10. Arrows and Eyes
Part Ten: Arrows and Eyes
Winds and waves mixed, sounding almost like wails of someone dying. A sound that carried silence with it, piercing the skin much like the cold winds and take hold. It was the wail of the world, so silent and yet so strong none could ignore it. It was as if the very earth was in pain, and the seas and mountains echoed it.
Gimli shuddered and found himself once more wishing he had his pipe. The sea had claimed it – not that he could truly have used it, for the pipe weed was soaked and probably ruined. But it would have been comforting to hold such a mundane object, a reminder of peaceful times. Especially now, lost at sea and only sky and water in sight.
The sea was quiet now, as if all fight had gone out of it. The storm had nearly claimed them all, tearing at the sail with claws of air. How the ship had not fallen apart, Gimli did not know. He could only surmise that though slender, it held the same strength as Elves. Like arrows – you would not think much of them until they slammed into your chest with a strength and speed unimaginable. The Elves were the weapons they favoured; quick and light and deadly when need be.
The Dwarf stared down at his feverish Elven friend, colour having returned to Legolas's cheek. He was muttering in his own language, Gimli could only catch a few words.
'Atar,' Legolas had muttered again and again, sometimes desperate and sometimes filled with such sadness it was almost too much to bear.
What words could he, a mere Dwarf, offer in comfort to such great sadness? He stared down at his hands and felt them ball together. Anger filled him, but it was anger he did not know where to direct. He embraced the anger nevertheless, for behind it lurked fear.
A Dwarf, a Hobbit and an Elf adrift on the sea, whatever good could that do? It was folly, yet so had sending a hobbit with the One Ring to Mordor been. Folly backed by wisdom. But wisdom had left Middle-earth. Lady Galadriel had left Middle-earth.
Oh, but how he wished he could behold the Morningstar! Just a flicker of light in this darkening world and the fires of his heart would be rekindled. Fear would flee before the Lady of the Golden Wood. If she was no more…
He shook his head slowly, shaking the snow out of his hair and beard.
It fell into the boat, grey and flaky, some flakes grumbling into dust. It was not snow, he realised. It was ash. Ash was falling from the sky.
From whence it came he did not know, but it filled his heart with cold dread. The wind could not have carried it all the way from the shores of Middle-earth. It came from elsewhere.
He lifted his eyes to the horizon and saw the high flames licking against the sky. He nearly cried out, but the vision vanished as quickly as it had appeared. There was nothing darkness on the horizon, and the sky was impossible to tell from the water. All was dark and silent.
Had Valinor burned there, or was his mind so set out to deprive him of hope it sent him visions of destruction?
He shivered. Was this then the end of days, as poems and songs of old had spoken of? He scarcely remember them anymore, for they had been considered tales for children. It had not seemed possible days would ever end, for though the world was old, it was not yet ancient or tired.
The air brushed his cheeks, gently at first, almost a caress. But the strength of it grew, lifting hairs and whipping water at him. Water drops trickled down his face much like tears; perhaps they were. For a moment he closed his eyes.
“Child of Aulë…”
The voice was a mere whisper, but his eyes snapped open.
There was a dark shape on the nearest wave, tall and majestic against the sea. Mists hung around it much like a cloak, shrouding the long hair that fell as foam. A crown was upon his brow, shining with a dark silver glow. And in the stern eyes a wisdom shone as bright as any star. All seemed to pause in reverence.
And Gimli bowed his head, for he knew he beheld the Dweller of the Deep; Ulmo, Lord of Waters.
“Child of Aulë,” Ulmo said again, his voice deep and filled with the strength of the merciless sea. “Why art thou here?”
“I came with Legolas, Lord,” Gimli replied, head still bowed and mouth dry. He could hear Sam stir and the boat rocked slightly in the still water. His own heart pounded fiercely in his chest and drowned nearly all other sounds.
“Turn back,” Ulmo commanded. The mists swirled and fell away. “Naught can be found here but death. The souls of Elves pass to the Halls of Mandos no more. Twilight has come and the night beacons the world.”
Gimli more felt than heard Legolas rise and he shot a glance at the Elf from the corner of his eye. Though pale and shivering, his friend looked aware and awake.
“What has happened, Lord?” Legolas asked quietly, reverence in his voice.
The name echoed between the sky and the sea, growing in strength until it roared and the sear roared and the wind roared… When it died, the waves answered.
As if the name had been a call, the sea rose violently, shaped as an arrow of dark blue. Ulmo lifted a shimmering weapon to meet the attack, but if he spoke the words drowned in the roar of the sea. The arrow of water came at him, but water fell away and revealed what seemed like a snake's hides. Straight it was, glimmering dark green and blue and two giant specs of black at the front.
And the voice of his father echoed in Gimli's mind, recalling the rise of a great evil. Naglfar, the dragon of water, father of sea-bound monsters. The sea had swallowed him when the world was young and was said to hold him trapped in the watery depths. But when the end of days came, so would Naglfar. Just a tale, scaring young Dwarves by the roaring fires. Just a tale…
Dark waters rise,
the mundane snake is coiled
The worm beats the water,
and the eagle screams:
the pale of beak tears carcases;
Naglfar is loosed.
Yet the arrow had eyes.
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.