2. Nowë’s Ark
Yavanna looked on the marching host of Valinor and the shuffling hordes of Angband and finally on all Beleriand, trembling, cracking, and smoking under their feet. She pouted.
To Manwë she said, "You know how the Children have all been called to the shores and carried thence away from battle. But the birds and beasts and crawling things have had no such chance for flight: to the north are ice and our Enemy; to the east are mountains of terrible height; to the south are forest and rivers impassable; and to the west are the perilous waters. Let me call them to the sea and aid them, those who will answer, for not all are under Melkor's shadow."
And Manwë answered, "Yea, I will grant this request. But tell me, to the sea you will call them, and then whither and… how?"
"I have considered this," she said. "And I thought of procuring the help of that shipwright whom Ulmo speaks of so often and lengthily."
And to the Isle of Balar she ran.
Now, the shipwright was taking his afternoon tea upon a pavilion, when his young lackey burst in quivering and making sounds with no words. A lady, radiant in green-spun, strode in at his heels.
The shipwright set his cup on its saucer. "Who is your friend, Galdor?"
"Ya. Ya. Ya," said the servant.
The lady stepped forward. "I am Yavanna."
The shipwright stood and bowed.
"You are Nowë?"
Nowë lifted his chin. "I suppose."
"I have a request."
She related her concern to him and then said, "I understand you build ships."
"A hobby, my lady. One that's expanded of late. We've harvested the untouched timber of this isle and Nimbrethil to build up our fleet, for we foresee a need in the future."
"Then have you a very large ship, say." Yavanna stretched her white arms wide. "Like so?"
"Near," Nowë shrugged. "And just finished. She is named the Massive. I've never constructed one of her girth that sunk not."
"Excellent," said Yavanna and she told the shipwright what to do.
Yavanna and Nowë and a crew of three set sail on the Massive, north along the coast. Night and day of the voyage the Vala-queen sung. The song never repeated. It sounded both piercing and soft, sometimes almost a roar, other times an almost inaudible hum. On and on as they glided further north. Finally and too long postponed it seemed, her voice faded and she directed them to a likely spot to set anchor.
Yavanna crossed to the shore took up her song once more. The days passed. Nowë and his crew of three felled trees and built a wharf to set the Massive beside. All the while Beleriand trembled, cracked, and smoked.
At last they set in the last plank, and on cue Yavanna blinked and said, "There! I've called them. Let's see who will come."
Nowë and his crew of three were only too pleased for a break. Absorbing the quiet, they sat on their wharf and munched biscuits.
But a sudden rush of wind and cloud enveloped them. They beat the air, blind and aimless. They only knew that their biscuits had been spirited away. The cloud wheeled over their head and they saw birds of every color, length and temperament: owls, ravens, and gulls, sparrows, nightingales, and hawks, doves, swans, and shrikes. And their count was growing. Nowë's three companions fell into the water with shrill cries.
Nowë, however, stood on the wharf and rubbed his chin.
The three crawled sputtering to the beach. But only to come nose-to-nose with a bear tribe. And beyond, harts and their does. Wolves and sheep, moles and mice, serpents and toads, otters and boars, bees and beetles. And their count grew as Nowë and his three-man crew locked themselves in the ship and watched.
These creatures had heeded the Vala-queen and had been given speed and sense to answer her. And perhaps, Nowë thought, also a love for gossip. Their growls, mewls and cheeps drowned even the voice of the sea. The shore had become a shifting mass of eerie shapes, grotesque and noisome like a host of goblins. Nowë and the three mariners slept not a wink.
When Nowë believed the shore must surely buckle, Yavanna said, "They've come, all who will."
The three crewmen sprang to their feet. Nowë forced on a face of joy, and they lowered a plank to the wharf.
The birds, the beasts, and the crawling things boarded at Yavanna's command. They spilled into every corner. They filled every surface and every perch. Nowë and his crew exchanged glances as slowly the flea-harboring tide rose above their knees, then to their waists. The whole shore emptied into the ship and in came Yavanna last of all.
Nowë's three mariners found themselves jammed into walls or under creatures of various weights. But Nowë had better luck, for he had found a box to roost on. And not alone: a fox sniffed pair of hares by his shoes. Nowë snatched them into his arms. He turned to shoo a goat's maw from his cloak and even as he brushed it aside, a squirrel scrambled up his sleeve. He felt pricks on his leg. Ants had found his shoes to be a suitable place to start a home.
"I am curious, my lady," said Nowë as he swallowed an ouch, "how shall we feed them and keep them?"
"They shall sleep till we reach our journey's end," she smiled. And she sang her song of sleep and the birds and beasts and the crawling things dropped where they were.
Nowë set the dozing hares down against the fox and tripped to the helm with Yavanna.
His three crewmen were emptying their pockets of mice. They removed tails and talons from the moorings and cast off, glancing for a final time at the trembling, cracking, and smoking land where they had been born.
The Vala-queen, yawning now too, stood beside Nowë as he piloted the Massive back south.
She spoke without ceasing of the mission's next phase, but the shipwright listened neither to her nor his three mariners nor the thunderous snores of the birds, beasts, and crawling things.
"How," he pondered, a small crinkle on his nose, "will I get this smell out?"
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Nowë – Círdan's prehistoric name from The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Last Writings."