Chapter 2: A Day of Good Tales and an Eve of Misfortune
Two days had passed without the occurrence of significant events, but Frodo felt dread creep upon him like an unfriendly chill that smote his heart. He was ill at ease and detached from the rest. He wandered to and fro along the deck and his cabin, with only a brief moments rest, where he would look at the Sea and wonder. But Elrond could find little to do, to calm the restless Hobbit.
It was just so, on a grey and early dawn that the Elf-lord found Frodo sitting at the prow of the handsome swan-ship, which was his favorite spot to sit and think. He looked not at the deep waters that bore him afar, that he had long seen in his dreams, but at the single star that still shimmered in the high heavens; the only star that did at such a time, and the very light of which was captured in the Phial of Galadriel, gift to him from the Lady herself.
“Tell me of him, of Earendil, if you would, Lord Elrond.” Said Frodo as the Elf approached, not taking his gaze off the star.
“Have you not heard tell of it before?” mildly surprised, replied Elrond.
“Only so much,” said Frodo. “From Bilbo’s stories and short readings in Rivendell. But even records are prone to leave things out. Books and scrolls do not do justice to such lore, than to hear it from the lips of those akin to the figures of old.” Elrond came and sat down beside the Hobbit, turning his eyes as well, at the star that was Vingilot, Ship of Earendil. And so he began the tale:
“A Mariner indeed, was Earendil of old, born to the sons and daughters of Men, and he traveled about what Seas his kin was permitted to. And he wed Elwing the fair that was too, of mortal race, but only because she was born of Luthien Tinuviel’s line. So he had grown weary of wondering to lands that he had known. But at that time, Morgoth the dark Lord held terrible rein, and many did he corrupt. And Earendil feared for his mother and father how have not returned home for a long time, so leaving Elwing on the shores of the river Sirion where his people dwelt, he went abroad once more searching for them; but as his search was coming up without such dainty, he went as messenger of Elves and of Men to seek the Realm of the Undying Lands.
“But as Elwing still at the time had borne the Silmaril of Feanor, and his two sons had heard of it in her keeping, went to retrieve it. And thus they fought kin to kin, and Elwing was lost in the Sea, and the Silmaril with her, when the sons of Feanor claimed the battle. But she was not dead, and the jewel not forever gone to the depths of the waters, for Ulmo the Sea god had found her, and fashioned her into a great, white sea-bird, so that she could fly across the Sea and find Earendil.
“And when he saw her coming from afar, he harboured her within the beauty of his ship, which was built by Cirdan the Shipwright whom he had befriended long ago. And when morning came, he found not a bird, but Elwing sleeping at his side. And so they passed the Shadowy Seas and came at last to the Undying Lands. Earendil bade his wife to wait for him, while he went to parry with the Valar, if he shall be listened to. Long was he gone while he spoke with Eonwe, the Messenger of Manwe, most favoured by Iluvatar. And at the last, the Valar decided upon aiding the Two Kindreds against the evil of Morgoth. But Earendil was not to return to Mortal lands any more.
So when he met Elwing in Alqualonde, the Swan Haven, he went to his great ship that was hallowed by the Valar to sail the Heavens beyond the confines of the world. But Elwing remained, for she feared the endless cold of the Void that her beloved went to. And Earendil stood at the helm of Vingilot, with the Simaril bound upon his brow and passed the Doors of Night to be the star of hope for those far down in Middle-earth. But Elwing was built a tower and she dwelt there, visited upon by birds, which taught her the craft of flight. So whenever Earendil would come back, she would fly out to greet him on wings of white and silver. And joyous would be their meeting.
And thus the star of Earendil could be seen at the sunrise and sunset, glimmering as he returns to Valimar after he circles the Endless Void. Shimmering brighter and more beautiful than any other star for the Silmaril he wears.” And with that Elrond finished his tale. Frodo sat, speechless, for he could find nothing to say to the fairness of such a history. And ever the more, did he thank Galadriel, Lady of Light, for the Phial; it had brought him through perils unimagined, so that he too could glimpse upon the Blessed Realm.
“Does he know you are coming? Does Elwing know?” Frodo could not help but ask. Elrond kindly smiled down at him.
“I doubt it not, for they have many sources by which they could gather such information. And Earendil sees all from his lofty ship, and they know you are coming as well.” Frodo sighed deeply; it was too big for him to even think about, but he was glad nonetheless.
“Do you remember them?” came another question, but the Lord was generous with his answers.
“A little. But I will know them when I see them.” he murmured.
“And your wife,” Frodo whispered, hardly a tremor of the air. “You will meet her at last.”
