Heart of Flame: A Tale of Sauron

Tidal

The seabirds were mating for the season, flapping against the cliffs and scattering feathers to the wind. Luimëníssë swung over the crevices to collect eggs while the mother birds were distracted. Gently putting her delicate discoveries into the netted bag that she used for pearl diving, she pulled herself up onto the edge of the cliff.

Evening had brought a light shower to the harbor, the waves pockmarked with rain in the gray dawn. After an hour, it had cleared and the light from Laurelin shown out over the coast. Her silver hair bound in a tight braid and clad in her white hose and loose tunic, Luimëníssë closed her eyes and fell back onto the grass.

It had been three days since the festival and three nights of feasting at the home of her grandfather Lord Olwë to celebrate their guests. The Lords Finwë and Fingolfin, Írissë’s father and grandfather, were more gracious than their offspring.

However, she sensed tension. All was not well in Tirion, though her parents avoided discussing the matter with her. Naretarnon was often in the company of the impossible Atarinkë so she didn’t want to ask him for fear she would receive more snide comments about her ignorance.

Artanis proved to be a fine companion though. She was like Nanwë, more inclined to study instead of exploring, but they both enjoyed weaving. As Artanis said, Írissë proved to be less taxing when it was just the three of them. The huntress was almost likable, quicker to laugh than the grave Artanis. Still, Luimëníssë felt a great divide between her and her Noldorin cousins. Her Aunt Eärwen was right, she was Teleri through and through.

A seabird squawked, diving for her in vengeance. Sitting up and swatting out a hand, the bird flew away. Gathering her things, she discerned a faint cry against the crash of the surf.

Someone was hollering for help.

Luimëníssë crouched at the edge of the cliff. A strong current ran along the surface of that particular inlet. The Teleri were aware of it and steered clear, teaching their children how to escape if they were ever caught in the furious suction.

A dark head emerged from the surface, a hand flailing in angry protest against the waves, as though their iron will alone would sway the sea itself. Luimëníssë knew there was no escaping the rip tide. The elf would drown unless someone helped.

Tucking her bag of eggs between the crevices, Luimëníssë climbed down to a lower ledge and leaped into the air towards the frantic splashing. She cut through the surface, bubbles rippling around her. The violent current caught her body and threatened to drag her towards the cliffs, but she was a strong swimmer, even more so than her own mother.

She gripped the swimmer by the wrist and pulled up. Through the foam, she screamed out against the ocean.

“Hold my hand, we must dive under!”

Luimëníssë kicked hard, tugging the distressed swimmer down into the cool deep. The roar of the waves muted as the water stilled. When her lungs could take it no longer, she swam them both to the calm surface closer to shore. They both gasped as they broke into the bright, morning air.

“You!” Luimëníssë laughed, treading towards the stunned ellon.

Atarinkë, the son of the famed Curufinwë Fëanáro, was looking less smug in his waterlogged and winded state. He pushed the loose black hair from his sharply angled face, his full lips parting as he stared wide eyed at her.

“What was that!?” he demanded. “I was fine!”

She should have known better. Without a glance backwards, she did the breast stroke for shore. “Of course you were.”

They dragged themselves onto the sand. The exhilaration of the rescue filled Luimëníssë’s veins with fire. She laughed brightly as she rolled up to sit on the beach, grains of golden sand and ruby pebbles coating her skin.

“You’re insane,” he choked, sitting up with his elbows draped across his knees. “What could possibly be funny?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Perhaps it’s you.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you.” She fished a strand of kelp from the tangled hair hanging down his back. “You look rather... out of your element.”

He clenched his sharp jaw. “You’re mocking me.”

“Yes.” She beamed, silver eyes wide with elation. “A refreshing turn of events, don’t you agree?”

Atarinkë set his dark eyes on the horizon. “I suppose you have the right. I had no idea the currents around here were so strong. Your brother mentioned in Tirion that he enjoyed a swim at dawn in the Bay of Elvenhome, so I decided to try it.”

“Don’t be hard on yourself. Only those familiar with these waters know about the currents in that cove. You should have asked my brother to go with you.”

A stiff silence descended between them. Luimëníssë stretched her legs and stood, assuming he had no further need of her. He was regaining his former arrogance and she didn’t want to receive any more unmerited barbs. He ignored her, looking out across the sea.

As she walked towards the cliff where she’d left her eggs, he cleared his throat. He didn’t turn towards her as he spoke.

“Thank you, Luimëníssë.”

It was the first time he had referred to her by name.

“You’re welcome.” Wringing her hands, she glanced towards the cliffs. “Are you very weary from your swim?”

