Beyond the Sea

by Lothithil


West Of West
Chapter 3
Dreams Coalesce


    Elbereth's stars were shining brightly above Elrond's garden, as Elrond himself strolled past the singing trees, and observed Frodo Baggins walking slowly back to his rooms.  His head was bent, eyes downcast, oblivious to the wondrous beauty above.

    "Mae govannen, my dear Frodo."

    "Lord Elrond!  Good evening.  I did not see you."

    "A shadow is fallen over you, my friend.  What has occurred?"

    Frodo sighed.  "I have been to Bilbo's glade.  I have gone there every night since Sam..."  Frodo's voice closed upon his words.  His eyes were bright with tears.  He closed them and drew a deep breath.

    "Elrond, when I came here, I understood that I was granted a special grace.  I knew I would be healed, and find peace and rest at last.  And I have.  I found everything here that I had ever dreamed.  And I knew that, like the old Kings of the Men of the West, when my days grew to weariness, I could lay down my life at last.  Like Bilbo did.  After he chose his rest, I waited, because I knew Sam would come.  And after he came, I found a new level of contentment.  But he, too, has chosen his rest, and has become a part of this garden, as his heart desired.

    "So I believed the time was come at last.  Time for me to end the story.  So I went to Bilbo's glade, and I lay down on the grass, and I willed myself to sleep for ever.  But I cannot."  The tears in his eyes glimmered in the starlight.  "I have tried everyday!  But I always wake, the same as when I lay down.  And now the darkness that I thought had departed covers me once more.  I feel like I am waking from a pleasant dream into a nightmare again.  I know everything around me is lovely and healthy and fair, but when I look,  I long for decay and death.   

    "What is wrong with me?  I am in paradise.  All my hurts are mended, all my family is gone to their rest.  I think I understand the Gift of Man better now, and how it might be for the Eldar, trapped forever within this realm, past endurance and desire.  Or at least as much a Hobbit can understand these mysteries."

    Elrond smiled fondly at Frodo.  "You have much more understanding for my people than we have of yours, good friend.  I think that it would be well for you to go to a special place.  Let us find Gandalf.  He will be your best guide."  And so he went to the Hall of Nienna with Gandalf.  There they spent long days in meditation, and Frodo learned much of the nature of sorrow, so that his own was lessened, and achieved a kind of beauty of itself.  Frodo briefly visited the Lady of Sorrow before they returned to Tirion.  She smiled upon him, and he found himself opening up to his grief, and there wisdom rooted and grew.

   

    Years passed, in the way of the Eldar, like ripples in a pond, for Frodo noted their passing, yet remained unchanged, and dwelling in Eldermar was once again as sweet and pleasant as ever.  He lingered in the garden talking to Sam's plants, or sat in Bilbo's glade, where he still felt the old hobbit's patient affection.  He had but to think of his old friends and they were with him; warm, pleasant memories as real as waking.  He wandered the land, welcome everywhere he went.  He climbed the mountains, explored the shady groves, spoke to Elves and beasts and birds, and learned all their languages.  He wrote many books and drew splendid maps detailing all of his adventures.

    Frodo went to visit Tol Eressea for a few days.  One evening he was lying in a thick bed of fragrant heather with a stem of sweet-grass in his teeth, looking up at the display of stars; casually discarded diamonds.  They burned and shone like bonfires on Midsummer's Night in the Shire.

    A dream settled upon Frodo, and he imagined that there was no expanse of sky between him and the brilliant stars.  He could rise and walk among them.  Fire stroked his skin and did not burn; it caressed.  He moved among them, and they danced around him, a heavenly Morris circle.  Soon he was ringed by glorious light, colors for which he had no words to describe.  Before him the grey sea opened, and threw back light and music.

    One star high above began to descend toward the sea.  Frodo watched it as the circle tightened, herding him on to the shell-strewn strand that cupped the restless sea like a hand.  Down the star came, and the waves rose to catch it.  A column of water threw prisms of light upon the sea, the sand, the amazed hobbit.  It turned to silver swirling and leaping, and the light grew until Frodo eyes were tearing and he had to raise a hand to shield against the blinding glow.  Between his fingers, Frodo saw an image of himself mirrored and distorted by the smooth curving surface.  It reflected his surprised and delighted expression.  He watched the thing move, stretching and pulsing, and his image smiled back at him.  For an instant he saw a flash of fair skin, cream tinted with rose, and he smelled a scent like lavender and mown hay.  Liquid eyes of emerald green and then the light was blinding bright, and he had to turn away.  The stars spun away like butterflies, and he stood alone on the shimmering sand, light-spots in his eyes.

