came into Beledir's eyes, and a smile to his lips. When the strange light had first been seen, he had immediately run for the quays. In the end, he had persuaded his father to sail out with him seeking it, greatly worrying his mother.
"We sailed for nights and days upon the sea, eastwards, but we found not its source. Yet the sea and the sky were all lit up around us, endlessly reflecting each other, as if ablaze with a thousand stars together. As if--" He paused, uncharacteristically at a loss for words. "As if the whole world was made of a single bright crystal, transparent and luminous, and you could see everything at once, from the Ilmen above to the deepest depths below, and you feel that you are inside the light--"
"But what can it be? What can it mean?" asked Eärlinde, her eyes wide.
"I think something will happen. Something amazing," little Annairo piped up suddenly.
The others looked at him, surprised. "But you know, that was exactly how I felt, out upon the sea with the light everywhere around me," said Beledir in wonder. "I felt both at peace and restless, at the same time, and a kind of expectation, that something will happen, but I could not imagine what it might be..."
His voice trailed off. The sea-wind caressed the children's hair and faces, and filled the Elven boat's white sails, taking the Telperion around a high promontory and into an inlet. This was named Nénufal, the Shore of Yellow Lilies, for every spring the hills all around the bay were aflame with golden flowers. But now it was late summer, and the coast was deep green with foliage behind a narrow band of white beach. The mist cleared, promising another fair day.
Leaning against the side of the boat, Calion took out his flute, a slender pipe intricately carved of the wood of the flowering lairelossë tree. Putting it to his lips, he began to play on it a slow and ethereal tune. This was a song of many long ages past, yet still remembered in the blessed West, telling of starlight amid dark leaves, and the secret murmurs of flowing waters, and many other things besides. The wind took the flute's silvery notes and carried them far away, mingling them with the distant cries of sea-birds and the sound of the surf washing over the beach. Then, Beledir lifted his clear voice and joined it to the music of the flute, making up new words of his own to the ancient tune as he sang.
"I sing of the flood-tide lifting the dark breast of the sea, and of the sea-wind beneath the sun, beneath the moon, who brings the tide. I sing of the white foam flying before my prow, like banners of snow, and the white swan flying above my mast, in the wide open sky."
"Flow on, flood-tide! Flow on, endless wind! Fill my sails, fill my heart, carry me forth in the morning light! Fly on, proud waves, frolic before my prow; fly on, proud swan, soar in the blue sky! I am following, following your call!"
He halted, coming to the end of a verse. But Calion played on, and Eärlinde's voice rose, sweet and bright like the ringing of delicate bells:
"Oh endless sea-wind, who brings the tide in joy, and sends the tide away, how far have you come over the dark sea? What distant places have you been? Oh white foam, what beaches have you washed? What islands? What shores? Oh proud swan, what other forests, other fields, other hills have you seen?"
"Who is there waiting across the sea? Do you also hear the waves calling? Do you also feel the wind caressing? Who is there on the other shore, standing amid the same sunlight as I? Gazing upon the same moonlight as I?"
The last note of the song hung shimmering in the air, and slowly faded into silence. Then--
"Listen!" whispered Beledir.
Like a distant echo, there came carried upon the wings of the wind the faint sound of another fair voice singing, and the music of its song was the same as theirs, though they could not discern its words. As Eärlinde stood there upon the Telperion's deck, the music reached deep within her, taking hold, and something new awoke to life in the young girl's soul, an unfathomable melancholy, a sense of loss. The others fell silent also, even little Annairo, listening, and Beledir turned the helm, pulling closer to the shore.
"Look over there!"
Following the line of Calion's outstretched hand, they caught sight of a lonely figure upon the beach, walking slowly. Her white dress billowed out behind her like feathery wings, and the strange sorrowful notes of the song rose from her, into the clear sea air.
"It's a beautiful lady!" cried Annairo. Without waiting for anyone else, he rushed to the side of the boat, and jumped down with a splash.
"Annairo, wait!" yelled Eärlinde. But the small Elf-child was already swimming away towards the beach like a young dolphin. Stamping her foot in frustration, she leapt down after him into the waves.
Swimming ashore in quick strokes, she took off running over the sand after her brother, catching up just as they came face to face with the stranger.
"Don't ever do that again, Annairo--"
Her reproach died in mid-sentence. Before them stood the woman in white, indescribably lovely--a loveliness suffused with both a mysterious light and with grief, more grief than seemed possible for any one person to bear. Looking transfixedly upon her, Eärlinde was irresistibly reminded of the houseless souls of the dead, of whom the ancient tales told. Yet she seemed far greater also: it seemed as if she had wandered over the world carrying this desperate burden of sorrow, in utter solitude; it seemed as if she had flown above the earth and fallen from the heavens...
Then, all of a sudden, Annairo grinned radiantly, and the white lady gave a low gasp. Something akin to hope was kindled in her dark-grey eyes, and she reached out tentatively towards the child standing in front of her. But just as quickly, the light of her eyes were dimmed again, and she withdrew her outstretched hand in disappointment.
