Day Shall Come Again back
to Strange Fates
Day shall come again!"
"Open the gates! There are more coming!"
Ereinion, who had been filling his quiver with arrows, looked up at the sound of Círdan's voice. The Shipwright was standing on the wall flanking the great, eastern gate to the city. Scrambling up beside him, the prince saw instantly what had caused the concern in his lover's voice. A large party of Elves was moving down the river road that led to Eglarest. Behind them by no more than a mile was a host of Orcs, screeching in glee and brandishing their short, ugly swords.
Círdan swore softly and as his men began to open the gate, jumping down from the wall as he did. "Archers!" he cried. "To your positions! Get ready to fire as soon as they come into range." As three dozen men began climbing to the tops of the walls, their Lord took up his own bow and and ran out of the gate, taking aim, ready to pick off any orc who might try to sprint ahead.
The sight of him there, fierce but vulnerable, sent Ereinion's heart into his throat. "My Lord!" he called down. "Come back inside! We'll take care of them from up here."
Círdan turned briefly and looked up at him, his eyes on fire with anger. "I'm not losing a single one of them!" he said through clenched teeth. Then he turned back and trained his arrow on the lead orc in the chase.
The refugees were fifty or sixty yards from the gates when one of them, a woman who looked utterly exhausted, tripped on the long, green gown she was wearing and feel hard to the ground. There was a panic as others tripped around her and for a moment Ereinion felt sure it would be the undoing of the whole group.
Círdan, however, seemed to have another fate in mind for them. Taking his bow, he sprinted to the edge of the group, helping some up before getting them to run to either side of him. As the group fell away to his right and left, his shooting field became clear and he took aim, easily taking out the fastest orc with an arrow to the head. Again and again he fitted arrows to his bow, taking out the entire front line as the refugees poured through the gates into the city.
Now the orcs had readied their own archers, and the black arrows began to fly, Círdan dodging them as best he could while trying to maintain his own offensive.
"They're all in!" Ereinion cried desperately. "Get inside! Círdan for gods' sake, get inside!" He saw an orc on the left flank of the host take aim at the Shipwright and fired on him, sending him tumbling into the river, shot through the heart.
Círdan, at last, seemed to register that the his refugees were through the gates and, as the Orc and Elven arrows warred in the air, he began to run back into the city, still firing as he went.
Once inside he screamed at the gate wardens to close the heavy doors. They moved as fast as they could and nearly had them closed when the Orcs reached them, two of them throwing their bodies into the narrow gap. On the wall, Ereinion kept firing as the main host crashed up against the doors and for a moment the Elven soldiers trying to shut them were stopped completely. Then Círdan drew his sword and gave a long, loud yell, charging to where the Orcs pressed through. He raised the sword above his head crying, "A Elbereth !" and brought it down hard on the shoulders of the two, cleaving their arms from their bodies and leaving them howling, falling back away from the gate. That gave the door wardens enough strength to push the massive doors back into place and bring down the heavy iron latch.
A Círdan fell to his knees, his sword still clutched in his hand, Ereinion jumped down from the wall, kneeling by him. "Are you all right, my Lord?" he asked, searching the familiar body for arrow wounds.
For a moment Círdan said nothing, just stared at the gates, panting, listening, as they all did, to the howls of the Orcs outside and the pounding of their bodies and swords against the doors.
"I'm fine," he said at last. "But we need more archers if we're going to take them all out. Run to the armoury and tell the second guard they're needed."
"Yes," Ereinion murmured, reluctant to leave him. "Yes of course," and he sped off towards the northern part of the city to bring reinforcements to the gates.
Summer in the Falas was normally a joyful time - a time to relax and enjoy the warm weather, to let the crops grow, past the hectic time of planting and before the rush of the harvest time. It was also the best time for building and curing ships. In that summer of 471, though, only the ship building went on as normal.
Morgoth had sent the Men of the East into Hithlum to take the remnant of the Noldorin women to wife by force, their Elven men having died by the thousands in the battle, the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the Unnumbered Tears.
A few survivors had made their way to the Falas, and Ereinion grieved to see his father's people reduced to such a state. He met every one of them, went among them trying to comfort and encourage, but the devastation was finally coming home to him - that nearly all of the Elves of Hithlum were lost - and it was sometimes all he could do to greet the few survivors with an encouraging face.
Other folk were also arriving, from the north and central parts of Beleriand. Only the Hidden Realms were safe, Gondolin and Doriath and Nargothrond. Elsewhere all were terrorized by orc raids and those who could fled south and west to Círdan's Havens. The tales they had to tell were sickening, and many arrived in grief for loved ones who had not escaped the host of Angband.
The Falathrim took them all in, working hard to heal their wounds and provide sustenance, but the task wasn't easy. All felt the press of the enemy towards them, and the forges of Eglarest and Brithombar were worked daily to add to Círdan's armouries.
