By Starlight

The sun had waned almost completely when the Prince of Dol Amroth was at last free to close the door of his study and retire to seek for a much needed rest. Adrahil walked the short distance to the terrace, and once there took a deep breath and stretched as the chill breeze of Amroth's evening awakened his mind and fiddled with his tunic and hair. Night's blue mantle was unfurling; a few orange sun-rays still lingered far off to the west, but the moon shone bright and many stars were already blinking. The sight was amazingly inviting; it reminded him of the old days as a sailor, where it was only him, and the stars, and an enourmous, endless sea of black. He leaned forward, resting his arms over the iron railing, when his eyes caught a dim flicker on the ground to his left. A low but distinct whisper came, and he tilted his head to take a better hearing.

"Menelvagor... Helluin... Morwynion... Remm-i... What does it say here?"

Adrahil smiled upon hearing the cadence of a voice he knew so well, and somehow thought that he should not have been surprised. With as much stealth as a man his age could muster, the prince descended the few steps unto the garden, walking toward the bushes from whence the light came. He cleared his throat, "I suppose you think it wise for a young man your age to be wandering outside at night, alone."

Faramir jerked back and gasped; then, the contracted face slowly relaxed into a slight grin. "Good evening, grandfather," he replied, holding his lamp higher so he could take a better look at his Sire.

"Well?" Adrahil asked, putting up a frowning face and assuming a stern tone in his voice, arms crossed in front of him, "What have you to say for yourself?

"Well," the boy began, hesitatingly, but upon seeing the smile lurking in the corners of his grandfather's mouth, he continued in a rather confident manner, "I am already seven years old, and I carry a light with me, and I am still inside the palace, so I truly do not think anything could be amiss." Faramir looked up at him with that serious stare that he had recently adopted when realizing that Boromir no longer enjoyed to play with toy soldiers. It was Adrahil's feeling that the boy wished to make himself older when years were still against him so he would not lose his brother's company so soon. He wished to afford a few moments to think about this, but the youthful countenance suddenly looked so stern, that he could not help but let out a laugh at the sight.

"I reckon, then, that there is no room for an old man to sit by and interrupt a scholar's musings."

"Not at all, Sir!" Faramir yelled in eagerness, although suddenly checked himself. Moving aside so that Adrahil could take the dryest patch of ground, he crossed his legs, bending his knees upwards, and resting his head on them. He smiled, revealing one or two teeth missing, undoubtedly an improvement from last time, when there had only been a few to be seen and many holes. The child was growing fast, faster than he would have hoped.

"And, it would most certainly not be odd to find you with a book in your hands, eh? May I ask what is it that you read? That volume looks rather weighty, and old too, if I may say so. Do spill it out, lad."

"I found this at the library in your study," he admitted as he handed out the book for inspection, then quickly lowering his eyes to stare intently down to his sandal lace, a gesture that reminded Adrahil so much of his dear daughter! "Boromir took me in, you know. I am sorry, but you were not around to ask for permission, and I- I had to find a book about the stars."

"I see," Adrahil said at last, recognizing the bright blue cover of his 'Signs in the Heavens.' "And," he smiled kindly, trying to ease Faramir's discomfort, "why is it that you have taken to star-gazing? It is a pleasant study, no doubt. I've spent many a delightful evening watching the sky and pondering; but, methinks it is not a common past-time for one as young as you."

"Well," the child began, the keen look of concentration that most usually accompanied one of his deepest thoughts suddenly lighting his eyes, "Father has proposed a contest." The prince raised an eyebrow. Something in the child's voice spoke more of despair than excitement. "It's more like a wager." Adrahil looked baffled. At length, Faramir decided it was best if he told the full tale at once; narrowing his gaze in concentration, he began, "I found a star map the other day, while I helped master Gildor, the warden at Father's library. It was so beautiful and appeared to be so interesting! There were drawings on it of every kind, painted with bright colors, but I understood none of it! I showed it to Father, and asked him to teach me how to use it. He said that, if I learned my constellations right, he would!" Adrahil forced himself to smile in spite of the knot that he felt forming on his throat. How many others could teach this child how to read such a map! And yet, it was only natural that he would want his father to do it. With his own aged hand, he aided the wind in ruffling his grandson's hair, though with more tender caress. After a few moments of silence, the prince was surprised to hear Faramir speaking again, the voice muffled for his face was once again bent down, "If only I knew where to begin! There's just so many of them! They all look the same to me," and the sentence ended with a deep sigh.

