I look across the harbour at the waves breaking against the grey ship, elf and dwarf standing at the helm. Neither of them looks back, though they know I am here.
Did you really expect, Legolas, that your project would go unnoticed? Nay, news that you had left the woods of Ithilien for the coast spread far and wide, even reaching Lothlórien far in the north. What does a wood-elf -- or dwarf, for that matter -- know of boat-making? You might have travelled to the havens at Mithlond and bought passage on one of the remaining ships, or purchased a well-made boat from one of Gondor's fine ship-wrights. What fancy drove you to such foolishness, that you would sail in a boat you built yourself? When I first heard of your project I laughed aloud.
Rúmil joined me in my merriment, offering a wager on how many days out of port you would last before your ship foundered. But Orophin... I could tell he did not consider your doings a laughing matter. A far-away look had filled his eyes. "He is of Lord Celeborn's folk," he had said quietly. "Legolas would not build a ship without good reason. The journey may be more important for him than any destination ever could be. And if the lady Úinen calls him to Valinor, her master Ulmo shall bless his journey."
I have never been the sharpest of elves. I am a first-rate archer, true, and a fine minstrel, and I know my share of stories, but wisdom is another matter altogether. Orophin was the natural lore-master, and if Lothlórien had known peace I doubt he would have ever set his hand to a bow-string. Yet even I sensed there was more in my brother's comment than I comprehended at first, so I set it aside in my mind, thinking on it ever so often. Several months passed before I truly understood the secret of those words.
All of the Galadhrim know the stories about Elu Thingol. How he disappeared in the twilight years before Sun or Moon traversed the sky. How Legolas' grandfather turned aside from the road to Valinor, while my own grandfather travelled on with Finwë's people into the furthest West. I am one of the Noldor, but none lives long in Lothlórien without learning something of our lord Celeborn's heritage. I was no exception.
In Fingolfin's court at Hithlum, where I came of age, the minstrels told of how the Sindar had forsaken the call of the Valar. But Orophin's words made me question what I always believed. Was it not the Valar who foresook them? Oromë, who often rode through Middle-earth, should know its power! He and his kind shaped these lands, called them into being. Who better than them to know its lure? Did they not guess that so many of us would not be able to easily leave the land of our birth? Why should they ask something so difficult of us, so they could live in their rich houses across the Sea? Some might label these thoughts heresy, but to me they seem true.
The sea breeze whips around me, blowing the plait in my hair away from my head. Is the Sea always this violent? I have never enjoyed the feel of the shore; the gritty sand worked its way into my clothes, the smell of kelp irked me, the caw of the gulls grated against my ears. I know many Elves would come to the docks every time a ship set sail for Valinor, but not me. I only had watched one other ship leave for Valinor.
My family crossed the Belegaer once before, when we Elves first left Cuivienén at Oromë's urging. And they walked across the ice with Fingolfin and his brother and all the other Elves that Fëanor would have abandoned in Valinor. But I did come to the docks when my parents made their third and final journey after the supposed victory of the Last Alliance. They claimed they had suffered enough of Middle-earth's heartache, and that the time had come for them to return home.
But my brothers and I were not yet ready to join them, so we stayed in Lothlórien. I cannot make myself cross the Sea even once.I have heard the singing of the mallorn tree, the whisper of the wind in the grass at Cerin Amroth. And I have felt the warmth of the stars on winter evenings. Middle-earth never knew the glory of the Trees so it does not miss them. I do not feel the call of the Sea that stole my parents from me.
When I heard of the ship that Legolas built in Ithilien, at first I laughed. It was just too absurd to imagine him doing any such thing! But then Orophin's words sobered my heart. There are so many things I would see! So many reasons to join Legolas in his journey. My own parents, of course, and Fingolfin, my king of old. And Aredhel... how I loved her! I adored her as a youth in Hithlum, and I wpet for her passing as a man in Gondolin. I have heard that those elves slain in battle or by cruel mischance receive new hröa in Valinor, when Mandos deems their souls healed. And I would dearly love to see her smile again. That thought alone is enough to tempt me.
Yet all of those things cannot make me seek the Havens. The gulls' call has captured Legolas' heart, but the sparrows' song still holds mine. Legolas must seek Valinor, for he will never be whole if he stays here. But as for myself... I miss those who have passed into the West and shall never return, but my heart would break if I tried to follow them.
I shall not say "never". Perhaps when my lord Celeborn makes that journey and seeks his wife, perhaps then I shall join him. Will my soul weary of mortality by then, with its passing beauty and lasting sorrow? Perhaps not. I am wise enough to know I cannot guess the future. All I know is the present, and right now, I know I must stay.
So I watch the elf and dwarf at the prow of their grey ship, their sails billowing in the breeze; it is as if Úinen hurries them on their way. They gaze into the setting sun, neither seeming to move; I am glad that they do not turn back, even to wave farewell. May they find peace.
Note: Legolas's Sindarin ancestry through his paternal grandfather Oropher is gleaned from "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", The Unfinished Tales; Haldir's family history is my own invention. To my knowledge Tolkien does not specify his background or even his age.