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Tell This Mortal - by Chathol-linn

Part 1 -- Sea Fair

I am a sail maker from Ethir Anduin. The sea, and my little town of Sea Fair are all I ever knew. When I was thirty years old the blest king died, in spring. Six months later, the Elf came down the river with his grey ship and his need, destroying me with the past and leaving me to face an unimaginable end that is coming swiftly now; perhaps tomorrow. But before all that happened, came the Dwarf.

Sea Fair sits far down in the delta where the river meets the sea. Just now we are fishing town, grown up from being a village. We owe that to the blest king, who defeated the Enemy long before I was born and freed the coasts from the Corsairs. Because of that, we will be a mighty port city some day, they say. Sea Fair the Great.

"I am glad I shall not live to see it," said old one-handed Berendil, as we sat in his tavern a few doors down from my shop. He had been a sailor until a shipboard accident crushed his hand -- a mast tore loose and fell on him during a storm at sea. That he made it to Nesta the healer is a miracle; he says the salt water that nearly drowned him kept the blood poison down. She cut off the mangled flesh, cauterized the stump, and waited to see if he would develop the proud flesh and die. He recovered and thereafter used his one hand to pour ale and wine, a service I found most useful.

Just now I was sampling a glass of last year's vintage of Dorwinion Red -- one thing we do not lack at Sea Fair is water transportation, and another is trade. The tavern's shutters were open wide. However all eyes were on a long, narrow scroll affixed to the wall over the bar, stretching all the way from one end of the room to the other. It was a calendar of sorts, and we were waiting for a golden ray of sun to touch the right place on the scroll. It came. All of us raised our cups and turned toward the westward-facing windows.

Out over the deeps, past Sea Fair's stilt houses and walkways of planks that wound all about the oldtown quarter, past the docks and the rocking, moored fleet, the evening grew old and glorious as the sun set beneath the waves. We watched in silence. The only sounds were the plashing of water against the pilings and the cry of the gulls. When we could see Her no more, a sailor spoke, trying to charm some girl:

"You will never see a more beautiful sunset than tonight's in Sea Fair," he said. This broke the spell, and the din of conversation rose again. Several folks laughed at the sailor's sentiment; we had all said the same words many times over.

"You do not like cities?" I asked Berendil, and at that moment a familiar figure pounded through the open door -- my head apprentice. We called him "Nath" that is old talk for "Web" for he came from a long line of great weavers, and with his strong, lanky limbs, he was a very spider among the ships' riggings. No one dared call him "Ungol" of course. Tradition held this to be insulting and an invitation to bad luck, and sailing folk are superstitious.

"Mistress!" Nath cried, breathless from running. "You must come at once. We have a -- customer. The customer --"

"I am done for the day," I interrupted, "and I wish to finish my wine. You handle the customer."

Nath stood up straight and raised his chin. "No, Mistress," he said in front of everybody, and I sighed. I would have to send him to the master of boys and…. "He asked for you by name, and he said, 'I am looking for the best sail maker in Middle-earth.'"

Every shopkeeper and merchant in the place who kept apprentices chuckled.

"Oh, very well," I grumbled, drinking the remaining wine in one swallow. "He had better still be there. Who is this knowledgeable customer, please?"

"He said, 'Gimli.' "

Part 2 -- Aerlinn and Gimli

Old. He was so old, I thought he might stop breathing. I could not see how he managed to move, much less walk without a cane. Old tales say Dwarves become fat as they age. Not this one. He once had been stout and sturdy; you could see it still in the width of his shoulders and the way he stood. But now he was gaunt. About his body hung brown leather garments -- tunic, breeches, purse -- and boots that looked as if they could walk to the ends of Middle-earth and still stomp rocks. He was a wealth of minerals, with copper-colored eyes deeper than any mine, a long, corded beard as grey as iron, and thin hair on his head like mithril. His skin was translucent in places and splotched in others. His magnificent, craggy face was as wrinkled as a dried apple. In stature he was about a foot shorter than I.

"You are a Dwarf?" I said, but I could not help myself. He was not of my race! For the first time I realized that it was no story. A hundred years ago, and for ages before, many of these beings shared our world.

He ignored my rudeness. "I am looking for the sail maker Aerlinn," he said. "I sent this lad here to fetch him."

"I am Aerlinn," I replied. "I thought you knew of me." Most sea folk did. Merchants named their ships "Sea-song" in my honor and captains drank my health every night. Families strove to place their daughters and sons with me, for I took only two apprentices every five years. But now I am boasting and not being honest, and time is too short for lies. 'Aerlinn' was only a name I had adopted for my craft. My family came long ago from the far northern woods, near where the Old Forest Road meets the Running River. The folk of Gondor thought our traditional name outlandish. Well -- that is not the only reason I did not use it.

The Dwarf bowed low, his hips creaking like a ship under sail. "Ask your pardon, pretty lady. Three months ago I sent you an order for sails. My friend was building a ship and needed the best. I am here to claim those sails."

I remembered the order. It had come by riding messenger, one who makes a living off of honesty and horsemanship. They usually are of Rohan. The order came with detailed descriptions and a piece of gold. I had assumed the sender was some strangely-named prince of Dol Amroth. Never in my wildest dreams did "Dwarf" occur to me but then, I had never seen one of course.

I said, "Your sails are ready. I made them to your description and used my own judgment, just as you said. Designed by me for weight, shape and size, selected from the best of my woven goods, cut and colored by my head apprentice, and sewed by me and my second apprentice. Do you know much about ships and sails, Master Dwarf, ah, Old Father?"

"Call me 'Gimli.' As for ships, I know as much as I wish. Soon I shall know more. So do not think to part me from too much of my gold. No, I forgot -- the gold does not matter."

If the old tales were true, this was an astounding remark indeed.

"Show me the sails," he said, all business, "and I'll deliver them to my friend."

So I led him to my shop, where I would give my second apprentice the surprise of her life and where I would receive my own.

Part 3 -- Gwael Reviad - The Sail Maker's Shop

The view of the boardwalk from my shop is good. We have a large front window. On either side is a pole with hooks, for displaying our small wares. From one pole we hung that vital instrument of sail sewing, the sailor's palm; both the seaming and roping varieties. We did not make them on site; my original apprentice's family made them to my specifications back on their farm where leather is readily available. We also had a line of shipboard toolkits containing triangular sail needles, sail twine, beeswax, rounded-back sheath knives with wedge-ground blades, steel sailhooks, two sizes of fids, and oaken seam rubbers. Sailors loved them.

