Continued from : Wanderings: Return to Cuivienan
In the comfort of Numenstaya, I can afford to think back again on the journey that brought me, brought us here. It was less than six months of travelling, of wandering in search of friends. Only a year since we actually met again at Echad Eregion, yet so much has changed. For the better, I might add. After looking at a few other locations in Eregion that held meaning for me, Estarfin and I rode back to Imladris. He had spent several years there, and was in no hurry to return, so our plan was to cross the Hithaeglir, and take up our search in Rhovanion. Mirkwood would be our goal. But for now, wrapped up in the warmth of my room, with Filignil bringing me a warm drink, and knowing our Wood Elf friend was but dwelling next door, I remembered…
We rode through the pass into Imladris, both acknowledging the guards, who waved us on in turn. It had only been just over six years since I had left…less given I had been there most briefly for Daegond’s funeral. It seemed the same timeless place in many ways, but in some it did not. As we descended into the valley there were fewer faces I recognised, fewer people in general.
I would have asked Estarfin about it then and there, but we were both tired and dusty from riding from Eregion. I thought baths, food and rest would be the first order. Conversation could come later. He had already said he would ride with me for now, over the Hithaeglir to search for Parnard and Belegos and, although he didn’t believe me, to find out more, if possible, about Cuivienen.
So we left Pelorian and Gilastor in the good care of the stable hands, and he walked to his dwelling, or possibly to report to Lord Veryacano, while I went to the small hall I still held in the Valley.
We had only travelled together for just over a month, but it already felt strange walking on without him.
Now I had dwelt in Imladris many a long year, over many a yeni. It was not ‘home’, but it had been a goodly and nurturing place for me. The libraries alone could occupy me for months on end. The presence of numerous scholars and scribes always meant there was something to discuss, and someone to discuss it with. That I missed. Or did I? The more I had spoken with Estarfin the more wise and knowledgeable I found him to be, that he was surprising me. No Lore Master he, but very far from uneducated. He had corrected me on several occasions. And it made me think that there was a lot about him still to learn. I smiled to myself at the thought.
Tham Forodren, at the northern edge of the vale, was neglected. The outside, the lawns and trees, had been tended by the gardeners of Imladris, but no one had stepped inside for a few years. With Aearlinn, Ceuro and Serewen moving with me to Forlond, none had been here. Belegos had dwelt close by for a short time. Passing that house, now sold to another, I felt a short stab of memory. I had not wanted to prevent him being here. But I could not answer him as he wanted. He knew why. He understood.
“You will ever play on the strings of his heart,” Belegos had said to me. “And therein lies my struggle.”
He was speaking of his good friend, Estarfin, of course. And as for ‘strings of his heart’, I believe noble Belegos realised that feeling was mutual.
I missed Belegos. I had thought him one of my closest friends. But Estarfin and I would search for him as well as Parnard. It may be his mission with the Dwarves would help him move on? It may be seeing Estarfin and I together more, would?
The main hall was unchanged, save for the layers of dust. It did look strange with the bookshelves empty. The others had achieved the move without my aid. I was only planning on staying the night, as Estarfin and I had agreed to meet at the stables the following morning. I made the best I could of my old room. The contents there were also sparse, having been sent to Tum Escale, and more recently to Numenstaya in Falathlorn. The latter I hoped would be my home for some time. But having lived as I did, travelling for many months, an actual bed was a luxury.
I wanted to collapse on the bed, but cleaning and refilling the bath was my priority, and washing away the dust and grime. What a joy it was to cast aside the travel clothing, and immerse myself in warm, fragrant waters. To relax and not be ever alert.
It was fortunate I had a few pieces of clothing still at the house. I changed into the only dress available, a plain white one, for I had thoughts of a meeting that night, if it were possible. If he had time? The rest of the gear was more rugged clothing, mostly leathers. I was grateful for that.
I sat by a window as I let my hair dry, and looked over the valley. The trees were nigh bereft of their leaves unless evergreen, though a few clung on to their autumnal glory. It was winter. It was nigh mid–winter, and the dark would be early. I opened a bottle of red wine, left in the pantry, poured myself a glass, and took stock of where I was.
I had not set out on my last journey expecting to come here. A tour of old memories in Eregion it was supposed to be. I had not planned on meeting Estarfin, at least not to begin with. Surely he would have got in touch, come to find me if he understood my letter to him? But then the memories, the old dreams, the old longings had resurfaced. Even if he and Ruineth were together, as she had implied they would be, I needed to see him again.
And then he found me! And we spoke long and as openly as we could. Both of us shielding ourselves somewhat, but he was there. He wanted to be there. And the last month had opened a door I thought shut to me, that again we drew close, and spoke of things past and maybe future? It was more than I could have hoped for. He would ‘ride with me for now’, he had said. No promise more than that, but after recent years it was as a glorious sunrise. Even though he did not quite understand my search for Cuivienan yet, he would accompany me.
