Crown of Stars                                                                  back to Strange Fates
by Elwing

SERIES: Love & Wisdom (part 6)
AUTHOR: Elwing
PAIRING: Círdan/Gil-galad; Ëarendil/Elwing; Gil-galad/Elrond
ARCHIVE: If you like.
RATING: NC-17
FANDOM/SPOILERS: The Silmarillion
SUMMARY: The building of the Havens of Sirion, where Ëarendil and Elwing wed and Elrond and Elros are born.
DISCLAIMER: It all belongs to Professor Tolkien, god bless him.
FEEDBACK: Yes, any and all comments welcome.

AUTHOR NOTES: The title of this story is meant to play a triple role. First, it symbolizes Gil-galad's ascension to the throne, making him High King of the Noldor in Middle Earth. Second, it refers to the fate of Ëarendil, who bears the Silmaril on his brow for eternity. Third and finally, it refers to Elrond's given name, which, in Sindarin, means "star-dome."

---

Forgetting for a while that all men weep
It strays there happy and to thee it sings
'No tide of evil can thy glory drown,
Robed in sad majesty, the stars thy crown!'

from "The City of Present Sorrow"
-
The Book of Lost Tales, pt. II, JRRT

Chapter 1

The sea was warm and full of comfort. It moved in gentle waves against the shore of Balar, the silver stars reflected in it's glassy movement. Floating atop the waves, long hair pushed and caressed by them, Círdan the Shipwright lay on his back and gave a contented sigh, feeling liquid hands on his body.

He had long since attuned his ears to the gentle rumbling that was Ossë's underwater voice. It spoke to him now of adoration and submission.

"Mine, beautiful Círdan... mine and mine completely."

Círdan let out a soft breath, arching up to the feeling of water over his nipples and between his legs.

"Yours... all yours, my Lord. Ahh..."

"So perfectly yielding... so trusting," the Maia fairly purred. His large hands held Círdan as though he were a toy, a beloved doll adrift in a child's caress. "Come into me," he whispered. "Let me feel you."

Without a thought, Círdan obeyed, turning over and diving under the water. His eyes could see nothing, yet he swam forward confidently, knowing that Ossë would lead him to no harm.

The sea water was silk and velvet over his skin, his silver hair a streaming ribbon behind him. Around him, on every side, over every inch of his body, Ossë lingered, his great hands everywhere at once. It made the Shipwright moan and spin as he swam, the fingers drawing him down to a deeply profound pleasure until the need for air forced him up again.

With a sudden rush, Ossë brought him out of the water. As his head broke the surface, the Maia's fingers slid between his legs, lifting him high, and Círdan cried out at the pulsing of the water inside him. He rocked atop those fingers with his eyes closed in bliss, his nipples diamond hard in the humid night air. Then, as the Maia pressed a kiss to his erection, he gave a long moan and release flooded him, as powerful as the waves.

~~~

He'd lost track of time, and woke to find himself lying on the wet sand at the water's edge. Dawn hovered in the air like a promise. As he sat up, he saw the strangest sight he'd ever witnessed in all his long life: Ossë was standing in the water, some fifty feet offshore and with him was Ulmo. Their figures shimmered in the half light, sometimes solid, other times threatening to crash down into waves and swells on top of the sea. Círdan could only sit breathless in the sand and wait for their parlay to end.

At last they both turned to look at him. He stood, and held a hand over his heart, bowing in a gesture of respect. The Lord of Waters inclined his head. Then, turning away from Ossë, Ulmo waded out into the sea, his body slowly expanding until there was nothing there but a giant swell that, strangely, headed out away from shore.

Now Ossë turned his head and solemnly regarded Círdan. He beckoned to the Shipwright, who dove into the sea, swimming out to where the Maia stood. The water was just shallow enough for him to stand and he looked up with trepidation, fearing Ossë's words.

"Tidings from the north are grave," rumbled the Maia. "Gondolin has fallen to the enemy and Turgon, High King of the Noldor, has been slain."

"Elbereth!" Círdan whispered and put his hands over his eyes. The shock was tremendous, even though he knew it had been coming. To lose the last of the Hidden Kingdoms, proud Gondolin who's King had been so careful... The King! Turgon was gone and that meant -"

"I must tell Ereinion," he croaked to himself, brushing tears from wet eyes.

"They will come slowly," Ossë told him. "They are even now fleeing southward."

Círdan nodded, still dazed. "We must tell those who dwell by Sirion's mouths..."

Watery hands lifted him up, hissing and foaming around him. "Weep not, Círdan," the low voice hummed. "For great good will come from this sorrow. Now go - make your plans."

With that, Círdan was pushed gently towards shore and when he reached the sand he stood at once and ran for the village. He had to find Ereinion.

~~~

"You're leading with your weak arm - change your stance and you'll get better leverage against me."

The wielder of the broadsword, barely able to be seen behind his large shield, shifted his weight and lunged towards Prince Ereinion.

The prince fended off the blow easily, but had to move sideways in an awkward fashion to do so. "That's it. Much better. Now, try to come at me from the left side."

"Ereinion." Círdan's voice was somber behind him.

Ereinion turned as his pupil put down his sword and bowed his head to Círdan.

"Excuse me for interrupting your lesson," the Shipwright said. "Arevir - will you excuse us please?"

The younger Elf nodded and, gathering his sword and shield, trotted off to get a drink of water.

"Círdan? What is it? You don't look well." Ereinion's brows knitted together as Círdan guided him off the practice field. They reached the shade of a tree and sat on the small wooden bench beneath.

"I'm afraid," the Shipwright began, looking pale and grave, "that bad news has reached me from the North."

The prince knew at once that whatever had happened, it was of tragic proportions. He'd only seen Círdan this solemn on one other occasion and that was when his father had died.

