Disclaimer: Do not own or possess any claim to Tolkien's world. Merely a fan. Not making any money, not doing anything with this, except sharing. This features the background sketch of my character in Lord of the Rings Online by Turbine, who I am also not affiliated with. If you like it, please review. Same as if you don't. Thank you!
A sharp note cut through the night air.
Then another, and another.
They came quickly, different pitches, different tones. Lilting and then dropping, some sudden and swift, others leaving a whisper of their presence long after they had first resounded so clearly in the night air. A voice soon joined the music, sweet and sure. It did not mimic the almost frenzied playing, instead it favored a steadier pace. The owner of the voice's eyes were closed, brows furrowed together in deep concentration as her fingers worked the strings of a harp. Minutes passed, continued into hours. The night sky soon turned to dawn and the crowd around her lessened. It was only when the roaring fires turned to ashes that she set the harp down, wiping sweat from her brow. Dark eyes looked around and took in those few remaining as attendants stoked the dying embers back to life, then down at her hands. Though her fingers were callused from centuries of playing the harp, the rest of her hands were soft, unlined and free of any marks of hard labor. Just like her life, free from any hardships or threat. Free from sorrow. She had never picked up sword, never held arrow to bow. She was not entirely without experience-she had seen some warfare in her youth in Mithlond-but she had been a child then, able only to watch men throw themselves and break against the enemy like silver waves. The sight made her sick to the stomach, despite the victory. When others learned the art of the blade or arrow, she retreated into song.
"Sylrien, well done." The voice was quiet but powerful, and to her ears, full of dissatisfaction.
"Le hannon." She murmured, head bowed as she stood from the bench. A long silence followed. They both knew what he was going to say for he had said it many times before.
"Passion. Depth. You have mastered the skill, but if you cannot draw the emotion from within yourself, it will always be lacking. Fall in love, lose something dear to you. Live and take joy in something..." The man frowned deeply, placing his hand on her shoulder. "There is no more I can teach you. If you ever hope to go beyond your skill, you will not learn what you need here in Imladris. I hear Gil-Galad returns to Lindon soon. Go back with him, go home. Your assistance will always be remembered and treasured, but there are no answers to what you seek here. I do not see any solution."
As he left, Sylrien looked away, her eyes burning with tears. She did know something of loss, something of sorrow now. But she could see it in his eyes that the longing her heart held for him was not returned in the slightest. He loved another and they would be together. When the wars ended...
That was how things would be. As the fires roared back to life, she picked up her harp, and set to playing.
A note was plucked from her harp. It lingered in the night air, hung there like a whisper.
Another followed, quickly followed by a low note.
She played a simple melody. It echoed the cries of the gulls and that pleased her. They seemed to lament the ships that sailed West, circling overhead as the white sails grew smaller and disappeared into the horizon. The city they left was lit up, banners streaming as music of a merrier sort played. The elves did not mourn the passing of their brethren, but threw parties to see them off and feasted in their honor. In the coming morning, the revelers would be back to their homes and work. They would mend ships, catch fish and trade and continue on with their lives but at sunset when another party of travelers would put their boat to water and head off into the horizon, there would be more dancing, more gaiety.
Sylrien had no stomach for it. She had stopped playing at these gatherings centuries ago, for when she played, others grew still and quiet. It wasn't that she didn't know any joyful songs, it was that she did not know how to play them. She could not sing of laughter and love when her heart knew nothing of such things? Time had passed since Imladris but the pain had only dulled slightly. After thousands of years, she learned to live with it, for the sea soothed some of her troubles.
It was the salt in the air, so thick she could taste it. It was the cool breeze that carried her song out past the beach. It was the spray of water that made her strings slick and her face wet with something other than tears. The light of the sun and the moon both caused the waters to shimmer, and in their reflection she saw their light magnified tenfold. She wondered if that was the closest she would ever be to the light of the Two Trees. Even if she went-
The trees were gone. The roar of the waves masked the fact her fingers stilled and that her music stopped. The West was inevitable. She had seen her family depart, friends...
Sylrien shook her head. It didn't matter, and when she eventually made the journey, it wouldn't matter. She would join them, and know eternal bliss.
She couldn't play any music. Her hands shook, and despite the calm sound of the waves lapping against the shore, despite the familiar cries of gulls overhead, she could not join them. He was here. He was here with his family, and they were departing West that very evening.
