(Credits–and lots of them– will be found at the end of the last chapter.:-)

PROLOGUE–“Melian’s Children”

In the 257th year after the death of King Eldarion, Southrons and Easterlings captured the Gondorion fleet by treachery and wrought ruin on the towns and settlements of Gondor. Faramir, captain of the fleet and of the line of the stewards of Gondor, alone escaped from the massacre of the sailors. With his young wife Melian, of the house of Eldarion’s sister Arone, and two servants, they fled from the land of Gondor, for the pair would certainly be killed if the invaders captured them. The king and his household had already been destroyed, even with help of some of the citizens who had joined secret dark societies and discreetly adopted the evil practices of the South.

Faramir knew of a secret inlet on the North coasts, where he had often sailed before. To this bay he took his wife and servants. Their voyage was hard, but the experienced sailor brought them safely to their new home. At first their house was a tent made of saplings and canvas, but gradually Faramir, with the help of his skilled manservant Reul, constructed a handsome little cottage, to which they continually added new rooms until it was a large farmhouse.

On a hunting trip Reul discovered a town about two days march from the bay. This Faramir was glad to know, for he had need of seeds and animals if they were to support themselves. He did not dare go himself into the town, for he did not know what spies were about, and Melian was with child. But as it happened he was at sea when she was delivered of a stillborn son. Melian contained her grief quietly. The next summer she had a daughter, who laughed as soon as she saw her mother’s face. Because of this they named her Lalaith. Her father and mother spoiled her, and Melian’s sadness seemed to vanish in her daughter’s smiles.

Thus in great happiness the house lived for three years. One evening the little girl with the gold curls ran out of the house unnoticed. Only when the maidservant Mereth wondered out loud that Lalaith was not running and laughing about the cottage as she was wont to do did they realize she was gone. In great distress and fear they searched with torches around the house and in the nearby forest. It was Faramir who found her drowned in the deep stream that ran on the borders of the forest. At this Melian cried out that she was a cursed woman, and would have killed herself had Faramir not stopped her, though he too was heartbroken. They buried Lalaith near her brother under a great willow that grew on the north arm of the bay.

Melian said she would never again bear a child, and brooded continually so that Faramir was afraid to leave her alone lest she do some hurt to herself. But in the fourth year after Lalaith’s death she again gave birth to a daughter. This one had dark hair, and grey eyes. Melian desired to call her Morwen, because she thought the girl would come to an unhappy fate like her other children. Her husband refused, declaring the infant’s name to be Firiel, which signifies Mortal Maiden. The mother consented, and awaited the day when Firiel would prove her mortality with dark thoughts.

That day showed no sign of arriving, and Firiel grew quickly into a beautiful little four-year-old maid, even more beautiful than Lalaith; though she laughed less, she danced more. Melian’s heart seemed to be healing and her sorrows, though not forgotten, were assuaged. Still the young maid preferred her father, who was always merry with her and treated her with more love than he had ever given even to Lalaith. On her fourth birthday Faramir declared that Firiel’s dearest wish would be granted: he would take her on a short boat ride into the sea. Firiel squealed with delight, and danced about excitedly, putting on her little cap with her name broidered on the front, which had been a gift from Mereth. In a panic Melian cried out at the danger of Faramir’s proposed birthday present.

“Alas, on such a happy day you would take my only child away in a flimsy little boat! I shall surely never see her alive again if you do this!” Dismayed, Faramir assured her that there would be no danger. It was a fair day, he would take Reul to make sure someone always had a hand on her. They would be back very soon.

“Look at how the child loves the idea!” he coaxed. “And my boats” he added slowly, deeply insulted, “are not flimsy.” Finally Melian relented, and suffered her Firiel to go.
But Faramir had forgotten the tides, and Melian’s heart trembled for her family.

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