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The Voices of Stone
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Third Age

Middle-earth, the coast between Edhellond and Dol-Amroth, the third age of the world

A human woman was riding along the narrow road that skirted Cobas Haven. It was noon and the woman was tired and thirsty, her dark hair stuck in sweaty tangles to her neck. Finally the woman decided to take a break. She was on her way to Dol Amroth. It was not far anymore. There was time for a break. The woman dismounted and left the road, looking for a place suitable for a picnic.

What she found was something that seemed to be a holy spring, because there was a shrine built around the waters surfacing in the little dell that lay beyond the path, surrounded by a thicket of gorse and heather. The shrine was made of smooth grey stone; it held a basin filled with clear, cool drinking water that tasted slightly of earth.

A spout in the form of an ivy leaf was inserted at the rear wall of the well, and another at the back of the stepping stones that were placed in front of the well. From the latter the water dripped in a small rivulet down into a narrow channel of stone and then disappeared again into the ground. The roof of the shrine was fashioned in a pointed gable and covered in dark grey slates. In the tympanum the design of a sailing ship and a star were engraved, with elvish runes flowing around the sides. The runes were fading, but still clearly visible.

After the woman had watered her white horse and had eaten a quick lunch of cheese, dried fruit and brown bread, she knelt down in front of the shrine. She stared at the runes and tried to make sense of their flowing, intricate lines. It took her a long time to figure out the individual words. Apparently she did not know the language that had been used, although she had at least some knowledge of elvish runes as such.

Finally she gave a pleased sigh and nodded to herself.

After much thought and consideration she was almost sure that she could read the runes inscribed on the tympanum of the well.

She recited the words slowly, haltingly:

“Mi oro-mardi Andúne pella
Vardo nu luini tellumar, yassen tintilar i eleni
Óma-ryo lírinen aire-tário.
Sí man i yulma nin en-quant-uva?
Merale sa hiruvalye Valimar ar sa yulmarilya quatina.”

The woman fell silent. Then she sighed again. Obviously, though she had been able to figure out the words that had been carved into the grey stone of the little shrine, her knowledge did not extend to the language of Quenya. She probably knew it was Quenya. She could see where a word ended, where a word began, but she could not translate it. She could give no meaning to the beautiful elvish words gracing the tympanum of the little shrine.

But the way she gazed at the runes and at the small image of the ship and the star betrayed that the words nevertheless held some meaning for her. A meaning that went beyond the understanding of the words. Even if her mind did not understand the words, her heart did.

She refilled her drinking bottle with water from the spring. Then she held her cupped hands under the spout and let them fill up with the clear water. She washed her hands and her face. After a moment’s hesitation she then sprinkled a few drops of water on the tympanum, a gesture of gratefulness to forgotten gods and angels.

Then she mounted her horse again and rode away along the cliffs towards Dol Amroth.


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