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Old 03-03-2020, 02:20 PM   #1
Mithadan
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Join Date: Jul 2000
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Tales from Tol EressŰa

Tales from Tol EressŰa
by Mithadan
(Originally posted March 2, 2004)

Ălfwine sat beneath a beech tree, resting from his journey. Above him, the leaves of the tree were limned in a golden-green from the light of the westering sun. His back to the trunk and his fingers running through the thick turf amid the roots, he again wondered at the fortune that had thrown him up upon the white strand of this isle. To have been saved from drowning in the depths of the seas would have been enough; but to have been washed upon the shores of this land where legends walked beneath the skies?

"Fortune?" Pengolod had snorted. "Mere chance to have been carried to the shores of this land? Nay. It may be that chance plays some part in the unfolding of the Tale of Arda on the grey shores of Middle Earth. But in all the ages since Ulmo anchored Tol EressŰa in its place, not once has 'fortune' brought a child of Man to this haven. Nay, though the purpose is unclear, you were brought to tarry among the Eldar by more than mere chance."

The Elven-folk, ancient and forgotten by his people save perhaps in the tales of children, had succored him until he was hale again. Tales they told him of ages past when the world was yet new and wondrous. Of the three kindreds of the Elves they told him, and of the darkening of Valinor where the gods yet dwell. Songs he heard, of surpassing beauty and sadness, of the rebellion of the Noldor and the tragic war against the ancient Enemy of all who would live free.

And when told of the War of Wrath and the rescue of the Eldar and the Fathers of Men in Beleriand, Ălfwine had asked, "If Middle Earth was indeed redeemed from the evils of Morgoth and he was, at last, utterly defeated, then why is Middle Earth not a garden shared by Elves and Men? Why did the Eldar abandon the Hither Lands then, leaving the world to the folly of Man?"

Pengolod had smiled sadly. "Say rather Ĺfreed from Morgothĺs grasp,ĺ not Ĺredeemed.ĺ Until Arda is remade, it shall not be redeemed from the taint of him. But the Eldar did not abandon Middle earth. Yea, many of the Noldor accepted the pardon of the Valar and returned to dwell here in the Lonely Island. Yet many, and also the people of our kin, the Moriquendi, remained behind; for a while. It was not our place to dwell ever in the lands of thy birth. But for many an age, the Quendi walked beneath the trees in what now are the mortal lands."

"When did the Eldar depart finally?" Ălfwine had asked. "And why?"

"After the Third Age ended and the time of Man had come, the last of my brethren took to the sea bound for the haven of AvallˇnŰ. As to why, that tale is best left to one who watched these events unfold," responded the Elf.


.....................................


And so, days later, Ălfwine found himself on the road to the dwelling of that loremaster of the later ages. North he had traveled from Tavrobel towards the great haven of AvallˇnŰ, then west towards the heart of the island. He had paused wistfully, in view of the white towers of AvallˇnŰ, longing to visit that city and, not least, the pale Elven ships at their quays. To ride the waves standing by a high swan-beaked prow! But AvallˇnŰ must wait. For now he sat beneath the beeches, tired and hungry, yet savoring the sweetness of an afternoon in this strange land. Even the air in this place seemed possessed of a magical quality, scented as it were with the flowers and the green things that grew in such abundance. Opening his eyes, he looked upon a stand of mighty trees across the road with smooth silver-grey trunks and fiery golden leaves. What had the Elves named them? MalinornŰ?

His reverie was broken by the clip-clop of hooves on the path to the east. Several riders rounded a turn in the road, among them a fine grey palfrey upon which sat an Elven lady of surpassing beauty. The riders slowed and gazed curiously at Ălfwine. A tall raven-haired Elf, wearing a star on his brow bound by a slender fillet, spoke.

"Now here sits a marvel, the like of which I have not seen in years unnumbered. For, unless I be mistaken, this weary traveler is of the Atani. Hail and well met! What errand brings a child of Man to this Lonely Isle?"

"No errand but good fortune, though Pengolod holds otherwise," replied Ălfwine as he rose.

"Pengolod the Learned has keen sight in this matter. Your name Sir?"

"Ălfwine I am, Lord. I seek the house of the loremaster Elrond at the instance of Pengolod."

With a sudden smile, The Elf turned to the lady upon the palfrey and cried, "Fortune does not guide this Man! What think thee Celebrian? Does chance have a hand in this meeting?"

