The Night the Sea Came In
The formal dinner was over
and the guests had moved to the salon for refreshments
and the eagerly awaited music. It wasn't every day that
the royal bard unveiled a new major work, least of all
one he was rumoured to have been working on for years.
The salon was a
long room with tall arched windows that looked out over
the palace gardens towards the sea, and tonight the
scarlet drapes had been drawn back so that guests could
appreciate the stars and the moonlight on the water.
Inside, all was light and laughter, with intricate,
multi-tiered crystal chandeliers, groups of tall candles
to light conversation areas, and little lamps hung at
intervals along the wall.
around Gil-galad were in particularly good spirits. It
had been a long time since they had all been together at
the same time, and he was enjoying the chance to relax
and listen as they exchanged information and gossip.
His great aunt and her husband were spending time in
Mithlond on their way down the coast on yet another of
their adventures, Gildor was back, which meant Erestor,
who saw to unnamed administrative duties for the crown,
was in a good mood, even Círdan had been persuaded to
cross the small strait between the two halves of the
city to join them.
been making final arrangements for Lindir and was
crossing the room towards them, moving with the
confidence particular to those who are both attractive
and spoken for. He wore a simple though expensive
midnight robe with his black hair loose, but in that
hair strands of gold-clasped sapphires gleamed and a
tasselled gold belt, caught in an ornamental knot set
with a huge sapphire girded his hips.. Gil-galad saw
Gildor watching him, a satisfied expression on his face.
His gifts to Erestor were always exquisite, a
counterpoint to their often tumultuous relationship.
"Kept you a
seat," Gil-galad told Erestor. "Is he ready yet? Might
be good if this starts while they're still sober." Royal
guests tended to make the best of the free wine.
down like a cat after exchanging a speaking look with
Gildor and nodding to everyone else. "He's ready, he was
just fussing about extra strings and water to sip.
Apparently it's long. You've heard it, my lord?" He was
always scrupulously correct in public, though they had
known one another too long for him not to call the king
Gil in private.
a thing so far," Gil-galad admitted cheerfully. "I’ve
tried to tease it out of him, I’ve even crept into his
practice room trying to catch him out, but he's too
quick for me. It’s a surprise for us, he says. And the
Mighty save anyone who looks at or disturbs those pages
of music he has spread out. Not that I could read them,
even if I looked."
"I want him to
teach me how to write that," Galadriel said
unexpectedly. "I've heard so much about the new way of
annotating music, I'd love to learn how it's done."
Noldorin invention," Celeborn said, teasing her.
"Well it's good
enough for Lindir, and he's a Sinda," she retorted, the
green gems in her hair and at her throat catching and
throwing back fire with each movement.
Gildor said. "It means you can send a song to someone on
the other side of the world, not have to travel there
yourself and play it to them."
"And if you die
in that strange foreign land, someone can collect up all
your music so nothing is lost," Erestor agreed.
foreign land would that be?" asked Gildor. "I'm always
looking for travel suggestions."
Erestor said fondly.
At that moment
a procession entered the salon: two young pages carrying
a harp, another with a sheaf of paper, and a fourth
carried a jug and cup. They set the harp up carefully in
the corner near the hearth, the papers went on a small
table on one side of a padded chair with the jug and cup
well away from them. Gildor gave a snort of amusement,
"He's making a full production of this."
"He calls it
building anticipation," Gil-galad said with a grin. "I
think it started as a way to give his nerves a chance to
settle, but people like it."
Clad in a robe
of soft green, studded with pearls and worn over a cream
under robe and shirt, Lindir entered the salon and
walked its length, greeting people and smiling. He bowed
to Gil-galad, then took his seat at the harp. Clever
fingers caressed the strings, drawing forth soft notes
as he tested the tuning. Slowly people quietened down.
He waited till there was as close to silence as was
likely, and then with a flick of his wrist and a shimmer
of sound, he began.
sipping his wine and listening, determined to keep the
polite expression on his face for as long as necessary -
he had been warned this wasn't a short work and had
prepared himself. But after a few minutes he realised
what Lindir’s song was about and soon he was leaning
forward slightly, listening, his wine and the room
around him quite forgotten, carried back to a very
different place and time.
The wind was
rising as Gil-galad made his way through familiar narrow
streets with their recessed doors, wood framed windows,
and the occasional pot overflowing with flowers or
interesting grasses. His mind was busy, and he barely
noticed when a creeper heavy with purple flowers slapped
against his face, nor that the fountain near the public
baker was overgrown with moss again.
grown up here after the withdrawal from Eglarest, a
place with no more substance to him than the sense of
coloured lanterns and gold hangings that were his only
memory of his father’s home. Leaving here was a new
thought: there were few places left to go now the Enemy
had tightened his stranglehold on Beleriand, but
everyone was speculating about it as they made ready for
the coming storm. While he had the chance, he wanted to
see Lindir and reassure him no decision had been taken
yet, it would have to wait till after the present
emergency, brought on by yesterday’s messenger from the
chosen a tall, haughty Vanya to carry his message,
mounted on the back of a giant eagle. He had been one of
those who looked down his nose at the elves of the
Hither Shore, and had shown Círdan scant respect until
spoken to sharply by Galadriel, whose father, Finarfin,
was one of the Captains of the great army out of the
West. Gil-galad, who got there as he was leaving,
supposed the Lord of the Falas did look rather like a
common ship builder right then, in old clothes and with
his hair pulled back mariner style into a bunch at the
back of his head.
together watching the eagle take to the skies and the
seagulls slowly return from wherever they had been
hiding, then Círdan turned to him, his face grim. “No
slight intended to you, he’d have waited but your aunt
disliked his manners and sent him off with a flea in his
ear. The houses need to be secured, everyone on the
north side of the island must be brought down here where
the cliffs offer some shelter. He said we had two days,
on?” He knew there would always be days when his foster
father spoke to him as though he was still a child in
his household rather than a king, but that didn’t make
it sit better. At that moment the wind lifted his hair
and blew it across his face and when he had pushed it
back out of the way it was to see Cirdan’s departing
people could learn some manners!” Galadriel said, as
though that explained everything. She had been staring
moodily into the west while he and his foster father
talked. “Don’t take it personally.”
like servant, probably,” he nodded. Between Ingwion and
Eönwë he had no idea who got his back up faster. He had
thought it a cultural thing till he overheard Gildor,
Aman-born royalty, express himself on the subject. After
that he’d felt better, less provincial. “What else did
he say? Two or three days till what?”
with her usual unconscious grace. “No more than they
think we need to know, though I was invited to travel
back with him should I choose safety above loyalty.
