6th March 1920 – Southampton docks.
The two elves stood on the dockside as their luggage and Erestor’s paintings were taken by the porter to be loaded into the hold of the superliner, RMS Mauretania. The war had ended in November 1918, and they had spent the past sixteen months living quietly in the village of St. Michael’s Leap. Their friends had become so fond of them that they had held a small party to wish them goodbye. Both Glorfindel and Erestor protested that it would only be for six months, but to the villagers it seemed as though they would be away forever.
“She is a beautiful ship,” Erestor said, as he shaded his eyes from the strong, late winter sun. The weather was almost warm and there was not a cloud in the sky. Spring would be in a few weeks, and the dark-haired elf had visions of walking in New York with the daffodils in bloom.
“She is the fastest ship in the world,” Glorfindel said. “Let us hope that nothing happens while we are on board.”
“Why should anything happen?” Erestor asked, looking at his lover.
“Her sister, the Lusitania, was sunk by a torpedo from a German U-boat,” Glorfindel grinned.
“Hardly likely that any U-boats are hanging around in the Atlantic any more, is it?” Erestor gave a derisory snort and looked once again at the huge ship before them.
“If anything does happen, I am here to rescue you,” Glorfindel grinned and when Erestor raised an eyebrow in contempt, he poked his tongue out at him.
They made their way on to the ship. “We have one of the Regal Suites,” Glorfindel said, and a porter led them to their rooms on the port side of the ship. Erestor’s eyes opened wide when he saw the opulence of the rooms. The drawing room connected to the dining room by a sliding door and both rooms were lined with Indian satinwood panelling with inset pale green and white striped silk panels surrounded by woodcarvings. The two bedrooms were finished in a Georgian style, with moulded carvings in the style of Adam and the walls lined with white silk; the woodwork was a contrasting mahogany.
“This is the bathroom, Sirs,” the porter said as he opened the door for them to view inside, and then he moved swiftly on. “Here is your private corridor, so that you do not have to use the main first class one.”
The porter moved over to the dining room and opened the double doors. “This is your own private deck, Sirs. It is quite the sun trap on the journey across, or so I am told by some of the crew who remember the ship from before the war.”
“Thank you,” Glorfindel said as he tipped the porter a five-pound note.
“Thank you sir,” the porter grinned and held the large white note up in front of his eyes. “My missus will think I have robbed a bank. You need anything, Sirs, just let me know.” The young porter had been told by the crew that the richest passengers tended to be the worst tippers and he knew this must be true because he had been told so many times. He doubted that he would tell them about the five pounds he had been given; it was worth at least three weeks wages and he did not want to find it suddenly missing.
“This is wonderful,” Erestor beamed. “Are we terribly broke now?”
“Not at all, sweet one,” Glorfindel laughed. “This suite was nine-thousand, two hundred dollars; we can afford it easily.”
“What is that in pounds?” Erestor’s eyes widened.
“It works out to two-thousand, four-hundred and fifteen pounds,” Glorfindel grinned, “And we are worth it.”
“That is an incredible amount of money,” Erestor said with a stunned look on his face. “It seems such a waste. You could buy a small mansion with that.”
“Meleth, perhaps you have forgotten how to enjoy luxury? I know that after all my privations in the jungle and your experiences during the war, that if anyone deserves the best suite on the ship it is us.” Glorfindel sat beside his lover on the bed and smiled as they heard the last call to board. “It is too late now, anyway. Shall we go onto our private sun deck and wave goodbye to dear old Blighty?”
Erestor laughed and took Glorfindel’s hand as they stood up. They walked through the double doors, out into the fresh air. Looking over the side, they could see crowds of people waving their loved ones off. After a while, the whistle sounded and the noise from the engines increased.
“We are moving,” Erestor said excitedly.
Glorfindel said nothing in reply. He reached down, took his lover’s hand and squeezed it. The moment was too awesome for him to say anything trivial and so he smiled with the same joy and excitement as the dark elf beside him.
“I say, isn’t that the Reverend?” Erestor pointed in the direction of the dock.
“It certainly looks like him,” Glorfindel replied. “Perhaps he is waving a friend off.”
“Do you suppose Dorothy has left him because he isn’t strange enough?” Erestor asked with a playful malice.
Glorfindel howled with laughter. “Well he isn’t blowing any kisses so it probably is not her who he is waving to. Anyway, I always thought of them as being very happy together.”
