The Cry of the Gull (Chapters 7-11) - Second set...
The sun shone pink on Rayn's face as it rose. She stirrred, and looked at the elves below her. Legolas was still dreaming, she could tell by the glazed look on his face, but Balved was already out of the tree, and squatting under another. He was holding something. Rayn jumped out of her branch, and strode over to the spot.
"What is it?" she asked. Balved opened his hand without speaking, revealing a gullchick. It squalked, a tiny, high-pitched sound.
"Where is its mother?" Rayn asked. Balved shrugged, stroking the baby bird.
"I don't even know where he came from; the cliffs are where they build their nests, and the closest mountain is many feet away. He would have died in trying to walk down here, and he's to young to fly,"
"Then he is a mystery," Rayn said.
Legolas dropped out of the tree and joined them.
"What are you looking at?" he asked. Then he saw. The gull squealed again, and flapped its tiny wings. Balved handed it to Legolas. The bird stared deep into Legolas's elvish eyes.
"What are you going to do with it?" Rayn asked.
"Can we keep it?" Balved asked. "It's mother isn't anywhere to be found."
"I guess we could..." Legolas said.
"If we do it needs a name," Rayn pointed out. She though a moment.
"How about Anariwë?"
"That is a name for an eagle, not a gull, Animwë is better,"
"But see, he is not white, he is grey," Rayn pointed out.
Legolas listened curiously to the strange words.
"And what is it that you are talking about calling him?" he asked, a bit annoyed.
"Golden-Bird was mine, White-Bird was what Balved wanted him called," Rayn intrpreted.
They thought some more, then Balved spoke.
"Aeraew?" he suggested.
"Seabird, that is a good one," Rayn said. The little bird called again, affirming his take to the name.
"I guess we can't say no to that!" Balved exclaimed. They all laughed.
§ § §
They spent the day wandering in the village. Rayn bought some food and they ate, throwing scraps to Aeraew, who picked them up and swallowed them hungrily. Elves passed them in the lanes and streets throughout the day. They whispered curiously to each other, clearly marveling at Rayn's armor. She drew her cloak around herself and looked uncomfortable. Legolas left Balved to hold the bird and walked next to her. Balved walked silently back to the tree.
The two, in their armor and weapons caused quite a murmur among the other elves on the street, and some, recognizing the half-queen, bowed. She smiled at them, and continued walking. Legolas knew not what to say. He wondered if she wanted to talk about her troubles.
"Do you want me to leave?" he asked. She shook her head.
"No, in fact I would rather you stay," she said.
"Oh?" he remarked, nudging her further.
"I like spending time with you," she said simply. They turned off of the road and into the woods. Wandering through forest again Legolas felt more at home. Rayn made her way toward the beach, and he followed curiously. They soon reached the break of the trees, and Rayn walked down to the shore.
"I feel in the water the same thing you do in the trees; the same overpowering desire to be part of it, to live it, to breathe it, the ocean brings about the same in me," she said, staring at the water. A look of peace crossed her face. She threw her cloak back, revealing her armor. The sun, high in the sky glinted off of it, and Legolas had to shield his eyes.
He stood a little while, then wandered down to where water met sand. He bent down and laced the water with his hand. Rayn smiled as she watched him, recognizing his joy at being here, at going home, and his fear at facing an evil unknown to him. She walked soundlessly to where he stood, leaning close to his ear she whispered the same word that she had in the fountain hall.
"Come." She slipped her hand into his and began to walk along the beach. They said nothing, for nothing needed to be said. A long way their path went, though no footprints marked where they had been. They walked all that long afternoon, and Rayn led them in a great circle over sand and then back through wood.
When they again entered the forest Legolas climbed into a tree and began to go from it to others, making as much progress in his path as Rayn. She likened him to a squirrel, leaping from branch to branch, and yet noiselessly. She began to jog, and then to run, but still he kept up. She laughed, and stopped suddenly. He stopped a little ahead of her, breathing hard. Jumping down, he waited for her to join him.
