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SERIES: Love & Wisdom (part 5)
"We wandered shyly hand
The destruction of the Falas by the army of Angband had been complete. Not only was Eglarest gone, but Brithombar and the small settlements in between the cities were razed as well. Only the Hidden Realms and Doriath remained of all the dwelling places of the Elves in Western Beleriand. The refugees floated now on the swelling sea southward along the coast for several days until at last they rounded the cape and saw the large island called Balar.
It was a cool, late autumn day, nearing evening, and all the people on board were gathered on deck to see the sight. Círdan was at the wheel, Ereinion next to him, and he heard the Shipwright give a small sigh of relief as the island hove into view.
"My Lord?" someone near the starboard side called. "Won't you tell us again how Balar came to be here? And about your vision..."
There were murmurs all around them, others encouraging the telling of the tale, and Círdan smiled at them, waving a hand to quiet them down. Ereinion looked at his lover, perplexed. He'd heard nothing about a vision.
"Long ago," Círdan began, "when the Great Journey of the Eldar was in progress, Ulmo, the Lord of Waters, waited by the Falas to take the Eldar to the West. To bring them, he had taken an island from the middle seas and brought it to the coast of Middle Earth."
"That was Tol Eressëa, wasn't it, my Lord?" an eager young voice spoke out.
Círdan nodded. "Indeed it was - the 'Lonely Isle' for it stood far out to sea, close to neither Aman nor to this shore. But Ulmo brought it across the waves so that the Eldar would be able to reach Valinor.
"Of course, my folk, the Teleri, lingered long on the journey, stopping by the rivers and lakes to hear the beautiful music of the water, and we fell behind the other two kindreds. We had not yet arrived when Ulmo decided it was time to ferry the island to the uttermost West. As he did, the eastern horn of the island broke off and floated southwards. It stands before you now as the Isle of Balar."
He turned the wheel slightly to starboard and checked the angle of the setting sun. All the people aboard turned their gazes to the small island now directly in front of the ship.
"Now your vision, Lord!" someone called.
"Yes, tell us once more!"
Smiling indulgently at them, Círdan continued. "We had just reached Beleriand when our Lord, Elwë, disappeared into the forest. Some of the Teleri wanted to go on without him, but I and many of my closest companions decided to stop the journey and look for him. We searched and searched, and years passed, but he had fallen into an enchantment with Melian, the Maia, and we could not find him.
"When we finally gave up, we looked for other things to do with our time, and I began to think of the building of ships. Gradually we moved from grasslands to the coast and thought to begin building in earnest. But we had been the last to come to the shore and when we arrived we found that Ulmo had taken a second group across the sea - our Teleri kin who had gone on ahead of our search party. There was great weeping when we found ourselves alone upon in that place..." His voice trailed off for a moment, and it seemed to Ereinion that the memory of that abandonment was every bit as fresh for Círdan as it had been the day it happened, a thousand years before. The Falas had been place of grief for he and his people, but they had turned it into their home and now... now it was gone.
"It was dark of course, before the coming of the sun and moon," Círdan said, "and I had come down to the water, searching the sea for signs of our kindred, when I saw it - the last glimmer of the starlight on the peak of Tol Eressëa, as it glided into the West..."
It seemed then that a sigh ran through the people on the deck, and Ereinion felt a wave of sadness, thinking of Círdan looking forlornly out to sea, watching his people disappear into the Blessed Lands and not being able to go with them.
"I have to admit that I was desperate in my grief," the Shipwright said, looking almost embarrassed. "I swore to the heavens that I would follow that island, that I would go in the ship I was building... and then I heard it. The voice. It seemed to speak in my own tongue, yet I knew it was not an Elf, but came from higher beings, and it told me not to attempt the crossing in my ship, for I was not yet skilled enough to build a craft to withstand the Sundering Seas."
Suddenly there was a voice, a man in crowd, one of Círdan's soldiers, spoke out. "Abide now that time, for when it comes, then your work will be of utmost worth, and it will be remembered in song for many ages to come." By the time he had finished speaking, many other voices had joined his, reciting the words the Valar had spoken to their Lord in the ancient days.
"The ship!" someone said. "Don't forget the part about the ship!"
"How could I with such wonderful folk nearby to remind me," Círdan said, smiling softly, and continued. "I told them I would obey and then I looked up and saw a vision of a white ship sailing through the air, and it glowed with radiance and journeyed towards the west until it shrank to the size of a star - the loveliest, most brilliant star I'd ever seen..."
For a moment, everyone was silent, imagining the great white ship and it's brilliant light. Then Círdan sighed. "I have not yet built that ship, but someday it *will* be built, I'm sure, if not by me than by someone else, and what a thing of beauty it will be..."
Ereinion stared up at the Shipwright's face. Círdan had a far away look to him, an expression the prince had never seen, and suddenly he wanted nothing more that to find that starry ship and give it to Círdan as token of everything he felt for him. /I would give you anything,/ he thought, /and I would sail anywhere so long as you were near me.../
The lookout who had been on the bowsprit called back that they were nearing the large harbor, where the Falathrim had always anchored on pearl diving trips. They had never made any dwellings there, though, and Círdan directed the refugees to prepare for one more night aboard the ship.
Slowly, reluctantly, they moved away from where he stood and began to settle themselves to rest for the night.
Círdan sat watchful on the bow of the deck, his hair shining with starlight, well muscled body still and quiet as he looked over to the island. Ereinion crept up slowly and sat beside him and the older elf turned to smile at him.
"There hasn't been much time for us to talk," the prince said softly. "But I just wanted you to know... how grateful I am that you survived. I don't think I could have gone on without you."
Turning to face him, Círdan reached out a hand and stroked Ereinion's cheek. "Of course you could have," he said, his voice softly chiding. "A king cannot have such a weakness. You're stronger than you know. But as for me..." He sighed and looked over the the island again, a swath of utter black in the darkness. "I would gladly have given up my life if I could have saved even one more of my people."
"*No,*" Ereinion said stubbornly. "Your people - the ones that made it out - they need you alive. They love you. It would have devastated them if you'd be slain. So think on that, at least. You survived and your people are better for it."
"Do you realize how many we lost?" Círdan asked, his voice trembling. "With the ships we got out, maybe a quarter of all those in Eglarest. Brithombar I have no idea about. I can only hope they come this far." His hand dropped to Ereinion's, clasping the prince's fingers tightly. "So many of them... so many gone..."
Ereinion reached out, his arms encircling Círdan and holding him tightly. "I know how terrible this grief is," he whispered into the silver hair. "I know because it happened to my people, too. But that's exactly why we can't give up. We lead the remnant of our kindred, you the Falathrim, and I the Noldor of the North. We cannot let them fail completely."
Burying his face in Ereinion's hair, Círdan nodded. "You're the only one who can understand... no one else..."
A wave of sweet possessiveness swept through Ereinion. Círdan was *his* and he would take care of him the way no one else could. He felt fiercely protective of the older Elf and the thoughts made him heated, hungry for the touch of the Shipwright's skin, eager to turn pain into pleasure.
Catching Círdan's face between his hands, he kissed him deeply, rejoicing when he felt Círdan's body relax against his. They kissed for a long time, deep, searching kisses that had them both sighing and breathless.
"Yes," Ereinion whispered, nuzzling at Círdan's neck and throat and talking through his kisses. "Let's forget all this for just a moment... let's just think about being alive... being with each other... just for this moment..."
"I won't argue," Círdan murmured. "You're so *very* good at this..."
All conversation ground to an immediate halt as they kissed again, tongues sparring gently as their hands explored each other's bodies. Gently, Ereinion tugged Círdan down to the deck where they lay in each other's arms, pressed together from mouths to toes.
