A Fearful Thing                                                               back to Strange Fates
by Elwing



PAIRING: Círdan/Gil-galad; eventually also Gil-galad/Elrond
ARCHIVE: If you like.
RATING: PG-13
FANDOM/SPOILERS: The Silmarillion
SUMMARY: Círdan leads the sea-elves to battle and Gil-galad must wait at home.
DISCLAIMER: It all belongs to
Professor Tolkien, god bless him.
FEEDBACK: Yes, any and all comments welcome.

---

"It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch."
- inscription on a New England tombstone

Chapter 1

Once again the Falathrim had crowded the harbor of Eglarest. They lined
the stone quays, solemn faced, and waved slowly as the elegant ships
moved out to sea. There was no homecoming this time. No, quite the
contrary, the men of the Falas - all but the very old, very young, and
a small defense force - were heading up the coast to come to the aid of
Fingon, who was being pressed hard against the mountains of Ered Lómin.

Gil-galad stood with the other boys, watching Círdan's ship move away
from the pier. In the few days that had passed between their pearl dive
at Balar and the soft grey dawn in which they all stood, he had tried
to summon up the courage to say something to Círdan - to tell him of
his feelings, all of his intense and confused feelings, to ask the
older elf what it all meant. In the end, though, he couldn't do it and
now Círdan was sailing away to battle, without him.

He was doing his best not to show his anxiety. He wasn't as worried
about his father as he thought he'd be - a fact that surprised him, but
he knew the warriors of Hithlum were powerfully strong and his father
the most valiant among them and, though his grandfather had been slain
only a five years ago, he had no such fears for his father, since
Fingon would have all the Elves and Men of Hithlum about him.

No, he was worried about the Falathrim, and their Lord.

"He'll come back... I know he will..."

Gil-galad turned to see Sulimir standing next to him. Tears were
rolling down his face as he stared out at the ships disappearing on the
horizon. For a brief moment, the prince felt like joining him in tears,
but then put an arm around the smaller boy's shoulders.

"Of course he will," he found himself saying firmly. "He'll come back
and he'll want to know that we haven't been sitting around worrying
about him, right?"

Sulimir looked over at him, blinking tears away and sniffing. He nodded
slowly. "N-no... he wouldn't want us to do that..."

"So," Gil-galad said, sounding much more confident than he felt, "let's
round up the others and have an archery match. You and me against the
other two. What do you say?"

Wiping his eyes, Sulimir nodded. "I'll go and get the bows," he said,
sounding grateful, and Gil-galad watched him running along the quay
back towards Círdan's House.

He felt good - very good, and proud of himself. He could almost imagine
Círdan's approving smile as he walked back to the city to find the
other boys.

At first it was easy enough to pass the time. They all had chores to
do, and luckily the sword master was staying on in the city's defense,
so Gil-galad practiced every day. He was growing stronger by leaps and
bounds, and twice almost bested the master, only to be humbled by a
movement or stance chosen through inexperience.

The days were easy enough to get through. It was the nights that made
him bleed.

The fleet hadn't been gone but two days when he realized he missed
Círdan in an almost palpable way. Reminders of the man were everywhere
in the house, the city - in the very sand on the beach, and every time
Gil-galad lay down on his bed, images of that other beach, on Balar,
rose up before his eyes. There was simply no forgetting it and he soon
gave up trying altogether. It was easier to fall into the memory, his
eyes recalling every curve and line of Círdan's body, and as he did he
curled up into a ball and ached for things he'd never wanted before.

For the first time in his life, Gil-galad found himself obsessed.
Everything that had to do with Círdan was fraught with emotion for him.
That precious name was on every pair of lips, it seemed. Every stone in
the city, every wave on the shore sang it out, and Gil-galad could make
himself delirious just by whispering to it himself over and over again.

By the end of three weeks he was spending his free time at the far
north end of the harbor, watching the sea and willing the ships to come
home.

~~~

The fleet was gone for two months and there was little news of the
fighting in the north while they were away. But at last, on a mid-
summer afternoon, a messenger rode into Eglarest, saying that the Elves
of the Falas had arrived at the Firth of Drengist just in time. They
had routed the orcs upon the plain of Hithlum and were coming home,
victorious.

So it was that Gil-galad found himself again in the harbor as the white
sails of the Falathrim came over the horizon, wondering fervently if
seeing the man after all this time would be as thrilling as his fantasy
life had been.

His eyes were riveted on the ships, trying to find the one that carried
Círdan. When he'd given them all a cursory check and still not found
him, he spent a heartstopping moment wondering whether the older elf
had made it out of the orc battle alive, but then one of the crew
members on the largest ship moved aside and there he was, standing at
the wheel, his silver hair blowing over his shoulders in the wind.

It was more than thrilling to see him at last. Gil-galad's heart gave a
leap in his chest and he nearly dropped where he stood. Surely Círdan
hadn't been that lovely when they had sailed? But now, seen through the
sweet lens of desire, he seemed nearly a god.

Never had the moments gone by so slowly as they did while the ships
were anchored and the landing boats rowed in, but at last all were
ashore and Círdan was coming up the pier towards him. It was
frustrating work, pushing through the happy crowd to where he was.
Every time it seemed he was close another wave of people blocked his
way again. When it happened for the third time, he gave up altogether
and let the flow of people take him where it would and found himself,
quite unexpectedly, in front of the man he was seeking.

"Welcome back," Gil-galad said, somewhat breathlessly.

Círdan smiled and reached out a hand to stroke his cheek. "Thank you,"
he said in a low voice as the crowd swirled around them. "It's very
good to be back."

Their gazes held, even after the throng had pulled them apart. Gil-
galad watched as, for a delicious moment, Círdan turned and looked back
at him, his smile no longer wide and joyous, but a small, private thing
that made the prince's knees go weak with longing.

~~~

The sea-elves celebrated on the beach that night, a celebration like
nothing Gil-galad had ever seen. He had heard that the Falathrim were
known for their singing and dancing, their music that swirled like the
waves in the wind, and that night every tale he'd been told seemed to
come true.

The music of the pipes was by turns joyous and vibrant, racing through
the veins of the dancers like a drug, and then poignant and full of
longing, when the voices of the singers rose in harmony and it seemed
the rocky caves along the shoreline echoed with piercing sadness. Up
and down, they went, all night long, first dancing wildly along the
beach and then singing sadly in eerie harmony.

Gil-galad took it in, all the time watching Círdan, wishing he could
pull the older elf to his feet and dance with him on the sand, the way
the other couples did. He hesitated though, knowing it wasn't his place
to demand something like that of the Lord of the city.

He regretted his inaction later when, at the end of the night, a young
woman with long, pale gold hair danced to where Círdan sat. She moved
to the sultry rhythm of the pipes, smiling at him, her gestures
enticing him to join her. When he simply smiled back, she pulled at his
hands. There was a great cheer and Círdan allowed himself, reluctantly,
to be drawn into the dancing.

Gil-galad watched his every movement, silently cursing the girl for her
boldness and himself for the lack of it. It was poetry to look on, the
way Círdan could dance. Every muscle was taut, every move sinuous,
silver hair gleaming in the light of the fires. Nothing the passionate
Noldor did was ever like the sensuous movement of the Falathrim's
dancing, and Gil-galad was taken over by the rhythm, and the sight of
Círdan before him.

"They make a fine couple, don't you think?" came a smooth voice at his
ear. It was Celebril, kneeling down into the sand next to him.

Gil-galad frowned at him and then went back to watching. "Couple? What
do you mean by that?" he murmured.

"She turned down an invitation of marriage last week, or so they say.
Seems she has her eye on our Lord and many of us would be happy to see
such a match.

"Does he feel the same for her?" Gil-galad asked, a bit too anxiously
for his own comfort. It seemed obvious now, the way she moved around
Círdan, touching him briefly now and then, nothing blatant, just a
light flirtation designed, no doubt, to be alluring.

