SEASIDE CONVERSATIONS 2
Disclaimer: The characters, the context and the main plot belong to Professor Tolkien, whom I greatly admire. I'm only trying to fill in the gaps he so graciously left for us, fanfic writers, to have some fun.
Master Andrahar, Lady Tirathiel, Liahan and Esteven belong to Isabeau of Greenlea and are used with her gracious consent. Enedrion, Falathar, Vorondis and all other Edhellond people belong to me.
Dedication: This story has been written for the one-year-anniversary of the Edhellond group which was on October 23) and is dedicated to its members. Posted belatedly due to RL issues.
Summary: Imrahil, the Prince of Dol Amroth, sails into Edhellond after Aragorn's wedding to say his farewells to the Lord of the South Haven.
This is a sequel to my story "Seaside Conversations". Obviously. Reading the first part is not absolutely necessary to understand this one, but it might help.
Gildor Inglorion's ancestry and his role as the Lord of Edhellond and as the long-time ally of the Princes of Dol Amroth is entirely my creation. My sincerest thanks to Vorondis (the writer) for helping me to create the similarly named character. There is even a line, spoken by the character, which has been borrowed from one of her reviews. :)
My heartfelt thanks to Larian Elensar for beta reading. All remaining mistakes are mine.PART 1
[The 15th day of Yavannië (Ivanneth), in the year 3019 of the Third Age]
With the return of Théoden King's funeral escort from the Riddermark, things became quiet for Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth. Not needed in Minas Tirith any longer, he could finally return to Dol Amroth and begin to reorganize his realm after the war.
Healing all the wounds the long struggle against Mordor had inflicted on both people and lands could begin.
But first he had one particular farewell to speak. For this reason, he did not take the three-week-ride to his home as usual, but boarded the ship of his second-born son to travel on the Sea.
He was sailing into Edhellond, to see Gildor Inglorion one last time.
Under normal circumstances Imrahil would go alone, as Gildor emphatically disliked mortals within the borders of his small realm, save the princely family. But this was the last chance for him, too, to meet some of the mortal friends he had made in Dol Amroth, thus Imrahil was reasonably certain that he would not object to the presence of the Lady Tirathiel and the one or other Swan Knight. Or that of Faramir, in fact, who had never been to Edhellond before.
Andrahar was a different case, of course, but in this one Imrahil had put his foot down firmly. Not that Andrahar, who generally disliked Elves (and Gildor more so than all the others together), would have wanted to accompany him on this particular journey. Yet Edhellond was part of Imrahil's youth, and for this one time he wanted to share it with the man who was his brother in all but blood. Thus Andrahar gave in, scowling, and boarded the ship obediently.
"I never hoped to live to see the day when I would visit the Elf-haven myself," said Faramir softly, standing upon the forward deck of the Foamflyer and looking towards their ultimate goal. The slender white tower known as Tirith Aear(2), raised in the bay of Tirond Aear(3) back in the Second Age by Galadriel, the Lady of the Golden Wood herself, could already be seen glittering upon the faint shoreline. And even farther away, barely visible even for the keen eyes of the Dúnedain, the town of Edhellond glimmered like a castle built of blue mist.
The Elf-haven, Faramir knew from the tales of his cousins who were allowed to visit it as often as they wanted, occupied a 150 foot high hill that rose out of the lower Morthond less than a mile from the Bay of Belfalas. The rocky hillock formed a 1500 foot long isle, which was just over 500 feet across at its widest point. Three stairways connected the gently terraced hillock with the quay below. The town was surrounded by a low white wall and a ring of silvery oaks. The four high towers with blue tiled roofs sparkled in the clear sky, visible even from this considerable distance(4).
"Are you not the one who was always wary about seeking out the Firstborn without invitation?" asked the Lady Tirathiel, her normally icy grey eyes gentle now and full of memories. Faramir nodded.
"True enough. I thought it was not our place to meddle in the affairs of Elves. But 'tis also the truth that I have envied my cousins all my life. The tales about Edhellond and its proud Lord were my childhood favourites."
"I hope you find the real item worthy of your dreams," the Lady said seriously. "I fear Imrahil handled without consideration taking so many people with him. Lord Gildor does not like being crowded, and he prefers to invite his guests ere they overrun his house."
"Do you believe he would turn us back from his harbour, Aunt Tirathiel?" Faramir asked in surprise. The Lady shrugged.
"'Tis possible. He is a rather unpredictable Elf."
