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Note: This story is now wandering into the paths covered by Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath in the Silmarillion. Some references are taken directly from the text, as are some of the speeches.
‘She was distraught,’ Eärendil said, gazing at Elrond, his grey eyes dark with sincerity. ‘And once we heard the outline of her tale, we were in a state of distress to equal hers.’ He drew a deep breath. ‘We crowded on the sail – every square inch of canvas Vingilot possessed – and drove east, cutting through the waves as if we had wings, determined to make it back to what remained of the Havens of Sirion, desperate to take revenge on those who had again brought ruin on us.’ He stopped and the silence drew out. ‘We did not think for one moment,’ he said so quietly that only elven hearing could have picked out his words, ‘that you or Elros could have survived that day.’
Elrond said nothing, but found to his surprise that his adar’s admission that he had abandoned the fate of Arda and headed for home brought a glow of comfort to some deep injury in his heart. He had always made himself believe that Eärendil’s mission had been of more importance than the fate of his sons, and to know that his adar had, without any consideration at all, turned for home, was a reassurance that he had not realised he desired.
‘But it was not to be.’ Eärendil drew a deep shaky breath. ‘Lord Ulmo had not brought us thus far through the treacherous reefs and mind-twisting illusions of the isles to have us give up our quest.’ He closed his eyes. ‘A wave moulded itself from the sea like a great hand and held us up – and, despite the wind, despite the sails, despite our frantic need, we hung there, motionless in the midst of the Shadowy Seas and his voice rang in the depths of out being. Too late, he said – we had given up our hope of changing the fate of Arda directly: our only chance was to go on. We were as ready as we would ever be to lay our plea before the Valar. But, whether we would take up this challenge or not, we would never again sail into the harbours of our home.’
‘Your adar defied him,’ Elwing said softly. ‘What kind of an example of man and elf would he be, he asked, to desert his sons – to run away from those who looked to him for guidance, for protection? How could he ask the Valar to hear him when he was shamed by his forsaking of his children? But there was no reply – and when Ulmo set Vingilot down on the surface of an empty sea, her prow again facing into the west, we were left with the sound of Eärendil’s words voicing the questions we held in our hearts.’ She looked at her hands as they rested in her lap. ‘I wrenched the Nauglamir from my neck and hurled it over the side – if Ulmo wanted it, he could keep it – but a spout of water caught it and flipped it back into Eärendil’s hands, as if it was an item of no importance.’ She raised her eyes. ‘So much blood and pain – the ruin of so many,’ she marvelled. ‘And yet, he returned it as easily as if it meant nothing.’
‘I heard, like the whisper of silk brushing on stone,’ Eärendil said, ‘may its light guide you, and I knew those words were for me alone. Elwing had brought to me the one thing that could persuade the Lords of the Valar to permit us past their barriers. In the Silmaril was the light of the Two Trees and that light would draw us to Ezellohar, the Green Mound before Valimar where the trees had grown.’
The absolute silence that surrounded Vingilot was filled with the wordless echo of the helpless sobs and wild pleas of those who now knew of the sack of Sirion, of the ruin of the last refuge of the elves, now driven by their own kind to seek safety on Círdan’s island, a patch of ground suspended between the Middle Earth they sought to hold and the Valinor from which they were barred.
‘My sister was in Sirion,’ Falathar murmured as a red sunset cast its tendrils across the sky. ‘I do not know whether to hope she survived or that her end came swiftly.’
Aerandir placed a hand on his friend’s back. ‘All we can do for them, it would seem,’ he said gruff with emotion, ‘is carry on – and hope to bring succour to those who remain.’
‘It is little consolation,’ Erellont sighed, glancing at the grief-stricken forms of Elwing and Eärendil, clasped together in mutual support. ‘I would rather have a sword in my hand and the Kinslayers before me.’
