In An Age Before - Part 7


Chapter Nine

Upon Belegaer, the Sundering Sea - The Second Age of the Sun


23Gwaeron, (March 23rd), S.A. 600. In two and a half years the Nandor had launched two explorer ships and laid down the keels of three more that now lay abuilding in Edhellond. King Lenwe had been serious about seeking the West again and his people joined him in his hope. On several of those voyages Helluin had gone aboard ship, for she had learned much from the Teleri of Alqualonde. Yet the Nandor of Belfalas were already competent mariners and they took well to navigating the open sea. The problem was that no one knew how far away lay Aman. In navigating by the stars, it had always been easier to determine positions north and south, while east and west were much more difficult to plot. Even worse, the world had changed since last Helluin had walked in Aman. The western lands of Middle Earth were now reduced, and the seas before the Undying Lands had been sewn with shadows and islands of enchantment by the Valar. Therefore the Nandor proceeded slowly, each voyage a bit longer, building up their charts and marking the known. On their seventh voyage they made their first great discovery.

The waves had grown over the course of the day and now stood at three fathoms between crest and trough. The white ship with its sea green trim was tossed as her helmsman strove to keep her bow pointed into the oncoming waves. She was the King's Ship Aearben, (Sea Rider), measuring 100 feet in length, with a beam of 22 feet and a draft of 7. Her mainmast rose 32 feet, her foremast 24, and each held a square rigged top and main sail. In favorable winds her slender shapely hull could make 18 knots. In form she was similar to the craft of the Sindar of Mithlond, but all these were built for runs about the coasts of Middle Earth. Aearben was now 200 leagues southwest of Edhellond upon Belegaer and she had run into a storm.

Overhead the sky was grey and clouds hung low above the waves. Darkness was about three hours away, but already it felt like twilight was upon them. A couple leagues off the crew could see sheets of rain falling and the wind had continued to increase. After consulting with the sailing master and the ship's seer, the captain had given the order to hold their course southwest, and so the sailing master had ordered the sails dropped and the ship hove into the wind to ride out the storm.

"Secure the hatches and rig for heavy wind and rainfall," the first mate ordered at a nod from the captain. The storm was approaching fast now. "Call in the watch," he yelled.

The crew scrambled to secure all openings in the hull against the coming downpour. Rawhide sheets were rigged to shield the helmsman and safety lines were run down both sides of the deck. Secondary support lines were tied off to give added stability to the masts lest they be ripped from the hull, and failsafe lines were added to keep any spars torn free of the masts from whipping the deck like giant flails.

"Watch, ho!" The second mate called up to the crow's nest, "Come ye down!"

Up on the small talan atop the mainmast, Helluin waved that she had heard and began her descent. The wind tore at her and she had felt it increasing to the point that she would have come down soon even without the order, yet she had stayed, feeling that there might be something yet besides the darkening clouds to see. Now she carefully eased herself through the talan's railing and began to climb down the rigging. She took a last look ahead into the wind and stopped dead. Had there been something? A single straight line atop the waves at the horizon for just a moment, gone in the next instant as the ship's roll brought her bow down? She couldn't be sure. The wave passed and the Aearben rode up the next…she crested, but nothing did Helluin see. If it had been the mast of another vessel, then that vessel was now itself below the crest of whatever wave it rode. Only fortune had brought it into sight…brought both ships to crest at the same instant…if it had truly been there at all. Helluin couldn't be sure and she couldn't wait to make certain. She continued her descent to the deck.

Once there she made her way to the stern and took her position beside the helmsman. This was the foul weather watch station, and from it she would complete her watch in the storm. She peered ahead into the rain as it began falling, quickening to a torrent, and ever she strove to get another glimpse of the phantom mast she might have seen. But now the sea was rolling even higher and the air was awash with spray and rain, and her visibility was greatly curtailed. As the tempest grew, she lent a hand to the helmsman, steadying the wheel against the surge. An hour passed, and then another. True twilight was falling.

Aearben rode up and crested another wave, the seventh, and a large wave it was, and there for a moment Helluin saw again the dark vertical of an approaching mast almost dead ahead.

"Ship ahead!" She yelled at the top of her lungs.

Over the howl of the gale the captain barely heard her though he stood only a half-dozen strides away. He looked at her and she thrust out an arm, her finger indicating the direction. He nodded and followed her line of sight. At the next crest they both saw the mast, and they continued to watch it with every rise and fall as it came closer. It continued to grow in height, yet still they hadn't seen the hull beneath it. Again and gain they rose and fell and with each sighting Helluin's estimation of the mast's height had to be revised. Soon she discerned that there were three masts, not just one, but they were almost perfectly aligned with her position, putting the approaching craft almost dead ahead. And it was a large craft, far larger than Aearben…of this she was quickly becoming certain.

Another quarter hour passed and then finally she saw the hull. As Aearben rose she caught a glimpse of blue and gold. A few more sightings and Helluin guessed the ship no less than 300 feet in length, with 25 feet above the waterline compared to Aearben's 9. Her mainmast probably rose no less than 130 feet! To Helluin, she was a dreadnought.

Finally, when no more than two furlongs separated the craft, Helluin was finally able to make out the device upon the standard that flew from her main top; a single rayed star amidst a field of dark blue above a white tree. In all of Middle Earth she had never seen this heraldry before.

The great ship was running before the storm while Aearben was bearing into it, but as she approached, the bigger vessel smoothly hove about and came parallel, standing off two hundred yards, for prudence demanded sea room in foul weather between ships. There she held, skillfully matching Aearben and riding with her as the storm blew on through the night. With the dawn she was still there, and as the clouds passed and the rain failed, her decks came alive with the crewmen of the first watch.

Aboard Aearben there was an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. Could this be a ship of their sundered kin, the Teleri, sailing Belegaer from Alqualonde? The Nandor hoped fervently that it was so. Helluin alone knew that it was not. The Telerian ships were smaller than Aearben, and all that she had ever seen were swan prowed and painted white. This was something else, an unknown vessel, and the work of some great maritime power equally unknown to her. With the crew, she waited.

In the second hour after Anar's rising, the ship broke topsails and maneuvered closer. Many mariners stood watching along her rails, while aboard Aearben the crew stood staring back. The captain ordered the helm to close to hailing distance with the stranger. Below deck, Helluin donned her armor and gathered her weapons.

Up close the strange vessel appeared even bigger. She dwarfed Aearben; indeed she was over three times their length and her main deck overshadowed the Nandor's by almost 20 feet. At thirty yards an officer called out through a speaking trumpet, hailing them in an unfamiliar language. Aearben's captain scratched his head in confusion.

Standing beside the captain, Helluin said, "Sir, if this be truly a ship from Valinor, then by rights they would speak the High Elven tongue, yet their hail was not in Quenya. Still, perhaps I should try in Quenya anyway?"

The captain thought for a moment before nodding in agreement. It couldn't hurt.

"Hail and well met," Helluin called out in the High Elven tongue of Aman, "this is the ship Aearben, out of Edhellond in Belfalas. Explorers upon the Sundering Sea are we, and come in friendship and in reverence for the West. We ask thee to name thyself and thy great vessel."

For a moment there was silence from the far deck, then a few cheers. The officer with the speaking horn called back in Quenya.

