Holiday Requested: Harvest
Character(s) Wanted: I would like a story featuring the sons of Imrahil(Elphir, Erchirion and Amrothos) at some point while they are young.
I'm so sorry it took so long. My sincerest apologies to whosever's request this was. School got so busy and I got a bit of a mental block on this story. The earliest version of it involved Corsairs and and the dates were a little bit later but it just wouldn't work. It was a bad cross between POTC and LOTR, lol. I think this works a bit better, I'm hoping at least. :)
Gulls wheeled and cried as they circled the steep cliffs off the Bay of Befaelas. The wind blew seaward, whipping the hair and bringing colour to the cheeks of the harvesters working in the fields bordering the cliffs. Overhead the sky was the hard blue of early autumn, with white wisps of cloud stretching across the horizon.
Below on the shore Elphir scuffed his feet at the edge of a tidal pool, feeling the cool water pool between his toes. He scowled as he searched the pool for spiny urchin. He should be out with his father and cousins, hunting down the Corsairs! Instead he was on an errand for his mother, looking for urchins so she could make her purple dye. She treated him like a baby, his mother, even though he was twelve years old! Surely his cousins Faramir and Boromir had been allowed on hunts when they were his age, helping to defend Gondor against orc attacks. He had begged to be allowed to go with the men when they had heard of Corsair raids further down the coast but his father told him that he had to stay with his mother and younger siblings.
“Next year, Elphir,” his father had said, ruffling the hair of his eldest son before swinging into his saddle. He and his men had left earlier in the day and weren’t expected back until the feast day.
“Elphir!” His younger brother Erchirion came running up, his arms filled with tiny marine creatures. He had been sent on the same mission as Elphir and Elphir was supposed to keep an eye on him. “Did I get the right ones?”
Elphir stifled a sigh of annoyance as he nodded towards the baskets. “Put them in there, Erchirion, I’ll check them in a moment. Why don’t you go and get some more?”
“Alright,” his brother eagerly dumped his armful and got ready to go looking again. He noticed the object lying beside the basket; puzzled, he asked his brother. “Why did you bring your sword down here?”
“You never know when you might need one,” answered Elphir with the superiority of someone three years older.
“Won’t rust get on it from the salt water?” said Erchirion doubtfully. “The tide is starting to come in. Anyway, Daenia is taking me and Amrothos around to the next islet; she said there might be some of the seal folk there. Do you want to come?”
Elphir was tempted; it was always fun looking for seals. “I’ll come,” he said, pulling up his basket past the high tide mark and buckling on his sword belt. He followed his brother around the cliffs to where his other brother Amrothos, only five years old, was waiting with his nursemaid.
In the distance, a group of rocks gleamed blackly as white spume from waves crashed up on them. That was their destination, a home for a colony of seals. Elphir shielded his eyes and squinted as he looked for the dark shapes that were usually found around the rocks. He and Daenia were the stragglers of the expedition, Erchirion and Amrothos had gone running, dancing in and out of the cold surf. “Do you think they’ll still be here, at this time of year?” he asked her. Daenia was the daughter of a local fisherman and knew the area, both land and sea, like the back of her hand. She was the one who had first brought Elphir and his brothers to see the seals earlier in the summer.
“I think so, it’s still fairly early in the autumn, although-,” she answered him, brushing back her black hair that whipped around her face.
“Although?” Elphir questioned.
“Nevermind,” she said, giving him a sideways look. They continued to walk, talking for a couple minutes and then falling silent. They had almost reached the rocks before Elphir realized that something was different about them today. The barking and splashing noises that were usually present were wasn’t there and the absence made the call of the seagulls sound raucous in the silence. He could see that there were shapes around the rocks and the beach but there was no movement from them.
“Oh,” said Daenia as they neared the colony, her voice hesitant. “I shouldn’t have brought you here today, they’ve already finished-”
“Finished what?” asked Elphir as Amrothos came barreling up, burying his head in Daenia’s stomach. Daenia picked him up quickly as he started to cry. “The harvest has already happened.”
“Elphir! Elphir!” Erchirion was calling to him. His brother was kneeling by a motionless seal. Elphir joined him, but he spared an angry glance at Daenia who was trying to comfort Amrothos. Perhaps Daenia hadn’t known that this would happen, but why had she brought them out here on this day, when she knew what the scene might be like if there had been already been the harvest of the sealfolk.
“He’s still alive,” said Erchirion with a wavering voice, when Elphir reached him. “Can you help him?”
Elphir looked down at the seal. The animal’s dark eyes usually a liquid black were filled with a hazy gray film. It’s sides heaved up and down as it struggled to breathe and the bottom half of it’s body looked liked it had been crushed by a heavy object. He looked back over his shoulder, Daenia was there, still trying to calm a crying Amrothos. He felt like crying himself, the beach was a mess of red matter and bits of seal that the hunters hadn’t wanted. But he couldn’t cry, he was twelve and that was too old to cry. He knew the harvest was a fact of life; the meat and fur from the sealfolk helped them all survive during the long winter months. Still, it was a hard scene to witness and one that Erchirion and Amrothos didn’t need to see yet.
Daenia shook her head when Erchirion repeated again, desperately, “Can we help him?”
It was obvious that the seal was going to die, there was only one thing that they could do to help, but Elphir didn’t know how to explain it to his already upset brother. He looked to Daenia for help, she was the one who had gotten them into this situation. Fortunately, she seemed to understand his unsaid plea. She put her arm around Erchirion’s shoulders and started to steer him away from the seal. She led them down the beach, distracting them as they walked. “We’ll go and find some urchins that might help him, all right? We’ll have to go look for them though, I don’t see any around here.”
Elphir stayed with the seal.
When his brothers and Daenia returned, bearing a load of shells and urchins, Elphir told them that the strangest thing had happened while they had been gone. The seal had started moving towards the ocean. He hadn’t wanted to stop the animal, seeing as it was hurt, and he watched as the seal got to the water’s edge and swam away. Erchirion and Amrothos brightened as they heard this, especially after Elphir showed them the marks in the sand that lead to the sea.
“Maybe he felt that he could heal better in the water,” Daenia suggested, as Elphir finished his story. Everyone agreed that that was probably the reason.
They traveled back to where they had left their baskets as it was getting late in the afternoon. As they picked up their baskets to go, Elphir told them to go ahead, he would catch up in a moment. Daenia gave him a sympathetic look but Elphir was oblivious to it. As soon as they were out of sight, Elphir drew his sword out of his sheath and walked towards the water. This wasn’t what he had brought his sword down to the shore for, but the idea of defending against imaginary Corsairs seemed childish in face of the seal’s suffering. His father had explained to him before what a man’s duty was to a dying animal; he had to end the pain.
In the end, though it was difficult, he had done what was required.
He knelt in at the edge, the water swirling around him. He watched as the red on his sword washed away and glittering sand grains gathered on the metal. He didn’t care if it rusted.