‘At least they have lost all hope of attaining what they sought,’ Aerandir told him with grim satisfaction. ‘And if they have the courage to challenge Morgoth for the other two jewels, then we can hope that his revenge on them will be long-drawn-out and unpleasant.’
‘They would rather use their swords against ellyth and elflings,’ Falathar said bitterly. ‘Cowards they are and worse than cowards.’
‘Come,’ Voronwë commanded, ‘get to the halyards: we must reef the sails. We do not need them all flying now. We will no longer be running before the wind.’ Visibly, he controlled himself to focus again on their quest. ‘We had best get under way.’
Eärendil turned, Elwing still on his arm. ‘I would like to say there is no rush,’ he remarked bitterly. ‘But I am not sure that the Lord of the Sea would agree. He seems to have decided that – finally – his fellow Valar need to address the business of their failure to deal with Morgoth, and that we and our families are to be the sacrifices.’
‘This attitude does not become you, ellon,’ Voronwë said gently. ‘Nothing has changed over the last hours, since Lady Elwing was borne to us in the guise of a seabird, except that now you know that the worst has occurred. Ours has always been a desperate quest. You knew that sacrifice would be demanded.’
‘The sacrifice was supposed to be mine,’ the Mariner replied fiercely. ‘Not that of the innocent.’
‘At least, Eärendil, Lady Elwing was saved from the ruin. You can thank Ulmo for that.’
‘But it was not I who was saved, was it?’ Elwing’s low voice throbbed with sorrow. ‘It was Fëanor’s jewel. I was just the tool to bring it to you – anyone would have done.’ Her eyes dark with disillusion, she stared at her husband. ‘Use it well, my lord,’ she said, ‘for I would wish that no more mothers lose their children to the greed of the Fëanorionnath or the fury of Morgoth.’ She drew away from them to stand alone, looking wistfully eastwards across an open sea.
‘It is a worthy hope, my lord,’ Voronwë murmured, ‘but unlikely to be fulfilled.’ He glanced at the stricken half-elf. ‘For what reason did Ulmo send the stone to you? Do you understand his purpose?’
Eärendil smiled bitterly. ‘I believe so. Only the light of the Silmaril, I think, can direct our path through the Shadowy Seas to the Lonely Isle and onward. It is called to its home and the illusions of the Valar cannot confuse it.’
Eyeing the softly pulsing jewel warily, Voronwë sighed. ‘Then our path is in your hands, my lord, for I do not believe that the gem will allow any but you to touch it. It seems – angry.’
Eärendil focused on the Nauglamir. ‘It is a pretty thing,’ he acknowledged, ‘but the thought of it pressed against my throat does not appeal to me.’ He swallowed. ‘It feels like a shackle.’
‘If that is what it takes, ellon,’ Voronwë said with sympathetic firmness, ‘then that is what you must do.’
The Mariner closed his eyes and raised the treasure to his neck, donning it with reluctant hands. ‘This has brought health and happiness to none,’ he said.
‘None who yearned for it, true. Only those who were able to hand it on gained anything from it.’ Voronwë glanced at Elwing. ‘It harmed not Beren or Lúthien, neither of whom looked on it as something to possess, but held it in trust for others. Do not seek to own the Silmaril, Eärendil,’ the older elf advised. ‘Let it instead be merely something that is in your keeping until you can offer it to the Lords of the Valar.’
Vingilot’s passage opened before her, like a moon-path on a dark sea. The haze of confusion that clung to the Isles drew back and the air felt fresher. The wind remained against them, Eärendil noted, but it blew with less force, as if the presence of the Silmaril beneath his clothes was countering the blanket ban of the Valar. It still took time: time he felt Arda could ill-afford. He could feel his tension increasing as the weeks passed – surely there was no need for this laboured journey, when the good will of the Lord of the Sea could have them off the shores of Aman in less time than it would take to raise the jib.