"Well, then," Adrahil said, casting the book aside and pulling Faramir closer to him. "I think I may be useful, after all. I know a little bit of star-lore myself," and he winked, supressing a low chuckle. Clearly, the fact that he had been a sailor most of his life had escaped his grandson.

Faramir suddenly looked up at him, eyes open wide in wonderment, dividing looks of interest and curiosity between the old book that lay on the ground and his grandfather. "Do you know them all... by heart?"

Adrahil nodded, smiling with an exaggerated sense of pride that made Faramir giggle. "Let us start at the very beginning, shall we? Do you know why the stars are up there in the first place?"

"Why, to give us light in the night!" Faramir was quick to answer.

"Among a few other things." The child gave him an incredulous look. "Poets, for one thing, need the starlight to sing to their loved ones." Faramir snorted. "Rangers and sailors, such as myself, need the light of the stars to guide us when nothing else would. Rangers roam in the wild, skulking, and have to hide under great trees and inside caverns, wandering out at night quite often. What do you think guides them, but the stars and the patterns they make in the sky? And sailors too, out there in the sea, when there is nothing to look at, but a huge plain of blue waves of many hues to all sides? We learn our stars properly, so that we know where to stir, and how to return home."

"So," Faramir knit his brow tightly, "did you learn your stars when you were very young?"

"Well, let me remember... I may have been a year or so older than Boromir when I did. But, you see, my life depended on it, for I was to set sail in a couple of more years, and had I not learned how to read the signs in the heavens, I would have sunk!" and this was followed by the prince tickling Faramir's side, and the boy laughing out loud. "We do not know yet how useful this will prove to you in the future, son," Adrahil continued, pulling Faramir into a close embrace, and sitting him on his lap. "But, you will not regret having learned it. Now, did you know that the Elves are lovers of the starlight, too?" The last sentence made the young listener gape. "Indeed, they are. You know that-"

"Wait!" Faramir protested, rather loudly. "How do the rangers and sailors guide themselves during day-time? There are no stars to be seen then!"

"Ah, but you are wrong! You see, this is what I was going to tell you about right now. There is one star that shines, and if you look carefully, you can even see it sometimes when the sun is up, for its beauty and radiance is such that the rays of Anor cannot outmatch it. It is the star most beloved of the elves: Earendil. And, I would know of such things," Adrahil said, feigning to be vexed at Faramir's non-believing look. The boy snuggled closer to him, and so the tale began. "It was a long time ago, when many of the fair folk still lived this side of the sea, that an evil darkness covered the earth, threatening to drown everyone with it! The peril was such, that the hosts of elves and men, who were friends and allies for the most part, knew not how to vanquish that foul power. The need became desperate, and in a dangerous and almost deadly attempt to do what he could for Middle-Earth, a brave sailor, Earendil, decided that he would journey westwards, seeking for the Blessed Realm, where he would plead with the Powers to come and aid them in their struggle." Here, Adrahil paused most conveniently, for Faramir 's intense stare grew brighter with curiosity.

"Well, granddad? What happened?"

"When Earendil told of his plan to his friends, there were none to be found who would accompany him! And you know how many sailors are needed to care for a boat," Faramir waved his assent. "Only three others and himself, to brave the perils of such a quest. But, Earendil had an amazingly good sea-vessel, 'Vingilot.' Do you know what 'Vingilot' means? It is a quenya word..."

"Foam-something..." Faramir whispered as he narrowed his gaze in concentration, murmuring as many quenya words as he had ever learned to find for the meaning. "Foam... flower?"

"Indeed," Adrahil conceded. What a clever boy this one! "Vingilot was the best ship that had ever sailed the seas, and trusting to his own fortunes, and due to the grave need, Earendil unfurled the white sails of his vessel on a bright morning and set to the West with gulls following him and singing their well-wishes for a safe journey. For many days and nights, and through rain and storm, Earendil sailed toward places where no other man had ever been. But, you see, Earendil was no ordinary man, for he was half-elf. It so happened that one day he thought he saw something far off in the horizon, and upon looking closer, he realized it was land that he saw! Land, at last!"

"At last!" Faramir said, excitedly. "Did he see the Powers? What did they do to him? Did they come and aid men against the dark enemy? Half-elf? What is that? What happened to Vingilot?"

