He had heard her voice.
He sat up in his bed, his old heart pounding like a drum.
He sat in his bed, his old heart pounding like a drum.
Had he heard her voice?
In all those centuries they had been parted, not a single day had passed – that he had not thought of her, had not remembered her, had not longed for her.
With all of his heart, all of his soul.
He missed her still.
He would always miss her.
She was a part of his soul.
She was the better part of his soul.
Without her, he felt lost.
Afloat without a course or destination.
Blowing with the wind.
How often had he imagined the call of her voice, since he had returned to the circles of this world, where there was air again to carry the sound of her voice.
How often had he rushed down to the sea, plunging into the cold waves chasing white gulls.
How often had he felt the temptation of rowing across the tides of time to find her white tower.
How often had he in loneliness and longing barely stayed the hand on the knife.
How often had he been set on acting the fool, as he had been wont to do before, when first he dwelt in Arda, a memory of her had come upon him.
A memory of HER.
A cocked head, white hair flowing.
Golden eyes, cool and slightly disdainful.
Only a hint of a smile tugging at the corners of a rose colored, sensuous mouth.
Knife had stayed in the cupboard.
Boat had stayed moored to the quay.
He had learned to stay in bed.
In time it became easier.
This time around he was fully human after all.
Although he had the feeling that the Valar had messed it up once again.
He had not been used to counting the years at first.
He had missed the passage of twenty or thirty years. Maybe fifty.
But the years he had counted by now amounted to more than ninety years, and he knew of no human man in the fourth age of the world who had grown that old and still retained the full capacities of mind and body.
Well, perhaps not the full capacities.
But he was neither pissing himself yet, nor forgetting his name. Nor hers.
As if he could ever forget her name!
Had that been her voice?
Had she called his name?
He pressed his hand over his heart, trying to calm the frantic pounding in his chest.
For the first time in millennia he knew that he was not young anymore, and never would be again.
The cry echoed in his ears.
He could hear it in the rhythm of his heart, his racing, almost faltering heart.
Her cry should be joy!
He was out of the bed and running to the door before he realized what he was doing.
He never stopped to think.
Dawn colored the eastern sky in pale pastels.
A hue of gold.
He raced across the cool, damp sands of the beach.
His naked feet sinking into the sands.
His footprints filled with water and were gone.
His hands found the rim of his small boat.
The wood was smooth to the touch.
He had handled with care, for more than ninety years of going to the lighthouse and back.
Every morning and every evening without fail.
He shoved the boat into the water. The cold of the ocean made him gasp and wheeze.
His lungs were growing old, too.
But this time he was sure.
It had been her voice.
Her sweet, clear voice.
Calling for him.
Calling his name.
And if he had only imagined it, what the hell.
He had imagined it a thousand times before.
What did it matter, if he made a fool of himself one more time?
After all, that was what he was.
An old fool.
A fool in love.
After thousands of years.
The boat skipped in the rushing of the tide.
It took all the strength he had to hold on to the boat.
But he held on.
He jumped into the boat and smote the oars into the waves of the oncoming tide.
Though he was old, he had retained some strength and honor even in these grey days of his life.
He kept a smooth rhythm, and soon he was on a level with the lighthouse, where the crystal shone in its blue and white light.
A beautiful, magical light, pure as the stars.
He had ceased noticing the light many years before.
His soul was free.
His mind was free.
But his heart was not.
Had she, oh, could she be with him, he would at last, at long last be at peace.
For the first time he would be at peace.
He left the lighthouse behind him, rowing his small boat far out onto the open sea.
Soon he was far enough away from the coast.
Still the cry he had dreamed of, the cry he desired above all other things, echoed in his ears.
He answered the cry.
In an old man's croaking, breaking voice, he called for her, as he had called for her so many times before.
"Elwing!" He called.
"Elwing!" He called.
"My love!" But already his voice was exhausted, rough and breaking, his frail old man's breath almost spent.
There! Drifting on the water!
A crest of foam?
White feathers lost by a bird in flight?
A pain such as he had never felt before exploded in his chest.
The oars were heavy as the world in his hands.
But he smote them down into these Sundering Seas.
Was she dead she could not be dead how could she be here dead she could not be here she could not be dead how could she be here she must not be dead she must not be dead she has to live she has to live how can she be here how can she be here she must not be dead she has to
He caught slender pale arms in his rough callused hands.
He heaved a thin fragile body into his boat, tears running into a silver beard,
He kissed cold, youthful lips with the mouth of an old, old love.
A bit withered that mouth.
A bit dry that mouth.
But still alive that mouth.
Still alove that mouth.
Strong that mouth.
Enough that mouth.
To give life.
To give love.
Golden eyes opened.
Golden eyes looked at him.
Golden eyes smiled at him.
This time it had not been a dream.
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