Her laughter fell like silver rain. "My Lord Elrond's house is but a stone's throw away," she said. "But the Elf you have found, Ălfwine! You stand before Elrond and his wife; I am Celebrian. And these be Elves of his household."

Elrond leaped from his steed and clasped the Man by his shoulder. "Come Ălfwine! Weary you may be. But that may be cured by a laden table and a draught of wine. You will tell us your tale and why Pengolod has sent you. And if I can be of service I shall."

They walked with the horses along the road and, indeed, but a stone's throw away a path led through the trees to a number of dwellings great and small. Elrond and Celebrian led him to the largest, a house of hewn white stone, where they were greeted by several elves who took the horses. Ălfwine was led to a chamber with a fine bed and a basin filled with clean hot water. After he had washed, he was led to a great hall with a long table laden for supper. Elrond beckoned him to a high chair next to his own and bade him drink and eat to his ease before telling of his errand to that house.

After having his fill, Ălfwine told the tale of his coming to EressŰa; of his sailing forth from England; of his entering the Straight Road and the world falling away beneath his ship; of his mates abandoning the vessel in fear; of the storm which wrecked his craft; and of the great wave that had lifted him and gently carried him to shore.

Elrond and his table marveled at the tale of Ălfwine. "Indeed Pengolod erred not. Chance alone did not strand you here among the Eldar. Some great purpose lies behind these events which I cannot perceive. But tell, why has Pengolod sent you here?"

And Ălfwine told of his sojourn in the house of Pengolod and the tales they had told him of the First Age and his wonderment at the hidden history of the world. At last, he spoke his questions of the fading of the Eldar during the ages after the defeat of Morgoth and of their departure from Middle Earth. "For it seems to me that had the Eldar stayed much grief might have been avoided and the history of Men less tragic," he said.

Elrond looked gravely at Ălfwine. "The tales you seek are long and themselves woven with sadness for what might have been. Their telling will take many days and you have traveled far and long. Do you wish to begin tonight?"

Ălfwine nodded his head and Elrond summoned his household to a great hall where was lit a fire. When all were assembled, Elrond turned to Ălfwine and began to speak.


....................................


Many days indeed passed in the telling of these tales of the Second and Third Ages of Arda. Ălfwine listened keenly and heard of the foundation of Numenor; the MÝrdain and the settlement of Eregion; the making of the Rings of Power and the One Ring; the war between the Elves and Sauron and the ruin of Eregion; the Akallabŕth; the Final Alliance and its victory; the foundation of Gondor and Arnor and the disaster at the Gladden Fields; the wars of the Witch King and the fall of Arnor; the failure of the line of kings in Gondor; the War of the Ring; and many things besides.

Late one afternoon, Ălfwine retired to the gardens behind the house of Elrond where there bloomed the elanor and niphredil. Long he wandered in sadness musing over the Eldar and the tragedies which befell them. After a time, Ălfwine entered a clearing in the gardens where stood three monuments of bright white marble shot through with gold. Unable to read the runes carved on the stones, he sat and wondered of their purpose.

How long he sat there he knew not, yet suddenly he stood and looked about and found that night had fallen. The stars shone gently in the sky but to his surprise the monuments appeared to glow with a clear white light in the gathering dark. At that moment he realized he was no longer alone. Beside him sat Elrond, regarding the monuments with a sad smile. His grey eyes glittered under the stars and he seemed to be glimpsing a faraway scene.

Then, looking at Ălfwine, he asked, "Have you heard tales enough of ages long past? Or do you crave the whole of the lore of the Eldar to weigh in your memories?"

The Man smiled. "I have heard of many wonders since I arrived on these shores. But my memory has room and to spare. Yet I have not heard that which Pengolod promised; why you and your brethren left the Hither Lands?"

"Maybe not all have, responded Elrond. "Maybe some tarry there yet hidden away in mountain fastness or in unknown green vales, as spirits or shades of the past. But you have had your question answered. It was the fate of Elvenkind to fade before the race of Men and give up Middle Earth to you and yours. But for the Three Rings whose power failed at the passing of the One, most of my kindred would have left to the West long before the Third Age was finished. The Fourth Age and the ages since are the time of Man."

"But cold and sadder is the world, I deem, without the Elves, and barren of lore and knowledge," complained Ălfwine.

Elrond raised his head and his eyes twinkled as he looked sidewise at his friend. "Pengolod himself could have told of the fading of the Eldar. While the purpose behind your coming to EressŰa is not clear, perhaps you were meant to hear these tales and carry them back to your people so that memories of the Eldar and our deeds are not entirely forgotten as the world becomes old. For this reason, Pengolod sent you to me, unless I be mistaken."

