~ * ~ * ~ * ~
~ Third Age ~
A lone gull drew its circles, bathing in the autumn sun beneath a peerless sky of chill blue, dappled with patches of white clouds. Anor’s golden rays broke on the waving sea; painting the deep blue surface with hues of silver gilt. Despite the sun, the air held the coolness of late autumn; fresh and slightly salty…smelling of rain to come. Smoothly, a small white ship skimmed over the sea, its sails stirring in the breeze, the gentle lapping of the waves against the delicate vessel the only sound to be heard.
On board stood a lone elf, tall and graceful, clad in blue and grey; long strands of pale silver hair twirling in the air, as he stared into the distance…absently gazing to the north. His fine sculptured face was flawless; youthful in appearance, yet his silky white beard and the sea green pools of his eyes spoke of the long ages he had lived. There was wisdom in his eyes and strength; yet hidden in the fathomless depths was also loneliness, a deep longing and an ever growing weariness.
The sudden cry of the gull pulled Círdan from his musings; tilting up his head, his eyes followed the flight of the bird for awhile, before steering his ship along the coast toward the furthermost reaches of Lindon. The coast grew rougher here. Plain, sandy shores gave way gradually to a rugged, rocky shoreline and steep cliffs crowned with dense pine woods whose scent mingled with the salty sea air. Small, clear mountain streams cascaded down the rocky walls in waterfalls before pouring into the sea.
Travelling so close to the shore was risky, even for a skilled and ancient mariner such as Círdan. Beneath the surface of the sea, strong under currents and sharp rocks presented a constant danger; yet he would not abandon his course, steadily following a calling he felt deep within his soul. The call drew ever him further north like a spell…and he followed; a strange thrill of anticipation driving away his inner weariness.
The breeze strengthened, causing the small ship to pitch and roll heavily in the rough, rapidly growing swell of the sea. Gripping the rudder firmly, Círdan lifted his gaze to the sky, muttering under his breath: the clear blue had darkened; large grey clouds heralding the rainstorm that was soon to befall him. Quickly, he scanned the coastline for a sheltered cove where he could go ashore, seeking refuge from the storm. He knew those waters only vaguely, rarely travelling thus far north; yet fortune favoured him and he quickly found what appeared to be a small inlet enclosed by steep cliffs.
Carefully, Círdan steered his ship along the passage leading through the sheer rock walls. The current was strong; tossing the light vessel to and fro, yet he never lost control, skilfully dodging sharp reefs. The passage opened up into an oval cove, and a narrow, sandy shore running along one side. There was a cave with an opening both tall and wide enough to hold the ship securely; deciding it would provide excellent shelter from the storm, he slowly manoeuvred the vessel there before he jumped ashore, pulled it partly onto the sand and tied it securely to the rocks with strong ropes.
He had reached safety just in time. Moments later, the low rumble of the approaching storm swelled to a deafening roar and the thick clouds darkened to deep grey before torrents of rain started pouring down. Eying the sky with a grim expression, Círdan went aboard again to gather his belongings; then settled on the dry sand within the cave, leaning his back against a smooth boulder. Before the clouds had darkened the sky, Anor had been almost at her peak. For now, he was trapped and decided to use his enforced rest to have a small meal.
Círdan unpacked bread, cheese, fruits and a wineskin and started to eat, meanwhile pondering how best he could proceed upon his journey. It was perhaps safer to continue travelling afoot; the sea in this region was unpredictable in autumn and he was not sure if he would be able to find another good shelter for his vessel further up the coast. Círdan knew his destination must be close, the inner call drawing him onward had intensified during the last miles out on the sea; stirring a longing within him he had not felt for long years. He would look for a path leading up the rocks as soon as the rain lessened; but for now he had to be patient. Drawing his cloak closer around his shoulders, he decided to have a nap.