Círdan himself, though, seemed greatly changed since he'd come back from the battle. His manner was graver, not the serene Lord he'd always seemed to be, at least to Ereinion. Now there was tension and anxiety where before there had been none. He spent many hours with his captains and several times sent small fleets of war ships northward along the coast. Even so, he never went himself, but remained always in Eglarest, only journeying as far as Brithombar occasionally to speiak to his people there.
As is so often the case, the mood of a Lord is reflected in the mood of his people, and the Falathrim became quiet and worked even harder in their fields and shipyards.
On the day of midsummer, Ereinion awoke in Círdan's bed to find his lover brooding at the window. He watched him for awhile, a soft ache of need arising in him at the sight of the broad shoulders and slender hips. He had been slipping into the older Elf's rooms for a month now, after all the house was asleep, but in the last week Círdan had either not been there when he arrived or had been too troubled to want any lovemaking. Seeing him there, the pale dawn light gilding his silver hair and outlining every muscle of his strong arms, desire sent a flush across Ereinion's cheeks and he decided to do something about it.
Or at least try.
He rose, ignoring the robe beside the bed, and taking up the small vial of golden liquid that sat on the table beside him. He walked up naked behind Círdan and slipped his arms around the Shipwright's waist. Pressing his lips to the soft skin of Círdan's neck, he hugged him tightly. "Come back to bed," he whispered. "It's still early. The sun's barely up."
"I can't sleep," came the quiet reply.
Ereinion's lips curled into a smile and he kissed Círdan again. "I wasn't thinking of sleep," he murmured, pressing a morning erection against the cleft of the Shipwright's bottom.
Círdan sighed, even as he pressed backwards against the younger elf. "There is so much to do," he said, "so much to think about..."
"And we *will* think about it," the prince said, taking ahold of Círdan's shoulders and turning him gently around. Grey eyes met grey eyes and then they kissed, a long, slow, sweet thing that left them breathless. "Before we do, though," Ereinion went on, "let me comfort you... let me make you forget it all, just for awhile."
Smiling but still unconvinced, Círdan turned back to the window. It's curtain, which had been pulled to one side and hung on a hook next to the sill, was immediately dropped, Ereinion's hand moving swiftly and silently.
"I said," the prince insisted in a low voice, "let me make you forget it all."
Círdan's lips twitched in what was nearly a smile. "Indeed?" he said, staring stubbornly at the curtain. "And how do you plan to do that?"
The hand that had drawn the curtain fell to Círdan's shoulder and then skimmed lightly down his chest, coming to rest at the waistband of his leggings.
"I have one or two ideas," Ereinion murmured, pressing himself against the older Elf's back, his erection wedging firmly between tight buttocks.
The move brought an involuntary gasp from Círdan, who pressed backwards before he could stop himself. "Do you," he said, trying not to enjoy himself. "You seem to be very... firm about this."
Another press and Círdan was forced to brace himself, arms on either side of the window. "It's been far too long, my Lord," Ereinion said softly, pressing a kiss to Círdan's neck. His hand drifted lower and squeezed gently at the older Elf's shaft.
"It's only been a few days," Círdan managed to get out, wriggling madly, not knowing whether to press backwards against Ereinion's body or forwards into that grasping hand.
"That's far too long," Ereinion panted, his blood turned to fire by the Shipwright's movements. "I need you more often than that. I... I *insist* on having you... *now.*"
With one swift movement, Círdan's leggings were on the floor and their bodies pressed skin to skin. The silver haired Elf moaned and shook his head. "No... no, I won't... ah, *no* I won't let you..."
Ereinion knew a token protest when he heard one and smiled as he pressed forward, nudging his shaft up between the warm tight cheeks before him. "I *insist*, my Lord. I *will* have you, right here, right *now.*"
With one hand he flicked the stopper out of the vial he still held and poured the lubricant over himself. Then, with long, clever fingers, he probed his way up to Círdan's heated entrance. The Shipwright's body trembled as Ereinion's fingers teased at him, rubbed in tiny circles until his fingers slipped inside, first one, then two.
Now Círdan's breath caught in his throat and he arched his back, pressing into the sweet violation. "No..." he whispered, rocking back onto his lover's fingers. "Oh, *please*..."
"You're *mine*, my Lord," Ereinion murmured, slipping his fingers out and positioning himself at that trembling core. With a sudden, firm thrust he was in and Círdan threw his head back, trying to stifle a harsh cry of pleasure. As Ereinion began a slow, heated rhythm, the Shipwright's hands curled into fists against the wall, his hips bucking backwards, soft, gutteral moans forced out of him with each thrust.
To Ereinion it was utter bliss, maddeningly erotic, to take his Lord there, forced up against the wall and writhing. Suddenly it seemed he couldn't get deep enough and his arms tightened around Círdan's waist, one hand stroking the older Elf's twitching shaft.