They sat quietly for a time under the clear light of the undying stars. With a pale glow, Isil raised his head above the rim of the land. As if greeting his light, the three stone markers shone yet more brightly amid the shadows. Ălfwine stirred and gestured towards the monuments.

"And what be these stones?" he asked. "Like grave markers they seem, and I have not seen their like here. Nor would I expect to in these undying lands, if graves indeed they be."

A faraway look crossed the face of Elrond and he sighed. "Graves they be. Here lie great heroes whose memory we hold in honor and whose passing was a sadness of parting unto the end of Arda."

"Who lies here? Surely the power of the undying lands fades not!"

"It is not the lands themselves which are undying," responded the Elf. "Rather those who live here, the Eldar, the Valar and their people have life as long as Arda shall last. The lands themselves hold no especial virtue apart from those who dwell upon them."

Elrond sighed once again. "The morning after we sailed from the Grey Havens we drew nigh unto Tol Morwen. There we paused to do honor unto those who lay there on that sad remnant of Beleriand, and to those who perished in the wars of the First Age.

"Little longer did we tarry and soon we entered on the Straight Road and the world fell away beneath us. Then did many gather in the stern of our white ship for a last glimpse of Middle Earth, where we had laboured so long. And not a few tears were shed at that time. For diminish we must, yet we did not love Middle Earth less because of that.

"But the Ringbearers shed no tears. Frodo stood at the bow with the wind in his face and Bilbo sat beside him. They, at least, went without sadness, looking to the West and not back to the lands behind and below.

"And after a time, the seas became broad and flat again and we came beneath clouds and a light rain began to fall. Islands there were about us, small and dark, and ever and anon we might see the skeleton of some ancient vessel broken on the shores. We wondered at who might have come so far, Man or Elf, only to fall by the wayside to sleep unto the end of the world. The rain was not chill but warm, and soon the sweet smell of flowers seemed to fill the air."

"Aye," interrupted Ălfwine. "The isles I beheld also, forbidding they seemed, and I feared to run aground. But the rains which took my ship were neither warm nor light and I smelled no flowers until I awoke on the sparkling shores of this land."

"Yet you were not broken with your vessel and to EressŰa you were allowed to come," replied Elrond before he continued his tale.

"When we emerged from beneath the clouds we saw before us this green island with its white beaches, and beyond rose the Holy Mountain which pierced the sky. Glad we were to behold that sight and many broke into song.

"Frodo's face seemed to glow and, for maybe the first time since his return from the Quest he smiled happily and in truth, and he turned to Bilbo and said 'Look! Behold our new home!' And Bilbo turned his wizened face and nodded as the breeze blew through his white hair. 'For a time, Frodo,' he responded. 'For a time.'

"As we made for the port of AvallˇnŰ a great throng gathered on the quays, shouting and waving their arms. Bells rang and echoed in the streets and from the Tower there shone a bright light beneath the banners of the EldaliŰ. Many glad reunions occurred that day and joyous was my first sight of Celebrian standing whole and healed again.

He paused with a smile and turned to Ălfwine. "Yet many had waited longer than I to be rejoined with their kin. A great white pavilion had been raised in the square of the city and there were many who had come even from Valinor to greet those who had at last come to Elvenhome. Those in the pavilion rose as the Ringbearers approached and the crowd parted, giving way before the Hobbits and Galadriel beside them.

"At the end of the pavilion stood a dais upon which several elves were seated. As we approached the dais, Galadriel gave a cry and rushed forward; for there indeed sat Finarfin, her father, and beside him Finrod, who had returned from Mandos, and other of her kin. Ages had passed since the sundering of that family and glad was their meeting.

"And amid the clamour and the tears, one strode forth onto the dais and held out his arms to the Ringbearers. Tall with raven hair he was, with a silver robe covering his mighty thews and a silver circlet about his brows. EonwŰ it was whom I had last met in the wrack that had been Beleriand at the end of the First Age. The crowd hushed as he spoke: 'Welcome Frodo and Bilbo and from ManwŰ I bring greetings! Never before have any of the younger race graced these streets and ages will pass before any do so again. Yet few of greater valour have ever walked here. Thy deeds have been told in song even unto the peak of Taniquetil. Welcome!'

