“So he is a kinslayer. Does he even know you seek me out?”
Cirdan spoke slowly, quietly. But behind those aged features was a razor sharp mind. Despite the hospitality, the kindly manner, the touch of humour, he was one of the wisest, most insightful of our people.
I leant forward on my chair. Cirdan had already said he would give audience to Estarfin, but I wondered what else he wished to understand.
“He knows, my Lord.”
“This was his idea?”
“He asked me if I knew you. I took his words as no idle speculation, but as having a point.”
Cirdan nodded. He took up his glass of white wine and savored a few sips. “He expects the answer to be ‘no’?”
There was no room for half-truths here. Not that I would have lied to Cirdan.
“Yes my Lord. He thinks you will not have time nor inclination to speak with him.” I lowered my eyes a little, and found that the large cat, Haldil was now sitting by my feet. He purred.
“Is he a Kinslayer?” Cirdan’s question caught me off guard.
“Twice over.” I said softly.
“He was at the Havens then.”
There was a pause, while Cirdan seemed to look off into space, considering his own memories of that time I suspected. I knew this was likely difficult for him. More quietly this time, he asked again. “Is he yet a Kinslayer, Danel?”
I finally understood. Haldil sprung up on my lap, and butted my hand with his head.
“He was, Lord. I must say he still has it in him to do terrible deeds at need. But he is far more than that.”
“You did not mention him when you trained here?”
“No Lord. I thought him dead. Slain in an ambush shortly after the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. We only found each other again a little over ten years ago.”
For a few moments more there was a faraway look in Cirdan’s eyes. Then he nodded and slowly raised a hand. Doubtlessly he did not require I sing my praises of Estarfin before him, I thought wryly.
“And he wishes to speak with me, but you know not what about?”
I nodded. “He has not told me, nor will I press him on it. He is quick of thought and ideas, and I know he intends no ill.” I had no idea what was driving Estarfin at the moment, but I trusted him.
Cirdan smiled a little. “An Elf of dark moods then, though I see in your eyes that his darkness is not without light.”
Although he did not change his offer, there was something about Cirdan that seemed less open. “Tell him he is…welcome if he still wishes. Or otherwise, I will grant him access to the great Library, that he may search for his own answers? It strikes me he may find it difficult speaking with me, such is possible. In that case I can assign Eithoron to direct him. He is young, little over a thousand summers, yet he has proven a very astute librarian. He is also one who keeps things to himself. Nothing will be passed around Mithlond from what Estarfin does. Not even to me.”
I nodded, well satisfied with the choices offered. I would speak with Estarfin as soon as I may. After that it was up to him.
But Cirdan did not dismiss me. Rather, he called for more wine and a dish of small delicacies left over from his entertaining of the group from Forlond.
“He may of course choose to decline all aid from the Haven, not having asked directly. If his curiosity concerns your people, I am not the expert. I would think it better he speak with Lord Elrond, if he has not done so already?”
I nodded my thanks again anyway. It was a difficult situation. “I believe he has already spoken with Lord Elrond.”
“Be at ease, daughter of the Noldor. There is far more we need speak of, is there not?” Cirdan continued. “There is this matter of the Sea Longing.”
So I sat with Lord Cirdan, in his circular office as, through the large window beside us, the bright shining stars turned into a pale dawn. Haldil jumped to the floor and spent much of the time lying against my feet in a warming manner. I needed that, both the stars of Tintalle and the warmth of another living being, as I struggled to explain.
“Tell me from the first you felt it, Danel. The Sea Longing affects us differently, but usually it is a joyful thing, drawing us to where we will finally be at home. The sorrow comes from knowing, for one reason or another, one must remain. But I am not sure about the force with which your experiences seem to be driving you that you are all but in a trance while others speak.”
“I have always told others I felt it not,” I began. “That is not quite true. I was captivated by the beauty of the Great Sea from the first I beheld it. And by the ‘something more’, the light beyond it. I knew, of course, of Aman, but had always thought of here as home. That did not change. There was great appreciation, but no calling to depart.”
Cirdan nodded and offered to refill my glass with the wine.
“Over the yeni I have, at times, felt a call of…beauty…..upon me. Peace, and an end to travail. A gold and silver path of light that transcends all we normally know here. I have walked in both worlds at once, be it briefly.”
Again Cirdan nodded. “You must know that is not uncommon.”
Indeed I did.
“And I thought to see family and friends once more.”
I paused, considering that point. I loved my family, and those others who had fallen. But was their call stronger than my will to remain?
“Though I was born on these shores, and have not the same tie as those born in Valinor, yet do I recognise it as our people’s true home. “
Haldil jumped on my lap at that point, turning round in a circle on my lap until he was comfortable. I stroked him absentmindedly.
“Nothing you have spoken so far is in any way unusual, Danel. Yet what I have observed in you is far from common. Speak on.” Cirdan nodded to the cat.
“I have never yet truly felt it was my time to sail. Always was there something more to remain for, though I knew not always what. I have done no great deeds, nor crafted anything of great note, though I have stood in battle against the despoiler of Eregion, and the enemy of Fornost. I did what I could in the War of Wrath. Yet I deem my part added very little.”
Waving a hand, Cirdan rose from his comfortable chair and paced back and forth. “I think your recent experiences have little to do with your achievements, or lack thereof. You say the light calls you, but the darkness also drives you to depart?”