The pole at the other end showed merchandise smaller than our sails but equal in quality and reputation. Sailors' ditty bags were my test of every prospective apprentice. I took the youngsters on for a week, gave them the materials, tools, and instructions, and let them do what they could. At the end of the week I always knew who was a true sail maker. My present second apprentice had been -- there is no other word for it -- amazing. They say she has pure Númenórean blood. She could take a lanyard and splice it into a cringle as if by magic, and her ability to size the cringle itself, so that subsequent shrinkage will hold the inserted thimble in place, was nothing short of otherworldly. But these are mere details and technique. All my apprentices made ditty bags if they were not making sails, and sea faring folk as far away as Mithlond used bags that bore my trademark, two gulls flying above a ship --

Whenever the shop was open we secured the tool kits and ditty bags with wire, for they were worth their weight in silver and would have walked off otherwise. But the sun had set and I saw that my second apprentice had already put the shutters in place, preparing to close up. Gimli could view our small wares another time. I opened the door for him and showed him into the darkening shop.

"Meet Stitch," I said proudly. "She makes the best ditty bags in the world, and sews Rhûn canvas as if it were silk. Light us a candle or two, Stitch. Then fetch the special order. This is Master Gimli."

Stitch, whose mouth had been open since the Dwarf walked through the door, lit the candles, bowed -- not to me, I noticed with amusement -- and went to the storeroom. I seated myself at the customers' table and gestured for him to sit as well. He struggled to hoist himself onto the chair and once there his boots dangled. I hoped the cushion was easy on his bony old rump.

"You said your friend was building a ship. I know all the folk at all the shipyards. Indeed I tested your sails on a rig at the Meren-sûl. Is your friend with them?"

"He is not. He has already built the ship himself, with the help of some dozens of friends, in Ithilien. He will arrive with it tomorrow."

"?! Ithilien !? But, but … your friend must be mad. Why would he not come to Sea Fair? We are, after all, near the sea. And we are known for our shipwrights."

"As for that, my friend knows a shipwright that puts Mortals to shame," Gimli replied, "and he himself is descended from a tribe of mariners taught by the Valar themselves. But he stayed in Ithilien as long as he possibly could, for his remaining friends and kin are mostly in that part of the world."

"You say, Valar? Mortals?" My voice went as thin as his, for astonishment. "Your friend is -- immortal?"

"My friend is an Elf."

Here I toppled over backward in my chair. I crashed to the floor, hit my head sharply, and everything went black for a while.

Part 4 - Make No Jest about It

I opened my eyes to an unknown landscape of peaks and valleys. I had just enough wits to wonder where my bedroom ceiling was, and then the landscape resolved itself into Nesta's face. She was peering at me as healers do.

"Follow my finger with your eyes," she ordered. I did so as she waved her hand slowly, back and forth. Suddenly she moved her hand away altogether and I followed that too. It was a mistake. I grew dizzy, and the next thing I knew, I turned my head to one side and emptied the contents of my stomach onto the floor.

"Drinking wine again?" Nesta said with no sympathy. "Well you will feel better without it. No wonder you fell."

Then everything came back to me. I remembered yesterday's peaceful sunset and the loud interruption of Nath. I recalled going to meet my Dwarvish customer, so ancient and strange, and the excitement that gripped me when Gimli said, "My friend is an Elf." That is, to be honest, it was not excitement that I had felt. It was disbelief; it was apprehension. It was fear.

No longer shaky or sick, but with a pounding heart, I jumped from my bed. I had to know if it were true. "Where is Master Gimli?"

"Waiting for you downstairs. While you have laid up in bed, your shop has been busy. Your customer's ship from Ithilien arrived early this morning and is now at the quays. Nath has been there all morning, helping to rig the sails. They are beautiful as usual, and so is the ship."

"Please tell Gimli I am coming," I said. When Nesta was gone I cleaned away my mess and washed myself. Opening my shutters, I let in the warm, close air and saw storm clouds gathering seaward. Being as superstitious as any of the sea folk, I threw on some of my brightest clothes as a talisman. They made me feel better at once

Sky blue is for good luck, I assured my misgivings silently, and that was when the air in the chamber changed from storm-warm to cold as a crypt. I gasped; my exhaled breath came out smoking. A frigid kind of fog seemed to wrap tendrils around me like an embrace and then I felt fingers indeed, creeping over my shoulders.

"Aiiii, what is it?" I shrieked, tearing around like a mad woman.

"Mistress?" It was Stitch, coming up the stairs at a run. We collided just outside my door, and for the second time in a few hours I went tumbling, all the way to the landing. Stitch watched from above; the Dwarf gazed up at me from the bottom of the stairs.

"You are, ah, well this morning?" said he.

I straightened up hastily. I allowed that I was well, and that I was pleased to see him. "I stepped on a mouse," I explained. "Fetch the cat, Stitch." Stitch stared at me wide-eyed. We had no cat.

Putting the odd experience away for future contemplation, I asked Gimli if he wished to go to the quays.

"I do," he replied. So we went outside, heading west on the boardwalk toward Berendil's tavern and the quays beyond. Every eye noted our passing. We would be the talk of the waterfront from the shipyards to the ropewalk.

"You will want to meet my friend, of course, and he wishes to meet the sail maker," Gimli continued. "But I must tell you something. This Elf means more to me than my own clan."

"They say opposites attract. How strong the forges of friendship --"

"So if you do not wish for death at my hands, do not trouble him."

I stopped walking; I could not believe my ears. He stopped too, as soft and yielding as any stone. He looked me over appraisingly, judging my character and maybe finding it no better than it should be. To be sure, I thought, this day holds surprises.

I found my voice. "Well -- Master Gimli, I do not doubt you were once a fearsome warrior. But you need not threaten. I would never --"

"I make no jest about it. I will kill you. He is troubled. Do not add to his cares."

Just as I was about to reply -- what, I don't know -- a voice called, "Hoy, Gimli!"

I had never heard the voice before in my life, or any other voice like it.

Suddenly the name of Gimli meant somewhat more to me. I knew my history very well, and I knew exactly whose voice called, even before Gimli returned the greeting.

"Legolas!" he was shouting. "Legolas!".

Part 5 - The Torment of Unmet Needs

Ten years ago, just before Father died and left me the shop, I went down to the sea with my young man. I had known him since childhood and he was a sailor, about to leave for Umbar. We took his boat and sailed to tiny Tol Gwing, that is Spindrift Island in our speech. It was the most perfect Midsummer I can recall. We had sung Remembrance with the other townsfolk at dawn, tossing roses and ashes into the waves, and then the day was ours. For loveliness that day could have been Arda Unmarred: the sea, the sun, the trees and scented air. That night we had the starriest of canopies to swear love under, ablaze with diamond chips and golden whorls. And swear love we did, in a dusky grove near the crashing surf. It was the best day of my life.

