Author's note: Voronwë, after one week of sulking because he had no decent plot-bunny to present me with so I could write him, finally produced one that could be considered acceptable. So I'm sorry if this story is rather pointless. See the result of trying to write a character with no plot to begin with.
Disclaimer: I own neither the settings, nor the characters mentioned. ::actually considering to just copy and paste disclaimers in the future, since they all look alike anyway:: They all belong to the Professor Tolkien, and I direly hope I am not making him do extra exercises in his coffin.
Who Calls and Claims and Takes
By Le Chat Noir
The Sea has always called to me.
For as long as I can remember, I have heard the rustling of her waves on the beach of pebbles. They are small, rounded pebbles, on the coast near Vinyamar, mostly grey of colour, displaying all the shades that an elven mind can possibly imagine to exist from the most immaculate of whites to the darkest of black.
On some of them, the seaweed that was dried by the violent sunlight has left a slight tinge of green.
After four hundred years of living between walls of stone, I had not forgotten her call, crying out, crying out. There is no boundary to the deepness of the Ocean's weeping; to the deepness of the wisdom and age of the endless waters, endless already long before we, the immortal Firstborns of Ilùvatar, were called into being.
And the first thing the Elves fell in love with, after the dim glow of stars, of a love that will forever stay rooted in our hearts, to destroy us all the better.
I know it now.
The Sea is a jealous lover, who calls, and claims, and takes, but never gives back.
As a child, I have spent days and days on that beach, that very beach of grey pebbles, worn handsomely round and smooth by the ebb and flow. I believe that, since the day I was allowed to run out of the house on my own, I had not missed this rendezvous once, not once, and would never have allowed myself to be absent from it for any reason Arda could provide. At dawn I would be there, alone, skinny little silhouette in the semi-shadows with a heavy cloak wrapped around my shoulders because of the chill air of the night, at dawn I would be standing there to admire the sunrise, gently pink and blue when the sky was clear, or tainting even the heaviest clouds of a shy blush. At dusk I would be there, standing still, or sitting on one of the big rocks that stood like islands in the shallow water, watching the sky set ablaze and the clouds stretching in ghostly bands of gold.
The Sea, like a mirror, at those times turned a shade of furious scarlet, sown with thousands small dots of blinding light on the crest of each tiny ripple.
We should not call her the Sea anyway. We have no right to name her, and neither to call her.
She is the one who calls us, and she calls us her slaves.
She is never twice the same. Each second she alters, shifts, smiles or frowns, and changes faces faster than the eye can follow. It was one of my great sadness in life; that, for however long I stared at her, I could still never quite catch the entirety of her meaning, it residing in the complexion of each these facets, which were in the end only the innumerable pieces of the giant puzzle that she was.
A puzzle that we, the Immortals, are not given to solve.
The daytime I would spend walking on the shore. Always, I left my boots on one rock, that one that stood at the end of the path that led home, and rolled up my trousers to knee level, so that I could walk into the salty water, freezing cold. Generally, though, it didn't account to much, since by the end of the day I would be thoroughly soaked, and lie myself on a flat rock to let the waning sunlight dry my clothes.
There are a lot of these big, grey rocks at the foot of the cliff, massed beside one another, randomly piled up by some ancient power greater than those we can know of. When the storm came, and the angry clouds rolled threateningly in the sky, I would prefer to make my way along the coast on these, climbing, jumping from one to another, earning small cuts and scratches on my hands and legs while doing so, but none of it mattered as long as I could feel the friendly surface of the rock beneath my feet, cold and cold as only stone could be. Then, when I had found a spot to my liking, I crouched there, immobile under the heavy rain, and watched the rising madness of the elements, when the wind and water merged.
However, after a while, when the waves reached the height of their roaring, I never could restrain myself, and always, always, I had to leap down from the high rock, and, running to the water, join into the demented waltz of the towers of water that could not be called waves, no more, crashing against each other, exploding into countless bits of white foam, rising, falling in perfect discord with the frantic howling of the wind.
