March 14, 3019
Elladan stood motionless at the bow of the ship. Sullen clouds lit by an angry red glow loomed overhead, obliterating moon and stars; but he knew that somewhere high above Eärendil still sailed the heavens. An ominous silence hung all around them, broken only by the splash of oars and the groans of men as they laboured to row against the river’s current.
He looked up at the invisible stars. “Grandfather, if you have any influence with the Valar, beg them to send us a wind! We have need of it,” he murmured, then turned his head with a smile as Elrohir joined him at the rail.
“Talking to yourself, brother? Come, it is time for us to take a turn at the oars.”
As they turned towards the deck a breath of air stirred the still night, and brought a murmur from the men. “A change is coming – a wind from the sea!” one called.
A freshening breeze shook the rigging as willing hands hauled at the ropes. The black sails unfurled, billowing in the steady wind. Above, the dark clouds fled and the stars once again shone down – and low in the east, Eärendil shone brightest of all.
As dawn broke the ships were speeding upriver, slicing through the water. Waves crested and foamed white about the prow in the early light. Sunlight glinted off the river and overhead white gulls wheeled and soared, calling in high, inhuman voices.
Elladan watched a shoal of tiny fish flicker through the crystal water, then raised his face to the sun, unseen since they had taken the Paths of the Dead. The gulls followed the ships, diving down to take fish caught up in their wake and then rising on currents of air. One swooped down to land on the rail beside him. It cocked its head to one side, regarding him through intelligent black eyes, and he smiled. “If you see Elwing, will you pass on my thanks?”
The bird dipped its head, then gave a shrill cry and lifted into the air as Elrohir approached. “Talking to seabirds now, brother? I worry about you at times.”
Elladan smiled. “No doubt.” His eyes followed the gull as it soared high into the sky, sunlight turning it a dazzling white. It circled the ship once, then flew away on powerful wings, growing smaller and smaller until it faded into the west.top