"The Hobbits blushed crimson and stammered their thanks, unable to meet the bright eyes of EonwŰ. Olorin it was who gently took them by the shoulders and guided them onto the dais to stand among the mighty of Arda amid the cheers. Many a glass was filled and drained in toast that evening much to the discomfort of my little friends. Yet whether they will or not, great heroes they were and deserved of their place.

Elrond paused, leaning back to look at the stars. He smiled again and continued. "Bilbo did not fall asleep once during that celebration. He spent much of the evening speaking to Finrod about Beren Erchamion. Ever a lover of tales was Bilbo. And Frodo as was his wont sat quietly listening and speaking little.

He paused again and stood to walk to the first monument. Resting his hand on its peak, Elrond nodded his head and resumed sadly. "Bilbo died a year after, on his birthday. He summoned Olorin and myself and we traveled with him and Frodo to AvallˇnŰ where we carried him up the steps of the Tower to the Chamber of the PalantÝr. Olorin braced him upright as he gazed into the stone. As old and tired as he was, he stood for an hour seeing visions of his home at Bag End, of the Hithlaeglir and the Lonely Mountain and, finally, of Aragorn in Minas Tirith with my beloved Arwen. Then we bore him back and laid him down on this very spot so he could see the stars.

"Frodo was crying pitifully but Bilbo raised his hand to clasp Frodo's and said 'Now hush. My little part in this tale is done. It must go on without me as you must. Fear not; I don't. There was never a Hobbit more lucky than I, to have seen what I have seen, done what I have done and known who I have known. This tale is yours now until you too pass out of it and until the world is renewed and we meet again.' And saying that he closed his eyes and passed gracefully into death. But Frodo raised his head amid his tears and nodded his head as if to agree.

"Frodo lived many years of Men at ease here in EressŰa. Then one day he too summoned Olorin and we again traveled to AvallˇnŰ. Not to the Tower, but rather to the piers where we sat long looking out upon the seas. And over the horizon there came a sail and a white ship which came into the havens, its prow cutting the waters with swan's head held high. At last it docked, and many Elves climbed the gangway to the docks and again there were many reunions. After many minutes a short white-haired figure followed wearily.

"'Sam!ĺ said Frodo. 'At last you are here. I have been waiting too long for you to come. Don't tell me you were afraid to go sailing?'

"Sam responded, 'Begging your pardon Mister Frodo, no I wasn't. Afraid that is. But I couldn't leave Rosie behind. I had to wait for her to leave first.'

"'I'm so sorry Sam,' said Frodo, kissing his forehead. 'I know you miss her. But I am glad you are here.'

"We returned to the house once more and dined with Frodo and Sam. Then we left them alone to speak of their time together and what had happened since. We heard them talking long into the night and then all was quiet. In the morning, we found them lying together hand in hand looking happy as if nothing ill had ever happened to them. It was March 25. And now there are three gravestones on Tol EressŰa in the garden of Elrond."

Elrond took a deep breath and stood silently before the markers. Then he bowed deeply and turned to Ălfwine. "Come. Its late."

END
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Old 04-02-2020, 09:37 AM   #2
Huinesoron
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In the words of a certain Hobbit, "I've put this off for far too long..."

Reading this story, I mean - it was a month ago I asked if commenting on it was okay! But, like Master Samwise, I made it here in the end.

I was a little wary of this story for the first half or so, when it seemed it might be about to turn into just a retelling of LotR, but I should have had more faith. The gravestones proved how wrong I was, and the story after that point was pure emotional gold. The high points, as I'm sure you intended, were the reunions/acclamation, Bilbo's visit to the tower, and Sam's arrival.

The line that's sticking with me is "I had to wait for her to leave first", which is just so Sam. It also draws a link between the hero of LotR and its author; it would be nice to think that after Tolkien lamented that "the story has gone crooked, & I am left, and I cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos," he was able to console himself by thinking of Sam and Rosie's end; and if he imagined it anything like this, it would be a comforting tale indeed.

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Old 01-23-2022, 05:54 PM   #3
Mithadan
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Tales From Tol EressŰa:
Conversations in AvallˇnŰ ľ Part I
by Mithadan

Ălfwine had tarried in the house of Elrond but a fortnight when the wind turned and blew from the East, bringing with it a stream of thin rushing clouds. Dancing amid the clouds were kestrels and gulls, wings spread wide in the stiff breeze. Their mournful cries awoke in Ălfwine a great desire to again breathe the salt air and walk the shores of the sea. And so he resolved to take his leave of Elrond and Celebrian, yet not without some regret, for within the walls of that house for the first time in his restless life he had found a profound sense of peace. The halls of Elrond were like no other; ancient beyond the reckoning of men but seemingly less weighted down by the passing of the ages than the dwellings of other Elf lords. It was as if the house was unchanging and constant so that if, by chance, he was to return a century hence the fire would still be lit while stories were told. Yet it seemed that Elrond understood the hearts of men like no other in this land.

