A Middle Earth Reunion - Survival in the Sea
Chapter Two: http://www.theonering.com/docs/14131.html
Chapter Three: http://www.theonering.com/docs/14251.html
Chapter Four: http://www.theonering.com/docs/14346.html
Behind her, Elanor heard Faramir call her name. He ran towards her from the forest he had emerged from and dropped a sack as he ran. They embraced and Faramir said joyously, "You're awake! Finally! I've been waiting ever since yesterday morning. Oh, and look what I found. Mushrooms!" he said, dashing back to the fallen sack.
Elanor realized that she was extremely hungry the second that Faramir said 'Mushrooms.' Counting, she realized that she had missed a total of eight meals! Eight! Though thin for a Hobbit, she, like all of her kind, needed a fair amount of food to maintain the cheerful personality she usually possessed. "It's wonderful to see you! We can eat out on that rock and you'll have to tell me all about what happened."
As they sat on the rock and ate Faramir's mushrooms, he told her all about the night when she was poisoned. As he spoke, his voice broke slightly and she grasped his hand, every second feeling her love for him increase.
After he fell silent, Elanor studied Faramir's face, and noticed that he would not look at the sea. He would instead look at her or to the side or even back to the hut behind them. Every time a wave crashed over the rock and water rushed across their toes, he would shudder and close his eyes. Suddenly, Elanor was struck by a thought, and hesitantly asked Faramir a question. "Faramir, are you.... afraid of the sea?"
For several moments, he turned and stared directly at the huge glittering mass before them. Elanor could tell he was thinking of denying his fear, but instead, he turned, shuddered, and said, "Absolutely terrified. I've never gone anywhere near water deeper than the Brandywine, let alone tried to swim. My deepest fear has been drowning since I was barely twenty-five. Tooks and water don't mix. Ever."
"This can't be good," Elanor replied, wondering just how they were going to travel over 900 miles by sea.
* * *
They did not see Gwynna again until the evening of their third day. By then, Elanor had coaxed Faramir to go into the briny water about knee height, but any farther and he would shudder and draw back. Elanor was just following him out of the water after another unsuccessful 'swimming lesson' as Gwynna strode to their camp.
"Good news!" she said happily. "I've managed to barter a fairly large boat for barely 17 silver pennies. It's larger than we need and it needs a bit of fixing up, but a I can take care of that!"
She finally noticed their sopping clothes and exclaimed, "What have you been doing, wrestling fish?"
Slowly, Elanor replied, "I've been trying to teach Faramir to swim. He's..." she glanced at him. "...afraid of water."
Gwynna stared for a moment and suddenly burst out laughing. Faramir turned red and hung his head. Still chuckling, Gwynna said, "No need to be ashamed. I'm laughing at my own foolishness. Of course! Gandalf, with his knowledge of your culture once told me hobbits couldn't swim and had a deep-seated fear of water. But no need to worry. As long as I sail as well as I ever have, your feet will never touch water deeper than enough to wet your toes. If you do not mind, we will set out tomorrow morning."
Much relieved, Faramir and Elanor spent the rest of the day lounging by the coast.
* * *
The next morning as they were preparing to start their watery voyage, Elanor could see fear in Faramir's face, the deeply troubled look in his eyes, and knew that his fear had returned. As she was opening her mouth to comfort him, she heard Gwynna call and turned.
"Are we ready?" she asked. "Are we prepared to go?"
Elanor looked at Faramir. He was pale but looked determined. "Yes," he replied, swallowing hard.
As they boarded the boat, Faramir was awed at the size and craftsmanship of the vessel. Hobbits were quite fond and skilled at woodworking, but he had never seen anything like this. He suddenly remembered one of the many tales he had heard from his father, heard by him in the Hall of Fire at Rivendell. It was the story of how the Noldor had crossed the great sea from Valinor. The huge white ships of the elves were the greatest in all of Middle Earth, in all of time, but due to a hatred between two groups of the same kin, they were torched and their likes were never seen again. If they had not been destroyed, Faramir would have sworn that this was one of the great ones.
