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Disclaimer: The characters and places belong to Professor Tolkien.
Beta reader: Cairistiona
11. The eyes of a hawk
In the next weeks, Eönwë visited in the white tower as often as he could. Never more did Eärendil mention his blindness. He had been taking short walks. At first just the distance from the bedroom to the kitchen was too much, but soon he walked on the shore – always the same route, which became familiar to him, ending at Vingilot. He walked it with such certainty that if one didn't know, he would not realize that Eärendil could not see where he was going. Only when something changed in the path, when the Sea washed ashore a log or loosened a stone, did he stumble. Every day he spent more time on Vingilot, learning the position of everything on the deck without the use of sight. "I will sail soon," he always told Eönwë when he joined him on the ship, and the Maia nodded. "I know you will."
But when the day came, there was no joy in it. "Allow me to go with you," Eönwë tried again, but Eärendil shook his head. "I'm sorry my friend. I need to do this alone."
Eönwë knew he was right, but he also knew he would try to persuade him until he actually took off. It did not take long, however. Eärendil headed to his ship with a purposeful, quick step, and did not waste time looking back.
In the moment the white ship took off, almost shaking with eagerness, Eönwë looked as if he might fly after it, and just for a moment, his shape danced somewhere between the hawk and the warrior. A hand on his shoulder stopped him, though. Elwing shook her head slowly, and Eönwë sighed. "I know... he needs to do it alone..."
Elwing sighed again, and looked Eönwë into the eyes. "It is permanent, isn't it?" she asked suddenly.
"We do not know..." Eönwë began, but Elwing shook her head. "It has been weeks already. He may be the bearer of Hope, but I am not."
Eönwë looked after the ship, disappearing on the horizon. "He... he is strong," he said, but his own voice betrayed him.
Elwing sighed sadly. "He would be, if he could see just one ray of light. One little spark to free him from that darkness. He is still there, Eönwë. You are not with him every time he wakes from sleep into the bright light of the new day, and panics, for all he can see is darkness. You are not the one to assure him every time that there is light – but not within his reach. He has nightmares, and in eternal darkness, it is so hard to drive them away. Before you, he tries to be strong. But I know what he cries out in his sleep. I fear the light will fade soon even from his memories, and then..." she shivered.
Suddenly it seemed to Eönwë that the light of the Silmaril at the sky did not shine as brightly as he remembered it. It was hard to recognize it among the other stars. "No," he whispered. "I will not allow this!" he leaped into the air and sped away as a hawk, not in the direction where the white ship sailed, but in the direction where Manwe and Varda sat on their thrones in Ilmarin.
It was dark everywhere. With practiced movements, Eärendil guided the ship across the sky. He listened, trying to discern the way he should take. The faint clinking sound that he rarely perceived before were the crystal vessels of the other stars, sailing in their given and steady paths. The Sea whispered below. Just the waves caused by the wind, with white crests of foam that sounded like the rustling leaves in a forest of aspens in autumn. It was not the sound of the waves against the shore yet. He felt the brush of air on his face. It was too high here to be the salty sea-breeze, but there was a faint hint of a warmer wind – the Sea was growing colder more slowly than the land, and while the colder wind from the land streamed to the open sea near the surface, at this height the warm wind rose and hurried to take its place. Eärendil adjusted the course slightly, and followed the wind.
There were sounds and smells and the feeling of the wind. There was no light. He tried to not think about it. For weeks he tried to occupy his mind with learning to sail again, so that he would not have to think about it. But now, when the course was steady, and the flight peaceful, when he finally achieved his goal, there was nothing to keep him from the unwanted thoughts. The Silmaril was in its place. He knew it, for he had put it himself into the lantern, the familiar smooth surface of the many-faceted jewel warm to the touch like a living thing. He was bringing the light of Hope... but not to himself. He could not see its light, and the darkness lay heavily upon his soul. Every night it returned in nightmares and threatened to devour him. Every time he woke, the nightmare continued, for there was no light to dispel it. He tried to hide it before Eönwë. But Elwing suspected something, he knew. In the loneliness of his heavenly path, where nobody could see him, he allowed two tears to fall from his eyes. The light of the Silmaril must light them with thousands of reflections, and yet all he felt was their salty taste. Eternity stretched before him. He will sail every night. He will be the Flammifer, the Messanger of Hope. But for himself, there was no hope left. Could he still bring it to the others? Doubt was in his soul.
"Yes, I can do it," Manwë said, and looked at Eönwë intently. "But is it really what you want?"
"Yes," the golden-haired Maia said firmly.
"You may not be not be able to fly again..."
"Then I will fly with him, on the white ship," Eönwë smiled sadly.
Manwë saw that nothing he could say would sway the Maia in his determination. He sighed heavily. "Do you... want to fly for one last time?"