So it was that on a fine sunny morning Ălfwine strode through the gates of the house of Elrond carrying a light pack and bade his hosts farewell. Elrond regarded Ălfwine gravely, then turned his grey eyes to the East as if to see where the road would lead this man. "The sea longing is shared by Elves and Men alike," said Elrond. "It is difficult to resist yet I deem that you are not yet ready to take leave of our fair isle. So I bid you return when you wish, and the chance allows. You will be welcome."

"Yes," said Celebrian. "Come when you may. Your stay here has gladdened us for it brings memories of ages past when we yet dwelt in Middle earth and many a child of Man graced our halls."

"I will return if I can," replied Ălfwine. "Indeed never have I been happier than these past weeks. If I may, I shall visit these halls again."

Elrond smiled broadly and his eyes glittered like stars in a cloudless midnight sky. "Indeed you must, for many are the tales which can be told and the songs that may be sung. You have heard but a few and broad is the lore of the Eldar.

"Midsummer is but three weeks hence and, on its eve, many will be the guests in my home. That is a night like no other for songs and stories and then might even your great appetite for tales of old be sated. Come then if you may and join us in welcoming the sun's first light on Midsummer's morn. Then you will indeed be glad of the fate that has brought you here."

"I thank you," said Ălfwine. "And I shall surely return then for who could deny such an invitation from so gracious a host." He bowed to the Elves and lifting his pack he turned away.

"A moment!" cried Celebrian. "We would not have you depart without some token to remind you of your stay in the house of Elrond." She stepped forward and held out her hand. In it was a small knife, little longer than a finger and a half, in a silver sheath that glittered under the sun. The sheath was engraved with a six-pointed star encompassed within a circle. Between each ray of the star was set a white stone which seemed to glow in the morning light. Taking the knife, Ălfwine marveled at the beauty of the gift as he drew the tiny blade from its sheath.

"Take care!" warned Elrond. "It is very sharp and it will hold its edge even if you use it often."

"Thank you again!" stammered Ălfwine. "But for what shall I use this fine gift? Surely no one would waylay me in this land and even so what use would such a small blade be in my defense? Yet it is a thing of beauty and so precious of its own right."

Celebrian looked sidewise at her husband and laughed. "It is not for your defense. Nonetheless I suspect you may find a use for it." She smiled and her grey eyes glittered with mirth. "Farewell Ălfwine! May your road be pleasant and may it take you where you wish only to lead you back to our halls."

Elrond and his wife turned and strode up the white steps and through the heavy wooden gates of their house. Ălfwine stood for a while looking after them and, almost, chose to stay but a while longer. Then he sheathed the knife, placed it in a pocket of his pack and stepped out onto the road.

The road to AvallˇnŰ was longer than he expected and ever as he walked the sea birds wheeled and called above his head. But at last he drew near the Elven city; its white walls rose before him and its towers gleamed like snowy peaks outlined against the blue sky. And at last the gulls abandoned their game and soaring over the walls of the city returned to their home by the sea. One paused and lit on a branch of a tree whose limbs spread their shade over the road. It looked down at him as he passed as if reluctant to take leave of its play, then with a great cry it took to the air and wheeled away on the sea wind and passed into the West.

The road grew broad as it wound its way down to the gates of AvallˇnŰ. Of mother of pearl they were wrought, and they shimmered in grey and white and opalescent blue. Almost fragile they seemed, though bound and barred with gleaming silver, but then who in this land was there to lay siege to them? Yet Ălfwine knew somehow that no might of men unaided could topple those doors. Today, like most days, save when OssŰ was at play and a rare storm lashed the enchanted seas, the gates of AvallˇnŰ stood open wide and many were passing through them on errand, errantry or leisure.

Just inside Ălfwine paused to look about and his gaze came to rest on the great tower, the Mindon AnduliÚva. Built of polished coral rock the slender tower rose nigh unto four hundred feet to its great lamp whose light pierced the darkness even of a starless night. He perceived that on the dark night months before when a storm had whipped the waves into a frenzy until his empty ship was beaten into submission, it was the Mindon's light that he had seen at the verge of sight, beckoning him to safety. Only the glow of that light had prevented him from surrendering to the might of the sea then. In a chamber just under that lamp, Ălfwine now knew, there rested a palantÝr which gazed ever back to the mortal lands that the Elves had left behind. He wondered if on that night someone had watched through the palantÝr as he struggled to reach the lands to the West that had for so long been forbidden to Man.

