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A Maid Of Elven Tirion
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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9
Outer Ocean

Wherein Ulmo gives the Princess and her maidens a gift.


~~~

A fragile white pavilion, curtained with strings of pearl, stood on piles so the tides might wash beneath it. The Trees were no more then a brightness on the eastern horizon but Laurelin’s light came clear if pale and the waters of the Outer Ocean showed blue and transparent, laced with foam like shining pearls. And the sky too was blue and bright and without clouds.

To the south lay a long, low stone headland, water fretted into dozens of hollows and pools. And it was half covered with the ungainly, sleek furred bodies of the hounds of Osse (1) who raised their heads and barked welcome as we came in our twos and threes down the strand.

Istafinde had me by one hand and Findorie by the other but she dropped both to point out to sea. “We stand on the edge of Arda, looking out to the Walls of the World!” to me; “Would you not like to pass beyond?”

Leave Arda for the fathomless depths of the Void? The very thought made my heart pound and a darkness swirl before my eyes. “No!”

My lady laughed and hugged me. “There, Davne, I was only joking.”

“Yet she half means it.” Findorie said. shaking her head.

“Not so much as a half.” Istafinde protested. “No more then a tiny particle of me is tempted by that great unknown. I could never leave Arda, but I do wonder what lies beyond.”

“Ask the Valar.” Lindele suggested.

My princess snorted. “I have. They say I could not understand if they had words to answer me. Even Ancala!”

“Then no doubt it is true.” said Dorme.

“Perhaps. But I don’t like being told there are things I cannot learn.” answered my lady, then she smiled. “So, what first? Do we rest or do we swim?”

“Swim!” we chorused in answer.

The waters of the Outer Ocean were cold, but not so cold as the streams running down western flanks of the Pelori, and I had never been in waters so deep. Down, down, down we dived, the water shading to darkling blues as the light dimmed. The white sands of the ocean floor shone between rippling forests of tall, purple weed and silvery fish darted about like birds.

The hounds of Osse joined us at our play, as swift and graceful in their native element as they were gravid and clumsy ashore, their dark shapes darting and turning. The bodies of my fellow maidens shone like pearl as we tried to match our playmates’ agility and our hair floated about us in dark clouds.

The hounds caught fish in their mouths and gulped them down. We Elves caught them with our hands, great long creatures easily thrice the size of the mountain trout I had fished for with my cousins, and bore them back to the beach to cook.

It was twilight above as well as below, for distant Laurelin had waned to the evening mingling of lights. The sea winds blew chill and we shivered, wet and naked as we were.
But a cache of wood lay ready above the tide line and soon we were drying our hair before a good hot bonfire while the leaf wrapped fish roasted in the embers.

I reached for my kirtle but Herinke caught my hand, laughing; “Don’t bother.” she said.

“Why?” I asked, surprised.

“You’ll see!” and all the girls joined in her laughter.

I did indeed. We ate our fish with our hands, having nothing else, and so were well greased and somewhat soot smudged by the time we’d finished. We waded into the water to get clean and the tide was high so we almost had to swim to reach the pavilion.

Its floor was of glass, grey and translucent like the foam edged waves surging beneath. The strands of pearl that made up its walls clinked musically in the ocean breeze, and the ceiling was a dome of thin crystal, like Istafinde’s chamber in Tirion, through which the stars shone pale in a grey sky.

“Now we will rest a little.” said my Lady

The only furniture was a large press set against one of the posts supporting the roof. Aldariel, Dorme and Aramaite opened its drawers and pulled out linen towels to dry ourselves with and a plentitude of thick woven rugs, embroidered coverlets and velvet cushions with which to make ourselves comfortable. And so we settled down to dream beneath the stars, lulled by the surf sounds of Outer Ocean and the soft chiming of our curtains of pearl.

When we roused ourselves some hours later Telperion was at his brightest, his silvery light flooding the lands eastward and rippling across the dark waters. But the sky was a deep and radiant blue in which Varda’s handiwork was clearly visible. The bright un-winking stars; Carnil, Alcarinque, Lumbar, and Luinil were arrayed in a great arch across the sky with Alcarinque at zenith and blue Helluin and the constellations of Menelmacar and Vilvarin shone through the clear dome.2

Helianwe and Dorme looped back the curtains of pearl on the westward wall revealing the star Elemmire low on the western horizon and the constellation of Anarrima half below the ocean.3 I watched, entranced as these, and other nameless stars, dipped below the silver edged black waves. I had seen the stars rise, many times, from a peak of the Peloris but never before had I seen them set.