A shade of hesitation appeared on Eönwë's face. But then he shook his head. "No," he whispered. "Do it now... Father." He looked Manwë straight into the eyes.
The Lord of winds nodded, and Eönwë spread his arms to became wings for the last time. Manwë stroked his soft feathers regretfully, and then, closing his own eyes, covered the eyes of the hawk with his hand.
The golden bird shivered slightly, but did not wince. But when Manwë withdrew his hand, he staggered, and beat with his wings into the empty air.
"Shhhh..." Manwë embraced him, and held him until the bird calmed. Tears were in the eyes of the King of Arda. "Easy, my little hawk..."
A pair of unseeing eyes turned after his voice.
The King of Númenor stood at the window, eagerly looking at the sky. For weeks Gil-Estel could not be seen. But this night... This night was special. This night his heir would be born. Elros was not allowed to the chambers of his wife, and so he stood on the balcony, and looked at the stars – a sight that used to calm him when the Star of Hope appeared in the sky... the sight that gave him strength after his way separated from the one of his brother... until a few weeks ago, when the star he sought disappeared. Now he watched the sky anxiously, needing its light more then ever. The queen has been sickly in the last days, and he was afraid for her, and for the child. It would be a bad omen if the Star of Hope did not shine on the birth of his heir. A bad omen for the entire realm, but what he wanted to see most in this moment of anxiety, was not just a star, but his father...
He held his breath. There was a star! It did not belong to any of Varda's constellations, but sailed the heavenly streams in a free path. But it was too pale, too weak to be the star of his father. Elros squinted his eyes, unsure if he should believe his sight. The light was somehow familiar, close to his heart... but it did not give him hope.
The star crossed the sky, and the time passed. The king paced to and fro. Had something gone wrong? How long yet? His anxiety grew. And it seemed to him that the star weakened on its journey. It was getting harder and harder to discern it in the sky. And still no news...
Suddenly, like a newly lit beacon, hope flared in his heart. His gaze was driven up, and there, he saw a flash of brilliant light. Gil-Estel shone brightly, and the light was like the memory of ages long past, the reflection of the Two Trees before the Darkening. Hope returned... And in that moment, weeping of a child sounded from the chamber behind. For a moment Elros stood frozen, looking at the star, but then he turned and hurried inside.
A while later, the king stood at the window, clutching a whimpering bundle on his arms. "I have a son..." he proclaimed to the stars with a hint of astonishment in his voice. "His name is Vardamir, for Elbereth is the one who created the stars..."
In the sky, Gil-Estel glimmered, and in that moment Elros Tar-Minyatur knew that his father was looking at him. He smiled. "Your grandson, father..." he whispered.
Manwë's sight was turned to the distance. "The Star of Hope returned to the sky," he whispered to the hawk in his arms.
That's good... Eönwë replied in his mind.
"You should get ready to greet him after he returns," Manwë smiled gently.
He cannot see me so! the hawk almost panicked again.
"That's right," Manwë nodded. "What if you return to the form that he could shake hands with?"
I suppose I can, but...
"No but," Manwë silenced him, and suddenly the authority of the King of Arda was in his voice. Eönwë knew better than to disobey that, and so the soft feathers turned to golden hair and silver armour.
"I... I can see you!" Eönwë blinked in surprise.
Manwë smiled. "Of course you can. You gave him the eyes of the hawk."
Eönwë laughed in relief, but then grew serious again. "For a moment... I knew how he felt. The darkness returned..."
Manwë nodded heavily. "But now he has the sight of a Maia, just like my eagles. He can see everything on the ground below him when he sails through the night. He can see his sons... and their descendants."
"Descendants?" Eönwë looked at Manwë curiously.
"Yes," the Elder King nodded. "Elros's son, and many more that will come. You gave him a great gift, Eönwë."
Tha Maia smiled, and quickly stood up. "I must go! I need to be on the shore when he returns!" For a moment he hesitated, when he wanted to leap into the air to be there quickly... and realized it would mean to face the darkness again. He gave a last shy smile to Manwë, and ran away.
The Lord of Arda watched him, until he disappeared in the gate. "You have given him a great gift, my son..." he whispered. "But if it will be a gift or a curse to him... that yet remains to be seen..."
*-.,_,.-*-.,_,.-*-.,_,.-*-.,_,.-*-.,_,.-* THE END *-.,_,.-*-.,_,.-*-.,_,.-*-.,_,.-*-.,_,.-*
A/N: If it was a gift or a curse at the end, you can read in my story Gil-Estel, and the sequel Hope of a Star. I would like to thank my friends Lirulin and openmeadow for the roleplays that inspired this story (especially Lirulin who usually plays Eönwë in them), and big thanks belong also to Cairistiona for her help with English grammar and other things.
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