The possibility saddened Faramir greatly, as he had wanted to visit the Elf-haven since he was a child. But when after many hours they finally sailed into Edhellond, they were welcomed heartily by the Harbour Master, a tall, silver-haired Elf, one of the handful Teleri of old who still dwelt in Middle-earth. His name was Salmarin, and he shared his duties with his brother, Ariandir, who, however, frequently travelled across Middle-earth with their Lord's Wandering Company.
"Welcome to the South Haven, my Lord Prince," he greeted Imrahil cheerfully; then he turned to Tirathiel and bowed politely. "My Lady, it has been too long since your last visit. Alas, Lord Gildor is currently visiting one of the forest settlements, but he is expected back in the early evening. He has left instructions for you to be cared for, thus the best thing might be to go to his house at once. "You can leave your ship in our care, Erchirion," he added with a grin. "We have built her in these very shipyards, after all. I am certain that Master Eriant would not mind to take a look at her. He is very fond of the Foamflyer. 'Tis a rare thing for a shipwright to plan and build a ship together with her future captain. The crew is welcome to spend their time here in the harbour, of course, while you are visiting Lord Gildor's house."
The bearded prince laughed and embraced the Harbour Master, who had taught him all the fine tricks of sailing, unceremoniously.
"I think I shall stay here for a while with your people, Master Salmarin. We have a lot to catch up with. Is Guilin at home?"
Guilin was the captain of Edhellond's small fleet – a relatively young and rather adventurous Sindarin Elf, who often hunted the Corsairs of Umbar on Erchirion's side. They were close friends, as close as an Elf and a Man could ever get, given the restrictions of their individual lifespans.
"Aye, he is at home, the reckless one," Salmarin grinned. "When he heard from the gulls that the Foamflyer is coming, he turned back from patrol and sent out another ship, just to be able to meet you. We are all expected in the Drunken Goblin, right after sunset."
The Drunken Goblin was one of the harbour taverns, visited almost exclusively by Elven mariners. There were other taverns, more suitable for mortal visitors who usually were not allowed deeper into the town that the harbour, but Erchirion was considered an Elf-friend and thus welcome everywhere where no ordinary mortals would be accepted.
Erchirion rubbed his hands in glee. Having a feast with Elven mariners was a rare treat, and he was looking forward to it, even if it meant that he would be terribly hung over for the next couple of days. Elves could hold their wine a lot better than mortals, and the endurance of Elven mariners was legendary, even among their own kind.
"Father, I shall join you when Lord Gildor returns, if you do not mind," he said to Imrahil. "I would like to spend some time with my old friends."
Imrahil nodded his agreement – Erchirion had always been close to the Elven mariners, and it was not an influence he would have to worry about, despite the occasional drinking feasts – and thus the rest of their party left the Foamflyer to walk through the small Elven town and up to Gildor's house.
Knowing Gildor Inglorion from the many tales of his cousins only, Faramir had expected him to live in a vast palace, full of pomp and wondrous items. What he found instead understandably surprised him very much.
Instead of a palace worthy of his high birth, the proud Lord of Edhellond had a homestead not unlike many others owned by his subjects, containing a well-built but simple two-story house, a walled courtyard, a garden with a fountain adjoining the orchard and a meadow behind the stables where his horses were kept. Beyond the meadow, there even was a small wood that, too, belonged to him. He owned a herd of cattle as well, domesticated white kine, descended from the famous wild oxen of the South.
Nevertheless, the house was spacious, spreading all over the hilltop, and it served as a home for Gildor's household and also for those of the Wandering Company who had no relatives in town. They were placed in the different wings, so that they rarely ran into each other, unless they wanted to.
The guests were welcomed in the open parlour on the seaside by a slender, dark-haired Noldorin woman who wore a simple grey gown in the fashion of the Galadhrim, with black armlets to protect her sleeves. She looked rather plain for an Elf, but her grey-blue eyes mirrored wisdom and knowledge, ripened through hundreds of years.
The woman was called Vorondis, and she had been Gildor's librarian since the foundation of Edhellond, having worked on the history of Finrod's House for about just as long. Her parents belonged to the handful refugees who had managed to escape the destruction of Nargothrond but had sailed to the West right after the War of Wrath. Her only relative on this side of the Sea was Falathar, her younger brother, one of Gildor's wandering minstrels.