It bodes ill to experience perfection twice in a lifetime.

The quay is a long stone platform built parallel to the beach. Gimli and I had left the boardwalk and were crossing the sand, approaching the quay. Only one ship was moored there. Its very construction was a delight to the eyes. My sails were there and rigged: the long rectangular main sail and atop it, a smaller triangular sail. Across the deep blue of the main sail I had designed a long white curve, like a wave, or a gull's wing. The top sail was also blue save for a spray of white stars. The dye had come all the way from Harad. The customer had wanted the best of materials. And they were. I was proud to see my sails on such a pleasing ship. Even the name, and the script it was writ in, was beautiful: "Elwing." Gimli and I used the short ladder to climb aboard.

He was there, my Elven customer whose name I already knew well. He stood with his back to us, one sandaled foot on a railing. For a moment I thought he was limned in pale light, but lighting is uncertain just before a storm. I could not discern what kept him from the common courtesy of saying hello. Then I noticed a pair of gulls flying overhead, the most ordinary sight imaginable. He was watching the gulls. When they were gone he turned to us, and I looked upon what could not be: a tall, slender youth of about twenty or so, with three-thousand-year-old eyes.

Thus I lost interest in ships, gulls, Gimli, and all else. Oh, I continued to sense the life of the waterfront whirling about me. Nath shouted to the men of Meren-sûl. A gust of wind blew my hair and bellied the sails. My tongue tasted salt. Thunder rumbled, Gimli grumbled, and at the still center of my focus was this face, this face, this unbelievable face. No wonder the old tales call them Fair Folk. I was looking at the most beautiful face I had ever seen or ever would, man or woman, and in his face was that pair of extraordinary eyes.

Sea Fair's town square has a pretty fountain of white stone. The bottom of the pool is painted blue-grey. The Elf's eyes were as clear as the water in that fountain and they were full of a pain so profound that I found myself looking his body over for bleeding wounds.

Noticing my attention, he put the expression away as if he had taken out a winter shirt by error and replaced it with a summer shirt. He seemed past being merry, but would be polite.

"I am Legolas of the northern Greenwood, lately of Ithilien," he said. "Welcome and thank you, Aerlinn, for the sails."

"They will last you through many voyages," I said.

The pain came back into his eyes and he gave me a strange look. But all he said was, "Allow me to show you the ship. Gimli, will you come?"

"No. Soon I will see as much of the ship as I care to, and now my bones are calling for a rest. If you will spare Aerlinn for a moment, she can take me to that tavern over there and say a good word to the ale master."

"Gladly," I replied, and we left the ship.

I lost no time. "What ails him?"

"He wants, that is he needs two things. The gaining of one precludes the other forever, and he has delayed the choice for as long as he can. It is driving him mad."

"Well, what does he need? Quickly!" We were off the quay now and walking on the sand.

"He needs to make this sea voyage, and to not make it. He needs, the way those who love wine too much need their wine. You have guessed that he and I were companions of the Ringbearer? Then you have heard how, at the end, Frodo was not able to cast the ring away; he needed it. That is how Legolas needs."

"He does not want to go?"

"No. Believe me, he desires to stay in his Greenwood, near his father, although that will not make him happy. But it makes no difference what he desires. His need overrides all. He has been resisting it for a hundred and twenty years, ever since the first time he heard that curséd gull. While Aragorn and Arwen lived they gave him some comfort, but now they are gone and his ability to resist is done. When Legolas goes, he will leave a piece of his heart behind for every gust of wind that fills the sails. Do not say I said so, but he is so sick with grief that he likely will die of it on the voyage."

Gimli's words fascinated me. I burned to ask where they were going, and why Legolas must choose this way or that, if neither staying nor sailing would bring him peace. But we had reached the signpost before the tavern. Overhead, lightning flashed in the sky. Thunder followed at once.

Many strangers come through Sea Fair: merchants, messengers, sailors, traders, and all sorts of footloose wanderers called by the sea. To help them find the right destination, or avoid the wrong ones, Mayor Harald had a signpost built. It directed folks to the quays, piers, shipyards, town square, and the road out of town. Harald gave the work to his wife's brother, who did a proper job of it. Gimli even now was reading the signs with interest and with ease, for Harald's brother-by-marriage had been no taller than a Dwarf.

Suddenly I realized that I towered over everything near me.

My hair stirred, as if it wanted to leave my head. The sky darkened markedly.

I heard a shout; it was Legolas. "Aerlinn! Move away! Move! Now!" He was fairly bellowing.

I grasped Gimli's hand and dragged him to the tavern door. We tumbled through. An instant later the most gigantic sound split the air, so powerful that the tavern walls shuddered. It was like a mountain exploding. I screamed, for indeed I smelled smoke. I thought an earthquake had struck.

But it was lightning striking the signpost, splitting it lengthwise, and scarring the splintered remains with black scars. It would have been I, save for Legolas.

"How did he know?" I gasped. "Can he see beyond?"

"Go ask him, girl, if you dare go back to the ship. He may tell you. For myself, I will wait here by the window. I will have some ale and try to forget that soon I will be out on those wild waves. Give Legolas thanks that his foresight saved your life, and remember: do not add to his cares."

"Not for the world," I said shakily. I sped back across the beach to Legolas and his grey ship. My fate grew nearer.

Part 6 - How Legolas Gained His Shipcraft

Leaving Gimli at the tavern, I dashed around the people who stood -- at a respectful distance -- near the blackened signpost. When I was aboard the Elwing again I thanked Legolas for his timely warning. "That lightning strike was maybe the closest I have been to death! How did you foresee it? Gimli said you might tell me. Or if you wish, show me the ship first. We can talk later at the tavern while it rains."

"I will show you the ship first, but there is no hurry. It will not rain for an hour," he said with the same assurance he had announced his name.

We viewed the ship. I knew a fair amount about shipbuilding and sailing and I thought it odd there was no sign of charts. Well, Elves must steer by the stars. I saw no sign of oars either; it was a sailing vessel only. Such ships are common around Sea Fair - lesser merchants use them - but they are usually not so large as thirty-six by twelve.

"But they crew four at least, and stay close to the coasts, at that. And all this decking!"

"The size and the decking are for the comfort of the Dwarf," said Legolas. "He fears the sea, and he is very old for his kind. We call it 'ingem' which means years-sick. Do not mention it but he is so sick with years that he may die during the voyage. A strange fate for a Dwarf. We must leave on the next tide after the storm passes, which I think will be near dawn."