There is a full scale battle in progress, and they have
a massive assault planned that m’lord there said would
change the face of the land. We’re to prepare for the
mother of all storms, it seems. He was very florid in
his description, but when he said waves as high as the
Pelican, I think he meant it.”
The Pelican was
the highest point on the south side of island, named for
its shape which some aged Telerin had determined looked
like a pelican’s beak. Gil-galad had never seen the
resemblance. He stared at her, not quite believing what
he was hearing. “That’s impossible. The seas never come
higher than the top of the harbour steps, and that’s
high enough. The north side might get flooded perhaps,
but not down here.”
storm unleashed by the Valar themselves. The
vision formed slowly before him as Galadriel built a
wall of water drop by drop, creating a picture in the
air from her mind to his. He understood what she was
doing, but it still made his stomach twist unpleasantly.
The image was almost solid except where he could see the
real waves moving behind it and the low flight of a
gull. Ereinion Gil-galad, High King of what remained of
the Noldor in the East stared at it, then looked past it
at his great aunt, Finrod Felagund’s sister who had the
Sight and could sing spells and build images in plain
withstand what I see,” she told him. “This was our last
haven, Ereinion. Pray we do not need another. Now go ---
Cirdan’s manner was uncalled for, but those are things
that need to be done, and in this, especially in the
north, it is best people hear the news from their king.”
behind the carpenter’s took him to a row of houses,
where he found Lindir sitting on the grass in front of
the three rooms he called home ignoring the wind that
tossed his bright hair about, his instruments set out in
a row. The musician glanced up and then resumed frowning
at the array.
sat together on the doorstep, watching. They had taken
to spending their spare time with Lindir. He made space
for them without fussing and Gil-galad supposed his
musicality felt familiar. They had been on the island
for a half year now, rowed over by a mortal man who had
been well paid for his trouble by an elf lord with hair
like fire. They were quiet boys with watchful eyes and
beautifully old fashioned manners that pleased Círdan no
end. There was little of their father in them, but Gil-galad
could have picked them out of a crowd as Elwing’s lost
They got to
their feet hurriedly when they saw him, but he waved
them back with a nod and stood with folded arms looking
sea-green eyes met his. “Well, everyone says we’ll only
be allowed one bag if we go south. I was thinking what
to leave behind. Erestor offered to take something
small, so that’ll be the flute I suppose – there’s
nothing smaller.” His tone was dry. Erestor could be
singularly unhelpful when he was busy.
his head, half laughing. “These are the tools of your
trade, no one would expect you to leave them behind. And
there’s plenty of time later to discuss whether we’re
going or staying.”
Lindir gave a
complicated, very Sindarin shrug and smiled. “Everyone
would say I took advantage of our friendship to bring
extra on board. No, I can replace most of this if I have
to. Just – hard to decide which has my first love.” He
sounded half embarrassed. Even though he and Gil-galad
were almost close enough to say they had an
‘understanding’, the emotional connection he had to
music and to these instruments was deeply personal, hard
to put into words.
“You have to
take the lyre,” one of the boys said. Gil-galad thought
it was Elros, he was starting to tell them apart now,
through personality rather than looks. “You brought it
all the way from Doriath.”
the lyre up carefully. It was old and unfashionable and
Gil-galad couldn’t remember when he’d heard him play it,
though it held pride of place in the room that served as
everything from dining room to classroom.
“I knew it was
old, not that it came from Doriath,” he admitted,
leaning down for a closer look. Lindir was widely
travelled and seemed to have souvenirs from all over
Endor. Somehow he had never asked about the lyre and he
was left with a feeling this was something he should
“Daeron gave it
to him,” the boy explained seriously. “He can’t leave
that behind. It’s a memory.”
it so we could hear the elder scales they practiced in
Doriath,” his twin chimed in. “We didn’t know much about
Sindarin music before, nor about Daeron. Lindir says he
was one of the greatest musicians who ever lived.”
They had a good
if edited grounding in Noldor history, and knew poetry
and literature as well as music. Gentlemen’s pursuits,
Galadriel had termed them in an argument with Círdan
over his own education. They knew very little of their
Sindarin background, both familial and general, though
to give him his due, Maglor had told them about Lúthien
great as Maglor,” his brother said, with just a hint of
censure. They exchanged looks, a flicker of eyes, but
the first speaker said nothing.
Daeron were each great in his own way,” Lindir said
firmly, setting the lyre down and picking up his lute.
Cradling it lightly, he fingered the places where the
strings attached, testing for something. Gil-galad
thought he might have had this discussion before. “I
never had the honour to hear Maglor, so I’m no judge.
And yes, I had the lyre from Daeron, but I seldom play
it and if I have to make a choice….”
heirloom,” Gil-galad said at once. “Just wrap it well
against the water and I’ll find someone to look after
it. You can put a few of those in with it too,” he
added, indicating a pile of small percussion
instruments. He sat down next to Lindir as he talked,
careful to keep a gap between them. He had no idea how
much the boys knew about the ways of romance and other,
baser, needs, and he had no plan to be the one to spark
questions about the rightness of two men together that
might or might not get back to Círdan.
