Meetings Beyond the Sea
He had eyes for no other, as he disembarked from the white ship. As the ship drew near the shore, he saw her running, light and fleet of foot as she had been when he first saw her in Ost-in-Edhil… he saw her waiting on the wharf, shimmering in the light of the sunset sky, its glow illuminating her silver hair with soft-rose hues, lovelier even than he remembered. As he walked down from the ship, he saw in her iridescent grey eyes the wholeness and healing he had failed to give her. And she, gazing into his eyes, saw all the burden he had carried in the mortal lands. Saw his story of the recent joy and loss common to them both. And tears trembled in her eyes even as she smiled.
They stood on the dock folded in each other’s arms for an eternity, as others milled around them in other meetings. They had never had great need for spoken words, and stood lost in the meeting of their minds.
Even from afar, as he had stood on the ship’s deck and seen the clouds part and the far green land on the horizon, his thoughts had gone forth seeking her, and heard her reply.
“At last,” he had heard her say in his mind. “At last you are here. I have waited for you each day… meleth e-gûren, love of my heart...”
Now, he felt her at last real and warm in his arms as he had dreamed so many years.
Then, he heard her speak once again. “Come, my heart. There are two I have brought here whom you must meet.”
Elrond reluctantly lifted his head from his wife’s silver hair, and saw a lady with dark hair and sea-grey eyes gazing at him, so like Arwen in appearance that he had no doubt who she was. Dim memories from infancy conjured her face. He did not need to ask for his father. Already in the twilit skies above he saw the silmaril-star sailing. Elwing stepped forward with tears flowing down her cheeks, who had lost two sons six thousand years ago, and now received back one.
And behind Elwing, a lady with radiant, flowing hair of light, pure gold. Glittering grey eyes scanning the crowd, searching, he knew, for a tall warrior, for deeper golden hair and a beloved face, to find only the Lady Galadriel folding her much-missed daughter in her arms.
Elrond braced himself, and hand-in-hand with his mother, walked forward to meet his father’s mother.
From the terrace of his new home, Elrond looked down onto the myriad twinkling golden lights of the buildings of Tol Eressëa that stretched below.
He looked up at the fiery stars above. Constellations familiar yet different, burning larger and brighter than in the mortal lands, seeming so much closer to earth. His father’s star could no longer be seen in the sky.
In the gardens below, he lovingly watched Celebrían walk arm-in-arm with her mother, deep in talk. He himself would be visiting his long-lost parents when daylight came, and his mother had just departed for her tower in the far north to make preparations for a feast. As she had leapt lightly off the terrace, her form had blurred into a white bird whose long, slender wings clove swiftly through the air, shooting northward to the remote borders of the Sundering Seas.
Elrond now looked behind him and was not surprised to see his father’s mother approach. At the harbour, he had but told her that Glorfindel had chosen to remain in Ennor for a while. He had briefly glimpsed the stricken look in her eyes before Celebrían swept them all to her home. As they had dined, the haunting sea-songs of the Teleri wafted through the window on the sea breezes. The talk at the table had by turns been joyous and poignant, uplifting and sorrowful. Idril had shown keen interest in the adventures of the Fellowship and her descendants, but her eyes had brimmed with tears as Elrond and Galadriel recounted the wedding of Arwen and Elessar.
“Haruni Itarillë, will you sit here with me?” Elrond now said in Quenya, pouring his grandmother some wine.
Idril smiled as she took the goblet, and raised it in a toast to him. “Hara máriessë,” she said.
“Hara máriessë,” Elrond responded with a smile, raising his own.
She sat next to him on a long couch overlooking the ocean. Her noble head, proud and lovely on the slender column of her white neck, shimmered in the night as her fair, bright golden hair flowed over her shoulder down to the floor. The lovely face for which a city had fallen was looking slightly dejected.
As they sipped the rich, spicy red wine, Elrond learned from Idril that she divided her time between her home here in Avallonë, her parents at Alcarinos—as New Gondolin was called—and her grandparents in Kortirion or in Valmar. But it was clear enough to Elrond that her love and life now centred chiefly on her children, from the warmth and tenderness with which she spoke of Eärendil, and Elwing, who was as a daughter to her.
“Why do you remain here in Avallonë, when Elwing and Eären—when my Ammë and Atar dwell north?” How false “Atar” sounded to Elrond’s ears. It felt like a betrayal of a dark-haired, silver-eyed outlaw in threadbare clothes and battleworn armour.
