The Shipwright Shrugs: 6. Vertigo

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6. Vertigo

Finrod and Círdan visit Barad Nimras, where it is learned that neither is without his phobias.

Through the blue sky pierced the tower, white and sheen as pearl. It was raised on a natural peak of white rock freshly rinsed with rain and just high enough over the sea that the waves could not break over its edge. But the sea took that as a challenge and fiercely it tried.

A small skiff bobbed beside the rock-face, perilously close, a kiss away. And in one heave of water, the tiny ship crumbled into it – or at least seemed to, because no shatter of timbers ensued. It had, in fact, rolled into a hidden harbor, which was only approachable by a break in the wall. A quay of thick timbers stretched from the white shore, built with larger ships bearing heavier cargo in mind.

The skiff knocked against the quay. Two elves jumped out, one tugging a line, which he tied to a hold in a single fluid motion.

Three fellows from the shore galloped over, chewing their late breakfast. Their brown tunics, faded with white dust, betrayed them as workmen. Their proud, ivory vestiges betrayed them further as Noldorin; that is, not just workmen, but masters in the art of masonry. They made as to apprehend the unmarked visitors with reluctance, for it was a distraction from work that had already been set back by the rain. But coming closer, they took note of the visitors' vibrant heads of gold and silver that spoke of other than rogue fishermen needing telling off, and the workmen's expressions, cheeks stuffed yet with bread, stretched awkwardly in hesitation.

"Lord Finrod, Lord Círdan! We had not heard you were to visit today." There was a flash of sleeve as the workman swept stray crumbs from his chin. Came an afterthought: "Welcome to Barad Nimras!"

What was more surprising to them was that Finrod had not burst in long before. Finrod was intimate with all the construction ventures on the Falas, instrumental in all the planning stages, and it was not just his social status that gained him the prestige, for he had a fantastical genius in architecture. What he did have at his disposal, which other would-be architectural visionaries lacked, were armies of craftsmen to realize his visions. This tower was an odd case in that he had not been peering over the shoulders of his craftsmen. But the reason was clear enough: he was in the midst of a dozen other grand constructions. The rebuilding of the haven-cities Eglarest and Brithombar, for two.

"Our apologies for not sending word ahead!" said the golden-locked prince. His beaming face put the workmen at ease. "We left Eglarest on a whim yesterday afternoon to see the progress of the tower."

"Ahhh," said the first workman, forgetting formalities in surprise. "Then you were caught in the storm! Where did you take harbor?"

"Círdan Elu's-kin does not seek shelter in storms," said Finrod, his glowing face now pasty. "He ridesthem like one rides an unbroken stallion."

Círdan dipped his chin. "As unquenchable as the sea is the humor of Lord Ulmo. I saw no sign of the storm when we left. I promised a swift journey for Prince Finrod and to the best of my abilities I attempted."

Finrod's answer was a greenish smile. The three workmen took the moment to observe the blueness of the sky.

Finrod recaptured the conversation. "We desire to tour the tower. I had word the construction was complete, and had been given the key."

"Of course, my lords. The building is complete. But the path is yet to be finished. We have torn up much of the old path the tower-builders used and it is something of a hike to pass through…"

"No matter, no matter! We can continue on from here on our own."

The workmen returned to their stone-sculpting instruments with gratitude. Finrod avoided the half-built path and hopped up the slope, from stone to stone over grass and brush like a goat. Círdan watched his scramble, noted the way the road-builders followed, though not the straightest path, and chose likewise.

Paths should be smooth and straight on land, because they could be made so. On sea, it is naïve to wish for a smooth path, and it was best to learn to enjoy the bumps. That storm, such merriment! It had snuck in like a fox and burst like a rattled wasp nest. In a storm the sea is allowed to release itself from its stateliness and show its true character. The greatest freedom was to be found in the whims of the waves, and Círdan craved to hear the laughter of Ossë entrained in them. But however much of Telerin blood Finrod possessed, he did not share the same passion.

"Son of Eärwen," Círdan had bellowed, one hand extended to feel the wind while the little skiff shot down the crest of a swollen wave. "Green does not become you…"

Finrod had not laughed. But now he was chipper, panting and flushed at the tower's foot, and the young sun burned golden on his head. His long hand shaded his eyes to peer up to the pinnacle. It was a wonder to Círdan, who stepped lightly and slowly on the broken dirt path, that Finrod's tilted head had not sent him toppling onto his backside.