As he wandered through the streets of the city, many a passerby stopped to stare at the raven-haired Man. This did not concern Ălfwine; he had experienced the same expressions of wonderment in Tavrobel and on the roads that he had traveled on the lonely Isle. Ignoring the buzz of conversation and the whispers of "Atan," he strode on until he reached a great square in which many fountains played, their streams melting into rainbows beneath the light of the sun. To his left rose the Mindon, impossibly slim for its height so that he could not long gaze up at it without growing dizzy. To his right the streets sloped down to the quays of AvallˇnŰ where many white ships lay tied to the docks. Nearby, a small group of Elf children, almost the first he had seen on the island, danced beneath the spray of a fountain.

Suddenly they became aware of him and scrambled over to crowd around his legs. Enraptured by the music of their voices and their lithesome grace, he knelt among them and one reached out hesitantly to touch his face. When her fingers reached his beard she cried out in delight and her fellows skipped and giggled, pointing at Ălfwine. And Ălfwine laughed too for he thought he understood now the purpose of Celebrian's gift. In the months since he had arrived on the shores of this place, not once had he beheld an Elf with a beard.

The children returned to their game and he rose and proceeded down to the quays. The scent of the ocean filled the air and his heart pounded in his chest as he drew near the many swan-prowed ships. He wandered among the docks taking their measure and wondering at the beauty of their smooth white hulls. No stain of pitch or oil marred their planks and the manner of the making of the hulls was beyond his knowledge. Their banners of white, blue and green, glinting with traceries of gold and silver, rustled in the endless breeze and, once again, the sea birds filled the skies.

He continued on along the quays approaching a great white swanship, larger than any he had seen. Its banners were grey with blue stars and wings were carved upon its sides. It was drawn up to a dock and several Elves bustled about its hull cleaning it of the stains of the sea. As he drew near, he became aware of two figures standing near a seawall by its prow. Then, with a cry of surprise, Ălfwine rushed forward for one appeared to be a Man, his hair silvered by age, with a long beard. Hearing his cry the two turned to him and by the glitter of his grey eyes whose depths reflected the wisdom of ages, Ălfwine knew he had erred and that the silver haired one was indeed of the Eldar.

"My pardon," puffed Ălfwine as he reached the two Elves. "By your beard I took you to be one of my people; one of the children of Men. But I see I am mistaken."

"And I see that you in truth are of the Atani. What wonder is this that a Man is permitted the Straight Path?" replied the bearded Elf in a voice deep as the seas. "Come. Sit and speak with us for I would hear your tale. I am CÝrdan, a shipwright of the Teleri."

"Ălfwine I am called," responded the Man. "And I would also hear your tale for no Elf that I have seen wears a beard." He sat on the wall and for the first time looked upon the second Elf. He was very tall and his hair was dark and shot with tones of rich red, but his face was deeply lined as if he had suffered some torment. His hands he held behind his back and he neither sat nor spoke.

"Even an Elf may show some sign of eld after the passage of many ages and I am old even in the eyes of my people. Few live on this Isle who can recall the waters of CuiviÚnen," said CÝrdan as he gazed out at the waves marching in endlessly toward the shore.

"CuiviÚnen?" murmured Ălfwine. "It is a name I have heard here but only as a rumor of echoes of ages past. A legendary place I thought it. Does CuiviÚnen exist?"

"It did," replied CÝrdan with a sigh. "A land of green hills, forested cliffs and the sweet music of water it was. From the quiet voices of streams winding through the fallen leaves of seasons past to the tinkling splash of silver falls descending into sapphire basins worn into the foundations of hills, the air there was ever filled with the restless song of the waters. It filled my heart with joy and long would I stand just listening to the plash and burble of the streams of CuiviÚnen. The green forests called to others of my kindred, but ever did I hearken to the sounds of water."

He paused and his eyes grew bright yet distant as if he beheld some remote vision. "Long we dwelt there in happiness, where all seemed new and wondrous. And we wandered the hills and fields giving names to all we saw. The earth, its trees and grasses and waters entered into and became part of our being and thus ever did the Elves cherish and wish to preserve the loveliness of Arda. It is a part of us as we are a part of it."