"I wouldn't know that," Celebril murmured, "but he obviously delights
in her dancing. Yes, I think they would be a fine match, indeed."

"Why is it so important for him to be married?" the prince asked, not
moving his eyes from the dancers. "He seems perfectly happy without a
wife."

Celebril laughed. "Spoken like a child," he said. "Círdan is our Lord,
and should have sons of his own, to rule in his stead should he be
slain in battle."

Gil-galad turned sharply to the older elf. "He *won't* be slain in
battle," he whispered fiercely. "He's lived for thousands of years,
been in countless battles, *and* lived to tell about them. So don't
talk about him as if he's going to die!"

A look of bewilderment crept over Celebril's face as he looked at the
boy beside him. "I would no more wish for my Lord to be slain than I
would for myself," he said slowly. "*Any* Lord needs to think of
succession because it safeguards his people from chaos. You'll
understand that someday, just as your father did, and his father before
him."

A strange feeling came over Gil-galad in that moment. It was as if the
beach before him faded away and for the briefest flicker of time, he
saw a great fortress and himself, as an adult, standing before it. The
image lasted less than a second and was gone, leaving a profound
feeling of loneliness.

"I will never marry," he said quietly, feeling the truth of it deep
inside, and Celebril frowned at the seriousness of his voice.

Suddenly there was a warm hand on Gil-galad's shoulder. "You two aren't
arguing, I hope?" It was Círdan, kneeling down in the sand next to
where the boy sat. His cheeks were flushed from dancing and his eyes
shone like the stars.

"No, my Lord," Celebril said quickly, then stood. "We were just
remarking on how glad we were to see you finally join in the dance." He
gave a last puzzled look at Gil-galad, then left.

"Are you enjoying yourself?" Círdan asked the prince.

Gil-galad nodded, forcing back the questions that were crowding into
his mind. "Yes - quite a bit. You dance... so well," he said lamely.

"Ah, well - years of practice, you know," Círdan replied, "although the
younger ones are always making up new steps so it gets difficult to
keep up." He smiled warmly at Gil-galad and then murmured, "I have news
of your father - would you like to take a walk down the beach and I'll
tell you all about how they're faring in the North?"

The prince nodded and they stood to leave, Celebril watching them
curiously as they wandered away from the crowd.

They walked through the soft sand under a sky full of stars while
Círdan told of the battle and of Fingon's bravery. He spoke about the
defense of Hithlum and Gil-galad was relieved to hear that it held
still. In the tumult of his feelings, he realized that he hadn't asked
about his father, and now to hear that he was doing well made his heart
a bit lighter, his conscience less guilty.

When the sounds of the celebration were soft and muted behind them,
they stopped and sat in the sand, listening to the waves as they landed
on the shore.

"May I... may I ask you a question, my Lord?" Gil-galad asked.

"Certainly," the older elf said.

"Did my father send me here... well, did he send me because he thinks
he's going to die?"

Círdan looked at Gil-galad in surprise. "No," he said, his voice soft
and reassuring. "No. He sent you here so that you could be trained as a
warrior and a king without having to worry about your safety."

Gil-galad looked at him, his expression disbelieving, and Círdan went
on. "Well, I mean - it's a bit hard to train as a sword fighter when
all the best have gone off to defend the country, isn't it? And how do
you expect to learn how to lead people if your leader is always needed
elsewhere."

It seemed reasonable - Círdan's words always seemed reasonable - but
still Gil-galad was unsatisfied. "But *if* something happens to him, I
will have to be the High King, and that means... taking a wife and
having children..." His voice trailed off and he stared down at the
sand between his toes.

Círdan, however, simply laughed softly. "You're a bit young to be
worried about all that, aren't you? I mean, most elves don't decide on
a marriage partner until they're at least 20 or 30, some much later
than that. I wouldn't worry if you haven't found anyone yet."

Turning suddenly to the older elf, Gil-galad stared hard into his eyes
and said, "Do you... do you believe that everyone has a perfect match?"

The Shipwright drew back a bit, unprepared for the intensity of the
question and the boy who asked it. "Well," he began uncertainly, "I
don't know about that... if you mean do I think everyone needs someone
to love, I would probably say yes." He studied the boy thoughtfully.
"Is that what you meant?"

"Yes," Gil-galad said slowly, looking down again, "and no." The
pressure inside his chest was growing. He wanted so badly to tell
Círdan how he felt - that he'd been unable to eat or sleep or study
without thinking of him, and yet he he had no idea how to do it.

Círdan looked puzzled and then a slow smile of comprehension spread
across his face, half hidden by the darkness. "Have you met someone?"
he asked gently. "Someone you think is your perfect match?"

With an anguished expression, the prince looked over at Círdan again.
"How do you *know* if it's the right person?" he whispered. "What do
you even *say* to begin to talk in the first place?"

Gil-galad heard a heavy sigh in the darkness - saw the outline of
Círdan's face, gleaming silver in the starlight. "I'm not the one to
ask, really," the older elf said. "I've never married - not even
courted anyone - so I couldn't really advise you, except to say that
it's probably best to state your feelings and not hide them."

"Why have you never married?" Gil-galad asked, regretting the personal
nature of the question as soon as it had passed his lips. "I'm sorry,
sir..."

But Círdan simply shrugged. "I suppose I never found that perfect match
you speak of," he said. "I haven't felt the need to have a woman nearby
me, although many of my dearest friends have made a point of telling me
how delightful they are." He smiled and looked out at the breaking
waves, his expression going soft and dreamy. "I've never wanted for
company, though... not as long as I find myself by the sea. Sometimes
when war calls me away from the coast I'm lonely, and I can see how
having another person to love would be a great comfort, but I have been
fortunate that those times have been brief."

/Never wanted for company... as long as I find myself by the sea.../
Gil-galad stared at the Shipwright's profile for what seemed like an
eternity. The image of Círdan, on the sand, the watery figure over him,
pressing into him, swam before the prince's eyes and before he could
think better of it he whispered, "Who is he?"

At the sound of his words, Círdan turned his head sharply and looked at
Gil-galad, then, after a moment, closed his eyes and turned back
towards the sea. For a long time he said nothing but at last, in a soft
voice he murmured, "You were there, weren't you? On the beach that
night, on Balar..."

"Who *is* he?" Gil-galad asked again and this time Círdan turned to
him, a sad smile hovering on his lips.

"Have you never heard of Ossë," he asked, "Lord of the Waves and the
Coasts?"

"The Maia?" Gil-galad whispered, shocked to the core. "But..." His mind
was racing. It explained everything, all that he had seen, and yet - it
made his chest ache, the thought that Círdan loved another, and one so
great in stature. "But he has a spouse, does he not?" he said,
stupidly, falling back on the little sea-lore he knew, on the verge of
tears but determined not to show them.

"Uinen," Círdan said simply, "The Lady of the Seas. Yes, they are
espoused, but... my Lord is restless, ever restless. That's his nature.
He came upon me once when I was restless, too, and we... took comfort
in each other... as we have done ever since."

It was no use. Hot tears were falling from Gil-galad's eyes and he
turned to look up at the cliffs, his back to Círdan. Everything felt
shattered, as if his life had been a glass bowl, dropped on a cold
stone floor. Círdan would never be his - he belonged to another. One so
great that no elf could ever compare. The ache inside was exquisite and
profound.

"Do you love him?" he whispered. "Does he love you...?"

Círdan raised a hand, thinking of putting an arm around the boy's
shoulder, but something about Gil-galad's posture warned him off. "Why
would you ask such a thing?" he asked, bewildered. "Gil-galad, please -
what is wrong?"

The prince wiped his eyes and turned on the older elf. "Just tell me!
Do you love him? Is he your perfect match?"

They stared at each other, neither saying a thing, for several moments
before Círdan answered. "It's not the same as it would be with another
of my kind," he whispered. "It is... spiritual between us. It feels
like worship, and that is very different to how it would be between
myself and an elf-maid."