They soon were back in Avathar. They found Balved outside a small building. Aeraew was with him, and the little bird squalked happily at the sight of Legolas.
"Where have you been all day, Legolas?" the young elf asked. "Aeraew and I wondered when you were going to come back."
"We went to the beach, and came back through the wood," Rayn said, taking the gull in her arms. "And we found out just how excellent Legolas is in the trees."
"Oh?" Balved said, confused. Rayn laughed her merry laugh and walked off toward their tree. Balved followed, scratching his head, and last came Legolas, who turned to look one more time at the ocean, before himself turning to the inland.
§ § §
Their departure in the morning was one of little fanfare, with only a few family members of the crew appearing to see them off. The fleet left in relative peace, as much peace as can be expected of one hundred and twenty ships. Balved and Rayn went immediately to their cabins, and Balved took Aeraew with him. But Legolas paced along the deck for awhile, stopping only to glance at the sun, which glowed pink on the horizon. He understood Erindor's hostility to Rayn, for opposing him and taking Legolas's side. For taking the side of the elf who is coughed up by the ocean, and only to take away from the Undying Lands and go back to his home.
"Is that all I am?" he wondered. "An outcast, who steals love and spirits off those who should not leave?" he dropped to his knees and put his head in his hands. "What am I here for?" he whispered, "What have I done?"
He sat there for a long while, his eyes lifted, staring at the sun, watching it climb further and further. Tears glistened on his face. He thought of his home, and of Rayn's and Balved's. He thought of how, while on the Sea, they were all away from their homes, and all of them in yet another, belonging to no elf, but to the Valar. Of them, he daydreamed also, flying in their color through the sky, walking, diving, intertwining with one another as spirits, who danced in the light that spilled from their own selves, and sang in far away lands.
He unwittingly got up and went to his cabin. Laying down on a couch, he wandered down unknown dream-paths, and did not wake for some time.
Rayn walked into the room where Legolas slept, she gazed at his unseeing form; knowing he was aware of her presence yet unresponding to her. She knelt next to the couch and caressed his golden head, watching him in the only peace she realized he could find. She clasped his hand in hers and thought of what his life must have been like, in the thick of the great war which the queen Galadriel had spoken of when she arrived on Tol Eressëa, when Avallonë was not a ruin. And now she was finally going to war, and to fight a real fight, not the mock battles which had become so easy for her. She would not let her people die, and she would not let Ymir stop Legolas from seeing those lands which his heart plainly desired to see in their full beauty. She sighed. But he would have to wait.
Legolas stirred, his eyes focused, and he saw Rayn next to him, her long hand in his.
"How far have we gone?" he asked.
"There are yet nine days, as far as good weather prevails," she answered, he sat up, and she moved to sit next to him.
Legolas hesitantly placed his arm around Rayn's shoulders, pulling her closer to him. He rested his head on hers and teased her ear with whispered song.
"Luthien a Beren, golo le i dénië?"
"I do," she said.
"It has been in my mind for a long while...where did you hear it?"
"From an elven queen called Galadriel, who came to our shores a few years past,"
"Galadriel came to Alqualondë?"
"Yes, and departed to the isle of Estë, in Lorien," Rayn replied, puzzled at his knowledge of the name.
"I did not know she came here, was anyone with her?"
"Yes, a wizard of Middle-earth, and also a little man, called himself a hobbit, I think,"
"Frodo!" Legolas cried.
"Yes, that was his name! How do you know?" Rayn asked, thoroughly perplexed.
"I journeyed long with him in defense of all of Middle-Earth," he sighed. "And again I must do it, but this time alone."
"You are not alone! I have told you before that we are your friends, Balved and I. And Aeraew," she added.
"We are quite a foursome," Legolas remarked.
"Ah, but we will prevail, I feel it, though something lurks behind the thought; I cannot place it," she said.
"There are always enigmas, and the presence of mystery will never fail until the end of days, when the Valar sing high again," Legolas said.