    He blinked and rubbed his eyes, but one spot of light remained.  Rising from the water, there was a maiden, clad in sea-green silk and pearls.  She glowed with a celestial radiance.  She was of a height to Frodo, her skin fair and smooth, and cold as deep water.  Her hair was a shower of gold, long and smooth and flowing over her shoulders.

    Her delicate beauty struck Frodo.  She came up out of the sea and into his arms.  And so he felt her breathe her first breath, and her skin grew warm and flush.  Her eyes were green like the sea at noon and she looked upon him, and her smile was as starlight.

    "Silmiriel."  Frodo murmured. {star-crowned maiden}

    She trembled in Frodo's arms, and she raised her eyes to look into his.  Frodo felt a gulf open where his heart had been, and the void now filled with starlight and sea-water.  He felt his knees buckling, so he drew her down to sit with him upon the sand.  He held her in his arms because it was what he wanted to do.

    She clung to him, relaxing trustfully against his shoulder.  Her eyes were full of stars and she turned her face to him, brushing his cheek with silken lashes.  "What did you call me?"  Her voice was mellow and low, like the piping of a wooden flute.

    ‘Silmiriel.'  Frodo said again.  "Si vanwa na ore, ne aer ar eleni."{Now my heart is lost, to the sea and the stars.}

    "And within your heart my life begins, Elvellon."  And even as the starlight and sea-foam lingered about her newly-made form, she kissed him with her petal-soft lips, and tasted of sea-salt, and smelled of lavender.


    "Who are you?" asked Frodo, as they strolled along the sea strand, hand in hand.

    "I am called Melyanna.  I have served Lord Ulmo. He has released me from service, and I have asked to wear flesh and to live as a mortal."

    "You have chosen to be mortal?"

    Melyanna had a small smile upon her lips.  "I asked for the life of a Mortal, and though my spirit is immortal, my flesh is not.  I must live now with all the demands and weaknesses of that blessing.  Little did I know how sweet and bitter it is to be mortal, for now that I feel love, I also know fear."

    Frodo stroked the back of Melyanna's hand.  "There is nothing to fear, my lovely Silmiriel"

    "Now that I have found you, the thought of losing you is unbearable."

    "I'm not going anywhere without you."   

    Melyanna  laughed lightly, and Frodo would have sworn the stars above grew brighter at the sound.  "Perhaps you would not choose to leave, but such is the fate of all Eru's Younger Children."

    "Yesterday I wanted to die.  Now I never want to.  I understand your fear."  Frodo held her hand pressed against his heart.  "All I want to do is to spend my time remaining with you."

    "And I wish to be with you, also.  But there is much to be done in the world.  It was my intent to go thither to Middle-earth and attempt worthy tasks for the satisfaction of my master Ulmo.  But now my desire to perform is paled by impulsive love.  I wonder that He chose to bring me here first, to meet you, as He must have known would happen.  Perhaps that was part of his design."

    "I thought you said that He had freed you from His service."

    "Freedom is choice, and to serve willingly is not slavery.  I choose to attempt these tasks, because the Children will benefit from them.  It will please me to do it, but only if you agree to help, for I have no desire to attempt ought without you."

    "I will perform any task, if it means that I can be at your side, Melyanna.  I adore you, and I have no other desire than to remain with you for as long as I am blessed to live."  Frodo hesitated, then took her hand and softly kissed it  "I love you, Silmiriel."

    "And I, you, Frodo Elvellon.  You must trust me, for I cannot reveal more to you yet, and much is unknown to me.  Are you willing to have faith in me, and go forward without knowing the end of the tale?"

    "Where ever you go, there also shall I go."  He stopped then, and turning to her took both her hands in his.  "Melyanna, I am just a hobbit.  You are like a goddess."

    "Beloved one, you have never been ‘just' a hobbit, and I am not a goddess.  I am your companion.  And though we may not always be together, I say to you that we will see the world grow much older in one another's company."

    And although Frodo's heart soared at her words, deep inside he felt the beginnings of his own fear.  He reflected upon words that Elrond once spoke to him, concerning the wisdom and folly of love.


    It was a long walk back home, but Frodo was unaware of that.  He was wholly tuned in upon his new friend.  They walked together in a shimmer of lingering starlight.  Over the wide waters between the Lonely Isle and Aqualonde they walked, as if upon a wooded path.  He did not notice.  He could not restrain his eyes from seeking her loveliness, and as they climbed the familiar road to Tirion, he stumbled frequently upon the familiar path.  She teased him about it.