It seemed to go on forever, time spinning out as they went on, their moans becoming more insistent, their movements more frantic. Círdan pounded on the wall with his fist and then panted, "I can't... oh, please... can't last!"
"Come for me, my Lord," Ereinion hissed and Círdan obeyed, spilling over the younger Elf's hand, head back and silver hair tumbling to his hips as he rode it out.
The feeling of it, Círdan's body grasping at him in a sweet, hot rhythm, took Ereinion over the edge too and he held the Shipwright in place, not letting him move as he filled him to overflowing. "Mine," he whispered again and again. "Mine, mine, *mine*..."
When it was over, they both fell to their knees, still joined, and Ereinion covered Círdan's neck and shoulders with kisses.
"I love you, sweet Lord... my silver sea god... worship you forever, that's what I'll do..."
Círdan rested his forehead against the cool, rough stone of the wall and moaned softly. "Ereinion," he whispered, closing his eyes, "what is this power you have over me...?"
"No power but the need to please you," the prince whispered back. "I need to see your pleasure, to hear it... you don't know how happy it makes me to watch you..." Slowly, he turned Círdan to face him, breaking their contact but making up for it with a long, lingering kiss.
When they broke off, Círdan was smiling softly.
"Take me to bed, sweet boy," he murmured. "I think I can finally sleep now."
Celebril was sitting on the jetty, staring out at the ships moored in the harbor, when Ereinion walked up to him. The Falathrim captain's eyes had that unfocused look of one in deep thought, fixed firmly on his own musings and unheeding of the world around him.
"Celebril?" the prince asked. "Are you feeling well?"
For a moment the other Elf didn't move, sitting so unnaturally still that Ereinion began to be alarmed, but then he shook his head and looked up at the prince.
"What is it?" he said with a distracted air.
"I've... been looking for Círdan," Ereinion answered. "I was wondering if you might know where he is."
Celebril scowled. "You spend too much time around him. You should cultivate other friendships. Lord Círdan is very busy - no time for puppy like you at the moment."
Bristling at the insinuation that he was no more than a pet to Círdan, Ereinion frowned back at him. "If the Lord of the Falas does not wish for my company, I would rather it be *him* who tells me so and not *you.*"
Getting to his feet, Celebril looked on him with idignation. "And I would remind you, Prince Ereinion, that you are being *fostered* here. You do not *rule* anyone yet, and, as one of the Noldor, you will never rule *me.* I advise you to keep a civil tongue in your head and leave *my* Lord to do his work."
The two of them glared at each other for a moment before Ereinion sighed and held his hands up in a gesture of supplication. "Forgive me. I did not mean to offend. I only wonder..." He looked out at the sea for a moment and then back at Celebril. "I wonder why he is so worried of late. I know there are orc bands abroad in the countryside, but the Falas are safe. Everyone knows that - that's why they are coming here in such numbers. Why does he worry so?"
Celebril didn't answer at once. Instead, he turned abruptly, staring out at the harbor, his eyes no longer haughty but anxious.
"Our Lord is a great seer," he said at last, his voice almost a whisper. "He has not told us all he knows of the future, but among the captains it is believed that an attack by the enemy is coming... and that tragedy will follow it."
"A seer...?" Ereinion said quietly, feeling a horrible sense of dread creeping up his spine. "He once told me... well, he told me that he didn't have the gift of foresight."
Celebril frowned. "No doubt he said that to keep you from prying into things that aren't your business. There is no one in Middle Earth to match him. He sees many things and much that is far into the future." Before Ereinion could reply, Celebril turned back to him. "Now run along and find something to do. Lord Círdan has much work to do in the shipyard."
Ereinion looked up sharply. "The shipyard, you say? Why thank you - thank you very much!" And with that, he was off and running towards it as fast as his feet would take him.
"Don't *bother* him!" Celebril called after him, obviously kicking himself for revealing Círdan's whereabouts, but Ereinion paid no mind and soon disappeared over the horizon, the other Elf swearing softly in his wake.
The shipyard was deserted, or seemed so, when Ereinion walked through it's tall gates. All around him, the ships sat curing - tall, white, and graceful, the most beautiful works of craft he ever remembered seeing. Reaching a hand up, he ran his fingers along the side of one of them. It was glossy and smooth to the touch, the wood expertly bent and sanded, the boards loving held together with small wooden nails.
/A ship is so different a thing from a work of metal or a jewel encrusted necklace. It's made to embrace the water, to fly over it, to carry people - not just for making it's owner look powerful. It nurtures... just as he does.../
"My Lord?" he called.
A voice came from the far side of the yard, faint and muffled. "Over here - under the boat."
Puzzled, Ereinion picked his way around the larger ships to a line of small grey skiffs. Long, well muscled legs sprawled out from one of them and Ereinion smiled. "What are you doing under there?" he asked. "Or do I not want to know?"