/I want to tell him... I *have* to tell him! And yet I can't. He cares
nothing for me, other than being under his fosterage. What good would
it do either of us if I spoke about this? Nothing... nothing at all./

Círdan's arms were on his shoulders, turning him towards the older elf.
"Why does this concern you, Gil-galad? You're obviously upset but why
should it be so? I want to understand."

Gil-galad shook his head and pulled away. "It's nothing," he lied. "I'm
tired. I'm... going to bed."

He stood suddenly and began running back down the beach.

"Wait!" Círdan called behind him. "Let me walk you back! Gil-galad!"

His cries went unheeded by the boy, running blindly, letting the
rushing air take the last of his tears. From now on he would be strong.
He wouldn't need anyone or anything. He would be complete unto himself.
If only the world would stop crashing down around him...

Behind him, Círdan stood and watched him disappear into the crowd still
lingering on the beach.

***

Somehow he found his room and lay down upon the bed, dry-eyed, throat
aching, wanting to cry but being just noble enough not to do it.
Círdan's words were soft, whispering echoes in his head. /"It feels
like worship... like worship..."/

The horrible sinking feeling, of love and loss and grief, came over him
again and again, each time a fresh wave of pain and all he could do was
cover his head with his pillow and ride it out. All he could do was
hope he was dead in the morning so he wouldn't have to face Círdan or
the others. So he lay there, all night, mourning a fantasy and hating
the sound of the sea out his window.

                 ~~~

Chapter 2

Among the Elves, a span of ten years time is considered brief. Ten
springs produce but a handful of blossoms, and ten autumns add little
to the forest's carpet of leaves. To those in unrequited love, though,
ten years is an eternity, and so the next decade seemed to Ereinion.

It hadn't taken much for him to allow distance and fate to come between
he and Círdan. He had never sought the older elf out again, never
brought up the topic, and his silence made Círdan hesitant. Over days
and weeks the silence between them on the subject of love grew vast.

But the draw Ereinion felt toward Círdan only became stronger. The
silver-haired elf filled his thoughts until he rose in the morning and
fell asleep in the evening breathing Círdan's name. So, while he hid
the warmth of his feelings, he followed every move Círdan made, trained
hardest, rose earliest each day, learned every lesson twice so as not
to disappoint. If he'd listened to his heart, it would have told him
the effort was of little use. He was, and always would be, one of the
Eldar, and could never hope to be superior to a Maia, but that
particular voice within him he shut away and hid so deeply that in ten
years' time it was nearly forgotten. In his mind he was no longer in a
hopeless contest with a powerful being over Círdan's affections. It was
only himself that he fought with, and his passion, that might have gone
towards romance and seduction, was channeled instead into being the
best at anything the Lord of the Falas gave him to do.

~~~

In the spring of Gil-galad's 26th year, a messenger came to Eglarest
from Hithlum and Círdan called his captains together. They met for
several hours and after the meeting was over he sent a message to
Ereinion to meet him in the shipyard.

When the prince found him, Círdan was standing by a half-made boat,
running his hands over the smooth, white hull boards.

"You wanted to see me, my Lord?" he said, watching as skillful fingers
found tiny patches of rough wood and brought a stone up to sand them.

"I received a message from your father today," Círdan said without
turning around. "It seems that Maedhros is proposing an alliance. He
believes that Morgoth is vulnerable and that it is in the interest of
all those who oppose the Dark Lord to act as one to destroy him. Fingon
will join him, of course, and asks for the Elves of the Falas to fight
with him in Hithlum."

The hand that held the stone hesitated against the wood, then dropped
as Círdan turned to look at Ereinion.

The boy was still and silent for a moment, his eyes searching Círdan's
face. "My father is preparing open war with Morgoth?" he said, voice
hoarse with shock. "Why? Because his cousin says it should be? Surely
you don't agree with this."

"It is not my place to agree or disagree with your father," Círdan said
quietly. "I am his friend and ally and an oath of alliance stands
between us. I cannot abandon him now. Not when his need is greatest."

Ereinion stared at him for several moments, the thought of what his
words really meant finally sinking in. "If you are decided," he said,
choosing his words carefully, "then why call me here and tell me like
this? I could just have well found out when you announced it to your
people."

"Surely you understand what risks this conflict holds for your father,
Ereinion," Círdan said, his voice nearly a whisper. "He is valiant, and
the bravest of any warrior I have ever known, but victory is not by any
means assured, and even if it were, it will not be bloodless in its
coming. You must be prepared for that."

The prince drew himself up, pulling honor around him like a protective
cloak. "I am not afraid of battle, or blood. Nor is my father. No
matter what the risks are, we will fight evil where we find it."

"No, Ereinion," Círdan said, shaking his head. "*You* will be here, as
your father wishes you to be."

A second shock and Ereinion sputtered, "But... I've *trained*! You *
know* I'm ready! You could convince my father -"

"I would never do such a thing," Círdan interrupted, eyes blazing. "You
may be ready. From all I've seen of your skills you are, but even if
your father had asked you to come, I would have counseled him against
it."

"You don't believe I'm worthy enough, do you?" Ereinion bit out, his
voice rising. "You don't think me capable, but I'll *show* you I am,
just give me the chance! I know I'm only a mere Elf, not a great,
mysterious Maia, but -"

Círdan took a step forward and it seemed to Ereinion that he grew
suddenly in height, towering above him, stern and beautiful. "You.
Know. *Nothing* of my mind in this matter," he said in a low, fierce
voice. "If you did then you would realize that I hold your life in much
greater esteem than you do yourself. You may feel green and unworthy -
a boy never proven in battle - but to me you are the very *hope* of
your people. Strong, swift, a leader that others look up to... Not
since Finwë himself have the Noldor had such a king as they will find
in you, and yet you would throw your life away on the battlefield
before ever they see your face."

He stepped forward again and took Ereinion's chin in his hand lifting
the boy's face towards his. "I keep you here because your father wishes
it, that is true enough, but it is *not* the real reason, not the most
important. I would be blind to ignore the potential that lies in you.
Watching you in a crowd of people is like seeing a shining diamond set
among stones of lesser value. My eyes are drawn to you always, so do
not ask me again if you can go. I will not allow it. Your life is far
too precious to me."

He was shaking as he stopped talking, hand still soft on Ereinion's
face, their eyes locked on one another. For a long, delirious moment
the prince was certain Círdan would kiss him, the look was that heated,
but then the hand dropped and the silver-haired elf all but ran from
the shipyard. Ereinion was frozen in place for a moment, then turned to
call after him, but by that time Círdan was gone.

~~~

The night before the fleet was to sail it rained and rained hard. Water
pounded the eaves of Círdan's house and all within it retired early, as
thoughts of leave-taking and war did nothing to inspire song or tale-
telling. Upstairs in his room, Ereinion lay on his bed, watching the
streams of water wash across his window. Every night for two weeks,
since he and Círdan had spoken in the shipyard, he'd lain awake,
worrying at the words they'd spoken like a dog at a bone, trying to
find meaning in them, by turns hopeful and despairing.

Círdan had called him a diamond among lesser gems, said Ereinion's life
was precious to him even. Surely that must mean the older elf felt *
something* for him. /He was talking of your succession to the throne,/
a cold, biting voice inside of him said. /He admires your skill, sees
leadership potential in you, that is all. You're a commodity he feels
is worth preserving. There's nothing more to it than that./

The thought made him feel sick. For the first time in ten years the
tiny flame of hope had awakened in him and he hated the fact that it
was still there. /Forget him. It's not meant to be... Yes, and cut out
my heart, spill my life's blood and watch me yet live, surely that
would be an easier thing to accomplish./

The noise in his head got to be too much at last and he fled the room,
walking down the silent stairs to the floor below, thinking to find a
book in the library that might take his thoughts off the master of the
house. A faint glimmer of light shone from beneath the library door and
as he pushed it open he saw Círdan standing by the hearth, his back to
the door. He hadn't heard Ereinion come in.