“The drums can
stay. Their voices are each special in its own right,
but drums can be made, I understand drums,” Lindir said,
talking mainly to himself. “The lute stays with me, I
can’t imagine not having it, and the lap harp, but then
there’s the formal harp – what will I do about the
harp, Gil? It was my father’s. It’s heavy and takes up
had come looking for respite in the midst of storm
preparations, practiced patience. “You’re a bard, you
must have a harp. What are we if our bard lacks a harp?
We’ll work something out. If we go. It’s just an idea,
wandering musician who found a place here when life on
the mainland grew too dangerous,” Lindir said, laughter
in his voice. “Bard, indeed. You have to be old and
vastly experienced to earn that title.”
experienced,” Gil-galad told him, tugging one of the
small braids Lindir had worked into his otherwise
unbound hair. “Been all over the place. By royal decree,
you are now my official bard. That means if we leave,
your harp travels with you on my ship. Come on, Lindir,
I don’t get to claim a lot of privileges for people.
Take it, it’s my gift.”
give gifts and grant favours,” one of the twins said
helpfully. “They need to be seen to be generous.” The
words came out like a lesson well learned. Gil-galad had
a moment of fellow feeling, he had been drilled
similarly by Círdan.
“When is the
storm due, sir?” asked the other boy. “They’re carrying
the boats right up above the water. Will the sea be very
high when it comes?” He said it with the relish Gil-galad
expected from someone his age, the careful manners
beating on the rocks and the spray’s so high it’s
hitting Doron the Weaver’s window,” his brother added.
“Which one of
you is which?” Gil-galad asked. It came out harsher than
intended and he felt them go still. Placatingly he
added, “I’m getting tired of treating you like one
person, that’s all.”
Elrond, right is Elros,” Lindir told him, barely
glancing at them.
“Elrond has a scar on his forehead, there. He fell when
we were small.”
healed seamlessly after a while, and scars faded. For
the first time he was aware on a more visceral level of
their mortal ancestry. He studied the scar so his eye
would find it or its lack immediately in future and was
about to say more when a terrible roaring, cracking
noise filled the air. The boys started up like young
deer, Lindir looked around sharply. “What in the Pit was
North of us. Far north,” Gil-galad said. “You hear
things like that on the mainland, it’s getting worse
now. If you go up to the watch tower you can sometimes
see lighting inland, coming out of a clear sky. We’re
far away though,” he added for the twins’ benefit, “it
can’t affect us here.”
They were used
to the winter storms that came off the sea and made it
necessary to fasten things down, get the animals under
shelter and beach the fishing boats while the longships
would be anchored and buttressed to keep them from being
smashed against the side of the quay. This time the
preparations were more intense: shutters were nailed
closed, anything that might blow around was already
indoors, and all the animals, from chickens to goats to
horses, were being sent into shelter.
seeing to his Falathrim, leaving everyone formerly from
Sirion and the worried Noldorin settlers from the west
side of the island to Gil-galad. He was secretly
relieved, it meant he could do things his way without
having to fight for it. For hours now he had been
carrying barrels, storing bags, and taking spur of the
moment decisions on matters he knew next to nothing
about, like chickens.
He was taking a
short break, watching from the road above the harbour
while parties of warriors dragged the longships up the
ramp alongside the steps, struggling against the wind
howling in from the mainland. There was a sudden vivid
bolt of lightning followed by a crash of thunder and
somewhere he heard horses whinnying in response.
"I was up at
the watch point with the boys," Gildor said behind him,
speaking under the sound of the wind. "If you look
towards shore, you can see the land falling apart.
There’s boulders dropping into the sea, and the
mountains behind Sirion look wrong somehow. What in the
Void are they doing?"
his head."They're breaking Endor, leaving Him no place
to hide. Like smoking out a rat."
Gildor shot him
a look from under lowered eyebrows. "They're prepared to
spend an awful lot of lives to do it," he said
expressionlessly. “There’s Avari, men and dwarves all
over the place. But it’s outside our control, of
course, just like the rest of this war.” He shrugged and
added, "Artanis says to be sure the horses aren’t
trapped in their stabling if anything goes wrong. I have
no idea what she’s talking about, but I think I’ll try
see to it anyhow, if that’s all right. You going down
there to make encouraging noises?" he asked, indicated
the pageant of straining muscles and grudgingly slow
king, the person he was trying to be. "That’s my job,
yes. I’ll see you at dinner," Gil-galad said, extending
a hand so they could clasp wrists. Smokey blue eyes met
his and Gildor nodded before heading back up to the
converted cave that served as winter stabling for the
settlement’s horses, Finwë’s Aman born grandson, off to
offer his services as a stable hand.
For the first
time in memory the storm came from the north rather than
the west, blinding streaks of lightning and rolling
thunder carried on sheets of torrential rain. Cirdan’s
house was set back into the hillside above the harbour
and was normally sheltered, but this time it received
the full brunt of the wind. Gil-galad, the twins and
Gildor all lived there and had been joined by Celeborn
and Galadriel, whose house was close to the water, and
Erestor, whose clerical work for Círdan and Gil-galad
meant he was there more often than in his own home.
in the Great Hall, the heart of the house, where people
came to eat or sit by the fire and talk, where meetings
of the war band were held and guests entertained. Its
stone walls were covered with tapestries and pennants,
and the wooden ceiling beams, which had to be brought
over from the mainland, were a mark of position and
wealth. It felt both solid and secure.
involved plain fare and not much conversation. After,
Gildor and Erestor went out to look at the storm while
Lindir took up his usual station near the hearth, tuned
his harp and started the new piece he was working on,
the tale of Eärendil’s voyage and Elwing’s flight, his
discreet way of giving the twins a Sindarin view of
their history. Tonight he had to sing louder than usual
to make his voice carry above the storm, and he stopped
at one point to move away from the fire which was
smoking. Still, Gil-galad found something very
reassuring about him being there with his gift of song,
the firelight gilding his light brown hair to brass and
picking out the quick play of his fingers on the
After a time
the front door opened and was slammed shut with
difficulty against the full force of the wind. The
candles flickered, several going out. “You can’t imagine
what it’s like out there,” Gildor told the room at
large, running his hands over his face and hair, both of
which were soaked. “Noise like you can’t believe, and
I’ve never seen a storm like that, not even the night
the Snow Fox ran aground.”