"There is a tide shortly after dawn," I said. "You have started your provisioning?" I saw a keg or two in a corner, along with a few leather pouches and a small basket of apples.

"We have finished provisioning."

Small crew, slim provisions,--your maiden voyage will be short, I thought. I longed to ask his destination. Most customers discussed their plans freely, but when they did not, I did not ask. Also, I had Gimli's warning in mind. I meant to say nothing that might trouble the Elf.

Next I saw a leaf-carved chest, large enough to hold the Dwarf and more. "This contains my most prized possessions," Legolas said, smiling for once. He took out a beautifully crafted longbow. "The bow of Galadriel from the Ring War," he said.

I know good work when I see it, and this was of the highest quality.

Finally I had a look down below and over the sides. "I see you constructed the hull shell-first."

"Of course. The planks are fitted together with a thousand tenons and mortices, or more. We pegged it well. When we launched it into the Anduin, the water swelled the wood to as tight as it can fit."

"You display a high level of ship craft for one who has lived mostly in the forest. Where did you come by this skill?"

"I saw Cirdan when I went Inner." I looked at him blankly. "It is the Unseen world of the Elves, our dreams. Visions, you would call them. We see them when we take repose. When we go on the Olórë Mallë."

"That does not explain as much as you might think," I said.

He smiled again. "Gimli has been after me to tell more of Elvish lore. If you like, I can try to show you the Path of Dreams. I did so with Aragorn once. Will you take my hand?"

Of course I took his hand, and I may say that his attempt to show me the Path of Dreams was successful.

He remained standing. But I sensed in him a letting go or a relaxing. I had heard of the strange sleep of the Elves and watched his eyes carefully. They stayed open, but the round black centers seemed to lengthen. As for me, I tingled with warmth. The storm's breezes felt soothing. Then my head went very strange, as if I had drunk a glass of good wine after tasting the summer mushrooms. My thoughts seemed to be swirling in a vortex -- and suddenly I was in another place. And another body.

A far western harbor was my home. I was old; ancient. I was an Elf, and my name was Cirdan. I knew everything there was to know about ships and seas. Ulmo Lord of Waters was my friend, and Ossë, my teacher. I was a teacher myself, and here was my pupil. We worked together at my shipyard for a long-year, or more. He was of the Sindar, who are descended from my people the Teleri, and his name was Legolas.

As we built ship after ship, I saw that the calad was about me; that is the light that comes from us when we most closely approach the fulfillment of our beings. Healers show it when they heal, sometimes. For me, it was laying my hands on the wood for ships.

The scene changed and I was no longer at the harbor; I was in an ocean of trees. So this is a forest, I thought, looking up through dappled light and hearing birdsong like no gull's call. I was no Elf, but rather a Mortal girl of sixteen and strangely, I was also Aerlinn of Sea Fair. I wore someone's borrowed clothes: a short shirt and a kind of wrapped, divided skirt. Before me stood Legolas as he must have been in his early youth. He bore a longbow on his back, an elegant quiver of arrows, and two white-handled longknives. He leaned toward me. I heard his voice inside my head: Do not love me. I am not lucky in love. Every woman who has loved me, or whom I have loved, is dead.

Once again the scene changed. Now I was Legolas, standing on the deck of my ship Elwing. I watched the gulls and the storm, I gave warning to Gimli and the sail maker, and this is how it was with me: I needed to go home. I was lost and fading, my world was lost and fading, and abundant life awaited over the sea. I was hungry, and a table was laid for me there. Each breath on land hurt. My heart was the sea, and the moon was full and pulling. When could I, with honor, go? And the answer was, never. For you love Thranduil and the debt of duty is not paid.

"Aerlinn, be prepared," I heard him say. "I shall let go your hand." Then he did, and with a feeling like turning a child's somersault, I came ….

Part 7 - Full Fathom Five

"Outer," said Legolas. "We came Outer. Did you see?"

Indeed I had seen. I was seeing it still, and now I knew at least where he got his ship craft. He could travel in time on the Path of Dreams; he could see beyond if the Valar allowed it! The vivid visions left me trembling. Never in my life had I dreamed of the minds of Elves. Nor had I seen a forest. But the Mortal girl...that was another basket of fish. Yes, indeed. Could I know her? Not likely, I tried to tell myself. If she indeed were a contemporary of Legolas in his youth, then she would be dead some three thousand years.

But this was just a poor attempt to fool myself. I knew her, despite all my determination to deny it, and while I was worrying it, Legolas spoke.

"Perhaps you would tell me something of your own lore," he said politely. "My people like songs. Can you sing me a song, Sea-song?"

I can never remember things when people ask me without warning. Then I looked at him and recalled my perfect day.

"I will sing you a Remembrance song that I composed," I said. "On Midsummer morn we sing such songs for those we lost at sea." Boasting a little: "Everyone likes my song. Some folks change my words and sing it for their fathers but I first wrote it for my mother."

Legolas turned to me sharply. Would that Gimli had been there to warn me, rather than resting his bones at the tavern.

I sang:

"Full fathom five my mother lies. Of her bones are coral made. Those are pearls that were her eyes. Nothing of her that doth fade - "

Did I say it was a day of surprises? Here was another. When I spoke "fade" I became as light as air! I floated a foot off the deck! At the same time, my ability to breathe became restricted. Then I saw that a hand was wrapped around my throat -- the hand of Legolas. I had no thought of what was happening and like a fool I used the last air in my chest to gasp the remaining words.

"-- But doth suffer a sea-change, into something rich and strange."

He held his face close to mine. How could I have thought his eyes were clear? They were filled with a thick blue that was to the earlier color as cream is to whey. His lips, whose ends I had thought turned up like a bow, were curled with fury, and I was dying for lack of air.

He shook me like a rag toy, and I heard my heart pounding, feet pounding, voices shouting: "Legolas! Release her! Aerlinn! Aerlinn!"

Any other day this would seem strange, I thought dreamily, that two customers would wish to kill me within the space of an hour.

He let go. I was in no condition to follow what was happening but Nath's strong arms gathered me up, and folk were walking me to the tavern. They put a cool cloth around my neck and offered me water. I knocked it away and whispered for wine, which they brought and I drank greedily.

After a while I heard, "I hope your affairs are well-ordered, Sail Maker. You have sewed your last sail." It was Gimli.

I may say that his exasperation with me was complete. He was so angry he was hopping. I was reminded of the tale about the Dwarf who actually split himself in two from aggravation. I began to worry about his old heart.

"Peace, Gimli," I whispered, testing my voice. "It was some accident of word or song, I do not know how I roused his anger. Besides, I am the injured party."

