"My lord," said the sentry. "There is an emissary from Lindon here to see you."
Elendil laid down his stylus and blotted the ink upon the page before nodding to the man to show Ereinion Gil-galad's messenger in. His work had not been going well, and though he needed to finish his account of the Downfall, to soothe his own heavy spirits if not for posterity, he welcomed the break.
The man who came in was one of the Eldar, almost as tall as he, and dark haired. Under a travel-stained gray cloak, he wore the star of Gil-galad upon his breast. He folded long-fingered hands over that insignia as he made his greeting. "Mae govannen, Elendil Amandilion."
Elendil understood the patronymic well enough, though it was uttered in Sindarin. "Mai tuldo coanyanna," he replied in Quenya, adding, "Though poor the accommodations are. This shelter we have only finished five days ago and storms yet pound us from the west. Please, take my camp stool, it is more comfortable than sitting on the floor. I will have another brought."
The Elf studied him with intense gray eyes as he shed his rain-soaked cloak and laid it in a neat heap upon the stool. "You do not speak Sindarin? I was under the impression the tongue was widely used in Númenor."
"I do not speak it very well," Elendil admitted. "When I was a boy it was forbidden to speak the Elven tongues. My mother taught me to read and write Quenya in secret, and I sounded out the words as I wrote them, but Sindarin was not spoken openly in my family's household." Only later, when Tar-Palantír became King and the ban was briefly lifted, could Sindarin be spoken again without fear of reprisal. By then, however, Elendil was an adult and found too much difficulty in picking up the language to pursue it; he simply let Isildur or Anárion translate whatever he could not understand. "Now please, do me the honor of taking my seat."
"With me having to stare well-nigh more than a ranga up at you? Nay, I shall have a crick in my neck ere long. But if you insist upon it, Lord Elendil, I will sit." He shifted the cloak, laying it across his lap as he sat.
Elendil promptly went to the door and ordered the sentry to send for another camp stool, if one could be found in the makeshift settlement, and food and drink for his guest. "We have not much to offer in the way of hospitality," he said, returning, "but you are welcome to it, my lord…?" He paused, realizing then that he did not know his visitor's name.
The Elf noticed. "I have been remiss, forgive me. My name is Elrond. I am herald to Gil-galad the High King." A slow, gentle smile stole over his lips. "My brother was Elros Tar-Minyatur."
"He was your brother?" You do not look three thousand years old. But then, Elendil had little experience of the Eldar, for though they had come in secret sometimes to Andúnië in his father's time, by the time he was a man they came no more to Númenor. "Then that would make you--?"
Elrond gave a little laugh. "Your uncle, Lord Elendil? Nay, do not think of me as an uncle. Perhaps I spoke prematurely, for I merely mentioned my kinship with Elros that you would remember you have ties here, and friends in Lindon, and that is the message I bear you from Gil-galad the High King. Supplies we will bring you, as soon as we are able, but you must know that the storm caused much damage along the coast. Lindon suffered some losses; some of our people have been left homeless."
"Your king is most generous. We would not think to impose upon Lindon, Lord Elrond."
"All the same, we will send food and building materials to supplement that which you have brought, and perhaps archers to defend your camps. Some of the King's Men yet hold the forts along the coasts and may seek to do you harm, though their lord is no more."
Elrond was speaking not of Gil-galad now, but of Ar-Pharazôn, whose fortresses stretched the length of the coast of Middle Earth. "We—we have not had any tidings of the Great Armament, only its…aftermath."
"There is a palantír at Lindon, that speaks to the one at Tol Eressëa," Elrond explained. "Your King landed at Tirion on the hill of Túna that is within sight of Taniquetil, and claimed the land as his own. While he was encamped there, Manwë appealed to Eru Ilúvatar. The King and all his men that made landfall in Valinor were buried under a great fall of rocks, and his ships swept with all their men into the abyss that opened in the Sea. After that…I believe you know the rest."
"Yes, I know." The utter gall of the man, though that was ever his way, to take what he wanted. He died as he deserved, yet was it necessary that so many should have had to die with him? "Ar-Pharazôn was never my King," he said tightly. "Unlawfully he took the Sceptre and did much evil whilst he wielded it. You are now seeing the result, in all those made homeless, in the storms that batter your city. Andúnië and Rómenna were so battered in the years before the end, when the Valar withdrew from us their favors."
Elrond tilted his head slightly at the bitterness in Elendil's voice. "The storms will cease," he said, "and none here have been harmed by them. It would not be the first time the Sea has battered Lindon."
"Have you ever been to Andúnië or Rómenna, perelda?"
"No, for I did not see Elros much after his fate was sundered from that of the Eldar, and my place then was elsewhere. I went once to Númenor. I saw the Meneltarma and the city of Armenelos Elros built at its foot. It was a lovely land then, a vision of Arda unmarred."
"It was lovely even in the days of its waning," Elendil said defensively. "Or at least, I loved it."
"Elendil," Elrond began, and his voice was soft, coaxing, "you are not the only one to have lost a homeland. Sirion where I was born was long ago taken by the waves; its willows and gentle reeds are no more. And when at least you meet with him perhaps Gil-galad will tell you of lost Brithombar and Eglarest, the Havens of the Falas where he dwelt as a child. Much the Eldar had is now lost." His gaze dropped to the makeshift desk and chanced upon the manuscript Elendil had been working on. For a moment he studied it. "I did not know you were a phethdain."
"Forgive me, an ingolmo."
