A tale of future ages in Arda, as derived from the Elven lore translated by J. R. R. Tolkien
Author's note: Yes – this is a Silmarillion fic, I swear it. It's a different sort of fic, to be sure, but it's a fic nonetheless.
The song Gil Estel is quoting is "Song of the Stars", by the filk band Echo's Children. It is one of the most beautiful songs I ever had the pleasure of hearing and is highly recommended to all. It is also Earendil's song, quite plainly.
And there is another one! Oh yes, I can see them. They are becoming more and more frequent of late, once every few cycles of the moon. I rarely catch them when they spread their wings anymore, rather always when they are already past the atmosphere, blazing in the night. You cannot miss them in their radiance, starlight reflecting off their polished hulls, like comets or fairer yet. And when they sail against the black empty background of space, I know not what keeps me from coming any closer, bidding them welcome.
It was lonely in the sky for so many years, after all.
I never truly dreamed I would have company someday, any day at all, never dared to think it. My vessel was hallowed by godly powers, and both it and I survive for that reason alone. It is cold out here in space, cold and empty and dark, and very lonely. Not down on the planets, maybe. Sometimes I find life, strange other creatures, sometimes I find a pure world yet untouched by civilization, and in those I take comfort. But between them, between them it is always lonely.
Thus always I thought the fragile bodies and minds of my father's people would never withstand the journeys I have made strengthened by my mother's blood. Alas, I thought not they would ever look to the stars at all.
Six ages and more I have sailed in the endless void beyond the world, and I have seen beauty, and I have seen life, and I have seen wonders and stars unnumbered. I have traveled beyond the most distant shore and forsaken frontier. I have seen the stars for what they are, almost touched those wonders my mother's people long for countless years and still do. It would dazzle my people to know where I've run; there are billions of worlds and each star is a sun…yes, that I sing when the tower gleams to me from below and a white bird takes flight from its window. But I always come back home, always, to the world of my birth and the birth of my both my peoples, to look down on its own beauty, hope and remember. And I have seen my father's people.
Kingdoms I have seen rise, proud and fair, as proud and as fair as those of the firstborn in a past age forgotten. Kings I have seen and queens, valiant warriors and dreaming poets. Glory I have seen, the glory of the earth, humble glory content in its place lest something greater come upon it. And I have seen death, and hatred, and cruel war, and endless bloodshed, and inner strife and splitting and shattering. All that they built I have seen crumble, and I know now that they know that all the toils of Man are mortal, and all the hopes of Man are mortal, and nothing lasts but decay and despair, not for Man.
All that I know, and well I know, my lesson is well-learned.
And with that well-learned lesson in my heart, I began sailing over the earth more and more, my ship and the sacred jewel upon my brow shining in the hours of dusk, a sigil of hope as ever they have been. I hoped for them, because they deserved hope, so long as they never stopped looking at the stars.
The void was growing colder, and I waited.
Six ages I waited, content to wait, content in the strange ships bearing strange sigils and strange beings between countless suns. Six ages, but I have blazed in the hours of cruel dusk from the open heavens, and I dreamed that they looked and remembered. I dreamed that in me, they saw not the promise of day, but the glory of the open, starry night.
Long, lonely years…
And they came.
I have seen the lights grow down on the earth. I have seen the cities rising, huge networks of light, flying machines and sky-scraping towers, wonders as the firstborn could only dream of. I have seen wars ravage the land down to ashes, and from the ashes a newborn flame. And I've seen the ship rising, a phoenix in flight, to the stars I knew only as sharp points of light… I have seen it. Small and not at all fair and radiant as my ship, built with crude metal and wiring, no more than a box. But within, within a Man was sitting, and I dream that I have seen the tears roll down his face as he first glimpsed the planet of his birth from above. In his tears I saw echoed my own.
Countless years before, I have stirred my ship up to the heavens, first of all the children of the world. I wept for joy too many miles to count above the only world I knew, gazing upon an endless field of stars that I could almost touch.
Space had grown lonelier since.
But I looked upon that man, thinking of the generations that set us apart, thinking that even if I was to approach him, to speak to him, he would not hear me nor understand. I knew, even if I approached, he would not believe his sight, for in the many ages gone by the world changed, and sights such as I are no longer known to Man. Yet there we both were, seeing the stars through a haze of sweet tears, and we might as well have been brothers.
Since then, I have often seen them come. Secretly, without the knowledge of any, I stirred my ship to follow them in their journeys, seeing each time how they wept upon the sight of their world. I have seen wonders in eyes I thought dimmed forever, and laughter in the emptiness and joy in the void. There were my father's people, and now we shared eternity.
Oh, but how it shines! Recently they come more and more. They are building something, I think, I see it often on my way home. A construct of metal silver, black and white, unlike anything I have ever seen before. I am certain that those who have built and hallowed my ship would frown at it, a work of cold science rather than fair magic. But me, I know which is the more glorious of the two, which one was built only with skilled hands and true love.
Man is building a home among the stars; Man is going home at last.
Have I spoken of a cold, lonely void?
There it is, their ship, veering now away from the planet cradle. There they are, the men within, weeping for joy as they look out to the starry infinity. I cannot help it, I must go closer, only a little, I must see them, my father's people, my people. I must see…
And I know not how, but I hear them laugh and weep, and of a sudden it is as if they see me, those whom I thought no longer possessed of enough ability to dream. Of a sudden they shout, and they rush to the windows of their vessel. They see me, those dreamers, they truly do!
I can hear them shouting, I can hear them speak, I understand their speech. No more borders.
"Hail Earendil, brightest of stars!"
Brightest of stars? Me?
I look back to their new home, and I smile.
No matter. Someday they will understand.