Círdan had fallen into a light slumber, yet his inner restlessness did not allow him any respite. For more than three weeks sleep had eluded him; vivid, haunting dreams awakening him in the depth of the night, sweat drenched…and painfully aroused. He had felt something stir deep within his soul…a call, a longing, a promise…and he would follow it to the end of the world if it led him there. He had left Mithlond two days ago, journeying quickly without pause. No-one had questioned his sudden departure; it was not unusual for him to seek solitude out on the sea for days…or even weeks.
Coming back from his musings, Círdan noted the storm had passed; it was still raining softly, yet his urge to move on was almost unbearable. Walking along the narrow shore, he scanned the rocky walls for a secure way to climb. There appeared to be a narrow outcropping leading to the heights above. Climbing the ledge, Círdan explored the slope and found it easy to ascend. At the top, a narrow path led along the cliffs, flanked by pine forests. Quickly, he returned to the ship, gathered his pack and weapons. He checked the ropes securing his vessel one last time, and set off in a good mood.
Closing his eyes for a moment when he reached the path, Círdan concentrated on the invisible force that had led him here, feeling it flood his mind like a gentle caress. Breaking into a run, he headed north, keeping close to the trees as they provided excellent shelter from the remaining rain and wind. Breathing deeply of the fresh air, he let his gaze wander over the beautiful, wild scenery; revelling in the peace it exuded. There were no settlements on the narrow, rocky strip of land along the cliffs; beyond the forest to his left, the land descended into lower Forlindon, stretching along the Ered Luin down to where Forlond was once located.
Under Gil-galad’s rule the area around Forlindon had flourished, yet in the two millennia after his death all elves had withdrawn, settling in Mithlond and Imladris, or choosing to depart into the West. A deep melancholy washed over Círdan…he had seen many realms rise to glory only to die with their kings and lords; had seen cities flourish only to be wrecked and destroyed by war…too much loss and grief forever imprinted in his mind. An immortal soul was not granted blissful oblivion. He had existed long before Ithil and Anor had first risen in the sky; he was ancient and all the ages he had lives weighed heavily.
There were few elves in Middle-earth who could understand the magnitude of such a span of time; yet Círdan surpassed even those by many years. Coming to a halt, he let his gaze wander across the sea; taking in the gentle and steady billowing of the waves after the storm. He loved the sea, could become lost in watching the boundless blue spreading before his eyes…yet the sight felt bittersweet. Like others, the unique beauty filled his heart both with joy and longing, yet he saw more…saw memories of the lands that had drowned there millennia ago.
The passing of time and the changing of the world was a constant pain in his soul, growing with the years; he longed to leave these shores, but he was not granted to do so yet. Long ago he had been given a duty, he was to take care of the elves who wished to leave Middle-earth, assuring their safe passage over the sea…he would wait patiently until his task was fulfilled and he was free to go himself. Each ship he saw take its leave sent a dull ache through his soul, the numbness he felt only soothed by the hope he saw in the faces of those who sailed.
Picking up his water skin, Círdan took a deep draught before he lifted his gaze toward Anor, noting it to be early afternoon. Shaking off his melancholy thoughts, he strapped the water skin back to his pack and quickly took off again; letting the strange excitement he felt take control, following the invisible path his senses led him upon. With every step Círdan took his sadness fell away, making him feel light-hearted and even enthusiastic.
It was about an hour before sunset when Círdan’s senses suddenly became highly alert. The call he felt was now very close; vibrating through his mind as an intense, constant humming; sending small, pleasant shivers down his spine. Scanning his surroundings, his sensitive ears caught the faint sound of song floating on the breeze. Concentrating on the sound, Círdan followed it until he found a small, hidden cove nestled between the rocks below the cliff; the faint scent of burning wood pervading the air. Stepping closer to the edge, he let his gaze wander; trying to see the entire place, but the rugged, rocky landscape partially obscured his view.