Ereinion had just begun to roll atop the older Elf when he spotted something coming at them across the water. He broke off kissing and Círdan protested softly, trying to bring his head back down.
"Círdan - something's coming this way. I think it's a small boat."
The Shipwright sat up immediately, peering out into the darkness at the flickering light coming towards them.
"It's Aerandir... one of the captains..."
His voice trailed off just as someone in the boat called out, "Pardon us, sir, but she wanted to see you. Said it couldn't wait and insisted on coming to find you."
The boat was pulling up to the ship now, it's bumpers out to prevent any collision. Sitting next to the tall, fair-haired man who had spoken was a young woman. She would have been pretty, except for a large bruise on her right cheek and a cut along her brow. Her eyes were blue and her hair of palest blond.
"Ariel?" Ereinion whispered. "But how -?"
Círdan walked to the edge of the deck and held out his arm to her. "I got her away from the orcs and put her in with a group from the Third Armoury who were heading towards the harbor. She got onto the last ship." With a smooth pull she was on board.
"Shall I wait?" Aerandir asked and when Círdan told him they could find a spare resting place for her, he rowed off back to his own ship.
Now the three of them stood looking at one another, Ariel's eyes wanting to linger on Círdan, but straying always back to Ereinion, as if wondering why he was there.
"Do you... do you know one another?" Círdan asked, a bit puzzled by their behavior.
"Yes," Ereinion said, "we've met. I am very glad to know you're safe, Lady Ariel. We were all very worried." /Now please go away and let me get back to what I was doing.../
Ariel's gaze had strayed back to Círdan. "I just had to come and tell you, my Lord, how absolutely wonderful you were that day. I owe my life to you, and I wish to do anything I can to show my respect and to give back even a little of what you've given to me." She smiled and even through the bruises her face lit up the night.
"The thought was very sweet," Círdan said, putting a hand kindly on her shoulder, "but you need not feel you owe me anything. You are one of my people and therefore you're special to me and I feel responsible for your well-being."
"Yes, but... My Lord..." She looked as if she was about to speak but then turned suddenly and smiled again at Ereinion. "I hope you can indulge a lady's wish... I would so like to speak to Lord Círdan in private..." She raised her brows in a hopeful manner.
Círdan gave him a sorry smile and then murmured, "Perhaps I'll see you later tonight... or tomorrow morning."
/Tomorrow *morning*? Who does she think she is? Coming over here and taking away the first chance to be together we've had since that horror.../ He smiled back, the feeling not quite making it up to his eyes. "Certainly, my Lord," he murmured, giving a small bow and walking back amidships.
He paused near the galleyway, thinking at first to seek a resting place below decks, but then he caught sight of them, settling down into the same places he and Círdan had been and it pricked at him somehow. So, he decided to climb up behind the mast and listen in.
Ariel was sitting close to Círdan, smiling up at him, both beautiful and pitiable. Slowly, she reached out to take hold of his hand and gave it a squeeze. "I've always thought you were a hero for us," she said. "But now I've really seen it for myself. You are the most amazing man I've ever known and since that moment... when you fought them off of me and sent me to safety while you were still in peril, I have been given cause to reflect on my life and what is best to do with it."
Círdan nodded sympathetically, letting her hold his hand.
"Aerandir the Captain was speaking on our ship tonight," she continued. Her head was lowered a bit and she spoke more hesitantly. "He told us that most of our people were lost in the attack... that we are a greatly diminished folk and that we must all do everything we can to help our people grow strong... and... numerous." With that last word she apparently was so embarrassed that she shifted her gaze to the sea. Although he couldn't really see it, Ereinion was certain that she was blushing delicately, a thought he hated.
"Aerandir says," she went on again, "that every Elf man who is not married will get married, so we can repopulate..."
"Ariel..." Círdan said, shifting uncomfortably. "It is far too early to think in such terms..."
"I just want you to know that when you decide to get married, I want to be the first one you consider..." she said all in a rush. "My Lord..."
Círdan appeared to be shocked speechless by the request, but Ariel filled in the silence for him. "I'm an excellent cook and I sew sails, Lord, the finest you've ever seen. I would take excellent care of your house and your children and... and you, of course."
All the time she was talking she was moving closer to the stricken Shipwright, who stared at her, wide-eyed, not knowing in the least what to say. That was when her touches began in earnest.
"I could make you very happy, Lord Círdan," she said breathlessly, lowering her mouth to his ear. Ereinion, hidden behind the sails, had to strain to hear her.
"There's no one near... won't you let me show you? I want to give you something... to thank you... to show you how grateful I am..." With that, she leaned over and kissed him.
Behind the mast, Ereinion's blood drained from his face.
Círdan caught hold of the girl's face and gently ended the kiss. "Please... Ariel..." he murmured, "this isn't what we should be doing."
Ariel leaned in again, brushing her lips against Círdan's. "But I *want* this, my Lord."
"You don't need to thank me this way," the Shipwright said, softly but insistently.
"I *know* I don't," Ariel whispered, her eyes on his, pleading. "But I've wanted this for so long... I could never bring myself to say anything to you, but I've wanted this, wanted you since I can remember."
She lifted her hands to stroke the slim braids that fell from his temples, her fingers loving, her expression pure adoration. In his hiding place behind the mast, Ereinion felt a current of dread pass through him. She was lovely, pleading, and she had loved Círdan before Ereinion had even known him. Was he wrong to want the Shipwright so much? Would he be expected to step aside now that tragedy had come, so that Círdan could father children? Was that what their love would be weighed against? The necessity of repopulating the Falathrim?
/He's never said he loved you... you realize that, don't you? Not once. Ever./
Círdan was shaking his head softly. "I'm sorry, Ariel. I can't... I can never marry, though if I was inclined to, I could think of no other woman so beautiful and gracious."
For a moment Ariel's hands tightened on Círdan's braids - not pulling, just holding on. "There are some, my Lord, who say that your heart is already taken."
At her words, Ereinion felt a sudden race of adrenaline. Surely, Círdan wouldn't say anything about the two of them...
"Tell me," she whispered, beginning to cry, "is it true? Have you given your heart to Lord Ossë? Does he consume you to such excess that you have no love left over for a maid like myself?"
The thrill that had run through the young prince now went cold. An icy chill crept up his spine at the sound of those words. /'Does he consume you to such excess...'/
Círdan's expression turned grave. "I will not speak further of this," he said quietly, and then stood, bringing her up with him. For a moment they stood there, she staring up at him, face full of anguish, he holding her arms gently, his voice pitched to be soothing, to break the cruelty of his words.
"I have no plans to marry," he said softly to her, "and I'm truly sorry that I cannot return the kind of love that you feel. I do care about you; you are of my kindred and that makes you precious to me, but I love no Elf-maid in the way that a husband loves a wife."
Ariel was crying, but trying to hide it, too. She nodded and bit her lip, saying that, of course, she understood, and that it was quite all right. Ereinion knew, though, that it would be a long time before Ariel was truly all right. He knew it because he could almost feel what it was like to be in her place. If he confronted Círdan, told him that he loved him and asked him to return the feeling, would he be given a similar apology?
He felt a shudder go through him, remembering the sight of the Shipwright in Ossë's huge hands, and realized he wasn't ready to find out.
The next night, as his people settled into their encampment on the beach, Círdan stood in the water and gazed out to the mouth of the harbor. The waves broke around his feet and he felt the familiar touch of Ossë, the water suddenly warm, less a random wave and more of a deliberate caress.
The Shipwright smiled in relief and knelt down, his hands moving into the water, eager for the reassuring touch of the Maia.
"My Lord," he whispered. "You *have* come after all... My people will be so pleased."