Idril smiled. “My memories of your grandfather are here. The home we built. His grave.”
Elrond nodded. He had heard from Glorfindel that his grandparents had not received the singular grace enjoyed by Beren and Lúthien Tinúviel. In Aman, Tuor had been granted the boon of a life long beyond that of any other man before him. Then he had willingly embraced the Gift of Men and peacefully passed beyond the Circle of Arda, with his family at his side… Idril, Eärendil and his wife, and Glorfindel, who had been as a brother to him.
Idril had been long prepared for that parting, for had she not given her heart to Tuor knowing full well that their days were numbered? And Eru and the Valar had blessed her in this: that she had enjoyed more than tenfold the fifty years she had thought they would have together, and that to the last he had been hale, and whole, and happy… but increasingly restless and ready for that final voyage to a world that beckoned to him beyond the veil. Naturally, she had grieved, and sought healing for her loss in the gardens of Estë. They would meet again only at the Second Music, and a hint of sadness lurked in her bright eyes.
Would Elrond have wished such a fate on Arwen, for the price of her immortality? Better, Elrond thought, that his beloved daughter be severed from her parents and brothers but eternally united with the one she loved through the Gift of Men. And even in the midst of his own sorrow, that comforted Elrond.
“And I still keep Laurefindil’s chamber here,” Idril was saying. “Though he would doubtless wish to dwell in Alcarinos upon his return.”
Elrond wondered if he should prepare Idril for the fact that her foster son might never return. Or when it might be suitable to break the news that her beloved boy had married the enemy of her family. He would have to tread carefully. He had no wish to give her false hope, or mislead her. But neither did he wish to add to her sorrow.
“I am sorry for your disappointment, Haruni,” he said as he refilled her goblet, “But Laurefindil will remain with my sons until they, too, come to Aman.”
“May our sons join us soon.” She raised her goblet in another toast, then took a dainty sip. “After five thousand years, what is a little more waiting?”
“Indeed,” murmured Elrond.
“You have been with Laurefindil five millennia… Just think! It is far, far longer a time than he has ever spent with me.” She laughed lightly. “Tell me how he does.”
“He is well. He has ever been the most skilled of warriors and a great commander of warriors, and he has done mighty deeds in battle against the Shadow.”
Her face lit in a proud smile. “I expected no less. Has he changed in any way?”
“He has carried the burden of the years lightly. When we parted, he was as joyous and young of spirit as when I met him first. In fact, I had never seen him happier.”
“Ah,” she laughed musically with delight, thinking of his familiar face and smile. Then her laugh faltered with wonder that remaining in Ennorath should bring such joy.
“He has been the best of friends to me and my family, and is deeply beloved of all who dwell in my household.” Except for dear old Erestor, Elrond thought. “And he was much pursued by half the unwed nissi in Endórë.”
Her laugh was like a mountain brook. “That, too, was to be expected.” She sipped her wine, then gazed at him piercingly, her elegant eyebrow raised. “…But you say ’was’.”
Elrond smiled. “Yes. It is amazing, for all of us who know him, but he has finally found his One.”
Her face shone eagerly. “Finally! I feared it might never happen!”
“Yes, whoever would have believed it of him?”
“Oh, I am so happy! Tell me everything. Is she worthy of him?” Her eyes narrowed slightly, sceptical that any could be good enough for her darling.
“She is brave, clever, and beautiful, and she adores him. They have been wed almost seventy coranári.”
“Oh, that I should have missed the wedding!” she lamented, and heaved a sigh. “Was it beautiful?”
“Very, but neither a grand nor a large one. A joyous, humble affair of good friends and well-wishers. Nine hundred guests.”
“Had he been wed in New Ondolindë, in Alcarinos, he might have had a hundred thousand guests! For not one of the Gondolindrim would have missed it for the world! We must have another wedding celebration there, once he returns. All in the twelve houses would return from the far corners of Aman to behold it.”
Elrond very much doubted that the House of the Mole would show their faces. And the thought of Maeglin at such a wedding was absolutely terrifying. He managed a smile.
“It would be a little strange, to have another wedding. They have children already, just born. Two boys, not yet a year out of the womb at the time we set sail.”