"If CuiviÚnen was so blessed a place then why did the Elves leave it?" asked Ălfwine.

"After a time, long perhaps in the measure of Man, but far too soon, darkness came or more truly darkness found us, for it dwelt ever in the world," said the Elf. "Clouds came and darkened the sky and the hills became stalked by evil things. Dark shapes flew overhead mantled in fire. And many feared to wander the hills for some who did so would not return. Ever and anon the screams of some fair elf who had been seized would pierce the air as we huddled together by our fires. And more than any other shadow that haunted CuiviÚnen did we curse the Black Horseman for he would chase down our kin and carry them off to where we knew not."

His eyes blazed in anger. "One day I left our camp with VilwŰ, a close friend, and we followed a stream down from the hills. I waded among the reeds as he ran among the nearby trees seeking to steal back the contentment which had been taken from us. And for a time we forgot the darkness and fear that had settled upon the Quendi. Then I heard a clamour and din from the camp and VilwŰ cried out in pain. When I turned, there at the clearing's edge stood the Horseman on his black steed and VilwŰ he held under one arm. As the shouts of the Elves from the camp drew near, he spurred his horse closer and threw back his sable hood to look down at me.

"As one of the Quendi he seemed, with black hair and bright eyes, but his mouth was drawn in a sneer. Our eyes met and I staggered as from a blow, for at that moment I saw within him the depths of his corruption; doors of black iron, walls of shadow and towers of tortured stone. For no cause but that I could think and reason he hated me and all my kind, and he sought to whelm me over with his dark thought and strip me of will so that I could not resist him. Nonetheless I leapt forward to aid my friend, but he laughed and his horse carried him away with a rush just as my kin burst into the clearing where I stood."

CÝrdan was silent for a long time, his jaw clenched at the foul memory. "I saw him again. Not in CuiviÚnen but ages later. Messengers came from Eregion to Lindon summoning us to a council, for a stranger had come to Hollin promising gifts of skill and wonder. Our lord Gil-Galad bade Elrond and I attend the council and we journeyed long to reach that fair land. We were brought to Celebrimbor's Great Hall to meet with Annatar, the 'Lord of Gifts'. There he sat with Celebrimbor and his household, laughing and feasting amid the carved columns and tapestried walls of the Hall.

"Fair he seemed with golden hair and noble visage like some benevolent king who sought to impart his wisdom upon those who would but have his counsel. As I sat at the table, he looked up at me smiling, and from his open mind his thought reached out to me with friendship. But the fair veils that had deceived Celebrimbor and his people shifted like gauze in the wind, and of a sudden I saw those same images that I had seen ages ago; doors of black iron and walls and towers of shadow. And I knew him, if not his name, and I leapt up and my chair fell behind me with a crash. In my anger I could not find my voice and I reached for my sword for, unlawful as it might have been to assail one who comes to council in peace, I would have sought to slay him in memory of VilwŰ and the Lost.

"But as was the practice in those times, I had left my blade outside the Hall and Elrond restrained me and pulled me to the door. Ere I reached the portal I contained my fury and said 'Treat not with this one for deceit is his counsel and sorrow will be the result.' But 'Annatar' responded 'I suppose manners are otherwise for those who dwell among the trees. Water should be his draught and not the heady wines of noble Eregion.' And many laughed but Elrond looked back as 'Annatar' smiled and saw that his eyes blazed and read therein a hatred for all who walked free. Thus when I told Elrond my tale, he believed me and we counseled Gil-Galad to close his kingdom to the Bringer of Gifts. But Celebrimbor in his pride and desire for knowledge would not credit my words . . . " CÝrdan's voice trailed off in sadness and his head dropped until his eyes could not be seen.

"You read his thought? How is that possible?" asked Ălfwine when CÝrdan looked up at last.

"The skill is known as ËsanwŰ among my people and all free speaking peoples possess it in some measure, if they can recognize it. Even Men possess some semblance of the skill, but few are they who can use ËsanwŰ, which is difficult even for the Eldar," replied CÝrdan.

They sat quietly on the wall, each lost in thought for a moment. The dark-haired Elf remained silent where he stood, facing the wind which blew in from the sea. At times he would rub his hands together as if they pained him. At length Ălfwine stirred.

"How did the Quendi escape the darkness which had fallen on CuiviÚnen?" he asked. "Did you flee that land to some fairer place?"