"I look to them, and then I may again see my mother," Rayn said longingly.
"We shall," he replied.
§ § §
So the journey across the wide water went. Somehow the time passed more slowly for Legolas, and the trip seemed to take longer. By the eve of the third day they reached the island of Númenor. They were greeted at Andúnië by a single elf, and they were permitted only to dock the night and to be on their way when "dawn stirred softly in the breeze". Rayn remembered little past that, for she stayed shut away, rarely seeing anyone and then only Legolas or Balved. She sat in silent and awkward grief, unknowing of what she grieved for, and why. Legolas did his best to console her, but for the most part paced the deck of his ship, silent and alone as Rayn.
He reveled in the ocean, and took joy in watching the waves roll and tip around him. Sometimes he sang, lifting his voice in his high elven tongue, and all who heard him stopped to listen, and all who saw him gazed in wondering stupor as though they looked upon one higher than they knew. In his words they saw Aman, but never as they had seen it before, adorned and growing with things not wrought, though it seemed, with elven hands. The realm had grown more beautiful in the voice of Legolas, no longer pitted and ruined with Ymir's bitter mind. Reluctantly they returned to their tasks, speeding the swan-boats along with swift strokes of their oars, strengthened by the sound, full of life, and with a deep, endless beauty as that of even a Silmaril. He found himself delighting more and more in the Sea, and though the great majesty of the forest and the love that he held for it never completely ceased, he fell in love with the ocean, and wrote verse in his mind about it, and himself, and that which he did not completely understand. Such was one he shared with Rayn on the afternoon of the fifth day. She did not remember it all later, but one stanza stirred within her heart and flew away with her in her mind ever after; that one she remembered.
"He who laughed long will cease,
She who grieved will laugh much more,
And he who laughed long in the forest
Will weep in the tree by the shore,"
She kept those words of Legolas close to her thought, and repeated them to herself every day as she waited for the long shoreline of Middle-Earth, "Ened-Arma", to come into veiw.
Areaew grew fast. His feathers got longer and he could most often be seen on Balved's shoulder, though the little bird was deeply attatched to Legolas, who he seemed to know was a kindred spirit in his loss of his home and his love for the ocean. He squeaked and cried and fluttered about everywhere. Balved tried frantically to keep the gull under his control, but Aeraew, or Aer, as he was called by Balved, defied and rebelled and resisted every effort to make him keep quiet, and in the noontime of the seventh day it got him into trouble.
Balved ha been playing with him on the deck of the ship. Legolas was nearby, pacing as usual, every now and then stopping to survey the rest of the fleet behind them. Behind him he heard Balved cry out.
"Aer! Aer, no!"
Legolas spun around to see Aeraew on the deckrail, calling happily to his kindred in the sky. Before Balved could reach him, the bird took off, fluttering precariously over the water. He dropped, but, being the seabird that he knew he was, he stayed afloat, and bobbed in the little lapping waves by the boat. He spread his wings, and, though he still had much practice left, as was clear, he leapt into the air, and soared over their heads. Rayn walked up behind Legolas and watched as the little gull dipped and dived, tipping off balance and nearly falling once.
"He is a wonder," she whispered, and Legolas nodded his agreement. Aeraew flew back toward the boat, and made a crash landing at Legolas's feet. The elf scooped the gull up in his hand, and held him up. Aer playfully pecked at Legolas's nose, and the prince grinned.
"Come with me, young one," he said, and placed the bird on his shoulder. He walked to his cabin, and closed the door behind him. Setting the bird on the floor, he pointed to the open window.
"You are not to fly out, understood?" he said.
The gull bobbed it's head, and Legolas laughed; Aeraew fluttered onto the couch in the small room, and tucked his beak under his wing. A knock came on the door.
"Yes?" Legolas called. Erindor stepped into the room, and nodded his head at the prince in a sort of half-bow.