"Tell me what you said to him, just before he seized you. If it was indeed an accident, then maybe I will spare you. But speak quickly."

So I sang the Remembrance song for him.

"You are unlucky," he said when I was done, adding, free of charge, "and perhaps weak. But good-hearted. Not cruel. You cannot have known how to pour salt into every open wound in his heart -- with a song! 'Mother,' 'fading,' 'sea-change.' I see I must tell you a story, after which you will guard your tongue better. Not that he will speak to you again, save to ask your pardon. Which you will give."

Outside we saw Legolas pacing on his ship.

"Tell me nothing," I whispered, but Gimli did not hear me. The fear I had felt when he first came to my shop, the dread that claimed me in my room this morning, came back upon me like a bucket of cold rain. With senses heightened by the Path of Dreams and closeness to death, I knew it for premonition, and the third time is a spell.

"Then tell it," I said, shivering.

"It is a story of Legolas long ago," he began.

"I know. I know."

Part 8 - Talk about Your Fool in Love

My composure was coming back to me, along with my voice. I asked Berendil's tavern boy to bring some ale and bread and soft cheese for Gimli, so the Dwarf might refresh himself. He looked as if his days of enjoying red meat and salt pork were behind him. They brought the supper. We sat by the window while the sky poured down rain like a mother's lament.

"First I may as well tell you where we are going," he said. "We are getting ready to sail off the edge of the world."

"Let no one say you don't know how to begin a story," I managed, strangling on my wine.

"You have heard tell of Elvenhome in the Undying Lands; the place reserved for them by the Valar. All Elves who began the Great Journey West must finish it someday, even those who are slain in route. They must go or fade. That is why they have the sea-longing, whether it slumbers or no. That is why Mandos summons the slain. The Elves' long home lies over the sea. It is their tragedy, one of many, that Elvenhome is now beyond the reaches of their beloved Middle-earth."

"Can Legolas return? "

"No. That is part of his torment. His father Thranduil will never leave, and Legolas loves his father dearly."

"Then it is selfish of Thranduil to stay. And he will fade, to boot."

"Yes he will fade. Whether it is selfish, you can decide for yourself after I speak of Thranduil and his lady Elsila. Save for this, no tale of her survives. Unless of course you want to ask Legolas."

"How would you like a new name, 'Grumpy Son of Gloin.' " I said. "I have heard nothing of Elsila. Of Thranduil, they say he imprisoned your father once, near the time of the Battle of Five Armies. He was hot-tempered yet goodhearted. He liked his wine. He coveted blue and white diamonds, and mithril, and disliked Dwar…, that is, he did not like strangers crossing his lands."

"He still does those things," said Gimli, "but Elrond said he was once the merriest of Elves. Ladies loved him for his humor, and one lady especially. Elsila. It means A Star Shines in their speech.

"Elsila was of Hollin. She was a natural healer and was said to possess extraordinarily beautiful eyes. Like a muted rainbow, they were grey and sky blue and dark blue all together."

"You are a poet, Gimli." I had a sudden thought. "Is that why Thranduil is said to covet those jewels especially? They remind him of her eyes?"

"Just so. They say she was Silvan, but she must have had Noldori blood too, for she was studying with her mentor, the queen of that realm, when Thranduil and Oropher came on a trading journey. This was near the middle of the Second Age. The Elves of Hollin held a feast, with dancing later. It was then that Thranduil looked into Elsila's eyes and fell. He is falling still."

"How did he win her?"

"Talk about your fool in love. He sent her daisies every day and said she was more beautiful. He wrote bad poetry to her. He sang love songs under her balcony. One day he had an idea. In those days Thranduil loved to paint pictures. Now he desired to paint Elsila's eyes.

He stayed in his chamber for a moon's passage while he painted likeness after likeness. But when he was finished, he became so afraid she would dislike it that he almost went home in defeat.

"But he got his courage together and brought her to see the final result. Now I have seen a replica of this painting in Rivendell, and it looks nothing like a woman's eyes. Still, Elsila must have liked it because she said yes at once, and a year later to the day they wedded.

"After the Battle of the Last Alliance, Thranduil and Elsila had two children. The firstborn was Elwen, and she was so like Thranduil that the Elves say they must have shared a spirit sometime. Thranduil loved her more than Thingol loved Luthien. He would have done anything short of kin-slaying for her, and maybe even that. Legolas took after Elsila in looks and temperament. He possessed a sense of balance, of not being easily moved off his course. He was agreeable rather than merry and was content to let Elwen rule if she pleased, if Thranduil should leave for the havens. Together, the family complemented each other's weaknesses and strengths and they were as happy as could be.

"But early on, the elders thought that Legolas might have a strange fate. There was his uncanny skill with the bow. And he began to have visions, visions of Middle-earth at war, and once, of an Orc chieftain hiding in the southern mountains, dangerously close to Thranduil's lands. Silvans and Mortals lived there too, and Orcs raided them, gathering strength and provisions."

"Show me on the map," I requested. Old Berendil keeps a map tacked to the wall opposite the calendar scroll. Folks who pass through the tavern push pins into the map to show where they came from. I found the southern mountains of the Greenwood right enough, but no one had ever pushed a pin there.

Gimli continued, "Thranduil believed the vision but could not fight an enemy he did not know. So he sent a party of spies south and this party included Legolas and Elwen. There is a town called Wild Water near the conjunction of the Old Forest Road and the Running River. Ah, you know it? Well, the mayor of Wild Water held a market fair each autumn. Folk from everywhere went to it and it would be the most natural thing for a party of Elves to travel that way. If Orcs were stirring in the southern mountains, they would learn of it at the market fair.

"Elsila did not want Legolas and Elwen to go. 'The Olórë Mallë showed me a dream,' she said. 'Elwen was in it, and I. We both held swords. Elwen was walking forward, and I, walking backward, kept pace with her. Legolas was between us. It left me troubled.'

"But Thranduil reasoned they should go. It was Legolas who had the vision. And Thranduil wished Elwen to act as his ambassador to the Mayor of Wild Water, his ally below the kingdom's southern marches. They were going to spy, not fight, and three of the best warriors were chosen to go with them. Elsila agreed reluctantly."

"Was the dream true?"

"Who knows. But a dreadful fate befell Elwen and Elsila shortly afterwards. A fate to weep at, and in a manner of speaking, the same fate. Because they fell together, by the same Elvish hand."

Part 9 - To Weep, in a Mannish Tongue

Gimli continued, "Legolas's vision was true. A band of Orcs had infested the southern mountains, and their leader knew Thranduil by name, and hated him. Thranduil had fought this Orc, named Zalog, in the Battle of the Last Alliance and maimed him so that the left arm and cheek were paralyzed. Someone told Zalog that the scars spelled out the emblem of the House of Thranduil; and ever after Zalog suffered the abuse of his fellow Orcs who called him Branded and Elf-friend. After that Zalog lived to find and kill Thranduil and his kin as well.

