Disclaimer: Middle-earth and all its inhabitants are the property of J.R.R. Tolkien and his estate. I intend no infringement of copyright and am making no money from this.
Summary: Eärendil awaits a reunion with more than a little fear in his heart.
The tap of his finest leather boots on the fair cobbles is not impatient; it lags, tinged with a bitter regret for things which cannot be helped.
But would I change them? Could I damn all Arda?
And still he does not know, even though he has asked himself this question many a time in his long voyaging.
He pauses at a street corner, leaning against the sun-warmed stone, desperately seeking some measure of calm, attempting to root himself in this reassuringly solid earth. But it seems that the land does not forget his wanderings, and the chill of the deep void lingers in his bones, and there is no solace to be found in the anonymous façade of a stranger's house.
It is anonymity which he craves now, not to be known, not to be betrayed by his fair countenance, more than anything else –or more than most things, for there is one thing… But he dare not name it, for it is so fragile, so like the gossamer silk of a spider's web, that if he reaches out for it, it will fall into ruin…
The crowd at the quayside shuffles and murmurs, awaiting this ship, this one ship, the arrival of which signals so much rejoicing. For all in the Blessed Realm know who now sails to them…
He wishes that all voyages could be so joyful. Of course, he knows that this one, too, means bitter partings, friendships severed by time and space, kin sundered by the Circles of Arda. Yet, he cannot help but be carried by the sound, which has grown to a dull roar in his mind. Hither and thither he tumbles through the paths of memory, down and down to a distant shore and a far off time. Another crowd, with fear in their eyes and numb dread in their hearts, the face of a woman, tilted up to him, and beside her…
He wonders if it would be better if he remembered. For it seems to him that in this one thing alone, his Edain blood courses true in his veins. He can see the day he met her, his love, his life, his earth-anchor and his salvation, as clear as the gilt threads which adorn his cuffs; he can see Gondolin burning, and, amid the flames, Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower, his sword raised high in wrath. But when he thinks of them, tries to recall their faces to his immortal mind, he cannot.
A whiff of the inimitable scent of a small child, young skin, and strong lye soap, and the pungent tang of seaweed from a day spent exploring the rockpools… High, pure laughter … Eyes like stars and thick, silky hair as they curled into his lap, begging for a story… But he cannot remember its hue, although he sometimes awakens in the night, alone among the myriad stars, convinced that they are asleep next to him, babes in arms, their hair tickling his weathered skin…
She tells him, for she knew them longer. But he does not believe her, cannot believe her, for that would make all this far too real … and their triumphs and disasters, and the long, slow fall into darkness which is the fate of all Men, even those of Elven kin. It would mean that he would have to believe that there dwells a lady in Tirion, her hair as silver as starlight and as moonlight, and that she was the prize, the jewel, found only to be lost, of a great and noble heart. It would mean that he would have to believe that the flesh of his flesh could suffer so. And he would know, as every father does, that he could have prevented it…
So he did not look, not too closely, as he passed over the deep valley of the cleft. He saw naught by the fires of its merry-making, nor by the trickling waters of its sorrow, for he knew that a sailor's sea-courage was not enough. And now he does not look to Gondor for all its renewed glory; he fears that in the burnished waters of the Anduin he shall see reflected the tears of his own anguish.
He begins again to tread the streets, intent on attaining the square, although the air itself seems to hold him back in its treacled grasp, the faint breeze whispering words of flight in his ears. He almost jumps at the creek of the leather as he pirouettes to avoid an elfling playing with a dog in the road, and there it is before him, the sea of people, so much more unpredictable than the briny deeps. They heave and surge, and he cannot pick one from another, cannot even see that from which he shies.
He tugs at the neck of his tunic, suddenly wishing that he were not so salt-rimed, so blasted by the wind of the heavens. He convinces himself that he smells like the cold of the grave from the bleak blank between the stars, and like a fisherman's stall from the coarse sea air. It is all too much; he steels himself to leave, to forget…
And then, before he can turn, he takes an involuntary step forward as an elf-maiden speeds past him, her silver hair caught out behind her with the wind of her passage, her deep-blue skirts bunched up. A single figure turns from the crowd, and his face splits with a smile brighter than all of Anar's rays.
And his heart stops, and he remembers.
Black, sea-whipped hair against a wintry sky … Eyes, grey as the teeth of the storm, by firelight … two slender bodies, Elven and yet not … two voices raised in unison …
He must have stood like that, swamped by the tide of memory, for many exhausting minutes, for when he can see again through his blinding tears – though he knows not whether he cries for joy or sorrow – the other has kissed his lady wife to his satisfaction, and merely stands, looking down into her eyes as if he might drown in them, cease to be in their infinite blue.
And he knows that he cannot alter his path, for it was chosen for him, before the world was made, and he has not regrets.
So, although his feet still falter, he walks forward until those fathomless eyes fall upon him. He knows that in this instant, when confusion and not a little fear flit across that striking face, his destiny will be made or broken. Life lives not in the crystal prism of a gem wrought by foolhardy hand, but here, in the instant when one breathes, and is, loves and dies…
Within the span of a heartbeat, all hesitation flies away, for now he is enveloped in the crushing embrace of the son he last clapped eyes on as a mere elfling, and now stands before him as a lord, mighty and wise, venerable as a king crowned with many winters, and yet hale as a tried warrior in the fullness of his strength…
And he knows that whatever sorrows lie between them, and the loss in which they share, can be safely stored for the morrow.
Adar-nîn – my father
Ion-nîn – my son.
A/N: "venerable as a king crowned with many winters and yet hale as a tried warrior in the fullness of his strength" is (with one very, very minor alteration) from the chapter 'Many Meetings' in Fellowship of the Ring.
If you review and tell me what you think, you may save me from a horrible death as my muse eats me alive *grins*