/I mourn with you, storm child... so many spirits, gone away to Mandos... but fear not for I will protect you and send kindly waves to my Falathrim. Even now, the ships from Brithombar are nearing these shores.../
Círdan let out a soft gasp. "They're coming," he whispered, closing his eyes and clutching at the invisible hands in the water. "*Thank you*... thank you, my Lord." His tears fell into the water, dissolving, becoming blue, and Ossë sent them out to sea.
/I would comfort you./
"You have already done so, just by being here with us," Círdan said. He reached farther down into the water - or did the water reach up for him? Either way, the water swirled around his arms, caressed his legs, tugging him forward until he was on his hands and knees.
/You know what I want... will you give it up to me?/
Now the swell of the waves surrounded the silver-haired Elf, pulling at his clothing, seeking out his skin, and Círdan moaned at the gentle, probing touch.
"Anything my Lord," he whispered, squirming as the water found it's way inside of him. It seemed to find that sweet, sensitive place deep within him, because he gave a small cry and raised his hips, pressing and rubbing against the heated column of water that penetrated him. As he did, a form rose from the breaking waves and curled itself over Círdan's back, arms of sea blue liquid holding him in place.
The Shipwright's hands dug into the sand beneath him as he worked himself along that liquid shaft. Watery fingers pulled at the ends of his hair, dangling in the water and every inch of skin was kissed with sea foam as the two, Elf and Maia, rocked together.
Finally, Círdan shook his head violently, unable to bear the exquisite pressure, gave a soft, hoarse cry, giving his release to the water, which drank it greedily. Ossë was close behind him, and soon Círdan felt a hot spray within him, evidence of the sea god's passion. The thick column of water was withdrawn, even as Ossë's great hands moved over the Elf lord's skin, soothing the transition between filled and empty.
/Lovely child... sleep now and I will keep watch over you.../
"My Lord," Círdan whispered. suddenly exhausted and grateful to be set down on the sand with the warm waves as his blanket.
"My Lord? Círdan?" Ereinion pulled back the flap that covered tent and saw that silver-haired Elf was gone. At the back of his mind, a small voice told him that he should leave things as they were, should go back to bed and plan to see Círdan in the morning. He brushed the voice away, though, feeling at once needy and jealous, and rose, striding off towards the beach.
As he came over the dunes, his heart gave a leap. Círdan was lying on the sand, unmoving, and the prince whispered his name once then ran towards him, kneeling down on the sand next to him. The Shipwright's clothes floated nearby, and Ereinion caught them up, staring down into the still, peaceful face.
"My Lord?" he whispered, reaching out a hand to caress Círdan's cheek. The older Elf's eyes opened slowly and he gave the prince a slow smile.
"Mmm... Ereinion... what are you doing out of bed?"
Utterly relieved that he wasn't injured or dead, Ereinion smiled down at him and said softly, "I was hoping to find *you* in *yours.*"
"Is that all you think about?" Círdan murmured, his voice sleepy and teasing.
"Yes," Ereinion lied, leaning down and kissing the older Elf, letting his mouth linger on Círdan's. "You're so warm..."
A wave broke over them, the water foaming and hissing. "Mmm, not here, Ereinion," the Shipwright protested softly. "We should go -"
His words were stilled with another kiss and Ereinion, sitting now on the sand beside Círdan, brought the Shipwright's hand between his legs.
"Please Círdan," he breathed, lips brushing lips, "don't turn me away. I need it so badly..."
Turning towards the prince, Círdan's face softened and he gave the long shaft a squeeze, drawing a moan from Ereinion.
"We should go somewhere else... back to the tent," Círdan murmured, even as his fingers untied the lacings that held Ereinion in. The tanned face became rapt and adoring as he drew out the rigid shaft, running long fingers over it and sighing. "Somewhere else..."
But even as he said it, Ereinion sat back, guiding Círdan's head towards his erection, stroking the long, silver hair and murmuring soothingly, encouragingly.
In one, graceful move Círdan turned onto his belly and nestled between Ereinion's legs, taking him into his mouth and beginning to suckle softly.
Ereinion shuddered in pleasure, one hand going back to support him, the other clutching at Círdan's hair. He let his head fall back, his legs fall open, and closed his eyes, marveling at the skill of the Shipwright's tongue. The world seemed to center itself between his thighs, with Círdan's mouth at its hot, sweet core.
Time spun out as it went on, the prince moaning and pressing forward, deep as he could be, and Círdan yielding, taking him in to the root, his nose nuzzling the damp hair between Ereinion's legs.
It was then, when he realized how deep he was, that Ereinion opened his eyes. What an intensely erotic sight met them. Himself, sitting with splayed legs, and Círdan, with his hair like liquid silver, and his skin shining in the moonlight - the well muscled shoulders and back, the narrow waist and narrower hips, and the tight buttocks, so smooth and enticing. It was all too much and in one quick movement he had turned Círdan over onto his back, pulling out of his mouth and lifting the Shipwright's legs to settle between them.
Círdan seemed dazed at the sudden movement. "Ereinion...? What are you... I don't think -"
"That's right," the prince said in a breathless voice, "don't think. Just let me in." He pressed forward, his shaft sliding between tight, wet globes to the trembling entrance and then past it.
There was a sharp cry from Círdan, his fingers closing around Ereinion's arms, and then, as the prince began a steady, thrusting rhythm, the silver haired Elf shook his head.
"No... not here... Ereinion, please... not here..."
But Ereinion was too far gone to listen, conscious only of thrusting and tight heat and the knowledge that the beautiful creature beneath him was his. He rode Círdan hard, pressing deeper and deeper, his eyes closed, a single word murmured on his lips. "Mine..."
When release came the prince gave a joyous shout, flooding Círdan's body, then curled forward and took the older Elf's shaft into his mouth to pull him over the edge as well.
For a long time they lay there on the sand, panting, holding each other close, before Ereinion pulled out of Círdan and let the water wash them both clean.
The first light of morning was only a pale gleam in the sky when Ereinion woke. He was lying in the sand, next to Círdan, curled around him from behind. The Elf lord was sleeping still, his face smooth and calm but for a tiny wrinkle of care between his brows. Still, he was breathing deeply and rhythmically, the fingers of one hand tangled around Ereinion's dark hair.
Ereinion lay there for several moments, soaking in the feel of his lover's body, his warmth, and the tang of salt on Círdan's skin when he pressed a tiny kiss to his shoulder. Then, slowly so as not to wake the other Elf, he untangled his hair from Círdan's hand and stood.
The sky was gray and dark clouds tumbled off shore to the north. The tide had gone out, leaving them on dry sand, and Ereinion decided to wash off so he walked out to where the waves were breaking. The water seemed much colder than it had been the night before, almost icy in temperature, but he didn't let it stop him and plunged into it, thinking of Círdan and what they had done the night before.
He didn't feel the hands until they were on him.
He had glided a bit under the water and was swimming upwards for a breath when he felt something gripping his legs. Thinking it was only sea grass that he'd gotten tangled in, he went limp for a moment, the way Círdan had taught him to, and then moved his legs slowly to free them. The tugging became more insistent, though, the grip around him tighter, and now his lungs were beginning to scream for air. Fighting a rising feeling of panic, he looked down at his legs, hoping to be able to see clearly enough to disentangle himself. What he saw nearly made him faint.
His legs were caught in two large hands, the skin blending almost perfectly with the water, and behind them was a face, great and terrible in its anger, the eyes shining a cold silver in the mirk of the water. Before he could do anything, he was pulled away from the shore, tumbled over and over along the shallows off the beach and then, just when he knew his lungs would burst, flung painfully against the sand some 100 yards from where he'd begun.