‘It is our quest,’ Voronwë suggested, when he complained. ‘Ulmo has done what he can, but it is for you to find the way and for you to ask for aid. I daresay he would prefer Vingilot to arrive without his obvious assistance – his clear favour might ensure that Manwë would condemn us unheard.’ He sighed. ‘The time will come soon enough, ellon,’ he said. ‘Have you decided how you will phrase your request? I do not think it would be a good moment to become tongue-tied.’
Eärendil ran his finger round inside the circle of the Nauglamir uncomfortably. ‘I do not know,’ he said. ‘The difficulty of reaching Valinor at all has pushed any thought of actually meeting the Valar to the back of my mind. How does one greet a Vala? How does one beseech the aid of one who has condemned your kin to exile and unending sorrow? ‘Slain ye may be and slain ye shall be: by weapon and by torment and by grief.’ Were those not the words of the Doomsman? ‘And find little pity.’ And little pity have they found. Once I was old enough to understand, my naneth told me his words – each of them cut into her heart. She was a child, Voronwë. How can it be wrong for a child to follow her parents? How can it be wrong for a liegeman to follow his lord?’
The elf who had been his adar’s friend placed a comforting hand on the Mariner’s shoulder. ‘Yet loyalty cannot excuse the abandonment of principles that are deeper than the bond of one elf to any other, Eärendil,’ he said regretfully. ‘No loyalty to liege lord excuses what happened at Alqualondë. What happened in Doriath – in Sirion. There are times when each must make a stand, even should it be at the cost of his own life. Better to be foresworn and offer yourself to your lord’s vengeance than do what you know is wrong.’
Eärendil gave a crooked smile. ‘Námo said, ‘For blood ye shall render blood,’ did he not? I think enough blood has been shed to satisfy even the wrath of the Valar. I do not believe that I shall win them over with eloquence, my friend. If that was what was wanted, I would not be here. My plea will come from my heart – and as such, it needs no planning.’
The Mariner held his wife in his arms as they sat out of the wind to watch the dance of the stars. ‘What was it like,’ Eärendil asked pensively, ‘to fly as an albatross above the world?’
Elwing caressed his cheek and buried her head more deeply in his shoulder. ‘Terrifying,’ she said. ‘Exhilarating. Free. I do not know how to describe it really. I was unsure whether I was alive – whether I was still Elwing – or if I had been changed into something that was completely different. I was afraid for the twins and sick with horror at what I had seen in Sirion, but at the same time, my fëa sang in tune with the heady currents of air and I was liberated from the bonds of the solid ground. I no longer crawled upon the earth like an insect, nor was tied to the water like a fish, but was made free of the whole world – earth, sea and air.’ She drew a deep breath. ‘It was an amazing experience – I was hugely relieved when I saw you and fell to the deck to return to myself, but I will never forget it, and never stop hoping that I might be able soar again on the air. Some day.’
‘Do you mind that I now bear the jewel?’ He turned her head to meet her eyes. ‘It is yours – freed from Morgoth’s possession by your grandparents.’
She shivered. ‘I do not want it,’ she said. ‘Take it with my good will, son of the House of Finwë, and return it to the one who made the Trees from which its light comes.’
Eärendil clasped her to him and wrapped his cloak around them both. ‘I will do that, my lady,’ he promised.
They rested in silence for a while, watching the play of light on the water.
‘Do you think we will ever be reunited with Elros and Elrond?’ she asked him wistfully. ‘Will the Valar permit it, do you think? Do Námo’s Halls have a niche for those like us, who are of both kinds and yet neither?’ She sighed. ‘The fëar of elves rest with Námo to be reborn, but I do not know what becomes of men who have received Eru’s gift. Do you think they go to meet their loved ones beyond the world?’
‘One day,’ Eärendil made himself say with calm certainty. ‘One day we will all be together again – our parents, us, our children.’
Elwing glanced up at him. ‘I hope so,’ she said, but he could hear her doubt.
‘We must do this,’ the Mariner rested his cheek on her hair. ‘It is not for us – not for personal gain, my love. This is for all those who have no voice; those who weep into the stillness of the night; the powerless; those who have lost hope of any remedy. We do not matter.’