There was a series of soft grunts and then the silver head appeared as Círdan crawled out, a small hammer in his hand. "Tillers can be tricky," he said cryptically and stood up, brushing the sawdust from his leggings.
"I see," Ereinion murmured, leaning against one of the other boats and smiling. "But why are you still here? You've missed dinner, you know." He put on a small pout and added, "It was very lonely..."
"I do apologize for forcing you to dine without me," Círdan replied wryly, running his hands over the hull of the boat he'd been working on, "but these boats have to be seaworthy in three days and they won't be if I don't keep working."
Something in his voice made Ereinion's ears prick up. "Three days?" he asked, sharply. "Why three days? Círdan, what's happening?"
"Now calm down, child," the Shipwright said, moving to the end of the boat.
"I *am* calm," the prince snapped back. "I just want to know what you're planning."
"Well first," the older Elf said, "I know you're *not* calm because you never call me Círdan when you're calm, only when you're upset. Second, I will be happy to tell you what I'm planning if you'll stand at the other end of this boat and help me turn it over."
Having been somewhat sobered by Círdan's first observation, Ereinion had no choice but to move to where the Shipwright had gestured and together they turned the small sailing vessel over. An ornately carved tiller was attached to the floor of it.
"I call you Círdan..." the prince protested, "sometimes... when I'm not upset..."
"No," Círdan said, winking at him, "you don't. Trust me."
Ereinion folded his arms in front of his chest, feeling a wave of stubbornness coming on. "Well, what if I *am* upset? You with all these secret plans. You talk to your captains but you won't talk to me!"
"My captains need to know when I plan to sail - what I mean to do to the enemy." He walked to where a tall, slim birch wood mast stood, carrying it over and leaning it against the boat. "You don't have that need."
"You're going to make more raids up the coast, aren't you?" Ereinion asked, his voice challenging. "That's why you're making all these landing crafts, and don't tell me it's not so. I know your mind, Círdan, and I want to go with you this time."
"Absolutely not!" Círdan said harshly, looking up at the prince. "Have I kept you safe all these years, done your father's bidding, just to see you killed on some beach by a band of orcs? You've never been in battle, Ereinion. This is not the time to learn."
"And when *will* there be time to learn?" the prince shot back, his hands curling into fists around the edge of the boat. "What if the Captains of Angband kill us all first?"
"You're a *child*," Círdan said stubbornly. "You're place is not on the battlefield. Not yet."
"A *child*?" Ereinion said, his voice harsh and disbelieving. "Am I a child when I come into your bed? I may not be of age yet but I am no *child*!"
"Keep your voice down!" Círdan hissed. "Do you want all the city to know our business?"
A sudden flush came into Ereinion's cheeks and he was silent for a moment, stinging from the rebuke. "I just want you to see me for what I am," he said at last. "You had the friendship of my father. You knew him and his people." He looked up, eyes full of trembling, unshed tears. "They're all *gone* now, Círdan! All but the few we have here! Are you really willing to tell me that my place isn't in battle when the enemy has done such a great injustice to me and to my House? Would you deny me the power to fight back - to take my revenge?"
Círdan regarded him from the other side of the boat. "I would not deny you anything," he said softly. "I believe... that there will be a time, not far in the future, when you will be made to fight - for your own life and for the lives of others. But that does not mean you need to go out and look for battle. Believe me, Ereinion, it will come to you soon enough."
"What do you see?" Ereinion whispered, remembering Celebril's grim manner. "You told me that you had no foresight into future matters, but that was a lie, wasn't it? Why did you lie to me?"
Círdan turned his back to the the prince, running a trembling hand through his silver hair. "I did not tell you everything, that is true, but what would have been the good of it? I could do nothing to stop what happened in the north, though I tried my best. Nothing would have kept your father from that battle."
Ereinion stared at the back of the older Elf's head, finally realizing what Círdan had been telling him in the shipyard that night. "You knew my father was going to be slain, didn't you?" he whispered.
Slowly, Círdan turned to face him again, his expression agonized. "No, dear prince. I didn't *know* it. There are... possibilities that come to me - vague feelings or visions. I would not be the one to say that any of them would definitely come true. I told your father to beware, that I felt him to be in great peril - greater than many who went to that war. But either he didn't believe me, or did not have the will to stay at home and do nothing, for he told me to keep silent about his doom, and I did that because he wanted it."
The tears were finally slipping down Ereinion's cheeks, remembering his father, brave and noble, aching for the way he died.
"Tell me... Círdan. What is it that haunts you? What is coming?"
The older Elf's lovely, tanned face went pale and he stared down at the graceful little boat for several moments before answering. "A darkness draws near this place," he whispered. "I fear terribly for my cities... my people." Looking up again, he walked to where the prince stood, smoothing the tears from Ereinion's cheeks with trembling fingers. "The world as we know it will not last, Ereinion. Everything is about to change, but we must fight the evil while we still can."