"Hail Aearben of Edhellond, this is Entulessë, ship of King Tar-Elendil of Númenórë, under the command of Veantur, Captain-Admiral of the King's Ships. We sail forth in exploration and rediscovery of the lands of our origins. We come in peace after many lives of Men, hoping to make contact with the High King of the Eldar upon the Hither Shores."

"Thou art the sons of the Atani," Helluin cried out, "of all Men, most renowned in the wars of Beleriand! I remember the valor of Huor and Hurin and aided Tuor of Gondolin, Earendil's father. That line all revere in Middle Earth, for of their courage came salvation for Mortal Lands. Aptly named is thy ship!" For Entulessë signified Return in the High Elven tongue. And thou shall come again to the Hither Shores at last, Helluin thought.

And so it was that there in the vastness of the Sundering Sea, the first contact was made between the Elves of Middle Earth and the Men of Númenor, and among both crews there was great rejoicing. Soon it came to be known that all spoke Sindarin also, and in that language the captains conversed. Three days the ships remained together with much exchange of crews and tidings, and there many friendships were forged.

Now the crew of Aearben was wont to prevail upon the Captain-Admiral that he should come to Edhellond and meet with King Lenwe, but Veantur was under orders to seek for the High King Gil-galad, and he dwelt in Lindon. Yet Veantur promised that upon his return, an embassy would be dispatched to Belfalas to meet with the king. Also, Veantur brought charts to Aearben's sailing master, and these showed not only Númenor, but also the shores of the Undying Lands to their west, and in this all of the Nandor rejoiced. Then, rather than sailing ahead, Aearben's captain turned about and sailed for home to convey his news and the precious charts to Edhellond. Soon another ship would sail, with greater knowledge, and perhaps come into the West at last.

During the time of their meetings, Helluin came aboard the ship of Westernesse and took counsel there with the Dúnedain. Tidings they told and tidings received and all were amazed at what the passing years had wrought. No less amazing to the Men was the fact that Helluin picked up their speech, the Adunaic tongue, so quickly that in but a couple days she could make her mind known, if somewhat haltingly, in the tongue of Númenor. Ere the ships parted ways on the third day, Helluin made a request of Veantur, whom she found to be a noble man of great courage and irrepressible spirit, indeed an explorer much like herself. Thus when Entulessë sailed for Lindon, Helluin sailed with them, seeking to see those among the Eldar of Beleriand who still remained in Middle Earth.

She bade the crew of Aearben farewell and charged them to express her thanks to King Lenwe, saying that she would come among them again someday, for life was long. The Nandor were sorry to see her go, yet they were high of spirits and their sadness over her departure was tempered by much good fortune. They would keep watch for her in the future and she would always find welcome in Belfalas.

"It hast been nigh on 500 years since I was last in this part of Eriador, Captain-Admiral, but at that time, the High King and the Eldar of the Falas had removed to Lindon, north and south about the Gulf of Lune," Helluin told Veantur as they examined his maps of Middle Earth. She pointed out the site of the city she'd seen being built long ago. "Thereabouts the coastal water was shallow, with many shoals and with no good anchorage for a ship of Entulessë's drought, but Cirdan had been abuilding a haven up the firth at Mithlond, here." She indicated the spot on the chart.

"T'would be a better haven, sure," Veantur agreed, "yet my embassy is to Gil-galad and to him I must come if possible." With his typical decisiveness he outlined a plan after but a moment's consideration. "Entulessë shalt lay off the coast of Lindon nigh the king's city and I shalt dispatch a boat thither to come ashore. After presenting ourselves before the High King, we shalt request birthing in the haven at Mithlond."

"That would be well, Captain-Admiral," Helluin agreed, "and I would request that your company accept my presence in the party that makes first contact with the High King. I knew him long years ago and would meet with him again and others who were with him."

She was thinking of Celeborn and Galadriel among others, for those few of the Noldor, that like Galadriel had chosen to remain in Middle Earth, were most likely to be found in Lindon with the High King.

"Indeed I was hoping to include thee, Helluin," Veantur said, "for we seek to renew the league of friendship and distant kinship that once flowed between the Eldar and Elros Peredhil of whom my king Tar-Elendil descends. Thy presence would be a boon."

"Then indeed thy course and mine run together," Helluin said looking at the sea chart, "near due north from here, and Cirdan too I knew and would meet again."

"So be it then," Veantur agreed, "for much would I reverence he who first taught shipcraft to the ancestors of my people, Tuor and Earendil, and gave aid to those of Avernien ere its sack."

For a moment his eyes hardened with the recollection of that deed which had driven his ancestors from their homes in Middle Earth with much slaughter. Not in six centuries and more was the memory diminished among his people, for they had been betrayed by the Eldar of the House of Feanor whom their mortal houses had once served with as allies long before. Yet it was not the first time, for Beren had been hounded, and Luthien too, by the brothers, Celegorm and Curufin. Helluin read the thoughts in Veantur's eyes and saw into his heart.

"Expend not thy energies in hatred for the dead, Veantur," Helluin told him softly, "for by the treachery and avarice of the House of Feanor did many suffer, Man and Elf alike. Not even the Valar favored their quest, and their oath brought all their lords to ruin. Not a single Silmaril did they retake to claim or hold, for of those jewels but one survived, and that in the hand of one of thine own. Upon the quays of Avernien did I slay Amrod and Amras, and in pursuit of Maedhros and Maglor did I hunt in Taur-Im-Duinath to recover their captives, Elrond and Elros. None of Feanor's sons now live, Veantur, and the work of their hands is lost save that which nightly graces the heavens. Be at peace, O Captain, for the grievances of thy house art redressed."

For a moment Veantur looked at Helluin with an unreadable expression. Not until now had the length of life of the Firstborn truly been real to him; in the past it had been but a concept, a device in tales told. And from such a tale came a story he knew of the flight from Avernien, told and retold through the generations of his people in Númenor.

"Thou art the Ngoldo naruo luneto henduof whom stories tell," Veantur said, "the Noldo of Blue Fire Eyes who was the Avenger of Avernien. The first King of Númenor, Elros Tar-Minyatur spoke of thee with reverence."

Now it was Helluin's turn to look at the man. The blood of her own kindred had stained her hands while the fire of battle lust had consumed her.

"I came at the command of Ulmo himself, who appeared to me in Vinyamar," Helluin said quietly, "to aid in some doom then unnamed by the prowess of my sword. There I took part in a kinslaying. Noldor and Sindar fell at my hand, and I fell within the curse as I had not at Alqualonde long before. Veantur, it was necessary and unpleasant, and yet I would do thus again should necessity force my hand."

Veantur nodded his head and lowered his eyes. All his people held this Noldo in high regard for what she had done, yet none had perceived the distaste with which it had been accomplished. And yet again he was reminded of the great ancientry of which she partook, the life of the Firstborn, something beyond the true understanding of Men. The kinslaying at Alqualonde had occurred in the Age of the Trees, over 1,200 years before if lore spoke true. Finally he looked back up to Helluin's eyes and spoke of the wonder and understanding that was just beginning to come to him.

