Strangers in a Strange Land by My Blue Rose

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Chapter One: Departure

It is said that Amandil set sail in a small ship at night, and steered first eastward, and then went about and passed into the west. And he took with him three servants, dear to his heart, and never again were they heard of by word or sign in this world, nor is there any tale or guess of their fate.” ~The Silmarillion, Akallabêth

“Ar-Pharazôn, being besotted, and walking under the shadow of death, for his span was drawing towards its end, hearkened to Sauron; and he began to ponder in his heart how he might make war upon the Valar. He was long preparing this design, and he spoke not openly of it, yet it could not be hidden from all. And Amandil, becoming aware of the purposes of the King, was dismayed and filled with a great dread, for he knew that Men could not vanquish the Valar in war, and that ruin must come upon the world, if this war were not stayed. Therefore he called his son, Elendil, and he said to him: 'The days are dark, and there is no hope in Men, for the Faithful are few. Therefore I am minded to try that counsel which our forefather Eärendil took of old, to sail into the West, be there ban or no, and to speak to the Valar, even to Manwë himself, if may be, and beseech his aid ere all is lost.” ~The Silmarillion, Akallabêth

5th of Víresse in the Year 3316 of the Second Age, Kings Reckoning:

The ocean billowed as if a giant had dropped a stone into its depths, sending rolls of water at the little ship that bobbed on its surface. The sky was iron gray and the air full of water droplets too small to be rain but too large to be fog. The moisture scattered the setting sun’s rays so that the ship was bathed in ruddy light. A young man leaned over the side of the boat, gripping the sheer strake tightly. Taking deep breaths, Abârôn willed his stomach to settle and wondered what madness had convinced him to join Lord Amânzîr in this endeavor.

But he knew the answer.

Abârôn was greatly indebted to Lord Amânzîr, for he had apprenticed him so he might learn a trade and had paid for him to be tutored in many subjects. And it was not as if he had kin whom might miss him should he perish. After a few moments, he lost the battle with his stomach and vomited over the side of the ship. He was contemplating how much he hated sailing when Abârôn felt a hand rubbing circles on his back. He looked up to see the wrinkled face of Avalôbêl crouched beside him. The young man smiled weakly at Lord Amânzîr’s manservant.

The two Men appeared similar. Both were beardless and Abârôn’s brown hair was cropped short in the manner of servants as was Avalôbêl’s. They also wore the same white woolen servant’s tunics, the left breast of which was embroidered with the emblem of the Lords of Andûnië: a golden rayed Sun setting against an indigo horizon. Avalôbêl was nearing seventy and had been good to his apprentice, if not always patient. He had always reminded Abârôn of his Grandfather, gruff and not suffering fools gladly, yet with a kind heart.

“Drink,” Avalôbêl ordered, handing Abârôn a water skin once he was certain the lad was not going to be sick again.

Abârôn did so after rinsing his mouth out and spitting several times over the edge of the boat. He grimaced, trying to ignore the taste of the water that had picked up the flavor of the wooden barrel it had been stored in. Abârôn knew he had become spoiled living in Lord Amânzîr’s estate just outside Rómenna. There was a spring on the property, and he had forgotten what it was like to drink water that did not taste fresh. Abârôn thought that even well water would be preferable to water that had been stored in an oaken cask for several weeks.

“You need to drink more, else you will get sick,” Avalôbêl said as Abârôn handed him the water skin.

Abârôn nodded, but did not think he could not bring himself to drink anymore of the stale water. From the aft of the ship a man came towards them with long sure strides, even on the pitching deck. His face was unlined, but not young, with a large nose that prevented him from being truly handsome. His beard was trimmed short and his dark hair was drawn back in a solitary braid, after the fashion of mariners. He was barefoot and naked from the waist up, with his arms crossed over his muscled chest. He would have looked imposing if he had not been smiling broadly.

“You should not mother the boy so much, Avalôbêl. He is almost a man now,” he said good naturedly.

“Bârhên Azruzôr, it seems you have misplaced your tunic once again. Shall I get you a new one ere you catch your death of cold?” Avalôbêl’s voice was dry and he squeezed Abârôn’s shoulder before straightening, fastidiously smoothing his tunic.

“I take it back! You may mother the boy all you like provided you do not mother me,” Azruzôr said wryly, winking at Abârôn. “Here lad, I bought this ere we left. Thought you might have need of it.” He held out a ceramic jar. “It is pickled ginger. I remembered you liked it and I thought I would help settle your stomach.”

Lord Azruzôr had introduced Abârôn to pickled ginger several years ago, after a disastrous fishing trip where he had been terribly seasick. Abârôn liked Lord Azruzôr, though he drove Avalôbêl mad with his lack of propriety. Lord Azruzôr was the youngest child of Lord Amânzîr’s younger brother, Lord Azrutarik. He had inherited the love of the Sea that many of the Lords of Númenór had possessed but, unlike them, he was mostly known for his cheerful insouciance. It was his ship, the Azrukarbu, they were sailing, and Lord Azruzôr had built her himself.