She gave a cry that mingled delight and regret. “Ah, twins? The darlings! Oh, that I was not there for the birth!” Her smile was both dazzling and dreamy. “It is just as well he remains with my great-grandsons. His boys are a little young for the journey. Oh, how impatient I am to see them all!” She sighed again.
Elrond smiled. He sipped his wine.
His grandmother missed nothing. Her eyes were gazing thoughtfully at him, shrewdly. “He IS coming… is he not?” She asked in measured tones.
Elrond looked into the ruby depths of his wine, then met her eyes and said in a level voice, “That is certainly his wish.”
The light of the Trees in those grey eyes pierced him. “But not hers, I gather.” Her voice, so sweet and melodious, had taken on an edge like a steel blade’s.
Elrond calmly set his goblet down. “He will seek to persuade her. And as you know—he can be persuasive.”
She hissed, rose from her seat, and paced up and down for a while. “What kindred is she?” she said in a quiet, hard voice, swinging round to face him. “Is she of the Moriquendi that she would turn him away from his kin and from the blessed lands?”
“She has never said what kindred she hails from,” Elrond said mildly. Seeing her eyes widen in astonishment, he added, “We found her in a nearby forest, and with apparently no memory of anything before that.”
She tilted her fair head to one side, looking grim. “So, you do not believe her claim to have no memory, Indya.”
“I believe she has reason not to speak of her past, Haruni. But none of us have ever sensed anything ill in her.”
“Oh pitya,” Idril murmured. “What manner of nís have you wed?”
She looked at her grandson, whose lip was twitching at hearing his tall, ancient friend called “little one”. “How could one of his nature, so open and so true, bind with a creature of secrets such as she?”
Elrond had not had any intention of breaking the news on the very day of his arrival, but he sensed it looming. “He knows her secrets, and loves her all the more.”
Idril sat on the couch again, and spoke in a low, steady voice. “You know those secrets, I can tell. Why are you chary of telling me, Indya?”
Elrond met her eyes. “Question me, Haruni, and I shall answer you.”
She picked up her wine goblet again, and thought for a while as she swirled the ruby liquid. She found herself flinching from the questions most weighing on her heart. “How old is she?”
“Not even a yén in age. She was but a child when found, just blossoming into womanhood, naked as the day she was born. She has perhaps seen a mere hundred and twenty coranári.”
She thought of her eternally boyish foster son. “Strange that that should seem fitting, seven millennia old though he may be.”
“Her fëa seems far older than that, though. She is no babe in spirit.”
“In what way?”
“There is nothing of the child in her. She speaks little, and is grave and dutiful and dedicated to the work of her hands.” He avoided the word craft. “She neither dances nor sings nor plays as other girls her age are wont to do. Whatever her past, it left a shadow on her. Her laughter and smiles were rare currency before… but he has been good for her and brought her joy.”
“She is wholly unlike him in every way!”
“As night from day.”
Idril’s long, slender fingers toyed with the stem of her wine goblet. “What is she like in appearance?”
He sipped his own wine. “Raven black hair. White skin. Slender but strong. Long black eyes.”
At those last words, Idril’s fair brow furrowed. Black eyes were rare, and found only among the Moriquendi.
Idril had known only two personages with such eyes. Deep, smouldering eyes of black obsidian.
In fact, all of the history of the Eldar recorded only two personages with such eyes.
A Dark Elf. And his son.
She emptied her cup in one gulp. Elrond began to feel worried.
“Black hair and black eyes, say you?” she asked, her voice strange.
“Yes. A great beauty, I must say, and much admired in our valley.”
She extended her empty cup and he refilled it. They looked out into the night, and listened to song of the Teleri and the long, rolling sound of surf beating on the shore.
“What is her name?” she asked in a quiet voice.
And here it came.
“Lómiel,” said Elrond, as nonchalantly as he could, bracing himself.
A small, strangled sound escaped from his grandmother’s throat, and a little wine splashed from her goblet onto her white skirt.
“Oh, how careless of me. I grow clumsy,” she said with a short laugh, waving off his concern. “It is an old dress. It is no matter.”
She threw her golden head back and drained her cup again.
As she extended her cup again, and he refilled it, Elrond quickly changed the subject and began asking about the island’s central city of Kortirion and the various diversions available there. That would do till later. Let her ponder it for a while, ere they spoke of it again.
He had not even needed to mention that Glorfindel’s wife was a smith.