“Strange. You will know that every day I must contest my Sea Longing? Every day my greatest wish is to sail with my dear ones to the farther shores, and meet again with my Lord and dear friends, Olwe and Elwe.”
He looked down at a framed portrait on his nearby desk. Another noble, silver-haired Lord it was, that I assumed was Olwe of Alqualonde. At least Estarfin had not been at that kinslaying.
“Because of my loyalty to and love for Elwe, Olwe’s elder brother, I lingered longer than most to search for him. When I finally arrived at the shores, it was to find Olwe and Finwe and Ingwe departed, with their folk. Only those Teleri unwilling to sail were left. And it nigh broke my heart to see a glimmer of light upon Eressea, as it vanished into the West. I cried aloud that I would follow that light, even if none came with me. But shortly thereafter the Valar sent message to my heart to remain. There were things here I needed to do. I do them still.”
He lowered his head a moment, and Haldil jumped off my lap and onto his. I knew the tale, but I don’t think I realised what it had cost the Master of the Havens to remain. His dreams lay with his friends now in Valinor, but not until the Last Ship, would he depart.
“I am sorry.”
He looked up again, he was now stroking the cat. “There is nothing to be sorry about. I obeyed the will of the Valar for my life, and it has brought mostly joy. But I was never as darkened in mind as you have been. I will say without doubt what afflicts you is the Sea Longing. All I can think is the strength of the summons may affect some of the Noldor more than the Sindar? Or you are fighting the will of the Valar? Know they will never force you to do anything, but they know what may result from certain actions. It is wise to heed their suggestions.”
“So you say it is bad because I resist?”
“Not necessarily. The Longing can be there and it not be our time to sail. As it was and is for me. Have you anything that holds you here?” He chuckled more at himself for not seeing what it was. “Of course. It is unlikely he can sail, even if he wishes.”
“I gave my word to him, that I will sail when all is lost. My will is to remain with him until the end. His is to see me safe when there is no safe haven in these lands,” I volunteered.
“A promise…an oath even. Ah yes. Though I do not think the ‘end’ is that close. There is still hope. The days are increasingly fraught with talk of war, that many take ship. There will be conflict. That is unavoidable. But do not think all is lost. I shall be here for some time yet, and after me there will be a few other ‘shipbuilders’.”
“You see victory in the coming conflict?,” I asked incredulously.
“Let us say I do not see defeat. And back to a purpose, Danel. I cannot tell you what, if anything you need do here, but I suspect there is something. It may not be aiding Earendil build Vingolote, but small things can also change much in this world.”
I would say hope and understanding were creeping back into me by that point. .
“Do you think your visions showed you the truth of Valinor?” he asked.
I thought back over the gold-cast images. “Not all,” I replied.
“How so?” questioned Cirdan.
“Because I saw my mother and father ride out from Tirion to greet me.”
He nodded I should explain further.
“My father should not have been there. He was also a kinslayer.”
Cirdan smiled and nodded. “Visions can be misleading. Many ‘see’ what they want to see. But neither can we say all is our imagination from what we have heard.”
“You think he was there?”
“I cannot say he was. Again, I cannot say he wasn’t. There is much about Valinor we cannot know until we are there.”
“Lord Glorfindel returned.”
“And spoke very little of it, as was right for him to do.”
“This will return at times, will it not? Estarfin also suffers with it. I have watched him struggle.” My hopes were raised, but I knew I may have to endure the dark thoughts from a light place again.
“It will indeed, though it may not be that often. And there are thoughts to defend yourself with I hope?”
“What do you mean? I tried sitting with it and letting it sweep over me. I spoke forth ‘hopelessness, Anger, fear and hatred’, to name and control.”
Cirdan laughed loudly at that. “Tis no wonder you were in darkness. Call yourself a Loremistress, Danel? You named the dark but not the light. What of love and joy and hope?”
“I had caused great pain to dear friends. They did not seem appropriate.”
“Never would they be more appropriate. And humour, do not forget that.
“A joke, Lord?”
“Something that makes you smile.”
My mind had gone to that recent day when we had all visited the beach and Estarfin was struggling to remove his chain mail shirt over his head. The shirt had become entangled with his heavy cloak. Already he had thrown his other armour into a heap on the sands, much as he did at home, only there it was in the pond, Filignil’s kitchen, and the scrying bowl.
“Pull the cloak?” he had said in a muffled voice, just as Parnard passed by, his hands full of victuals for the picnic. Parnard laughed at the sight. I struggled not to, it was so rare to see Estarfin so vulnerable, and all because he was trying his best to enjoy a day on the beach with Parnard and I. Yes, I did help him, and he did manage to get the chain mail over his head. His hair was wilder than ever. And I loved him the more for putting himself outside his usual realm of comfort. We all had such a good day.
I looked over at Cirdan, who was regarding me with a smile.
“Whatever it is, that’s the sort of thought I mean. And your friend Parnard, I can see as ever looking for humour where it can be found. Not thinking of something clever, but something that makes you feel warm, that makes you smile. Cultivate such memories to call to your aid. Have friends about you who understand, and animals also I have found to help at such times.” He scratched Haldil behind the ear.
I turned to the door, lighter of step. My thoughts then to appologise to Parnard as soon as I may, and explain to him what I had learned. And to explain the best I could to Estarfin what had happened, that he was in no way angry. That latter I suspected would be the more challenging, yet I wanted his help, his advice on the matter too.