He had not changed much. He remained as young and in her eyes as perfect as before. There were a few wrinkles round his eyes that were not there before, his hair a darker shade of blonde. He walked differently, and no longer did he carry a lute, but instead a spear festooned with ribbons. His beloved was at his side, with hair like spun gold and laughing. And children. Two sons, nearly their father's height, shared those piercing eyes. Her heart felt like a stone, sinking in her chest. Tonight they would feast with others, there would be joy and dancing and music at their party. In the morning they would leave and the thought that he would no longer be in this world would kill her.
For the first time in more years than she could guess, she took a seat among the musicians at the evening's celebration. She watched him at his table, surrounded by other elves who would make the journey at dawn. She would play for him songs of happiness and hope, her harp blending with the other instruments played. Despite the unease in her heart, despite her hands shaking, she made it through most of the night. After a time, though, she could no longer bear it. The other music died, the other flutists and harpists and lute players breaking for food and the good company. She stayed on the bench, fingers resting on the strings of her harp. Thoughts raced through her mind, dreams and possibilities, memories of their first meeting, memories of Imladris- what might have been, what if she had been the one to give him children and be there at his side now rather than across the room-
A note rang out and the crowd grew silent. It was followed by another, and another. Sylrien looked down to see her own fingers plucking at the harp, putting sound to her thoughts and dreams. She was helpless in the face of the music, and soon she began to sing though she did not know words to this new melody. She prayed that Mandos take her to his halls, that Elbereth would take pity on her and stop her... But she continued playing. She could not stop of her own free will. Centuries, millennia of heartache poured through her like a river. They were all listening to her, but worst of all, he was there hearing her play. In that moment she wished nothing more than to become a shadow and leave unseen but it was too late.
Then her music stopped and light applause filtered through the crowd. I shouldn't be here, she thought. This was all a mistake. As she bowed to the room, her eyes briefly flickered to his. He was smiling at her. She knew what he was thinking, what he would have said. "You learned..." he would say, in his rich, deep voice. "You've gone beyond skill. You've found the answer."
In that moment she hated him. She didn't want her music to be elevated at such a steep price. As soon as the applause died, as soon as the other minstrels began playing, she excused herself and left the hall. It was hard to see the way through her tears.
It was dawn. The grey ships unfurled their white sails, and the passengers and crew began their morning's work. Sylrien was there waiting for him, still dressed in what she wore from the previous night. Sleep had not come to her, and she had spent the late hours perched on the rocks by the beach playing her harp. She was exhausted, but she would not miss his departure. She felt she owed it to him; that she was needed there.
So with her bare feet encrusted with sand, with the majority of the lower portion of her silver gown stained and wet with sea water, and with her dark hair disheveled and free of the confines of the elaborate style it had been pinned into, she ran to the docks.
He was standing there on the deck, and she fancied that he had been waiting for her. She said nothing to him, breaking into a run to close the gap between them. Her arms slid around his shoulders, she pressed her lips to his in a fierce, unyielding kiss. His taste was so sweet, everything she had dreamed it would be. After the initial surprise of the moment, his arms slid around her, and he returned that kiss with equal vigour. Her heart beat so fast she feared it would burst; it pounded so hard she felt she would be unable to contain it in her chest. She didn't want to open her eyes, wanted the moment to go on till the light of the Silmarils engulfed the world...
But she wanted to see him. Wanted to look at him. Her eyes opened.
She was standing on the deck, a short distance away from him. There had been no kiss, no return of the love that engulfed her heart. He was standing there, smiling at her and greeted her as he would an old friend. That is what she was after all... an old friend.
"Gîl síla erin lû govaded vîn, Sylrien." (A star shines on the hour of our meeting)He smiled. Didn't he know that every time he smiled at her, a part of her heart crumbled? She smiled back at him though her lips were pursed together tightly. She felt a blush spread across her cheeks as he looked at her, his attention undivided.
Softly she spoke, voice threatening to crack if she spoke above a whisper, "Guren linna le cened."(My heart sings to see you)
She followed the words with a deep bow. There was so much she wanted to say but in the end, she just stood there, straight and still. The silence hung thick in the air- at least to her it did. There were so many things that need to be said that were left unsaid and that would never be said. One of the sailors cried something out and they both turned to hear what he was saying. They would be leaving soon. He would be leaving soon.
He turned to her and bowed, his smile still as radiant as he took her hand in his, placing his other hand over hers. "Agorel vae a Ant lîn vîr mi gûr nîn."(you did well and I shall treasure your gift in my heart) With that he patted her hand reassuringly. She didn't know what to do with him; Sylrien wanted to slap him, wanted to drag him off the boat to make him stay with her, wanted to kiss him, wanted to scream, cry, laugh... mourn. She wanted to mourn the loss of the sun in her heart. Her smile grew as she nodded her head. She could not keep him here. To him, she was an old friend at best, and at the worst, a former student and comrade.