“You can’t see
the harbour,” Erestor said, pushing back his hood and
making for the fire. “The water’s already almost at the
top of the steps. There’s roofs blown off– a beam nearly
beheaded Gildor, he’s got instincts like a cat.”
for the wine himself, pouring them both a cup. “Anyone
hurt? They’re all meant to stay indoors.” He handed
Gildor his wine and joined Erestor at the fire. Lindir
let the words go for the time being and was playing soft
runs as a background to conversation.
“Didn’t see a
soul,” Erestor assured him. “We went as far as the
sundial to get a look at the harbour. There’s – it’s
almost like lightning trapped somewhere in the north,
swirls and flares of light of all colours. It’s probably
bright as day there, but you can’t see much here except
when the lightning flashes. It’s black as the Void
otherwise. I don’t think anyone would be stupid enough
to leave home. Except us.”
stray goats, that’s all,” Gildor added, joining them. He
took Erestor’s cloak and hung it near the fire, placing
his own beside it. “Lend you dry clothes? You can’t sit
around in that.”
Erestor was about to say was lost in a massive boom of
thunder that shook the house. The rain intensified and
with it they became aware of another strange, grating
noise that seemed to be coming out of the ground beneath
them. Círdan crossed towards the door, but Celeborn
moved to stop him. “No – whatever that is, no. Leave the
something wrong with the timbre of the sounds outside,
the wind could not quite mask a roar that had no place
in anything Gil-galad held familiar. The rain was coming
down harder, pounding on the roof, but there was
something else… Lindir’s hand on his arm was immovable;
it was a joke between them, the strength of a musician’s
fingers. “You heard Lord Celeborn,” he said urgently.
“I need to see
what’s going on,” Gil-galad snapped, disengaging the
grip on his sleeve. “I’m responsible for…”
responsible for staying alive to lead us when the
storm’s over,” Lindir retorted. He was almost shouting
to make himself heard. Gildor, whose attention had been
elsewhere, came up behind Gil-galad and grabbed his
“Come on, don’t
be stupid. Tanis wants us all under the table, and I’m
not arguing with her: I don’t have the Sight but the air
feels wrong. Erestor? For once, don’t argue.”
back black curls, opened his mouth to say something, but
a sound was coming towards them, louder, more powerful
than the wind. Lindir pushed Gil-galad towards the
sturdy table along one side of the room, and everyone,
including Círdan, reached it in a rush. Galadriel
already had the twins and the handful of staff who had
dined with them under it and was waiting for her
“What in the
Void are we doing here, hiding like children?” Gil-galad
muttered after a few minutes, during which everyone had
tried to get comfortable while avoiding overly close
proximity with anyone’s more personal parts.
“What were you
thinking of doing out there, telling the wind to go
sleep?” Galadriel asked mildly. “There is nothing any of
us can do out there. Can you not feel the Vala moving?
Let Ulmo hold his hand over us where he can. This is the
thing I saw, that I showed to you, Ereinion. Be still.
close beside him. Círdan thoroughly disapproved their
relationship, reminding Gil-galad at every chance that
he would need to marry and produce an heir, but right
now no one was very interested in what they did.
Gil-galad put an arm round him and let the noise wash
over him. Gildor and Erestor were rather less discreet,
but then again they seemed to like being the local
scandal. Suddenly Lindir startled him by pulling away
and scrabbling out from under the table.
“What the –
what are you doing?” Gil-galad had to follow him out to
make himself heard.
“My harp. I’m
not leaving it there!”
“Get back under
there – listen to it, the roof’s about ready to come off
or the windows break in. Your life’s worth more than a
him, heading across the room. Gil-galad felt someone
behind him and was about to growl at whoever it was when
he realised it was his aunt. “The candles,” she shouted
near his ear. “Help me put them out. If one of them
falls, the house will burn.”
“It’s stone, it
struck one of the shutters and it shattered, flying back
and letting in the night. Wind howled into the room and
the darkness was lit by a sheet of white light.
Gil-galad dived across the room and started putting out
candles. Lindir was dragging the harp back with him, and
Galadriel ran back to the table carrying a lamp. A spray
of water struck Gil-galad and there was another crash of
thunder almost but not quite drowning out the distant
sound of rock cracking and splintering.
The roaring was
closer now and he realised where he had heard its like
before. It was the sound the waves made coming in on
the rocks at high tide, only magnified a thousand fold.