"Many among my kin think they would cherish the unfailing life of the Eldar, for in short years ahead we are doomed to leave the world, to what end, none know. Yet now I perceive somewhat of the burden of sorrow and toil such a life as thine entails. Thou hast seen endless years of strife and war, the failing of dreams and the diminishing of hopes long held. At last I begin to understand the choice of Elros Tar-Minyatur, to be numbered among Men and to at last escape the bonds of Arda in hope of some better that lies beyond. Yet still I do not pity thee, Helluin, merely do I accept that to each kindred both good and bad are, by Iluvatar's design, encompassed within the doom of each kindred. In despite of this my curiosity prompts me to ask thy age and such of the tale of thy years as thou would share, for the days upon the sea are still many ere we come to Lindon, and no such chance perhaps shalt I enjoy again."

Helluin sighed and thought of the things she could tell this mortal. Much of it would be heard, but how much could truly be understood? Unlike the Nandor of Celebrant or Belfalas, this Man of Númenor was by his doom excluded from such perspective as could apprehend all that the years taught. And yet, what harm could it do? Already he had expressed the acceptance of their kindreds' separate dooms. That in itself bespoke wisdom, and had not the Edain always worked to better themselves through their association with the Eldar in Beleriand? From what they had learned in those days long ago they had built this very ship and now sought their old mentors in friendship long sundered across the sea.

Helluin looked across the table. Veantur was a tall man standing a hand's width above two fathoms, taller by some inches even than she, with the dark hair and eyes that she recalled from Tuor and those in whom the blood of the House of Beor still ran. He was strong of hand and of will, a good commander, much loved by his mariners and at home upon the sea. There was courage and nobility in him, as there was in all the Men of Númenor in the youth of their kindred, and like them he strove to better his lot. Within him lived the fire of the mortal kindreds that drove them forward, as if time ever followed hard upon their heels, to seek for achievement ere their time passed. At the age of 73, he had risen to the command of his king's ships.

"Veantur, we art very different, and yet much the same," she began. "My memories go far back, yet not to the beginning, for I was born after the Host of Finwe, first King of the Noldor, had led his people upon the road from Cuivienen. In all I hath seen," she paused for a moment to tally the years, "5,116 years of the sun, the greater part of which I passed in the Blessed Realm of Aman."

In Veantur's eyes she saw the light of curiosity blooming and his concentration fixate itself upon her as if she had woven about him some spell to bind the mind. Not so very different, she thought again, for such is the same light that brightens my own eyes. It drove me to wander even in the lands of Aman, and it drives me to exploration still, within the fences of Middle Earth. No, we art not so very different at all.

Entulessë rode the waves another fortnight and the great ship of Númenor was fast upon the water. Under full sails billowing from her three tall masts, she could make 26 knots. And during that time, Helluin held long converse with Veantur, Captain of the King's Ships of Númenor. Many was the hour they passed, speaking each to the other of the doings they had seen and the tales they knew. For the Man it was as if he had stepped forth into a dream, woven from the lore of all the days of the West, and he saw in his mind's eye that which had come to pass a long ere his kind first awoke in Hildorien far to the east. For Helluin it encompassed the renewal of an infectious energy that was the birthright of the short-lived and drove them to master what of the world they could ere their years and strength failed. This indeed was what drove their love of Arda and their deeds, always hoping to leave behind their lives' end greater than what they had found before them at their births. Faced with a finite span of years, they became intrepid, willing to chance the outrageous, and in doing so accomplished much in a short time.

The two found and treasured their common ground; as Helluin had realized, they were both possessed of explorers' hearts. More than this they each found nobility in the other that brought forth a mutual admiration. And they were comfortable together even as they challenged each other's minds and spirits.

"Would that thou were of the Eldar Kindred, Veantur," Helluin said absently one afternoon as they sat conversing in the Captain's cabin, "for together we could share great adventures of discovery during years unending. In Middle Earth there art many shores and many lands, not just those upon Belegaer facing Aman. South lies a whole continent unknown, and rumor makes it that yet another lies in the furthest east, a mirror as it were of Aman itself, and from whence Arien rises each morn."

When she looked back she saw tears growing in the Captain's eyes and it alarmed her greatly for she realized that she had enticed him with that which could never be, and in so doing had exposed a sorrow that had been growing in his heart.

"I…I am sorry, Veantur," Helluin stuttered, "I spoke my heart's desire without thought, and in doing such a rashness have become little better spoken than Feanor when he took his oath. I see that by my words I hath done thee a hurt. Would that I could recall those words, my friend. I am sorry."

Veantur wiped his eyes with the back of his hands and sighed. He knew full well that such a dream could never be, for he was in the service of a lord he loved, and ere a season as it were had passed for her, he would be old and ready to lay down his life. And yet the dream fluttered, like a golden moth before his mind's eye, and no less desirable for that it could never be. But, was it really the prospect for endless voyages in her company for which his soul cried? In silence he thought and delved deeper among his feelings for the truth. Yes, such a life would be all his spirit of adventure could conceive, but there was more towards which his heart yearned, and that too seemed impossible as well.

"Helluin, thy words bring me pain, yes, but the sweetest of acknowledgments as well, for by thy declaration thou hast claimed that thou would find my company desirable for an Age. And though I hath not an Age, nor even to you a great span of years remaining, still my heart soars to think of what could hath been were we of one kindred. Indeed I would still follow thee until my life's ending, forsaking the love of my kin and duty if thy love were given to me to fill that empty place within. In these last days I hath come to know thee, and behind the heroic legend of my people I hath seen a spirit bright with the thirst for knowledge and the discovery of the new. Such a spirit I hath come to cherish, as I hath not cherished any spirit before. Say not that thou would take back thy words or deny the feelings they express. Were I of the Eldar Kindred I would this day cleave to thy heart for all the days to come."

For long moments neither said a word, but simply stared in to the depths of each other's eyes. Outside the cabin the sound of waves lapping in a hissing rush down the hull could be heard, along with the wind's moaning whistle among the lines and the crisp snap of the sails. The boat's shifting as it rolled upon the sea was forgotten and indeed all the outside world faded for that time. In those moment Helluin recalled the feelings in her heart when she'd first met Arandil in Tirion and that for lack of this very thing she'd found in Veantur, that love had died. And the feelings in her heart now? Warm with caring and excited with the spirit of the mortal Man who sat across the table from her. Her heart was turned to him, and though he had not the span of years to match hers, still, would it not be better to hold what was, than mourn the chance lost should she pass it by? She thought of Lenwe, sitting in his halls longing through an Age of the World for the choice he had made and the West that he would never see. She resolved that she would not follow in his steps. She thought of the choice made by Luthien, and by Idril whom she had known.

And yet she could no more take Veantur from his duty or his people or his king in good conscience. He had a life already and many depended upon him. Yet for the short span of his years, could she not join him in that life? Could she not enrich both their lives for those decades while his lasted? It was but a blink of the eyes to her; and she felt that it was a chance she did not want to miss. It would be all the sweeter in her memories for having not been long.

"Cleave to me then, Veantur, for I shalt cleave to thee for so long as thy life shalt last," she said with a smile that reached her eyes, making them flash with blue fire, for once not in anger, "and though the time may seem short to me, still it shalt be sweet. For even as thou accepts that Iluvatar in His wisdom hast laid different dooms upon our kindreds, so too shalt I accept that in His wisdom He hast seen fit to bring thy spirit, kindred to mine, into a body not of my kin. Let us then explore together at the command of thy king, for in long years past I was a guardian of his forefathers' host and I will again look to the welfare of the House of Tuor and Idril."