The prince caught hold of Círdan's hand, pressing his lips to it and clasping their fingers together. "Then please... *please*... let me fight for you."
"Ereinion," Círdan whispered back and then leaned forward, catching his young lover's mouth with his own. The prince's lips parted and the kiss deepened, their arms twining around each other, fingers tangling in long hair, bright silver and inky black. For a long, long time they simply kissed and caressed, each needing the other's warmth against the creeping coldness they felt.
Then Círdan sighed, and hugged the younger Elf to him, whispering against his hair. "I fear losing you, but more than that I fear not having you near me. I've become weak where you are concerned."
"Then let me go with you," Ereinion said with quiet fierceness. "Let me be by your side when you sail... and when you fight. I swear I will do you great honor and protect you with every ounce of strength I have. But... let me be with you... please."
Círdan let out a shuddering breath. "Yes," he said at last. "Yes, I will... I want you close. You will be by me from this moment on."
For the next three months, the Elves of the Falas sailed up and down the coast of Middle Earth, harrying the enemy wherever they could. Orcs and other creature's of darkness were pouring into Beleriand and were often camped along the shoreline. The Falathrim would arrive at night, their ships barely making a sound in the quiet water, and hide behind the rocks of the small coastal outcroppings that sat offshore. Then, by day, as the Orcs slept, they would make their landings, swift and deadly, slaying all the enemy they found before putting out to sea again in their small skiffs.
On every journey Ereinion was there, he and Círdan sharing one of the small boats. Although they often did their work without a struggle, there were some skirmishes and when they happened he would fight alongside the Shipwright, each one looking out for the other as they slew the black creatures of Morgoth.
Gradually the summer waned into autumn, and their landings trips were more harsh, the water beneath their boats taking on a forbidding chill. Círdan grew ever more brooding, and ever fiercer in his fighting, beginning to take chances with his life that Ereinion felt to be uncharacteristic of him. Whatever the silver haired Elf feared seemed to be drawing nearer and always he urged his people to ready themselves for attack.
It was on a bright but chilly autumn day, when the fleet had arrived home from a raid just north of Brithombar, that the peaceful world of the Falathrim fell apart. Ereinion was walking on the beach with Círdan when, from the eastern walls of the city, came the shouts and cries of the watchmen.
"Archers!! Archers!! The enemy is here!!"
"Bring the braces for the gates! We need more arrows!!"
"Lord Círdan! Where is he? By Elbereth, there are *thousands* of them!!"
Círdan ran to the walls, Ereinion on his heels and they climbed up to see the horrific sight for themselves: a huge army was upon them, passing down the River Nenning like a monstrous, black shadow. The guardsman had been right, there *were* thousands of them, and in their midst was a giant engine hooked to an enormous battering ram.
For a moment, Círdan just stared at them, stared as they swarmed down the river towards his beautiful city, his eyes full of horror. And then the moment had passed and he was shouting down to the Elves on the ground.
"Get every archer we have up on the walls! Second company to the north wall, Third company to the south. Celebril, find the tutors and help them round up the women and children. Get them to the ships! Swordsmen, gather near the gate and prepare for a breech!"
Instantly, the Elves below him scattered, each one finding his place. Like a wind sweeping through tall grass, the archers on the walls lifted their bows as one, arrows trained on the enemy, and, as if in answer, the host of Orcs raised their swords and broke from their formations, rushing towards the city.
"Their not working - the arrows. There are too many of them."
Círdan's words were whispered, almost as if he was saying them to himself, but Ereinion's keen ears heard them. The tone was was part anger and part shock and even as Círdan said them an Orc reached the top of the wall, grabbing for the Shipwright's ankle to pull him down.
With one elegant swipe from his sword, the silver haired Elf severed arm from Orc and the creature fell away shrieking. Ereinion dispatched two more who had made the climb, their heads falling away from their bodies as if they were dolls.
It did very little, though, to stem the tide of them that broke upon the fair walls of Eglarest like a black tide. They covered the land the stretched away the the east, Orcs and Wargs and hideous engines that belched acrid smoke.
"It moves closer," Círdan whispered, staring at the giant ram that was being rolled over the river road towards them. "Where is Celebril?" he called out.
A voice down on the ground called back, "He is coming, my Lord! I see him on the footpath that leads from the harbor!"
"Hold them, Ereinion - I'm counting on you," the Shipwright whispered in his lover's ear and then jumped down from the wall just as Celebril arrived in the courtyard, panting with the effort of running.
"What is the situation at the harbor?" Círdan asked sharply.
"We have gotten some women and children on the ships," Celebril said, "but not even half of those who should be there."
Círdan made as if to speak, but just at that moment they heard the grinding of the engines just outside the walls and the two Elves clambered up to see what was happening.