‘You are a better person than I am,’ Elwing said sadly. ‘I would fight dragons for those I love, but I would not choose to be a sacrifice for people I have never met. I would prefer to be happy and safe, with my husband beside me and my children in my arms.’
‘Would not we all,’ Eärendil sighed, ‘but it is not our decision. We must simply do our best with the task that has been set for us and trust that it will be enough.’
‘Land ho, my lord!’
Eärendil’s hand clutched convulsively at the tiller. Once he had taken the jewel from beneath his clothes and bound it to his brow, he had known that the time would not be much longer delayed. The confusion of the Shadowy Isles had slipped behind them as they had emerged to see seas bluer than he could have imagined below a sky of flawless perfection. The waves had laughed at them, sparkling with a vivid brilliance that had made him screw up his eyes until they had begun to adjust to the brightness. The air, too, was – more alive, he decided, although that seemed a strange way to describe something that was nothing but air. The salt dampness of it spoke to him of journeys as yet untaken, and distant exotic perfumes stirred his senses. But knowing that the forbidden shores neared and seeing them were two different things.
‘I am glad to hear it, Erellont,’ he said calmly. ‘It has taken us long enough to find our way across these seas.’
The sailor did not respond, but gazed blankly towards a distant land that was as yet little more than a smudge of white cliffs on the horizon reflecting the morning sun.
Eärendil swallowed. His crew’s part in this venture was almost over. Say what they would he would not permit them to put foot upon those lands from which they were banned. Voronwë would fight him, he knew, but this was one ruling he would have to accept. The risk from now on was Eärendil’s alone: his quest, his plea, his danger – his sacrifice. He closed his eyes briefly. If only he could believe it possible to convince Elwing that she must remain aboard the ship. He hoped that Voronwë might persuade her to comply with his command, but somehow he doubted his words would make a difference. The Mariner had never thought of his wife as being unduly obstinate, but since her desperate flight from Sirion, she had been determined that there were no circumstances under which she would permit her husband to leave her behind again. He needed to know she was as protected as he could possibly arrange – she was suffering because of him and he would give anything he could to see her safe and happy – but he knew, even if he did not want to admit it to himself, that he could do nothing to force her to remain if she refused. Wives, he thought wryly, were not like sailors: they did not accept the right of lord or captain to issue orders that must be obeyed.
The breeze gentled, confused by the conflicting currents that rose from the sun-warmed land. Intruders were not supposed to penetrate this far and the on-shore breezes of summer defeated the steady westerlies that had kept them close-hauled.
‘Do we head north or south?’ Voronwë enquired. ‘Land extends as far as my eyes can see in either direction. Which do you think will bring us safe into harbour?’
‘My heart sends me northward,’ Eärendil told him.
‘That is as good a reason as any,’ his friend shrugged, calling the crew to the halyards to adjust the sails and carry them on their new course.
By the rising of the sun on a new dawn, they saw, to the north, the shores of the Lonely Isle, but they tarried not. The inevitability of their journey now imbued each of them with a silent purpose and they worked unceasingly to guide Vingilot smoothly across a smooth sea. The vastness of the unconquerable ocean had disappeared and the sea showed an infinite variety of shades as the vessel cut between the shallows and reefs of the Bay of Eldamar.
‘We are not alone,’ Elwing said, gazing across the waters to a small fishing fleet, where silver-haired elves paused in hauling on their nets to stare at the weather-beaten ship coming among them like a goose among swans.
‘I feel more isolated than I did in the midst of empty ocean,’ Voronwë remarked. ‘It is like finding yourself naked in the presence of your king.’
‘Not that that worried you,’ Eärendil said with determined cheerfulness. ‘Or so I was told.’
‘Oh well,’ Voronwë shrugged. ‘He was only an elf, after all. And a warrior. Turgon did not expect to be treated as if he were made of glass – except under the most formal of circumstances.’