    When they reached the gates of the House, the Elrond was waiting there.  He bowed and welcomed Melyanna by name, and placed himself and his home at her service.  To Frodo he also bowed, but with a smile in his eyes and upon his face.

    "And what did you find in your journeys, my dear hobbit?" he asked softly.

    "I have found my heart," answered Frodo.


    Thereafter, everywhere that Frodo went, there also went his Silmiriel, as he called her privately.  They traveled together the length of the land, and they crossed it many times also.  Frodo told her of his adventures, humbly reducing his own part in things and enlarging upon his companions deeds and bravery.  He took her to all the lovely places he had discovered, and she showed him her favorite haunts that she could, and told him of the wonderous land beneath the Outer Ocean, where once she dwelt.

    Frodo took especial pleasure showing her the home of Elrond, where he dwelled with his friends.  He took her for long walks in the extensive gardens, often casting about, as if looking for someone.  One day while strolling there, Frodo exclaimed in delight and took her hand.  He led her into a lovely little grotto where a tiny spring bubbled over a flat stone, and was all around closed in loosely by a leafy wall.  A old hobbit was kneeling in the dirt, digging beneath the shrubs.

    "There you are, Sam!  Sam, come and meet my new friend."  Sam climbed slowly to his feet, scrubbing his hands on his leather apron.  "Samwise, Hamfast's son, meet Melyanna.  Sam is my best friend."

    Sam was some inches shorter than Frodo, and his weathered brown face was a mass of many wrinkles.  His eyes twinkled as he gazed up at them, and he bowed awkwardly and slowly.  His elbows and knees were covered with dark soil, and there were leaves in his curly greying hair.

    "A real pleasure to meet you, my Lady."  His voice was rough and soft, as if with little use.  He looked up at her shyly, then back down at his toes.

    "Thank you, Sam.  It is nice to meet you, also.  Frodo has told me much about you."

    With that Sam grinned, and all his awkwardness vanished.  "Has he, now?  And don't you believe a word of it.  Not unless it was all good!"

    Melyanna and Frodo laughed.  "It was all good!"  She felt warmly toward this friendly old hobbit, and she saw that he was devoted to Frodo, and that Frodo loved him very much.  "May I say how lovely your garden looks?"

    Sam laughed, "The garden don't belong to me, miss.  It anything, I belongs to it.  And I best be gittin' back to it.  Don't let Mister Frodo chew yer pretty ears off with all his tales." 

    "Hush, Sam, I'll do no such thing," protested Frodo, flushing pink.

    "Aye, Master Frodo, whatever you say.  Good day to you, Mistress,"  with a queer but friendly gleam in his eyes, he bowed over Melyanna's hand, planted a light kiss on her knuckles, then turned and began to dig again at the roots of the hedgerow.


    On the beaches of Tol Eressea they lingered often, for Melyanna loved the surrounding sea, and starlight and sunlight equally.  And Frodo loved being with her, and he asked her to be with him always, to which she answered  a smile.  They spoke vows to one another one musical night in the windy meads of the Lonely Isle.

    When they returned to Tirion, Elrond arranged a great gathering to celebrate the event of Frodo and Melyanna's troth.  There was a large festive gathering of Elves, and many Maiar there were also, including Gandalf.  The wizard greeted the couple warmly, and pronounced blessings upon them.  He then put on a great display of smokes and fires.  Galadriel and Celeborn also gave greetings to the pair, and brought them fair gifts.  To Melyanna, they gave a beautifully carved rod of nimbrethil.  To Frodo was given a silver canteen filled with miruvor and carved with many Elvish runes.  Galadriel's gifts of raiment was most welcome, and so attired the pair appeared as royalty, even among so many fair and exquisite Elf-lords and ladies.

    But as they stood together before the assembly, discord was heard.  Several voices were raised in protest.  Elrond raised his hands, and was given silence.

    Three tall and handsome Elves came forward.  Frodo recognized them; Caraborn, Ngolfin, and Arbeleg.  They bowed courteously to Frodo and Melyanna.

    "What is the meaning of this, my friends?" asked Elrond. "Why do you protest this bond?"

    Caraborn stepped forward and spoke.  "Is it difficult to understand why any would give up uncontested the hand of a fair lady?  Few are born to the Eldest Children in these later days.  I seek to win the goodwill of the maiden Melyanna.  What is the bride-price?"