She was a solitary person and surprisingly shy for an Elf of her age, and it usually was not part of her duties to welcome Gildor's guests, even less so mortal ones. But both the seneschal of the house and the Lord's personal aide had accompanied him on his short visit in Calenbel(5), and thus Vorondis had no choice but to take over for them.
In this particular case, however, she did not mind as much as she would have done otherwise. She genuinely liked Imrahil – their friendship went back 'til those two years which the then-young prince, having a serious quarrel with his father, had spent under Gildor's roof – and she had stood in unbroken correspondence with the scholarly Tirathiel for decades. She was actually looking forward to an extended conversation with the mortal woman.
The raven-haired young Man on Imrahil's side was not known to her. But he wore the black and silver clothes of the Steward of Gondor, and also a great likeness to Imrahil himself, thus Vorondis could easily conclude that he could be no-one else but Finduilas' son. He was said to be a lover of books and lore, something most Men neglected greatly in these lesser times. 'Twas good to know that not all of them turned to the arts of war completely.
The swarthy Man with the badger-striped black hair and the piercing dark eyes on Imrahil's other side, wearing the garb of the Swan Knights, was unfamiliar, too – at least from the sight of him. But Gildor's frequent mocking about Imrahil's sworn brother – a barbarian of Harad – was enough for her to recognize him as the infamous Master Andrahar, the Armsmaster of the Prince.
For the Haradrim's sake she chose to greet the guests in Westron; a tongue which she spoke fairly well.
"Greetings, my Lord Prince… Lady Tirathiel," she said, inclining her head politely. "Allow me to show you to the rooms that have been prepared for you. Lord Gildor should be returning in the evening hours."
"So we have been told," said Andrahar, not even trying to hide his displeasure. "One would think that the Lord of Edhellond would give the Prince of Dor-en-Ernil, who is supposed to be his friend and ally, the courtesy to be at home when said Prince pays him a farewell visit."
Imrahil shot his friend a murderous look – Gildor and his customs were about the only topic of heated disagreement between the two of them – but Vorondis looked at the fuming Armsmaster with unwavering calm.
"This is not the only farewell Lord Gildor has to speak, Master Andrahar," she said. "Ever since the end of the war, he had been travelling our small realm to visit every single homestead, every little settlement, to say his goodbyes to his subjects. You might not understand this, being a mortal, but many of Edhellond's people have chosen to remain in Middle-earth, and thus they will never see our Lord again, For though the Elves are meant to last 'til the end of Arda, once we sail to the West, we have no means to return, and will be separated from our friends and family forever."
Andrahar felt a little ashamed, regretting already that he had lashed out to this quiet woman who had no part in his long quarrel with Gildor… a decades-old quarrel, based on ill-hidden jealousy on the Armsmaster's side.
"How come that you know my name?" he asked. "And what may be yours?"
"I am called Vorondis," she answered simply. Seeing Andrahar's blank looks, she added, "It means 'steadfast woman' in the Elven tongue. As for yours, I know it from the tales Lord Gildor sometimes chooses to tell. He finds your private little war rather… amusing, it seems."
"The things Elves find amusing never fail to amaze me," commented Lady Tirathiel wryly, ere Andrahar could get another fit of fury.
"I imagine it can be strange for you at times," Vorondis admitted. "But you have to understand that Lord Gildor has walked the earth for more than six thousand years, and I am not much younger myself. 'Tis a long time, even for Elves, and all that we have seen and gone through already has changed us greatly. Our eyes have turned towards the past, and little of the present still moves us. Unlike the Silvan folk, whose bond to this earth is stronger than aught else, we do no longer belong here. And even the woodland Elves will fade and perish eventually, leaving all these lands to mortal Men." She gave Andrahar a long, searching look that was hard to interpret. "In a sense, you have already won your quarrel against our Lord, Master Andrahar. He will leave, soon. You will remain, as long as mortal nature and the fortune of war allows. In the end, Middle-earth will belong to you and the likes of you."
Long silence followed her words, the inevitable change of the world they had known weighing heavily on their hearts. To his surprise, Andrahar found that he liked this woman. She reminded him of Melpomaen, Imrahil's head scribe, who had submitted to his high age but a few years ago. Melpomaen, too, was said to have some Elven blood in his veins; mayhap that was why he had watched the world with the same reserved wisdom. Or it was the trade that he had shared with the scholarly Elf? Who could tell for certain?
