Leithian
by San Antonio Rose

It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month when the guns at last fell silent and the tiny band of faded Eldar laid to rest the last of their fallen comrades, this one a victim of a gas attack. The brutal war that had driven them into the Argonne was finally over. A wind from the west blew the stench of death and the fumes of poison gas away from where they were, but it brought little comfort to those who remained.

"We must leave these shores," Rúmil finally said with a sigh. "The land, the air, the water… all is poisoned, and none will bear our presence."

"But the way is shut," Celebmaethor countered. "It has been long even by our reckoning since any returned to Eressëa. What ship now will bear us hence?"

"There are the Americans," Rúmil replied. "They cannot take us to Eressëa, but they can take us away from here. The rumors say their land has room for all."

Thranduil pondered Rúmil's suggestion for a while. "Yes," he said at last. "America is not Valinor, but neither is it France. And it will be long ere this land is healed. We must go to America."

"What of Britain?" Thalvellon asked.

Thranduil shook his head. Foresight was not one of his gifts, but he needed it little in this case. "Nay, Britain is too close. If there is another war, Britain will almost certainly be attacked. We are weary of these ceaseless wars. We would do well to go where war is not likely to follow. No place is immune to others' aggression, but attacks on America will probably be few."

"How then shall we go?" Celebmaethor asked.

"Perhaps we should follow them to the coast and stow away on the ship," Thalvellon suggested. "The soldiers need not even know we are there."

After some deliberation, the Elves chose a nearby platoon of Marines to follow. Their withdrawal from France was slow, as they had been ordered to remain as part of the occupation force. But when the orders came in July for the Fourth Marine Brigade to return home, the Elves quickly acquired enough supplies for the two-week crossing, and they slipped aboard the ship unnoticed and made jokes about Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf friends as they secreted themselves in the cargo hold. They dared not remain on deck to bid farewell to their native shore, but they had had eight months to prepare for their departure, so their sorrow was eased by the anticipation of finding a new home in the realms across the sea where no Elf had sought to venture before.

A few days into the voyage, Thranduil and his followers began to take turns ascending to the deck to get fresh air and stretch their legs. They usually held their voices to whispers too soft for mortal ears to hear. Yet at night when most of the men on the ship were asleep, the Elves would speak more freely, making plans for their new lives in America and occasionally singing the songs of Elbereth and tales of old that they all knew so well.

Once in a while someone would hear them, but he usually thought he was just hearing things. Thranduil always sorrowed that such young men should be so scarred by war, but there was little he could do to comfort any of them.

A fortnight is very little time to an Elf, and so the Eldar were not nearly so restless as the Marines were when word finally came that they would reach land within a matter of hours. Rúmil brought the news to Thranduil, who suggested that they all move to the deck for their first glimpse of their new homeland.

The Marines began to congregate along the ship's railing, murmuring excitedly and looking for something in the distance as the ship neared the shore. Curious, the Elves fell in behind them, searching the horizon for they knew not what.

A sudden cry caught everyone's attention. "Look!" someone shouted. "There she is!"

And then they all saw it: in the mouth of the harbor stood a massive statue of a crowned woman holding a torch high above her head with her right hand and cradling what looked to be a book or stone tablet in her left arm. Yet the Elves could see more clearly than the others, and Thranduil especially took note of the broken chain at the woman's feet. Though her copper skin had oxidized to a bright green, she still gleamed proudly as Anor's rays flooded the harbor.

"Who is she?" Celebmaethor asked. "I do not think she is a Valïe."

"I think we would call her Leithian," Thranduil replied, "if we who are free had need to build such a monument."

Someone nearby began reciting softly:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore;
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

And for the rest of his days a certain sergeant swore he heard the angels sing as his ship pulled in to New York Harbor.

The End


A/N: The lines the Marine quotes are from "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, written in 1883; the full text of the sonnet is on a plaque on the base of the Statue of Liberty. It served as the original inspiration for this story when Greyhawk posted it on The Mudville Gazette in honor of the Statue's 119th birthday (October 28), but as I have just now found the time to work my ideas into a story, I thought I should incorporate the Marines' 230th birthday (November 10) and the 87th anniversary of the Armistice (November 11) as well. Leithian means 'Release from Bondage' (as in the Lay of Leithian), the closest I could come to a Sindarin word for 'freedom.'