And hearing her words, Veantur gave thanks to Eru that upon the seas of Middle Earth more than one of his prayers had been answered unlooked for. For he would come to Mithlond, the first of his people to do so, and he would come there coupled in heart with one of the Eldar's own as had been only twice in the long Age before. He rose from his side of the table and came around it to where Helluin sat smiling up at him. Then taking her hand he raised her to her feet and swept her into a tight embrace, feeling his heart glow as she wrapped her arms around him. In their first kiss he felt the tingling of a force he could only liken to the charge of a great storm upon the open sea, as if sparks of lightning had burned all about his lips and invigorated him with their divine energy. It was a feeling he would come to relish for all the years of his life.

When the great ship came at last upon the shore of Lindon and from the deck the Men of Númenor first espied the city of the High King, none cheered so loud as the Captain did. Soon a longboat had been lowered, and among the oarsmen rode Veantur and Helluin and the several others of the ship's officers such as were to make up the embassy to Gil-galad. In short order they hauled upon their oars and soon the boat beached upon the shore. There awaiting them stood a deputation from the Elven King, and among these were old friends from Beleriand that Helluin had not seen in centuries.

She made the introductions all 'round, and then the party was conveyed to the city where the High King held his court. At the court she again made introductions, and Gil-galad seemed relatively happy at seeing her. There too were Celeborn of Doriath and his wife, Galadriel. Helluin was impressed at how the young daughter of Finarfin had grown into a queenly woman of the Noldor, radiant in her beauty, with silver-gold hair attesting to her Vanya/Teleri heritage. For some reason Helluin still carried the image of the Elven woman in her bright-eyed and impetuous youth, eager for adventure in Middle Earth. It wasn't realistic, she knew, and she consciously tried to banish the image, but Galadriel was 2,520 years her junior and for some reason it persisted, much to her chagrin. It was probably because they'd had…history.

"Five hundred times and more have the leaves fallen in Middle Earth since last we parted, Helluin," Gil-galad said as he came down from his throne to embrace her. "We have all hoped for this meeting through the years and oft wondered where thy wanderings had taken thee. Perhaps thou shalt enlighten us over a meal this eve?"

"I would be glad to share a table and conversation with you, Ereinion," she said using his birth name, "for indeed much hath come to pass and the most recent not the least."

Here Helluin cast her eyes to Veantur who stood to the side and Galadriel noted her glance. A small grin curled her lips at the sight of the dour Helluin in love and she nudged Celeborn in the ribs and nodded discreetly to direct his attention thither.

"About time, Artanis* my love," the once Prince of Doriath whispered to his wife, using her father-name as he often did in private. *(Artanis, Noble Woman, UT, HoGaC, pg. 231)

"And what shalt come of this union I wonder?" Galadriel whispered back, smirking.

Celeborn gave his wife a sidelong glance, hoping she wouldn't antagonize Helluin. He had seen this before on the few occasions when the two women had come into proximity in Beleriand. Galadriel was sometimes wont to engage in competitiveness with the childless older Noldo, and he knew how proud she was of their daughter, Celebrian. The problem was that he didn't really understand Helluin even after all the years of the First Age, and quite frankly the stories he'd heard about her made him uneasy. He just couldn't understand the rivalry Galadriel had felt in Aman, of which she had indeed confessed little. So many of the Host of Finwe had been secretly smitten with the raven-haired commoner with the flashing blue eyes. And it had been all the worse for his wife that Helluin had been interested in none of them, preferring to endlessly wander the lands alone. Galadriel's youthful rivalry had been completely one-sided and never resolved.

The young princess of the House of Finarfin had felt her own popularity and status challenged, irrational as that might have been, for she had always been a great beauty who had suffered no lack of attention. She even understood this, yet couldn't quite quash the old feelings of having to contest for her celebrity with a commoner who regarded her only as the daughter of her young friend, Prince Finarfin. But worst of all had been Galadriel's own confusing feelings towards Helluin.

There had been a day when she and her brother Finrod had come to Ezellohar at the evening's mingling of the lights. There Helluin had stood, naked and still as a statue, 'neath Laurelin and Telperion, glowing with light and soaking in the radiance of their blended dew. It had been the most inspiring and exciting thing she'd ever seen. A glance at Finrod's huge eyes had showed his appraisal to be the same as hers. Galadriel could still call the image to mind as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. She'd wanted nothing more than to join the other woman, embrace her, and stand pressed tightly together as the Light of the Two Trees rained down upon them. Even from a distance she could feel the heat of the Lights mirroring the heat within herself. Yet for many reasons she had dared not. It was humiliating since she'd thought she had come to dislike the pretentiously named Maeg-mormenel.

Beside her, Finrod had been panting as hard as she herself. Galadriel had grabbed him by the collar and they'd fled Corollaire ere Helluin had marked their presence, but try as she might, she had never banished the sight from her mind.

Celeborn's attention was commanded by his wife's incredulous hissed whisper of, "Is she taller than when last we saw her?" He blinked, not believing what he'd heard.

"How in Middle Earth could she be taller than she was aforetime?" He asked, wondering if Galadriel were finally becoming overmastered by her jealousy after not seeing Helluin for over 500 years. Now he really was worried. Before he could move or speak, Galadriel was striding across the floor towards Helluin and the High King.

In a moment Galadriel was beside Helluin, subconsciously straightening her posture to retain her lessened advantage in height. From a distance, Celeborn choked. Helluin was now not an inch shorter than his wife was, whereas before, she'd been closer to a hand's width shorter.

Helluin turned from Gil-galad and smiled at Galadriel before sweeping her into an awkward embrace, the slightest of grins curling her lips.

"By the Valar, Finarfin's little girl's all grown up," Helluin exclaimed as if this were a surprise, "I still can't believe the sweet young princess I remember from Aman is such a beautiful woman now." Helluin actually leaned in and kissed Galadriel on the cheek.

Celeborn cringed. Helluin's manner and comment were condescending and mocking, all the more so because she'd never taken Galadriel's rivalry seriously. Now here she was making light of a competition she'd never participated in.

"Speaking of growing up," Galadriel retorted, eyeing the top of Helluin's head, "it seems someone besides me has had some growing up to do recently. How did that happen, my dear? Perchance 'tis love that hast forced thee to complete thy extended adolescence?"

For a moment Helluin looked at Galadriel as if she'd lost her mind, then she recalled her time in Greenwood Forest and the strange sensations she'd felt after drinking from Oldbark's stream. This was the first time she'd been among any she'd known before that incident. It was the first time anyone could have noticed a change in her. She glanced up and realized that now the height difference between herself and the Princess was almost nil. She smiled broadly.

"Well, Your Highness, it's like this," Helluin began as she put an arm around Galadriel's shoulders and spoke to her in low tones of confidentiality, "beyond Hithaeglir lies a land astride the River Celebrant," she said, knowing the other Noldo's weakness for silver. "'Twas a pleasant land indeed, but best of all, it hosted a forest of mellyrn as is found nowhere else in the west of Middle Earth. Some enchantment certainly lies upon that land, I deem, for by slaking there my thirst, over several years I discovered my height increased. Indeed I found myself not only taller, but increased in all dimensions." Here she smirked and inhaled subtly as she marked Galadriel's quick unconscious glance towards her breasts. "I am sure its effects upon thee would be the same as they were upon me, Princess."