"Where do you want to land?" he asked. "Our best choice would be Dundland, for it is fastest to travel thither, but if you wish to travel farther north-"
"Nay, Erindor, it is south I wish to go," Legolas inturrupted. To Dol Amroth, for I wish to travel northward, but through Gondor and Rohan, there are men who would be glad to join us there, and in Rohan we may obtain steeds," he finished. Erindor glowered at Legolas for a moment, but he didn't argue, he turned around and stalked out the door.
Legolas sat down next to Aeraew and sighed, his discussions never turned out well with Erindor. He touched gently the hilt of one of his knives, and his fingers glowed and became their usual blood red. He felt the power course through his arm and into his body he smiled at the secret, and the world began to tumble, and turn to waves before his eyes as his heart beat faster and faster. He dropped his hand, and was startled by the sound of a gasped breath behind him. He knew who it was before he turned to look. Standing inside the door of the cabin, agape at what she had seen, was Rayn, the half-queen of Yardan.
*Luthien and Beren, you know the tale?
"What was that?" Rayn asked, staring wide-eyed at Legolas, she was wary of him, afraid as though he might turn into a wraith and attack her.
"You can't tell anyone," Legolas pleaded.
"I won't I just want to know what it was," she said.
He got up and walked toward her, he reached out for her hand, but she pulled away.
"It only happens when I touch the stone in the hilts of my knives," he said. "it is a strange magic, Rayn, don't tell anyone, not even Balved, please?"
Rayn stared into his deep blue eyes, seeing fear and yet a sense of exctiement in them, as though in this secret that was hers to choose to keep or not, there was a wonderful feeling of mystery and reckless secrecy. She smiled at him and let her hand be caught by his.
"I will keep your secret, but you must keep mine," she said.
"Yours?" Legolas said, puzzled.
Rayn took a step backward and drew her sword, letting the hilt slide deeply into her palm. A jewel that glowed blue on the underside of the guard rested against her hand. For a moment nothing happened, then deep blue began to work it's way slowly up her arm, it engulfed her entire body in a matter of minutes, and exploded in her eyes, penetrating. To Legolas it felt as though she were probing his heart, examining his thoughts and feelings about everything. She stood for a moment, and a look of what could be barely discerned as fear, maybe pain.
The sword clattered to the floor. Rayn stumbled forward into his arms.
"I, I saw you," she said, a look of horror on her face.
"I was dead?" Legolas asked. She nodded.
"I have seen the same thing," Legolas said, taking her in his arms.
"Maybe we shouldn't go to Middle-Earth," Rayn said.
"We would be forsaking our people, I couldn't do that," Legolas said. "Where did you get the jewel?"
"The sword was given to me by my father when I turned my first Millenium, I discovered the power of the jewel that night, since then it's been my secret, until now," she replied.
"Should we tell Balved?" Legolas asked. "Aeraew already knows." He gestured toward the bird, who was staring wildly at the two elves.
"Tell me what?" Balved walked into the room. "What's that there for?" he indicated the sword on the floor. He picked it up and examined the white jewel at the end of the hilt. He touched it genly. His fingers glimmered a hint of gold. He pulled his hand back, much the way Legolas had when he discovered his own secret.
"Touch it again," Rayn said.
Balved laid his fingers on the gem, and gold shot up his arm. He looked to Rayn for assurence, alarm in his face. She nodded for him to keep his hold. The gold color spread throughout his body, engulfing him in it, and his eyes shone as Rayn's had. The sword fell again to the floor and only Balved remained, a look of the same fear Rayn had shown plastered on his face.
"I saw something," he said.
"What was it?" Legolas asked, fearing the same that he and Rayn had seen.
"It was an elf, but he was as big as a mountain, or so he seemed to me. He was arrayed all in gold and white. I saw him to be a king, and of great rank somewhere. He looked straight at me, and, though his eyes seemed to connect with mine he seemed to see beyond, he reminded me of, of the air, and the wind, and, myself," he looked quizzically at Rayn.
