Disclaimer: The following characters belong to the vast treasury of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Summary: Got the inspiration for this ficlet from a casual skimming of "The Fall of Gondolin" in Book of Lost Tales II. Earendil's sweet little line about wishing Ecthelion could make willow whistles for him just made me imagine that they had a special relationship. So this is a fluffy little vignette of the bond between the angelic halfelf and the fairest Noldo in the land, set about a year before the sack of the city, which makes it early summer and Earendil's age around six years. Enjoy!

Starship of the Sea

He awoke to the sweet echo of music.

Eyes blinking fast in the twilight, he sat up and swung his legs around to the side of the small bed before making contact with the cool marble floor. Still somewhat heavy with sleep, he slowly made his way across the room and paused at the doorframe, cocking his ear.

He was answered with the thin, sorrowful notes of a flute.

Taking a quick glance in both directions, he passed swiftly and silently through the halls of his house like a diminutive phantom, creating barely a flutter among the sheer draperies. The full moonlight peeked at him with each passing window until at last he climbed over his "secret passageway" and stood outside his home, where he could see all that was bathed in its soft glow. He tiptoed past the gardens and the courtyard, the faint melody drawing him ever nearer as if coaxing a wary squirrel. His short footfalls went unheard as he wound through the silent streets of the sleeping city, silent save for the dreamy trill of nighttingales and the accompanying enchantment of the music, sounding nearer now, that tickled his ears and stirred his greatest imaginings.

At last he came to a great square bearing a single, unadorned fountain, which by day fell as a marvelous fan of water but by night bubbled and plashed quietly as a small spout. It was his favorite, and he loved much to come and play beneath it on warm days, much to his mother's chagrin. At its base he espied a lone figure seated barefoot, with its elbow propped up on one knee and a long curtain of raven hair falling down its back. The dark head shifted slightly, then came the sweet, haunting flow of piping. A smile crept across the watcher's fair features, and he moved slowly and silently behind the trunk of an ancient tree.

The player paused again, tilting its head at the quiet noise of padding little feet. A barely stifled giggle could be heard from behind. The player smiled knowingly, lowering the flute.

"Come out wherever you are, gil-aear. Your presence no longer remains a secret." He turned his body to look upon the small, smiling child as he approached. His expression turned serious. "Earendil. What whimsy awakens you at this hour? You should return home, before your disappearance becomes known to all the city." He uttered the last remark with wry humor, knowing too well Idril's fierce protectiveness of her only son.

Earendil shrugged and settled next to the elf-lord, wishing to hear more of his soothing, musical voice. "I woke up and could not fall back asleep," he said simply, running his fingers gently through the cool water. He turned his brightly inquisitive gaze back to the elf. "How did you know it was me?"

Ecthelion smiled and arched a slender eyebrow. "Most children wishing not to be discovered attempt to hide their amusement," he replied pointedly, setting down his instrument as he sensed that something weighed heavily on the child's mind. He cocked his head to gaze into the round eyes, which usually shone clearer than sapphires but now seemed clouded in thought. "Was it a dream?"

Suddenly the bright eyes sparked to life as the boy sat up straighter. "It was a most wondrous and terrible dream, good Ecthelion! I dreamt I was at the helm of a mighty starship, sailing around the world on many seas!" Then he paused to glance curiously at the elf. "Have you seen the sea, Ecthelion?"

The elf-lord smiled faintly, wistfully as the memories, clear and perfect in his mind, flashed before his eyes. "Aye, I have, little one," came the soft reply. Abruptly, he focused back on the child. "Tell me more of this wondrous dream! I would hear more of this mighty starship!"

Earendil beamed and stood, blossoming under the attention. "Well, it is the most beautiful, bright ship in the world, for its white timbers are covered with countless gems of many sizes and colors, all very bright to see, but the brightest and most beautiful is the one I wear. I know not where it rests on my body, but I remember how it makes me shine brighter than all the stars in the sky." His eyes widened in unabashed excitement. "But oh, my starship, Ecthelion! I sailed it across countless purple seas and had many adventures in strange places and mysterious isles." His small, ivory hands became animated and his voice rose as he talked. "And then I pilot my starship up, up, up into the heavens, even into the most airy places that eagles cannot reach!"

Ecthelion, who had been listening with deepening interest, suddenly furrowed his brow. "Your ship flies?"