‘There is more to it than the presence of strangers,’ Elwing said, staring intently at the Teleri fishermen. ‘They are shading their eyes as if they cannot bear to look at us.’ She turned to Eärendil and gazed at him in puzzlement. ‘It does not seem that bright,’ she objected.
He looked confused, then touched the Nauglamir where it circled his forehead. ‘I forget it is there,’ he admitted. ‘Does it give off much light?’
‘It looks like a coronet chosen by someone of flamboyant taste who wishes his position to be known to all,’ she shrugged. ‘I can see that it gleams, but it is nowhere near intense enough to make me cover my face.’
The shoreline grew nearer, the soft cliffs climbing up from a wide beach. Behind them, trees of bright green blew in the gentle wind and bright birds of red and blue and gold flew above the canopy.
‘We are about to drop anchor,’ Eärendil said, summoning the crew with a look. ‘I will go on alone.’
He was not disappointed in his expectation that there would be cries of objection, but he knew that he could overcome them. Elwing’s silence, on the other hand, struck him as considerably more ominous. He raised one hand. ‘No,’ he said with authority. ‘Landing in the Undying Lands is a danger greater than I intend you to share. Here none but myself shall set foot, lest you fall under the wrath of the Valar. But that peril I will take on myself alone, for the sake of the Two Kindreds.’
The ship touched the seabed gently and Aerandir and Falathar dropped anchor hastily before Vingilot became too firmly grounded. Eärendil took a small pack and looked steadily at each of his crew. ‘Wait here as long as you can,’ he said, ‘but do not leave it too long. If I do not return, then attempt to set sail and head east.’
Voronwë took him in his arms and gave him the affectionate bear hug of a father. ‘Be safe, ellon,’ he said, his voice thick.
He slapped the elf on his back and returned the hug. ‘Look after my lady,’ he requested, before releasing him and turning to Elwing.
The Mariner held her close, bidding her farewell in his heart, even as he promised her that he would do his best to return. He left her suddenly, leaping over the side to wade ashore from the warm salty water to the untrodden shore.
Elwing shook her head in numb denial. ‘No,’ she cried. ‘No! I will not remain here, like a piece of luggage to be left. Then would our paths be sundered for ever; but all your perils I will take on myself also.’
‘Please, Elwing,’ he pleaded. ‘I do not wish to put you in danger.’
Before Voronwë could stop her, she leapt into the foam and ran towards her husband, sobbing uncontrollably. ‘I cannot bear it,’ she wept. ‘I cannot bear it. I do not care if this is the end of me or not, I cannot stand to be left again.’
Clasping her tightly, Eärendil turned a final despairing glance on his ship and her crew. So much for his fine words. For all he would do anything to protect Elwing, she was still subject to the wrath of the Valar for breaking their ban. And yet – and yet, there was still an ember of warmth that flared in his heart that she would risk all for him.
They followed the coast until they found a white road that headed inland. Eärendil established a comfortable camp. There was, he thought thankfully, food in plenty and fresh water. Elwing would be safe here – as safe, at any rate, as she would be anywhere. And he did not need to worry about Morgoth’s cursed creatures or the attentions of the Kinslayers.
‘I know you wish to stay by my side,’ he pleaded with her, ‘but await me here, please, my love.’ His fingers touched her lips to still her objections. ‘One only may bring the message that it is my fate to bear.’ He combed the hair of black silk back from her face and looked in her eyes. ‘Stay, Elwing.’
Her eyes caught by the jewel at his brow, she hesitated. She did not want to let him go, but, even as her words formed, she let them go. ‘Need you go just yet?’ she implored. ‘May we not have one last evening together, my heart?’
‘I will leave at dawn,’ he said softly, ‘as the light from the east rises to bring its message to the west.’
‘That would seem appropriate,’ she agreed mournfully.