Rubbing a hand over his face, he cocked his head towards her, narrowing his dark eyes. “Not very. Why?”

She pursed her lips. Perhaps she could show him how delightful their home truly was and dispel some of his prejudice.

“Come with me then. You might enjoy it, if you are the daring sort.”

Her veiled challenge did the trick. He followed her up the rough path leading to the cliff face where the oil lamp perched. White smoke billowed like grounded clouds from the giant silver and bronze bowl. She walked towards the edge that Rembano had jumped from all those years earlier.

“I’ve always wanted to try this one,” she said, tossing her braid over her shoulder and resting her hands on her hips.

“Try what?”

She pointed down towards the crashing surf, barely able to contain her excitement. She had been cliff diving since she was a child but never this one, the highest possible angle that could be done without bodily harm.

“If my mother finds out, I’ll just use you as an excuse. Do you mind?”

“Are you proposing we jump?”

“That’s what I’m proposing.”

His intelligent eyes scanned the water below as he assessed the situation. With a firm nod more to himself than her, Atarinkë moved forward.

“Very well.”

That was all the suggestion she needed. Taking a couple steps back, she ran forward and jumped into thin air, diving through the mist. Though she didn’t see him, she sensed Atarinkë close behind as they fell through space. They crashed into the water. Luimëníssë remained below a moment longer, letting the sea fill her spirit.

“You are not what I expected,” he sputtered as she surfaced by him, treading water.

“That’s funny, because you are exactly how I expected you to be,” she replied, splashing him. “Come, let’s do it again.”

They jumped another two times. Luimëníssë was surprised to see a genuine smile on his grave face as they surfaced the last time. It wasn’t from smug superiority or laughing at someone else’s weakness. It was from pure joy, the same way she felt.

“You know, I take back what I said,” she commented as they trudged up the steps to mansion, her bag of eggs hooked over his shoulder. “You aren’t what I expected either.”

A relaxed grin, the first she had seen, made a fleeting appearance as he cut her a quick glance.

“I suppose you thought ill of me at first. Can’t say I blame you.”

“But you won’t apologize.”

“I don’t do that very often... or easily. None in my family do. I suppose it’s because of my father.”

Her curiosity was piqued at his regretful, but reverent tone. “What is your family like?”

He bit his prominent lower lip. “They are complicated. My brothers are the only people I can truly be myself around, but we are a passionate and competitive brood. And my father... well, my father is the greatest of the Eldar as far as I’m concerned.”

Though she dearly loved Calarmo, she had never thought of her father in such worshipful terms. “They sound intimidating.”

“My mother isn’t. Nor perhaps my younger brothers, the twins. They take after her more than our father. Pleasant and approachable. Something I have never been.”

They paused in the rose garden. Thorny vines curled over a craggy oak tree that drooped with deep green foliage. Luimëníssë picked an amber rose and plucked the petals. “Do you ever wish you were different?”

He glanced up into the branches as a bird sang out. “No. I am the most like my father out of my brothers and there is no one I respect more. I was even named for him. I cannot think of a greater honor.” He met her eyes tentatively. “I apologize if I am talking too much about him.”

Leaning against the trunk, she tugged her thick braid over her shoulder to brush the sand and opals stones from it. “I don’t mind listening. I know so little of the outside world.”

“Your brother mentioned you lived something of a sheltered life. He said your mother was fearful of a prophecy she saw at your births...”

She waved a hand dismissively with a forced laugh, unwilling to broach that shadowy subject. “Oh yes, that. You have become good friends with my brother? You two are nothing alike.”

“When we first met, I thought he was too simple but then, the more we worked together in the smith, I realized that being his friend was easy. He accepts others without question.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “After meeting his family, it makes sense. I... I have grown fond of your home.”

The breath caught in her throat. Hearing a compliment from him was strange.

“Thank you. I hope you have enjoyed yourself here, Atarinkë.”

She moved before the moment became awkward and climbed the hidden stairs leading into the home.

“Thank you. I didn’t think I would, but I have,” he confessed behind her.

The pearly ceiling of the silent hall cast a hallowed light on her silver head. She took the bag of eggs from him. He wet his salty lips and held her gaze.

“I would like it if you called me Curvo. I’m not fond of my mother name. My brothers and friends, they call me Curvo.”

“Very well,” she said breathlessly, taken aback by the vulnerability in his voice. “I shall see you at dinner, Curvo.”

Hitching the bag higher on her shoulder, she fled with bare feet towards the kitchens, unsure of what to think of the Fëanorian.

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