"An enchanted stream in the mellyrn forest of Celebrant beyond Hithaeglir," Galadriel mused, cataloging this bit of intelligence as a gleam took root in her eyes.

Helluin could see the wheels turning in her head. Sooner or later the princess would end up visiting Lindórinand…she was sure of it. The beautiful slender blonde had always desired a more voluptuous figure. To aid herself in stifling the laughter she felt trying to escape, Helluin released the Princess and made her way over to greet Celeborn, whom she noticed was watching her in an uneasy silence. The man had always been nervous around her, she recalled. In deference to this she approached him calmly, and when he relaxed, she snatched him in a bear hug and gave him a boisterous greeting.

"Celeborn, thank the Valar thou and Nerwen* have been well! 'Tis good to see thee!"

To his credit, the Prince of Doriath didn't jump out of his skin, but his bulging eyes told Helluin that her surprise had elicited a response. He choked and mumbled a greeting. Helluin released him and turned in time to catch Gil-galad shaking his head, a fugitive smile on his face. Helluin gave him an innocent look. He had to clear his throat before speaking. *(Nerwen, Man-Maiden, Galadriel's mother-name, a reflection on her stature and physical abilities being on par with male Noldor. UT, HoGaC, pg. 229)

"My friends, both those newly met and those long sundered," here he gave Helluin a warning look, "it would please me to hath thou all join me at the evening hour in the Hall of Feasting to celebrate our unions and reunions."

The High King looked at his guests. The Men of Númenor stood along one side of the room paying respectful attention. Helluin was doing a respectful job of suppressing whatever mirth she'd found, while Galadriel was whispering furiously with Celeborn and was completely oblivious to them all. He supposed that it was a good beginning.

That night at the King's Feast, more of the Eldar were present, for news of the arrival of the Men of Númenor traveled fast. Cirdan had hastened from the Havens of Mithlond with Elrond who had been visiting there to join Gil-galad's table. Both greeted Helluin warmly and did the Númenóreans honor. Indeed for Elrond, this was as a meeting of kin, for his brother Elros had been the first king and their sundering still weighed on his heart. Tidings of his welfare were the first thing he asked about, and Veantur gave him the sad news.

"Indeed thy brother hast passed beyond the fences of the world, Elrond Peredhil," the Captain told the surviving Half-Elven, "and this but 58 years ago. Tar-Minyatur ruled Númenor 410 years and saw our land become friutful and his people living in peace. All revered him and looked to the guidance of his leadership with love. It is now the tenth year of the reign of his great-grandson, Tar-Elendil, the fourth of the line of kings of thy blood."

"And so he was blessed with an heir to carry the leadership of his people forward," Elrond mused, "that is good tidings. I rejoice that he was able to elevate the lot of the Edain who suffered much, yet were ever-courageous allies and stalwart friends. I miss him greatly still, yet I must accept that for him and for thy people, his choice was right."

"We cannot thank thee in any way that would balance our debt for the gift of thy brother," Veantur said. "Our people loved their king, yet we cannot replace the love of a brother nor the league of kinship that comes with blood. Our gain will ever be thy loss, yet if there be need, our people will answer thy call in honor of our debt; future blood offered to pay for past blood received."

Elrond could only nod in acceptance. The Númenóreans were gracious and courteous in acknowledging the truth of the situation and offering their alliance. At the time he could not know that in long years ahead the sons of the sons of these Men would indeed come to the aid of the Eldar and would ever be their most valiant and trustworthy allies.

"Tell me then of Númenor," Elrond requested of Veantur and his shipmates. Thus began a discussion that lasted long into the night and many listened to hear what had befallen the houses of their ancient friends.

At the same time, Cirdan and Helluin were conversing, at first catching up on old times and later about the Nandor of Lenwe in Belfalas. Cirdan related his tale of the building of Mithlond of which Helluin had seen only the first beginnings. He recounted the voyages of his mariners and their discovery of the havens at Edhellond, where their long sundered kin met them in boats upon the waves and offered their crews gracious hospitality. Much had Cirdan's people taught the Nandor, not the least of which was the Sindarin tongue, as well as improvements in their hulls and rigging. Helluin revealed the presence of another branch of the Nandor, those of Celebrant in the mellyrn nigh Anduin.

Many hours later as the night grew old, Helluin spoke of Khazad-dum, and her revelations left the Eldar and Men in amazement. None of those present had ever visited Belegost or Nogrod, but by the Gonnhirrim's own admission these were like hovels beside a mansion. Helluin could only say that 'neath Caradhras, Fanuidhol, and Celebdil, well nigh all the land was undermined with their delving, the extent of which she could only guess at even after 20 years' residence. She told of the mastery of their smithies and stone craft, the wealth of their mines, and of their virulent hatred for the Yrch. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that both kindreds lived underground in similar mountainous areas and had of old been bitter foes.

Now Eriador had been little troubled by Yrch so far during the Second Age, but Helluin had found and fought them in the margins of the Hithaeglir and also in Greenwood. This was worrisome and bode ill for the future. Elrond, Gil-galad, and Cirdan all felt in her tales the foreshadowing of dark times to come. Their worries, however, were overshadowed by their wonder. Helluin had held converse with the Onodrim and even their wives! In so doing she settled a long-standing uncertainty about their very existance, a point of debate that had persisted since the Elder Days. She had also met the Avari, those of the Quendi first sundered from all the Eldar present, and she was the only one who had ever met with them since the march from Cuivienen began. Indeed, none now dwelt in Middle Earth whose memory stretched back to those first days except perhaps some of the Avari. Elrond most of all longed for converse with them.

At some point during the night most of the Men dozed off, leaving the Eldar to their counsels. This caused them no discomfort. They merely had some of their household carry the fatigued mortals to apartments reserved for them where they could rest and sleep off the abundant wine that had accompanied the feasting. Now just ere dawn, Helluin and the other Eldar went to their rest as well, and Helluin came seeking the couch of Veantur. And he, waking somewhat with her arrival, felt himself in a dream as she lay down beside him, and ere he slept again, that dream blossomed sweet.

The next day the Númenóreans returned to Entulessë, and they rode to haven up the Firth of Lune, until coming to Mithlond they dropped anchor. In wonder did they survey the beauty Cirdan's people had wrought upon those shores, and in wonder did the Sindar look upon the craft of Westernesse. Several days the Men spent among Cirdan's folk in league of friendship. Many were the tales told and much information about the sea was exchanged. Scribes worked to copy the charts of the Númenóreans and the Númenóreans studied much that was preserved in the lore of Mithlond. But finally, with much well wishing and promises of swift return, the Entulessë sailed for home, and upon her went Helluin into the west.


Chapter Ten

Númenor, Westernesse - The Second Age of the Sun


After a voyage of twelve days, Entulessë came home to port and dropped anchor beside the quays of Romenna, the haven closest to the King's City of Armenelos. For a full three days prior to their landfall the sailing master had set aside his charts and the helmsman needed no instruction for the way. Indeed all eyes aboard ship were drawn to the mighty mount that lofted its head from the sea into the clouds. The first unmistakable sight of it brought joy to all the mariners, for like nothing else, it signified home. Hour by hour it grew upon the horizon and this first sight of so great a peak, standing alone in the midst of Belegaer, was astonishing to Helluin. Verily, she thought, it raises its majestic brow to the heavens to be crowned by the stars. Indeed at night the stars were blocked from an increasing cone of the sky, but upon Tilion's rising the mount glowed silver, floating like a cloud upon the dark waves where danced the reflections of Varda's eternal stars. Thus it was that Helluin first saw the Pillar of Heaven, the Meneltarma, whose Tarmasundar formed the roots of the five peninsulas of Númenor. It was a sight she would never forget, even when, after decades of homecomings, it came to signify familiarity and the comfort of home, for the great volcano rose over 14,000 feet above the sea. Though many peaks among the Hithaeglir rose steeper and higher, none stood so alone or so impressive, nor any so welcome to eyes long upon the sea.

