The caves beside the Sea were as tall within as a forest of old oaks, and inside the elves erected buildings rather than carving out the caves themselves, which they must not have the skill to do, thought Parnard. As if to try to drive away the damp shadows, the Falathrim hung glittering garlands of luminous globes that cast a misty cold light underneath the stalactites. The wood elf listened to Danel and Estarfin speak of many things: their errands in the city, the meeting with Lord Cirdan, and certain ancient texts housed within the Great Library in Mithlond.
“Perhaps I could help you with your research there,” interjected Parnard. “I was very useful in the library at Imladris, you know. What are you researching, Estarfin friend?”
"I sought answers from Cirdan, but I do not think he would have them after all,” he said with a shrug, glancing over at Parnard, “but thank you for speaking with him on my behalf.”
“Is that what you wished to speak to us about?” Parnard asked Danel, knowing that it was not, but he was becoming impatient, and wanted Estarfin to hear of the lady’s trouble. First Danel must have him find a suitable place to sit and talk, so he led them through the streets to a small square in the center of the cavern, where several elves were conversing beside a fountain, and spotting an unoccupied table in a secluded corner, he begged them to be seated. Instead of sitting, Danel hailed one of the wandering servants of the inn, distinguishable by the long white aprons they wore, and waited as several bottles of wine and choice and delicate foods were brought. Then she invited everyone to partake of the repast, and it was only until wine was poured out, and plates of food distributed, and all was arranged the way she liked, when Danel addressed the two elves:
“Parnard here knows some of my...difficulties. My apologies again, cousin, for what I put you through. But I need to speak with you, Estarfin.”
“Then speak,” said Estarfin.
“Since I arrived here I have been troubled by what I thought was the Sea Longing,” she began. “It has been….most distressing. What concerns me most is that neither of you misunderstand me. If I talk about sailing ever again, please - ignore me.”
Parnard raised his eyebrows at this. “What if you do more than talk, hmm?”
“Keep me from the Sea,” she replied.
He turned to Estarfin, incredulous. “Keep her from the Sea,” he repeated.
“It is not our place to hinder those who wish to sail, Danel - ” began Estarfin.
“But I do not wish to sail,” she insisted.
"But if you ever say you do, then we are not to heed your words?” asked Parnard.
“Shut me in a room filled with gems and metal for a few days. I shall be busy with my craft, and will surely recover,” she replied.
When Parnard heard this, he was taken aback for a moment, and then he began thinking of what he could do to help. “Lock her up?” suggested Parnard to Estarfin.
“Not exactly,” said Danel.
"When will this happen, lady? What if we are not nearby and you stumble away to the Sea and fall aboard ship!” cried Parnard.
“I would not make a prisoner of you, no matter your words,” Estarfin told her.
“Parnard, Estarfin. I am merely asking you for aid, if anything should happen. I know neither of you would prevent me from doing anything, but I ask you to help me, to stop me if I am out of my mind again.”
Parnard pushed hair out of his face, growing exasperated. He must mollify her request and ease her troubled wits, yet what was she asking him to do? He considered his chances of bodily preventing her from taking ship, should the Sea-Longing urge take her. Should he tie her to a chair? “I can do this if this is your wish, cousin,” he answered. Estarfin shot him an alarmed look, no doubt as troubled as he was by the bizarre turn of conversation.
"It will be with you always now, whether you remain by the Sea or not. Although it is stronger, at least for me, when you are near it,” Estarfin said to her.
"This is what I needed to hear, what Cirdan could not tell me,” said Danel, firming her jaw as Estarfin contemplated her with a look of pity.
"How could the Harbour Master not tell you that! You could have asked our wise friend Estarfin for his counsel: it seems that we did not need to journey to this strange city at all. We should ne'er have come here,” Parnard broke out, narrowing his eyes.
“The Sea can be perilous,” said Estarfin, once again.
“Oh! Why did we not heed friend Estarfin’s wisdom!” lamented Parnard.
“I think the Sea-longing would have come anyway, whether here or elsewhere,” Danel said, calmly. “I must learn to strive against it, master it. It is like a battle of wills. Has it been ever thus for you, Estarfin? A dark dream?”
“That way is closed to me; whether dark or light, it is of no substance. It is but a dream,” answered Estarfin.
“What do you see in your dream?” asked Parnard, eager in his curiosity: dreams were not to be so easily disregarded.
“What I have been told by my parents, and later, Forodhir. A white city, a great citadel, snow-capped mountains as tall as the sky itself -”
“As tall as the sky!”
“So I was told.”
“Do you dream of what you have been told of the West, or what is truly there?”
“Perhaps both. I see all those I have ever known that have fallen, coming to greet me in joy and fellowship. At other times there are only the faces of strangers in a strange land, cold and distant. Perhaps they are only dreams.”
“I felt like a shadow. Could it be the Curse, I wonder?” said Danel.
“A curse? What is she talking about now!” said Parnard.
“It is a prophecy, not a curse,” Estarfin corrected, “that foretells all we attempt turns to ill.”
“Oh. But that is not true - or is it?”
“When our King led our people across the Sea back to Beleriand, Parnard…” Estarfin began, then fell silent.
“Yes? And then what happened?”
Estarfin smiled. “Our King was not cowed by Doom, or by threats.”
“He achieved much, then. Or did he fail, as was prophesied, in all he did?”
“‘We shall not suffer from cowardice, from cravens or the fear of cravens. Therefore I say that we will go on, and this doom I add: the deeds that we shall do shall be the matter of song until the last days of Arda.’” Estarfin spoke in Quenya, and nodded to himself, pleased that he still recalled his lessons of the long sighted, and long dead, Fëanor.
“He must have been a great and noble king,” breathed Parnard, for the ancient words sent a chill down his spine, though he understood them not at all.
“He saw what many did not,” Danel told him.
“He was the greatest of us all,” said Estarfin.
“Ai! Too soon are the brightest taken from us…” Parnard said, then seeing Estarfin’s wine glass raised high in toast, Parnard raised his in turn. Danel held her glass aloft and said that it would have been better if the king had prevailed.
“To King, ah…” declared Parnard.
“King Fëanor,” they told him.
“King Fëanor!” Parnard said loudly, the words echoing through the cave, and drank his wine down in a gulp.
Estarfin watched with a little satisfaction as some of the nearby Falathrim glanced at them in amazement, shocked by the unexpected dedication to the war-mongering, wrathful, vengeful, bloody-handed Noldorin King, and quickly walked away, eyes averted, and giving them a wide berth.
“Not bad wine, not bad at all,” said Parnard, examining the ruby color of the wine as he poured out a fresh glass. Then he spoke of tall pine trees, and how he missed them because there were none beside the Sea, only tiny wizened ones because of the wind; he told them of how he delighted in the resinous fragrance of the boughs when it rained, and how soft the pine needles lay on the forest floor, and were good to walk upon, as no furze or briar thorn could grow underneath; and then he mentioned how the nights were growing cooler and the summertime had already passed before he realized, and that they should leave Mithlond at once and return home. To his immense relief, both Estarfin and Danel needed no further inducement and agreed to leave at first light on the morrow, and Parnard departed from them, making an excuse that his head was heavy and in need of rest, but he knew they had much to say to one another: doubtless the lord knew his lady’s mind as well as her heart far better than he ever could.