Five huge Trolls had risen up from the river and were pulling the battering ram to the edge of the city. Anguish and determination warred over Círdan's features but at last he gripped his sword and said to Celebril, "Go to the armoury and get everyone you can to bring us arrows. Run. *Now.*"
"Yes, my Lord!" the younger Elf said, tearing off at a great pace and disappearing around the edge of the armoury building.
"Ereinion," Círdan called, "I want you down at the harbor. You can help with the ships."
The prince looked at him in disbelief as a black arrow sailed past, almost grazing his cheek. "No, please!" he said, hacking at another Orc climbing near. "I want to be here, with you."
"And I want *you* alive and down in the harbor!" Círdan answered, his voice rising. "This city won't last another hour and you *will* be on one of those ships. Now *go*! Ah, Elbereth, here it comes. Brace yourselves!!"
The ram had come within reach of the walls and now it was being drawn back, its head a grotesque black thing with hideous spikes covering it. It swung forward on its chains and crashed against the gates, shaking the walls at their very foundations.
Now Celebril and several other Elves came running from the armoury, replenishing the archers' quivers with arrows and trying to dodge those coming from the Orc host below.
A second crashing hammer fell upon the doors and Círdan looked over to find Ereinion still on the wall. "Go!! Now!!" he yelled at the prince and gave him a shove, sending Ereinion tumbling to the ground. "Celebril! Take him down to the harbor and see that he's put on a ship! He can help you get the others down there aboard."
"Aye, my Lord!" Celebril called and grabbed Ereinion's arm. The prince fought it, screaming at the Elf captain and twisting around to catch a glimpse of Círdan, swinging his sword at two Orcs who had gained the top of the wall, which shook with yet another blow. The wood of the gates was starting to splinter, the walls around it now riven with cracks.
"No!!" Ereinion screamed, even as Celebril dragged him around the corner along the path. "Círdan!!"
"Hush!" Celebril said, beginning to scold, but at that moment they heard a terrible sound. The city wall that lay to the north of them crumbled with a loud crack and a flood of Orcs poured into Eglarest, every one of them shrieking and holding aloft a sword or bow. They flooded over the dwellings of the Falathrim like black insects swarming a rotted log in the forest.
"Ahh! Falma!! Súlrostur!! Nooo!!"
Ereinion turned to see Celebril break away from him, running to where an elf woman was being dragged out of a nearby house, a small child clinging to her legs. Celebril charged at the Orcs that held them, his sword held over his head, his face beautiful and terrible in fury. For a moment it looked as though his might overcome them, and Ereinion ran towards them, his own sword drawn, but as he did he heard the front gates split open and quick as fire spreading through dry grass the Wargs poured through the breach.
He turned and lifted his sword to them, managing to cleave the heads of two before hearing a horrible scream. Whirling back around to where Celebril had been, he saw three of them fall on the woman and child and, as they did, an Orc came up behind the Elf captain and ran him through with his black sword.
It was a terrible sight, the blood pouring from Celebril's wound to soak the ground beneath him, his wife and child being torn to bits in front of him as he died. With a great cry, Ereinion ran towards them, his sword aloft and with one, great stroke, took off three Orc heads. Then he stabbed at the Wargs, who snarled and howled, but when they looked up from the savaging and saw his sword above their heads they ran.
The prince stooped, dazed and panting, to where the woman lay, but it was obviously too late. Her heart and that of her child has been torn out by the beasts of Morgoth and Celebril, too, was already gone, his life bled out on the stones.
He might have kneeled there in shock forever, but now the Orcs were pouring into the city, destroying everything they could as they hacked and burned their way towards the harbor. He rose, shaking his head as if to clear it, and saw through the smoke the gleaming silver hair of his lover. Círdan was fighting off two large Orcs and, at the same time, retreating through the city. His soldiers were around him, fighting battles of their own, but inch by inch they were being beaten back, and now Ereinion joined them in a last, desperate attempt to reach the safety of the sea.
Before them, the eastern half of Eglarest lay in ruins, the graceful buildings and smooth white walls reduced to rubble by the battering ram that now stood within the city itself. As they poured in, the Orc set fire to everything they found and what they couldn't burn let the trolls smash to pieces.
The Elves had been pushed back level with Círdan's house when Ereinion first heard the screams from the harbor. Círdan had obviously heard them too, because he yelled to his men to turn and flee. They did, moving like the wind, faster than any of the black creatures behind them, but now more Orcs came up from the northern end of the city and stopped them from reaching the quays.
Caught between the two Orc companies, they were all forced to fight and now the battle turned bloodier than Ereinion could ever have imagined. For every two Orcs that fell, one of Círdan's brave soldiers would fall to the ground, slain or set afire or pierced with poison arrows. Elves he had known since he's come to the Falas were gone in a heartbeat, one moment standing next to him, fighting, the next lifeless at his feet. Each one of their deaths made the rage inside him grow stronger. These were kind and beautiful people who had built Havens in every sense of the word. Why were they being allowed to be cut down like so much grass in autumn? Why was the horrible darkness winning over the light?