The boy sighed good-naturedly. "Aye, it can sail both sea and air, but as I was saying." His beautiful features brightened anew. "My ship is so mighty it carries me swiftly from the light of day even to the blackest of nights where there is no moon or starlight, only a dark hole that seems to go on forever!" His expression sobered and his voice quieted. "I do not linger long in those places, for I do not like the deep cold and blackness there." Reflexively, Earendil wrapped his slender arms around himself and looked up at the night sky.

Ecthelion could not take his eyes off of the child. A vague feeling of unease began to pool deep within his spirit, which he tried to smother but only seemed to gain strength as the boy talked. "Where else did you go?" he asked gently, managing an interested smile.

The light in the boy's eyes faded to a soft, far-away glow. "From there, I suddenly find myself walking on white shores and gazing up at the tallest mountains I have ever seen," he almost whispered, his voice filled with quiet awe. "And then, I am climbing sparkling stairs of crystal and everywhere I look, there are towering buildings of shining white, glittering with diamonds. There are diamonds everywhere, even I am covered from my head to my toes, and I think to myself that this must be some great city of diamonds, for as much as I shout, there are no living folk to answer my cries."

Ecthelion's heart rate increased slightly and he sat up straighter, watching the child intently with his piercing silver-grey eyes.

Then Earendil smiled suddenly and lifted his chin. "But then a great voice calls to me, and I am brought before the mighty kings and queens of the diamond city, and great trumpets sound, and now there are many fair folk around me." He stepped up onto the fountain basin and stretched his arms to the sky. "And then my starship is brought, and the kings and queens transform it into a great star, and I am lifted into it, and then!...I awoke." His eager voice fell on the last two words, and he sighed wistfully, still smiling.

Ecthelion exhaled slowly, looking on the boy in great wonder. How could a mere child, one with mortal blood at that, conceive of and have such dreams? he wondered. Suddenly, he recalled Huor's fateful words to Turgon his lord on the battlefield long ago: "from you and from me a new star shall arise." He gazed into the pool, deep in thought, vaguely aware that Earendil was tugging lightly on his arm:

"What do you think of it, Ecthelion?"

The elf-lord turned to the child, studying the eager, earnest face, the shining eyes so full of innocence and vitality. The beauty and wisdom of Elfinesse could clearly be seen in him, and also the vigor and impulsive valor of the Edain, yet there was an undeniable quality in those eyes, in the sweet, earnest voice, in the light of his face, which shone as the bliss of heaven.

Ecthelion smiled. It was a quality beyond definition. "Well, it certainly sounds as wondrous and terrible as you have described it!"

Earendil's features lit up. "Will you play me a song about it? Please, good Ecthelion, play me a song!" he pleaded sweetly, tugging on the elf's arm anew.

Ecthelion chuckled heartily, the rich sound a song in itself. "Perhaps another time, good child. It is late, and little sea captains must return to bed." He nearly relented under the wide, pleading gaze, but stood, taking his flute in one hand and reaching down with the other. "Come."

The boy did not disguise his disappointment, nevertheless he eagerly took the elf-lord's hand and the pair walked back toward Tuor's house in companionable silence.

The white walls came into view. "Ah, Mother is awaiting me," Earendil murmured nervously, gripping Ecthelion's hand a little tighter.

The elf smiled in reassurance. "Fear not, little captain, she is more relieved to see that you are unharmed than angry at your disappearance," he replied softly, giving the child's tiny hand an answering gentle squeeze.

Ecthelion and Idril exchanged smiles as Earendil ran into her open arms, patiently enduring the hugs, kisses and mild admonishings. Then Earendil turned and ran back to the elf-lord. "Will I see you tomorrow, Ecthelion?"

Ecthelion knelt down and placed his hands on the boy's shoulders. "You most certainly shall, as surely as the sun will rise. Now go into your house, climb into your soft bed, and sail away to distant lands, in your mighty starship of the sea." He leaned forward and placed a gentle, paternal kiss atop the child's fair head. "Good night, gil-aear. Sleep well," he whispered, rising to his feet.

Earendil smiled sleepily, a tiny hand rubbing one eye. "Good night, Ecthelion," he murmured, turning and taking his mother's hand as they walked into the house. Ecthelion smiled gently as he watched them, exchanging one last farewell nod with Idril. Blessed child, he thought, you are not for this earth. May your path be ever bright as you ascend into the heavens.

Then he turned to walk through the sleeping streets towards his home, singing softly as he went.

The End

A/N: Gil-aear is a rough translation of "sea-star," a nickname I thought fitting for young Earendil though not in the book. The little fountain that Earendil loves to play in is fictional, of course, I just thought it a fitting setting for these two water-loving characters. Please R & R! It lets me know if I should continue with more...