/Well damn it *all.* I've done my absolute best to forget him and...
and here he is!/

He thought briefly of turning around and leaving before Círdan noticed
him but as he hesitated the older elf turned. He was dressed as if for
sleep, wearing a pair of loose white leggings for warmth. They clung to
his legs, the curves of his calves and long, firm muscles of his
thighs, following the line of his body like a lover's caress. His chest
was bare, tan and smooth, and the silver silk of his hair glowed
against it like a pearl on dark sand.

"Ereinion..."

Any will to leave that Ereinion might have had crumbled to dust at the
sight of him.

A faint flush came to the older elf's cheeks as they stood, staring at
each other and Ereinion realized that it was the first time Círdan had
ever looked other than composed and in control. Standing there with the
firelight glinting in his eyes, he looked vulnerable, sad even, and the
strangeness of it drew the prince in like a moth to flame.

"My lord," he whispered, his voice thick and hoarse. "I didn't mean to
interrupt - that is... I couldn't sleep... and thought to get a book...
Are you all right, sir?" /Please tell me you're not. Please tell me
that you couldn't sleep for thinking of me... Lie to me if you have to,
but tell it to me, please.../

"I'm fine," the older elf said unconvincingly. "It's just -"

Ereinion moved forward a few steps. "Yes...?"

Círdan stared at him for a moment and then shook his head. "It's
nothing. Just - I normally don't have trouble sleeping before a journey
but this one..." He smiled weakly at the prince. "This one is
different."

As if a finger had suddenly trailed down his spine, Ereinion shivered
and moved closer to the fire. "Why, my lord?" he asked, trying to sound
as though his interest was casual.

Círdan shrugged and turned back to the fire. "I... I don't know
only..." His voice lowered and he reached a hand out to the mantelpiece
to steady himself. "Long ago, when your people were newly returned to
Middle Earth, I camped with Finrod, and he told me of the Prophecy.
Maedhros is eager for battle but something is wrong - something in the
plans troubles me and I cannot help but remember the Prophecy of the
North: `To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well...'"

He shook his head and his voice trailed off. Ereinion could see his
hand shake where it gripped the mantle. Then Círdan turned and smiled
sadly at the prince once again. "Yet, even though Mandos himself
condemn them, I cannot help but love the Noldor, for they alone
returned to us, here on the Forgotten Shores, and they love this land
as I do, even though it pales compare to Paradise... or so I'm told."

"You think we will fail?" Ereinion asked quietly.

"I cannot claim knowledge of the future," Círdan said. "I only sense a
disquiet in my heart..." He stopped for a moment and gazed at the
prince. "And I am concerned for you and your people."

The look in his eyes took away any last doubt in Ereinion's mind. This
was the time. It couldn't wait any longer. Neither one of them knew if
they would see each other again after the fleet left in the morning,
and in that flash of understanding Ereinion realized that he couldn't
go through a eternity with the words unsaid.

He moved forward again, standing next to Círdan at the fire. "I have a
concern as well, my lord," he began.

Círdan regarded him thoughtfully. "Yes, Ereinion, what is it?"

"I am concerned," Ereinion said, "that you will sail away tomorrow not
knowing what you leave behind."

The older elf looked puzzled but stayed silent.

"You think, my lord, that you leave behind your people and your cities.
You think that they will be anxious for your safety and for their own
with you gone. You think that you leave the familiar and the dear, and
that is all, but I have to tell you, sir, that you leave behind much
more than that." He was beginning to tremble now, so close to saying it
at last.

"I'm sorry, Ereinion, but... I don't understand."

"No, you don't," the prince agreed. "You never have, even though it was
right here, screaming at you aa the time. But you shouldn't sail away
without knowing that there is one you leave behind that cares not for
safety or familiarity, and who will search the horizon each day not for
the return of the Lord, but for the return of life and hope itself."

As Círdan watched, Ereinion's eyes shimmered with unshed tears, even as
his voice grew stronger. "You should know that there is one here who
cherishes your life above any other, one who would die from grief
should anything happen to prevent your return, and knowing this you
should take strength from it and so come to the end of this battle and
live to tell about it. Because I swear to you, my lord, if you are
slain and fail to return in your white ship, I will cast myself into
the sea and swim to the West to find you in Mandos's Halls."

Grey eyes opened wide and Ereinion's name lingered for a moment on
Círdan's lips.

"I love you," the prince said simply. "So you see - you must return, if
only to spend the next several years convincing me why I shouldn't."

The only sound in the room was the crackling of the fire and the
softness of their breath as they regarded each other. Then, with
exquisite slowness, Círdan raised his hand and stroked his fingers over
Ereinion's cheek. His voice, when he spoke, was low and trembling with
shock.

"My dear boy," he said, searching the prince's face, "I'm afraid this
is quite impossible..." Then he pulled Ereinion forward gently and
pressed a long, lingering kiss to his lips.

                  ~~~

                  Chapter 3

Chapter 3

The kiss went on, pulling Ereinion into a slow motion tumble, downwards
into Círdan's arms, into his very soul, and all he could do was hold on
tight and let it happen. When they finally broke apart to take a long,
shivering breath, neither pulled away, but let their lips tease at each
other, both of them transfixed. Slowly, Ereinion let his hands slide up
Círdan's arms, his fingers finding their way into that shining, silver
hair.

"Is this really happening?" he heard himself whisper against the older
elf's mouth. Círdan's body, pressed lightly against his, was trembling
and the prince drew him closer, soothing him with kisses until they
were wrapped around each other again. Their tongues sparred in a tender
war, exploring and caressing and drawing heat to their faces that had
nothing to do with the glowing fire in the grate.

Círdan pulled back again and stared into the prince's eyes, one hand
stroking his cheek, the other pressed against the small of Ereinion's
back, holding him close. "You're so young," he whispered, tracing his
thumb over the boy's lips. "We shouldn't be doing this..."

"Why not?" Ereinion demanded, stroking his fingers possessively through
silvery strands of hair. "I've told you I love you. There's nowhere
else I want to be, nothing else I want to be doing. Oh, please, Lord,
don't send me away. Not tonight..."

His eyes pleaded with Círdan, their lips brushing so that they breathed
as one longing-filled creature, and what was that he thought he saw in
Círdan's eyes? Fear? Ambivalence? Or was it desire? Ereinion was taking
no chances. Círdan would have to be made to see.

He tugged at the older elf's hands, pulling him away from the fire to
the low, padded bench that stood against one wall of the library.

"Ereinion -" Círdan began to protest, but the prince tugged him down,
kissing him long and hard to stop the words from coming. Apparently the
technique was effective and Círdan let out a low, hungry moan, wrapping
his arms around the prince and allowing abandon to take him again.

Unable to stop himself, Ereinion let his hands wander across the smooth
skin of Círdan's shoulders and chest, hands hungry for contact and
eager to learn the sensitive places that would draw out moans of
pleasure from the older elf. As it chanced, his thumb flickered over a
nipple and the warm, taut feeling of it sent a wave of desire through
him. As their kisses grew more heated, Ereinion rubbed his fingers over
the little nub of flesh, every pass making him whimper, as if his
fingers were stroking himself. He moaned as his palm brushed the other
nipple. There was something so terribly erotic about the two of them
beneath his hands and now Círdan's eyes were closed, his head thrown
back in pleasure, and he was arching up to that touch, begging for it.

It was too much for Ereinion. He needed more and without another
thought he pushed Círdan down onto his back and closed his mouth over
one of those nipples. The feeling of it between his lips and under his
tongue made him groan with pleasure and he feasted on it, sucking and
licking until it was quite wet and diamond hard.

Círdan's moans had turned to whimpers now, his head moving restlessly
from side to side, hands tangled in Ereinion's hair to hold his head in
place as he pressed upwards against his mouth. "Oh, please," he
whispered. "Please..."

Reluctantly Ereinion let go of the little nub he'd been teasing and
kissed his way across Círdan's chest to the other, fingers closing
around the one he'd just left. Círdan arched up and gave a soft cry and
as he did their hips met and Ereinion could feel the Shipwright's
erection, a hard, aching mirror of his own. He moved against it and
then watched as Círdan's hand went to his mouth, stifling a sharp cry
of pleasure.