A chill went down his spine and hit the pit of his
stomach. Quashing the urge to go take a quick look
outside, he rejoined the others, the only point of light
in the room now coming from Galadriel’s lamp. Every
member of the House of Finwë left in Endor was sitting
under Cirdan’s dinner table, waiting for the roof to
blow in, he realised. He had an almost overwhelming urge
There was no
space next to Lindir now the harp was there, so he sat
beside one of the twins instead. When the noise grew
louder he put an arm round the boy’s shoulders and could
feel the slight tremor that came and went. Lindir snaked
over somehow and pressed against his other side, and
Gil-galad put his free arm around him, seeking as much
as offering comfort while the house seemed to rock on
its foundations, furniture and other nameless things
crashing around. The full fury of the storm screamed at
them through the open window. He closed his eyes and
waited for morning, or whatever might come before it.
some time past the night’s midpoint, the thunder stopped
and the wind eased a little. The sea was deafening,
almost masking all other sounds. People fell asleep in
the end, which was what usually happened no matter how
great the danger. Unlikely comrades were leaning against
one another, including Círdan and Barawen who cooked and
kept order in the house. As he was starting to drift
off, with either Elrond or Elros on one side and the
summer scent of Lindir’s hair on the other, Gil-galad
found himself wondering at that. It looked almost
natural and come to think of it, she and Círdan seemed
regularly to stop and share a joke or a few minutes of
conversation. Sleep found him before he could follow the
idea further and it was days before it came back to him.
to the sound of the wind, not the nightmare force of the
previous night, just ordinary wind blowing the broken
shutter back and forth. Dim light filtered in, and he
disentangled himself from the twin – Elrond, he saw –
and crawled over Lindir and out from under the table.
Objects lay scattered about, he spotted candlesticks, a
cup, a pile of cushions. When he got to his feet it was
to find he wasn’t the first awake. Círdan stood by the
window looking out. Gil-galad joined him, picking up a
sodden scroll on his way. There was a chair atop the
table, he noticed idly. Somehow he hadn’t heard it land.
wordlessly outside. Across the room Gil-galad could hear
yawns and low voices as others roused, but he couldn’t
move away from the window. He stared in disbelief at the
water that lapped halfway up the hill. Of the harbour
there was no sight, nor of the houses that had been
closer to the waterline, including Galadriel and
Celeborn’s. He met his foster father’s eyes in the
pre-dawn light. Of one accord they turned and made for
the door. Before he was half way across the Hall, Gil-galad
arrival, survivors crept out of shelter to find
themselves in a different world. Gil-galad’s first
instinct was to make for the high ground and see how bad
the damage had been. What he found left him stunned. The
sea had covered much of Balar and slid grudgingly off
her again to complete its headlong rush to land, leaving
shells and seaweed and dead fish in its wake. Buildings
were in ruin, bricks and timber scattered far beyond the
town, water lay in great, muddy pools filled with
debris, and over everything hung an eerie stillness.
There was no sign of the harbour or the fishing village
just around the cove, and the lower part of the town lay
under the waves
At full light,
he picked a few men with keen eyesight and sent them up
to the watch tower, which had once offered a good enough
view of Sirion to pick out the lights of cooking fires.
There was nothing to be seen. During the night the sea
had rushed in, and there was only an unending expanse of
angry grey-blue that stretched from horizon to horizon
where the land had been. Later in the day, taking time
out from digging for people trapped by fallen masonry
and checking the state of the surviving boats, Gil-galad
went up there to see for himself.
Sirion had once been, he found himself thinking of all
those nights filled with shaking and grumbling, the vast
lightning storms inland, Had the sea rushed in and
drowned the land, he wondered, or had they done
something to break Beleriand, creating a space for the
sea to fill? Whichever it was, he looked at the result
and shuddered. At least for now, they were totally
sunrise, Gildor had taken one of the horses and set off
across the island to see what he could find, as he put
it. Gil-galad had tried to persuade everyone in the
small settlements to come in to Pearly Bay, but there
were always a few who knew better. Galadriel went with
him. No one asked questions, they were Finwë’s
grandchildren and had their own way of doing things.
They returned that night grimly quiet, and they were
following the cataclysm passed in a haze of organising
shelter for the homeless, rounding up the remaining
goats and horses and finding safe pasture for them, and
getting repair teams to work on those boats that had
survived the waves – some were little more than
scattered splinters of wood. After dark there was
nothing to do but sleep, there being no candles to spare
for evening pursuits. The first night Gil-galad sat up
talking with Lindir, Gildor and Erestor, but after the
next day’s work, all he was interested in was sleep.
up a few of his best sailors and took a boat round the
island, assessing damage and loss, while Celeborn got
the refugees from Doriath involved with caring for the
animals and collecting a store of dry clothing to be
shared out. They had been uneasy moving to the island in
the first place and needed to be kept occupied. Lindir
was assisting the three healers and had Elrond with him,
mainly running errands. Elros, unasked, was helping look
Many of the
horses had got out of their stable and made their way to
higher ground, but the rest had drowned as Galadriel had
feared. The same held true for the goats. To his
knowledge there were still several dozen chickens left
on the island, but the sheep were also gone, swept
away. Gil-galad set teams to dig group graves for elven
victims, but the livestock posed a more complicated
problem. Normally the carcases would be burned, but
there was not the wood for pyres and the waterlogged
ground made digging an energy-sapping chore.
problem over with Lindir at day’s end, he got more than
the expected sympathetic ear. There were two kinds of
musician, the airy dreamers and the ruthlessly
practical, and he should have remembered Lindir was the
unsentimental type with common sense solutions. His
suggestion was simple if unelven. “Give them to the sea
where it runs fastest away from us. Ossë should
understand. If he doesn’t, he can come bury them
tongue, he’ll hear you,” Gil-galad warned, only half
joking. “And I can’t do that, it’s against nature.”
at him seriously. “You’ll have to do something, they’re
starting to smell. Give it a week and some sunshine…”
In the end
there were no other options. In the face of horrified
resistance from the Falathrim, Gil-galad had the
carcasses hauled to where the current ran strongest out
to sea and thrown in. Prayer was not a steady habit of
his, but he stood with bowed head at the water’s edge
and asked Ossë’s forgiveness for the affront. No elf
would deliberately sully clean water.
after yet another mass burial on the east side where the
soil was easiest to dig, everyone gathered in what
remained of Cirdan’s house, the first time they had all
been together since the night of the storm. It was
surprisingly easy to reach consensus for a change.
