Chapter 3: The Great Sea
It was not yet dawn when Frodo woke up, dressed warmly and headed onto deck, but not before he grabbed a morsel of food and a great book; he was the only one up, it seemed. Never before had he been alone upon the on the spacious and refined deck, for always he one or two Elves had awoken before him. And now he had all the mastery to himself.
He came to his usual spot at the prow, and leaning slightly over the rails, watched the Sea—a beautiful beryl at the time. To Frodo, it always seemed that the Sea would be raging and never calm. But it was not so: the Sea was as quiet as if it were frozen over by glass ice. Such beauty and peace Frodo had not yet beheld. And as he stood beside the prow, his hand secure around the swan’s elegant neck, he closed his eyes and sighed feeling a cool breath of wind run across his fair face. He felt so free, as if he would sprout wings and fly across the deep, deep waters, as Elwing once did, long ago.
And when he looked to the sky, seemingly seconds after, already it was paling in the East. The sun was still below the world, but the sky was a soft rose. That stars were all gone save Earendil’s, which was always the latest to go, and the earliest to come; the moon could just be seen, almost transparent in the West. And as the heavens grew lighter, the Sea too, changed its hue, reflecting the gold and the pink as the glorious Sun rose above the dark waters. And it seemed that they began to stir, gentle waves moving towards the direction of the golden orb, the piecing rays of which were shooting giant shafts of light into the sky, becoming lost in its late blackness.
And this was how Frodo knew the Sea in all its glory.
Eventually Frodo sat down, with the book resting in his lap. It was an old book, as seen by the faded, and crispy pages; the cover worn and rubbed out with age, but Frodo was careful not to damage it. He doubted very much that many of the Elves knew the Westron Speech in Eressea, so he decided to expand his Elvish, which was good only to have say a few polite things and have a short conversation; he spoke rather slowly and that was not to his liking at all, though many of the Elves on this ship commented that he spoke wonderfully.
Gildor was the first to come up on deck after Frodo, and he saw the Elf coming towards him with a cup filled with a steaming draught; Elven tea, the Hobbit supposed.
“It seems that you were not daunted by your illness at all!” said the Elf delightedly, seeing Frodo back to his cheerful self. “For here you are, up the earliest of all, and not a trace of shadow in your eyes.” He then motioned to the chain around his neck. “That gem, it seems that worked its magic upon you. A mighty parting gift from the Lady Arwen. Let the Valar send blessing upon her soul!” he cried in a clear voice. Frodo laughed and thought that this was the first conversation he had with the fair Elf that did not include omens and dark tidings. And he was glad fir it.
So Frodo sat at the prow in the company of the Elven lord, speaking of the sunsets and the sunrises, and how everything would seem more fair and beautiful in the Blessed Realm.
It soon was found out that the day would not be as promising as the morning showed. There were low and damp-looking clouds forming in the north and they were heading in the direction of the swan-ship. After a short time of the quiet preceding a storm, a gale hit like a blow of the fist.
A tremor went through the great-white bulk of the vessel as if it grated upon a shallow bed of rocks, and it shook it with a force that held the breath and heart of all that were inside; it lurched forward like it was pushed from behind by some invisible, giant hand.
Frodo and Gildor, who were caught unawares at the jolt, were at the time standing at the richly carved rail, overlooking the teeming Sea, while the Elves who had awoken but a short while ago were below the deck, eyeing the oncoming storm with wary and concerned eyes The jerk of the ship sent Frodo flying across the deck with a cry, and then skidding on the white floorboards, until he hit the mast and lay still. Gildor, who was more successful in keeping his balance, was not, however, quick enough to prevent Frodo from getting injured; a cry of alarm escaped his throat as the Hobbit’s cloak slithered past his grip, and he himself fell to his knees.
“Frodo!” he cried, jumping up and sprinting towards the towering mast, but was obliged to spare his voice as a great wind suddenly picked up and cut off his words. Gildor grabbed onto the pillar for support and braced himself, as the sky was engulfed by black storm clouds that swirled and seethed above them.
He took the Hobbit into his arms, and looked over him for any wound or damage, but found nothing of the sort. It was not until he stood up that Gildor found a large red spot of blood on his tunic. Frodo, it seemed, had hit his head on the post harder than he perceived. He hurried to the door that would lead below, and thanked Haldir who opened it, coming out to call them back from deck. His eyes widened as he saw the lifeless small body that the other carried.
“He hit the mast hard with his head.” Gildor said, as the door closed and a torrent of icy rain pummeled down upon the ship without mercy. “He is unconscious, if nothing worse. We must get him to Elrond, or Glorfindel. Find them quick!” and Haldir ran off without a word.