Desire sang through the young prince with every press, every slow rub
of body against body. Surely nothing in the world had ever been as
sweet as the feeling of Círdan beneath him and he fell upon him again,
his mouth crushing Círdan's, mind barely registering the feel of the
older elf's hands on his bottom, their soft, firm squeezes, until it
was too late and he was falling in space, wave after wave of pleasure
coursing through him as he pressed himself against Círdan in a sweet,
frantic rhythm.

Then everything seemed muffled and he was floating in a sweet haze of
delirium, his mouth nuzzling Círdan's neck, the only sound in the room
their soft, panted breathing. Strong fingers were stroking his hair as
Círdan rolled him onto his side and opened his mouth as if to speak.
His eyes, soft and grey, held a thousand regrets.

Ereinion put a finger to Círdan's lips and stilled the words before
they left him. "Don't say a thing," he breathed, staring into those
eyes. "I don't want to hear that you're sorry for all this, or that you
didn't mean it to happen. I don't want to be told I'm too young or that
you're in love with someone else..."

Círdan kissed the soft tip of his finger and smiled sadly, never taking
his eyes from Ereinion's face. "What do you want to hear, then?" he
asked.

"The sound of our kisses," the prince said in a low, soft voice. "The
sound of your pleasure that I can keep in my heart until I see you
again. Please, my dear Lord - if you've ever wanted anything good for
me, stay with me, here, like this. Don't leave until dawn comes and
your ship sails. Give me something to hold on to when you're gone...
and take something of me with you."

Círdan looked near tears but he didn't cry, just cupped a hand to
Ereinion's face and gazed at him, his eyes all sweet fire and longing.
"Dear prince," he whispered. "You are quite the undoing of me..." Then
he leaned forward and they began again.

Neither of them slept that night. There was too much to touch, too much
to explore. Over and over they brought each other to that sweet chasm,
and over the edge, only to fall back to earth and lay, enchanted, in
each other's arms until their longing got the best of them again. In
all of it there was only kissing and touching, nothing more, and yet
that proved to be heady enough for both.

Towards morning, Ereinion fell asleep, exhausted, if not sated, but
Círdan lay awake, listening to the waves pounding the shore while he
watched the young prince sleep. It was only then, when he knew Ereinion
wouldn't see, that the tears finally slipped down his cheeks.

~~~

Two hours later, Ereinion was awakened by the feeling of someone
shaking him. "Prince Ereinion? Wake up, will you? The fleet's about to
sail and your Lord asks you to come bid him farewell."

The words, and the fact that they weren't spoken by Círdan, made him
sit bolt upright. He stared around the room wildly, then managed to
bring Celebril into focus, standing over him with a disapproving face.

"Did you hear me?" the older elf said. "Lord Círdan has asked for you
and says he won't sail until I bring you to the harbor, now get up and
let's get moving!"

Ereinion was pulled to his feet and out of the house, Celebril fretting
all the way. He was dressed in his sailing kit, a light suit of armor
over it, and it had obviously been an inconvenience to run back to the
house to rouse a boy who should have been awake with the rest of the
city. As soon as his feet hit the ground outside, however, the prince
at last woke up and soon was running out ahead of Celebril, furious
with himself for not being awake when Círdan left.

The fleet was assembled, fifty white-hulled ships, each carrying 30
warriors. Another fifty, moored in the northern harbor of Brithombar,
would join them as they sailed north. Their white sails were up,
luffing softly in the stiff breeze that blew from the southwest.
Ereinion searched them frantically for a sight of Círdan and for a
moment thought to have missed him completely, when Celebril caught up
to him and grabbed his arm.

"Over *here* you little fool," he said in irritation, dragging Ereinion
to the central quay. There was a crowd of people on it, elves he knew
to be close to Círdan, who would help to govern the cities in his
absence. He strained to see past them, but when they saw him coming
they parted and he saw Círdan standing at the edge of the dock. His
silver hair was braided on the sides and shone like fire in the morning
sun. The armor he wore was pale and silvery as well, and a yolk of
vivid, sea-blue cloth marked him as the warrior lord. Ereinion could
have fallen to his knees where he stood, except for Círdan's swift
movement toward him, catching the prince with his hands on either side
of his shoulders.

"Thank you for coming to see us off - sleepyhead," he murmured and
Ereinion could feel the strong fingers caressing his arms discreetly.

"I'm so sorry I wasn't awake earlier my Lord," the boy said, feeling
miserable and sounding every last bit of it. "Please... take care, and
come back to... to your people soon." /I'll die without him... I won't
be able to breathe until he returns.../

"I have much to return to," Círdan said softly, smiling at him. Then he
dropped his arms and stepped back. "I will give your regards to your
father," he said in a slightly louder voice. "Be assured that the
warriors of the Falathrim will fight well for him." He bowed deeply,
one hand over his heart, and then looked a last time into Ereinion's
eyes. "Farewell, until we meet again."

"Farewell," Ereinion managed to say, his voice not more than a whisper.
Then Círdan walked down to the small landing boat that Celebril had
ready and the people of the city watched as their Lord made his way to
his ship.

Once on board, he gave a last wave, as did all the sailors, and the
city exploded in sound and waving. The moorings were slipped, the sails
pulled taut, and the Fleet of Eglarest moved out of the harbor and
toward the open sea.

Back on the shore, Ereinion, Prince of the Noldor, Scion of Kings,
began to run along the edge of the harbor, his eyes fixed on the tall
figure of the Shipwright as the boats sailed off to the Fifth Battle of
Beleriand. He ran until he came to the end of the headland and the
fleet was a scattering of tiny white sails in the bright morning sun.

"Farewell, my Lord," he whispered to the brightest one. "I'll be
waiting for you..."

~~~

 Chapter 4

 The first night after the fleet had sailed was the longest Ereinion had
ever spent. In just the few hours that he'd lain with Círdan he had
memorized the Shipwright's body - the taste of his mouth, the little
sounds he made when he came, the feeling of strong muscles under smooth
skin. Now that Círdan was gone, Ereinion found himself aching for the
feel of him and growing frantic thinking of all the time he had in
front of him, vast and unknowable, and all spent alone.

Most of all he missed the smell of that long, silver hair. He had
buried his face in it every time release had washed over him and knew
without a doubt he'd be on that threshold once more if he ever smelled
that soft, clean scent again.

After several hours of effort, he gave up trying to sleep in his bed
and walked quietly downstairs. The library drew him like a magnet and
he moved into it, crossing the room to touch the mantelpiece above the
hearth and imagining Círdan's hand in the same place just the night
before.

/He stood right here... stood here and listened to what I said, and
then.../

His fingers went to his lips without a thought and he felt his heart
drop out of his chest, so powerful was the memory of that sweet and
surprising first embrace. Closing his eyes, he suddenly felt as though
Círdan was there again, holding him, nearly as warm and real as he'd
been the night before. For a breathless moment he let himself wallow in
the feel of it, the sweet knowledge he'd gained of Círdan's mouth and
hands and then the moment passed and he was alone once more, standing
before a cold grey hearth.

