Chapter 5: A Warm Winter, A Cold Spring
It was well past mid-night when the crew, after having a merry evening, was wakened by a bell. Glrofindel and Haldir rushed into Elrond's room with grave faces.
"My Lord," began Glorfindel. "It seems that the storm had done greater damage than we expected: the mast is still holding, but there is a great crack in it. The sails are all torn to shreds. It will take days to repair this ship into perfect condition. The Sea Maia Osse---we must have displeased him in some way. Only he can summon a storm this fierce."
"It seems that the folk of Cirdan never expected to face such a fierce foe." Said Haldir, dismayed, shaking his head.
Elrond pondered at this for some time. Then he asked:
"Did any water get below deck?"
"No Lord." Replied Haldir.
"Then send the Elves to fix it as fast as they may. If there will be another storm like this, I doubt we will make it. There is still a great journey ahead of us." With that Haldir and Glorfindel left Elrond and fixed their attention at the damage done by Osse's gale.
Elrond stayed for a few more minutes in his room and then went to the rooms of all the Five Bearers. He summoned them into the Great Hall and then unrolled some old maps.
"You are here because Mithrandir wanted to tell you of our plans and course, since we had not any other time." He said. "You have heard all that I know at the feast; Mithrandir knows more."
"I know that it will be some time, before we actually reach land, but this is better planned earlier than later," said Gandalf. "You all are already aware that I came from the West and so did Saruman and Radaghast and the Blue Wizards. We were sent to Middle-earth by the Valar to challenge the power of the One."
* * *
So passed October and November. Through the winter months there was no snowfall at all. Frodo wondered at this and soon learned from Gildor that the Great Sea never saw the coldness of the snow, nor did any ice ever cover it:
"Some say the Sea has a great power within its waters. Others say that it's the power of the Silamril that was thrown into the Sea many millenniums ago."
So passed the winter, warm and sunny. There was hardly any rain and plenty of wind, in the crew's favor. When winter was coming to an end (it was February 27, 1424), the elves were merrier than ever: for March was the month of Sauron's overthrow. They awaited the 25 of March and were planning a great feast for the date of the New Year.
Frodo on the other hand, was ill at ease. He thought of the month with dread. So many horrible things happened to him in that time, a few years ago. He did not want to trouble anyone with his worries, so he kept silent.
March came like a chill wind from the North. Many pondered at this: a winter that was warm and a spring that is cool. Some thought it ill tidings. March 13 dawned cold. The sun was veiled in cloud and the waters seemed drear and grey.
Frodo was lying in bed staring at the wooden ceiling; his covers drawn up to his throat. His right hand was on his breast and he was clutching a white gem. He was hot with fever, but he tried to remember the songs that he and his friends sang on the long road through Middle-Earth to ease his worry of the fact that this is the day that he was poisoned by Shelob. But all the time he only muttered the Elven song:
A! Elbereth Gilthoniel!
Silivren penna miriel
O menel aglar elenath,
Gilthoniel, A! Elbereth
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees
The starlight on the Western Seas.
At that Bilbo came in and with him came Gandalf.
"See! I told you so!" said Bilbo. "He only stays this late in bed when he is sick." Gandalf searched Frodo's face. His eyes grew grave and pitiful. He went out of the room and called for Elrond. The Elf came in. He sat beside Frodo's bed.
"Is something troubling you, Frodo?" he asked.
"Well, yes. But it's not my shoulder this time. I feel weak, and I have a slight fever and I cannot walk, although I am sure I know what is the cause of this---"
"Well, what is it then?" Elrond suddenly interrupted.
"This is the date that I was poisoned by Shelob. Every year, on this day, I feel sick. Is there nothing you could do to ease the pain?" Frodo looked imploringly at Elrond, who smiled and said:
"There is. And maybe, if you told me sooner, I could have prevented it from coming, although only while this year lasts. Mithrandir, get me some cold water, a cloth and my bag of herbs." Gandalf went off and soon returned. "After this you must rest." Said Elrond.
"And after I am better, I want to speak with the Lady Galadriel." Said Frodo, as he fell on the pillow at a sudden force of weakness. Elrond wet the cloth and put it on Frodo's forehead. Then he mixed several herbs into a mug of hot water and gave it to Frodo to drink; at once the hobbit felt the uncanny pain leaving his body, and he fell into deep sleep.
The next morning, Frodo woke up refreshed. The pain was gone and he felt strong again. He went out of the room and into the kitchen. He ate a good, hearty breakfast and went in search of the Lady. He found her at the prow of the ship, with her honeyed hair glowing and flowing like a stream of gold in the light breeze. She was dressed in a white gown with a blue mantle. Her face was white and fair to look upon; a noble elvish Lady she looked. As Frodo came up, she turned her gaze from the Sea and looked upon him.
"I knew of your coming," she said in her deep, but fair and melodious voice. "You seek council. Why from me, I do not understand."
"Yes, I wish for council," said Frodo, coming up with his hands in his breeches' pockets. "What is the land like over the Sea? What use am I going to be there? Will I ever see any of my friends?" Galadriel was silent for a while. She looked out to the Sea and closed her eyes. Long she held that pose. Then she relaxed and opened them.