Now the silver head lifted and the Shipwright's gray eyes met his own. "Gondolin has fallen. Your uncle has been slain. You -" Círdan broke off for a moment and looked away towards the dunes. Then, slowly, he turned back, his face a mask of grief. "You are High King of the Noldor in Beleriand... and therefore, King over us all."

The words didn't sink in at once. Instead, it seemed to Ereinion that, for a moment at least, he had heard them from far under water, Círdan's voice soft and silvery and completely unintelligible. Then, as if hearing it again for a second time, the meaning of the words came through.

"Turgon... Gondolin... No..." He gazed at the Shipwright as if he didn't know him, shaking his head slightly.

"You must be strong, Ereinion," Círdan said gently. "Your people will be depending on you to lead them... as will mine. We must prepare to meet the survivors."

"Ah, no!" Ereinion said, his voice breaking with emotion. "Not Gondolin. Not Turgon, surely..."

Círdan took him by the shoulders, squeezing his arms softly, trying to catch his eye. "Ereinion, it has happened, there is nothing we can do about that. The only thing left is to shelter those who have been able to escape. They're coming, Ereinion. Coming to the Mouths of Sirion and the people of Elwing will need aid in caring for them."

He ran a loving hand over the prince's cheek and his gaze was tender. "Most of all, though, they will want to see their King. Just your presence will give them strength."

Ereinion bowed his head, grasping at that gentle hand. Círdan's touch made it so much better, and so much more devastating at the same time. It took the younger Elf several moments to collect himself, wavering on the edge of an abyss of grief. Then he grasped Círdan's hand and looked up.

"When will they come?"

Círdan shook his head. "That I don't know. It's a long journey, as you well know, from so far in the north, and they may choose to tarry in Nan-tathren for a while, to rest and to grieve. Still, they will come within the year, and they will want to see that you are ready to lead them."

Nodding, Ereinion sat for a moment in silence then, suddenly, his eyes widened.

"Lead them? Me? I... I can't lead them, Círdan! I'm just a -" He broke off, staring at the Shipwright in something akin to horror.

"A what?" Círdan asked gently. "A boy?"

"Well... yes..." Ereinion answered, his voice almost trembling.

"But you're not, you know," Círdan told him. "You haven't been a boy for a some time now." He smiled sadly and brushed dark hair from the new king's eyes. "While you were busy learning to fight, and to swim, and to sail... you grew up while you weren't looking. You're of age, now, Ereinion. The Scion of Kings has become King himself. And you *can* do it. You *can* be a leader - it's been in you all along."

Círdan's hand had trailed back down to Ereinion's cheek and the younger Elf caught it in his own hand and kissed it. "This day is one of the most sorrowful I've ever known," he whispered, not taking his eyes from the Shipwright's face. "But if you believe in me I know it will lead to something better."

"Then take heart, King of the Noldor. For I believe in you far above anyone I have ever known."

The two of them embraced, Ereinion drawing strength from the very touch of his mentor and lover, and Círdan fighting back tears for the lover turned King.

~~~

It took the remnant of Gondolin the better part of a year to reach the Mouths of Sirion. The delay proved fortunate, though, for it gave Ereinion the time he needed to come to terms with his new status. As the days passed, Círdan began to step back from decisions affecting the Noldor who lived among his people. He encouraged them to seek out Ereinion when they had needs and the new King proved to have a natural talent for planning and making judgments.

There came a day at last, though, when a ship crossed the Bay with news from Elwing's folk that the first party of traveler's from Gondolin's ruin had reached the Mouths of Sirion. The people of Balar rejoiced and prepared a small fleet of ships, laden with provisions and gifts for the newcomers, and that day Círdan and Ereinion sailed to Arvernien to meet them.

Pulling up to the dock that had been built years earlier, they were welcomed by a crowd of Elves. All of them were obviously way worn, but they cheered as the boat from Balar docked.

As he'd always done, the former prince stepped back to allow Círdan to disembark first, but the Shipwright smiled and shook his head. "This is a place apart from Balar," he said. "This is Beleriand and here, Ereinion, *you* are King. Then, with simple grace, he stepped back and waved a hand toward the gangplank.

For a moment the new King simply stared at him, the weight of responsibility falling hard upon him with that simple gesture. He only faltered for a heart beat, enough time to look at Círdan and realize it was time to grieve for an era just ended. They were headed into uncharted territory now.

Then, he squared his shoulders and looked out over his new subjects, holding up a hand to them in greeting.

They cheered long and loud.

~~~

As they proceeded towards the main settlement, they were met by a small party on the road. Elwing, all of ten years old, approached them and behind her were two people, a mortal Man and an Elf woman. She touched put a hand over her heart and then folded both hands neatly in front of her.

"Well met, King Gil-galad," she said solemnly, staring up at Ereinion. "If I may call you thus."

The lovely little girl who had climbed trees with him only a year earlier vanished for a moment and in her place was the formidable Elf woman she would become. It caught him off guard, and his eyebrows went up, but only for a moment. He quickly rearranged his face to a suitably grave expression and inclined his head.

"Of course, Lady Elwing. You do me great honor. I have not heard that name since I was in Hithlum."

She smiled softly and then broke into an unladylike grin when she looked over at Círdan. "Welcome, my Lord. You've brought a beautiful boat today I hear."

"Yes," the Shipwright said, smiling back at her. "The Half*. I know she's your favorite."

"Will you take me for a sail in her before you leave?" she asked.

"I - I'd like to go for a sail, too..." came a hesitant voice behind the two new Elves. They were gently pushed aside and a Elf boy came forward, with golden brown hair and a small, exquisitely beautiful face that burned with longing.