He took a huge breath, watery and excruciating, and was just about to stand up when his ankles were taken again and a great pull dragged him out into the water again. It happened three more times, the tugging and a terrifying roll underwater before being swatted like an insect back onto the shore.
The last time he was retching up sea water, desperately trying to catch his breath when the shadow came over him. Turning his head upward, his eyes widened at the sight of the Maia Ossë, Lord of the Waves, rising from the water. The waves themselves had gone from gentle swells to harsh, pounding things, the water dark and white-capped, a palpable sense of threat hanging in the air.
The face of the Maia was beautiful and terrible in its wrath. His great watery hand pointed a finger at Ereinion and the prince could see the waves swirling within it.
"You have tried to take what is mine," Ossë rasped, his voice like the crash of waves on a beaten shore. "You who know nothing of me or my lovely people." The voice rose as the great, silver eyes flashed. "Would you bring my wrath upon yourself? Would you challenge my dominion? Speak!"
To Ereinion, it seemed that his voice had fled from his body. He tried to say something, anything to appease that terrible visage, but nothing would come out.
"This wretched creature thinks to steal my beloved child from me?" Ossë thundered, the water around him seething and foaming. He raised his other hand and pointed at Círdan, lying further down the beach. "He is *mine* forever and always! No one can take him from me! Least of all someone as weak as *you*!"
Ereinion forced himself to his feet. His head felt as if it were spinning and his legs could barely hold him, but he stood, facing the Maia who towered over him. "I love him," he said with what little force he could muster. "I am also one of his own kind. It's natural that he and I should be together -"
"You *impudent* WRETCH!!" Ereinion never saw the wave of water that slapped him down to the sand, but he felt it, sharp and stinging, heavy enough to knock the wind out of him. For one, horrible moment he was underwater again, the great weight of the water pressing him down and tumbling him along the sand.
Then he heard a voice. It seemed to come from far away, above the water, and it trembled with desperation.
"Heruamin! N'ndengina ho! N'ndengina ho!! Please, my Lord! Don't kill him!"
Suddenly the water pulled back and Ereinion gulped at the air, his lungs burning. The voice was still speaking, lower now and intimate, the words in the Quenya tongue he remembered from his childhood in Hithlum. He managed to lift his head and saw Círdan kneeling in the water beyond him, facing the Maia. Ossë, too, had knelt down, his attention rapt on the Shipwright's face, his watery skin still churning.
["... is dear to me,]" Círdan was saying. "[I would suffer so terribly were he not here. Please, take pity on me, Lord. It won't happen again, I swear to you.]"
As Ereinion watched, Ossë drew Círdan up to stand before him and the sea god's hands encompassed the silver haired Elf. It seemed to the prince, then, that Círdan stood encircled by streaming waters and for a moment the fear swept him that the Elf lord was being taken beyond his reach. Then the sea god spoke.
"[I understand that you need comfort when I am away from you, especially in these evil times... but you must never let that comfort take *my* place.]" He raised his great silver eyes to Ereinion and regarded the prince critically. "[I will let him live.]"
The weight of the Maia's stare was terrifying and Ereinion took a step back before his legs collapsed beneath him and he fell to his knees.
"Amin naa tualle, Heruamin," Círdan whispered, "I am your servant. my Lord." The streaming columns of water that surrounded him collapsed inward, swirling around his body.
"[My beloved,]" Ossë murmured, his voice like the hiss of sea foam dissolving into sand. Then he rose, towering above the two Elves for a moment before raising his hands to the sky and giving a loud, crashing cry. As Ereinion watched in terrified awe, the form of the Maia broke apart into thousands of streams of water, all pounding down into the surf just beyond where Círdan stood.
For a moment, neither Elf did or said a thing. The hiss of the sea foam was still in the air, as the sight of the Maia was locked into their minds. Gradually, though, Ereinion watched as Círdan turned back towards him, the greatest of concern on his face. He waded back to the beach and knelt at the prince's feet, one chaste hand on his shoulder for comfort.
"Are you all right?" he whispered, his words shifting back to Sindarin. "Do you think you can stand?"
"Yes, yes," Ereinion said, not wanting to seem weak in front of him. All the same, he stood and wobbled badly for a moment before finding his feet again. He put his arms around Círdan, needing the warmth and comfort of the older Elf, but Círdan pulled his hands away and led them back towards the dunes. "Not here," he murmured. "Not here."
They were nearly to the top of the dune that stood above the camp when they heard a lookout's cry.
"Ships!!" the Elf cried. "Ships from the Falas!! Seven of them!"
The company from Brithombar had finally arrived.
The meeting of the remnant of Eglarest with that of Brithombar was joyful and bittersweet. As the newest refugees from the Falas came ashore, friends and family members finally knew whether those they loved had survived the destruction of the Haven. The newcomers told of how the Orc host had overwhelmed the walls of the northern city with giant engines and battering rams; how the black creatures had poured into the city, first slaying, then capturing. Many of Brithombar's people had been led away into slavery, headed for the thrall vaults of Thangorodrim and when their tale was told the Falathrim wept.
Ereinion wept, as well, when he learned that two of his boyhood companions, Sulimir and Ëarmir, were not among the refugees. Only Nenril had escaped and now he sat with Ereinion and told him of how shy, small Sulimir had been slain trying to rescue the Elf-maid he'd planned to marry, and how bold Ëarmir had been fighting against the Orcs who chained him and took him away to the North.
But eventually the weeping, for joy and for sorrow, ended and the refugees began to make plans for establishing a permanent settlement on the island. Slowly, the cargo on every boat was unloaded and transferred to the protected side of the dunes along the beach. Wood was gathered in great quantities, and one by one the lovely, simple buildings of the Falathrim went up.
One morning, as he walked to the building site, Ereinion saw Círdan sitting by himself on a large rock near the water. As the prince approached, he could see the Shipwright staring with great intensity across the bay towards the mainland. Every muscle was still, all of the older Elf's attention focused on that farther shore.
Slipping down beside him, Ereinion looked over the water for awhile, trying to see what Círdan saw. At last though, he gave up, and turned to his lover. "What is it you seek?" he said softly
"I seek hope," Círdan replied simply. "Hope for those who will come after us. They will need a Haven, just as we did, but not here. My people have always kept themselves apart and I don't wish to change that now. But the others will come... soon they will come."
Ereinion looked back across the water. "You mean to say that Morgoth will not be satisfied with Hithlum, or Dorthonion, or even the Falas... but surely the Hidden Realms will be safe against him, and Melian's girdle still protects Doriath."
Círdan's face was grave as he turned to Ereinion. "I fear they will be broken open - all of them laid bare to Morgoth's greed... to his malice. We must prepare a place for them - on the mainland, but where Lord Ulmo is still strong in the waters."
"We're still building our own shelters," Ereinion said doubtfully. "How can we do both?"
The Shipwright seemed to make up his mind about something and stood, pulling Ereinion up with him. "There are enough people here to maintain the building while you and I are away," he said. "Gather enough provisions for seven days - tomorrow we sail to the mainland." He jumped gracefully down from the rock and began to walk away.
"But my Lord!" the prince called after him. "Why the hurry? Surely it can wait until our own settlement is done."
The older Elf whirled around to face him. "No! It cannot wait. It must be done soon- the sooner the better." He held Ereinion's gaze for a moment and then smiled gently. "Run along now and gather the provisions."
"Yes, sir," Ereinion answered, still puzzled. Then he, too, jumped down and ran swiftly towards the main settlement.
Two days later, they pulled ashore as the sun was rising. The land before them was riven with water. No less than seven mouths emptied into the sea from the great river Sirion over a mere 15 miles of coastline. The small slivers of land between them were dense with grass and a few scattered trees, everything a lush green color even now in late autumn.