Moments later, Frodo lay upon his bed, covered with a blanket, and a piece of cold cloth upon his forehead. Elrond found no other inflictions.
“The wound is not deep,” he said, “and in a few days he should be fine.” With that, Elrond washed the gash on Frodo’s head with a cloth and made a bandage of thin wrappings round his head. “Let him rest.”
* * *
The whole day, the weather was in a fey mood; the rain came pelting down, stinging everything in sight, biting like as if a thousand icy needles were set flying at all things in the vicinity. Lightning seared the sky in a blinding flash, illuminating the Belegaer with an eerie beauty and filling the crew with dread. Thunder followed and boomed across the vastness of the sky, cracking and cackling with a harsh laughter. The wind howled with voices more fearsome than those of the wargs of Sauron. It was the first storm they met on the road and the intensity of it took them all by surprise and alarm. The waves were no longer calm, lapping gently against the great gracefulness off the swan-ship: they were filled with the same might and power as the thunder was; white-crested steeds: graceful, magnificent, enchanted, and yet lethal, with lashing hooves. They raced at mad gallop across their plain of blue-black; deadly blurs, destroying and trampling and drowning in their rage. The whole Sea rose to unbelievable heights, crashing against the ship with all its might. The swan-vessel, a tiny glimmer of a star in a black, stormy sky; a lone, graceful warrior, set against a power of Dark that had no end. Doomed it was against such a foe.
The crew was huddled beneath deck praying for mercy from the Valar, for hope was forsaken at such a time. Gandalf had his own thoughts about the storm; he guessed where it came form and who caused it, yet if he told the others, they would break under his words and all prayers would be thought pointless. Elrond wondered how could they reach the Land where there were no such gales in this storm of storms.
“Would we not be taken off course, Mithrandir?” he asked the Wizard, with a grim look.
“No ship has yet failed on the voyage to the Road. The power of the Ulmo the Sea Lord will protect it.” Assured the wizard confidently.
Even as the words left him, a mammoth wave was gathering outside, towering nearly three times the ship’s height above it. It lingered in the air, before crashing upon the Elven-ship, hoping to break it to pieces and send the souls that were harboured inside to Mandos. Before it came down, there was a sound in the air—thunder, ferocious laughter of someone who caused this mischief at Sea. Lighting gleamed once more, but this time brighter and mightier, showering its light on the gigantic wave of doom. And as the unholy light vanished from the surface of the hellish wave it came tumbling down.
The boards of the ship moaned and creaked under the ferocious majesty of the wave; it broke upon them with the voice of thunder and the weight of Heavens. The gale and wind had increased in might, and the rain came in frozen sheets of hale. The wave of dread swallowed the shining beauty of the swan, swallowing also hope, and happiness with it. The sails that were filled moments ago with the uncanny wind, were consumed by the black water of the Sea, and stretched taught. The mast creaked, groaned, but held firm against the onslaught.
The whole grace of the Elven-ship was drowned by this abundance, which could destroy and spare if it wished. The crew was petrified of the fall of the wave, despairing that they would all perish before they even made it to the Straight Road.
Not so: the wave drew back to reveal the white ship of Cirdan the Shipwright, holding strong and unhurt. It came out and bounced and leaped on the smaller waves that crossed its path to continue it lonely way The head of the swan was whole, by some miracle, challenging the Sea with its majesty, holding hope within itself.
Anyone who would have seen that ship, braving the threat of the Sea, might have thought it for a phantom, gliding across the waves, that had not been let to return to its home port for years unknown: its sails of white silk, fluttering in the winds of despair, yet its form—whole and glimmering, shining ghostly, majestically, gracefully, in the unseen light.
And while the storm raged, Gandalf the White, Maia and Wizard, came to a decision. He long planned this and if he didn’t do what he chose to, Eru knew what the Sea might do to them. Against all of Elrond’s warnings, Mithrandir strode down the halls, his gnarled hand tightly clutching his great white standard, and his cloak billowing behind him. And he pushed the door to the deck wide open and walked outside, meeting the great hurricane with a grim power.
He came to the prow and stood facing the Sea, as lightning seared the sky, illuminated his white garments. He raised his staff then and cried in a mighty voice:
“Hearken to me, Osse, vassal of Ulmo and lover of storms! Cease this outburst of thy awesome might, until I, Olorin, Maia of the Gardens of Lorien, hear thy words on why thee sets this storm upon us! Come out and speak!” and as he cried the final word, a light issued from his staff: I beam of pure white light that shot down into the dark waters bringing an eerie blue glow from within the deeps.
