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2
The Journey

Disclaimer: see in the Foreword.

Author’s Notes:
Obviously, some details have been borrowed from LOTR, where Frodo’s departure is described.


~~~

2. The Journey

Círdan was mildly disapproving when he learnt in the next morrow that she had spent the whole night on the cold and wet terrace – but seeing that she was somewhat less troubled than at her arrival mollified him soon enough. They broke their feast together, and then the Shipwright led her to the port, where a white ship, great and breathtakingly beautiful, was lying at the quay.

For a moment, she almost forgot to breathe indeed, for she had never seen a true Swanship before. Certainly, the artfully-crafted barges in her father’s woodland realm were made in the likeness of Ossë’s great sea-birds, too, but those were but little elfling’s toys compared with the majestic vessel that was waiting to be boarded, with its tall, slender masts pointing skywards like the royal mellyrn in her parent’s home. Not even the strong and quick ships of Edhellond would have been a match for this one.

Upon the quay, beside the ship Galdor stood, one of Círdan’s close kin and his best captain, for the Alquarámë(1) was his ship, and Círdan had chosen him to take the Lady of Imladris safely to the West, for he trusted him the most. Like most of the Falathrim (save their Lord), he was of a somewhat sturdier build than other Elves, and had a neatly-trimmed silver beard in the fashion as Círdan used to wear his an Age or so earlier. He wore the simple, rough grey garb that the mariners of Mithlond preferred on their journeys, and his hair was bound to a tight ponytail to keep it out of his face.

Él síla lúmena vomentienguo(5) (a star shines upon the hour of our meeting)”, he said in the peculiar dialect of the Falathrim that was spoken no-where but in Mithlond any longer, and bowed deeply before her. “All is ready for your departure, my Lady.”

Having no family accompanying her, parting was short and blissfully painless. She said her farewells to Thalion and his guards and allowed Círdan to embrace her and speak the traditional words of blessing (that were always spoken when someone departed over the Sea) in his soft voice. Then she went aboard, and Galdor called out an order in a clear, ringing voice that echoed long over the waves.

The mariners moved up the tall masts quickly and gracefully, and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew, swelling the white linens to perfect globes ‘til the ship looked like a great swan in full flight, indeed. In that moment Galdor raised his strong voice again and gave another order; and slowly the great ship slipped away down the long grey firth, and the light of the lamps that were hung upon slender pillars along the quays glimmered and was lost.

And when not even the fading shores of Middle-earth could be seen any more, Celebrían, daughter of Celeborn of Doriath and Galadriel of Finarfin’s House, wife of Elrond Half-elven and mother of three grown, beautiful, headstrong children, turned away from the railing and towards the West, where the High Sea was waiting and over the bent Sea the Blessed Realm – and, mayhap, the hope for healing.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Long and lonely was her journey, for she was the only passenger of the ship, and she felt greet need for solitude. The mariners bothered her not, for they had to look out for the right way, or else the ship could get lost in the Shadowy Seas. They all had made this same journey many times, being the only people who were allowed to sail back and forth between Middle-earth and the Lonely Island – never setting foot on the Isle themselves – where many of those who had returned to the West after the War of Wrath still dwelt. But it was forbidden for them to go any further than Tol Eressëa – unless they wanted to remain in Valinor for ever.

Thus they only brought those who wanted to depart from Middle-earth ‘til the haven of Avallónë and turned back – for there were few of them in Mithlond who could find the Straight Path, and they were needed at home, for the case that the Elves would need to flee over the Sea once more. Círdan had promised to Eönwë that he will remain in the Grey Havens ‘til the last of the Eldalie departed, and so his people remained, too – for never had one of the Falathrim broken a solemn oath.

Therefore she spent her days alone, in the dark comfort of her cabin or standing on the deck and looking westwards over the grey Sea that was always the same and yet constantly changing. Until at last on a night of rain she smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came from afar over the water. Grabbing her cloak she hurried out to the railing, and lo! The grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and she beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.

“We are approaching Tol Eressëa, my Lady,” said Galdor, stepping up to her, and there was a light in his grey eyes as if he waited for something wonderful to happen. “The tall white building you can see from afar is the light-tower of Avallónë, the easternmost haven of the Island. That is as far as we can bring you.”

“How am I supposed to get to Valinor then?” she asked, a little concerned.

“That I cannot say,” replied the Sea-Elf with a shrug, “but many of our people live on Tol Eressëa who can help in this matter – I think not that King Finarfin will leave his granddaughter stranded on the Lonely Island without aid. Soon enough you will be brought to him, I deem.”

This predicament made her frown. She did respect and admire her powerful and strong-willed mother, the Warrior Princess of the Noldor – who would not? – yet in all that mattered she came after her father and his people. The thought that she might have to live in the court of the High King of the Noldor was not an appealing one.

“Are there no Sea-Elves anymore?” she asked. “Legends say this was their island once, before they were moved to Valinor like the other kindreds.”