Círdan, Ereinion, and the four rowers they had brought along, pushed the landing boats onto the beach, all of them wary to any sound or movement that might herald the enemy nearby. All about them, though, was a calm silence.
Círdan instructed the rowers to rest while he and Ereinion scouted the marshes to the west of the beach.
"We may not be back before the morning, so make a camp and be sure to keep at least one of you on watch at all times. Ulmo's hand still rules here, but the enemy is clever and we don't want to take chances."
Taking a day's worth of the provisions, the Shipwright led Ereinion over the grassy dunes and they set out toward the westernmost mouth of the river, across which was the large marshy area Círdan planned to claim.
It was tricky going, for the land was muddy and shifted under their feet, but at last they reached the bank of the western mouth and Círdan lay aside his pack and knelt in the water, reaching his hands into it and closing his eyes. He was silent for several minutes but then raised his head and looked at the prince.
"Lord Ulmo's power is strong in these waters," he said. "This land will be safe - at least from Morgoth's power."
Ereinion stared back at him, puzzled. "At least?" he said. "Surely it is only Morgoth's power that threatens us, and if we are safe from that we should have no cause for fear."
Rising, the Shipwright stood in the water, regarding Ereinion for a long time. "I have taught you much," he said softly, "but the hardest lessons are still ahead."
He said no more, but waded back to the shore and retrieved his pack, and they forded the small river and crossed to the marshy land beyond, Ereinion still bewildered over Círdan's words.
All day long they wandered the land of Arvernien, taking note of the inlets and small harbors, Círdan deciding where boats could be stored out of sight and where rudimentary shelters could be built.
"We will visit this land often," Círdan told Ereinion as they walked. "There is much work to do."
"But who is to benefit from all this labor?" the prince asked. "Do you mean to move your people here?"
"No, no," the Shipwright shook his head, "I told you that we would remain on Balar, but there will come a time, not so far off, when our kindred will fill the vale of Sirion in their flight from Morgoth. We cannot let them wander in the wilderness, can we?" He gave Ereinion a sideways glance and a quick smile.
The younger Elf didn't reply immediately, but simply walked for a time, his gaze flickering constantly to the tall figure at his side. Finally he murmured, "You're just a incorrigible caretaker, aren't you?"
Círdan looked over at him, one silver eyebrow raised in mock offense. "I beg you pardon, princeling? What did you just call me?"
"You want to look after everyone," Ereinion said pointedly. "Your own land has just been destroyed and you're building a new home for your people, but that's not enough. You have to come here and start caretaking for other people who don't even *know* they need caretaking yet! Nurturing's an obsession with you."
The indignation Círdan pretended only lasted a few more moments and then he smiled, almost sheepishly, and nodded. "I suppose it is. I like being able to care for things - animals, ships, people... I like to watch them grow and become more beautiful. Like you..."
Ereinion stopped dead in his tracks at the words, and Círdan was several steps beyond him by the time he notice the prince was no longer by his side. He turned back at looked at the younger Elf, puzzled.
"Are you all right?"
"Do you really think I'm beautiful?" Ereinion asked, his voice taking on an almost child-like tone.
Círdan regarded him, his face soft, but serious. "I have long thought you to be the most beautiful person in the world, Ereinion."
The simplicity of those words was almost too much to bear and the prince took a step backward, willing himself to keep standing. "But... but there are so many others," he said, thinking surely he must have heard wrong, that Círdan was simply being polite.
"Yes, there are," the Shipwright acknowledged, "but none like you." He gazed at the prince until Ereinion thought he saw a slight flush creeping into the tanned cheeks and then turned back toward the west. "Shall we go on, then?" he asked.
Fighting down the urge to shout for joy, Ereinion murmured his assent and they began walking again.
Night came and they made camp in the driest part of the marshland. All around them night creatures sang and they sat and watched the stars come out in the velvety blue of the sky.
Ereinion's gaze, though, strayed often to Círdan. "You seem so calm, my Lord," he said at last. "So serene... how is that, after all you've been through?"
Círdan looked over at him, tilting his head to one side as though puzzled. "Serene? That sounds like a blessed state to be in... but it's certainly not mine."
"You don't seem to be upset over anything," Ereinion pressed. "I mean... well, I was completely devastated when my Father died. I cried half the night in your arms, remember?"
"And you think that because I haven't that I feel nothing for what has befallen my people?" the Shipwright asked quietly.
Paling a little, Ereinion stammered, "N-no, it's just... well, you're always so even-tempered... even when tragedies happen..." He gave up trying to explain and looked miserably down at his hands.
Círdan pulled him close, smoothing his hair and brushing his thumb along the prince's cheek. "You're so young," he murmured. "So terribly young."
"I'm not that far from my coming of age - just 24 years," Ereinion protested.
The older Elf gave a soft laugh, his gaze a mix of affection and sadness. "Beautiful child... in the reckoning of the Eldar you are but a tiny pup. You have thousands of years ahead of you, and when you have lived through all that time, you may find that tragedy has a different effect on you that it does today."
He furrowed his brows a moment, seeming to seek for the right words. "It's not that events like this cause you any less hurt, or that you see them as less important, it's just... you gain a perspective on living and dying that you can't have when life is new to you. I trust in what Lord Ulmo and Lord Ossë tell me - that all events have a part in the plan of Ilúvatar. That doesn't mean I suffer less when those events are tragic. but I can put them into perspective and that is what helps me to go on."
Ereinion listened to the words and they felt like balm on a wound. He realized then that part of the reason he loved Círdan so very much was precisely this - that he was ancient and wise and could see life and the world around them from a completely different point of view than Ereinion did. It calmed the younger Elf, just being near the Shipwright. In the softness of his words, he gained hope and strength.
"Círdan," he said softly, reaching a hand up to tangle it in the silky silver hair, "I can't begin to tell you how much knowing you and being with you has meant to me. You always know what to say to me, even when I'm being 'young.' Sometimes I don't know why you tolerate me, being your shadow, pestering you for affection..."
Círdan took hold of the prince's chin and lifted it, their eyes meeting. "I don't 'tolerate' you, Ereinion. And I know very well why I let you follow me and why I let you do the things you do to me in my own bed."
Ereinion couldn't shift his gaze. His eyes seemed as though they were locked on Círdan's. "And why is that?," he asked in a trembling whisper.
"Because I love you," the Shipwright whispered back.
And that was how it happened, how Ereinion's most fervent, most impossible wish came true. He sat there, quiet under Círdan's hands, and tried to take it in, unable to tear his eyes away from the older elf next to him. It was sweetness more profound than any he'd ever known, and then reality shouldered its way in.
"But... Lord Ossë... you love him, don't you?"
"Yes, I do," Círdan said softly, with no hesitation. "But you two are so different... it's just not the same."
For a long moment, the prince was completely still, gazing into storm-gray eyes. "Tell me again," he said at last. "Just one more time."
The Shipwright smiled and leaned forward to kiss him. "I'll tell you as often as you like," he murmured, lips brushing Ereinion's. "I love you..."
Then neither of them said anything more for quite a long time and the only sound to be heard were soft sighs and moans of pleasure, and the whisper of wind in the marsh grass.
The people of Círdan built a small but lovely dwelling place on Balar and, for the next 25 years they lived comfortably enough. Their culture began to grow again, similar to the one they had built in the Falas, but without the weight of geographical tradition they were used to. The sea was the same, though, the tides and waves comforting as always, and alongside the music of the water the Falathrim began to thrive once again. Everything and everyone seemed young - and children were born at a steady pace unusual for the slow-growing Eldar.