Círdan could not see anyone, but he was sure the sound rose from there. A wave of anticipation washed over him, awaking a longing that almost made him lose his caution. Feverishly, he searched for a way downward; pacing along the cliff until he found a place where the steep rocks flattened to a sparsely vegetated slope he could climb down. Carefully descending the rain-soaked hillside, Círdan finally reached the bottom and let his curious gaze wander.
The cove was larger than it had appeared from above; opposite of him a long, wooded slope stretched along the shoreline and a large rock overhang had hidden the entrance to a small cave directly beneath. Motionless, he listened; trying to detect from whence the song came…seemingly, the forest along the slope; yet Círdan was not sure as the breeze was too strong, only carrying fragments of the song to him. He longed to seek the source, driven by a deep yearning, but forced himself to remain calm, breathing deeply.
Curiously, he made his way to the entrance of the cave and peered inside; the spicy scent of burned pinewood greeted him, luring him closer. Stepping inside the cave, Círdan found it was not as tiny as it appeared from outside; almost circular, with a diameter of about five paces, offering just enough space to shelter its occupant and his sparse belongings. The entrance was narrow, providing excellent shelter against the constant cool breeze and occasional rainstorms…it was also a well-chosen refuge, considering the upcoming winter.
A simple, wooden frame had been crafted in the entrance of the cave; a large sheet of leather attached to it, serving as a makeshift door against days of rough weather. At the moment the leather was tucked aside, tied to one of the wooden posts. A soft breeze gently caressed Círdan’s cheek and following the course of the airflow, he saw a small crack at the ceiling of the cave, enabling good ventilation; keeping it dry and free of smoke from the fire. Giving it another thought, he came to the conclusion that this must be the source of the smoke he had smelled, when standing on the cliff above the cave.
The fireplace had been built in the centre of the cave; rimmed with round, smooth stones to keep the embers and ashes in place. A construction of four long, slender poles, crafted from smoothed branches, served to hang a small kettle over the fire from a thin metal chain; though the empty kettle stood beside the fire place at the moment. On a small ledge to his left, Círdan could see a few small wooden bowls, plates, spoons, mugs and an iron teapot had been neatly placed on the rock beside small leather pouches, water skins and two knives.
Against the wall below the ledge leaned a simple broom, made from a straight branch and dried twigs. Casting another glance about, Círdan found that even though the cave was simple and rough, its occupant had neatly arranged his sparse belongings, seemingly taking utmost care to keep the place clean and free from dust or sand. On a ledge at the wall opposite the entrance, there lay a branch weighed down with stones; stripes of dried meat and fish dangling from it on thin ropes. The scent of these was very faint, the good ventilation of the cave keeping the sharpness they would normally exude from permeating the air.
Beside the branch, Círdan spied a stock of apples and edible roots; on the ground below the ledge, logs of hardwood had been piled up to serve as firewood; an old, but neatly tended axe leaning beside the pile. To his right, Círdan saw what appeared to be the sleeping-place, he moved in that direction, crouching down to give it a closer look. A flat, wooden frame on the ground had been filled with dried moss and covered with soft furs to lie on; more furs served as blankets.
Despite its simplicity, the sleeping-place looked very inviting; slowly Círdan traced his fingers along the soft pelts, encountering a large sword and matching daggers hidden beneath the furs. The occupant of the cave had not bothered to take his weapons with him; seemingly feeling secure and well sheltered in his little refuge. Letting his glance and fingertips wander over the weapons, Círdan admired the elaborate design and delicate artistry with which they had been crafted They were old, yet carefully drawing one of the daggers out of its sheath, he found it been tended to with the utmost care; the blade polished and deadly sharp.
A faint sound ripped him out of his absent-mindedness; putting the weapons back in their place, Círdan came back to his feet and listened…the faint song he had heard before became clearer with the shifting of the breeze, enchanting him like a mystical spell. Forgetting his caution, he carelessly dropped his pack, bow, and sword beside the sleeping-place, before he stepped out of the cave again…following the call
~ * ~ * ~ * ~