"I know what the land is like there; for I have dwelt there for some time and when I left it, it was not as it had been before: the Elves were no longer merry and joyous; they were all worried with the foreboding of war with Morgoth and Sauron. My daughter Celebrian dwells there now: golden haired, with wise, grey eyes and a voice like that of a falling silver stream: a true Elvish beauty. She passed over the Sea when Middle-Earth was young, but already changed." She looked long into Frodo's cerulean blue eyes, amazed to see the elvishness in them; pure, clear, with a great light and knowledge in them. "You will see your friends, but when, I know not. More than that I cannot foretell. Your purpose is unknown to me, but you will find it when it comes unlooked for. But come! Be merry! Soon we shall have a great feast that will go deep into the night." With that she got up and began to leave her place. Frodo ran after her.
"Lady! Lady! Lady Galadriel! I have something else to ask you!" she stopped and turned to him.
"What is it that you desire?" she asked.
"I would dearly love to hear of Númenor." Replied Frodo with a smile. She smiled back and beckoned to him to sit beside her.
"Many songs do I know in the Ancient Tongue, I shall sing you one, but in the Westron Speech." She said.
They found it by the Western Star
The land that evil did not mar.
A Star shaped island from the Sea
Was raised by Gods for Kings to be.
Guided by Earendil, in Vingilot, in Rothinzil
The Men had found it by Valar's will.
Golden towers and a Tree of White
All were grown by Elven might.
Birds sang the songs of Light
And lamps of silver shone in the night.
Blessed was Numenor
But the hearts of Men yearned for Valinor.
Mariners they were of great, that sailed from all their blessed shores
In pearl-white ships with golden oars.
They traveled Seas both mild and mad
But still their spirits were dim, not glad.
A Ban was set that Men shan't break
For if they shall, a storm shall wake.
The Dunedain they were of old
All clad themselves in silver; gold.
Lengthened life did they achieve
But Kings and Princes did naught but grieve.
Their City grew in splendour and fame,
But a fear was on them they could not name.
For immortality they longed and sought
And came back weary, old, with naught.
Thus, hearts of Men were greatly darkened
To Vala's will they did not hearken.
And the White Tree was dying
While Kings in golden tombs were lying.
The Eldar came there never more
And bleak and bare was the Numenorean shore.
The Valar then refused them aid
And Sauron's evil did all but fade.
The Nine Ulairi he ensnared
And few opposed them if they dared:
Mounted on their ghostly steeds
Three were Numenorean Kings.
Some there were that loved the light, others worshiped darkness.
Came Sauron to Numenor and beheld its mighty vastness.
His malice lengthened, while his cunning grew;
Those who opposed him then were few.
The King he caught who trusted him
And then the fate of Men was grim.
But one there was that was not cheated:
Amandil was he that remained undefeated.
He sent Isildur late at night
To save if he may Nimloth's light.
To Armanelos he went in guise
And guards he passed of Sauron's devise.
A fruit he took from the White Tree
Before it was felled for evil to be.
And Sauron built there a tower,
Where sacrifice was foul and cruel under his power.
Mad was King Ar-Pharazon
His hatred great, his wisdom gone.
The Ban he thought no longer strong:
A war he wrought and knew no wrong.
And Sauron lied "Aman is weak
"Why not make war and find what you seek?"
To this the King agreed
And planted then his evil seed.
He sailed to the West late in the night
And feared not yet the Valar's might.
But wrathful were the Gods of old
And broke the Men that once were bold.
The Earth was rent and Seas towered to the sky:
Numenor was drowned and heard not its maidens cry.
The Sea arose in frightening might
And waves that looked like endless night.
The mountains fell and towers broke
And thus the mind of Iluvatar spoke.
The Star thus, was then no more
And this befell to answer Ar-Pharazon's war.
It sank beneath the darkened waves:
Its golden halls were turned to graves.
Elendil and his sons were spared
And on the shores of Middle-Earth they fared.
But Sauron laughed as he sank in his tower
And returned to Mordor with a lust for power.
There he forged himself a Ring
Through which a doom he thought to bring.
And then fairest of all Men's Kingdoms ended
And a grief befell that could not be tended
But Aman was sent to the Heavens in the sky
Where places enchanted and blissful still lie.
After the song, Galadriel was silent. Frodo looked at her and she seemed to him more beautiful, but heavyhearted. Indeed, she was sad about a once fair land. The song must have brought back many memories; good and bad. It suddenly appeared to Frodo that Sauron the Deceiver has corrupted many beautiful places besides Middle-Earth. It was an unfortunate fate, which Numenor had to suffer, but the Gods always have a reason for doing things. Whatever it may be.