"You might want to hold on to something when I raise the sails," Gwynna said quietly to Faramir as she walked beside him. Louder, she said, "Well, this is your home for the next two weeks. I'll show you your rooms."
She led them down a flight of steps concealed by a trap door. To keep the water out, Faramir thought, half comforted, half strangely afraid. Gwynna took them to Elanor's cabin first. It was approximately the size of a hobbit's living room. And, to the Elanor's delight had a round door-way and round windows. Faramir's room was very much the same, though he saw the windows with less joy. He knew that he would be covering them very soon. He already knew that the vast, deep water was there, and that was enough.
Gwynna told them that she had stabled the ponies below and asked if they wanted to come above deck to see her raise the sails. Faramir saw Elanor glance at him and silently pleaded, please don't go up, please stay with me. His emotion must have shone through his face because Elanor replied, "No thank you. I believe we'll stay down here." Thanking the gods, Faramir smiled weakly and Gwynna left.
Sitting down on his bed, Faramir closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind. Every instinct in his body was screaming to get away from the water. All hobbits had a small fear of water, (except the Brandybucks, but they were fairly queer anyway,) but in Faramir, it had progressed to a phobia.
He felt Elanor sit on the bed and grasp his hand. She rubbed his shoulders absentmindedly and, for a moment, Faramir forgot all about water (or anything else for a matter of fact.) Suddenly, as if to interrupt this calm moment, the ship gave a great lurch and the hobbits toppled from the bed. Well, Faramir toppled but Elanor grabbed the headboard before she fell. Giggling quietly, she helped Faramir to his feet. Very promptly he sat back down. Solid ground doesn't often sway beneath your feet, threatening to send you sprawling to the floor, and Faramir had never set foot off of it. Elanor adjusted very quickly, within the first hour. It took Faramir many times as long, and still he felt insecure without a table or chair in arm's reach. Soon enough he was walking fine, though his fear had not dissipated.
That night he lay on his bed staring wide-eyed at the ceiling for hours. Barely after he had begun to dose he sat up in a cold sweat, wide awake and fearful. He groaned quietly as he remember where he was and lay back, starting another round of staring at the ceiling. It may have been his imagination, but the ship seemed to be swaying more fiercely now, more irregularly. Suddenly, he heard a near silent knock at the door. He sat up, and muttered loudly for the person to come in. Elanor entered and said quietly, "Came to check on you. How are you faring?"
Thickly, Faramir replied, "Can't sleep. It's ridiculous. I can't manage a single wink without jolting awake again." He threw himself back down on the bed in frustration. Elanor came and sat next to him on the bed. For a long while neither spoke. Finally, Elanor lay back next to Faramir and stared with him at the ornate carvings in the ceiling.
After a time, the two hobbits began to talk. This time, it was different. They found that their thoughts and minds moved much the same way, and now a sentence went by that they were not finishing one another's thoughts. From then on, they felt that they could not bare to leave one another's company for more than an instant.
Suddenly, the ship gave a great lurch and began to rock. Above the new tumult of the storm, (which they quickly realized it was,) they heard Gwynna's voice crying high above any noise an Elvish phrase. "My lord, steady! Arulmo! Din!" As Faramir rose (fear forgotten for a moment) to find out what he could do, he set foot on the ground and moments later was thrown across the room and slammed into the wall. He gasped as Elanor gave a cry. Maybe it was his intuition, maybe it was a glimpse of the future, perhaps it was a sign from the Valar, but Faramir threw himself away from the wall. Seconds later, there was a huge wrenching sound and a rock punctured the ship where Faramir had been only moments before.
Water began to pour in. Before either could react, the pressure drew Faramir towards the hole. With no thought to her own safety, Elanor dove forward and grasped Faramir's wrist. Though very brave, this was not at all wise or effective. Instead of holding Faramir in, it had sucked both Faramir and Elanor into the deep, lightless, ageless brine.