Cuivienan. There was no returning to it. I knew that as well as he. But I was not thinking of a literal place. And now I was in Imladris, I would seek a short audience with Lord Elrond, if he would indulge me.
So it was that, a little after the time of the evening meal, I walked to the Last Homely House and spoke with one of the scribes.
‘Yes, Lord Elrond was there. Yes, he would speak with me, but could only spare a short time. As was oft the case, he was quite busy.’
I could not say I knew Lord Elrond well, though our paths had crossed since the fall of Eregion. I had been one of those who joined in the building of the refuge of Imladris, quite literally. My hands were unused to the trade of a mason, yet gave what they could. A labouring assistant, little more. Then, building was of greater need than any gem-smithing. I had dwelt in the haven on and off many times. I had been there at the time of the siege, and when the armies gathered for the battle at Dagorlad. After that, I had spent time at my studies, and learned more from scholars who gravitated to that place, and many a winter I spent in its warm hospitality.
I ‘knew’ Lord Elrond, but only as well as many others. He owed me naught, yet was welcoming to me as he could be.
And as the time passed into late watches, I made my way to his library.
“Lady Danel,” he said, putting aside a book he had been looking at. “How may I be of aid?”
Straight to the point, as he had learned over the yeni.
And I told him of my thoughts.
“Are we certain of the adage, ‘There is no return to Cuivienan’, I said.
He looked me straight in the eye. “What is on your mind, Carnifinde ? Surely we have enough pressing matters at hand than to spend time on what was lost to us in the First Age?”
He had not spoken in an unkindly way, only that, as with Estarfin, he questioned my premise. Through his words though, I came to realise the rumours of war were likely more than just rumours.
“Forgive me Lord. I do understand. It is merely that I wondered if you knew aught I did not? Is it possible any of the physical Cuivienen can still be reached?”
He stood back a pace and ran a hand over his face.
“As you ask in genuine inquiry, I will answer. There is nothing any have reported that give any hope that place can still be reached. The last we know is the lands were sunken, as were other lands dear to us. Am I certain nothing can be reached? No, I cannot be. But that place is a very long way East, and over lands inhospitable at the least. You would not survive such a journey alone.”
“Estarfin of Thargelion rides with me,”
Elrond looked up. He sighed. “I know little of him, save some darker tales. He is a warrior, to be certain. Even so, you would risk him, and your life on such a quest?”
And that made me think further. Hardly ever did I think something was a ‘risk’ to Estarfin. He was so capable. But an image of him lying broken in the Hithaeglir flashed through my mind, and I knew he was not invincible. I knew that I would never knowingly risk his life.
I lowered my head. “I would not risk Lord Estarfin. As the dangers seem great, the reward is not worth it to me. I was curious. I have spoken in the past with Lord Cirdan on the matter, and he tells me wonderful stories from the first days. But neither can he say if there is anything left.”
Elrond nodded, and raised a brow. “And…?” he asked.
I smiled slightly. “And my real interest is knowing if and how we can recreate such innocent times for ourselves now?”
“Ah,” said Elrond. “A question that can be answered.”
“I know many of our folk still labour under pain from the past. As a people I think events have stolen much of our innocence, that we were forced to give battle or perish. Yet we are more than soldiers. We are sub–creators of beauty and art, we are seekers of knowledge and wisdom, we should be a people of peace.”
He smiled at me. “If only there was no evil in Arda? Indeed, many have wished that. But alas, the truth is it exists, and someone must stand against it.”
“Often, yes. It is incumbent on the stronger to defend the weaker, is it not?”
I nodded. “But is it not also possible for us to have a time of rest, without the nightmares and the struggle within? Is it not possible, even for a short time, we could awake anew on those shores in spirit?”
“You ask for yourself?”
I shrugged, knowing I didn’t. “I ask for many, Lord.”
He nodded slowly.
“As you will. I would say many of our older folk have and do battle with their past. Many sail. Those who remain tend to carry the heaviest burdens, and most of those few were kinslayers. If that is what you are asking, I cannot easily give answer. I know not how that must feel. Save I was raised by two of them, and they killers, yet also kindly and attentive. A paradox I found them. Slayers of my people, and saviours of my brother and I.”
It was my turn to look him in the eye. Oh, he understood well.
“They … we cannot change the past. My thought is that they need to do what is nigh impossible to them. They need to surrender all darkness within them. Then I think…I like to believe there can be mercy. Cuiveinan…..perhaps a rebirth of sorts.”
I nodded to him. I had my answer. It would be hard, maybe impossible, but I would do my utmost to see it happen.