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Summary: Faith is often all that stands between a person and despair. First place in the ALEC challenge 'Stormy Days'.
"We’ll never make it!"
"We’ll make it, Voronwë! Just have faith."
"Faith, my Lord Elendil!" the pilot screamed above the gale winds driving their ship forward. "What faith? The Valar have abandoned us."
"No they have not," Elendil shouted back. "Are we not the Faithful? Haven’t we ever served and honored the Valar and Eru?"
"We’re Númenóreans," Voronwë shot back, even as he and Elendil wrestled with the ship’s wheel. "We’re of the same blood as that thrice cursed Ar-Pharazôn who dared the Ban. And now look at us. We’re doomed. There’s no hope left."
"While we still draw breath, Voronwë, there is always hope," Elendil retorted, even as he clung to the wheel, giant waves swamping the deck and nearly drowning them. Both men were lashed to the wheel so they would not be washed overboard. No others were on deck. Elendil had sent them all below for safety’s sake, though nowhere was truly safe in this storm of wind and wave. He peered through the darkness and the rain, trying to spot the other three ships that had still been with him the last time he had been able to make them out in the dim light of the dying day. Of Isildur’s ships or Anárion’s there were no signs, had not been any for some time. He sent up a silent prayer to the Valar to keep his sons safe.
As if he had read his thoughts, Voronwë spoke up. "And what of your sons, my lord? We lost them by my reckoning three days ago. Surely they have foundered."
"We do not know that," Elendil said with a shake of his head. "These winds have driven us apart. It’s a miracle that our four ships are still together."
"Even if we survive this storm, we’re not likely to find a suitable harbor," Voronwë pointed out darkly.
Elendil cast him an amused look. "Any port, my friend, so long as we don’t crash upon the rocks and drown in sight of land."
"Hang on!" Voronwë shouted.
This last was screamed even as the ship plunged into a deep trough between the waves, waves that towered over them almost as high as the main mast, or where the mast would have been had it not been broken in half almost from the first. Elendil felt his stomach heave and there was a sense of weightlessness that lasted only for a second. He retched, though his stomach was long since empty. The ship came to the bottom of the trough and then was rising with the wave and that motion was even worse and he thought he would pass out from it, but he clung to the wheel and hung on to consciousness with all his failing strength.
"Lord Manwë have mercy on us," he whispered fervently. "Lord Ulmo, bend your ear to my plea and rescue my people."
For an answer, the waves swept over the ship once again and the winds seemed to increase in their fury, if that were at all possible. Elendil felt his heart sink, wondering if Voronwë was right. Were they all doomed? Was their faith in the Valar misplaced? Did the Valar see them as deserving of death for being Númenóreans? No. He could not believe that, would not believe that. If the Valar had meant for them to die, they would never have survived this long. Their ships would have been drawn back into the chasm that had opened up and swallowed their beloved homeland. But they hadn’t been. He could not swear to it, but just as it seemed to him that their ships would be drawn back to their doom, he thought he had seen a figure rise from out of the depths of the sea and wave a negligent hand in their direction. At that moment, a west wind, stronger and wilder than any he had known before, had sprung up and driven the ships of the Faithful away, the rain drawing a curtain down upon them so they never actually saw Númenor drown, but Elendil had no doubt that that had been its fate. Ar-Pharazôn had foolishly listened to Zigûr and his only real hope was that the bastard was dead and drowned along with the rest of the island.
"We’re doomed!" Voronwë screamed. "The Valar hate us!"
"No!" Elendil screamed back. "So long as I draw breath, I will never believe that. If I die, I will die faithful to my oaths to them. They may indeed abandon us, but I will never abandon them. As Eru is my witness, I will remain true." He reached out a hand and grabbed Voronwë’s shoulder. "Your father named you for the steadfast faith that he had in the Valar, a faith he passed on to you. Do not dishonor his memory or his sacrifice with your words of doom, my son."
"My father died at the hands of Zigûr," Voronwë yelled back, "sacrificed upon his black altar. What did his faith earn him then?"
"Your life," Elendil answered back. At the puzzled look upon the younger man’s face, he nodded. "Your life," he repeated. "The King’s Men were hunting you, but your father convinced them to take him instead. He knew I would need you with me. He gave his life, and the lives of his household, to ensure that you, at least, would survive."
Voronwë shook his head, his expression one of stunned disbelief. "No. That cannot be. Why would he do such a thing? It cannot be. You lie!" He wailed this denial, shaking a fist at Elendil, disbelief turning to anger.
Elendil continued to grasped Voronwë’s shoulder, "I do not lie, son," he shouted. "As the Valar are my witness, I do not lie. Your father knew that without you at this wheel we would indeed be lost. He saw it, Voronwë. The foresight that is our heritage was upon him and he knew."
Though it was impossible to tell with the rain and the waves all about him, Elendil knew his pilot was weeping and he reached out and embraced him awkwardly, for the ropes tying them together to the wheel did not allow for much movement on their part. "He died so others, so you, could live, Voronwë. Have faith in his love for you, if you have faith in nothing else. Don’t let his love be lost in your anger."
He felt the younger man nod and begin to straighten and Elendil released him. Voronwë made a futile gesture to wipe away the tears, then grabbed the wheel with both hands, his expression set. Elendil watched him, nodding in approval. The pilot turned to look at him, and even in the darkness of the storm Elendil could see the fire of his eyes. "If we die, we will die faithful to our oaths to the Valar," Voronwë shouted, repeating Elendil’s earlier words.
Elendil smiled, clapped Voronwë on the shoulder and suddenly laughed, not understanding where his joy came from, but accepting it. He started singing. The tune was an old one popular among the Númenóreans, but the words were his own, a song of defiance, of hope against hopelessness. He sang, his voice rising up above the screaming of the storm:
"Eru is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea, though its waves roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. The Lord of the Valar is with us, Eru is our refuge."
A second time he sang and a third and on the third assay, Voronwë joined him, their voices mingling in harmony, defiant and hopeful at one and the same time. And even as they sang, there came a subtle shift in the winds, a lessening of the rain. The waves began to quiet and it was as if a curtain was drawn back and before them....
"Land ho!" Voronwë shouted, pointing at the distant spit of land that they could just see on the horizon, rising grey and green above the sea, the sky lightening in the east with the coming dawn.
Elendil looked about him, and to his delight and everlasting relief he spied the other three ships, battered and beaten though they were, yet they were still afloat. He saw someone on the nearer ship raise a hand and he raised his own and laughed.
"The Valar be praised," Voronwë called out. "We’re safe!"
Yes, Elendil thought, sending a silent prayer of thanksgiving winging its way to the heavens, we’re safe, and to emphasize the point, he began untying the rope that had held him and Voronwë to the wheel even as they made their way into what he would later learn was the Gulf of Lhûn.
Zigûr: Adûnaic name for Sauron.
Note: Elendil’s song is an adaptation of Psalm 46.
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