Everything seemed more intense, Eärendil thought as he made his way up from the coast and up into the Calacirya whence the light of the Two Trees had once shone through the Pelóri to brighten the Lonely Isle. The greens were brighter, the edges sharper, the song of the birds more melodious – and every living creature, from an ant beneath a stone in which sparkled the colours of the rainbow to the placidly chewing deer as they nibbled at the fresh leaves, seemed unafraid. Yet, despite his anxious searching, he found no sign of elves. They were neither waiting to reject his unwelcome presence and drive him back into the sea, nor coming forward to welcome him. They just – were not. The land was deserted.
He ate little, drinking from streams of fresh water that tasted like liquid sunlight and seeking only the berries and nuts that hung heavy from some of the vines. He slept less. It did not seem necessary. Despite his uncertainty, he made no attempt to conceal himself. The object of his quest, after all, was that he should come before the Valar in their majesty and beseech their aid. And the messenger of the Two Kindreds, he decided, should not approach like a thief in the night, but present himself honestly and in all humility.
And the light at his brow, he realised, would not be hidden.
It grew brighter with each passing day as he moved more deeply into Aman, so that by the time Eärendil climbed the green hill of Túna, it shone like a beacon. The nerves that had clenched his stomach as he has entered the Pass of Light had long since dissipated and he was conscious only of increasing despair as the sparkling dust of diamonds powdered his cloak and gathered on his boots. How could it be that these lands of infinite peace should be deserted? Had foul Morgoth’s villainy somehow infected the transcendent beauty of this Blessed Realm? Had the Valar departed beyond the bounds even of this sheltered haven in the far west? His voice echoed in the shining streets as he called out – in Sindarin, in the tongues of Men, in the Quenya in which, despite Elu’s ban, his naneth had told him stories from her own early years, but there was no reply.
The light of the Silmaril sparked the dust in his clothes to a scintillating fire as he climbed the long white stairways and walked among the tall gleaming houses, so that he appeared as a star come to land.
He stopped finally at the highest peak, and sank to the grass, looking back at the deserted streets of Tirion. It was no good, he thought, resting his head on his hands and ignoring the tears that spilled down his face. This final hope was a hope no more. Arda would be destroyed. The courage of elves and men would not be enough to save her from the spite of the fallen Vala. All would descend into desolation and the pits of Angband would echo to the screams of endless torment. The brightness of the firmament, the purity of the air, the beauty that surrounded him were nothing but a mockery. He might as well return to the coast, to Elwing, and there await whatever end they might make.
Only a great weariness held him where he was. So much effort, he brooded, so many wasted dreams, all spent in a vain hope that salvation would come out of the west to relieve the suffering of those who had found so little pity. He looked over the antique elegance of Tirion with a jaded eye. But it was not to be. The Valar had spoken – and they had clearly meant every word. Tears unnumbered had indeed been shed, and the cool untouched splendour of the city suggested that, as Námo had warned, no echo of lamentation had passed over the mountains.
He stood, unaware that he gleamed in the twilight with a brilliance that spoke of the Two Trees, and that the few who remained in Tirion shielded their eyes from his radiance. His shoulders bent beneath the weight of his woes, he headed back, at last, towards the road that led down to the sea.
One there was who was waiting for him. Standing on the hill, tall and strong, his great voice ringing among the walls of the empty city, he cried, ‘Hail, Eärendil, of mariners most renowned, the looked for that cometh at unawares, the longed for that cometh beyond hope! Hail Eärendil, bearer of light before the Sun and Moon! Splendour of the Children of Earth, star in the darkness, jewel in the sunset, radiant in the morning!’
Dumbfounded, the son of Tuor and Idril halted.
‘I am Eönwë, herald to Lord Manwë,’ the figure announced, ‘and I am come from Valimar, to summon you before the Powers of Arda, that you might fulfil the destiny laid upon you.’
‘Where is everybody?’ the Mariner said with an irrelevance that made him flush. ‘I had thought these lands to be deserted.’