"Well," Finrod said when at last Círdan strolled to his side. "Wish you to see the top? Come! Never will an assault by sea surprise you! This is on the westernmost cape, and on a clear day twenty leagues are within sight!"

"To the top!" Círdan said. "The view here is fine and I can see ten leagues without squinting."

"No arguments from you! I sat in your boat, you shall climb my tower." Finrod took a final large gulp of air and rested his hand on the door. "Now follow me, unless you are too weary from captaining."

"I do not weary." Círdan took a step, pushed gently on the smooth white wall with one hand, and gripped an iron railing with the other. "Tell me about tower-raising."

And Finrod did, and then some. See how the mortar shows no wedge between the stones? No one could scale it, and it will not fall, save by an earthquake or a giant… And it is really quite simple to raise a tower, once the foundation has been set…

The staircase wound and wound. Círdan marked twenty-one winds in his head before giving up. Some time later Finrod paused to show him the watchers' chambers: their neat cutlery, beds and fire. Finally they reached a straight stretch of stair that ended at a door in the ceiling. They pushed the door upward.

The uppermost room was open, allowing a round view of the entire scape of the sea in the west and the Falas in the east. In the center was bare stone, where wood was yet to be stacked, Finrod explained, for a beacon that would shine as warning should enemies from the sea approach. A fresh breeze whisked their hair back. Círdan stopped half in the stairwell and Finrod sprang on ahead.

"We are smiled upon!" cried Finrod. "The rain of last night cleared the air. Look! You can see the jutting of mouth of the Brithon in the north."

Círdan held back on the top step and nodded. From below, far, far below, drifted the voices of the workmen singing Noldorin ditties and the clinging of their tools cutting stone.

Finrod bounded to the east side. "There, Eglarest, no mistake! See, the white roofs flash under Anar!"

Again, Círdan nodded.

"And the Cape of Balar!" Finrod pointed south. "I have never seen the shoreline so clear!"

Círdan stepped out of the stairwell and to the edge facing the sea. He squinted into the west. It was brisk blue, and the bluest sky yawned over it, the same view as from the beach, or a ship, only from here he fancied he could make out the faintest silver shimmer on the furthest horizon. Then he drew his gaze nearer, over the white-crested waves, to the shore, and right below, on the white stones that jutted on the shoreline like children's sand castles and the workmen that scurried like ants over it.

"The tower's true height is deceiving from the base," he said.

And one could just slip over the rail (it should have been higher than the waist), and the ground is quite hard.

"Yes," said Finrod, thinking. "One-hundred-forty-four of Aulë's units, about one and one-twentieth of you furlongs. Or about seven-hundred of your hands… "

Círdan became aware that the sea was spilling into the sky and somehow was eating at his knees. He looked at Finrod, who was beaming and had not yet noticed the sea's unruliness.

He pressed the rail and closed his eyes. He said, "Have you many towers in Valinor?"

"Many?" came Finrod's voice at his shoulder. "Scores in Tirion alone. The Tower of Ingwë, Mindon Eldaliéva, whose silver lamp shines across the sea, is the highest – thrice the stature of this tower."

"I assume Olwë occupies the second highest," said Círdan. "He had strange tastes. He took rest in trees, and only in the topmost branches as would bear him. (This was before he married your grandmother). One day I sat at a beech's roots. Suddenly a shower of leaves poured onto my face, and then Olwë crashed into my lap. I looked up. A neat column of branches was snapped from the top down. He was back at it next wheel o' the stars, of course."

He opened his eyes. The gulls were flying backwards over the rocks below and the sun was green.

"Finrod, could that be Brithombar?"

Finrod stood beside him, staring over the sea, his hands clasped over the rail. At his name he started and blinked. The smile had slipped from his eyes, though now it rebounded brighter than before. He turned to face north.

"I do not know. Perhaps! Yet I thought the hills would conceal it. Círdan?"

Círdan's answer echoed from the stairwell: "All this climbing! It is high time for lunch!"

"Hold, Círdan, ere I forget," said Finrod. He rummaged in his pocket and pulled out a sturdy silver key. "This is yours."

The key pressed into his palm. Finrod's face rotated level to the horizon. "I shall find worthy men to guard this tower," said Círdan.

Finrod stepped down beside him."I would have suggested that we lunch in the watchers' room. But we can just as pleasantly lunch at the base." Finrod's voice dropped to a whisper. "For, Círdan, green does not become you..."

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.

Story Information

Author: Kitt Otter

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: Multi-Age

Genre: Humor

Rating: General

Last Updated: 10/13/13

Original Post: 07/25/10

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