As he opened his eyes, his gaze fell on the low bench that had served
as their first bed. He moved to it, lying down on his belly and
smiling. The scent of Círdan's hair still lingered in the fabric of the
cushion and he knew he'd found his new sleeping place until the Lord of
the Falas returned.

~~~

Two weeks later, Bregalad, the tutor who had taken Cirdan's place,
announced to the boys that they were all to journey to Brithombar where
a modest feast was to be held in honor of Lord Ossë and his spouse
Uinen, the Lady of the Sea. Word had finally arrived that the Falathrim
warriors had landed safely at the eastern end of the Firth of Drengist
and were now in Hithum with Ereinion's father, Fingon.

Elves from both of the haven cities would be there, largely women,
children, and those men whose temperament wasn't suited to warfare:
healers, tutors, and those charged with governing the people in the
Lord's absence. The party from Eglarest contained a few hundred elves
and the boys in Ereinion's group were acting as if a major holiday had
been declared. Ëarmir and Nenril were the first into the ship, jumping
all over it and pestering the captain to let them steer.

The ship proved roomy and comfortable and, as they rounded the northern
headland, the captain gave in and each boy got a turn at the wheel
while they made their way out of the harbor.

"Look!" Nenril cried when it was his turn, shaking his pale blond hair
as far down his back as it would go. "I'm Lord Círdan!"

Everyone on the ship laughed except for Ereinion, who turned his eyes
northward and felt a sharp pang of longing. Still, it helped just to be
there, on the sea, on a ship with Círdan's people, for in their
mariners' skills and easy grace he could read the Shipwright's
influence. It soothed him and made the man himself seem less distant.

~~~

Brithombar looked as lovely as it had when he'd first seen it, that
afternoon so long ago on Círdan's ship. It's wide harbor and white
walls were glowing in the light of the sunset as they pulled in, and a
large crowd had gathered on the southern beach to welcome them. Fires
had been lit and mothers greeted their friends as children ran through
the breaking waves, screeching with excitement.

Ereinion was pulled into a complicated game involving two teams, each
trying to capture a seashell that the other team defended. Before he
knew it the sun had gone down and the older elves were calling them to
the feast. Cups of fragrant wine were raised to thank the Lord of the
Waves for giving the Falathrim warriors a safe journey and three
minstrels sang of Lord Círdan and his men, their bravery and past
victories.

Then it was time for the pipers. One by one, and sometimes in pairs,
the graceful Falathrim women rose to join the dancing, all as high-
spirited as their menfolk. Ereinion could see Ëarmir and Nenril,
smiling and blushing as they watched the women dance. Only Sulimir
wasn't following the graceful movement. He'd been joined by a girl from
Brithombar, who was sitting next to him talking animatedly. She seemed
to be telling him a story and he sat, grinning dazedly at her, soaking
up every word.

Everywhere the prince looked, it seemed, there were girls - some shy,
some giggling, some practicing their flirtation skills on any male who
walked near them. Their presence made his own feelings, so determinedly
fixed on Círdan, seem all the stronger in contrast.

/Isn't it strange,/ he found himself thinking, /that I should feel
nothing for any of them? All those blushing cheeks and curving
bodies... they cause no stir in mine, yet *he* can awaken that with the
briefest glance.../

Only their hair seemed lovely to him - long and pale and shining in the
light of the fire, just as Círdan's might be, if only he was there.

The sound of laughter brought him out of his reverie and he looked up
to find three girls eyeing him from across the sand. They seemed to be
egging one of their number on to get up and approach him and the
thought of it made him feel slightly sick. Deciding that avoidance was
far better than outright embarrassment, he stood and walked quickly
away from the group. To his utter dismay, this seemed to cause a loud
fit of giggles in the three girls and the sound of it followed him as
he fled.

Feeling his face burning, he began to run down the beach, his eyes
locked on the sand beneath his feet. Because of that he completely
failed to see the small group of people ahead of him and ran right into
one of them, knocking her to the ground before he could stop himself.

"Oh! Are you alright, Morodel?" he heard a teary voice ask the girl,
who promptly stood and began brushing sand from her gown, all the time
glaring at Ereinion.

"I'm fine, Ariel," she said, "don't worry about me. It's *you* we're
concerned about. So if this big *oaf* will excuse us..." She stared
hard at him, obviously expecting an apology and a swift departure, but
before he could provide either, the first girl, Ariel, had taken his
arm.

"It's *you*," she said, and he turned to face here, noticing for the
first time that she was the same young woman that Celebril had pointed
out to him years ago on the night of the homecoming; the one who had
danced so flirtatiously with Círdan.

"This is Prince Ereinion," she said to her friends and he felt the
weight of their stares as they all turned to him. Ariel wiped tears
from her eyes and tried to smile at him. "May I... may I speak with you
for a moment?" she asked, and when he nodded, a little bewildered, she
whispered to the other girls and they reluctantly walked away.

"Forgive me," she began, her voice obviously trembling. "I'm usually in
much better spirits, only..." She hesitated and then put a hand on his
arm, leading him away from the others, down toward the water. "You
spend a lot of time with Lord Círdan, you must know his mind. Tell me,
does he ever talk of... of marriage?"

Ereinion blinked, looking at the girl in puzzlement. "Marriage?" he
asked, trying to remember if Círdan has *ever* spoken of it. "Well...
no," he said and when he saw her face fall he added quickly, "Not
around me, that is, but then he wouldn't would he? I mean, that sort of
thing is very private."

"True," she said, brightening a little and dabbing at her eyes again.
"You see... I know it sounds silly but... well, I happen to be
completely in love with him. Have been since I was a very little girl
and it's only gotten worse as I've grown." She was staring at her
hands, not willing to meet his eye as she spoke.

"Oh, I see," Ereinion said quietly, feeling suddenly that the last
place he should be was with this young woman, who obviously looked for
encouragement from him.

"There are people," continued, "who have said that... well, that he and
I..." Even in the moonlight he could see her face flush. "That he and I
would be a very good couple," she finally said, "and I thought that
since you know him so well, you could tell me what you know of his mind
and whether you think we'd be a good couple, too."

She looked so hopeful that for one moment Ereinion actually felt guilty
for his own feelings, but that passed quickly and he tried to stammer
out a reply, something about 'I don't know you that well,' and 'I
really couldn't say.' He desperately wanted to run, but she had a firm
hold on his arm.

"It's just that he's such an amazing man," she continued. "So brave and
so accomplished, and every time he's near me I can't keep my eyes off
of him." Putting a hand to her cheek, she fluttered her lashes, casting
her gaze downwards, and suddenly Ereinion found himself hating her. She
was lovely and modest and perfect and *female.* What was worse, she
obviously felt she had the right to think about Círdan, to fantasize
even, and she didn't feel guilty, didn't have to hide it. On the
contrary, her friends all knew exactly what she wanted and were no
doubt doing their best to help her get it!

/It's not fair,/ he thought miserably. /I want him too.../

"I suppose I'm embarrassing you," she said, smiling sadly at him. "It's
just that I'm so worried about him being away. What if something
happens to him? What if he gets hurt?" She wrung her hands and looked
out over the waves. "I told him, you know. Before he left... I stood
right there on the dock and told him how I felt about him - that I
loved him and wanted to be his wife..."

Ereinion looked up at her sharply. "What did he say to you?" he asked,
feeling a sudden lurch in his stomach.

"Well, he didn't say no," she said hopefully. "He just said we would
talk about it when he returned from the war. Oh, do you think that's
good? Does that mean I have a chance?" Her face was turned towards him,
eager, pleading, looking for affirmation that wasn't in him to give.

/'There is much to come back to,'/ Círdan had said, but just what had
he meant by it, and who did he feel he would be coming home to? /Damn
it all.../

He managed to mumble something soothing and it seemed to placate her,
for she nodded and smiled again.

"Well," she said, "my friends are waiting. Thank you for talking to
me." Squeezing his arm, she began to walk back down the beach but then
stopped and looked back at him over her shoulder. "Wish me luck," she
said, smiling prettily, and then hurried off towards the groups of
girls, hovering in the distance.