His thoughts must have strayed because when he focused his eyes again on the battle, they were only yards from the main quay. Ereinion could see five white ships in the harbor, the sails luffing in the breeze. On board, the remnant of the Falas and of the refugees were screaming to them, gesturing wildly for them to board.
Of the near hundred soldiers that had run with Círdan from the walls, though, there now only twenty or so. Like all the rest of them, Círdan himself was bleeding, stumbling, hacking away at seemingly unnumbered Orcs, two or three springing up whenever one was slain. One last time he looked over at Ereinion and the fire came back to his weary eyes.
"Don't you dare let them take you!" he called, swinging his sword at a Warg snarling in front of him. "Stand firm and run when I tell you to! Do you understand me?"
Ereinion nodded fiercely, dispatching another Orc as the Elf next to him fell, pierced by arrows. Their number was down to ten.
It was then that the blackest time came. For out on the cape west of Eglarest, the beautiful white watch tower of Barad Nimras, built by Finrod Felegund for the defense of the Havens, was overrun with the enemy. The battered at it and the smooth white stones began to fall. With each that went down there was a tremendous crash as it fell into the sea and it was then, when he heard those sounds, that Ereinion realized the significance of what was happening: the Orcs had reached the harbor. They were, even now, beginning to wade out towards the sea, reluctant to enter it, as Orcs were to large bodies of water, but growing bolder quickly.
The ten had become eight and as Barad Nimras fell to pieces, crashing into the sea, Círdan screamed at his soldiers to retreat. They fled to quay, running over the bodies of slain Orcs and Elves, to where the landing boats had been. When the got there, though, the could find only one boat intact - the rest had been burned.
Círdan urged the rest of the soldiers into the boat, all the time watching their backs and fending off the attackers as best he could. He was about to step into the boat himself when they heard a scream, long, wailing, a high-pitched woman's scream. Círdan spun around to see a band of Orcs drag a Elf maid from a burning house.
It was Ariel, the fair haired girl who had yearned for Círdan's love. They had her by the hair, dragging her through the bloodied streets as she cried out for help. Círdan's face darkened at the sight of her and turned back to the boat briefly, only to give it a great shove with his foot.
"Get Prince Ereinion to safety!" he called to the two Elves who had charge of the oars and they nodded and began rowing feverishly.
Ereinion's eyes went wide, watching Círdan run from the quay to where the girl was being tormented. "No!!" he screamed, held back by the other Elves in the boat. "Círdan!! Don't you do this to me!!"
But it did no good, for every second that passed they sped farther away from the quay and Círdan ran in the opposite direction, determined to save the girl or die trying.
"You have to go back for him!" Ereinion yelled, trying to grab for the oars himself. They held him back, though, and hard as he struggled he couldn't get them to change course. Their faces were grim, but determined. Their Lord had given them an order and they were going to see it carried out.
He was brought on board one of the white ships struggling and kicking, begging to be set free, to return to shore. He was refused of course, and somewhere high overhead he heard a long, sharp whistle, the signal to pull the sails to and cast off.
With the last strength left in him, Ereinion looked back at the white city of Eglarest. It was being consumed, some of it by fire, some of it under the feet of Orc swarms, defiling the houses and the white sands of the beach. The harbor lay in ruin, most of the white ships burning from fiery arrows shot into their hulls. Away at the northern end of the city, he could just see a line of Elves being led away in chains, the ones they had been unable to save.
/It would have been better had they died,/ the prince found himself thinking dully. /No doubt the only thing in store for them is torture... ah, Círdan... did you see it ending like this?/
As the ship sailed farther and farther from the city, he felt a sickening feeling settle about him. Círdan had to be dead or captured, most of his people and the refugees of Beleriand killed or taken captive. Yet here he was. Círdan had given up his own life so that Ereinion could be king of a people who no longer existed. It was all so horribly wrong.
Suddenly, through the fog of his despair, he heard a voice above him crying, "It's Círdan! He's on the headland! Bring the ship about and sail eastward!!"
The name of his lover cut through to him as nothing else would have at that moment and Ereinion threw himself to the side of the ship, peering out at the southern headland they were passing. Sure enough, the Lord of the Falathrim stood at the edge of the headland, holding back a group of Orcs, spinning and turning as he fought, his Elven grace a thing of beauty to look upon, even in battle.
As the ship turned towards the coast, Ereinion screamed out, "Círdan!!" and for a brief moment Círdan turned to see them. He paid dearly for that knowledge, though, for one of the Orcs hit his neck broadside with a black blade and he stumbled, fighting them back on his knees as they swarmed at him.