Elwing looked somewhat embarrassed, realizing she'd forgotten to introduce the two people behind her. She motioned to the boy. "This is Ëarendil," she said. "He's the son of Tuor, son of Huor - " here she gestured to the Man - "and Idril, daughter of Turgon," she motioned to the Elf woman.

Ereinion stepped forward and greeted them, embracing his cousin, daughter of his late uncle, and her husband who had helped her escape the Fall of Gondolin. As they were talking, Círdan saw Ëarendil nudge Elwing, glance up at him, then look back at her meaningfully.

She barely stopped herself rolling her eyes and then took his hand and walked to where the Shipwright stood. "This is Ëarendil," she told Círdan. "I've only known him for three days, but he's the only other person I've ever met who's as mad about boats as you are."

Círdan smiled down at the boy. He was thin, his lovely features haunted with what he'd seen over the past few years, but there was strength in the look he gave back.

"Well then, Ëarendil," he said gently, "if that is true I believe you should come with Elwing and me on our sail around the bay."

The boy's eyes nearly jumped from his head. He swung around to grab his father's hand. "May I?" he said desperately, pulling the tall man towards him. "Lord Círdan said I could come sailing - oh, *please* let me go!"

"Lord Círdan," Tuor said warmly. "Hail and well met, sir. I have long been looking forward to meeting you."

"Hail and well met," Círdan said, touching his heart to both Tuor and Idril. "It seems we have an eager sailor among us now." He smiled down at Ëarendil, still tugging his father's hand.

"He takes after his father in that respect," Idril said, casting rueful glances at both of them. "Our talk has been of nothing but the sea since leaving Nan-Tathren. The sea and your beautiful ships."

"Well, then *both* of you shall have sail with me this afternoon," Círdan said, looking from father to son. Elwing and I will show you the harbor."

The girl smiled, looking very pleased with herself. She glanced over at Ëarendil, her expression just a bit smug. "I've been around the harbor *lots* of times," she said.

"Really?" the boy replied with a breathless voice, looking suitably impressed.

"*Lots*," she nodded.

"Well then, come along," Círdan said. "I'm sure Ereinion and Elwing have much to talk about. We'll go and come back in time for dinner. How's that?" He leaned down and gave the two children a wink.

For a moment, Ereinion felt a wave of panic. He'd always, *always* faced situations such as these with Círdan at his side, but now the older Elf seemed to be deliberately stepping back and it made the new King uneasy.

He looked after them, eyes longing at the sight of Círdan's long silver hair, swaying as he walked away.

"Would you rather go with them?" Idril said wryly, following his gaze.

He hesitated only for a moment and then turned to her and smiled. "No, of course not," he murmured. "I would like to meet your people... *our* people." And with that he took her arm and they walked into the settlement.

 

Chapter 2

First Age, 518

Across the marshy delta that made up the Mouths of Sirion, gray clouds scudded like ships on a fast moving sea. A faint rumble of thunder sounded and, as it did, a few fat raindrops fell on a tall girl, causing her to jump up from her perch - a large rock above the shipyard that lay at the edge of the bay.

"All right, that's it!" she called down to an invisible figure in the yard below, under a half-built boat. "I've waited for hours and now I'm getting rained on. You had your chance." With a flounce of indignation, she wrapped her cloak around her shoulders, carefully covering the book she'd been reading, and turned, with great deliberation, away from the shipyard.

"Wait!!" a desperate voice called out from under the boat. There was a scuffling noise and a bit of mild swearing as something was tripped over, and then a boy appeared, looking up at her anxiously.

Elwing had finally succeeded in getting Ëarendil's attention.

"I'm nearly done!" he said. "I just have to finish putting pitch on the inside - and fitting in the bowsprit nails - and then it's just sanding the stern where it's a bit lopsided- but then I'm done for the day, really."

Elwing dropped her head to her hand. "You promised me that at midday and look how far west the sun is now! If you could *see* the sun, that is! I'm going to the music hall. You can stay here all evening if you like."

"No! Wait!" Ëarendil cried, waving his hand towards her and hopping up and down in frustration. "It's just..." He looked back at the boat, the longing clear in his face, then back at her, with just as fervent a desire.

"It's your choice," she said, folding her arms across her chest. "Which one of us are you going to spend the rest of the day with."

Agonizingly, he looked back and forth between girl and ship, utterly torn until a low voice called from beyond the boat, "Don't be a fool - boats can wait."

Ëarendil turned to see Tuor, his father, approaching with a shoulder load of long, pale wooden planks. The tall man squinted up at Elwing and asked, "Has this lad been keeping you waiting, my lady?"

Somehow she managed to look smug and imperious at the same time. "He has indeed. Told me he'd go listen to the singers with me hours ago and then left me here to bide my time while he played Círdan."

Tuor gave his son a stern glance. "It never does to keep a lady waiting. Just you remember that, my boy. Now get along - I'll finish this."