"What is this, Half-Queen?"
"Each of us does this when we touch a jewel, or stone of some sort. We glow and see visions, and gain great strength. What happens beyond that we do not know. We have not waited long enough to find out.
They stood there in silence for a moment, pondering why they were so powerful, and how they came to be that way. At length, Rayn bent to pick up her sword. She gasped as she did.
"What is it?" Legolas asked. She held her hand up to him and resting in her palm was Balved's jewel. She handed it to Legolas to examine.
"It must have come out when I dropped it, I am sorry, Rayn," Balved said.
"No, don't be," Rayn replied, hefting her sword her hand. "It is better to my arm than it was before; but I find it strange, things that would just as soon last forever are breaking as we pass into the waters of Middle-Earth, you come from a strange land, Legolas,"
"A land overrun with the doom of men, death, fear, sickness; all things that pass there fail sometime." He turned to Balved, who had been listening quietly. "I can carve this into a pendant, Balved, so you can always have it with you, if you like," Legolas said, holding the small triangle in the little light that was left.
"Can you make it a-" he looked around for inspiration. His gaze rested on Aer, who had resumed his sleep. "A gull, like you are seeing it flying from the top?"
"I can try, but I must have a knife,"
Rayn sheathed her sword; pushing back her cloak she handed him a dagger.
"Can you do it with this?" she asked. Legolas took the knife and made a small cleft in the jewel.
"Yes, this will carve nicely. When I am finished, Balved, do not wear it under your armor, against your body; if it touches you anywhere, your secret will no longer exist," Legolas warned. Balved nodded.
"Here, take Aeraew and go to bed, I should have it done by morning," Legolas said. Rayn was lighting candles.
"I think I'll stay here for awhile, the breeze comes in well on this side of the ship," Rayn said. Balved strode to the couch and scooped up the baby bird.
"I will be back in the morn, Legolas," he said, and left.
Rayn sat in a cushioned chair and watched intently as Legolas made rend after rend in the stone.
"Where did you learn to do that?" she asked him.
"My father taught me, many years ago," he replied. "I can do stone, wood, gems, among other things," he said, chipping away at the stone. He paused for a moment. "I look forward to seeing him again." Rayn smiled, happy that he was happy. She sighed softly, and went into a dream.
§ § §
Legolas worked for hours on Balved's pendant; the candles went out and Rayn's firey green eyes stared at nothing in their slumber. Dawn was just beginning to break when he was satsified with his work. Rayn stirred, and her eyes focused on the jewel.
"It's done? Let me see," Legolas tossed the carving to her, and she scrutinized it, admiring the smoothness that Legolas had achieved with just a dagger. It was hard for her to believe that it was not an actual bird that she was looking at.
"Balved will be pleased," she said, and tossed it back to the prince.
"It was softer to carve than most gems, what kind is it?" Legolas asked, surveying his work.
"I have never known," Rayn said. "I never asked, only accepted, I only knew that I loved my sword and that it was the best gift I have ever recieved."
Balved walked into the room, Aeraew on his shoulder.
"Is it done?" he asked.
"It is, and there is a hole in the tail for you to hang it on a chain," Legolas pointed out.
"Thank you, Master!" Balved cried, admiring with joy the little gull. "See it, it seems to glow!"
Legolas drew the jewel back as Balved reached to touch it.
"Ah, you forget already, this is your power, Balved, do not touch it, but here," he wrapped the bird in a bit of cloth that lay on the couch and handed the bundle to Balved.
"Find a chain and bring the two back here. I will string it for you,"
"Thank you again! I will return soon," Balved said, leaving Aer in his haste and leaving the room.
"It taketh not much to make him happy," Rayn said.
"He is young, and has not lived long to realize how many great things there are, rather than those small ones. He is rather like men in that manner," Legolas said.
"Profound, old one, profound," Rayn said teasingly.
"You have no idea," Legolas said.
