Naira: Heart of Fire - Part 1, Into the West

The sails of the ship swelled in the breeze, as though they were eager to begin their journey to the West. Slipping beyond the horizon, the last rays of the sun painted the sky a glorious pink that faded into a hazy purple. Twilight was falling on Middle-earth, bringing to an end the Third Age of the world. Soon, the Ring bearer and the last of the Elves would pass into the West.

This must be so, Naira knew. Standing on the shore, she watched her kindred prepare the great white ship for its voyage. Her home was no longer under the golden leaves of Lórien, as it had been for the past thousand years. All too soon, that part of her life would be a memory that she would have to carry for all the ages to come. She closed her eyes and tried to block out the smell of the salty water surrounding her. Instead, Naira could smell a fresh morning under the canopy of dew-kissed leaves. She could feel the warm mosses under her toes, hear the playful trickle of the streams that would eventually meld into the Anduin.

In her heart, she secretly envied those who had been alive longer than she, for they had no only been able to revel in Lórien, but at Imladris and in Mirkwood as well. They had truly lived, they had seen Middle-earth. At that moment, Naira would have gladly traded her immortality to be able to remain at the Grey Havens, and make her way through the vast lands she had only begun to dream about.

"You tried to give us the slip once before and failed, Frodo," a voice called out near her. She turned, and saw two small ponies bearing hobbits race towards the ship. She remembered them, Meriadoc and Peregrin. She had helped care for the Fellowship when they had arrived in Lothlórien a few years prior. She watched the tears slip down their faces, and that of Master Samwise, great pain and great love evident to all who watched.

Naira knew she must get on board now. Lord Elrond and the Lady Galadriel stood at the top of the plank, waiting for Gandalf and the halflings; Frodo and Bilbo, to finish their goodbyes. Her long gown slid silently over the sand, her hair blowing in the wind. She wasn't sure where they were going to now, could there be anywhere as beautiful as the land they were departing? Envy stabbed her heart again, thinking of Arwen, queen of Gondor. She was able to stay in Middle-earth, and she was also in love.

"Selfish, selfish," she said to herself under her breath. This is how is must be, Naira thought sadly, you cannot fight this. She passed the members of the Fellowship, and as she climbed the plank, caught Gandalf's parting words:

"Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are evil." With that, they climbed aboard behind her. Frodo stood a few feet from her, suddenly bringing forth the light that Galadriel had given him. He held it high for his friends to see, their eyes locked on it. She looked past them though, at the hills and the trees in the distance. A stinging sensation crept into Naira's eyes, and she grew suddenly ashamed. Imagine if her parents or the Three Keepers saw her this way, knew how she felt? I am still a child, she thought.

She decided to hide for awhile, until they were at sea. She walked silently to the ladder that went into the hold, and after scanning for possible onlookers, vanished into the hold. In the darkness below, she crept into a crevice between two chests. There, Naira retreated again into her dreams of Lothlórien.

Her home, her favorite paths and the best places to find flowers in the spring all drifted through her mind, when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Startled, Naira looked up into the wise face of Gandalf the White. "A hótule asinye i meneltannar tirien," he said kindly. Come out and look at the constellations? She panicked slightly inside, why would Gandalf want her to come and look at the stars with him? She stood up gracefully, and quickly smoothed her skirt.

The night breeze was peaceful on deck, and they were now surrounded by open sea and dark sky. She paused at the top of the ladder, and watched Gandalf for a moment before joining him at the side of the ship. He reached into his robes and pulled out his pipe, and a bag of pipe weed. He chuckled and said, "I'll miss the hobbit's leaf immensely, but there are some forces in this world too great to fight, even my smoking habits." He paused, and lit his pipe before continuing, "But you, my dear young lady, have something on your mind." She looked away, afraid to answer him. Silence filled the space between them, and her discomfort only grew. Gandalf looked at the young elf before him carefully, considering a thought in his mind very carefully. His eyes softened, and he spoke again. "Your name is Naira, is it not?"

She looked startled, the brilliant green of her eyes was apparent even in the deepening night. "Yes, Naira Cemendur. My father is Corinturion, nephew to Lord Celeborn."

"Ah, I thought so," Gandalf said, "You have the look of your family. Tall and fair." He chuckled again. Gandalf knew had made up his mind to help her, after all, a little adventure never hurt anyone.

I am hardly fair, she was thinking disdainfully. She was taller than average, and had none of the stunning beauty of her older sisters, Oricon and Ainon. She looked more like her brother, Encaitar, who was very handsome. Elf-maidens aren't supposed to be handsome, she always told her herself. As the youngest child, she had always felt a bit inferior despite being one of the most talented archer amongst the children. In fact, she was one of the best archers in the land, but that still didn't make her feel any prettier.

Naira looked at the full moon`s shimmering reflection in the water, trying to fight all the dark thoughts inside her. Gandalf placed his hand on her shoulder, and his touch was soothing. She closed her eyes, and he started to speak, but in words that she couldn't quite understand. She felt as though she was being drawn towards the brilliant orb in the water. The moon's reflection seemed to be getting bigger and bigger, she felt like it was trying to embrace her. Naira was at peace for the first time in many weeks, happy to be alive. "Naira," Gandalf said to her, "you will find happiness. Tenn' enomentielva (until we meet again).

A deafening crack ripped through her mind, and she spun around just in time to see the sail coming towards her from above. She tried to step back, but it was too late. The beam attached to the bottom of the sail hit her squarely in the chest, knocking her off balance and over the rail of the ship. The water swallowed her, and for a moment Naira was too stunned to move. The water soaked into her heavy traveling skirts, pulling her down. She fought and surfaced, gasping for air. The ship continued to sail past her, and she realized with horror that no one knew she had gone overboard!

"Daro (stop)! Help, Gandalf! Father! Help!" she cried, but to no avail. They couldn't hear her. She tried to swim after the vessel. Her dress was too heavy, and she was not used to swimming. It was too late. Naira came to a halt, bobbing like driftwood. She watched the ship until it vanished from sight. "Daro," she whispered to the dark water. A tear slid down her cheek, and she decided to let the water cover her. She slipped beneath the waves, her tears mingling with the bitter ocean.

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