I would laugh then, I would laugh because, the child I was, I knew not yet that when the Sea captures your heart, she does not give it back.
And not only your heart.
The other children also played there, by the shore - there was little else to do by the Havens-, but I did not play with them. All they knew of the Sea was swimming in peaceful waters, and, when the storm rages against the coast, they would all be staying at home by the warm hearth, maybe looking out the window at the falling raindrops. I was not the best swimmer among the boys my age; indeed, I was much too short and frail. However, I could defend myself well, even at those times, and often ended up third or fourth in a race against youngsters at least one head taller than I was. Yet I was unbeatable at making ricochets, and on the matter of climbing, even with those boys who had legs much longer than mine.
But they knew not the Sea. They could not know her, if they had never seen her in the height of her beauty, of her power, if they had never seen the dark, dark shade of her wrath tipped with the slender, eluding foam; never joined in the senseless dance of her wilderness.
So I just went a little bit farther along the coast, and left their games behind.
Then, one day, maybe in jest, my father stuck on my wild passion a name:
That night, unable to sleep because I could hear the wind roaring outside my window, I turned and turned in my bed, and repeated endlessly, savouring the new word on my lips:
I had always thought the Sea-longing to have a complete other meaning. The Sea-longing was a word that was not spoken aloud, only whispered and murmured with wary glances sent around, as if dreading the indiscreet ears of another. The Sea-longing was a word spoken sometimes in shame, sometimes in pity, sometimes with a bottomless pit of sadness and regret that I could not understand. It was a word used solely by the people of my Mother, the Falathrim, and when passing nearby, a Noldor always would have pretended not to have heard; but could not hide the flicker of unfathomable grief and pain that shadowed their eyes for a second. It was a word always accompanied by silence, and no one after it added another sentence; it was a word heavy of meanings it seemed everyone knew. Everyone except I.
As a child, I did not really understand all the implications that hid under those three syllables; but one thing I knew was that my love for the waters were in no way connected with sorrow and repentance.
Then, there was the fact that my father was a Noldor, and that even when he spoke that word I saw the torture it inflicted upon him.
I knew that my Mother's people were lovers of the Ocean, for a long, long time, long before my great-grandfather was even born; but even in their eyes when they watched the Sea there was something akin to… longing. Only it was not the Sea they yearned for, nor the Sea they watched, but a far, far point in the horizon, that seemed just like a little dot of black upon the infinity to me.
Once, I asked my father about it, and he took me on his knees, and smiled, and began telling me stories. True stories, he said. But I knew that my father was not a talkative man, and nor one that was very inclined to physical contact; and when I realised that he had been talking for several hours, using names I could not possibly understand and that he forgot to explain, with his hand straying in my hair and eyes vague as I had seldom seen him, I was frightened. I believe I have never asked him again about it, instead relying on listening to bits of conversation I caught here or there, or to the great library of the Falas I had never bothered with before.
But I knew that for me, it was not the love of the little black dot on the horizon. It was the Sea, the Sea herself, in all her glorious fury.
Glorious, and deadly.
I think that the first time I saw the tall, dark-haired elf was one of those not quite bright weathered, not quite stormy days, when the lazy clouds nevertheless covered the entirety of the sky, and the moody Sea was calm. To my surprise, when at the break of dawn I arrived on my usual spot, I found someone already there, someone I could not quite distinguish in the shadows.
Someone who was also here to watch the Sun rise out of the Abyss.
But, as the stubborn child I was, I did not feel inclined to relinquish my favourite place to a stranger, so, teeth set, I stood still, a little way behind him, and fixed my eyes on the horizon.
That day, the sunrise did not let itself be seen behind the greyish clouds, and, in my childish disappointment, the only resentment I felt was against the strange elf, and was quite sure that he was only another of those grief-stricken, black-dot-on-the-horizon-longing persons.