Sitting on an upturned barrel that currently served as
an extra chair, Círdan summed up what everyone was
“There is food
but barely enough to go round and when it’s gone, the
ground has effectively been salted. We’ll grow nothing
more this season, nor the next. Water – we have two
unpolluted wells. The third ran slow for a day before
drying up. The water drains off somewhere else. There’s
nothing to say it won’t happen again with the others. I
doubt there’ll be more survivors. Balar is less than a
quarter its original size, they’ve had time to find
their way here. We have no choice, we have to leave.”
“All of us, or
do we send a party out to find land first?” Celeborn
asked. “Surely that would be wiser?”
is land,” Erestor said quietly. He had charge of
rationing food and had been nodding while Círdan spoke.
Gildor told him with certainty.
“There’s a huge
army somewhere in the north,” Galadriel agreed. “They
would have been unlikely to drown themselves, Ingwion,
Eönwë, my father. They broke the land and let the water
in, but it would not have reached them.”
mainly because Gil-galad was there, glanced up from
stringing his lute: The front room of his lodgings had
survived and most of his instruments were safe, except
for the drums which had been stacked on the floor, not
shelved like the rest. “Dwarves and elves were living
where there’s now water,” he said levelly. “Mortals,
“It’s been a
long war, Lindir,” Gildor said kindly. “It might have
seemed the only way. And they’re not from here, in their
eyes dwarves would be creatures of myth, dark elves
little more than savages, living without the light of
the Blessed Realm.”
a small sound that might have been a snort. Gil-galad
cut in before the conversation got away from the main
point. “I’ll not force anyone who’s determined to stay,
but sending a party out with food and water for two
weeks or whatever would just mean we’d be consuming here
and we’d have little left when they came back for us.
My choice would be to take all the boats left to us,
bring along as much food and water as we can stow on
board and go look for land.”
“You mean to
follow the army into the north?” Círdan asked, frowning.
“That’s a long road no matter how it’s travelled. They
were well beyond Doriath.”
his head. “Not due north. Laegon watched the water
coming in till his nerve broke, he thinks we just caught
the edge of it. I think – I think if we head east, it
would give us our best chance.”
“You’d risk all
our lives on a guess?” Círdan asked sharply, and Gil-galad
“If you have a
better choice, I’ll hear it.”
Galadriel said into the sudden tension. They all turned
to look at her. She had claimed one of the few surviving
chairs, and despite her clothes being stained and torn
and her hair held back with a piece of cloth tied into a
rough bow, she looked unworried, almost serene, still a
princess of the Noldor from beyond the Great Sea. Her
brothers had died, her cousins had failed, but she was
glanced at Lindir, who looked down and tried a cord very
softly. His eyes found Erestor instead, who was noted
for his good sense, even though it failed to extend to
Gildor. Erestor looked a question, but said nothing.
“There’s land there, Aunt?” Gil-galad asked, listening
with more than his ears.
she repeated. Her face was expressionless, her voice
sounded far away and there was a glow about her, a
shimmer to her eyes that was no trick of the light.
“There is a new land waiting for you there, with clean
water and tall mountains. And music.”
The Great Sea
thought back to it, the departure was a nightmarish blur
in Gil-galad’s mind of collecting food and water,
reassuring people of all ages and stations, getting
potential leaks plugged as best was possible under the
circumstances and creating a temporary pier now that
there was no harbour left on Balar. Gildor took over the
vital task of counting people into boats, making sure
everyone was accounted for, with Erestor doing a second
check. They spent so much of their time in banter that
it surprised some to find how well they worked together.
Some of the
Teleri still chose to remain on Balar. Círdan spoke to
them, explaining the high chance that another wave might
engulf the island and also that it would be some while
before anyone came back for them, but these were elves
who had lived on the Holy Isle long before the Noldor
arrived or the refugees from lost Doriath, and were
loathe to leave their home. Barawen mentioned staying to
look after them as her father was amongst their number,
and Gil-galad took a moment to grin privately at his
foster father’s forceful response to the idea. Barawen
came with them.
mismatched flotilla of warships, traders and fishing
boats put out to sea, things weren’t much better. There
were voices calling ship to ship, the sound of the
timekeepers giving the count for the rowers and trying
not to confuse one another, these were all normal. What
wasn’t were children and a few adults crying and the
sounds of the horses on the two trading ships given over
to them and a few brave grooms. Horses would be needed
once they landed, and he had refused to leave them on
Balar to starve.
There was talk
of roping the vessels together but Círdan only allowed
it for the small fishing boats that had somehow survived
and were being used to carry supplies. They had no idea
what the night or the following day would bring, he
reasoned, and ropes would keep them from being
manoeuvrable, which was one of the warships’ strong
points. They rode an unquiet sea under a cloud-darkened
sky and waited as the night drew in and the air grew
rations had been shared out and the wine gone around –
no more than two mouthfuls each, to make it last –a
voice rose unexpectedly in song, offering a prayer to
Uinen, Lady of the Seas and asking her good opinion,
followed by a gentle ballad about summer and love.
Lindir was amidships, sitting on one of the benches
where normally rowers rested, and was accompanying
himself sparsely on his lap harp. Gil-galad could feel
the listening, not only in the men around him, warriors
but no less terrified by this leap into the dark on an
empty sea, but also from the nearby ships as well. A
child who had been crying on and on stopped, the sobs
trailing off into silence and voices began to still.
The wind had
risen again, moving the clouds along. Looking up, Gil-galad
saw a single bright star shining down on them. Half
smiling he pulled his cloak tighter about him, trying to
keep out the spray, and let the music sink into his
soul, weaving its peace. Knowing when his talents were
needed was one of Lindir’s many gifts.
morning found them still with no sight of land, no
matter what experience and sun sightings might suggest
to the contrary. Gil-galad couldn’t get his mind around
the scale of the disaster and knew he wasn’t alone.
Sometimes not understanding was best, he decided.
