Silmarillion Writers' Guild Lady and Captain by Lady Roisin

Isildur lifted a hand to his temples and shielded his eyes from the bright early morning sun. His gaze followed the tall masts of the ships at anchor, towering over the docks and quays of Rómenna like trees that grew canvas sails instead of leaves. Isildur’s father sent his sons to assist Tarion, a local mariner and merchant, in a cargo voyage to western Númenor. There they would meet an elvish ship from Lindon and exchange messages and wares before heading off to Andúnië to deliver their documented cargo. It was a dangerous mission, one where they risked being spotted by other ships or searched upon reaching their destination. The very thought of it made Isildur’s blood pump a bit faster.

“It’s about time you two showed up,” a familiar female voice barked over the noise of the busy dock. Isildur turned to see Tarion’s daughter, Tindalómë, stride towards him, and his eyes went wide upon seeing the garb she wore. Instead of a gown or chiton she wore a man’s tunic and leggings. The straps of her leather sandals reached up to the middle of her calves. Tindalómë looked from Isildur to his brother, Anárion, but allowed her gaze to linger upon Isildur for an extra moment. “I was beginning to think you wouldn’t show up.” She turned on her heel and motioned for the two brothers to follow her. “Come along, we should have left port a half an hour ago.”

“Where is your father?” Isildur asked while stepping onto the gangplank leading up into one of Tarion’s ships. His eyes scanned the docks, looking for the familiar tall man he had been apprenticed to.

“He is back in his storehouse, conducting business as usual.” Tindalómë did not bother to turn around as she spoke. “He entrusted the ship and this voyage to me. Now get a move on while the winds are fair.”

If Tindalómë’s attire had shocked him, then her statement left Isildur completely stunned. He turned to look at Anárion whose eyes were wide and likely equally as mystified as his own. A withering stare cast over Tindalómë’s shoulder brought them out of their stupor and both of them quickly launched into action, assisting the crew. Despite the flurry of activity on deck, Isildur occasionally stole a glance at Tindalómë while she stood at the ship’s helm.

A female captain was not a concept Isildur had been raised with. Seafaring was an unpredictable, and many times dangerous, profession. Along with the risks of drowning and injuries, there was also the potential of being captured in foreign territories, and women were more likely to face extra dangers when imprisoned. Beyond all of that, some sailors were highly superstitious when it came to allowing women aboard ships. Some said it made the lady Uinen jealous. Even though Isildur did not believe such ridiculousness, he still had difficulty wrapping his mind around the idea of being ordered around by a woman who was not only younger than him but one who likely did not have as much experience with ships and seafaring. However, the rising thoughts nagged at his consciousness, trying to rationalize that Isildur was merely uncomfortable with it because he was enamored with the young woman ordering him about.

“So were you planning to hold that rigging all the way to Andúnië, or shall I show you how to knot it?” Isildur looked to his left to see Tindalómë giving him a wry grin. He had not even noticed that she had left the helm and Isildur’s cheeks burned in embarrassment to be caught dawdling in his duties. Before he had a chance to rectify his laziness, Tindalómë reached out and took the rope from his hands and yanked it into the proper knot. Isildur could not help but watch in awe at the strength displayed in such small and slender hands. Maybe he had been wrong about Tindalómë’s level of experience.

“You will need to stay alert on missions like these,” Tindalómë began firmly. “And don’t look so anxious when we reach Andúnië; otherwise, the port enforcement will have all sorts of questions.”

Isildur opened his mouth to speak but the clever retort he had thought up did not seem to want to come out. He cursed under his breath once Tindalómë was out of earshot and turned around to face his younger brother who was already snickering.

“It really isn’t funny,” Isildur snapped, shaking his head.

“Of course it is!” Anárion laughed and leaned in closer while lowering the volume of his voice. “I think she likes you.”

Isildur rolled his eyes and snorted, “Yes, about as much as one likes a thorn in their sandal.”

“Oh come about now,” Anárion matched his brother’s annoyed tone. “She’s been making eyes at you ever since we left. And besides, Anúviel says Tindalómë won’t stop talking about you and the fancy shawl you gave her.”

Isildur felt Tindalómë’s stare boring into his back and he allowed himself a quick glance over his shoulder to confirm the sensation. A bit of relief came to him when he scolded his brother for fooling around and the lady captain’s expression softened.

The rest of the day went on without event. Finally Isildur’s turn came to take his supper in the small mess hall below deck. A few sailors were scraping their wooden plates clean before heading back to their duties. Tindalómë sat upon one of the tables with her feet perched upon the long bench, laughing at a story her quartermaster was telling with a great amount of animated hand gestures. Isildur was surprised when he felt a bit of jealousy gnaw within him, yet he should not have been. As if Tindalómë was able to sense his thoughts, she turned around and smiled his way. Once the quartermaster and the others left she picked up her plate and moved to the bench across from Isildur.