    ‘Bride-price?'  Frodo looked to Elrond in his confusion.  ‘What talk is this?'

    ‘It is a custom among the Elves to set a price before the suitors of their daughters, to prove courage, devotion, and loyalty.  Only those who can meet the price may court the lady.  She must cleave with whomsoever her father decrees, although it is not always the one who pays the price that wins the Lady's heart.

    "Come, friends!  Melyanna is not an Elf, and this union is desired by the Lady.  She has chosen her suitor.  It is not the time of war, when such things must be proved through strength and valor.  Who would deny the happiness of these people?"

    "I deny it, if I am not to be given the chance to prove myself for the Lady."  Ngolfin said.  "Lady Melyanna, am I not worthy even of consideration?"

    "My lord Ngolfin, you are thrice worthy.  But I have already chosen."

    "And I, fair one?"  Arbeleg made a courtly bow.  "Am I less worthy?  For all that my fellow suitors speak faster than I, my thought runs deeper, and my heart is no less hungry."

    "Good people, hear me!"  Elrond spoke.  "We will settle this as of old, before the fading time.  If it is your will, Melyanna, I will find one who to speak as your patron."  Melyanna closed her eyes and nodded.  "Who would take this role?"

    Eonwe, herald of Manwe stood forward.  "My Lord Vala bids me speak for Him in this capacity, if it is the will of Melyanna, for like a daughter she is to Him."  Melyanna curtsied in acquiescence.  Eonwe came forward and stood beside Melyanna.  Frodo stepped down reluctantly to stand with the hopeful suitors.  He felt great distress, but so fiercely did he love his Lady, that he would attempt any task for her.  And he knew she loved him, and this knowledge filled him with strength and courage.

    "This is the decision of Manwe: Those seeking the right to court this woman must accomplish a great challenge.  To Middle-earth they shall go, and seek for the Lady, for she will be hidden.  He who discovers her hiding place, and finds her there, will have paid the bride-price of Melyanna."   Eonwe turned to Melyanna then, and he raised his hands, and a great circle of light grew until all the shadows in the hall had fled.  Before the light faded and took with it both Eonwe and Melyanna, Frodo heard her words come to him.

    "I have not forgotten our vows on the Isle, Elvellon.  My heart is in your keeping.  Farewell."



West Of West
Chapter 4
Ulmo speaks


    Frodo sat peering at the sea, sitting on the easternmost spur of rock on Tol Eressea, where he had dwelled since Melyanna's departure.  The beauty and perfection of Aman could no longer hold him, and he yearned to depart and seek his mate.

    And as he sat upon the stones brooding upon the puzzle, the sea before him began to boil, and out of the writhing waters rose a great form, and it shaped itself into the figure of a vast being with features that swam and flowed before Frodo's eyes.  The hobbit watched in awe, quite unable to remove his gaze from the terrific sight.  He clung to his rock as the seas whipped about him, and the roar of water resolved into a booming voice.

    It was so loud and deep that at first Frodo could not understand it; he clapped his hands over his ears and fell to the sand.  The noise slowly subsided, and then he heard words, remote and deep, seeming to come from all around and from inside his very bones as well.

    "I AM ULMO."   The voice declared.

    "Lord Vala of the Waters," gulped Frodo.  He quickly rose from the ground and bowed deeply.  "How may this humble hobbit serve you?"

    "YOU WERE THE BEARER OF THAT WHICH WAS DESTROYED.  YOU HAVE SERVED ARDA WELL.  YOU HAVE EARNED YOUR PLACE AMONG THE BLESSED, MORTAL."  The seas whipped at Frodo, nearly washing him off of his rock.

    "It is my honor and privilege to dwell in the Undying Lands," he managed to splutter, coughing up sea-water.

    The massive figure of water swirled down into the sea, then reappeared, smaller but still very tall and imposing.  Frodo felt a fine spray of sea-water upon his face as it leaned toward him.

    "Ulmo knows your desire." The booming voice continued, a whisper of thunder now.  "Long have I watched you , Ringsbane.  You desire to leave Aman."

    "I desire to leave only because she whom I love dwells here no more.  She has left Aman, and I know not where she has gone."

    "Manwe has named her price. It is for those who would pay it to seek her."

    "I do seek her.  I have no clues where she might be, and have found no way to depart Aman.  I only hope my fellow suitors are having the same success."