"But I am neglecting my duties," Vorondis finally said apologetically. "My Lord Prince, Lady Tirathiel, I took the freedom to give you the chambers you always use when in Edhellond. I also assumed that Master Andrahar would want to stay close to you, Prince Imrahil, thus I gave him the chamber next to yours. And I was so free as to put Prince Erchirion and the Steward of Gondor into adjoining rooms. The other Knights will be placed in the guest wing. I hope these arrangements are to your satisfaction."
No-one had any objections; thus Vorondis called for a chambermaid (whose name was apparently Uruviel) to lead the guests to their rooms. Ere he would enter the house, however, Faramir turned to her for a moment.
"Lady Vorondis, do you believe that I might be allowed to visit the libraries later?"
For the first time, she actually smiled. "Why, certainly, my Lord Steward. But there is no need to call me 'Lady', as I am none. Just 'Vorondis' will be fine. I am an Elf of common birth, after all."
"In that case feel free to call me Faramir," he offered. But Vorondis shook her head.
"That would be inappropriate, my Lord. Elven or mortal, nobility is nobility and should be treated as such. I shall send one of the scribes to escort you to the library, once you have rested a little," she added, already on her way to leave.
Faramir shot his uncle a bewildered look, but Imrahil merely shrugged. "No use to insist, lad. I could never convince her to call me by my name, either. She is a very modest person."
"Unlike the Lord she serves," Andrahar murmured under his breath.
But he did not take the keen Elven ears under consideration, it seemed. Vorondis turned back from the doorstep with a quick, fluid move, her friendly eyes growing ice cold.
"I would appreciate if you did not speak in this manner of Lord Gildor in his own house," she said coolly. "Whatever you may think of his demeanour, he still is the grandson of Finrod Felagund, the King of Nargothrond, and has fought the Darkness for six millennia. You do not like him? Fine, that is your right. He is not particularly fond of you himself. But as long as you are a guest in his house, you will speak of him – and to him – with respect."
"Or what?" asked Andrahar with an arrogant little smile. Vorondis held his look without as much as a flinch.
"Or else I shall ask Prince Imrahil to leave Edhellond, with his whole escort, and I am certain that he would respect my request."
"I would," Imrahil nodded seriously. "Do not make me to leave, Andra, I beg you. You of all people should know how much this last visit means to me."
"And you know all too well that your Elven friend and I never got along too well. Mayhap you should not have brought me with you. You never did it before."
"And I will never have the chance to do so again," pointed out Imrahil a little sadly. "I only ask you to restrain yourself a little, so that I can take my leave properly. Is that so much?"
Andrahar sighed in exasperation. "Imri, I would do anything you ask me, and you know that. I just fail to understand why you feel the need to drag me along. I do not belong here, nor have I ever wanted to come to this place."
"You have been with me since my youth, Andra," the Prince replied softly, "in good times and bad times, through joys and sorrows, unwaveringly – except when I came to Edhellond. This was the only part of my life you could never share – for this one time, I wish to change that. Would you humour me and behave? It will not last long anyway. I can already feel the changes that will come to Edhellond, soon,"
"And you are right," said Vorondis quietly. "Once Lord Gildor and his court, so small as it might be, leave these shores, there will be naught of the royalty of the Noldor left. 'Tis said that Master Elrond, too, prepares to leave Imladris already, and that the Lady of the Golden Wood shall accompany him. The summer of the Elves of Middle-earth had turned to autumn already with the fall of Gil-galad, and now our winter has grown close. Even the Silvan folk, not willing to leave their beloved forests, will be gone sooner or later – there is no power on this side of the Sea that could hold back our fading any longer."
"Are you leaving with Lord Gildor, too?" Lady Tirathiel asked. Vorondis nodded.
"There is nothing that would keep me here anymore. I have only stayed this long for my brother's sake. But now all Noldor in the service of our Lord are preparing to leave, and finally Falathar, too, has made his decision. Our future, if we still have one, lies beyond the Sea. And I look forward to be reunited with my parents again."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
(1) Sept. 6, which is shortly after Théoden's funeral. I give the name of the month both in Quenya and in Sindarin, since a Noldorin Elf-Lord would use the former while a Dúnadan Prince of the South the latter. According to the Appendices only the Dúnedain used the Sindarin months' names.
(2) Sea-ward Tower
(4) The description of Edhellond's seaside view has been borrowed from the Dol Amroth role-playing site, with slight modifications.
(5) A forest settlement near Edhellond, where – as established in "Innocence" – Haldir's sister, Fimbrethil lived with her family.