"All towns have a market fair today, including Wild Water. Back then, it was the only one. Folks came from all over to attend it. Zalog gathered a small band and ordered them to keep watch on the traffic that was headed into Wild Water -- especially traffic from the north, and most especially, Elven traffic. One day a young Mortal woman decided run away to the market fair and see if she could find work, or somehow escape the village life. I am sure she had nothing but the rags on her back and some courage and the ability to imagine a better life. Trekking through the forest, living on air and creek water, she collapsed one day, only to be roused by voices. Beautiful voices. She crept through the brush and found Thranduil's Elves making their evening camp.

"Well, Elwen was there, and the warriors, and Thranduil's cook Bessain who was actually going to do marketing for the winter's provisions at the fair. Legolas was practicing his knife work with one of the warriors. The Mortal girl had never seen Elves and could not take her eyes off them. When Legolas finished his exercise he went bathing in the stream and the little fool fell --"

"Foolish indeed to fall for an Elf after just one look," I said. "No Dwarf would do that."

Gimli reached inside his tunic and pulled out a mithril chain hanging around his neck. On it was a clear crystal stone, and in the crystal, three strands of golden hair.

"That was different. That was true love, and, by the way, I can still send for my axe. Anyway, yes, the girl fell in love with Legolas. At the same time, the Elves frightened her and she withdrew well back and hid. But when they moved on towards Wild Water, she rejoiced and followed them. I am sure she spent her waking moments thinking of Legolas and hoping to meet him when they got to the market fair. It was the unluckiest decision she could have made, for when she started after the Elves, Zalog's scouts picked up her scent and started after her.

"Legolas met the girl afterwards and that is another story. But he told me her name. It was a strange one. It meant 'To Weep' in a Mannish tongue."

The feeling of dread, the premonition, was back with the force of a rogue wave. It took up residence in the hollow of my belly.

"Ah, I have it," said Gimli.

I had it too. I knew that name as well as my own, and I whispered it as Gimli spoke it aloud.

"Her name was Willofain."

Part 10 - Morgoth has Made a Maedhros of Me

" 'To Weep,' " I repeated. "That is unlucky. If I had such a name I would use another."

"Indeed. Well, Zalog's Orcs followed Willofain for a while, and she unwittingly put them right on the track of the Elves. Now Zalog must have known they were Thranduil's Elves. Their gear was Sindarin, and anyway there was no one else they could be. Zalog was used to Silvan Elves; they inhabited the forests of the southern mountains and he had seen them many times; had raided and killed them in fact. And this gave him an idea for a revenge that lives on to this day."

In haste I asked the tavern boy for more wine.

"Zalog sent his soldiers to capture Willofain, with strict orders to keep her unmarred. This they did and brought the poor thing back to him. Then he had a runner fetch a set of Silvan garments from the nearest storehouse cave. For it was his plan to pass the girl off as an Elven captive and trade her for what he could get. According to Legolas she looked a good bit like an Elf. She was tall for a Mortal and so starveling thin that she had that airy look about her face. Pointed cheekbones and so on. Anyway she must have looked enough like a Silvan, for Zalog's plan worked."

I said, "Gimli, I do not wish to hear any more."

"It is not good. The Orcs circled around the Elven party and found a high outcropped ridge where the Elves were bound to pass. It was within the range of bows, but the Elves would have to scramble up the ridge with swords if they wished to engage the Orcs directly, and this would be futile. They tied Willofain to a twisted, dead tree there, where the Elves could not miss seeing her. And see her they did.

"Meanwhile, at Thranduil's hall, dread gripped Elsila's heart and would not let go. She thought her dream might be foresight. Finally she took her weapons and horse and quietly left the hall, telling no one. She rode like a mad woman and stopped for nothing, thinking she would see that all was well and then return as if nothing had happened.

"When Zalog saw that the Elves had seen Willofain, he flung a cloak over her, because Elven eyes are very sharp, and then he sent word that he wished to trade. It sounded like a fair deal and so was doubly suspicious. If they wanted their Silvan kin back undamaged, send a messenger with all their goods and provisions to a spot halfway up the ridge. It was a lie of course. Zalog had no interest in provisions; he wished to lay hands on an Elf.

"The Elves held a frantic council over what to do. The warriors thought it would be best to delay the Orc with talk and send back to Thranduil for reinforcements. But Elwen was leading the party, and she was as hasty as Thranduil, and far less experienced. She was greathearted too. She knew Orcs never kept faith save by accident, but she felt this time they were greedy for stores -- greedy or needy. And she had a treasure with her that might satisfy them. She felt it would be right, and generous, and maybe romantic, to be the one who rescued the Silvan.

"Elwen's treasure was her coming-of-age necklace, a flawless stone of adamant on a slim mithril chain. It was of Hollin-make and was Elsila's gift to her daughter. Elsila had in turn gotten it from her mother, and so on, back to the founding of Hollin. The stone was worth many suits of weapons and armor, let alone the mithril chain, and Elwen thought the Orc would accept the necklace and make the trade. Losing patience with the debate over what to do, she stole out of the camp with her foolish trust and her courage and her treasure, and she went to barter with the Orcs."

I shuddered, thinking about the old tales. To barter with the Orcs.

"I can guess what happened," I said.

"No, you cannot. Oh, well. Of course Zalog captured her, and he let Willofain go, so pleased was he to have his Elf of the House of Thranduil. That is, he did not kill Willofain outright; he merely cut loose her bonds and let her fall over the cliff. She lived, as I said. But Elwen … Elwen did not."

"Can I bear hearing how she died? I have heard old tales about Orcs, but they are just evil stories now. You are the first person I have met who saw Orcs in the flesh."

"And killed great numbers of them," said Gimli. "The saddest thing is that Elwen did not die by Zalog's hand. Not solely, anyway. They strung her up on the dead tree in place of Willofain, piled wood all around, and lit the fire. It was just their sport. Orcs were the people who hate.

"It was to this terrible scene that Elsila arrived. The Elves were beside themselves with anguish, horror. There is no way to describe it. But there was little anyone could do. Only one thing, in fact, and Elsila did it.

"The fire was just touching Elwen. I am told that she did not die cursing the Orcs but rather thanking Elbereth for her graces. Elsila fitted an arrow to her longbow, aimed with the greatest care she had ever used -- "

I was weeping.

