Disclaimer: All of Arda belong to Professor J. R. R. Tolkien. I can only lay claim to the mistakes in this story.
Note: Great thanks to Nemis for beta-reading, as always....
Crossing the Sea
She had my brother's eyes.
She had been found wandering along the beach, lost and alone, by a couple of young people--children, in fact--who had been sailing up in the Bay of Nénufal. So they brought her back to Alqualondë, up the street winding from the quayside, and to my gate. The oldest boy walked by her side, guiding her lightly; behind her and a little to the side came another lad, and a girl with two long braids of black hair, leading a small boy by the hand. These children flanked her, as if wishing to protect their newfound charge from the curiosity of the crowd, already starting to gather around them as they passed. They came before me and halted. And I found myself looking straight into my brother's eyes.
They were the exact same shade of blue-grey as my brother's eyes, and the exact same shape. There was also the same light in them, though it was only a faint glimmer, and I barely discerned it. For these eyes were also different, terribly so: she was gazing at me with such an expression in them. No, she was not even gazing at me, but at another place, in some space all her own. I could see a desperate grief in these eyes, and a vast fear that went deep, deep down. And beyond the grief and the fear were a host of things that I could not read.
She stood there facing me, as still as a statue, with all that grief and fear and other things staring out at me and past me. I heard whispers all around, among the gathering crowd, but they kept back a little, as if an unseen voice commanded them to give her room. She wore a torn white dress, which fluttered in the breeze. Her dark hair, long and loose, fluttered also in the breeze. She was astonishingly and heartbreakingly beautiful.
I found my voice.
"I bid you welcome to Alqualondë, lady. Tell us, what is your name? Where is your home?"
At first, I did not know if she had heard my words at all. But slowly, very slowly, her eyes--so alike to my brother's and so different--focused on mine.
"Have no fear, for you are among friends now," I added, hoping to encourage.
Another long pause, while her gaze searched my face. Then she replied in a voice that was low and sad, yet surprisingly clear:
"I come from Middle-earth, across the sea."
Whispers like the crackle of flames, running through the crowd. Only a small part of my mind heard them.
How could so few words be so shattering? How could I have been so unprepared for them, when she was looking at me with eyes like those? Middle-earth, across the sea. Where I had left my brother, all those ages ago. Where so many of our kin remained. Middle-earth of starlight and dark shadows in the forests...
And of the Noldor, who had also been our kin.
The young woman fell silent, retreating once more into whatever lonely space she inhabited. Yet her words kept on reverberating, seemingly at once soft and as loud as thunder.
I come from Middle-earth, across the sea.
Middle-earth, where I, too, had walked in wonder beneath the stars.
"She is exhausted."
Sílaniel's clear voice cut through the echoes. Giving the crowd a reproachful look, my wife stepped forward to the stranger, and with gentle hands began to guide her away, murmuring soft words of comfort. Meekly, the young woman allowed herself to be led towards the gates of the house. I sent Sílaniel a quick mental whisper of gratitude.
Bidding the children who had found her to remain, I questioned them on their discovery. They had sailed out of Alqualondë, going up the coast. And as they came into the Bay of Nénufal, they had heard a mysterious voice in the distance, singing sorrowfully upon the shore. She had spoken very little, but from the few fragments that she had offered, it seemed that she had fled from some horrible destruction in Middle-earth, to seek her husband upon the sea. And she had spoken her own name to them: it was Elwing.
"We heard her song, lord. It sounded so sad--sad and strange--" the oldest boy told me, his voice quiet, as if speaking of a dream. "But we recognized the tune of the song, for my father sings it sometimes. He told me of it once, that it was an old tune, from the times when our people still lived in the lands of Middle-earth..."
Middle-earth, across the wide sundering sea.
I come from Middle-earth, across the sea. I have sought long for my brother, who first told us of Aman's light, but I found him not. I have sought for him beneath the stars, everywhere; I have sought in all the forests and fields, and all the mountain-passes and valleys, and by the rivers, and by the lakes, but I found him not. And the sea was calling; my people wished to follow the call of the sea, to seek the land of light. My brother is lost, I do not know if he is living or dead, and I abandoned him...
I returned to the present. The girl with the black braids was looking up at me, wide-eyed, as was the small boy, also dark-headed, standing beside her.
"Lord, we were wondering, may we--" she faltered, bit her lips, then plunged on, "may we come see her sometimes? It's not that we are curious--we are, I mean, but she also told us that she had children... I thought we could try to cheer her up, perhaps? Just a little?"
Her face was hopeful and full of pleading.
"What is your name, my child?"
"Eärlinde, my lord. And this is my younger brother Annairo." She gave the boy next to her a little tug.
I smiled, though my heart felt no lighter.
"I will let her know, Eärlinde. And if she wishes it, you may visit Elwing. But only if she wishes it."
The girl nodded eagerly. "Thank you, my lord," she breathed, and ran off, her little brother in tow. Watching her lithe young form disappear down the street, I suddenly found all the memories come rushing back to me, crashing and roaring about me, tossing me in their great waves. How little it took, for the countless years to disappear like a mist in the sun, and turn to nothing. How little it took for all the old wounds to open anew, bleed anew.