Suddenly Istafinde laughed. “The stars go to bathe, shall we join them?” and on the word slipped into the water and struck out westward. We followed, wading waist deep, then swimming as the sandy ocean floor gave way beneath us. We passed through the rows of cresting waves, far out into the ocean, floating like foam on the billowing black waters and diving beneath to look up at the shining stars as through darkling glass.

We played so for some time as Helluin set and the Heavenly Swordsman wet his toes. Then, suddenly, the ocean heaved up its waters rising in a great mountainous dome sweeping us back towards the shore. I was frightened for a moment but was reassured by the gleeful cries of the other girls. The wave crested high, sweeping us over the beach and far above the tide line to drop us gently among the tall sea grasses.

We rose, laughing, spitting out water and wiping strands of sea soaked hair from our faces. “Does Outer Ocean do that often?” I asked, when I got my breath back.

My Princess’ eyes were shining, bright as any star, and she shook her head. “No. Ulmo comes.”

My heart thudded. Another Vala! And one of the greatest and most terrible of them all. Reminding myself firmly that Ulmo loved the Children - and could not possibly be more terrifying then Mandos! I looked westward with the others.

The ocean waters receded, far, far down the beach, baring a vast extent of glimmering sand dotted with clumps of black weed, then gathered themselves together and rose in a great shape, silhouetted against the stars and lit by the silvery rays of Telperion.

Ulmo appeared, just as the tales said, as a warrior armed. His high helm was crested with white foam. His hair and beard flowed darkly over glimmering mail, like fishes scales, and he was mantled and kirtled with grey sea water. I ventured one quick glance upward into eyes fathomless as the abyss and looked quickly away shivering with more then cold.

My lady made him a courtesy. “Hail, Ulmo, Lord of the Deeps!”

His voice thundered like breakers, yet somehow sounded almost indulgent. “When I hear laughter on my outermost shore I know little Istafinde and her maidens have returned.”

“We had an errand to the Dark Halls,” the Princess answered, “and thought to cheer ourselves after by bathing in Outer Ocean and watching the stars set.”

Ulmo sighed like a retreating tide. “Ah, yes. Poor Miriel. Poor Finwe. A sad business.”

“My Lady Ancala askes that you return for a time to Valimar, Lord.” Istafinde continued. “Your voice is needed in the councils of the Valar.”

His answer boomed loud: “Why should I trouble when I am never heeded -!” I cowered, covering my ears, so did some of the other girls and even Istafinde flinched. The vast sea-voice gentled: “There, there, Little Ones, my anger is not at you - ever.” humorously: “Very well. I will go and shout at my fellows who deserve it.”

“Please do.” said my Princess, greatly daring. “And tell them my Father has not forgotten his desire to return Home. We have even begun to study the tongue of the latecomers in preparation.” I was terrified that she would point me out to the Lord of Waters, and deeply grateful when she did not.

“Good. Good.” Ulmo thundered approvingly. “But for you Little Ones, I have a gift prepared. Use it well!” and with that he took a long stride towards us, terrible as a mountain in motion, the waters swirling around his feet like trailing robes.

I gasped and would have run had not Findorie seized my arm. “It‘s all right, don‘t be frightened.” but she too was trembling.

The Outer Ocean surged over the shore, foaming thigh deep around us as Ulmo passed walking inland towards the light of the Trees. He mounted the headlands in a single step and slowly, reluctantly the waters ebbed, flowing back into their usual bed. I stared after their master, moving like a towering wave over the green land, still clinging to Findorie my knees to weak to support me.

Then behind us, Vanamire gave a cry: “Look!” I turned and saw long white shapes lying on the sand above the surf line.

Delicately my Lady picked her way down the beach, bent to touch one and straightened to look at us with wide, startled eyes. “Come and see!”

I let go of Findorie at last and followed the others. We separated and spread out, for there were as many of the things as there were of us. As I drew close I saw what it was and my breath caught, then I bent down to stroke, unbelievingly, the soft white feathers of a long cloak, just like the one I had worn in my dreams!

~~~

1. The ‘Hounds of Osse’ are seals, but I’m sure you guessed that.

2. According to the Professor’s notes Carnil (Red Star?) is Mars; Alcarinque (the Glorious?) Jupiter; Lumbar (Gloom?) Saturn and Luinil (Blue Star) is Neptune. Christopher Tolkien is puzzled at the inclusion of Luinil/Neptune and Nenar (Water?) which is Uranus as these are barely visible to the naked eye - and couldn’t have been very ‘bright’ even to Elven sight. However I assume that all the stars were brighter in those ancient times then they are today. Helluin (Ice Blue?) is Sirius. Menelmacar is obviously Orion. Vilvarin is not identified but my guess would be Cassiopeia’s Chair which looks a lot more like a butterfly then a chair in my opinion!

3. Elemmire (Star Jewel) is Mercury. Could Anarrima (the Flames?) be the Pleiades?







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