" -- and loosed the arrow that found her daughter's heart. And while her son and friends stood there aghast at what she had done, Elsila took a sword -- "

"Stop, Gimli -- "

" -- she laid hands on her own life -- "

" -- please -- "

" -- and had it away on the blade of that sword. Thus she died, a kin-slayer and a suicide."

I realized that the entire crowd at the tavern was as quiet as shipyards at midnight. It was dark now, and candles were burning. There was not a sound save my weeping. But every face showed horror. Gimli continued to speak, and quickly, as if he had a restricted time to release a great burden.

"After that there was a great battle and when it was done, Orcs were gone from that region for a thousand years. It was in this time that the Orcs first named Legolas 'Assassin.' The Men joined with the Sindar, and even Dwarves from Erebor came to fight. The Silvans tracked down the Orcs, and the army slaughtered them. Thranduil and Legolas led the army, and I have heard they did things that were un-Elvish. That may be slander; I have never asked. But at the end, when Zalog and his captain were found cowering in a cave, and the army marched upon them; when Thranduil and Legolas dismounted, the Orcs cut each other's throats before falling into their hands alive.

"Then the Elves went home, but it was a home no more. Elsila and Elwen were gone. Thranduil began to lose his mind. He did not eat. He took no rest. He stayed in his chamber and cried.

"Legolas told him, 'Father, it was our loss too' and he tried to make him eat. But Thranduil would only drink wine. Next he began to roam all around the keep, going to Elsila's favorite places. Especially he would go to a small stream where the banks were overgrown with mint and wild thyme. He and Elsila used to go there on Midsummer nights when they were first wedded. 'Enchanted' he called it. No doubt Elwen and Legolas were begotten there.

"Then Thranduil began speaking aloud to Elsila, as if she were present. It must have been pitiful.

"Legolas said, 'Father, life goes on. You are king. Your people need you. I need you.'

"Thranduil responded, 'Legolas, you and Elwen were my moon and sun, but Elsila was my shining star,' and he gave Legolas a kiss. 'I fear that Morgoth has made a Maedhros of me. He has hung me from a cliff by my heart. Where is Fingon come to cut it loose and set me free? Do you hear him singing?'

"That was enough for Legolas. He sent a rider to Rivendell and made them fetch Elrond. And Elrond came from across the Misty Mountains. When he arrived he did not even wash the dust away from traveling. He went straight to Thranduil's chamber and was in there six hours, while the Elves of the household waited. Then he emerged and called for Legolas, and some wine.

" 'Get some for yourself, too, and walk with me. Tell the others we will return soon. And leave Thranduil be for now.' When they had walked outside for a little, Elrond said, 'It goes ill with Thranduil. I cannot heal him. For he believes that the fëa of Elsila is still here. He thinks that she refused the Summons of Mandos. Because she thinks her actions were right. Because she was rebellious in life maybe. Because she is part Noldori and fears to face Mandos after killing her kin. I do not know. But that is what Thranduil thinks, and he intends to spend the rest of his days persuading her to change her mind.' "

Part 11 - Pity Thranduil if He Ever Hears the Gulls

That is why my song unleashed such rage.

I wiped my eyes as Gimli concluded: "So Legolas has no hope of seeing either parent ever again, and he leaves them both in anguish. No sea-change for either of them. Elsila will not go to the Undying Lands and Thranduil will not leave her for he thinks he may yet persuade her to accept the summons. All they can do is fade, waiting. And Legolas himself has done waiting. The sea-longing pulls him like the tides."

"Pity Thranduil if he ever hears the gulls," I said. We looked out the window again. The rain was moving towards open sea like a great ghost ship pulling out of port, and we saw Legolas swimming.

"I will go ask his pardon" I said. I could think of nothing else to do, save bring him some towels and my futile regrets.

As I came to the quay Legolas walked out of the sea. I handed him linen towels. He wrapped one about his hips and another about his shoulders. "Thank you," he said. "I hope you will forgive --"

"Do not, please. I was the one who offended. It was unwitting, but that does not take away the pain. I ask your pardon, Legolas."

He clasped my hand, and we walked back together like that.

When we were in the common room again, Legolas said, "Gimli, we sail tomorrow morning. Shall we go to the ship?" He turned to the window the way a dry drinker reaches for wine.

But Gimli said, "I would rather spend this last night properly on shore. And old friend, I would rather not spend it alone." He had his needs too.

Legolas said, "Old friend, that is what my heart desires also. I will get us rooms."

"I will get you rooms," I said. "Your money is no good here."

That is what they would do for love of the other -- Legolas resisting the sea-longing, Gimli braving the voyage. I began to see that I could do something as well. Yes. I believed I saw a plan. Not for restoring the House of Thranduil in Middle-earth. No one could do that. But maybe I could offer hope of its reunion in the Far West, and so atone for past wrongs.

I left Legolas and Gimli at the tavern and went home for a while, to make my preparations.

Part 12 - Dear Stitch and Nath Dear Stitch and Nath,

When you read this letter I will be gone. It is not likely I will return, so when a year and a day have passed, the shop is yours. If the love I see between you grows, then I predict you will be the happiest of couples and the most successful sail makers in the Ethir Anduin.

Stitch, I have no child. You have been the daughter I never had, and I must ask this of a daughter and no one else. You must make a journey for me, to the far northern forest, all alone save for helpers you may meet on the way. You are to look for the father of our Elvish customer, one Thranduil of the Greenwood. Tell him you are a messenger of hope. Make him listen to you, and if he will not, say the names of Legolas and Willofain. Give him the contents of the little box, and tell him to go to the banks of the stream where wild thyme blows at Midsummer. There he must read my words aloud to the spirit of Elsila.

This is a matter of more than life or death. Do not return until you have completed the task. It is my last wish.

Give my love to Berendil and Nesta, and keep a large measure for yourselves.

From my heart -- Aerlinn the Sail Maker

Gwael Reviad is the name of my shop. Gwael means gull and reviad has three meanings in the old tongue -- sailing, flying, wandering. I could never decide which fit me best and so I let it be.

In my chamber above the shop I have a cupboard, and in the cupboard is a treasure. I have not been greedy for rich things. The pendant necklace is all I have, but it is very old -- three thousand years, give or take -- and very precious to me. My long-ago ancestress Willofain must have been wealthy at one time, for the necklace is a fine chain of mithril. The heart-shaped stone of red marble is marred in the center with a teardrop shape, and mithril fills the flaw. In tiny letters below is written our name "Willofain." We have handed it down, mother to daughter, generation after generation, all this time. The Dunédain themselves have not reckoned their kin more closely than we reckon ours.