"Yes, father," Ëarendil said solemnly, completely missing the wink exchanged between his Lady and his sire. Then he scrambled up the path that led to the headland and was pulled at full speed towards the music hall.

~~~

First Age, 527

"Círdan? Are you awake?" Ereinion's voice was soft and deep.

"Mmm... just resting, not asleep." The silver-haired Elf turned his head on the pillow and looked over at his lover.

"You've been quiet all day," Ereinion murmured, reaching out his hand and running a finger down Círdan's profile. If something is troubling you I would have you tell me."

Pressing a soft kiss to that gentle finger when it reached his lips, the Shipwright shook his head. "I'm not troubled," he said, "not really..."

"Not really?" Ereinion pressed, rolling onto his side and turning Círdan's face gently towards his own.

Several moments passed as Círdan gazed into the king's eyes, almost as if weighing whether to speak further. At last he seemed to decide and said quietly, "Tuor is building a boat."

"Is he?" Ereinion said, waiting for the rest of what Círdan had to say. He waited because it had been his experience, over scores of years spent in the Shipwright's company, that Círdan, when in the pensive mood that had consumed him all that day, did not make idle conversation, but spoke only when necessary of important events.

Círdan did not disappoint him. "He grows restless in his old age - restless for the deep places of the sea. Lord Ulmo has whispered to him and his imagination is fevered for those blue-green halls."

Propping himself up on one elbow, Ereinion looked down at his lover in surprise. "You believe he is going to leave Arvernien?"

"Yes," Círdan said quietly, "and sail west."

"But... he's mortal," Ereinion said. "He cannot hope to find the Undying Lands, and he would be turned away even if he were able to."

"It would seem impossible," Círdan agreed calmly, "and yet -"

"Yet? There is no 'yet'" Ereinion protested. "What could he possibly hope to achieve? And what of his wife and son? He would abandon them and go off to mess about in a boat, with little hope of ever coming back?"

"I don't believe he plans to come back," Círdan told him, "but he means to take Idril Celebrindal with him."

The king gave a sigh of exasperation and ran a hand through his long, dark hair. "I'll never understand it, you know," he said, obviously somewhat miffed, "this business of having to be on the water and having to see water all around you and paddling yourself so far from land that it would take weeks to get back on solid ground, if you ever could. I mean," he said with a frustrated wave of his hand, "am I missing something?"

His lover gave a soft laugh and pulled him down into his arms. "Yes," Círdan said, "you are. You've never had the sea-longing, though you've lived by the sea most of your life. It's a great puzzle to me, but I gave up trying to understand it long ago. I recommend you do the same. Less frustrating that way."

"And what of the people of Arvernien?" Ereinion asked, the tension leaving his voice as he settled into Círdan's arms. "Who will lead them?"

"Ëarendil comes of age this year," the Shipwright murmured. "He is well-loved by those at the Havens. He should make a fine Lord for them."

"I suppose," Ereinion said grudgingly.

"And I believe," Círdan continued, his voice growing a bit sleepy, "that there will be a wedding in Arvernien soon." The thought seemed to please him, for he looked over at the king and smiled.

"Well that's no surprise," Ereinion said, stroking his lover's silver hair. "He's been in love with her since he was a child." He paused for a moment, tracing his fingers over Círdan's brows before sliding them down his cheeks to hold his face between his hands. "Rather like me that way," he whispered. "So why is it you deny me a wedding, sweet Lord?"

A wave of mingled love and pain flooded Círdan's eyes at his words. "Ah, Ereinion - you shouldn't -"

"Shouldn't what?" the king demanded, pulling back suddenly. "Shouldn't want you? Shouldn't hope for more? Shouldn't think of having you to myself without trying to compete with him?"

"It isn't a competition, Ereinion."

"But it is! I keep hoping that something I do will make you want me more. That one day you'll tell me that you don't need him, that you won't go to him, because I'm all you need."

Pulling away from Círdan in sheer frustration, Ereinion sat up, head in his hands. "Would that I were Tuor," he went on, "and could take you away on a boat and be alone with you, but I couldn't! He'd be all around us! Even if I took you as far away from the sea as I could he would come through the rivers and the underground pools to find you, wouldn't he? He'll never let go of you - never give you up."

Now Círdan sat beside him, long fingers stroking the king's damp hair, moving to ease the tension in his forehead and shoulders. "Ereinion," he said, softly, sadly, "I thought you had come to terms with this long ago."

"I think the same way... until I hear of another couple in love, able to celebrate as love should be celebrated. Not hiding in fear of a Maia's wrath."

Leaning his silver head against Ereinion's dark one, Círdan whispered, "This thing is deep, and so very, very old... begun in the starlit years, long before you were born. It is separate from you, Ereinion... it doesn't mean I love you less."

"But you can't love me more, can you?" the king whispered back bitterly. "You can't make that final commitment because he has the prior claim."

"No," Círdan said quietly, "that's true. I can't make that one kind of commitment to you. But I give you everything else that I have. Can that not be enough?"

Now Ereinion stood, pulling on a robe as he looked down at Círdan, still in bed. "No! It's not enough! I deserve to be happy, as much as anyone else does. He deserves to be happy enough, but not so happy that he takes the joy from others, and it's time someone told him that!"

Círdan's face went pale. "Ereinion - what are you thinking of doing?" he asked, voice wary, as he might use with a skittish horse.

"I'm going to meet him - face to face - and he's going to explain *to my satisfaction* why he isn't content with his *own* wife but is depriving me of the one who would be *my* husband."

"Ereinion, I really don't think this is wise -" Círdan began.

"Not wise, no," Ereinion agreed. "But necessary, Círdan, and long over due."

With that, the king strode to the door of the chamber and on down the hall of Círdan's house, headed towards the beach and the sound of the Ossë's pounding waves.

 

 

