14. Day 14: Of The Ways Of Elves And Men (Aranarth, Cirdan)
Its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay."
It seemed to him a most profound violation of every oath of fealty he had
ever taken that he should be gazing out the window into the tranquil bay,
miles upon miles away from the people who needed him the most. Aranarth was
aware of all the many reasons why he had to abide awhile and allow events run their course, but his heart was rent every minute of the day: rent with worry, shame, frustration, even fear, and he knew not of what. The Witch-King, Curse him! had destroyed most everything he had ever known and loved. The home of his birth lay in a wreck, his people dwindled to mere colonies of refugees, the fields burned down along with everything else they had not been able to take with them when they feld their land. Their own land! Angmar could hardly do any more harm to them, but still he felt he needed to fight. And he would, as long as somewhere—somewhere he could not go—his King waited.
Waiting for help that will not come, as seems likely, he thought, and
berated himself the next minute for his ungratefulness. They had seen the last days of summer and all the autumn in Lindon, and would surely not had survived if it had not been for the help of Cirdan and his people. He owed them everything. But this accursed waiting…
A gull soared overhead and he followed its flight for a while as it dunked
in and emerged from the sea with its quarry, such a foreign sight to him
that it never failed to elicit his admiration. What invariably followed was
regret for the absence of those who could not see it with him. He thought of
his father and mother, away up North, hopefully alive. How much longer
before the King reclaims his people? His brother, Arapher,
had to be alive if he had reached Imladris as was the plan. He, at
least, should be fine, with whomever he had been able to take with him.
Unbidden, his thoughts strayed to Hisime. Where was she now? Had she followed Arapher to
Imladris? He remembered well dancing with her at the harvest festival two
years ago, around this time. How happy had they been! If he had known what
the future held for them, what things would he have done differently? He
remembered well the scent of her hair and how her eyes had been aglow that
night, remembered telling her that the colors of fall did not suit her best just for the pleasure of seeing her bristle. He must have smiled at the thought , because he heard then a low
chuckle beside him that made him stiffen at once.
"Lord Aranarth," came the now-familiar voice.
"Lord Cirdan," he replied in acknowledgment. Lord Cirdan's use of the formal
term with him bothered him still. Aranarth knew that in wisdom or power there
was no way they could compare, and did not know why the elf chose to address
him thus, but did not dare ask.
"It must have been a pleasant memory," the elf said, and Aranarth knew that
he was hoping for him to elaborate .
"Both pleasant and unpleasant, as likely as it seems it will not be
repeated." Speaking the words aloud brought that uneasy feeling back to the
pit of his stomach, and made him forget about his disrespectful remark.
It had not been lost on Cirdan, however. He looked at him, raised an eyebrow. "Was there something you needed to discuss, lord Aranarth?"
Aranarth turned back and sought for his gaze, strove to hold it. Cirdan knew
what he had come to say. He had come every day, and every day the answer had
been the same.
He did not ask this time, just looked, as intently as he could. And somehow
he knew that Cirdan answered, if only by his silence.
Aranarth turned his eyes aside, back to the bay. They stood in silence for a
while, each with his own thoughts.
"Autumn is different for us here, is it not?"
Aranarth nodded, hardly seeing how that remark was pertinent. "It is a milder climate here than we are used to, year-round," he said. "Not so for us. We are used to change."
Even he was surprised by his own insolence. If Cirdan took offense and asked them to leave...
But Cirdan did not even turn to look at him. Lost, he seemed, in his own reflections.
"You do not trust me," he said, at length.
"I do not understand you," Aranarth finally confessed, letting the contrition he felt seep through his words, hoping that lord Cirdan would understand his apology. Encouraged by Cirdan's nod, he went on. "Please, do not think me ungrateful. I have no way of repaying what you have done for us."
"You wait, yet the world ever changes about you. I--I find it hard to stay still."
Cirdan rewarded him with a smile that touched something warm inside of him. As long as he had been in Lindon, he had not seen him smile like that.
