The time of ‘lasts’ seemed far in the past already. That final year in Ithilien when so many things happened for the last time; the last apple harvest, the last blackberries, the last trip to Minas Tirith, the last summer bonfire… sometimes it seemed to Tindómë to have been in a different life.
Now the season of ‘firsts’ was also in the past; the first glimpse of white Alqualondë shimmering in the morning sun, the first hug from her ‘winter elfling’, the first hug for Celebrían as promised to her daughter, all past. The first solstice celebration had been followed by three more and, now, the Ithilrim had been here for almost two years.
Last night had been the midsummer feast and celebrations, earlier this morning they had jumped the bonfire, and now Tindómë lay in Rumil’s arms on their bed. Voices drifted in from outside, Orophin could be heard laughing with his wife, downstairs, and then there was the sound of the outer door opening and three more voices were added to the mix; Haldirin, Ithilienne, and Tharhîwon or, as Tindómë’s inner Dawn had christened them, the Three Musketeers. She had never used the phrase out loud – it would have taken too much explanation – but it did suit them.
Soon, Tindómë thought drowsily, she would move, wash her face, and go down to join the others. See how many ribbons Ithilienne had collected. There would not be the familiar green ribbon, embroidered with golden oak leaves, as Legolas had not been here for the celebrations. Ithilienne seemed to have enjoyed herself perfectly well without him, her mother thought, which was as it should be.
Having finally convinced Legolas that she was an adult, and ready to be swayed by the desires of the body (the phrase taken from a book in the library at Minas Tirith so many years ago had stuck…), Ithilienne was now happy to share such pleasures with others. To broaden her education, as her uncle Orophin had once said about her mother.
The chances were that, unless he had been teamed up with Haldirin for the entire night, Tharhîwon would have finished his celebrations in Ithilienne’s company; it was part of their friendship. And explaining that concept to any of the people she had known, in the dimension where she had learnt of the Three Musketeers, would have been as difficult as explaining the reference to the three young elves…
Legolas was still moving from one small group of Silvan Elves to another, from one patch of woodland to another; there was no rush. He sent regular letters back to those living on the outskirts of Alqualondë and, Gandalf assured them, he could get back within only a few days if there was any urgent requirement that he should do so. Gandalf himself would guarantee this.
But, at present, there was no need. Tindómë thought the only reasons that he would need to be called upon to hurry back would be if either of the two elderly hobbits became ill or a ship was sighted that may have some of his family on board. Although Sam and Frodo were a little greyer, a little slower, than they had been when the Heart of Eryn Ithil first docked, they seemed in reasonable health and Tindómë didn’t think it likely that King Thranduil would arrive any time in the near future either – and so it was unlikely that her ‘big brother’ would be back soon.
Especially as the most recent letter said that he had been invited to spend time visiting the Noldor High King in Tirion. As had Gimli. Gimli was still away as well; he had gone, within six months of his arrival, to spend time with Lord Aulë – the Vala who created dwarves – and had been there ever since. But he was to meet up with Legolas and go to the High King’s court.
Tindómë would have loved to have been invited too; or even just been a fly on the wall. But she was not, and she didn’t really expect to see either of them for a year or more yet. Perhaps they would be back in time for next midsummer… perhaps not; there was no sense of urgency.
There was no sense of urgency to get out of bed either, but, whilst her thoughts had been drifting to follow Legolas and Gimli, someone had begun breakfast and the sounds and aromas had been drifting into her consciousness. Rumil was now fully awake, sending images of fresh bread and honey straight into her mind, whilst nibbling on her earlobe to make the decision about leaving the bed even more difficult.
Then the mental images changed and Tindómë squirmed as her body responded. Rumil laughed gently before swiftly leaving the bed and heading downstairs. Tindómë waited; Rumil’s wordless promise of breakfast in bed suggested a number of very interesting ways to eat the honey, and then they could go down to the beach to swim in case their tongues missed any…
Elves were all masters of the art of elegant lounging; you never saw an elf sitting or lying around awkwardly. But in the warmth of the Alqualondë summer they were positively languid now that the excitement of the solstice celebrations was over.
Fishing boats still sailed out and cast nets, vegetable patches and orchards were still tended, meals were still prepared. But, otherwise, both the local Teleri and the Ithilrim lived a life of pleasurable ennui; bathing, swimming, walking gracefully along the shoreline, relaxing under trees. It was a season of somnolence.
On the whole, Tindómë greatly approved. Some days she visited Celebrían, or found cool escape from the heat of mid-day in Master Elrond’s library; other days might be spent drinking tea with Frodo; and still more were spent in the company of family; many ended in starlight bathing with Rumil.
The bathing pool the Silvan elves had helped build on the lower reaches of the river that ran through Master Elrond’s garden, as opposed to the original one nearer the main dwelling, was rarely unoccupied during these warm summer nights. Orophin and Rumil had a running wager on who could predict most accurately the number of starlight bathers each night – and who might be bathing with whom.
There were also running wagers around the scores achieved during the less frequent archery practice; in fact, truth to tell, practice at the butts was at least as much about competition as about maintaining skill and speed for any other reason these days. Sword and knife practice was postponed in the middle of the summer heat – something almost unimaginable, only a few years ago, to these elves who had been warriors for so very long. Life was good.