One of those who could never love the Sea for what she truly was.
In my anger, I walked only farther down the coast, and not once did the other elf acknowledge my presence.
By the afternoon, the sky had still not cleared, and, strongly annoyed, I walked directly back home without even waiting for the sun to set, being quite sure that it would not be worth it, and arrived early, which pleased my parents, but also worried them.
When I passed him, the tall elf seemed not to have budged at all since morning.
The next day, I woke up to find the sky in the exact same state as it had been, and, already angry, and direly hoping that the intruder would be gone, I made my way to the shore, only to fin him standing there again, in the very posture I had left him yesterday in. It was to wonder if he had moved at all during the night.
It was like that for maybe two whole weeks. The sky did not clear, and the entire City was looking up and wishing for the storm to break out. Those two weeks, the stranger stood on the beach, till as a statue, and for the whole while I was observing him, didn't even move his little finger. I didn't see one single sunrise nor sunset, and the water surface was stubbornly insisting on staying flat.
I never saw the elf's face, because he was always looking to the other side of the Ocean, to that little black dot.
I began to wonder what it was, and how a single little dot of black on an endless Sea could mean so much that was hidden to me.
Then, one morning, already stretching into noon, suddenly lightning and thunder filled the sky, and it were what seemed like lumps of rain that came down splashing on my face, when I turned it upwards and laughed, because I was getting soaked already and that I was sure the strange elf would not stay on the beach in that kind of a weather.
Later that day, when the sun began already to slyly move down towards the horizon, I ran, to my best rock, because the sky was looking singularly glorious and joyful. However, when I arrived within seeing range, my pace unconsciously slowed to a mere walk, and my laughter died in my throat, because the dark-haired elf was still standing there. The drenched state of his clothes strongly denied that he had ever sought shelter during the storm, and the tip of his braid was still dripping, forming a little puddle behind him.
I don't remember what I thought then, but suddenly seized by a childish kind of pity -I had yet to learn how the Noldorin nobles despised being pitied- I went to stand next to him. The sunset was splendid. I had almost succeeded in forgetting the unwanted presence at my side, entranced that I was in the magnificent scenery; but suddenly I startled, for, abruptly, the tall elf had sunk to his knees at my side, and his hand reached to my shoulder for support.
How heavy that hand was!
I wavered, but, dumbstruck at the moment, I did not try to move away, or to look at his face. To this day I do not know what might have happened if I had shaken his hand off, depriving him of that support. I think he would have fallen then, his face in the water, and maybe even that he would not have risen again.
My eyes stayed fixated on the disappearing Sun, and I did not dare to redirect my gaze.
But the sky darkened, night merging with day so gently one could not really tell whether it was one or the other. Little by little, the grip on my shoulder relaxed, loosened, and at the end remained but feather-light. I looked then, timid but curious, and I saw that he had shut his eyes, and that there was a long strand of wet hair plastered to his cheek, all the way to his neck. Then he turned to me, with his eyes –he had blue eyes, a rare thing- weakly opened and apologizing, and smiled.
Then, he leant on me one last time, stood up, and left. We had spoken no words, and the next morning, he was not there.
In my bed, I repeated the word again. 'Sea-longing' And for me, that very concept was held in the sad smile the tall elf had smiled the last day I saw him on the lonely beach.
In communion with the Sea, I grew, and also did my love for her. Though as a youth I could not go to her as often as I wished, being called by other duties that my relatively high birth imposed to me, every time I could spare from my otherwise tasteless -or so it seemed to me, because the other children of lesser name were beginning to consider me with a tint of envy- life found me at her side again, standing on the beach and breathing hard to engrave the memory of her smell deep into my memory, probably with that mad grin on my face my mother always reprimanded.
Not that I ever imagined leaving the coast at that time.