Chapter 3

A thin fog was threading its way onto the beach as Ereinion reached the sand. He was only half aware of the fact that Círdan hadn't followed him and now he stood on the edge of the water and stared out at the restless waves as if he could still them with a glance.

"Where are you?" he said in a low, growling voice, then louder, "Ossë! It's your old foe! The High King of Beleriand has something to say to you. Will you show yourself or hide beneath the foam?"

For a moment there was only the hiss of breaking waves and Ereinion was left to pace back and forth on the beach, at last kicking at the waves in utter frustration. "This is no way to act!" he continued, speaking to the water. "We have business, you and I - a matter that has gone unattended for far too long. Will you only come out for Círdan? Only for someone with praise and adoration on his lips and not for one who has a legitimate grievance with you?" He kicked another wave. "*Well*??"

It seemed to the king that his demands would go unanswered, but then he noted something strange happening along the shoreline. The waves, which had been pounding the beach with such regularity, had suddenly stopped and the sea itself, far from moving in regular pulses to shore, seemed to be retreating, streaming away from the place where he stood until there was a wide stretch of gleaming, wet sand between him and -

/It can't be... it's not possible. He'll flood the entire village.../

Hundreds of feet off shore a giant wave was building, growing in height and bulk every second, and now moving with stunning swiftness towards the beach. As Ereinion watched, fighting back horror, the top of the wave began to curl in on itself and out of it there came a great head, it's mouth wide open in what looked to be a roar of rage. As he watched, the wall of water bore down on him, each moment becoming more solid, with broad shoulders, great arms flung out to its sides and now powerful legs running towards him through the water.

The Maia's eyes gleamed silver and his long, shell-encrusted hair flew about him like sea foam and still he came on in a rush towards the Elven king. Then, with a loud growl, he reached his arms above his head and brought his great fists down in a torrent of water, only feet from where Ereinion stood.

It took every bit of strength the king had to remain standing in the midst of the watery onslaught, but he dug his feet into the sand and willed himself not to fall into the churning water. Somehow it worked and now he and Ossë were face to face, the Maia kneeling in the water, his face lowered to glare at the Elf with an expression that would have brought any other creature to his knees.

"How dare you speak to me that way!" Ossë hissed, and as he bent forward Ereinion could see the swirl of water and foam that went to make up the great body.

"You have only ever shown me contempt," the king said, struggling to find his voice. "And I have a grievance with you. This is no time for false friendliness or play-acted respect. We both know how we feel about each other - and about Círdan."

Ossë's eyes flashed. "And this grievance of yours, no doubt it concerns those same feelings - the possession of the Shipwright, which you believe should fall to you."

The contempt in the watery voice was a palpable thing and Ereinion felt his fists curl into balls of fury by his side. "I am one of the Eldar, as is Círdan, and as such I do not seek possession."

"Then what have you to be aggrieved about?" demanded the Maia. "I allow you more liberties than I should, for Círdan's sake. You have no right to anything more! Be grateful for what you have or go back to the dirt hills you come from and trouble me and mine no longer!"

For a moment the deep, rumbling voice nearly did in his confidence, and Ereinion found himself shaking like a leaf, but he thought of Círdan, lying next to him in bed, and he thought of Ëarendil and Elwing, and the love they could openly share, and his fists came up in front of him. "I do have the right to more!" he shouted. "I have the right to a spouse! To have one person to love and devote myself to for all time! Everyone has that right! Even you!"

Ereinion waved his fists in the air and Ossë rumbled in displeasure. "What is this nonsense you speak?"

"Your wife - the Lady Uinen - she is the one to whom you have committed yourself. Why then do you take yet another and prevent his commitment to me? You have a spouse. Can you not be content with her and let me have my chosen one as you have yours?"

"Insolent little *worm*!!" Ossë thundered. "The impudence of it - to think that the Higher Powers would conduct their lives as do the Eldar! You have no idea what passes between my Lady and I, nor the right to comment on my choice of partners."

"Yet you have two partners," Ereinion insisted, growing angrier still, "and would deny me one."

"I deny you nothing to which you have the right!" the Maia growled. "Go back to your kin-slaying people and find a maid among them who will have you. You don't deserve a spouse from among the Teleri, let alone the finest among that fairest of folk!"

At those words the king hesitated, unsure as to whether he had heard them correctly. "Kin-slaying...?" he said in disbelief. "Do you mean to say that you are against me because I am of the Noldor?"

"Accursed race among the Eldar!" Ossë hissed, his blue-green body churning and foaming. "What have I or my lovely folk ever known from your kind but pain and betrayal? The Valar should have put an end to you with the first uprising!"

As he said this, Ossë rose to his full height, towering above the king and lifting an arm high over his head. As Ereinion watched, eyes growing wide with horror, a blue-white ball of water began to grow in the open palm of the sea-god's hand, spinning furiously as if made of a hundred waves crashing in on one another.

"This then, is for the impertinence of you all!" the Maia cried, bringing his arm down, aiming the circular storm directly at the king.

Ereinion braced himself, preparing to die if he had to but refusing to turn or to run away, but as he watched that dreadful hand descend, he saw another - pale green and delicate rise up from the sea behind Ossë. It caught the Maia's arm at the wrist, bursting the ball of waves and sending a downpour of water onto both king and beach. When Ereinion could look up again, he had to gasp at the sight: a great lady stood next to Ossë, her raiment a shimmering bluish green, her face profoundly beautiful, and her long, green hair streaming over her shoulders and flooding down into the sea, where the long strands disappeared far below the surface of the water.