Another mountain wave rose, sliding dangerously close to the ship, but not falling down upon it. By some force, the ship slowed and stopped at the blue-green feet of the uprising waters. The wave took the form of a man, with beard and hair of weeds and emerald-green eyes, which fell upon Gandalf. His voice was as booming as the crashing waves:
“It is good to see you again, Olorin, but your ship bears evil things, those that have brought turmoil to Middle-earth. We wish for no such things to be brought to Aman. I cannot let you pass.” The waves that were his feet teemed threateningly.
“What evil things we bear have lost all virtue when the object that controlled them was destroyed by the mortal this ship of Cirdan harbours. They cannot cause harm any longer, and will bring no pain or war to Aman. They are now but rings upon our fingers.” He raised his hand where shone Narya the Great. “What power they had dwindled, as well as the evils and goods that were conceived by them. Give us passage, old friend. The mortal that we bear has grievous hurts that only the Light of Valinor could heal. Let us pass.”
Osse was silent for a moment, then replied in his deep, booming voice of crashing waves:
“Yes, he is the little one that the whispers in Valinor and Eressea speak of. Ah! The Light dwells within him!” he sighed then—a gust of wind. “Farewell then, old friend!” said Osse graciously, bowing deep. “We shall meet in Valinor once more and may those days be happy!” Gandalf inclined his head in turn and watched Osse’s form sink back into the waters of Belegaer, and the skies where Uinen, Osse’s beloved souse abided, grew calm.
And suddenly, the clouds parted, letting the Sun show its fiery, golden face in the West to rescue and souls still trapped in the coldness of the departing storm and to scorch loss and pain, shining triumphantly; victoriously. It was like pushing away the dark curtains in the kitchen, to reveal the sunlight upon the world and not a cloud in sight to mar its gloriousness. It was almost unbelievable. The waves calmed under the stare of the Sun’s burning eyes, and the rain dropped only as a tiny drizzle, hardly to be felt; Frodo stirred in bed as the serenity of night came, and he complained first about a headache.
He awkwardly tried to raise himself, despite the protesting throbbing if his head, and stumbled to the doorway, holding on to the frame for support. He looked either way down the long corridors, until Haldir, who greeted him at first with joy, and then chastised him for being out of bed, met him.
“The Lord Elrond gave strict orders that Master Baggins are not to get up until the morrow,” he said disapprovingly.
“What happened?” asked Frodo, wavering slightly, and permitting Haldir to guide him back to bed. “I feel as if I was severely knocked on the head!” He said and felt the cloth, bound over his forehead.
“You should leave that on, for that is exactly what happened. You certainly had us worried!” Frodo tried unsuccessfully to recollect what had happened, but thinking made his head ache even more.
“Where’s Gildor?” he asked quietly. “I only remember that he was with me on deck, when—when—I don’t remember anything else after that.” He said helplessly, trying to sit up, but Haldir lightly pushed the stubbourn Hobbit back down.
“Stay down, Frodo!” he cried with a smile playing on his lips. “Gildor is fine and fares far better than you. There was a great storm but two hours ago, and it is a miracle that our ship has survived, and we should thank Mithrandir for parleying with the master of storms.” He looked over Frodo’s face. “How are you feeling?” he asked, putting his graceful hand on Frodo’s brow to check for fever.
“My head throbs every time I strain to get up move or even think and talk, but otherwise I am fine, thank you. Can you take this thing off my head? Its such a nuisance.” he said.
Haldir considered the Hobbit’s words—which sounded like a plea—but decided that the bindings would truly put more stress on the already injured head. He carefully unwound the bandages, and found, much to his relief, that the gash had healed up, and would hopefully be gone without a scar. At once Frodo felt better.
“Ah, so you have finally awaken, dear boy!” cried Bilbo as he rushed into the room and sat on the bed, his feet dangling above the floor; Gandalf soon followed him.
“Is he giving you any difficulty, Haldir?” he joked, winking at the Hobbit, who seemed affronted at the very idea. The Elf laughed in turn. “Well, you will be happy to know then, that the burdensome job has fallen to Bilbo and me: we have to take him to dinner with us.” All four of them laughed then, Frodo the most lightly. He was rarely happy when someone had to carry him when he was awake, and even when injured he would rather walk and not burden anyone (if he would only be permitted to). But surrounded by such good friends who would be honoured to carry him for all that he has done, he would be fighting a losing battle if he protested.
“Alright,” smiled Frodo, as he was lifted into the security of Haldir’s arms. “But I don’t think I would be able to sing, or recall any tales or anything.”
“You wont have to!” said Bilbo and continued, taking on an important tone. “I have prepared something myself and all you have to do is cheer me on and—“
“Try not to doze off in the middle of it from the length of it?” laughed Frodo.
“Yes—I mean—WHAT! Do you mean to say the you never really listened my songs?” cried the old Hobbit. Frodo’s smile grew wider and could no longer conceal his clear laughter.
*End of Chapter Three*