Then, as Ereinion watched, his face a mask of agony, Círdan turned and ran the short distance to the cliff face and stepped off into the air, falling as if in slow motion to the sea below. The Orcs were brought up short, peering over the edge and cursing their loss before turning to go back towards the city.
Now all of the ship was silent, having watched as their Lord fell, silver hair streaming, into the water. They searched the choppy waves for him, waiting for his head to break the surface so they could breathe again, but they looked in vain for he didn't appear.
Ereinion was aware of a voice screaming, "No!!!" and then knew the voice to be his, but it was as if he was watching himself through gauzy fabric, struggling to jump overboard, the hands of the Falathrim restraining him. Then there came a voice very close beside him, a man's voice low and soft.
"Do not despair, Prince. Do you not remember? Our Lord is the beloved friend of Ossë the Maia. Lord Ossë will not let him come to harm."
Slowly, Ereinion turned to look at the speaker, recognizing him as one of Círdan's captains. The soldier looked down at him gently, touching his shoulder in a reassuring gesture.
"Look at the people," he said softly. "They are not frightened, no do they mourn for him. They know he is protected by the Lord of the Waves." He pointed in towards the coastline and murmured, "Watch."
Gazing back over the edge of the ship, Ereinion felt as though time was spinning out, everything vague and dreamlike. He watched the intensely blue sea for several minutes and then drew a soft gasp as the surface of the water began to move.
It seemed as though there came, from deep below the surface, an enormous creature, smooth and rolling, causing the water to swell into a giant wave that paralleled the ship. Then the people on board who had come to the Falas as refugees paled and wept, covering their eyes with their hands in terror at what might be coming.
But the Falathrim did not quail. Their faces grew calm, their bodies very still and they waited, silent and respectful. As they did, the surface of the great swell was broken and the Lord of the Waves, Ossë, the vassal of Ulmo, stepped out of the water and loomed over the ship, Círdan held in his great hands.
He was forty feet tall, at least, his skin a trembling silver-blue, his hair white as sea foam and long enough to brush the water as he stood, twined with countless shells and long braids of sea grass. His face, as he gazed on them, was ageless and perilously fair, the expression one of sorrow and pity. In his huge hands, Círdan looked small and vulnerable, his skin pale and clammy.
As they watched in awe, Ossë lifted Círdan's face to his lips and blew gently into the Shipwright's mouth. Instantly Círdan's skin grew pinker and he opened his eyes, shivering and coughing. The Maia gazed into his eyes for a long, lingering moment and then slowly put him down onto the deck of the ship. Círdan, though his legs trembled beneath him. knelt down on the deck and brought his hand to his heart, lowering his head in great respect. All of the Falathrim followed suit and Ereinion watched in wonder as Ossë waved his hand over them and felt a warm, soft mist briefly cover the deck of the ship, and it was as if, with that gentle sprinkling, the filth of the Orcs had been washed from them.
"It is not yet time for you to journey to Mandos, Círdan," the sea god said, his voice low and rumbling. "How I weep for the loss of the Havens, though, and I feel the grief in your heart. But fear not, for I will send you a following sea that will bear you south to safety."
He stretched out one hand and it curled, foamy, around Círdan's head and shoulders. "Take them to Balar," he said. "I will come to you there."
"Yes my Lord," Círdan whispered, looking up to meet the sea god's gaze. "My most humble thanks to you - my thanks and those of my people."
Ossë trailed his fingers over Círdan's face in a last, lingering caress and then he closed his eyes and dropped slowly back into the water.
As soon as he did, they felt a great swell from behind the ship, and it bounded forward at great speed, south again along to coast.
Ereinion stretched out his hand to Círdan, but even as he did the Shipwright walked to the back of the ship, his eyes dazed, hair wet from the touch of Ossë. He reached the stern, the eyes of his people following him, and stared back at the ruins of his city, engulfed in flames. He said nothing, but stood perfectly still, only his eyes revealing the devastation he felt.
Walking up beside him, Ereinion followed his gaze and then looked back at him. "My Lord," he whispered, "Círdan... I am so sorry..."
"Don't say it, Ereinion," the Shipwright said quietly. "I need to fix it in my mind... the way it looked from the sea, the way the light and the water played upon the buildings in the harbor. If I don't do that now, I'll forget... and then it will be truly gone forever."
There was nothing to say to that, only a struggle to hold back the sting of tears behind his eyes. Seeing his distress, Círdan slipped his arm around the prince's shoulders.
"I believe what Lord Ossë tells me," he said softly. "We will find safe haven on Balar and we will protect the people we have left."
"And what of the Orcs?" Ereinion said bitterly. "What of the Black menace that rules in your stead?"
"We have escaped them, Ereinion," Círdan said. "We will live to fight another day, and we will be stronger for all of this grief." He turned then, looking over at the prince with eyes weary and loving. "Aurë entuluva," he whispered. "Day shall come again."
~ end ~
series to be continued in Silver and Sable
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