When at last that peak seemed to fill all the sky, then came the cries of sea birds so numerous as to drown out the waves. They called out in greeting to the returning mariners as was their habit, and the men rejoiced in them and tossed aloft tidbits that they snatched while on the wing. Then far, far above, as specks before the sun, Helluin saw in the highest airs a trio of Eagles soaring, circling the summit of the Meneltarma, the eyes of Manwe from whom no deeds were hid. And by their presence more than anything else she knew this land was blessed.

At last Entulessë rode up the Bay of Romenna to her homeport, and passing Tol Uinen, came at last to her berth. Great was the peoples' rejoicing to have their mariners safely returned. Greater still was their joy when Veantur's tidings were publicized throughout the land by the royal messengers. Yet before that news was generally known, the Captain-Admiral and his officers came to the city of Armenelos and to the Court of Tar-Elendil the king.

Indeed when word came of Entulessë's return, the Lord of Númenor sent a carriage to the docks to fetch Veantur and his officers thither. In Romenna the team of six was exchanged at the king's stables, and then with fresh horses, Entulessë's officers, with Helluin among them, made the seventy-mile trip to Armenelos in haste. Into the evening of their landfall and through the night they rode, stopping only for food. In this way they came to the gates of the city with the dawn behind them.

In those days, though Armenelos was the capitol, wherein the citadel and Elros' Tower stood, the population was more evenly distributed than in later years. Thus, Romenna nearly rivaled Armenelos in size, while across the island, Andunie and Eldalondë stood upon the western shores with nearly equal populations. Nevertheless Armenelos was the place of the King's Court, site of Elros' Tower, and the home of Nimloth, the White Tree that had come to the Númenóreans out of Tol Eressea.

Now debarking from their carriage in the wide Court of the Gate within the Citadel of the King, Helluin first saw the White Tree, and in the dawn's light it bore a blush of rose upon its pale bark. But Nimloth's leaves were dark above and silver below, and save that no light shimmered from his boughs, the White Tree of Númenor grew in the likeness of Telperion of Aman. So struck was Helluin with this vision that she moved as one entranced, and straightaway came hence to Nimloth with tears in her eyes. So moved was she at this vision of the lost and revered past that she leaned her head against the trunk and closed her eyes. Then those who stood nigh witnessed a thing of great wonder, and perhaps it was a consequence of all the time Helluin had stood amidst the rains and dews of the Two Trees upon Ezellohar, but whether or how their light had changed her, none may know for sure.

Now as her concentration grew and her spirit went deep within, Helluin's hands upon the trunk began to glow with the radiance of the Mingling of the Lights of an Age lost long before. In moments that light quickened and came to envelope the whole of both tree and Elf. Then for a few moments, Nimloth, gift of the Eldar of Tol Eressea to Elros in the founding years of Númenor, glowed with the brilliance and majesty of Telperion, for by Yavanna's blessed hand both trees had come to be. There in the Court of the King, for a brief time, a vision of the Elder Days and the Glory of Valinor lived again. And then it faded just as quickly, as if it were a dream or a mirage, or a phantasm dispersing.

Helluin withdrew her hands and stood back from the trunk, silent, unmoving, and long she seemed oblivious to the waking world. Yet after a while she shook herself and looked about her. For a few blessed moments she had stood again 'neath the rain of the Mingled Lights, and for that time she had been outside herself. Yet unlike those past times when she had felt herself borne up on wings, and as if with an eagle's sight looked down upon Arda complete, this time she had remembered many things of days past and many things she had seen of days to come. Never before had such visions come to her, for they had always been of space, not of time, and she was disoriented upon waking.

When the strangeness passed she resumed her place with the officers and the men of the Court. Around her all regarded her with awe and some confusion, but coming to her in concern, Veantur wrapped her in his arms and asked after her wellbeing.

"In moments strange, many things did I see, my Captain," Helluin told him, "and among these a warning to thee and all thy people. The welfare of Númenor and the Men of the West is bound up with the fate of Nimloth somehow. In days long ahead both shalt fail yet both shalt survive, and both live after diminished by the days…a quick twilight and a long nightfall."

Veantur gulped at Helluin's prophecy, for it could be nothing less. The tree stood now in vigor and had grown in the Court of the King for over 550 years. It was now a great tree, fragrant of blossom in the evening, and shedding not its old leaves for new through winter's chill 'till spring. All revered it as a symbol of the honor in which Men held the Eldar and the Powers Undying. That any would endanger it was inconceivable to him. As if reading his thought, Helluin spoke to him again in a whisper.

"Not the cause but the effect shalt the tree reflect. As a gauge of the health of Númenor's spirit shalt the health of Nimloth be," she told him.

As the group began to move toward the doors of the King's Halls, Veantur filed Helluin's words away for later contemplation. Not only was he astonished at her display of power, for she had never claimed any such before, but her words bespoke some doom for his people. This was of paramount seriousness to him, and as a loyal liege of his king, sooner or later the prophecy would have to be told. While he thought on these things the company passed through the King's Doors and were announced to the hall.

Now the Hall of the King in Armenelos, ere the Whelming of Númenor, was such that the later halls of the Men of the West were patterned upon it in reverent memorial. Indeed its plan was reborn in Minas Anor and in Osgiliath, and in Annuminas before its ruin. A lofty ceiling, arched and vaulted, stood far above, supported by the external walls and rows of shapely columns along either side within. These columns formed side galleries, leaving the half-width of the hall open down its center. Invariably the hall was three times its width in length and one half its length in height. The rear wall opposite the great doors was formed into a semi-circular apse whose floor rose in a dais of three ascending steps to the throne. Piercing the outer walls between the columns were placed tall arched windows, glazed with opal glass, and most often, in the spaces framed by the columns and backlit by the windows were placed memorial portrait figures.

The form of the hall as a whole was a load bearing device, an arch that spread and supported the weight of the tower that rose above it. In form, the tower was a tapered cylinder, usually strengthened by external ribs, and pierced by many windows for observation. Such towers typically rose between one and two hundred fathoms above the roof of the hall, which itself might be twenty to thirty fathoms in height, placing an observer atop the tower up to 1,380 feet above the ground. It was also very common for these buildings to be placed atop natural heights; the citadel of Armenelos, for example, rose from an outlying mound at the base of the Meneltarma that stood 1,100 feet high.

Helluin was impressed with the workmanship and the design. It was less delicate and decorative than the Elven towers she had seen…Mindon Eldalieva, the Tower of Ingwe, in Tirion upon the hill of Tuna, and Turgon's Tower in Gondolin upon Amon Gwareth which had been built in Tirion's memory came foremost to her mind. The Tower of Armenelos was nothing if robust. Helluin judged the Númenórean architecture fitting to the spirit of Men. With the others she paced the hall, seeing that the high throne at its end had been abandoned by the tall man descending the steps of the dais to greet them on equal footing as they approached.