"That, my young lord, is the curse of my people. What is the year for you but a succession of change. Year piles upon year and ages you, your view of the world, but for us 'tis but a blink. Nature cannot be mastered, only understood. Do you realize this?"
"Do you mean to say that whatever has kept my father away did so with a purpose?"
"I mean only to say that your father is a wise man," Cirdan said. "If he sent you here, he surely had a reason."
A reason indeed? And, as if he finally could not hold it in anymore,
his thoughts--his fears--spilled themselves out as water spills inevitably if liquid is poured continually on a cup past the point of fullness. "There is so much to
be done that I cannot do—not alone, not on my own. He is the King! Whatever
will happen to these people if he does not come back? What are we to do? Fight
back with what little we have, wait, resign ourselves to our fate and die? Assimilate into other peoples, and where? I am only a Captain; there is a limit to what I can decide, unless--" And the coldness from his nightmares threatened to grip him again in the waking world as he thought of his people destroyed forever, his father dead, and himself the only one left to pick up the pieces. It was such a cowardly thought that it filled him with misery, but how could he find it in himself to bear the fall of an entire nation, day after day, having been powerless to prevent it?
He was grateful that lord Cirdan allowed him some room and did not try to comfort him--it had been shameful enough to lay himself so bare to his scrutiny, but there was that something in the elf lord's manner that made him think that he already knew; that, whatever he had said, had been for his own benefit.
It took him a few moments to feel the coldness in his hands begin to dissipate. When he thought himself fit enough to speak again, he said, "As a son of Kings, I will do what I must to preserve their memory in this changeful earth. But, as long as I have breath, I will also keep asking for help for my father. Winter begins to stretch her long arm and we were unable to gather from the plenty of autumn against the season. Please, lord Cirdan. My father needs me."
Cirdan smiled again. "So do your people. Do not forget it." The elf lord nodded, the signal that their interview was over, and Aranarth nodded back in acknowledgment and turned to leave. He had not gotten far when Cirdan hailed him.
He turned, surprised.
"You said you liked autumn."
No, he did not recall saying that. "Aye, lord Cirdan. It used to be my favorite time of the year."
"And that was because--"
Aranarth let himself indulge in a small smile. "Because…" Why, indeed? Surely not the colors, though they are certainly appealing. "Because it was the culmination of a year of effort." He let his thoughts once more trail to Hisime, hoping they would reach her. The red always suited you, Hisime. Are you enjoying autumn, wherever you are?
Cirdan's brow raised and he regarded him strangely, in a detached manner. "No," he began, almost speaking to himself, "no, that's not it at all. Ultimately, is it not the certainty it gives you that, though matter and things pass away, the world can self-renew? It must be that." And, back to Aranarth, he said, "After winter there follows spring. That is why you will have autumn next year, and for many years to come. Did not Arvedui know this also?" he asked, placing distinct emphasis on his father's name, Last King. "Take it from someone who has seen countless seasons unfold and watched many lives of men succeed each other. The world will self-renew, regardless of how bitter the winter."
As he watched young Aranarth walk away, Cirdan felt a wistfulness that was impossible to be denied. After so many long years on this Middle-earth, he was not certain that he could so easily disregard the gift of men as he had in his distant youth. That intensity, that passion with which mortal men approached every second of their lives was only possible because they knew that life was fleeting. Did that knowledge make their life richer? This was one question that he had long pondered and that, alas, he suspected would never be answered to his satisfaction. He, too, must pass through the sorrow of the world for his part in the Song to be fulfilled.
"Iluvatar, the wise, has granted each his own portion," he said to himself, as if quoting something recalled from long memory. "It is our part to be silent and content. 'For the Children of Iluvatar were conceived by him alone... being things.. strange and free, wherein they saw the mind of Iluvatar reflected anew, and learned yet a little more of his wisdom...*'"
*From Ainulindale, The Silmarillion
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.