Meanwhile, there was relief in the routine essential to
life on board ship. They established an order for who
rowed, who rested, for how long, meal times were
decided by shouting from ship to ship, and between them
Erestor and Círdan arranged a system of reporting in so
that no one could vanish unnoticed, especially after
dark. Days passed that later seemed to blend into one
another until there was only the day they left, followed
by an in-between time of barely suppressed fear, and
then, finally, journey’s end.
The land when
they reached it was strange and jagged, with angular
cuts exposing white cliffs, and waves leaping high as
though against an unexpected barrier. There were no
recognisable landmarks, which hardly surprised anyone.
Standing in the prow, Gil-galad considered his choices.
It had taken them till near dusk to draw close enough to
make out features and he thought it best to approach
this new challenge by daylight. There was movement
close by, then Lindir came to stand beside him. There
was no privacy at sea, which meant there was no point to
pretending they knew each other less well than in fact
they did. “The birds are back,” Lindir said. “Not many,
only gulls, but still.”
wore Gil-galad's cloak drawn over one shoulder, a gift
to keep out the cold while he led the singing each
night. He pointed up towards the sun, his light brown
hair falling over his shoulders, caught back roughly,
half braid, half tail. “There’ve been none till now, I
thought you’d noticed. The fishermen were worried about
couldn't say he had given birds much thought. There were
always birds at sea, the gulls and other shore dwellers
close in, the great creatures of the deep like
cormorants and even albatrosses when you ventured into
far waters. They came to fish and stayed for scraps and
their cries were amongst the loneliest in the world. He
started to shake his head, then understood. "No -
there've been none since we left Balar, have there?"
"Not one. I've
travelled along the coast and quite a distance out to
sea and I can't ever remember there being no birds."
counted the days they’d been on the water, sailing over
the places where there had been forests, mountains, open
plains. "Too far to fly, nowhere to land," he said at
last, awed horror stirring in him.
vanished in the storm. Those that took flight had
nowhere to land after. Maybe some made it, but..."
"But an entire
generation of seabirds might have perished in one
night," Gil-galad finished quietly.
they wanted to catch Him so badly that nothing was more
important. The warrior’s way – destroy anything, kill
anyone who stands in your way…"
"We’re not all
like that," Gil-galad said quietly, though his thoughts
were elsewhere. If the birds were gone, what else had
been lost, never to return? "Those who follow me aren’t
like that. It’s as Gildor says though, this isn't their
land, it was the Enemy's playground and they treat it as
such. Even we are barely incidental." The warning had
been late coming, an afterthought almost. He could
picture his aunt's lip curling when he raised it with
her later. The short time she had spent in her father’s
camp had left her bitter and sceptical about their
"Will we be
able to land here?" Lindir asked, sensing it was time to
change the subject.
brought Gil-galad back to current concerns. "I’ve
already had them signal Círdan, we’ll wait for dawn so
we can see what we're getting into," he said. "Also
there’s nowhere to land along here, just sheer cliff.
We'll have to follow it a way, try and find a beach."
"It takes waves
and weather and time to make beaches, we might be
sailing a while still." Lindir's face was deadpan, but
his green eyes danced. Gil-galad had an almost
overwhelming urge to lean in and kiss him, but there
were limits on how public they could be. He settled
instead for reaching out and trying to tidy the salt
tangles from Lindir’s hair.
living in hope. There's been waves and weather enough.
Who know? It might make up for the lack of time."
along the coast for three days. There were no bays, just
ugly gashes in the cliff with churning white water and
jagged rocks. Without fuss, Erestor cut their rations
down further; there was no way of knowing how long they
would have to stay aboard. Gil-galad wondered if
crossing the Helcaraxë had been like that, food portions
getting smaller as the distance expanded into an unknown
followed them hopefully, their numbers nothing like the
usual cacophony to be found along more familiar shores.
Lindir made songs about them, happy songs about lifting
on air currents or swooping on careless fish. He sang
about forests too, and cool streams, and walking through
long grass with a lover. He had developed a routine of
his own. Just after dark, when they had finished their
meagre meal and mothers were busy settling the children,
he started tunes everyone knew and could sing along
with, and this continued into the night, the threads
moving from ship to ship as voices rose above the waves
and crossed the water, weaving a web of song that bound
them all together more surely than any rope.
later, as voices started dropping out, he would turn to
songs he made himself, about simple things they had all
known and would know again when they finally left the
ocean's embrace. Sometimes, very late, he would offer
one of the sagas, a story of heroes in battle or a love
tale like that of Beren and Lúthien, and those were the
ones that soothed and brought sleep closer. During the
day he was quiet, watching and resting, but at night
Lindir was their anchor.
Círdan says to look up ahead!"
turned to look where the sailor was pointing, and a huge
weight he had no idea he was carrying lifted from his
heart. They were rounding a point and up ahead was what
they had been looking for, a bay backed by tall,
weathered mountains. He heard shouting and looked around
in time to see one of the small boats break away from
the flotilla and begin rowing shoreward. He recognised
Gildor’s burnished head amongst the rowers and grinned;
he doubted it had been Cirdan’s choice to send out a
royal landing party. As always, Gildor was a law unto
The boat didn’t
land. They rowed in close to shore then turned and came
back, manoeuvring in to keep pace between Gil-galad and
"There’s even a
river," Gildor shouted. "Comes down from a gap in the
mountains and empties into the bay. There's place to
beach the small boats up ahead and the river looks deep
enough to anchor in. What do you think?"
was rhetorical, but Gil-galad took it at face value. "Go
back ahead of us, land and take a proper look around.
This might be the place."
for what? he asked
himself. To pause? To take on water and perhaps hunt
some game? Or the place to start anew, rebuild now that
all they had known was gone and there was no home to
return to. Time would tell.
Gildor’s boat in towards the river. Gil-galad wasn’t
really surprised to see Erestor was behind him, sitting
up on the rim in the stern, his head back, black hair
streaming in the wind.