Círdan and Ereinion returned to Arvernien many times to hide boats and other supplies in the long stretches of reeds along the marshy shore, in the event that any of Beleriand's remaining Elves fled southward and might come to the Mouths of Sirion in need of sustenance.
The Shipwright himself was outwardly content, but Ereinion could tell that his mind went ever northward, as if he were waiting for some dreadful event that only he knew was coming.
Since Ereinion's swordmaster had been killed in Eglarest, Círdan became his teacher and they practiced daily with swords and shields. The prince was a keen learner,and his skill in fighting grew quickly. It wasn't long before he could hold his own against any of Círdan's top guards, and the more he fought and won, the harder he tried to improve himself.
It seemed to all who lived on Balar that peace had truly come along with the destruction of their home. All that is, except Círdan, who took to walking along the beach in the early dawn as if he expected a sign from the sea.
Twenty-three years after they'd arrived on the Isle, it came.
The morning was warm but foggy, a soft blanket of cloud muffling sound and hiding movement. Círdan walked the long strand just south of the main village, his thoughts turned inward as there was nothing to see offshore. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he saw what looked to be a huge wave heading for the shore and for one panicked moment he feared the ruin of his entire people.
The wave, though, did not come ashore. Instead, it reared up until it was nearly 70 feet in height. Inside it's blue-gray murk, a form moved, as eerily as a fetus within its membrane, and then the water literally flew apart and a being stood before Círdan - a being great and luminous, with a long, flowing beard tangled with seaweed and shells and a great helmet adorned with gleaming fish scales.
When the creature spoke, its voice was as a hurricane over warm water.
"Círdan the Shipwright!" it called, and Círdan dropped to his knees before Ulmo, Lord of All Waters.
"My Lord," he breathed, eyes lowered, "you do me such honor..."
"<I have fearful news," the Vala said, its voice lowering until it was the pounding of waves on a rocky shore. "The Evil of the North has defiled the springs of Sirion, and my power withdraws from the fingers of the flowing waters. But a worse thing is yet to come forth. Say therefore, to the Lord of Nargothrond: Shut the doors of the fortress and go not abroad. Cast the stones of your pride into the loud river, that the creeping evil may not find the gate.>"
Círdan shut his eyes tightly and bowed his head. "Nargothrond," he whispered. "Orodreth..." Then he stood and faced Ulmo. "Surely the caves of Nargothrond are safely hidden? The Enemy cannot find them."
"Orodreth has been persuaded into proud foolishness. You must counsel him to turn from it, if his people are to survive."
/His people,/ Círdan thought, /all those people.../ He faced the Vala again, hands out, beseeching. "Is there nothing you can do to prevent this, my Lord? Nothing *I* can do?"
"Send him the warning of the Lord of Waters. Send it swiftly. Time is against them."
"Yes, my Lord," Círdan said, kneeling again as the water began to swirl around him. "I will send messengers this very day."
Ulmo was sinking back into the waves, seabirds circling him and crying out their raucous songs. "Remember," his voice rumbled, "they must cast down the stones."
His great shoulders sank beneath the surface, long, white hair floating on the foam, and then he was gone. The waves quieted, the fog growing more dense, and Círdan forced himself to stop shaking before turning and running as fast as he could towards the village.
The messengers were sent - two Elves from Angrod's people who had fled south to Círdan during the Fourth battle. They reached Nargothrond before the Enemy, but though Orodreth heeded Ulmo's warning, Turín Turambar did not, and the bridge across the River Narog remained in place. There was a great battle and Orodreth was killed, the people of Nargothrond slaughtered or driven into bondage.
All this news came to them from Gelmir and Arminas, the messengers themselves, who had come southward to Balas to advise Círdan of what had happened before heading to the mainland again to scout.
That night, Ereinion awoke to find Círdan out of bed, sitting by the dying fire. He knelt down beside the Shipwright, one hand smoothing the silver hair. "I know what keeps you awake," he said softly, "but you did everything you could. It was arrogance that caused that massacre, but not *your* arrogance. It wasn't your fault."
Slowly, Círdan turned to look at him, his expression unreadable. "Whether it was my fault or someone else's, the fact is that it happened. The Enemy is advancing and the first of the Hidden Kingdoms has fallen."
"Only because of Turín's pride," Ereinion countered fiercely. "Thingol and my uncle Turgon - they would never allow such a thing. The enemy hasn't found Gondolin in over three hundred years, and they won't now. And as for Doriath -"
"Yes?" Círdan looked over at him, eyes glittering with unshed tears, "as for Doriath?"
Ereinion's breath was taken away for a moment by the intensity of feeling on the Shipwright's face. "There... there is the Girdle of Melian. Morgoth cannot hope to breach it..."
Círdan gave his lover a soft, sad look. "Ereinion..." he murmured, "Morgoth may not have to breach it. It could be broken of it's own accord and Morgoth would not have to lift a finger..."
"What do you mean?" Ereinion said, a trace of alarm coming into his voice.
"Morgoth knows what the Eldar are slow to learn," the Shipwright answered quietly. "That pride and treachery are often far more effective than armies."
Ereinion reached out a hand to grasp Círdan's arm. "What is it you see?" he asked. "What will happen to the Eldar in Beleriand?"
But Círdan shook his head. "I cannot predict the future, Ereinion. If I could my cities would not now lay in ruins. I see possibilities, not certainties, and always the fates may change."
"But you *do* know something, don't you? You know something will happen and happen soon."
Hesitating, Círdan turned his gaze to the fire and stared into the glowing embers before speaking. "They will be coming soon," he murmured, gray eyes troubled. They will come with great sadness. We must be ready to help them."
Ereinion wrapped his arms around Círdan's shoulders and kissed him on the cheek. "If anyone could help them," he said softly, "it would be you."
Silver hair glinted in the dying firelight as the Shipwright turned towards him. "Make me forget about all of this," he whispered, "just for a little while."
"I will," Ereinion answered. "Come back to bed."
Three years later, a messenger came to them with the news that Elu Thingol, king of the Grey Elves in Beleriand, had been slain by the Naugrim, and all the Falathrim wept. For Thingol, who to them had been Elwë Singollo, had been their King and Lord since the beginning of their journey from Cuivienen
They were told also that Melian's Girdle had been withdrawn from the forests of Doriath, and that the Queen of Thingol was no longer in Middle Earth, but had fled to Lórien, in the Blessed Lands, to mourn for her beloved.
The falling of the year brought happier news, though. Menegroth no longer stood empty because Beren and Luthien's son, Dior Eluchil, and his wife Nimloth had come to Doriath with their children. The Sindar were rejoicing and it was enough happy news for Círdan to call a feast. Once more the Falathrim played their bittersweet pipes and danced on the beaches, under the stars.
After one particularly raucous tune, during which Ereinion had been pushed into dancing by Círdan, the prince had fallen, panting, at the Shipwright's side when they were approached by two people. It was Ariel, the elf woman who had so loved Círdan. At her side was a very young Elf - a boy almost at his majority whose name was Lindir.
"My Lord," he said shyly, "may we have a moment of your time?"
Círdan's gaze moved between the two and he tried to hide a smile. "Yes, of course," he murmured, "please sit down."
The pair sat in the sand and Lindir slid a glance at Ereinion, but before the prince could say a thing, Ariel leaned towards the young Elf. "It's all right. Anything we have to say to Lord Círdan can be certainly be said in front of Ereinion as well."
"Well," Lindir said, biting his lip and looking over at her, "if you're sure..."
"Tell him," she nudged.
"Maybe *you* should tell him," Lindir countered.
"Well *one* of you had better tell me or I'll be off to get some wine!" Círdan said, unable to stop from laughing.