I took the necklace, wrapped it in a cloth, and smashed it with a hammer, in token of breaking the long curse that shadowed my family and that of Thranduil. I broke the links of the mithril chain as well and put all fragments in a little box. Then I wrote my words to Elsila, to be read by her husband in the northern forest.

Elsila, these are the words of the descendant of the Mortal girl who brought such woe to you and yours. I am Willofain, and my foster daughter acts as my representative and messenger. Through the long years you have lingered in the forest, and all the tears of Thranduil have not availed to move you. But now the time of the Elves has come indeed. They are all going, or gone. Your son Legolas is sailing West, and for grief at parting with no hope for either you or his father, he will die as surely as the one who writes this letter. And so will Thranduil, or else he will fade until all trace of his great heart is gone, forsaking all joy for love of you till darkness tides forever.

Young Willofain of long ago loved your son, and her careless love was your undoing. It does not matter that she meant no ill; good intentions can be as flawed as the broken stone. Your intentions are flawed as well, Elsila. Whether you refuse your duty in shame at your deeds of blood, or pride, or in fear of the Halls of Mandos, where correction may be your part, shame and fear and pride are unworthy motives. The time has come to put them away. Accept the Summons. Let Thranduil go, let Legolas hope.

I offer you a bargain, Elsila. I will balance the scales for you. Life for a life, a blood sacrifice to match the one you made for Elwen. I offer it freely, and it is already done. For I am going on the ship with Legolas, and the Valar will not allow me to pass into the Uttermost West. Before whatever happens to me happens, I will make Legolas understand that your long torment can end. You can be reunited, even if it is far from now, for time means little to the undying Elves. Accept this redress of your wrongs, and let the House of Thranduil find peace. Farewell.

By the hand of Willofain of Sea Fair

I put this letter in the little box with the broken necklace.

My room above the shop has a picture painted on it. From floor to halfway-high, all around the room is the sea, and from there to the ceiling above, the sky. One of my former apprentices was an artist, and he painted it for me. You may ask whether the colors are bright: turquoise and deep purple blue, with white clouds and sunlight above. Or maybe there are layers and shades of grey upon grey, and the horizon scarcely divides the sea from the sky.

But I will not say. That would be telling you more than I wish you to know about me; that is, unless you at least come to my shop and look for yourself. Some things, all things valuable, must be the result of effort, I have found.

I took one last look, and then stole away in the soft night to the grey ship. I climbed into the great leaf-carved chest that held the bow of Galadriel. I found a grey cloak there made of the finest woven wool. It was full of his scent, like applewood and hazelnuts mixed together. I wrapped myself in it and slept for a long time. The sea rocked the ship like a cradle.

Part 13 - Tell This Mortal

Well, I am on the ship. We are two days out. They have found me and I have told Legolas what I needed to say about my past, and the possibility of hope for his future. I told him of my letter and of Stitch's journey to Thranduil.

"You can let it take you now," I said. "You need never resist the sea-longing again." I wish you could have seen the look on his face.

But he said, "Aerlinn, I cannot let you do this."

"It is my choice," I said.

"And it is mine to turn the ship around," he replied.

See, that is why he was able to heal. He does not argue with others' choices or lay blame; he merely makes his own choices and moves on.

The ship was big enough to have a steering wheel, a half-circle really, that was attached to the starboard rudder by the usual assembly. Legolas took hold of the wheel and tugged. It did not budge.

"Wherever this ship is going, it is locked on course," I said.

"You know where it is going," said Gimli.

"And you cannot go, Aerlinn. Gimli has special leave to go. You do not."

"I do not wish to live forever, Legolas," I told him, smiling a little. "It is the fulfillment of my Mortal being, to leave the world after the briefest of stays."

Then the immortal Elf knelt before me on both knees and bowed his golden head. I felt his tears falling on my bare feet. My own fell on his bare head. After a moment I reached out and tugged his hair gently, as his big sister might have done long ago.

"Come, Legolas," I said. "Great heroes do not weep so easily, nor great ladies either."

"I will never forget the sail maker of Sea Fair," said he.

Then he got up. We embraced, and after that we had peace with our choices. Gimli spent the rest of the time watching me with an open mouth. I think I finally impressed him.

"When the time comes, both of you grasp my hands tightly," said Legolas. "Then we will see what we will see."


Dawn on the third day. We are standing on the deck. Wind fills the sails and we are skimming. None of us has slept. We are waiting.

We are waiting and something is happening to the ship. It seems to be rising from the sea, and yet that cannot be because waves still lap the hull as before. But stay! -- those waves are light, transparent, as if made of air not water.

"What is it?" I gasp.

"Take my hands!" he shouts, and Gimli and I grasp his hands so hard it makes a sound. Slap!

Suddenly it is my own flesh that is transparent. I can see through my arms and legs and indeed through the wooden hull of the ship itself, all the way down to the cold waves of the Sundering Seas. Far below, they wait to hold me. But up here I am turning into air, into nothing --

"Hold tight!" yells Legolas, and then the light is there, the calad is about him, and Gimli too. My hands are popping at the knuckles. The light nearly blinds me but I can still see Legolas and on his face there is a look of surpassing joy; of deliverance; of wonder beyond words to tell.

"O, Gimli! Aerlinn! I see it! I see it!"

I shriek, "What do you see? Legolas! Tell this Mortal what you see!"

My hands are slipping, I am falling, but Legolas lets me see.

"The Straight Way West! O Elbereth, the light, the light, the light!..."

*** Trenoren ***

….I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying

….Excerpted from Sea-Fever by John Masefield

Notes on Tell This Mortal

1. The poem by William Shakespeare actually reads as follows:

Full fathom five thy Father lies,
Of his bones are Corrall made:
Those are pearles that were his eies,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a Sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-Nymphs hourly ring his knell.
Harke now I heare them, ding-dong, bell.

-- The Tempest, Act I, Scene II

2. Many thanks are due to the Sindarin Dictionary Project (French law applies regarding intellectual property) for every Sindarin word used in the story, except for the conjugated verb 'trenoren' which I found at 'SUGGESTED CONJUGATION of all known or inferred Sindarin verbs" located at this Ardalambion site:


3. I invented the name 'Willofain' from the Welsh word 'wylofain' meaning 'to weep.'

4. Aerlinn's story was inspired in part by Annie Lennox's song "Into the West" from RotK. But the rest is part of a long tale of Legolas that I began with his boyhood in the Great Greenwood.

5. I am not a sailor. I found details of ships and sails from books such as The Sailmaker's Apprentice, The Complete Rigger's Apprentice, The Earliest Boats, and other books and Internet searches. Real sailors, please forgive. I did the best research I could.

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