3. Lavender's Blue
Círdan chats with the blue-eyed, perfumed ex-lieutenant of Morgoth.
Ereinion paced his friend's study, pausing to glare at the rain hitting the window. He muttered, "Asking for my audience. The sheer impudence."
He turned to his sole listener.
"It wouldn't be right to meet him. It would look like I'm sanctioning him."
Círdan grunted. For four days clouds had burst and for four days he had been moored to his chair. His feet itched for the shipyard. He'd constructed a ship in his mind, more slender, faster and stronger than any before, or so he supposed. He'd not the opportunity to envision its niceties. That morning Ereinion had arrived in Mithlond and had talked ever since.
Ereinion looked back out the window. "Maybe the rain will drive him off."
"I doubt it," said Círdan.
"But I would like to see him, just to get a better measure of him. Not to sanction him, you understand."
"Of course," Círdan said faithfully.
"But if what I've heard is enough… and not those praises of his wisdom and charity. He appears suddenly, with no one to vouch for him except himself… and all these young ones listening to his promises of wisdom and glory like that in the days of the Trees over the sea… forming cults and I know not what… it all smells wrong! No! No concession should come from me, it would be twisted."
"Elrond saw him in Eregion," Círdan pressed. Ereinion was besieged by his generous nature. He disliked passing judgment, though once he did, he did not waver in its execution. Círdan hoped he could tip him over that edge.
"Elrond. His kindest words were--" Ereinion cleared his throat. "But now I've come to my point. What have you to say about him?"
"Nothing substantial." Círdan yawned and stretched his legs. "If the matter bothers you so much, I will go."
"I can settle both our curiosities without causing a fuss – I am not a king and the youths ignore me." Círdan added, "I'll wear a disguise."
"You and your disguises! Well," Ereinion began and lost the course of his thought. He began to tap his right elbow with his left fingers, which was a hopeful sign.
"Whatever answer your wisdom demands you to give to this fellow, someone must deliver it. Besides, young one." Círdan stood, towering over the other by an inch. "You should show deference for your elder's whims."
Ereinion stepped back, as though overcome with terror. "Very well, grandfather, go! Use your judgment. Tell that charlatan to leave or return to tell me how wrong I was. Lord of Gifts indeed!"
As soon as his horse could be saddled, Círdan galloped from the harbor-city, now Aerdin, an inquisitive elf of the havens. The rain pursued him every leg of the journey, beating the roads into a thick black sludge. His splattered mount soon ran through its whole library of equestrian epithets. The deluge only let up when he came to the bounds of Lindon.
Ereinion had forbidden Annatar's stepping inside Lindon. Perforce the king's law, Annatar's camp sat not in Lindon and neither outside, but right on the line between two border stones. And right off the road, it was hard not to miss. The tents were huge and luxurious, numerous enough for a small and well-fed army. Throngs of elves scurried about, fetching this, doing that, talking to whomever. There were overwhelmingly young Noldor of Celebrimbor's folk, though he saw that some, by their dress, were pilgrims from Lindon. They took his horse, who gave a thankful whinny. Then they showed him to the grandest tent and told him to wait; Annatar was engaged.
Very, very engaged. Círdan stood ten minutes, rocking on his toes, saddle sore and pasted with mud. Even the spares in his bag were mire-soaked. Ulmo, of course, had a pitiless sense of humor. Finally he sat himself on the corner of a crimson and gold pillow, feeling unwanted in the fabulous but symmetric display of cushions, rugs, and urns, all glowing with jewels and brilliant textiles. The dyes on the cushion he was ruining likely were worth more than his house in Harlond.
Musicians stowed away in a corner plucked gently at strings. At one point, maidens in borderline modest dress served wine. Before sipping, he inspected the cup, a weighty silver thing crusted with glittering stones.
"Charlatan," he thought, mimicking Ereinion's word. "Well, these are real." He clicked his fingernail on the gems.
The splendor of the tent began to make him dizzy. He shut his eyes and went over what he knew of Annatar. A lot of nothing. Of him even Ulmo had said "who?" His chin nodded. The skeletal hull of his dream ship soared over him.
The flap rustled. Círdan cracked his eyelids and stretched to his feet.
And he gawked. Annatar had a commanding presence. Tall and well-built. His hair was wavy and dark, spilling around his shoulders, giving off a blue sheen in the lamplight. His pleasant face was beardless; under his smiling lips, the teeth were white and straight. He was wrapped in blazing blue cloth, cut in the latest fashion and matching with eerie precision his sapphire blue eyes. His hand sparkled with rings and his head provided space for a thick circlet shaped like a ring flowering flames.
And Arien above! He smelt of lavender.
Círdan proffered a hand. Annatar gave the mud a quick survey and daintily, keeping his long blue sleeves clear, grasped it. Annatar spoke first.
"Aerdin, is it?"
"Yes. You are, I suspect, a busy fellow. I wished only to meet you."
"A pleasure," Annatar purred.
"Congratulations on your new situation in Ost-in-Edhil," Círdan continued. "Most impressive. Celebrimbor must think well of you, and he's no fool. If he's any flaw, it's that he too greatly loves his tongs and hammers."
A humble dip of eyes. "Lord Celebrimbor was insistent."
"Still, it is singular." Círdan beamed. "Celebrimbor is notorious for taking only the best into his forges and it's unheard of for him to give an outsider reign of his smithies." The maidens poured two new glasses of wine. "One does not reach the top of the pillar on one's own. May I ask how you came to it? I've never come across your name before; perhaps you were known by another...?"