Lindir looked terrified for a moment, as if afraid he's lost his chance at something important, and then blurted out, "We want to be married!"
They all looked at each other for a long moment and then Círdan smiled broadly. "That is *wonderful* news!" he said, embracing both of them. "Don't you think so, Ereinion?"
The prince would have spoken but he was in shock. A part of him was rejoicing that Ariel had finally found someone other than the man who was his lover, and part of him... part of him was intensely jealous. Jealous that these two people could celebrate their love with their neighbors and friends - could hold hands and blush when they looked at each other, just as they were doing now.
"Ereinion?" Círdan's voice was concerned and the prince could feel the coolness of the Shipwright's hand against his shoulder.
"I'm so happy for you!" he said suddenly, shaking his head to clear it and smiling at the two of them. "When will you be betrothed?"
Ariel and Lindir exchanged glances and then, cheeks reddened, looked back to Círdan. "Times are extraordinary, my Lord" Ariel said, a little hurriedly, "and many customs have been put aside on Balar. We were wondering..." Her confidence faded and she looked over at Lindir for support.
He eyed Ereinion nervously again, and then said all in a rush, "We want to forego the betrothal year and be wed this evening."
Círdan blinked several times. "You mean... *tonight*? Here - at the feast?"
Two solemn faces nodded back at him.
"We both lost most of our kin in Eglarest," Ariel said, looking down at Lindir's hand in hers. "We have no family to give the Blessing or the gifts..."
A look of tenderness crossed Círdan's even features. He seemed to be think for several moments and then glanced over at Ereinion and winked.
"The Falathrim are all like family to one another," he said, reaching out a hand to lift Ariel's chin. "I propose... that Ereinion and I be your family members."
The prince's mouth dropped open. "*What*?" he gasped, staring over at Círdan as if he'd suggested that he and Ereinion be married too. "But I thought it had to be a man and a wo-"
"We are in exile," Círdan said, cutting him off. "Always in troubled times our people have made accommodations, Ereinion." He smiled placidly and then turned back to the couple. "What do you say - shall the prince and I go and make preparations for you?"
Neither Ariel nor Lindir appeared able to say anything, so profound was the shock. They did manage to nod, however, and Círdan stood, brining Ereinion up with him.
"Come, my prince - we have gifts to find."
Scrambling through the sand to keep up with the Shipwright, Ereinion glanced back and saw the happy couple staring at them, eyes wide, mouths open.
They stood in Círdan's dwelling, Ereinion panting after running all the way behind Círdan from the beach. The firelight flickered over a small and efficiently appointed room.
"Just *what*, exactly, are we doing?" the prince asked. "How can they get married if they haven't even been betrothed, let alone betrothed for a year?"
"Not too keen on customs, I see," Círdan replied crossing the room to a small cabinet and trying to hide a smile. "Betrothal isn't necessary - just preferred. When times are troubled or when we are in exile, as we are now, our customs become simplified."
Ereinion frowned thoughtfully. "So, it's not the betrothal the creates the marriage bond? It's just the blessing?"
"No, the blessing is entirely optional as well, though few of our people have ever been married without one. Ah - just what I was looking for!" He pulled a delicate silver circlet from the cabinet. It was wrought into the shape of sea plants and crusted with luminous pearls. "This should do for my blessing gift. Now let's go see what *you* have to offer."
He began to walk out of the room but Ereinion caught his arm. "But if it's not the betrothal, or the blessing... what *does* make a marriage?"
Círdan gazed down on him, puzzled for a moment, then smiling softly. "I *have* neglected parts of your education. Well, that's what happens when an unmarried man takes charge, isn't it?"
Reaching a hand out, he drew his fingers through Gil-galad's long, dark hair. "It's the physical union of male and female that creates the marriage bond," he said quietly. "That's all they need - everything else is extra."
The prince was still under Círdan's caress, but his eyes were fiery as they regarded the Shipwright. "Then what about us?" he whispered. "Would we be considered married?"
Now the tanned fingers moved over Ereinion's cheeks and lips, soothing in their touch, as if to soften the words to come. "We are not male and female. The laws of the Eldar are silent on those like us... no room for talk of marriage."
Ereinion felt a wave a sadness flow through him - sadness tinged with anger. "It's not fair!" he said adamantly. "Why do they get their happiness while we're left with whispers and secrets? We deserve that, too. *You* deserve it..." He turned away from Círdan, feeling despair for the first time in years. "You deserve so much better."
The older Elf's hands rested gently on his shoulders and Círdan pressed a kiss to the back of his head. "Our union has meant a great deal to me," he said gently. "And it's no accident that I asked you to give the blessing with me tonight. When you're standing behind Lindir, and I give him that circlet... you'll know that, in part, it's a wedding gift from me."
Turning back to his lover, Ereinion's fingertips grazed Círdan's cheek, his eyes adoring. "Círdan," he whispered. "My Lord... I love you. More than I can ever say... I love you."
Círdan smiled back at him. "Oh, Ereinion... Scion of Kings. How I love you."
Before he could say another word, the prince pulled him close and their mouths met - warm and hungry for the taste of each other. Time spun out as the kiss deepened and then, slowly, Círdan pulled back.
"On to your room... let us see what your blessing gift will be."
The word of the impromptu wedding had spread along the beach and when the two of them came back outside the entire village was gathered around the main fire. Friends were hugging the wedding pair and there was laughing and singing all around them, but when Círdan entered the circle they quieted. All eyes were on him.
He stepped forward and held out his hands to Ariel and Lindir, smiling at them as if they were children with whom his was pleased.
"You have come to me tonight," he began, "asking to be recognized as husband and wife. As we all know, our custom is to wait for at least a year, so that both partners can be sure of their feelings. In extraordinary times, however, that same custom allows for extraordinary weddings, and I believe that the two of you together will make our small community stronger than would the two of you apart."
Behind him, Ereinion found himself listening to every word as if it was his own wedding ceremony that was taking place. In his heart, he could feel a new emotion, a different feeling for Círdan, that went beyond his enjoyment of the physical bond they shared. It was a profound sense of devotion that threatened to overtake him as he watched the silver haired Elf among his people.
/Surely, Círdan, you are the best person who has ever lived.../
He had been drifting in his new feelings and it took a moment for him to realize that Círdan was gesturing to him, asking that he stand beside Lindir as his blessing-giver. Slowly, Círdan recited the ancient words over Ariel, and Ereinion repeated them for Lindir. Both men, though, only had eyes for each other, as if they recited their own wedding vows.
Then, Círdan drew the silver circlet from his robes and placed it on Lindir, who blushed deeply and looked very well pleased. A nod from the Shipwright and Ereinion drew out his chosen gift. It was a long cloak of deepest sable, a treasure from his father that he had brought with him from far off Hithlum. He draped it carefully around Ariel's shoulders and she began to cry.
She wasn't alone - few eyes were dry - and the people closed around the wedding pair and began to sing:
A Elbereth Gilthoniel!
The dancing and merrymaking continued long after the blushing Lindir was allowed to escort his new bride back the rooms they would now call home. The feast grew raucous as the night wore on and, on one particularly lively song, Círdan delighted Ereinion by pulling him up from the sand and leading him in a dance that took his breath away. The sight of all that silver hair, the way it lashed at the Shipwright's smooth, tanned skin, was enough to make him want to fall to his knees and beg for Círdan's love - propriety and customs be damned.
He did kneel in the end, the feeling of worship threatening to overwhelm him. Before he could speak, though, two Falathrim women had grabbed Círdan's hands and Ereinion was once more on the sidelines, a mere observer of his lover's beauty.
The middle night had passed when the last dancer, the last pipers, strolled off the bed, dreaming of the celebration. Círdan and Ereinion, whose rooms were in the same house, wandered back along the beach. The prince seemed unwilling to go inside, instead pulling Círdan down to sit beside him in the sand.