But even as the song ended, Frodo saw that the swan ship slowly lifted off the Sea, water running in pearly rivulets and tears down the its hulk; it vaguely reminded Frodo that the Sea was crying for the ship not to leave its waters. Suddenly the swan's white wings that were folded at the sides were opened and they glistened like plains of snow, each feather delicately carved in a likeness so real to the actual thing. A road was shown ahead of the ship, but faintly, like a trail of clouds with a great star shining far above. Frodo grew afraid and stood as if one that was bound by a spell. It seemed that the ship was indeed a living bird; its neck posed in a graceful arch; its golden beak like sunlight; its eyes so alive with light. Such magic and beauty, the hobbit has never seen in a ship.
"Do not fear what you see," said Galadriel softly. "For this is the Straight Road that leads to the Land of Aman that was sent to the Heavens." Frodo looked at her with a expression of fear, anxiety, curiosity and wonder. And then he looked upon the white wings of the ship that slowly moved in the graceful movement of the swans. The new sails flittered in a wind that none could feel and the sky slowly grew lighter; great white clouds appeared everywhere and all seemed more like to a dream than reality. All was of a beauty indescribable, and Frodo stood still in amaze, not knowing what to do, say or feel.
"You can sing about anything that you see, hear or feel." Said the Lady and with that she left the deck. Frodo stood a while alone. He truly wanted to sing once again, but his mind and eyes were fixed on the Road before him and where it might lead him. He sat long in thought alone on deck. Many memories flowed back into his head. He tried to fancy what his friends were doing and how they were faring. He knew that the Shire was safe, because the King Elessar now prohibited any Man from entering it without his leave. Suddenly a thought sprang into his head. He paced to and fro along the deck for many minutes.
"Of course!" he kept on muttering to himself. "If I cannot see any of my friends, I shall make a song about them. Let me see..." but his mind was blank, to his own surprise. He was disappointed in his heart of hearts, but then he stopped short: he remembered the fair Queen Evenstar, and how beautiful she had looked. The Nightingale; Undomiel.
"That ought to do it! I shall make a song about the Queen Arwen and the King Aragorn. Wait...for that, I shall ask Elrond to tell me of their first meeting." Finally with his mind set on the beauty and greatness of the King and Queen of Gondor, he went in search of Elrond.
He found the Elf in his room, leaning over more scrolls. Without looking up, he beckoned for Frodo to come and sit beside him.
"Do you seek council?" asked Elrond.
"Nay, I wish to know about Queen Evenstar and King Elessar." Answered Frodo.
Elrond closed his eyes and sighed. He looked on the small hobbit with his cold, sea-grey eyes.
"I shall tell you a brief tale, for the whole story is far too long." Said Elrond. Frodo made himself comfortable in a low chair; his hands were clasped together in his lap. "Aragorn became fatherless at the age of two," began Elrond. "And was taken to live in Imaldris with his mother. I became like a father to him. I gave him council and other such things. He was the heir of Isildur and the only one with true blood of the Numenoreans. He was to be the king of Gondor, but I had not told him that yet. When he was a score of years old, tall and fair he was to look upon. He learned many things and already at that young age, he was reaching manhood.
"When I thought that the time was right, I gave him the heirlooms of my house:
`Here is the ring of Barahir,' said I, `the token of our kinship from afar; and here are also the shards of Narsil, the sword that cut the Ring form Sauron's hand. With these you may yet do great deeds; for I foretell that the span of your life shall be greater than the measure of Men, unless evil befalls you or you fail at the test. But the test shall be hard and long. The Sceptre of Annuminas I withhold for you have yet to earn it'.
"And so, Aragorn walked in my garden, and then I suppose, he met Arwen. I could tell she loved him, but I would not have it that she wed a one of mortal kind; for if and Elf weds a mortal, they themselves become mortal.
"`She shall not wed a Man of lesser stature than a King. She shall wed the one that becomes King of Gondor and Arnor.' Said I to Aragorn, when he came to me. So Aragorn left Imladris and went in exile wondering the wild. For thirty years he was gone. I think that he met Gandalf the Grey on that journey. I pitied him, though.
"Aragorn was then grim to look upon and sad, save only when he smiled and that was seldom. He must have ventured into fair and golden Lothlorien and there once again beheld my daughter." He stopped and sighed again.
"Yes, indeed he met and beheld her." Said a voice, but it was not Elrond's. Frodo jumped and fell off his seat. He lifted his eyes and there was Galadriel standing at the door. "I welcomed the Lord Aragorn into the Golden Wood." She continued. "I clothed him in silver and white, with a cloak of elven-grey and a star upon his brow and how kingly he looked then! Long he walked with Arwen Undomiel among the elanor and niphredil of Lorien. They went up to Cerin Amroth together and watched the Shadow in the East ever darken. That was when she bound herself to him."
"And soon I got rumor of it. I sat in my house long and silent. I feared that Arwen would not depart with me over the Sea and stay in Middle-Earth." Said Elrond. "That was not all that had happened before Arwen, Galadriel and I came to Minas Tirith, not long ago; many things happened in between. Aragorn was away for long periods of time. Ages it seemed. It was sad to see a man of his stature in exile. Tall and proud like an Elven Lord."
As Elrond finished talking Frodo sat a while in his seat and tried to piece everything together. He left the room and thanked Elrond and Galadriel many times. Then he ran into his room and started working on his song.