Unless it Be

In the earliest days, young Cirdan did not make ships for love of the sea. For it is not love that calls the sailor, that places the thick wooden hull of the boat between the body and the waves, beating down the water with each turn of the sails. Cirdan fought long against the ocean, and sometimes found victory. And so the sea would yield its fruits to young Cirdan: food for his people, safe passage along its shores. And the people saw, and they named him its lord.


Cirdan and Hithwen stood on the pier to say goodbye. She was to pass over the sea. He was to remain. She saw the faint glimmer of the light of Trees in the distance. He remembered his oath to King Elwe, and would not leave him.

How often had they spoken, argued, fought, tried to ignore this moment or prevent its arrival. Feafalas he called her, soul of the sea-shore, harbor of my soul. She had no special words for him, only the wordless song in her eyes and limbs when she spoke his name. Or sometimes, softly: beloved. And still, she would not remain, and he would not follow.

"I swear..." he began, his face near hers.

"Swear me no oaths, if you will not follow me." She placed one finger across his lips.

"I do swear." Each word was a kiss. "I swear that I shall love none but you, unless it be the very seas by which we stand."

At that, Hithwen withdrew her hand, and wrapped her arms around her love, pulling him to her until her lips brushed against his ear. "And I swear I shall love none but you, unless it be the stars that shine their light upon us." They kissed, then, for as long as they could, until she was gone, gone across the sea, lost to the light of Valinor.


He tasted the sea and it was salt, salt like his tears. Was the sea only a basin for weeping, for those who go to the sea to remember those who are lost? No news passes from Valinor, but yet Cirdan knew that Hithwen had given herself to another. A distant touch of her soul, at peace, in joy.

The sailboat tacked into the wind, defiantly. Cirdan tugged at the sails, jousting with the ocean, daring it to overturn him, to send him to its floor, to make him one with his own tears. My soul has no shore, nor will there be a harbor for my heart.

The light shone in the distance. Would he follow it, alone?

Remain, and do great deeds in this far land, the sea seemed to call to him.

Remain, remain with me. Cirdan turned his boat about, and then turned it again, following the coasts of Middle-earth. But he did not yet know whose voice he obeyed.


Waves crash unevenly against the shore, one closer in, one farther away. Cirdan moved along with the water. He stepped forward, covering his right foot with foam and sand. Then backward, and the water seeped into the outline of his footprint.

As he moved back, the waves followed him, a gentle caress on his toes. Then, a sudden attack, soaking his leggings, reaching even up to his bare chest. Cirdan stripped off his wet clothing and let the water embrace him.

The waters lapped at Cirdan, and he did not resist them. They played with his toes, his ankles, his legs, and then leapt up to his sex, pulling him suddenly erect. They swirled around him, immersing him to his waist, sending currents to tickle him from behind. Cirdan knelt, and the waters came to his neck. He bent to taste them, and they were salt like his tears, his seed, his blood. The waves could take him out to sea, and there end his sorrow.

They did not. Instead, they threw him suddenly backwards, so he lay gasping on the shore. When they retreated, Cirdan found that he wanted them to return. Not to give oblivion, but to touch him once more.

And then, there was someone beside him. A muscled male form, bronzed, dark-eyed. His hands caressed him like waves, his eyes bathed him like water. There should have been guilt at this transgression, and at the delight Cirdan found in it, but there was not even surprise.

"It was a foolish vow," Cirdan whispered, as if to himself. "Not to go with her, and yet to vow myself from another's love."

"It was a foolish vow," the stranger replied, his hands a waterfall over Cirdan's side, "and yet you have kept it."

Unless it be the very seas...Cirdan remembered the words of his vow. "Osse," he spoke his lover's name.

'I am one with the sea," Osse said. And the waves caressed Cirdan's feet as Osse's incarnate form moved his gentle touch through Cirdan's body. His lips tasted of salt, and yet were sweet, and they kissed tenderly.

In time they joined, and their cries of pleasure were like the calls of the sea-birds at the ocean shore.


In the west towards Valinor, Cirdan sails his ships along the coast. The light of Trees is behind him, and shines in his hair, but he does not follow it. There is no harbor for his soul, and he desires none. For his beloved dances with him upon the waves, and the sea itself is his delight, and brings him peace.



This story is dedicated to Elwing for her birthday. It is intended as a tribute to her excellent and inspiring Cirdan/Osse stories, which can be found at: http://www.imladris.nu/strangefates.html.

It is also dedicated, with love, to the Pacific Ocean, and to the California coast, where you can look west over the waters and almost see Valinor.

The name of Cirdan's (the character) first love is taken from Cirdan's (the author) story 'The Redemption if the Noldor', which you can find on my favorite stories page.

Cirdan and Osse both belong to the Great Professor Tolkien. The material for this story is taken from the Silmarillion and the essay on Cirdan in HoME vol. 12.