“Oh, there certainly are,” replied Galdor with another shrug. “After all, someone has to maintain the ships and the havens and who could do that better than our people? But I cannot say aught for sure, my Lady. As you know, we are not allowed to leave our ships, as long as we still want to return to Middle-earth. But I have seen other ships, bigger and more beautiful even than ours, sailing back and forth between Tol Eressëa and the outmost West all the time, which means that people can come and go as they please.”

“Except returning to Middle-earth,” she added softly, and Galdor nodded in agreement.

“Except that, aye, once their feet had touched the unstained soil of Aman.”

As they were speaking, the Alquarámë was swiftly approaching the great bay of Tol Eressëa, and she could se now the far off Mountains of Elvenhome and the lights of Avallónë dancing upon the waves. The singing became louder, though still sweet and merry, and she could even catch a glimpse of the city of the Elves on the green hill beneath the Mountains, a glint of white far away.

“There!” Galdor said, pointing out that glint of white to her. “That is the region called Alalminórë or “the Land of Elms”, which the Noldor, who dwell on the Island call Gar Lossion”, or the “Place of Flowers”. Now this region is accounted the centre of the Island, and its fairest realm; but above all the towns and villages of Alalminórë is held Koromas, or as some call it Kortirion, in remembrance of the First City of Elves that was destroyed by Udûn’s fire.”

“Why is that city so important?” she asked. It did not seem particularly big, not even from this distance.

“Because it stands at the heart of the Island,” answered Galdor, “and from the height of its mighty tower, erected by Ingil son of Ingwë after the War of Wrath in memory of those who had fallen. Yet more reason is thereto than even great love, for all the Island looks to the dwellers here for wisdom and leadership, for song and lore, or so I am told. And here in a great korin of elms dwells Meril-i-Turinqi.”

“I never heard of her,” she admitted, shaking her head a little ashamedly. “Who is she… and what is a korin?”

“I cannot tell you more than Meril is the Lady of Tol Eressëa,” replied Galdor, “and that she comes of the blood of Ingwë, High King of all Elves in the Blessed Realm. Aught else is hers to tell, yet she only shows herself to those who will remain, thus little about her is known among those who do not. Yet since ‘tis custom to bring all newcomers who ask for it before her presence, I am certain that you will have the chance to meet her and ask whatever questions you might have, my Lady.”

She felt a little disappointed, but understood that Galdor was not able to tell her any more. The Sea-Elf smiled and continued(3).

“As for a korin, it is naught but a great circular hedge, be it of stone or thorn or even trees, that encloses a green sward. Meril’s house, as I said, stands in a korin of elms. They say that after the War of Wrath many Noldor, who were allowed to return, felt themselves unworthy of living in Valinor, even though they were forgiven – thus they decided to make their new home here, in this very place, seeing it to be very fair. And Ingil son of Ingwë built a great tower, like that of his father’s in Tirion upon Túna that was called Mindon Eldaliéva, to remind them what they had gained and what they had lost.”

“But were you not one of those who sailed to the West after the War of Wrath?” she asked. Galdor nodded again.

“Aye, I was. But I grew restless all too soon, and ere Eönwë finished his labours in Middle-earth and the paths that led back were closed, I asked to be sent back to help Círdan, and the Lords of the West allowed it. Still, just like the others, I must not leave my ship when we dock in Avallónë, or else I, too, had to remain here, for ever.”

“Do you not wish to remain?” she asked in surprise. “How can you look at the peace of the Undying Lands from afar and still return?”

Galdor shrugged, somewhat unsure about the whole thing.

“I am not ready to leave my home yet,” he answered simply, “even though there is someone in Avallónë who has been waiting for me since the last Age. We see each other every time I sail into the haven here – and yet I cannot tear my heart away from Middle-earth. Not yet.”

“This must be hard for your soul-bounded,” she remarked softly.

“’Tis hard for both of us,” said Galdor, “but we are Elves. We have all the time ‘til the end of Arda. For which I am eternally grateful.”

In this moment the Alquarámë finally reached the lamplit quays of Avallónë, and Galdor had to go down to the steering wheel to maneuver his ship safely into the haven. Then the anchor was thrown out and the sails were rolled together, for the ship had to rest and be resupplied ere turning back to Middle-earth.

There was laughter and the sweet music of flutes upon the quay, where a cheerful crowd was gathering already, and as soon as the wooden planks were thrown over the deck, many of them came aboard, greeting their friends of old with joyous voices. Among them was a tall, gentle-faced Elf with sorrowful eyes and silver strands in his dark hair, and he was greeted with a tight embrace by Galdor and with jests and affectionate claps on the back by the others.

Celebrían, however, said her farewells to Galdor and his mariners and left the Alquarámë all by herself.

After all, she had come to stay.

~~~

End notes:
(1) Swan wing (Quenya). Taken from “The Book of Lost Tales”.

(2) This is basically the same polite greeting that Frodo offered Gildor Inglorion (there: Elen síla lúmenn omentielvo), but in Telerin instead of Quenya; quote taken from Ardalambion – thank you kindly, Mr Fauskanger! Of course, we cannot say for sure that any Telerin dialect was still used in Mithlond in the Third Age – I just wanted to make the Falathrim different from other Elves.

(3) Galdor’s answers are actually slightly modified quotes from “The Book of Lost Tales 1”, from the chapter “The Cottage of the Forgotten Play”.


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