"A loremaster? Nay, I have no skill at that art. I am a man of the Sea, a ciryandil. I prefer the smell of salt and pitch to that of ink." Elendil stifled the urge to whisk the parchment off the desk and hide it. I should have put it away before he came. Now he will want to read it, and I am ungainly with words. I have no talent to say what I witnessed, or felt, or feel now. Perhaps I should leave such things to those that have the skill and not be bothered with it.
"Yet among all your other duties, you take time to write this." Elrond shifted the paper over to the glow of the room's single candle. "Forgive me for prying," he said, giving Elendil a knowing glance, "but you are writing about Númenor? Yes, Mar-nu-Falmar, Home-under-the-Waves, that I recognize, but this word, Akallabêth, is that Adûnaic? Elros loved the sound of that tongue, but always it seemed strange and a little uncouth to me."
The sentry came in with another stool and a jug of ale. He was still trying to collect some food suitable for visitors, he said, but would be back. Elendil waved him out of the room and set up the stool across the desk from Elrond. He sank down, his long legs splayed before him upon the earthen floor. "It means the Downfallen," he said heavily.
"Akallabêth." Elrond rolled the unfamiliar word on his tongue, then turned to the text. "'and there came a mighty wind and a tumult of the earth, and the sky reeled and the hills slid, and Númenor went down into the sea'." He set the parchment aside, smoothing its edges with reverent hands. "Forgive me again, Elendil. I seem to be much overstepping the bounds of courtesy this evening, and that is not proper for an emissary of the High King who comes in friendship. Believe me when I say I would not have given attention to the page or read aloud from it had I known you were writing so of the Downfall. It is my own curiosity, I fear, for I am a phethdain by nature, and cannot resist reading from whatever page is given me. Still, I would not have asked you to bare that wound to me."
Elendil said nothing as he rummaged about his baggage for two cups. Finding a pair of battered leather-bound tankards, he poured the ale and gave one cup to Elrond. "It need not have happened that way."
"I do not pretend to understand the fate woven into the Music of the Ainur." Elrond took a sip of ale before continuing, "There are many things that happen that could have been different, and who is to say if the outcome would have been better for it? Had my mother given the sons of Fëanor the Silmaril as they demanded, many lives would have been saved at Sirion, there is no question. But who is to say that outcome would have been for the best in the end? Only Eru knows all strands of the Music and what sound they will make, and of the Valar only Mandos knows the fates of all who are born or will ever be."
"You speak of too many possibilities, of too many what ifs. I do not wrap myself in words or mysteries, Lord Elrond. I am a plain man and I know only what is. I will never see my home again, and there are too many whom I have lost."
"You saved many Faithful, did you not?"
Elendil closed his eyes, nodding. The numbers seemed so small in comparison to those Sauron had taken for the altars in Armenelos, and those who had not made it to the ships. "Not enough, there were not nearly enough. I left too many good people behind, and yes, some of them were Faithful." Why did I not ride to Armenelos once Ar-Pharazôn left and compel his queen to return with me? She should have come with me, but I was too afraid to leave my ships in Rómenna, and now she is drowned. "I would we had evacuated much sooner. We might have come back for them, though it would have been seen as treason to leave Númenor then."
"Always we grieve for those we could not save, and ask ourselves if there was not something we could have done differently. Do not let your guilt overwhelm your good reason. Remember that you did what seemed most prudent at the time," said Elrond. "Were he here, Gil-galad the King would no doubt tell you the same."
It is so easy for you to give such counsel. It is ever easy for the innocent to give counsel unwitting, he thought. How many people do you think could be housed aboard nine ships? How much lore, how many precious things of Númenor do you think we were able to save? The number of refugees would increase once Isildur and Anárion joined him with their respective followings, for they had been separated in the storm that blew them away from Númenor's destruction, but in Elendil's eyes it would never be enough. He would always be searching the crowd for the faces left behind. And in his dreams he would see flames bursting from the summit of the Meneltarma and the earth opening to swallow the forests and fields and cities, all crumbling, falling into water and darkness.
Elves slept with their eyes open, he was told, and did not dream in the manner of Men. Would Elrond even know what a nightmare is, if I told him?
"As for this text, I will say but one thing more, Elendil. It is good to write about that which has come before. It is good to write from one's spirit. Perhaps one day you will visit me at Imladris. I have gathered many books of lore that I would share with you. Now here," said Elrond, taking the stylus and dipping it into the inkwell. On a scrap of parchment, he carefully wrote something, then blew on it to dry the ink. "It is no easier for an Elf to write or speak of his loss than a Man; Elros told me this many times, in the correspondence I had with him. But I will give you this, as someone gave me these words when Elros died. They were of some comfort, though they did not take away all the pain. Yes," he said, smiling, "though the Eldar are immortal we do feel the pain of loss as keenly as any mortal."
He slid the parchment across the makeshift desk and Elendil took it, leaning forward into the candlelight to read it. Elrond's handwriting was that of a typical loremaster, small and crabbed, and he had written but a single word in Quenya: "Renuvammet."
We shall remember them. With trembling hands, Elendil folded the bit of parchment and tucked it into his tunic pocket, next to his heart.
* * *
"Mae govannen, Elendil Amandilion": (Sindarin) "Well met, Elendil son of Amandil."
"Mai tuldo coanyanna": (Quenya) "Welcome to my home." Big thanks to Aerlinnel for the translation!
ranga: the Númenorean equivalent of a yard. Elendil is described as being above two rangar high, or well over seven feet. This would make him as tall as, if not taller, than the typical Elf.
perelda: the Quenya equivalent of peredhel, meaning "Half-Elven."
phethdain: (Sindarin) loremaster, or "word-smith."
ciryandil: a "ship-friend" or lover of ships.
The text from which Elrond reads is a direct quote from The Silmarillion, page 345.