He was watching
the twins over on Cirdan’s ship pointing out features on
the shore and laughing when a cascade of harp cords made
him turn. Lindir was on his favourite bench looking out
at the new land, his fingers busy. He was playing with
many of the themes Gil-galad had learned to recognise
and look for in his lighter music: flights of birds,
dancing waters, rustling leaves; but now there was
something more, a strong, deep swell of joy.
"You think this
might be our new home?" he asked, going over to join
at him, his eyes sparkling, then back to the land with
its strip of green up against the blue mountains and its
broad river. "There's water," he said. "And it's
fertile. And the mountains rise like a wall behind it,
while the sea protects it from the front."
"The sea was no
protection to Sirion or Balar," Gil-galad said quietly.
Green eyes met
his steadily. "The sea did not rise up against us of its
own accord, Gil. It will be different here. I think I
know where we are. I wondered when the Lady described it
– clean water, tall mountains. And music.”
thought about this. “Mountains, yes. And the water’s
fast flowing, it should be clean. We’ll find out when we
land. I didn’t understand what she meant by music at
the time though, and I still don’t.”
Lindir left off
playing and rose. He slid his arm through Gil-galad’s,
and they watched together as the shore drew nearer. “I
was born in the north, near Nevrast, but most of my
family have lived in the Seven Rivers since King
Denethor’s passing. I’ve visited them twice. Remember
the spring songs? That’s where I learned them. It’s the
land where the green elves sing, the land of the
singers. Music, you see? That’s where we are, I
recognise the mountains. You would call it Lindon. ”
Gildor’s boat being run up the small strip of beach, saw
him wave. There was a change in the pace of the oars and
then the sail master came over to them. “Sire, Lord
Círdan signals we’re to go ahead.”
First to land
was the king’s prerogative. Gil-galad stepped back,
stretched, straightened. “Raise the standards, Bronio,”
he told the mariner. “All of them - mine, Gondolin’s,
Doriath’s. Eärendil’s colours. May as well start this
right. If we’re to settle here, we have to share the
land, it has to be a home to everyone. Then take us up
the river, see what the anchorage is like. Let’s go
take a look. My bard tells me this will be our new
The only sounds
to be heard in the passages and hallways of the palace
were the hiss of torches and the shushing of the sea.
Gil-galad walked quietly, his footsteps slow, pausing
occasionally to look out a window at the moonlit garden.
Finally he reached his destination, let himself in the
room and closed the door carefully. Lindir had left for
bed more than an hour earlier and might be asleep.
He needn't have
worried, a couple of lute cords reached him before he
had a chance to pass through the comfortable sitting
room to the bedroom. Lindir sat in the middle of the
big bed, legs crossed, the lute on his lap. A group of
candles burned near the bed, casting light on the papers
that were spread out before him. He was leaning
slightly forward, frowning, and only glanced up briefly.
Another string of notes followed.
used to this; he got on with divesting himself of his
formal outer garments, like the jewelled, embroidered
surcoat and court shoes, dropping items onto a handy
chair. Lindir finally straightened up. "And so? What did
they say after I left?"
dropped down onto the bed making it creak and sprawled
across it. He liked Lindir's bed, preferred its size and
rich green and gold drapes to his own. "Oh, exactly what
they said to your face," he assured him. "Everyone was
in awe. You brought the whole thing back for those of us
who was there and painted pictures for everybody else.
Think my favourite bit was when the storm hit and we had
to take shelter. You managed to make hiding under a
table sound almost heroic."
curved, green eyes sparkling. "Well, I thought to put in
a bit about how the King had to be restrained from
rushing out into the storm to rescue all of Balar single
handed, but I could just hear Gildor on the subject
liked just to take a look," Gil-galad admitted, picking
up a sheet of paper and turning it to study the marks.
"But you were pretty firm on the subject. Also was
worried I wouldn’t get the door shut again if I opened
it. Where's this from?"
"Don't mix them
up, I need to number them still,” Lindir said in alarm,
checking which one Gil-galad had taken. "One of my
students was in the north with Prince Celeborn and heard
it there. He sent it along with their party."
nodded, studying the marks further. "It's - almost like
a code, isn't it?"
Erestor said. He was very interested, but then his mind
works in strange ways. Can't imagine why anyone would
want a code for writing. He looked nice tonight - are
the sapphires new?"
brings something back with him."
Well, he'll be in a better mood for a while anyhow.
That business about it being how they are and it not
bothering him when Gildor's away is nonsense."
enough tonight," Gil-galad laughed. "Said the song
brought back some interesting memories. They were taking
a jug of wine down to the beach when I left."
typical." Lindir shook his head smiling, then moved the
lute onto the floor, leaning against the bed, and
started gathering up the pages. "I want to work on the
annotation when I have a chance, there's still too much
guesswork involved in this. Tonight wouldn't be a good
time, would it?"
up the bed, sorted out a heap of pillows and leaned back
against them. "Don't think so, no. You need to sleep
sometimes. And other things."
Like?" Lindir leaned on his hand, looking down at Gil-galad.
"And I like how you just wander in here and take over my
Gil-galad said in a satisfied voice. He reached out,
wound a lock of Lindir's hair round his fingers and
pulled gently. "My bard, too. Come here and be
congratulated on a wonderful job well done."
"You liked my
music?" Lindir asked softly, leaning closer so that his
hair brushed Gil-galad's face. It smelt of summer herbs
music," he said quietly, reaching up to cup Lindir's
cheek. "The memory’s painful, but it’s something we’ve
shared, a part of the thread that holds us together.
Come, time to make music of a different kind. A duet."
personal?" Lindir asked with a slow smile, finally
moving close enough to be kissed. "I'm sure that can be
arranged. I might even be willing to take requests."