"It is not our place, husband, to deprive any Child of Ilúvatar of life," the Lady said to Ossë and her voice held the profoundly echoing sounds of the deep ocean. "Would you lower yourself to the level of the Dark One? Surely you will not, for you are on the side of light."

"He is of the kin-slayers, Lady Uinen" Ossë muttered to her. "And now he seeks to come between me and my dear folk."

"He does not understand, husband," she answered in a voice firm but soothing. "He is one of the Children and his sight and understanding are limited."

"He seeks to come between me and mine," the Maia repeated stubbornly and then turned to Ereinion once more. "*No one* comes between the Teleri and the Lord of the Waves! *No one*!"

"I seek no such thing!" Ereinion protested.

But Ossë seemed not to hear him. "So many of them I've lost!" he said, his voice rising in grief, "and always because of the Noldor. When first I saw them on the shores of Middle-Earth I loved them and they loved me, but the Noldor had gone on to Aman before them and they longed to leave my shores and follow. So I drew the ones I could not keep over the sea and anchored Tol Eressëa for them and came to them there, and there they were happy until longing for their friends among the Noldor caused them to sicken for Aman itself and I lost them again.

"And how did their friends repay them for their faithful love? By wickedly killing them and taking their beautiful ships - ships that I taught them to build! - and then burning them out of spite!" Ossë let out a great roar of grief and Uinen hung her head.

"And my beautiful Falathrim," the sea-god continued at last, "whom I had convinced to stay with me here on the hither shore... I thought they were safe from that same plague. But no - the Exiles return to Middle Earth and stir up the wrath of the Dark One and who is it who feels it? My gentle folk! Their white cities ruined! Their harbors destroyed! Well I tell you it will not happen again! My bond with the Teleri is for all time and no one, certainly not one of the kin-slayers, will break that bond!"

Ereinion listened to it all, his heart full of grief for the tragedies of the past, for the crimes of his ancestors, and yet he stood bewildered, looking back and forth between Ossë and Uinen, trying to understand.

"I do not come between you and the Teleri," he said at last. "I love one of them, and it is Círdan alone that I would choose."

"Círdan *is* the Teleri, you fool!" Ossë hissed. "Our bond was formed when his people and I first met. It represents everything I feel for them, everything I would do for them - this is no simple love match you seek to put an end to! It is a pledge, a covenant between his people and me. It has survived loss and grief and death and it will continue!" The Maia's silvery eyes flashed at the king, and then he was silent.

For several moments Ereinion could say nothing. He stood, stunned to the core by the implication of the sea-god's words, his mind reeling at the profundity of it. At last, his voice hoarse with unspoken emotion, he murmured, "And Círdan? This is something that he wants and agrees to? This... this 'covenant'?"

"I agreed to it long ages ago," said a soft voice from behind the king. Ereinion turned to find the Shipwright standing on the beach, his face full of sadness and longing. "It is as much my destiny as being the High King is yours. You wouldn't shrink from your fate - please don't ask me to turn away from mine."

"So this is just an obligation for you?" Ereinion asked. "Something you feel is your duty? What joy can there be for you in that?" He turned and faced Ossë again. "You would condemn him to a life alone for this obligation?"

"Ereinion," Círdan said gently. "Duty can bring with it great joy as well as obligation. I don't regret my bond with Lord Ossë. I rejoice in it - as I rejoice in all that you and I share."

"So you mean to say," the king said slowly, his mind fighting against the despair that threatened to overwhelm it, "that even if he were to release you from this bond, you wouldn't necessarily take that freedom."

"No," Círdan whispered, "I wouldn't."

"But I wanted you for my own," Ereinion rasped. "I wanted you to love only me, to be mine as I would be yours, for all eternity."

"That's not possible, Ereinion," Círdan said sadly. "It just wasn't meant to be that way."

It began with a shaking of his head, the king staring blindly at his lover, hearing his own voice as if from far away saying, "No... no..." and then he was brushing past Círdan, stumbling away from him up the beach towards the woods - anywhere, he thought, anywhere but near the water.

 

Chapter 4

 

First Age 528

The corridor outside Círdan's rooms was deserted, the rest of the house
having retired for the night. Ereinion stared at the Shipwright's door
as if the polished wood was transparent and he could see through it to
the sleeping Elf within. He was in a hell of desire, warring with
agony, fighting against his will.

In the year since he had learned of Círdan's true feelings for Ossë, he
had not once come to his lover's bed. Their interactions had been brief
and cool, and Ereinion had spent more time in Arvernien than he ever
had before. It had been pride and hurt that had kept him away, and
Círdan had done his best to understand, to give him time to make his
own decisions. There was no ignoring the fact, though, that the
separation had been hard on both of them.

Every night for a year, Ereinion had felt the pull of the Shipwright's
companionship, the painful desire to touch him, to bury his face in the
long, silver hair and lose himself in the older Elf's arms. Every night
for a year he'd been able to fight back the feelings, to distract
himself with sword practice or reading, to tire himself to the point
where sleep would come quickly and bring a kind of blessed oblivion
where he didn't have to think.

Tonight, though, he had failed. Failed utterly. Now he had been
standing outside Círdan's rooms for nearly two hours, paralyzed with
self-loathing at his own weakness. Cursing himself, he tried to turn
away, to walk back down the corridor, and found he couldn't. In a
moment of utter frustration, he brought his fist down hard against the
wall, only realizing after he'd done it that the wall he'd hit was
Círdan's.

Mortified, he turned suddenly and was just beginning to walk away
swiftly when the door to the Shipwright's rooms opened. Círdan stood