So the blood of that line breeds true, she thought in amazement, for had she not known of his passing, Helluin would have guessed herself in the presence of Elros, so like to him in appearance was his great grandson, Tar-Elendil. She had last seen Elros in Beleriand at the age of 58, though he had been of Elven kind then and considered but a youth, whereas the king was 240 years of age and in his prime middle years. Indeed he could expect to live to the age of 400 or more, for such was the span granted to the Men of Númenor in the morning time of their realm. Here before her stood a mortal Man, a hand's width above two fathoms tall, with the wiry build of a warrior or mariner used to hard toil, dark of hair and grey of eye, and like his forebears, very handsome of face. That face was lit with intelligence, goodwill, and humor.

The king greeted his captain and the officers by name, clasping forearms with them in the manner she remembered among the warriors of the Edain of Beleriand. He met them with respect and showed no haughtiness of manner. She could see the love the mariners bore for their sovereign in return. His conduct reminded her much of Tuor, noble and confident, yet without a shred of condescension. The recollection brought a smile to her lips.

"My Lord, may I present Helluin of the Noldor, also called Maeg-mormenel," Veantur announced in introduction, directing her forward with a hand placed gently at the small of her back. It was a subtle gesture of intimacy that did not go unnoticed by the king, who favored his Captain-Admiral with a smile.

Helluin bowed her head and then extended her arm expecting to share the same grasp of welcome that the king had given his men. Instead, Tar-Elendil lifted her hand and placed a soft kiss upon her knuckles in a gallant gesture that Helluin found both light-hearted and charming. She favored the king with a smile that was returned with honest goodwill and respect.

"Hail and well met, Helluin of the Noldor," the king said in greeting, "in the lore of my family much honor is given to the Noldo of the Blue Fire Eyes. But for thy aid during the sack of Avernien, perhaps none of us would stand here this day. I feel that I walk within a tale of the Elder Days, yet in no tale is thy beauty truly remarked. I offer the welcome of the Men of Westernesse and the thanks of our realm. Never did I think that in going east my Captain would discover such a treasure out of the West. He is in fortune blessed." He concluded his welcome with a smile and winked at Veantur.

Had she been a couple thousand years younger, the king's words would have brought a blush to her cheeks. Instead she replied, giving as good as she got.

"My Lord, thou art most gracious. Indeed it gladdens my heart to see the flowering of the labors young Elros undertook what seems but a short time ago. At Avernien I was repaying a debt to thy house for the valor of the brethren Huor and Hurin on behalf of my lord, Turgon of Gondolin. Tuor and Idril made such a lovely couple, while I had no love of the House of Feanor. I could do no less." With a smile she added, "Had I foreseen the wealth of comely offspring from their union I would hath done yet more."

The king laughed openly at her words while Veantur chuckled, "Elves are never to old to flirt and we shalt never be old enough to match them. I am indeed blessed."

That blessing was shared by Veantur and Helluin for many years. For the next twenty decades they sailed in the King's Ships together, sharing in adventure and the opening years of the Númenóreans' voyages of aid to the Men of Middle Earth. Landings they made in Belfalas and Mithlond on behalf of the king. But dearest to their hearts were the great voyages of discovery undertaken by the mariners of Westernesse. In the morning time of their realm, curiosity of spirit guided them and they became the greatest of the mariners of Middle Earth. Ships of Númenor sailed the coasts of Belegaer, landing at many places, save that they were banned from landfalls on the shores of the Undying Lands. Instead they sailed east.

In S.A. 641 Helluin and Veantur sailed southeast, and crossing the Girdle of Arda, made the first landfall upon the Southern Continent. There they found birds and beasts wondrous and strange. They saw great cats stalking upon endless savannas east of the Grey Mountains, and further south, in deep forests dark under their trees, dwelt creatures that were not yet Men but aspired to be.

On subsequent voyages they hopped the coast of that land, ever seeking new sights, and came beyond the southernmost cape of the Hither Lands. They made their way, ever intrepid, sailing into the Inner Sea upon whose waves no boat had ridden. Through oppressive heats they made their courses far from home and under strange skies where the familiar stars stood in positions before unseen. Years they were gone and many feared them lost, yet they were blessed it seemed, and ever they returned home.

Upon the eastern coast of the Inner Sea they discovered I-Móreanór, the Dark Land, cloaked in forests of unfamiliar trees and previously unknown and unsuspected by any. Up the west coast of that landmass they sailed, finally reaching its northern tip, and then through the straight that separates that land from the furthest east of the Hither Lands they knew. Thence even to landfalls in Hildorien did they come, where the Younger Children of Iluvatar had first arisen.

In that land they met Men so backward and primitive that the Númenóreans stood in awe at how far their kindred had come through their association with the West. Tools of flaked stone only did those natives use. The reliable making of fire they had not, and the writing of letters was unknown to them. Neither did they cultivate crops nor husband beasts, but slew what they could with sharpened poles and gathered for sustenance aught else they found. They feared the night, storms, and death, and from the ships of the Men of Númenor they fled in terror. And Helluin, looking into their hearts, perceived that the shadow of old lay deep upon them and it had never been understood nor relieved.

At their furthest, the ships of Veantur and Helluin crossed the East Sea and came even to the Easternmost Lands and there they looked upon the Walls of the Sun. They made but one landfall and quickly retreated to their ships, driven thither by the heat. Yet along that coast they sailed, indeed all the way to the Nether Dark that lies abreast Ekkaia, the Encircling Sea that is the boundary of Arda itself. Then, finding no further shores to discover, and having proven the measure of Creation that no ban restricted them from, they turned their ships about and headed for home.

Upon the way thither, back northwards up the coast past the Walls of the Sun, there came the Equinox of Spring when Arien lofts the Vessel of Anar skywards upon the very Girdle of Arda that passes too in the west through Taniquetil in Aman. Then from the dark of night directly above the flotilla of Númenor, blinding rose the morning overhead, so close that though the Men had to turn away lest their eyes be burnt sightless, Helluin saw even the fair countenance of the Maia of the Sun. She shone in the brilliance of gold, like unto, yet more concentrated than Laurelin at the noontime of Valinor, and Helluin, who had aforetime stood in the rain of that light, now stood again bathed in that radiance, her own eyes blazing with blue fire in greeting.

Upon the ships, Men saw steam boiling up from the waters all about, but Arien was rising ever higher and further away. Moment by moment the stifling heats and light that had sought to cook their organs within them quickly abated to the tropical levels of bearable discomfort to which they'd become accustomed. Yet afterwards the mariners marked the scorching of their sailcloth and the darkening of the lines in their rigging, and even the tanning of their skin. In amazement they dared look skyward at last. There rose Anar to the first hour of the morning, and they knew that they had experienced a great wonder of the world that by the grace and power of the Valar had come to be.

The flotilla returned to Romenna in S.A. 698 with great revelations and much lore, for they had been twelve years away upon the sea. Many were the charts and scrolls that enriched the libraries of the people, and tales of their discoveries in the furthest of lands were told far and wide. In those days many of the Men of Númenor went aboard ships seeking adventure, and many of these came to the Men of Middle Earth as teachers and helpers, and so the lot of those in the Hither Lands stood improved.