CÝrdan smiled. "We did not flee. We knew not where we could go. But then we were found by OromŰ and the Valar protected us until we were summoned into the West and Morgoth, the dark lord, had been jailed in Mandos. But even then, some remained behind and others turned aside on the long road which led to the sea. Many we never saw again."

"What befell those who remained behind? Could some enclave of the Quendi yet reside in my world? There are many tales of magical beings told among my people. Might Elves yet live in Middle Earth?" queried Ălfwine.

"We do not know what befell those who remained behind though many who turned aside ultimately joined us in the West," responded CÝrdan. "Some say many who feared the West were at last taken by Sauron whom the Valar found not when Utumno was overthrown, and that all the Lost were corrupted and become the seed of the foul race of orcs. Others hold otherwise and say the orcs were bred from animals given cunning by spirits unknown and later joined with some of the race of Men. Of those not taken by the darkness, some say that the Elves who forever forsook the West became worn by the trials of the world until they faded and their hr÷ar, their bodies, disappeared leaving their fŰar, their spirits, to wander houseless roaming with regret and living amid the memories of the past.

"The Quendi loved Middle Earth and many were loathe to leave. This was and remains our nature. Stone and hill, tree and leaf, flower and stalk, droplet and stream pierce us to our cores each to his own measure. And love we give in return and impart our own essence into our surroundings, giving as we receive. To leave any place where we have long dwelt is hard, for to depart is to leave some portion of ourselves behind.

"Mere words do not pass on the depth of such feelings. Men do not understand this; even the Valar do not wholly grasp this aspect of our nature, naming us 'willful' or 'wayward' though we are as Eru intended. Thus Turgon could not leave Gondolin even at the urging of Ulmo himself and Celebrimbor could not abandon Eregion even at the last.

"Even I almost turned aside," he mused. "During the long journey from CuiviÚnen into the West, we came upon a mighty river, the Anduin, and I was overcome by the joy of its music. I leaped into its waters and floated downstream and almost resolved to dwell beside its banks. But some inner voice told me my fate was otherwise and bade me continue on. So I left Anduin behind with regret and continued on to Beleriand.

"The Teleri were the last house of the Quendi to arrive in that fair land and I was late even among the Teleri. When I crossed the Blue Mountains and entered Beleriand my lord ElwŰ had disappeared in its forests and many sought for him, but I continued on to the fringes of the land and came to the great sea. In the distance I saw the lights of fires and lanterns twinkling on this island as it was drawn away into the West and with it were many of my kin. I bemoaned my fortune and wondered how I might cross the ocean into the West. And a voice came within me, and whether it was some inner voice or a message from the Valar I knew not, but it bade me to live by the sea so that I might ever succor those of the Quendi who might come to me, lost or left behind, until the last of my people resolved to leave the world. I rejoiced then for I loved the sea and its myriad colors and moods and voices and so I dwelt on the shores of Middle Earth until the Last Ship departed and no others would willingly pass into the West."

"How could you know there were no others willing to go?" wondered Ălfwine.

"One night," CÝrdan responded, "when many years, had passed without any of my kindred arriving at my halls, a great wind arose and the sea surged. The lines which held the one remaining ship at her dock snapped and the winds filled its white sails. But the ship did not move from its place. And from the West came a great eagle which folded its wings and plummeted down only to land on the very rail of the ship. It looked at me with its bright eyes and spread its wings wide. Then with a great cry it leaped to the air and sped back into the West just as the sudden storm died. And suddenly I knew the time had come and all who remained should now depart." CÝrdan paused and smiled at his companion who stood silently by.

"Then those few who remained, Teleri and the Noldo, the tarriers and the rebel, gathered such things as they would not leave behind and took ship. For we knew our time was done and all grievances forgiven. And the Havens lay silent and empty behind us."

The wind blew their hair as the sun westered and the sea birds clamored in the skies above. A swan ship cut through the waves, spray leaping from its prow as it left the harbour. The sun gleamed in CÝrdan's hair as his bright eyes turned to the sea.

Ălfwine frowned slightly in puzzlement. "What rebel do you speak of?" he asked. "I have heard of the rebellion of the Noldor and the ban against their return. But the ban was lifted, and I am told all departed soon after the end of the Third Age."

"The ban was lifted as to all but one," responded CÝrdan. "One remained behind and did not return. But by the time the Last Ship sailed even he was pardoned." CÝrdan turned to his silent companion and said "This, Ălfwine, is Maglor, son of FŰanor."

TO BE CONTINUED
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