"Tonight," he said in a serious voice, "was amazing."
Círdan ran a hand through his own hair, silver strands drifting over his shoulders. "So much happened," he said with a smile. "What part was amazing to you?"
"You," Ereinion said simply. "The way you looked, your eyes during the wedding..." He shook his head in wonder. "Please tell me I'm not dreaming. Please tell me you really feel the way you looked tonight."
Stretching out in the sand beside the prince, Círdan looked up through half-lidded eyes and murmured, "How did I look?"
A wave of heat passed through the younger Elf. "Just like that," he said weakly. "Like you really want me - and no one else."
Círdan tilted his head, teasing, the heavy mass of his hair falling over one shoulder. "You know how much I love you, Ereinion."
"I know," the prince said quietly. "You love me... and someone else."
In a heart beat Círdan was there, in front of him. "Let's not think about that tonight. There is a place I found, by the grove... Every time I pass it I wonder what it would be like to lie there... alone with you."
Looking into that beautiful face, heat turned to pure desire and Ereinion stood, pulling Círdan up with him. "Lead the way," he whispered.
The Shipwright smiled and began to run, up from the beach, past the sleeping village and the quiet crops. To Ereinion it seemed they ran through the woods in slow motion, Círdan looking back at him and laughing, jumping over little rocks and fallen trees together. At last, though, they stopped in a small glade, deep in the heart of the woods. It was set about with ferns and the river bubbled somewhere nearby in the darkness. Over head, the clearing made a window for the stars.
The two of them lay there for hours, Ereinion taking Círdan again and again. It seemed to the prince that his hunger for that lean and supple body was insatiable, and yet now the act was so much more. There was a longing and a tenderness in his kisses, his thrusts, that hadn't been there before. Desire flowed between them like a palpable thing - like a river of silk, binding them together.
At some point, when they were breathless and teasing at each other, Ereinion murmured, "Do you never want... well, to do this to me?"
Lying on his back, Ereinion sprawled over him, Círdan smiled softly. "I like things the way they are," he said, kissing his way along Ereinion's throat. "Does it bother you?"
A small laugh escaped the prince and he tightened his grip on Círdan's body. "Not in the least," he said. "I... prefer it this way, actually."
"Well, there's your answer then," Círdan whispered, arching his hips up to meet Ereinion's. "If we both like it, why change?"
Ereinion moaned softly at the sweet friction between them. He could feel his shaft stirring again, eager for more of the beauty beneath him. "Why indeed," he murmured. "I need it again."
Any further conversation was cut short by a long, heated kiss.
Ariel and Lindir had been wed just two months when the news came. A messenger arrived by boat and not just any boat, but one of the crafts that Círdan had hidden in Arvernien. It was rowed by a team of scouts who were helped ashore, where they told their breathless tale. Addressing Círdan, the leader spoke first.
"Terrible news, my Lord! We are scouts of Doriath, in the service of King Dior Eluchil... that is, we *were* in the service of Dior..."
His words faltered and one of the other scouts picked up the story. "The King of Doriath has been cruelly slain by the sons of Feanor. Since assuming the throne he had worn the Silmaril hard won by his mother and father, and refused to surrender it when they demanded its return."
"You say he is slain?" asked Círdan, his voice trembling. "And Feanor's sons? What of them?"
"Three are dead, my Lord," said the third scout. "Celegorm, and Curufin... and Caranthir also, all dead by Dior's hand. "It was Celegorm who slew Dior."
"And Maedhros?" Círdan asked. "What of he, and Maglor?"
"They escaped, and Maedhros has repented some of what went on, but he still desires the Silmaril - still wants it badly for the sons of Feanor."
Ereinion stepped forward. "Then, he doesn't have it? But you said Dior had been slain."
"Ay, he has," the first scout said, "but he gave the jewel to a trusted servant and bid whoever remained in Doriath to flee southward with it. We were the scouts of that party. We are almost a thousand strong, fled out of Menegroth, and we bear the jewel and something even more precious."
"What might that be?" Círdan asked.
"With us is Elwing," he said, "the young daughter of King Dior."
Círdan hesitated for a moment, and then smiled faintly. "Ah, glad I am to hear that news - that the princess is safe at least." He thought for moment and then asked, "Your people - how far are they from the Mouths of Sirion?"
"There are many of them," the second scout answered, "so the traveling is slow. I believe we must be a good four weeks ahead of them, for we have pressed on with rest."
"You've done well," Círdan said gently. "But now you should rest. We will prepare a party to return with you to the mainland. There we can make preparations for their arrival."
All were active and busy following the news, some preparing food for the scouting party, others seeing to the scouts themselves, still more readying ships for the passage across the bay. In all of the hustle, though, Ereinion managed to pull Círdan aside for a private council.
"Your visions seem to have taken shape in a most horrible way," he whispered, one hand fast about Círdan's shoulder.
"Yes," the troubled reply came. "First Orodreth, now Thingol and Dior... and all their people, fleeing for their lives." He looked up, straight into the prince's eyes. "We must be very strong now, Ereinion. Two hidden kingdoms have been revealed and sacked, and doom draws nigh for the third I expect."
Ereinion blanched. "Gondolin - my uncle... I should go to him!"
He began to pull away but Círdan stopped him. "It's not your fate to be his hero, Ereinion!" the Shipwright said sternly. "We must remain here, ready to help the exiles in any way we can."
"But Gondolin!" Ereinion said frantically. "We cannot stand by and let them be taken!"
"Another is coming to aid Gondolin," Círdan said. "Your place is here, with me."
For several moments, Ereinion stared into his lover's gray eyes, pleading, tugging away, but Círdan's expression and grasp were both firm and the prince finally stopped struggling. "If that is what your vision tells you," he said, sounding unconvinced.
Círdan lifted a hand to his cheek. "Come, no time for regret. We have much to do."
Six weeks later, Círdan, Ereinion, and three others were on watch duty when they saw the first sign of Doriath's exiles, coming into the marshland of Sirion's Mouths. At the forefront were the scouts who had first come to them. They had stayed only briefly on Balar before riding back northwards to tell the group of Círdan's preparations. Soon to follow were a group of guards and then a circle of caretakers surrounding a very young girl on horseback. Even at the age of six she was a beauty, with long golden hair and wide eyes. She carried herself as if she was older, and there was an air of sorrow about her that was difficult to look upon unmoved.
One of her nurses dismounted and approached Círdan. "I am Finglas, a court maiden of Queen Melian, and this is King Dior's daughter, Elwing."
Círdan's gaze was soft and comforting. He nodded his head towards the young girl and tried to smile. "Welcome, Elwing. We have been waiting to me you and your people. There are many here who wish to help you, and care for you. I hope you will come to feel at home here... in time."
He bowed to her and she, solemn faced, bowed back from her small horse. It was obvious she was trying not to cry.
"Your pony looks tired from her long journey," Círdan said. "Why not ride the rest of the way with me, and let the groomsman take her to be cared for? Will you?"
The child bit her lip and looked to her nurse for guidance. Finglas nodded softly and helped her down from the pony. Ereinion then stepped forward and lifted her up until she was snugly in front of Círdan, his long arms around her.
She turned and looked up at him then, and murmured, "My mother and father are dead."
"Yes, I have heard that" Círdan said softly. "You must feel sad about that. I know that I feel that way. But we are all here to be with you; we all love you. You remember that, all right?"
She nodded and a tear ran down her cheek, so she rested her head against Círdan's chest and they rode off towards the beach.
~ end ~
*O Elbereth Star-kindler
to be continued in The Star Child
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