looking at him, dressed in a deep blue night robe, his hair spilling
over one shoulder.

"Ereinion?," he said in a softly puzzled voice. "I thought I heard
something out here. Is... is anything wrong?"

The king did his best not to look sheepish. There didn't seem to be any
way to avoid the encounter now and the longer they stood out in the
hall the more likely it was that someone would come out to investigate.
Ereinion decided that honesty, difficult though it would be, would lead
to the fewest complications.

"Yes," the king said at last, his voice low and hoarse. "Something's
wrong. Everything's wrong, actually... May I speak with you?"

There. He'd said it.

Círdan looked surprised, but nodded and opened the door to him. When he
had shut it firmly behind the king, the silver-haired Elf waited
patiently as his old lover paced in front of his window.

"I know I shouldn't have come," the king began. "I told myself I
wouldn't - that it was best to stay away, and I would have, only -" He
stopped for a moment and looked into Círdan's eyes. "I mean...
nothing's changed, has it? Between you and -" He broke off, unable even
to utter the name of his rival.

Círdan shook his head softly. "Things are as they ever were," he said.
Ereinion looked away again, surprised at how much it still hurt, even
though he had known what Círdan would say. "But you don't know how much
I've been wanting you to come back," the Shipwright went on. "I've
missed your companionship terribly, Ereinion. Out of all of my folk and
friends, you are the dearest to me and I've hated seeing you so
unhappy."

"You're the only one who can change that," Ereinion murmured, staring
at the stars beyond the window.

"No," Círdan said after a moment. "Not the only one..."

"What do you mean?" the king said irritably, turning to him again, but
Círdan only shook his head and then smiled softly.

"That belongs to the future," he said, walking over to join Ereinion at
the window. "I want to bring you back to the present."

He put a hand out and caressed his lover's arm, fingers moving smoothly
from shoulder to hand before bringing the fingers up to be kissed.
Ereinion felt a twinge of warning but it was quickly engulfed by
desire, the merest touch of Círdan's mouth sending fire through him so
that he reeled where he stood.

"I shouldn't," he said in feeble protest, all the while watching
Círdan's lips as they traveled up to the palm of his hand and pressed
the sensitive skin there. Slowly, Círdan looked up and then leaned in
to kiss him deeply.

"I can't give you everything you want," he whispered in Ereinion's ear
as he pulled back slightly. "But I can give you some of it, until you
find the rest." Another long, sweet kiss. "Won't you let me...?"

In one, smooth movement, the king's arms were around Círdan, their
mouths locked together, and it was as if they had never been apart.
Ereinion's hands, hungry for the touch of the Shipwright's skin, pushed
apart the silky fabric of his robe and it fell to Círdan's elbows,
leaving his powerful chest and arms bare for kisses and caresses.

"Oh, stars, I've wanted this so much," Ereinion murmured, kissing and
biting at one tanned shoulder.

"Don't talk," Círdan answered back. "Just come to bed." And taking the
king by the hand he pulled him over to where soft sheets and pillows
waited.

Everything from that point on felt just a bit more intense than it ever
had. Ereinion seemed to see in greater detail, the sensuous curve of
muscle along Círdan's chest, the slight wave in the straight, silver
hair where his braids had been that day. The sound of their breath,
mingling together, of skin moving over skin, and Círdan's soft whimpers
were keener than he'd ever heard them and the taste of his lover's skin
a sweet, clean tang it seemed he'd never known.

But it was the feel of what they were doing, the touches, that brought
the moans from him, that made his shaft a hard and dripping thing
pressing against his breeches, pushing up between Círdan's legs.
Ereinion ran his hands over every inch of his lover's body, amazed at
the softness of tender earlobes, the puckered stiffness of aroused
nipples. Palms downward, he explored lower and lower, drunk with
pleasure at the feel of Círdan's flat belly, the firm swell of his ass,
and all the time the silver-haired Elf squirmed beneath his touch, far
gone in bliss.

Finally, the last folds of the robe were pushed aside and Ereinion's
warm breath washed over Círdan's shaft. The Shipwright moaned, head
thrown back, and whispered, "Oh *please*..." pressing his hips up to an
eager mouth that waited to engulf him. Ereinion's tongue swirled around
the tightly swollen head, hands stroking Círdan's thighs and pressing
his legs further apart. With almost painful slowness he took more of
his lover into his mouth, rasping at him with his tongue in long,
languid strokes.

Círdan was clenching the bedsheets in his fists, eyes closed, hips
bucking gently up into the consuming warmth. He moved his head
restlessly from side to side, once in awhile gasping out, "Ah! More...
please!"

Now Ereinion had him nearly all the way in, his nose brushing the
fragrant curls between Círdan's legs. He hummed with pleasure, moving
up and down, now fast, now slow, drawing long, hungry whimpers from his
lover until finally Círdan gave a sharp cry and twined his fingers into
Ereinion's hair, holding him in place as he came in an intense flood of
passion.

When he was finally spent, the clutching fingers loosened their grip
and began to stroke the king's long, dark hair, now damp from his
exertion. Ereinion let the softening member slip from his mouth, giving
it a reverent kiss before nuzzling his way upwards and claiming
Círdan's mouth. After several long, possessive kisses, he pulled back,
brushing his lips over his lover's and looking down into his eyes.

"Was that... satisfying, sweet Lord?" he murmured.

"More than you can know, my King," Círdan whispered back, mouth on
mouth, body weak with fulfillment under Ereinion's touch.

"Tell me," Ereinion said, unable to stop himself. "Is he better than I
am?"

Círdan leaned up and kissed him fiercely. "No," he said, voice hoarse
with emotion. "Not better. Only different. No one is better than you
are, Ereinion."

The king moaned and buried his face in the damp, silver hair. "Promise
me we'll do this forever," he whispered.

Cradling Ereinion close, Círdan murmured his assent, thinking all the
while, /But someday... that's a promise you'll have to break./

He brushed the thought away, and the night went on.

