Disclaimer/A.N./Thanks: See part one.
The days passed quickly. There was much to do, and I had time for little except work and sleeping. I would have welcomed anything to make me even more preoccupied, though.
I was trying hard to hold back the long-built, shored-up rage that I had successfully repressed for centuries. I would have succeeded, but then Sinyetaime had to appear.
I was, again, not sure what I felt. I only knew I wanted to stay far away from him, all the time, as far as possible. I was not going to try to deal with him, or think about why I felt not just angry but also a strange vauge wariness, just not wanting to get hurt again.
But the ship was only so large, and I could not help often catching a glimpse of him. It was often at the shift change, when I was either leaving my duties to rest or going to take them up again. If the former, I would walk fast as I could to the cabin where I slept, refusing to look back. If the other I would climb to the crow’s nest and stay there as long as I could, if there were not high winds, a lookout to the endless sea and sky.
It couldn’t last.
The first time I was trapped with him was after about a week of sailing. It was evening, the sun almost gone. I had been working since the morning.
The wind had been cold, that day; I was tired and hungry. The smell coming from the eating cabin was enticing, and I followed it. The Vanyar were, I freely admitted, excellent cooks.
I joined the short line, and was issued a bowl of stew. Taking a glance around the room, I noticed that all the heads were golden or dark – not another silver-haired Teleri in sight. I let out an inaudible sigh. I knew my own kind, they knew me, and I prefered their company.
Seeing nothing else for it I carried my meal to the only unoccupied space, the near-empty end of a table mostly filled by Noldor. I set down my bowl, and staying steady from long practice slid onto the bench. Only then did I look more closely at the other Elves.
Sinyetaime was across the table, two seats down.
I had, for a moment, an almost overwhelming urge to get up and leave. But I was hungry, very much so. I would have to stay, it seemed, but it definately would not be for long.
Barely pausing to spare a thought of thanks to Iluvatar I began to wolf down my food, and ignored everything else. It went well until I was halfway through the bowl.
“Lady?” One of the Noldor asked.
I looked up, my spoon halfway up to my mouth. “Yes?” I was not in a good mood for idle conversation.
The Elf, a friendly looking individual, did not seem put out by my shortness. “Since you are obviously one of the mariners, lady, I was going to ask how much longer it might be before we reach the Outer Lands”
I lowered the spoon back to the bowl. “Several more weeks, at least. Earendil was not able to give us a close estimate – his voyage did not have a straight course.” Having said this I took a bite of stew.
The Elf nodded. “I see. And of course the original journey to Valinor was different. But would the presence of the Valar change circumstances?”
I swallowed, impatiently, and replied. “To that, sir, I do not have an answer. I know the sea, but whether the Valar speed our crossing it is beyond my knowledge.” I kept my eyes on the speaker all the time. I was not going to look at Sinyetaime.
The Elf smiled pleasantly. “Of course. Thank you, lady. May I ask your name?”
“Earlinde,” I gritted out.
Somehow, the Elf managed to keep something of a conversation going, with his companions occasionally chiming in. I was not helpful, I know, giving increasingly short answers. I wanted to finish and leave, now, and interference was not welcome. Sinyetaime remained silent, but I knew quite well that he was watching me.
I at last scraped my bowl clean, and prepared to depart. As I stood up the ship hit a wave. And it was exactly when I was off balance to begin with.
Someone caught my elbow as I began to slip, and I steadied. I glanced up at the face of the Elf who had helped me, and froze.
Since I had avoided even glancing at Sinyetaime I had not realized that he’d gotten up just a moment before I had.
I nodded stiffly, pulled my elbow free, and stalked away.
I worked even harder at avoiding Sinyetaime after that, but with little luck. I think he was trying to find me, because I saw him more often. It was still from a distance, though – I managed that much.
He kept trying, though, and it was only a matter of time before I was stuck.
It was night, lit by a few lanterns in the deck, several days after the galley incident. I was taking my turn to steer; the air was cold, and few Elves were on deck.
I lifted one hand from the wheel to pull my cloak closer. The stars were beautifully clear; I checked our course by them, and then just remained staring up for the sheer awe of it.
A voice, quiet and unexpected, broke my reverie. “Earendil sails tonight.”
I jerked back to reality, and glanced at the star now rising from the horizon, but did not reply. Sinyetaime was behind me, but I did not look over my shoulder. I held onto the wheel hard enough to make my knuckles white.
The silence stretched on, unbroken, as the minutes passed. I began to wonder if he would ever leave. Finally Sinyetaime spoke again. “I’m sorry, Linde.”
I continued to stare out at the dark sea. It didn’t matter if he was sorry.
“I didn’t know,” he went on, quietly. “Linde, I’m sorry.”
“It doesn’t make any difference.” I spat out at last. “I don’t care if you are sorry.” Sinyetaime moved to stand beside me at the railing.
“I didn’t think you would, really. But I am. I should never have…afterwards it was the worst thing I could ever have imagined. Linde, you know that I would never have chosen that path.”
I whipped around, just remembering to keep a hand on the wheel. “D’you think I care what you realized afterwards? After you were gone and our kin dead and the Havens ruined? After you betrayed me, my family, all of us? It doesn’t matter, Taime. And I don’t think it ever will.”
Taime bowed his head. “You’re right, Linde, I know. But I had to tell you…”
“I do not care,” I snapped. “Go, Taime. Just go. I do not care.”
I did not turn around to watch the Elf who had been my oldest and dearest friend walk away.
I was quiet for a long time after that. Elion asked me, several times, what was the matter. I never answered.
I was feeling, oddly, now not not so much angry as miserable. Sinyetaime Ehtelion – I refused to think of him as Taime – was tugging at my thoughts. I couldn’t help remembering clearly, though I threw myself into the work of running the ship even harder than before. But the recollections would creep up on me, springing the instant I my concentration was not focused somewhere else.
There had been that time when we were barely out of out twenties, and we’d tried to go swimming by ourselves in the ocean and gotten caught by a riptide. We’d both panicked, at first, until one of us – I couldn’t remember which – had remembered not to fight the current, but to swim across it. We somehow broke free and made it back to shore, exhausted and just beginning to recover from the shock and fright. I was the stronger swimmer, and I’d had to tow Taime the last few dozen yards.
We’d sat, gasping, on the sand before gathering up enough energy to crawl out of the surf and staggering home, holding each other up. Atar had come across us when we were halfway there. Taime would never go nearer water than he had to, after that…
I snapped back, and made a deep cut in the wood I was carving. I had, unfortuanately, a large space of free time stretching out before me. The wind had died down, despite the fact that Manwe, Lord of the Breath of Arda was riding in the fleet. I think some things simply cannot be changed, not permanently, even by the Valar.
I turned the wood over in my hands. The cut I had made went about a third of the way across its width, and the shape was beginning to emerge.
I had not been sure what the figure would emerge as when I first began carving. There were many potentials, but I had learned long ago that they right one most often emerges when not looked for. So I absentmindedly whittled, and now I knew what it was I was carving.
A seagull, small and with wings spread, as if he were soaring on the currents of the air above the ocean.
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