"No, you are another..." Her voice was barely audible. "You are not my child..."
"That I cannot be, for I am of Alqualondë, and so is my mother," Annairo answered like it was the most natural thing in the world. "My name is Annairo, and this is my sister Eärlinde. What's your name?"
The strange woman turned to the Elf-girl, as if only now seeing her, and Eärlinde suddenly felt terribly self-conscious, standing there in her sea-soaked dress and mussed braids. But it was the fair white-clad lady who lowered her eyes and shrank back, seemingly unable to meet the other's gaze.
"I was called Elwing," she replied.
Just at that moment, Beledir and Calion came running along the beach, their faces full of questions. And before Eärlinde could say anything, Annairo took a step up and touched the woman lightly on the arm.
"Am I very much like your child?" he asked.
"My child was only a babe in my arms--yet I almost thought I found my elder boy, my sweet son...Though it cannot be, they are lost, I left them to the red swords, the merciless ones, on Middle-earth, I left them..."
Eärlinde's breath caught in her throat. Middle-earth! How could she have come from Middle-earth? How could she have left her little children there? And she was so beautiful, with such a marvelous sweet glow all about her, could it be--? What could have brought her here, such a far way across the sea, all alone and in such anguish? The merciless ones with the red swords? What terrible monsters, what demons, were they?
"They were Elves,"
Elwing's answering words came quietly, yet clear and unmistakable, and Eärlinde blinked in astonishment. She was sure that she had not spoken her last question aloud. And could this be true? Could it be Elves who brought her to this pass, so hopeless, so lost? Could it be Elves who killed her young sons? What kind of dark place is Middle-earth? There were a thousand questions that she wanted to ask, but at the same instant Calion caught her sight, his eyes filled with pity and sadness. He looked over at her, shaking his head very slightly, almost imperceptibly, so that only Eärlinde saw it, and she swallowed back the questions. A small stab of pain hit her, as if she, too, saw with her own eyes the cruel Elves, their swords red-stained with blood. The truth was that this could be true, that even Elves could be terrible and merciless. Because it had been true. It had happened before.
Her younger brother, however, could not be daunted by anything as cold as history lessons or grown-up truths. "I think you must be wrong," he declared with a smile, "because Elves won't harm little children. That just cannot happen. I think they are well, someone is taking care of them, and they'll come to find you."
"Oh, hush," Eärlinde muttered, starting to feel angry at him. Yet almost immediately she regretted having spoken, looking up and seeing Elwing's eyes.
"I say they are alive," insisted Annairo confidently.
Elwing sighed, and touched the boy's dark head, barely. "Pure child, you cannot understand it, and may you never understand...But I have abandoned my sons and they are lost, I am alone, for my beloved is gone also, gone without hope, seeking the High Ones..."
She began to turn away. But Beledir came forward and caught up with her in two quick steps.
"You mustn't wander all by yourself, then; you have nowhere to go," he pleaded urgently. "What if he comes back to look for you? Come with us, we will take care of you, and you can rest with us at Alqualondë. If you are there he will be able to find you, when he returns."
"And your children, too, when they come," added Annairo, "and they can play with us."
The woman gazed at the children's eager faces, and then, suddenly, as if some small part of their warmth reached her at last, she almost smiled. Almost, for her eyes remained dark with pain.
"I will come with you,"
"That's good! Our boat, the Telperion, is just down the bay; she's the fastest there is, we will reach Alqualondë soon." Coming next to Elwing, Beledir took her arm gently. "My mother and father will welcome you; so will Lord Olwë, for he is as kind as a summer breeze over the waves. And wise also: he knows everything, and I am sure he will find out if any news of your husband or your sons comes. For I have a feeling," he continued earnestly, "I cannot explain it, but I really feel that somehow everything will be well..."
He began to lead her away, towards the waiting vessel. Eärlinde exchanged a glance with Calion; he seemed pensive, and she gave him a smile. Maybe, just maybe, her little brother could be right after all. Calion smiled back warmly at her, and started down the beach also, going to Elwing's other side.
Taking hold of Annairo's hand, Eärlinde followed, deliberately hanging a short way back. She felt strangely elated, like some deep dream was just coming true; but she was also a bit fearful, and saddened, for this dream was not at all like what she had imagined. Nevertheless, it was not a wholly unpleasant feeling. A new sense of responsibility welled up within her, a protective tenderness for her brother, for this beautiful lost woman, even for those young boys left far, far behind, Elwing's sons. She felt all grown-up now, and a voice inside told her that she would remember this day forever. So she gripped Annairo's hand a little more tightly, and they walked on, following Elwing and the others, upon the edge of the sea, the singing, calling sea, with the wind gently blowing, coming from distant lands, wafting their hair, and the white breakers endlessly lapping Aman's blessed shore.
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.