I wonder how I must have looked, the svelte frame of the yet still ungraceful and gauche adolescent I was, outlined in dark again the slightly lighter darkness of the stormy Sea, with my cloak held tight around my shoulders to resist the cold gush of wind that came from the West.
And the probably enormous tangle of my hair that I had never bothered to braid.
Maybe I can still see myself now, while the tempest has not completely died down, and the black clouds still looming overhead, standing with my feet in the water and laughing at the angry waves splashing helplessly on the grey pebbles. I can sense a smirk slowly curling my lips, and I suddenly feel the need to spit on the rock I'm sitting on. It is my favourite rock from a long time ago. I have found the same position I always took as a child, crouched, with my right knee bent to the ground, and both my hand folded in my lap.
It is also a greyscale landscape. Even I, the young elf touched by that insanity called Sea-longing, even I, with my coal-black hair, grey eyes, grey cloak, and ghostly pale skin, I am but a greyscale figure lost in this greyscale world. Only, maybe, the bleeding cuts and bruises on my arms and legs, face and neck, maybe they display a faint glow of crimson that can be recognised as living.
I know that madness now.
At last, I have truly joined in her dance, been in the heart of it, I have been a part of her, I have felt the true power of her frenzy, glorious and deadly.
I am broken by her passion, stronger than mine.
I do not regret.
Had I perished, I would not have regretted.
In Odolindë, I was considered a child, as one who had not known the land they call Aman, the Blessed, the Holy, the Forever Lost. Though the Lords and people alike accepted my company happily, the only true friendship I found was in the person of the Lord Ecthelion, the Fountain-Lover, who, though one of the most high-ranked elf in the City, did not mind stooping down to the level of simple peasants and had friends in the smallest cast of artisans and merchants.
In him, I fancied to have recognised the tall elf I had met on the lonely beach, but I never said a word, and I do not think that he saw in me the scrawny child of yesteryears.
In Odolindë, there were walls of stone, and towers of stone, and gates of steel, with statues of marble and high, stained glass windows. There were laughing brooks, and chanting fountains, and singing nightingales; but most of all, to me, there were walls of stone.
So, when Turgon announced that he would be sending out messengers to the Sea, and, possibly beyond, I was the first one to jump up at the news and immediately propose myself as a volunteer. The Council, at the beginning, seemed somewhat reluctant to let me go, putting up my young age and inexperience as arguments, but it soon turned out that I was one of the few persons of a certain highness of rank that they could spare from the City's daily life.
It was twenty years ago. A little more, or a little less, I do not know. I have forgotten.
And now, far over there, still stands the squeletton of our vessel.
The tide brought nothing.
The Sea takes, but she does not give back.
Not even the corpses.
I know now why the Sea has always called to me. The Sea is a jealous lover, who calls, and claims, and takes. And she knew that, in the end, I would be the only one to escape from her grasp. That I would be the only one to survive her embrace.
I am not returning to Odolindë.
Maybe I will seek the company of the Sea-Elves, the people of Cirdan, to which my Mother was related. Maybe I will spend the rest of my life there, on the Isle of Balar, where I can see the Sea everyday again.
But I will not return to the walls of stone.
With my hands under my cloak, I caress the small satchel a good mariner is wont to carry with him always. I know that inside, there is enough lembas for a grown elf to survive one month in the wild. My flask is filled. And, would it come to the worst, I am not only a sailor, and my aim is known to be at least as sure as any elf's; I do not doubt I can hunt some game to feed myself should the need arise.
Soon, I will rise, and began walking, down that coastline I once knew so well.
I will walk, I do not know for how long yet, and, when the twilight comes, I will sit down and watch the sunset; because the sky is gradually clearing, and it should be a beautiful evening.
But before that, before that I want to sit here and stare at the Sea for just a little, little while longer…
Author's note: And we all know that when Tuor finds him, he is still sitting there, staring at the Sea for a little, little while longer…