“Thank you, Bârhên.” Abârôn was touched by his kindness. He gave a bow that was shaky due to the roll of the ship, but Lord Azruzôr waved his hand dismissively.

“None of that, now. How many times have I said that it is impossible to run a ship with Men bowing all over the place?”

“Often enough, I am sure.” Amânzîr said as he emerged from below deck.

Lord Amânzîr was a hand taller than his nephew, handsome, with a neatly trimmed beard and sharp eyes, grey as the morning mist. The hair at this temples was grey but the rest of his locks were dark, shot with strands of silver. He did not wear his hair loose about his shoulders, as was custom among the Lords of Númenór, but bound in a single plait. He wore the same black sailor’s breeches as his companions, fastened with clamshell buttons. Yet Lord Amânzîr’s tunic was linen, dyed indigo, with silver embroidery at the hem, collar and cuffs.

“Did you sleep well, Uncle?” Azruzôr asked. He was steering the ship during the day with Abârôn as his help while Lord Amânzîr, whom was as nearly as good a sailor as his nephew, would guide the ship at night with Avalôbêl.

“We made good time again today,” Azruzôr continued, not giving his uncle time to answer. “Twelve knots. If this wind keeps through the night, we should see the Enchanted Isles on the morrow. Three hundred and forty leagues in a fortnight. That is almost too swift. Maybe the Bârun Anazra and the Adûnakhôr are taking pity on us?” Azruzôr grinned, though he did not truly believe they were receiving aid from the Powers.

“We can but hope,” Amânzîr replied quietly, looking West.

Abârôn followed his gaze, yet in the waning light he saw nothing but the endless Sea. They had set sail from the harbor in Rómenna and headed east for a day before turning south and angling west, heading for where the Elven ships were known to pass on their way to Tol Eressëa. They wanted to skirt the Lonely Island to the south, but there were no accurate maps to be found in Númenór detailing the seas around Tol Eressëa or how to pass the Enchanted Isles that barred the way. As Lord Azruzôr said, they would burn that bridge when they came to it.

Abârôn climbed the ladder that led below deck, descending into the large chamber that served as the galley and common room. He sat down at the table that was bolted to the floor to prevent it from moving. The glass lantern overhead swayed with the ship and the candlelight sent shadows dancing along the walls. He did not feel up to eating anything and ignored the kettle of soup that was on the small stove in the fore of the ship. Using his belt dagger, Abârôn scraped off the beeswax that sealed the jar Lord Azruzôr had given him.

Removing the cork, he fished dripping pieces of pickled ginger out of the container. Abârôn chewed slowly, savoring the tang, praying that it would calm his stomach. He wondered how much this delicacy had cost, as he knew it had to be imported from Umbar. He decided not to finish the whole jar in case he felt sick again tomorrow. Covering the jar with a clean cloth, he put it in one of the many storage cupboards that lined the walls of the room. Then he made his way to the aft of the galley where there were two small rooms.

The starboard cabin was Lord Amânzîr’s and Lord Azruzôr’s, while the portside one he shared with Avalôbêl. The room was dark inside for there was no lantern. Abârôn made his way to the bed that was set into the right wall by feel. He kicked off his shoes and settled on the straw mattress, drawing the wool blanket over his head. He should have changed out of his tunic but did not feel like doing so. After the ginger, the pitching of the ship felt more like the rocking of a cradle rather than the inside a butter churn . Soon the gentle motion lulled him to sleep.


Chapter End Notes:

Glossary

5th of Víresse (Quenya): March 27th on the Gregorian calendar.

Sheer strake (English): the uppermost timber (strake) on the hull of a ship, also call the ‘top strake’. It is more commonly known as the ‘gunwale’ but this term would not be appropriate in Middle-earth, since it derives from the use of this part of a ship to secure cannons.

Breeches (English): an article of men’s clothing worn in the West from the late 16th century until the end of the 19th century. Breeches are essentially pants (trousers) that stop anywhere from below the knee to mid-calf. They are fastened about the leg by either buttons, a draw-string, or by straps and a buckle.

Amânzîr (Adûnaic): ‘Friend of Aman’. This is the Adûnaic form of the Quenya name ‘Amandil’.

“…The emblem of the Lords of Andûnië”: a sigil of my own invention based on the fact that the word Andúnië is a variant of the Quenya word andúnë, meaning ‘sunset’.

Bârhên (Andûnaic): ‘My Lord’.

“…Lord Azruzôr was the youngest child of Lord Amânzîr’s brother Lord Azrutarik”: In an abandoned version of the Fall of Númenor (The Lost Road, HoME V), Tolkien told the story of Amandil’s brother, Elentir (Azrutarik in Andûnaic), whom was in love with Míriel the daughter of Tar-Palantir. Later, Tolkien changed the story so that Míriel was forced into marriage by her cousin Ar-Pharazôn and in the course of revising the story, Elentir disappeared from canon altogether.

Azrukarbu (Andûnaic): ‘Sea Stallion’.

Bârun Anazra (Adûnaic): ‘Lord of the Sea’. Another name for the Vala Ulmo.

Adûnakhôr (Adûnaic): ‘Lord of the West’. Another name for the Vala Manwë.



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