~~~

In the spring of the next year, Tuor's sea-longing got the best of him.
His restlessness would not wait and he and Idril set sail from
Arvernien in the boat he and Círdan had built, a light, fast ship
called Eärrámë, the Sea-wing. Ëarendil and Elwing, now betrothed and
prepared to marry the next year, stood at the head of the harbor and
watched the small craft disappear over the western horizon.

"You are the Lord of Arvernien now," Elwing said, turning to her
fiancé. "Are you worried?"

He shook his head. "Our folk have been blessed with peace and bounty
because of the jewel you brought out of Doriath. I have no fear for our
welfare."

"I suppose, though, that now you'll have to spend almost as much time
with people as you do with boats." Her eyes were playful, her words
meant to ease the pain of parting Ëarendil was surely feeling.

"Whatever for?" he teased back. "They can come to the shipyard if they
need to see me. I'll put them to work and give them advice at the same
time." He looked around at the crowd now dispersing from the dock.
"I'm surprised that Círdan wasn't here - and the king as well."

"They said their goodbyes two nights ago," she told him as they began
to walk back towards the settlement, "before the two of them went back
to Balar. Your father talked with Círdan for a good three hours that
night. I think the two of them will miss each other."

"I never knew my father to be better friends with anyone," Ëarendil
agreed, "but perhaps now that my father is off to sea, I can get some
help with *my* boat."

She gave him a light punch on the arm. "So you *are* building something
secretly down there! What is it? Am I going to get to see it?"

He laughed, waving off her questions. "All in good time, my Lady, all
in good time. It's a disgrace at the moment, but you'll be the first to
see her when she's completely done." His eyes glowed as she looked over
at him. "I want this one to be perfect," he murmured. "Absolutely
perfect."

~~~

First Age 532

"Keep your eyes covered. Watch your step now, I don't want you
tripping."

"How am I supposed to watch my step if I have my eyes covered?"
Elwing's voice carried just a hint of irritation. She was walking very
slowly through the deserted shipyard east of the harbor at Arvernien,
her husband leading her on like a small boy ready to show off a newly
built block tower.

"All right," he said eagerly, "all right. Stop there. Now - open your
eyes!"

She let her hands fall to her gently swollen belly and looked for the
first time at the ship that Ëarendil had been working on for the last
two years. It was a glorious thing to gaze upon, the most beautiful
ship she had ever seen, though she had spent the better part of her
life among them.

Fifty feet long, it's hull was snow white and carved in the shape of a
great swan, the graceful head as it's prow and sweeping wings curved
along it's sides. The mast was tall and slender, a single white birch
pole, and the stern of the bow swept up into a great fan of carved tail
feathers, nearly as high as the bow. She could see the sail carefully
furled along the crossbeam at the top of the mast, the material she
herself had woven, a glowing, silvery white.

Finally complete, the ship sat in the yard and glowed like a fiery
jewel.

"Oh, husband," she whispered, "What have you created here? I've never
seen the like of it."

"I only did it with Círdan's help," he said softly, smiling at her
obvious approval. "We call her Vingilot - the Foam Flower."

She smiled back at him, a little sadly. "You won't be on dry land much
longer, I believe. Not with this beauty pulling you seaward."

His brow furrowed immediately. "No, no - I won't be going. Not soon at
least. After all, you'll be having the baby soon. I couldn't go."

She squeezed his hand in thanks, but something in his voice, or perhaps
the way he looked back at the ship, made her wonder at his words.

Sure enough, three weeks later he came to her with the news that he had
planned a small voyage. It would be short, he said, just to test her
worthiness for the deep sea, and then he would be back. She wasn't due
for another two months and he would return long before that.

Círdan had come to Balar to see the ship off, his own craftsman's pride
eager to see her under full sail. As he and Elwing watched the graceful
craft depart, Círdan looked down at her, concerned by her melancholy
expression.

"He'll be back soon enough," he soothed, and then added, "but it's
difficult being left behind, isn't it?"

"I've always accepted the fact that Ëarendil has two loves," she said
quietly, still following the ship but grateful for the comfort of the
older Elf beside her. "I know he loves me - I can hardly doubt that,
the way he acts, but there is always the sea, as well. Sometimes I
believe that the love he holds for the two of us is equal. He couldn't
say which he cared about the most."

Something in her words touched a nerve in Círdan, and he frowned down
at the wooden dock, his voice almost a whisper. "And you would have him
all to yourself - that would make you far happier."

She looked over at him, puzzled at the gravity in his tone, and said,
"Perhaps. Perhaps that would make me happier. But if he didn't love the
sea, he wouldn't be Ëarendil, and I wouldn't love him the way I do."

Círdan looked up at her, searching her face for a moment, then smiled
softly. "It's just the way he was made, you mean. And loving him means
loving *all* of him, even if it's not perfect."

"Exactly," she said and turned back to the water. The ship had vanished
over the horizon and nothing but sparkling blue waves were left to see.
"Well, come now, my Lord. Help this huge woman to her home. This baby
is feeling like two babies today."

He took her arm, and slowly they made their way back to Elwing's rooms.

~~~

The messenger from Arvernien had come at first light, rousing Círdan
just minutes after Ereinion had slipped back to his own room. The Lady
Elwing had safely delivered twin sons, a wondrous gift that none around
her had expected. Later that morning, a party from Balar set sail for
the mainland to congratulate her.

Ëarendil returned from the sea a month later and rejoiced to see his
new sons. He named them Elrond, meaning `star-dome' and Elros, meaning
`star-foam,' wishing to keep their names close to the form of their
mother's, and wanting them also to treasure the stars of Varda
Elentári.

They grew swiftly and happily, though often without their father, as
Eärendil returned to sea frequently. As the months wore on, and her
husband was away for longer and longer periods, Elwing's melancholy
deepened. She often left the two boys in the care of their nurse and
walked to the flat marshes near the harbor. There she would sit for
hours, looking out to sea and thinking of her husband's fair face and
long, flowing hair, desperately wanting him back.

It was also there, two years later, that a messenger found her. He
approached her slowly, walking with his horse, and she saw that Mirion,
one of Eärendil's advisors was close behind him.

She stood and approached the messenger, who bowed. "I come from the
sons of Fëanor, far to the east. They wish to send you greetings, Lady,
and this letter." He held out a hand, and in it was a folded piece of
parchment. She could see the blood red seal against the edge. "I was
instructed to wait for a reply," the messenger said.

"Of course," Elwing replied, "but first let me take this back to my
chambers, so that I can have privacy as I read it. Come, Mirion."

The advisor took her arm and together they walked back to the
settlement. When they were behind closed doors, and the messenger seen
to the stables to feed and water his horse, she broke the seal and
opened the letter. As she read it, her face slowly went from pale to
ashen.

"They've found us," she whispered, more to herself than to Mirion. "Oh
no... they've found us."

 

 

~ end ~

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