§ § §
The day went by without event. For no one noticed the chain around the young squire's neck that had appeared overnight. Great jubilation began as the cry of "Land! Land!" was taken up by the elves that stood on the thin rails of the ships, ever watchful.
They docked that afternoon, a day ahead of their expectations. Legolas disembarked quickly, eager for the feel of the shores of Middle-Earth yet again under his feet. He smiled wide, looking about his world, the land of his home. He ran down the shore, overcome with joy and gladness, for he was closer to seeing his father than at any time during the long journey from Alqualondë.
Aer took off and flew after him, crying his own glad cry, and behind him Rayn found herself running, but for her with joy at being on land again. Balved stayed behind, for he knew his presence would not be quite as welcome with his master as Rayn's was. "Besides," he thought, "there is work to do."
Legolas ran far over the dunes and sand of Middle-earth. He stopped a good way from the ships. What could be called small crags worked their way up the setting of the sky behind him, adorned with bushes and stunted trees. Legolas percieved a rumble in the water, but thought little of it, for he felt a greater power, as though a great evil had sprung a trap on his home, in the land around him. Rayn strode up the beach where he stood, Aer on her shoulder, breathing hardly at all for her run. She twisted her face into a puzzled, slightly worried expression.
"Do you feel that?" she asked Legolas.
Aer took off and flew over the water, as though searching for something that he could not find. Legolas turned his wandering attention to the water and he, too, could discern the other power that seemed to be growing therein. Aer circled low, and beneath him it seemed as though the waters gathered together, and rose up of themselves. Suddenly a great hand, blue-green in hue shot out of the water and enclosed around the bird. Aeraew made no objection as the cage rose higher. A great head, elvish in it's own right, appeared above the waves, water slid down his features, across his eyes, which held the same blue tint that was in all of him. He was clad in silver as well as that same color, all down his body. He looked intently at Legolas, and in him Legolas saw a great storm, as well as the gentlest rains that ever fell in all of Eä, he saw rivers and streams, falls and still pools, he stumbled back in fear, and Rayn clung to him, as bewildered as the prince himself. The thing stopped his rise, and he stared gently down at the two elves. Long, blue-white hair hung straight and wet down his back. He made no move, save opening the hand that held Aeraew. The bird flew to the shoulder of the being, seeming not to fear it for all it's power. Legolas could only stare at the glory that he beheld. The thing gave a half-smile, assuring, and yet with the stirring of great wrath under the smile. He spoke.
"So, they are come," he said, watching Rayn and Legolas closely, within his eyes Legolas beheld a great and fervent storm that threatened to billow up and pour over in a great torrent.
"It cannot be," Rayn whispered. "It cannot be; Legolas, it is Ulmo."
"God of Waters, King of the Sea, I am he that was and is yet alone," the thing said. He drew his other hand out from under the water, and Legolas and Rayn beheld webbing between the fingers of his right hand, a clawed and a terrible weapon. He spread out his fingers, and water gathered into the bowl-shape, when it was full he tipped his hand forward, slowly, releasing the water back into the ocean.
"I have been sent by Manwë to tell you to beware your step, for evil is both behind and before you. It is ever watchful," his voice became a whisper. "it murmurs lies into your heads, confusing you, beware!" Lightning flashed, thunder roared, the elves stumbled backward, terrified; they were thrown on their faces, bowed in the presence of the great one of the waves. The tirade died down, and Rayn ventured to stand.
"Yes, little one?" Ulmo asked, bending down as though to see the half-queen better.
"Great god of waters, what evil do you speak of?" she asked.
"That I cannot say, but your power will surely protect you, for it is sung that this evil shall pass ere the end of days, but how long ere, Manwë, nay, Mandos himself cannot tell." His eyes glowed, and he drew back up to his full height.
"Fly, Legolas, go quickly to your mission, the world may yet have hope, even in the presence of the returning one." He sank lower into the water.
"Remember, I am in every river, every pool, I am in the rain, I have power wherever, and I will be with you evermore. Do not forget the warning!" He said.