One afternoon Tindómë was sitting on a shady balcony of Master Elrond’s home deep in conversation with Erestor. They had met during the winter she spent in Imladris, before he sailed to take up his place in Elrond’s new household and rejoin his wife, and now found pleasure in each other’s company.
They were discussing what life had been like ‘in the place you lived before your arrival in Middle Earth’; Erestor was quite jealous of those elves who had, albeit briefly, seen that place. Tindómë had a feeling he would have been even more jealous if Glorfindel had been amongst the ‘rescue party’ – probably as well that he hadn’t been!
In a pause in the conversation Tindómë suddenly remembered the first time she had bathed amongst the elves – in the river in Rohan. And that she had thought of Legolas as looking like ‘a surfer dude’.
‘Why did I suddenly think of that?’ she wondered.
Almost certainly, she realised, because beyond the garden was the sea and, today, there was just enough breeze to give the waves white crests that were visible from where they sat. She considered how often they might have the right sort of surf here in the summer. There had been high seas a few times during the winters…
Now that she had thought of it she could just picture elves on surfboards. Well, the Silvan/Sindar Ithilrim and the Teleri; she couldn’t really see Erestor riding a breaker, and the mental image of Master Elrond doing so made her laugh out loud.
Erestor looked at her questioningly. She explained. Or at least she explained the concept of surfing; she told him it was the mental image of Rumil on a board that made her laugh, not the complete truth.
“That sounds quite fascinating,” Erestor said. “The Teleri skim over the waves in small boats, but on nothing but a wooden board… I wonder why none of us have thought of it before?”
Somehow, from there, it snowballed. Or possibly, Tindómë thought, it snowboarded. The wood elves were, of course, the very people to start fashioning boards. From a few attempts to ride the small waves on pieces of drift wood, to try out the concept, soon there were discussions about which might be the best wood? Would laminated layers of different wood work best? What might be the best length of board?
Dawn, of course, had not been a surfer – Sunnydale had not had a suitable stretch of coastline. But she remembered that the boards had fins, or something, underneath. Telerin elves, who understood why their own small, fast, boats had keels, joined in with ideas on just how big such a keel might need to be, whether two might be better than one… and when the first reasonable swell of late summer rolled onto the beach below Master Elrond’s estate it was greeted with glee.
It really took very little time for the elves to progress from lying on their new surf boards to crouching and then to standing. Wood elves, used to making their way through swaying tree branches, had little problem finding their balance in this new sport. The ellyn seemed most enthusiastic, and were soon developing a competitive spirit and wagering on just who could remain standing on their board on any given wave, but Ithilienne and Lithôniel, amongst other ellyth, were almost as enthusiastic. As, much to Tindómë’s surprise, was Erestor.
He had been enthusiastic from day one and, as soon as the waves began to crest and break, he had joined others in stripping off and paddling his board out from the shore. And it took him no longer than the wood elves to gain his balance; he was, Tindómë knew, an excellent swordsman and that clearly helped, too.
There was no sign of Master Elrond doing likewise which was, Tindómë thought, probably a good thing. Although he did come, with his wife and the two hobbits, and stand on the shoreline to see something new – which was, he said, always a real bonus to someone who had lived a long life. As he laughed long and loud at some of the more spectacular mishaps he reminded Tindómë of his sons.
‘Oh how the twins would love this,’ she thought. ‘And how frustrated they will be when they get here to find that even Erestor is so good at it. They must come… they must…’
Even Legolas would find his people had the jump on him when he returned, despite it being a memory of him that had set this whole thing in motion! Frodo’s mind was clearly travelling the same path.
“Would that I was many years younger,” he said, “and I would want to try this. Legolas will most certainly want to learn to ride the sea in this way when he returns. But I am already trying to picture Gimli if he is determined that ‘the lad’ does not outdo him…”
Tindómë tried to picture the same thing. Her amusement was so great that she feared it might have been the reason for Rumil suddenly losing concentration and tumbling into the sea.
Tindómë had thought of surfing as a summer sport, but the local elves said the sea was usually too calm then – and as the weather grew colder there was no sign of the boards being put away until the spring.
She feared her own balance was not as good as that of her family and friends and getting cold and wet, either paddling out or falling off, was not really all that much like fun either. She decided that her role was to wait on the shore, tending a small fire, and admiring the sleek wet bodies…
However, on such days, or evenings, she was also planning… there was something else, she thought, that it might be fun to introduce whilst they were living so close to the sea. Something that would not require any particular sea-state; something that would allow her to keep her hair dry.
By the time Legolas and Gimli returned from Tirion in time for the next summer solstice, with many tales to tell of their travels, a large span of net was strung between tall poles on the sand. The purpose was not immediately obvious to them; they assumed it was something that belonged to the local fishermen.
At least they did for the first couple of days. Then Galanthir asked Legolas if he wanted to come to the game…
Tindómë was sitting on the rocks overlooking the poles and the net when her ‘big brother’ arrived.
“Sit, and learn, atheg,” she greeted him. “The rules are pretty simple, and it’s giving everyone something to do. My money is on the blue team; but you’d better get the feel before you start wagering on winners, or scorers, and so on.”
‘Just wait,’ she thought as he sat where she gestured, looking both puzzled and interested, ‘until we introduce you to surfing later – but right now it’s the beach volleyball season…’
Chapter end notes:
The Ithilrim are Legolas' people - those who lived in his 'colony' in Ithilien.
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