“Yes,” Elrond said softly. “Celebrian and I shall meet again, and joyous shall our meeting be.”
As evening drew nearer, Frodo felt uneasiness grow on him ever stronger. Nonetheless, he stood by the graceful arching neck of the swan’s head that was the prow, holding onto the silver ropes so as not to tumble into the dark, churning waters below. He seemed unmoving, save for his grey cloak that flew behind him, in the gentle wind of the eve. Galadriel came then to him.
“Frodo, I am here to inform you that dinner will soon commence, and I doubt that the Hobbit that you are, you will be most delighted to join us.”
“I am, Lady, but I wish to stay here a while longer. How beautiful the stars are upon the open Sea!” he smiled and lifted his fair face skywards, feeling as if a shower of the heavenly light might descend on him at any moment. And suddenly, his face became more somber. “What is Tol Eressea like?”
“It is a place of wonder, and this I know,” spoke Galadriel, “with fair gardens ever blossoming flowers, and towns of great beauty and peace. The Light of Aman in its glory can be seen and felt, shining through the Calacirya, as it bathes the Island and lifts every heart in song.”
“And that Light would be too bright for me, wouldn’t it?” asked Frodo.
“Indeed it would Frodo,” said Galadriel gently. “At least at first, but you shall grow accustomed to it over time. But in the Blessed Realm you may live safely, as many before you have done, those who have come from the shores of Middle-earth.” She paused and looked at the Ring-bearer and smiled. “The Elves of Eressea will welcome you with joy, and delight in your tales of wonder!”
Frodo sighed, but as he did so, his heart once again felt the chill tremor of cold. He shivered visibly.
“Are you cold, Frodo?” asked Galadriel, placing her ringed hand on his shoulder.
“I just felt a chill. That is all.” Frodo briskly answered, although that did not dissuade Galadriel from eyeing him with concern, for the night was not cold at all.
“Come then, it is time for dinner now anyway.” She said, and went away below deck.
* * *
The table prepared looked glorious, with meats and fruits of all sorts, as well as an assortment of wine and Elven draughts. And the smell that drifted from the dining hall was delicious. There was a white cloth laid across the length of the birch-wood table, and it was tasseled with golden tails that trailed to the floor. Tall and graceful candle holders marched down the middle of it, and within them flickered merry flames, bathing the room in a bright and welcoming light. For everyone present (and there were many), there was a silver platter, bowl and goblet, which was bejeweled with small crystals and hemmed with a golden rim.
At the further end of the table was set a high and beautifully carved chair, upon which sat Galadriel, dressed in her pure white, and flowing gown and a golden circlet glimmering upon her white brow. Closets to her were the mighty seats of Elrond and Gandalf, so better for counsels that might be taken. There were many Elves that Frodo was on very friendly terms with and three of those were Gildor Inglorion, Haldir of Lorien and Glorfindel of the House of Elrond; all of these were the Elves that he and his companions had met upon the Quest to destroy the Ring.
His own seat was, Frodo saw was at the side of Haldir, who beckoned him over with a wave of his hand. Bilbo sat directly across from him, already in a lively conversation with an elf the name of which Frodo—to his own dismay—has forgotten.
“You seem more pallid than is good for you, Frodo,” he said as his gaze fell upon him. He didn’t ask whether he felt all right for which Frodo was glad, but now the chill that befell him did not depart, and he shivered more and more, shrinking against the graceful Elf that sat beside him.
Haldir, noticing that his friend was in some discomfort wrapped his cloak about the Frodo’s shoulders, but there was no change in the Hobbit. He put his hand to the other’s cheek and withdrew it with a soft cry, for it was icy cold and his brow was damp. Now the Elf was certain that Frodo had a fever, but what might have caused this misfortune he did not know.
So gently settling the sick Hobbit in his chair so he doesn’t topple off, Haldir made his swift way over to Elrond. As soon as Haldir reported the strange condition, Elrond sprang from his great chair and hastened to Frodo. But the Hobbit no longer recognized friend from foe.
“You cannot have it! Go back!” he whimpered weakly, as another fit of shivers ran through him. “Go back!” and as he wavered, Elrond caught him. The whole dining hall stared at him now, but Frodo did not notice. All that was before his frightened and unfocused eyes were the churning waters of Bruinen, roaring and crashing, swallowing him up with the terrible wraiths; their high screeches were piercing his ears.
And as the two Elves tried to calm him down, he fought feebly against them, crying that the will not take the Ring away from him. He had gone very pale, but when he tried to scream, his voice failed, and he fell into unconsciousness.
*To Be Continued With Part 2*