Closing her eyes against the grit and pain of the salt, Elanor held Faramir's wrist more tightly than before and forced her screaming muscles to drag both her own and Faramir's weight to the tossing, wrenching surface. She nearly fainted with the immense effort, but made it to the top. Gasping great gulps of the now infinently sweet air, Elanor felt the pelting rain on her face and thanked Eru that she had lived to feel it. Turning to speak to Faramir of their fortune, she realized that he was not struggling or moving, and his face barely broke the surface. Clutching a nearby piece of floating wood, Elanor draped Faramir over it, and saw in a flash of lightning the shape of an island no more than thirty ells away. She felt her muscles tense in a fit of strength and began to swim.
Faster than she ever could have hoped, she felt earth beneath her feet and dragged Faramir the last yards before falling to her knees on the soft sand with the water still licking her toes. Frantically, she lay her head against his chest for any sign of a heartbeat. There was nothing. Elanor felt her conscious mind desert her. All intelligence, common sense, and sanity were gone, leaving only a mindless, throbbing shell.
Shrieking in pain and shock, she began to pound the sand and screamed senselessly "Don't leave me here alone, Faramir! Don't go where I can't follow!" Shaking her fist to the heavens, Elanor cried, "You have claimed what was not yours! You have no right..." she trailed off feebly, sadness penetrating her heart.
As if struck down by a curse, Elanor collapsed onto Faramir's lifeless form and sobbed inconsolably.
* * *
Faramir felt he was walking on a great, mist-covered plain, all dark but for a great light far in the distance. He felt that all his troubles lay behind him, and only light and happiness before him. He began to run to the light, an unexplainable calling upon him to come to the brilliance. Suddenly, he paused, and heard Elanor's voice echoing around him. 'Don't leave me here alone, Faramir! Don't go where I can't follow!'
The call grew louder. Still he clung to her voice and slowly, began to turn to the darkness.
The urge grew stronger yet, until it was nearly unbearable. Faramir knew that this was the trial of his life, and clutched Elanor's voice harder to his soul. Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned, sweat streaming down his face. He remembered the face that was staring intently into his from long ago when his father would drag him all across the Shire, from the Great Smials to Buckland to Hobbiton. He was facing Samwise Gamgee.
"Faramir," he said, and Faramir noticed vaguely through his awe that his voice echoed eerily on the plain. "I need you to listen. I only have a few minutes here, and then the Lady Varda will call me back to Valinor. Usually I wouldn't approve of any hobbit associating with my daughter and would haul out Sting. But you are different. That's why I'm going to tell to this: Go back. Run, if you can. This is not your time. Elanor needs you. There will be a time when she might cross the wide sea to the west, not for rest but for war. She will need your strength. Just tell her something for me. Tell her that I'm well and that I love her very much. Tell her that I did not leave her. I'm always with her. Just tell her that. I have no more time here. Now go! Stay with my daughter. And, Faramir? You have my blessing."
* * *
As Elanor wept, she pressed her face to the still warm body of her lifeless friend and love. As she lay, she suddenly felt a spasm rock Faramir's body and he coughed, spiting sea water onto the sand. Elanor was shaken to the very roots of her soul. All she had ever known seemed to fall apart. The dead do not rise and walk among the living. Oaths given to heaven are not heard. Weeping inconsolably, Elanor flung herself into Faramir's arms. There they sat as the night wore on; Elanor sobbing and Faramir rocking her, cradling her tiny form.
As the last of Elanor's spasms ceased, Faramir felt an overwhelming love for this hobbit that had cared so much for him that she had risked her own life so selflessly for him. He lifted her face with his hand and she looked up into his eyes. Hesitantly, their lips met and they both knew what true happiness was.
* * *
Many hours later, sopping wet, looking disgusted and carrying several packs, Gwynna appeared on the shore. She walked for several minutes before coming across the sleeping hobbits. When she did, she smiled and walked to a nearby grove of trees.