"One turn deserves another," Annatar said sweetly, taking up his wine. "First, who in truth are you? We cannot speak meaningfully without some trust."
"True," he acknowledged with a tilt of his glass. "Aerdin is a name from suspicious times. I am Círdan and Nowë Enel's son. All my identities, the ones I still remember."
"Still, your history is longer than mine. I have but one name in Middle-earth. I was long a student of Aulë." And he told his short history in long words. He'd arrived with the host of the Valar and remained when they recrossed the sea. He saw the scars the War had left on the land and its people and pitied them. "My teaching from the Blessed Realm," he concluded, "can help you who have, and rightly, not abandoned Middle-earth."
The shipwright nodded. "Admirable."
"Círdan, you are closely allied with King Ereinion," Annatar's purr quickened. "He makes no secret of his unwelcome to me and my disciples. So why do you come then?"
"I was bored."
Annatar blinked, then slowly bared his magnificent teeth. "As I asked. Yes, you are honest."
"I so dislike falsehoods," Círdan lied.
"Alas, there have been reports tossed about that I'm a cultivator of many falsehoods," Annatar said as one who has suffered long and accepted it.
"Jealousy and gossip ever drift in success' wake."
"Success? False rumors have done much to hinder real success, the healing of the land." The sapphire eyes were earnest and kindly. "That can be amended. Please tell your king so."
"Ereinion is not my king. I am independent, only caretaker of the havens. I do not speak for him."
The blue eyes narrowed, though the smile did not falter. "Do you not wish to be your own king?"
"No." Círdan laughed. "Too much work."
"I cannot blame you."Annatar sipped his wine, nonchalant. "But I can help you and your mariners too, by whatever title you call yourself. You've doubtless heard of my offers? We can make your havens fair, like Alqualondë or Tirion, fairer even." His voice was a song without a perceptible beat. Círdan suddenly found he could not take his eyes off Annatar's pleasant face. "With the support of you and the High King – for great is his influence and respect – all elvendom can share the fruits of my teaching, and our labor together could heal Middle-earth, cultivate it glorious as Valinor, as it was meant to be…"
Annatar's voice swathed over his ears; Círdan could not without a struggle separate his thoughts from the other's words, telling of pearl beaches and white cities, silver streets and glittering fountains, gardens that never browned and birds never ceased to sing.
Círdan's eyelids fluttered… really, the smell of lavender was too strong… the music too sweet… the wine too warm… A beautiful white ship rocked in a golden bay embraced by green hills. His ship, a perfect ship, that he could not build in a hundred attempts, not without aid...
"…It is as the Valar desire… I've this task to accomplish. You understand that, of course. What do you say?"
A girl topped off his cup.
"H'm," said Círdan.
"Yes?" Annatar's amulets and bracelets clinked as he leaned forward.
"Sorry! I said, ah."
Annatar took to his cushion again and repieced his smile. "You are a practical man," he said. "You must think I am more word than deed. Allow me now to present you with a tangible argument."
Annatar motioned and a youth came forward holding a small chest, itself a masterwork of wood and bronze. He opened the lid and immersed his hand into the contents. Cling! Cling! Cling! Through his fingers spilled splendid chalices and circlets, rings and brooches, all, he claimed, fashioned by himself and his apprentices as gifts for the High King.
"Not only the cutting of gems and shaping of metals do I teach," he said, setting the chest before Círdan. "Wood, stone, water, the domination of any substance you could desire."
Círdan darted his gaze over the chest but did not touch it. "Impressive, but my people have no need, really. We're satisfied with our crafts. We find pleasure in conceiving the ever greater ship. And no sea wall of mine has fallen yet, barring the unconventional disaster; Finrod of Nargothrond gave us a satisfactory store of knowledge in masonry."
"One can always improve on knowledge." Annatar smiled wide, making full show of his straight white teeth.
"Yes," Círdan matched his smile tooth for tooth. "But not from you."
A fire flashed behind the blue eyes, or Círdan imagined. At second glance, they were clear and kind as a rainless spring sky.
"I am sorry to hear it. Well! Say not Annatar has not attempted to be gracious. Is Ereinion Gil-galad's wish still for us to depart?"
Annatar's grin slipped. "Then we'll be off tomorrow."
"No need to hurry," said Círdan.
Annatar gave him a quick if courteous boot out the tent. They both forgot about the chest of gifts.
A day and a bath later, Ereinion looked him over. "Well? Have you been converted? Poisoned? A dagger in your back?"
"Not like you to assume the worse. Of course I wouldn't have exposed my back," Círdan sniffed. He recounted the whole interview. The High King listened, leaning close, actually beaming to hear justifications for his decision.
When finished, Círdan collapsed on his chair and muttered, "White teeth, white ship… yes, she shall be white… I'd have liked to know how he keeps those teeth so clean, though."
Ereinion, gazing out the window in dismay at a new bout of rain, shot him a look. "What about teeth?"
He only half-heard Ereinion. He finally saw his ship in vibrant detail, flawless and proud. He might never achieve the vision, but the pleasure was all in the attempt. He closed his eyes as a nap overcame him. "I didn't say anything."
___ ___ ___
Nowë is Círdan's prehistoric name. ("Last Writings," The Peoples of Middle-earth).
The connection to Enel was completely contrived. ("Quendi and Eldar, Appendix," War of the Jewels).
It may simply be from an overdose of piano practice… am I alone in thinking the first two lines of "Lavender's Blue" are subversive?
Lavender's blue, dilly-dilly, lavender's green.
When I am king, dilly-dilly, you shall be queen.
Wiki link to full rhyme.
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.