"Sorry," he murmured after her when she'd gone. "I'm afraid I just
can't do that..."

~~~

Chapter 5

Nearly a month had passed when the first terrified soldiers arrived in the Falas. They were exhausted, delirious with fear, and the story they told of what had transpired in the north made the people's blood run cold. They told of the slaying of the Elves of Nargothrond as they assailed the walls of Thangorodrim. They told of the treachery that had prevented Maedhros from arriving on time to aid the battle, and they told their own story - of how they had marched with Turgon of Gondolin and how the host of Angband and Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs, had forced Turgon's forces apart from Fingon's. Their company had been separated from the main host and pursued southward down the river Sirion by orcs and other balrogs. One hundred men had fled the battle field in Hithlum with them and of those only five had survived to reach Eglarest.

When they had finished speaking the Falathrim stood in shock, trying to comprehend what the tale could mean for their own warriors. Why had they not come back yet, if indeed the battle had been lost? There seemed only one possible, horrible reason and none yet wanted to accept that.

As the next few days went by, more refugees from the battle came in with similar tales. None knew what had become of the Elves of the Falathrim, nor of Fingon's host, for those two armies had been in the north of Hithlum when Glaurung had come down with fire and fury, killing Elves and Men by the thousands.

Ereinion heard all of it and with each tale his heart grew heavier. The thought that he might have lost his father *and* Círdan was almost too much to bear. He didn't want to be High King, not yet, not if it meant his father was dead, and yet, if indeed he was, Ereinion couldn't imagine being the ruler of the Noldor, or of doing anything, really, if Círdan were not by his side.

Still, despite the growing dread he felt, he wanted no one to think him weak. So, the day after the first refugees had come in he had taken to dividing his time between the northern headlands, where he watched the sea for signs of the fleet, and the eastern walls of the city, where he could be first to see any travelers on the road. Hour after hour he spent, pacing and searching, telling himself it couldn't be true that both of the men he loved best in the world were gone.

He had been at it for four days when his vigilance finally paid off. Standing on the edge of the headlands he saw a small cluster of sails peek over the horizon.

"They're home!!" he yelled at the top of his voice, and at once ran as fast as he could to the harbor. "They're home! They're home!"

People dropped whatever they were doing at the sound of his voice and rushed down to the quays, straining to see how many boats there were and, if they could, who was sailing them.

Fifty boats had set out from Eglarest. Now, as they approached the harbor, the Falathrim counted only twenty. There were gasps and soft cries muffled by hands over mouths at the size of the fleet. Everyone, Ereinion included, realized in that moment that many there among them who would not be welcoming home their men.

/Please, *please,* let him be alive,/ the prince prayed. His eyes swept the crowd once, his heart in anguish over the grief he knew would come. He was just turning his gaze back to the sea when he noticed Ariel, staring fiercely out at the ships as if willing them to move faster. /Let him be alive... for both our sakes./

As if in slow motion, the fleet inched closer and it was a good hour before they got close enough to recognize the men on board. Now there were soft cries of joy as people spotted husbands and sons, the lucky ones who had made it out of the battle alive. Ereinion frantically searched the decks for Círdan, but among all the sailors he found no tall, silver-haired Elf lord.

"No..." he whispered, "it can't be. He can't be gone. Damn it, Círdan, where *are* you?"

Now the ships were anchoring and the warriors hurried to set them in order so the landing boats could be launched. Across the crowd, Ereinion could see Ariel sobbing, her eyes still locked onto the fleet. He gritted his teeth and fought back his own tears as he turned back. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair at all. They had just found each other; had gotten only one precious night and now he was facing the prospect of eternity alone.

The grief was threatening to overwhelm him, his face wet with tears despite his best efforts to staunch them, when a miracle happened.

On the ship that was nearest the quay, a small group of sailors moved away from the gangway door and then a silver head appeared, coming up from the inside of the ship. For one devastatingly long moment it paused, still half hidden from sight, and then the world moved as Círdan emerged.

Before he could stop himself, Ereinion let out a cry of relief. He was there! It was really him, standing there on his ship and not lying in his own blood on some deserted battlefield. Suddenly the prince could breathe again and take in the sounds of the people around him, speaking Círdan's name and blessing Lord Ossë from bringing him safely back to them.

Just for a moment, Ereinion looked over at Ariel. She was gazing at the tall Shipwright as if transfixed, weeping still but now for joy, her friends at her side. In her happiness, she reached over and hugged one of the other girls and as she did she chanced to look towards Ereinion. She smiled brilliantly at him, her eyes shining with tears, her face still lovely, even after crying, and for that moment it didn't matter that they were rivals. They both loved Círdan the Shipwright and he had come back to them through great peril. Without a second thought, he smiled back at her, too.

The landing boats were rowed to the quay. In the foremost, Círdan stood, his face grave, the blood of battle staining his tunic. His expression made it obvious that no victory could be claimed and the crowd was respectfully quiet as he and the other warriors climbed onto the quay. As the men found their loved ones, their Lord addressed them, his voice hoarse and weary.

"Thank you all for meeting us. You can't imagine how grateful we all are to be home. I'm sorry to tell you, though, that the enemy was victorious, and that many of our brave warriors were slain." He passed a hand over his eyes, and for a moment Ereinion thought he might faint, but he looked up again and continued.

"There is much to tell, but first let your weary soldiers rest and be reunited with you. Tomorrow we will hold a memorial feast for those who have fallen and you shall learn of the great peril we now face."

Then he turned aside and began walking towards the city and his home. Though many people were embracing their loved ones, hands stretched out to him as he walked. It was almost as if they felt they could take courage and strength just from touching him and he returned every caress, every embrace that they gave him.

He had gone about a hundred yards when he stopped and looked back over the crowd, searching for someone. Then his eyes fell on Ereinion and he held out his hand. "Will you come with me, Prince? There are things we must discuss."

In a heartbeat Ereinion was by his side. Círdan smiled sadly at him and draped an arm lightly around his shoulders as they continued to walk.

~~~

"What is it you wanted to tell me?"

They were in Círdan's rooms, Ereinion standing near the window and Círdan beginning slowly to undress. He moved as if every stretch of arm or torso was agony and the Prince stepped over to him quickly, helping him ease off the stained tunic. What he saw under it made him gasp.

Across the Shipwright's shoulders and arms were long sword wounds, all an angry red color. Under those were bruises and abrasions, marks of a hard-fought battle with a viscous foe. The back of his right arm was badly burned and his back was covered in many more bruises.

"My Lord," Ereinion whispered, "what happened? And what can I do to make this less painful?"

"A bath would be nice," the older elf said with a weak smile. If you don't mind drawing the water, that is..." He sat down on his bed and began the slow process of removing his boots. Ereinion was on his knees in a instant, unlacing the leather straps and easing them from Círdan's feet.

The Shipwright put a hand on Ereinion's arm. "You don't have to do this," he said softly.

Looking up at him, Ereinion could only whisper, "I *want* to do this... Please let me."

Círdan smiled again, and allowed him to do his work.

When Ereinion had eased him into the bathtub and sprinkled in the powdered herb that Círdan had given him, the silver-haired elf closed his eyes and seemed for the next half hour to sleep. The prince sat by the tub, watching him as if he was afraid he might disappear at any moment. He trailed his fingers in the fragrant water and then caressed Círdan's bruised cheek, smoothing the medicine slowly down his neck and shoulders. It made him weep to feel that smooth skin again, to run his fingers through the thick, silver hair.

Finally, Círdan awoke. He was very stiff, but apparently in less pain as he stepped from the tub into a loose blue dressing gown that Ereinion had found in his wardrobe. He crossed the room and sat down slowly on a padded bench that stood under the window, drawing Ereinion down with him. His expression had turned grim.

"There is something I must tell you, Ereinion," he began slowly. "Something that breaks my heart to speak of, but which you must hear." He looked up at the young prince, misery in his eyes. "It's about your father."

Ereinion's eyes went wide with shock. He hadn't asked yet about Fingon.

"Please," Ereinion whispered, "please tell me he isn't dead. Not him... not Fingon... he was the bravest of the brave. He would have fought a balrog and stood his ground, my father would. He wasn't afraid of anything..."

"No, he wasn't," Círdan said quietly, "but the Eldar were betrayed... by Men from the East. They drove in on Maedhros's forces and scattered them." His eyes grew large, and there was a far away look to them that Ereinion had never seen. It was clear that Círdan was reliving the battle and that the scene had been a horrendous one.

"And... my father?" Ereinion whispered.