"What about Aer?" Rayn asked. Ulmo smlied and plucked the bird off of his shoulder with his webbed hand. He reached out to Legolas and placed the bird in his hand.
"He is my messenger, take care of him, go now, children, farewell." The rumble grew again, and Ulmo rose up higher and higher, until Legolas felt he was looking at the tallest mountain. The god propelled himself through the air, though his feet never seemed to leave the water. He dived into the water, and Legolas was suddenly aware of the sun coming out from behind a cloud, though he had noticed no cloud. And as suddenly as he had appeared, Ulmo was gone.
Rayn collapsed into the sand. Legolas sat down beside her, Aeraew took off and circled the water over the place where Ulmo had disappeared, crying for his master.
"Were we dreaming?" Legolas asked in wonder.
"Look at the gull, do you think we were dreaming?" Rayn replied. She fell back, lying on the sand, staring up at the sky.
"I have seen Ulmo. I have seen him," Rayn murmured to herself, wonder in her face.
"I have heard the lore of my people, but I have never thought much of the Valar." Legolas flopped down beside Rayn.
"What kind of place has my world become?" he asked.
"Has it not always been this way?" Rayn asked.
"No," he said slowly. "There is a certain stillness in the air that didn't exist when I left. Like fog settling over a pool, or, or the cloud of darkness that covered the earth when Sauron put forth his power against Middle-earth. That's what this is like." Rayn stared at the sky, musing over Legolas's words.
"Then it is deader than before?" she asked after a time.
"I guess you could say that," Legolas replied.
Rayn rolled onto her side, Legolas looked at her, perceiving sorrow and grief.
"Then I may never see Middle-earth happy?" she asked.
"Middle-earth was never happy, and the shore is the happiest place there is here, in my book," Legolas said. Rayn frowned, and lay back again in the sand.
"I expected something different, but not worse than my own land," she said.
"Ah, but it will get better, I hope." They looked at each other with uncertainty.
"What a journey we have embarked on," Legolas said.
"We'll never get it started if we don't go back to the boat," Rayn pointed out. Legolas nodded and they got to their feet. Without a word they began to jog back toward the fleet, followed by Aer. Legolas gave a last glance at the ocean behind, hoping for another glance of the Sea-King, but only the lapping waves stirred, and only the Sea was visible.
Shadow of the Past
Yardan was worried. He sat up in his throne room, and would not suffer anyone to enter. A storm had fallen over the king's mind, filling him with fear at what might happen to his daughter, or to him. The same evil that she and that prince were journeying to find had taken his son years ago, and had only grown stronger with the years. Yardan was more than worried, he was afraid. A knock came on the door.
"No," he said, as he had said so many times.
"But Sir," the voice said from the other side of the wooden frame. Yardan recognized the voice of his captain.
"Come in, Elgil," he said wearliy. The door opened and a tall, bold-looking elf strode through.
"What is it now?" Yardan asked, plainly uninterested in anything his chief warrior had to say.
"Surely Your Majesty has noticed the darkness of the sky?" Elgil said, a look of amazement on his face. In truth, Yardan hadn't. And now it only contributed to his anxiety, for indeed the sky was dark, though it was day. The shadow came from the North, drifting over everything, covering the palace of Alqualondë and everything beyond. Yardan shuddered.
"What is that?" he asked.
"We know not. The people are afraid, King, they want an explanation. What should I tell them?" Elgil asked. The king sighed.
"Tell them anything, I care not." He stared out the window. Lightning flashed over the Sea; Yardan was surprised to see, in that brief flicker, the image of an enourmous hand rising out of the water to meet the light. He was even more amazed when he saw the hand was webbed. The lightning dispersed, and the thunder rolled as the king rose from his throne. He strode quickly to the pane of glass and looked out.
"Did you see that Elgil?" he asked his captain.
"No, Sir," Elgil answered dutifully.
"Elgil." Yardan said.
"Tell the people to prepare for war."