The following night, a brother and sister sat together in a fair garden at the foothills of Taniquetil, where Finrod had built a graceful white mansion so that his beloved Amárië might be close to her people. Their dinner had ended late, and Amárië had retired to allow the two siblings to talk. They had spoken through the night, and at the hour before dawn there was still so much to say after almost seven thousand years of separation. They communicated sometimes with speech, sometimes mind-to-mind.
As the sky in the east began to lighten, Finrod said to his sister:
“Come, Artë. I have something to show you.”
He led her into the house, and they continued to speak of various things as they walked through the wide, high-ceilinged corridors. Everything in the house spoke of grace, order and serenity. The corridors lit as they approached, and dimmed after they passed.
Finally, he led her into his study, and opened a door off it leading to another chamber. Hovering golden globes of light came to life.
Galadriel understood the moment she stepped in and her brilliant grey eyes swept over the small room.
On a wall were maps of Beleriand in the First Age and of Middle Earth in the Second and Third Ages. Marked out on the maps were key events of a life, the year and description written in a fair, flowing script by a father who had questioned voyagers returned from the mortal lands, and spoken to rebodied souls released by Mandos, in order to trace the life of a lost son.
Galadriel saw Gondolin and Vinyamar in Nevrast marked out in Beleriand, and the battlefield of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad where Glorfindel had fought.
There was a detailed plan of Gondolin, with all the houses marked out… and marked out too, were Idril’s secret way of escape… and the path through the Cirith Thoronath… and the pinnacle where a battle with balrog had taken place... and a spot where a cairn was raised.
On a map of Middle Earth was Lindon… and Barad-dûr. The battle plain was marked out, where the warrior had almost died a second time and returned to Mandos during the great siege, only to be turned back from the Halls by the Vala, his service not yet done.
In the Northern Kingdom, Fornost was marked... there, he had confronted and driven out the Witch-King of Angmar, and released a prophecy that would be fulfilled a thousand years hence.
There was a large map of Imladris valley, for thousands of years his home and the place where he had faithfully trained generations of the Rangers of the North. Even the plan of the house was marked in some detail with the kitchens, his chambers, the training rooms, the stables, the healing hall, and the Hall of Fire.
And side by side with the maps were portraits capturing a life the father had missed. The finest master painters of Tirion had been commissioned, and caught with breathtaking realism moments of time described by Idril or Voronwë or Galdor or Ecthelion, and later by those who had sailed west from Imladris.
Galadriel saw a child laughing by the sea in a white tunic with his golden hair streaming in the sea breeze… a young Lord of Gondolin in fine blue robes standing grave and attentive by his King’s throne… a rider on a white horse, dressed in hunting garb, his bow drawn… a warrior pushing a mighty balrog down from a pinnacle, his beautiful face stern in battle fury, blue eyes blazing with white fire, frozen in that all-too-brief moment of victory over his foe, as with both hands on the hilt he drove the length of his dirk deep into the balrog’s chest. There was blood on his battle-dented armour, and a livid red streak down one cheek that had been torn by the balrog’s lash, and blood on singed hair that flowed over his shoulder from beneath his helmet—the famed golden hair by which his foe, two seconds hence, would drag the hero to his death into the dark chasm that yawned beneath them both.
A father’s shrine to a son he was still waiting to meet.
All of this, Galadriel’s sharp elven eyes and quick mind took in within three seconds. She turned to look into her brother’s glittering storm-grey eyes. He was leaning against a wall, his posture and the fall of his hair exactly as Glorfindel’s had been, that evening in Lothlórien, when the balrog slayer had asked her who his parents were.
But her brother’s eyes as they rested on her were not tormented like his son’s had been. They were calm and clear with the patience of a five thousand year wait.
For, of course, as he had spoken to Idril, Finrod had traced Glorfindel’s begetting date. Had understood that something had happened at Doriath, and guessed that Galadriel held the key to it. There was no reproach in the beloved eyes. Just the unspoken question that he did not even need to ask.
It was time for some answers.
Galadriel took his hands in hers, and looked into his waiting eyes.
“Ingo, please, please forgive me…”
Haruni (Q) – grandmother
Hara máriessë (Q) – stay in happiness (it is a greeting, but I’m using it as a toast)
Indya (Q) – my grandchild [indyo = grandchild, descendant]