"Glaurung drove a wedge between those of us with Fingon and Turgon's forces to the south. We were outnumbered 10 to 1, and then the Balrogs came. Fingon told me to take whatever soldiers I could find and retreat to the Firth. I argued with him, shouted at him that he should come with us, but he refused. There was nothing I could do or say that would convince him to leave the battlefield. So very like your father..."

Círdan passed a hand over his eyes, and with the other he sought out Ereinion's and held it. "So we retreated and as we did I looked back... and saw him there. He had his guard all around him but there were many Balrogs..." He broke off and shook his head. "I'm so sorry, Ereinion. He was the bravest elf I ever knew."

A cold, numb feeling was creeping through the prince. He desperately tried to accept the news but his mind refused to do it. He couldn't be slain. Not his noble sire, so full of life and bravery. Just a hollow shell, his spirit gone on to Mandos to wait until eternity passed? It couldn't be!

"No," he said quietly, his eyes no longer seeing the older elf before him. "No... tell me it isn't true... not my father, oh, *please* not my father..." Then the hot tears spilled down his cheeks and Círdan's arms were around him. He buried his face in the Shipwright's shoulder, his own arms clutching tightly at Círdan's waist, and sobbed as if he would die from sadness. It was too much to bear, too great a loss, and for a long, long time he was lost to the world, wandering in grief but safe in Círdan's arms.

When he had quieted, Círdan lifted him up and carried him gently to the bed. Then, stretching out beside him, he stroked Ereinion's hair and slowly the tension eased from the prince's body and he slept.

~~~

When Ereinion woke it was just before dawn. His head felt heavy, the skin of his face dry and tight, but he was warm and the bed was soft and someone was sleeping close by, one arm clasped loosely around the prince's waist. The thought of his father came into his mind, but it was a much softer grief that he held now. He had someone to share it with and that made all the difference.

He turned over and saw Círdan, face utterly serene in sleep and the sight of him there took Ereinion's breath away. Long silver lashes lay feathery soft on ageless cheeks, his lips slightly parted, and suddenly Ereinion was keenly aware of a prominent morning erection.

Círdan, he decided, needed to be kissed and kissed properly.

Suiting action to thought, he raised a hand to stroke the older elf's cheek and then pressed his lips to Círdan's mouth. For a moment it was slack and yielding but then Círdan stirred and murmured and Ereinion felt him return the embrace.

"Yes, that's it, my Lord," the prince whispered between kisses. "Wake up and kiss me... I need you so badly."

Mouth on mouth and now their limbs were tangled together, hands hungry for the feel of each other's skin. Their kisses deepened and Ereinion felt a sudden fire pass through him, leaving him achy and breathless, rolling over to pin the silver-haired elf beneath him.

"Sweet Lord," the prince breathed, brushing his lips over Círdan's, teasing him with half-kisses and pressing hip against hip. "How I've missed you... every day, every night was agony without you. I need you like I need air to breathe..."

Círdan began to murmur something but Ereinion didn't let him have the chance, claiming his mouth roughly and making the older elf whimper with pleasure at the heat of it. His arms slid around the prince's neck, fingers tangling in long, dark hair. Then they broke apart and simply gazed at each other, both breathless and dazed with desire.

"I can feel you," Ereinion whispered, rubbing his shaft gently along Círdan's length. "Do you want what I want, my Lord? Will you... will you let me...?"

A very pretty flush stole across Círdan's cheeks, something Ereinion had never before seen. The sight of it turned his blood to fire and suddenly nothing was more important than taking Círdan, strongly, deeply, however he could.

"How?" he said, voice hoarse with passion. "How do I do it?"

Círdan's eyes went wide, but his hands only tightened in Ereinion's hair as he breathed, "The drawer in that table by the bed... there is a vial... the liquid will make it easier..."

In a instant the prince stretched his arm to the drawer and drew out a small, stoppered vial, a richly golden liquid glowing inside.

"Put it on your fingers," Círdan whispered and when Ereinion had done it he guided the prince's hand between his legs, showing him how to prepare his body to be taken.

Ereinion hesitated and then slipped a finger inside. For one brief moment the Shipwright tensed and then sighed as the finger slid in, brushing that tender spot within him. His eyes closed and he moaned softly, Ereinion watching his own hand in wonder, as if it belonged to someone else.

Now Círdan's hand were clasped about Ereinion's wrist, guiding his fingers in and out, his hips rising to meet them and his own shaft hard and leaking.

"More," he whispered, eyes closed in bliss. "Oh, please... I need more... I need *you*..."

The sound of that voice nearly made the prince come and he scrambled to free his own, aching shaft, wrapping his other hand around it and stroking the oil on freely. Then he gently withdrew his fingers and pressed against the older elf.

He felt the head of his shaft nudge up against Círdan's entrance. Then, as he pressed forward, the Shipwright's body opened to him and he was engulfed in tight, heat, overwhelmed at the feeling of it. He gave a long, low moan and heard it echoed in Círdan's voice. Watching the older elf's face closely, he slid in to the hilt and saw Círdan's eyes open wide, his breath catching as he felt himself impaled.

Ereinion was on his knees now, his hands catching up Círdan's wrists and pinning above his head, making his shaft sink even deeper.

"Ohhh..." Círdan's sigh was no more than a whisper, the look on his face completely yielding. To Ereinion, nothing had ever felt so blessedly perfect in all of his life. He knew then that he had found his true home, there in Círdan's warm and welcoming body and the perfection of it ached within him.

He needed to move - had to move - and slowly he withdrew, pressing in again and crying out at the pleasure in it. With every slow thrust Círdan's sighs quickened, his body arching up to meet it's impalement and hot, slow tears fell from silver lashes. Leaning down over the older elf, Ereinion licked them from Círdan's face and then kissed him deeply, all the while quickening his pace.

They were moving as one now, bodies finding a sweet rhythm, some ancient sacrament hidden deep within them coming to the fore. The prince could feel Círdan's shaft, wet now and sliding against his belly and he knew he wouldn't last long. With the last of his will, he gave three deep thrusts, pounding Círdan into the bed beneath them and then he felt it, a wave of pleasure so intense he thought for a moment he would surely die from it. It flooded over him and he poured it out into Círdan's body, each spasm pulling a sharp cry of ecstasy from him.

Then, as he began to float back to earth, he felt Círdan writhe beneath him and suddenly his shaft was being squeezed, clamped by the Shipwright's own release. Ereinion's eyes widened at the feel of it, watching Círdan, whose eyes were closed in bliss, body arched and moans soft as whispers. It was too much for the young prince and he felt himself come again, the pleasure this time briefer but more intense.

When he was spent, he lay sprawled over Círdan, mouth locked on mouth, wanting desperately to be close and skin only getting in the way. Kissing his way across the lovely face, he nuzzled down to Círdan's ear and began to murmur to him.

"I love you... more than anything on earth... more than my very breath... oh, my Lord you are such a wonder to me..."

Círdan said nothing, but his hands, now released from the prince's grip, buried themselves in the dark silk of Ereinion's hair and refused to let go.

~~~

They missed breakfast, lingering in bed until late morning. When they did at last sit down to eat, Ereinion suddenly looked pale.

"I didn't think of this in my grief," he said, looking over at Círdan, "but... am I... am I the High King now?" The expression on his face gave no doubt of the fact that it was not something for which he felt ready.

"No," Círdan answered. "Before I sailed for home I spoke with Turgon, your uncle. We agreed that, because of your age, the kingship should pass to him for the time being." He regarded the stricken prince with tenderness. "There is much you have to learn before you are ready for those duties. We will have much work to do."

"Whatever is required of me," the prince said fiercely, "I'll do it." Then his gaze softened and he added, "I can do anything... when you are by my side..."

Círdan reached his hand across the table and brushed Ereinion's cheek. "Sweet prince," he murmured. "What *am* I going to do with you...?"

"Leave it to me," his charge said confidently. "I've got lots of ideas."

 

~ end ~

to be continued in Day Shall Come Again

 

 

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