    "It will not avail them to find her, but it is their part to try.  You must seek for her in the Middle Kingdom.  She was and is a trusted servant, and her happiness can be accomplished with your aid."

    "There is nothing I desire more than to do this, my Lord Ulmo." Greatly daring, Frodo asked, "You involve yourself not with the ways of mortals, it is said.  Why then are you helping me?  Why have you been watching me, the smallest and merest of mortals?"

    "Yes...well," amazingly, the Lord of the Waters appeared embarrassed and uncomfortable. "I am here to repay part of my debt to you."

    "Debt to me?  How could a Vala be in debt to a hobbit?"

    The tall figure of water sank, and the water whirled and splashed.  He did not reappear, but the deep booming voice continued,

    "All are indebted to you, Elvellon Ringsbane.  But my debt incurred long before you came to possess that which you caused to be destroyed.  And I knew it not, until Nienna brought it to my attention.

    "I am Vala, and I have played my part since Ea first taught me my voice.  I have played as I was taught, and my works are beyond the ken of any mortal or Maiar.  Yet I love them, and do not wantonly destroy them, though in the workings of the waters, death is often part of the music.

    "All the waters are my territory, and all the streams and rivers are my veins; my eyes and ears and tongue as well.

    "And so I knew when that corrupt thing was cast into my waters; like poison it tasted!  And I was aware of it as it lay hidden for a time; as much as I wished to be free of its taint, still it was away from the hands of mortals, where it would have wrought much woe.

    "When it was removed, I knew.  My heart was darkened even as my waters were cleansed. So I listened and I watched, from every spring and flood, for signs of that cursed thing.

    "Aule found it next, in the heart of a mountain. The dark waters told me where, and together we watched the wretched one whither.

    "Then one day it was gone!  I searched the waters, Aule the earth, and Manwe the skies, but we found it not.  A hint of malice I tasted near Erebor, but I thought it was only the wurm, so I lingered there not, but sought west and northward.  Later I heard a thing, felt a thing, and so I searched the more avidly.  Up the brown waters of the Baraduin I sought, for I tasted something there, a distant flavor of the bitter bauble.  But I found it not.

    "In the haste of my passage, I wrought unknowing an injury upon you, Ringsbane.  A boat foundered in my passage, and two were drowned that should not have been.  In my haste I noticed not.

    "Now, Nienna comes to me in my dwelling place, and she says, 'The spirits of mortals dwell within the waters of the Baraduin.  Offer them freedom from thy waters, I beg thee'.  I cannot refuse the Weeping One, and so I have sought out these souls, and found a pair who dwell nigh Eriador. I did as Nienna asked, and offered them to be unbound, even though I knew not by what means they had come to remain there.

    But they begged to stay, as they had done for years uncounted.  They were pleased to dwell there, and as I spoke to them, they shared with me their one memory from life; they had had a son, and they loved him well.  They wished to remain near where they had once lived as a family."

    Ulmo fell silent for a time, and as Frodo's buzzing ears were eased, he realized belatedly whom Ulmo must have been talking about, and why He had come to him to share this tale.

    "My parents."

    "They knew only their love for one another and for their only child, whom they had named Frodo.

    "I owe you for two lives, Elvellon.  Ask of me what you will.  Twice I will answer, but I will chose when and how you shall be answered. I am Vala, and I will not be bound in debt, even to the Ringsbane."

    "Mighty Ulmo, I would release you from this: you need not give thought to indebtedness or redress.  I..."

    Ulmo rose up again in a great spray of foam.  "I HAVE SPOKEN!"  The waters subsided, and the figure melted into the waves.  One word echoed on the sound, dancing across the choppy waters: "ASK."

    Frodo watched until the water calmed and the sea behaved as it ought at sunset.  Then he stepped out into the surf and stood, the waters wetting his furry feet.  He spoke in a voice soft but resolute:  "I wish to find Melyanna, and go to her, wherever she may be."

    "I CANNOT GO AGAINST THE DECREE OF MANWE."  Ulmo's voice echoed as if from the depths of the Outer Ocean.  Waves lapped at Frodo's knees, scattering pearls about his feet.  "YOU MUST FIND HER WITHOUT MY HELP.  BUT OTHER AID I MIGHT RENDER;  I WILL BE LISTENING, IN EVERY RAIN DROP AND RIVER.  SPEAK TO ME WHEN YOU HAVE NEED."  The sea returned to sunset-calm, and Frodo felt that he was again alone.  He picked up the pearls, stowing them in his belt pouch, then turned and headed to Aqualonde.