"Hold on! These are rather too many questions to be answered at once, but I shall try. You know that no one could step into the Blessed Realm of the Valar and return to the earth as one living." Faramir breathed deep and widened his eyes. Adrahil felt the heart inside the boy's chest begin to beat faster as he waited in expectant silence for the conclusion of the tale. "And Earendil had done just so. But, the Valar saw what a fair being he was, and they understood of the great love he bore for his people to have risked such perils to seek for help. So, they took pity on him, and though they could not send him back, they realized that he could still be of use to those kinsmen whom he so much loved." Adrahil paused, leaning his head back, and drawing a hand to his temple as if trying to remember something that he used to know, or as if trying to forget something that caused him pain; for, many times he had told this story before, to a listener as eager as Faramir, and his eyes watered somewhat. "From here on, I cannot give you all the details that you would surely wish for, for that lore has been lost to my forefathers. What we do know, is that the Powers hallowed Vingilot, and set it on the sky with Earendil to stir it, and they set a bright jewel on his forehead that shone with such amazing brilliancy that it is said that all elves and men who first saw it when it traversed the night sky gasped in wonderment, and a new hope was born in their hearts. And so, we all look to Earendil now for hope in times of danger, and know that, though the night may seem dark, there is a light that will pierce even the darkest black."

"And, what happened to men?" Faramir asked, seemingly troubled. "Did they win the war?"

"Well, it is said that a host from the West came to fight against evil, and they won. The darkness was vanquished, for a while," a somber spell seemed to fall on him, and he clutched his grandson's hand. Faramir looked at him, puzzled. He was yet young to understand about such matters, and Adrahil did not wish to tell him now. The day might come when he would have to find out for himself, and suddenly he realized just how much he wished to shield this child from all that was bad. He smiled so Faramir would not be distressed, and resumed the thread of his speech. "It was due to their brave deeds in the war that men were awarded by the Valar, and they were gifted with a land of promise to be their home: Númenor."

"Númenor," Faramir repeated as if one bewitched, looking at his grandsire, then to the sky, and then toward the West, his eyes sending out bright flickers. Adrahil felt how he gripped his tunic tightly, and wondered what deep thoughts were concealed under that piercing glance. Thus they remained for a while, looking at the sky and the lights that glimmered above them, peaceful in each other's company, until a bright, blinding flash could be seen far off to the West. "Earendil!" Faramir cried in a flush of excitement and awe, "That's Earendil, is it not?"

"Very well, my most beloved pupil. That is Earendil, and I think you have learned your first lesson perfectly. Would you care to continue with your star-gazing schooling?"

"Only if you will teach me," Faramir said as he wrapped his arms around Adrahil's neck, and kissed him.

"If you so wish, I think I can arrange that," the prince laughed, his heart light by this tender display of innocent affection. "What would you wish to learn next?"

"Tell me about Númenor!" came the unexpected response.

"Númenor?" Adrahil asked, quite puzzled, and then the lines around his mouth curled into a smile that quickly turned into wide laughter. "Oh, I can hear the star-lover speaking! And I had thought you would be dreadfully bored! Well, if you must know, Men of Númenor came from a race of mariners and surely some of them..." Faramir turned to him, the clear eyes fixed steadily on him as he spoke. "Well, I suspect one more story before it gets too late won't hurt anyone, will it? We still have a whole month before your father comes, and I am sure that during this time I can teach you more about the stars than you will ever care to know. Better seize the chance of talking about this while you are willing, and before you ever wish I would entirely disappear with my dull speech. So, you want to know more about Númenor, don't you? It is a topic very much related to the stars, as you will soon see. The island of Númenor, or Elenna, 'the land of the Star,' as it was also called, was in the form of a five-pointed star that..."

And so, another tale began. As the sky became darker, and the stars began to shine brighter, both grandfather and grandchild still sat amidst the bushes, one of them weaving tales of enchantment, the other asking and wondering at every marvel that he heard. Adrahil spoke lightly and cheerily, although in his heart weighed a shadow of fear. The thought was already there that perhaps this child would have to face perils unlooked-for and unimaginable that would defeat any thing he had ever learned or heard tales about. But, for now, he seemed to be content to listen and dream as a wise, loving grandfather spoke to him of the stars, and the sky, and taught him about hope. And, Adrahil realized he was just as content to hold him, if only for a while.