The Maia smiled. ‘You have, by chance, come at a time of festival,’ he said gently. ‘Those who dwell here in Tirion have travelled to Valimar or are gathered in great Manwë’s Halls upon Taniquetil for the celebrations.’ He stepped closer to the bemused Eärendil. ‘And it is as well they are there,’ he added, ‘for your words will concern them as they do the Lords of the Valar.’
Eärendil drew a deep breath. ‘Hope rises again in my breast,’ he said, his voice growing stronger. ‘I had thought that all was lost – and still it may be – but at least Lord Manwë will permit me to put my plea.’
Brighter still the Mariner grew as he followed Manwë’s herald to the city of the Valar, and the jewel of Fëanor sang loud in his ears. The elves of the Vanyar and the Noldor emerged, first in small numbers, then in larger crowds to see the return of one of the Silmarils to the place where its light had been captured and to look in wonder on this stranger who was both son of the Exiles and child of the Secondborn and whose shining form exceeded the brightness of even the most ancient of the elves.
They stopped at last before Manwë’s Halls at the heart of a silent crowd. Golden Vanyar and dark-haired Noldor, interspersed with small groups of silver-haired Teleri, watched him intently. Despite his anxiety, Eärendil found himself searching the faces of the tall elves before him, finding, here and there, some whose features reminded him of those he had lost.
No-one spoke. The silence did not, however, threaten. The Mariner was aware only of curiosity and, in some cases, a sorrow that the passage of five centuries had not had time to erase.
Eönwë smiled. ‘The time is come, Son of both Kindreds, for you to deliver your plea.’
Eärendil drew a deep breath and cast a final look round at the vivid beauty of the clear day, then turned and followed the Maia into the halls of the Valar.
Before the White Tower, the Mariner fell silent.
His son watched him keenly before shifting his eyes to take in the glorious golden afternoon. His adar was right: everything here in the Blessed Realm was more than its counterpart in the lands he had left. The senses became accustomed after a while and the extraordinary became mundane, but he was reminded of how insignificant, how grey, how unworthy, he had felt as he left the ship to step onto the pristine shores of Aman.
Elrond wondered suddenly how the Exiles had felt on making the reverse journey. Had they been unimpressed by the delicate beauty of Arda? Or had they been so relieved to have survived the harshness of the crossing that they had not observed the difference? He must remember to ask Celebrían’s naneth – when he could think of a way to phrase the enquiry that would not bring out her quizzical look, together with the slight smile that refused to comment even as it suggested that the questioner would not understand the answer.
‘When did you realise,’ Celebrían asked gently, ‘that the light of the Silmaril had infused you and become part of your being?’
Eärendil shook his head. ‘Not for a long time,’ he said. ‘Everything was so – remarkable – that I did not even consider it. I had grown accustomed to the feel of it at my brow and barely noticed its presence any more.’
‘Fëanor only ever wore them briefly,’ Elrond mused. ‘He was too jealous of them to let them be seen freely and they were mostly stored in his treasure room. When Elu received the Nauglamir he had the Silmaril set in it – but I believe he wore it little. Lúthien placed little value on it. You are probably the only person, other than Morgoth, who ever bore any of the jewels over a protracted period.’
‘It proved necessary,’ Eärendil said earnestly. ‘We found that, with my hand on the tiller and the Silmaril at my brow, we could slide through the illusions and deceptions that the Valar had put in place to prevent the ships of Arda reaching Valinor. I did not wear it for any reasons of vanity, nor in the pursuit of power.’
‘I am not criticising!’ Elrond held up his long hands in denial. ‘Do not think it. I am just trying to understand.’
Celebrían leaned forward. ‘Tell me,’ she invited, ‘were you, in the end, able to do as Elwing had suggested? Had the jewel seized your heart as it did that of so many others? Or, when finally you came before the Lords of the Valar, were you able to offer to surrender the Silmaril to Yavanna?’
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