But Helluin and Veantur came home also to visit with the young woman they had again left behind at court in Armenelos, and this was their daughter, Almarian. She had been born in S.A. 661, during a stretch of nine years ashore. She was tall and dark of hair as were her mother and father, but with bright blue eyes rather than the gray of most of the Númenóreans. From her first days she had displayed a keen intelligence and the curiosity of her parents, and she seemed to mature but slowly for she was touched by the Life of the Eldar though she was a mortal woman. In later years she became well known among the people of Westernesse, a great beauty marked for her wisdom and strength of spirit.

In giving birth to Almarian, Helluin had felt a part of herself bequeathed to her mortal offspring, a fraction of the power or substance of her fea that could not be replaced. Most of Elven kind would have been diminished, perhaps even so far as to fall from their natal doom and everlasting life. Yet for Helluin this was not so. Perhaps it was the Light of the Trees in which she had so often stood that preserved her. Perhaps somewhat of the virtue of Laurelin and Telperion had been transferred to her as she stood 'neath their falling dews. But like all blessings, this blessing too was mixed, of both good and ill it partook, though it would be Ages ere the downside made its effects known.

Now when Veantur and Helluin returned to Armenelos, they found that Almarian was preparing to marry, and they rejoiced that they had returned home in time to partake of the ceremony, for a great occasion it was to be in their land. Almarian was in her 37th year when she wedded Irimon, third child of the king. All the people of Númenor celebrated on that day, for Irimon was Tar-Elendil's only son, and by the laws of the land then in effect, he was the King's Heir. Over the next 31 years, Almarian bore three children to Irimon, a son and two younger daughters, grandchildren whom Veantur and Helluin loved dearly. It was in S.A.740, when Tar-Elendil laid down the scepter of his rule, that Irimon ascended the throne of Númenor as Tar-Meneldur, with Almarian as his queen.

"For my people thou hath shed blood in war and gifted blood in peace," Tar-Elendil had said to Helluin in S.A. 700 when Almarian gave birth to his first grandchild, a son and heir to the throne who was named Anardil, "and with both deeds, hath my people been blessed. Indeed I know not which I value the higher."

And Helluin recalled their first words together in her reply to her dear friend the king.

"In hope to increase the comely offspring of the Edain hath I finally done more."

Now of Almarian's three children, Anardil took the scepter of Númenor in S.A. 883 as Tar-Aldarion, and he ruled until S.A. 1075. He was a man enamoured of the sea, more comfortable aboard ship than land, and very nearly obsessed with sailing. If anything, he was even more compulsive than Veantur, but his focus was given to his alliance with the Elven King in Lindon rather than purely to discovery, as had his grandfather the Captain Admiral. He built a haven at Vinyalonde, on the coast of Eriador at the mouth of the river Gwathir, as Númenóreans the then called the Glanduin,* and there logged timber amidst the forests at an ever-increasing rate and from it, built many ships. At home, Tar-Aldarion had no son, but rather a single daughter from his stormy and ill-fated marriage to Erendis, and so for the first time, Númenor would have a ruling queen, Tar-Ancalime. *(Glanduin, Border River, was the old name for the River Gwathlo, the River Greyflood, [Agathurush in Adunaic], first called Gwathir, the River of Shadow, by theNúmenóreans.)

Of Almarian and Tar-Meneldur's two daughters little is known, but Ailinel, the older daughter, was born in S.A. 712 and married Orchaldor, son of Hatholdir, a counselor of the king. Almiel, born in S.A. 729, married Numandil, grandson of Valandil, the first Lord of Andunie. Of that line came a strain, primarily seen in women of the houses of the Faithful, who bore the black hair and blue eyes of their foremother, Helluin of the Noldor, for like the line of Elros, that line too bred true. Over 2,500 years later, in the ships of the House of Elendil did some of that line escape the Whelming of Númenor, to come as refugees to the shores of Middle Earth. And thence through the Ages of Arda, even unto the Fourth Age of the world and beyond, still persist some in whose veins runs the bloodline that came of Cuivienen in the Age of the Stars.

Many were the voyages of Veantur and Helluin upon the seas of Middle Earth, and many adventures of discovery did they share. But in 827, Veantur gave up his post, and his son-in-law, King Tar-Meneldur appointed a new Captain Admiral. Then for a time, Helluin and Veantur sailed still on their own behalf, and when even those days were done, still they met with mariners at the Inn of the West Wind in Romenna. Often too they traveled to Eldalondë and Andunie in the west, and there they met with visitors of the Eldar kindred coming from Tol Eressea in the West. These were Noldor of Beleriand mostly and some Sindar; indeed some were friends Helluin had known ere the War of Wrath. Bittersweet were those meetings to Helluin, for they brought back memories of the suffering of her people through many wars and her helplessness as she stood watching the House of Feanor burning the stolen Teleri ships and stranding her friends upon the Helcaraxe. Yet some news came to her through them of Valinor and of Tirion. Her parents still lived, as did her sister Elvearil. She sent word to them through Tol Eressea, but before any reply came in return she had quit the land of Númenor.

In S.A. 992, after an unprecedented lifespan of 465 years, Veantur's spirit finally left the mortal world and ventured beyond the fences of Arda, into realms none know and where no Eldar can follow. To Helluin their time together seemed short in hindsight, yet while it had lasted it had been sweet and she had no regrets. In all her days, no other had joined her so closely in spirit nor reveled in the joy of exploration and discovery in a way so akin to her heart.

"As on that day aboard Entulessë, my spirit hast cloven to thine all the days of my life, and still thy spirit I cherish," Veantur said as he felt his strength wane. "And beyond the Circles of Arda, into whatever place go the spirits of Men, the memory of thee shalt I hold dearest in my heart. With thee, in sweetness I hath passed all the days of my life."

And Helluin, looking into the eyes of the Man whom she had loved more than any other upon Arda said, "With thee hath I explored the world of Arda without and the worlds of the heart within. With many could I hath journeyed the former; but with thee only hath I journeyed the latter. Until world's ending shalt I carry the memory of thee in my heart, my Captain, for in sweetness hath I passed all our days together."

Upon Veantur's face a smile broke as a ship's standard in a fair wind upon the sea, and with a last sighing breath he released his spirit and at last lay still. Then those who also waited, Almarian and Tar-Meneldur, Ailinel their elder daughter, and Almiel and her husband Numandil, and many captains and lords of Númenor wept for the passing of their Captain-Admiral. And the tears of Helluin the Noldo fell upon the coverlet under which Veantur lay, and like the dews of Telperion, they glowed with a silver light. Yet more of her fea she had sacrificed, in her tears, and in the lengthening of Veantur's days.

Now when Veantur had been laid in the tomb of his family in Romenna, Helluin took herself west across the land, and coming to Eldalondë, she met there a ship of the Eldar. Then she took ship with the mariners of the Lonely Isle and set sail for Middle Earth, for her time in Númenor had ended. The white ship with it's silver sails slipped like a ghost across the waves, and coming to the Hither Shores, sailed up the long Firth of Lune. Then to the havens of Mithlond Helluin came, and there she bade the sailors thanks for their favor. Then, since they would set no foot again upon Mortal Lands, she went ashore alone. It was 16 Narbeleth, (October 16th), S.A. 992, and much had changed in her absence.


To Be Continued

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