“I am being naughty, that is all,” Erestor replied. “It is probably a friend or one of his parishioners. If it was Dorothy he would have said, wouldn’t he?”
“Not if she was travelling third class,” Glorfindel grinned. “You know what a crashing snob he is.”
“Like all of them really,” Erestor smiled ruefully. “The war is over and now we can go back to being awful to each other.”
“So long as you are never awful to me, I do not give a fig,” Glorfindel said cheerfully. “In return, I promise never to be awful to you.”
From Southampton, the liner made good speed to Cherbourg and then it was onward towards the great Atlantic Ocean.
Erestor and Glorfindel mixed easily with the other guests and held two dinner parties in their private rooms. They were delighted to find that they knew quite a few of the first class passengers and socialised to an excessive degree. Nearly every night was the same and after a week of very little sleep, Glorfindel was worn out.
“I need to have an early night,” Glorfindel said as he speared his fork into his turbot with lemon sauce at dinner.
“Yes, we have been overdoing it somewhat.” Erestor winked and tucked into his fillet steak with horseradish cream.
“It surprises me that you have so much stamina,” Glorfindel mused as he dipped a boiled new potato in melted butter.
“I am back to my old self,” Erestor replied and took a sip of his Lafitte. “Mmm…nice. What is yours like?”
“It is very nice; Rothschild normally is acceptable,” Glorfindel took a sip and smiled. “Yum yum, just right. I am not giving you any.”
“I don’t want any,” Erestor grinned.
They both had the lemon mousse with syllabub, and then departed for their suite.
On the way, they had to fend off several good-natured invites to go dancing or to play cards. When nearly at the entrance to their private corridor, they were asked to go on an impromptu scavenger hunt, organised by a group of bright young things who had a list of items that one had to purloin from different parts of the ship; the person collecting the most by a certain time would be the winner. No one had worked out what the prize should be, nor that taking the Captain’s hat would be looked upon with a certain amount of disapproval.
The elves carefully extricated themselves from the requests by suggesting that Glorfindel might be feeling a bit under the weather. “Why do I have to be the one who is feeling ill?” the blond elf whined as they entered their drawing room. “I look the very picture of health.”
“Shut up and take your clothes off,” Erestor grinned. “Get into bed like the sick elf you are so that I can tend to your needs.”
“All right, then, you strip off too and then we can make believe we are Bacchus’ nymphs who have had too much to drink and have lost their inhibitions,” Glorfindel said as he approached his lover and threaded his fingers through his hair. “Mmm…this was such a good idea, getting the most private rooms on the ship.”
They kissed, whilst deftly puling the clothing away from each other’s bodies, and then they stopped.
“Do you feel that?” Glorfindel asked, his face furrowed with surprise.
“The call of the sea,” Erestor laughed and kissed Glorfindel hard on the mouth. “How will it happen? This ship will not be able to travel to Valinor.”
“I really do not know,” Glorfindel replied. “I hope we can find a way.”
“The ships engines have stopped.”
Glorfindel walked out onto the private deck to see if he could peer down to the main deck below and find out from a passing member of staff why they were not moving anymore. The ship was in darkness except for his suite and a couple of other cabins dotted along the side of the great vessel. Ahead, in the near distance, floated a wide shimmering band of crystal rising in an elegant, curving arch from the lapping waves up into the sky, to a point where his keen elven sight failed him.
Glorfindel looked over the side and saw a lifeboat being lowered.
The person down below looked up at them. “Hurry up; I do not know how long it will remain. This may be our last chance.”
Erestor and Glorfindel raced into the drawing room and opened the safe, taking out the jewels that they had brought just in case something like this did indeed happen and took the jewels out of the safe that they had brought, just in case something like this did indeed happen. They did not want to go to Valinor empty handed. They ran down to the lowest open deck and climbed down the rope ladder to the waiting lifeboat below. Three elves sat there already.
“There is one more to come,” they were told by the elf who was holding the oars. They sat for a while, but nothing happened. “Perhaps she has changed her mind. How sad.”
“Can we wait a little longer?” Erestor asked.
"I am afraid not," the elf said and pushed off with his oar. "It was debatable whether she would hear the call, and it seems the Valar have decided that she will not.“
They cast off and listened to the oars dipping into the still water. All seemed calm and silent as if a hush had descended over the whole of the ocean. The time of the elves was over, and the acquiescent sea would be their final memory.
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