Her head tilted forward, acknowleging the praise. "Le Hannon a..." (I thank you and...) She looked up, eyeing the white sails. "Sŷl lîn bain, Mellon. Sŷl lîn bain." (May your winds be fair, friend. May your winds be fair.)Taking her hand away from his grip was the most painful thing she had ever done up until that point in her life. It was the most painful thing in over five thousand years of existence.
He was unaware but perhaps it was for the better. He smiled and bowed deeply to her. "Nen vaer a lalaith veren ir i lû tôl a adgevedim" (Sweet water and joyous laughter till next we meet). Then he turned and left her standing on the deck of the boat, presumably to be with his family as they set sail. Sylrien turned and ran.
It was a blur of wide streets lined with fragrant cedars and the colorful banners that hung from every white stone building. She did not return to the beach to collect her harp; she did not want to see the ship sailing West. She made her way to her home, hurriedly stripping off the ruined gown, exchanging it for a thick and simple robe the color of autumn. Underneath the long sleeves she slid every bracelet she had upon her arms, from her neck dangled many chains. Yes... she would need those to barter or exchange for coin when her small amount of silver ran out. Sylrien needed a pack, needed to fill it with bread and water. Only the bare necessities were needed. There was so much she was willing to do without, and she wanted as few reminders of home or of her life that as she could manage. She could purchase a plain harp, or a flute or some instrument on the way out of the city. She could procure work as a minstrel abroad easy enough.
The cries of the gulls brought her no comfort now. She could not join them in their constant lamentations. She had to put as much space between her and the West as possible. Hopefully she could delay her own inevitable journey. Paradise seemed so much bitter now that he would be there and closed to her. She could no longer play by the sea and dream of what lay beyond the horizon.
It was about sunset when she finally made her way out of the city. The cries of the seagulls grew faint and soon faded to silence. Sylrien watched the sun set, watched the sun follow her love to the mysterious West. May it light your path to safety, she thought. A pang of loss of filled her breast, and when it faded, she felt the first stirrings of Sea-Longing.
So this was the sensation that would threaten to consume her unless she heeded its call. It was like a soft whisper in her ear, promising peace and rest for her troubled heart. She knew better. Turning her back on the setting sun, she took that first step to the east. Sylrien was not ready for peace yet. She would fill her heart with tales of the lands beyond Lindon, of songs that had nothing to do with sorrow. She would gain experiences and memories that would force the unrequited love from her heart. Her lips pursed tightly as she began to jog down the road. She would stand in front of the great fireplaces in the Halls of Fire in Imladris once more, but this time she would feel the warmth unhindered by the coldness of love unrequited.
The West was inevitable, but now was not her time.
Sylrien had made her way to Celondim. The journey had been difficulut, but Elbereth, the things she had seen. In a few weeks she had seen more new places and people than she had in thousands of years. It almost made her giddy to share a flagon of mead in the stone halls of Dwarves, to ride a horse through thick dark woods in the dead of night. Celondim had been a familiar respite from the simple adventures she had undergone, a bit of home (for all the elves had similar cities). Still, the cries of gulls could be heard in this harbor town, and they filled her with unease and something akin to dread. Her fingers wrapped around the railing of the terrace as that whisper grew louder in her ears. Join them, it said. Join us. Join him.
Her knuckles turned white as her grip around the railings tightened. She would not join them. Not yet, and most definitely not now-
"'As I said, I am sorry to intrude upon your reflection, but perhaps you can speak with Cardavor in Celondim proper?..."
She looked up. An elf maid stood before her, patiently waiting for Sylrien to acknowledge her. After she nodded, the girl continued to speak. "He seems quite worried about something, and, from what I know of the tales of your bravery, you may be able to help him..."
This caused her to smirk. She did not know what tales of bravery the girl had heard, but her appearance lent itself well to the claim the elf made. She wore brown leathers of human make, along with an Elvien tunic worked in a dark blue. It was a far cry from the light colors the elves favored, from the pastel robe the girl before Sylrien wore. "I will lend whatever aid I can, where is he?"
The elf smiled, curtsying before Sylrien before answering her question, "You may find him by the piers. Follow the path to the north to the gates, then continue to the water's edge. Le hannon, brennil."
Sylrien return the gesture, bowing deeply before her. She left the elf maid on the terrace, and left the gulls to cry their lonely lament alone.