“I am sorry if I seemed harsh out there,” Tindalómë murmured while looking down at her half-empty plate in a bashful manner. “But I have to remain firm with the crew for the sake of this mission. It is very dangerous what we are doing. All of us could die for this if we are caught and all of us know it. I have to have to remain strong, lest my crew begins to doubt what we are doing.”

Isildur pushed the salted poultry across his plate. It had always been one of the more unpleasant aspects of sea travel. “You don’t have to explain to me, my lady. I agreed to the same undertaking. Although, I had expected your father to captain his own ship on this voyage.”

“I see,” Tindalómë nodded. “And I should not be surprised that you expected such either. I am certainly not the first mariner from Rómenna to be a woman. An ancestress of mine was a respected member of The Guild of Ventures and she was not the only lady captain to join their ranks.” Tindalómë raised her slim shoulders and let them fall in an indifferent shrug. “Besides, my father does not have a son and so he teaches me the family trade instead. We women of Rómenna are a sturdy type, and with many of our men away at sea, we must keep the city running, unless of course others would rather allow one of Númenor’s largest ports to shut down every time husbands, fathers, and brothers go off on a voyage.”

Isildur allowed himself a low laugh. Once again his cheeks warmed with embarrassment at its meek sound. Much to his relief Tindalómë’s cheeks also turned a brighter shade of pink despite the faint color the sun left behind from her time underneath it that day. She had a simple, sturdy beauty that Isildur felt himself drawn to the more he studied her. She was not like the delicate women who walked along the streets of Rómenna, lifting the hems of their expensive gowns away from their feet while servants followed them, carrying portable awnings to shield their mistress’ face and preserve her pristine ivory skin and arterially colored hair. Isildur imagined trying to take one of them to the beach for an outing and cringed at the thought. He could almost picture their feigned virginal shock at the suggestion of a swim in the ocean, especially since it would mean they would have to shed their ornate silk gowns and stiffened corselets many of them used to give the illusions of a smaller than expected waistline. Regular exercise had obviously kept Tindalómë’s figure trim and lithe because there was clearly not a reed stiffened garment upon her person.

“I never did get a chance to thank you for the shawl,” Tindalómë murmured just above a whisper, her face turning an even more bashful shade while she cast her eyes towards her now empty plate, “or the gown and hair combs. No one has ever given me such fine things before.”

“You should be dressed in many fine things like that,” Isildur replied before he really thought about how his answer might be perceived. He instantly regretted his words once he noticed the sharp change upon Tindalómë’s face.

“Do all men want to dress their women in expensive things and put them on display?” Tindalómë furrowed her brow.

Isildur quickly shook his head, “No, it’s not like that at all. I simply wished to give you something lovely to treasure.”

Thankfully Tindalómë’s smile returned at that and she stood from the bench, her wooden plate and cup in hand. “It is time I returned on deck.” Isildur bobbed his head and followed suit, not wishing to make his captain ask him to return to his duties as well.

The mission went just as many of them had hoped and planned. The Elves had passed small wooden crated filled with books, letters, and other small objects. Things were tense once they reached Andúnië, yet Tindalómë had instructed all of them firmly to remain calm even if their ship was boarded and searched by the patrols. Just as she predicted the uniformed men came aboard, and Isildur silently counted the seconds until they found the forbidden cargo. Much to his surprise, the guards found nothing out of the ordinary, even when they interrogated Tindalómë. He had wanted to throttle the men for speaking to her in such a forceful manner but remained silent as Tindalómë had commanded him to be. Their captain handled the tension and patrol’s questions with such calm and steadfastness that Isildur could not help but be surprised and proud all at once. Now he was certain he loved this woman. Tindalómë had yet to give him a reason for him to not admire her.

It was earlier that day when Tindalómë revealed the secret compartments within the ship to Isildur, further reassuring him she still remained in control of this mission. Isildur and the rest of the crew were gathering for a much anticipated feast at the home owned by Tindalómë’s first mate. The men were already enjoying the wine the servants brought forth when Tindalómë made her appearance. Isildur nearly dropped the goblet he held when he turned to look upon her. Tindalómë flashed him a warm smile and swished the skirts of the gown he had given her. She looked even more beautiful than he had hoped in his gifts of the gown, shawl, and hair jewelry that now held back her loose raven waves. Anárion smiled wide at his brother as if he understood what was taking place between Tindalómë and Isildur in that moment and he raised his glass and called forth, “To Captain Tindalómë and her crew.”

“To Captain Tindalómë,” the crew chorused, raising their glasses with a loud cheer.

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