§ § §
Balved ran up to Legolas and Rayn as they aproached the fleet.
"Master!" he called out as he ran. "Look!"
Balved pointed to the sky over the ocean. Legolas was surprised to see a dark cloud gathering over the sea.
"What is that?" Rayn asked. Legolas was silent, his keen eyes probing the sky for any sign of what it might be. Of one thing he was certain. He was running out of time.
"Come, Balved, we must begin our journey. Have Erindor get supplies packed. If he won't cooperate, tell him we are in Middle-earth and the order is from me," Legolas said as he began to jog to the boat, Rayn close on his heels. As Balved ran the other way, Rayn spoke.
"You're thinking about what Ulmo said about the evil behind and before us, aren't you?" she asked. Legolas nodded.
"We must leave, tonight if possible, I sense fear and death here as I have never sensed it before."
"Maybe it is nothing," Rayn said, though her tone belied her optimisim.
"No, there is something about that darkness..."
Balved ran up, puffing.
"It is being done, sir. Erindor gave me a grudging look when I told him what you said, but he did it."
"Good, we may be on our way tonight after all, and the better." Legolas jogged faster toward the boat. He boarded the ship and went to the cabin. Gathering his knives up by their sheaths he handed them to Balved, who began with deft fingers to buckle and strap them onto his master. Rayn occupied herself with her own weapons and soon they were ready. With a word to wait on the beach for him Legolas ran to find Erindor.
He found the sea-elf tying lines among the other boats. All around him other elves were taking down sails and packing rope away. Erindor looked up at Legolas.
"Where are the provisions I sent word for you to pack?" Legolas asked. Erindor pointed without a word to three packs on the ground next to a ship.
"Those will get you as far as Minas Tirith," he said sullenly. Legolas nodded.
"Rayn, Balved, and I will return here with an army in about three months, be ready for us by that time," he said. Erindor nodded and went back to his tie. Legolas hoisted the packs onto his back and returned to the ship. Rayn and Balved stood waiting for him, watching the shadow cover the western sky. Aer was nestled in Balved's arms, and he, too was watching the shadow. Legolas approached them and handed them each a pack. The wind had begun to blow with a cold, chilling feel.
"Come," Legolas said, "We must travel quickly."
The sky darkened as the day waned. The three elves began to lope toward the crags that loomed behind them at a good pace. Keen eyes aware of everything, delicate pointed ears probing the silence around them, they headed over hill and dale. As they went on the terrain became rocky and the going harder. They came to the top of a cliff that overlooked the Sea. Stopping to rest the three elves watched as lightning flickered far away over the ocean. Aer took off and flew out, searching the waters. Legolas held his breath, wondering if Aeraew had again spotted his master. But the gull flew back without so much as a stirring in the water.
The three sat on large stones for a few minutes, each with their own private thoughts. Finally Rayn spoke.
"What could that shadow be?" she asked of no one in particular. Legolas and Balved were surprised, they hadn't taken it for anything but a large storm, and the thought had never crossed their minds that it could be something else.
"I really don't know," Balved said.
The shadow had ceased to move southward and it sat low in the sky, looming over the ocean. The sound of "Doom" seemed to float over the water, and meeting with their ears. Rayn gasped.
"Look, Legolas!" she cried, pointing over the water. They perceived a black shape taking form in the cloud. It grew and changed, twisting in the blackness of the stormy sky until it appeared almost elvish, but a dark and terrible elf. It dissapated into the cloud and they could see nothing more but black covering the western sky.
Rayn wondered about the thing, and slowly, like a soft voice carried across the Sea, a name, a brush of fear returned to her from her deepest memory.
"No," she thought. "It can't be." She dismissed the thought from her mind.
Legolas stood up and spoke.
"Come," he said. "We must move with greater haste now." Balved nodded and Rayn stood, directing a last look at the cloud. A deep rumbling seemed to come from within it and she shuddered. They took off again and spoke no more of it that night.