7. The Way the Tide Flows
7 – The Way the Tide Flows
Círdan tells two visitors a tale about the Second Age and the choice that determined everything after.
Still caked in sweat and blood, the two elves stood in the tent alone, each facing the other. It was a lavish tent, large enough for a table, resting-couch, and cabinet lined with powdered herbs, leaves, vials, and grinding stones. A single lamp threw wavering shadows over the maps and letters strewn on every surface. This was the tent of Elrond Eärendilion, former herald of the High-King Gil-Galad, and now sharing first in command with Círdan of the Havens, for today the High-King was killed and their enemy destroyed.
Elrond's face flushed with rising temper. Círdan he had always relied on for guidance, but in this subject they were matched in their inexperience.
"You are making dangerous guesses! On the field you advise him to surrender it without delay. Now you say we wait?"
"Because to wait is the only course now open. You cannot take a Ring of Power from its holder. It must be given freely."
Círdan continued without notice: "Taking it will start a war between us and the men of Númenor. Trust me, Elrond. When a king's mind is set, there is none that can dissuade him. Especially in cases of objects of great power. I saw the same look on Thingol's face when I begged him to surrender the Silmaril."
"Then can you not foresee a similar disaster here? All the more reason to take it and avoid greater grief later!" Elrond barely restrained himself; he paced, clenched his fists. Ereinion had made them equals in command and in a great Trust, and both knew that at dawn they would have to part ways agreeing.
After some minutes, Elrond broke his step and turned to the other. "You felt their draw to the One as well." He touched a chain on his neck, where he kept Ereinion's charge, Vilya, the Ring of Air.
Círdan's hand moved to his chest, where the Ring of Fire rested in a wallet against his heart. "A draw, but not a submission. Suppose since Sauron's spirit has fled, the rings are free?"
Before Elrond could protest, Círdan slipped out Narya and slid it onto his right forefinger. Círdan stared at the rubied circlet, lips taut, as though ready to smash the thing against the table if need be.
"H'm." He removed the ring and pat it back into the wallet. "That was an adventure."
Elrond's mouth twisted to one side, not sure which way to take his remark.
"Nothing. The Eye is lidded," Círdan explained. "My thoughts are my own. Now, what to do?"
Elrond appeared startled, though he had witnessed the destruction of Sauron's body. "If he is gone, the rings can be used as they were intended. The desolation of the kingdoms and even this land could be reversed…" He trailed off. He became ashamed of his eagerness and unsure. Though he fingered his chain he made no attempt to don Vilya.
They stood in silence while the lamp flickered from insects that dared too close to the fire.
"If there is still power in these rings," Elrond said slowly. "Is it of themselves? Or are they sustained by the One, in the same way we fear It could sustain Sauron's spirit in this world? I wonder then whether they could truly be free."
Círdan considered. "We know from Celebrimbor's word that the Three were forged by him, and Sauron had no part in their making. They at least are not tainted with his touch, and neither would be anything wrought with them."
Again silence. They absorbed the prospects that lay ahead for their broken kingdom.
"To return to the question of Isildur," said Círdan. "He is no fool and not as stiff-necked to reason as Elu-Thingol. I feel that he shall heed our counsel. We need only to wait."
"We waited, and as you well know, Isildur heeded too late."
Círdan looked at his two visitors, the elf and dwarf. They had come that afternoon from the east on a single horse, bearing scores of questions. To see two such companions would not have been so strange at the close of the Second Age. He felt old and stroked his beard.
The sun had long since set. They sat on an open patio where the only light fell from the stars and the swelling moon, and the only sounds from the lap of waves and chorus of insects. In former times, the air would have been blooming with Falathrim voices in song and laughter.
"I retired here to Mithlond and asked whether it was grief from the deaths of Elendil and Ereinion, or from blindness by my friendship with Isildur, or from weariness of battle that kept me from claiming the Ring to destroy. And again and again after these journeys of thought, the conclusion I reached was always the same.
"For had we taken It by force we would not have been able to destroy It. It would have destroyed us. Yet because we alone had seen Isildur claim the Ring, we carried the responsibility of our inaction.
"The longer we waited, the more unwilling we were to advise Isildur against the Ring because we feared what would become of the Three. Elrond and I had planted our own snare that night. In later years we and the Lady Galadriel (all three the swollen and proud offshoots of Enel!) were eager to wield the rings and bring our lands back to some semblance of what they were in the golden years of the Second Age, before the Ring Wars. Had we not done so, much that is fair would have left this shore long ago.
"A fleeting glory, at such heavy cost! But every choice demands a price. That's that way the tide flows."
He sighed, feeling older still. The waves rolled in and out.
"Before we marched from Lindon Gil-Galad foresaw his death and entrusted Narya to me. I wore it following the war to protect it. At first I kept it selfishly, for it gave me youth I had forgotten and recalled memories I had lost. In time it became a burden. I felt young, too young, and too old… It had a fire, a demanding one! It was wasted on me. I saw in Mithrandir one who could put the fire to better use ere it demanded of him too much.
"You asked me about Ithilien, Legolas Thranduilion. That it echoes of an old force? It did not come of the rings, and it will not fade with their departure, worry not! Ithilien was our home for the seven years of siege and we had grown fond of the country's little forests; it may remember. It is in your own power – and no jewel or trinket's – to sustain its memory."
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.